Texas – the lone star state – is one of the most iconic areas in the United States. Known worldwide, Texas is renowned for its beautiful landscape, hot weather and sprawling cities – it is truly a special place.

But something that not many people know about is the history behind the battle for Texan independence. In this article, we take a look at a brief chronology of the battles that took place during the battle for Independence in the state of Texas.

For more information on this subject, we have an article looking at the overall history of Texan independence – including excerpts from a diary from a colonel [1].

The iconic flag of Texas

December 1826 to January 1827: Fredonian Rebellion

The “Fredonian Rebellion” was the first recorded attempt by Anglo settlers in Texas to secede from Mexico. 

The settlers, led by Empresario Haden Edwards, declared independence from Mexican Texas and created the Republic of Fredonia near Nacogdoches.

Though unsuccessful, the event had a profound effect on the future efforts by leading Mexican president Guadalupe Victoria to sharply increase the military presence in the area.

A few years later – in 1831, a Mexican cannon was given to settlers at Goliad for protection against Indian raids.

1835: Military Commanders Named

General Domingo de Ugartechea was named military commandant of Texas and Coahuila, in command of the Mexican forces at San Antonio de Bexar Presidio. 

This was followed by the arrival of General Martin Perfecto de Cos with reinforcements and orders to take supreme control of Texas.(1)

1835: The Revolution Begins

In October 1835, the revolution begins with the battle of Gonzales. The Mexican Army, fearing the growing restiveness of the Texans and American settlers, had orders to retrieve the cannon at Gonzalez. The settlers resisted, and this gave birth to the widely quoted motto on the settlers’ flag “Come and Take It.”

Further battles took place in October 1835. The Battle of Presidio La Bahia, Goliad – saw Texians wrest control of the fort from Mexican troops.

This was followed by a two-month long event that became known as the Siege of Bexar (San Antonio); Gen. Cos’s occupying forces were defeated.

Late 1835: Petition for Statehood

On November 7 1935, a petition for Texas statehood apart from Coahuila was made, representing a landmark moment.

On November 26 1935, the ‘Grass fight’ took place. This involved a Mexican mule train en route to San Antonio being intercepted by Texians thinking the load was perhaps pay for the Mexican troops, or otherwise valuable. The mules were transporting hay for the animals at San Antonio.

1836: Further Battles

On March 2 1936, the Battle of Agua Dulce took place. Dr. James Grant and his party of 23 Americans and three Mexicans, returning from Matamoros, were surprised and defeated by troops under General Jose’ de Urrea. Six of the volunteers escaped, six were captured, the remaining men were killed in the battle.

Just days later, on March 6, the Fall of the Alamo took place. Of the less than 200 men defending the Alamo, along with a small number of wives, children and slaves, fourteen are known to have survived; perhaps the most-well-known are Susanna Dickinson and her infant daughter Angelina. (2)

1836: The ‘Runaway Scrape

A five-week battle, known as the ‘Runaway Scrape’, ensued. This term describes the settlers in central and south-central Texas (which was still a part of the Mexican state of Coahuila) fleeing in panic beginning in January 1836 as the Mexican army was reported gathering at the Rio Grande. 

Some of the first communities affected were San Patricio and Refugio.  After the fall of the Alamo, Washington-on-the-Brazos was deserted by March 17, and Richmond and other settlements along the Brazos River were evacuated by April 1. Most of the settlers fled toward the Sabine River seeking safety in Louisiana in the US.

During this, the Battle of Refugio took place. Here, Texian and volunteer forces were defeated by Mexican infantry and cavalry; those who were captured or who surrendered were murdered by the Mexicans.

1836: Battle at Coleto Creek

Col. James W. Fannin had resisted General Sam Houston’s orders abandon the fort called Goliad, merge his forces with Houston’s militia at the Guadalupe River, and assist in the defense of the Alamo three weeks earlier, and instead held his troops at Goliad near the town of La Bahia. 

Hearing reports of additional Mexican troop arrivals in Texas Fannin belatedly decided to leave Goliad. The retreat from Goliad commenced on April 18, 1836 and proceeded only eight miles before the Mexican army caught up to them on the open plain. 

Surrounded by Mexican infantry, cavalry and artillery, Fannin prevailed over his other officers and volunteers, and surrendered to the Mexican General Urrea. The captives were marched back to Goliad and jailed in the church, held with only minimal water and food as other captives were also brought in.

The presence of bugles and buglers with the Mexican armies is attested by Herman Ehrenberg in his report of the Battle at Coleto Creek. He relates:        

“ . . before the captains, who had assembled for consultation, could reach a definite conclusion, the countless bugles of the Mexicans from all directions sounded for the attack.” (2 – page 222ff) (emphasis added).

1836: Massacre at Goliad

On March 27 1936, the Massacre at Goliad took place. On the eighth day of confinement at Goliad, hoping without hope that an order from Santa Anna would free them as prisoners of war to be returned to the United States; instead they were marched out in three groups and mercilessly shot down by the Mexican soldiers.

Three hundred and forty-two were murdered, twenty-eight escaped, twenty were spared (doctors, orderlies, interpreters or mechanics “largely because of the entreaties of a ‘high bred beauty’ whom the Texans called the ‘Angel of Goliad’ (Senora Francita Alavez) (2 – page 20).

1836: Battle of San Jacinto

Having murdered the captives at the Alamo as well as Fannin at Goliad; Captain King and his men; Grant’s and Johnson’s detachments; and whetted his intent to totally wipe out the rebels Santa Anna was then pursuing Houston (General Sam Houston) and the remainder of the ‘ragtag’ Texas army.

Houston, knowing that his much-smaller force could never survive being surrounded on the plains at Gonzales, on March 25 (1836) moved his men across the Colorado River, forded the Brazos River above the town of San Felipe, and moved through Harrisburg to Buffalo Bayou. 

Santa Anna’s army in pursuit arrived at San Felipe on March 30, crossed the Brazos River below the town, proceeded to Harrisburg and pursued Houston toward Buffalo Bayou. 

Lulled into careless overconfidence by his earlier victories, and knowing he had Houston backed up to the Bayou, Santa Anna decide his first priority was siesta! With his troops resting, and having failed to post guards or lookouts, the Mexican army was suddenly awakened by the fierce shouts and battle cries of the Texans charging into their camp – Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!  

The Mexicans panicked – many who tried to escape the Texans drowned in the bayou or in the river. (A small squad of Texans had destroyed the bridge by which the Mexicans could have provided an escape route.) The battle was over in just 18 minutes.

Ehrenberg (2) reports the loss of the enemy (page 328): 630 dead including one general, four colonels, two majors, seven captains and twelve lieutenants; 280 wounded, among them eight high officers; 730 men captured including General Santa Anna, General Cos, four colonels, six majors, and Santa Anna’s private secretary. Also, 1,600 muskets, 300 sabers, 200 pistols, several hundred horses and mules and 1,200 piasters (Spanish coins).

The Takeaway

It should never be forgotten just how many lives were lost in the effort to establish Texan independence. But all those who lost their lives played a role in forming the state of Texas that we see today.

The bloodshed may be consigned to history, but the sacrifices made will always be remembered. We also have an article about An Abbreviated History of the Battle for Texas Independence – which we would love you to read!

By Lee Weaver
You can read more of Lee’s work at: https://www.tumbleweeds-weaver.com/

Sources

(1) de la Pena, Jose’ Enrique: With Santa Anna in Texas; A Personal Narrative of the Revolution. Translated by Carmen Perry 1975, TAMU Press.

(2) Ornish, Natalie: Ehrenberg; Goliad Survivor – Old West Explorer.  Book I:  The Amazing Life of Herman Ehrenberg, A Biography.  Book II The Fight for Freedom (A translation of Ehrenberg’s writings).  © 1993 1997 Natalie Ornish. Texas Heritage Press, Dallas, TX

(3) Bradle, William R.: GOLIAD – The Other Alamo. © 2007 William R. Bradle; Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, LA

(4) American Heritage:

-February 1961 Vol 12, Issue 2 “The Storming of the Alamo”  Charles Ramsdell Jr.
-October 1975 Vol 26 Issue 6 “Recuerda El Alamo” (Remember the Alamo) Jose’ de la Pena
-Oct/Nov 1979 Vol 30 Issue 6 “Rendering the Alamo”
-Jun/Jul 1986    Vol 37 Issue 4 “Remembering the Alamo” William E. Green
-Winter 2020      Vol 64 Issue 1 “Struggle for the Alamo” Jim Donavan