The Battle of Concepcion


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Army Marches to Concepcion

[Happened After: Capture of Goliad]

The commander-in-chief, wishing to obtain a position nearer to the enemy, dispatched Captains Fannin and Bowie, with a command of ninety men, to examine the missions above that of L'Espada, and select the most eligible situation near Bexar for an encampment. They set out on the 27th of October, and, after visiting San Juan and San Jose, they proceeded to the mission of Concepcion, about one and a half miles from Bexar, and selected a piece of ground in a bend of the river, about five hundred yards from the mission. The river was skirted with timber ; the prairie, which was a level plain, extended into the bend; but within the bend there was a river-bottom, nearly a hundred yards wide, from six to ten feet lower than the plain in front. This depression of the surface presents a bluff of that height, except in two places. The command was divided into two parties, each one taking a position along the skirt of timber on the upper and lower sides of the bend, having the open plain in front of them. It was naturally a strong position, the river and timber being in the rear of each division, with this natural parapet to fall behind in case of an at-tack. Having placed a strong picket-guard, they encamped for the night. Half an hour after sunrise the next morning (Wednesday, October 28), the advance of the enemy rode upon the Texan line. This was, no doubt, accidental, for a dense fog obscured every object. Henry Karnes happened to be the sentinel at the point of contact. The Mexicans fired on him, and he returned the fire. Some of them then charged on him, and he fired with his pistol, which caused them to retire, when he retreated within the Texan lines.

Battle of Concepcion

At the first alarm, the Texans flew to their arms, but could not see the enemy, who had almost surrounded their position, and opened a fire on them—at such a distance, however, that it produced no effect. Shortly after, the fog cleared away, when the Texans discovered that they were nearly hemmed in by their foes. The right flank of Fannin's division, occupying the lover part of the bend of the river before described, was extended to the south, and Bowie's detachment was placed on the same side, on the left of Fannin; so that, if the enemy should attempt to charge into the angle formed by the two skirts of timber, they could rake him without being exposed to the fire of their own men. This disposition brought the whole Texan force together, so that the two detachments could aid each other. In the meantime, the men cleared away the bushes and vines under the hill and along the margin ; and, at the steep places, steps were cut in the side of the bluff, so that they could easily ascend to fire, and descend to reload. Before this work was fairly completed, however, the Mexican infantry was seen to advance with trailed arms, to the right of Fannin's division, and form a line of battle about two hundred yards from the Texan right flank. It was supported by five companies of cavalry, covering the front and flanks of the Texan position.

About eight o'clock in the morning, the battle was opened by the, crack of a rifle from the Texan right. Immediately the firing became general. The Mexican line presented a continual sheet of flame; the Texans fired more slowly, but with deadly aim, each one falling below the bank to reload, while another took his place to fire. In about ten minutes, the enemy opened a fire of grape and canister from a six-pounder stationed about eighty yards from the Texan right flank, and at the same time a charge of cavalry was sounded. "But the cannon," says a narrator of the engagement, " was cleared, as if by magic, and a check put to the charge." Three times did the enemy repeat the attempt to charge, supplying the places of those who fell at the cannon, but without success. In the meantime, the Texans were moving by the right flank under the hill nearer to the cannon. So instinctively and harmoniously was this movement made, that "The cannon and victory" became the war-cry. The enemy had fired it but five times, and the Texans had cleared it three times, when the former made a precipitate retreat. The Texans advanced and took the cannon, and turned it upon the retreating foe; but it was found that there were but two cartridges remaining, and Bowie ordered his men to withhold their fire, as the Mexicans might rally. But the latter did not return. The enemy's loss in the engagement, which lasted only thirty minutes after it fairly commenced, was about sixty killed, many of them officers, and perhaps as many wounded. The Texans lost but one killed (Richard Andrews), and none wounded. The Mexican force engaged was about four hundred men.

Among the incidents of these two days, it may be mentioned that the Texans had reached the battle-ground on the 27th by noon. Their presence was discovered by the Mexicans, whose cavalry appeared on the prairie that evening. There was an occasional skirmish between detachments the entire afternoon. Bowie, seeing the danger of their situation, dispatched McComb at sunset as express to Austin, eight and a half miles below; but the main army of the Texans did not reach the battle-ground until half an hour after the affair was over. At the second fire of the enemy's artillery, the Texans killed the mule-driver in charge of the caisson containing the ammunition. When the driver fell, the team ran off with great fury through the lines of the Mexican infantry, throwing them into confusion. There were sixteen of the enemy found dead around the cannon when it was taken. The last one killed was attempting to spike the piece, when he was shot by Samuel Whiting. The enemy pointed their artillery to the north skirt of the bend, which had been occupied by Bowie, supposing him to be still there ; hence they did no execution. At noon, on the 28th, a flag came out from the Mexicans, in charge of the parish-priest, for leave to bury the dead, which was granted.

This battle was a brilliant affair, and well deserved the commendation bestowed by the consultation, which, on the 3d of November, on motion of Sam Houston, thanked the officers and men for their heroic gallantry and valor.

Texas Government Begins to Organize

To return to the civil government of Texas. On the recommendation of the committee of San Felipe, that one from each of the other committees should attend to form a central council, a temporary head was formed. Those of the consultation that assembled on the 16th of October, found it in session ; and when, on the 17th, they adjourned till the first of November, they recognized it by declaring that those members " who could not join the army, might remain, with the permission to unite with the council of Texas, and have access to all the intelligence in possession of the council relative to the [then] present crisis." This body was thus the government of Texas, duly acknowledged, and never disputed. It proceeded to a further organization by appointing A. Huston, one of the members from San Augustine, as secretary.

To prevent further depredations upon the public lands in the absence of the volunteers, the council declared that "all land-offices be closed until the present difficulties of Texas are removed, or until the consultation meets and acts on the matter; and further that all commissioners cease to grant orders of surveys, that all surveyors cease their operations in surveying, and that all transactions in regard to public lands whatsoever shall cease until the consultation meets and acts on the subject." The council directed copies of this order to be served on the land-commissioners, which was done. The committees of Nacogdoches and San Augustine, taking up this subject, fixed upon the first of November when all such officers should cease their functions. The council proceeded further to declare and recommend that the four hundred league trans-action be declared void.

On the subject of the Indians there was much difficulty in the council. Their position was threatening, their disposition wavering. The word of promise had for thirteen years been given them, and during that time they had occupied their lands. They had also made improvements : those of the Cherokees a short day's journey northwest of Nacogdoches ; those of theS hawnees between the Cherokee improvements and the Neches; and those of the Cooshatties on the east bank of the Trinity. A deputation had been appointed, as has been already stated, by the eastern committees, to confer with them. The mouth-piece of the upper Indians was a free negro by the name of William Goyens, who on all occasions proved himself honest and faithful to the Texans. Arrangements had been made, through, Goyens, that the Indians should have a representative before the consultation. On the 14th of October, Houston wrote them that they should "have their land above the road, and between the Neches and the Angelina, so as to include their villages." On the 25th of the same month, Austin wrote that he was "decidedly in favor of securing to the civilized Indians who had emigrated to Texas their lands and rights; and would agree to whatever the consultation did on the subject, so far as it depended on him." On the 26th of October, the council invited them to come to San Felipe, where "their case would be attended to." These promises kept the civilized Indians quiet. To overawe the wild tribes, rangers were sent out on the frontier, and, upon the representation of the people of Bastrop, the ranging-service was extended west of the Colorado.

The Texan government—that is, the council—had much to do. The correspondence was immense ; the authority of the councilors limited by the precarious tenure of their offices. But they had willing cooperators. The union was complete. With their slender resources they managed to send a weekly mail through Texas to Fort Jesup, thus keeping up a regular communication with the United States. Messrs. Baker and Borden had established a printing-press at San Felipe, which sent out the weekly " Telegraph," and extras without number. The people of eastern Texas were also about establishing, at Nacogdoches, "The Emigrant's Guide." Thus the elements of civilization and progress were mingling with the ravages of war.

During the brief existence of the council, that body appointed Sims Hall army-contractor; it sent an able address to the people of the United States; it appointed T. F. McKinney an agent to contract a loan at New Orleans of a hundred thousand dollars; it granted to several persons letters of reprisal : these were some of the more important acts of this first government of revolutionary Texas. [See Next: Formation of Texas Provisional Government]





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