Texas Colonists Revolt:1831-1832

 

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The History of Texas: Texas Revolution, 1831-1832

(Previous Section: Texas Indian Battle)

The Mexican government had been, during the year 1831, collecting the materials that were to burst into a conflagration in the course of the following year. Blackburn, at Anahuac, guarding at once the land from surveyors sent by the state to run it off, and the port of Galveston from smugglers, was in the vicinity of the most impracticable portion of the Texan population. Nor did he seem to use any means to conciliate them. On the contrary, his conduct was, in every way, despotic. He compelled their servants to work for him without remuneration; he took, for his own use, their property; he declared martial law; his soldiers ravaged and plundered the country around the fort. On one occasion, a soldier having committed an outrage, the citizens, indignant, arrested the offender, and inflicted upon him summary punishment. Blackburn thereupon caused some of those concerned to be taken and cast into the dungeon of the fort. Of these were William B. Travis, Patrick H. Jack, and Monroe Edwards—the latter since as notorious for his crimes as the former for his defense of the rights of Texas.

These multiplied wrongs could no longer be borne. The people of Trinity flew to arms, and, to the number of sixty, under the command of Colonel Francis W. Johnson, marched to the fort at Anahuac, to demand a release of the prisoners and a redress of grievances. Blackburn at first declined the negotiation; but, finding them in earnest, and the place already invested, and some little fighting having already occurred, he agreed to their proposition, provided they would first retire some miles from the fort, and deliver up the prisoners they had taken. They retired to Turtle bayou, where they awaited his compliance. Their retirement gave Bradburn an opportunity to secure some military stores from a house they had occupied, and to notify Colonel Piedras, commandant at Nacogdoches, and Colonel Ugartachea at Velasco, of his situation. While the Texans were waiting at Turtle bayou, for a compliance on the part of Bradburn, they held a public meeting, and drew up a paper, setting forth the arbitrary and unconstitutional conduct of Bustamente, and also their adherence to the constitution of 1824, and their determination to support it. They invited all the people of Texas to cooperate with them, and sent a committee, with a copy of their proceedings, to lay the same before the proper Mexican authority in Texas.

In the meantime, Colonel Bradburn, having made his arrangements, eschewed the agreement he had made with the Texan forces, and set them at defiance. Exasperated at this treachery, the latter despatched messengers for reinforcements. They sent to Velasco for artillery, but Colonel Ugartachea would not allow it to come. However, a company under Captain Abner Kuykendall shortly arrived from San Felipe, and others, in smaller detachments, came in from the Trinity; and they soon found themselves two or three hundred strong. They took their position at Taylor White's, six miles from Anahuac.

By this time, Colonel Piedras, with part of the forces from Nacogdoches, and fifty or a hundred Shawnee and Cherokee Indians, was advancing to the relief of Colonel Bradburn. The Texans, learning of his approach, sent a committee to meet him, and lay before him the conduct of Bradburn. Colonel Piedras was a gentleman of mild manners, loyal to his government, and of a conciliatory disposition. He listened to the complaints of the colonists, and granted their requests. The prisoners were released, and Colonel Bradburn sent to New Orleans, whence he returned to Mexico. The forces under Colonel Johnson, having achieved the object for which they had collected, dispersed to their homes.

During this year, events had been transpiring in Mexico which greatly aided and excused the Texans in their hostile movements. The despotism of Bustamente had become intolerable. On the 2d of January, 1832, the officers of the garrison of Vera Cruz pronounced in favor of the constitution, and drew up an address to Bustamente, denouncing the course pursued by the government, and demanding the dismissal of his ministers. At the same time the garrison called upon Santa Anna to assume the command. In fact, he was secretly at the head of the movement. He repaired immediately to Vera Cruz, and took the command. Bustamente sent a force, under General Calderon, against the insurgents; but they failed in their object, and retired. The troops at Tampico, and then the state of Zacatecas, joined Santa Anna. Soon he became strong enough to march upon the capital. But it was not until November of this year that Bustamente, seeing himself deserted, and Santa Anna approaching with a powerful army, resigned his authority, and fled from Mexico.

The people of Texas, selecting from the plans presented by the Mexican factions, were ever ready to adopt the most liberal; and though, in the beginning of the emeute at Anahuac, they did not have in view the support of any of these plans, they gladly availed themselves of the plan of Vera Cruz, then in progress. Hence their warm and doubtless sincere professions of attachment to the constitution of 1824 and the "heroic" Santa Anna, who was then fighting, as they firmly believed, the battles of the people.

Lieutentant-Colonel Dominic Ugartachea, in command at Fort Velasco, had a force of one hundred and twenty-five men and a small piece of artillery. He was subject to the orders of Colonel Bradburn, his superior officer: Exception was taken to his refusal to permit the Texans on the Brazos to transport artillery to Anahuac. As early as the 11th of May, a meeting had been held in Brasoria in reference to an attack upon the post, but the proposition failed. Again, another meeting was held in the early part of June, having in view the same object. The success of Santa Anna in Mexico determined the Texans as to the course they would pursue.

On the morning of the 25th of June, the Texans, to the number of one hundred and twelve, under the command of Captain John Austin, approached Fort Velasco, and made a formal demand of the surrender of the place; promising, if the summons was obeyed, that the soldiers should retire with their arms, provided they should be sent out of Texas. The summons being totally disregarded, Austin made his preparations for an attack. A schooner, lying aground above the fort, was dislodged and set afloat; and forty Texans, under the command of Captain William I. Russell, were placed on board of her. She was supplied with a light piece of artillery, an abundance of ammunition, and floated down and moored close to the bank, near the fort. The land-forces of the Texans were marched to within twenty-five paces of the fort, when the engagement commenced. The Texans were much exposed; but the artillery in the fort, which was directed against the schooner, over-shot them. The Texan rifles, however, were very fatal to those in the fort. A Mexican soldier who raised his head above the parapet seldom escaped. The action having begun in the night, but little execution was done until daylight on the morning of the 26th. At one time during the fight, the Texan fire from the schooner was so fatal, that the Mexicans rushed out of the fort to take the vessel, but the fire of the besiegers from the land-side drove them back with loss. At length, after a bloody contest of eleven hours, the Mexicans exhibited the white flag, and capitulated. The enemy were deprived of their arms, furnished with provisions, and set at liberty. The loss of the Texans in this battle was seven killed and twenty-seven wounded; that of the Mexicans, thirty-five killed and fifteen wounded.

At the beginning of the military display in Texas, the Mexican commandants had written home that the object of the Texans was a separation from Mexico; and these reports received credit among the officers of the " Liberating army." Colonel Jose Antonio Mexia, with a squadron of five vessels, having on board four hundred men, sailed from Tampico with orders to reduce Matamoras, then in possession of the partisans of Bustamente, and afterward to chastise the Texan revolters. Arriving at Brazos Santiago, he came to an agreement with Colonel Guerra, the commandant at Matamoras, who was induced to espouse the cause of Santa Anna; and, on the 14th of July, Mexia sailed for the mouth of the Brazos, where he anchored on the 16th, bringing with him Colonel Stephen F. Austin, on his return from the legislature.

Mexia immediately addressed a letter to John Austin, enclosing a copy of the agreement made with Guerra at Matamoras, stating the object of his visit to Texas, and what would have been his course had the late movements in that department had for their object its dismemberment from Mexico.

Captain Austin, in his reply, set forth in a manly spirit the wrongs of the Texans inflicted by the military, and declared the adherence of his people to the Mexican confederation—affirming that "they were Mexicans by adoption, were so in heart, and would so remain; that if the laws had granted to them the honorable title of ' citizens,' they wished that title should be respected; and that they should be governed by the authorities established by the constitution of the state.

All these things being in accordance with the republican views of Colonel Mexia—for he was a sincere republican—a deputation of the citizens of Brasoria waited on him, on board the "Santa Anna," and invited him to proceed with Colonel S. F. Austin to the town. They were accordingly conducted to Brasoria, where Colonel Mexia was presented by the committee from Turtle bayou with the resolutions of the meeting at that place on the 13th of June. The proceedings of the day closed with a dinner, in which many sentiments were drunk indicative of the temper of the Texans.

The ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin took advantage of the presence of Colonel Mexia, and of the political chief of Bexar, Don Ramon Musquez—who had visited that town for the purpose of investigating the difficulties in question—to ascertain the sentiments of all the colonists, and present them to those functionaries in legal form. This they did on the 27th of July, 1832.

After denouncing the calumnies that had been circulated in Mexico against the loyalty of Texas, the ayuntamiento charged the late outbreaks to "the tyrannical and illegal acts of Colonel Bradburn;" they solemnly adhered to the principles of the republican party headed by Santa Anna; they disclaimed having in view any other object than to "contribute in sustaining the constitution, and the true dignity and decorum of the national flag." They further declared that the general and state constitutions ought to be religiously observed as the only guaranty for public tranquility and national freedom. After denouncing a large standing army, and the usurpations of Bustamente, they ordered that a copy of their proceedings should be sent by Colonel Mexia to Santa Anna, and a like copy by Musquez to the state legislature.

Colonel Mexia then returned with his fleet and forces to Matamoras, taking with him such of the Mexican soldiers in Texas as were disposed to act against Bustamente. Previous to his departure, however, he had addressed a communication to Colonel Piedras, the commandant at Nacogdoches, asking his adherence to the party of Santa Anna. This was refused.

It was known to the citizens of Nacogdoches that Colonel Don Jose de las Piedras was opposed to Santa Anna, and that he was at heart a monarchist. His officers were also generally adverse to him in politics; but they feared to take any steps in opposition to his authority. During the latter days of July, 1832, the civil authorities of Nacogdoches communicated with those of Aes bayou, Teneha, and Bevil; and it was agreed to unite in compelling the Mexican force at Nacogdoches to declare for the constitution of 1824, or else to fight. Accordingly, the troops from these settlements concentrated on the last day of July; and, on the night between the 1st and 2d of August, they encamped directly east of the town, and all the families evacuated the place. After a conference between the civil and military authorities, Isaac W. Burton, Philip A. Subleft, and Henry W. Augustin, were appointed a committee to wait on Colonel Piedras, and present to him the alternative agreed on. He chose to fight. The committee reported his answer to the Texan forces, then amounting to about three hundred men. They elected James W. Bullock, of San Augustine, to the command, and, at noon on the 2d of August, marched into Nacogdoches, where they maneuvered for some time, waiting to be attacked; but, finding that the enemy did not show himself, they advanced into the centre of the town. When a little north of the stone house, they were suddenly charged by the Mexican cavalry, numbering about one hundred men. The latter fired and wheeled, and received a round from the Texan rifles as they retired. In this charge the Mexicans killed Don Encarnacion Chirino, the alcalde of the town. The Texans then took possession of the houses on the north and east sides of the square, and, whenever any of the enemy showed themselves, they were shot. The Mexicans made one sortie in the evening. It was commanded by a young officer who was known to be friendly to the Texans and to their cause, and who had shown his friendship for them in the Fredonian troubles of 1827. The Texans spared him. With the repulse of this sortie, the fighting ceased. During the night, Piedras and his troops evacuated the place, leaving behind him his killed and wounded, public stores, and clothing. His ammunition he had thrown into the wells.

Colonel James Bowie, who was engaged in this action, was dispatched, with a few chosen men, to pass by the retreating Mexicans, and give them a warm reception as they crossed the Angelina, twenty miles distant. He succeeded in this, by taking the lower road. As the advanced guard of the enemy, commanded by Sergeant Marcos, rode into the water, and stopped to allow their horses to drink, the Americans fired on them. Marcos fell. The Americans then drew back, and the Mexican troops proceeded on their way to a house on the hill west of the river, where they passed the night. Bowie's men, twenty in number, encamped a mile below. The next morning, upon a demand to surrender, Colonel Piedras turned over the command to Major Francisco Medina, who declared immediately in favor of the constitution of 1824.

The Mexican loss in this battle was forty-one killed and as many wounded, while that of the Texans was but three killed and five wounded. The prisoners, three hundred and ten in number, were sent, under the care of Colonel Bowie, to San Felipe. Colonel Piedras was placed in charge of Captain Asa M. Edwards, to be by him delivered to Colonel Mexia at Anahuac. On the way, Edwards received news of the sailing of Mexia for Matamoras; he therefore took Piedras to Colonel S. F. Austin, by whom he was forwarded to Tampico.

The Texans, in order to reduce the entire department of Texas into acquiescence with the measures adopted by them, began to assemble at Gonzales; but the intelligence arrived that the state of Coahuila and Texas had come into the plan, whereupon the towns all submitted, and the people returned to their homes.

" Thus ended," says Edward, " the warlike commotions of these colonies, on the 2d of September, 1832, just as the inhabitants were informed that their greatest arch-enemy, General Teran, and his troops, on their way to Mexico from Matamoras, had been surrounded by the liberal forces of General Montezuma, and that too on the identical plain where the injudicious Iturbide lost his life. Teran, having determined within himself neither to unite with the liberals nor to submit to them as a prisoner, retired to a private place and fell on his own sword! — appearing to those who found him, while still alive, as inexorable in the hour of death as he was uncompromising in political life.

[Next Section of Texas History: Texas's Growing Political Power-1832-1833]

 

 

 

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