Battle of Rosalis


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Texas History: The Battle of Rosalis

(Also Known as the Battle of Salado)

(Previous Section: Battle of La Bahia)

Major Kemper was promoted to the rank of colonel, and commander-in-chief de facto, and Captain Ross was chosen major. A council of war was held, at which it was resolved to obtain reinforcements and march on San Antonio. Captain McFarland was dispatched to the Lipan and Twowokana Indians for aid. An express was also sent to Nacogdoches, to the commandant Guadiana, to forward in haste all the recruits to be had there. The volunteers from Nacogdoches, one hundred and seventy in number, soon arrived. Twenty-five Coos battle Indians, of the old missions, also joined them. With these additions, the Americans set out on their march up the left bank of the San Antonio, and crossed the Salado, a small creek emptying into that river, about the 28th of March. Here they were joined by Captain McFarland with three hundred Lipan and Twowokana warriors.

The viceroy Venegas, notwithstanding he was sorely pressed by the republicans at home, found an opportunity for throwing reinforcements into San Antonio. Salcedo, receiving information of the advance of the Americans, sent out his troops to form an ambush. The whole regular force, consisting of fifteen hundred men, and about a thousand militia, were placed under the command of the officer who brought on the reinforcements —he having solicited it, and pledged his sword and his head to the governor that he would kill and make prisoners the whole of the republican army! The latter consisted of eight hundred Americans, under Colonel Kemper; one hundred and eighty Mexicans from Nacogdoches, nominally under Colonel James Gaines, but really led by Manchaca, a rough, uneducated, but strong-minded Mexican of Texas; and three hundred and twenty-five Indians. The Americans, expecting a conflict, had prepared for it. They marched in order of battle. The left wing, under the command of Major Ross, moved in front; the right, under Kemper, was in the rear. A select corps of riflemen, under Captain Luckett, acted as flankers on the right. The American left was protected by the San Antonio river, along the bank of which they marched.

About nine miles from San Antonio there was a ridge, of gentle slope, dividing the waters of the San Antonio and the Salado. The side of this ridge next to the San Antonio, from the crest to the road, consisted of prairie; the side bordering the Salado was covered with chapparal, a species of thick Underwood. In this chapparal the Spaniards were lying in ambush. They were discovered by the riflemen, who were marching on the crest of the ridge, and who opened a fire upon them. They immediately formed, and presented themselves to the American army about four hundred yards below. The Spanish line, in the centre of which were twelve pieces of artillery, crowned the crest of the ridge for three quarters of a mile.

The Indian auxiliaries were placed in front of the American lines, to receive the charge of the Spanish cavalry, until suitable dispositions could be made to charge in turn. At the first onset, they all fled, except the Cooshatties and a few others; these withstood two other charges, in which they lost two killed and several wounded. By this time the Americans had formed at the foot of the ridge, having placed their baggage-wagons in the rear, under the protection of the prisoners they had taken at La Bahia. The charge was sounded, and orders given to advance to within thirty yards of the Spanish line, fire three rounds, load the fourth time, and charge along the whole line. The order was obeyed in silence, and with a coolness so remarkable, that it filled the Spaniards with terror. The Americans had greatly the advantage in ascending the hill, as the enemy overshot them. The Spaniards did not await the charge of their adversaries, but gave way along the entire line, and then fled in the direction of San Antonio. They were pursued and killed in great numbers; and many who had surrendered were cruelly butchered by the Indians. When the Spanish commander saw his army flying, and that the day was lost, he turned his horse toward the American line, and rushed into their ranks. He first attacked Major Ross, and then Colonel Kemper; and, as his sword was raised to strike the latter, he was shot dead by William Owen, a private in Captain Joseph Taylor's company.

In this great Texan battle, there were nearly a thousand of the enemy slain and wounded, and a few taken prisoners; though the inhuman conduct of the Indians greatly reduced the number of those captured.

The next day the Americans pursued their march to the borders of the town of San Antonio, and sent in a flag, demanding the surrender of the place and garrison. Governor Salcedo asked till morning to make his arrangements for the capitulation of the place. A second flag was sent in, notifying him that, if he and his staff did not immediately proceed to the American camp, with the flag, they would storm the town. Salcedo with his staff, fourteen in all, complied with this demand. The governor approached Captain Taylor, and presented him his sword. Taylor referred him to Colonel Kemper; the latter declined to receive it, but referred him in turn to General Bernardo Gutierres. This was too much; Salcedo stuck his sword into the ground in front of Bernardo, and left it there The latter took it up. The Spanish troops, stores, arms, and military chest, were all surrendered. The Americans marched into the Alamo, and released seventeen of their countrymen whom they found there imprisoned, put arms in their hands, and placed them in the ranks of the "Republican Army of the North." The spoils were distributed. Each man in the army received his wages, a gratuity of fifteen dollars, a suit of clothes, and an order for two horses or mules out of the public caballada. The Indians were supplied with two dollars' worth of vermilion, together with presents of the value of a hundred and thirty dollars, and sent away rejoicing. The Spanish soldiers taken as prisoners were set at liberty. Some joined the ranks of the republicans, and the rest repaired to their homes. Salcedo and his staff were permitted the liberties of the town on their parole of honor.

Governor Salcedo Murdered

About the first of April, 1813, General Bernardo (who, being among his own people, had begun to assume a little more authority) ordered the army to be paraded, and read to them what he affirmed was a letter informing him that two vessels, at Matagorda bay, were about to sail to the United States, and stated that he considered it safest to send Salcedo and his staff to New Orleans, there to remain on their parole until the war was over. This proposition was acquiesced in by the troops; and that evening the governor and his suite started on their march, under the guard of a company of Bexar Mexicans commanded by Captain Delgado. They were taken about a mile and a half below the town, to the point of a small ridge that runs down to the river; and there, on the east bank of the stream, the prisoners were stripped and tied, and their throats cut! Among them, besides Governor Salcedo, were the brave and accomplished ex-governors Herrera and Cordero. The next morning, the Americans, discovering that Delgado and his company were back in their quarters, suspected some treachery. The American officers, having their honor pledged for the safety of these victims, caused Delgado to be arrested and tried. His defense was, that Colonel Delgado and General Bernardo, having been engaged under the banner of Hidalgo, when the latter fell, were making their escape to Louisiana; that Colonel Delgado—who was his father—was taken and executed by Salcedo in San Antonio, and his head exposed on a pole, as the Americans saw when they marched into the town and that for this reason General Bernardo had given him permission to put the prisoners to death. Upon this statement, Captain Delgado was released, and Bernardo himself brought to trial. He made the same defense as the former, with this addition, that the younger Delgado had implored him on his beaded knees thus to avenge his father's death. The tribunal, however, found Bernardo guilty of treachery and barbarity, and deposed him.

[Next Section of Texas History: Battle of Medina]




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