Texas Almanac, 1988-1989 Page: 23
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GULF COAST 23
Mexico, where business was to be conducted through
channels. The Anglo-Texans inadvertently further ag-
gravated the suspicions of Mexican officials concern-
ing their intentions. And vice versa. On the return trip,
from Mexico City, Austin was arrested. He had written
a letter to officials in San Antonio that was interpreted
as calling for a revolution. During Austin's two years of
Imprisonment, settlers contained their complaints,
fearing for his safety.
And the Mexican government was not Insensitive to
the Anglo-Texans' complaints. Col. Juan Nepomuceno
Almonte toured Texas in 1834 with twofold instructions:
to assure settlers that the government was moving to
Implement reforms ana to determine the attitude of the
colonists. Almonte found no unrest in Texas and advo-
cated most of the reforms that Austin had requested in
indeed, despite the turmoil, Texas was prospering.
By 1834, 7,000 bales of cotton with'a value of 1315,000
were shipped to New Orleans. In the middle of the dec-
ade, Texas exports, Including cotton and beaver, otter
and deer skins, amounted to 500,000. Trade ratios were
out of balance, however, because $630,000 in manufac-
tured goods were imported. Almonte also found that
there was little currency in Texas. Ninety percent of the
business transactions were'conducted in barter or cred-
it, "which gives the country, in its trading relations, the
appearance of a continued fair," he observed.
In 1833 and 1834, the legislature of-Coahulla y Texas
also was diligently trying to 'respond to the complaints
of Texas colonists. The English language was recog-
nlzed for official purposes. Religious toleration was ap-
proved. (Gen. Teran n 1828 had noted that freedom of
religion was better than no religion at all, which was the
case in Texas at the time.). And the court system was
revised, providing Texas with an appellate court and
trial by jury. Previously, the legislature had approved
schools for the colonists, but this measure was not fully
implemented because of a lack of fundsand low popula-
tion density. Texas also was divided into three depart-
ments, Bexar, Nacogdoches and Brazos, to facilitate
In Mexico City, however, things were not going as
well. Santa Anna, elected president in 1832, was reveal-
ing the duplicity that marked his career. Upon election,
he turned the government over to Vice President Go-
mez Farlas, a liberal, who instituted many reforms that
drew opposition from the aristocracy, the clergy and
the military. Santa Anna resumed power, exiled Farlas,
repudiated his federalist platform and began centraliz-
ing the national government. By October 1835, the
Mexican Congress was subservient to Santa Anna. Li-
berals in the state of Zacatecas rebelled, and the revolt
was ruthlessly put down. To make an example of the
Insurgents, troops were allowed to sack the state cap-
ital. The military also was sent into Coahuila to settle a
dispute between centralists andf federalists.
In January of 1835, the Mexican dictator sent troops
to Anahuac to make another attempt at collecting taxes
and customs. William B. Travis led a contingent of set-
tlers that ousted the troops. Surprisingly, Travis found
that the action was not universally popular among
Anglo-Texans. Settlers were divided into two camps,
the war party and the peace party. The war party was
made up of generally newer colonists who had little
time invested in Texas; it advocated a complete break
with Mexico, seeking either independence or annex-
ation to the United States. The peace party attracted
longtime colonists, many of who had sincerely pledged
allegiance to the Mexican government; its leaders
counseled patience and wanted to ride out the current
political storm, as had been done before.
Committees of correspondence, organized in 1832
and 1833, were reactivated, and a meeting was called at
Washington-on-the-Brazos in October 1835. Because
Mexican officials felt that the word "convention"
sniffed of revolt and revolution, the Texans called the
meeting a "consultation." Stephen F. Austin had been
released from prison and had changed his position.
Previously he advocated patience with the govern-
ment; now he recommended war to defend freedom.
Little was accomplished at the session. The peace party
held control, and the representatives voted to defend
the Mexican Constitution of 1824. Henry Smith was
named governor of the provisional government. Sam
Houston was appointed head of the armed forces, al-
though he had no control over volunteers already in the
field near San Antonio. Representatives were sent to
the United States to raise money for the battle against
Santa Anna. Another meeting was called for March
Military activity continued. In Gonzales in October,
Mexican soldiers attempted to regain a cannon that had
been issued to settlers to fight Indians. The settlers
challenged the military, flying a flag proclaiming
"come-and-take-it." After a brief skirmish, the Mexi-
cans withdrew, but the first shots of the Texas revolu-
tion had been fired.
Gen. Martin Perfecto de Cos had entered Texas
with a contingent of troops during the Gonzales incl-
dent and took command of San Antonio. Capt. George
Collinsworth captured Goliad and a large store of sup-
plies. And to force the Mexican military from Texas, an
army of volunteers marched on San Antonio, which fell
As 1835 ended, Anglo-Texans had removed all ves-
tiges of the Mexican military from the region. So rela-
tively simple had been the operation that no retaliation
was feared; Most volunteers went home, their places
filled by newcomers from the United States. A heavy
price in blood was to be paid for the overconfidence.
Santa Anna. surprisingly entered Texas in early
February 1836. Most Texans thought that if the Mexi-
cans retaliated for the military defeats of the previous
year it would come in the spring. A dry winter had de-
stroyed forage between the Rio Grande and the Nueces
River, and therefore food for the horses and pack ani-
mals had to be carried. Also, the Mexican army had
suffered heavy losses in the battle of Zacatecas; it took
time to train replacements.
And Texans also recalled that they had expelled the
Mexican military in 1833 with no retaliation following.
Perhaps the Mexicans would still be too busy with their
Infighting to worry with the troublesome Texans.
But Santa Anna had decided tomake an example of
Texas, not only for the colonists, -but also for those
Americans who thought they could take the Mexican
territory by subterfuge or force. The Mexican presi-
dent had fought against American frontiersmen in the
Battle of Medina in 1813and was unimpressed with their
military prowess. Familiar with the highly trained, pro-
fessional European military, Santa Anna simply did not
feel that a volunteer fighting force could be effective.
In addition, both personal and national honor had
been offended the previous December when Santa An-
na's brother-In-law, Gen. Cos, had been expelled from
Texas after losing San, Antonlo to Insurgent Anglo-Tex-
ans. The overconfident Mexican dictator wanted to'
even the score for that affront, and then.clear Texas of
Consequently, he took his army much farther north
than ever dictated by military strategy. San Antonio
could have been besieged with 1,000 men or less, while
the rest of the Mexican army was concentrated on the
populated regions along the Texas coast.
If Santa Anna had pursued a more conventional
battle plan, Texas could had faced a disaster. No one
was in charge of the military effort in early 1836. Sam
Houston had been given command of the army, but not
the volunteers. That command eventually was split
among James Fannin, Frank W. Johnson and Dr.
James Grant. Dr. Grant was a resident of northern
Mexico and promoted an invasion of Mexico. He and
Johnson felt that an attack on Matamoros would gain
the support of Mexican liberals in a movement that
could sweep across the entire nation. In January, Grant
and Johnson had takenmen and supplies from San Ant-
onio and set up a base of operations at San Patricio.
Fannin with some 400 volunteers occupied the Presidio
La Bahia at Goliad. Houston had tried to discourage the
proposed attack on Matamoros, and upon failure, he
went to East Texas to treat with the Indians, whose neu-
trality, if not support, the Texans needed.
Not until Independence was declared on March 2
did Texans begin to develop a coordinated military
force. By that time, however, the stage was set for di-
sasters at the Alamo and Gollad. Houston was given
complete command, and a provisional government
with David G. Burnet serving as interim president was
Santa Anna entered Texas on Feb. 12 and laid siege
Continued on Page 25
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Texas Almanac, 1988-1989, book, 1987; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth113819/m1/26/: accessed January 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.