A Walk Through Time
The Revolution, Part 2
October 16th was the day fixed for the meeting of the General Consultation. This name was adopted because the term Convention was peculiarly objectionable to the Mexicans. Only thirty-one members being present on the 16th, they adjourned on the next day to November 1st, part of the members going to the army, and the others remaining to act with the committee at San Felipe. On the 3rd of November a quorum was present, and the body organized by electin gBranch T. Archer, President, and P. B. Dexter Secretary. The Committee, which since the middle of July had been exercising the functions of government, at once turned over all their papers and authority to the Consultation.
It was at first thought that the independence of Texas would be at once proclaimed. This, however, was deemed unadvisable; and on the 6th of November, a declaration was solemnly put forth, which asserted in the preamble that Santa Anna had, by force of arms, overthrown the federal institutions in Mexico, and that the Texans had taken up arms in defence of their rights and liberties; that Texas was no longer bound by the compact, and did not acknowledge the usurpation of Santa Anna; that she would continue the war until the Mexican soldiers were driven from the province; and that, under the circumstances, she had a right to withdraw from the Union, but would still adhere to the Constitution of 1824. Other resolutions pledged the faith of the State to defray the expenses of the army in the field, and donated land to volunteers.
On the 12th of November a Provisional Government was organized, with Henry Smith for Governor, James W. Robinson, Lieutenant Governor, and Sam Houston, Commander-in-Chief of the regular army. On the same day an Executive Council was elected, composed of one member from each municipality.
To secure men and means necessary to carry on the war, three commissioners were sent to the United States. The Consultation, also, befor adjournmeent, suspended the issuing of land titles, abrogated the sale of four hundred leagues of Texas land, made frandulently by the defunct Legislature of Coahuila; took stpes to conciliate the Indians in East Texas; to establish mail lines; to collect duties; and, in general, to inaugurate civil government.
The Texans who had, on the first alarm of war, hastened to the West and gallently repulsed Castanado, were not prepared for a regular campaign, and many of them soon returned to their homes. Those remaining in camp were without a recognized leader, or any definite plan of action. In this contingency the Council sent General Austin as Commander-in-Chief. He arrived at Gonzales on the 10th of October, and the soldiers at once placed themselves under his orders.
At San Antonio, the Mexican garrison had been strengthened by the arrival of General Cos, and numbered about one thousand men. The fortifications were repaired, and the city put in a through state for defense. This city was Austin's objective point. With his army he crossed the Guadalupe River on the 12th of October, and on the 20th arrived at the Mission La Espada, nine miles from the city.
On the 27th Austin sent a detachment of ninety-two men, under Colonels Bowie and Fannin, to reconnoitre, and of practicable, select a camping0ground nearer the city. This party passed the night at Mission Concepcion, where they were discovered by Mexican spies. The camp of the Texans was protected on one side by the river. On the morning of the 28th they found themselves confronted on three sides by a large body of Mexican soldiers. The Texans took position in the low ground on the bank of the stream, out of the range of the enemy's cannon. After some severe fighting the Mexicans retreated to the city, leaving their cannon on the field. In this engagement the Texans had one mad killed. The Mexican loss was not accurately know. It was said sixteen dead bodies were lying near the abandoned cannon, which had been fired but four times.
On the 2nd of November the Texans moved up the river and took a position at the powder-house, one mile east of the city, and soon afterward, at the old mill on the bank of the river, closely investing the place.
On the 26th of November General Cos sent out a party of men to cut grass for their horses. This party was attacked by the Texans, and a running fight took place, the Mexicans retreating in great disorder to their fortifications. Two days after this fight General Austin, who had been appointed Commissioner to the United States, resigned the command of the army , and was succeeded by General Burleson.
Burleson's army was composed of volunteers, many of whom had left home expecting soon to return. Cold weather was approaching, and they were but poorly prepared for a winter campaign. The city was strongly fortified. Most of the houses were of stone or adobe, with small openings and flat roofs, affording good positions and protection to the besieged. On the east side of the river the old fortress of the Alamo had been thoroughly repaired, while the buildings adjoining the curch and the main plaza, in the city were carefully cecured, and the streets barricaded and protected with artillery. In view of the postition and strength of the enemy, some of Burleson's officers thought an assault impracticable. The Texans had been reinforced by two splended companies from New Orleans. They wore a gray uniform, and were called the "New Orleans Grays," and were under the command of Major R. C. MOrris, and Captains Breese and William G. Cooke.
To keep the army together it was necessary to commence active operations, and, at a consultation of officers on the 2nd of December, an assault upon the city was planned for the next day. General Burleson was to remain at headquarters to give general orders; Colonel Neil, with the artillery, was to divert the attention of the foe by an attack upon the Alamo; while the main attacking party was to enter the city in two divisions, one under Colonel B. R. Milam, who led the assault, and the other under Colonel F. W. Johnson. The former entered on Acequia, and the latter on Soledad, two parallel streets extending northward from the main plaza.
Beofre daylight on the morning of the 5th, Milam took possession of La Garza's house, and Johnson of Veramendi's. Johnson's column was first discovered, and subjected to a severe fire of grape and musketry. Soon afterward Milam's division was also fired upon by the guns of the Alamo, and also those of the main plaza. So destructive was the fire that, for a time, communication between the attacking columns was interrupted. During the first day's fight the Texans had one killed and fifteen wounded.
On the second day the Mexicans, from the tops of their flat-roofed houses, and from their breastworks, poured an incessant fire upon the Texans, who steadily advanced, having five wounded during the day.
Severe fighting continued all the third day. About noon a detachment of the assailants under Karnes advanced and with a crow-bar, effected an entrance into a house, securing an advantageous position. While the brave Milam was surveying the situation with a view to ordering a final assault, he was instantly killed by a rifle ball. He was succeeded in the command by Colonel Johnson. The struggle continued and possession of Navarro's house was obtained in the afternoon. Besides losing Milam, the Texans had two privates wounded on this day.
The morning of the fourth day of the fight opened with a cold, drizzling rain, and there was little firing oneither side. About nine o'clock the Texans advanded from Navarro's house to the Zembrano Row, and by openings through the walls, finally drove the enemy from this building. During the contest the Mexicans were reinforced by a regiment from the Rio Grande under Colonel Ugartechea. Lite at night the Texans forced their way into the priest's house on the main plaza. The Mexicans kept up a furious cannonade all night upon the houses occupied by the assailants. The Texans had one wounded (Belden, of the New Orleans Grays) while spiking a cannon.
General Cos, finding it impossible to drive the Texans from the square, just before daylight, on the morning of the 9th, abandoned the city and retreated across the river to the Alamo. At half-past six o'clock the black flags which had been floating over that fortress and the church in town were lowered, and soon afterwards a white one was raised over the Alamo. A conference was held, and a surrender of the garrison took place during the day. Liberal terms were granted to the vanquished. It was said most of the reinforcements introduced by Ugartechea were liberated convicts. These he was required to take back across the Rio Grande. Mexican officers were permitted to retain their side arms and all private property. A small battery and one hundred stand of small arms were returned to the Mexicans for protection against the Indians until they reached the Rio Grande. Officers and men pledged themselves not to fight against Texas during th present war, and such soldiers as chose to do so were permitted to remain in San Antonio. The loss of the Mexicans in this fight was estimated at one hundred and fifty killed, and twelve hundred prisoners surrendered to General Burleson. The Texans captured twenty-one pieces of artillery, five hundred muskets, and a large quantity of clothing and army stores.
Speaking of this brilliant victory, Burnet says: "We regard the taking of San Antonio as, without exception, the most difficult, protracted, and gallant achievement that graced our revolutionary history, and as exhibiting a more patient endurance of the fatiques, privations and dangers incident to war, than is common in any army of unpaid, undisciplined volunteers, a portion of whom were strangers, having no predial interests in the country. Colonel Burleson did all that duty could require. Colonel Johnson approved himself a worthy successor to the brave and skillful Milam, while every subordinate officer and every soldier displayed an indomitable heroism." "This first essay in the field," says Kennedy, "was astonishingly successful, and the storming of Bexar will rank among the most remarkable feats of chivalric daring."
To Be Continued