The Battle

From Coexistence to Conflict

Life in Mexican Texas during the 1830s hadn't changed much since the days of the Paleo-Indians (around 9,000 BC). It was a hard life, even for wealthy citizens. Subsistence farming and barter were the order of the day, as were threats from indigenous tribes, like the Comanche, who saw the territory as their own.

In 1821, Mexico declared independence from Spain. To buffer the new nation’s northern border from foreign aggression and hostile Indians, the Mexican government drew European and American settlers to the area with promises of vast land grants.

The National Colonization Law, granting a liberal degree of autonomy to regional government, was enacted. All new settlers had to do was promise to become citizens, obey the law and worship as a Catholic.

Americans came in droves, and with them, they brought a new culture. But before long, political changes in Mexico would erode their loyalty.

By the late 1820s, the Mexican government began restricting American immigration. In 1829, the Federalist Mexican government was overthrown by Centralists who voided much of the 1824 Constitution.

The Texan colonists saw the Centralists as reneging on the promises of the Mexican government.


When the Centralist government began enforcing its policies on Texas, relations between the parties quickly soured. From the first surprise of Gonzales to the conflict at Goliad and the legen- dary siege at the Alamo — both sides would fight stridently for their cause.



Stephen F. Austin arrives in Texas.


Mexico breaks from Spain following the Mexican War of Independence.


January 3

Emperor Agustín de Iturbide's passes the Imperial Colonization Law, inviting empresarios to introduce families in units of 200 and defining the land measurement in terms of labores (177 acres each), leagues or sitios (4,428 acres), and haciendas (five leagues each).



Mexico’s National Colonization Law goes into effect.


The United Mexican States is formed, with Guadalupe Victoria as first President of Mexico.



The Declaration of Independence of the Fredonian Rebellion is signed, and the Fredonian flag is flown over the Old Stone Fort, Nacogdoches.


Manuel de Mier y Teran leads a boundary commission into Texas; his report recommends that strong measures be taken to limit U.S. influence in Texas.



The Federalist Mexican government is displaced by Centralists who void much of the 1824 Constitution.


Sam Houston resigns as Governor of Tennessee and leaves Nashville to live among the Cherokee until 1832.


April 6

A law is passed by the Mexican government that includes provisions to prohibit or limit immigration from the United States.



In the first of the Anahuac Disturbances, Travis and Jack are temporarily imprisoned.


The Turtle Bayou Resolutions align the colonists with the Federalists, calling for a return to the Constitution of 1824.


In the Battle of Velasco, Centralist Mexican forces at Velasco fail to prevent Texians from moving a cannon to Anahuac.


Texian settlers refuse to surrender their arms to Col. José de las Piedras in the Battle of Nacogdoches.


Sam Houston comes to Texas and becomes involved in Texas politics and the rebellion against Mexico.



Stephen F. Austin arrives in Mexico City with the proposed Constitution of 1833, requesting extension of tariff exemptions, separation of Texas as a state from Coahuila, and repeal of restrictive colonization laws.



The government of Mexico imprisons Stephen F. Austin in Mexico City.

of Gonzales


The Battle of Gonzales began in September as a conflict over a bronze six-pound Spanish gun given to American colonists by the Mexican government for Indian defense.

When six Mexican soldiers, acting on orders from Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea, tried to take it back, a fight ensued and the soldiers were taken captive.

In response, Lieutenant Francisco de Castañeda was sent with a hundred men to make sure Ugartechea's request for the gun was clearly understood. Casteñeda's orders were to use force if necessary, but avoid open conflict in light of mounting tensions between the Mexican government and the Texian colonists.

When Castañeda's troops reached the Guadalupe River near Gonzales, high water and eighteen Texians blocked their path. Sensing resistance, he marched his troops upriver to "cross without any embarrassment." The Texians followed.

On the morning of October 2nd, the Mexican camp was at- tacked. At one point, the Texian leader John Henry Moore met with Lieutenant Castañeda, who again requested the cannon. Colonists pointed to the six-pounder sitting behind them and said "There it is — come and take it."

Castañeda's men fell back, eventually withdrawing toward Béxar. In his official report, Castañeda remarked "Since the orders from your Lordship were for me to withdraw without compromising the honor of Mexican arms, I did so."

The Effect

While a minor skirmish, the Battle of Gonzales was an unfortunate milestone in the breakdown of relations between the Mexican government and its American colonists. Though the fate of the cannon is unknown, it may have been melted down after the fall of the Alamo.



Andrew Briscoe and DeWitt Clinton Harris, arrested June 12 in Anahuac in a dispute over customs duties, are freed by insurgents led by William Barret Travis.


Mexican General Cos enters Goliad with over 400 infantrymen, intending to punish the leaders of the Anahuac uprising.


The Battle of Gonzales marks the first official skirmish of the Texas Revolution.


General Cos marches on San Antonio.


Texians sieze Goliad.


In the Battle of Concepcíon, Texians under James Bowie and James W. Fannin drive Mexican Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea out of Nuestra Señora de la Purísma Concepción de Acuña Mission, capturing a Mexican cannon.


Mexican Federalist Gen. José Antonio Mexía attacks Tampico with three companies enlisted in New Orleans. The result — a decree that all foreigners in arms against Mexico should be treated as pirates and shot.


In a skirmish outside of San Antonio, Texians capture what they hope is a Mexican pay train. The pack animals prove to carry grass fodder.


Ben Milam and Francis W. Johnson lead a surprise attack on San Antonio de Béxar. Milam is killed December 7 by a sharpshooter.


The Army of the Republic of Texas captures San Antonio.


Captain Phillip Dimmitt raises the Goliad Flag over Presidio La Bahia as the settlers sign their own Declaration of Independence from Mexico.

of The Alamo


In December of 1835, Texian revolutionaries had taken San Antonio de Béxar from Mexican Centralist troops. The city's critical location, along one of the main roads from the interior of Mexico to the American colonies, made it worthy of defense. The city's strongest fortification was a small mission known as the Alamo.

In all, around 225 colonists, under the dual leadership of Colonel James Bowie and Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis, resolved to offer as thick a barrier as possible between the Mexican government and their settlements up the road.

On February 23 Santa Anna’s army — eventually swelling to 2,500 — arrived in Béxar. When the general sent a courier demanding the Alamo’s surrender, Travis replied with cannon fire.

Travis swiftly sent word to Gonzalez seeking aid. But help would not come.

Santa Anna’s forces lay siege to the Alamo for 12 days. In the final assault on March 6, 1,800 Centralist troops stormed the walls. Travis was among the first to die. Jim Bowie, in bed with pneumonia, was also among the fallen. All Texian fighters were killed or executed, taking about 600 Centralists with them.

The Effect

The Alamo defenders remained at their post, fighting for Texas Independence until the last and buying time for the young government to organize. Their memory fueled spirits on the Battlefield at San Jacinto and beyond — inspiring courage in the face of patriotic sacrifice.



Santa Anna crosses the Rio Grande.


Four schooners: Invincible, Brutus, Independence, and Liberty, are purchased by the Revolutionary Texas Navy.


David Crockett arrives in Texas.


Santa Anna arrives in Béxar with an army to enforce government policy. What ensues is the most famous battle in Texas history.


Gen. José de Urrea defeats Col. Francis W. Johnson at San Patricio.


Delegates from many Texas communities gather in Washington-on- the-Brazos, Texas, to deliberate independence from Mexico.


The Texas Declaration of Independence is signed by 60 delegates, and the Republic of Texas is declared.


General José de Urrea defeats Dr. James Grant and a small band of Americans in the Battle of Agua Dulce Creek, the end to an attempted Texian expedition against Matamoros.


1,800 Mexican troops storm the walls. All Texian soldiers are killed, including Travis, Bowie and Crocket. The Alamo falls; 182 settler-soldiers die in a struggle with approximately 5,000 Mexican soldiers.


In March of 1836, things were not going well for Sam Houston’s Texas revolutionaries. Having declared independence from the official Mexican government, they were now running from the Mexican army, and running out of time.

Since January, Texas settlers had been abandoning their homes and the lives they'd created on the Texas frontier. Known as the Runaway Scrape, this retreat began as the Mexican government initiated military reoccupation of the newly settled land. The event was marked by sickness, freezing weather, hunger and panic among the citizenry.

But their main problem was the feared "Napoleon of the West", Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Realizing the strategic importance of controlling the Texas coastline and hoping to capture the Texas government, Santa Anna led his 700 men to Harrisburg on his way to the coast, burning the town.

By early April, the Texas army received its only artillery, a pair of six-pound guns known as the Twin Sisters. They did not stay idle.

Houston's men, their families uprooted and futures uncertain, were ready to fight. On April 16th, their retreat led them to a fork in the road. One road led to Louisiana and possible refuge in the United States, the other to Harrisburg and the edge of the coast. Houston's army took the road to Harrisburg — and its destiny.



James W. Fannin sends Amon B. King and 28 men from Goliad to Refugio, to support the families besieged there.

March 10

Sam Carson arrives late to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. A week later he loses out on becoming the President of Texas by six votes.

March 11

Sam Houston assumes command of the Texas Army at Gonzales.


Amon B. King falls back on Refugio with a small troop, after unsuccessfully attacking Carlos de la Garza, leader of a troop of rancheros acting as advance cavalry for Gen. José de Urrea.


News of the fall of the Alamo reaches Gonzales and Gen. Houston, spurring retreat of the settlers eastward.


The Battle of Refugio ends with the capture of Amon King, and the retreat of Lt. Col. William Ward’s men.

March 16

Albert C. Horton's men from Guadalupe Victoria, who were bringing needed provisions, join Fannin near Coleto Creek. The wait further delays Fannin’s retreat.


Modeled after the U.S. Constitution, the new Texas Constitution allows slavery, requires free blacks to petition Congress to live in the country, but prohibits import of slaves from anywhere but the United States.

March 17

Horton's cavalry discovers Colonel Juan Morales approaching with the Jiménez and San Luis battalions, 500 veterans of the battle of the Alamo whom Antonio López de Santa Anna had sent from Béxar to reinforce José de Urrea’s troops.



The Goliad Campaign of 1835 started as an initiative by General Martín Perfecto de Cos to regain control of ports along the Texas Coast. Major political changes were occurring in Mexico. Policies concerning the northern territory — established in the Mexican Constitution of 1824 — limited the power of the central government. Defenders of this original agreement, including the Texas colonists, were known as Federalists.

In 1835, the Centralist government planned a major campaign to enforce its new policies in Texas. General Cos was to land at Copano and secure the region. To prepare, the colonists in both Goliad and Copano were disarmed.

Federalist volunteers organized to resist the military occupation. In October, they captured the fort and most of its defenders.

The Goliad Campaign came to a tragic close, however, on March 27, 1836, when hundreds of captured Texas revolutionaries, under the leadership of Colonel James W. Fannin, Jr., were executed on the orders of General Santa Anna.

The Effect

Though legal under Mexican law, the incident revealed Santa Anna’s cruelty to the eyes of revolutionaries and sympathizers alike. And the dissident momentum it generated would pick up more speed in San Antonio and come to rest at the Battle of San Jacinto.



After retreating from Goliad, Fannin and his men maintain their position while surrounded near Coleto Creek; short on water, food, and ammunition, they surrender to José de Urrea the next day.


Texan General James Walker Fannin, Lieutenant Colonel William Ward and 340 other Texian prisoners are killed by Mexican troops in Goliad near the Presidio La Bahia.


A pair of six-pound guns, the Twin Sisters, arrive in Southeast Texas, a gift to the Texian revolutionaries from the people of Cincinnati, Ohio.

March 29

San Felipe is burned to prevent it falling into the hands of the Mexican Army.


Houston's men begin to cross the flooded Brazos on the steamboat Yellow Stone.


The fork in the road — Houston’s army heads southeast toward Harrisburg, rather than towards Nacogdoches and the U.S.


President Burnet narrowly escapes capture by Juan Almonte at New Washington, escaping by boat to Galveston.

of San Jacinto


The final battle between the Mexican forces under Santa Anna’s command and the Texians under the command of Sam Houston occurred where it did because both armies were headed for Lynch’s Ferry at the point where both Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto River flowed together into the bay.

On the morning of April 20th, the Texas army moved onto the field first and took control of Lynch's Ferry, then counter marched to a dense grove of oak trees between the Harrisburg-Lynchburg road and Buffalo Bayou. Anyone going to the ferry had to pass close by this wooded area.

The Mexican army, numbering about 750 troops, arrived around noon, marching in columns along the New Washington-Lynchburg road. As they approached the Texas army hidden in the trees, a skirmish line was formed and advanced to make contact with the Texians.

The Mexicans moved a cannon up and started firing at the Texas camp. Sidney Sherman, commander of the Second Regiment, asked for and received permission to lead volunteers from the cavalry in an attempt to capture the gun. The Mexicans withdrew the gun and this ended the action on April 20.

When Santa Anna came on the field he deployed the rest of his army along the ridge line (where the Monument is now) and after the Texian attempt to take the field gun, he, against the advice of his officers, abandoned the high ground and moved the army into camp about 200 yards east, with marsh and water to his back and right.

The next morning, General Martín Perfecto de Cos, with reinforcements of 500 troops, arrived and was put into line between the north end of the breastwork and the bluff line along the marsh of San Jacinto Bay to the east. This increased the Mexican troops to about 1,250, while the Texians numbered about 930.

Inexplicably, the Mexicans posted no sentries, pickets or look-outs that afternoon, a devastating error which allowed the Texians to advance across the low ground, over the ridgeline, and to a short distance in front of the breastworks before being detected. This surprise was one of the major factors in the Texas victory.

The 2nd Regiment, under the command of Sidney Sherman, formed the left of the Texian line and, advancing through some trees along the top of the bluff, had proceeded slightly ahead of the rest of the Texas line. The battle started there when Sherman's men hit the right of the Mexican line. Taken unawares, the Mexican army was never able to organize and the result was a rout. "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!" was the battle cry of the vengeful Texians, who pressed their advantage hard, driving the fleeing Mexicans into the marsh.

The fighting lasted about 18 minutes. Mexican casualties were high: about 630 soldiers lost their lives. Another 700 were taken prisoner, including Santa Anna, who was found later hiding in the tall grass of the marshlands. The defeated general was brought before Sam Houston, and later agreed to leave Texas with the remnants of both his army and his dignity.


For Mexico, the defeat was the beginning of a downhill martial and political spiral that would result into the loss of nearly a million square miles in territory. For the Texians, their victory led to annexation into the United States and the United States' war with Mexico. In the end, the United States would gain not only Texas but also New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, California, Utah and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.

As a result of the Battle of San Jacinto, almost a third of what is now the United States of America changed ownership.

April 20

9:00 A.M.

The Texian Army reaches the Lynchburg Ferry, and then pulls back 1/2 mile and sets up camp.

12:00 NOON

The Mexican army arrives, forms a skirmish line and brings up a cannon to fire on the Texian camp. After an unsuccessful attempt by the Texians to capture the gun, both sides retire.

April 21

9:00 A.M.

General Cos arrives, reinforcing the Mexican army with 500 troops.

3:30 P.M.

The Texians under General Sam Houston advance silently on the Mexican encampment, hoping to surprise the enemy.

4:30 P.M.

Mexican Colonel Pedro Delgado, in his account of the battle, notes: "No important incident took place until 4:30 p.m. At this fatal moment, the bugler on our right signaled the advance of the enemy upon that wing."

5:00 P.M.

After about 20 minutes of intense fighting at or near the breastworks, the Mexicans retreat. The Texians pursue for more than an hour, driving them back to the water's edge. During sporadic fighting and evasive flight by the Mexican soldiers, approximately 630 were killed.

6:00 P.M.

Over 700 Mexican soldiers are allowed to surrender to the Texian army.

April 22

Santa Anna is captured and brought into the Texian camp. Reluctantly he agrees to the terms of a treaty requiring Mexican soldiers to evacuate Texas.

MAY 14

Ad interim president David G. Burnet and Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna sign the treaties of Velasco, ending the Texas Revolution.

MAY 26

Gen. Vicente Filisola begins withdrawing Mexican troops from Texas.


Maj. Isaac W. Burton’s mounted ranger company captures the schooner Watchman in Copano Bay, loaded with supplies for the Mexican Army.


On board the Watchman, Isaac Burton’s rangers seize the Comanche and the Fanny Butler, also carrying supplies for the Mexican Army; they gain the nickname Horse Marines.


Sam Houston is elected the first president of the Republic of Texas.

of the Republic


For a decade after San Jacinto, Texas was a sovereign nation. Although Mexico could not accept the magnitude of its loss at first, Texas was formally recognized by many other nations including the United States, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium. It even maintained its own navy.

The republic claimed borders that included all of present-day Texas, plus parts of what is today Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico.

In 1836, five sites served as temporary capitals of Texas before President Sam Houston moved it to Houston in 1837. The capital was later moved to Austin in 1839 by the next president, Mirabeau B. Lamar.

Early on, nationalists led by Lamar wanted to remain independent, rid Texas of Native Americans, and expand the borders west to the Pacific. Sam Houston advocated annexation to the U.S. and preferred to live peacefully with the Native Americans.

Initially, Mexico didn’t acknowledge the new republic. In fact, on March 5, 1842, a Mexican force of over 500 men invaded Texas for the first time since the revolution. But after briefly occupying San Antonio, they retreated back to the Rio Grande. Another attack was launched later that year, but eventually the Mexican Army left San Antonio again.

On February 28, 1845, the U.S. Congress passed a bill that would authorize the United States to annex the Republic of Texas. On March 1, U.S. President John Tyler signed the bill. Facing Texas' annexation to the U.S., Mexico offered to recognize the independent republic.

On October 13, 1845, a large majority of voters in the republic approved the American offer over the Mexican deal. They also proposed a state constitution. Texas was annexed and became a U.S. state on the same day, December 29, 1845.



Andrew Jackson and the U.S. Congress recognize the Republic of Texas.



Vicente Córdova and eighteen others issue a proclamation against the usurpation of their rights. Although joined with local Indians and aided by the Mexican government, the Córdova Rebellion is put down.


Mirabeau Lamar takes office as the second president of the Republic of Texas.



Texas adopts a new flag, with a perpendicular blue stripe containing a white five- pointed star, and two horizontal stripes of white and red, the Lone Star Flag.

JULY 15-16

The Cherokee leader Chief Bowl is killed in the Battle of the Neches, leading to the evacuation of Texas by most of the Cherokees and their allies in East Texas to the Indian Territory.


France recognizes Texas independence.


Texas paper money begins circulation


August 6

Hundreds of Comanche warriors plunder Victoria and Linnville in retaliation for the Council House Fight. The raiders steal some 3,000 horses, and take a number of captives. Twenty-three settlers are killed.


June 20

The Santa Fe Expedition leaves Austin, with 51 civilians, including merchants, traders, and teamsters, and a military escort of 270.

December 12

Sam Houston begins his second term as president of the Republic of Texas.


March 5

Mexican troops led by Rafael Vásquez invade Texas, briefly occupy San Antonio, and then head back to the Rio Grande. This is the first such invasion since the Texas Revolution.


The Adelsverein is organized to develop German emigration to Texas, leading to the founding of New Braunfels and Fredericksburg.

September 11

San Antonio is again captured, this time by 1400 Mexican troops under Adrián Woll. The Mexicans retreat, but take numerous prisoners.

November 25

A retaliatory expedition under Brig. Gen. Alexander Somervell heads to the border, seizes Laredo, crosses the Rio Grande, and then, short on provisions, disbands.

December 26

309 men under William S. Fisher enter Mier, are countered by Mexican troops, and surrender.



Seventeen Texans are executed in what becomes known as the Black Bean Episode, following an attempted escape by the Mier prisoners.

May 16

The Texas Navy sloop-of-war Austin and brig Wharton face off with two Mexican steamships in what is believed to be the only occasion in which a sailing warship engaged and fought a war steamer to a draw at The Battle of Campeche.

December 9

Anson Jones begins his term as the final president of the Republic of Texas.


March 1

President Tyler signs a resolution annexing the Republic of Texas.

July 4

Texas Congress votes for annexation into the United States.

December 29

The Republic of Texas is admitted to the United States as the 28th state.


February 19

President Anson Jones hands over the reins of state government to Governor James Pinckney Henderson declaring "The final act in this great drama is now performed; the Republic of Texas is no more."