Today, the Texas Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the first skirmish in the Texas Revolution on October 2, 1835.
The Texas Scrapbook published in 1875 included an article from the Texas Almanac of 1861 with one man’s description of the events leading up to and including the Battle of Gonzales:
First Breaking Out of the Texas Revolution at Gonzales.
The writer of this has not yet seen any full and correct account of the first breaking out of the Texas revolution at Gonzales in 1835, and having been personally present, he gives the following details of facts from his own knowledge.
The usurper, Santa Anna, having prostrated the constitution of 1824, which the Texans had subscribed to and sworn to support, and having reduced some of the Mexican states, to the most humiliating subjection, by forcing upon them a Central Military Despotism, his ire was then turned toward Texas, as a part of the State of Coahuila.
Knowing what kind of men he had to contend with, his first object was to disarm, and then to coerce.
For the consummation of these tyrannical objects, the usurper sent an armed force from San Antonio of some three hundred cavalry to take a cannon from the citizens of Gonzales, which had been furnished them by the Mexican government to defend themselves against the incursions of the Indians.
The Mexican commander demanded the cannon. The citizens replied that their Alcalde was absent, and that they would give him an answer on the Alcalde’s return.
This produced a suspense of some three days. No time was lost in sending an express to the Guadaloupe, the Colorado, and the Brazos, for aid. Volunteers from each of these points turned out and hastened to the rescue.
On the arrival of Captain Goheen from the Guadaloupe, Captains Moore and Coleman from the Colorado, and Captain Smith from the Brazos, with their companies, the citizens then informed the Mexican commander that Mr. Williams, their Alcalde, had returned, and that he had determined not to give up the cannon.
The Mexican officer said : “ I have come for the cannon, and will not return without it.” He was then informed that he would not get the cannon without a fight.
The Mexican force occupied the west and the Texans the east bank of the Guadaloupe river, for some two days. In this time of suspense, Major R. M. Williamson and others drew the cannon in open view of the Mexican army, and elevated upon it in large and glaring letters: “COME AND TAKE it!”
The Mexican officer, thinking prudence the better part of valor, declined making the effort ; but moved his encampment about six miles on the direction to San Antonio.
The Texans completed their organization by electing Colonel John H. Moore and Lieutenant-Colonel J. W. E. Wallace to the command. There were seven physicians in the army—they formed themselves into a medical board by electing Rev. W. P. Smith, M.D., President, and Thomas J. Gazley, M.D., Secretary.
On the 1st of October, 1835, Colonel Moore called a council of war, consisting of the field, staff, and company officers.
It determined that it was too much to bear their own expenses and to ride the distance that they had done to meet the enemy, and then to return home without a fight.
Hence the unanimous voice of the council was: “We will hoist the flag of liberty and attack the Mexicans in their encampment on tomorrow morning at daybreak.”
Orders were issued on the evening of the same day, that the army take up the line of march, cross the Guadaloupe River, form on the west bank, and await further orders.
The army having crossed, and at about the hour of eleven at night, being formed into a hollow square, Colonels Moore and Wallace, with the Rev. W. P. Smith, rode into the square, when the latter, being seated on his favorite mule, addressed the army as follows:
“Fellow-soldiers: To cap the climax of a long catalogue of injuries and grievances attempted to be heaped upon us, the government of Mexico, in the person of Santa Anna, has sent an army to commence the disarming system.
“Give up the cannon, and we may surrender our small-arms also, and at once be the vassals of the most imbecile and unstable government upon earth.
“But will Texas give up the cannon? Will she surrender her small-arms? Every response is No, never! Never will she submit to a degradation of that character!
“Fellow-soldiers, the cause for which we are contending is just, honorable, and glorious—our liberty! The same blood that animated the hearts of our ancestors of ’76 still flows warm in our veins.
“Having waited several days for the Mexican army to make an attack upon us, we have now determined to attack them on to-morrow morning at the dawn of day. Some of us may fall, but if we do, let us be sure to fall with our faces toward the enemy.
“Your humble speaker has had the pleasure of examining the contemplated plan of attack. It is judiciously arranged; and to show you that he has had some opportunity of judging, he would simply say that he was with Generals Jackson, Carroll, and Coffee in the great battles at New Orleans in 1814-15.
“Fellow-soldiers, let us march silently, obey the commands of our superior officers, and united as one man, present a bold front to the enemy. Victory will be ours! We have passed the Rubicon, and we have borne the insults and indignities of Mexico until forbearance has ceased to be a virtue.
“A resort to arms is our only alternative; we must fight and we will fight. In numerical strength, the nation against whom we contend is our superior ; but so just and so noble is the cause for which we contend that the strong arm of Jehovah will lead us on to victory, to glory, and to empire.
“With us, everything is at stake—our firesides, our wives, our children, our country, our all! Great will be the influence over the colonies resulting from the effort we are about to make. We must sustain ourselves in the contest. This will inspire confidence in the minds of our countrymen.
“Fellow-soldiers, march with bold hearts and steady steps to meet the enemy, and let every arm be nerved, while our minds are exercised with the happy reflection that the guardian angels are directing our course.
“Let us all go into battle with the words of the immortal Patrick Henry, before the Virginia House of Burgesses, deeply impressed upon our hearts, when, with arms extended toward heaven, and with a voice of thunder, he exclaimed in the most patriotic manner, ‘Give me liberty, or give me death! ’”
The address being concluded, the army took up the line of march silently and in good order. As soon as daylight had fairly dawned, Colonel Moore demanded of the Mexican officer to surrender. On his refusal to do so, the order passed rapidly along the line—“ Fire.”
Immediately the Mexicans were saluted by a volley of grape thrown into their camp from that very cannon which had been the bone of contention. Being quickly seconded by a general discharge of small-arms, the Mexicans retreated precipitately toward San Antonio, and in accordance with their usage, took their killed and wounded with them.
The Texans then returned to Gonzales, where all hearts were made glad at the arrival of the Father of his Country, Colonel Stephen F. Austin, from the prisons of Mexico. Several other companies of volunteers having arrived, so as to make a more extensive organization of the army necessary, Colonel S. F. Austin by acclamation was announced the commanding General of the army, and he appointed Colonel William T. Austin his aid, and Rev. W. P. Smith, Surgeon-General.
While drilling and preparing for the march to San Antonio, the Sabbath day arrived, on the evening of which Rev. W. P. Smith, acting in the joint capacity of surgeon and chaplain to the army, preached to a large and promiscuous assembly of officers, soldiers, and citizens on these words:
“If ye be willing and obedient ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured by the sword, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah i. 19, 20.)
This text was appropriate at the commencement of a revolution. Other battles had previously been fought in defense of the Constitution of 1824, but the attack as above narrated may justly be considered the one which put in motion the great ball of the Texan Revolution.
A few days having been spent in preparations, the line of march was taken up for San Antonio. While en route for that point, General Austin received an appointment from the Provisional Government as one of the financial commissioners to the United States, and as war cannot be successfully carried on without money, duty compelled him to accept.
His vacancy being filled by the election of General Edward Burleson, the army continued its march to San Antonio, whereby a bold and patriotic effort, in which the lamented Colonel Benj. R. Milam, with other noble spirits, fell, the Texan army were successful in gaining a signal victory over General Cos and his numerous army.
The country being cleared of its enemies, the sunshine of peace again shone brightly in all her borders during the little remainder of 1835.
An Old Soldier.
The Texas Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows below a mural at the Museum of Gonzalez showing the Come and Take It flag.