Today, the Texas Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers when the volunteer rebel force led by Ben Milam began to battle for San Antonio on December 5, 1835.
From A complete history of Texas for Schools, Colleges, and General Use by Dudley G. Wooten, published in 1899:
Ben Milam leads the storming of Bexar, December 5, 1835
After Austin’s departure from the army, the plan which he had proposed of storming the town grew in favor. The Texan force had decreased in numbers by inaction, but those left were determined and brave.
Milam had returned, and on December 4 he resolved to end the matter by an appeal to the men. Drawing a line, he took his place on one side of it, exclaiming, “Who will follow old Ben Milam?”
Three hundred soldiers responded. The storming party was divided into two divisions, one commanded by Milam, aided by Captain Morris, and the other by Francis W. Johnson, aided by Colonels Austin, Grant, and Brister.
Just before daylight, on December 5, they entered the suburbs, and moving rapidly, one command along Acéquia Street and the other along Solédad Street, they approached the main plaza; the first division occupied the house of La Garza, while the second seized the Veramendi house.
These two buildings were a block from the main plaza and near the priests’ house which faced that plaza on the north side. The Zambrano Row and Navarro’s house were farther around to the west and south, near the military plaza, which was defended by a redoubt a block west of those buildings.
Barricades and fortifications protected all the streets near the plazas, and most of the houses were garrisoned by Mexican soldiers.
A battery at the Alamo could shell the town, and the enemy’s artillery was everywhere well disposed.
The first day’s fight was slow but desperate, — the Texans using their rifles, while the Mexicans kept up a deadly fire from their cannon and breastworks.
During the night of the 5th both sides were busy strengthening their positions, the Mexicans firing all night, and on the 6th the Texans were able to use their small cannon to better effect, while they extended their line and fortified themselves in trenches.
The Mexicans occupied the tops of the houses near the plazas, and from the parapet walls directed a terrible volley at Milam’s men, while a continual cannonade was kept up from the Alamo and the batteries at the entrances to the main and military squares.
Great danger was experienced in passing from house to house, and the storming force was not able to keep up communications as well as they wished, but towards evening they advanced from the Garza house to a building near the main plaza.
On the 7th the conflict continued much the same, the Texans steadily gaining ground.
But at three o’clock that afternoon, Colonel Milam, in passing to Johnson’s position in the Veramendi house, was instantly killed by a shot in the head.
Francis W. Johnson succeeded to the command, with Robert C. Morris next in authority.
At ten o’clock that night the Navarro house was taken, being a material advance towards the plaza.
On the morning of the 8th Zambrano Row was seized by the Texans, after a desperate resistance by the enemy, the storming party forcing their way by tunneling through the thick stone walls and fighting from room to room.
This was accomplished by the companies of Llewellyn, English, Crane, and Landrum, and a detachment of the New Orleans Grays, those troops being now commanded by William G. Cooke.
At ten o’clock on the night of the 8th the priests’ house was stormed and captured. The enemy had been strengthened that day by Ugartachea with a large force, and that night they kept up a furious firing against every point of the Texan position.
But at nine o’clock on the morning of the 9th, General Cos sent a flag of truce to Colonel Johnson, and surrendered San Antonio to the Texans, agreeing to leave Texas with his officers at once, and never again to take up arms against the Constitution of 1824.
All his men were to be permitted to go or stay as they pleased, but the battalion of convict soldiers was required to be taken back to Mexico by General Cos.
All stores, arms, and military property were delivered to General Burleson for the Texan army, and all prisoners on both sides were released.
Thus, on December 9, 1835, Bexar had fallen, and the Mexican invaders were driven from Texas soil.
The loss on the Texan side in the storming of Bexar was very trifling, Colonel Milam being the only one killed outright, while about thirty were wounded.
The Mexicans were said to have had about one hundred and fifty killed and wounded.
It is a remarkable fact that this desperate undertaking was accomplished by a volunteer force of three hundred men under a subordinate officer, while the commanding general and main body of the army remained in camp.
About the time the siege of Bexar began, a small conflict occurred at Lipantitlan, near San Patricio, on the Nueces. This was on November 4, Captain Westover commanding the Texans. The Mexicans were defeated and retired from the country.
The campaign of 1835 had ended, and the results were of incalculable value to Texas.
Had the capture of Bexar been postponed, as General Houston advised in November, until the following March, the Mexicans would have overrun the whole country west of the Brazos before money, arms, or troops could have been collected; before a government could be put in operation; before a single volunteer could come from the United States; before the colonists could have organized any but the most disorderly and feeble resistance.
As it was, not a Mexican soldier was in Texas at the close of December; Bexar, Goliad, and Gonzales were held by Texan troops; the provisional government had been organized, and its agents were in the United States enlisting substantial aid and generous sympathy everywhere; volunteers were coming from all the colonies and from the patriotic towns and cities of distant States, while practical steps were being taken to equip an army and navy capable of coping with the Mexican invasion, which it was certain would soon attempt the subjugation of Texas.
None of these things could have been accomplished but for the patriots of Goliad and Gonzales, and the heroes of Lipantitlan and Bexar, in the campaign of 1835.
The Texas Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an image of Ben R. Milam, the leader and the casualty of Bexar.