Today in Military History: "The Lexington of Texas"

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Come_And_Take_It_Mural Molon labe... This “battle” was a very minor skirmish, but every revolution needs a spark to set off the powder keg.  American citizens had been settling in Texas for over a decade.  However, the installation of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna as president of Mexico in 1833 began a series of events which let to the climactic battle of San Jacinto in April of 1836, and the eventual annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845. In 1831, the Texian residents of the town of Gonzales had requested assistance from the nearby town of San Antonio de Bexar, Gonzales being the frequent target of raids by Comanches.  In response, the political leader of San Antonio loaned them a six-pound cannon, which one historian described as “good for little more than starting horse races.”  By 1835, several Mexican states had revolted against some unpopular reforms instituted by President Santa Anna and his cronies.  Fearing the Gonzales residents could use the cannon against him, Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea, the military commander in San Antonio, sent a corporal and five soldiers to Gonzales in mid-September, 1835 to retrieve the cannon.  However, the Texians regarded the gun as theirs, and politely escorted the soldiers out of town. Thinking to take stronger measures, Colonel Ugartechea sent Francisco de Castañeda and a force of 100 dragoons to Gonzales.  They also carried a letter to the local alcalde (mayor) to peacefully relinquish the cannon.  Ugartechea told Castañeda not to start any hostilities with the Texians.  However, word of the approach of the dragoons preceded them, and the Gonzales residents removed the ferry and all other boats from the Guadalupe River.  Arriving at the river on September 29, the soldiers found no easy way to cross the swiftly-flowing river.  In addition, 18 Texian militiamen under Captain Albert Martin awaited them on the eastern shore, informing them they should send one man with the message for the Gonzales mayor, who was not in town at the time.  The Mexicans then camped on the western bank of the river to await the alcalde’s return. Captain Martin sent orders to Gonzales to bury the gun.  Then, messengers were sent to nearby Texian settlements, requesting reinforcements.  Soon, the Texian forces numbered about 140 men.  By October 1, the Texians had decided – despite the Mexican commander’s assurances of no violence – that they would attack the dragoons’ encampment.  The cannon was dug up, and mounted on some cart wheels.  As there was no proper ammunition for the gun, a supply of metal scraps was gathered.  A Methodist minister gave a sermon blessing the cannon, using many references to the American Revolution in his oration. A little after midnight of October 2, the Texians put the ferry back into service and crossed the river to attack the Mexicans, only to find the dragoons had moved upstream to cross the river.  After about three hours marching (only about half of the Texians were mounted, and a thick fog had settled around the river), the bellicose Texians found the new Mexican encampment.  Several shots were fired, with only one Texian wounded.  At dawn, the Texians renewed the fight, wounding a Mexican soldier.  After some parleys, the Texians then wheeled up their cannon and unveiled a homemade banner; it was white, with a crudely painted picture of the cannon in black paint, a single star above it, and underneath the words, “COME AND TAKE IT.”  (Many historians have speculated that these words are a variation of the famous words of the Spartan king Leonidas prior to the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, “Molon labe” or “Come and take them,” a defiant response to the Persian call to surrender their arms.)  The cannon was fired, the Mexican commander decided he could not prevail against the Texians, and withdrew back to Bexar. The final fate of the Gonzales cannon is unknown.  It was being transported to Bexar in mid-October 1835, when the wooden axles began to smoke (the gun had not been re-mounted with a proper carriage).  The gun was then buried in a creek near Gonzales.  A flood in June, 1936 exposed a cannon barrel similar to descriptions of the Gonzales cannon.  Analysis of the gun in the 1970s and 1980s seemed to indicate it was the same type of cannon, but was not “the” Gonzales cannon.  The original Gonzales cannon was a six-pounder and made of bronze, while the exhumed cannon was smaller, and made of iron.  Historians believe the Gonzales gun was eventually taken to the Alamo and captured in March, 1836, then melted down after the battle.
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What a breath of fresh air to take my mind off after a stressful day. Great article that really gets the thought across. Thank you for sharing.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.