In 1821 Mexico declared itself to be independent from Spain and in 1824 established a constitution, patterned on the United States of America, providing for a federal government and relatively independent states governments. The northeastern-most province of Mexico was Coahuila y Tejas (Texas), and it was sparsely populated. In order to encourage colonization, Texas allowed English speaking families to settle as long as they agreed to abolish slavery and convert to Roman Catholicism. These restrictions were, however, largely ignored, and thousands of colonists flooded to the region from the American southeast. The central government in Mexico, during this period, was frequently in turmoil due mostly to irreconcilable differences between Mexican political parties. In 1835, Santa Anna came to power and abolished the Constitution of 1824, replacing it with a far more centralized government. The state of Texas, along with several other states, rebelled against the new government and it was this rebellion that set Texas on the road to War with Mexico.
Once they declared their independence from Mexico, the Texans took the initiative, and in a series of minor skirmishes, took over Mexican stores and supplies, and drove away Mexican soldiers assigned to retrieve arms from state militias. The last Mexican garrison in Texas was stationed at San Antonio de Bexar, under Martin Cos, the brother-in-law of Santa Anna. The Texans besieged the city, and after a disorderly assault, Cos surrendered and agreed to withdraw from the territory.
Santa Anna had been too busing putting down other rebellions to send relief to Cos in Texas. When he got wind of the situation, however, he was infuriated and marched to Texas. The personal insult that he felt at his brother-in-law's defeat likely fueled the vengeance with which his army carried out the ensuing campaign. Santa Anna's army of over 2000 men drastically outnumber any contingent of Texans it encountered on its march. It defeated several troops of Texans, on its route to San Antonio, and took dozens of Texans as prisoners. At Goliad, however, Santa Anna suddenly gave orders to execute all prisoners of war, resulting in the massacre of 342 Texans, who has surrendered in good faith to the Mexicans. This outrage, along with the subsequent massacre of the defenders of the Alamo, did much to steel the Texans' resolve. Until word of these outrages reached the Texans, they were a disorderly and independent lot. From that point on, however, they were an indefatigable fighting force, with a score to settle. "Remember the Alamo!", and "Remember Goliad!", were battle cries that drove the Texans to victory against the Mexicans at San Jacinto, but also propelled the American forces against Mexico ten year hence.
The great American victory over Mexico was at San Jacinto, when a force of Texans led by Sam Houston, made a surprise attack on the camp of Santa Anna. The Mexican forces were not prepared to fight and in less than 20 minutes, 600 of their number were killed and over 700 taken prisoner, including Santa Anna himself. This essentially destroyed the Mexican army in the region and gained Texas its independence. In a stunning act of clemency, Houston agreed to release Santa Anna, the murderer of over 500 Texans. His stated reason for doing so, was that Santa Anna had signed a treaty recognizing the independence of Texas. As long as he was the duly elected President of Mexico, this treaty would be binding. Also taking into account Santa Anna's notorious dramatics, he considered that "he may or may not honor it [the treaty], but if we allow him to return to politics . . . he will keep Mexico in turmoil for years."
|Siege of Bexar
On October 12, 1835 a force of 600 Texans under Stephen Austin besieged a Mexican garrison of 1200 under Martin de Cos stationed at San Antonio de Bexar. The siege was a disorderly one, with considerable attrition on both sides. However, the Texans were able to receive reinforcements, while the resources of the Mexicans continued to dwindle. Cos eventually moved his base of operation to the Alamo, a nearby fortified mission. On Dec 5, the Texans launched an assault, resulting in 150 Mexican casualties. Soon after Cos realized his position was hopeless and agreed to surrender.
|Siege of Alamo
On February 22, 1836, General Santa Anna, with the advance guard of the Mexican army, appeared before the walls of the Alamo, a fortified mission station held by 145 Texans under Colonel Travis, who replied to a summons to surrender by a cannon shot. On March 1 the garrison was reinforced by 30 men, Santa Anna's force at this date being 4,000. On the 6th 2,500 Mexicans assaulted the fort, and at the third attempt effected an entrance. The building was defended room by room, the church within the enclosure being the last building captured, when all the survivors were put to the sword. The victory cost the Mexicans 400 killed and many wounded. "Remember the Alamo" became the watchword of the Texans.
|Battle of San Jacinto
Fought April 2, 1836, when the Mexican army, under Santa Anna, about 5,000 strong, was routed and almost destroyed by the Texans, under General Houston. The survivors, with Santa Anna and his staff, were taken prisoners, and Texas was freed from the Mexican yoke.
|Tennessee Frontiersman and congressman. Involved with Texas independence. Died at the Alamo.|
|Fought for Mexican independence and against Texas, then served as president on and off, over twenty turbulent years.|
|Founder of the state of Texas, and first governor.|
|Helped found the state of Texas by leading 300 families to settle in the region.|
|Legendary frontiersman who led the Texans during their defense of the Alamo. The 'Bowie' knife is named in his honor|
|Heroes of the Alamo in||America First—100 Stories from Our History by Lawton B. Evans|
|Freedom for Texas in||America First—100 Stories from Our History by Lawton B. Evans|
|The Heroes of the Alamo in||Historical Tales: American II by Charles Morris|
|How Houston Won Freedom for Texas in||Historical Tales: American II by Charles Morris|
|Republic and Revolt of Texas in||A Short History of Mexico by Arthur Howard Noll|
|Brave Hearts in the Alamo in||Boys' Book of Border Battles by Edwin L. Sabin|
|Victory at San Jacinto in||Boys' Book of Border Battles by Edwin L. Sabin|
The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas, from a water color by Robert E. Lee
The fight for the Alamo
The last assault and fall of the Alamo
in The Story of Mexico
Plan of the Alamo
in Boys' Book of Border Battles