BÉXAR, ALAMO I
At Béxar the siege was in place, but going badly. There was no action, and men of action were standing about waiting. James McGahey joined the siege. He had with him the flag that was made at the house of William Scott. No doubt the flag was waved during this period of inactivity. Many of the colonists left daily for their neglected fields. Slowly, the Texan army began to wilt away. Inside the city was worse; the Mexicans under General Cós were running out of provisions and were completely surrounded. Mexican morale inside the city was waning with each day's passage. Adding to the problems was the fact that the winter of 1835-'36 was an unusually cold and wet one. In the Rio Grande Valley, 50 oxen died from the weather.
The cold and wet winter weather of 1835 - 1836 played a part in the Texas Revolution and its outcome from this siege to the final battle on the plain of San Jacinto. It impacted most on those who did not have the fire of revolution in their hearts to keep them warm and oblivious to the cold and rain.
Austin, ever the diplomat and never a soldier, wanted to negotiate Cós out of San Antonio and out of Texas. The Texans wanted a fight. When the Consultation called Austin to San Felipe, the men surrounding Béxar de San Antonio were ready for him to go. The Consultation sent Edward Burleson to command the army. Edward Burleson was of Welsh ancestry. His father served on the military staff of Andrew Jackson.
The next day a skirmish broke out that became known as the "Grass Fight." Fifty men were sent out of the city by Cós to forage for some hay. The Mexicans were discovered as they were attempting to make their way back into the city. The Texans, among them John McGuffin, and Dr. James Grant thought they would capture whatever provisions the pack train carried. In the brief battle, all the Mexicans were killed. When the Texans opened the saddle bags they found only grass, thus the name of the skirmish. The Texans were disappointed. This brief fight whetted the appetite of the Texans, but they were unable to reach Cós and his main army. Dr. Grant was made a Colonel for acts of bravery during the "Grass Fight".
Cós remained safely entrenched behind the walls of the city, his artillery and the Alamo. The Texans and the Americans with them were frustrated men. They became even more discouraged when they realized they probably could not take the city without artillery. Most of the men were unwilling to launch an assault without it. More colonists and some of the Americans left the dull siege to go home. They were replaced by new arrivals such as a company of men brought from New Orleans by Colonel William G. Cooke. Colonel Cooke was the son of Irish parents.
There was a change in the make-up of those outside the walls of the Alamo and the city of San Antonio de Béxar that cold winter. Most of the colonists went back home to check family and fields. Those who now had Béxar surrounded only recently entered Texas. They heeded the call of the frontier and of Texas that men like Houston, Bowie, and Crockett helped spread. The speeches Austin made for help in New Orleans were still being heeded. A member of the Robertson Colony, Irishman George Childress, made pleas in Tennessee for help to throw off the yoke of Mexican tyranny. Many others did likewise. Many heard these pleas and not a few came. One of those that heard that call among the many now standing guard outside the walls of Béxar was Stephen Williams. His father was born in Ireland and fought the British there. Stephen fought them in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812. And now he was again fighting the cause of liberty outside the city of San Antonio de Béxar, Texas in 1835. He was 75 years old! With him was his grandson, Andrew Jackson Youngblood.
From the newspapers of the day was where most Americans learned of the situation in Texas. Two Texan Celts, who were well aware of the power of the press, kept sending copy to American newspapers during the Texas Revolution. They were: Ira Ingram and John J. Linn. Their reports, and those of others, found ready readers. Observers in New Orleans reported that "..not less than 70 men daily pass here for Texas."
As shown earlier the newspapers in the border states and territories, and even as far away as New York and Baltimore carried stories asking for volunteers to come to Texas. John Edward Weems in his book, Dream of Empire, wrote:
In the United States, people followed Texas events with great interest. Some had kin folk there; others who did not, felt bound by a bond virtually as strong as blood: a love of freedom. A mark remained where the English yoke had chafed.
It got so the initials G.T.T., which meant "Gone To Texas," were nationally known, and understood when speaking of someone who left to help Texas. Of course some took the opportunity and left a wife, a debt, or a life behind them that was not agreeable. The Americans came into Texas like a torrent; they soon outnumbered Texans. There were many Celts among these new arrivals. Without them, Texas would never have been made free. Now many of them were at Béxar, in a cold December, 1835, when the new Commander, Edward Burleson, decided to do something. Because the "army" was getting restless and unruly, he decided to call off the siege and retreat to Gonzales.
On the 4th of December, 1835, the men were paraded for a last review, the baggage carts were loaded and the whole Texan Army was prepared to leave. At this moment a Mexican officer who deserted Cós was brought to Burleson as he stood reviewing the formations of his men. In front of the whole assembled Texan army, Burleson questioned this affected man. The captive said the men in the city were disheartened and hungry, and the city could be taken. Dr. James Grant and Colonel Frank Johnson remarked to Ben Milam that now might be a good time to ask for volunteers. Milam turned to the men and said, "Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio? Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?" Two hundred men stepped forward to stand with the Welshman.
Burleson agreed to hold the rest of the men outside the city's gates while Milam's volunteers attacked the city. When Milam got to his marshalling point, he counted over three hundred men. James Neill bombarded the city from the opposite side with cannon to set up a diversion for Milam's attack. Neill took particular aim at the Alamo as it was known Cós had placed most of his men there. Ben Milam and Frank W. Johnson attacked the city in two separate columns. Celtic names among these attackers were: Milam, Johnson, Bowie, Doctor James Grant, Jeremiah Day, Edward McCafferty, Thomas Mitchel, James Nowlan, Charles J. O'Connor, William Brenan, Isaac Robertson, John Cameron, Peter Teal, Doctor John Cameron, Pleasant McAnelly, Ezekial Cullen, William J. Bryan, Mathew Caldwell, T. J. Rusk, William Travis, William Patton, William G. Cooke, Peter J. Duncan, William Sutherland, William McDonald, J. W. E. Wallace, Aaron and Edward Burleson, cousin Joseph Burleson II, Thomas William Ward, and others.
Ward lost a leg for Texas at San Antonio; in later years as an official of Texas celebrating its Independence, he fired a cannon in a salute to Texas. The cannon exploded; he lost an arm and an eye. He continued his career as an active official of Texas, and then of the United States. Thomas William Ward was born in Ireland. He came to Texas as a member of the New Orleans Grays, a unit made up of many Irish.
The fighting in Béxar was door to door, plaza to plaza. Ben Milam died outright on the third day, December 7th. He was buried with honors on the spot where he fell. He died in the courtyard of Jim Bowie's father-in-law, Juan de Veramendi. Frank W. Johnson took over command and continued the assault. Cós received some reinforcements on the 8th, when 600 men came up from the south.
Maybe he expected more; perhaps he learned that his route of resupply was commanded by Texans, or more realistically he realized these new troops weren't troops at all but undisciplined convicts and criminals and not any real help. On the 10th of December, General Martin Perfecto de Cós surrendered 1,105 men, all their weapons, ammunition and stores, San Antonio and the Alamo. He was allowed to march his men south toward Monclova after signing a surrender document. The document was signed by Cós and Burleson, and then witnessed and signed by Dr. John Cameron. In the document, Cós swore never to interfere in Texas again. Hah!
William Barrett Travis was singled out as having been instrumental at Béxar, he was rewarded with a commission as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Cavalry. General Martin Perfecto Cos
As 1835 ends, so does the first phase of the Texas Revolution. A phase which included several battles, all victories for Texas. Other than Gonzales, most are not remembered by the people of Texas today. They don't remember the name of Lipantitlan, or Concepcion, or the men who fought and fell there. They don't know there were two battles for the Alamo and Goliad, and that we won round one. They don't know the part the Irish played in those victories.
For the moment, Texas was free of a hostile invading army; Texans held the two strongest forts in Texas, the Alamo and La Bahía, at Goliad. Both were commanded by Celts. A great feeling of relief filled the colonies, but there were other feelings too. Texas was about to enter one of her darker periods, right when everything looked so bright.