GETTING WARM, ANAHUAC II
During the period of Austin's incarceration, developments were moving forward in Texas. As before, it was at Anahuac that the first incident occurred. Captain Antonio Tenorio was sent to Anahuac in January 1835, by Santa Anna to enforce his customs collecting policies. On June 10, 1835, eighteen year old Dewitt Clinton Harris, of the Harris family of Harrisburg, Texas, was sent to Anahuac to secure goods belonging to Captain Andrew Briscoe. Captain Briscoe was visiting Texas to marry one of John Harris's daughters. Tenerio required Dewitt Clinton Harris to pay the duty due before taking possession of Captain Briscoe's baggage. Young Harris refused, he was soon joined by Captain Briscoe who also refused. Soon there were two groups facing each other, Mexicans and Texans. The Mexicans forcibly seized the goods since the duties were not going to be paid. A scuffle ensued and one of the Texans, William Smith, was shot. Briscoe and Harris were arrested. Young Harris was released and returned to Harrisburg. The news spread, tensions mounted, things were again coming to a head at Anahuac.
Andrew Briscoe, whose grandmother was Elizabeth Wallace, stayed in Texas to fight. He was at Concepcion, Bexar and attended the Convention at Washington On The Brazos. He was also present at San Jacinto. Andrew Briscoe is shown to the left. He built the first two story building in Houston (1838).
In Mexico, General Santa Anna was in the field. He was putting down, by force, those liberals who objected to his abandoning the principles for which they supported him. In two states, Zacatecas and Coahuila y Texas, which still strongly held out for the ideal of the Constitution of 1824, his actions were brutal. His methods were cruel, particularly in Zacatecas where wholesale rape and murder by his soldiers escalated to the sacking of the state's capitol. In Coahuila y Texas, the governor, Augustin M. Viesca, sent out a call to Texas to come to his aid. His stirring request is offered here as it is rarely seen in U. S. history texts of the period:
The Nation generally, and Coahuila y Texas in particular, is in the deepest jeapordy. Liberty has become a byword, and the aristocrats now in possession of the government, wish to blot out the very word from our vocabulary!
Citizens of Texas, arouse yourselves or sleep forever! Your dearest interest, your liberty, your property, nay, your very existence depends upon the fickle will of your direst enemies. Your destruction is resolved upon, and nothing but that firmness and energy peculiar to true Republicans can save you. The present administration in Mexico wish to reduce Texas to a territory, and if this degradation should not prove sufficient to arouse you to take hostile steps, they mean to add insult upon insult-disgrace upon disgrace, until you are ultimately compelled to defend yourselves.
They expect that England, in consideration of exclusive commercial privileges, will be induced to assist them in carrying destruction into your section of the Country; and from that, in case of assistance from the United States, Texas should become the war-field of two rival nations! The great object of separating you from Coahuila, is to have you considered foreigners; and your very exeistence depends on your resisting this separation at this moment.
Support the Government of Coahuila as true Citizens. The members which compose that Government, are the sincere friends of Texas; and their greatest glory will consist in rendering you the first state in the Union!
Fellow-citizens of Texas, I again repeat, arouse yourselves, gather round the standard of liberty, sustain it against every effort of depotism and oppression. Then may you calculate with certainty on all the happiness that can be insured, by liberal institutions and liberal administration.
Many powerful States of the Union are with you. The mass of the nation is galling unet the yoke of aristocratic and fanatic tyranny: and the problem must be solved, whether we are to live as freemen, or continue to exist as Slaves, under military depotism.
To this sincere and eloquent plea, only some of the militia of Bexar and Victoria responded. Santa Anna sent his brother-in-law, General Martin Perfecto Cos, to militarily make the point to Coahuila that he was in charge.
The militia was called out in Monclova. While the issue of liberals versus Centralists was a part of that decision it seems to have been more tied to the attempt to move the government offices from Monclova to Saltillo. That apperently was Cos' stated reason for going to Monclova. As Cos approached and with little help coming to help him and hearing of the ruthless manner in which the central goverment dealt with Zacatecas, Governor Viesca decided to save lives and ordered the militia to stand down. He did, however, orchestrate the legislature of Coahuila Y Texas to approve the state government be transferred to Bexar. He was in thr process of making this happen when Cos caught him.
After Cos had subdued all opposition in Coahuila, and had arrested and imprisoned Governor Viesca, he marched to Matamoros. In Matamoros, Cos heard of the latest incident at Anahuac. He sent a courier to Captain Tenerio telling him to hold on, that help was coming. That courier's message was intercepted by Texans who were on the alert since the events in Coahuila and earlier in Zacatecas. Cos' message and what it was meant to portend was interpreted two different ways by the Texans. The planter faction felt the latest Anahuac incident was impetuous and could bring the havoc that had recently visited Zacatecas and Coahuila into Texas and destroy all their land claims. They were in a conciliatory disposition, while the newer settlers, who had little to lose in a clash with Mexican authority, were for making a stand.
A meeting was held by some settlers at Harrisburg on June 21, 1835. Among those attending was Lorenzo de Zavalla a former Cabinet Minister of the Mexican government. He had fled Mexico City and now wished to avenge the treason of Santa Anna to the Federalist cause. Zavala told the group the Mexican Government had formally suspended the government of Coahuila y Texas. They had forcibly taken the governemt from elected officials in Coahuila and would next come to Texas with an army to enforce Santa Anna's rule. When the assembled Texans heard of the brutal subjugation of Zacatecas and Coahuila and that troops would be coming by force into Texas, the "War Party" made up mostly of the newer settlers won on all motions put before the group at Harrisburg.
Lorenzo de Zavalla
One of the leaders of the War Party was the Secretary of the Ayuntiemento of San Felipe, and the center of the last incident at Anahuac, William B. Travis. Travis was authorized by the meeting to raise a company of men to obtain the release of Captain Briscoe. He was also authorized to force Tenerio and his men to vacate Texas.
The Harris family owned the sloop Ohio, which was moored at Harrisburg. It was chartered by the group, armed with a six pound canon, and set sail for Anahuac with Travis' company. One of the other leaders of the company was Colonel John W. Moore. Arriving off the fort, Travis, Moore and the rest of the Texans removed the canon from the ship and placed it in a position in front of the fort. They fired a warning shot. That was the only shot fired as the Texans were able to take possession of the fort on June 30, 1835. Travis told Tenorio that all of Texas was rising in support of freeing Governor Viesca from imprisonment. Captain Tenerio signed a document the next day that stated:
Tenerio and his men were not to take arms against Texas. They were to leave for San Antonio. Twelve soldiers could retain small arms for the group's protection, 64 stans of muskets, bayonets, ammunition and other supplies were to be left with the Texans. Captain Briscoe was to be released. Mexican custom houses were forever abolished in Texas.
The expedition paroled the 44 Mexicans and took them back to Harrisburg. The group arrived just in time to participate in the Fourth of July festivities in the form of a barbecue and a ball. Their reception was not like what you might imagine. While Travis and his men were at Anahuac, the general community, mostly farmers who toiled the fields and were not politically active or aware, expressed embarassment that the attack was authorized by a group among them. When Travis returned with his paroled prisoners, he was openly criticized as were the members of the War Party generally and the members of the expeditionary company. Captain Tenerio and his men were feted. The feeling throughout Texas was reflective of the Texans at the barbecue. Formal aplogies were sent to General Cos at Matamoros. Another factor no doubt were dispatches meant for Colonel Ugartechea that were intercepted by the Texans that told of troops being dispatched to support Urartechea from Zacatecas and Matamoros.
Cos was not conciliatory and demanded to know who the troublemakers were. Someone from the "Peace Party", the planters group, provided him a list of some of the leaders of the War Party. In retrospect, it does appear a cowardly and dishonorable act that some Texans were willing to rid themselves of the mostly unpropertied hotspurs that might bring war to Texas and loss of property and life; it is believed that those who participated in providing the list were hoping to find cooperation by finding a safe solution within the government and that the hot heads would be simply asked to leave. Their naivete was soon apparent.
General Cos directed the colonists themselves deliver to him people he listed as enemies of Mexico. The list included the leaders of the War Party, refugees who escaped the revolts in Zacatecas and Coahuila and others.
Among the Celts on the list were Travis, Colonel Moore, Three-legged Willie and Sam Williams.
...General Martin Perfecto Cos...
To accede to these demands made it difficult for the Peace Party. They knew now it meant certain death to deliver these men. Most of the colonists were former Americans steeped in the tradition of the American Revolution which they had only recently commemorated with the 4th of July parties. The Mexican military's way of dealing with political prisoners was well known. None of the colonists was willing to deliver a political enemy to firing squad justice. They resented being asked to do so.
It was a part of the culture clash that had been ameliorated to some degree by the Constitution of 1824. It is acceptable to Americans to subject oneself, or even others to the authority of the State, knowing there are guarantees protecting their rights and that the arbiters of those rights were elected by the people. The Mexican Constitution of 1824 was very similar in protecting many of these guarantees that Americans almost take for granted. The Texans continued to make refernce to the Constitution of 1824, even after the government of Santa Anna had abrogated it. The Texan constancy to a short lived standard (The Constitution of 1824) that existed ten years earlier while all the rest of Mexico was governed by martial law and a dictator, showed the Quixotic quandry the Texans found themselves in. Their sense of fair play told them to abide by the government they had sworn allegiance to, that had in return generously granted them the lands upon which they lived their lives. The colonists had given up their former country and in some cases their former religion to make a life for themselves and their family in Texas. Some wished to keep the agreement they had made with themsleves and the government of Mexico when they decided to emigrate to Texas. The only trouble was the government of Mexico they agreed to was no longer the government of Mexico. Mexicans were having difficulty in accepting their goverment. There had been corruption exposed invovling monies set aside for the presidio soldiers of Matamoros and Bexar, the dispute over the capitol of Coahuila y Texas between Moncolva and Saltillo, there were notices from the government telling clergy to stay out of politics and then of course the revolts in Zacatecas and Cohuila and earlier ones in Guanjuato and Ceurnavaca. All of this creating an instability that worried Mexicans and Texans alike. The constant turmoil, in fact, stopped the flow of monies and supplies to the presidios in Texas and communication as well suffered. Had the presidios been listened to the situation in Texas might have been addressed easier earlier.
To add to the stewing brew, American President Andrew Jackson was still sending feelers out to the Mexican government about the prospect of buying Texas.
To the Irish Colonies the problems and hesitations were greater than elsewhere, even from each other. Many of the San Patricio Irish had all lived in the squalor and prejudice of the crowded ghettoes of the Northeastern United States' largest cities. The San Patricio colonists came to Texas to continue their search for economic freedom and social acceptance benefits not available to them in Ireland, nor, to their disappointment, in the United States. Mexico granted them both. From their arrival to 1835, the San Patricio colonists developed excellent relations with their Mexican neighbors, and with Mexico as a trading partner.
The Refugio colonists were of a different opinion; they had arrived later. They had come direct from Ireland and did not have the humbling experience of an American Ghetto. They did, however, remember first hand what it was like to have a foreign oppressorin charge of their daily lives, and their property. They recognized Santa Anna as an unyielding tyrant and tended to side with the Peace Party. Texas was a divided land. There was a Mexican army on the border. The commander was making demands of Texans. The Texans decided they must meet to decide what they should do. A call for another general meeting went out. This time they met for a "consulatation" as the word "convention" alarmed the Mexicans earlier. The Consultation was called to be held in San Felipe the second week in October, 1835.
In September, the first shots of the Texas Revolution were fired. They were not fired at Gonzales, which most historians call the Lexington of the Texas Revolution, but at sea off Velasco. Just as in the American Revolution, where the first shots fired were at sea, and by Celts, so it was in Texas. In the American Revolution it was Captain Jeremiah O'Brien who fought and captured the British schooner Margretta in Machias Bay off the coast of Maine on June 12, 1775. The first "official" battle of the American Revolution was also at sea and also featured a Celt. Irish born Captain John Barry, called the Father of the American Navy", serving appropriatley enough on board the U.S.S. Lexington, captured the English ship, Edward. In Texas, the first shots of the Texas Revolution were fired by an Irishman on behalf of Texas and by a Scotsman in the service of Mexico. Here is the story.
The merchant schooner, San Felipe, which was owned by the mercantile company of McKinney and Williams of Velasco and Quintana, was bringing Stephen F. Austin back to Texas from his imprisonment in Mexico. Also on board was the former Mexican Cabinet Minister, Mexican Minister to France and former personal secretary to Santa Anna, Lorenzo de Zavala. The San Felipe was approaching Velasco.
From the shore Thomas Mckinney, at Velasco observed a ship waiting off a distance from Velasco. The Correo Mejico was an armed Mexican Navy sloop commanded by Captain Thomas M. "Mexico" Thompson, a man of Scottish heritage. His second in command was Lieutenant Carlos O'Campo. Some historians report this ship was once the Ohio, the ship involved in the first incident at Anahuac, which was taken at sea by Mexico. Thomas McKinney felt the Correo Mejico was waiting for something off the coast of Velasco. He then saw the San Felipe approaching and felt he knew what was about to happen. From his angle on shore though he could see both ships, he knew the Correo Mejico was not yet in a position to see the San Felipe.
McKinney hurriedly organized 50 volunteers and boarded the small steamer Laura, one of his company's ships. The Laura caught the San Felipe before it could be seen by the Correo Mejico. Austin and Zavala transfered to the Laura and McKinney and the 50 voluteers went aboard the San Felipe which continued on its original course. As McKinney had expected, the Correo Mejico attacked the San Felipe. With McKinney in command, the San Felipe, with its 50 riflemen returned fire with more guns than Captain Thompson expected. The Correo Mejico made for open water while the Laura deposited Austin and Zavalla safely ashore at Velasco. The Laura then made steam to the San Felipe with still more volunteers aboard. When the Laura got alongside the San Felipe, a tow line was passed and secured and the steamer Laura with the sail ship San Felipe in tow pursued the sail ship Correo Mejico. When they caught up to the Correo Mejico and fired a shot across its bow, the Correo Mejico struck its colors. MicKinney and his men brought the prize back to Velasco.
When asked to present evidence he was acting in the sevice of Mexico, Captain Thompson could not or would not present his commission. The Texans then accusedhim and his crew of piracy. There being no government in Texas except that of Mexico and Knowing Thompson sailed for Mexico, McKinney took the ship and crew to New Orleans to be held and tried for piracy. The court in New Orleans detained the ship and crew for three months.
After the close call at sea, Stephen F. Austin arrived back in San Felipe. Many of the colonists were waiting for an explanation of his imprisonment and why he was kept there after Santa Anna assumed power. Others were just wanting his opinion on matters in Mexico and still others were looking to Austin for leadership in deciding what to do. He gave all three groups an answer in the form of an address he made shortly after is arrival. He told tham of how he was treated in Mexico City and the lack of justice and forum to hear his pleas. He told them of Santa Anna's intent to garrison Texas with a great number of troops, and no doubt to use those troops to inforce the despot's policies. He told them while he was in New Orleans, enroute back to Texas, he asked that the word be spread that Texas needs help, armed men, to come to her aid. Santa had spread all over Mexico to change by force the form of government, to destroy the Federal Constitution of 1824, and to establish a central or consolidated government - "...the States are to become provinces...Whether the people of Texas ought or ought not to agree to this change, and relinquish all or part of their costitutional rights ... is a question of the utmost importance...this matter requires...a general consultation of the people."
Austin's address was not as strong as his statements just after his release from prison. He endorsed the call for a "consulatation", not the more impassioned call for independence. Gone from his formal speech was the call for Texas to be a part of the United States. Austin was a diplomat and a politician. He was aware the timing was not right for the United States to do anything officially to support a revolt in Texas. It appears Austin hoped to frestall Mexican military might with the American volunteers were beginning to pour into Texas.
Until such time as that the timing was right for Texas to become apart of the United states, Austin would argue for a revolt in support of the Constitution of 1824. This two-sided view, like other political windmills, would cost lives before the facts were faced and the facade lifted.
Meanwhile General Cos recieved word from Santa Anna to carry out a plan that was secretly agreed to at least a year earlier, but was delayed by the revolts in Zacatecas and Coahuila. The plan was to disarm Texas. Garrison troops at its northern borders. Stop entry of any Norteamericanos. And remove from Texas all settlers who arrived after the Act of 1830. In September, General Cos loaded his men aboard ships at Matamoros and prepared for a landing in Texas.
On September 20, 1835, Cos landed at Copano, the area having been made safe by the stationing of Juan Bradburn there months earlier. Observing the landing were Power and Dunn of the Refugio Irish Colony. Colonel Powers sent runners to all the interior settlements, alerting them that a large Mexican military force had landed. One of the runners was Irish born Wlater Lambert.
General Cos' expedition included men from the Zacatecas atrocities. There were three battalions of infantry and five hundred cavalry for a total of 1500 men. Cos sent for Colonel Power. Cos told Power of his orders and intentions and asked Power what he thought. Cos thought the Refugio community sympathetic to his mission. He was aware the community had recieved Viesca's impassioned plea and that Refugio sent back no troops but a message saying they still stood for Mexico and not for an independent state or states. Colonel Power, who was the commander of the local militia, joined wiht the other colonists in believing they must repulse Cos and Santa Anna and work for the re-establishment of the Constitution of 1824. He had to be careful in his reply. Even then, he was a little curt when he answered I think it were better had you not come.
General Cos moved from Copano to the mission at Refugio. There his men forcibly impressed some of the colonists from Refugio to help carry supplies to Goldiad and on to Bexar. At Bexar he planned to establish his headquarters and begin to carry out Santa Anna's orders. General Cos went on to Goliad, but sent word ahead for the garrison there and in Bexar to send out patrols to recover canon that was loaned to the settlements of San Patricio, Victoria and Gonzales for protection against Indians.