Every one has heard the story of the Alamo, how about, in March 1836, a group of 150-200 anglo men who were calling themselves Texians held off a Mexican army of thousands for thirteen days before being overran and killed. But did you know there was a previous battle in Bexar, at the beginning of December 1835, that lasted for five days in which the Texians attacked the Mexican army and prevailed, essentially kicking the only garrison of Mexican soldiers south of the Rio Grande River?
It’s called the Battle of Bexar and because of what happened three months later, it gets buried in the history books.
The Battle of Bexar almost never was. Prior to this point, the Texians had captured the Mexican garrisons at Goliad and Lipantitlan (outside of modern day Corpus Christi) which cut off the supply lines from Copano Bay (modern day Matagorda Bay) to the Mexican forces in Bexar. It was easier for the authorities in Mexico City to provide supplies to Tejas through Copano than to haul them 850 miles, by wagon through mountains and flat scrub brush, from Mexico City north to Saltillo, then to Monclova, then to Bexar.
Once the Texians cut off these supply lines at the beginning of November 1835, their spirits were high and they were on a roll so they went to Bexar and conducted a siege of the village “smoke out” the rest of the army. They almost succeeded.
They were doing such a good job that toward the end of the month, the soldiers took a chance and snuck wagons out of the village to gather grass for their livestock. On the way back to Bexar, the Texians learned of the wagons and attacked them, thinking they were wagons full of pay for Mexican soldiers. Imagine their surprise, then anger, then disgust when all they found was grass.
The Grass Fight, in my opinion, cast a poor light on the siegeing forces. Not only were the Texians so inattentive that they missed a group of wagons leaving the village but there was a lesson here they did not learn. The soldiers were in a bad way concerning fodder for their horses and livestock, so they took a chance to get feed. The Texians, after finding the wagons, did not really think it through, which laid the groundwork for their next action.
About a week later, at the beginning of December, the siegeing forces were ordered to withdraw back to their own villages and wait for spring to continue the siege. Some of the men who lived in Tejas did go home to prepare for the winter but there was a contingent of men who had come to Tejas for a good time and by god they were not going to leave until a fight had been had. Impatience swept through the camp. The siege was NOT their idea of a fight, especially after the debacle with the grass, so this group decided to go to Matamoros to see if they could start a fight there by riling up those citizens up against El Presidente Santa Anna.
Enter Benjamin Milam. Milam had been out on patrol and when he came back to camp, he saw things were happening and men were leaving which infuriated him. He had a conversation with the commanding officer, Ed Burleson. Burleson just seemed to shrug his shoulders and say he’s already ordered the camp to break until the spring. Milam simply told him that “since he gave the order, he can give the undo order.” Burleson finally agreed.
The Matamoros-bound men stayed. The Texians split into two divisions and they snuck into the village from the north. They nearly made it all the way to the army’s headquarters before the alarm was sounded and then the battle was on. Mexican snipers shot from the trees and there was fighting street to street, house to house and in some cases, room to room.
After five days, Mexican General Cos raised the white flag. In the capitulation he signed, General Cos agreed to take his forces south of the Rio Grande River and not return. The soldiers are given their weapons back with some ammunition (for protection as they journey south) and released. They made it across the river and soon met El Presidente Santa Anna’s army which was on the march northward from Mexico City to take care of this minor, itty bitty “Tejas Problem.”
Take care of the problem he did. As far as I know, not one man survived the final assault on the Alamo in March 1836.
Little did El Presidente know that this “Tejas Problem” turned out to be a major thorn that began the process of ripping a large chunk of his country away from him. Texas won her independence from Mexico April 1836. Nine years later the United States annexed Texas which sparked the anger of the Mexican authorities. This is what they were afraid of all along because of the United State’s long history of expansionist-minded administrations, and had consistently said during the time of Texas’ sovereignty that any annexation would lead to war.
In less than a year the fighting began. Two years later, by the end of the US-Mexican War, roughly one-third of Mexico’s territory, area which included modern-day California, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah were now part of the United States.
For further reading:
The History Channel: Mexican American War