The day started like any other day. The date was October 01, 1835, a Thursday. The day opened with a beautiful autumn sunrise, birds chirping in the trees — and the smell of freshly made, warm tortillas. Manuel Flores, the oldest of the Flores de Abrego sons, was waking up in his new home. Manuel had recently married and was enjoying and appreciating his honeymoon phase.
His new bride was the beautiful Maria Josefa Courvièr. She was one of the ladies of the Courvièr clan from San Antonio de Béxar. A couple of months earlier, the couple was married at San Fernando Church. It was a huge celebration with almost all "Familias" from San Antonio de Béxar for the joyful event. But now, those days seem like a long time ago.
History remembers that Maria's nephews, Antonio, Fernando, and Matias, aka the Courvièr brothers, had just joined the now-famous Tejano Volunteer Company a few days ago.
That early morning Manuel was heading to the veranda patio where Maria had planned breakfast with her new husband. He saw a rider approaching quickly from a distance. And the rider was riding very fast.
"Who is that, Manuel? Are you expecting anyone?" Maria squinted her eyes to get a better view, "Do you recognize the rider?"
"I do not. But it looks like that rider is in a big hurry." So Manuel responded as he went for his gun. But then, Manuel recognized the pony and, therefore, the man. It was a friend and an ally – John Smith. John was affectionately called El Colorado (the redhead) by the people of Béxar.
Manuel: "What's Colorado up to so early this morning?"
The rider, John W. Smith, had been riding hard for several hours. John Henry Moore sent him to round up volunteers throughout the area that could come to the aid of the people of Gonzales as they planned to stand against Mexico.
Colorado yelled from the road, "The Gonzales people will stand against the Mexican Army! I'm riding to San Antonio for reinforcements."
Colorado informed Manuel that on September 29, a Mexican Army detachment of 100 dragoons led by Lieutenant Francisco Castañeda had arrived at Gonzales to demand the return of a small 6-pound swivel cannon. That small artillery piece had initially been given to the citizens of Gonzales by the Mexican Army in 1831. The cannon was to aid the town against Indian raids.
Colorado also mentioned that 18 men from Gonzales "stood their ground" on the east bank of the Guadalupe River as the Mexican Platoon stood on the river's west bank. Tensions were high, but no one fired a shot.
Colorado then explained that Moore and the Gonzales colonists used various excuses to keep the Mexicans from crossing the river and entering the town. Then, they secretly sent messengers requesting assistance from nearby communities. After briefing Manuel with the current status in Gonzales, Colorado excused himself. He sped off on its horse towards Mina, modern-day Bastrop, Texas, seeking more volunteers.
Manuel had been anticipating something like this and realized that time was of the essence.
Manuel: "Maria, I gotta run."
Maria: "Where to, Gonzales?"
Manuel: "Yes. Get one of the boys to get my horse ready while I get my weapons."
Maria: "What about Chava or Juan Seguin? Are you going to meet up with them first?"
Manuel: "There's no time. Gonzales is a good three or four hours away, and, for all I know, a fight could already be taking place."
Manuel wouldn't have time to get Seguin or even his brother Chava. But he knew he had to go to Gonzales and join in with the settlers, so he jumped on his fastest mustang pony, kissed his new bride goodbye, and then rode hard all day towards Gonzales.
Manuel arrived in Gonzales that afternoon and was met and greeted by William Summers, a good friend, and other colonists who recognized him (everybody knew Manuel Flores). Then they brought him up to speed on local current revolutionary events.
William: "The war council has just ended. It was decided by John Henry Moore, our militia leader, that we attack the Mexican Army at their camp tomorrow morning."
William: "Militia volunteers have been ordered to rendezvous about a mile down the river in a couple of hours. We will cross the river safely at a strategic place, then proceed towards the Mexican Army's camp under cover of darkness — and attack at daybreak."
Manuel: "I understand. Then, count me in. I'll be there, friends."
History remembers that Manuel was part of a group of about 140 volunteers on horseback who crossed the Guadalupe River at seven that evening. The group of Gonzales colonists brought with them the small cannon that the Mexican Army was seeking to collect. They fastened it on wheels from a wagon. And that evening, this group of freedom fighters also brought — a flag.
The flag was made from Empresario Green Dewitt's daughter's wedding dress. Mrs. Dewitt and other ladies of Gonzales crafted a banner with the drawing of the cannon and the words "Come and Take It" under it.
Not long after, the group crossed the river, and just as they started the seven-mile walk north to the Mexican Army's camp — a thick fog rolled in. The group walked all night quietly, looking for the Mexican base.
Finally, in the early morning of October 02, 1835, the group of Texians heard from Manuel. He was scouting ahead, searching for the Mexican camp.
Manuel: "The Mexican army is just over there, camped by the river, and everyone is asleep."
As the Texians were loading their rifles and pistols to prepare for the fight, they noticed that their powder was slightly moist. Would that affect the firing of their weapons? Nevertheless, with all guns locked and loaded, the Texians stood ready, concealed in the brush and heavy fog - waiting for the command to engage.
A patriot fighter from North Carolina, Captain James Neill, who had served in an artillery company during the War of 1812, had been given command of the cannon. Before they left, Neill gathered several men, including Almaron Dickinson, a former US Army field artilleryman, to form the First Artillery Company of Texians. And they were there with a loaded cannon, ready to start the revolution.
Then the quietness of that foggy morning was suddenly interrupted by loud barking. Mexican sentry dogs noticed the Texians. They alerted the Mexicans Garrison of their presence. The Mexican troops jumped out of their tents and into action - prepared to repel any threats.
The stage was now set for the first engagement of the Texas Revolution between Texians and Mexico.
Before any musket volleys from either side, Neill shouted, "Fire!" and officially kicked off the Texas Revolution. Then, Neill fired the famed Gonzales cannon, crediting him with firing "the first shot of the Texas Revolution."
Right after that shot rang out, the Texian group began shouting, "Come and Take It!" Several minutes later, John Moore gave the command. "Fire!" The Texians fired a volley at the Mexican Camp.
"Fuego!" The Mexicans returned fire.
A couple of volleys into the fight, the Mexicans called for a ceasefire. Lt. Castañeda wanted to negotiate and consult with the Texian leaders. They met halfway between both camps.
Lt. Castañeda: "¿Por qué nos atacan? No entendemos." (Why are you attacking us? We don't understand.)
John Moore: "We (Texans) don't want to be a part of Santa Anna's Mexico anymore. We want out. A Centralist government run by a dictator is not what Texas wants. We want to be a free and independent state." Just like that, John said what many Texas residents were feeling.
History remembers that Lieutenant Castañeda agreed with Moore politically. Castañeda could empathize with the Texians and their cause, but he was a soldier. Ultimately, they reached no mutual understanding, and the two leaders left for their camp. But, before the Texians could reload to shoot again and under cover of the morning fog, the Mexican Army retreated. And the Battle of Gonzales was over. Even though both sides exchanged musket shots during this skirmish, the battle only produced two casualties – two Mexican soldiers.
Manuel Flores returned to San Antonio de Béxar. He related everything he witnessed to his brother-in-law Juan Seguin and other members of the Tejano Volunteer Company at a meeting.
As it turns out, Lieutenant Francisco Castañeda's orders from Colonel Ugartechea were to retrieve the cannon from the colonists at Gonzales. General Ugartechea added in his dispatch, "But do not cause unnecessary bloodshed to the colonists or their families." After the event, Castañeda wrote to the Colonel, "Since the orders from your Lordship were for me to withdraw without compromising the honor of Mexican arms, I did so."
History remembers that 187 years ago, on October 02, 1835, Texians and Tejanos took an armed stand against Mexico. Moreover, they had no intention of returning to their neutral stance toward Santa Anna's government. Austin wrote two days after the battle, "War is declared! Public opinion has proclaimed it against a Military despotism—The campaign has commenced."
News of the skirmish, originally called "the fight at Williams' place," spread throughout the United States, encouraging many adventurers to come to Texas and assist in the fight against Mexico. Newspapers referred to the conflict as the "Lexington of Texas"; as the Battles of Lexington and Concord began the American Revolution, the Gonzales skirmish launched the Texas Revolution.
Texas History – Never Forget!
•Manuel N. Flores, Wikipedia
• "Come and Take it." Wikipedia
•Battle of Gonzalez, Wikipedia
•TSHA Texas State Historical Association, Gonzales, Battle of by
Stephen L. Hardin
•Texas General Land Office, "Come and Take It" — the Battle of Gonzales, October 02, 2017
This San Antonio de Béxar Militia engaged in almost all Texas revolutionary battles and skirmishes between October 1835 and April 1836.
Somehow, history forgot about the Tejano Volunteer Company. 184 Years later,..it’s like it never existed.
We think it’s time for a change.
Join us here in our efforts to bring awareness, after all these years, to our young men from San Antonio de Béxar who fought and served in our Texas Revolution!