One hundred eighty-six years ago today, on the morning of February 2, 1836, a lone man was on the banks of the Rio Grande near Laredo looking through his telescope for any sign of the Mexican Army that was expected to return to San Antonio after the Siege of Béxar. He was on a special mission that was dire to the revolution's success.
Lt. Colonel Travis and the Alamo garrison anticipated the Mexican Army's return. They were expecting more significant numbers, so it was crucial to know intel like the enemy's strength and the exact time and place the Mexican forces crossed the Rio Grande.
One man would be chosen for this critical mission. Texians and Tejanos in San Antonio agreed that the most qualified man for this mission was a no-nonsense fighting patriot with grit who knew the terrain like no other and was trusted by everyone. In addition, he was a fighter with the now-famous – Tejano Volunteer Company.
The interesting fact is that on that day, the day this lone scout was standing on the banks of the Rio Grande searching for the enemy on his borrowed shiny telescope - was his birthday.
History remembers this lone scout by his birth name: Blas María Herrera. Blas was a Tejano Revolutionary who served as a courier, soldier, and scout, often called – the "Paul Revere" of the Texas Revolution.
Blas was born on February 2, 1802, in San Antonio de Béxar, New Spain, and raised in the Spanish customs and culture of the early 1800s as a professional vaquero. Blas María spent his early childhood at the "Ruiz home" on the southwest corner of Military Plaza in San Antonio (not too far from the Seguín home). And Blas' name appears on an 1820 roster (official list) of the local San Antonio de Béxar militia. Blas was 18 years old, and his rank was a sergeant.
On February 3, 1828, at 26, Blas married the beautiful Señorita - María Antonio Ruiz, daughter of Col. José Francisco Ruiz. Señorita "Toñita" Ruiz was one of San Antonio de Béxar's most eligible young ladies. They had ten children. The Herrera's lived on family land in the vicinity of the Old San Antonio Road crossing of the Medina River at Paso de las Garzas in south Bexar County, near the present Somerset, Texas site.
In late September 1835, at the age of 33 and at the very start of the Texas Revolution, Blas was invited to attend a meeting at the Flores de Abrego ranch by one of his best friends, Chava Flores.
There he met with many of his childhood friends, the young men of San Antonio de Béxar. Most of the young men at this meeting were vaqueros and rancheros representing families from San Antonio and surrounding areas. Blas was "all in" that evening and committed to joining his friends' fight for freedom. Together they would form a local fighting militia. Blas became a fighter for the now famous "Tejano Volunteer Company" under the leadership of his friend – Captain Juan Seguín.
Blas was like an 1800's version of an Army Ranger. He was a skilled horseman, a brave, fierce fighter with extensive military training and vast knowledge of the Texas countryside. And Blas was known and respected throughout central Texas. These traits made Blas Herrera very dangerous and a valuable asset to the Texas revolutionary cause.
During the siege of Béxar in late 1835, Herrera served under the command of Capt. Juan Seguín was involved in the deadly house-to-house fighting. At one point during the action on the roof of the Veramendi Palace, Blas and others, Luis Castañon and the Garcia brothers, provided suppressive fire. At the same time, Texians and Tejanos evacuated Deaf Smith from battle due to injuries sustained.
After the successful Siege of Bexar, the Texian Army needed someone who knew Texas Terrain at night very well for a special mission. This mission would require a long, cross-state, non-stop – midnight ride.
Since the Texians expected the return of the Mexican Army, someone was needed to ride directly to Laredo, camp out by the river, and wait for any sight of any invading Mexican Army. If and when such an army appears crossing the river, the rider is to return quickly with the intel to San Antonio de Béxar. The Texians and Tejanos agreed that only Seguín's Tejanos knew the area well enough for this mission. Captain Seguín assigned this critical task to his company's best-qualified scout, Blas Herrera. Following direct orders from Seguín in February 1836, Herrera immediately rode south through the night and arrived at the river near Laredo the following day.
Blas celebrated his 34th birthday scouting for an army on the Rio Grande.
Eventually, the Mexican Army appeared in the afternoon of February 10, north of Laredo. Upon spotting General Santa Anna and a vanguard of Mexican troops crossing the Rio Grande, Herrera rode off, all night, 155 miles to deliver his report to Captain Juan Seguín in San Antonio.
Blas rode hard all night, and as he rode, he warned everyone he encountered about the Mexican Army's impending arrival. Herrera's nighttime warnings saved countless lives of Texians and Tejanos by allowing civilian families in the area time to evacuate for safety.
History remembers Tejano Night Rider, Blas Herrera, as the Paul Revere of the Texas Revolution. On February 10, 1836, Blas made his now famous midnight ride. Riding through the night, Blas shouted and warned, "Ejercito Mexicano!" "Despierten!...Ejercito Mexicano en Camino!" (Wake up! Mexican Army approaching!) every time he passed a farm, a villa, or a pueblo.
History remembers that inside the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, at 3 a.m. on February 11, 1836, scout and Tejano Patriot Blas Herrera delivered to Colonel James Bowie a letter that stated Santa Anna was moving towards San Antonio with a large deployment of troops.
Twelve days later, General Santa Anna entered San Antonio de Béxar with Generals Sesma, Amador, Castrillon, and the Vanguard Brigade.
Herrera's next assignment was to serve as security detail for two Tejano dignitaries. Blas was to escort and protect José Antonio Navarro (Blas' wife's cousin) and José Francisco Ruiz (Blas' father-in-law) during their trip to Washington-on-the-Brazos, where they made history by signing the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836.
Blas was the only man who stood guard at that historical convention.
Although documentation is not available, family tradition states that Blas Herrera, because of his excellent knowledge of the countryside, was selected to serve Gen. Sam Houston in intelligence assignments before and during the Battle of San Jacinto.
In late 1836, General Felix Huston sent an order to destroy and burn San Antonio and move its citizens east of the Brazos River. Lt. Colonel Seguín, then in command of San Antonio, sent Herrera with a dispatch for General Sam Houston, asking Houston to revoke the order, and this Houston did. Therefore, Blas kept San Antonio from being burned to the ground.
Blas Herrera also served as a Texas Ranger in 1839 during a campaign against the Comanche. His ranch became the site of the area's first Catholic church in 1840, its first post office in 1868, and a public school in 1872. One descendant, great-grandson John J. Herrera, became a prominent civil rights attorney and served as National President of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
REP. JOHN GARZA of the Texas House of Representatives formally honored and recognized the service of Blas María Herrera, Texas Patriot, on February 22, 2011, in Austin, Texas.
Blas earned the respect of both Texian and Tejano patriots. So much can be said of this man's character, devotion to duty, bravery, and loyalty to the country. Like all Tejanos, Blas was deeply devoted to the land of his birth. Blas Maria Herrera served Texas in many roles throughout his long and productive life.
Blas Herrera was a True Patriot of our Texas Revolution.
This post is dedicated first of all to Randy Harpel, a proud descendant of Blas Herrera and to all of Blas' descendants living today in Texas and around the world who continue to carry the torch handed down to them by Blas Herrera, a Tejano Patriot of our revolution, otherwise remembered as the Paul Revere of the Texas Revolution - to the benefit of Texas.
Blas Herrera, Thank You for your remarkable midnight ride, for your service, deeds of bravery, and heroic devotion to our republic – Texas!
Texas Heroes - Never Forget!
Descendants of Blas Herrera.
HERRERA, BLAS MARÍA by Adolph Casias Herrera, TSHA Texas State Historical Association
Herrera, Blas María, The Siege of Béxar Descendants
Author's note: During the Texas Revolution, several other individuals were called and earned the title of, The Paul Revere of the Texas Revolution; Plácido Benavides, Matthew Caldwell, and John Marie Durst.
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