TIn December of 1835 the town of San Antonio de Béxar was under siege.
The Texas Revolution was in full swing and the Mexican Forces under General Perfecto Cos held the city and had entrenched themselves at two locations; Inside the Alamo and in some of the “personal homes” of San Antonio residents downtown - and the Texians wanted them out. The homes of the “de la Garza”, “Veramendi” and the “Navarro” families were now commandeered by Mexican troops — and those soldiers were dug in for a fight!
On December 5, The Texians forces under Colonel Milam and Colonel Johnson launched a surprise attack from the north to “seized” and capture two houses in the Military Plaza (one of the houses belonged to the in-laws of Jim Bowie).
But, that “seizing of the homes” would proved to be “close and fierce hand-to-hand fighting”. The two equally matched opponents, the Mexican Troops and the Texian Assault Force struggled from house-to-house for control of the town.
Casualties mounted on both sides as the battle raged on.
During the attack on the "Veramendi Palace" on Soledad Street, on December 8th, both the Mexican troops and the Texian forces ended “taking the fight” to the roof of the building where history remembers and witnessed unbelievable acts of courage and bravery. Many of the roof combatants were “local residents” literally fighting for their home! Fighting on the roof were local boys like the Flores brothers, the de la Garza Brothers, Juan Abamillo (who would later fight and fall at the Alamo) — and a man that local Tejanos affectionately called, “El Sordo”.
During what history remembers as the heaviest fighting on that property, at about the same time that Milam was shot dead at the front door of that home, a fighting Tejano yelled,
“Le dieron al Sordo!” (Sordo has been hit!) At that moment several Texians, including the Hernandez brothers, carried El Sordo to safety and medical attention. History remembers the man they called “El Sordo” as Erastus "Deaf" Smith.
During that struggle that was the Texas Revolution many men came forward and served. The names that come to mind,Travis, Houston, Austin, Bowie, and Crockett were no doubt heroes of the revolution. There were many others who were just as important - to the Texas cause. One of those was Erastus "Deaf" Smith.
A childhood disease caused him to lose his hearing. Smith first visited Texas in 1817 but did not remain long. He returned in 1821 and settled near San Antonio, where he married a Tejana, Guadalupe “Lupita” Ruiz Durán, in 1822. The couple had four children, three of whom, all daughters, survived to adulthood.
Smith’s knowledge of the Anglo, Hispanic culture and the land that Texas possessed became immense. His well-known "scouting abilities" caused the Texas Republic to greatly desire his service. This was because many of the men serving in the Texas Army were Americans that had no experience or understanding of Texas’s terrain.
In 1825, Smith moved to DeWitt's colony and settled on land about a mile west of Gonzales. At the outbreak of the Texas Revolution, Smith's loyalties were apparently divided. Deaf Smith was neither "pro-Mexico nor pro-Texas" but, was well respected by both the Tejano and Anglo communities in Texas and considered himself a "Mexican citizen". Deaf also had a great love for the Tejano people.
Some say that he joined the Texans only because a Mexican sentry refused to allow him to enter San Antonio to visit his family. The town was under siege by Stephen F. Austin's army at the time and, according to some accounts, a Mexican Troop “disrespected” Deaf and would not allow him in the city. In his anger, Smith joined the Texian Army and the Texians were, no doubt, glad to have him.
It seems that the Mexican citizens of San Antonio had a fondness for Deaf Smith. They probably kept him well informed of the temperament and ability of the soldiers defending the city. He reported that the troops of Gen. Martin Perfecto de Cos were "disaffected to the cause they are serving." Because of his steady source of information and his detailed reports, Deaf Smith soon became known as the number one spy for the Texas army.
On December 8, 1835, Deaf Smith guided the Texas troops into San Antonio. He was shot on that day while on the rooftop of the Veramendi Palace fighting. Ben Milam was killed at the door of that structure at about the same time. Although Smith was severely wounded, he remained with the army and would heal to fight again.
According to his leaders, Smith was "well known to the army for his vigilance and meritorious acts." They also said that his services as a spy could not be equaled by anyone.
After he recovered from his wounds, Deaf Smith became a messenger for William B. Travis at the Alamo. Travis called Smith, "The bravest of the brave in the cause of Texas." Smith was away from the Alamo delivering letters from Travis to Sam Houston when the Mexican army made its final assault.
On March 08, 1836, after the Alamo had fallen, Houston sent Smith back to San Antonio to learn the status of Travis and the garrison there. It is obvious just how much Houston trusted the ability of Deaf Smith. In a report to Thomas Jefferson Rusk, Houston wrote: "If living, [Smith] will return with the truth and all important news.
" Smith did return to Gonzales with some of the Alamo survivors — these included, Susanna Dickinson and her baby daughter, Angelina.
During the weekend of the Battle of San Jacinto, in April 1836, Deaf Smith again performed several "important missions" without regard for his personal safety. First, Deaf and the Rodriguez brothers, “Ambrosio and Jose Antonio”, were out scouting and captured a Mexican courier who was carrying important dispatches for Gen. Santa Anna. Then delivered these documents that gave Houston information on the strength of the enemy and when Santa Anna might be reinforced.
On the morning of April 21, 1836, after allowing Smith to choose a group of trustworthy men, Houston sent him on a special mission; destroy Vince's Bridge. By doing this, he would block any further "reinforcements" from reaching General Santa Anna at the same time as "removing" the enemy’s only means of escape. And, if that wasn't enough, later that same day, Deaf and his men would still have time to regroup with the other Texians Forces and participate, bravely, at the Battle of San Jacinto.
Deaf Smith's service to Texas went far and beyond the call of duty. Although he resigned his commission in the army, Smith went on to organize and command a company of Texas Rangers. On February 17, 1837, this group defeated a band of Mexicans at Laredo. This was to be Deaf Smith's final battle.
Many officers and patriots considered Smith to have the "eyes and ears" of the Texian Army during our Texas revolution. Unfortunately, for the man that proved to be two of Texas’s most vital organs, her eyes and ears, Deaf Smith was going both - blind and deaf.
Deaf left the rangers and moved to Richmond, Texas. He died there, at the home of Randal Jones, on November 30, 1837. Sam Houston was devastated at the passing of Smith. In a letter written to Anna Raguet, Houston wrote:
"My friend Deaf Smith, and my stay in darkest hour, is no more!!! A man, more brave, and honest never lived. His soul is with God, but his fame and his family, must command the care of his country!"
History Remembers that Deaf Smith was not a man who really sought fame. Deaf just had a great love for his family and his country. I wonder if the course of Texas history would have been different — if that Mexican sentry had allowed him to visit his family during the siege of San Antonio.
Erastus “Deaf” Smith is a true patriot of our Texas Revolution.
This post is dedicated to all of Erastus “Deaf” Smith’s descendants living today in Texas and around the world who continue to "carry the torch” handed down to them by “Deaf” Smith, a Texas Patriot of our revolution,..to the benefit of Texas.
And, Thank You “Deaf” for your service, deeds of bravery and heroic devotion to our republic— Texas!
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