On June 07, 1874, an elder Tejano of 64 years sat outside an office at the San Antonio Courthouse downtown. He was waiting for his scheduled 10:00 AM appointment. He was petitioning the State of Texas, for the second time, to grant him the military pension offered to men who served during the Texas Revolution. Two friends from his revolutionary days, who he hadn't seen in years, were also scheduled to appear to testify on this man's behalf and vouch that he did indeed fight for Texas during its revolution. Unfortunately, his initial effort to entreat his pension did not go too well since the board decided that there wasn't adequate confirmation that this Tejano had ever served.
"His name does not appear on any muster rolls." Request for Pension - Denied.
History remembers this revolutionary Tejano as Leandro Chaves.
As Leandro sat in his best clothes, waiting for 10:00 AM, and as he was preparing mentally for the hearing, his mind drifted to that Friday morning, October 27, 1835. On that day, Leandro left his parent's ranch early in the morning with the new wooden cart he had recently purchased from Jose Miguel de Arciniega. That cart was new and state-of-the-art. Leandro lived on his parent's ranch just south of San Antonio, near modern-day Elmendorf. That fateful morning, Leandro was on his way to the city to sell his farm's produce at the Mercado.
About halfway, traveling north along the San Antonio River, as he was reaching Mission San Jose, Leandro heard the sound of horses approaching in the distance, many horses. He instinctively grabbed his musket and took cover behind his cart. His first thought was Comanches, but as the horses got closer, he could see it wasn't Comanches. Leandro could not believe his eyes! It was his childhood friends. Lots of them! Oddly, they are all riding together, but why?
History remembers that while the Tejano Volunteer Company, led by Captain Juan Seguin, was on a scouting mission ordered by Austin the night before, they ran into Leandro and his cart. First, the Tejanos had a quick family reunion with lots of hugs and smiles. Then, Manuel Flores brought Leandro up to speed concerning the recent Texian and Tejano uprising against Mexico and that most of the young Tejanos favored fighting for freedom.
But all of that came to a quick end when Captain Seguin mentioned their genuine interest in this encounter. One of the Tejanos had spotted Leandro and his cart and reported that intel back to Seguin. Seguin thought, "We could use a good cart for the Texian cause."
"So, Leandro, we're here to buy your cart. We could find a use for a cart like yours in the service of our forces. We'll compensate you its current value in silver," Juan Seguin offered. But then Chava Flores interjected, "Why don't you join our cause? Become a fighting Tejano like everyone in our militia, the Tejano Volunteer Company, and join us in our fight for Texas Independence." After a few minutes of thought, Leandro responded with his famous, "I will stand with my brothers and fight for Texas." And, just like that, Leandro became a member of the Tejano Volunteer Company led by Captain Juan Seguin, a young man whom he had great respect for and had known all his life.
Leandro entered his military service at the very onset of the Texas Revolution, during the initiation of what history would remember as the "Siege of Bexar." At that time, Austin planned to take the offensive and march on San Antonio to lay siege on the city and the Mexican garrison stationed there.
In late October 1835, General Austin marched his inexperienced and untested group of freedom fighters (about 453 men, an average of 26 years old) from Gonzales to south San Antonio to a temporary camp at Mission La Espada. Along the way, they picked up Jim Bowie, made him a Colonel, and assigned him to co-command the 1st Battalion with Fannin. Upon arrival, late in the evening of October 26, Austin met with Bowie and Fannin. He directed them to take about 100 men and scout northward for a closer, safe location so the Texian army could advance. Bowie called on his Tejano friends to lead the way since it was the Tejanos, namely the Dias brothers, Julian and Canuto, who were experts in the area they would be scouting.
That evening Bowie and his unit left. This group, headed by Bowie and Fannin, on their surveillance for a safe location to advance to, of which the Tejano Volunteer Company was a part, found Leandro and his cart.
Immediately, Leandro came on board and started transporting men and supplies in the service of the New Texian Revolutionary Army. Because he kept himself busy, the Army officers never assigned him to any specific unit. So Leandro wasn't under anyone's explicit command. He was just – the transporter.
On October 29, 1835, Leandro saw action at the first battle of the Siege of Bexar Campaign, the Battle of Concepción. This engagement was the first actual battle of the Texas revolution. He parked his oxen and cart nearby, grabbed his musket, and participated in that fight. He was there fighting with the Texians and Tejanos, fighting next to a Texian Colonel injured during the battle and died of his injuries several days later. Immediately after the battle, Bowie summoned Leandro and asked him to get his oxen team ready to serve as a "medic wagon" to transport the wounded. About a month later, during the Grass Fight, Leandro's oxen team, once again, served as a medic wagon.
During that siege, Austin moved the Texian Army north of San Antonio, near the site that later became the Pearl Brewery. Leandro and his oxen team worked diligently for many hours, transferring supplies and men to that location. There was always something that needed transporting, and Leandro hauled it with his trusty oxen.
In early December 1835, during the siege, Colonel Milam joined the Texian camp and inspired about 300 Texians and Tejanos to charge the homes in downtown San Antonio, namely the De La Garza home and the Veramendi Palace. Those properties had fallen into the hands of the Mexican troops and represented strongholds for the Mexican Army. So, again, Colonel Milam planned to oust the Mexicans from these homes. And, again, Leandro parked his oxen team nearby, grabbed his musket and his weapons of melee, and followed Old Ben into battle.
During the attack, as the Texians and Tejanos advanced to the junction of Calle Rivas and Calle Soledad, just across the street from the Veramendi Palace, they encountered heavy resistance from the Mexicans. The Mexicans had placed several snipers nearby, which was very effective, causing many Texian casualties at that intersection. According to some accounts, a sniper was at the San Fernando tower and another by a big tree near the San Antonio River.
Many famous Texians and Tejanos were there storming the Veramendi Palace. Men like Deaf Smith, Sam Maverick, Blas Herrera, John Smith, the Garcia brothers, Toribio Losoya, Andres Nava, Agapito Cervantes, Joseph Martin Delgado, and many more.
The Texians were separated during the charge or storming off the Veramendi Palace. A team of Texian and Tejanos, including Leandro, crossed the street while most of the advancing fighters remained on the other side. One of the men crossing the road was Colonel Milam, running side-by-side with Sam Maverick. As Milam's team ran to storm the property's front door, a shot rang out, and one of the sharpshooters hit Colonel Milam, killing him instantly. History remembers that Milam's lifeless body fell into Sam Mavericks' arms.
At the other end of the Veramendi Palace, another small group of Texians and Tejanos found themselves isolated from the main force and quickly running low on ammunition. They became surrounded, facing intense firepower, and separated from the main force. So, they decided that a volunteer was needed to "run" back across the street and join up with the main force to communicate their dire need for reinforcements. History remembers that Leandro answered the call. Leandro had always been known for his speed as a young man, so he felt confident he could cross that street without incident.
During the heat of the battle, with maximum adrenaline, Leandro took off running fast across Soledad Street. Blas Herrera, the Garcia brothers, and others provided suppressive fire while numerous Mexicans fired at Leandro as he raced across Soledad Street. Then, with musket balls flying past him everywhere, and just as he got to the midway point, as he cut to the right to zig-zag, a shot rang out from one of the snipers.
Leandro received a musket ball shot to the head and went down hard on the dirt street. Almost immediately after, as his body was rolling to a stop, he was shot again, this time on his right foot. All eyes were on the fallen Tejano lying motionless in the middle of the street. But there's no time to be sad. Consequently, the isolated Texians needed another volunteer to run across the street. Suddenly, one of the fighting Texians yelled, "Look at that!"
History remembers that somehow Leandro sprang back to life and crossed the street, hopping on one foot and bleeding from his forehead. The musket ball shot to the head was more of a ricochet than a direct hit. Had he not cut when he did, well, who knows? In the end, after the battle, Travis gives him leave to tend to his injuries, and soon after, Leandro's military service is over.
That's the story Leandro told under oath to John Rosenheimer, the Notary County of Bexar, on that Friday morning. Juan Jose Flores and Juan Rodriguez stood with Leandro and signed the affidavit as witnesses. Juan Seguin, age 68, also appeared before the hearing and attested on behalf of his old friend. This meeting represented the last time these old friends that grew up and fought as brothers during our Texas revolution would be together. In so many ways, the Texas Revolution was a family affair.
Three years later, on November 19, 1877, Leandro's Military Annual Pension was approved by Sam S. Smith, County Clerk, Bexar County, on behalf of the State of Texas.
Leandro was 67. And history remembers that he still had a scar on the corner of his forehead.
Leandro Chaves was a true patriot of our Texas Revolution.
This post is dedicated to all of Leandro's descendants, living in Texas and worldwide, like Margaret Chaves Reyna. They proudly continue to carry the torch of freedom handed down by Leandro Chaves, a patriot of our Texas Revolution, aka - the transporter, to benefit this great Republic.
And, Thank You, Don Leandro Chaves, for your service, deeds of bravery, and heroic devotion to our country — Texas!
Texas Heroes - Never Forget!
Leandro Chaves' descendants.
Leandro Chaves, Ancestry.com
Leandro Chaves, Geni.com
Sons of Dewitt County, Muster of Gonzales and Bexar Battle, Page 8.
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