The Battle of Gonzales was the opening action of the Texas Revolution (1835-1836).
The Texans and Mexicans clashed near Gonzales on October 2, 1835.
Armies and Commanders at the Battle of Gonzales
- Colonel John Henry Moore
- 150 men
- Lieutenant Francisco Castañeda
- 100 men
With tensions rising between the citizens of Texas and the central Mexican government in 1835, the military commander of San Antonio de Bexar, Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea, began taking action to disarm the region. One of his first efforts was to request that the settlement of Gonzales return a small smoothbore cannon which had been given to the town in 1831, to aid in fending off Indian attacks. Aware of Ugartechea's motives, the settlers refused to turn over the gun. Upon hearing the settler's response, Ugartechea dispatched a force of 100 dragoons, under Lieutenant Francisco de Castañeda, to seize the cannon.
The Forces Meet
Departing San Antonio, Castañeda's column reached the Guadalupe River opposite Gonzales on September 29. Met by 18 Texas militiamen, he announced that he had a message for the alcalde of Gonzales, Andrew Ponton. In the discussion that followed, the Texans informed him that Ponton was away and that they would have to wait on the west bank until he returned. Unable to cross the river due to high waters and the presence of Texan militia on the far bank, Castañeda withdrew 300 yards and made camp. While the Mexicans settled in, the Texans quickly sent word to the surrounding towns asking for reinforcements.
A few days later, Coushatta Indian arrived in Castañeda's camp and informed him that the Texans had gathered 140 men and were expecting more to arrive. No longer willing to wait and knowing that he could not force a crossing at Gonzales, Castañeda marched him men upriver on October 1 in search of another ford. That evening they made camp seven miles up stream on the land of Ezekiel Williams. While the Mexicans were resting, the Texans were on the move. Led by Colonel John Henry Moore, the Texan militia crossed to the west bank of the river and approached the Mexican camp.
With the Texas forces was the cannon that Castañeda had been sent to collect. Early on the morning of October 2, Moore's men attacked the Mexican camp flying a white flag featuring a picture of the cannon and the words "Come and Take It." Taken by surprise, Castañeda ordered his men to fall back to a defensive position behind a low rise. During a lull in the fighting, the Mexican commander arranged a parley with Moore. When he asked why the Texans had attacked his men, Moore replied that they were defending their gun and were fighting to uphold the Constitution of 1824.
Castañeda told Moore that he sympathized with the Texan's beliefs but that he had orders that he was required to follow. Moore then asked him to defect, but was told by Castañeda that while he disliked the policies of President Antonio López de Santa Anna, he was bound by honor to do his duty as a soldier. Unable to come to an agreement, the meeting ended and the fighting resumed. Outnumbered and out-gunned, Castañeda ordered his men to fall back to San Antonio a short time later. This decision was also influenced by Castañeda's orders from Ugartechea not to provoke a major conflict in attempting to take the gun.
Battle of Gonzales Aftermath
A relatively bloodless affair, the only casualty of the Battle of Gonzales was one Mexican soldier who was killed in the fighting. Though losses had been minimal, the Battle of Gonzales marked a clear break between the settlers in Texas and the Mexican government. With the war begun, Texan forces moved to attack Mexican garrisons in the region and captured San Antonio in December. The Texans would later suffer a reversal at the Battle of the Alamo, but would ultimately win their independence after the Battle of San Jacinto in April 1836.
Resources and Further Reading
- Texas A&M: Battle of Gonzales
- Texas Military Forces Museum: Battle of Gonzales
- Handbook of Texas: Battle of Gonzales