Tag Archive for History

Texans Stand at Salado Creek

The years after victory at San Jacinto were precarious for the young Republic of Texas. Countless skirmishes and disputes over territory continued until the final decision in 1848. The Mexican War finalized a decade long border disagreement between Texas and Mexico. In 1842 one raid by Brigadier General Rafael Vasquez on San Antonio set things in motion for an legendary battle in Texas history. After Vasquez’s raid Texan volunteers met in the ‘City of the Missions’. Their plan was to conduct a punitive raid into northern Mexico. An unexpected release of prisoners from the Texan Santa Fe expedition initiated a pause by President Sam Houston. The plans to raid Mexico were now on hold.

A few weeks later the peace was dissolved with another incursion by the Mexican Army. A French soldier of fortune by the name of Adrian Woll made San Antonio his target. With over 1,500 men they marched on the city.

About 200 militia under the command of Captain Mathew Caldwell marched to meet Captain John Coffee Hays’ band of 14 Texas Rangers. Hays was sent into reconnoiter the area around San Antonio by Caldwell. They hoped to also draw Woll’s men out of city where they planned an ambush near Salado Creek.

John Coffee Hays

John C. Hays

Thirty eight men rode to fester the Mexicans into an attack. Mid morning the detatchment of Texans arrived at a spot they found suitable for an ambush. From there six men including Captain Hays and Ranger Henry McCulloch advanced into town within a short distance of the Alamo. The bait worked but the number of Mexican cavalry was much larger than they anticipated. Up to 500 Mexicans pursued the Texans past the ambush point on towards the rest of the Texans waiting on Salado Creek. Unbeknownst to the Texans the Mexicans had already been preparing to move against the Texans. When the six man squad arrived in San Antonio they were already for a fight.

As the small band reconnected with the other men waiting in ambush Hays ordered retreat. They had to move quickly to rejoin the larger Texan force a few miles away in their camp. The Mexicans were over a mile behind but began to quickly gain ground on the Texans. Hays and his men had their sights on a timber line that they knew would provide them cover and a good defensive position. McCulloch and Creed Taylor were the last two providing a rearguard action against the approaching cavalry. Although within a couple hundred yards the Mexican rifle fire was inadequate and no man was injured in the retreat.

General Adrian Woll

General Adrian Woll

Around ten in the morning the Mexican Army had found their position for attack. Fortunate for the Texans the distance was too great to create worry. The Texans held the better defensive ground and manned their posts ready for the fight. Caldwell sent his men out and around the Mexican postion to persuade them that the Texans were a much larger force. No major movement was made by either side throughout the day. Then as if they had enough skirmishing the Mexican left and right moved to attack. As the attack unfolded the Texans slaughtered the oncoming force. Woll tried to rally his men but the attack faltered. At nightfall the fighting faded. Over sixty Mexicans lay dead with scores wounded. The Texans lost one man with no more than 12 wounded.

Many Texans wanted to counter attack to reclaim prisoners in the Mexican lines. In the early hours of the next morning several Texans had slipped into the Mexican camp planning to reign terror on the resting army. They found the camp empty with burning fires. The next morning Caldwell and Hays followed in pursuit but were delayed by heavy rains that swelled the Medina river south of San Antonio. Hays moved forward of the main group with his Ranger company. He reached the Mexican rear guard and charged. Hays luck carried the moment because the position being attacked stationed an artillery piece. The attack happened so quick the cannon could not be put into action and the Mexicans retreated to the main body of the retreating army. Two Texans were wounded and Hays’ horse was shot from beneath him. Hays, satisfied, moved back to a creek bed and waited for the advancing Caldwell.

A council of war was called on the second night of the engagement. Woll in the meantime continued to flee for the Rio Grande. The heavy rains became the barrier that would prevent the continued harassment of the Mexican army. Some believe that if the weather had been less severe the army could have been wiped out by the Texans before it escaped into Mexico.

Bryan Dolch is the owner and editor of Iron Mike Magazine. He also owns Texas Landscape Magaine, It’s The Texan, and Red Oak Marketing. He is a book cover designer for Tactical16 and a contributor to several small publications. He lives with his family in Central Texas.

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The Father of Texas

We need to start somewhere. I thought about writing a quick history of Texas but I could never cram it all into a small post. So let’s start with Stephen F. Austin.

Stephen F. Austin the father of Texas.

Stephen F. Austin the father of Texas.

The “Father of Texas was born in Virginia in 1793. He was the son of Moses and Maria Austin. His father was involved in mining lead and brought the family west to Missouri. His father sent him east to school and he returned to help run the family business in 1810. He served in the Missouri militia and legislature for a period of time. After a faltering business he moved south through Arkansas and into Louisiana where he planned to study law. At this time in 1820 his father Moses was in San Antonio making arrangements to acquire land grants through the Spanish government. He planned to settle a few hundred families in what is now Texas. At the time Texas was not a deeply settled territory of Spanish America. The most northern towns were San Antonio and Santa Fe (New Mexico). A few outposts were scattered through out the territory. The strategy was to keep an eye on the French but for the most part Texas remained a rugged barrier between the to powers.

Hesitant about the plans his father was making in Texas Stephen agreed to help. As he waited to begin the move he learned of his father’s death. Keeping the promise to his father Austin arrived in San Antonio in August of 1821. Austin was given specific requirements of the location and amount of land that he would be allowed to offer the colonists that would come to Texas. The governor, Antonio Maria Martinez, made it clear to Austin that he was solely responsible for the conduct of the settlers in his grant.

Austin quickly returned to New Orleans to spread the word about the opportunity offered in the Texas colony. After the Panic of 1819 Americans were desperate to find opportunity and the colony was full of applications quickly. The colonists began to arrive in Texas by December of 1821. During this time period the Mexican Revolution left the colony with new lords which refused to honor the grant set up by Moses Austin. Stephen hurried down to Mexico City to negotiate on behalf of his colony to secure the agreement originally made with his father. He succeeded in the getting support with the Mexican junta and the Empresario System was established by law in January of 1823. By 1824 politics interfered and new agreements were made changing the offers to the empresarios. Through this program Austin successfully colonized 900 families in Texas. While he partnered with another empresario it was not the success that his personal colony was.

Austin Colony

Austin’s original colony .

By 1828 his role as the civil and military authority moved to a system of elected officials though he maintained the role of Lt. Colonel of the militia. In this position he did facilitate and lead expeditions against the native tribes causing trouble in his colony.

After being relieved of civil and legal responsibilities he began to work diligently on improving the ‘land system’ within the borders of Texas. He began creating a surveying system and a process for recording land titles to those acquiring land in Texas.

Austin also pushed the Mexican government to establish coastal ports to promote trade with Texas and the Mexican mainland. With these ports Texas cotton could be sold through the ports and head south to merchants within in the Mexican interior. This helped establish the commission by the Mexican government of the port of Galveston south of modern day Houston.

Austin worked hard to keep the colonists out of Mexican politics. He persuaded them to keep to themselves an maintain good tidings with the government far to the south. He acted as mediator for the Fredonian Rebellion preventing this squabble from getting out of control and allowing the Mexican government from using an iron fist against the colonists.

The Law of 1830 was a turning point in the relationship of Mexico and its colonists in Texas. The idea behind the law was to begin to turn off the flow of Anglo immigrants from the United States. With internal strife in the government things began to unravel and Texas “exemption” from national politics was over. They had to choose a side. Ironically they favored Anotnio De Santa Anna which actually worked out in their favor. In 1833 however the Texas colonists began to push for their separation from Coahuila to become a sovereign state within Mexico. After lengthy negotiations Austin was on his way home to San Felipe feeling that things went well. He was, however, arrested in Saltillo and imprisoned in Mexico City without trial. He did not return to Texas until the spring of 1835.

By October 1835 war had begun with the stand at Gonzales where colonists resisted handing over their cannon with the flag “Come And Take It” waving. He led the Texas volunteers against San Antonio but was recalled to act as commissioner to the United States along with William Wharton and Branch T. Archer.  At the end of hostilities and the independence of Texas from Mexico secured, Austin returned to run for president of the new republic. He was defeated by Sam Houston. He took the position of Secretary of State but died a short time later in December of 1836.

It is unfortunate that he died at the young age of 43. His passion and selflessness for the prosperity of Texas is incredible. Had he lived it is unforeseen if he could have changed the path of Texas and may have enabled it to live long past its years before being annexed into the United States. He is truly the father of this great state.

Bryan Dolch is the owner and editor of Iron Mike Magazine. He also owns Texas Landscape Magaine, It’s The Texan, and Red Oak Marketing. He is a book cover designer for Tactical16 and a contributor to several small publications. He lives with his family in Central Texas.

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