Texas Revolution

1835–1836

The Texas Revolution (1835–1836) was an uprising in the Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas that led to the establishment of the Republic of Texas. The independent state played an important role in America’s Manifest Destiny when Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845.

Stephen F Austin, Portrait

Stephen F. Austin played a key role in the establishment of the Republic of Texas. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Texas Revolution Summary

The Texas Revolution — also known as the Texian War of Independence — was an armed conflict between settlers living in the Mexican province of Texas and the Mexican government. The settlers were primarily Texians — Americans who had settled in Texas — who were joined by Tejanos — Hispanic Texans, who were protesting Mexican policies that levied taxes and restricted rights.

The revolution officially started in October 1835 with the Battle of Gonzales. By March of 1836, Mexican forces led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna were moving across Texas and laid siege to Texan forces at the Alamo in San Antonio.

On March 2, the provisional government of Texas declared independence. Four days later, Santa Anna assaulted the Alamo, overwhelmed the Texans, and took control of San Antonio. More Mexican forces swept through Texas to Goliad, where they won the Battle of Coleto and captured nearly 400 Texas soldiers — who were executed on Santa Anna’s orders.

Afterward, settlers throughout Texas fled from their homes in the wake of the Mexican Army’s advance. Meanwhile, General Sam Houston was selected to lead the Texan Army but refused to engage the Mexicans, due to the inexperience of his men and lack of resources. The move infuriated both his men and the government. However, Houston’s plan worked.

Santa Anna left San Antonio and made several tactical errors that left his army exposed. On April 21, Houston moved his army into position and launched a surprise attack on Santa Anna’s camp along the banks of the San Jacinto River, east of present-day Houston. The Mexicans were routed and Santa Anna was captured the next day. On May 14, Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco, ending the Texas Revolution and establishing the independent Republic of Texas.

Texas Revolution Quick Facts

  • Start Date: The Texas Revolution officially started on October 2, 1835, with the Battle of Gonzales.
  • End Date: It ended on April 21, 1836, with the Texan victory at the Battle of San Jacinto.
  • Outcome: Texan forces won the Texas Revolution, securing independence from Mexico.
  • Treaty: The resolution to the revolution was negotiated in the Treaty of Velasco.
  • Slogan: The most famous slogan from the Texas Revolution is, “Remember the Alamo!”
  • Also Know As: The Texas Revolution is also known as the Texian War of Independence.
Fall of the Alamo, Davy Crockett Fighting, Painting, Onderdonk
This painting by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk depicts Davy Crockett swinging his rifle at Mexican troops who have breached the south gate of the Alamo. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Texas Revolution Overview and History

Moses Austin’s Vision of an American Colony in Mexico

Following the passage of the Adams-Onis Treaty, present-day Texas was recognized as a Spanish territory, under the control of New Spain. In Missouri, businessman Moses Austin was into new business ventures so could pay off his debts. He was involved with the Bank of St. Louis but lost everything in the Panic of 1819.

Austin saw an opportunity in Texas and hoped to establish a trading post on the coast. In December 1820, Austin and one of his partners, Felipe Enrique Neri, Baron de Bastrop, met with Governor Antonio María Martínez and Spanish officials in San Antonio. Austin was granted permission to establish a settlement with up to 300 families along the coast. As part of the agreement, the settlers needed to pledge their allegiance to the Spanish Crown and convert to Catholicism in return for their land. 

Austin returned to Missouri to recruit families and developed the “Form of Contract for Emigration to Texas” that provided the details of what was expected from each family. The families agreed to work for Austin from May 1821 until January 1823, and he provided them with transportation to Texas along with the necessities needed to build the settlement.

San Antonio, 1840, Illustration
This illustration depicts San Antonio around 1840. Image Source: Archive.org.

Stephen F. Austin — Empesario

However, on the trip back to Missouri, Austin became sick and later contracted pneumonia. He died on June 10, 1821. Austin’s death temporarily paused plans for the settlement, which passed to his son, Stephen F. Austin. Per the rules of the Spanish Empresario System, Stephen became the empresario of his father’s settlement.

Austin was in Louisiana when he found out his father had died. From there, he traveled to San Antonio to meet with Spanish officials. Governor Antonio María Martínez authorized the transfer of the empresario and gave Austin permission to explore the territory between San Antonio and the Brazos River to find a place for the settlement.

Austin returned to Louisiana advertising he was looking for new settlers for his colony in Texas, and offering cheap land, at 12 and a half cents per acre, roughly 10 times less than it did in the United States.

Austin’s Colony and the Old Three Hundred

The settlement was called the Austin’s Colony and the first of the 297 settlers that signed on — known as the “Old Three Hundred” — started to arrive in December 1821. Austin’s Colony was the first legal settlement of North American families in Mexican-controlled Texas and it opened the door to a flood of American immigrants who sought the chance for a new start and a new life in Texas.

In 1822, Mexico declared independence from Spain, and Austin’s Colony fell under Mexican control. As the Mexican government established itself, it continually made changes to Texas immigration and land distribution laws, which affected the growth of Austin’s Colony.

In order to help guide settlers to the colony, Austin hired frontiersmen in 1823. He also hired a group of 10 men to help defend the colony and serve as “rangers.” This early militia group eventually became the Texas Rangers.

In 1824, San Felipe de Austin was established, and it was the capital of Austin’s Colony. The last of the Old Three Hundred had arrived by the end of 1825.

Despite issues with the Mexican government, Austin received permission to expand the settlement and bring in 900 additional families. By 1830, there were an estimated 16,000 Americans in Texas, living in the northern section of Coahuila y Tejas, along with people of Hispanic heritage, who were called Tejanos.

Constitution of 1824

In 1824, the new Mexican government implemented the Constitution of 1824. It was based on elements of the United States Constitution and the Spanish Constitution of 1812. It set up a federal government, similar to the United States, but did not separate church and state. The official religion was Catholicism and the government supported the Church with public funds. Under the new constitution, Coahuila, and Texas were combined into one state — Coahuila y Tejas. However, provisions were made so Texas had the opportunity to become a state in the future.

Texas Land Rush

The legislature of Coahuila and Texas passed the Colonization Act of 1825, which encouraged Americans to settle in the territory. Many Americans emigrated from the southern part of the United States. 

The new settlers brought enslaved people with them, which would become an issue with the ever-changing Mexican government that contributed to the Texas Revolution. They also brought a sense of independence that raised concerns with Mexican officials.

Fredonian Rebellion

Austin tried to keep the colony on good terms with the Mexican government and even helped put down the Fredonian Rebellion (December 1826–January 1827) in east-central Texas. The rebellion was an attempt by empresario Haden Edwards to establish an independent state in Nacogdoches, which further justified the concerns of Mexican officials.

Following the rebellion, a Mexican official, Manuel de Mier y Terán, was sent to investigate the situation in Coahuila and Texas. He found Texians greatly outnumbered Tejanos and the sense of loyalty to Mexica was dwindling.

Constitution of Coahuila and Texas

In 1827, the Constitution of Coahuila and Texas was passed, which divided the territory into five departments and a single government, which sat at San Antonio. As more immigrants moved into the territory, the people in Texas felt they did not have adequate representation in the government. In order to ease tension, more departments were added and regional officials were seated at San Antonio de Béxar, San Felipe de Austin, and Nacogdoches.

Tension Between the Americans and Mexicans

Despite Austin’s efforts to maintain good relations, Mexican officials were suspicious of the American settlers, who continued to grow in number. Officials were also wary that the United States would attempt to acquire the territory by encouraging the people to revolt, or the province would declare independence. Those fears were somewhat founded by the Fredonian Rebellion.

There were also differences in language and culture that caused problems between the colonists and native Mexicans. The colonists refused to learn the Spanish language, maintained their own separate schools, and conducted most of their trade with the United States. Even though they were contractually obligated to join the Catholic Church, they refused.

Gradual Abolition of Slavery in Texas

Many of the settlers in Austin brought enslaved people with them from the United States. In 1826, slaves accounted for approximately 25% of the population of Austin, and they provided the labor for the colony’s cotton and sugar production. That same year, the state government considered abolishing slavery, which led many of the settlers to threaten to leave. 

Austin and his brother, Brown Austin, lobbied the legislature to allow slavery in the state. However, in 1827 the legislature passed what is called Article 13, which implemented gradual abolition in Coahuila and Texas. 

  1. It banned the importation of slaves.
  2. Children born to slaves were free at birth.
  3. Any slaves that had been brought into the state had to be freed within 6 months.

Fearing revolt, the governor of Coahuila and Texas, Jose Maria Viesca, petitioned the government to give the state more time to implement the law. An extension was granted, and Texas was given until 1830 to comply.

Laws of April 6, 1830

Drawing on fears the United States was working to annex Texas, the Mexican government passed laws on April 6, 1830, that imposed limitations on Americans living in Texas and any that wanted to emigrate:

  1. Banned any further immigration from the United States to Texas.
  2. Banned new slaves in Texas.
  3. Contracts for settlers were moved from state control to federal control.
  4. Settlements with fewer than 150 people were eliminated.

Mexicans were also incentivized to move into the area, and military outposts were established, which were occupied by former criminals who had joined the Mexican Army.

Anahuac Disturbance of 1832 and Taxation

The Mexican government established a garrison at Perry’s Point on October 26, 1830. The purpose was to crack down on smuggling in the area, which had risen as settlers tried to avoid paying customs duties. The garrison was under the command of Colonel Juan Davis Bradburn and the customs collector was George Fisher. Bradburn was also responsible for stopping immigration to the area, in accordance with the Law of April 6, 1830. 

Bradburn supported the centralist faction in the Mexican government, while the people living in the area supported the existing federalist structure of the 1824 Mexican Constitution.

Bradburn clashed with federalist Mexican officials. In 1831, the land commissioner, José Francisco Madero, issued land titles to settlers against Bradburn’s wishes. Bradburn had Madero arrested, but he was released by state authorities. Madero responded by establishing a new municipality with a governing body at the Atascosito Crossing of the Trinity. Madero called it “Villa de la Santísima Trinidad de la Libertad,” but the Texans called it “Liberty.”

In November 1831, centralist officials moved the governing body from Liberty to Anahuac, which was further south. Local authorities were ordered to inspect the licenses of lawyers and the validity of local land titles. Fisher was forced to move to Anahuac to collect customs duties as well. However, he was overwhelmed with the amount of work and it slowed the progress of ships through the Brazos River and Galveston Bay. Some ship captains, frustrated with delays, decided to proceed, which led to Mexican forces firing on several ships.

In 1832, several escaped slaves took refuge in the area. Bradburn hired them to work for him at the garrison, as he was allowed under Mexican law, which prohibited slavery. The slave owner hired lawyer William B. Travis to help have them returned to him. Travis, his law partner, Patrick C. Jack, and Bradburn were not on good terms and had clashed prior to the arrival of the slaves.

Rather than go through the lengthy — and likely fruitless — legal process, Travis turned to deception. He sent a letter to Bradburn that said a group of men from Louisiana was on its way to recover the men. Travis hoped Bradburn would release them, however, the plot was uncovered and Bradburn had Travis and Jack arrested.

William B Travis, Painting, McArdle
William B Travis. Image Source: Texas State Library and Archives.

People living in Turtle Bay, just north of Anahuac, were furious over the arrests. They organized a force of roughly 200 men while another group gathered to discuss the political aspects of the situation. The locals, led by John Austin, engaged Bradburn’s cavalry and took 19 men hostage. A prisoner exchange was arranged but fell apart. A skirmish followed and Bradburn threatened to fire on Turtle Bay. 

The locals fell back to Turtle Bay and sent for artillery of their own. A stalemate ensued, and the people living in Turtle Bay developed the Turtle Bay Resolutions. The resolutions explained why the people of Turtle Bay were in revolt against Bradford, but also expressed their support for Santa Anna and the Constitution of 1824.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Portrait, Illustration
Antonio López de Santa Anna. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Battle of Velasco

A contingent of men led by Henry Smith and John Austin traveled from Brazoria to retrieve a cannon to use against Bradburn’s forces. On the way back to Anahuac they were attacked by a small force of Mexican troops near Fort Velasco. The Mexicans ran out of ammunition and were forced to surrender and evacuate the fort.

Soon after, Bradburn’s commanding officer arrived at Anahuac and brought an end to the hostilities. Bradburn was removed from his position and the governing body, along with customs collections, was moved back to Liberty. Travis, Jack, and others were released.

Battle of Nagadoches

On August 2, 1832, settlers living in Nagadoches clashed with Mexican troops under the command of Colonel José de las Piedras after Piedras tried to confiscate weapons from the town. As the Mexican forces approached Nagadoches, the local government issued a call for help, and men from the surrounding settlements, including San Felipe, responded. James W. Bullock was chosen to lead the combined forces of the Texans. When Piedras arrived on August 2 and marched into the town the Texans attacked. Piedras was driven out of the town and marched to San Antonio. On August 3, a small group of Texans, including Jim Bowie, went in pursuit of Piedras. The Texans caught up to the Mexicans and opened fire, forcing Piedras to take shelter. At that point, the Mexicans mutinied against Piedras and surrendered. The Texans escorted the Mexicans back to San Antonio. The Texan victory eliminated the presence of the Mexican military in East Texas.

Convention of 1832

Texian leaders met in San Felipe from October 1 through October 6, 1832. The convention adopted a series of resolutions, including one that requested modifications to the Law of April 6, 1830, regarding immigration. Another resolution proposed statehood from Coahuila. Austin presided over the convention and William H. Wharton was chosen to present the resolution before the state legislature and the Mexican Congress, however, the resolutions were never presented, and the exact reason is unknown.

Santa Anna Elected President of Mexico

Santa Anna was viewed as a brilliant military tactician but was also known for poor execution on the battlefield. At the time, he was popular — a hero of the 1821 Mexican Revolution — and was elected President of Mexico on April 1, 1833. Santa Anna was sworn in on May 17, 1833. However, he was disinterested in the everyday affairs of politics and was referred to as an “absentee president.”

Convention of 1833 and the Texas Constitution of 1833

As Santa Anna was coming to power, the leaders of the settlements in Texas met again at San Felipe, starting on April 1, 1833. Austin was not present at the start of the convention and it was presided over by William H. Wharton. One of the delegates from Nacogdoches was Sam Houston, who sided with the radical members of the convention. The members produced resolutions similar to those from 1832 and also prepared a constitution to present to the Mexican Congress. The constitution was similar to the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 because the members of the convention had a copy with them. Austin arrived after the meetings started, and was chosen to present the petitions to the state and federal governments. The convention ended on April 13 and Austin traveled to Mexico.

Sam Houston, Governor, Portrait
Sam Houston. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Stephen F. Austin Arrested

Austin arrived in Mexico in July and was able to convince the government to agree to some of the convention’s resolutions, including the ban on immigration from the United States. However, the government would not agree to authorize Texas as a separate state. 

The meeting raised suspicions that Austin might be planning an insurrection. He also sent a letter to the local government in San Antonio discussing independence, which was intercepted by Mexican authorities. As he traveled back to Texas in January 1834 he was arrested at Saltillo and taken back to Mexico City. Although no charges were filed, he was held there until July 1835.

Santa Anna Implements the Seven Laws

In 1835, Santa Anna replaced the 1824 Mexican Constitution with a new constitution, known as “The Seven Laws.” He abolished the federal structure of the government, established a centralist government, and essentially became a dictator over the new Centralist Republic of Mexico.

Santa Anna’s actions led to revolts throughout Mexico, not just Texas. Roughly 15 states rebelled, including Coahuila and Texas, New Mexico, and New California. Santa Anna responded by forming an “Army of Operations.” He also sent troops to San Antonio and Anahuac.

As Santa Anna put down rebellions, his reputation for enacting brutal consequences on his enemies grew. In May, Santa Anna marched into Zacatecas, defeated a militia force, and allowed his men to loot the town. Santa Anna then turned his attention to Coahuila and Texas.

Anahuac Disturbance of 1835

The government reestablished customs collection at Anahuac and sent troops to enforce the laws. Two merchants, Andrew Briscoe, and DeWitt Clinton Harris were arrested for resisting paying their taxes. Travis, who was in Harrisburg, gathered a group of about 25 men and sailed to Anahuac. They confronted the Mexicans, who surrendered on June 20. The situation actually tarnished Travis, because he acted on his own, without much public support. He was also branded as an outlaw by the Mexican government. However, the settlers refused to turn him and others over to Mexican authorities.

Austin Tells Texans to Prepare for War

Public sentiment in the United States favored independence for Texas, which encouraged local leaders like Austin to take a stand against Santa Anna’s policies. 

Santa Anna’s reputation for brutality also swayed American sentiment against him. An editorial published in the New York Post said that if Santa Anna “treated the vanquished with moderation and generosity, it would have been difficult if not impossible to awaken that general sympathy for the people of Texas which now impels so many adventurous and ardent spirits to throng to the aid of their brethren.”

Texans called for another convention, to be held in November. When Austin returned, he endorsed it and the settlements held elections for delegates.

Santa Anna responded by sending 500 soldiers into Texas, under the command of General Martín Perfecto de Cos. On September 19, as Cos and his men were on their way, Austin issued a circular letter that called for the local militias to prepare themselves, saying “War is our only resource.”

The Mexicans arrived at present-day Copano Bay on September 20, roughly 170 miles south of San Felipo, and marched to San Antonio.

Battle of Gonzales — Come and Take It

During a dispute in the town of Gonzales on September 10, 1835, a Mexican soldier severely beat a settler. The town had been given a cannon by the Mexican military a few years earlier to use against Indian attacks. Fearing the settlers would use it against them, dragoons — cavalry troops on horses — under the command of Lieutenant Francisco de Castañeda were sent to the town to confiscate the cannon. The Mexicans arrived on September 29 and their path into the town was blocked by a small force of 18 militia — known as the “Old Eighteen.”

Rather than engage the Texians, Castañeda had his men set up camp. Meanwhile, the Texians called for reinforcements. During the night of October 2, the Texians, under the command of John Henry Moore and Joseph E.W. Wallace, attacked the Mexican camp. Castañeda ordered his men to fall back and take cover. After a brief negotiation between Castañeda and Moore, the fighting resumed and the Mexicans withdrew. According to all accounts, Castañeda had no desire to fight with the Texians. In fact, most historians agree he sympathized with the Texian cause and simply wanted to carry out his mission, retrieve the cannon, and leave.

Following the incident, the Texians raised a white flag in Gonzales with cannon painted on it, bearing the words “Come and Take It.”

Two days after the battle, Austin published a letter that said, “War is declared—public opinion has proclaimed it against a Military despotism — The campaign has commenced.” News of the battle spread through Texas, and volunteers from the United States arrived to help the Texians in their fight.

Battle of Goliad and Samuel McCulloch Jr.

After learning about the Battle of Gonzales, General Cos marched toward San Antonio. He was at Goliad, north of Copano Bay, on October 6, safe within the confines of the fort, Presidio La Bahía. However, Texian forces, under the command of Captain George M. Collingsworth, moved to kidnap Cos and attack the fort. Cos evacuated the fort but left a garrison of troops to defend it. Texian forces attacked on October 10, won the fight and took control of the fort.

During the battle, a former slave, Samuel McCulloch Jr., was shot in the shoulder. He was the only Texian injured and his injury is considered by some to be the first bloodshed in the Texas Revolution.

Austin’s Army of the People

On October 11, Austin was chosen to lead the Texian Army, which he called the “Army of the People.” The army combined the local militias and also included the Texian Navy.

Siege of Béxar

General Cos arrived in San Antonio on October 9. After Austin was selected to lead the army, he marched to San Antonio to confront Cos and his army. By October 12, Cos had prepared defenses at San Antonio and was waiting for the Texians to approach. Austin started the march to San Antonio on October 14.

Austin was outside of San Antonio on October 20. He sent a message to Cos, asking him to leave and avoid the “sad consequences of the Civil War.” Cos refused and replied that he would not yield to Austin’s demands. Meanwhile, Austin received reinforcements, including James Bowie and Juan Seguín, along with a company of volunteers.

Jim Bowie, Texas Revolution, Illustration
Jim Bowie. Image Source: Archive.org.

The Mexicans were entrenched in San Antonio, however, Austin did not have enough men or artillery to launch an attack. 

On October 28, Bowie and Captain James Fannin led a small force on a scouting mission. Near the Concepción Mission, they engaged Mexican forces. The Texans pushed them back and captured a cannon in the victory at the Battle of Concepción.

Soon after, Austin received more reinforcements, led by Thomas J. Rusk. Skirmishes continued in the area as the Texans harassed Mexican supply lines. On November 8, a small Texan force led by William B. Travis captured around 300 mules and horses that belonged to the Mexican army.

As the siege dragged on, Austin traveled to San Felipe to participate in meetings with political leaders at the Texas Consultation in San Felipe. Edward Burleson was chosen to take his place as the leader of the Texian Army.

On November 26, Texan forces clashed with Mexican troops near Alazán Creek, west of San Antonio. Burleson learned that Mexican reinforcements carrying supplies were on their way to San Antonio. He sent cavalry, under the command of Bowie, to stop the reinforcements and capture the supplies. Bowie and his men were successful but discovered the supplies were nothing more than grass for feeding animals. As a result, the battle is known as the “Grass Fight.”

Following the Grass Fight, Burleson considered ending the siege due to the onset of winter and the lack of supplies. However, some of the officers disagreed, including Colonel Ben Milam. Milam spoke out and shouted, “Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?” 300 men answered his call. Burleson responded by organizing an attack on Mexican defenses.

On December 5, Frank Johnson and Juan Seguín led the men in a surprise attack. They captured and occupied two houses, but were unable to advance further. During the attack, Burleson and the rest of the army, about 400 men, protected the camp and supplies and scouted the movements of the Mexican troops. Fighting continued over the next three days, and the Texans were able to take control over more of San Antonio. Cos attempted an attack on the Texan camp but it failed. The following day, December 9, he surrendered. Cos and his men surrendered their weapons and supplies and then marched south. Most of the Texans returned t their homes afterward, but a few stayed to maintain possession of San Antonio.

Texas Rangers

On November 24, 1835, the militia was officially transformed into the Texas Rangers. The legislature passed a bill that provided for 56 men in three companies as part of the regular army. Although the Texas Rangers played a role in the events of the Texas Revolution, they rose to prominence during the Cherokee War of 1839.

Texas Rangers, Illustration
Texas Rangers. Image Source: Archive.org.

Texas Consultation

While the Siege of Béxar carried on, the third convention was held in San Felipe. Known as the Texas Consultation, the members, including Stephen F. Austin, debated key issues, including the war, the structure of a new government, and who would lead both the government and the army.

A provisional government was established based on the Constitution of 1824, even though it had been dissolved by Santa Anna. The members essentially agrees they would not rejoin Mexico until the old federal system was resurrected.

On November 13, the Consultation voted to create a regular army and named Sam Houston as the commander-in-chief. The new regular army was entirely separate from the original Texan Army. In an effort to encourage men to volunteer for the regular army, the Consultation offered land as payment. 

The Consultation asked Austin to go to the United States to recruit volunteers, ask for donations, and gather supplies. On November 14, Henry Smith was elected governor of the provisional government.

Meanwhile, rumors were spreading that Santa Anna was preparing an army to invade Texas, and planned to lead it himself. He also declared Texas to be in rebellion.

Santa Anna Marches to Texas

Santa Anna was, in fact, preparing to lead an army into Texas to put an end to the insurrection. He assigned his presidential duties to Miguel Barragán and organized the “Army of Operations in Texas.”

In December, the Mexican government passed the Tornel Decree, which was aimed at American volunteers fighting with the Texans. The decree stated that any foreigners that engaged Mexican troops would be “deemed pirates and dealt with as such, being citizens of no nation presently at war with the Republic and fighting under no recognized flag.” The price of piracy was death. As a result, Santa Anna’s army was under no obligation to take prisoners.

Santa Anna left Mexico with more than 6,000 men and marched toward San Antonio. As the army made its way north, settlers evacuated, leaving their homes at the mercy of the army. Santa Anna also received reinforcements along the way. By February 16, 1836, he had more than 8,000 men. He crossed the Rio Grande River on the 16th and was about 150 miles away from San Antonio.

Meanwhile, the small number of Texans that occupied San Antonio, under the command of Colonel James C. Neill, moved into the mission called San Antonio de Valero — more famously known as “The Alamo.”

Siege of the Alamo

When Sam Houston learned that Santa Anna was headed to San Antonio, he sent Jim Bowie and 30 men there to remove the artillery and destroy the Alamo. However, after he arrived Bowie believed that San Antonio was vital to the defense of Texas. As a result, Bowie and Neill decided to defy Houston’s orders and prepared to defend San Antonio.

Unfortunately, only a small number of reinforcements arrived to provide help. Among them were William B. Travis, who arrived on February 3, and a small group of just 30 men.

On February 8, another small group of reinforcements arrived. It was only 20-30 men, but they were led by Davy Crockett, the famous frontiersman from Tennessee. Crockett had gone to Texas to scout the area and find land for a new home when he came across a group of men who were headed to Texas to join the fight. With the promise of free land, Crockett signed up for a six-month tour of duty with the regular army. Three days after Crockett arrived, Neill left to find volunteers and gather supplies. He left Bowie and Travis in joint command of the Alamo.

On February 23, Santa Anna’s advance force entered San Antonio. He ordered his men to raise a red flag from the top of the San Fernando Church, for the Texans to see. It was a message informing them they would be given no quarter and should immediately surrender. The Texans responded by firing the cannons at the Alamo, indicating they had no intention to surrender.

That night, Bowie became sick and was bedridden. Travis took command on the 24th.

Later that day, Travis wrote a letter, called “To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World.” He called for reinforcements and vowed he would “never surrender or retreat.” Echoing the words of George Washington before the historic Crossing of the Delaware River, Travis wrote, “VICTORY or DEATH.” Mexican scouts, including Juan Seguin, carried the letter throughout the region. 

I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch.

William B. Travis

Unfortunately, the response to the letter was slow, and only 30-50 men answered the call and arrived before the Mexicans attacked. At the same time, Santa Anna received his own reinforcements on March 3, when 1,000 men arrived. Even Fannin, who had 400 men under his command, decided against going to the Alamo.

At dawn on March 6, the siege ended as Santa Anna sent 1,800 men to assault the Alamo. By all accounts, the Texans fought bravely, but there were only 190 to 250 of them. They were easily overwhelmed within an hour and all of the defenders were killed or executed.

Some of the noncombatants were spared. Two of them, Susanna Wilkerson Dickinson and Travis’s slave, a man named Joe, traveled to Gonzales.

The victory at the Alamo did little to help the Mexican cause. It was a relatively small victory and gained no important tactical advantage for Santa Anna. What it did was delay his advance and create a rallying point for the Texans who opposed him.

See the day-by-day account of the 13-day Siege and Battle of the Alamo for more information.

  1. February 23
  2. February 24
  3. February 25
  4. February 26
  5. February 27
  6. February 28
  7. February 29
  8. March 1
  9. March 2
  10. March 3
  11. March 4
  12. March 5
  13. March 6

Texas Declares Independence

Meanwhile, Texas leaders gathered to discuss their goals and demands at Washington-on-the Brazos on March 1. The Convention of 1836 organized a committee to write a declaration of independence. The chairman of the committee, George C. Childress, is considered the primary author of the declaration. The declaration was adopted by the convention on March 2, officially establishing the Republic of Texas. 

A new constitution was adopted on March 17. David G. Burnett was named President and Lorenzo de Zavala was Vice President

News of the events at the Alamo arrived at the Convention a few hours after the battle ended. Some of the delegates wanted to leave and take up the fight. However, Sam Houston was placed in charge of all Texas forces, including the regular army and the militia army, and any volunteers that had come from the United States. Houston traveled to Gonzales where roughly 375 volunteers were assembled.

Goliad Massacre

After crossing the Rio Grande, Santa Anna sent a force under the command of General José Urrea toward Goliad. Texan forces were at Presidio La Bahía, just outside of Goliad, under the command of Colonel James Fannin. 

Urrea defeated Texans on his way to Goliad at various battles.

  • February 27, 1836 — Battle of San Patricio
  • March 2 — Battle of Agua Dulce Creek
  • March 12–15, 1836 — Battle of Refugio
  • March 19–20, 1836 — Battle of Coleto

On March 20, Fannin and his men conceded the Battle of Coleto. Urrea and Fannin met to discuss the terms of surrender. Urrea assured Fannin the Texans would be treated as prisoners of war and paroled within a week. Urrea was confident Santa Anna would approve the terms of the surrender. The Texans surrendered and the Mexicans escorted them back to the fort. Over the next few days, Mexican forces rounded up American volunteers who had escaped, including men from Kentucky and Georgia.

Urrea wrote to Santa Anna and explained the situation. However, Santa Anna insisted replied and insisted on the execution of the prisoners. Fearing Urrea would refuse, Santa Anna also sent a direct order to Colonel José Nicolás de la Portilla, who was in charge of the fort, to carry out the executions. 

On the morning of March 27, 1836 — Palm Sunday — Portilla carried out Santa Anna’s order. The unsuspecting prisoners were rounded up and marched outside the fort. Believing they were being marched to boats to take them to safety, they were surprised when they were stopped on the road and the guards opened fire on them. Less than 50 Texans survived what became known as the “Goliad Massacre.”

Santa Anna believed the incident would force the Texans to rethink their revolution and lay down their arms. It had the opposite effect.

Santa Anna’s Offensive

Following the Alamo and Goliad, Santa Anna believed the war was over but sent forces out into East Texas. He wanted to capture Sam Houston and eliminate what was left of the Texan Army once and for all. Santa Anna sent General Antonio Gaona and General Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma out to accomplish both, while he remained in San Antonio. Gaona and Sesma were also supported by Urrea and his army.

The Runaway Scrape

On March 11, Santa Anna’s forces left San Antonio. The same day, Houston arrived in Gonzales and took command of the small army of volunteers. Two days later,  Susannah Dickerson and Joe arrived in Gonzales and told Houston what happened at the Alamo and that Mexican forces were on the march. Houston held a council of war with his officer, and they agreed to evacuate Gonzales. The army, and everyone living there, fled, and they burned the town as they did.

As the Mexicans advanced through Texas, settlers fled from their homes. Most of them were elderly men, women, children, and slaves who were not enlisted in the military and they moved east toward the Sabine River, which runs along the border of Texas and Louisiana.

Houston Refuses to Fight

Houston knew he would not be able to take on Santa Anna’s much larger army. Rather than engage any of the Mexican forces, which had superior numbers and firepower, Houston continued to retreat. During the retreat, his army grew, as volunteers joined him.

Although many of his men — and the government — wanted him to engage the Mexicans, he refused. Houston believed his army only had resources for one fight, and he wanted to make it count.

On March 29, Santa Anna joined the pursuit of Houston and left San Antonio with around 700 men. 

Houston continued to retreat, even burning San Felipe to the ground along the way to Groce’s Landing. He stopped there on March 31 and stayed for two weeks, drilling his men and preparing them for battle. Although two cannons arrived from Cincinnati, known as the “Two Sisters,” Houston still refused to take the fight to the Mexicans.

On April 7, Santa Anna marched into San Felipe, just 15 miles south of Groce’s Landing. His men captured a Texan soldier who informed him that Houston intended to continue retreating. Santa Anna tried to cross the Brazos River in order to advance on Groce’s Landing, but the crossing was guarded by Texan troops. 

Unable to cross the river, he turned his attention to Harrisburg and decided to go there and capture the members of the Texas government. The members of the government escaped just as Colonel Juan Almonte and his cavalry arrived to arrest them. Almonte watched as they sailed off to Galveston Island.

Soon after, Santa Anna received a report from his scouts that Houston and the army were also headed to Galveston Island. Wanting to cut off the escape route, Santa Anna left Harrisburg on April 18 and marched southwest to Lynchburg

Meanwhile, knowing Santa Anna had left San Antonio, Houston finally decided to make a move of his own. On April 16, Houston marched east and then went southeast toward Harrisburg. Two days later, his army marched into town not long after Santa Anna and his men left. 

Later that day, two Texan soldiers — Deaf Smith and Henry Karnes — captured a Mexican courier. The courier carried valuable information with him, including the size of Santa Anna’s force and his plans. Houston called his men together and delivered a rousing speech. He told them it was time to move against the Mexicans. He shouted to his men “Remember Goliad!” and delivered the phrase that is still widely associated with the Texas Revolution — “Remember the Alamo!”

Houston and his men marched toward Lynch’s Ferry on the San Jacinto River — which is exactly where Santa Anna was headed.

Battle of San Jacinto

By taking a different route than Santa Anna, Houston arrived in the area around Lynch’s Ferry on April 20, a few hours before Santa Anna. Houston had the advantage of numbers, with 900, as opposed to Santa Anna’s 700.

The Texans camped along the bank of Buffalo Bayou while the Santa Anna chose a plain near the San Jacinto River — against the wishes of his officers. The Mexican camp was roughly 500 yards from the Texan camp.

Small skirmishes took place throughout the day. At one point, Houston was furious with his cavalry, who disobeyed his orders and engaged the Mexicans. In return, his men, eager for action, were upset he did not allow them to launch an attack on Santa Anna’s camp.

That night, the Mexicans worked to fortify their camp, fully expecting the Texans to attack the next day. Early the next morning, General Cos arrived with reinforcements, which gave Santa Anna more men than Houston. However, no attack came and that afternoon Santa Anna allowed a good number of his men to rest.

While the Mexicans rested, Houston and his men were preparing to launch a surprise attack. Houston had men destroy a bridge to cut off Mexican reinforcements — and a Mexican retreat.

Battle of San Jacinto, Painting, McArdle
The Battle of San Jacinto by Henry Arthur McArdle. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Around 4:00 in the afternoon, the Texans moved into position with their cannon. At 4:30, the first cannon was fired. The Texans rose up out of the tall grass, fired on the Mexicans, and rushed over the breastworks and into the camp. The Mexicans were caught completely by surprise — officers shouted contradictory orders in the confusion. Within 20 minutes, the Mexicans were forced to flee from the camp. The Texans pursued them, enacting their revenge for the Alamo and Goliad. It is estimated that 600 Mexican troops were killed and 300 were captured, while the Texans lost 11 and suffered 30 wounded.

Houston was wounded in the battle, while Santa Anna escaped and took refuge in the nearby swamps. Texan soldiers found him the next day and dragged him into their camp. Many of Houston’s men wanted Santa Anna executed, but Houston showed mercy. Santa Anna ordered his second-in-command, General Vicente Filisola, to withdraw from Texas. 

Although Mexican forces scattered throughout Texas considered trying to mount an attack, poor weather and lack of supplies convinced Filisola it would be a futile effort.

Treaties of Velasco

Over the course of the next few weeks, Houston and other Texas leaders negotiated with Santa Anna. Two treaties were agreed to — one made public, another kept secret. 

The public Treaty of Velasco ended the war and Mexico recognized the independent Republic of Texas. Santa Anna agreed to move the Mexican Army south of the Rio Grande, return property that had been confiscated during the war, and exchange prisoners.

In the secret Treaty of Velasco, Santa Anna was given his release in exchange for agreeing to support the public treaty and enforce the provisions. 

Aftermath and Outcome

Despite his agreement, Santa Anna was unable to help secure the approval of the public treaty, because he was removed as the leader of Mexico. 

The Mexican government placed the blame for the fiasco on the United States, because so many of the volunteers came from America, including more than 200 members of the United States Army. Further, the United States recognized the Republic of Texas in 1837 but did not annex the territory. France recognize Texas in 1839, followed by Great Britain in 1840. However, Mexico still refused to recognize Texas.

In March 1845, the United States voted to annex Texas. Mexico protested, as did Great Britain, who did not want to see the United States gain more territory. The British convinced the Mexicans to recognize Texas in May — as long as it did not become part of the United States. 

On July 4, 1845, the Texas legislature voted to accept annexation to the United States. The decision was ratified by the popular vote of the people of Texas in October. On December 29, 1845, the United States Congress approved the entry of Texas into the Union, and a formal transfer of power took place on February 19, 1846.

What followed was a dispute between the United States and Mexico over the border between the two nations that erupted into the Mexican-American War.

Effects of the Texas Revolution

The Texas Revolution had a profound impact on the history of Texas, Mexico, and the United States. Although it led to the formation of a new republic, which eventually became part of the United States, it was not without its negative effects 

The conflict led to the loss of thousands of lives and the displacement of many people, including Tejanos who wanted to remain under the authority of the Mexican governments and Native American Indians. 

During the war, many women were left to fend for themselves and their children while the men were off fighting. 

For some enslaved African Americans, the revolution provided an opportunity to gain their freedom by joining the Mexican Army. However, the Republic of Texas also protected the institution of slavery, just like its neighbor to the east, Louisiana.

Texas Revolution Significance

The Texas Revolution is important to United States history for the role it played in establishing Texas as an independent republic, separate from Mexico, which eventually joined the Union. It started a process that created tension between the United States and Mexico, which reached a tipping point in 1846, resulting in the Mexican-American War. In turn, the war led to the Mexican Cession, where Mexico ceded roughly 55 percent of its territory to the United States, including the present-day states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, most of Arizona and Colorado, and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming. The Texas Revolution also played an important role in America’s Manifest Destiny.

Texas Revolution Interesting Facts

  • The Fredonian Rebellion (1826–1827) was the first attempt by settlers in Texas to declare independence from Mexico.
  • Mexican suspicions about the United States and Texas were fueled by a report filed by General Manuel Mier y Terán in 1828.
  • The Laws of April 6, 1830, were passed in response to Terán’s report. The laws were intended to help Mexico regain control of Texas and diminish the presence and influence of Americans.
  • Texans were the victims of “no taxation without representation” when Mexican officials increased taxes and customs duties.
  • William B. Travis was arrested and charged with sedition in 1832 by Mexican officials in what is known as the “Anahuac Disturbances of 1832.”
  • The first conflict between Texas settlers and Mexican authorities took place on June 26, 1832, at the Battle of Velasco.
  • Texans were infuriated when Stephen F. Austin was arrested by Mexican officials on December 10, 1833.
  • The Convention of 1832 resulted in the Turtle Bayou Resolutions, which explained the actions of Texans during the Anahuac Disturbances.
  • The Convention of 1833 resulted in Texas creating its own constitution.

Texas Revolution APUSH Notes

Use the following links and videos to study the Texas Revolution and Manifest Destiny for the AP US History Exam.

Texas Revolution APUSH Definition

The definition of the Texas Revolution for APUSH is an uprising in the Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas that led to the establishment of the Republic of Texas. The independent state played an important role in America’s Manifest Destiny when Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845.

Texas Revolution: Birth of the Lone Star State

This video from Warograhics discusses the history of the Texas Revolution.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Texas Revolution
  • Date 1835–1836
  • Author
  • Keywords Texas Revolution, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Battle of the Alamo, Austin's Colony, Texas Land Rush, Anahuac Disturbances, Battle of Gonzales, Siege of Bexar, Goliad Massacre, Runaway Scrape, Battle of San Jacinto, Treaties of Velasco, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 22, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 15, 2024

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