Thursday, August 28, 2008

Come and Take It

1835, General Santa Anna of Mexico has a list of atrocities against freedom a mile long. The people of Texas had suffered these atrocities including imprisonment of innocent civilians in the area. Gen Santa Anna dissolved the local government and turned the territory into a military state, marching thousands of men into the area. Supplies coming into the area were also seized and Gen Santa Anna instituted heavy taxes and custom duties on the citizens. However the people complied and the tyranny continued.

Instead of outright revolt William Travis took 25 men and marched on the capital ordering the Mexican army out. The citizens were shocked and rebuked Travis, and Gen. Santa Anna saw this as a sign of weakness in the people. Santa Anna ordered hundreds more troops onto Texas and order his brother-in-law General Martin Perfecto de Cos to take control of the area. General Cos ordered the arrest of Travis and other "trouble makers" in Texas, but what the Mexican leaders interpreted as weakness was simply a desire to be free and to do so without violence. The imprisonment of some of the sons of Texas was the catalyst needed for the Texas people to turn violently against Santa Anna.

Early in 1835 a man by the name of Stephen F. Austin was arrested on charges of instilling ideas of a revolution. In September of 1835, after the arrest of the Travis and the decision of the Texan people to turn against Santa Anna, Stephan F. Austin reappeared in Texas and told the Texas people that the message from Santa Anna was clear. Santa Anna was destroying the rights of the people and that the people of Texas have a moral sense to resist and repel any armed force sent against "this country". The sentiment was clear, armed resistance was the only option.

Santa Anna decided that he would send Gen. Cos to disarm the resistance, to move house to house and disarm the people, break up groups of people who seemed suspicious, and seize the arms and stores in military hands before the resistance hand the chance to really resist.

Word of trouble had spread throughout Texas to the colonists and the colonists at Gonzales were shining up and readying a small cannon given to them to protect themselves from the Native Americans. Ugartechea, with the order to disarm the citizens sent men to take the cannon from the people. The colonists at Gonzalez did not have the means to immediately resist and stalled for time by asking for direct orders to disarm, all the while taking the cannon, burying it, and sending messengers to the surrounding areas to ask for armed assistance.

Stephan F. Austin wrote this letter regarding the call from the people of Gonzalez for armed assistance:

The Committee of the Jurisdiction of Austin has received the communication directed to the Committee of Safety of Mina by you, in the name of the people of Gonzales, under the date of the 25th inst., stating that Colonel Ugartachea had made a demand for the piece of cannon at that place, and that the people, in a general meeting, had refused to give it up. You state that, "from every circumstance, and from information, the people are justified in believing that this demand is only made to get a pretext to make a sudden inroad and attack upon that colony for marauding and other purposes;" in consequence of which those people request assistance to aid in repelling an attack, should one be made.

The present movements of the people of Texas are of a popular and voluntary character, in defense of their constitutional rights, which are threatened by military invasion of an unconstitutional character. The people are acting on the defensive; and, therefore, there cannot be a doubt that it was correct in the people of Gonzales, under this principle, to detain the piece of cannon which was given to them by the authorities of a constitutional government, to defend themselves and the constitution, if necessary.

On this principle, the people of this, and of every other section of the country, so far as this Committee is informed, are ready to fly at a moment's warning to the defense of those people, should they be attacked. Companies of volunteers have already marched, and more are in readiness, should they be needed, to repel an attack.

This Committee beg leave to suggest that inasmuch as the position taken by the country up to the present time, is purely defensive, it is very important to keep this principle constantly view, and to avoid making attacks unless they should be necessary as a measure of defense.

Yours, respectfully, S. F. Austin, Chairman of Committee. G.W. Davis, Secretary of the Committee of Gonzales.

Stephan F. Austin, affirmed that not only were the 18 men at Gonzalez acting in defense of their constitutional rights against the impending threat of an invading army, but that the people of the country stood behind the men at Gonzalez and were ready to offer them armed assistance at a moments notice. With that in mind the men at Gonzalez captured the small number of Mexican troops waiting to receive the cannon. One man escaped and took word to the Mexican army what had happened at Gonzalez, but the people of Texas were already mobilizing and on October 1, 1835 167 volunteers showed up at Gonzalez, answering the call for armed assistance.

A Mexican General appeared with approximately 200 Mexican troops but could not cross the Guadalupe River because the Texans had blocked them by removing the ferry from the river. The General ordered the ferry restored and the cannon turned over to the Mexican army. The Mexican army made various threats to the citizens at Texas and in turn the Texans mocked them by flying a flag made by Sara Seely DeWitt and her daughter Evaline DeWitt that depicted a lone black star over a black cannon (representative of the cannon in question) with the words "come and take it" underneath the picture. This became the battle cry and the mocking chant of the Texan people. This flag was the first battle flag of Texas, a flag openly defying a tyrants attempt to disarm the people.

In the dark of night the Texas people silently crept across the river with the intent of fighting of the Mexican army. Once across the river Reverend William P. Smith addressed the Texans. Here is an excerpt of his speech, read it, it will give you goosebumps, as it will apply to every generation throughout history.
FELLOW-SOLDIERS: To cap the climax of a long catalogue on injuries and grievances attempted to be heaped upon us, the government of Mexico, in the person of Santa Anna, has sent an army to commence the disarming system. Give up the cannon, and we may surrender our small arms also, and at once to be the vassals of the most imbecile and unstable government on earth. But will Texas give up the cannon? Will she surrender her small-arms? Every response is NO, NEVER! Never will she submit to a degradation of that character! Fellow-soldiers, the cause for which we are contending is just, honorable and glorious--our liberty! The same blood that animated the hearts of our ancestors of '76 still flows warm in our veins. Having waited several days for the Mexican army to make an attack upon us, we have now determined to attack them on tomorrow morning at the dawn of day. Some of us may fall, but if we do, let us be sure to fall with our face toward the enemy. ...

When the fog lifted the Texas militia opened fire with the cannon from Gonzalez and the Mexican Captain, Castaneda, asked for a parlay and questioned the militia as to why he was being attacked. The commander of the Texans, Colonel Moore explained that Captain Castaneda and the Mexican army were attempting to disarm the Texans of a cannon given to them to defend themselves as well as the constitution and laws of the country. In juxtaposition the Captain was acting under orders of the tyrant Santa Anna, breaking all of the laws and constitutional rights of the rest of Mexico, but that the Mexican army would not do that in Texas and Texas would fight to make sure this was the case.

Captain Castaneda told Colonel Moore that he himself was a republican and while the government went through some changes it was still the government and that the people of Texas were bound to abide by the laws of this new government. Colonel Moore told him that if he was truly a republican that he would give up his rank and join forces with the Texans to oppose the tyranny of Santa Anna. Captain Castaneda said that he would obey his orders, and with that Colonel Moore returned to the ranks of the Texas militia and ordered them to open fire on the Mexican army.

Captain Castaneda and the Mexican army put up a brief fight but quickly abandoned the fight and fled back to San Antonio. Thus the Texans kept their cannon and resisted the tyranny of a government to attempt to disarm the people and oppress them by attempting to violate their constitutional rights.

With this in mind I can not help but see parallels to our current situation. There are many people who are actively trying to disarm law abiding citizens, some of those people are in our government. This is our God-given right, listed and affirmed by the Constitution, and recently confirmed by the Supreme Court that we have an individual right to keep and bear arms.

With the upcoming elections looming, and continuous attacks on our gun rights I can not help but to hear the words of our early Texas ancestors in my mind: "come and take it"

For liberty, for peace, for our rights,

1 comment:

  1. Very well done. And I LOVE the look of the new format and the header picture.

    Just to let you know, I still can't get to your site with firefox, it opens and shuts down every time. Explorer works. Not sure why, it's just your blog, but wanted to let you know.


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