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Glossary of Terms


Abatis n.

A defensive obstacle formed by felled trees with sharpened branches facing the enemy.
Acequia (ah-say-Key-yah) n. [Sp.] An irrigation ditch.

The Acequias of San Antonio

The initial success of any new mission was dependent upon the planting and harvesting of crops. Sparse rainfall and the need for irrigation water made the design and installation of an acequia system a high priority. So important was irrigation in Spanish Texas that cropland was measured in suertes, the amount of land that could be watered in one day

The Moslems introduced the use of acequias (irrigation ditches) to the arid regions of Spain. Once arrived on the frontier, the Franciscans found the system well suited for use in the desert Southwest. In order to distribute the water, missionaries and Indians built seven gravity-flow ditches, five dams and an aqueduct — a 15 mile network that irrigated about 3,500 acres of land.
The Mission Espada acequia is one of the few surrving in San Antonio.
The best preserved of the San Antonio acequias is the one near Mission Espada. Espada Dam, completed by 1740. It diverted river water into an acequia madre (mother ditch). It is still in operation, but now plays a secondary role beside the modern dam. The water was carried over Piedras Creek through the Espada Aqueduct—one of the oldest arched Spanish aqueducts in the United States. Using floodgates, the aguador (water master) controlled the volume of water sent to each field for irrigation and for such auxiliary uses as bathing, washing, and power for mill wheels. Today, nearby farms still use the water from this system.

The Alamo Acequia

Construction of the acequia at Mission San Antonio de Valero began in 1719. The source of the acequia was the San Antonio River near the ford of the "Paso de Tejas" where water was diverted from the river by means of a diversion dam that extended into the stream from its western bank. The acequia served to raise and direct the flow of water toward the eastern bank to a canal intake.1

This small channel traced a winding path, between the river and the low hills to the east. It turned toward the south-southwest and passed through the mission grounds only to return to the river at the largest bend. This created a ditch approximately three and one-half miles in length. Later additions to the channel branched near the mission and irrigated additional labores (farmlands) to the east and south. This extended the total length of the acequia to approximately ten miles. The unlined ditch had a width of approximately six feet and a depth of three to four feet.

There is virtually no mention in the records of the acequia relating to the battle of 1836, probably because its small size created no impediment to the advance of Mexican troops. Since the acequia was their only source of water and it could so easily be cutoff or diverted, the Texians constructed a well within the compound before hostilities began. Some accounts relate that the acequia may have been used for clandestine entries and exits during the battle.

The acequia remained in use until 1912. After this time, the city filled and generally forgot the acequia. However, in recent times renewed archaeological interest resulted in the excavations of small portions of the ditch. One such excavation was the section located behind the chapel on the grounds of the Alamo. Other portion can be seen on the grounds of the downtown Hampton Inn and in HemisFair Park.

1 One can find this point in Brackenridge Park, south of the intersection of Broadway and Hildebrand near the Witte Museum.

Adarga (ah-dar-ga) n. [Sp.]
The 18th century Spanish adarga, or shield was made of three thicknesses of bullhide stitched together and was designed to deflect lance thrusts or arrows. Carried by Soldados de Cuera.

Show Me an Adarga

Adobe (ah-doh-bee) n. [Sp.]
A dwelling built with sun-dried, unburned brick of clay and straw.

Alameda (ah-la-Mee-dah) n. [Sp.]
A grove of cottonwood trees.

The Spanish word for "cottonwood tree"


Baker RifleBaker Rifle

Rifled .61 caliber military long arm was used by the British military during the Napoleonic Wars. It was adopted for use by the Mexican Army in limited numbers for cazadores.

Designed and made by Ezekiel Baker, this rifle incorporated all the best features in contemporary European designs rather than being innovative; soldier-proof in construction, and with a relatively easy to load seven-groove quarter turn rifling, the rifle was accurate at a man-size target at ranges up to 250 yards, and could be fired twice per minute by a semi-skilled rifleman loading under 'battlefield' conditions. The rifle was originally calibered at the same as the infantry musket to standardise ammunition supplies - 3/4 of an inch - but later reduced to 5/8 of an inch to make the rifle lighter and more manageable, the standard ammunition used for the cavalry carbines. Later still, the rifle was supplied with ball ammunition cartridges specifically made for the rifle, which solved previous problems in loading a bullet that did not fit exactly.

The barrel of the rifle was browned to prevent glare giving away the rifleman's position. Each rifleman carried a small toolbag - a turnscrew, ballpuller, worm and tommy bar - to enable him to keep the rifle clean and serviceable, with new flints and a supply of patches.

The Baker Rifle was equipped with a bayonet
The Baker rifle was equipped with a long-bladed brass handled sword bayonet. These were very handy for camp chores, but because it added weight to the end of the gun barrel, it was seldom mounted and rarely seen in hand-to-hand combat.

Brown Bess
Nickname applied to the Long Land Pattern and Short Land Pattern British muskets. Both used a No.11 bore barrel (0.76-inch caliber) and fired a No. 14 bore ball (0.71). The length of the barrel was 42 inches. The name "Brown Bess" comes from the German word bushe (gun) and the browning on the weapons barrel. While many writers used the term to describe the weapons used by Mexican infantry, most Mexican weapons were the East India Pattern Musket that was of the same caliber, but had shorter barrel and simpler furniture.

Batallion (baht-tah-LI-own) n. [Sp.]
A battalion. Mexican infantry units were organized on a battalion level since 1823. A Mexican battalion consisted of eight companies, one each of granaderos and cazadores with six fusilero companies. Prior to 1833, Mexican battalions were numbered, but from 1833-1839, they were named in honor of the heroes of the War for Independence. In 1839 the battalions were merged to form numerical regiments of the line (lina).

Bejar or Bexar (bay-Har) n. [Sp.]
Another name for San Antonio was San Fernando de Bejar. Colonist from the United States, mistaking the Spanish "j" for an "x" , corrupted Bejar into Bexar.


Caballeria (cah-Bah-lair-e-yah) n. [Sp.]

Spanish/Mexican term for cavalry

Carabinas (cahr-Been-ahs) n. [Sp.]
Carbine, short cavalry musket.

Cartucheras (cahr-Too-shair-ahs) n. [Sp.<Fr. cartouche]
Mexican term for cartridge box.

Cartridge Box
Leather box with either wood block or tins inside to carry musket cartridges. Worn on strap over the shoulder on the right hip.

Show Me a Cartridge Box

Cazadore (ca-zah-Door) n. [Sp.]
    Soldier assigned to a cazdore company.

Cazadore Company
    Each Mexican battalion had a company designated as cazadore, that preformed the duties of skirmishers and light infantry for the battalion. Soldiers in this company were armed primarly with the British Baker Rifle or the British Light Infantry Musket. Cazadore soldados wore a hunting horn insignia on their shakos and on their cartridge boxes. Their crossbelts were black.

Coahuila y Tejas
    Before independence, Texas was part of the much larger Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas that extended from the present-day state of Coahuila, Mexico to the north to an area that encompassed all of Texas, part of New Mexico, the state of Colorado and part of Wyoming. One of the precipitators of the Texas Revolution was the Texian's desire for Texas to be an independent Mexican State.

Coleto Creek
    A small stream that runs through South Central Texas. Site of the March 19-20 battle between Colonel James Walker Fannin's command and the Mexican division under General José Urrea that resulted in Fannin's defeat and surrender. The battlefield site is about a mile west of the timber line that runs along the creek in what is now the eastern part of Goliad County near the present day of Fannin (formerly Fannin's Defeat). It is 19 miles east of Goliad, on Highway 59. A small state park marks part of the site. Offical Mexican accounts call this battle Encinal del Perdido after the oak mott along nearby Perdido Creek, about a mile north of the site.

Convento (con-Ven-toh) n. [Sp.]
    A convent. After the military occupation of the Mission San Antonio de Valero in 1803, the mission's convent was utilized as a troop barracks and later as a hospital that served both the miltary and civilian populations. Today it is known as "the long barracks."

Cuera (Cair-rah) n. [Sp.]
    Thick and heavy, stitched leather vest worn by Soldados de Cuera as protection against thick underbrush and arrows.



East India Pattern Musket

British flintlock musket produced from the 1790's through the Napoleonic Wars. A simpler version of the British Short Land Pattern musket, it was produced originally by the East India Company for use of its army in India. The outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and France necessitated the British Government to purchased and later produce the weapons through private contractors to arm its military.

The East India Pattern was the same caliber of the Short Land Pattern but with a 39-inch barrel and simplified furniture. In 1809, the reinforced hammer or cock was introduced. In 1832, Mexico started to purchase from private contractors stores of the East India Pattern and it remained the standard musket for the its army until after the 1846-48 War with the United States (although some other muskets of other manufacture were apparently used, including Spanish and American). Most musket parts found on Texas and Mexican War sites have been from the East India Pattern, although some of the Short Land Pattern have shown up at Goliad.

While the generic term, Brown Bess, is often applied, it is somewhat incorrect. Mexican sources never used this term and referred to the weapons as "fusiles de Ingles." Mexico was not the only nation to use the weapon, as troops in Prussia, Russia, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands also were issued East Indian Patterns during and after the Napoleonic Wars.

Ejército (eh-Hair-see-toh) n. [Sp.]

    An army.


Encinal del Perdido (en-Sin-ahl del pair-Dee-doh) n. [Sp.]
    "Mott of Oak Trees of the Lost." Name generally used by Mexicans for the battle of Coleto Creek, March 19-20, 1836 in which Fannin was defeated. The name comes from nearby oak trees on Perdido Creek, which empties into Coleto Creek northeast of the battle site. This was also the site of the 1817 defeat of American adventures under Henry Perry by the Spanish.

Escopeta (es-coh-Pay-tah) n. [Sp.]
    A light, smoothbore, muzzle-loading musket or carbine, a popular weapon of the 18th century soldado de cuera.

    Show Me an Escopeta

Espada Ancha (es-Pah-dah Ahn-chah) n. [Sp.]
    Spanish Short Sword or wide sword of the type that was carried by the soldados de cuera. The espada ancha was carried in a leather scabbard, attached to the saddle, hilt forward, on the left side, or sometimes on a sling hung over the soldier's right shoulder.

    Show Me an Espada Ancha


Fusil (foo-Seal) n. [Sp.]

    A Musket.

Fusilero (foo-seal-Lair-oh) n. [Sp.]
    Soldier assigned to a fusilero company.

Fusilero Company
    Each Mexican infantry battalion contained six fusilero companies, number Primero Sextero. These were the center companies of the battalion and were armed primarly with the British East India Pattern Musket. The shako plate of a fusilero was a thin stamped brass oval plate with the Mexican national coat of arms on it. There was some variety in this style, as come contained the name of the battalion on the plate, and most examples lack the traditional snake in the Mexican national coat of arms.



Town located in south central Texas on the San Antonio River and the county seat of Goliad County. Two Spanish missions, Espiritu Santo and Rosario and the Presidio La Bahia were reestablished here in 1749 and the resulting villa was named La Bahia. In 1829, the Government of Coahuila y Tejas changed the name to Goliad in honor of Fray Miguel Hidalgo. Goliad is one of the most fought over areas in Texas, having been captured in 1812 by the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition, who had to defend it for nearly six months from Spanish forces. The Presidio was attacked unsucessfuly by the Perry-Gordon Expedition in 1817 and briefly held by filibuster James Long in 1821. Texian colonists took the fort on October 9, 1835 from Mexican troops and was the scene of the Goliad Massacre on March 27, 1836.
Granadero (grah-Na-dair-oh) n. [Sp.]
    Solder in a granadero company. A grenadier.

Granadero Company

    Each Mexican infantry battalion had a company designated as granaderos or grenadiers. Usually made up of the physically larger and veterans of the battalion, the company usually was detached in action and used to form the reserves. The primary weapon carried by a granadero was a British East India Pattern Musket. Granaderos also carried short swords suspended on the same belt as their bayonets. A flaming bomb, simular to that worn by French grenadiers, was worn on the shako and on the cartridge box.


The seventh Texian gun, and their first large caliber piece, was an iron twelve-pounder. It was a "gunade" that came off the American schooner "Columbus." In appearance, a "gunade" is a combination of a regular cannon and an English carronade. It is as if one took a stubby carronade and stretched it out to make it a couple of feet longer and more tapered. The piece was probably an "insurance gun." Such cannon were often carried by merchant ships to meet insurance requirements. The gun has long been identified as a carronade, but it has trunnions and is too long to be a true carronade. The Carron Company did make a carronade with trunnions instead of the traditional naval lug mounting, but the piece is most likely an American made gun.

The gun served the Texians well at the storming of Bexar, but there were costs in operating it. An Englishman named John Cook, who had been a gunner in the English fleet, was killed soon after the Texians set up the piece. A German, William Langenheim, who later escaped death at San Patricio, was the gun's crew leader. On his death in 1874, his obituary contained the following quote: "He [Langenheim] was who, at San Antonio, directed and fired the shot which penetrated the cupola of the church wherein Coss [sic] and staff were observing the operations of the Texan troops. The Mexicans were taken a sudden idea of getting down stairs, which feat was accomplished in quicker time than the ascension." Today, the twelve-pound "gunade" sits behind the Alamo Gift Shop/Museum.



Infanteria (in-fahn-Tair-ee-ah) n. [Sp.]

Spanish/Mexican term for infantry

Jacal (hah-cahl) pl. jacales (hah-cahl-leez) n. [Sp.]

Junta (hoon-tah) n. [Sp.]
A group of military officers holding state power in country after a coup d' éat.



La Bahia (bah-he-yah) n. [Sp.]

Spanish for "the bay." Name applied to the Presidio and Mission of Espiritu Santo that was moved to the San Antonio River in 1749 and became used as the orginal name for Goliad.

La Villita (vee-yee-tah) n. [Sp.]
    (lit. "little village") The community that grew to the south of the Mission San Antonio de Valero as a result of the marriages between the soldados of the Alamo Company and local vecinas (female citizens). This community was preceded by the lesser "Alamo Barrio" a collection of jacales and adobes that surrounded the Alamo compound.

Lipantitlán (lee-pan-teet-lahn) n. [Aztecan]
    Earth and wood picket Mexican fort established in 1831 at the La Bahia/Matamoros Road crossing of the Rio Nueces south of San Patricio, Texas. Scene of Texian victory against Mexican garrison on November 4,1836 and clash between Texian and Mexican forces on Jume 7, 1843. Small state park marks site.

A temporary fortification consisting of two faces forming a salient angle and two parallel flanks.






Fence of pointed stakes.

Piedras de chispa (pee-aid-dras day chees-puh) n. [Sp.]
A shaped flint held in the jaws of the hammer or cock of a flintlock musket as was required as part of the ignition system.

Plana Mayor (plahna May-yore) n. [Sp.]
    Staff of a Mexican army, battalion or regiment.

Presidio n. [Sp.]
    Place of the garrison, duty station or fort.




Shako n. [Sp.]
A stiff cylindrical military dress hat with a short visor and a plume.

Soldado n. [Sp.]
    A soldier.

Soldado de Cuera n. [Sp.]
    Presidial soldado equipped with a leather jacket, or cuera, and the leather shield, or adarga.
    See also: Tropa Ligera.

Soldadera (sohl-dah-Dair-ah) n. [Sp.]
    Name applied to females who followed Mexican Army. While not an offical part of the army, they were tolerated as a nessessity, taking care of the soldados cooking, laundry, and often medical needs.


Tejas or Texas

    Derived from the Caddoan Indian word for "friend". Americans mistaking the Spanish "j" for an "x" corrupted Tejas into Texas.

Terecerolas (Tair-eh-Sair-oh-lahs) n. [Sp.]
    Light infantry musket or musketoon.

Tropa Ligera (troh-pah Lee-hear-ah) n. [Sp.]
    (lit."light or flying troops") Mounted soldados who traveled without the cuera or adarga. They were mobile companies, able to cover vast areas behind the presidial line supporting the operation of the local presidial company as in the case of Alamo de Parras who supported the Bejar Presidio.
    See also: Soldado de cuerra.

Tlascalan Indians (also: Tlaxcalan, Tlaxcaltecan, Tlaxcalteco) (tlass-Cal-lahn) n. [Uto-Aztecan]
Tlascalan Indians of central Mexico spoke a Uto-Aztecan language. They aided Cortez in his conquest of the Aztec empire and received certain priveleges in return. They founded the Coahuilan pueblo of San José y Santiago del Alamo de Parras in 1731 from whence the Compañía of Alamo de Parras was formed in 1784.



Vaines de bayonetas

Mexican term for bayonet scabbard.

A unit of measurement. Aproximately 2.8 ft.

Villa (vee-ya)

A village.





Zapadore (zap-ah-door) n. [Sp.]

The engineer corps of the Mexican Army.