Acequia (ah-say-Key-yah) n.
[Sp.] An irrigation ditch.
A defensive obstacle formed by felled trees with sharpened
branches facing the enemy.
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 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
Adobe (ah-doh-bee) n. [Sp.]
Me an Adarga
A dwelling built with sun-dried, unburned brick of clay and
Alameda (ah-la-Mee-dah) n. [Sp.]
A grove of cottonwood trees.
The Spanish word for "cottonwood tree"
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 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.
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.
Leather box with either wood block or tins inside to carry musket
cartridges. Worn on strap over the shoulder on the right hip.
Cazadore (ca-zah-Door) n. [Sp.]
Me a Cartridge Box
Soldier assigned to a cazdore 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
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.
Ejército (eh-Hair-see-toh) n. [Sp.]
Encinal del Perdido (en-Sin-ahl
del pair-Dee-doh) n. [Sp.]
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.
"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.
Espada Ancha (es-Pah-dah Ahn-chah) n. [Sp.]
Me an Escopeta
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.
Me an Espada Ancha
Fusil (foo-Seal) n. [Sp.]
Soldier assigned to a 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
Solder in a granadero company. A grenadier.
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
Soldado n. [Sp.]
Soldado de Cuera n.
Presidial soldado equipped with a leather jacket, or cuera,
and the leather shield, or adarga.
Soldadera (sohl-dah-Dair-ah) n. [Sp.]
See also: Tropa Ligera.
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)
(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
- 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.
- A village.
Zapadore (zap-ah-door) n. [Sp.]
The engineer corps of the Mexican Army.