Bexar county's forgotten
Battle of Alazan Creek.
By Richard Santos, Archivist of Bexar, County.
San Antonio Express newspaper, June 18, 1966, Saturday.
Of the six major battles which occurred within present Bexar County during the colonial period, the one fought near the Alazan Creek on June 20, 1813, remains the only unmarked, unevaluated and unexploited one. Numerous books have been written of the Battle of the Alamo, and countless paragraphs devoted to the Siege of Bexar (1835) and battles at Concepcion (1835), Medina (1813) and Rosillo (1813). Moreover, historical markers and or monuments of one form or another have been erected at these sites to commemorate the events, but never at the Alazan. Therefore, it is this writer's objective to depict the battle without necessarily evaluating its impact upon the history of Texas and thus commemorate the 153rd anniversary of the event.
Dusk, June 20, 1813, found some 1,500 men moving silently through the streets of San Antonio. Quietly they traveled south on Calle Real past San Pedro Creek. Laredito and the cemetery. On they went stumbling through the shadowy plains west of the city that led to the Alazan Creek.
Upon reaching the creek, the infantry dispersed to their position as the cavalry dismounted and the artillerymen set their bastions. Over 800 Anglo-American volunteers took their assigned positions upon the enemy's flanks while the native Mexican insurgent force prepared to charge the center.
Far behind the enemy and encircling the battlefield were the Tonkawas, Townkans and Lipan Apaches anxiously waiting to chase, capture and scalp any runaway troops and thus collect their booty and reward.
Such was the scene in the attacker's quarters as the Republican Army of the North under the command of Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara and Major Henry Perry prepared their assault.
Some 500 yards west of the Alazan was encamped a Spanish royalist force under the command of Col. Ygnacio Elizondo. The force, composed of some 700 regular soldiers and over 300 volunteers, was preparing to attack San Antonio.
Col. Elizondo, who had figured prominently in the capture of Father Hidalgo some two years before, was not attempting to further his glory by reconquering the province of Texas from the anti- Spanish insurgents.
Elizondo was still trying to prove his loyalty and zeal to the crown since he had changed sides twice since the opening of hostilities in 1810. He had first joined the rebels in Monclova, Coahuila, and had been entrusted with the Spanish governors of Texas after their captivity in 1811.
Texas Governor Salcedo, however, soon convinced Elizondo he would reap greater benefits by remaining loyal to the crown. Salcedo and Elizondo, then enlisted the aid of San Antonian Enrique Felipe Neri, the Baron de Bastrop, to lead Father Hidalgo's army into ambush at Norias de Bajan, Coahuila, which was successfully carried out on March 21, 1811.
Instead of laurels, Elizondo apparently met with mistrust as he was never promoted or aptly rewarded, even though he had helped return the provinces of Texas and Coahuila to the Spanish empire.
Elizondo's second opportunity appeared in 1813, when the insurgent Republican Army of the North invaded and captured Texas. The rebels entered Texas through Nacogdoches in 1812, sustained a prolonged siege at Goliad and finally turned toward San Antonio.
The major battle of the expedition was fought on March 19, 1813, at the Rosillo Crossing on the Salado Creek, which ended when the Spanish royalists abandoned the battlefield. The Spanish governors had no alternative but to surrender San Antonio and the Province of Texas on April 1. Four days later, Governors Jose Maria Salcedo and Simon de Herrera were assassinated with their political and military staffs upon the banks of Salado Creek.
Elizondo now had two reasons to redeem his honor. First to reconquer the Province of Texas; and second, to avenge the governors' assassination.
In order to accomplish this the colonel had to disobey his commanding officer, Brig. Gen. Joaquin de Arredondo, who had ordered Elizondo to advance to the Frio River but no further. Instead, the impatient colonel advanced to the very outskirts of San Antonio and asked the insurgents to surrender! Even worse, he underestimated his enemy's ability and pitched camp without the necessary precautions.
Neither scouts nor pickets were posted by the Spaniards as they settled for a good night's rest on June 19. Only two bastions of six artillery pieces, 300 yards from each other, protected the camp. Moreover, the royalists overcrowded their encampment by allowing the camp-followers, wives and children to mingle with the troops.
The insurgents had barely taken their positions about the Spanish camp as the first rays of light sprouted over the horizon.
Meanwhile, the insurgents' artillery pieces were carefully loaded with canister and scarp-iron and aimed upon the kneeling mass of humanity. Then, during one of those quiet, sacred passages of the mass, a deadly order sliced the morning breeze upon the Alazan; Fire!
Confusion grasped the Spanish camp as soldiers, women and children fell dead or dying to the ground. Then as the Spaniards made their way to their guns, they met with the full onslaught of the insurgent cavalry. With a solid green banner for a flag, Gutierrez de Lara led his men through the very center of the Spanish camp sparing no one in their path.
Soon the Spaniards managed to rally their forces and recapture most of their lost ground. For over an hour and a half there were constant charges and counter-charges made for the artillery emplacements. However, the Spaniards soon began to give way as the bloodiest part of thee two-hour battle took place.
The pursuing insurgent cavalry was joined by their Indian allies as the royalists were butchered mercilessly regardless of age or sex. Only those mounted on fleet horses were able to escape with their scalps.
Col. Elizondo, who had two horses shot from under him, managed to catch up with the remnants of his army, some 15 miles from the battlefield as they hurriedly made their way to the Rio Grande.
The victorious Republican Army captured 40 mule loads of flour, 4,000 pounds of biscuits, 300 guns and muskets, 5,000 pounds of powder, $28,000 worth of goods and clothing and some $7.000 worth of miscellaneous goods including saddles, liquor, coffee, cigars and "other luxuries." Most of the captured 2,000 horses and mules were paid out to the Indians in exchange for which were collected indiscriminately.
Victory at the Alazan soon turned to defeat for Gutierrez de Lara as he was replaced by U. S. backed General Jose Alvarez de Toledo.
Toledo, mistrusted by the native Mexican volunteers, destroyed the army's morale by dividing the force into groups of "Mexicans," "Anglos" and Indians,. The assimilated army which had fought victoriously at Nacogdoches, Goliad, Rosillo and the Alazan now prepared to meet the disciplined troops under Brig. Gen. Arredondo as a disorganized, demoralized force.
As expected, the Spaniards soundly defeated the Republican Army near the Medina River on Aug. 18, 1813.
Col. Elizondo and a young lieutenant, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, joined their commanding officer in one of the worst bloodbaths ever to be witnessed in Texas. Before it was over, Elizondo, was fatally wounded by one of his own sub-alternates who could no longer participate in the massacres.
The discredited Gutierrez de Lara went on to join two other revolutionary expeditions and later became governor of Tamaulipas after Mexico gained her independence from Spain.
THE SECOND FLYING COMPANY OF ALAMO DE PARRAS
©1996,1997, Randell Tarin. All Rights Reserved.