Anahuac,Velasco & Nacogdoches
Anahuac--Participants | Col. Juan (John) Bradburn 1832 | Anahuac--John Henry Brown 1898 | Presidario home invasion--Creed Taylor 1900 | Velasco--Participants | Velasco--John Henry Brown 1898 | Mexia's Arrival | Nacogdoches--John Henry Brown 1898 | Celebration at Matagorda | Dr. Labadie's Account | Francis Johnson Account
Memorial of Col. Juan (John) Davis Bradburn, Anahuac 1831-1832. Mexican commander Bradburn's description of his actions at Anahuac from arrival to departure. Readers should note that the personal account of Bradburn from the perspective of a loyal military representative of the central Mexican government was a contemporary account written just after the events. Accounts by Texian eyewitnesses and Texas historians were recounted years later after independence and statehood.
The Confrontation at Anahuac, June 1832, from John Henry Brown, History of Texas, 1898 [editorial comments by author, WLM, in brackets]. In 1831 the Governor of the State had commissioned Don Francisco Madero as [land] commissioner [and José María Jesus Carbajal as surveyor] to issue titles to the settlers on and near the Trinity in the region of Liberty. Such commissioners were clothed with authority to organize municipalities where none existed. Madero very justly exercised this power by organizing the municipality of Liberty (Libertad) with Hugh B. Johnson as Alcalde. The people were gratified at this recognition of their wants. But the military satrap, [John (Juan) Davis] Bradburn, saw in this just act an obstacle placed in the path marked out for him by his master, Bustamante, and indorsed by General Mier y Terán. He arrested and imprisoned Madero [and Carbajal], dissolved the municipality of Liberty, removed Johnson and appointed a new Ayuntamiento, intended to be composed of his tools, with its seat at Anahuac, under his immediate surveillance. [Bradburn closed all Texas ports except Anahuac and placed the 10 league "border reserve" on the coast under martial law.]
These measures, in the spring of 1832, spread alarm over the country. They were followed by the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment by Bradburn, in his fort, without authority of law, of a number of the most prominent, popular and useful citizens of Anahuac and Liberty, among whom were William B. Travis, Patrick C. Jack, Samuel T. Allen and fourteen others, who in vain demanded to be informed of the charges against them and to be tried by the civil authorities. [Among the prisoners was Edwin Waller, on the boat, Sabine, upon which Bradburn fired upon in the bay.] The outrages of Bradburn and his soldiers were numerous, of almost daily occurrence, and alarm rapidly spread over the country. Private rights were trampled under foot and private property seized with impunity. [Among the charges were hoarding runaway slaves and using them for his personal slaves or on public works, of confiscating private property for use by the garrison and allowing his men impunity in regard to offenses against local residents.] In this alarming state of affairs William H. Jack of San Felipe, visited Bradburn and sought the release of his brother and fellow prisoners, or their transfer for trial to the civil tribunals of the country. His only answer was that the prisoners would be sent to Vera Cruz to be tried by a military court. It must be understood that the only offense of these prisoners was their refusal to sustain Bradburn in his unrighteous course.
William H. Jack, chagrined but in no wise subdued, returned to the Brazos, reported the result of his mission, and raised his clarion voice for forcible intervention to rescue his brother and friends from their threatened doom. Messengers spread the news over the country, and men hastened to the suggested point of rendezvous, near Liberty. When a sufficient number had assembled, Francis W. Johnson was elected captain, Warren D. C. Hall first and Thomas H. Bradley second lieutenant. Just after the organization, Captains John Austin, Henry S. Brown (then of Gonzales), and Wm. J. Russell with George B. McKinstry and a few men, arrived from Brazoria and joined the ranks. Austin was then Alcalde at Brazoria, or the second Alcalde of the jurisdiction of San Felipe de Austin, as the districts were then organized.
They took up the line of march for Anahuac. On the way they surprised and captured, without firing, a gun, twenty of Bradburn's cavalry. They encamped for the night on Turtle Bayou, and while posting the guard, a hired miscreant named Hayden, shot and killed Sergeant Blackman, a most estimable man, and fled. Captain Henry S. Brown, standing near, attempted to shoot the assassin, but his gun missed fire. He then pursued him, bowie knife in hand, and, just as he was about to plunge it into Haydens body, stumbled and fell, and the cowardly assassin, aided by darkness, escaped into the brush.
Arriving at Anahuac next day, John Austin, Hugh B. Johnson, Geo. B. McKinstry, H. K. Lewis and F. W. Johnson had an interview with Bradburn and after quite a discussion were informed that Souverin (a Mexican officer recently exiled to that place because he was a friend to Santa Anna), was in command. This was a mere dodge. Nothing was effected and the gentlemen withdrew. Two or three days passed without results. Then an agreement was entered into for an exchange of prisoners and the retirement as a prelude thereto of the Texians to Turtle Bayou. This was done, the Mexican prisoners were released, but early next day firing was heard at Anahuac. The command hastened down and two miles from the fort met their commissioners, who, with about twenty men, had been left to receive and conduct the Texian prisoners to their friends. Bradburn had refused to fulfill his promise and had attacked the Texians, who retreated in good order, defending, themselves as best they could. On examining the position of the enemy, it was deemed imprudent to attack him without artillery. The command fell back again to Turtle bayou, resolved themselves into a mass meeting on the 13th of June, and passed a series of resolutions, drawn by Captain Robert M. Williamson, reciting the tyrannical acts of the usurper, Bustamante, at the Federal capital and his uinions in Texas and the subversion of the free constitution of 1824, and pledging their adhesion to that instrument a deserving patriot as then upheld by "el bueno merito," the well-deserving patriot Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
After these proceedings, Captains John Austin, Henry S. Brown, William J. Russell and Mr. George B. McKinstry, were sent to Brazoria for the purpose of securing, re-inforcements and three pieces of artillery at that place. The command at Turtle Bayou was, in a day or two, reinforced by Capt. Abner Kuykendall and about forty-five men, from the Brazos, and a smaller number, from Bevil's settlement on the Neches, and, but for the want of artillery, was not ready to take the offensive. At this crisis, Colonel Piedras, with 150 men from Nacogdoches, approached, having been appealed to by Bradburn for aid. Omitting immaterial incidents and details, it must suffice to say that, after a full interchange of views and being informed of the tyrannies and outrages of Bradburn, Piedras agreed to release all the prisoners and to put Bradburn under arrest and send him out of the country--all of which was done--and the armed citizens returned to their homes. There had been no loss of life on the part of the Texians excepting Sergeant Blackman; and none on the part of the Mexicans, so far as positively known, excepting a sentinel shot by Captain William J. Russell. [Bradburn left Anahuac on 13 Jul 1832 and although a trial was suggested, he left overland for New Orleans and back to Mexico where he returned to Texas with Santa Anna's forces in 1836.]
Presidario home invasion and attack on an Anahuac woman, Anahuac late 1831, narrated by Creed Taylor about 1900 in Tall Men with Long Rifles by James T. DeShields. Most of the troops sent into Texas were Presidarios---a term applied to all convict soldiers. Hence the garrisons in the provinces were composed of convicts, the vilest class of criminals the ratero slums of Mexico could produce. These murderous thieves and ex-highwaymen, offspring of a debased race, were foisted upon the American settlers of Texas to overawe, and to hold them in subjection to the tyranny of Commandante Bustamante.
And here I shall relate an incident of minor importance within itself, but which came near resulting in an actual clash of arms and which helped to kindle the fires of revolt that finally flared up into flame and produced the actual revolution some four or five years later. Some of our historians briefly mention this affair, but none of them give any particulars. It was a matter of much gossip among the settlers at the time, and the story makes interesting reading. Quite a number of Americans had settled in and around Anahuac, and one afternoon in 1831 while four presidarios of the garrison were prowling around, they entered the house of a settler, and finding the husband away and the wife alone, attempted a heinous, but nameless crime---the brave woman beating off her assailants until timely help chanced to come. The woman fought with the fury of a demon and her loud screams attracted the attention of a small party bunting in the vicinity, who rushed to the scene. When they reached the house they found the door securely fastened on the inside and a terrible struggle going on within. Without a moments hesitation they seized heavy timbers, broke open the door, and rushed upon the demons. Three of the miscreants fled and escaped. The fourth, who according to the lady's testimony was the ring leader, was knocked down and securely bound. As news of the affair spread, a posse gathered at the scene. All were highly wrought and some of them wanted to hang the wretch to the nearest limb; one or two suggested that the fiend's head be cut off and hoisted on a pole in view of the fort. But wiser council prevailed---the prisoner was a soldier of the republic, and such a course would be an insult to the flag; the Mexican authorities would use it as a pretext to inflict greater tyranny against the colonists.
But they would inflict such punishment as would serve as a warning to his thieving, cutthroat comrades. A bucket of tar was procured and a heavy coating was applied to the culprit from head to foot. Then, with her own bands still bleeding from the effects of her terrible fight, the lady ripped open her featherbed and the trembling wretch was given an ornate dressing of feathers. He was then mounted astride a rail, and in this garb and manner was carried through the settlement and village, and finally turned loose near the fort with a message for Bradburn to the effect that should such another outrage be committed or attempted by his convict gang, the Texans would rise to a man, and that not even a pelado would be left to black the commander's boots. Among those concerned in this imbroglio was the fearless young patriot, Bill Travis, and with him chanced to be such other patriotic and daring fellows as Patrick C. Jack, Sam T. Allen, and Monroe Edwards---that was before Edwards had developed into a notorious celebrated forger. When Bradburn learned of this affair he flew into a towering rage and swore that every one concerned in the matter would be arrested for insulting the flag by outraging a soldier of the government, and sent in chains to Vera Cruz for trial before a military court. The arrest of Travis and his comrades was the spark that set off the flame. The news flew over the country like wild fire and created the highest indignation. Mass meetings were held in various communities; one assembled at Brazoria on December 16, 1831, and presided over by the fiery patriot, Branch T. Archer, was of a very bold and revolutionary nature. Needless to say the prisoners were soon set at liberty, but the spirit of revolt began to flare up everywhere and was soon at white heat. History tells all about the stirring scenes and thrilling events that followed---till the final clash came.
[See Col. Juan Davis Bradburn's description of this incident in his Memorial, The Events at Anahuac, 1831-1832].
According to Early History of Fayette County by Weyand and Wade, Captain Aylett Buckner (killed in action) from the area of the Austin and DeWitt Colonies that is now FayetteCo commanded his own company in the action and led the following men of the area to Velasco: Cable R. Bostick, Andrew Castleman (K), Hamilton Cook, Benjamin Highsmith, José (Buckner's Mexican servant) (K), William Kingston, William Menefee, Peter Powell, Daniel Ralls, John Ralls, Joel W. Robison, John C. Robison, Willima J. Russell (formed his own company), Thomas J. Tone, Isaac Van Dorn, Leiper Willoughby (Austin's Company), Leander Woods (K), Horace Yeamans, Joseph Yeamans. Buckner was a legendary character in the area, a giant of a man and somewhat a playful bully. He was known as "Strap" and was said to kill stock and wild animals with his bare hands or a tomahawk. His most legendary escapade was the face to face confrontation with "Noche," a legendary wild black bull. He is said to have faced the bull acting like a bull himself, when he charged with one chop he put Noche on his haunches with bleeding nose and the animal never was seen again.
[After the confrontation at Anahuac], John Austin, Henry S. Brown, Wm. J. Russell, Dr. Charles B. Stewart and George B. McKinstry had reached Brazoria, aroused the people, secured artillery and a vessel and were ready to sail for Anahuac to aid their friends. But when the crisis came Lieutenant-Colonel de Ugartechea peremptorily refused permission for them to pass his fort at the mouth of the Brazos. This presented a new aspect in the complications, gave additional rounds for dissatisfaction and brought on the first real collision in arms between the colonists of Texas and the military power of Mexico, in the bloody Battle of Velasco, June 26, 1832.
There was no authority to whom an official report of the battle could be made, and none was made, nor was any muster roll of the men who fought the battle and won the victory preserved. It was a hasty assemblage of free citizens, leaving their daily avocations to discharge what they knew to be a perilous duty. They assembled and selected leaders in whom they had implicit confidence; among others, John Austin and Henry S. Brown, men who had been tested as leaders many times, Austin in contests with Mexicans, and Brown with both Indians and Mexicans. William J. Russell, another of their commanders, also possessed their fullest confidence as a man clear of head and of fearless bravery.
The people assembled to the number of 112, and were organized in three companies, respectively numbering two of forty-seven men each, and one (marines) of eighteen men. John Austin, as senior officer, commanded the first, Henry S. Brown the second, and Wm. J. Russell the marines and the schooner Brazoria, impressed into service for the occasion. They marched down on the east side of the Brazos to within a few miles of the fort at its mouth, and there halted two or three days pending, fruitless negotiations with Ugartechea and the collection of arms, ammunition and subsistence. In that time, the good Father Muldoon, an Irish priest, resident of Mexico, and held in high esteem by the colonists, was allowed to visit Colonel Ugartechea, both on private business, and to see if an adjustment could not be accomplished, but returned disappointed on the latter point, and reported to Austin that the Mexican commander was confident that ten thousand rifle men could not dislodge him from such a position. Austin quietly replied: "Very well, padre, wait till tomorrow and you will see." The fort at Velasco stood about a hundred and fifty yards both from the river and the Gulf shore which formed a right angle. It consisted of parallel rows of posts six feet apart, filled between with sand, earth and shells, for the outer walls. Inside of the walls was an embankment on which musketeers could stand and shoot over without exposing anything but their heads. In the center was an elevation of the same material, inclosed by higher posts, on which the artillery was planted and protected by bulwarks. Between the fort and the beach was a lodgment of drift logs, thrown out by the sea and about sixty yards distant. On the upper side of these were some slight elevations of land. With these exceptions the surface around the fort was perfectly flat.
The 25th of June arrived and the plan of battle was arranged. Russell, on the schooner Brazoria, with two small cannons, a blunderbuss and eighteen riflemen, after nightfall, was to drop down abreast of the fort. Brown, with fortyseven riflemen, was to make a detour to the east, then move southwesterly and effect a lodgment behind the drift logs. Austin was to approach from the north and take position within easy range of the fort, each of his men being provided with a portable palisade, made of three-inch cypress plank supported by a movable leg to hold it. When in position, Brown was to open fire and draw that of the fort, while Austin's men arranged their palisades. An accidental shot by one of Brown's men, while in motion, revealed their presence, it being then midnight, and the battle began; the guns, large and small, of the fort, sending forth a blaze of light, the only light the assailants had, for otherwise the night was exceedingly dark. Brown's men were in a position to avail themselves of the flashes in the fort without corresponding exposure on their own part; but, those under Austin soon realized that their portable cypress breastworks amounted to little, as the balls of the enemy riddled them with holes. After the battle 130 holes were counted in one of these life-preservers. Austin's men, to escape annihilation, took position under the walls and could not be seen or reached by the enemy; nor could they see the objects at which they wished to fire.
In the meantime the schooner dropped down and came to immediately abreast of the front, when the gallant Russell turned loose his pieces, sending forth messengers of slugs, lead, chains, scraps of iron and whatever else they had been able to pick up for the occasion. And so the contest raged till daylight came, before which time, as previously determined in case the palisades proved non-effective, each of Austin's men had dug, a pit in the sand for protection. In some cases, trenches capable of holding several men had been scooped out with hoes carried for the purpose. Thenceforward the unerring riflemen of Austin, burrowed as they were in the ground, and those of Brown among the drift, did fearful execution. So deadly was their aim at the heads of the infantry whenever visible above the walls and of the gunners serving the artillery, that the former resorted to the expedient of raising their pieces with their hands above the walls and firing without exposing their heads; but this availed not, for the keen-eyed riflemen sent balls crashing through their hands, wrists and arms. Their next experiment was to hoist their caps on their ramrods barely in view of the assailants who, supposing them to contain heads, literally perforated them with, balls.
The schooner continued to do splendid work. Its mate, though a non-combatant and non-resident, remained in the cabin, making cartridges. A cannon ball entered and drove a pillow through his body, literally tearing it in twain. A negro sailor remained on deck firing, a blunderbuss on his own account and singing boatmen's songs as nonchalantly as if at a frolic. Nine o'clock came. More than two-thirds of Ugartechea's men were dead or wounded within the space of nine hours a result believed to be unparalleled, under similar conditions, in the history of warfare. Austin sounded a parley and, to prevent further slaughter, demanded the surrender of the fort. Ugartechea asked for but two conditions---that his officers should retain their sidearms and that the survivors of his command should be allowed peacefully to leave the country. These concessions would have followed without stipulations; but they were promptly made and the fort surrendered. The conditions were fully and indeed humanely fulfilled and every attention given the wounded. The soldiers were kindly treated and the officers received the most generous hospitalities because of their gallantry and especially because the personal intercourse of Colonel Ugartechea with the people had at all times been gentlemanly. The results of this first battle between the Texian colonists and the military power of Mexico were, on the part of the colonists, seven killed and twenty-seven wounded, thirty-four out of a hundred and twelve; on the part of the Mexicans forty-two lay dead in the fort and seventy were wounded, chiefly in the face, head, hands and arms, a hundred and twelve out of a hundred and fifty.
In the years 1853-4-5, I sought by many personal interviews and correspondence with surviving participants in this struggle to get the facts as they transpired and as nearly as possible a list of the heroic men engaged. The facts as herein given were verified by no less than twelve of the participants, to wit: Robert Mills, Edwin Waller, Thomas Chaudoin, Robert H. Williams, Andrew E. Westall, Charles Covington, Valentine Bennett, Samuel Addison White, James Gibson, William H. Settle, Asa Mitchell and Dr. Charles B. Stewart.
Arrival of Colonel José Antonio Mexia. In Jul 1832, just after the confrontations at Anahuac and Velasco, Colonel José Antonio Mexia, representing the army of liberation of General Moctezuma and Santa Anna, arrived at the mouth of the Brazos River with five warships and four hundred men. The fleet had sailed from Matamoros where under orders to restore that region to Republican principles under the constitution and then to investigate the situation in Texas. Matamoros under Colonel Guerra had declared against against Bustamante and for Santa Anna. By chance Mexia had met Stephen F. Austin in Matamoros on the way to Texas from Saltillo where he had been during most of the disturbances of the spring and summer. Austin accompanied Mexia on board the brig Santa Anna. Upon arrival Colonel Mexia presented a formal letter to the alcalde John Austin of Brazoria:
Extensive discussions and written communications proceeded, many with the presence of Stephen F. Austin, with John Austin the second alcalde of San Felipe de Austin which extended to Brazoria on the coast, west to the Lavaca River and east to the San Jacinto River, as the chief representative of the Texians. A document from Edwards History of Texas of 1836 summarizes the response of the alcalde:
Colonel Mexia met with various committees related to the position of the colonists including the Brazoria Committee of Safety and two of the authors of the Turtle Bayou Resolutions which were explained to him in detail. Public dinners and a public ball celebrated with Colonel Mexia the return to Republican principles and Constitutional government. Toasts were heard and cheered:
Representatives of the Ayuntamiento of Austin consulted widely with all citizens and leaders within its jurisdiction and prepared its own expose of the developments to be presented to the Jefe-Politico who was carrying out his own investigation and to send the expose with Col. Mexia upon his return to the south.
From Edwards History of Texas:
After several weeks of discussion and celebration, Mexia and his fleet continued operations in support of Santa Anna and the Federalists. Eventually it was agreed that Bustamante would resign and that exiled former President Pedraza recalled to serve the current term through April 1833 during the period required to restore the Constitution of 1824. Author John Henry Brown, History of Texas in 1898 pointed out:
[After the confrontations at Anahuac and Velasco followed by the Turtle Bayou Resolutions] in July an understanding was reached between the Americans in Nacogdoches, on the Teneha, Ayish Bayou, in the Bevil settlement and elsewhere in that portion of east Texas, to enforce these views [that Colonel José de las Piedras, for whom personally the people entertained feelings of kindness and respect, must either declare for Santa Anna and the Constitution of 1824, or must leave the country]. By agreement, an assemblage of armed men took place near Nacogdoches on the 31st day of July. They were organized in companies, and John W. Bullock was chosen as commander of the whole. A conference was held between these sons of liberty and the civil functionaries of the municipality, in which Isaac, W. Burton, Philip A. Sublett and Henry W. Augustin were deputed to visit Colonel Piedras, make known to him the views and intentions of their constituents, and ask his co-operation in sustaining Santa Anna and free Republican government, with an intimation, unmistakable in tone, that, if he did not, be must evacuate his position and retire to the interior of Mexico. Piedras possessed virtues. He was a gallant man and a gentleman. He was a centralist or semi-monarchist at heart and had been sent into Texas as a supporter of Bustamante, by the superior general of northern Mexico, Mier y Terán, because of his known principles and constancy. Hence, to the requests of the committee, he delivered a gentlemanly but emphatic "No." The report left but one of two courses to the armed citizens.
On the night of August 1st, these earnest men, about three hundred in number, camped a little east of Nacogdoches. During the night, in anticipation of bloody work on the morrow, the families evacuated the town. On the next the forces entered the suburbs, challenging attack; but, none being made, moved into the center of the town, whereupon they were charged by about a hundred Mexican cavalry, who were repulsed with some loss. Don Encarnacion Chirino, Alcalde, fell by the fire of his own countrymen. The Texians took position in houses and behind fences, and a random fire was kept up till night, in which time they lost three killed and live wounded, while the Mexican loss was stated at forty-one killed and about as many wounded. During the night Piedras retreated on the road to San Antonio. Colonel James Bowie, who seems to have arrived during the night, headed a party to out travel and got in front of Piedras, while the main body pursued in the rear. By taking the lower road Bowie succeeded and appeared in Piedras' front a little west of the Angelina, in crossing which the Mexican sergeant, Marcos, was killed by Bowie's men. Seeing his inevitable defeat, and resolved not to abandon the cause of his chief, Piedras surrendered the command to the next in rank, Don Francisco Medina, who at once declared for Santa Anna and the Republican constitution, and submitted himself to the colonists---nominally yielding himself and command as prisoners. By agreement, Bowie escorted the Mexicans to San Antonio. Asa M. Edwards conducted Piedras to Velasco, whence he returned to Mexico. Among the volunteers at at Nacogdoches, besides Bullock and Bowie, were Asa M. Edwards, Haden H. Edwards, Alexander Horton, Almanzon Huston, Isaac W. Burton, Philip A. Sublett, Henry W. Augustin, M. B. Lewis, Theophilus Thomas, Isaac D. Thomas, Thomas S. McFarland, Asa Jarman, and William Y. Lacy.
I have fortunately come into possession of Colonel Bullock's original report of this engagement, never before in print, and here give it:
From Historic Matagorda County (D. Armstrong Co., Houston, 1986). Although Ira Ingram appears to be the only Matagorda resident who rushed to the fracas at Velasco and Nacogdoches and arrived to late, the incident at Nacogdoches was celebrated in Matagorda by a public dinner on 22 Aug at Judge Cummins' house. The "Irish Bayou boys" who participated in the battle at Nacogdoches were invited to dinner. The following toasts give insight into the humor, character and diversity of opinion of the participants regarding the meaning of the incidents and their outcome:
1 . The Republic of Mexico-Tho not first, may she be the last in the
constellation of Republics, in the New World.
SONS OF DEWITT