(For more detailed descriptions, see The Battle of Salado)
On the morning of 11 Sep 1842, the residents of San Antonio were surprised by the sounds of cannon and learned they were under control of a force of 1450 infantry, cavalry and artillery under the French-born General Adrian Woll (Gual in the native French). District Court of the Republic of Texas had been in session under Judge Anderson Hutchison since the first of September with attendance by many area officials and lawyers from as far away as Gonzales. The advocates had no choice but to surrender to General Wolls forces under conditions that they would be treated as gentleman. After five days, about 55 prisoners were told that they would have to march to the Rio Grande where they would be handed over into the custody of his superior, General Reyes and likely be set free. News of the invasion spread rapidly to the former DeWitt Colony settlements of Seguin, Gonzales and the Lavaca River as well as into the settlements on the Colorado and Brazos Rivers via couriers who had escaped imprisonment. On 17 Sep, 202 minutemen had rallied on the Cibolo on the San Antonio Road above Seguin. Among them were some prisoners involved in the unsuccessful Santa Fe expedition including Colonel Mathew Caldwell who was elected commander of the group. Dr. Caleb S. Brown of Gonzales was named surgeon. Companies included 35 men under Capt. Daniel B. Friar of Cuero, 60 men from Gonzales and Seguin under Capt. James Bird of Gonzales (James H. Callahan of Seguin was 1st Lt.), 40 cowboys and Victorians under Capt. Ewen Cameron (Lts. John R. Baker and Alfred Allee) and 43 men from the Lavaca River under Captain "Black" Adam Zumwalt (John H. Livergood and Nicholas Ryan as Lts., John Henry Brown as Sargent). Among the others were James (Black Jim) Brown, Joshua D. Brown, Wilson Clark, Henry Cleveland, Nereus Dufner, Beverly C. Greenwood, William M. Phillips, Jonathan Scott, John Pius Smith, William Smothers, Oliver H. Stapp, Wilson Vandyke, George Walton, Wingate Woodley, Andrew Zumwalt, Isaac Zumwalt and Thomas Zumwalt. Andrew, Isaac and Thomas were sons of Capt. Zumwalt and George Walton (m. Louisa Zumwalt) a son-in-law. Cousins David Boyd Kent and Bosman Clifton Kent, sons of deceased Alamo defender, Andrew Kent, were also believed to be present. Cousin Nathan Boone Burkett was one of the "cowboys," noted as such because they subsisted for days on wild cattle and other game, in the company of Capt. Cameron. Cousin Jesse Zumwalt, son of "Red" Adam Zumwalt also participated and was wounded in the battle.
On 17 Sep after General Woll had occupied San Antonio for a week, the Texans marched overland to Salado Creek about 6 miles east of San Antonio below present New Braunfels. Col. Caldwell instructed Capt. John C. Hays and his company of scouts and spies to lure the greater than 1440 strong Mexican force toward the force of 202 Texans. From a ridge 300 to 400 yards from the Alamo, Hays men waved, shouted and challenged the enemy to come our of the Alamo onto the field, as if they were preparing for confrontation at the site. The actions resulted in a charge of over 400 Mexican cavalrymen from the Alamo, which turned to a hot pursuit when Capt. Hays and the company turned toward the Salado. Some distance out, the mount of Capt. Augustus H. Jones of Gonzales, a close personal friend of Capt. Hays began to falter relative to the main force. Capt. Hays put the entire company just behind Capt. Jones with his slower mount leading the way. The contingent led the Mexican force across the Salado half a mile above the main Texan force under Capt. Caldwell. After 2 to 3 hours of skirmishing, Gen. Woll arrived with about 800 infantryman and his two cannon. After a face to face confrontation with Capt. Caldwell's forces, the front lines of the Mexican infantry were forced to fall back behind their cannon and cover due to heavy casualties. The Mexicans made several smaller charges that were repulsed with heavy casualties. At sundown Gen. Woll and his force retired to San Antonio with their casualties.
The Dawson Company Massacre. [Summarized in largest part from Weyend and Wade's An Early History of Fayette County]. Responding to the news of the Mexican capture of San Antonio, Captain Nicholas M. Dawson assembled a volunteer force of about 15 Fayette County men under the historic oak at La Grange. They were Jerome B. Alexander, John Beard, John Church, William Coltrin, L.W. Dickerson, Robert Moore Eastland, Low Farris, Nathaniel W. Faison, George Hill, John Higgerson, David Smith Kornegay, Edward T. Manton and Joseph Shaw and one or two others. They crossed the Colorado River on a ferry run by a Mr. McAhron where they were joined by John Bradley and Francis E. Brookfield. Mrs. Samuel Augustus Maverick, wife of Samuel Maverick, who had been captured during the takeover of San Antonio on 11 Sep, was at the home of Bradley who was her uncle. The contingent moved along the Old Seguin Road which stretched from La Grange through Cedar, O'Quinn, Black Jack Springs, Muldoon, Colony, Elm Grove and Waelder on the way to Seguin toward San Antonio. Between O'Quinn and Black Jack Springs, they were joined by 70 year old David Berry and son-in-law Harvey Hall. Capt. Patrick Lewis and preacher's sons Allen H. Morrell and John Dancer joined them near Black Jack Springs. A group of men from Wood's Prairie near West Point joined at the Ivy School House. They were Joseph C. Robinson, Zed Barkley and sons Robert and Richard Barkley, 69 year old Zadock Woods and sons Norman B. and Henry Gonsalvo, William James Trimble and brother Edward, Norman Miles Wells (nephew of Zadock Woods wife) and John Wesley Pendleton (nephew of the younger Woods boys). Near Waelder, they were joined by Milvern Harrell (brother-in-law to Pendleton) and Richard Slack.
Passing Waelder, they were overtaken by two current Lavaca County residents, John Cummings and W.D. Patterson. Residents from the area now DeWitt County Thomas J. Butler, Elijah Garey, Thomas Rice and William Savage caught up with the group near the same area. On down the Seguin Road, the Negro slave of Samuel A. Maverick, Joe Griffin, caught up with the group. He was heavily armed and carrying a ransom sent by Mrs. Maverick for release of her husband. Somewhere near Nash's Creek about 15 miles west of Gonzales Alsey Miller joined the group from the company of Capt. Jesse Billingsley which was still forming for the trip to San Antonio. Capt. Dawson could not be persuaded to wait for Capt. Billingsley who suggested that they march to San Antonio together. A Mr. Adams, Charles Fields, Thompson D. James, Asa Jones, John Jones, William Linn and John McCrady joined the Dawson group somewhere on the journey. At camp near Nash's Creek, Capt. Dawson was elected Captain and Dickerson Lieutenant.
A courier, John Wilson, from Capt. Caldwell urging reinforcements and describing his location apparently stimulated Capt. Dawson to embark essentially on a forced march which resulted in reaching Seguin at daylight on 17 Sep about 45 miles from Salado. On the morning of the 18th, both men and horses arrived on the Cibola exhausted. The few with still able horses were sent as scouts forward to locate and contact Caldwell's main force, but met only Mexicans. The forward most scout, Alsey S. Miller, ascertained that the battle was already under way. Detected by Mexican horsemen, he barely made it back to Capt. Dawson to report and apparently was unaware of the large Mexican troop between Capt. Dawson and the Caldwell force. In reality the Dawson company had come upon the rear of Gen. Woll's army which in Gen. Woll's view threatened them on two fronts. About 200 cavalry with one of Gen. Woll's cannons confronted Capt. Dawson and company. Capt. Dawson called a quick conference and vote on whether to face the Mexican force or retreat and wait and join the companies coming in from the east for reinforcement. The decision was to face the Mexican troops and continue to attempt to link up with the main Texas force. Both Texan forces were out of view of each other. Capt. Caldwell's men were completely unaware of the Dawson force and action just 1.5 miles from the main battlefield. Two groups appeared to be approaching and mistakenly Dawson's forward scouts reported that one appeared to be friendly Texan forces. Both were Mexican cavalry having split into two. Capt. Dawson's troop dismounted, prepared to face the Mexican force, but were surrounded in a pincer between the two halves on the left and right. Just out of range of the Texans rifles the Mexican artillery also began to take a heavy toll with their cannon taking down men and horses. With more than half his men down, efforts were made to surrender.
The exact details of subsequent events vary with the reporter, but most historians agree that Dawson raised the white flag of surrender. Either the men were not unified in the surrender decision, in panic fired on Mexican troops handling the surrender at point blank range or some Mexican troops failed to cease fire or a combination of both. They were charged by the Mexican force and shot down systematically until Col. Carrasco and other Mexican officers regained control of their men. Of the force of 54, 36 were killed, 3 escaped (Thomas D. James, Alsey S. Miller and Gonsalvo Woods) and 15 were taken prisoner. John McGrady and W.D. Patterson died after escape trying to cross the Rio Grande; John Higgerson was killed escaping from El Rancho Salado on the way to Perote Prison; William Coltrin, William James Trimble, Norman B. Woods died in Perote Prison near Mexico City; Richard A. Barkley, David Smith Kornegay, John Bradley, Nathaniel W. Faison, Milvern Harrell, Edward T. Manton, Allen H. Morrell, Joseph Robinson and Joseph Shaw were released from Perote Prison in 1843-1844.
The next morning the dead were found by members of Capt. Caldwells force lying on the field, stripped naked of all clothes and belongings, many mutilated and decapitated beyond recognition. On the morning of 20 Sep, Capt. Caldwell learned of Gen. Wolls retreat toward the Rio Grande River and began pursuit along with Capt. Jack Hays company and joined along the way by numerous groups of volunteers from diverse settlements. Capt. Zumwalts company from the Lavaca River was ordered to attend wounded and return them to San Antonio. The pursuing forces skirmished with the rear guard of the Mexican force. On the Hondo River, learning that Gen. Wolls army had crossed the Rio Grande the Texan force by majority vote in favor of Capt. Caldwell's opinion, returned to San Antonio without crossing the border. At San Antonio, where combined volunteers of over 1200 reassembled after the Mexican invasions of the past two years, Col. Edward Burleson made a speech denouncing the invasions and announced plans that led to the ill-fated Somerville and Mier Expeditions aimed at invasion of Mexico in late 1842.
Additional Eyewitness Reports-Battle of Salado, Córdova Rebellion, Dawson Massacre