William T. Austin's Account
No kin to Stephen F. Austin, William T. Austin was the brother of John Austin who was a participant in the Long Expedition, imprisoned in Mexico, alcalde of Brazoria in 1832 and major participant in the confrontation at Velasco. W.T. Austin came to Texas in 1830 and was aid-de-camp to both Gen. Stephen F. Austin and Burleson at Bexar. During the Battle of San Jacinto he was in command of the port at Velasco and preparing its defenses. He died in Galveston in 1874. The following account was published by Guy M. Bryan in A Comprehensive History of Texas
(Photo: Moses Austin Bryan, nephew of Stephen F. Austin, was at the battle and generally corroborated W.T. Austin's account of the siege and events leading up to the battle) The committee of safety which had been established in the different sections of the country acted in this emergency with efficiency and promptness by despatching expresses, giving information to the people of the state of affairs on the frontier, and calling upon all to hasten to the field. This intelligence produced great excitement and enthusiasm among the people, all anxious for the approach of the enemy and sanguine as to the final result; the effect was that volunteers from all parts of the country, comprising the most wealthy, intelligent, and industrious portion of the community, turned out and were reaching the encampment hourly, some companies already organized and ready for duty, and some in small parties. On the 6th day of October, a communication was received from Colonel Ugartachea (commandant at Bexar), addressed to Colonel Stephen F. Austin (who was at that time chairman of the committee of safety at San Felipe), in which some vague proposals were made for a compromise of the difficulties between the Texans and the Mexican government. This despatch was forwarded to Colonel Austin by express. A very general wish prevailed among the volunteers that Colonel Austin should visit the army and aid in planning its future operations; a note, signed by several gentlemen, inviting him to the camp was despatched by this opportunity, as follows:
GONZALES, October 6, 1835, twelve o'clock at night. DEAR COLONEL, You will receive important despatches by the bearer, that Colonel Ugartachea and probably General Cos are now on their march here with all their forces to take the gun if it is not delivered. You will see by Ugartachea's letter to you he proposes a sort of compromise. That will give us an opportunity to entertain him a little while, upon the suggestion that you are sent for, while we get in more men. We who subscribe this request you earnestly to come on immediately, bringing all the aid you possibly can. We want powder and lead. Do all you can to send on instantly as much as possible. P. W. GRAYSON, PAT. C. JACK, J. W. FANNIN JR, THOMAS P. GAGSLEY, J. W. E. WALLACE, JOHN J. LINN, S. R. MILLER, A. PALLARD.
Information reached our camp that the enemy was making another forage upon us; the army having increased to some three hundred strong, and the enemy hourly expected, the captains of the several companies held a consultation for the purpose of deliberating upon the situation of the forces, and to adopt and establish a council of war to give directions to the operations of the army for the time being, by whom Branch T. Archer, Esq., was called to the chair, and William T. Austin appointed secretary. On motion, it was Resolved, That each company appoint one person to meet in council to advise with and direct the commanding officers of the army in their present operations until the reinforcements expected shall have arrived. And that the companies proceed to elect their delegates forthwith for the purpose of being installed by the chair, and immediately enter upon the duties of their office. Pursuant to notice given, a meeting of the board of war was held on the 7th day of October. The following members elect appeared and took their seats. Peter W. Grayson, Pleasant D. McNeil, James S. Lester, Jesse Burnham, Albert Martin, Thomas Kinney, Francis M. White, W. P. Smith.
On motion, Peter W. Grayson was elected president and W. P. Smith secretary, when the following resolution was adopted: Resolved, That an immediate organization of the army take place, and that all the troops be concentrated at Gonzales, under the command of Colonel John H. Moore and Lieutenant-Colonel J. W. E. Wallace, and that Colonel Moore be required to report to this board with as little delay as possible the strength of the army, the names of the captains, with the force comprising their respective companies; also the quantity of ammunition on hand. Whereupon the board adjourned until to-morrow morning at nine o'clock.
October 8, nine o'clock a.m. The board met according to adjournment, when Dr. James B. Miller, having been elected a member from the Washington company, appeared and took his seat, and the board proceeded to business. Resolutions were passed by the board at this meeting requiring the quartermaster to provide the army, with as much despatch as possible, with wagons, teams, beeves, meat, axes, spades, shovels, hoes, etc. A large cornfield belonging to Eli Mitchell was placed at the disposal of the army by the owner thereof. The board adjourned, and met again at seven o'clock p.m. Intelligence being received that a detachment of troops of the enemy had appeared in the vicinity of Victoria, one hundred men were therefore despatched to aid the citizens in that neighborhood against the Mexican force. The board then adjourned to meet again upon notice thereof being given.
Volunteers continued to reach the army hourly from all sections of the country. A disposition was generally made manifest among the men to make a new and permanent organization of the army for the campaign that was in contemplation against San Antonio. This subject gave rise to discussion and great excitement as to the mode of organizing and who should be placed in command. In this state of affairs public notice was given, and the board of war met again on the morning of the 11th of October, when the disorganized state of the army was fully considered and discussed ; whereupon it was Resolved, That an election for commander-in-chief take place this evening at four o'clock, and that the colonel commanding be requested to notify the captains of companies of this resolution, and require them to hold an election in their respective companies at the time specified in this resolution, and make return forthwith to this board. Whereupon the board adjourned until five o'clock this evening.
Immediately upon the election being announced to the army great excitement prevailed among the volunteers, those from the different sections each having in view their sectional favorite for the command, while many aspirants with their friends were industriously engaged electioneering. The effect was that camp politics began to rage to an alarming degree; so much so that many declared that in the event of the defeat of their favorite they would instantly return to their homes, as they were unwilling to serve under any others. This state of feeling was caused by the volunteers having been hastily assembled together from extreme parts of the country; hence they were stranger's to each other, hence a great lack of confidence existed. Great fears were therefore entertained the early part of the day that the army would break up in confusion, which state of things was truly deplorable, inasmuch as it was likely to give the enemy a decided advantage at the outset of the revolution.
Fortunately for the country, Colonel Stephen F. Austin reached the army in the midst of this about the hour of one o'clock p.m. His arrival was clamorously and joyously hailed by the whole army; he was favorably known to the army generally and in full confidence prevailed. With a view therefore to harmonize the camp and dissipate the dreadful spirit of rivalry which had existed throughout the day, the name of Colonel Stephen F. Austin was at once proposed for the command; this nomination was so acceptable generally as to have the effect to unite all parties and completely put an end to excitement and opposition. At this time the health of Colonel Austin was extremely delicate, he having recently returned home from Mexico, where he had been incarcerated in a loathsome dungeon, imprisonment and detention during the two preceding years he, however, plainly saw the happy state of affairs in the army. Although he felt conscious of his feeble state of health, affecting his physical competency to discharge e duties of commander-in-chief of the army with that efficiency and promptness which were desirable, he was nevertheless convinced that the peculiar state of affair in camp left him without a choice as to what course he would pursue, feeling ready at all times to make any personal sacrifices when duty to the country required to be done; all of which considerations induced him to permit his name announced to the army as a candidate for commander-in- chief of the volunteer army of Texas. At the time indicated the army was paraded in good military order, and the election was conducted in an orderly but enthusiastic manner, and, as will appear by the following vote, Colonel Stephen F. Austin was elected without opposition.
QUARTERS OF THE COUNCIL OF WAR, October 11, 1835. COLONEL STEPHEN AUSTIN. SIR, I am instructed to inform you that an election was held in the army at four o'clock of the day for commander-in-chief of this army, pursuant to an order which was issued to-day by this council, calling upon the captains of each company to hold an it on in his respective company and make due returns thereof to this council. And that by the turns made to this board of the election held in the different companies, it appears that you have been chosen without opposition commander-in-chief of the volunteer army of Texas, now in the field. The members of this board take this extension to congratulate you, on the high office to which you have been called, relying common with all our fellow-citizens upon the skill and courage with which you I endeavor to conduct the campaign to the desired end. I am with the highest respect, your friend and fellow-citizen, P. W. GRAYSON, President of the Council. WILLIAM P. H, Secretary.
General Stephen F. Austin having been thus elected to the command of the volunteer army of Texas, assumed the duties thereof forthwith, and commenced a thorough organization of the army for the contemplated campaign against Bexar, announcing to the army the following appointments of officers to compose the staff: Warren D. C. Hall, adjutant and inspector-general; David B. Macomb, assistant adjutant and inspector-general; William H. Wharton, judge-advocate; William P. Smith, surgeon-general; Patrick C. Jack, quartermaster-general; Valentine Baker, assistant quartermaster-general ; Peter W. Grayson and William T. Austin, aides-de-camp. An election for the field-officers necessary to complete the organization of the army took place on the 12th instant. J. H. Moore was elected colonel, Edward Burleson lieutenant-colonel, and Alex. Somerville major. William H. Jack was appointed brigade-inspector on his staff.
During the parade of the army on this occasion General Austin delivered a short address, in which he remarked that every citizen-soldier of the army of the people, then in the field, was fully apprised of the cause he is defending. It is the cause of the Constitution and of freedom, the cause of each man individually and of Texas collectively. Our prospects and happiness will depend in a great measure on the issue of this campaign; every one feels its importance, and it is unnecessary to appeal to the patriotism of the army, but the commander-in-chief deems it his duty to remind each citizen-soldier that patriotism and firmness will avail but little without discipline and a strict obedience to orders. The first duty of a soldier is obedience. It is expected the army of the people, although hastily collected, will present an example of obedience that will do honor to the cause we are engaged in and credit to the patriots who are defending it.
An express arrived this morning giving intelligence of the capture of Fort Goliad by Captain George M. Collingsworth, who with a small detachment of volunteers entered the town of La Bahia about eleven o'clock at night on the 9th instant, and forced their way into the fort by breaking down the door of the church which communicated with it, and after a short resistance, in which one Mexican soldier was killed and three wounded, the garrison surrendered, one man only being slightly wounded on our side. The Mexican officers captured on this occasion were Lieutenant-Colonel Sandoval, Captain Savariego, and Ensign Garza, who were conducted to the headquarters of the army by a small detachment of volunteers commanded by Colonel Benjamin R. Milam.
In this fort were found army supplies to the value of ten thousand dollars, and about three hundred stands of arms. The public stores secured on this occasion were greatly needed in our army at that time, especially the arms and ammunition, a good supply of which was forwarded to the army without delay. The three captured Mexican officers were sent to San Felipe in charge of Dr. James B. Miller, where, after a few days' detention, upon the suggestion of General Austin, they were released upon parole not to take up arms against the re-establishment of the Constitution of 1824. General Austin immediately despatched orders by express to Captain Collingsworth to retain possession of Goliad, the advantages gained by the capture of that fort being very great, as it enabled us to cut off the enemy's communication with the seaboard. The detachment of troops which had been despatched to Victoria were also ordered to form a junction with the main army. It now being determined to move against San Antonio, the army was put in motion, and crossed the river Guadalupe and camped at a favorable position a short distance from the river bank. Requisite preparations were at once commenced to p lace the army in a good condition for the campaign.
Orders were issued for the organization of picket- and camp-guards, and also for the collecting of such munitions of war and army supplies as could be procured. Expresses were despatched to the different sections of the country communicating the contemplated movements of the army and urging forward reinforcements. On the morning of the 4th instant the commander-in-chief caused to be announced to the army a series of rules and regulations, formed by himself, for the government of the army during the campaign, which were read to the army while on parade for inspection and review, and the captains of companies were also furnished with copies of these regulations. General Austin at the same time took occasion to remind the volunteers that good order and discipline are necessary and indispensable in military service, without which all must fall into chaos and confusion, and as the objects of the present campaign are of vital importance to the lives and interests of all, and there being no system of army regulations, the commander-in-chief has under these circumstances adopted this mode for the protection and security of the great objects in view, and he confidently relies upon the integrity and patriotism of all to a strict obedience thereof. These army regulations required a strict obedience of orders, and every man to keep his arms in good order and to have in his immediate possession at all times a good supply of ammunition. They also specified the duty of the camp- and picket-guard on post, and explained the importance of a strict observance thereof; also the conduct to be observed by the army while on the march, and the mode of management with the horses; the number of men with which each company should be composed; also embracing every other subject which appeared of importance at that time.
The penalties affixed for a violation were to be inflicted by the sentence of a court-martial or a reprimand from the captain of the company to which the offender might belong, as the case might be. These regulations were highly satisfactory and had a very happy effect in the army, as they indicated a system which had the effect to establish confidence and guarantee security to the camp; every man, therefore, cheerfully respected and obeyed them. This gallant band of volunteers upon parade having undergone inspection and review for the first time, presented the appearance of an army of regular soldiers rather than undisciplined citizens of the country. All entertained the most implicit confidence in their commanding officer, and it was a pleasure to perform with promptness any duty assigned them. The commander-in- chief being under the impression that volunteers would press forward to join the army without delay from all parts of the country, and that as soon as the necessary preparations could be made for an attack upon San Antonio our forces would be sufficiently strong to insure a successful result, he determined to take up the line of march in that direction immediately. An efficient spy-company, consisting of experienced frontier citizens, was organized and placed in charge of Colonel Benjamin R. Milam, who was despatched towards San Antonio for the purpose of watching the movements of the enemy and keeping our army constantly advised of their operations and everything of any importance that might be discovered.
This company underwent great fatigue in the discharge of their duty and rendered highly important service, as it enabled the commander-in-chief to be fully apprised at all times of the movements of the enemy outside his works. On the morning of the 15th instant the army took up the line of march in good military order, with front and rear guards and flankers, and encamped that night at the third Sandy in a hollow square. A general order was issued the following morning dividing the army equally into two battalions, when the march was continued to the Cibolo Creek, where the commander- in- chief determined to take a position and await the expected reinforcements from Goliad and other points of the country. An express was despatched immediately to San Felipe communicating the object of this halt and urging forward reinforcements. An express arrived from our spy-company giving information of having discovered a party of the enemy's cavalry, about one hundred strong, some ten miles distant from our encampment. This intelligence satisfied General Austin that the enemy was apprised of the movements of our army. A circular having been issued by the commander-in-chief previous to the march of the army from Gonzales to the Mexican citizens residing upon the frontier, setting forth the cause in which we were engaged and the object of the campaign, and giving them a general invitation to join our army and offering them protection, Don Placido Benavides (alcalde of Victoria) made a call among his countrymen for volunteers under the invitation contained in this circular, and succeeded in raising some thirty in number of rancheros, in command of whom he joined our army and reported his company ready for duty. These Mexicans being well acquainted with the country were of important service as express-riders, guides to foraging- parties, etc.
The appearance of the enemy was now looked for hourly; our army was sufficiently well supplied with ammunition and provisions and everything needful to make a formidable resistance, in the event of an attack being made by the enemy; all were especially anxious for the moment to arrive when an opportunity would offer to engage; at the same time they willingly submitted to the will of the commander-in-chief on this subject. Every man was constantly employed in some useful duty. Small scouting-parties were also kept in motion near our encampment, one of which, consisting of three men under Lieutenant Bull, fell in with a spy company of the enemy, consisting of ten in number, a distance of some three miles from our encampment. This being the first interview Lieutenant Bull had had with the enemy, he at first supposed him rather strong for his small party, and he therefore ordered a slow retreat. The enemy continuing to advance from the moment he was discovered, and being encouraged at seeing our men giving ground, he boldly pressed forward to the charge. Our men still continued to give ground, intending to receive him as he came up; he accordingly advanced within some fifty yards, when Lieutenant Bull ordered his men to about face, halt, and form. This movement so completely surprised the enemy that the whole company instantly wheeled and discharged their guns over their shoulders, either at our men or at the clouds, and precipitately fled in confusion. Lieutenant Bull retained his fire and pursued them some two miles, but could not succeed in bringing them to a stand.
This little skirmish, trifling as it may appear to the reader, had a very happy effect in the army, it being the first meeting had with the enemy since the army left Gonzales; the result was regarded as a favorable omen, and it afforded a subject of exultation which was by no means out of place at that moment. The commander-in-chief, desiring to avoid the deadly consequences of the war which was threatening the country, in case it could be done consistently, on the Uth instant sent a note to General Cos, intimating a wish to send an officer with a flag to bear a communication to the Mexican commander, which he hoped would result in the establishment of peace and confidence in Texas. He requested to be informed if said officer would be received under that character, with proper guarantees for his escort of six or eight men bearing a white flag, mentioning at the same time that a flag of the same kind from the enemy would be respected by the Texan army. A council of war was also called, to whom the propriety of making the desired communication was submitted, the substance of which was merely to state the grounds upon which the people of Texas had taken up arms at that moment, and the terms upon which they were willing to lay them down. After a consideration of the subject, the council decided that it was fit and proper to be presented to General Cos by sending in a flag as already proposed by the commander-in-chief, in case the assurance of suitable guarantees for its security was given.
General Cos in reply refused to receive or respect a flag from our army, and stated that he regarded us as rebels! This communication had the effect to animate our army with a spirit of the most persevering determination and enthusiasm. The expected reinforcements from Goliad, together with some few volunteers from other parts of the country, on the 19th instant, increased our effective force to the number of four hundred and fifty men, and information being received that a large number of volunteers were on the road from Eastern Texas to join the army, the commander-in-chief determined to advance and take a secure position on the river Salado at a point five miles distant from San Antonio, there to await reinforcements and to effect important objects of observation on the movements of the enemy and of annoyance to scouting-parties. It was also ascertained that the enemy had been busily engaged ever since the capture of Goliad fortifying San Antonio by strengthening the walls, barricading the streets, in which they made port-holes and placed cannon, making wide and deep ditches across the streets immediately outside the barricades, mounting cannon and planting them on the tops of commanding buildings and other places, and exerting themselves in every way to make a vigorous resistance.
Our army not being supplied with large cannon, having only two short six pounders, the use of heavier guns was necessary in order to make an impression upon the enemy's works. Dr. Asa Hoxie was therefore despatched to San Felipe for the purpose of forwarding to the army some heavy guns and ammunition which it was said had been procured for that purpose. The army then took up the line of march, and reached the Salado at daylight on the morning of the 2th instant. Our spy-company and advance-guard encountered a small party of Mexican cavalry at the crossing of the Salado; after an exchange of a few shots, the enemy took flight without loss on either side and retired to a neighboring hill towards the town, where they remained in sight during the day. Colonel James Bowie joined the army during the march to this position. He had very lately left San Antonio, where he married and had resided for several years previously. This gentleman fully confirmed the information previously received in relation to the defensive preparations made by the enemy. Erastus Smith subsequently known throughout the Texan wars as "Deaf Smith," resided with his family at this time at San Antonio, to which place he was returning from a few days' absence he fell in with an outpost of the enemy, and, after being decoyed by the troops to within a few paces' distance of their post, was barbarously fired upon by them, but fortunately made his escape unhurt, and, instead of proceeding on his way home as he originally intended, he changed his route and came to our encampment and communicated to the commander-in-chief the cruel attempt made by the enemy to take his life. In consequence of this treatment he was greatly incensed, and declared his determination to have revenge. He therefore proposed to attach himself to our army and hold himself at the disposal of the commander-in-chief, and engage in any service where he could be most useful. This is a correct account of the introduction of the celebrated "Deaf Smith" into the Texan service.
This brave old man, having resided many years at San Antonio, was well acquainted with the town and the position of all the works of the enemy, as well as the surrounding country; his services, therefore, were at this particular juncture of great importance to the army. Smith's family, upon hearing of this occurrence, left the town and gave notice to the commander-in-chief of their whereabouts; a detachment of cavalry under command of Major Somerville was immediately despatched to escort them to our encampment, which was safely effected. It was now expected that the chivalry of the enemy would probably induce him to attack us in our position. Strong pickets and camp-guards were therefore posted at every prominent point on all sides of our encampment, and every preparation was made to give the enemy a warm reception in the event of an attack. The health of the commander-in- chief was unimproved; it was plainly manifest to his friends that the arduous duties which daily devolved upon him were more than he was able to bear; he, notwithstanding, kept up a flow of spirits and directed the daily operations of the army with great decision and firmness.
In consequence of circulars which had been distributed among the enemy several days since, the commander-in-chief expected to be joined by all the Federal Mexicans upon the approach of the army near San Antonio. Nothing, however, was heard from that quarter until the 22d instant, when Don Antonio Padilla and Colonel John Seguin visited our encampment with a few Mexican rancheros. They stated that the Federal cause was gaining new strength in the interior, and that some important victories had lately been won over the Centralist troops, in consequence of which several regiments of troops destined for Texas and actually on the march hither had been ordered back on account of troubles behind them. This intelligence being regarded as correct, cheered our army with a hope that the enemy would not receive any more reinforcements from the interior, at least for a while. Colonel Seguin also gave flattering accounts of the favorable disposition which prevailed among the citizens generally in San Antonio and its surrounding neighborhood; of their friendship to the cause in which we were engaged and their willingness to serve us. Colonel Seguin volunteered his services, and was appointed captain in the army, and was authorized to raise a company of Mexican volunteers from the neighboring ranches to co-operate with us.
The commander-in-chief considered the volunteer army to be the main hope at that period, and the most of the members comprising it being men of families, their loss would cause a fearful void in our thinly-settled community. Although they might be precipitated upon the fortifications of San Antonio, which was defended by some eight hundred of the most choice regular troops of the enemy and a number of cannon, and might carry the place by storm against superior numbers, Texas would thereby in all probability be clad in mourning in the hour of victory. He therefore, upon consultation with the officers in a council of war, deemed it most prudent and advisable not to hazard too much in the commencement of the contest, when a disaster would have been so materially injurious; he hence determined to adopt the system of wasting away the resources, spirits, and numbers of the enemy by a close siege, and to await reinforcements and the arrival of some heavy cannon and other implements necessary to a successful attack upon their strong fortifications, confident that the fall of San Antonio in a very short time and with very little loss would be the result. The country also being without a head and in a state of chaos and confusion, he deemed it important that the contemplated Consultation should take place, and that a declaration should be made by that body to the world, setting forth the principles which the army was defending and the cause in which it was engaged.
Several of the members elected to the Consultation being then in the army, the commander-in-chief ordered a general parade to take place, on which occasion he delivered a very feeling and patriotic address, in which he clearly represented the true position of the army and the cause in which it was engaged; he alluded to the disorganized state of the country and the necessity of organization instantly; he recommended that the delegates then in the army should proceed to San Felipe (the place appointed for the Consultation) and unite with members there and go into session at the earliest possible moment; he recommended to them the establishment of a provisional government, as he conceived this measure absolutely necessary to prevent Texas from falling into anarchy, and also the organization of the military. He mentioned the necessity of this at once, as the army was without the provisions and comforts necessary to sustain them in the field so long as might be required to accomplish the objects of their determination, and that without character their victories, though gloriously achieved, would be unproductive of any good results in the end. He urged that the army should be sustained and supported with promptness and by the united energies of the country. He also recommended that the Consultation should adopt measures to draw from the United States of the North; that the rights and privileges of citizens should be secured to them by guaranteeing to them their head-right lands, and placing them on a footing with citizens already in the country who have not yet obtained their land from the government.
He then announced to the army the plan of operations upon which he had determined. The army having suffered for bread and other necessary provisions for several days, he assured them that steps were about being taken to procure abundant supplies for future want, and that it should not be long before active operations could be commenced. General Sam Houston, a member of the Consultation from San Augustine, had just joined the army there, delivered an impassioned address. He did not favor active operations, but advised delay for drill and preparation said that our troops were hastily assembled, composed of citizens, untrained, that the Mexicans were regular soldiers and in a fortified town, and that we were not prepared for an active campaign and the reduction of San Antonio; advised falling back to the east side of the Guadalupe until the army was reinforced, trained, and provided with artillery. [Guy Bryan states that in his history of Texas, Yoakum suggested that on this occasion Austin offered command of the army to Houston which was not accepted. Bryan's brother, Moses Austin Bryan, who participated in the battle stated "...is utterly untrue; which is self-evident, for how could Austin do this when he was elected by the votes of the men?"]
William H. Jack also addressed the army on this occasion, and he decidedly agreed of the views and opinions recommended by the commander-in-chief in the most eloquent terms. Notwithstanding the discouraging prospects at the moment, the army enthusiastically signified their willingness to persevere in the campaign against the enemy. An express happily arrived during the evening, giving intelligence of an ample supply of flour and other necessary supplies as being on the road from Goliad for the use of the army; this circumstance aided very considerably to support the determination of the volunteers to persevere in their valorous undertaking. The privations here spoken of were caused by the reason that these volunteers suddenly left their homes without being provided with provisions and clothing except for a few days absence, expecting at the time that the enemy was penetrating the country by rapid marches; and upon reaching the place of rendezvous originally designated they found it necessary to proceed west to an entirely uninhabited country, and to trust to chance for clothing, provisions, etc., all of which were procured from the captured property at Goliad and the ranches in the vicinity of San Antonio.
During the encampment of the army at this position, more or less skirmishing took place every day between our scouting-parties and detachments of the enemy's cavalry, in which the enemy generally sustained some loss of killed and wounded, now and then a prisoner was captured. Not a single man on our side received slightest injury in the whole of this skirmishing. As the unfortunate captives were brought into camp they generally for a time manifested a great degree of alarm for their personal safety, fearing that they would be instantly tortured to death in the cruel and barbarous manner as they had understood from the Mexican officers was intended to be inflicted upon the unfortunate Texans when they were captured. The kindness, however, that was extended to these prisoners soon attached them to our troops so warmly that they felt perfectly satisfied to remain as prisoners until the difficulties should end. Their representations on this subject after their release greatly surprised their fellow-soldiers.
Colonel James Bowie, who had received the appointment of volunteer aide-de-camp, was despatched with Captain Fannin with a small detachment of men to visit the missions of San Juan, San Jose, and Espada, on the San Antonio River, for the purpose of making an examination of the condition of these missions and to prevent supplies passing therefrom to the enemy. They accordingly proceeded to the mission Espada and took quiet possession of the premises. Upon making an examination they found an abundant supply of corn and other provisions belonging to Mexican citizens, all of which they were willing to sell for cash, but no other terms were satisfactory. In this state of affairs, the article of corn being very much needed for breadstuffs and also for horse-feed, the commander-in-chief, being personally known to these Mexicans, succeeded in making a contract with them to furnish the army with corn and feed, to be paid for by himself as soon as he could send to the colony for funds. And with a view to avoid any confusion, the quartermaster was required to be present in person when these articles were procured and attend to the measuring and issue a voucher therefor.
With a view to a compliance with his contracts, the commander-in-chief at once despatched a messenger to a friend for the purpose of procuring funds from his own private resources to be thus appropriated. On the night of the 26th of October information was sent to the commander-in-chief by a friend in town that some five hundred of the enemy's infantry and cavalry had marched from the town that evening, and the supposed object was to attack our camp at daylight on the following morning. Preparations were accordingly made with all possible despatch to receive them. General Burleson was ordered to select one hundred choice men and march them some distance from our camp towards San Antonio, and take a good position unobserved near the road, and hold himself in readiness to fall upon the rear of the enemy and prevent his flight. The whole army was paraded in silence some two hours before daylight, and so posted as to be in preparation to receive the enemy from any quarter whence he might come. As the day began to dawn our troops manifested a high degree of anxiety, expecting the approach of the enemy every moment. This was a peculiarly interesting moment, inasmuch as every man regarded the anticipated engagement as a decisive battle and felt sanguine as to the final result. Those who had left their homes expecting to be absent but a few days now began to contemplate the satisfaction of returning home, bearing tidings of a glorious victory.
This state of suspense was finally dissipated by the arrival of an express about seven o'clock in the morning, giving information that the enemy had made a feint on our detachment at the mission Espada, with a view of creating a diversion, while a small reinforcement of Mexican troops were passing into town. Notwithstanding the delicate health of General Austin, he on this occasion gave directions in person to all the preparations for the expected battle, in which he displayed good generalship, and the troops under his command gave manifest evidence of their confidence in him. The commander-in-chief now determined to abandon this encampment arid take a position near town, and to lay a close siege upon the enemy. The army was thereupon at once decamped to the mission Espada, which is situated upon the river San Antonio, some six miles below the town. After the encampment of the army, the delegates to the Consultation took their departure for San Felipe with a suitable escort. Every preparation was now commenced to accomplish the present object in view. Lieutenant William B. Travis was ordered to organize a mounted company of volunteers, not exceeding eighty strong, to be armed with double-barrelled guns, yagers, and pistols, to serve as a reconnoitering company and for other extra service.
On the morning of the 27th, Colonel Bowie and Captain Fannin were ordered to proceed with a detachment of ninety-two men and select a good and strong position for that night, on the river as near the town as possible, and, unless the army should there encamp, to return that evening. The position was accordingly selected near the mission Concepcion, about the distance of one mile below the town. Instead of the detachment returning to the army that evening as ordered, the assistant adjutant-general, Macomb, was sent to report to the commander-in-chief that when this position was selected it was so near night, the officers commanding the detachment had taken the responsibility to encamp instead of returning to the mission Espada, as ordered. This disobedience of orders gave the commander-in-chief great discomfort the party being weak, he well knew the enemy would regard it as a good opportunity to attack it; this consideration induced him to abandon the thought of making any further preliminary preparations to laying the siege, and to march the army with all possible haste to the new position. The army was accordingly paraded early on the morning of the 28th, and in consequence of an attempt being made by some persons to desert our lines, the march of the army was unfortunately delayed until after sunrise. Expecting to meet the enemy on this march, the commander-in-chief took the precaution to have the army formed in proper order to meet any emergency; it was formed with the picket-guard in advance and guards upon the right and left flanks, the camp-guard in the rear, and the mounted company under Lieutenant Travis in the extreme advance. In this order the army moved on without the slightest alarm until it had approached to within one mile of the mission Concepcion. At the crossing of the river some trifling delay was occasioned in getting over the cannon and baggage-wagons, when the commander-in-chief sent forward one of his aides to order Lieutenant Travis to halt until the army had crossed the river, at which time it was ascertained that the detachment under Bowie and Fannin had been attacked by the enemy that morning, and Lieutenant Travis, observing the enemy about taking flight as be arrived in sight of the position at Concepcion, instead of giving notice to the army, as would have been proper, pressed rapidly on with his company in pursuit of the panic-stricken, retreating Mexicans, after they had suffered a severe loss in killed, wounded, and desertions.
The following is the official account of Colonel Bowie and Captain Fannin of this battle, returned to the commander-in-chief : In conformity with your orders of the 27th instant, we proceeded with the divisions composed of ninety-two men, rank and file, under our joint command, to examine the mission above Espada and select the most eligible situation near Bexar for the encampment of the main army of Texas. After carefully examining that of San Jose (having previously visited San Juan), we marched to that of Concepcion, and selected our ground in a bend of the river San Antonio, within about five hundred yards of the old mission Concepcion. The face of the plain in our front was nearly level, and the timbered land adjoining it formed two sides of a triangle, both of which were as nearly equal as possible; and, with the exception of two places, a considerable bluff of from six to ten feet sudden fall in our rear and a bottom of from fifty to one hundred yards to the river. We divided the command into two divisions and occupied each one side of the triangle for the encampment on the night of the 27th, Captain Fannin's company being under cover of the south side, forming the first division, and the balance of the troops, forty-one in number, occupied the north side under the immediate command of Colonel Bowie. Thus the men were posted and lay on their arms during the night of the 27th, having out strong picket-guards and a detail of seven men in the cupola of the mission house, which overlooked the whole country; the horses being all tied up.
The night passed quietly off without the least alarm, and at dawn of day every object was obscured by a heavy, dense fog, which entirely prevented our guards or lookout from the mission seeing the approach of the enemy. At about one hour by sun an advance-guard of their cavalry rode upon our line and fired on a sentinel who had just been relieved, who returned the fire and caused one platoon to retire, but another charged upon him (Henry Karnes), and he discharged a pistol at them, which had the same effect. The men were called to arms, but were for some time unable to discover their foes, who had entirely surrounded our position and kept up a firing constantly at a distance, with no other effect than a waste of ammunition on their part. When the fog rose, it was apparent to all that we were surrounded and a desperate fight was inevitable. All communication with the main army being cut off, immediate preparation was made by extending the right flank (first division) to the south and placing the second division on the left on the same side, so that they might be enabled to take the enemy should they charge into this angle, and prevent the effects of a cross-fire of our own men, and at the same time to be in a compact body contiguous to each other, that either might reinforce the other at the shortest notice without crossing the angle in an exposed and uncovered ground, where certain loss must have resulted. The men in the mean time were ordered to clear away bushes and vines under the hill and along the margin, and at the steepest places to cut steps or foot-holes, in order to afford them space to form and pass, and at suitable places ascend the bluff, discharge their rifles, and fall back to reload. The work was completed to our wish before the infantry commanded by Colonel Cos (brother of the Mexican commander) were seen to march, with arms trailed, to the right of the first division, and to form in line of battle at about three
hundred yards' distance from the right flank. Five companies of their cavalry, commanded by Colonel Ugartachea, supported them, covering our whole front and flank. Their infantry was also supported by a large force of cavalry. In this manner the engagement commenced at about the hour of eight o'clock in the morning, on Wednesday, the 28th of October, by the deadly crack of a rifle from the extreme right; the engagement was, immediately general, the discharge from the enemy was one continued blaze of fire, whilst that from our lines was more slowly delivered, but with good aim and deadly effect, each man retiring under the hill and timber to give place to others whilst he reloaded. The battle had not lasted more than ten minutes before a brass, double-fortified four pounder was opened on our line, with a heavy discharge of grape and canister, at the distance of about eighty yards from the right flank of the first division, and a charge sounded; but the cannon was cleared as if by magic and a check put to the charge. The same experiment was resorted to with like success three times, and it was three times cleared, they having fired their cannon only five times in all and our division advancing under the hill at each fire, thus approaching near the cannon and victory. The cannon and victory were truly the warcry! The enemy made repeated charges upon our line, which were as often broken before a disorderly and precipitate retreat was sounded and most rapidly obeyed, leaving to their victors their cannon. Thus a detachment of ninety-two men gained a most decisive victory over the main army of the central government, having at least an advantage of numbers in their favor of four to one, with only the loss of one brave soldier (Richard Andrews) and none wounded, whilst the enemy suffered in killed and wounded more than one hundred from the best information we can obtain and which is entitled to credit. Sixty-seven were killed, among them many promising officers ; not one man of their artillery company escaped unhurt.
No invidious distinction can be drawn between any officer or private on this occasion. Every man was a soldier and did his duty according to the circumstances and situation in which he was placed. It may not be amiss here to say that near the close of the engagement another heavy piece of artillery was brought up and fired twice, but at a distance, and by a reinforcement of another company of cavalry aided by six mules ready harnessed they got it off. Had it been possible to communicate with the main army so that it might have arrived earlier, the victory would have been decisive and Bexar ours before twelve o'clock. Immediately on arriving on the field upon which this battle was fought, the commander-in-chief believed it to be an auspicious opportunity to put an end to the campaign by following up the victory instantly; he therefore, without dismounting from his horse, gave orders for the army to push forward upon the enemy and attack him during his excitement and panic, which had been caused by his defeat on this occasion. Colonel James Bowie, supported by Fannin, upon bearing the determination of General Austin, went to him in person and implored him to abandon the project.
Colonel Bowie had left San Antonio but a very few days previously, and he was fully informed as to the strength of the fortifications, and he was positive that our army could not penetrate their works without suitable implements and heavy cannon; he therefore represented that the enemy would be enabled to bring several pieces of cannon to bear upon our troops as they were advancing, and that the attempt would certainly be made at a very heavy loss of life.
[Moses Austin Bryan says: On the arrival of the army at Concepcion, the Mexicans were still in sight on their retreat into their fortifications at Bexar. I was riding by the side of the general and heard him say: "The army must follow them right into town!" Bowie, Fannin, and Briscoe objected. A council of war was called and the views of the general were given that now, then, was the time to capture Bexar, as there would be confusion and consternation at their defeat, etc. But the council decided against the measure.]
The army had been delayed by the departure of some of the members of the Consultation that morning and the desertion of a whole company from Eastern Texas. The whole camp-guards were sent for the deserters, but returned without them. The detention prevented the army from arriving in time to capture the whole force that attacked Bowie, Fannin, and Briscoe. I know the great anxiety expressed by the general when Colonel Macomb returned and reported that the detachment that had been sent to select a camp as near town as possible was not to return, and he expressed himself satisfied that they would be attacked the next morning. His aides were sent throughout the camp to notify the officers to be ready to march before day, and but for the desertion of a company the army would have arrived at Concepcion during the action, and no doubt would have killed or captured the whole force sent out by General Cos to capture the ninety-two men under Colonel Bowie, Captains Fannin and Briscoe, and then Bexar would have been surrendered without firing a single gun. This was the belief of all in the army at the time.
This statement of facts had the effect to induce the commander-in-chief to abandon the idea of following up the victory at that moment, inasmuch as he felt satisfied that the enemy would soon fall into our hands at any rate, and he desired to accomplish this object with as little loss of life as possible. Colonel Bowie then conducted the army to its position, where it was regularly encamped. It is not improper to state here, that upon an examination of the enemy's works after the town was taken the representations made by Colonel Bowie were found to be strictly correct, and when it is borne in mind that our army was entirely armed with rifles and shot-guns only, having but two small six-pound cannon, the course taken by the commander-in-chief will be properly appreciated. The town of San Antonio at that time was laid off in a square, with a row of rock buildings around it, some twenty feet high; the streets, passing through these buildings from different directions, were all closed by barricading as high as the tops of the houses, with wide and deep ditches immediately outside the barricading; port-holes were made in these barricades and cannon planted there for the purpose of raking the streets in the event of an assault. The tops of the houses were flat, with rock breastworks around the edges of the roofs, intended to be occupied by their infantry. They had cannon mounted on pivots at the church and upon other commanding house-tops. The country immediately about the town is an open prairie. The Alamo was a fort situated on the opposite bank of the river, and was occupied by the enemy's cavalry. At this fort they had upwards of thirty pieces of cannon, mounted upon the walls behind facades, many of which were pivot guns and commanded the whole surrounding country.
The commander-in-chief, having received notice of reinforcements amounting to some three hundred volunteers who were on the march to join the army from Eastern Texas and Louisiana, determined to make himself secure in this position and adopt a system of operations of annoyance to the enemy in every possible way. Strong camp- and picket-guards were posted at the different important points around the encampment, and a lookout was stationed in the balcony of the mission house, which place commanded a distinct view of the town and Alamo, and also of the surrounding country. These preparations for defence being completed, the following order was announced to the army from head-quarters:
The army is now in presence of the enemy; prompt obedience to orders and strict discipline will soon effect the great object of the campaign, but without them nothing but disgrace and ruin will be the result. It is therefore expressly ordered that any officer who disobeys orders shall be immediately arrested and suspended from his command until a court-martial decides his case. The colonel of the regiment will circulate this order to every officer and company in his regiment. Orders were then issued systematizing and regulating the guards more thoroughly than had previously existed and more in conformity with the present state of affairs. This being done, the commander-in-chief addressed a note to the Mexican commander, General Cos, granting him permission to remove the bodies of the unfortunate officers and soldiers from the field who fell in the engagement of that morning and had not been removed during the battle, as is customary with the Mexicans. The priest of the town accordingly came with a number of carts and assistants that night, and, after collecting all the bodies and laying them in a row on the ground, the priest performed some sort of an apparently solemn rite over them, when they were taken up by the legs and arms, like they were dead hogs, and piled into the carts, loading them full; they were then tied in with raw-hide strings, and away they went, priest and all.
Notwithstanding the peculiar circumstances under which the engagement took place, it had in the end a happy and advantageous effect: it proved the fact that Texans with their rifles and pistols were decidedly formidable in the field, and sufficiently equal to cope with the Mexican troops, even with a greatly superior force; it had a tendency then to inspire the men with a degree of confidence in their efficiency that previously did not in fact exist and it also had the effect to depress and alarm the Mexican troops and bring them to a more respectful consideration of the importance of Texan volunteers than was previously entertained. The enemy took a hint of precaution from the result of this battle, and kept very closely confined ever afterwards within their walls during the day. Strong detachments of cavalry were kept constantly moving around the town and Alamo from our encampment, night and day, with a view to cut off the supplies to the town from the surrounding country and prevent the enemy having any communications with the country whatever, and to annoy them in every way possible. This was considered the best mode of besieging the enemy; our force being small compared with the force at the garrison, it was thought best to keep the main body of our army concentrated at one point, and keep the Mexicans shut up within the walls by means of strong mounted companies passing around them constantly.
On the 29th, reinforcements from Eastern Texas arrived, numbering two hundred strong, and on the day following they reported ready for duty. These troops augmented the Texan force to the number of about six hundred effective men; the operations of the army were consequently conducted upon a more extended plan. Efficient mounted companies of about one hundred strong were formed and despatched on the different roads leading to the Rio Grande from San Antonio, for the purpose of intercepting reinforcements, expresses, etc., that might be found passing between those two points. These movements had the effect to hold the enemy confined within his walls and to keep him in a constant state of alarm. No reinforcements were discovered and but one mail was taken; this was intercepted by Colonel John Seguin and brought to headquarters of the army. The most important intelligence obtained therefrom was the expedition of Colonel Mexia against Tampico, which had the good effect to divert the attention of all the disposable troops in that vicinity to that point, which circumstance prevented their being sent to Texas. Until the arrival of this mail the cause of no reinforcements being sent to the support of the garrison could not be anticipated. The commander-in-chief now determined to keep the main army actively employed by making various maneuvers and demonstrations before the enemy, which were commenced by dividing the army into two divisions. The second division, under the immediate command of Colonel Burleson, marched above the town and occupied a strong position on the same side of the river as that occupied by the first division. Our mounted companies were now drawn in from the westward, and were kept actively employed passing around the fortifications and from one division to the other, and occasionally making a feint attack, but never could succeed in drawing the enemy out to the open field. The two divisions of the army occupied positions about within cannon-shot distance and immediately in rear of the enemy.
A simultaneous demonstration was made on one occasion by an advance of the two divisions towards the town to points within a few hundred yards of their works, when our troops came to a halt, and a flag of truce was sent forward to General Cos, borne by Colonels Wilson and Macomb, inviting him to an immediate surrender with the troops under his command. The object of this movement was to draw the enemy out to the open field; but, to the great disappointment of our troops, it failed to have the desired effect. The Mexican general declined receiving the communications, and sent a message to the flag-bearers, who had been detained by his picket-guard, to retire at once or they would be fired upon. The enemy immediately opened a brisk cannonading upon our divisions from the bastions of the Alamo, without any other effect than a waste of ammunition, which was promptly returned from our small six-pounders, the balls from which generally took effect upon the walls of the Alamo and forced clouds of dust into the air; this was about the amount of execution done. Our divisions were then countermarched to their encampment in good order. In a few moments after the firing had ceased the priest of the town visited the first division, and offered an apology from General Cos to the commander-in- chief of our army for his refusal to respect our flag of truce on the occasion just referred to, assigning as the reason for not receiving the flag that he had been ordered to the command of San Antonio, and by his superiors was ordered to defend the place and fight to the last; under such circumstances he considered it entirely useless to hold a conference with the commander-in-chief, inasmuch as he was resolved to obey orders.
Our bold and energetic movements struck the enemy with such terror as to keep him so closely confined within the walls that the Alamo and town both presented to us more the appearance of large prisons with posted sentinels than military garrisons comprised of regular troops. On the 4th day of November, the adjutant-general and Aide-de-Camp Grayson obtained leave of absence, and returned to their homes. Francis W. Johnson was appointed adjutant-general to act during the absence of Colonel Hall, and Thomas J. Rusk was appointed aide-de-camp to act during the absence of Colonel Grayson. Captain Travis obtained intelligence of a caballada of horses belonging to the enemy being in charge of some Mexican soldiers several miles west of San Antonio. He was therefore ordered to proceed with the company under his immediate command and to capture them, which enterprise was accomplished on the 11th, without the slightest difficulty or resistance by the guards. On the return of Captain Travis, he reported the capture of three hundred head of horses, which were generally in a bad condition and unfit for service, and they were therefore sent to the colony to be recruited. Three of the guards were also taken prisoners and brought to the army, with such of the horses as were thought fit for use. This capture took place some forty miles west of San Antonio. It was regarded by the commander-in-chief as an advantageous occurrence, as it was likely to weaken the enemy's cavalry, which was, in fact, subsequently ascertained to have been the case. Captain Travis, together with the men under his command, were highly complimented by General Austin for the important service rendered on this occasion.
Intelligence having been received of the landing of a company of volunteers from New Orleans, and that they were now on the march to join the army, the commander-in-chief determined upon making preparations for a vigorous attack upon the enemy as soon as these reinforcements and the twelve-pounder cannon should reach the army. The two divisions of the army were accordingly concentrated at a strong position, immediately above the town upon the west side of the river, and the cavalry companies were kept in motion circulating around the town as formerly. This determination was communicated to officers of his staff and some of the field-officers, and every preparation was made with a view to hurry the campaign to a speedy end. A battery was established near the river bank directly opposite the Alamo, in the form of a triangle, surrounded by a ditch, sufficiently large to accommodate one hundred men, and a cannon was placed in the centre; this work was accomplished in the night, unobserved by the enemy. Upon being discovered on the following morning the enemy appeared greatly offended, and sent out some small parties to reconnoiter this establishment, which was not exceeding three hundred yards distant from the walls of the Alamo and some few hundred yards from the lower line of our encampment, As the reconnoitering parties approached this battery they made many bold and menacing demonstrations, in the midst of which our cannon was discharged upon them, loaded with slugs and other missiles, which drove them back in consternation. The enemy then commenced a cannonading, which was continued throughout the day, upon this battery and the main encampment, without doing the slightest damage. Some few Mexicans were shot by our riflemen from the battery. The enemy had a fine band of music, which generally performed during these interchanges of salutes. The ostensible object of establishing this battery was to answer the purpose of a position for a reserve force during the contemplated engagement and necessary to protect the passage between our encampment and the town, and also to be in readiness to check the enemy in any attempts which he might make from the Alamo upon the rear of our troops during the engagement.
On the evening of the 21st instant, the company of "Louisiana Grays," under command of Captain Morris, joined the army and was reported for duty on the following morning; the twelve-pounder cannon also arrived. The scouting-parties were all ordered to join the army, and an order was issued for the army to be organized into three divisions, for the purpose of storming the town of San Antonio on the morning of the 23d instant at dawn of day. The health of the commander-in-chief still was so delicate as to prevent him from making such personal observations as he desired in order to arrange his plans of operations to the best advantage; he was, therefore, very much dependent upon such of his officers in whom be felt he could place implicit confidence for information in relation to the true condition and feelings of our army, and also the movements of the enemy from time to time. Every day since the erection of the battery opposite the Alamo the enemy kept up quite a constant cannonading upon the same and our encampment, which had the effect to keep up a considerable excitement on both sides, although no damage whatever was sustained on our side.
On the evening of the 22d, John W. Smith, who was a resident citizen of San Antonio, sent by a Mexican to General Austin a complete and perfect plan of the town and fortifications as they had been prepared for defence. This Mr. Smith was a surveyor by profession, and had been held in duress by the enemy since the commencement of the difficulties; during the time he availed himself of opportunities to make said map, which was forwarded to the place of destination in good time to be very useful on this occasion. Dr. James Grant, who was a very skilful man and scientific engineer, had lately joined our army, and rendered very important service in devising the plan of attack, etc. During the day the prospects in camp appeared decidedly encouraging; every man appeared firm and anxious for the conflict. In the evening the volunteers were all paraded and inspected, and reviewed by the commander-in-chief, when he made a few remarks appropriate to the occasion. The appointments to the different commands all being arranged, and all necessary preparations made, a report was accordingly made by the adjutant and inspector-general to the commander-in-chief; orders were then issued requesting the officers commanding the different divisions of the army to have the men comprising their respective commands paraded and formed at three o'clock on the morning of the 23d instant at the old Mill Station, immediately above the town, in readiness to make an attempt upon the fortifications of the enemy.
The commander-in-chief having made all other necessary dispositions for the occasion in contemplation, laid himself down to get a few hours' refreshing sleep. All things appeared progressing in the most satisfactory manner until about one o'clock in the morning, when Lieutenant- Colonel Philip Sublett, who was the immediate commander of the second division of the army, waited upon the commander-in-chief, and made the following communication, to wit: On receipt of your general order announcing that an attack would be made by storm in the morning, I have ascertained the disposition of the officers and men of my division, and believe it to be my duty to report that a majority of them are opposed to the measure and are unwilling to attempt it; and I concur in opinion with them. General Edward Burleson, the immediate commander of the first division, was immediately sent for by the commander-in-chief, to whom this unexpected report of Colonel Sublett was communicated; he was requested to make an investigation of this matter, and also ascertain the feeling prevailing upon the subject in his division, and to report thereon instantly. This officer accordingly reported that the feeling generally in his division in relation to the contemplated attack corresponded with that reported by Colonel Sublett in relation to the second division, but stated that he was willing to make the attack and lead on as many of his division as would follow him.
The commander-in-chief was greatly astonished and mortified at this unaccountable change which had so suddenly taken place in the minds of the volunteers, and felt extremely embarrassed as to the proper direction to give matters at that particular juncture; he, however, determined to persevere in the attack, in the event that a sufficient force could be obtained for the purpose to justify it. He ordered the adjutant-general to make the proper investigation forthwith. The result was that not more than one hundred men of the whole army (excepting the company of New Orleans Grays, who were willing and anxious for it to a man) could be found willing to make the attack; he also ascertained that this wonderful and sudden change had been produced in the minds of the men secretly by some designing persons from motives of ambition and jealousy, which at the moment could not be precisely understood. Necessity therefore compelled the commander-in- chief to countermand the order of storming. Under these circumstances, thinking that the siege might be prolonged for a considerable length of time, the army being out of breadstuffs and suitable clothing for the inclement season, a requisition was despatched to the provisional government for a supply of such necessary articles. The army having laid out in the open weather for nearly three months, and very many being without tents, and the winter season now having commenced with severe cold, northers, and rain, more comfortable quarters for the winter season were regarded as indispensable by some of the officers and men.
Fort Goliad was considered the most desirable position for the army to retire upon in the event of raising the siege, as its position was such as would enable our troops to cut off the enemy's communication with the seaboard, and also to keep the frontier under observation, and it was an eligible point from which to march, in the event of any hostile movements being made by the enemy upon our frontier settlements. Orders were therefore despatched to the officer commanding that fort to the effect that Fort Goliad must be maintained and fortified as strongly as possible, and also to retain the force already there, together with all he could collect, informing him at the same time that, in the event of raising the siege of San Antonio, a considerable portion of the army would retire to that post. Colonel James Bowie was appointed and despatched from the army to superintend the strengthening of the fortifications. General Austin, on November 18, wrote to the president of the Consultation. He says:
The army has done all that could have been done under the circumstances, without materials and organization, which latter is purely voluntary. It deserves great credit for its sufferings and perseverance. I have every confidence a short time will end this campaign. The commander-in-chief having received a communication from the Consultation informing him of a provisional organization of an executive authority and council, and also of his appointment of commissioner to the United States and requesting his personal services at San Felipe without delay, feeling disposed and ready at all times to serve Texas in any station where it was considered he could be useful, he promptly replied accepting said appointment, and also communicated his intention to withdraw from the army as soon as the interest of the army would permit.
General Austin, in writing to the president of the Consultation, says: "Some prudence will be necessary to keep this army together, should I leave at once. I therefore cannot at this time say when I can be in San Felipe, but I will give you the earliest possible information on the subject. Fearing that his withdrawal might produce some unpleasant dissatisfaction in the army, and being desirous to leave it in a good condition and thoroughly organized for future operations, he ordered a general parade of the army to take place on the 24th instant, on which occasion he delivered an address in which he announced his determination to accept the appointment of commissioner to the United States and withdraw from the army. He clearly explained the importance of continuing the siege of San Antonio, and urged upon them therefore the necessity of their remaining and organizing anew instantly. After concluding his address, the adjutant-general was ordered to call upon the troops to volunteer to remain before San Antonio and to organize at once for that purpose, when four hundred and five promptly turned out and pledged themselves to remain. The election being ordered to take place immediately for commander-in-chief, General Edward Burleson was elected without opposition, none having been allowed to vote but those who were pledged to remain.
On the morning of the following day the commander-in-chief took leave of the army, enjoying the highest confidence and respect of the volunteers generally. Very soon after General Austin had left the army, it was ascertained that during the whole time he was forming his plans of operations against San Antonio, his judge-advocate, W. H. Wharton, who was in the confidence of the commander-in-chief and was fully informed at all times of everything done and in contemplation at head-quarters, was constantly and industriously employed in making known the plans and instructions of the commander-in-chief to the officers and men of the army (who were entirely ignorant of the facts upon which the actions of the general were predicated), to whom he would condemn them as unwise, etc. Mr. Wharton, possessing talent and shrewdness of character, in this manner succeeded in exerting an influence upon the minds of many in the army. At this time General Sam Houston and William H. Wharton were intimate friends, and there can be no doubt that a perfect understanding prevailed between these two men to prevent, if possible, the objects of General Austin being accomplished, so that the laurels might be reserved for General Houston, who was electioneering at San Felipe for an appointment to the command of the Texas army.
This impression will not appear unjust when the fact is considered that during this same period General Houston, either anticipating or being actually informed as to the intentions of General Austin, wrote divers letters to his confidential friends in the army discouraging any attempt being made against San Antonio by that army, stating that an army of less than two thousand troops, well disciplined, could not dislodge the enemy, and as our army was weak and being destitute of the proper equipments and armament for such an occasion, he represented that an attack would be certain to result disastrously to our army. Hence he advised that the army should withdraw from San Antonio and fall back upon Gonzales and await reinforcements; or, in other words, his meaning doubtless was to remain there until he assumed the command. A letter embracing this substance was read to the army by Colonel Sublett at the time preparations were being made for the attack upon San Antonio. The reputation of General Houston as a military commander, and his efforts united with those of Mr. Wharton, as above stated, had the effect to completely paralyze and defeat the accomplishment of the plans of General Austin of storming San Antonio.
Had it not been for the unrighteous conduct of these two individuals, General Austin would have captured San Antonio with but trifling loss of life. Before their influence was brought to bear upon the minds of the volunteers every man appeared anxious for the conflict, and all had confidence in the ability of General Austin to direct the engagement to a successful result. General Burleson immediately assumed command of the army and proceeded to organize it into two divisions, determining to carry on active operations against the enemy. This being accomplished, an order was issued to storm San Antonio on the morning of the 4th of December, which progressed, and resulted in a perfect failure, doubtless from similar causes to those which paralyzed the efforts of General Austin on a previous occasion. General Burleson, however, being firmly convinced that it was practicable to reduce the town, and as there were many in the army who wished to try the experiment, conceived a plan of storming the town with a party of volunteers from the army. He accordingly authorized his adjutant and inspector-general, F. W. Johnson, and Colonel Benjamin R. Milam to raise a force of volunteers from the army to attack the enemy on the following morning, when two hundred and sixteen men volunteered for this service promptly. These volunteers were equally divided into two divisions. The first was commanded by Colonel Milam and the second by Colonel Johnson, the commander-in-chief remaining with and disposing of the main army as a reserve. The assault upon the town was made at daylight on the morning of the 5th instant. Each division gained possession of a strong position within the walls of the town without the loss of a single man. The main army occupied a position some six hundred yards above the town on the west side of the river.
On the advance of the attacking divisions, General Burleson formed the reserve at the old Mill Station, immediately above the town, and held himself in readiness to co-operate as circumstances might require. With a view to give all possible aid and succor to the divisions engaged, the commander-in- chief organized efficient mounted companies, which were employed watching the movements of the enemy, and in procuring provisions from the surrounding country for the use of the army. In this manner our troops were furnished with an abundant supply of provisions during the engagement. Reinforcements amounting to about one hundred men were sent by the commander-in-chief to the support of the divisions engaged in town. The only attempt made by the enemy outside of his walls during the engagement was by a party of cavalry and infantry from the Alamo, which advanced upon our encampment in two divisions, the cavalry on the west and the infantry on the east side of the river; their approach being timely discovered, General Burleson was prepared to give them a warm reception by opening a brisk fire of grape and canister upon their advance as soon as they approached within good cannon-shot distance.
The enemy being surprised to find an encampment strong and protected by a park of artillery, declined making the intended attack, and suddenly drew off and retired within his walls. Our troops were so disposed of in town that the different columns were kept compact and were a support to each other; in this manner they gradually advanced upon the public square on the night of the instant, when a hot cannonading was opened immediately upon the buildings which gave cover to our lines. At dawn of day the firing entirely ceased, and a white flag was discovered gently waving on the walls of the Alamo, and it was discovered that the troops of the enemy had abandoned the town. A flag of truce was despatched to our army by General Cos, communicating his surrender with the troops under his command, and desired to enter upon terms of capitulation of a character honorable to both armies.
It is therefore here shown that, after a warmly contested battle of five days' and nights' duration, the enemy was driven to the necessity of surrendering under capitulation. It was supposed that the loss of the enemy during this engagement was not less than three hundred killed and wounded. The loss on our side was twelve killed and eighteen wounded. Terms of capitulation were entered into with the Mexican general of a character highly advantageous to the country and honorable to the Texan volunteers.
Messers EDITORS I notice in the national Vindicator of the 20th Ultimo, a request that you will tell him where Genl Burleson was at the Storming of San Antonio: Having served in the Volunteer Army of Texas as Aid de Camp to the Commander in Chief throughout the Campaign of 1835, the facts connected with the operations of that Army are fully known to me, besides which, having the original Camp records of the Comr in Chief of that Army in my possession, have it in my power to give any proper information connected therewith. And in order that no injustice shall be done Genl Burleson at this time, 1 have felt it my duty to furnish you a statement of facts so far as this brave and gallant man is concerned
On the 24th day of November 1835, "Genl Stephen F Austin" Comr in Chief of the Volunteer Army of Texas," called a parade of the Army, for the purpose of ascertaining how many volunteers would remain before San Antonio as a permanent force, under a Comr in Chief to be elected by themselves- Genl Austin having been called by the convention to proceed immediately to San Felipe, to go to the United States as a commissioner. On putting the question to the line four hundred and five (405) men turned out and pledged themselves to remain
A roll of them was furnished by each Captain, which is now in my possession. On the same day an election was held in each captains company for Comr in Chief, none being allowed to vote but those who were pledged to remain. Genl Burleson having served throughout the campaign as Colonel of the regiment, he had so completely gained the confidence and won the affections of that Army, he was elected Comr in Chief thereof, without opposition, as appears by the camp records of Genl Austin which are in my possession- Genl Burleson proceeded at once to organize the Army in two divisions and put it in a condition for active and immediate operations- This being accomplished an order was issued to Storm San Antonio On receipt of this order Col Sublet & Majr Morris who were the immediate commanders of the two divisions of the Army, reported to the Comr in Chief, that a majority of the officers & men comprising their divisions were opposed, and unwilling to attempt an attack on the fortifications of San Antonio, which said officers also expressed a concurrence with their men in opinion; in consequence of which Genl Burleson was induced to abandon the measure. On the fourth day of December the Comr in Chief Authorized Col Benjamine R Milam and F. W. Johnson Adjt & Inspr Genl, to raise a force of Volunteers from the Army, to attack the enimy on the following morning, for which service Two hundred and sixteen (216) men promptly volunteered. These troops were equally divided into two divisions, The first was commanded by Col Milam & the second by Adjt & Inspr Genl Johnson; The Comr in. Chief remaining with, & disposing of the main Army as a reserve. The assault upon the town being made at day light, on the morning of the 5th instant, Each division gained possession of a strong position, within the walls of the town without the loss of a single man.
The main Army at this time occupied a position some six hundred yards above the town, on the West side of the river. On the advance of the attacking party Genl Burleson formed all the reserve with the Exception of the Camp guard, At the old mill station immediately above the town, and held himself in readiness to advance in case of necessity & Co-operate as circumstances might require it now became the object of the Comr in Chief to give all possible aid & succor to the attacking divisions, for this purpose he organized
Efficient mounted Companies under the immediate command of Captn Cheshire Roberts and Coleman, which were kept actively employed reconnoitering & watching the movements of the enimy, and procuring
provisions from the surrounding country for the use of the Army. In this manner our troops were furnished with an abundant supply of provisions during the engagement- Reinforcements under command of Capt Cheshire, Southerland & Lewis amounting to about one hundred men were sent in by the Comr in Chief during the battle; Other companies were Especially held in readiness to reinforce the attacking divisions in case they should be needed, but the two positions occupied by our troops in town being very contracted, as many men were already there as could be employed to advantage: During the whole time of the battle which lasted five days & nights, Genl Burleson was actively engaged night and day, in giving succor to the attacking divisions in every possible way. The plan of operations of that Army was formed previous to the attack under the direction of the Comr in Chief assisted by his Adjt & Inspr Genl and a perfect concert of action prevailed among the officers commanding the different divisions throughout the Engagement-and it is extremely uncharitable for any Texian to critacise, or condem the plan formed on that occasion, by the combined wisdom of such gallant men as Johnson and Burleson & the lamented Milam
Had not Genl Burleson remained in charge of the main Army (which was about five hundred strong besides the attacking divisions) and kept an open communication with our troops in town, the Enimy with their overwhelming force, could Easily have surrounded the town, cut off all our means of procuring provisions or other necessary supplies. And the consequences would have been, that we would have been compelled to surrender at discretion, in a very few days, or we would have met the same fate which the lamented Travis did subsequently at the same place. We had no provisions but such as was furnished us daily by the Army in reserve, and the last of our ammunition was rationed to the men the night before the surrender of the Enimy- And furthermore it is not improper to remark here, that Geul Burleson was the on1y individual in that Army who bad sufficient influence with the Volunteers to have kept it together. Had it not have been for the confidence his presence inspired, that Army would have disbanded itself & dispersed even after the attack was made, such was the violent opposition to the measure After the surrender of San Antonio, Col Ugartachea (with whom I had been acquainted several years previously) told me that during the engagement, Genl Cos called a council of War to whom he submitted a plan, to attack our camp with a force of cavalry & infantry & destroy it, this being accomplished, then to surround our troops who were in town & force them to surrender
This momement was accordingly attempted by the Enimy, he advanced upon our Encampment in two divisions, his cavalry on the West & his infantry on the East side of the river, his approach being timely discovered, Genl Burleson was prepared to give him a warm reception by opening a brisk fire of grape & canister shot upon their advance, as soon as they came within good cannon shot distance. The Enimy being surprised to find our Camp strong & protected by a park of artillary, declined making the intended attack & suddenly drew off and retired within his walls where he surrendered under capitulation the following morning
I accompanied the Adjr & Inspr Genl in the attack upon San Antonio and from the moment of gaining one position & becoming fairly engaged with the Enimy, I was constantly employed day & night bearing intelligence between the Adjr & Inspr Genl & Comr in chief necessary to keep up that concert of action between the different divisions of the Army contemplated under the plan of operations; Genl Burleson also visited the divisions in town frequently day & night & conferred personally with the Adjr & Inspr Genl in relation to the movements going forward
After the surrender of Genl Cos several companies of the Mexican Army were disbanded, after which be marched off with upwards of eleven hundred men-Including regular troops & rancharoes; it was supposed that the force of the Enimy during the engagement, was not less than fifteen hundred men: By reference to the report of Col Johnson of this battle which was published in the Telegraph & Texas register of the 26th of December 1835, you will there see, that Genl Burleson and the reserve under his command, for the important assistance afforded by them, during those critical movements were especially complimented
You may therefore feel fully authorised to reply to the Vindicator, that at the storming of San Antonio, Genl Burleson was at his post discharging his duty as Comr in Chief of that army in a heroic and
officer like manner And I do really think that for the important services rendered the Country by Genl Burleson on this interesting and critical occasion. Texas owes him a debt of gratitude which should never be forgotten Brazoria August 3d/44 Respectfully &C Wm T AUSTIN
OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS