SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
© 2000, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
Colonial Defense | Coahuila y Tejas--Index
La Segunda Compañía Volante de San Carlos de Parras
La Segunda Compañía Volante de San Carlos de Parras (Alamo de Parras), a company of one hundred Spanish Colonial mounted lancers, arrived in Texas in early 1803 to bolster the existing San Antonio garrison. This company would remain at San Antonio for the next 32 years integrating into the existing population, becoming involved in the community's military, civil and political affairs including the Mexican War for Independence and the Texas Revolution. Their lasting legacy would be to give their name to the former Mission San Antonio de Valero that would become known as the Alamo because of their association.
The Alamo de Parras Company had its origins on the frontier of New Spain's Provincias Internas. Defense of this vast region rested on two institutions: the presidio or station for troops and the presidial soldier or soldado. Spanish officials continually reviewed and regulated the presidial system. The soldiers who garrisoned these stations were expected to protect a designated region. Not unlike their modern counterparts, the soldiers were also settlers, bringing with them their families to the various posts and towns where they were assigned.
In an effort to relieve some of the burden from the underpaid and over worked presidial soldiers, a second system of frontier military companies was created in 1713 called the tropa ligera (light troops) or compañía volante (mobile or flying company). Both terms apply because these companies were tasked to move quickly and often over long distances. This would free them to protect their own immediate zones. Another form soldier in the compañía volante was the soldado de cuera, although this kind of soldier was not generally seen in Texas.
The compañía volante was organized and stationed in an area behind the established line of presidios. Their uniforms and equipment were the same as those of their presidial counterparts. Though they tended to have more manpower than the presidio, like the soldiers of the presidio, their families went with them when they transferred toa new duty station.
The Mapami District of Nueva Vizcaya was an important source of Spanish silver mining and was often raided by the Apaches. In response, Spanish military activity was often stepped up. Among the reinforcement measures was the creation of a second compañía volante in the Parras District on February 1, 1784. Soldiers were recruited from the Coahuilan pueblo of San José y Santiago del Alamo de Parras; a village founded in 1731 by Tlascalan Indians not far from the existing ranchero named El Alamo. The region was known for its grapevines (parras) and the town site for its natural springs that allowed for the growth of cottonwood trees (los alamos). From both, the pueblo took its name of Alamo de Parras.
The company remained at its hometown/namesake for 10 years until, in 1798, it was transferred to the Mapami District to help protect the region from Apache attacks. During a three-month period, it was transferred at least four times before settling at the Villa de San Geronimo near Chihuahua. The soldiers and their families remained there four years.
In the early 1800's, expansionists, like Aaron Burr, called for the invasion of Spanish territory prompting Spain to look toward the United States with great anxiety. To repel any possible foreign invasion, Spanish troops were concentrated on the Texas frontier. As the first of several reinforcement efforts, the Alamo de Parras Company marched under orders from Chihuahua to Texas to San Antonio de Béjar [Béxar]. Most of the soldiers arrived on the Rio San Antonio by January 1803 with their families following that spring.
Their arrival brought new life to the community, not only because of the infusion of new settlers, but as seasoned veterans, the company provided increased protection from Indians and significantly reduced the theft of livestock and curtailed smuggling in the province. As a mounted contingent, they also served at times as couriers and escorts to the Spanish Governor.
The existing soldiers of the Bexar Presidial Company had already established their own residences in the area and so readily relinquished their quarters to the new arrivals. What the company found was less than satisfactory as Francisco Amangual, the commander of the Alamo de Parras Company, found the barracks on Plaza de Armas in poor condition. Evaluating his options, he moved his men and their families across the San Antonio River and into the partially abandoned mission of San Antonio de Valero. The old mission convento and rooms along the West Side of the plaza were in better condition and offered more room and protection. The courtyard was converted to a corral and the sacristy of the partially completed church became the chapel.
There were more than two hundred men, women and children in the Alamo de Parras community living together within the mission's walls. The lower floor of the derelict convent, or the Long Barracks, housed the unmarried soldiers. Soldiers with families lived in adobe shelters adjoining the exterior wall of the compound's enclosure. Others lived in crude huts called jacales. Eventually, Indian raids forced them to move inside the enclosure. Later, as the soldiers married, they built their homes near the mission on the banks of the San Antonio River. This became the basis for the small community that arose called La Villita or little village.
In the years that followed, the Alamo de Parras Company slowly rebuilt and reinforced the mission compound. By 1805, they founded the first military hospital in San Fernando de Béjar that was situated in the upper level of the mission's convent. It served both the military and civilian populations. In 1809, rumors of an invasion by the United States spread across the province. The Alamo de Parras Company promptly ordered materials to add 834 varas of battlement to the existing walls of the enclosure. Part of this construction included the southernmost wall with a large gate separating a barrack from a guardhouse and jail.
With Mission Valero now the station for the Alamo de Parras Company, there developed a slow name change for the mission site. As early as 1807 references were made to the buildings as the Alamo due to the Company's occupation. While both Valero and Alamo were used interchangeably over the next 20 years, the name Alamo eventually predominated. While it is evident that the new name came from the site's long association with the military company from Coahuila, later writers would assert a modern legend: that the Alamo name came from a row of cottonwood trees (Alameda) planted south of the mission.
Revolution and Independence
The 100 soldiers and their families of the Alamo de Parras Company greatly increased the population of San Antonio. As the years passed, soldiers intermarried with local residents, and, in essence, severed their connection with their home in Coahuila. This continued isolation from their former duty stations and the central government of Mexico only served to strain their loyalties especially during the Mexican War for Independence that began in 1810. Soldiers of the company found themselves on opposite sides in the short-lived Casas Revolt of 1811. The opposing junta enlisted officers of the Alamo de Parras Company in their counter revolt and arrested Governor Casas and his advisors. They were recognized for their part in ending the rebellion.
In 1812-1813, a more significant revolt, known as the Guiterrez-Magee Expedition, erupted and briefly established an independent Texas. An army comprised of Mexican rebels and American adventurers marched out of Louisiana and captured Nacogdoches and Goliad. Knowing they faced a superior force and possible imprisonment, the troops from the Alamo and the Béjar Presidio surrendered without resistance as the rebels converged on San Antonio. Many quickly joined the Americans who established an independent government.
Lt. Vicente Tarín, commandant of the Alamo de Parras Company, left his command and became a captain in the insurgent army. Pedro Prado, a private from the company and José Francisco Ruiz ,who was later to command the Alamo de Parras company, were implicated in the assassinations of Governor Salcedo and Lt. Col. Símon Herrera.
In August 1813, General Joaquín de Arredondo entered Texas with his royalist forces on a mission of retribution. Those soldiers who were unresolved renewed their Spanish loyalties. Others, determined to hold their ground, stood to fight. In the bloodiest battle ever-fought on Texas soil, the rebel army was crushed. Those that were captured were executed and the few who managed to escape, fled for the safety of the Neutral Ground and Louisiana to continue their insurgent activities. Because members of the Alamo de Parras Company had served on both sides in this conflict, their numbers were decimated. In the wake of the Spanish victory, the company was temporarily disbanded.
The Alamo Fort was virtually abandoned and the Béjar soldiery dwindled to an ineffective constabulary, thus leaving the city open to Indians and rebels who raided the villa with virtual impunity.
Continuing revolt and a depleted treasury hampered Governor Martínez's efforts to restore order in the province and to reestablish Béjar's military. In the fall of 1817, the order came to fill the ranks of the Alamo de Parras Company. Detached from another province, 75 men from the veteran company of Nuestra Señora del Carmen left for the Alamo Fort and Béjar. Local men filled the remaining vacancies in the company.
After Mexico achieved its independence from Spain in 1821, the Alamo Company, still based at the Alamo, became an integral part of the frontier forces of the new Mexican Republic.
With independence achieved, General Mier y Terán set military garrisons on the frontier to promote Mexican expansion and check illegal immigration and smuggling. In 1830, Lt.Colonel José Francisco Ruiz was ordered to take the company to the Brazos, where he was to establish Fort Tenoxtitlán with a grandiose plan to make it the new capital of Texas. Colonel Ruiz, who was a friend of empresario, Stephen F. Austin, and sympathetic to the growth of Texas and the Anglo colonists, labored to establish the new capital with little money and few provisions.
Civil war, in the Mexican capital, as well as a lack of interest in Terán's colonization plan, hastened the decline of the garrison system. As living conditions at Tenoxtitlán grew worse and desertions became commonplace, support from Mexico was completely withdrawn. Eventually,the troops were recalled to help meet the crisis in the capital and the Alamo de Parras Company abandoned Fort Tenoxtitlán on August 22,1832. While some members of the Company left to joined troops leaving from Nacogdoches on a march to Matamoros, the majority returned to San Antonio arriving with their families in Béjar on September 14th. Due to failing health, Ruiz left his command by the end of that year.
Difficulties between the Texian settlers and the Mexican Government came to a head in the summer of 1835. President Santa Anna's shift to a centralist government caused Mexican Federalists to revolt, most of which were crushed by military force. Mexican forces in the north were concentrated in Texas to suppress any insurrection. A cannon loaned to the settlers at Gonzales caused some concern and in late September 1835, Captain Francisco Casteñeda, commander of the Alamo Company, was dispatched with his men to retrieve it. The resulting incident known as the famous "Come and Take It " skirmish, began the Texas Revolution. The Alamo de Parras Company found itself on the receiving end of the first shot of Texas Independence.
Like the 1813 revolt, soldiers of the Alamo Company now had to choose between supporting the Texas colonist or remaining loyal to Mexico. Casteñeda's attempts to hold the Company together as part of the Mexican garrison of San Antonio were foiled by numerous desertions during the Texian siege and battle of December 1835. Several of his soldiers switched sides to fight with the Texans. Privates Pedro Herrera, Nepomuceno Navarro and Manuel Tarín served in Colonel Juan N. Seguin's company of Tejanos throughout the revolution and fought with him at San Jacinto. Private JoséToribio Losoya, also under Seguin, was among the tejanos killed at the Alamo during its final hour.
When the Mexican Army surrendered, Former Commander José Francisco Ruiz was among those who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence at Washington on the Brazos.
In December of 1835, a remnant of the Alamo de Parras troops occupied the Alamo. They joined with the army regulars of General Martín Perfecto de Cós to defend San Antonio during the Battle of Béjar.With the defeat of his army, Cós surrendered San Antonio and the Alamo on December 11, 1835.
Following the Mexican defeat at San Jacinto, the Mexican Army withdrew from Texas. The last troops remaining in San Antonio were Casteñeda and the Alamo de Parras Company. He formally evacuated the town when Tejano leader Juan Seguin and his company of Tejano volunteers arrived representing the Texas Army.
The Texians granted the Mexican Army permission to return to Monclova, but allowed those members of the Alamo Company with families to remain. Casteñeda withdrew to the Rio Grande with less than ten soldiers and with this withdrawal ended the history of the Compañía Alamo de Parras.
Provided courtesy of Randall Tarin from the files of Alamo de Parras
SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
© 2000, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
Colonial Defense | Coahuila y Tejas--Index