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Come and Take It: The Battle of Gonzales

Updated: Nov 15, 2019

While the Battle of Gonzales may not conjure up images of thousands of men standing toe-toe in a pitched battle, but with the “COME AND TAKE IT” flag, it has gone down in history for its symbolism of defiance and the battle between good and bad. A band of good men stood against a superior armed Mexican force and lived another day declaring about their cannon “COME AND TAKE IT”.

You may well know the battle cry “Remember the Alamo” but do you know the one before it "Come And Take It"? The historic come and take it challenge has been used as far back as the Greeks by King Leonidas against the Persians, or the Americans at Fort Morris against the British in 1778, but the most well know version its use is in 1835 Texas, at the Battle of Gonzales during the Texas Revolution.

The Battle of Gonzales, neigh, let us say, the Skirmish of Gonzales saw a handful of rebellious colonists in South Texas to defy Mexican Ruler Santa Anna with this now famous Texas flag that declared to the Mexicans cavalry to “COME AND TAKE IT” on Oct 2, 1835. A flag symbol that from which Santa Anna would soon learn, that his rule over Texas would end. That is a story for another day.

In sept of 1835 there was political unrest in the small town of Gonzales following a Mexican soldier assaulted a Gonzales resident that led to outrage and public protests. There was a six-pounder cannon that the Mexican government had left citizens to use against the Comanche Indians that would sometimes stage periodic raids of Gonzales. The Mexicans did not want to leave the protesting settlers with a weapon. A handful of Mexican soldiers attempted to relieve the settlers of the cannon and promptly sent packing without the cannon. Many of the settles felt that the Mexicans were coming up with an excuse to attack the town and many decided to defy the Mexicans their cannon, and they did just that. Then on September 27, 1835, a detachment of 100 Mexican Dragoon cavalry departed San Antonio de Béxar, led by Francisco De Castañeda to retake the gun. Although Castañeda had been instructed to avoid using force if possible, it was not meant to be. When the Mexicans arrived close to the Gonzales settlement on September 29 where they found eighteen Texans waiting for them on the other side of the Guadalupe River, stating that they must stay on their side of the river. The Mexicans made camp on nearby high ground some 300 yards away from the river while the Texans buried their cannon, and while others went for more help. Through the course of the day, about 80 men joined them. John Moore was soon elected captain of the small band of Texans. Again, Castañeda wanted the Texans to surrender their cannon, but they kept stalling the Mexicans in hopes of more men joining them by wanting to discuss it with higher Mexican officials. Castañeda thus reported back to his higher command that these Texans were likely delaying in hopes of more men coming to the aide and support.

Following more failed discussions about the gun, the Texans retrieved the cannon from where it lay buried and had it mounted on some cart wheels. As they had no cannonballs to fire, they loaded the cannon with whatever scrap metal they could find. With the blessings of a local minister they formed Texas’s first artillery unit. The Texans plotted an attack on the Mexicans, but a local Indian informed the Mexicans of their plans to attack and that there was about 140 men ready for a fight and maybe more coming. The Mexicans departed that area looking up river for a safer place to ford the Guadalupe and made camp for the night about 7 miles upstream.

That evening the Texans headed out looking for the Mexicans and soon they found them, but the Mexicans became alerted to their presence and began shooting and then it was on. In the heat of it all one Texan was thrown from his panicked horse and suffered a bloody nose. As the Mexicans did not know the size of the attack, they moved their position to higher ground, and the Texans returned to the cover of some trees and fired on a group of about 40 Mexicans making a cavalry charge at them, injuring one of the charging Mexicans. As is was hard for the cavalry to get in amongst the trees at the Texans, the Mexican cavalry soon returned to the high ground with the remaining Mexican force and a stalemate followed. After a meeting was called for between the two leaders, some common political ground was found between them, but they did not solve the issue of the cannon and both leaders soon returned to their positions. Following the meeting, the Texans soon raised a what flag with a cannon on it stating COME AND TAKE IT. The Texans then fired their cannon and quickly the Mexicans determined that they were out gunned, so they rapidly departed the area to return to San Antonio de Béxar. The Mexicans departed the area faster than the Texans could reload their cannon. In his report following the battle, Castañeda wrote "since the orders from your Lordship were for me to withdraw without compromising the honor of Mexican arms, I did so".

In the end, two Mexican soldiers were killed in the attack and one Texan received a bloody nose. Following this battle, the Texans declared victory over the Mexicans, thus setting the stage for more epic battles to come.

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