Iconic Phrases and the Texas Revolution

Today’s post was written by our volunteer Pat Hazlett

“Come and Take It!” “Remember the Alamo!” “Remember Goliad!” What Texan is not familiar with these phrases?  Phrases to stir the soul, inspire courage, and incite rebellion. Each phrase is associated with a pivotal point on Texas’ road from revolution to independence.

 “Come and Take it Cannon”
On display in Texas!

On October 2, 1835 the Mexican commander at San Antonio ordered the people of Gonzales to surrender their small brass cannon. Local officials refused and sent runners into the surrounding areas to gather armed men. The Mexican colonel ordered about 100 soldiers to take the cannon by force.  Buried until reinforcements arrived, the cannon was then mounted on a wagon and decorated with a white flag proclaiming, “Come and Take It.” The Mexican soldiers arrived to confront 160 armed Texans and a brief battle ensued. One Mexican soldier was killed, but no Texans. The Mexicans withdrew to San Antonio.  News of the “battle” spread and ignited fervor among Texans.

By early 1836 the Texans in San Antonio occupied the abandoned mission, San Antonio de Valero. The old mission had once housed a Spanish company from Alamo de Parras in Mexico. So, most people referred to it as the Alamo. Colonel James Bowie and his men joined Colonel James C. Neill, commander, in January 1836. In February, William B. Travis and his men joined them. Bowie was chosen commander of the volunteers, Travis of the regular army.  However, Bowie became ill and passed the entire command to Travis. Although the Alamo was a fairly good defensive position, Travis knew they had too few men (less than 200). There were also gaps in the Alamo walls, closed only with sticks and dirt. Regardless, Travis was determined to hold the Alamo, which had come to symbolize much for its defenders. This would also tie up Santa Anna’s army and give Sam Houston more time to raise a Texas army. Despite written appeals for help, help did not arrive in time. As Mexican troops encircled the Alamo, Travis explained that remaining would mean certain death. According to legend, he drew a line in the sand with his saber, asking those who wished to stay to cross over the line.  All but one stepped across.  At about 5:00 a.m. on March 6, 1836, the battle began. Mexican buglers played the notes of “El Deguello,” an ancient chant indicating that no mercy would be shown. The Texans put up a stubborn fight, but the third assault by the Mexican troops successfully breached the walls. By 8:00 a.m. the battle for the Alamo was over. Bowie, Travis, and volunteer Davy Crockett were all killed. “Remember the Alamo!” became a battle cry for Sam Houston’s army.

May24#63
Creative Commons License photo credit: travelswiss

Also by 1836, the Spanish presidio, La Bahia, near the town of Goliad was under Texas control, commanded by Colonel James W. Fannin. General Sam Houston had ordered Fannin to retreat to Victoria, but Fannin delayed and found himself surrounded by Mexican forces at the Battle of Coleto. He and his men surrendered and were imprisoned inside the presidio at Goliad. Many Texans believed they were prisoners of war and would be treated fairly by their Mexican captors. Though the surrender document, in Mexican archives, shows no such promise, eyewitnesses testified that Mexican general Urrea assured Fannin that he and his men would be treated fairly. General Urrea even wrote to Santa Anna, requesting that the lives of the prisoners be spared. Santa Anna replied with immediate execution orders. On March 27, 1836, Palm Sunday, Fannin, his men and other Texan captives were divided into columns and marched out onto the prairie. They believed they were going on work detail; some even assumed they were going home. Upon a signal, Mexican soldiers opened fire on them, killing them all. Colonel Fannin was the last to be shot, forced to watch the execution of his own men. “Remember Goliad” joined “Remember the Alamo” as the battle cry of Sam Houston’s army, soon to be victorious at San Jacinto. 

Don’t miss your chance to see Texas! The Exhibition, on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science through September 7.

Bibliography:      

Anderson, Adrian N., et al. Texas and Texans. Columbus, Ohio: Glencoe/McGraw Hill. 2003.

Barkley, Roy R. and Mark F. Odintz. The Portable Handbook of Texas.  Austin: Texas State Historical Association. 2000.

“Come and Take It!” [Texas Exhibit]

If you are planning to see Texas! The Exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science you are in for a real treat. One of my favorite pieces of Texas memorabilia is stationed right in the middle of this all inclusive Texas! exhibit.

Come And Take It Cannon
The Come And Take It Cannon,
on display in Texas! The Exhibition.
See a full set of images from the exhibit on Flickr.

It’s the “Come and Take It!” cannon from the Battle of Gonzales.

The Battle of Gonzales has been called the “Lexington” of the Texas Revolution. The battle took place on October 2, 1835. Tension had been high between the Mexican government under the leadership of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and the U.S. citizens living in Mexican Texas. It was because of this tension that the Mexican forces showed up near Gonzales with a request.

You see, the Mexican government had loaned a small cannon to the people of Gonzales to help ward off Indian attacks in 1831. Now that relations with the Texian colonists and the Mexican government were souring quickly, Mexico felt they should retrieve all of their “loaned” artillery. This task fell into the hands of Col. Domingo de Ugartechea.

Ugartechea dispatched Francisco de Castañeda to Gonzales to retrieve the cannon. According to The Handbook of Texas Online, when Castañeda and his troops arrived they asked the colonists to return the cannon. The colonists pointed the cannon towards the Mexican forces and said “there it is – come and take it.” The ladies of the settlement quickly made a flag to hoist over the cannon simply saying “Come and Take It!”

The cannon was not taken that day by the Mexican forces, and its place in history was now cemented forever. The cannon has been thought of as a symbol of Texas Freedom.

The slogan has proved that you don’t mess with Texas!

When you view this small cannon, you can’t help but think that this little guy made a large impact in the history of Texas and its people.

One feels a sense of pride, not necessarily for the cannon sitting on display but for the actions of those who dared rebel against the Santa Anna government which was restricting their rights as colonists.

Come And Take It
The Come And Take It Cannon,
on display in Texas! The Exhibition.
See a full set of images from the exhibit on Flickr.

The Gonzales Memorial Museum located on 414 Smith Street in the city of Gonzales has been home to this remarkable object since the Museum was built (1936 – 1937). When the Houston Museum of Natural Science decided to put this exhibit together the “Come and Take It!” cannon was a natural fit. The city of Gonzales said, “come and take it,” so we went and took it. Now everyone should come and see it!