This Day In History: The Texan Army Capture San Antonio (1835)

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On this day in 1835 the Texan army under the leadership of Benjamin Milam, seizes the city of San Antonio. It was perhaps the first significant victory in the Texans War of Independence.

The leader of the assault Milam was born in Kentucky in 1788 when the area was still frontier territory. In 1824 he moved to Mexico and he became a citizen of Mexico. At this time the Mexican government welcomed American immigrants, especially to Texas. However, over a period of a few years, the attitude of the Mexican government changed and they began to fear the Americans. The Mexican government made more and more demands of the American settlers. They were ordered for example to hand over their guns at one stage. In the lawless conditions of the time, that would have left the settlers defenseless. Milam was outraged and he began to organize settlers. In 1835 Santa Ana had overthrown the Mexican government and he made himself President. Santa Ana was a dictator and he distrusted the Americans in Texas. Milam immediately began to organize settlers into an armed force.

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Stamp celebrating 100 years of Texan statehood

Milam first action in the war was the capture of the city of Golidad. He then advanced into the southwest but returned to join the army of Texas. He was outraged when he heard that the generals had postponed an attack on San Antonio. Milam believed that time was of the essence and that Santa Ana would arrive in Texas in the Spring with a large army of professional soldiers. Milam believed that the Texas Revolution was in real danger. He called on the local settlers to form an army and march on San Antonio.  He was a charismatic figure and he referred to himself as ‘Old Bill’ and he charmed and cajoled men into joining his ragtag army. In total, he gathered some 300 men and they advanced on San Antonio. They attacked the city on the 5th of December and they launched repeated attacks on the Mexican defenders. The Americans were inflicting heavy casualties on the Mexican army. They also appear to have been running low on ammunition and gun powder. The Mexican commander surrendered under terms. He and his soldiers were allowed to leave and the Americans promised to respect the safety and the property of the Mexican population. Milam who more than anyone else inspired the victory did not live to see the capture of San Antonio. He was shot dead by a sniper, the day before the Mexicans surrendered. If he had not been killed at San Antonio he would have met his end at the Alamo.

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