This Day In History: The First Shots Are Fired In The Texas War of Independence (1835)

On this day in 1835, the first shots of the Texas Revolution or War of Independence were fired.  There had been growing tensions between Texan settlers and the Mexican authorities because of a government order to disarm settlers. Mexican soldiers were sent to disarm white settlers in Gonzales.

Texas had been part of the Spanish Empire in America since the 16th century. However, they did not really colonize the area. After the declaration of Mexican Independence, the new Mexican government claimed the area and administered it. In the 1820s the area was sparsely settled and was very lawless. In order to populate the area, the government in Mexico welcomed white settlers as long as they swore allegiance to the country.  In this way, they hoped to develop the area but also to prevent it from being annexed by the expanding United States. The settlers became Mexican citizens but they remained close to the United States and continued to speak English.

In 1835 a new President in Mexico City, overthrow the constitution and effectively made himself a dictator. He disliked what he saw as the special treatment of the white settlers in Texas and did not trust them. He believes that they were loyal to America and would eventually seek independence from Mexico.  Santa Anna decided to disarm the settlers to ensure that they did not try and seceded from Mexico in the future. This proved very difficult to do as the Texas wanted to keep their guns. They needed guns  to defend themselves against Indian tribes, wild animals and they also believed that it was their inalienable right as a free people to have the right to bear arms.  The white settlers had a militia and they decided to resist Santa Anna’s attempts to disarm them.

Mexican soldiers attempting to take a small cannon from the village of Gonzales encountered  opposition from  the local  militia. The settlers defiantly flew a flag with the picture of the cannon and with the world ‘come and get it’ !

The flag the Texans flew at Gonzales

After a brief fight, the Mexicans soldiers retreated and the Texans kept their cannon. This and later incidents prompted the Mexican dictator Santa Anna to lead an army into Texas to punish the white settlers and to end what he saw as their ‘rebellion’.  This led to the outbreak of war in Texas between his army and the white settlers.

The determined Texans would continue to battle Santa Ana and his army for another year and a half before winning their independence and establishing the Republic of Texas. The Texans were led by Sam Houston. The Texans fought the Mexican army at the Alamo and even though Santa Anna won he suffered heavy casualties. Later the Texans defeated the Mexican army at San Jacinto and captured Santa Anna and they effectively won their independence.

Surrender of Santa Anna