The Texas Revolution


Texas Revolution, a rebellion in late 1835 and early 1836 by residents of Texas, then a part of northern Mexico, against the Mexican government and military. The rebellion led to the establishment of the independent Republic of Texas. The short-lived republic was annexed by the United States as a state in 1845. These events were among the causes of the Mexican War between the United States and Mexico, after which Mexico relinquished all claims to Texas and much of the present-day southwestern United States.


In 1835 Texas was part of the Mexican state of Coahuila. Texas and its residents were governed as citizens of Mexico. For many years Mexican policies had rarely caused concern in Texas, although a large part of the population were Anglo-American immigrants who were attracted by the generous land policies.


Rebellion stirred when Mexican authorities began to regulate Texan activities more closely. A brief revolt in 1826 known as the Fredonian Rebellion was an attempt by two Anglo-American brothers to establish an independent republic. The revolt, which was not supported by most Anglo-Americans, was unsuccessful, but was one factor that led Mexico to prohibit the immigration of Anglo-Americans in the Decree of April 6, 1830. The decree also banned the importation of slaves into Texas; slavery was already prohibited in other parts of Mexico. Immigration from the United States halted for almost four years. Mexico also imposed new taxes on commerce in Texas and threatened to abolish slavery outright. Unrest intensified when Stephen Austin, the most prominent Anglo-American leader in Texas, was imprisoned, because of suspicion that he had encouraged insurrection. Mexican authorities had intercepted a letter he had written advising Texans to organize a separate state. When Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna set aside the nation’s democratic 1824 constitution and assumed dictatorial powers in 1834, Texans resisted his authority. A battle resulted in which the Texans defeated Mexican soldiers near Gonzales, Texas, on October 2, 1835.


Texans won all the major battles in the fall of 1835, at Gonzales, Goliad, and San Antonio, and declared they were fighting to restore democratic government in Mexico. Soon after these initial battles, a convention of Anglo-American settlers set up a provisional state government, elected a governor and a council, and declared that Texans were fighting for the rights due them under the Mexican Constitution of 1824. Stephen Austin and two others were sent to the United States to secure loans. The Texans quickly gathered an army and marched to attack the Mexican garrison at San Antonio. In December a volunteer force led by Ben Milam defeated the Mexicans and forced them to surrender and later to retreat to the south, across the Río Grande.


After taking San Antonio, many Anglo-Americans returned to their homes, leaving about 150 men in the town, many of whom were volunteers from the United States. Despite rumors that Santa Anna had amassed troops at the Río Grande, most Texans believed that he would wait until late spring before invading Texas. On February 23, 1836, however, Santa Anna’s forces entered San Antonio and the Anglo-Americans withdrew to The Alamo, a former mission in San Antonio. William B. Travis, the commander of Texan forces at San Antonio, sent pleas for reinforcements, but only 32 men from Gonzales answered the call. For 13 days the small force of about 100 defended The Alamo against more than 2000 Mexican troops. On March 6, The Alamo fell and its defenders were killed, including Tennessee-born frontier hero, pioneer, and politician, Davy Crockett, and the tough Georgia-born pioneer, James Bowie.


Small groups of Texans were overwhelmed by Mexican forces in other battles at San Patricio, Agua Dulce, and Refugio. In a retreat from Goliad, Colonel James W. Fannin and approximately 280 men surrendered at nearby Coleto Creek on March 20, 1836, and were marched back to Goliad. A week later, as an example to Anglo Texans, most of the prisoners were executed by order of Santa Anna in what came to be known as the Goliad Massacre.


On March 2, 1836, during the siege of The Alamo, a convention of Anglo-American Texans had met at Washington-on-the-Brazos and declared independence from Mexico. The delegates chose David G. Burnet as provisional president, named Sam Houston commander-in-chief of all Texan forces, and adopted a constitution that protected the institution