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History of the 1835 Come And Take It Flag

October 2, 1835 Come And Take It Flag

compiled by
David C. Treibs
ComeAndTakeIt.com

Come And Take It Flag With Assault Rifle(c) 1994 DCT

October 2, 1835

1990's

.50 Caliber "Come And Take It" Flag

In the not too distant future, you may be required to surrender some or all of your guns to the police or military. How will you respond? About 165 years ago, early Texans faced the same dilemma.
Following is their response.

The following is compiled from history books listed at the end of this pamphlet If you research the matter yourself, keep in mind that various sources conflict in several details. In this compilation, I try to include information from each source to form an account that is both detailed and interesting.

THE GROWING TYRANNY

Under the leadership of General Santa Anna, the government of Mexico was transformed into a military dictatorship (see the letter by S.F. Austin, p. 85, Texas and the Texans), ignoring the Constitution of 1824, which had cost many lives and had secured liberties not previously enjoyed by the people. The state of Coahuila did not cooperate with Santa Anna's plans, and the state of Zacatecas rebelled, but was brutally crushed by the military. One of Santa Anna's "reforms" was to reduce the number of the militia to one soldier for every five-hundred inhabitants, and to disarm the remainder. This arbitrary decree was a sufficient justification of Texas for her subsequent acts. Every one who knows the Texans, or who has heard of them, would naturally conclude that they never would submit to be disarmed. Any government that would attempt to disarm its people is despotic; and any people that would submit to it deserves to be slaves!

Stephen F. Austin was jailed in Mexico City, accused of fomenting revolution. In early 1835 Santa Anna reopened the Customs House at Anahuac. He again slapped duties on the colonists. He sent a new man, Captain Antonio Tenorio, to Anahuac to see that the Texans paid up.

The local legislature at Monclova was gone--closed down by Santa Anna after it tried to raise money by selling four hundred leagues of Texas land to hungry U.S. speculators. Most Texans were opposed to this step too--and no one liked being governed from Monclova--but Santa Anna's solution left them even worse off. They now had no government at all, and their representatives were under arrest.

Along the coast Mexican garrisons stepped up their campaign to stop smuggling and collect customs duties. At Galveston they seized the Texas schooner Martha, loaded with supplies for the colonists. A message taken from a careless Mexican courier hinted that even more troops were on the way. Angrily the settlers burned some lumber ordered by Captain Tenorio at Anahuac.

SOME TAKE ACTION, BUT THE PEOPLE AREN'T READY AND REMAIN CONCILIATORY

William B. Travis had a better idea. Late in June he raised a company of twenty-five men and marched on Tenorio's headquarters. He dramatically gave the Mexicans fifteen minutes to surrender or be 'put to the sword.' Tenorio quickly capitulated.

The colonists couldn't adjust that easily. They were shocked at Travis' audacity. This wasn't merely a case of smuggling, dodging customs collectors, or playing a practical joke on Colonel Bradburn. This was throwing out the garrison commander. Practically open rebellion. Few were ready to go that far.

Apologies...regrets...stern words for Travis. Repudiated, he lapsed into one of his moody spells. He published a note in the Texas Republican asking people to 'reserve judgment.' He morosely wrote a friend that he felt ashamed.

SANTA ANNA MOVES TO DESTROY THOSE WHO TOOK ACTION

At this point, Santa Anna overplayed his hand. Deeming Travis' setback a sign of weakness, he decided that this was the time to finish off his enemies. During August he poured more troops into Texas and told his brother-in-law, General Martin Perfecto de Cos, to take personal command. Cos ordered the arrest of Travis and several other Texas troublemakers.

TEXANS RALLY ON THE SIDE OF THEIR BRETHREN, NO LONGER CONCILIATORY

The Mexican leaders completely misinterpreted the situation. The Texans' real goal was to build a secure future without outside interference. They rebuked Travis because he seemed to be inviting a fight. Now they saw an infinitely greater threat--martial law, military occupation, the arrest of good friends. Almost overnight the pendulum swung the other way, and the people of Texas turned violently against Santa Anna.

Committees of Safety sprang up in every town. The highly influential Telegraph and Texas Register hammered away for liberty and freedom. Travis discarded his moody gloom; his letters now sang of 'the hour that will try men's souls.' Then on September 1 came an electrifying development--Stephen F. Austin suddenly reappeared from Mexico.

Next week a thousand people jammed the banquet given in his honor in Brazoria. The Room fell silent as the trusted leader rose to speak. He had always preached moderation; after a year in Mexican jails, how did he feel?

He left little doubt. Santa Anna was destroying the people's rights.... And on the question of Mexican troops in Texas, Austin was even more specific. The people had a strong moral sense that 'would not unite with any armed force sent against this country; on the contrary, it would resist and repel it, and ought to do so....'

SANTA ANNA TRIES TO DISARM THE RESISTANCE

A week later General Cos landed at Copano with 400 men. 'WAR is our only recourse,' thundered a broadside from Austin. Unfazed, Cos headed for San Antonio. Here the garrison commander Colonel Ugartechea had his hands full, confiscating weapons...searching houses...disbanding suspicious groups that re-formed as fast as he broke them up. Mexican policy was to seize arms and military stores in Texan hands before real trouble started.

THE MILITARY MOVES IN TO CONFISCATE HEAVY WEAPONS, HELD OFF BY A FEW BRAVE MEN WHO STAND IN THE GAP

Word had just come of a serious problem at Gonzales. The colonists there were shining up a small cannon given them years ago to ward off Indians. Ugartechea, acting under the decree disarming citizens, sent a file of cavalrymen riding to Gonzales with an order for the surrender of the gun. Andrew Ponton, the Gonzales alcalde, received the order and stalled for time. He sent a message stating he was absent. He demanded an order from the political chief of the Department of the Brazos before releasing it. The noncommissioned officer in charge of the Mexican cavalry left his men camped at Gonzales and rode back to San Antonio de Bexar for further instructions from Colonel Ugartechea. Meanwhile, Ponton buried the cannon in a peach orchard and sent runners to the surrounding area for armed assistance.

Not long after, the Texans shed all pretense of ever surrendering the cannon. Joseph D. Clements delivered the message to the Mexican army: "I cannot, nor do I desire to deliver up the cannon...and only through force will we yield."

Meanwhile, word was spreading that the Texans at Gonzales needed help. Following is a letter written by Stephen F. Austin when he heard of the impending conflict:

The Committee of the Jurisdiction of Austin has received the communication directed to the Committee of Safety of Mina by you, in the name of the people of Gonzales, under the date of the 25th inst., stating that Colonel Ugartachea had made a demand for the piece of cannon at that place, and that the people, in a general meeting, had refused to give it up. You state that, "from every circumstance, and from information, the people are justified in believing that this demand is only made to get a pretext to make a sudden inroad and attack upon that colony for marauding and other purposes;" in consequence of which those people request assistance to aid in repelling an attack, should one be made.

The present movements of the people of Texas are of a popular and voluntary character, in defense of their constitutional rights, which are threatened by military invasion of an unconstitutional character. The people are acting on the defensive; and, therefore, there cannot be a doubt that it was correct in the people of Gonzales, under this principle, to detain the piece of cannon which was given to them by the authorities of a constitutional government, to defend themselves and the constitution, if necessary.

On this principle, the people of this, and of every other section of the country, so far as this Committee is informed, are ready to fly at a moment's warning to the defense of those people, should they be attacked. Companies of volunteers have already marched, and more are in readiness, should they be needed, to repel an attack.

This Committee beg leave to suggest that inasmuch as the position taken by the country up to the present time, is purely defensive, it is very important to keep this principle constantly view, and to avoid making attacks unless they should be necessary as a measure of defence.

Yours, respectfully, S. F. Austin, Chairman of Committee. G.W. Davis, Secretary of the Committee of Gonzales.

The eighteen men in Gonzales, willing and able to conduct an organized fight, removed all boats from the Guadalupe River, and hid the ferry in a bayou north of town. Next they captured the handful of Mexican soldiers waiting near town--but one man escaped, and rode hallooing back to Bexar.

Meanwhile, volunteers responding to the call to arms rushed to the scene, and the little Texan force of 18 mushroomed to 150 on September 30...167 on October 1.

Also at this time, Sara Seely DeWitt and her daughter Evaline made the flag, back then referred to as the Old Cannon Flag, now called the Come and Take It flag. Depicted on a white cloth was a cannon with a lone star above it, and the words "come and take it" beneath the cannon. It was Texas' first battle flag, and first lone star flag. [To my knowledge, it is also the only flag that indirectly equates arms to liberty, and that openly defies a tyrant's attempts at gun control. Ed.]

On October 1, 1835, Captain Francisco Castaneda arrived from San Antonio with something less than two hundred men. Ugartechea intended a show of force. Castaneda, blocked by the Guadalupe, demanded the ferry be restored, and the cannon handed over. There was some parleying, a demonstration by the Mexican cavalry near the town, and considerable yelling and taunting by the Texans, who dared the Mexicans to "come and take it!" echoing the words emblazoned on their newly created flag flying in the breeze.

WITH THE PEOPLE OF TEXAS BEHIND THEM, THE MILITIA MOVES AGAINST THE ENEMY

That night the Texans silently slipped across the Guadalupe and formed a defensive square. Rev. William P. Smith rode into the square and addressed the Texans:

FELLOW-SOLDIERS: To cap the climax of a long catalogue on injuries and grievances attempted to be heaped upon us, the government of Mexico, in the person of Santa Anna, has sent an army to commence the disarming system. Give up the cannon, and we may surrender our small arms also, and at once to be the vassals of the most imbecile and unstable government on earth. But will Texas give up the cannon? Will she surrender her small-arms? Every response is NO, NEVER! Never will she submit to a degradation of that character! Fellow-soldiers, the cause for which we are contending is just, honorable and glorious--our liberty! The same blood that animated the hearts of our ancestors of '76 still flows warm in our veins. Having waited several days for the Mexican army to make an attack upon us, we have now determined to attack them on tomorrow morning at the dawn of day. Some of us may fall, but if we do, let us be sure to fall with our face toward the enemy. ...

Fellow-soldiers, let us march silently, obey the commands of our superior officers, and united as one man, present a bold front to the enemy. VICTORY WILL BE OURS! We have passed the Rubicon, and we have born the insults and indignities of Mexico until forbearance has ceased to be a virtue. A resort to army is our only alternative; WE MUST FIGHT AND WE WILL FIGHT. In numerical strength, the nation against whom we contend is our superior; but so just and so noble is the cause for which we contend that the strong arm of Jehovah will lead us on to victory, to glory and to empire. With us, everything is at stake-our firesides, our wives, our children, our country, our all! Great will be the influence over the colonies resulting from the effort we are about to make. We MUST SUSTAIN OURSELVES IN THE CONTEST. This will inspire confidence in the minds of our countrymen.

Fellow-soldiers, march with bold hearts and steady steps to meet the enemy, and let every arm be nerved, while our minds are exercised with the happy reflection that the guarding angels are directing our course. Let us go into battle with the words of the immortal Patrick Henry, before the Virginia house of Burgesses, deeply impressed upon our hearts, when, with army extended towards heaven, and with a voice of thunder, he exclaimed in the most patriotic manner, GIVE ME LIBERTY, OR GIVE ME DEATH!

After Smith's address, the Texans resumed their advance toward the Mexican camp in the fog shrouded dawn of October 2. They were sure Castaneda planned to attack this day; they might as well hit him first. Quietly, very quietly, they edged through the fog. With them was the cannon, dug up from the peach orchard where Albert Martin had buried it. It was loaded with chains and scraps of iron.

The Texan militia blundered into the Mexican pickets, but in the dark and fog there could be no war. Everyone drew back and waited until daybreak.

The fog lifted suddenly as a curtain, showing both forces drawn up on an open prairie. With the Come and Take It flag flying, the Gonzales cannon fired, and Captain Castaneda immediately requested a parley, asking why he was being attacked.

Colonel Moore, commander of the Texans, explained that the Captain had demanded a cannon given to the Texans for 'the defense of themselves and the constitution and the laws of the country,' while he, Castaneda, 'was acting under orders of the tyrant Santa Anna, who had broken and trampled underfoot all the state and federal constitutions of Mexico, except that of Texas,' which last the Texans were prepared to defend.

Castaneda answered that 'he was himself a republican, as were two-thirds of the Mexican nation, but he was a professional officer of the government,' and while that government had indeed undergone certain surprising changes, it was the government, and the people of Texas were bound to submit to it.

Moore then suggested to the Captain, if he were a republican, he should join the revolution against tyranny by surrendering his command, and join them in the fight. Captain Castaneda replied stiffly that he would obey his orders. At this, Moore returned to his own lines and ordered the Texans to open fire. There was a brief skirmish, and the Mexican force immediately abandoned the field and rode back toward San Antonio.

NO LONGER WILL TEXANS OR OTHER AMERICANS BE DISARMED BY TYRANTS!

Historian H. Yoakum's words in 1855 bear repeating: "Every one who knows the Texans, or who has heard of them, would naturally conclude that they never would submit to be disarmed. Any government that would attempt to disarm its people is despotic; and any people that would submit to it deserves to be slaves!"

SOME FINAL COMMENTS (NOT FROM THE HISTORY BOOKS)

We have had enough of tyrants seeking to disarm us so they can subjugate us to their evil schemes. History has shown us that those seeking to disarm us are indeed tyrants, and the enemies of liberty. History has given us the flag that represents our refusal to be disarmed, and it has given us examples of men and women who fought and died for liberty. All that is left for us in the present is to muster the courage, intelligence, craftiness, endurance, commitment, and knowledge of history to carry the fight through to the finish.

SOURCES for "History of the 1835 Come And Take It Flag."

A Concise History of Texas, Mike Kingston, Gulf Publishing Co, Houston, Texas.

A Time to Stand, Walter Lord. Harper & Row, 1961.

Dr. William P. Smith 1795-1870: First Surgeon General & Chaplain, Texian Army; President First Texian Army Medical Board. Wallace L. McKeehan; Sons of DeWitt Colony, Texas. www-ibt.tamu.edu/ibt/ccbn/mckeehan/dewitt/drsmith.htm

Flags of Texas, Charles E. Gilbert, Jr. Illustrated by James Rice. Pelican Publishing Co, Gretna, 1989. (c) 1964 Charles W. Parsons.

"Gonzales Before and After the ALAMO," pamphlet from the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.

History of Texas From Its First Settlement in 1685 to Its Annexation to the United States in 1846. H. Yoakum, Esq. Vol. 1 of 2. Redfield 34 Beekman St., NY 1855. Facsimile by The Steck Company of Austin, Texas.

History of the Revolution in Texas, Particularly of the War of 1835 & 36, C. Hester Newell. Arno Press, 1973.

Lone Star, A History of Texas and the Texans, T.R. Fehrenbach

Monuments Erected by the State of Texas to Commemorate the Centenary of Texas Independence. The Report of the Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations, compiled by Harold Schoen, Austin, 1938.

The Papers of the Texas Revolution 1835-1836, John H. Jenkins, general editor, Vol. 1. Presidential Press, 1973.

The Romantic Flags of Texas, Mamie Wynne Cox. Dallas...1936. p. 156-157.

Texas History Carved in Stone, compiled by William Moses Jones. Monument Publishing Co, 1958.

Texas and the Texans; or, Advance of the Anglo-Americans to the South-West, Henry Stuart Foote, Vol. 2 of 2. Philadelphia; Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co, 1841.

Under Six Flags: The Story of Texas, M.E.M. Davis. Ginn and Company, 1897. p. 62.

 

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