History of the 1835 Come And Take It Flag
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.