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  • Writer's pictureLee Weaver





Though the Spanish laid claim to the area of what is now Northern Mexico and present-day Texas as early as 1519, they did not attempt colonizing the land until after the French settlement at Fort St. Louis failed in 1689.

Rene’-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle sailed from France with the intent of finding the mouth of the Mississippi River. With inaccurate maps and faulty navigation, he missed the mighty Mississippi by some 400 miles and ended up shipwrecked on the Texas gulf coast in 1685. The 180 survivors built huts largely of poles and thatch along with a ‘headquarters’ house constructed with the timbers of the wrecked ship. The settlement, the first European settlement on the Gulf Coast between Pensacola and Tampico, eventually became called Fort St. Louis but it was no fort at all and was eventually destroyed by Indians.

Upon becoming aware of the French settlement Spain got serious about developing colonies and missions in the area we know as Texas. Spain had built missions in present-day El Paso and San Angelo in 1680. In the Spanish Colonial era they founded San Antonio de Bexar in 1718 along with six Catholic missions along the San Antonio River. Mission San Antonio de Valera came to be known as the Alamo.

Along with colonization, and to maintain Spanish rule, more troops were sent to Texas. San Antonio was the seat of military and governmental authority. (The Spanish Governor’s Palace – the residence and office of the Commandant from 1722 to 1835 – still stands today as the last visible trace of 18th century colonial Presidio San Antonio de Bexar complex.)

When Mexico gained its independence from Spain the area we now call Texas was a part of the Mexican state of Coahuila. As early as 1803 Americans began settling in Mexico; after the Mexican Revolution in 1824, the Mexican government seated in Mexico City D.F. (“District Federale” as in our D. C. “District of Columbia”) sought more settlers and allowed American impresarios (the best known is Stephen F. Austin) to bring settlers to homestead in Texas. The early motive was to buffer against foreign intervention and against the Indians raiding out of what is now south central and southwest U.S. (Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico). Liberal land grants were offered to anyone who would become citizens, accept the Catholic faith and settle there.

As the number of homesteaders quickly increased, rancor between them and the government in faraway Mexico City also increased. The Americanos wanted to live as they had in the US and chafed under the restrictive demands of the Mexican dictator, Santa Anna.

In 1835 Santa Anna ordered his Mexican Army of Operations to march to Texas to reassert control, thus began what became the battle for Texas independence. Texas formally adopted and announced her Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. The battle story opens with the fall of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: While doing some work at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, I became aware of a brass bugle among some artifacts in the archives. The donor stated (without supporting evidence) that the bugle was reputed to have been with the Mexican army at the battle of the Alamo in March 1836. The inscription on the bugle reads (in Spanish) “Equipos Militare Principal” loosely translated “Principal Military Equipment” and includes an address in Mexico City which still exists. An officer in the Mexican Army, Col. Jose’ de la Pena, from his 1836 diary and journal wrote a book, “With Santa Anna in Texas – A Personal Narrative of the Revolution.” In the book, Col. de la Pena affirms that there was a bugle used to signal the start of the assault on the Alamo. Neither the Seminary nor this author contend that the story of the bugle is accurate; we have no provenance but the appearance of the bugle with the inscription fits the narrative.


The bugle speaks: “Loudly – stridently! - I called to my troops and they responded in kind with great fierce shouts and war cries. CHARGE!! I cried, and two thousand troops swarmed around, over and into a mission building with only two hundred defenders – Texians* and Americanos, described as rebels by General Santa Anna.

“Our first wave stumbled; many were victims of ‘friendly fire’ from the closely packed ranks following. With ladders we tried to scale the walls, but many were pushed over by the defenders and fell away. Our first wave being repulsed, I sounded again the rallying cry to charge. Again, we faltered! A third time I gave a mighty call for the last of our reserve forces! At last, our general found a weak spot in the north wall and the final carnage began.

“In that final assault the trooper whose breath gave me power fell under the guns of the Texians. I fell to the ground and was lost under the pounding feet of the troops. In the melee I was overlooked until after the battle. My life was spared when another trooper picked me up in the aftermath and assumed the role of company bugler.”

*” Texians” or “Texicans” were common spellings at that time, of whom we now spell “Texans.”


Lt Colonel Jose Enrique De La Pena was an officer in Santa Anna’s army in that fateful time of the 1830s and kept a diary of the siege and assault of the Alamo. Pena’s diary was translated for the first time in 1975 by Carmen Perry and published in book form (1) by Texas A&M University Press.

In Col. De la Pena’s diary he records: (on the morning of March 6, 1836, as Santa Anna prepared to end the siege with a full assault) . . . “a bugle call to attention was the agreed signal, and we soon heard that terrible bugle call of death, which stirred our hearts, altered our expressions, and aroused us all suddenly from our painful meditations. Worn out by fatigue and lack of sleep, I had just closed my eyes to nap when my ears were pierced by this fatal note. A trumpeter of the sappers (Jose Maria Gonzalez) was the one who inspired us to scorn life and to welcome death.” (1)

Bugles and buglers were an integral part of the Mexican forces. In addition to simply sounding signals the trumpet blasts were intended to stir the fervor of their own troops and attempt to discourage the enemy. Besides the foregoing story of the fall of the Alamo in March 1836, Ehrenberg (2) notes “the bugles pealed in motley confusion” at the Texians’ storming of Bexar (the Mexican name for San Antonio) and the taking of the Alamo in December 1835. Again, Ehrenberg records at the battle at Coleto Creek March 19-20, 1836 “the countless bugles of the Mexicans . . .” and “the scattered bugle calls of the Mexicans, encouraging the men to battle.”

  1. Quoted from de la Pena: “With Santa Anna in Texas – A Personal Narrative of the Revolution,” page 47.

  2. Ornish, Natalie: “Ehrenberg: Goliad Survivor and Old West Explorer.” Book I: “The Amazing Life of Herman Ehrenberg, A Biography.” Book II “The Fight for Freedom (A Translation of Ehrenberg’s Writings.”) © 1993 1997 Natalie Ornish, Texas Heritage Press, Dallas, Texas

The bugle continues to speak: As ‘company bugle’ my first battle was at Gonzales October 2, 1835. With Col. Domingo de Ugartechea a squad was sent to retrieve the cannon which had been loaned to the Texians to defend against Indians. The pesky Texians refused to give it back – they even taunted my troops with a flag showing a disrespectful slogan: “Come and take it.” They won – they kept the cannon.

Then on October 9 the Texians attacked our garrison at Presidio La Bahia at Goliad, forcing the Mexican army to withdraw; this provided the opportunity for the Texians to “fort up” at Goliad.

From October 1835 to April 1836 several skirmishes and battles occurred between Mexican army forces and a somewhat ragtag Texian “army” made up of volunteers including new arrivals from the US: the siege of Bexar; the so-called “grass fight;” the Runaway Scrape; the battle at Agua Dulce; at Refugio; at Coleto Creek; and the siege and fall of the Alamo.

Colonel James Fannin had been ordered by General Sam Houston to evacuate the fort at Goliad as Houston knew that following the defeat at the Alamo Santa Anna would take his Mexican troops to Goliad next, and Fannin’s forces were not sufficient to risk annihilation by another battle like that at the Alamo. Regrettably Fannin delayed the abandonment of Goliad, and he and his Texians were caught in the open and captured by overpowering numbers of the Mexican army; over 400 Texians and Americanos were massacred by order of Santa Anna.

After so proudly having been the clarion call of spectacular battles, unfortunately for me I was there to suffer the shame of the murder of the Texian prisoners.

Our final battle was on the coastal plains at San Jacinto. Lulled into overconfidence by his earlier, easy victories, knowing that the ragtag Texian troops were backed up against the bayou, General Santa Anna went to his tent for a siesta and allowed his troops to rest and grow careless. Alas! No one was on watch, no one alerted my bugler to give me breath and sound an alert!

Santa Anna and the troops awakened to the clamor of desperate shouts: “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” The battle was over in just 18 minutes. Santa Anna was captured, and standing before the victorious Sam Houston, was forced to recognize that Texas had won her independence.


The bugle speaks again: After the battle at San Jacinto our troops, the survivors, straggled back to Mexico. Other than the officers, most were peasants and returned to their villages. Some were kept in the Army and went into barracks, assigned to various stations around the mostly barren countryside. Where there is a dictator there is always the need for “peacekeeping” forces. I was fortunate – my bugler was favored by his commanding officer and was allowed to keep me. We had little responsibility but many days we signaled the troops for assembly or rollcall, to witness the punishment of a miscreant, or other whims of the commandant; or occasionally a call to arms to pursue some bandit gang.

After many lesser battles, I laid in my bugler’s footlocker awaiting our next order to sound the clarion call to attack. For decades, between battles, my bugler’s son, and then his grandson, would slip outdoors with me and play “army.” Eventually, as battle plans changed and wars were fought differently, I was thought to be obsolete and was cast aside to never again lead the charge or march at the head of the parades! I was put aside, then forgotten, until I became a relic, then a souvenir, and ended my army career. The lady who gifted this instrument to the Seminary, a member of a prominent ranching and oil family in Fort Worth acquired me and I ended up here, out of breath but an historic relic!


12/1/1826 – 1/31/1827 The “Fredonian Rebellion” was the first recorded attempt by Anglo settlers in Texas to secede from Mexico. The settlers, led by Empresario Haden Edwards, declared independence from Mexican Texas and created the Republic of Fredonia near Nacogdoches. Though unsuccessful, the event had a profound effect on the future efforts by leading Mexican president Guadalupe Victoria to sharply increase the military presence in the area.

1831 Mexican cannon given to settlers at Goliad for protection against Indian raids.

1835 General Domingo de Ugartechea was named military commandant of Texas and Coahuila, in command of the Mexican forces at San Antonio de Bexar Presidio. This was followed by the arrival of General Martin Perfecto de Cos with reinforcements and orders to take supreme control of Texas. (1)

Oct 2, 1835 The revolution begins with the battle of Gonzales.

The Mexican Army, fearing the growing restiveness of the Texans and American settlers, had orders to retrieve the cannon at Gonzalez. The settlers resisted, and this gave birth to the widely quoted motto on the settlers’ flag “Come and Take It.”

10/9/35 Battle of Presidio La Bahia, Goliad – Texians wrest control of the fort from Mexican troops

10/12/35 – Dec Siege of Bexar (San Antonio); Gen. Cos’s occupying forces defeated.

11/7/35 Petition for Texas statehood apart from Coahuila

11/26/35 ‘Grass fight;’ a Mexican mule train en route to San Antonio was intercepted by Texians thinking the load was perhaps pay for the Mexican troops, or otherwise valuable. The mules were transporting hay for the animals at San Antonio.

2/23 – 3/6/36 Siege of the Alamo, likely the most widely-known battle in the history of Texas independence.

3/2/36 Battle of Agua Dulce. Dr. James Grant and his party of 23 Americans and three Mexicans, returning from Matamoros, were surprised and defeated by troops under General Jose’ de Urrea. Six of the volunteers escaped, six were captured, the remaining men were killed in the battle.

3/6/36 Fall of the Alamo. Of the less than 200 men defending the Alamo, along with a small number of wives, children and slaves, fourteen are known to have survived; perhaps the most-well-known are Susanna Dickinson and her infant daughter Angelina. (2)

3/11 – 4/21/36 The ‘Runaway Scrape’ This term describes the settlers in central and south-central Texas (which was still a part of the Mexican state of Coahuila) fleeing in panic beginning in January 1836 as the Mexican army was reported gathering at the Rio Grande. Some of the first communities affected were San Patricio and Refugio. After the fall of the Alamo, Washington-on-the-Brazos was deserted by March 17, and Richmond and other settlements along the Brazos River were evacuated by April 1. Most of the settlers fled toward the Sabine River seeking safety in Louisiana in the US.

3/14-15/36 Battle of Refugio Texian and volunteer forces defeated by Mexican infantry and cavalry; those who were captured or who surrendered were murdered by the Mexicans.

3/19-20/36 Battle at Coleto Creek:

Col. James W. Fannin had resisted General Sam Houston’s orders abandon the fort called Goliad, merge his forces with Houston’s militia at the Guadalupe River, and assist in the defense of the Alamo three weeks earlier, and instead held his troops at Goliad near the town of La Bahia. Hearing reports of additional Mexican troop arrivals in Texas Fannin belatedly decided to leave Goliad. The retreat from Goliad commenced on April 18, 1836 and proceeded only eight miles before the Mexican army caught up to them on the open plain. Surrounded by Mexican infantry, cavalry and artillery, Fannin prevailed over his other officers and volunteers, and surrendered to the Mexican General Urrea. The captives were marched back to Goliad and jailed in the church, held with only minimal water and food as other captives were also brought in.

The presence of bugles and buglers with the Mexican armies is attested by Herman Ehrenberg in his report of the Battle at Coleto Creek. He relates:

“ . . before the captains, who had assembled for consultation, could reach a definite conclusion, the countless bugles of the Mexicans from all directions sounded for the attack.” (2 – page 222ff) (emphasis added)

3/27/36 Massacre at Goliad:

On the eighth day of confinement at Goliad, hoping without hope that an order from Santa Anna would free them as prisoners of war to be returned to the United States; instead they were marched out in three groups and mercilessly shot down by the Mexican soldiers. Three hundred forty-two were murdered, twenty-eight escaped, twenty were spared (doctors, orderlies, interpreters or mechanics “largely because of the entreaties of a ‘high bred beauty’ whom the Texans called the ‘Angel of Goliad’ (Senora Francita Alavez) (2 – page 20).

4/21/36 Battle of San Jacinto

Having murdered the captives at the Alamo as well as Fannin at Goliad; Captain King and his men; Grant’s and Johnson’s detachments; and whetted his intent to totally wipe out the rebels Santa Anna was then pursuing Houston (General Sam Houston) and the remainder of the ‘ragtag’ Texas army.

Houston, knowing that his much-smaller force could never survive being surrounded on the plains at Gonzales, on March 25 (1836) moved his men across the Colorado River, forded the Brazos River above the town of San Felipe, and moved through Harrisburg to Buffalo Bayou. Santa Anna’s army in pursuit arrived at San Felipe on March 30, crossed the Brazos River below the town, proceeded to Harrisburg and pursued Houston toward Buffalo Bayou.

Lulled into careless overconfidence by his earlier victories, and knowing he had Houston backed up to the Bayou, Santa Anna decided his first priority was siesta! With his troops resting, and having failed to post guards or lookouts, the Mexican army was suddenly awakened by the fierce shouts and battle cries of the Texans charging into their camp – Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad! The Mexicans panicked – many who tried to escape the Texans drowned in the bayou or in the river. (A small squad of Texans had destroyed the bridge by which the Mexicans could have provided an escape route.) The battle was over in just 18 minutes.

Ehrenberg (2) reports the loss of the enemy (page 328): 630 dead including one general, four colonels, two majors, seven captains and twelve lieutenants; 280 wounded, among them eight high officers; 730 men captured including General Santa Anna, General Cos, four colonels, six majors, and Santa Anna’s private secretary. Also, 1,600 muskets, 300 sabers, 200 pistols, several hundred horses and mules and 1,200 piasters (Spanish coins).

© George Lee Weaver November 2022


  1. de la Pena, Jose’ Enrique: With Santa Anna in Texas; A Personal Narrative of the Revolution. Translated by Carmen Perry 1975, TAMU Press.

  2. Ornish, Natalie: Ehrenberg; Goliad Survivor – Old West Explorer. Book I: The Amazing Life of Herman Ehrenberg, A Biography. Book II The Fight for Freedom (A translation of Ehrenberg’s writings). © 1993 1997 Natalie Ornish. Texas Heritage Press, Dallas, TX

  3. Bradle, William R.: GOLIAD – The Other Alamo. © 2007 William R. Bradle; Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, LA

  4. American Heritage:

February 1961 Vol 12, Issue 2 “The Storming of the Alamo” Charles Ramsdell Jr.

October 1975 Vol 26 Issue 6 “Recuerda El Alamo” (Remember the Alamo) Jose’ de la Pena

Oct/Nov 1979 Vol 30 Issue 6 “Rendering the Alamo”

Jun/Jul 1986 Vol 37 Issue 4 “Remembering the Alamo” William E. Green

Winter 2020 Vol 64 Issue 1 “Struggle for the Alamo” Jim Donavan

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