The following is compiled from history books listed at the end of this article. 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 had 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 cannon--an old brass 6-pounder 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 MINUTEMEN MOVE AGAINST THE ENEMY
That night the Texans silently slipped across the Guadalupe; and in the fog-shrouded dawn of October 2, they groped toward the Mexican camp. 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 BE DISARMED BY TYRANTS!
Historian H. Yoakum's words in 1855 bear repeating: "Every one who knows the Texans, or who had 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.
A Concise History of Texas, Mike Kingston, Gulf Publishing Co, Houston, Texas.
A Time to Stand, Walter Lord. Harper & Row, 1961.
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, T.R. Fereinbach (sp?)
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
At every turn, someone is trying to disarm us. It has been in this increasingly hostile environment to our freedom that I began remembering our forefathers and the efforts of various tyrants to disarm them. You know that the battles at Lexington and Concord, the start of the American Revolution, erupted because British troops were marching to seize the colonists' weapons at these two locations.
You may not be aware that the Texas revolution started in a similar way: Mexican troops, General Santa Anna's thugs, were marching on the town of Gonzales to seize their cannon, but the people refused to surrender their arms, and fought off the Mexicans. (Go to the top of this page to read the account in detail.) At this first skirmish the Texans flew one of Texas' most famous flags: ole' "Come And Take It."
The Come And Take It flag and its history have always fascinated me, because it is still relevant today--tyrants are still trying to take our guns, and, like our forefathers, we will surrender neither our guns nor our right to own them.
While pondering the struggles our forefathers faced, and while admiring the Come And Take It flag, I couldn't help but wish that we in the 1990s had a symbol as powerful and inspiring as the Come And Take It flag was in 1835. Sure, the flag is relevant in that tyrants are still trying to take our guns, but no one is coming to take our breechloading, black powder, smoothbore fieldpiece. The cannon on the flag is largely symbolic of our struggle to retain our modern firearms. I thought to myself, why not update the flag so it represents our current struggle, while harkening back to history--reminding everyone that the struggle to retain our rights is as old as Texas and the USA? With a historical flag representing our cause, it will be apparent that we who fight those who would disarm us are not extreme or radical, we are merely walking in the footsteps and in the well-beaten paths first trod by our forefathers. Our historic flag would declare our historic cause.
To re-design the Come And Take It flag for today wasn't very hard, because most of the work had already been done by Sarah Lee Dewitt in 1835. Since the cannon was the only item that was slightly dated, it made sense to replace it with a modern firearm. The firearm would need to be one of those that someone, in fact, many someones and many levels of government are literally coming to take, and in many instances, have already taken it. It would have to be American designed and made. It would have to be easily recognizable even at a long distance. It should be a military-style firearm so there is no doubt that the right to keep and bear arms includes these firearms. It should have the features that are the target of todays tyrants: high-capacity magazine, bayonet lug, and flash suppressor, and not necessarily semi-automatic only.
The choice was easy to make, because there is only one firearm meeting those criteria. It was designed by an American, has been used extensively by the US military, is instantly recognized by everyone, and so on. That firearm, as you might have guessed, is the Colt AR-15/M-16.
Retaining the styling from the 1835 Come And Take It flag allows anyone seeing the new Come And Take It flag to instantly recognize it as the 1835 flag with only one change.
One change, but now, oh, the new meaning it adds to the flag!
Now, no one can say the flag is only about a struggle between Santa Anna's thugs and Texans 160 years ago in the far away and distant past that offers no bearing today and has no relevance in today's struggle over gun control.
Now, anyone who sees the flag will instantly consider that history is repeating itself today, and that President Clinton and his thugs are aligned with those tyrants of old--Santa Anna, King George III--that the Crime Bill is nothing new and is nothing more than the work of evil men working to subject the good and the innocent to tyranny and servitude. And perhaps, when people see the flag they will choose the side of those resisting the marching thugs, and will take their place in that long line of patriots, minutemen, and freedom-fighters who have stood against wrong for hundreds of years.
Perhaps if they are not too familiar with the flag's history they will read about it and discover that the only difference between now and 1835 is the tyrants' names.
When we see the flag we can remember that those standing in that long line of history stood their ground. They did not back down, they did not surrender, they did not compromise, even when the cost was great. Many of the men standing at Gonzales died at the Alamo or in other battles against Santa Anna, and as the men of the American Revolution, they sacrificed their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors. How can we do any less?