Texas Revolution Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

American settlers in Texas fought a revolutionary war against newly independent Mexico, partly in order to preserve slavery, which was illegal under Mexican law. After winning their independence from Mexico, the Texans maintained their autonomy for only a decade before they sought annexation by the United States.

Summary of Event

The movement of Euro-Americans into Texas is usually dated from 1821, when Spanish authorities granted Moses Austin permission to colonize a large tract of largely unpopulated land. Austin’s plea for the grant was based in part upon his claim to Spanish citizenship by reason of his previous residence in Louisiana. Moses Austin’s Austin, Moses death in Missouri the same year and the creation of an independent Mexico failed to stop the colonization project. Austin’s son, Stephen Fuller Austin, took over and spent a year in Mexico City persuading the new authorities that his claim should be accepted. When additional grants were made by the provincial government, Austin’s colonization scheme prospered, as did those of other empresarios, or land contractors, who had received grants. Euro-American settlers from the United States, sometimes accompanied by their slaves, soon represented a large majority of the people of Texas. Texas Revolution (1835-1836) Mexico;and Texas[Texas] Texas;and Mexico[Mexico] Austin, Stephen Fuller Houston, Sam Santa Anna, Antonio López de [kw]Texas Revolution (Oct. 2, 1835-Apr. 21, 1836) [kw]Revolution, Texas (Oct. 2, 1835-Apr. 21, 1836) Texas Revolution (1835-1836) Mexico;and Texas[Texas] Texas;and Mexico[Mexico] Austin, Stephen Fuller Houston, Sam Santa Anna, Antonio López de [g]Central America and the Caribbean;Oct. 2, 1835-Apr. 21, 1836: Texas Revolution[1950] [g]United States;Oct. 2, 1835-Apr. 21, 1836: Texas Revolution[1950] [g]Mexico;Oct. 2, 1835-Apr. 21, 1836: Texas Revolution[1950] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Oct. 2, 1835-Apr. 21, 1836: Texas Revolution[1950] [c]Government and politics;Oct. 2, 1835-Apr. 21, 1836: Texas Revolution[1950] [c]Expansion and land acquisition;Oct. 2, 1835-Apr. 21, 1836: Texas Revolution[1950] [c]Colonization;Oct. 2, 1835-Apr. 21, 1836: Texas Revolution[1950] Mier y Teran, Manuel de Navarro, José Antonio Travis, William Barret Edwards, Haden Edwards, Benjamin

Austin worked in harmony with officials of the province of Texas-Coahuila for several years. Slavery Slavery;and Mexico[Mexico] Mexico;and slavery[Slavery] Texas;slavery in was opposed by Mexican officials, but the province of Texas-Coahuila recognized labor contracts that made indentured servants of the slaves. All settlers were required to be Roman Catholics, but they were not required to attend church services. The empresario settlers were given such generous terms for acquiring land that they usually sided with the government against people from the United States who were settling illegally in the eastern part of the province. It was with Austin’s backing, for example, that the Fredonian Rebellion of 1826, led by the brothers Haden Edwards Edwards, Benjamin Edwards, Haden and Benjamin Edwards, was put down.

Post-Revolutionary Texas

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The rapid growth of the Euro-American population in Texas created uneasiness among many Mexican officials. The frequent incidents between Texan and Mexican officials, especially in eastern Texas, were viewed with alarm; the attempts of Presidents John Quincy Adams Adams, John Quincy Adams, John Quincy [p]Adams, John Quincy;and Texas[Texas] and Andrew Jackson Jackson, Andrew Jackson, Andrew [p]Jackson, Andrew;and Texas[Texas] to acquire all or part of Texas were greeted with hostility. General Manuel de Mier y Teran Mier y Teran, Manuel de proposed a plan to save Texas from being overrun by Euro-Americans. Mier y Teran called for placing more Mexican troops in the northern provinces, settling more Mexicans and Europeans in the area, and increasing coastal trade between Texas and the rest of Mexico. The Colonization Law of April 6, 1830, adopted Mier y Teran’s suggestions and forbade further immigration from the United States. The plan to attract more Mexicans and increase commerce with Texas failed to materialize, however, and the limiting of legal immigration from the United States served only to restrict immigration to illegal settlers who had no vested interest in supporting the Mexican government.

The military occupation of Texas was the only part of Mier y Teran’s plan to be realized, and it only increased the friction between the government and the settlers. The Texans looked to the presumably liberal revolutionary forces of Antonio López de Santa Anna for relief, and when he came to power, they held a convention at San Felipe in April, 1833, to make plans to petition the new government for the redress of their grievances. Austin was commissioned to present the new government with their requests, including the separation of Texas from Coahuila and the liberalization of the laws governing immigration and import controls. Austin journeyed to Mexico City, where the Mexican congress agreed to repeal the North American immigration exclusion. Austin, however, was arrested during his return trip on the strength of a letter he had written that appeared to advise the Texans to establish a separate state. He was jailed for two years and could not return to Texas until September 1, 1835.

Defenders at the Alamo in a 1912 painting by Percy Moran (1862-1935).

(Library of Congress)

During Austin’s absence, the provincial government of Texas-Coahuila made a number of concessions to the Texans, but Santa Anna’s federal government was moving to centralize its authority. Although most Texans disapproved of the seizure of the Anahuac Garrison on June 30, 1835, by a group led by William Barret Travis Travis, William Barret , they were concerned about the apparent intention of the Mexican government to send a greater number of troops to Texas. The Texans responded by calling conventions on August 15 at Columbia and on October 15 at San Felipe.

Meanwhile, the federal government issued an order for the Texans to return cannons that had been given to them by Mexico for defense against Native Americans. One such cannon was located at Gonzales, and a small detachment of Mexican soldiers was sent to retrieve it. The Texans refused the soldiers, who were temporarily trapped on the other side of a rain-swollen river from Gonzales, and they buried their cannon rather than ceding it. Both sides summoned reinforcements, and in the early morning hours of October 2, 1835, the Texans attacked the Mexican position, firing the first shots of the Texas Revolution. Later in that same month, Austin helped create a provisional government and issued a call to the Texans for war against Mexico.

Not all Texans were committed to the call to arms, however, and opposition increased during the nearly seven-month war. The mainly Irish settlers in the San Patricio region joined forces with the Mexican army and fought against the rebels at Fort Lipantitlán on November 5. Tejanos, Tejanos or native-born Texans of Hispanic descent, were divided in their loyalties: Some were centralists; others supported the rebel forces; and still others tried, largely without success, to remain neutral. This split in allegiances made the Texas revolution a civil war in the truest sense, pitting family member against family member. José Antonio Navarro Navarro, José Antonio , a hero to many latter-day Texans, supported the rebels, while his brother Ángel maintained his support for Mexico.

Many Euro-Americans also attempted to remain neutral during the spring of 1836. Although they did not support the centralists, many did avoid recruitment into the armed forces. Personal and family protection was their motivating force. Of the few Euro-Americans who supported the centralist cause, most were older and had resided in Texas for more than ten years. There is little evidence that they were very active during the war.

The vast majority of Tejanos Tejanos who supported the rebel cause were from San Antonio. Their knowledge of the area proved beneficial to the rebels. The effects of the war on Tejanos, however, were devastating. After their homes and farms were ransacked and their supplies used to feed and equip the Texas armies, their initial support for the rebellion faded. Most received no compensation for their sacrifices during the war.

On February 23, 1836, Santa Anna and four thousand troops laid siege to the Alamo Alamo, siege of (1836) . The 187 men inside, mainly newcomers from the United States, held out until March 6, when the garrison, commanded by Travis Travis, William Barret and including David Crockett Crockett, David and James Bowie Bowie, James , was assaulted and wiped out. At Goliad, three hundred defenders under James Fannin Fannin, James surrendered and were massacred by the Mexican army on March 27.

The delegates who met on March 1, 1836, in Washington, Texas, knew of the siege of the Alamo. Continuing their pattern of following the revolutionary example of the United States, they issued a declaration of independence on March 2 and subsequently adopted a constitution. The siege at the Alamo gave Commander in Chief Sam Houston time to assemble an army. Houston avoided a fight for weeks before surprising Santa Anna’s divided army on the west bank of the San Jacinto River near Galveston Bay on April 21, 1836. The Texans defeated twelve hundred Mexicans with their force of eight hundred. Santa Anna initially escaped but was captured the next day. The Texas Revolution was over.

Significance

Before he was released, Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco on May 14, 1836. He pledged to lobby Mexico to secure the independence of Texas, but the Mexican congress disavowed his actions. The Mexican army, however, quickly left Texas and made no serious attempt to regain control. Texas was allowed to become an independent republic by default. Sam Houston was elected president of the Republic of Texas on October 22, 1836. Houston and most Texans were interested in joining the United States, but for diplomatic and domestic reasons, Texas;annexation by United States annexation was not accomplished for almost a decade.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cantrell, Gregg. Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999. Describes how Austin transcended his self-interest in Texas land speculation to become a believer in the idea of an independent Texas. Accessible book for general readers as well as history buffs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Davis, William C. Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis. New York: HarperCollins, 1998. Examines the lives of these three disparate men, describing what brought them to Texas and how they died there.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fehrenbach, T. R. “The Clash of Cultures,” “Revolution,” and “Blood and Soil.” In Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans. New York: Wings Books, 1991. Details the story of the empresarios, conflicts betweens Euro-Americans and Mexicans in Texas, and the events leading up to the Texas Revolution.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gaddy, Jerry J., comp. Texas in Revolt: Contemporary Newspaper Accounts of the Texas Revolution. Ft. Collins, Colo.: Old Army Press, 1973. Chronological arrangement of newspaper accounts of the revolution from across the country.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gurasich, Marj. Benito and the White Dove: A Story of José Antonio Navarro. Austin, Tex.: Eakin Press, 1989. A fictionalized biography of Navarro and the story of the revolution as told to a young jailer’s son.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lack, Paul D. The Texas Revolutionary Experience: A Political and Social History, 1835-1836. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1992. An account of the various groups that participated in the war, how they responded, and how they were affected.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Nofi, Albert A. The Alamo and the Texas War of Independence, September 30, 1835 to April 21, 1836. Conshohocken, Pa.: Combined Books, 1992. Provides detailed information on the various people involved and their roles, strengths, and weaknesses; also details battles.

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