Today iI take a closer look at the Siege of Bexar. We’re still in 1835 and I’m taking a closer look at each of the early battles skirmishes that took place as the year comes to a close.
In previous episodes, I’ve discussed the battles that took place Gonzales and Goliad (La Bahia) It was in Goliad that we first met General Cos, who would play a significant role in the next skirmish I want to talk about. The Siege of Bexar (or San Antonio) which took place from October through December of 1835.
Without a doubt the siege of Bexar (San Antonio) was the first major campaign of the Texas Revolution. A group of Texan volunteers laid siege to the Mexican army that was headquartered in San Antonio de Béxar. After Texans drove off Mexican troops at Gonzales on October 2, the Texan army gathering outside of San Antonio grew to 300 men. To bring unity to the group they elected Stephen F. Austin commander. On October 12 they advanced closer to San Antonio, where Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos recently (remember our old friend from Goliad) had concentrated a Mexican force of around 650 men. He fortified the town plazas west of the San Antonio River and he also fortified the Alamo, which lay east of the river.
In mid-October the Texans, now with a force numbering 400 men, camped along Salado Creek east of San Antonio. In this group were legendary names such as James Bowie and Tejano leader Juan N. Seguín. Seguin brought with him a company of Mexican Texans who fought on the side of the settlers.
In late October Bowie and James W. Fannin, Jr., led an advance to the missions below San Antonio, while Cos brought in 100 reinforcement men.
On October 25 the Texans had a debate over strategy. Sam Houston, who had come from the Consultation government, urged delay for training and for cannons to bombard the fortifications. However, the desire of Austin and others who wanted to continue efforts at capturing San Antonio won the day.
On October 27, from another of the missions around the San Antonio area, San Francisco de la Espada Mission, Austin sent Bowie and Fannin forward Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña Mission with ninety men. Their task was to locate a position nearer the town of San Antonio that would be suitable for an army encampment. It was there on the morning of the 28th that the Texans scouting party was attacked by a force of 275 men lead by Col. Domingo de Ugartechea.
The Texans took a position along the bank of the San Antonio River from where they were able to drive off the assault. In doing so, they inflicted over fifty casualties on the Mexican force and captured a cannon.
General Cos took up more defensive positions in San Antonio and the Alamo, and the Texans established camps on the river above and below the town. The Texans army grew to about 600 with reinforcements from East Texas that were led by Thomas J. Rusk.
For the next several days Texas and Mexican cavalry skirmished from time to time as the Texans scouted to capture Mexican supplies and to warn of any reinforcements for Cos. Finally, on November 8, Travis led a force that captured 300 Mexican mules and horses grazing beyond the Medina River. On the 12th, Ugartechea left San Antonio with a small cavalry force to direct the march of reinforcements from below the Rio Grande. Austin sent cavalry to intercept him, but the Mexican troops evaded them. With the weather changing and becoming colder and without adequate supplies both armies began to suffer morale problems.
When three companies with over a hundred men arrived from the United States in mid-November, Austin again planned an attack. Officers still expressed doubts, however, and it was called off. Austin then left to assume diplomatic duties in the United States. The Texas troops selected Edward Burleson as their new leader.
On November 26, Erastus (Deaf) Smith reported approaching Mexican cavalry and Burleson sent troops to cut them off. The forces met near Alazán Creek west of town, and after several attacks and counterattacks the Mexican troops withdrew back into San Antonio.
At the beginning of December Burleson was concerned about the approaching winter and a lack of supplies and he considered withdrawing to Goliad. However, Texans who had left San Antonio provided new information on the Mexican defenses and the Texans drew up new attack plans. When a Mexican officer surrendered with news of declining Mexican morale, Benjamin R. Milam and William Gordon Cooke gathered more than 300 volunteers to attack the town, while Burleson and another 400 men scouted, protected the camp and supplies, and forced Cos to keep his 570 men divided between the town and the Alamo.
On the morning of December 5th, James C. Neill distracted the Mexican forces with artillery fire on the Alamo. At the same time Milam and Francis W. Johnson led two divisions in a surprise attack that seized the Veramendi and Garza houses north of the plaza in San Antonio.
That evening and in fighting during the next day the Texans destroyed some buildings close to them and dug trenches to connect the houses they occupied. On the seventh the Texans captured another nearby house, but Milam was killed by a shot from a sharpshooter. Johnson then directed another night attack that seized the Navarro house.
On December 8 Ugartechea returned with over 600 reinforcements, of which the majority were untrained conscripts. Burleson sent 100 men into town to join the Texan force that captured the buildings of Zambrano Row in hand-to-hand fighting. Cos ordered his cavalry to threaten the Texan camp, but they found it well defended.
When Cos tried to concentrate his troops at the Alamo, four companies of his cavalry rode away rather than continue the struggle. On the morning of December 9th Cos asked for surrender terms. Burleson accepted the surrender of most Mexican equipment and weapons, and permitted Cos and his men to retire southward because neither army had supplies to sustain a large group of prisoners.
Texas casualties numbered thirty to thirty-five, while Mexican losses, totaled about 150; the difference is attributed to the greater accuracy of the Texans’ rifles. As with most skirmishes, a majority of the Texas volunteers returned to their homes after the battle. Some Texas troops remained in town, which, with Cos’s withdrawal, left San Antonio and all of Texas under the Texans’ control. It would stay that way for the next several months and in the next episode, I’ll take a deeper look at the Battle of the Alamo.
Remember if you want more information on Texas History, visit the Texas State Historical Association. I also have two audiobooks on the Hidden History of Texas one which deals with the 1500s to about 1820, and the other one 1820s to 1830s. You can find the books pretty much wherever you download or listen to audiobooks. Links to all the stores are on my publishers website https://ashbynavis.com.