Sunday, March 8, 2009

Come and take it!

Gonzales, the "Lexington of Texas," marked the beginning of hostilities with Mexico on Oct. 2, 1835.

The Battle of Gonzales, resulted from a demand of the commander of Bexar for the return of a small cannon left in Gonzales some years previous with members of the DeWitt colony for their protection against Indians. There were 13 men in the settlement able to bear arms and these decided to resist the demand. The cannon was buried.

All boats were removed to the Gonzales side of the Guadalupe River and breastworks were thrown up. The Gonzales men obtained aid from colonists along the Colorado River, and on Oct. 2, 1835, when the Mexican forces demanded surrender of the cannon, John H. Moore, who had been elected colonel and leader of the Texans, brought the cannon from its hiding place.

Attached to the cannon was the Gonzales flag. It is described by historians as about six feet in length. On it was painted the cannon barrel. Above the cannon was the Lone Star while underneath the cannon was painted the words, "Come and Take it." The cannon was hauled across the river and the Texans began to fire on the Mexicans who proposed a parley which was rejected. The Mexicans withdrew toward San Antonio. Thus was the first battle for Independence fought in the struggle that was to continue until the next year when the Texans finally routed the Mexicans at San Jacinto.

On Saturday, March 7th, there was a relay race in downtown Gonzales to celebrate this event.
We saw folks in wheelchairs, golf carts, bicycles, and also younger runners going around the Courthouse Square in this relay.

'Come and Take It'

The Come & Take It Festival celebrates the firing of the first shot of the Texas revolution on Oct. 2, 1835, which took place near Gonzales.

The town of Gonzales was established by Empresario Green DeWitt in 1825, two and one-half miles east of the confluence of the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers. It was the westernmost Anglo settlement until the close of the Texas Revolution and was named in honor of Don Rafael Gonzales, provisional governor of Coahuila, Mexico and Texas. The town was laid out in the shape of a cross, with seven squares. During the colonial period of 1825 to 1835, there were many problems with Comanche and Tonkawa Indians, but Gonzales flourished. It was a thriving capital of the De Witt colony by 1833.

In 1831 the Mexican government loaned the citizens of Gonzales a six-pound cannon as protection against the Indians. In September of 1835, as political unrest grew, Mexican officials at San Antonio de Bexar demanded the cannon be returned.

A corporal with five soldiers and an oxcart were first sent by Col. Ugartechea, Bexar military commander, to Gonzales. The corporal carried a request that the small reinforced cannon, a bronze six-pounder, be returned to the Mexican Army. Andrew Ponton refused to relinquish it, stalling for time, and the little cannon was buried in George W. Davis' peach orchard, near the Guadalupe River.

Next came Lieutenant Castaneda and 150 mounted soldiers to "take" the cannon. When the soldiers appeared on the west bank of the Guadalupe River, there were only 18 men in Gonzales, but these 'Old Eighteen' stood at the river in defiance, denied the Mexicans a crossing by hiding the ferry and sent out a call for volunteers to assist them.

As the soldiers scouted the river for a place to cross, they moved upriver a short distance, near the present-day community of Cost and camped for the night. There, in the early-morning hours of Oct. 2, 1835, the colonists crossed the river with their cannon, surprising the troops and waving their hastily fashioned flag, which proclaimed "Come and Take It." Almost immediately the cannon fired, killing one of Castenada's men and scattering the rest, forcing them to retreat to San Antonio de Bexar. Thus was fired the shot that set off the struggle for Texas independence from Mexico. When the smoke cleared, the Mexican troops had taken off. The Texas Revolution had begun.

Gonzales became known as "The Lexington of Texas", where the first shot was fired, and where the first Texas Army of Volunteers gathered. A few months after the first shot, men and boys from the region would gather in Gonzales, sending the only reinforcements ever received at the Alamo.

Each October, on the first full weekend of October, the citizens of Gonzales gather to celebrate their Texas heritage in a three-day festival called "Come & Take It."

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