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The Texas Revolution was a war fought between Mexico and the people of the territory that was to become the Republic of Texas. The revolution has roots dating back to the 1810s when Mexico (then part of New Spain) was fighting for independence from the Spanish crown. However, the Texas Revolution itself did not begin until the 1830s.
Around 1811, in the context of the broader Mexican War of Independence that had broken out in 1810, the Tejano people who lived in the region also began to rise up against the Spanish government. They were struggling economically, with only meager sources of income. Many people in the region had been earning livings by taking mules and mustang horses to neighboring Louisiana for trade or sale. However, the Spanish crown had declared all wild animals to be the property of the crown, making this practice illegal.
In 1813, a rebellion in San Antonio was crushed by Spanish forces. Many were killed, and 300 men were taken prisoner. They were tightly packed into a prison, where it is said that about twenty died of suffocation. The rest soon saw a similar fate as they were executed the following day. The women and children who were family members of the rebels were rounded up and placed in La Quinta in the middle of the city.
José Antonio Navarro, a young man of noble Spanish descent, had supported the rebellion and managed to flee to the United States with members of his family. His family had been allied with other noble houses in the city, such as the Ruizes, Seguins, and Veramindis. These were some of the more educated people in the city, and had more comfortable homes than the dusty shacks most people lived in at the time. Navarro returned to San Antonio three years later when Spain declared a general amnesty for the people involved in the rebellion. He found his family home in ruins, and had to resort to smuggling to support his family. Mexico continued to fight for its independence from Spain, which it finally gained in 1821. Navarro had thoughts of leaving San Antonio for the United States, but soon found himself to be mayor of the city.
Around the time of Mexican independence, Moses Austin, a man whose family had gained and lost a fortune, visited Texas and thought it to be a wonderful place. He had visions of restoring his family's glory and decided to advertise the glories of the area, circulating a letter in the U.S. that described the region in a Biblical sense as a land flowing with milk and honey. He recommended that people come to Texas to form a new colony around San Felipe. Moses Austin died, however, and left his son, Stephen F. Austin, to carry out his work.
Navarro and Austin worked together to bring people to Texas. The two communicated heavily and felt they were blood brothers working toward the same goals. Partly, the idea was to bring enough people to the region to be strong enough to have a good deal of autonomy. They modeled the new colony's economy on what made the Southern United States so rich—cotton. Each new settler to come, accept Roman Catholicism, and become a Mexican citizen was given over 4,000 acres (16 km²) of land. Technically, the new settlers were supposed to pay for the land, but many did not. Settlers were supposed to also meet high standards of moral character. Due to the high amounts of labor involved in producing cotton, however, one consequence was allowing—and even encouraging—slavery. Settlers who brought slaves were given larger plots of land. This was seen by many to be a necessary evil at the time.
Three years after it was started, the colony had grown to 18,000, and its area had grown to very large proportions. For a time, the arrangement worked out for almost everyone involved. Navarro found himself to be the owner of more than 25,000 acres (101 km²) of land in 1830.
The Mexican government was disturbed by the influx of Anglo immigrants and by the allowance of slavery. Mexico City decided to merge Texas with Coahuila (creating the state of Coahuila y Tejas under the 1824 Constitution) and reduce or ban the entrance of more settlers and (especially) slaves. Navarro was offered a seat in that state's senate, which he accepted. He continued to fight for the people of the region, and snuck through a bill that allowed something that looked remarkably like slavery, where individuals could be part of a "contract" which involved indentured servitude in exchange for "learning" about the agricultural business.
Cotton planters from the American South flocked to Texas with their slaves, while the Mexican government enacted legislation to seal the borders. Stephen Austin went to Mexico City to argue the case of the region, but was rebuffed. He sent a letter to the people in Texas, basically encouraging the region to secede. However, the letter was intercepted, and Austin was put in jail.
In 1833, Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna ascended to the presidency. He believed that the influx of immigrants to Texas was part of a plot by the U.S. to take over the region: the U.S. government had shown interest in the area in the past, and President Jackson had recently offered USD $5 million for the land. It is believed that Santa Anna also may have had a personal grievance with José Antonio Navarro, as Santa Anna had learned about him while being quartered in Navarro's home following the 1813 skirmish.
Due to perceived troubles within the Mexican government, Santa Anna went through a process of dissolving state legislatures, limiting state militias, and abolishing the federal constitution in 1834, triggering outrage throughout the country. 600 troops were dispatched to San Antonio and fighting soon began. The troops were met by combined Anglo and Tejano forces. However, fighting dragged on for weeks, and by December 1835, the last of the Mexican troops in San Antonio were holed up in the Alamo. Frustrated with the standoff and knowing his forces were weak, one Mexican militiaman informed the rebel forces that all they needed to do was to try to attack. On December 9, the Mexican leader, Mexican Army General Martin Perfecto de Cos, surrendered and retreated south with his troops.
This humiliated Santa Anna and left him wanting revenge. He assembled a new force and headed toward San Antonio around the same time Navarro was leaving to go to a gathering of Texan leaders in Washington-on-the-Brazos. In the meantime, Santa Anna believed that the U.S. was behind everything going on and he pledged to continue the march to Washington, D.C., if necessary.
On February 22, 1836, Santa Anna's advance troops were seen approaching San Antonio. Panic struck the city as rebels and Anglo settlers ran for the countryside. Some Tejano loyalists greeted the army with open arms. Families and fighters alike—mostly Anglo, but a few Tejano—sought refuge in the Alamo.
Inside the Alamo, command over the forces was split between Jim Bowie and William Travis. When the Alamo became surrounded and Santa Anna requested unconditional surrender, two responses came out. A representative of Bowie's requested a talk while Travis fired a cannon shot, desiring to confront and spite the enemy.
In the meantime, Navarro was with other leaders in Washington-on-the-Brazos, signing Texas's declaration of independence. The forces at the Alamo sent word of the trouble in San Antonio, and requested assistance.
Finally, on March 6, the Mexican forces stormed the Alamo, going from room to room and killing every man. Women and children hid away as best they could while they watched the slaughter. See: Battle of the Alamo
For most of the spring of 1836, the Texans were on the losing side, until forces led by Sam Houston surprised Santa Anna's army. In the Battle of San Jacinto, the troops fought under the rallying cry, "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!" The battle was decided in just 18 minutes, but the Texan forces continued to slaughter the Mexican soldiery for hours afterward.
A day after the battle, on April 22, 1836, Santa Anna was captured. On May 14, 1836, Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco. The treaties provided for the end of hostilities between the Mexican and Texan armies and the withdrawal of the Mexican army south of the Rio Grande. The treaties also provided for Santa Anna's return to Mexico and for him to lobby his government for its acknowledgement of Texas independence.
After the Republic had existed for just one year, Stephen F. Austin fell ill and passed away. This was seen as a blow to the Tejano population, who Austin had long supported. Navarro saw this hit home as his brother Eugenio was soon killed on suspicion of being loyal to Mexico. Elsewhere, Tejano families who had been on their land for generations were forced out by the Anglo population.
However, Navarro himself was still considered to be a loyal Texan. Many pointed to the fact that, while 3rd-generation Tejano, he had been born in Corsica, and had noble European blood in his veins.
In 1845, Texas was admitted to the United States as a slave state. By that time, more than one million acres (4,000 km²) of Tejano land had been taken by Americans. Still, Navarro encouraged Tejanos to embrace their new American citizenship, and wrote his "Apuntes Históricos" or "Historical Notes" detailing some of what occurred in Texas before anyone ever spoke the words "Remember the Alamo".
"Some were for independence, some were for the Constitution of 1824; and some were for anything, just so long as it was a row."—Noah Smithwick
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