Illegal Immigrants Raise Havoc on the US Border–Mexican/American War, Part I

By Jay Holmes

In 1820, the Mexican government offered a land grant to Moses Austin that encompassed an area about half the size of modern-day Texas. In return, Austin was to finance the settlement of American pioneers into Mexico to create a viable economy in northeast Mexico.

The plan might seem like an odd arrangement today, but it worked quite well. Moses Austin died before he could complete his end of the bargain, but his son, Stephen Austin, brought over 300 families to Texas to establish ranches and farms. Mexico welcomed more American families to the region, and within a few years, American families outnumbered Mexican families—a situation that is the complete opposite of what we have today in Los Angeles and San Diego. Before long, American settlers moved into other parts of the sparsely populated Northern Mexico.

In 1829, the Mexican government decided to raise property taxes, ban slavery from Northern Mexico, and institute high tariffs on goods from the USA. The Texans rebelled at these measures.

In 1834, Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana took over as the dictator of Mexico and prepared to recapture the rebellious region of Texas.

The Alamo at Night Dallas Gibson wikimedia

The Alamo at Night, image by Dallas Gibson, wikimedia commons

Stephen Austin, and the residents of Texas decided in 1836 that, rather than tolerate the Mexican government, they would simply declare their independence. Santa Ana and his well-trained 6,000 man army surrounded a small force of Texas rebels at the Alamo. The rebels refused to surrender, and after a stubborn resistance, they were defeated on March 6, 1836. Santa Ana’s forces murdered the surviving rebels.

Ten days later, the right wing of Santa Ana’s army, under Mexican General Urrea, accepted the surrender of approximately 350 Texas rebels at Goliad. On March 27, Santa Ana ordered that those captives be executed. Unfortunately for Santa Ana, the delay that the rebels inflicted at the Alamo and at Goliad allowed a man named Sam Houston and the Texans—now both ex-American and ex-Mexican—to organize an army to face Santa Ana. Volunteers from the USA went to Texas to reinforce Houston’s small army.

Santa Ana pursued Houston eastward toward Louisiana, and as he did so, he had to divert some of his forces to protecting his supply lines from Mexico against roving rebels.  By April 21, Santa Ana and his 1,500 troops had “trapped” Houston and his 900 men in a pocket of low ground surrounded on three sides by a meandering river at San Jacinto. That day, Houston decided that, given the lack of a dependable position, his only chance to avoid annihilation was to take the initiative and attack the Mexican forces before they could concentrate their soldiers for their own attack.

Battle of San Jacinto US Public Domain

Battle of San Jacinto, image US Public Domain

At 4:30 p.m. on April 21, a rebel named Deaf Smith burned the Vince’s Bridge, thereby preventing easy retreat or reinforcement by either side. The first American “cage fight” ensued. The overconfident Santa Ana had neglected to post pickets or man outposts, and the Texas rebels were able to advance through the woods to within close range of the Mexican positions. The rebels charged with screams of “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad.” The surprise was complete and effective, and Santa Ana’s line collapsed.

One of the things Texans despised about Santa Ana was his practice of having his troops search out the area and capture pretty women to be used for his sexual pleasure. According to legend, at the time of Houston’s attack, Santa Ana was busy raping a pretty mulatto woman who his minions had brought him. If nothing else, his habit allowed him to easily discard whatever was left of his uniform.

Having shed his ornate, Gadhafi-style uniform and his rape victim, Santa Ana escaped the field of battle. A search party pursued him. They captured Santa Ana out of uniform, and, although the majority of the Texas rebels and perhaps many of the 700 captured Mexican soldiers preferred to hang him, Houston insisted on sparing his life. That’s because Houston was the smart one in the crowd. Santa Ana was the dictator of Mexico, and Houston wanted a treaty. If he killed Santa Ana, there would be no treaty.

Grumpy Cat Feel Stupid Yet Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana US Public Domain

Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, image US Public Domain

On May 14, Santa Ana signed the Treaties of Velasco. The new Mexican junta in Mexico City quickly disowned him, but no Mexican army attempted to retake Texas until 1846, ten years after the Treaties.

After the rebel victory at the battle of San Jacinto, Texas remained a republic until it became an American state on December 29, 1845. While these years are often ignored in basic USA history courses, they were actually an action-packed era full of intrigue, espionage, pay-offs, and all the other usual international political devices.

England and France, and to a lesser extent Russia, were competing for colonial acquisitions throughout the world, and the competition often turned into armed conflict in one form or another. In the USA, the issue of slavery remained divisive. The Democratic Party strongly favored slavery, and the Whig Party, popular in the Northeast and North, opposed slavery. Slavery was legal in Texas, and so the Whigs opposed the incorporation of independent Texas into the USA. The Texans and the Democrats won the argument, and Texas was annexed to the USA in 1845. Mexico broke off diplomatic relations with the USA.

To be continued. . . .

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

© 2013 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.


13 comments on “Illegal Immigrants Raise Havoc on the US Border–Mexican/American War, Part I

  1. mairedubhtx says:

    Thanks for telling the history of Texas. It is quite a complicated history, as you well know, not as simple as just the story of the Alamo movie presents it. We have a rich history and honor our heritage, especially here in San Antonio, at the Alamo and with our Fiesta which culminates in honoring the Battles of San Jacinto with the Battle of Flowers parade.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Hi Maire. Holmes is busy stopping a shadowy villain who is plotting to turn Canada into a snow ice cream factory. He appreciates your comments. Sounds like a fun event. 🙂

  2. Dave says:

    Great story…it is too bad they don’t teach this in schools. Maybe kids would appreciate history more if they knew that it happened everywhere – and all the time.

  3. tomwisk says:

    Just saw the Alamo w/ Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton. It was the closest to the truth as I’ve seen haviong been exposed to the Disney Davy Crockett pap as a youth.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Hi Tom. Holmes is hard at work with both Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob at the moment to re-create a more accurate depiction of the events. He appreciates you helping him hold down the blog with your comments while he is away. 🙂

  4. Julie Glover says:

    As a born-and-bred Texan, I’ve heard this history several times, but it had been a while. Very interesting, Holmes! One question, though: Wasn’t it General Sam Houston who led the troops in the definitive Battle of San Jacinto?

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Hi Julie. Holmes is contacting General Houston through a new top secret CIA project now revealed for the first time here that allows intelligence operatives to chat with generals past, but only the ones who have been portrayed in Hollywood productions. He will be delighted to address your question after the seance. 🙂

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Thank you, Julie. Major SNAFU on our part. Holmes knew that but once he started typing “Austin” it kept going, and I didn’t know to change it. It is now corrected above.

  5. Thanks for posting this. So much history is overlooked. And it is a great story (We have family documents, letters, and diaries) From one of the 300 land grant families, Run Away Scape, and San Jacinto battle veterans.
    To get the land grant, families immigrating had to learn and be fluent in Spanish, become Catholic, and swear allegiance as citizens of Mexico.
    (They left US as it was too crowded and they did not like the US Federal gov. intruding into their lives. This family did not bring/have slaves in TX – they had been sold before the journey.)
    The immigrants from the US lived in harmony with some Indian tribes and fought other tribes who raided and ran back and forth between the US and Mexico and the west.
    Santa Ana was not well liked in Mexico City and was sent to Texas to get him to stop stirring up political trouble there.
    And then there was the suggestion demanding Texans give up guns – and some of their cleared and settled lands.
    Washington Anderson was one who also argued Santa Ana should not be strung up after being captured. He felt the Texans needed to show they were better men than that – honorable and civilized.
    Texas as a republic had diplomats in foreign countries and foreign embassies in the state. One survived in Austin, TX and you can visit it.
    And San Antonio is so wonderful, Mairedubhtx!

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Hi Phil. Holmes is away right now negotiating in Washington to make sure that Texans are never again asked to give up their guns, pointing to the Mexican/American War as a good example of what happens when you mess with Texas. So far, only the choir, five history professors, and Mexico are listening. I know he appreciates your comments, as do I, and he will be delighted to respond when he is able. 🙂

  6. Diana Beebe says:

    I’ve finally gotten to read this! The San Jacinto area is near where I grew up, so I’m partial. An interesting thing that my daughter learned in her Texas History class (yes, we Texans still take that in 7th grade) was about one legend that Texas sent a pretty woman to distract Santa Ana because they knew of his proclivities. They called her the Yellow Rose. It would be interesting to know if there is any truth to that legend.

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