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Mexico and the Battle of Velasco

In 1821, the Spanish government in Mexico granted Moses Austin land to settle 300 families in Texas between Galveston Bay and the Colorado River. That same year, the schooner Lively arrived on the east coast of the Brazos River from New Orleans with 38 Texas colonists. The newly-arrived immigrants called themselves “Texians."


Portion of 1830 version of Austin and Terán map published by H. S. Tanner


 However, the plan for settling the area was disrupted by Mexico’s gaining independence from Spain in 1821. The new temporary government refused to recognize the land grant. Steven F. Austin, son of Moses, travelled to Mexico City and persuaded them to approve the grant in 1823. By 1830, over 25,000 immigrants and 5,000 slaves had arrived in Texas. With such a number of Americans living in Texas, the Mexican government feared that the United States of America may try to annex Texas.

In 1830, the Mexican Legislature enacted the Law of April 6. This law prohibited slavery throughout Mexico (including Texas), established customs houses and garrisons at key entry points to Texas, halted Anglo immigration from the United States of the north, terminated unfulfilled “empressario contracts” that allowed the rights to settle on Mexican lands, and established tariffs.

In order to enforce the law, the Mexican government appointed Brigadier Genera Juan Davis Bradburn, formerly an American citizen, to found the new customs and garrison post at Fort Anahuac on Galveston Bay on October 26, 1830. In Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs ), "Anahuac" was the name for the Basin of Mexico, where Mexico City was built.


In 1832, Mexican General Manuel de Mier y Terán ordered Colonel Ugartechea to build a similar outpost on the eastern shore of the Brazos River where only a few settlers lived. "Fortaleza de Velasco" would control all commerce entering the river from the Gulf of Mexico. The fort was likely named after Luis de Velasco, who served as Spanish viceroy of Mexico from 1550 to 1564.


In April through May, of that year, Soldiers built a log stockade about 150 yards from the eastern shore of the Brazos River and about the same distance from the Gulf of Mexico. Another interior log stockade was built about six feet from the outer wall and the middle was filled with sand, earth, and shells. A platform circling the inner wall allowed musketeers to shoot the enemies from above. The soldiers also built a mound of logs and dirt in the center of the fort with a cannon on a swivel that shot nine-pound cannonballs. Colonel Ugartechea commanded about 100 troops at the fort.


Diagram from Stephen F. Austin Map Collection, circa 1822. Courtesy: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History


As result of the military enforcement of the customs and slavery provisions of the Law and April 6, tensions between the Anglo colonists and the Mexican government escalated. Stephen F. Austin wrote to John Durst, a prominent landowner and politician, “I am the owner of one slave only, an old decrepit woman, not worth much, but in this matter I should feel that my constitutional rights as a Mexican were just as much infringed, as they would be if I had a thousand.”​


In August 1831, Anahuac commander General Bradburn gave asylum to three men who had escaped slavery in Louisiana. In 1832, the slave owner hired local lawyers William Barret Travis and Patrick Jack to negotiate the release of the slaves. In June 1832, Bradburn arrested both on charges of insurrection, illegal immigration, and practicing law in Mexico without benefit of a license. If convicted of insurrection, they would face execution.


On June 10, over 150 Texian Militia members gathered at Anahuac and skirmished with Mexican troops. They retreated and decided to recruit reinforcements and request several cannons from Brazoria.


The citizens of Brazoria quickly agreed. They dispatched a Texian Militia company of between 100 and 150 men under the command of John Austin, a member off the town council. They loaded their cannons onto the schooner Brazoria, under the command of William J. Russell, to sail down the Brazos River, past Velasco to Anahuac. The Texians knew that Colonel Ugartechea at Fort Velasco would attempt to block the schooner’s passage, so they planned for battle.



At midnight on June 25, John Austin and Henry Smith commanded a division that attacked from the north, Henry S. Brown's troops circled around the fort to attack from behind driftwood on the shoreline; and Captain Russell allowed the schooner Brazoria to drift downriver to bombard the fort with cannon fire. Austin's company initially used makeshift cypress  wood shields for protection but they were soon splintered by gunfire. They then dug trenches in the dirt and sand.  Shortly after sunrise on June 26, Ugartechea surrendered due to the lack of ammunition. The articles of capitulation stated that Ugartechea and his troops would be transported by sea to Mexico. However, since no seaworthy vessel was available, they travelled by foot to Matamoros via San Felipe, Victoria, and Goliad. Stephen F. Austin and Samuel May Williams provided their wagons and supplies.



Brazoria County Courthouse


After the defeat at Fort Velasco, the Mexican army commander in  Nacogdoches, José de las Piedras, relieved Bradburn of his command at Anahuac. He released the colonist prisoners, thus resolving the original problem that caused the Battle of Velasco. Both the Anahuac  and the Nacogdoches troops returned to Mexico in the late summer of 1832. Bradburn himself fled to the Sabine River and then on to New Orleans. 


For more details, see:

Battle of Velasco, by Jim Glover, Brazoria Militia


Learn more here:




  • Edmondson, J. R. 2000. The Alamo Story: From History to Current Conflicts. Plano, TX: Republic of Texas Press.

  • House, Boyce. July 1960. "An incident at Velasco, 1832", Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Texas State Historical Association.

  • Looscan, Adele B. April 1898. "The Old Mexican Fort at Velasco", Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Texas State Historical Association.

  • Kneupper, Chris. 2023. Chronological and Archaeological History of the Forts Velasco.

  • McCullar, Emily. October 29, 2020. "How Leaders of the Texas Revolution Fought to Preserve Slavery". Texas Monthly.


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