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Republic of Texas

Now in control of Fort Velasco, the Texians prospered. A community developed upstream from the coast that included a customhouse, salt works, and several trading posts. The colony was still nominally a part of the First Mexican Republic. In January 1835, Stephen F. Austin proposed that Texas should be a separate Mexican state, not an independent nation in the essay “Exposition to the Public Regarding the Affairs of Texas.” However, his position shortly changed.

In August 1835, the American schooner San Felipe sailed from New Orleans with supplies and munitions bound for Velasco. Knowing that the Mexicans were patrolling the Texas coast, Captain William Hurd armed the ship with two 6-pound waist guns, small arms for the crew, and armored its deck with bales of cotton. 

When approaching Brazoria on September 1, the San Felipe was taken in tow by the steamer Laura. The ships were approached by the Mexican cutter Correo de México, used for customs enforcement. The Mexican captain Thomas M. Thompson moved the cutter within cannon range of the San Felipe but Hurd maneuvered the schooner alongside the Mexican ship to board her.



Topsail schooner resembling the San Felipe


The ships exchanged cannon and rifle fire from about 8:00 P.M. until 9:00 P.M. During the battle, two of the Correo's guns were disabled and most of the crew were wounded, including Thompson. The Correo de México fled, chased by the two ships. The next morning, the Laura towed the San Felipe into range of the Correo, and Thompson surrendered unconditionally. Hurd escorted the Mexican ship and crew back to New Orleans where the crew was charged with piracy.

On September 8, only a week after the incident of the San Felipe, Austin reversed himself and called for war with Mexico to secure the freedom of Texas.

Mexican Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea sent Francisco de Castañeda with 100 cavalry to the town of Gonzales to retrieve a cannon given to the town for protection from the Comanche. However, the Texians refused to give up the weapon. On October 2, 1835, John Henry Moore with 150 militia members held them off. Two Mexican soldiers were killed and one was wounded. While the confrontation itself was insignificant, it marked the first break between the colonists and the Mexican government.

Soon after the Texian victory at Gonzales, Captain George Collinsworth and about 125 members of the Texian militia in Matagorda marched to Presidio La Bahía, a fort near Goliad. On October 9, 1835, Texians chopped through the door of the fort before many of 50 Mexican infantrymen were aware of their presence. An hour later, Colonel Juan López Sandoval surrendered. The Texians seized provisions and several cannons.

On October 23, 1835, conservatives under General Antonio López de Santa Anna took control of the government and transformed the country into the Centralist Republic of Mexico with him as President. The government passed new laws that banned slavery, reduced immigration, and increased enforcement of laws and import tariffs. At that time, Mexican Texas was largely populated by about 32,000 immigrants from the United States and about 5,000 enslaved persons. Knowing that Texians would not be pleased with these new laws, the new Mexican government established a military garrison at Fort Anahuac to defend the new customs house there, at Galveston, and at Brazoria.

In late 1835, the provisional Texian government created a navy, largely to the efforts of Quintana merchants Thomas Freeman McKinney and Samuel May Williams. They provided most of the funds to acquire the first four schooners: Independence, Liberty, Brutus, and Invincible. They were based initially at the mouth of the Brazos River at Quintana and Velasco.



First Texas Navy: (left to right, top to bottom) Liberty, Invincible, Independence, and Brutus.


In addition to creating a Texas Navy, the Texian government fortified the old Fort Velasco, also with the support of McKinney and Williams. On October 24, 1835, Velasco residents mounted a cannon that shot 18-pound cannonballs, along with other guns. A few days later, a Mexican cruiser fired one shot at the fort – but it fell short of the shore. Fort Velasco fired back with four rounds but did not strike the vessel.



Fort Velasco Battery, 1837


In order to quell the rebellion in Texas, General Santa Anna moved about 2,000 troops north and on February 16, 1836, crossed the Rio Grande into Texas. From there, he marched on to lay siege to the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar, in modern-day San Antonio. During the siege, on March 1, 1836, delegates elected from across Texas convene at Washington-on-the-Brazos. On the next day, March 2, they signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Republic of Texas is created. David G. Burnet is elected as interim president by the delegates. On March 6, 1836, General Santa Anna finally reclaimed the Alamo mission and killed most of the occupants, refusing to take prisoners. 

The next engagement was at Refugio from March 12 to 15, 1836. Mexican General José Urrea and 1,500 soldiers fought against 148 American volunteers commanded by Amon B. King Lieutenant Colonel William Ward.


On March 19, Colonel James W. Fannin was retreating from Goliad with about 400 men and 9 cannons. General José de Urrea surrounded him with between 1,000 and 1,300 men, including 80 cavalrymen. The Texians reached the shelter of a grove of trees at Coleto Creek and held off the Mexicans until the morning of the next day when they surrendered.


After the battles of Coleto and Refugio, the Mexicans captured between 425 and 450 prisoners and held them in Goliad. On March 27, these men were executed by Lt. Colonel José Nicolás de la Portilla, under orders from General Santa Anna, in what was to be called the Goliad massacre.


Santa Anna regrouped a small force of 700 men in Harrisburgh moved on to Lynchburg to join the rest of his army to finish off the Texian army. Unbeknownst to the general, the Texian troops arrived in Harrisburgh on April 18, not long after the Mexican army's departure. General Samuel Houston encouraged his estimated 800 men to “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” and urged them towards Lynchburg.

Houston and his troops reached Lynch's Ferry mid-morning on April 20 and Santa Anna's force arrived a few hours later. Only a few brief skirmishes occurred over the next few hours.
The next morning, on April 21, General Martín Perfecto de Cos arrived with 540 Mexican reinforcements, bringing the total number of troops to between 1,200 and 1,500. However, Houston had a superior position and had destroyed a bridge to block escape. He first deployed the cavalry, then the artillery, and finally his infantry. The Mexicans were confused by conflicting order by their commanders. The battle lasted only 18 minutes and the Mexican soldiers fled. Santa Anna initially escaped but was captured the next day on April 22.

Santa Anna and several of his officers were transported from Buffalo Bayou on the steamboat Yellowstone to Galveston Island on May 5, 1836. A few days later on the 8th, they boarded the war schooner Independence and made sail for Velasco.  They were lodged under guard in the Haskins house and fed from the kitchen of the American Hotel. President David Burnet moved the capital of the Republic of Texas to Velasco, where they would receive the protection of Fort Velasco and the new Texas Navy. The ad interim government included Lorenzo de Zavala, Vice President; James Collingsworth, Secretary of State; Bailey Hardeman, Secretary of the Treasury; Thomas J. Rusk, Secretary of War; Robert Potter, Secretary of the Navy; and Peter W. Grayson, Attorney General. 



First capital of Texas at Velasco: Brown-Hoskins hotel and tavern, also known as the American Hotel. 1870s photograph from National Republic magazine, 1932.



On May 14, 1836, Santa Anna signed the public and private Treaties of Velasco, ending the Texas Revolution and giving Texas its independence.


The public treaty provided that hostilities would cease and that Santa Anna would withdraw his forces below the Rio Grande and not take up arms again against Texas.


In addition, he also pledged to restore property that had been confiscated by the Mexicans. Both sides promised to exchange prisoners on an equal basis. The Texans would send Santa Anna back to Mexico and would not pursue the retreating Mexican troops.


The Treaty of Velasco. Texas State Library and Archives Commission.


In the secret agreement, the Texans agreed to release Santa Anna immediately in exchange for his pledge to use his influence to secure Mexican recognition of Texas independence. Santa Anna pledged that he would arrange for a favorable reception by the Mexican government of a Texas mission and a treaty of commerce. They also agreed that the Texas border would be the Rio Grande.

On May 26, General Vicente Filisola began withdrawing Mexican troops in fulfillment of the public treaty. However, the Texas army blocked Santa Anna's release by the Texas government. Moreover, the Mexican government refused to accept the treaties on the grounds that Santa Anna had signed them as a captive. Since the treaties had now been violated by both sides, they never took effect. Mexico was not to recognize Texas independence until the U.S.-Mexican War was settled by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

In 1845, Texas joined the United States of America (U.S.A.) as the 28th state. However, since Mexico never formally recognized the Treaties of Velasco and the Republic of Texas, this annexation leads to the Mexican–American War in 1846. The war lasted for two years until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848. This agreement gave the U.S.A. undisputed control of Texas, established the U.S.-Mexican border along the Rio Grande, and ceded to the United States the present-day states of California, Nevada, and Utah, most of New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, and parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming. In return, Mexico received $15 million. 

In 1861, Texas seceded from the U.S.A. and joined the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.) The Confederate Army occupied Fort Velasco during the American Civil War and built new defenses. With the defeat of the C.S.A., in 1865, Texas rejoins the U.S.A 


Confederate defenses at the mouth of the Brazos River:

A – Fort Quintana (Fort Bates)

B – Fort Velasco

C– Fort Terrell (Fort Bend), 

D – Mud fort at canal crossing

E – Redan (V-shaped earthwork fortification) at Oyster Creek

G – Floating bridge over canal

H – Fort Bend (Fort Terrell)


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