Explore Texas by Historical ErasRevolution and Republic1836-1845by Katie Whitehurst

Growing tensions between the Mexican government and the Texians boiled over in Gonzales on October 2, 1835. A few days after challenging the Mexican soldiers at Gonzales to “come and take it,” the colonists surprised the Mexican forces at the Presidio La Báhia in Goliad. The short Battle of Goliad confirmed that the Texas Revolution was in full swing.

In November 1835, delegates met at San Felipe to discuss the future of Texas. The group, known as The Consultation, agreed to form an interim government, appointing Henry Smith Governor and Sam Houston as head of the army. Although a handful of native-born Tejanos joined the revolt, most support came from Anglo American immigrants, who now outnumbered Tejanos in the state.

At the end of the year, Texians received a boost in morale after capturing San Antonio from Mexican General Cos. For a short time, the surrender of San Antonio and the departure of Cos’s army gave Texians the idea that they had won. But Santa Anna was not finished fighting.

The Texian fighters had a cause they believed in.  But they were a weak and disorganized force. By February, their government had disintegrated, and Texian forces were spread thin. Expecting that Santa Anna would take months to organize a campaign against Texas, the Texian military leaders in San Antonio were slow to prepare the city against an attack. When word of the Mexicans’ approach reached them, the city’s few defenders took refuge in the Alamo. William Travis led the effort at the Alamo, but his small group was unable to defeat Santa Anna’s Mexican army.  After two weeks of bitter fighting, the Alamo fell to Santa Anna and his soldiers.  Few survivors remained after the battle’s end on March 6, 1836, but the Texian cause would use the defeat as the morale-boosting cry of “Remember the Alamo!” to inspire their forces in future conflicts.

Texian forces suffered another major blow at Goliad later in March. But a month later, as civilians fled in what is known as the Runaway Scrape, the Texans pulled off a major upset. With cries of “Remember Goliad!” and “Remember the Alamo!” Sam Houston’s forces defeated Santa Anna’s army in a swift and bloody battle at San Jacinto. The Texas Revolution was over in less than a year, and a new government led largely by Anglos had emerged. But peace with Mexico would not come with the end of the war.

When delegates drafted and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, 1836, the document resembled Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.  The Constitution of the Texas Republic, ratified in September 1836, followed the pattern of the U.S. Constitution, with the important difference that it specifically made slavery legal. But despite any similarities in documents and reasons for revolution, not all Americans were anxious to annex Texas – in large part because the huge population of slaves in Texas threatened to tip the precarious balance between north and south.

Although the revolution was over, the republic was still under threat from Mexico.  The war drained the economy, and Texas needed foreign countries (most importantly the United States) to recognize their new nation for trade purposes.  U.S. President Andrew Jackson, a friend of Sam Houston, ignored protests and officially recognized Texas in 1837. Despite the trade agreements made with the United States, and later with other countries, Texas’ time as a republic was tumultuous.  In the ten years of the republic, Texans had to cope with invasions by the Mexican army, hostilities with Comanches and other Indian groups, economic turmoil, and lack of funds to run the government. Texans were overjoyed when the United States Congress finally agreed to annex Texas in 1845.