Stephen F. Austin State University

Colonel John H. Moore (June 2017)

Colonel John H. Moore

by Jonnie Miller

Colonel John Moore of the Texas Militia during the Texas Revolution is buried in the Newton Cemetery as is his wife, Sarah.

In 1831 the Texans thought the new leader in Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, was a federalist when he was able to seize control of his country. Much to their sorrow they found that once he had taken over he dismissed the Mexican congress, annulled the constitution of 1824 and declared himself dictator for life.

The states in Mexico were the first to revolt. Santa Anna wasted no time suppressing these revolts. The revolt in Coahuila and Texas was especially cruelly suppressed as Santa Anna rewarded his troops by allowing them to pillage and rape for two days.

Most of the Texans remained loyal to Santa Anna even after hearing of the action of his troops. The first skirmish took place in Anahuac and while most of the settlers were still loyal they still declared themselves to be federalists. Few paid attention to rabble rousers such as William Barrett Travis who tried to stir the revolutionary fires. Residents of towns like Gonzales openly declared their loyalty and asked the government for help for protection against the Indians. The government sent no troops but sent small six-pound cannon without cannon balls.

As unrest began to accelerate after the beating of a Gonzales resident by a Mexican soldier, public protest broke out. Colonel Domingo Ugartechea of San Antonio, fearing an uprising sent Corporal DeLeon and a small detachment of soldiers to retrieve the cannon claiming it was to defend the city. The residents refused and prepared for trouble. They buried the cannon in a peach orchard. The corporal returned to Ugartechea empty-handed and the colonel sent Lieutenant Francisco Casteneda to Gonzales with more than 100 troops. The lieutenant demanded the return of the cannon. However, he was told to avoid a confrontation if possible. He moved his troops to the river but his path was blocked by high water and eighteen militiamen and seeing no pontoons available on his side of the Guadalupe and with the Texans lined up on the far bank armed and ready, he decided to move his troops to higher ground 300 yards from the ford. He had announced that he had a dispatch for alcalde Andrew Ponton but informed that he was out of town. He moved twice to better defensive positions and the last move was seen by the Texans as a threat. Meanwhile, the residents' forces were increasing in number by the hour.

On October 1 a force of 140 Texans under the command of newly elected Militia Colonel John Henry Moore crossed the Guadalupe at the Gonzales ferry landing. They had the cannon in tow. At 3 A.M., in a heavy fog, 50 Texans on horseback and the rest of the contingent on foot flanking them surged toward the Mexicans. The Mexicans, shooting blind in the fog, fired but hit no one. One Texan on horseback fell off his horse and got a nosebleed but that was the only casualty. As the colonists were retreating to the woods, fog continued to limit visibility. After day break the Texans launched their attack from the trees. They then fell back into the forest where they launched another attack wounding one Mexican soldier. The Mexican horsemen were unable to maneuver among the trees so they withdrew.

Lieutenant Casteneda sent a messenger to Colonel Moore requesting a meeting. The two men met in full view of both sides. Both men believed in a federalist government but Lieutenant Casteneda declared he could not disobey orders. They returned to their own lines. As the colonel rode back to his lines and the Texans fired their cannon filled with iron debris and raised a homemade flag with the image of a cannon and a star painted on it black. Also on the flag were the words, "Come and Take it!"

While the skirmish was a small one and Casteneda withdrew toward San Antonio, the consequences were far reaching. Gonzales served as the catalyst that defined the beginning of the Texas Revolution. Within two days Stephen F. Austin declared war.

Soon after Sam Houston ordered Gonzales burned to prevent the Mexican army sheltering there. It is presumed that Colonel Moore took part in that and the "run-away" scrape although no one wants to admit to participating in that event. The colonel returned to San Augustine, Burkeville, and then cut the first brush and built the first house in Newton according to "Some East Texas Families" by Thomas Wilson.

Records for Colonel Moore indicate he was born in South Carolina in 1808 and died on July 11, 1886 buried in Newton Cemetery