Stephen F. Austin State University

Runaway Scrape-The Hidden Event of The Texas Revolution (May 2018)

Runaway Scrape-The Hidden Event of The Texas Revolution

by Jonnie Miller

Texas, during the Spanish years, was largely populated by Anglos from the United States. The Spanish Crown had allowed immigrants from the U.S. to settle between the Trinity and Guadalupe rivers. When Mexico won their independence from Spain things began to change, Anglo-American immigrants soon outnumbered Tejanos (Mexican-Texans). Santa Anna ran for president and won and immediately suspended the constitution of 1824 and declared himself dictator for life. Clashes began when the Texians petitioned for representation with the federal government. Their petitions were ignored.

In 1831 the colonists asked the Mexican authorities for help defending against the Indians in Texas which were raiding and killing. The Mexican authorities replied they had no troops to spare but they sent a small cannon (a 6-pounder). However, they sent no ammunition with it so about the only thing that cannon could do was make a loud noise. (This cannon now resides in the Gonzales Memorial Museum).

When things began to heat up in Texas after the election and Santa Anna turned the government from a "Centralist" government into a dictatorship he sent de Castaneda and 100 dragoons to get that cannon back. His orders were to use force only if necessary. When they arrived at the Guadalupe River the water was high and they were met by 18 militiamen. He tried to talk to the Andrew Ponton commander of the Gonzales mission, but was told he was out of town so he pitched his tent to wait. The Texas militia used this time to reinforce their number. Coushatta Indians entered the Mexican camp and informed them the number of Texian volunteers had grown to 140 and more were coming. de Castaneda moved his camp to a place where he could "cross without any embarrassment" and made camp on land belonging to colonist Ezekiel Williams. The Texians also moved. They crossed the river and marched toward de Castaneda's camp. They attacked and de Castaneda ordered his men to fall back. During a lull he arranged a meet with the commander, John Henry Moore. He asked why they attacked and the commander told him they were fighting to keep their cannon and to uphold the Constitution of 1824. While de Castaneda sided with the Texians in theory he had orders to reclaim the cannon and was determined to do so since he was a soldier. Negotiations broke down and the commanders returned to their own units. The Texians then wrote on a flag in large letters, "Come and Take It." This flag is in the museum at Gonzales.

When fighting resumed de Castaneda ordered a withdrawal to Bexar. When questioned by his superiors he told them he did not want to compromise the honor of the Mexican army. One shot was fired but no one was hit. The only injury was when one of de Castaneda's men fell off his horse. This battle at Gonzales was the first clear break between the American colonists and the Mexican government that so embarrassed the honor of Santa Anna that the campaign against Texas became inevitable.

Rumors abounded after the fall of the Alamo. Almost no one escaped the massacre at the Alamo. They were attacked by Mexicans and Indians as they tried to flee from San Antonio, Goliad, Gonzales, San Patricio and Refugio. This was the beginning of the Runaway Scrape. The Runaway Scrape was the name Texians applied to the flight from Texas due east.

The Mexican army was coming up the coast from Mexico and that part of Texas was being emptied rapidly. Houston gathered his forces and moved south to try to protect the withdrawal as they moved toward the Sabine River. Inhabitants in Gonzales were the first to retreat under his protection. They rushed toward the Colorado River. At this time it had been raining for days and the creeks and rivers were rising rapidly. Wagons became bogged in mud and had to be left behind with all the belongings on them. Goods were scattered along the trail as they went. Houston had told the people to leave nothing behind for the Mexicans. People all over Texas were dropping everything in their attempt to escape what they knew would happen after Santa Anna took his revenge on Texas by killing everyone in the town of Goliad. He was already embarrassed by the standoff at Gonzales and in a mood to take it out on Texas. Anything left behind had to be burned or sunk in the rivers. When Houston couldn't move his cannons he sunk them in the river. People's valuables were gather and sunk in the river-the Brazos, the Guadalupe, the Colorado. As Houston and his army moved past the Colorado toward the Sabine and Galveston Island most of East Texas had been abandoned. Food was scarce so any cabin left sanding was raided for food or anything else that could be utilized by the refugees. There had been no real preparation and people were afraid of both the Mexicans and the Indians. Many died and were buried where they fell. The exodus continued until work came by horseback the Mexican Army had fallen at San Jacinto. Sam Houston and his militia had caught the Mexican Army at siesta and proceeded to rout them. Gen. Houston had been shot in the ankle by a musket ball through his boot but had led the charge. The Mexicans had shot 2 horses out from under him but Santa Anna had been forced to surrender.

The reason this was difficult to research was that it does not fit the way the typical Texan sees himself and his fellow Texans. We don't like to think of ourselves as victims or subject to running away from a fight. In fact, that was the last time we want to think we did not stand up to a bully. That incident tended to cement our determination to be independent even in the face of our own government.