Texas War for Independence - 1835-1836
Santa Anna thought he would have little trouble defeating the Texans, as his forces were far larger then what the Texans could muster. Texas had no professional army - only farmers, ranchers and businessmen who volunteered for military service. Mexicans in Texas split on the issue with some fighting with Texas forces.
Hostilities started in Texas in Oct. 2, 1835. Santa Anna sent an Army detachment to seize a Cannon in the town of Gonzalez. The Texans refused to hand their cannon over and charged the enemy positions. The Mexicans retreated.
On November 3, 1835, delegates from across Texas assembled at San Felipe de Austin, and issued a declaration against Santa Anna and his military supporters, “who had by force of arms overthrown the Federal Institutions of Mexico, and dissolved the social compact which existed between Texas and the other members of the Mexican confederacy.”(28) Even now, the group did NOT declare independence, but affirmed their intention of restoring the Constitution of 1824.
On Dec 10, 1835, Mexican General Martin Perfecto de Cós surrendered over 1,000 Mexican troops at San Antonio to Texan forces. Cós and his men were allowed to go back to Mexico under a promise not to fight against the Texans again.
By March 1836 it was time for Texans to decide what they were fighting for. Santa Anna was bombarding the Alamo. Were the Texans going to fight to save the Mexican constitution of 1824, or fight for independence? This was a question many other states in the Mexican confederation asked year after year - that often ended in rebellion. Texas finally decided that trying to save democracy in Mexico was a lost cause.(29a) The Texas Declaration of Independence was signed on March 2, 1836 and a provisional government formed for the Republic of Texas.
Less then a week later, Santa Anna’s Army overwhelmed Americans and Texans at the Alamo, with 187 men fighting to the death. (Interestingly, ten of the defenders at the Alamo had Spanish names) About 1,200 Mexicans were killed.(29b) One of the officers in charge of attacking the Alamo was none other then General Cós, who returned to Texas to fight the rebellion a second time.
On 20 March, 1836, 400 Texans surrendered near Goliad - and a week later were massacred on orders from Santa Anna, who then ordered their bodies to be piled up and burned. The Goliad and Alamo massacres galvanized Texan and American hatred against Mexico.
In April 21, 1836, San Houston’s Army of 750 men defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto River. Over 700 Mexicans were killed and 730 captured. The arrogant Santa Anna, who boasted he was the “Napoleon of the West” fled, disguised as a common soldier, but was captured the next day.
Texas had done the impossible - they had defeated the dictator of Mexico.
Treaty of Velasco
There was strong sentiment in Texas to execute Santa Anna, but the new Texas government was more interested in a peace agreement than revenge. Santa Anna sent a message to General Filisola to retire to Victoria, advising: "I have agreed with General Houston for an armistice until matters can be so regulated that the war will cease forever." After weeks of negotiations, on May 14, 1836, Santa Anna, the head of Mexico’s government, signed two agreements, known as the Treaties of Velasco. The first treaty was to be implemented immediately, and the second “secret” treaty was to be published after the first treaty had been fulfilled. The public treaty contained 10 articles as follows:
The contracting parties sign this Instrument for the above mentioned purposes, by duplicate, at the Port of Velasco this fourteenth day of May 1836.
Mexico kills the Peace Treaty with Texas
General Filisola, Santa Anna’s second in command took over, and despite considerable opposition from other officers, began withdrawing Mexican troops from Texas in accordance with the peace agreement signed by Santa Anna. But 6 days later, on May 20, the Mexican government declared the treaties Santa Anna had signed in captivity to be null and void. On May 28, the Mexican government ordered Filisola to maintain control over parts of Texas already conquered. However, by this time the withdrawal from Texas was largely complete. Filisola wanted to renew the war against Texas, but his troops were in no condition to go on another offensive, and Filisola decided to complete the withdrawal to Matamoras, on the south side of the Rio Grande River. On June 12, Filisola was removed from command.
Mexico’s refusal to honor the Velasco peace agreement destroyed any chance of permanent peace with Texas.
On June 3, 1836, Santa Anna - El Presidente - boarded a schooner for the trip to Vera Cruz. But a newly arrived detachment of soldiers prevented Santa Anna from leaving and he became a prisoner again.(31 Because of this second, unauthorized imprisonment of Santa Anna, some historians have declared that the US also broke the peace treaties. While this is technically accurate, the Mexican government had already killed the peace treaties. Even if Santa Anna had returned to Mexico as originally planned, neither Santa Anna nor the Mexican government had any intentions of keeping the peace agreement signed with Texas. THIS VERY BAD DECISION BY MEXICO MADE A SECOND WAR WITH TEXAS - AND THE UNITED STATES INEVITABLE.
After being released and returned to Mexico on February 1837, Santa Anna declared he had signed the treaties under duress as a prisoner of war. While this was certainly true, he did not have to sign anything. What Santa Anna’s fate would have been had he not signed a peace deal will never be known. What is known is Santa Anna was very cooperative. At any rate, throughout history, the winner in a war dictates the terms to the loser. Texas hoped this treaty would forever end the war with Mexico - but it didn’t. Mexico refused to ratify the treaty and Santa Anna repudiated it upon his return to Mexico.