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Battle of Agua Dulce

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Battle of Agua Dulce

Battle of Agua Dulce
Part of the Texas Revolution
Date March 2, 1836
Location 25 miles (40 km) southwest of San Patricio, Texas
Result Mexican victory
Belligerents
 Mexico  Republic of Texas
Commanders and leaders
José de Urrea James Grant  
Strength
60 men 27
Casualties and losses
1 killed
unknown wounded
12-15 killed
6 captured

The Battle of Agua Dulce Creek occurred approximately 26 miles (42 km) south of San Patricio on March 2, 1836, between the Republic of Mexico and the rebellious Mexican state of Texas as part of the Texas Revolution. In February 1836, Mexican General Jose Urrea led a contingent of troops along the Texas coast, intending to eventually retake Goliad. After defeating a small group of Texians in San Patricio, Urrea learned that the remainder of the group was on its way back to San Patricio after capturing wild horses. Urrea and 60 cavalry troops waited in ambush on the morning of March 2. After a brief battle, the main body of the Texian and Tejano troops were defeated. The commander of those troops, Dr. James Grant, and a second man escaped the battle and were pursued for 7 miles (11 km) before being forced to dismount. Grant was killed, as were 11 other men under his command. Six Texians were taken prisoner; contrary to Santa Anna's orders, Urrea did not execute the prisoners, but instead sent them to a jail in Matamoros. An additional six Texians escaped; five of them later died in the Goliad Massacre.

Background

The Texas Revolution began on October 2, 1835. By December, all Mexican soldiers had been driven from the province.[1] The Texas General Council authorized the Matamoros Expedition to take Matamoros in the Mexican interior. The General Council alternately gave command of the expedition to James Fannin and Frank W. Johnson.[2] The acting governor, Henry Smith, sent General Sam Houston to try to stop the campaign.[3]

Houston quietly pointed out the difficulties facing the soldiers in Matamoros, and many soldiers deserted. Fannin chose to pull back to Presidio La Bahia at Goliad, leaving about 150 men with Johnson in Refugio.[4] Johnson shared command with his business partner, James Grant.[5] They marched their remaining troops 50 miles (80 km) south to San Patricio, still over 100 miles (160 km) from Matamoros.[4] By late February, desertions had brought their number down to fewer than 100 men.[4]

Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was determined to quell the unrest.[6] By December 1835, Santa Anna had gathered 6,019 soldiers at San Luis Potosi.[7] Santa Anna intended to march the majority of the troops across the center of Texas to retake San Antonio de Bexar. General Jose Urrea would manage the second front of the war, with the goal of retaking Presidio La Bahia at Goliad. On February 17, 1836, Urrea and 550 troops crossed the Rio Grande at Matamoros.[8]

Prelude

In late February, Grant took 26 men to hunt for wild horses.[9] Johnson remained in San Patricio with about 34 men, divided into five groups.[10] In the early hours of February 27, Urrea attacked San Patricio. The Texians were quickly defeated, with many, including Johnson, fleeing the area.[11] Urrea then sent scouts to find Grant's small group.[11]

Unaware of Johnson's fate, Grant and his party began their march northward to San Patricio, driving a herd of several hundred captured mustangs with them.[9][12] Urrea had learned of their movements, and on the morning of March 2 he led approximately 60 cavalry to intercept the Texians.[12]

Battle

Approximately 26 miles (42 km) south of San Patricio, near Agua Dulce Creek, the Mexican cavalry took cover in two groves of trees. Grant, Ruben Brown, and Plácido Benavides rode .5 miles (0.80 km) ahead of the main body of Texians and saw no signs of the Mexican soldiers.[9]

As the remaining Texians reached the trees, the Mexican cavalry attacked.[9] Taken completely unaware, many of the Texians were shot before they were able to raise their guns.[13] On hearing the gunfire, Grant ordered Benavides, a local resident who was familiar with the countryside, to travel to Goliad to warn Fannin of the Mexican army's proximity. Grant and Brown returned to join the fray. As they neared, however, they realized that the battle was almost over, with most of the Texians already dead. A Mexican lance killed Brown's horse, but he managed to safely mount another horse. At about this time, the wild horses stampeded, and, in the confusion, Grant and Brown were able to escape.[9] According to Brown's later recollection, both of their horses were wounded as Mexican soldiers fired after them.[14]

Mexican soldiers promptly gave chase. Although some called for the Texians to surrender, Grant and Brown continued to flee. After 7 miles (11 km), the pair were surrounded and dismounted. Grant killed a Mexican soldier who drove a lance through Brown's arm. This made him the target of the other soldiers, and he died after being pierced multiple times. Unable to fight after a lasso pinned his arms, Brown surrendered and was taken captive.[9]

Aftermath

Although Urrea reported that 41–43 Texians were killed, historians believe that only 12 Texians died.[15] Six Texians were taken prisoner. Despite orders from Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna that all captured Texians should be executed, Urrea spared those who surrendered. The men were escorted to a prison in Matamoros.[16] An additional six Texians escaped. Five of these joined Fannin's garrison at Goliad and were later killed in the Goliad Massacre. No reports of Mexican losses have been found, although at least one Mexican soldier is thought to have died. After the battle, Mexican soldiers rounded up the horses that the Texians had been herding and kept them.[15]

According to historian Stephen Hardin, this battle proved that the Texians did not fight well on open prairies. News of the imminent arrival of Urrea worried Fannin, who feared that Santa Anna would lead his troops from San Antonio de Bexar towards Goliad, essentially trapping Fannin and his men between the two branches of the Mexican Army.[17] Fannin wrote to the Acting Governor, James Robinson, "I am a better judge of my military abilities than others, and if I am qualified to command an Army, I have not found it out."[18] The acting Texas government named Sam Houston the new commander-in-chief on March 4,[19] but instructed Fannin to "use your own discretion to remain where you are or to retreat as you may think best for the safety of the brave volunteers under your command, and the regulars in the militia".[20]

See also

References

  1. ^ Edmondson (2000), p. 129.
  2. ^ Moore (2004), p. 13.
  3. ^ Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 100.
  4. ^ a b c Nofi (1992), p. 92.
  5. ^ Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 101.
  6. ^ Hardin (1994), p. 98.
  7. ^ Hardin (1994), p. 102.
  8. ^ Hardin (1994), pp. 120–1.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Hardin (1994), p. 159.
  10. ^ Hardin (1994), p. 158.
  11. ^ a b Nofi (1992), p. 94.
  12. ^ a b Groneman (1998), p. 46.
  13. ^ Scott (2000), p. 115.
  14. ^ Scott (2000), p. 116.
  15. ^ a b Groneman (1998), p. 47.
  16. ^ Edmondson (2000), p. 344.
  17. ^ Hardin (1994), p. 160.
  18. ^ Hardin (1994), pp. 160–161.
  19. ^ Hardin (1994), p. 162.
  20. ^ Scott (2000), p. 121.

Bibliography

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