1835 One Hundred And Fifty Years Ago

PrintPrintEmailEmail

When the fog broke on the morning of October 2 six miles from Gonzales, Texas, Capt. Francisco Castaneda and his two hundred Mexican soldiers peered across the prairie and beheld a force of one hundred and fifty Texans ranged beneath a most provoking flag: upon it were painted a small cannon and the words COME AND TAKE IT . Captain Castaneda had in fact come to Gonzales to confiscate a six-pound brass cannon, given the town earlier by the Mexican government for defense against Comanches. But since then, according to a circular issued in the name of Mexico’s president Santa Anna, “The colonists established in Texas have… given the most unequivocal evidence of the extremity to which perfidy, ingratitude and the restless spirit that animates them can go.” They had taken arms against Mexico, angered by her unwillingness to grant them statehood, to reduce import duties, and to provide basic civil services.

As daylight spread across the prairie, the Texans fired their single cannon. Calling a parley, Captain Castaneda asked why he was being attacked. Told that the disputed cannon was given to Gonzales residents for “the defense of themselves and the constitution and the laws of the country,” he was further informed that he worked for “the tyrant Santa Anna, who had broken underfoot all the state and federal constitutions of Mexico” —but would be prevented from doing the same to Texas. Refusing an invitation to join the revolution, Captain Castaneda said he would obey his orders. The parley ended, a brief skirmish followed in which one ot Castaneda’s soldiers was killed, and the rest of his troops fled the field.

The events that morning made it clear to Mexico that the Texans had abandoned diplomacy and were determined to fight. The Texas Revolution was under way.

As the U.S. government’s attempts to remove the Seminole Indians from their Florida homelands intensified in the fall of 1835, an Indian named Osceola rose to prominence among his people. The previous spring, he had plunged a hunting knife through a proffered treaty; his ardor had diminished none since then. When a Seminole chief capitulated to the whites in late November by agreeing to move west, Osceola murdered him, precipitating the Second Seminole War.

In forcing the emigration of Florida’s Indians, the United States was not motivated by a desire for their swampy lands. Florida was enticing because the region had for generations served as a haven for runaway slaves, who lived there in comparative freedom among the Semi-noles. In order to capture those blacks and eliminate the possibility of others joining the Indians later, the government was determined to conquer the Seminoles and send them into exile. To accomplish this goal, officials wrote up a fraudulent treaty stating that the Seminoles were willing to move west, obtained signatures of chiefs who did not represent the entire tribe, and disregarded clauses in the treaty that obstructed their aims.

But the Seminoles refused to be so easily disposed of and launched themselves into a six-year guerrilla war. At its outset, Osceola led black and Seminole warriors in numerous successful surprise attacks on government forces, but the tide turned in October 1837 when the Indian leader met with Army officials under a flag of truce—and was imprisoned. He died in jail the next year.

By 1841 Seminole resistance had faded, and most members of the tribe were transported to the Indian Territory, just east of modern-day Oklahoma City. Many died on the journey there. Some three hundred remained behind, however, hidden deep within the Everglades.

• October 21: William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist, is dragged through Boston’s streets by an angry mob and narrowly escapes with his life.

• November 23: Henry Burden patents a horseshoe-making machine.