Santa Anna's Army in Fort Bend County, 1836 

 

After the fall of the Alamo on the 6th day of March, 1836, Santa Anna, President of Mexico, marched to the conquest of the balance of Texas with four divisions of his army. The first, commanded by himself in person, and the second by Filasola, followed the small retreating army of General Houston and the fleeing settlers. Colonel Urrea was sent with another division to attack Colonel Fannin at Goliad, while Gaona, with the fourth, went by way of Bastrop to destroy the little town and settlement there. Among the regimental commanders were Almonte, Sesma, Castrillon and others. Colonel Almonte, who figured so conspicuously in this invasion, was with the division of Santa Anna.


On the 26th of March, 1836, Santa Anna ordered Colonel Urrea with his force of nearly 2,000 men to scour all the country from Victaria to Galveston, and under his most strict responsibility he should fulfill the orders of the government to shoot all prisoners, and to commence with those under Colonel J. W. Fannin, who had been taken captive but a few days before. The same instructions were given to Sesma and Gaona; to execute all those found with arms in their hands, and to force those who had not taken up arms to leave the country.

The town of Gonzales in DeWitt's Colony on the Guadalupe was laid in ashes by the Texans when they abandoned it, and nothing but smoking ruins confronted Santa Anna when he approached it. Houston was retreating towards the Colorado, and the settlers were fleeing from the various settlements towards the Sabine River.

Between the 17th and 20th, after having crossed the Colorado, General Houston moved down that stream on the east side from Burnham's to Beason's, the latter being a, few miles below the present town of Columbus, in Colorado County. Sesma was in command of the advance of Santa. Anna's division, and on the 20th was on the Navadad. River, thirty miles west of the Colorado. He reported to Santa Anna on the lath 4that he was on the Colorado River, but was in fact on Rocky Creek, a tributary of the Navadad, twenty miles west of the Colorado. On March the 20th Houston's scouts, under Captain Henry W. Karnes, defeated the scouts of Sesma on Rocky Creek, killing one and capturing another. On the 23rd Sesma camped three miles from the Colorado.

Satisfied that Santa Anna's main army would follow the advance under Sesma, General Houston fell back to the Brazos and encamped on Mill Creek, above San Felipe. The news had now been received of the massacre of Fannin's men, and when it was also learned that the Mexican army was on the east side of the Colorado, the people of San Felipe burned the town, and a general re-treat commenced from that place, the settlers endeavoring to put the Sabine River between them and the Mexican army until the final battle for Texas independence came off. It was during these trying and exciting times that those famous scouts, Deaf Smith, Henry Karnes and Wash Secrest, performed service that won them a bright page in Texas history.

On the 12th and 13th General Houston, with the aid of the steamboat "Yellowstone," commanded by Captain Ross, and nearly loaded with cotton at Grace's Ferry, and a, smaller craft, crossed from the west to the east side of the Brazos, which was very high and -difficult of passage and pitched camp at "Groce's Retreat," near the present town of Hempstead. In the meantime he had ordered Captain Wiley Martin to occupy a position with a small force at Fort Bend, and Captain Moseley Baker, with a like force opposite San Felipe, to dispute the passage there with Santa Anna, and cripple and delay him as much as possible. Here Baker's men from the east bank fought the first advance of the Mexican army, and so destructive was their rifle fire that the Mexicans recoiled, and, not knowing the strength of the Texans across the river, abandoned the idea of any further attempt to force a. passage there, and moved thirty miles below to Fort Bend, now Richmond. It was impossible for General Houston to guard all the river passes for 100 miles, and at the same time concentrate his force so as to guard any one point effectually. An invading army marches with everything necessary to conquest.

"Colonel Almonte in his diary in substance says that on the 9th Santa. Anna took the choice companies of Guerrero, Matamoros, Mexico and Toluca and fifty of the Tampico cavalry and moved down the country in search of a crossing over the river, following the road leading to and down the San Benard. On the 10th, at a farm on the Fort Bend and Egypt crossing of the Benard, they found twenty barrels of sugar and 1,250 bushels of corn. Here they learned that a force was awaiting to oppose them at Fort Bend on the old Fort Bend road, and then they marched toward that place. (This force was Captain Martin's men.) At half past 9 o'clock p.m. they halted, but at 2 a.m. renewed the march on foot-from the president (Santa Anna) down to the soldiers, leaving the baggage and cavalry for the purpose of surprising the enemy, who defended the crossing, before daylight. They did not succeed, as the distance was double what they supposed it was. Day broke on them a quarter of a league from the ferry, and frustrated their plans. The men were then placed in ambush.

On the 11th they were still in ambush, when a passing Negro from the east side was captured. He conducted them to the canoe in which he crossed, a little below the ferry, in which, unperceived, they crossed. By this time the cavalry arrived and took possession of the houses. In John Henry Brown's history of Texas he says: "Captain Martin had previously crossed to the east side and kept up a fire at the Mexicans till the Cazadores, under Bringus, crossed at the lower ford and were about to assail him in the rear. He then retired."

Almonte does not mention any fight with Martin's men, or the capture of John R. Fenn and Joe Kuykendall, or the passage of the "Yellow Stone" down the river at the time. He further says that "An order was at once sent to Sesma to join them here, and a letter written by Santa Anna to Urrea at Matagorda. The boats were then repaired, and they took possession of Thompson's Ferry, a little above On the 13th Ramirez with a force arrived from Victoria. Many articles were found, and dispatches arrived both from Filasola and Urrea.

"On the 14th," says Almonte, quoting his exact words, "We crossed the river early with our beds only, and pro-visions for the road. At 3 in the afternoon we started from Thompson's Ferry and arrived at Harrisburg on the 15th."

Within a day or two after Santa Anna left Fort Bend Filasola arrived with his division, and was here joined by Gaona, who, having burned Bastrop, marched down the Colorado, and, intercepting the trail of the other divisions, followed them.

During this time The gallant little army of Houston were crossing the northwestern part of Fort Bend County, in the direction of the head of Buffalo Bayou.

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