18 Men And A Cannon

5494724389_b6d87f829eAs cannons go, it weren’t much of one. Just a bronze six-pounder Green DeWitt got from the Mexican governor’s man Ramón Músquiz over at the Presidio San Antonio. Old Jim Tumlinson fetched it down to Gonzales for us in ’31 ‘nd we used it to keep indians ‘nd such away. It didn’t much matter we couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with it ’cause the noise alone would spook horses unfamiliar with such ‘nd no sane man even lookin’ for trouble was gonna bet his life on where a ball might land or where it might then go or whether we might’ve loaded ‘er up with bits of chain ‘nd nails ‘nd lead shot.

By the time Green died early in ’35, things between us Texians ‘nd the Mexican government had got bad ‘cause Santa Anna wouldn’t stand with the 1824 Constitution ‘nd in the first part of September Colonel Ugartechea over at the Presidio sent Corporal Casimiro De León ‘nd four of five other soldiers down to retrieve the cannon in case we might use it against ’em. We took ’em all prisoner ‘nd sent Ugartechea a note that we didn’t have it in mind to let it go. After that, we got word goin’ out that folks down here in Gonzales might need help pretty quick ‘nd then we went ‘nd buried the cannon in Daniel Davis’ son George’s peach orchard.

Señor Ugartechea didn’t take too well to what we had to say ‘nd on September 27th he dispatched Lieutenant Francisco de Castañeda ‘nd about a hundred dragoons over to see if they could get it done any better without doin’ somethin’ that could set a claim for an all-out fight with Mexico. He had also sent old Doc Smither along with Castañeda so as to go talk to the Texian council in Gonzales about how there weren’t no harm meant ‘nd that the Mexicans would be headin’ back to the Béxar garrison soon as they had got the cannon.

By the time Castañeda got anywheres near to the crossing at Gonzales on the 29th, we’d done took away the ferry ‘nd all the boats ‘nd the water was too deep ‘nd flowin’ too hard for ’em to make a ford without ’em ‘nd when Castañeda actually got himself down to the river, some Texian militia including Jake Darst, George Davis, Albert Martin, Charlie Mason, John Sowell, Zeke Williams ‘nd some others who got themselves named the Old Eighteen were waitin’ with their muskets ‘nd caps ‘nd a couple of scatterguns right to hand to make sure they didn’t come over. Around the same time as all that, Cap’n Robert Coleman ‘nd some of his indian fighters got here ‘nd some went to dig up the cannon ‘nd take it over to Sowell’s place to clean it up ‘nd get it mounted ‘nd ready to use.

Mind you, I wasn’t at the river that day, but I pretty much think it must’ve been quite a sight what with all them Mexicans standin’ there and the lieutenant out front on a roan explainin’ that he had orders from Ugartechea for Alcalde Ponton to hand over the cannon ‘nd Albert Martin lyin’ back as to how sorry he was to say the Alcalde weren’t available and they’d have to wait over where they were until he come back. There was some fussin’ back an forth over it, but with the river bein’ up ‘nd seein’ that there weren’t anyone of a mind to let ‘im cross over anyway, Castañeda had to do as Albert said ‘nd he pulled back a bit to make camp ‘nd wait for the Alcalde.

Still, Castañeda couldn’t ignore that he had orders to get the Alcalde to organize the return of the cannon. So the next day him and a small squad of his soldiers came back down to the crossing to see if he could better impress on the Texians why ‘nd what he was there for. But the Texians answered back that it could not be done without the Alcalde present unless Colonel Ugartechea would come see about it himself, which they knew he wouldn’t and only said ’cause they needed more time to plan how to show we was in earnest about keepin’ the cannon and upholding’ Constitutional government relations.

If he had any doubts about why us Texians were treatin’ so hard with ‘im, he surely could have figured it on October 1st when one of them cooshayta went ‘nd told ‘im about how many of us there were ‘nd that more were comin’ from as far as Robertson’s ‘nd Milam’s. He’d also sent Doc Smither over to town to see what the Texians might agree to about gettin’ the cannon delivered and he hadn’t come back, but he didnt know John Moore suspected him a spy ‘nd had arrested him ‘nd kept him ‘til the next morning. One thing he knew for sure was that he couldn’t cross at Gonzales ‘nd still keep things peaceable like what Ugartechea wanted. So he broke camp ‘nd went lookin’ for an easier way across ‘nd around sundown made camp again about seven miles upriver on Zeke Williams’ land, which he weren’t none too happy about.

Before night set in ‘nd with John Moore elected Colonel of our militia, we had brung back the ferry and most of the boats ‘nd when the Colonel figured the Mexicans had got far enough not to hear any comin’ up from behind, more than a hundred of us crossed over ‘nd followed after ’em with the cannon fit to Jake Darst’s cotton wagon.

But it were slow goin’.

We couldn’t move as fast as we might ’cause most were on foot ‘nd it was dark ‘nd we couldn’t see much ahead after fog come over us. Then when we come up close on the Mexicans camp ’round two or three in the mornin’ a dog set to barking’ ‘nd the pickets started shootin’ even tho’ they couldn’t see through the dark ‘nd the fog any better than we could. None was hit, but bein’ out in the middle of Zeke William’s corn and his watermelon patch we was open too much ‘nd Col. Moore ordered us back into a stand of post oaks along the river to wait ‘til it got cleared up enough that we might see where who was shootin’ at who.

At the same time, knowin’ that we was there and bein’ mindful of his orders about gettin’ tangled up in somethin’ bigger than was needed, Castañeda fell back to a low rise on the other side of Zeke’s fields to do the same.

I can’t say for sure, but It must have been the better part of three of four hours before it got to where we could see what we were doin’ and charged out them woods hootin’ ‘nd hollerin’ at them Mexicans like we was a bunch of Comanche savages ‘nd had formed up about two hundred yards out when Charlie Mason turned half-way ’round ‘nd pointed back behind us to where the cannon was settin’ ‘nd yelled over to them Mexicans that if they wanted it they’d damn well have to COME AND TAKE IT…