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Gonzales Cannon in Museum

The Cannon in the town: The Tale of Gonzales Flag

What is The Gonzales Come and Take It Flag

     Mexico fought for and won its independence from Spain in the early 1800’s.  It established a constitution in 1824, and elected its first president.  Then in 1828 Santa Anna was elected president.  Santa Anna became more of a dictator than a president, disregarding the 1824 constitution.  Despots fear rebellion, so they do not want an armed populace.  Santa Anna limited the number of men who could be in militias, and began to disarm the rest of the citizens.  Texas territory was part of Mexico, and you can imagine how this went over there.  Open rebellion by Texas was just a matter of time.  

     A Mexican cavalry force of about 100 men was sent to the town of Gonzales in 1835. Located about 75 miles east of San Antonio, Gonzales had a small cannon, and the Mexican soldiers were supposed to seize it.

     The citizens of Gonzales stalled.  The cannon was buried in a local peach orchard, while word went out for reinforcements.  Men arrived, the cannon was dug up, and town official Joseph Clements sent this message:  I cannot, nor do I desire to deliver up the cannon; it was given to us for our defense… The cannon is in the town, and only through force will we yield.”

     At this point, Sara Seely DeWitt and her daughter Evaline made a flag that was to become famous:  on a white cloth they painted a cannon with a lone star above it, and the words “come and take it” beneath the cannon.  It was the first Gonzales Come and Take It Flag.  

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Opening battle for independence

     At night the Texans slipped across the Guadalupe River to the south of town, taking their cannon with them.  As they approached the Mexican camp, pickets detected their arrival, so the Texans withdrew.  

     As the fog lifted in the morning, both forces faced each other across the prairie. Lieutenant Castaneda, in command of the Mexican cavalry, requested a parley and asked why he was being attacked.

     Colonel Moore was in command of the Texans.  Moore explained that the Lieutenant was demanding a cannon the Texans had received for their own defense, and that Castaneda was acting under orders of Santa Anna, the enemy of the constitution.  

     Castaneda replied: “I am myself a republican, and so are two-thirds of the people of Mexico. But we are good Mexicans all, and I am an officer of the government. To be sure, the government has been changed, with the approval of the majority of the Mexican states, and the hope is that Texas also will accept the change.”  

     Moore suggested that the Lieutenant should “join us as a republican and patriot.”   

   “Impossible, senor,” answered the Lieutenant, “I must obey orders.” The parley was over, and the officers returned to their lines.  

     Colonel Moore ordered the Texans to open fire. With the “Come and Take It” flag flying in the wind, the cannon boomed.  After a brief skirmish, the Mexican force withdrew.  Gonzales kept its cannon, and Texas went on to become an independent republic.  

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Our historian has written extensively on the history of flags and the eras in which they were used. If you are interested in the story of any flag, let us know.  We’ll be happy to send it along, by mail or email, free of charge.  And don’t hesitate to ask questions.  One person wanted to know what flag was being flown by Alabama at secession.  No one really knew, so Tom dug into the documents of the period.  A few months later he wrote the history of the Alabama Flag of Independence.  It is now on our shelves.  Contact us at (770) 851-4970, or [email protected]

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