José Cosme de Urrea y Elías González


There are several definitions for the word filibuster.  In the modern sense, a filibuster is a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedure.  In its historical context, a filibuster is someone engaging in unauthorized warfare against a foreign country.  It is derived from the Dutch word “vrijbuiter” (freebooter), a pillaging and plundering pirate or lawless adventurer.  The word for a freebooter, particularly an American pillager who mounted private military campaigns against the lawful authority of the Spanish Crown or the Mexican Republic, was “pirate.”

The penalty for piracy was death, often handed down with “no quarter.”


The “penal laws” of Ireland, enacted over several years beginning in 1695 with the Education Act, were intended to force Irish Catholics and dissenter protestants (planters and Quakers) to accept the authority of the Church of Ireland by restricting their political, religious, and commercial rights.  They included the Banishment Act of 1697, the Registration Act of 1704, the Popery Acts of 1704 and 1709, and the Disenfranchising Act of 1728.  The government removed most of these restrictions between 1778-1793, with a few remaining until 1829.

The force and effect of these restrictions compelled one notable Irishman to leave his homeland and move to Spain.  Hugh O’Conor was born in Dublin in 1732. He was a descendant of Toirdhealbhach Mór Ua Conchobhair (anglicized as Turlough Mór O’Conor), King of Connacht (1106-1156), and High King of Ireland (1120-1156). O’Conor became a citizen of Aragon and an officer in the Spanish Royal Army.  The Crown sent O’Conor to Cuba and later, to Mexico (New Spain) where he distinguished himself as a strategist and military commander.  Spain appointed O’Conor as captain-general and inspector for the Northern Territory and later as governor of Tejas.  He was the first governor to respond to Indian hostilities in and around San Antonio de Béxar.

In 1771, O’Conor became the military commander of Chihuahua and inspector-general of New Spain’s presidios.  Within a few years, he initiated a campaign against the murderous Apache.  As part of this campaign, O’Conor established the Presidio San Agustin del Tucsón in 1775, the first western protective structure in Tucsón, Arizona.

José Urrea

One of Tucsón’s more famous citizens was José Cosme de Urrea y Elias González, more commonly known as José Urrea, born on 19 March 1797 at the presidio in Tucsón, Province of Nuevo Navarre.  Despite his birth in the far northern frontier, Urrea had strong family ties to the Mexican state of Durango.  At ten years of age, Urrea entered Spanish military service as a cadet under the presidial company of San Rafael Buenavista.  Upon graduation in 1816, the Crown commissioned him a lieutenant.  His first taste of war occurred during the fighting at Jalisco and Michoacán during the Mexican War of Independence.

Mexico’s War of Independence was a troubling time for everyone.  It was a period when military officers changed their loyalties almost as often as they changed their socks, and even after having achieved their independence, not even the so-called intellectuals of Mexico were sure about what course to follow.  In 1821, Urrea supported the Plan of Iguala of Agustin de Iturbide, which announced that Mexico would become a constitutional monarchy, embrace Catholicism, and grant equality among Peninsulares and Creoles.[1]  In 1823, Urrea shifted his allegiance to Vicente Ramon Guerrero Saldaña, Iturbide’s executioner.

The government of Mexico promoted Urrea to captain in 1824, but he soon after resigned from the army and entered private life.  The next time we heard from Urrea was in 1829 when Guerrero became President of Mexico.  Urrea rejoined the army as a major and helped liberate the city of Durango, this time aligning himself with Antonio López de Santa Anna.[2]  During this fight, he sufficiently distinguished himself for another promotion to Colonel — and it probably helped somewhat that he had a keen sense of which way the political winds were blowing.  However, in 1835, when the state of Zacatecas rebelled against the centralist regime of Santa Anna, Urrea only reluctantly took part in the subjugation of that rebellion.[3]  Nevertheless, Urrea did accept El Presidenté Santa Anna’s promotion to brigadier general.

Mexican Rebellion

Having secured Urrea’s loyalty, Santa Anna sent him to Texas to deal with that rebellion.  General Urrea led 1,500 men into Matamoros, rested and resupplied them, and then continued toward San Patricio on 13 February 1836.  El Presidenté Santa Anna led his army across the Rio Bravo on 16 February.[4]  Urrea led his force across the Rio Bravo on 17 February.

On 21 February, Santa Anna arrived at the Medina River located southwest of San Antonio.  He intended to send General Joaquin Ramirez y Sesma’s cavalry across the river on the next day to begin a series of sorties against the Texians in San Antonio, but heavy rains converted the river into a torrent, making it impassable.  Santa Anna crossed the Medina on 23 February, entered San Antonio, and began the siege of the Alamo.

General Urrea arrived on the outskirts of San Patricio on 27 February.  Standing in his way was a small Texian force of 43 men under Frank W. Johnson.  Urrea attacked the Texians in the early morning hours, killing all but six men.  General Urrea lost five men: one killed, four wounded.  On 2 March, Urrea confronted the small force of Dr. James Grant at Agua Dulce, killing around 15 Texians and capturing six (of 53 total men).

Santa Anna’s orders to Urrea were to lead his troops along the Atascocita Road toward Goliad to protect Santa Anna’s southern flank, clear the Gulf Coast of all rebels, and control all ports.  Urrea achieved his objectives, but his support of Santa Anna was limited by time, distance, and enemy activity — notably, the Goliad Campaign.

At Goliad, also known as the Presidio La Bahia, Texian Colonel James Walker Fannin[5] worked with his volunteers to improve the presidio.  On 7 March, Fannin learned from Lewis Ayers that in the previous week, a group of Tejanos calling themselves the Victoriana Guards ransacked the town of Refugio (located 25 miles south of Goliad).  This activity was ostensibly a reaction to Mexico’s cancellation of the Constitution of 1824, but it may have also been thugs taking advantage of unsettling times.  Mr. Ayers’ wife, who lived in Refugio, was afraid to stay in the settlement owing to the approach of the Mexican Army and equally in fear of the thuggish behavior of the Victoriana Guards.  Fannin agreed to send troops to Refugio to help evacuate the settlers as soon as oxen and carts could become available.

On 11 March, Fannin dispatched Captain Amon B. King and 28 men to evacuate the Texians from Refugio.  They arrived in Refugio that night and camped at Mission Nuestra Senora del Refugio, where some Texian families had taken sanctuary.  The following morning, King led his troops to the ranch of Esteban Lopez, where the family of Lewis Ayers was staying.  King arrested six Tejanos he had heard were ransacking abandoned homes.  After he learned that other Tejanos were plundering homes about 8 miles south, King took half of his men on an unauthorized mission to pursue them.  They rode into an ambush staged by Captain de la Garza’s men and allied Karankawa Indians.  The Texians extricated themselves from the fight and returned to the Lopez ranch.  King escorted all of the families gathered there to the mission in Refugio.

General Urrea’s advance cavalry arrived in Refugio shortly after King and the families returned to the mission.  Riding with Urrea’s men were some of the Victoriana Guards — totaling around 100 men, who quickly surrounded the mission.  King dispatched a rider to Fannin, asking for reinforcements.  This was the same day that Fannin learned that the Alamo had fallen with the loss of all its defenders.

On 13 March, Fannin dispatched Lieutenant Colonel William Ward with 148 men (each man armed with 36 rounds of ammunition each) to Refugio.  Ward arrived on the same day, discovered the mission surrounded by Mexicans, and sent warning shots.  The Mexicans withdrew, but then Amon King refused to relinquish overall command to Colonel Ward.  Ward suggested that King assemble his men to help with the evacuation of the Texian families.  King refused and departed Refugio with his men to pursue the Mexican gangsters.  Ultimately, however, Urrea’s army forced King’s surrender, after which Urrea had him executed.

General Urrea then began to maneuver his force against Ward’s mission defense.  While casualty estimates vary, Colonel Ward’s men killed or wounded between 200-600 of Urrea’s men, suffering only five casualties to his men.  During a heavy rainstorm during the night of the 14th, Ward and most of his men abandoned the mission and passed through Mexican lines undetected.  When Urrea learned that the Texians had left the mission, he sent his army out looking for the escapees.  Ward and his men struggled through swamps and swollen creeks for several days.  Ultimately, Urrea’s Mexicans surrounded most of these men and marched them under guard to Goliad.

Colonel Fannin’s garrison at Goliad numbered 445 men (with nine artillery pieces).  On 19 March, Fannin led his men on a leisurely retreat from the presidio.  At Coleto Creek, Urrea’s forces under Lieutenant Colonel Portillo surrounded the Texians before they could reach a defensible position along the wooded creek.  Fannin formed a square with wagons placed in defensive positions.  Despite three separate attacks, Portillo’s men could not penetrate Fannin’s position, but Mexican sharpshooters began taking their toll.  Fannin was out of water and had no way to relieve the suffering of his wounded men.  This situation prompted Fannin to surrender his men early the following day.

The Journals

At this point, I must defer to General Urrea’s accounting of what then transpired.  In keeping with Spanish tradition, high-ranking Mexican officers maintained detailed diaries of their adventures.  Urrea was no exception.  According to what is purported to be General Urrea’s diary/journal, translated into the English language by historians associated with the “Sons of De Witt Colony,” this is how General Urrea recorded the execution of Colonel Fannin and his Texian garrison:


I returned to Victoria with the prisoners taken with Ward and received news at this place that eighty-two men had surrendered … with all their arms and munitions.  I sent scouts to Lavaca Lake and the stream bearing the same name as well as to that of La Navidad.  I dictated ten orders for the security of … the prisoners at Goliad, the establishment of hospitals, and the rebuilding of the fort there by the prisoners, excusing from this work only those who were officers.  I gave instructions also for all the forces with which I was to continue the campaign to join me, bringing [with them] the artillery and corresponding munitions.  Among the instructions given on this day, I ordered that a thorough investigation be undertaken to determine the views and principal aims that moved the officers who are our prisoners to take up arms.  The findings of this investigation are among my papers.

I spent the 24th, 25th, 26th, and 27th in organizing my forces, equipment, and ammunition, and in drawing up many instructions for the security of the military posts that I was leaving on our rear, as well as for the better care of the wounded who have been up to now in the hands of a bad surgeon.  As among the prisoners, there were men skilled in all trades, I secured surgeons from among them who were very useful to us as well as the sick in the hospitals at Béxar, where I sent those that were needed.

On the 25th, I sent Ward and his companions to Goliad.  On the 27th, between nine and ten in the morning, I received a communication from Lieutenant Colonel Portilla, military commandant of that point, telling me that he had received orders from His Excellency, the general-in-chief, to shoot all prisoners and that he was making preparations to fulfill that order.

This order was received by Portilla at seven in the evening of the 26th, and although he notified me of the fact on the same date,  his communication did not reach me until after the execution had been carried out.  All the members of my division were distressed to hear this news, and I no less, being as sensitive as my companions who will bear testimony of my excessive grief.  Let a single one of them deny this fact!  More than 150 prisoners were with me escaped this terrible fate; also, those who surrendered … and the surgeons and hospital attendants were spared.  Those which I kept were very useful to me as sappers.

I have come to an incident that has attracted the attention of foreigners and nationals more than any other and for which there have not been lacking those who would hold me responsible, although my conduct in the affair was straightforward and unequivocal.  The orders of the general-in-chief with regard to fate decreed for prisoners were very emphatic.[6]

These orders always seemed to me harsh, but they were the inevitable result of the barbarous and inhuman decree which declared outlaws those whom it wished to convert into citizens of the Republic.  Strange inconsistency in keeping with the confusion that characterized the times!  I wished to elude these orders as far as possible without compromising my personal responsibility; and, with this object view, I issued several orders to Lieutenant Colonel Portilla, instructing him to use the prisoners for the rebuilding of Goliad.  From time on, I decided to increase the number of the prisoners there in the hope that their very number would save them, for I never thought the horrible spectacle of that massacre could take place in cold blood and without immediate urgency, a deed prescribed by the laws of war and condemned by the civilization of our country.

It was painful to me, also, that so many brave men should thus be sacrificed, particularly the much esteemed and fearless Fannin.  They doubtlessly surrendered, confident that Mexican generosity would not make their surrender useless, for, under any other circumstances, they would have sold their lives dearly, fighting to the last.  I had due regard for the motives that induced them to surrender, and for this reason, I used my influence with the general-in-chief to save them, if possible, from being butchered, particularly Fannin.

I received from His Excellency only a severe reply, repeating his previous order [see the previous footnote], doubtlessly dictated by cruel necessity.  Fearing, no doubt, that I might compromise him with my disobedience and expose him to accusations of his enemies, he transmitted his instructions directly to the commandant of Goliad, inserting a copy of the order to me.  What was done by the commandant is told in his diary.  Here, as well as in his communications, are seen the motives that made him act and the anguish which the situation caused him.  Even after this lamentable event, I still received a letter from the general-in-chief dated the 26th saying, “I say nothing regarding the prisoners, for I have already stated what their fate shall be when taken with arms in their hands.”

In view of the facts presented, and keeping in mind that while that tragic scene was being enacted in Goliad, I was in Guadalupe Victoria, where I received news of it several hours after the execution, what could I do to prevent it, especially if the orders were transmitted directly to that place?  This is to demand the impossible, and had I been in a position to disregard the order, it would have been a violent act of insubordination.  If they wish to argue that it was in my hand to have guaranteed the lives of those unfortunates by granting them a capitulation when they surrendered at Perdido, I will reply that it was not in my power to do it, that it was not honorable, either to arms of the nation or to myself, to have done so.  Had I granted them terms, I would have laid myself open to trial by a council of war, for my force being superior to that of the enemy on the 20th and my position more advantageous, I could not admit any proposals except a surrender at discretion, my duty being to continue fighting leaving the outcome to fate.  I believe that I acted in accordance with my duty, and I could not do otherwise.  Those who assert that I offered guarantees to those who surrendered speak without knowledge of the facts.


The separate testimony of Colonel Portillo, the commandant at Goliad, and the officer who carried out Santa Anna’s order appears to reinforce General Urrea’s journal.


March 26.  At seven in the evening, I received orders from General Santa Anna by special messenger, instructing me to execute at once all prisoners taken by force of arms agreeable to the general orders on the subject.  (I have the original order in my possession).  I kept the matter secret, and no one knew of it except Colonel Garay, to whom I communicated the order.  At eight o’clock, on the same night, I received a communication from General Urrea by special messenger in which among other things, he says, “Treat the prisoners well, especially Fannin.  Keep them busy rebuilding the town and erecting the fort.  Feed them with the cattle you will receive from Refugio.” What a cruel contrast in these opposite instructions!  I spent a restless night.

March 27.  At daybreak, I decided the carry out the orders of the general-in-chief because I considered them superior.  I assembled the whole garrison and ordered the prisoners, who were sleeping, to be awakened.  There were 445.  (The eighty that had been taken … and had, consequently, not borne arms against the government, were set aside).  The prisoners were divided into three groups, and each was placed in charge of an adequate guard, the first under Agustin Alcerrica, the second under Captain Luis Balderas, and the third under Captain Antonio Ramirez.  I gave instructions to these officers to carry out the orders of the supreme government and the general-in-chief.  This was immediately done.  There was a great contrast in the feelings of the officers and men.  Silence prevailed.  Sad at heart, I wrote to Gen. Urrea expressing my regret at having been concerned in so painful an affair.  I also sent an official account of what I had done to the general-in-chief. 


The Unraveling

Subsequently, Santa Anna decided to personally supervise the destruction of the Anglo-Texians — a decision taken, historians argue, because Urrea, the recipient of favorable press in Mexico City, had become a political threat.

Earlier in the year, Santa Anna appointed General Vicente Filisola as his Deputy Commander for the Texas Campaign.  Santa Anna relegated Filisola to command the second army group and the supply train moving in trace of the main army.  The logistics train included heavy military equipment (artillery), supply wagons, and a thousand head of cattle.  Abysmal weather in Texas in 1836 made this task exceedingly difficult.  The supply wagons and cattle became mired in rain-soaked land and flooded crossings.

While Santa Anna quickly advanced toward the Colorado River, Filisola and his rearguard became mired in mud, low on food, short on supplies, and physical exhaustion.  Filisola continually reported his situation and progress to Santa Anna, but Texian scouts intercepted his communique and delivered them instead to General Sam Houston.

Santa Anna instructed Filisola to await the convergence of the forces of Generals Antonio Gaona, Joaquin Ramirez y Sesma, Martin Perfecto de Cos, Manuel Castrillón, and colonels Juan Almonte, Agustin Amat, Francisco Duque, and Manuel Romero.  Once Filisola mustered these elements, Santa Anna instructed him to discover a viable crossing, establish an encampment, and send General Cos forward with 500 men to locate and attack the Texians.  Afterward, General Filisola, with 1,000 remaining troops, moved to a position between San Felipe and Fort Bend, where he remained during and after Houston’s capture of Santa Anna on 22 April 1836.

On 23 April, Captain Miguel Aguirre of the Tampico Regiment, a wounded officer of Santa Anna’s guard, struggled into Filisola’s camp on the Brazos and made his report: total destruction of the Mexican army at San Jacinto.  It was a fantastic story, and General Filisola didn’t believe a word of it — until more stragglers entered the camp and confirmed Aguirre’s story. As word spread of Santa Anna’s defeat, morale among Filisola’s troops sagged. No one knew whether Santa Anna was alive, and Filisola was unsure of what to do. The general also worried about what the Texians might do to their prisoners should Filisola make another assault.  He deduced that his only viable option was to retreat and request instructions from Mexico City.

General Filisola sent a message to Urrea to join him at Fort Bend.  General Urrea arrived pm 25 April.  As the senior officer, Filisola held a council of war.  Several officers, led by Urrea, urged Filisola to mount an aggressive attack on the Texians.  It was not an unreasonable recommendation because the Mexican force at Fort Bend numbered well over 2,500 men.  An additional 1,200 soldiers were at Goliad and San Antonio.  In total, Filisola’s nearly 4,000 troops constituted an overwhelming force if quickly directed against Houston’s 900 Texians.

While the generals consulted, a Mexican soldier arrived from the Texian camp bearing a message from General Santa Anna: he ordered Filisola to withdraw all Mexican forces from Texas.  Urrea was astounded and incensed, even more so when Filisola decided to comply with Santa Anna’s order.

On May 24, General Filisola ordered Colonel Juan José Andrade to destroy the fortifications of the Alamo and, when accomplished, evacuate his 1,200 troops from San Antonio.  He also “ratified” the Treaties of Fort Velasco, signed by Santa Anna on 14 May, and the interim president of Texas, David G. Burnet.[7]  General Filisola moved his force from the Brazos southeast toward Goliad, where he joined Andrade’s force.  At Goliad, General Filisola received unambiguous orders from the central government: do not retreat.

However, as Filisola judged his force exhausted and incapable of further combat, he continued to withdraw his men from Texas.  On 15 June, General Filisola resigned his commission and turned his command over to Colonel Andrade.[8]  General Urrea assumed command of the Mexican army at Matamoros and, within a few months, had mustered 6,000 troops.  Urrea desired to reinvade Texas, but Congress never authorized such an operation.

In 1837, after Santa Anna returned to Mexico from the United States, General Urrea turned against his former commander and fought against him at the Battle of Mazatlán in 1838.  The uprising resulted in Urrea’s arrest and imprisonment at Perote Prison, but the Mexican government restored his military career during the Pastry War (1838-39).  During the Mexican-American War (1846-48), General Urrea led a cavalry division against invading American troops.  Urrea died in the following year, stricken down by cholera.  He was 52 years old.


In ancient times, the conduct of war was not subject to any controls or parameters other than those exercised by the combatants themselves, and any limitations (or lack of them) were governed by military necessity rather than any separate notion about protecting noncombatants or safeguarding prisoners of war.  What changed, over time, was a shared belief among nations that limitations on the means and methods of warfare were appropriate and worthy of acknowledgment.  It was the precepts of Christianity that first provided guidelines to combatants, and, to my knowledge, the thesis by the Dutch scholar Hugo Grotius (On the Law of War and Peace) was the first to explore the principles of humanitarian treatment of participants and captive populations.  One of these changes was the general agreement (among Christian nations) that uniforms should distinguish combatants.

In the modern-day, beginning in the 20th century, the international community distinguished “just” wars from those they considered “unjust” and identified legal vs. illegal behaviors on the battlefield.  Illegal behaviors or war crimes include targeting civilian populations, mistreating prisoners, and using “excessive” munitions.  No American military person can compel another to obey an “illegal order,” which is to say, violate the law of war.

In the case of the Texas Revolution, the government of Mexico quite correctly regarded that rebellion as an “illegal act” and responded accordingly.  Mexico’s harsh reaction to the states in rebellion (fifteen of nineteen Mexican states) was identical.[9]  Anyone taking up arms against the government of Mexico was treated as a pirate, which carried the death penalty.  General Santa Ana directed “no quarter” to anyone in armed rebellion in Texas.  The execution of the survivors of the Battle of the Alamo and the 445 men of Colonel Fannin’s Goliad command, while exceedingly harsh in modern terms, was the standard in the 1800s.  Santa Anna’s authority to mete out such punishments came from the Mexican congress.  General Urrea and Colonel Portillo’s refusal to obey such an order would subject them to court-martial and undoubtedly result in their conviction (and likely execution).

In any case, the Mexicans in open rebellion knew what they were doing and what their punishments would be should their revolution prove unsuccessful.  Of the fifteen states in rebellion, only one was successful — Texas — but not without a tremendous cost to the rebels.


  1. Anna, T. E.  Forging Mexico, 1821-1835.  University of Nebraska Press, 1998.
  2. Barr, A.  Texians in Revolt: The Battle for San Antonio, 1835.  University of Texas Press, 1990.
  3. Blake, R. B.  Hugo O’Conor.  Handbook of Texas online, 2008.
  4. Castañeda, C. E.  The Mexican Side of the Texas Revolution.  P. L. Turner Publishing, 1928.
  5. Hardin, S. L.  Texas Iliad — A Military History of the Texas Revolution.  University of Texas Press, 1994.
  6. Johnson, J. T.  Just War Tradition and the Restraint of War: A Moral and Historical Inquiry.  Princeton University Press, 1988.
  7. Ohlendorf, S. M.  Urrea, José de.  Handbook of Texas, online.  2007.
  8. Stuart, J.  Slaughter at Goliad: The Mexican Massacre of 400 Texas Volunteers.  Naval Institute Press, 2008.


[1] Agustin Cosme Damian de Iturbide y Aramburu was a Mexican general and politician who seized control of Mexico in the latter days of the War of Independence.  After serving as president of the regency in 1821, he proclaimed himself Emperor of Mexico in 1822.  He was not a popular emperor, however, and those aligned against him forced him into exile in 1823.  In the following year, Iturbide unwisely returned to Mexico, where he was soon executed.  

[2] Santa Anna was elected president of the United States of Mexico on 1 April 1833.  He desired the title but had little interest in the duties of the president.  The individual most responsible for governing during this period was Vice President Valentin Gómez Farías.  Internal upheaval pushed Santa Anna back into an active role in 1834.  In 1835, Santa Anna replaced the Constitution of 1824 with the new document known as The Seven Laws.  When several states openly rebelled, Santa Anna absented himself once more from the presidential palace and assumed the position as Commander-in-Chief of the Mexican Army.

[3] Texas was not the only Mexican state in rebellion in 1835. 

[4] In Mexico, the river is called Rio Bravo; in Texas, it’s called the Rio Grande.

[5] In 1836, Colonel Fannin was 31 years old.

[6] Reference is made to correspondence from Santa Anna in Béxar to Urrea on 3 March 1836, Santa Anna to Urrea on 23 March 1836, and Santa Anna to Urrea on the same date.

[7] There were two documents, one intended for public consumption and the other a private agreement.  The government of Mexico recognized neither of them because, at the time Santa Anna signed them, he was a prisoner of war and, therefore, under duress. 

[8] During the Mexican-American War, General Filisola commanded one of Santa Anna’s three infantry divisions.  He died of cholera in Mexico City in 1850.

[9] States or provinces in rebellion: Alta California, Nuevo Mexico, Tabasco, Sonora, Coahuila y Tejas, San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Durango, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Yucatán, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas. 

About Mustang

Retired Marine, historian, writer.
This entry was posted in Arizona Territory, History, Mexican American War, Mexican Border War, New Mexico, Pioneers, Revolution, Texas. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to José Cosme de Urrea y Elías González

  1. I wonder if there were any recriminations at the executions, such as “I told you we should have gone down fighting, but you wouldn’t listen!””

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mustang says:

      I can almost hear the privates complaining — particularly those who were in their 30’s and 40’s taking note of the fact that their colonel was still in his twenties. There are those (today) who argue that these men had every reason to expect cordial treatment by the Mexican army; I disagree. Filibusters had been a thorn in the side of Mexico for several decades — even before Mexican independence from Spain; they were known as pirates, and everyone knew that the penalty for piracy was death. So, I think these men knew the risks they were taking when they signed on to the revolution. More than this, Santa Anna made it plain that there would be no quarter for the brigands — those Texians who defied the law. Actually, they weren’t defying the law. The law they supported was the Constitution of 1824; they were defying Santa Anna, who suspended the Constitution of 1824. Moreover, the Texians were one of fifteen other provinces in rebellion. In any case, since the average life expectancy of adult males back then was 49 years, they might have adopted the somewhat cavalier attitude, “shoot me now, shoot me later.”


  2. Andy says:

    When you mentioned the “tremendous cost to the rebel,” I immediately thought of the phrase, “But what cost freedom.”

    While the slaughter of captives may have been “legal” at the time, it did strengthen the resolve of Texans to fight and to win.

    One final note, one can’t help but wonder how thankful Santa Anna must have been when he learned that the Texans would not execute their captives after San Jacinto.

    Another interesting article. Hand salute to you, my friend.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Mustang says:

      Thank you. Santa Anna, as it turned out, became the dictator that simply would not go away. You may detest his political strategy, but you have to admire his staying power. Looking back, it may have been kinder (to following generations of good people) to have executed him. On the other hand, Mexico has suffered no shortages of despots.



  3. Andy says:

    True, sort of true, and true. I do detest what Santa Anna ordered at Goliad, the Alamo, and elsewhere. Admittedly, I judge him by the times in which I live, not the times in which he lived. As for admiring his staying power, not so much. I might admire the strength of the military that kept him in power, but that’s about it.

    Mexico, as you pointed out, has a wellspring of despots who have ravaged their country from their own gain.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Mustang says:

      With reference to Tony’s longevity controlling the affairs of Mexico — in terms of surviving in a highly toxic environment for twenty or so years and having to give up various body parts along the way — he had more staying power than I would have had … and I suppose I would have pulled the plug on that gig much earlier. I think of Santa Anna as a dishonorable man, Urrea less dishonorable with room to debate the true obligation of officers following the orders of their superiors. We Americans have no obligation to obey an order that we believe is unlawful. Whether this is a 20th-century construct, I cannot say. As much as General Urrea claims to have detested his orders, he never quite got around to a refusal in carrying them out.


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