‘Come and take it’

The following is a reworking of a post I made about 9 years ago on the old blog:

This time ever year, the ‘Come and Take It!’ festival, in Gonzales, Texas, is held. Gonzales County is where six generations of my kin have lived and died.

Gonzales, as it happens,  was the site of the first shot fired in the Texas Revolution, on October 2, 1835. For this reason, Gonzales has been called the ‘Lexington of Texas,’ and ‘the Birthplace of Texas Independence.’

The ‘Come and Take It’ festivities include a battle re-enactment at Pioneer Village, races, a historical presentation, parades, food booths, and music.

From Wikipedia:

“Gonzales is one of the earliest Anglo-American settlements in Texas, the first west of the Colorado River. It was established by Empresario Green DeWitt as the capital of his colony in August 1825. DeWitt named the community for Rafael Gonzáles, governor of Coahuila y Tejas.

[…]Gonzales is referred to as the “Lexington of Texas” because it was the site of the first skirmish of the Texas Revolution. In 1831, the Mexican government had granted Green DeWitt’s request for a small cannon for protection against Indian attacks. At the outbreak of disputes between the Anglo settlers and the Mexican authorities in 1835, a contingent of more than 100 Mexican soldiers was sent from San Antonio to retrieve the cannon.

When the soldiers arrived, there were only 18 men in Gonzales, but they refused to return the cannon, and soon men from the surrounding area joined them. Texians under the command of John H. Moore confronted them. Sarah DeWitt and her daughter sewed a flag bearing the likeness of the cannon and the words “Come and Take It,” which was flown when the first shots of Texan independence were fired on October 2, 1835. The Texians successfully resisted the Mexican troops in what became known as the Battle of Gonzales.”

After this opening shot in the Texas revolution was fired, a number of dramatic events led the way to the independence of Texas. Along the way were decisive events, such as the Alamo, and the terrible massacre at Goliad, and the victory at San Jacinto.

These events are part of my family history, as they are for many old-stock Texas families; they are real events to me, not just dry dates and facts in a history textbook. There are family names on those memorials, citing the names of my kin who died there. The Goliad massacre is especially heart-wrenching:

“Boys, they are going to kill us—die with your faces to them, like men!”……two other young men, flourishing their caps over their heads, shouted at the top of their voices: ‘Hurra for Texas!’

Can Texas cease to cherish the memory of those, whose dying words gave a pledge of their devotion to her cause? — Capt. Jack Shackelford, Survivor of the Massacre”

It’s surprising how few people outside Texas are aware that Texas actually won its independence from Mexico. There is a kind of tragic irony to the fact that at this time, there is talk of a merger between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. I have to wonder what my Texan colonist ancestors would think had they known that only a few generations after their heroic efforts to win Texas’ independence, that Mexico would seemingly be taking Texas by stealth colonization and by demographic conquest. I can only believe my steadfast forefathers would be astounded at the actions of our present-day leaders and their kowtowing to a failed third-world country to our south, and at our submissive posture.

My ancestors, along with other DeWitt colonists, were there by invitation of the Mexican government. Those colonists were productive, industrious, can-do people; they created Texas in what was an untamed wilderness. There was no Mexican settlement there of any note; the Mexicans could not establish flourishing colonies therem because they were not able to subdue the fractious Indian tribes. So they brought in Americans to do that.

The colonists were not needy, not coming hat in hand, to ask for employment or help from Mexico. They were self-reliant, unlike the colonists who are coming north now into the United States. Despite their recently-coined reputation for ‘hard work’, today’s Mexican colonizers are in no way comparable to those Americans who came and built Texas.

Now the situation is reversed, with Mexicans colonizing Texas, largely by stealth, although most of our politicians are giving the Mexican colonists tacit approval and a covert invitation. Inviting them, it appears,  to come and to take Texas, which it seems they are enthusiastically doing.


Our Texas forefathers, when they flew the ‘Come and Take It’ flag, used that phrase in defiance of the Mexican authorities, in refusing to surrender their cannon. When they used these words, they were knowingly echoing the defiant taunt ‘Molon Labe‘ – or ‘come and take them’  by Spartan King Leonidas, directed at the Persian King Xerxes at Thermopylae . Xerxes offered to spare Leonidas and his men if they gave up their weapons and surrendered. Xerxes refused, knowing they were vastly outnumbered. ‘Molon labe’ — ‘come and take them’, was the defiant answer of the Spartans, despite the fact that they  numbered only three hundred. Still, they held off the much larger force of 600,000 Persians for seven days. They fought to the last man. Although they were crushed by the Persians, their brave example inspired the Greeks to resist the Persians and later defeat them at Salamis, which was a momentous and decisive victory, affecting the whole course of Western history.

Interestingly, many liken Thermopylae to the Alamo:

“There are times when a defeat can become a triumph. Just as the heroic death of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae gave courage to the rest of Greece; so the last stand of a handful of brave Texians in a fortified Mission became a rallying cry for Texas’ independence: Remember the Alamo!”

Like the roll call of the defenders of the Alamo, the name of every individual Spartan who died at Thermopylae was remembered for as long as ancient Sparta endured. They were engraved on a stone tablet in Sparta that could still be read over seven centuries later. Will the Alamo still stand in 700 years? Would it matter? It is what the Alamo represents that is immortal, not the tangible remains of the buildings. Heroism, once achieved and honored, is never forgotten entirely.”

In paying tribute to those massacred at Goliad, Gen. Thomas Rusk, in his poignant speech at the site, said

“FELLOW SOLDIERS: In the order of Providence we are this day called upon to pay the last sad offices of respect to the remains of the noble and heroic band, who, battling for our sacred rights, have fallen beneath the ruthless hand of a tyrant. Their chivalrous conduct entitles them to the heartfelt gratitude of the people of Texas. Without any further interest in the country than that which all noble hearts feel at the bare mention of liberty, they rallied to our standard. Relinquishing the ease, peace, and comforts of their homes, leaving behind them all they held dear, their mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives, they subjected themselves to fatigue and privation, and nobly threw themselves between the people of Texas and the legions of Santa Anna.

There, unaided by re-inforcements and far from help and hope, they battled bravely with the minions of a tyrant, ten to one. Surrounded in the open prairie by this fearful odds, cut off from provisions and even water, they were induced, under the sacred promise of receiving the treatment usual to prisoners of war, to surrender. They were marched back, and for a week treated with the utmost inhumanity and barbarity. They were marched out of yonder fort under the pretense of getting provisions, and it was not until the firing of musketry did the shrieks of the dying, that they were satisfied of their approaching fate. Some endeavored to make their escape, but they were pursued by the ruthless cavalry and most of them cut down with their swords. A small number of them stand by the grave – a bare remnant of that noble band. Our tribute of respect is due to them; it is due to the mothers, sisters, and wives who weep their untimely end, that we should mingle our tears with theirs. In that mass of remains and fragments of bones, many a mother might see her son…
[…]while liberty has a habitation and a name, their chivalrous deeds will be handed down upon the bright pages of history.”

And will their chivalrous deeds be remembered, when Texas is de facto Mexican territory, a Spanish-speaking province, which will no doubt see this history very differently than we, the posterity of those massacred there? Are we honoring their memory by meekly giving back what they bought with their blood?

These are questions I ponder when I think of those fateful events in Texas. Will the Alamo still stand in 700 years, the Alamo Journal writer cited earlier asks. Given current trends, will the Alamo still stand in 70 years, much less 700? Will the Lone Star flag still fly over it then, or the Stars and Stripes? Or will the Mexican flag with its bird of prey be flying there? If anyone remembers the Alamo, will they remember that small group of valiant defenders, or will they be honoring Santa Anna?

I hope the writer is right; that the heroism of those Texas patriots at the Alamo and at Goliad and all the rest,  will be remembered and honored; I hope that what they fought and died for will not be overturned by our supine tolerance of the slow-motion invasion which threatens now to undo all that our forefathers shed their blood to establish.

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