Sam Houston Calls Texians to Arms
Let the brave rally to our standard.
Sam Houston forded the Red River into what he called “the land of promise”—the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas—on December 2, 1832. He had come as a government agent for the United States, an aspiring land agent, and (very likely) a revolutionary. Once within her borders he never left, not permanently. Texas became to him the home he never could seem to find in Tennessee; a home he would defend with this life.
It didn’t take long for Houston to become a leading figure in Texas. In 1833 he was elected to attend a consultation at San Felipe, where he, William Wharton, James Bowie, and David G. Burnet drew up a resolution—the Memorial al Congreso General de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos—calling for the separation of Tejas from Coahuila, to create a “totally independent state, in conformity with the Federal constitution of 1824.”
Within a matter of years Houston would be calling for the separation of Texas from Mexico, to create a totally independent nation. When that day came, the quasi-governing body of Texas, the Consultation, appointed Houston commander-in-chief of the army of Texas. The only problem, there was no army. The Consultation failed to recruit men and allocated no money to outfit and pay an army. Of course, they couldn’t because there was no money to allocate and no men to enlist. In November 1835, the general population had little interest in independence. Their immediate concern was bringing in their cotton crops; revolution could wait.
But a month later things began to change. On December 5, 1835, Benjamin Rush Milam made an impassioned plea for soldiers to join in his desire to drive the Mexican army out of San Antonio de Béxar. “Who will go with Old Ben Milam into San Antonio,” he asked. Three hundred men answered. In savage house to house fighting through the streets of San Antonio, the battle raged on for four days, finally ending on December 9 with the surrender of General Martín Perfecto de Cos, who was driven out of the Alamo. Milam didn’t live to see the victory. He was shot in the head by a sniper’s bullet on December 7 and died instantly.
Word of Milam’s victory hadn’t reached Houston when, on December 12, 1835, he called on Texians to take up arms in the cause of Texas’ defense. The task before them was dangerous and deadly, Houston said in his proclamation, but the risks were worth it, especially if Texians wanted to protect “the sanctity of [their] hearths and firesides [from] pollution” of despotism.
Proclamation of Sam Houston
Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Texas
Headquarters, Washington, Texas, December 12, 1835
Citizens Of Texas: Your situation is peculiarly calculated to call forth all your manly energies. Under the republican constitution of Mexico you were invited to Texas, then a wilderness. You have reclaimed and rendered it a cultivated country. You solemnly swore to support the constitution and its laws. Your oaths are yet inviolate.
In accordance therewith you have fought with the liberals against those who sought to overthrow the constitution in 1832, when the present usurper was the champion of liberal principles in Mexico. Your obedience has manifested your integrity. You have witnessed with pain the convulsions of the interior, and a succession of usurpations. You have experienced in silent grief the expulsion of your members elect from the State Congress.
You have realized the horrors of anarchy and the dictation of military rule. The promises made to you have not been fulfilled. Your memorials for the redress of grievances have been disregarded; and the agents you have sent to Mexico have been imprisoned for years, without enjoying the rights of trial agreeably to law.
Your constitutional executive has been deposed by the bayonets of a mercenary soldiery, while your Congress has been dissolved by violence, and its members either fled or were arrested by the military force of the country. The federation has been dissolved, the constitution declared at an end, and centralism has been established.
Amid all these trying vicissitudes, you remained loyal to the duty of citizens, with a hope that liberty would not perish in the Republic of Mexico. But while you were fondly cherishing this hope, the dictator required the surrender of the arms of the civic militia, that he might be enabled to establish on the ruins of the constitution, a system of policy which would forever enslave the people of Mexico. Zacatecas, unwilling to yield her sovereignty to the demand which struck at the root of all liberty, refused to disarm her citizens of their private arms. Ill-fated state!
Her power as well as her wealth aroused the ambition of Santa Anna, and excited his cupidity. Her citizens became the first victims of his cruelty, while her wealth was sacrificed in payment for the butchery of her citizens. The success of the usurper determined him in exacting from the people of Texas submission to the central form of government; and, to enforce his plan of despotism, he dispatched a military force to invade the colonies, and exact the arms of the inhabitants.
The citizens refused the demand, and the invading force was increased. The question then was, “Shall we resist the oppression and live free, or violate our oaths and bear a despot’s stripes ?” The citizens of Texas rallied to the defence of their rights. They have met four to one, and, by their chivalry and courage, have vanquished the enemy with a gallantry and spirit which is characteristic of the justice of our cause.
The army of the people is now before Bejar, besieging the central army within its wall. Though called together at the moment, the citizens of Texas, unprovided as they were in the necessary munitions of war and supplies for an army, have maintained a siege for months. Always patient and untiring in their patriotism and zeal in the cause of liberty, they have borne every vicissitude of season and every incident of the soldier with a contempt of peril which reflects immortal honor on the members of the army of the people.
Since our army has been in the field, a consultation of the people by their representatives, has met, and established a provisional government. This course has grown out of the emergencies of the country; the army has claimed its peculiar care. We are without law, and without a constitutional head.
The provisional executive and the general council of Texas are earnestly engaged in the discharge of their respective duties, preparing for every exigency of the country; and I am satisfied, from their zeal, ability, and patriotism, that Texas will have everything to hope, from their exertions in behalf of the principles which we have avowed.
A regular army has been created, and liberal encouragement has been given by the government. To all who will enlist for two years, or during the war, a bounty of twenty-four dollars and eight hundred acres of land will be given.
Provision has also been made for raising an auxiliary volunteer corps, to constitute part of the army of Texas, which will be placed under the command, and subject to the orders of the commander-in-chief. The field for promotion will be open. The terms of service will be various.
To those who tender their services for, or during the war, will be given a bounty of six hundred and forty acres of land; an equal bounty will be given to those who volunteer their services for two years; if for one year, a bounty of three hundred and twenty acres; and to those who may volunteer for a shorter period, no bounty of land will be given, but the same liberal pay, rations, etc., will be allowed them as other members of the army. The rights of citizenship are extended to all who will unite with us in defending the republican principles of the constitution of 1824.
Citizens of Texas, your rights must be defended. The oppressors must be driven from our soil. Submission to the laws and union among ourselves will render us invincible; subordination and discipline in our army will guarantee to us victory and renown.
Our invader has sworn to exterminate us, or sweep us from the soil of Texas. He is vigilant in his work of oppression, and has ordered to Texas ten thousand men to enforce the unhallowed purposes of his ambition. His letters to his subalterns in Texas have been intercepted, and his plans for our destruction are disclosed.
Departing from the chivalric principles of civilized warfare, he has ordered arms to be distributed to a portion of our population, for the purpose of creating in the midst of us a servile war. The hopes of the usurper were inspired by a belief that the citizens of Texas were disunited and divided in opinion; that alone has been the cause of the present invasion of our rights.
He shall realize the fallacy of his hopes in the union of her citizens, and their Eternal Resistance to his plans against constitutional liberty. We will enjoy our birthright, or perish in its defence.
The services of five thousand volunteers will be accepted. By the first of March next we must meet the enemy with an army worthy of our cause, and which will reflect honor upon freemen.
Our habitations must be defended; the sanctity of our hearths and firesides must be preserved from pollution. Liberal Mexicans will unite with us. Our countrymen in the field have presented an example worthy of imitation.
Generous and brave hearts from a land of freedom have joined our standard before Bejar. They have, by their heroism and valor, called forth the admiration of their comrades in arms, and have reflected additional honor on the land of their birth.
Let the brave rally to our standard.
Commander-in-Chief of the Army
George W. Poe,