Friday, February 11, 2011

Texas Tidbits: A Letter of Defiance and Anger

Monument to Liberty
You'll recall that yesterday we looked at a time line for the Texas Revolution for the month of March, 1836. During the first week of the month, the Alamo had fallen and Texas had declared its Independence from Mexico. News of both these events were spreading like wildfire through Texas and the United States. Many Americans were getting the news of these events by way of letters from family members in Texas. I found one such letter that is both sad in its announcement that the writer's brother had died at the Alamo and defiant in the fact that the Texas Army would avenge the deaths of of its fellow Texans at the hands of that tyrant General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana.

I am going to reprint the letter in its entirety. It comes to us from

Benjamin Briggs Goodrich
Little attention has been given to how the news of the Alamo's fall was spread from Texas to the United States. The close family ties and community relationships bound the Texans to their former homes. In this letter, Benjamin Briggs Goodrich, who was a member of the Convention meeting as Washinting-on-the-Brazo, informed his family of death of John C. Goodrich--his brother--on March 6, 1836.1
                                                    Washington Texas, 15th March, 1836
Dear Edmund,
    Texas is in mourning, and it becomes my painful duty to inform my relations in Tennessee of the massacre of my poor brother John. He was murdered in the Texas fortress of San Antonio de Bexar (known as the Alamo) on the night of the 6th of this month, together with one hundred and eighty of our brave countrymen, gallantly defending that place against an invading army of Mexicans, eight thousand strong; not one escaped to tell the dreadful tale. The Alamo had been surrounded for many days by a besieging army of the Mexicans, variously estimated at from 3 to 8 thousand men,2 commanded by Genl. Lopez de Santa Anna in person; the fortress, as before stated, was besieged, and it fell and every man was put to the sword. They effected their purpose by a general charge aided by scaling ladders. Upwards of five hundred of the enemy were killed, and as many more mortally or dangerously wounded. Col. Travis, the commander of the fortress, sooner than fall into the hands of the enemy, stabbed himself to the heart and instantly died.
    Seven of our brave men, being all that were left alive, called for quarter and to see Santa Anna, but were instantly shot by the order of that fiendish tyrant. Col. Bowie was murdered, sick in bed.3 Amoung the number of your acquaintances, murdered in the Alamo, were Col. David Crockett, Micajah Autry, formerly of Haysborough, John Hays, son of Andrew Hays of Nashville, and my unfortunate brother, John C. Goodrich: but they died like men, and posterity will do them justice. Santa Anna is now in Texas with an invading army of eight or ten thousand men strong--determined to carry on a war of extermination. We will meet him and teach the unprincipled scoundrel that freemen can never be conquered by the hirling soldierly of a military despot.4
The struggle is great and our difficulties many--but the army of the patriot is doubly served, when his fireside and his liberties are invaded-- We rush to the combat, and our motto is Revenge, Liberty or Death. Approach poor old mother cautiously with this awful news, for I fear her much worn out constitution will not survive the shock. -Publish this information if you think proper--We ask for help and in the name of everything that is sacred to Liberty and Independence.
    So soon as the Convention (of which I am a member) adjourns, I shall proceed forthwith to the army.-- The blood of a Goodrich has already crimsoned the soil of Texas and another victim shall be added to the list or I see Texas free and Independent.-- Give my love to my dear mother, sisters and brothers, and friends generally--
                                                                Benj. Briggs Goodrich
P.S. News has just reached that the enemy are on the march to this place and we know not at what moment we shall be compelled to move our women and children beyond their reach. Their mode of warfare is strictly savage; they fight under a Red Banner,5 and we ask nor expect no quarter in the future,--I will advise you from time to time (if alive) and would highly appreciate hearing from you.-- Direct your letters to Cantonment Jessup, pay postage and I will be sure to get them.
                                                        Sincerely your brother
                                                                    & relative
Free to the U. States, 1836
B. B. Goodrich
Memb. Convention
Mr. Edmund Goodrich

The anger and defiance in this letter are palpable. The eloquence visible and the determination of the people of Texas unmistakable. The defiance, determination and anger of the citizens of Texas would be well served in a few short weeks after the time this letter was written by Mr. Goodrich, with a swift and decisive Victory at San Jacinto. It was men like those who perished at the Alamo and the men who took up their cause at San Jacinto that are proof that Texans are indeed forged of a hotter fire.

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All Original Material © Toby Shoemaker