Texas HistoryToday in Texas History: ‘Opening Gun’ of the Texas Revolution Fired at Nacogdoches

Some seeds of discord that blossomed into the Texas Revolution were planted at Nacogdoches in 1832.
August 2, 2021
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After two years of exasperation at a federal Mexican law prohibiting immigration from the United States to Texas along with various other dictates, Texian patience had run out. And on this day in 1832, that fury boiled over in Nacogdoches and sparked an early precursor to Texas’ famed Battle of Gonzales.

A skirmish at Anahuac over the imprisonment of various Anglo-American settlers, including William B. Travis, and denial of self-governance set the table for what would come at Nacogdoches. That clash is dubbed the first of the “Anahuac Disturbances.”

The Centralists in Mexico City did not approve of “ayuntamientos,” a kind of municipality governing convention, that was occurring throughout the Texas region. That political cabal took them as affronts to their sovereignty over Mexico and its citizens. The colonists, meanwhile, were staunch Federalists, preferring to govern their lives in their region the way they saw fit.

In a moment of ironic hindsight, Antonio López de Santa Anna, the future suppressor of Texas sovereignty, was the Federalist lodestar for which these aggrieved Texians signaled support.

Tensions came to a head at Anahuac which featured the death of roughly 100 soldiers across both sides, three-quarters of which were Mexican soldiers. The Anahuac settlers won and got what they wanted: the prisoners freed.

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Fearing an uprising similar to that of Anahuac, Col. José de las Piedras issued an order that all colonists in Nacogdoches surrender their arms to the Mexican garrison. Resisting the order, Nacogdoches settlers formed a militia, pulling in forces from surrounding settlements.

Roughly 300 militiamen coalesced outside the town and on August 2 — led by James W. Bullock and accompanied by James Bowie — marched into town to declare their support for Santa Anna and demanded that Piedras rescind his disarmament order.

When that fell on Piedra’s deaf ears, the militiamen regrouped outside of town only to return as dusk befell the area. Upon their return, the group was attacked by Mexican cavalry which was eventually driven into retreat.

Garrisoned in a church dubbed Old Stone Fort, Mexican soldiers then endured a Texian siege until the assaulting force broke through and took the stone building. The Mexicans then retreated to their headquarters where they faced a continued siege.

Under the cover of darkness on August 2, Piedras evacuated his troops and began the march to San Antonio.

The next morning, the column of Mexican soldiers was set upon by mounted militiamen led by James Bowie. The ensuing skirmish ended with Piedras’ deposition at the hands of his own men and a miles-long march back to Nacogdoches.

There, Piedras was sent back to Mexico and his men were discharged after a march to San Antonio.

In total, 47 Mexicans were killed during the battle to the Texians mere four casualties.

The significance of the Battle of Nacogdoches was that East Texas became free of martial rule and the ayuntamiento conventions of self-governance were allowed to blossom.

While small in scale and early in proximity, the Battle of Nacogdoches was an important stepping stone on the road to Texas independence.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.