Sunday, February 7, 2010

Time For Independence

The frontier lifestyle, to which Dr. Gazley and his family and neighbors had become accustomed, changed drastically as the settlers began to transition themselves into citizen-soldiers and a fledgling military group. Essentially all able-bodied adult male settlers went to war to resist the approach of Santa Anna’s superior Mexican Army. Without proper equipment, supplies, or training, this was not an easy undertaking. As the men departed for military service, their wives and children were left behind to tend the livestock and maintain the homesteads as best they could. There was no question in the minds of all Texans, including the women and children, there were but two choices: flight back to the United States or fight to the death for independence from Mexico. Of the several battles in the War for Independence, Gazley’s involvement was limited to only three: Gonzales, Concepcion Mission, and San Jacinto.

At the Gonzales Battle, the opening skirmish of the war, a local group of eighteen Texans, armed mostly with their own hunting equipment and using the town’s single smooth barreled cannon, faced a force of approximately one hundred well-trained and fully equipped veteran Mexican soldiers, who had come to confiscate the cannon. An immediate plea for assistance brought Captain Michael R. Goheen’s Company “C”, with about a hundred similarly prepared Texas settlers, to assist in the defense of Gonzales and the retention of the city’s cannon. The resulting fight was brief, the Gonzales group prevailed and retained the cannon, and the Mexican Army departed for the moment. During this battle, Dr. Gazley, then properly known in Company “C” as Private Gazley, carried his medical bag in one hand and his rifle in the other. As a combatant, he fought along side the other settlers; and, as an Army Surgeon he also treated the battle wounded. Richard “Big Dick” Andrews, another neighbor of Gazley’s and his associate on the Committee for Vigilance, Safety, and Communication, made Texas history by being the first Texan to be wounded in the War for Independence.

At the Concepcion Mission Battle, the first major battle of the Siege of Bexar (San Antonio) where the resident Mexican forces were routed and removed, Dr. Gazley again served as a Private and an Army Surgeon in Captain Goheen’s Company. During this battle, Richard “Big Dick” Andrews again made Texas history by being the first Texan to be killed in the War for Independence.

At the San Jacinto Battle, Dr. Gazley and several other signers of the Declaration of Independence arrived just before the battle began, and he joined with Captain Jesse Billingsly’s Company “C” under Colonel Edward Burleson’s First Regiment Texas Volunteers to fight alongside Micah Andrews, brother to Richard, as well as Aaron Burleson and other volunteers from the Mina area. Gazley’s close neighbor John Socrates Darling, new immigrant Henry Mordorff, and other locals fought in the battle as well. This final bloody and deadly conflict ended the Texans’ struggle for freedom by soundly defeating the Mexican Army, capturing Santa Anna, and birthing the new and independent Republic of Texas.

It might seem to some observers that the battles fought during the Texas War for Independence were comprised of a limited number of combatants, somewhat minor in nature, rather short in duration, and small in number of casualties inflicted. It should be remembered, however, at the battles of Goliad and San Patricio, all of the Texans who surrendered and were thus defenseless, were taken out in small groups and systematically massacred and slaughtered by the revenge-seeking Mexican Army. At the battle of the Alamo, all Texans made a conscious decision to fight to the last man, which they did. It should also be remembered that this war was fought up close and personal, often eyeball to eyeball, occasionally utilizing hand-to-hand combat. Unfortunately, as with all wars, the war for Texas’ independence was not kind to either side.