How well do you know your Texas history? You celebrate San Jacinto, of course. Certainly, you remember the Alamo. Perhaps even Goliad. But do you know the Battle of Rosillo?
At a confluence of creeks 9 miles southeast of present-day San Antonio — 204 years ago today, and some two decades before those major events of the Texas Revolution — the Republican Army of the North fought Spanish royalist forces and defeated them soundly.
A week later, on April 6, 1813, there was a declaration of independence. Yes, even before Mexico secured its freedom from Spain, there was freedom for Texas. Sort of. For a bit.
The adventure began when Mexican revolutionary José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara went to the United States and sought an army to fight against the Spanish and free Texas. Under the command of Augustus Magee, the Republican Army of the North entered Texas at Nacogdoches, then marched to Goliad.
After skirting Spanish royalist troops led by Texas Governor Manuel Maria de Salcedo, the Army of the North seized the La Bahía presidio, laughed off a siege and easily repulsed an attack. Emboldened by reinforcements, the Army of the North (now led by Samuel Kemper after Magee died during the siege) pursued the Spanish troops toward San Antonio.
The forces met at Rosillo Creek on March 29. Much like the Battle of San Jacinto, the Army of the North routed a superior force while suffering only minimal casualties. In this case, as many as 330 royalists killed in contrast to fewer than 10 dead on the Republican side.
After the Republican forces captured horses, cannon, ammunition and arms, they followed the retreating royalist forces to San Antonio, where they accepted the surrender of Salcedo and Nuevo León governor Simón de Herrera on April 1.
Things went downhill for the pro-Texas supporters from there. In his book, “Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans,” T.R. Fehrenbach wrote that Gutiérrez seized control once the military action was over and drew up a Texas constitution that made it clear the new State of Texas “forms a part of the Mexican Republic,” to which it would remain bound.
When Gutiérrez followed that by allowing Salcedo and Herrera to be grimly executed, it was too much for Kemper and the most “idealistic” Americans in his army — they quit and returned to the United States. It was a good move on their part.
Fast-forward four months and Spanish soldiers who had marched north under the command of Joaquin de Arredondo crushed the disorganized Republican forces at the Battle of Medina. It is known as the bloodiest fight on Texas soil — fewer than 100 fighting for the “Texas” army of 1,400 escaped death.
Among the Spanish soldiers was Lt. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. He’d be back two decades later when Texas freedom fighters rose up again.