Noon had passed on 21 April, yet nothing had happened. The Texian army had whet their appetite for battle in two skirmishes the previous day, and most had fallen asleep assuming that battle would not be long in coming the next day. So far, though, that hadn’t happened. The situation had changed from the previous day, sure – but not enough to warrant not giving battle, the Texians must have thought.
And they would have thought right. At about 3:00 that afternoon, General Sam Houston gave the order for his men to form up and parade. The Texians had been gathering since February in the hopes of fighting Santa Anna and the Mexican army. They’d been held back from doing so the day before, but they were about to get their chance – and make history.
Note: Once again, the pictures contained within are my own, taken 21 March 2016.
They say that it’s better to restrain the noble steed than prod the reluctant mule. While this may be true, Sam Houston almost certainly got tired of restraining the “noble steed” that was the Texian army, especially when the army count scent battle coming. He had spent the last six weeks trying to collect, train, and keep his army intact – often against the wishes of that army, who were itching for a fight.
Houston had been looking for a spot where he felt that his poorly-trained and ill-disciplined army could face the Mexicans and have a hope of winning – he knew that his army would probably only be good for one battle, and he was hoping to make that one battle count. His army had had other ideas, though, and as he retreated eastward, many simply left, sure that Houston was unwilling to fight. Yet when given a choice, Houston had turned towards a fight, not a further retreat east. And four days after that decisive turn, it seemed the Texian army would get their chance – if Houston could get them to conform to plan.
Warfare is not just a collection of battles. Some may see it that way – and some may even fight it that way – but strategists from Sun Tzu on down have noted that often, it takes more than battles to win a war. Sun Tzu even went as far as saying that it was best to subdue your enemy without even fighting – that is, by maneuvering into such a superior position that the enemy recognizes that giving battle is futile.
Maneuver has always played a pivotal role in warfare. Sometimes, it can even play the decisive role – and sometimes, it does so without anybody ever realizing it. I believe that such was the case for the Texas Revolution at the crossroads by Abraham Roberts’s homestead in the now-long abandoned town of New Kentucky (between present day Tomball and Waller).
Note: The pictures contained within are my own, taken on 17 March 2016. I didn’t follow the path of the Texian army, but I was able to get a bit of a feel for the route traveled on this crucial day. The Abraham Roberts and Samuel McCarley homesteads were closeby to places I’d been dozens of times – yet until recently, their true value was not known to me. Such discoveries are why I love to study history.
As strange as it might seem to some to consider, wars are not only fought on the battlefield. It’s also fought in the diplomatic and political channels of the warring countries, yes, but it is also fought in the hearts and minds of people – a struggle often played out for all the world to see. An army can win every battle it fights, yet if it loses in some of these other theaters, such victories become hollow.
On 27 March 1836 – Palm Sunday – Mexican soldados under Lt. Colonel José Nicolás de la Portilla marched more than four hundred prisoners out of the gates of the Presidio La Bahía and down three separate roads leading from the town of Goliad. Less than a mile after they started, the march was abruptly ended, and minutes later, the majority of these prisoners lay dead or dying.
It was a monstrous act – and one that, when coupled with the execution of a handful of prisoners from the storming of the Alamo three weeks earlier, transformed the image of an entire nation in the eyes of many. But that’s a subject for another time.
The focus today is on the men in the Texian ranks, and how their massacre was entirely preventable. It may be the wrong day to lay blame at the feet of the Texian commander, Colonel James Walker Fannin – but it’s fairly evident that his failings and blunders led to the deaths of more than four hundred men, the only standing army the nascent Republic of Texas had at the time. In that light, the massacre was simply the last tragedy in a line of them to strike that garrison.
Everyone has ideals. Everyone has their own idea of what they’re supposed to be, of what their occupation really means. And chances are, your idea of what that is is nothing like what your coworker’s idea is, and vice versa. People get into careers and such for many different reasons – and more often than not, those reasons tend to change as years go on.
Sometimes they change for the better. We always hope this is the case, but it probably doesn’t happen as often as we’d like it to. That’s okay, though – it just makes the cases where it does happen that much more special. And Lenny Valcourt is one of those cases.
I’ve written many characters over the years – sixteen years provides a lot of time for people to start forming inside your head. A lot of those characters have been familiar to me for one reason or another, as they’ve all taken bits and pieces of me into themselves. But perhaps none of them have taken quite as much as Around and Down‘s protagonist, Edward Henderson. There are parts of myself in him that have made several scenes physically hard to write, and yet, they’ve also been some of my best work to date. I think there’s a connection there.
Regardless, though, Edward Henderson is a man who spends much of the novel being pulled in two different directions by two different urges. And while he may have taken a lot out of me, he is truly his own person by how he ends up handling his dilemmas. But that comes later, of course – what I’m sharing now is how he got to those dilemmas.