Houston Matters

Come And Take It: The Skirmish That Inspired A Texas Mantra

History professor Eddie Weller recounts the Battle of Gonzales and its legacy today.

Come And Take It Flag
A replica of the “Come and Take It” flag that residents of Gonzales, Texas flew over their town, daring Mexican soldiers to attack, resulting in the Battle of Gonzales and the Texas Revolution.

On Oct. 2, 1835, a small skirmish broke out between the residents of Gonzales, Texas, and some Mexican soldiers. While the Battle of Gonzales was small, its place in Texas lore was not.

The town had been given a cannon to protect itself from Native Americans in the region, with the stipulation that the Mexican government could retrieve it at any time (Texas was a part of Mexico back then). And, in September of 1835, a handful of Mexican soldiers were sent to do just that.

In the previous months, tensions had been rising between Anglo settlers and the Mexican government, and the Texians (as they were known then) were in no mood to part with the cannon. So, they took the Mexican soldiers prisoner. The Mexican government responded by sending another 100 men. A small battle ensued, during which the cannon was fired twice routing the Mexicans.

Eddie Weller, a history professor at San Jacinto College, says the incident was less of a battle and more of a skirmish. But it was significant for a couple reasons. First, it marked the first shots of what would become the Texas Revolution, resulting, of course, in Texas becoming its own republic and later an American state. And, secondly, it spawned a motto that many Texans still hold dear today.

Somewhere in the standoff leading up to the battle, two young women from Gonzales — Caroline Zumwalt and Eveline DeWitt — crafted a flag with an image of a cannon and the words “Come and Take It” that was raised above the city during the battle. The flag was later carried along with the cannon to San Antonio and the Alamo. But the flag was eventually lost to history.

To this day, many Texans still adorns cars, T-shirts, flags and other merchandise with the image of that flag as a symbol of the state’s attitude of resilience and tenacity – being borne of a fight – and also as a symbol of First Amendment rights. Some have replaced the image of the cannon with an AR-15 rifle or have satirized the flag or co-opted various twists of the slogan for promotional or political causes.

In the audio above, Weller tells the story of Gonzales and its cannon, which was eventually melted down and recast as a bell at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio.

Come and Take It Cannon
Local journalist Erik McCowan, standing in the Gonzales Memorial Museum, thinks people should know the history behind the phrase, “Come and take it!”

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