Meet the leaders on both sides of Texas' struggle for independence from Mexico. You will see the names of these eight men often in the details of those historic events. You will note that Austin and Houston lend their names to the state capital and one of the largest cities in the United States, as you would expect from the man who is credited as the "Father of Texas" and the first President of the Republic of Texas.
The combatants at the Battle of the Alamo also live on in popular culture as heroes, villains, and tragic figures. Learn about these men of history.
Stephen F. Austin
Texas State Library/Wikimedia Commons
Stephen F. Austin was a talented but unassuming lawyer when he inherited a land grant in Mexican Texas from his father. Austin led hundreds of settlers west, arranging their land claims with the Mexican government and assisting with all manner of support from helping sell goods to fighting off Comanche attacks.
Austin traveled to Mexico City in 1833 carrying requests to be a separate state and have reduced taxes, which resulted in being thrown in jail without charges for a year and a half After he was released, he became one of the leading proponents of Texas Independence.
Austin was named commander of all Texan military forces. They marched on San Antonio and won the Battle of Concepción. At the convention in San Felipe, he was replaced by Sam Houston and became an envoy to the United States, raising funds and gaining support for Texas independence.
Texas effectively gained independence on April 21, 1836, at the Battle of San Jacinto. Austin lost the election for president of the new Republic of Texas to Sam Houston and was named Secretary of State. He died of pneumonia not long after on December 27, 1836. When he died, President of Texas Sam Houston declared "The father of Texas is no more! The first pioneer of the wilderness has departed!"
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
One of the great larger-than-life characters in history, Santa Anna declared himself President of Mexico and rode north at the head of a massive army to crush the Texan insurgents in 1836. Santa Anna was hugely charismatic and had a gift for charming people, but was inept in just about every other way - a bad combination. At first all went well, as he crushed small groups of rebellious Texans at the Battle of the Alamo and the Goliad Massacre. Then, with the Texans on the run and settlers fleeing for their lives, he made the fatal mistake of dividing his army. Defeated at the Battle of San Jacinto, he was captured and forced to sign treaties recognizing Texas independence.
Sam Houston was a war hero and politician whose promising career had been derailed by tragedy and alcoholism. Making his way to Texas, he soon found himself caught up in the chaos of insurrection and war. By 1836 he had been named General of all Texan forces. He could not rescue the defenders of the Alamo, but in April of 1836 he routed Santa Anna at the decisive Battle of San Jacinto. After the war, the old soldier turned into a wise statesman, serving as President of the Republic of Texas and then Congressman and Governor of Texas after Texas joined the USA.
George Peter Alexander Healy/Wikimedia Commons
Jim Bowie was a tough frontiersman and legendary hothead who once killed a man at a duel. Oddly enough, neither Bowie nor his victim were the combatants in the duel. Bowie went to Texas to stay one step ahead of the law and soon joined the growing movement for independence. He was in charge of a group of volunteers at the Battle of Concepcion, an early win for the rebels. He died at the legendary Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.
Martin Perfecto de Cos
Martin Perfecto de Cos was a Mexican General who was involved in all of the major conflicts of the Texas Revolution. He was Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's brother-in-law and therefore well connected, but he was also a skilled, fairly humane officer. He commanded the Mexican forces at the Siege of San Antonio until he was forced to surrender in December of 1835. He was allowed to leave with his men provided they not take up arms again against Texas. They broke their oaths and joined Santa Anna's army in time to see action at the Battle of the Alamo. Later, Cos would reinforce Santa Anna just before the decisive Battle of San Jacinto.
Chester Harding/Wikimedia Commons
Davy Crockett was a legendary frontiersman, scout, politician, and teller of tall tales who went to Texas in 1836 after losing his seat in Congress. He wasn't there long before he found himself caught up in the independence movement. He led a handful of Tennessee volunteers to the Alamo where they joined the defenders. The Mexican army soon arrived, and Crockett and all of his companions were killed on March 6, 1836, at the legendary Battle of the Alamo.
Wyly Martin/Wikimedia Commons
William Travis was a lawyer and rabble-rouser who was responsible for several acts of agitation against the Mexican government in Texas starting in 1832. He was sent to San Antonio in February of 1836. He was in command, as he was the highest-ranking officer there. In reality, he shared authority with Jim Bowie, the unofficial leader of the volunteers. Travis helped prepare the defenses of the Alamo as the Mexican army approached. According to legend, on the night before the Battle of the Alamo, Travis drew a line in the sand and challenged everyone who would remain and fight to cross it. The next day, Travis and all of his companions were killed in battle.
James Fannin was a Texas settler from Georgia who joined the Texas Revolution in its early stages. A West Point dropout, he was one of few men in Texas with any formal military training, so he was given a command when war broke out. He was present at the Siege of San Antonio and one of the commanders at the Battle of Concepcion. By March of 1836, he was in command of some 350 men in Goliad. During the siege of the Alamo, William Travis repeatedly wrote Fannin to come to his aid, but Fannin declined, citing logistical problems. Ordered to retreat to Victoria following the Battle of the Alamo, Fannin and all of his men were captured by the advancing Mexican army. Fannin and all of the prisoners were executed on March 27, 1836, in what is known as the Goliad Massacre.