The story begins in 1831. Texians in Gonzales, then a part of Mexico, requested a cannon from federal authorities to defend themselves from Comanche raids. The cannon itself was of little military use (historian Timothy Todish once said it wasn’t good for much more than starting horse races). Indeed, it probably served more as a visual deterrent to the hostile natives than a military one.
Curiously, Gonzales was one the communities preferring Mexican rule to independence, even after relations between Mexico and the Texians began to sour. The town went so far as to declare their allegiance to the Mexican government of Santa Anna. However, on September 10, 1835, a Mexican soldier beat a Gonzales Texian, sparking widespread outrage. It was after this incident that the federal government thought it best to retrieve the cannon before it was turned on the Mexican government.
Supreme commander of the Mexican military, Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea, sent out Corporal Casimiro De León and five soldiers of the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras. Emboldened by other Mexican states in open revolt, the Texians refused to return the weapon, taking De León and his men hostage. Ultimately, it wasn’t about the cannon. The Texians were worried that the Mexican government planned to use recent unrest to disband local militias, which the Texians considered absolutely essential for freedom and safety.
Texians decided to bury the cannon in George W. Davis’s peach orchard. This and other methods of subterfuge delayed the arrival of 100 Mexican dragoons. By the time they arrived, Texians had amassed a force 140 strong. On October 1, 1835, these men voted and decided that if the Mexican government wanted their cannon back, they were going to have to fight for it. The simple refusal to surrender the cannon acted as the spark that ignited the wildfire of the Texas Revolution.
The Gonzales Flag is a stark black-and-white banner, a simple design that acted as a stark gauntlet thrown at the feet of Mexican federal power. It was nothing more than a star, the cannon in question and the old Spartan slogan updated for modern times: “Come and Take It.”