"The Battle of the Brazos"
Sam Houston's First Battlefield Selection
In the Texas War for Independence
by Kameron K. Searle
Sam Houston Quote Reported by J. H. Kuykendall
He then said, "My friends, I am told that evil disposed persons have reported that I am going
to march you to the Redlands. This is false. I am going to march you into the Brazos
bottom near Groce's, to a position where you can whip the enemy ten to one, and where we can get an
abundant supply of corn from Lake creek."
J. H. Kuykendall Quoting General Sam Houston
From "The San Jacinto Campaign" by Eugene C. Barker
Quarterly of the Texas State Historical
Volume IV, No. 4, p. 300
Mirabeau B. Lamar to His Brother
I leave in the morning for the army: a dreadful Battle is to be fought in three or
four days on the Brazos, decisive of the fate of Texas; I shall of course have to be in
it...Houston's army has retreated from the Colorado to the Brazos: the Mexican army is in San Felipe, ours is
20 miles from them; they will come together in a few days, I shall reach Houston day after
tomorrow, a distance from this place about 50 miles.
From Letter Written by Mirabeau B. Lamar to his Brother
April 10, 1836
"The Battle of the Brazos"
Most histories of the Texas Revolution describe the time spent by the Texas army at
Groce's plantation as merely an opportunity for General Sam Houston to try and whip his rag-tag
accumulation of volunteers (mostly farmers and frontiersmen) into something resembling an army. Houston
spent the longest part of the San Jacinto Campaign (about two weeks) at Groce's plantation. This and
other important facts surrounding Houston's presence at Groce's have been mostly overlooked for more than 100
years. A review of primary sources and early historical accounts would suggest something much more important
than training the Texas army almost occurred there.
This article is about a battle that never took place - "The Battle of the
Brazos." While researching the history of the early Texas settlement known as the Lake Creek Settlement, the author ran across a
statement made by Sam Houston which was later reported by J. H. Kuykendall. This quote has caused the
author to re-think what he thought he knew about the Sam Houston's military strategy during the Texas Revolution
prior to the Battle of San Jacinto. It appears the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution almost happened
along the Brazos River and not upon the field of San Jacinto. This was Sam Houston's intention and many
Texans in late March and early April of 1836 believed the decisive battle between the Texians and the Mexicans
would occur on the Brazos.
1836 Recollections of J. H. Kuykendall
J. H. Kuykendall, a soldier in the army of the Republic of Texas was with Sam Houston during
his tactical retreat from Gonzales in 1836. J. H. Kuykendall provided the following quote from Sam
He then said, "My friends, I am told that evil disposed persons have reported that I am going to
march you to the Redlands. This is false. I am going to
march you into the Brazos bottom near Groce's, to a position where you can whip the enemy ten to
one, and where we can get an abundant supply of corn from Lake creek."
J. H. Kuykendall, "Recollections of the Campaign," quoted in Eugene C. Barker's article
"The San Jacinto Campaign," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume IV, p.
Quote from an Express from Sam Houston Dated March 31, 1836
Copy of an express from Samuel Houston, commander-in-chief of the Texian
Headquarters, west of the Brasos, March 31, 1836
To the people east of Brasos:
My encampment is preparing on
the west of the Brasos, where I shall wait for some supplies and reinforcements.
My intention never has been to cross the Brasos,
and the false reports spread are by men who have basely deserted the army of Texas.
...We will whip them
See the Niles Weekly Register, Baltimore, May 7, 1836, Volume [complete this
site] Here Houston states emphatically that "My intention never has been to cross the Brasos."
In The Papers of the Texas Revolution 1835-1836, Volume 5, page 253, item #
2495, John H. Jenkins general editor, Presidial Press, Austin 1973, we find the entire text of Sam Houston's
message to the People of Texas transcribed.
To get some idea of the location of the Texas army camp on the west bank of the
Brazos River, see this link prepared by Texas historian David Pomeroy http://earlytexashistory.com/Tx1836/camp13.html .
[HOUSTON to the PEOPLE]
Headquarters West of the Brazos 31st March, 1836
To the people East of the Brazos
My encampment is preparing on the West of the Brazos, where I shall
wait for some supplies and reinforcements. My intention
never has been to cross the Brazos; and the false reports spread are by men who have basely
deserted the army of Texas.
Let men from the East pass on
to the army and cross over at Groces. If men will unite with the present force we can
defeat and capture the enemy. The army of the enemy has been represented at 10 to 30,000 men, when
indeed it never has exceeded 3 or 4,000 in Texas.
And the force that attacked Fannin was only 1,500, but he had only 320
men. They fought in the prairie where they had no water, and where they surrendered to him.
The enemy cavalry are not numerous, as stated and their infantry are men pressed into service, and
convicts from prisons. Their army is encumbered by women and children. Let the men of the
East come to our aid and bring all deserters with them. Aid from the United States is landing on
our coast. Capt. Brown with one of our vessels has taken a Mexican vessel with 420 barrels of
flour, 300 kegs of powder, and other supplies for the army.
My spies report this morning that the observations made by them last
night could discover nothing of the enemy for ten miles beyond Bayou St. Bernard, twenty-five miles
beyond San Felipe.
The citizens of San Felipe, when they heard it rumored that the enemy
had crossed the Colorado, immediately set fire to their own houses and reduced the place to ashes.
Let the people not be any longer in dread of danger, if the men will turn out like men.
Sam Houston Commander in Chief
P.S. My spies have just
returned and report the enemy in a few miles of San Felipe, 800 or 1,000 men only, and only 30
cavalry. We will whip them
S.H. (4 o'clock, March 31st.)
The post script of the letter advises us that the Mexicans are now "in a few
miles of San Felipe." Houston advises that it was never his intention to cross the Brazos and he tells
men coming to the army to pass over at Groce's. The last line of the letter states Houston's clear intention
when he writes, "We will whip them soon." He is drawing the reinforcements to him at Groce's on
the west side of the Brazos with intention of fighting soon. Houston has stopped retreating and is waiting
for Santa Anna to come to him for battle.
The Mexican Army Arrives in San Felipe
By April 7, 1836, the advance of Mexican army arrived in San Felipe de
Austin. Sam Houston provided this information to his troops in Army Orders dated April 7, 1836.
[HOUSTON ARMY ORDERS]
Headquarters of the Army, Camp West of Brazos, April 7, 1836
The advance of the enemy is at San
Felipe. The moment for which we have waited with anxiety and interest, is fast approaching. The
victims of the Alamo, and the names of those who were murdered at Goliad, call for cool, deliberate
vengeance. Strict discipline, order, and subordination, will insure us the
The army will be in readiness at a moment's warning. The field officers have
the immediate execution of this order in charge for their respective commands.
Sam Houston Commander-in-Chief
See Papers of Texas Revolution, Volume 5, page 360, item 2620.
April 10, 1836 - Mirabeau B. Lamar to His Brother, Jefferson Lamar
Texas State Library and Archives
Mirabeau B. Lamar Papers #351
Harrisburg 10th April 1836
I leave in the morning for the army: a dreadful Battle is to be fought in three or four days on the Brazos, decisive
of the fate of Texas; I shall of course have to be in it.
Houston's army has retreated from the Colorado to the Brazos: the Mexican army is
in San Felipe, ours is 20 miles from them; they will come together in a few days, I shall reach Houston day
after tomorrow, a distance from this place about 50 miles.
Latest From Texas
LATEST FROM TEXAS
The Louisiana Advertiser of April 23rd brings us the
We learn by a gentleman of the name of Slaughter, who came passenger in
the steamer Privateer, from Natchitoches, (and only five days from Texas,) that General Houston is at present encamped on the west side of the Brazos, opposite
the plantation of Leonard Gross, in a well timbered bottom, and in a position to conquer 10,000 of the
enemy; besides, he can be supplied with provisions and stores by steamboats. At present the
steamer Yellow Stone is engaged in that way. Santa Anna is at San Antonio, and our informant
confidently asserts that the whole of his force in Texas does not exceed 2500 men. The only reason
General Houston does not attack him is the want of arms and ammunition, and his being wholly destitute of
artillery. Santa Anna's advance guard, consisting of 230 men were within 25 miles of Houston's
encampment; and it was the General's intention to cut them off, for which purpose he is pressing all the
horses within reach, and had about 500 when Mr. Slaughter left.
See The Mercury, New York, Thursday, May 12, 1836, Volume VIII, Number
19, Page 2. Here Slaughter makes a report very similar to J. H. Kuykendall. J. H. Kuykendall stated that
Houston said, "I am going to march you into the Brazos bottom near Groce's, to a position
where you can whip the enemy ten to on." Slaughter reported that Houston
was "encamped on the west side of the Brazos, opposite the plantation of Leonard
Gross, in a well timbered bottom, and in a position to conquer 10,000 of the enemy."
Many Joined Texas Army at Groce's
Many troops joined Houston's army at Groce's. Not just Mirabeau B. Lamar. Many of the
volunteers from the Lake Creek Settlement joined Sam Houston's army at Groce's. Give examples.
Waiting on the Twin Sisters
Upon his arrival at San Felipe, Houston had no artillery. One of the things that
Houston was doing on the west bank of the Brazos was waiting for two artillery pieces.
Why "The Battle of the Brazos" Did not Happen
The Battle of the Brazos did not occur for at least two
The Weather [compounded outbreak of by measles]
Santa Anna Did Not Follow Houston and the Texian Army North.
An 1837 Historical Account
At least one very early historical account of the Texas Revolution records the
activities of Houston at Groce's in accord with the primary sources cited in this article.
The position now chosen by Gen. Houston, was on
the west bank of the Brazos, about twenty miles above the town of San Felipe. He threw up some slight
fortifications about his camp, such as time and means would permit, and
waited the advance and attack of the enemy...
See History of South America and Mexico by Senator John Milton Niles and L.
T. Pease, published in 1837, page 344.
- March 6, 1836 - Not knowing the Alamo had already fallen, Sam Houston leaves the
Convention at Washington to assist the defenders of the Alamo.
- Sam Houston arrives in Gonzalez
- Sam Houston receives the news that the Alamo has fallen.
- Sam Houston begins his tactical retreat towards the east.
- Sam Houston arrives in San Felipe.
Sam Houston and Texas army arrives in San Felipe.
Has town burned.
Destroys/burns ferry. This is not a step you take if you intend to cross the river. This is key and
very similar to what he did at San Jacinto later with Vince's bridge. He cut off his men's means of escape
and forced Santa Anna to stay on the same side of the river with Houston and the Texas army.
Heads north to Groce's Plantation.
We have read for years that he did this to train his army which he did. But he was training them for a
fight he thought would come much earlier and happen on the west side of the Brazos near Groce's.
All Santa Anna had to do to fight Sam Houston was go north along the Brazos.
Houston's army was trapped on the west side of the Brazos river now that Houston had had the ferry
Shepperd watches the town of San Felipe burn from east side of the river with the soldiers Houston stationed on
the east died of the river.
What does Henderson Yoakum say about the period.
Houston's horse and army across only after Santa Anna heads south and Yellowstone arrives.
Similarities between San Jacinto and Houston's battle plan on the Brazos.
Houston destroyed the bridge at
Similarities of Battle of horseshoe Bend, San Jacinto and Battle plan for the Brazos.
Backed up against Talhosa
Backed up against the San Jacinto
Backed up against the Brazos.
[When did Santa anna turn south?]
Ten to one" Houston was going to fight the Mexicans in the heavily treed river bottom ala Indian style.
April 3, 1836
From The Papers of the Texas Revolution 1835-1836, Jenkins, Presidial
Press, Austin, 1973,
Head Quarters, Camp on Brazos
3rd April, 1836
Mr. J. Groce will take charge of a Grey Stallion now on the opposite
side of the river, and hold him subject to the orders of the Commr in Chief of the Army - by
Commr. In Chief
Geo. W. Hockley
The Yellowstone did not begin ferrying the army across until April 12, 1836.