William Fairfax Gray Diary

A first-hand account of the Texas Revolution

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Originally from Virginia, William Gray was visiting Texas in 1836 as a land agent when the revolution broke out. He attended the March 1836 convention at which independence was declared and a constitution for Texas was written. Fascinated by the process, he filled 12 pocket-sized diaries with invaluable firsthand information about Texas during the revolution. Gray ultimately moved his family from Virginia to Texas in 1837 where he settled in Houston as a lawyer. In 1909, his youngest son published the diaries, which are considered to be one of the most important, accurate records of the revolutionary period.

Gray’s account of Texas's declaration of independence on March 2, 1836 indicates that the convention members gathered in an unfinished house without windows or doors to appoint a committee to write a declaration of independence as quickly as possible. The committee wrote the declaration overnight (historians believe the chairman had a rough draft written already), and presented it the following morning. It was accepted without amendment, but the handwritten copy was deemed too full of errors to sign as the official document. It was "recommitted to the committee ... for correction and engrossment [made final for signature]." The final document was signed the following day.

A Declaration of Independence [was] reported without amendment, and unanimously adopted, in less than one hour from its first and only reading. It underwent no discussion, and no attempt was made to amend it. William Fairfax Gray, March 2, 1836

Meanwhile, Gray shares that the committee received an express that evening from Colonel Travis at the Alamo. Dated February 25th, the letter told of a "demonstration made on the Alamo by a party of Mexicans of about 300. They were beaten off with some loss." The skirmish described was actually an attack of 400–450 Mexican soldiers that came within 50–100 yards of the Alamo’s walls. It took two hours for Texan forces to fight them off. The diary entry continues, stating that Colonel Fannin is on the march from Goliad to aid Travis, which will give the Alamo six or seven hundred men to defend it. Gray concludes his entry, "It is believed the Alamo is safe." In reality, Fannin was not on his way to help Travis and the Alamo fell four days later.

Click to browse a scholarly analysis and full transcription of all volumes of William Fairfax Gray's diary.

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William Fairfax Gray Diary Artifact from Washington
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