Thomas Rees Letter from Fort Defiance, 1836

Eyewitness to the Texas Revolution

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By Tom Wancho, Exhibit Planner

On November 17, 1835, a group of 35 Georgia men, all who sympathized with the cause of Texas independence from Mexico, met at Girard, Georgia (near Columbus, Georgia) and volunteered immediately to head west to assist the Texians. They became the First Regiment Texas Volunteers.

The regiment, led by Captain William Wadsworth, entered Texas in December 1835 and, after serving at Copano Bay on the Texas Coast and at the Mission Refugio in January 1836, arrived at Presidio La Bahía (Goliad) in early February. On March 8, 1836, First Lieutenant Thomas Rees penned this letter to Gerard Burch in Columbus, Georgia. His relatively easy-to-read script has no punctuation and is filled with misspellings, but contains a wealth of historical details about the Revolution.

“I am at this time stationed at Laberda [La Bahía] on the St. Antono river  the enemy is at hand  we expect to be attacked every hour  they have arrived of the enemy at St. Antono six thousand troops & have been Fighting the americans troops for the last fifteen days.”

He wraps up the situation at the Alamo by concluding, “there is about two hundred that has possesion of the Fort & will keep possesion of it if there aminition holds out tile they can be reenforced the citizens of Texas is turning out to a man.”

Closer to Goliad, “the mexicans has got possesion of Sanpertrisio [San Patricio] & are concentrating there troops & fortifying that place  Col. Johnson with about twenty men was attacked at that place in the knight and only four or five made there escape.” He is referring to Col. Francis W. Johnson, who escaped certain death by Mexican General José de Urrea at the battle of San Patricio on March 2.

Though hindsight reveals that some of what Rees writes is inaccurate, his eyewitness account of the Texas Revolution brings us closer to history as it was happening.

Before his letter assuring that all was well reached its final destination (it is postmarked New Orleans, April 19, 1836), Rees met his unfortunate end. On March 27, 1836 he and the majority of the Goliad regiment were executed by Mexican forces.

“I wish you to attend to my business & not let my family want for any thing tile I return  state to my wife that I am well & was going to write to knight.”

Click here to read a transcription of the letter.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Thomas Rees Letter from Fort Defiance, 1836 Artifact from Goliad, Texas
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