Texas too had its Lexington, it’s Concord, its minutemen, its shot heard ‘round the world. They all came together at a little place called Gonzales Texas and there was a young man from there who fought and died at the Alamo. And his name was a mouthful.
“Galba! Galba Fuqua!,” hollered his mother as she saw her son running off the porch with his father’s rifle in his hand. “Get back in here right this minute now young man!”
A weak, “Yes mother,” was the response she barely heard. Galba walked back into the house, his head down, his shoulders slumped as he confronted his mother. There she stood, upright and stern, with arms folded in front of her and with a look on her face that unmistakably and in no uncertain terms said, ”No!”
“And just where do you think you’re going with that rifle of your father’s young man?”
“Ma the Mexicans are coming. The Mexicans are coming,” he blurted out excitedly coming back to life. “They need men. I’ve got to go Ma.”
“What do you mean they need men? “Ma they need men to help save our cannon. The Mexicans have come to take it back and disarm us. The men are assembling and aren't going to let them take it. There’s sure to be a fight. I gotta go help them.”
“You mean that cannon the Mexican government gave us to protect us from the Comanches?”
“Yes that one. The Mexicans want it. They’ll use it against us. We can’t let them take it.” He said all this hurriedly, excitedly, in a jumpy itching to take off sort of way.
“I thought the men buried the cannon somewhere in Mr. Davis’s peach orchard. “They did but they’ve dug it up and are defying the Mexicans to come and take. I gotta be there with them. They need all the men they can get Ma.”
“You’re not going Galba, You’re just sixteen. You’re too young.”
“But Pa would,”
She cut him off. “If your father was alive he wouldn’t let you go either. He’d have gone himself but he wouldn’t have let you go and endanger yourself like that. Galba you might get yourself killed. You’re all I got left now. I can’t let you go. I need you.”
“But Ma you said that I’m the head of the family now that Pa’s gone. I have to go. Uncle Benjamin’s already there.”
“Galba. Galba Fuqua,” a third voice shouted. “You still here Galba?”
Both he and his mother recognized the voice of Eveline DeWitt, a young woman a couple of years older than Galba also a Gonzales resident. She ran up to the two of them clutching some cloth in her right hand, stopped, and then all out of breath gasped out, “Oh Galba I’m so glad I caught you before you left. My mother and I and some of the other women made this for the men.” She took what she was holding in her hand and unfurled it. It was a white background flag with a lone star centered at the top, and under the star was a cannon, their cannon, and under the cannon the words: ‘Come And Take It.’
“I was going to take it to the men for them to drape over our cannon to let the Mexicans know we’re not going to give it up without a fight. But then I thought that you might be going so that’s why I stopped here. I’m so glad I caught you in time. Would you take it for me? Please?” She proffered the flag to Galba. “Please,” she repeated. “My mother told me to get somebody to take it there for me if I could. She doesn’t want me near there if some shooting starts.” She looked at him again with begging eyes. “If you’re not going, I guess I’ll have to take it myself.”
Galba looked at his mother, his eyes pleading, hers beginning to relent. He knew his mother wouldn’t let Eveline go to a potential battle site. He took the flag.
His mother caved. “All right,” she said with a fake huff. “But you leave the rifle here Galba.” He handed it to his mother. “Just deliver the flag and then you come right back here. You hear me?”
“Yes mother,” he responded meekly, obediently. She then went up to him and kissed him on the top of his head and with that blessing bestowed he took off running.
Eighteen men were now lined up to face what look like a company of two hundred Mexican soldiers when Galba arrived with the flag.
“Here Uncle Benjamin,” he said handing the flag to his uncle. “Mrs. Dewitt, Eveline, and some of the women made this flag for us.” Benjamin Fuqua took the flag, unfurled it, and then held it up with two hands in front of him for all the men to see it. Three huzzas immediately went up for the women of Gonzales. He then draped the flag securely over the cannon and the men shoved the cannon upfront for all the Mexicans to see.
The first of which was Lt. Castaneda and the two conscripts who accompanied him under a white flag of truce as they rode toward the men from Gonzales and the cannon. The conscripts were nervous, afraid, fearful that at any moment the Texans would shoot them out of their saddles for they had heard such terrible horrible stories about these Norteamericanos. That they hated Mexicans and shot them on site. They saw the ‘Come and Take It’ flag and one asked the other in Spanish, “What does it say?”
“How do I know I can’t read English,” replied the other. Then he turned to Lt. Castaneda and nervously asked as he fidgeted in his saddle, “What does it say Lieutenant? What does it say?”
Lt. Castaneda was descended from aristocracy and he held the common, especially the lower class conscripted soldier, like these two, in contempt. He couldn’t read English either but he didn’t want to let these two know it. So he answered the question true to his aristocratic background and in a condescending and smirking manner said, “It says, Welcome Mexican Soldiers.”
“Oh,” said one of the conscripts apparently satisfied with that answer.
They stopped now in front of the cannon.
“Buenos dias,” said Lt. Castaneda.
“Buenos dias,” replied Benjamin Fuqua and then bluntly asked him in Spanish, “What do you want?”
“My orders are to ask you to give us our cannon back,” Lt. Castaneda answered.
“Your cannon? The government gave us that cannon to protect ourselves from the Comanches. It’s not your cannon. It’s ours,” spoke up an infuriated Jacob Darst also in Spanish.
Lt. Castaneda straightened himself upright in the saddle and said in his most formal voice, “The cannon is the property of the government of Mexico. It was lent, not given, to you. It is military property and therefore the government requests that it be returned.”
“Well we ain’t giving it back,” hollered Darst. “What are you going to do about it?”
Again militarily, formally Lt. Castaneda replied. “My orders are to ask you for the return of the cannon and to report your answer back to my Captain. I will report that your answer is no, that you will not return the cannon.”
With that said Darst raised his rifle to port arms. Others did likewise.
The conscripts panicked, dropped the white flag, turned their horses around, and galloped off.
Not so for the cool under fire Lt. Castaneda. He turned his horse around calmly and went back at a slow steady pace, his head held up high.
As he was almost out of range a shot rang out. And unlike the American Revolution where the question of who fired the first shot of that revolution, the Americans or the British, was never answered, here there was no doubt as to who fired the first shot of the Texas Revolution. The Texans did.
No one was killed in this encounter. The only injury was to one of the conscripts who fell off his horse as he beat his hasty retreat and broke his collarbone. That was the extent of the battle if it could be called such.
The eighteen men and Galba went home that October day 1835, Galba taking the flag with him.
He still had it on February 24th the next year when Albert Martin came riding into Gonzales from the Alamo with Travis’s plea to all Texans and all Americans in the world for help, his victory or death letter. And that’s when Galba Fuqua knew that he was going to the Alamo.
“Albert and some men are going to the Alamo,” he blurted out to his mother. “You heard him when he read the letter to everyone didn’t you Mother? They need help.”
Her answer was a silent, eyes closed, nod of the head yes.
“I’ve got to go Mother.”
She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped the tears from her eyes. She knew he had to go. This was something a man was expected to do and he was a man now even if he was just sixteen. That’s the way things were back then. Your friend or neighbor called for help, you dropped whatever you were doing, grabbed your rifle and you came running, no questions asked. She went and got and handed her son his rifle now, powder, and lead. She still needed him but right now Texas needed him more. Then she went and got the flag for him and handed it to him. “Here don’t forget this. Fly it proudly,” she said while trying to keep from crying. But she couldn’t. She hugged her son and then kissed him on top of his head. She knew that would be the last kiss she would ever give her son.
Galba, thirty one others and the flag made it to the Alamo. There the ‘Come and Take It Flag’ was flown proudly, defiantly for Santa Anna and all the Mexicans to see. And that’s what they did. They came and took it.
Mrs. Dickinson, a survivor of the Alamo, was one of the last people to see Galba alive. She knew Galba since she too was from Gonzales and during the final assault Galba ran into the Alamo chapel and over to her. He said something to her but she couldn’t understand him. He was literally flapping his jaw in the wind as he had been shot in the jaw and it dangled there loosely, grotesquely from the right side of his face. He tried to make himself understood but couldn’t. Perhaps he has a message for his mother thought Mrs. Dickinson as Galba started to pull something from his pocket. But it wasn’t a letter. It was a handkerchief size piece of white cloth with wet blood on it. He handed it to Mrs. Dickinson. It was the last remnant of the ‘Come and Take It Flag’. She took it knowing not what it was. Galba jabbered on and though she couldn’t understand what he was saying, his message was clear, it was all over now. She stood in front of him and faced him. She put her hands on his shoulders, his head was bent down, his chin now fallen on his chest, his eyes streaming tears, his jaw bleeding profusely. She drew him to her.
“Oh Galba,” she cried as she hugged him. Then took a step back and kissed him on top of his head.
“That’s from your mother,” she said, choking up. Tears now flowing from her eyes too.
Galba shook himself free, turned from her, and ran out of the chapel and into history.