Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
After the fall of the Alamo, word began to spread like wildfire across the territory. The horrific tales of the massacre at Goliad had proven that Santa Anna and his army would show no mercy, even for the women and children. While many families had already begun to flee as early as January 1836, the March 6 slaughter prompted widespread terror and the historic Runaway Scrape began.
Families wasted no time in gathering essentials and setting out towards the Sabine River and into the safe haven of Louisiana or Galveston Island. Many families left with food on the table, clothes on the line, and ran for their lives with little more than the clothes on their back. Most of the treacherous journey was led by women with their small children, as only the elderly and boys deemed by their mamas as too young to fight were still at home.
General Sam Houston and his boys were on the eastward move as well. By early April, Washington-on-the Brazos was deserted and as General Sam marched on towards the Sabine, there was rarely a sole left behind him. With these areas unprotected, Texians that stayed behind faced certain death as Santa Anna pressed forward – if the Indians didn’t get there first.
The only solace that the runaways had was that General Sam was between them and death. At the last meeting in the Alamo, Travis said: "If we hold the Alamo, it is a deed well done! If we fall with it, it is still a deed well done! We pledge our lives to give Houston and Fannin time to get between Santa Anna and the settlements!"
A deed well done indeed. But assured as they were that General Sam was bringing up the rear, they were faced with another unforeseen obstacle – the always unpredictable Texas weather. The cold and rainy spring wreaked havoc along the Runaway Scrape. The runaways lacked the bare essentials of survival and many, mostly children, succumbed to the cold, disease and hunger.
I often talk about the heroes of our independence, but no finer example of heroics was displayed than on this historic exodus. This was the harshest journey of our fight for independence and it was only made possible by the sheer will and determination of the remarkable women that led the way.
There are countless stories of women who cared for the sick and diseased, sacrificed for the hungry, buried the dead, including their own children, and kept pressing on – never giving up. They were relentless in their mission and just as much a part of our independence as were their counterparts. As my grandmother always said, there is nothing more powerful than a woman that has made up her mind. And these women, these mothers of freedom, had made up their mind.
General Thomas Jefferson Rusk understood Texas women well: "The men of Texas deserved much credit, but more was due the women. Armed men facing a foe could not but be brave; but the women, with their little children around them, without means of defense or power to resist, faced danger and death with unflinching courage."
One such story recounts how one mother strapped a feather mattress to the back of a horse, tied her three young children on and led that horse by foot while carrying a baby on her hip. This was a prettier picture than most. As food and supplies were sparse, they also couldn’t afford to have anything extra weigh them down. The muddied trails to safety were littered with feathers from mattresses and discarded items too burdensome to carry.
As far as the eye could see, this was the scene along the Runaway Scrape. Most were starving, sick, and barely clothed. Make shift graves lined the way and areas of high ground offered the only reprieve from the mud-soaked misery.
As General Sam and the boys crossed the San Jacinto, many of the runaways a step ahead faced a rising Trinity River to the east. The flooded waterway and river-bottoms forced them to seek shelter in the Liberty and Dayton settlements. Today, a historical marker along Highway 90 recognizes this historical part of our Texas history.
On the afternoon of April 21, 1836, the runaways taking refuge along the banks of the Trinity heard the faint sounds of cannon fire in the distance. Fearing the worst, the runaways wasted no time in ferrying the river and making their escape. Little did they know at the time, but General Sam and his rag-tag bunch of freedom fighters whipped a vastly larger Mexican army that was caught napping, captured Santa Anna and a new Republic of Texas was won.
Just as terror and panic had raged throughout the land, the news of victory and independence did as well. The cries from the battlefield, “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” were echoed along the now abandoned Runaway Scrape and met with, “San Jacinto! San Jacinto!”
Texas – one and indivisible.
And that’s just the way it is.