Politics and the Texas Revolution, 1836

A primary source by Henry W. Smith

Henry W. Smith, “Texas Expects Every Man to Do His Duty,” February [28], 1836 (GTexas’s fight for independence from Mexico was an uphill battle from the very beginning. Texians were outnumbered and outmatched by the much more powerful Mexican military, and the province was plagued by quarrels within its own provisional government. Its indecisiveness and questionable military pursuits led Governor Henry W. Smith to disband the council. In response, on January 10, 1836, the council voted to impeach him and appointed an interim governor, but Smith defiantly held his post. This political turmoil occurred during what is widely considered the turning point of the revolution: the siege and fall of the Alamo Mission in present-day San Antonio.

After the Mexican army abandoned the Alamo in 1835, Texians took over the outpost, but government and military leaders could not agree on its fate. General Sam Houston ordered Col. James Bowie to strip its resources and destroy it so the fort could not be used by Santa Anna’s advancing troops. Bowie, following the advice of Lt. Col. James C. Neill, disregarded this order, citing the fort’s strategic importance, and instead began to fortify it. By the end of February 1836, Mexican forces had closed in on the Alamo.

Smith, a longtime supporter of Texas independence, issued this call to arms in February and, weeks after he had been suspended, signed it as “Governor”: “Fellow-citizens, I call upon you as your executive officer to ‘turn out;’ it is your country that demands your help.” Volunteers went to the Alamo, but their numbers were few. The fort ultimately fell to Santa Anna’s troops on March 6, 1836.

Smith continued in politics, serving as the first treasurer of the new Texas Republic and then as a one-term congressman in the House of Representatives in Washington DC. He was struck by gold fever in 1849 and left Texas for California, where he died in 1851.

Click here for a full image.




The enemy are upon us! A strong force surrounds the walls of San Antonio, and threaten that Garrison with the sword. Our country imperiously demands the service of every patriotic arm, and longer to continue in a state of apathy will be criminal. Citizens of Texas, descendants of Washington, awake! arouse yourselves!! the question is now to be decided, are we to continue as freemen, or bow beneath the rod of military despotism. . . . Fellow-citizens, I call upon you as your executive officer to “turn out;” it is your country that demands your help. He who longer slumbers on the volcano, must be a madman. He who refuses to aid his country in this, her hour of peril and danger is a traitor. All persons able to bear arms in Texas are called on to rendezvous at the town of Gonzales, with the least possible delay armed and equipped for battle. Our rights and liberties must be protected; to the battle field march and save the country.

Questions for Discussion

You are seeing this page because you are not currently logged into our website. If you would like to access this page and you are not logged in, please login or register for a gilderlehrman.org account, and then visit the link that brought you to this notice. Thanks!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to get free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments