Historical Articles

3. Captain Juan N. Seguin and the Runaway Scrape

By Bill Neeley

Upon arriving in Gonzales as a messenger from the embattled forces at the Alamo in March of 1836, Captain Juan N. Seguin expected to report to General Sam Houston, recruit men to ride back to the Alamo with him, and rejoin the fight alongside the men who had followed the Tejano captain into the old mission in open rebellion against General Santa Anna. Houston, however, had other plans for Seguin. Having foreseen that the Alamo could not be defended indefinitely, the Texas general had ordered Col. William B. Travis to abandon the fortified mission and move to the east where Houston planned to drill the Texas army in preparation for a show-down with the Mexican autocrat. Travis had disobeyed that order and had asked Seguin and his small group of Tejanos to join him in defending the fortified mission.

Seguin was chosen by the officers in the Alamo to ride to Gonzales with Travis's message calling for reinforcements. Upon delivering his message, Seguin begged Houston to allow him to ride to the Alamo with the handful of volunteers from Gonzales and rejoin the seven Tejanos (Texans of Hispanic heritage) he had left behind in order to carry Travis's message, "expecting certain death," to Gonzales. But Houston would not sacrifice Captain Seguin for what he considered a lost cause. Instead the general gave Seguin the most important assignment of any Texas captain up to that point in the revolt against Santa Anna: leading and protecting the women of Gonzales, many of them widowed as a result of the heroic sacrifice of their husbands, in what would become known as the Runaway Scrape, a desperate attempt to escape the Mexican army. Though a boy of seven in 1813 when Spanish General Joaquin Arredondo executed hundreds of Tejano men in San Antonio for allegedly rebelling against Spanish authority, he remembered what the Spanish soldiers did to the Tejanas: wholesale rape. Word had reached Texas about the sexual abuse of Mexican women and girls as Santa Anna's army, made up in large part of convicts released from prison, marched through Mexico. Now as a man in the prime of his life, Captain Seguin knew only too well what would befall the women of Texas if overtaken by Mexican forces. As he helped the grief-stricken ladies of Gonzales to leave their burning town, his own family was under the care of his father Erasmo as they headed toward San Felipe on the way to Nacogdoches.

Having had the welfare of so many non-combatants in his hands, Captain Seguin and his rancheros not only respected the women they accompanied on the road toward Victoria and beyond, they also protected them from Indians, bandits, runaway slaves and Mexican soldiers. Along the way women and children from other communities, including Dona Patricia DeLeon and other Tejanas of Victoria, joined the cavalcade of hardship and despair. All had left their homes behind, and many were newly widowed. Babies were also born enroute to the Anglo-American settlements east of the Brazos River. Several rancheros from Victoria joined the fight against their fellow countrymen. It was a difficult decision, as conflicts between colonizers Green Dewitt from the United States and Don Martin DeLeon from Mexico had revealed cracks in the united front that Houston wanted Texas to show against Santa Anna's autocratic government. The more atrocities the dictator committed against Texans, the more suspicion was placed on the native Tejanos of Texas. Many immigrants from the United States advocated sending all Tejanos across the Rio Grande into Mexico. Seguin was aware of Anglo-American attitudes, but as one brought up to love liberty and self-government by his father Erasmo, Captain Juan Seguin had no choice but to fight for his freedom and that of all Texans.

At last the women of Gonzales and those of other towns and farms east of there reached an area of safety, and Captain Seguin bid them farewell and then reported to Houston at Groce's Plantation for further orders. He had performed the most sacred duty of any warrior: protecting the innocents. The Texas general patted Captain Seguin on the back and gave him his new orders: scouting the enemy in preparation for the defining battle of the Texas Revolution to be fought along the banks of the San Jacinto River just north of the town that would soon be called Houston in honor of the hero of that battle. The Runaway Scrape was over, but the women and children who experienced the terror, grief, and hardships of that hellish journey would long remember their protector: Captain Juan N. Seguin.

The above is excerpted from A Tejano Knight: The Quest of Don Juan Seguin by Bill Neeley. Copyright © 2017 Bill Neeley. All rights reserved.

Full list of historical articles.