April rains bring flooding here on the Georgia Piedmont. My thoughts turn to springtime in south Texas and roaring creeks. And swollen rivers and the Runaway Scrape.
It was the spring of 1836 and General Sam Houston waited in Gonzales, Texas with his undisciplined little army. He planned to join forces with Jim Fannin’s troops up from Goliad. But two Mexican men soon arrived from San Antonio with reports of the fall of the Alamo. Then came Alamo survivor Susanna Dickinson, telling Houston that Santa Ana’s army was on the road to Gonzales.
The fall of the Alamo hit Gonzales between the eyes. Every family had sent menfolk to the fight. The town fell into despair. “Burn it!” said Houston, and they did, leaving nothing for the Mexican army. Thus began that rout known in Texas as the Runaway Scrape.
The Texas army beat a long, controversial retreat to the northeast. Civilians joined in along the way. This forced migration grew into a severe test for the women of Texas. They gathered up what few belongings they could carry and herded their families along as fast as they could, in wagons, carriages, on horseback or afoot. Homes were abandoned, doors open, supper left on the tables. In the headlong flight families became separated. Lost children were picked up and carried along by strangers. Long lines waited for the ferries across the swollen Colorado and Brazos rivers. People pushed ahead as best they could.
The women of Texas showed their mettle in the Runaway Scrape. Able-bodied men marched with the army. Their women took charge, urged children and elderly relatives to keep going, bartered for food, cared for the sick. Rosa Kleberg (yes, that Kleberg family) sent her husband and brothers to the army, and marched east with her children, her aged father and a few neighbors. On horseback, carrying her infant daughter Clara, she herded their cattle across the swollen Brazos.
News of Houston’s victory at San Jacinto brought the Runaway Scrape to a halt. Now it was the task of the Texas women to organize a return to their homesteads and to pick up their lives from among the ruins.
A hundred and fifty years later, I find Texas women to be strong, resourceful, full of grit, the same determination that saw them through the Runaway Scrape. The men of Texas fought the battles that liberated their new country. But in many ways, it was the labors of the women that gave birth to the Republic of Texas.
I believe my historian mother would agree with me.
April 14, 2014
“We relish news of our heroes, forgetting that we are extraordinary to somebody too.” – Helen Hayes.