Dawson massacre

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Dawson Massacre
Part of the Woll Expedition
Dawson Massacre.jpg
A plaque at Monument Hill Park marking the graves of those killed in the Dawson Massacre and the Black Bean Incident.
DateSeptember 17, 1842
Result Mexican victory
Flag of Texas.svg  Republic of Texas Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg  Mexico
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Texas.svg Nicholas Mosby Dawson  Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg Adrián Woll
54 militia 500 cavalry
2 artillery pieces
Casualties and losses
36 killed
15 captured
30 killed
60-70 wounded [1]

  • Casualties for the Battle of Salado Creek are not included.

The Dawson massacre, also called the Dawson expedition, was an incident in which 36 Texian militiamen were killed by Mexican soldiers on September 17, 1842 [2] near San Antonio de Bexar (now the U.S. city of San Antonio, Texas). The event occurred during the Battle of Salado Creek, which ended with a Texan victory. [3] This was among numerous armed conflicts over the area between the Rio Grande and Nueces rivers, which the Republic of Texas tried to control after achieving independence in 1836.

Militia (United States) National military force of citizens used in emergencies

The militia of the United States, as defined by the U.S. Congress, has changed over time.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fourth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 129 million people, Mexico is the tenth most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states plus Mexico City (CDMX), which is the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the country include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana, and León.

Battle of Salado Creek (1842) battle on September 17, 1842, between Mexico and the Republic of Texas

The Battle of Salado Creek was a decisive engagement in 1842 which repulsed the final Mexican invasion of the Republic of Texas. Colonel Mathew Caldwell of the Texas Rangers led just over 200 militia against an army of 1,600 Mexican Army soldiers and Cherokee warriors, and defeated them outside of San Antonio de Bexar along Salado Creek. As a result of this action, French-Mexican commander General Adrián Woll retreated south and back into Mexico.



On April 21, 1836, the independence of the Republic of Texas was secured by a decisive victory over the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto. Texas claimed the Rio Grande as its southern border but had sufficient military power to control only land north of the Nueces River. Although Antonio López de Santa Anna, the ruler of Mexico, signed the Treaties of Velasco ceding Texas territory from Mexican control, the treaty was never ratified by the Mexican Government. Santa Anna repudiated the treaty once he was released from Texan custody.

Mexican Army land and air warfare branch of the Mexican Armed Forces

The Mexican Army is the combined land and air branch and is the largest of the Mexican Armed Forces; it is also known as the National Defense Army.

Battle of San Jacinto decisive battle of the Texas Revolution

The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by General Sam Houston, the Texian Army engaged and defeated General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican army in a fight that lasted just 18 minutes. A detailed, first-hand account of the battle was written by General Houston from Headquarters of the Texian Army, San Jacinto, on April 25, 1836. Numerous secondary analyses and interpretations have followed, several of which are cited and discussed throughout this entry.

Rio Grande River forming part of the US-Mexico border

The Rio Grande is one of the principal rivers in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. The Rio Grande begins in south-central Colorado in the United States and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, it forms part of the Mexico–United States border. According to the International Boundary and Water Commission, its total length was 1,896 miles (3,051 km) in the late 1980s, though course shifts occasionally result in length changes. Depending on how it is measured, the Rio Grande is either the fourth- or fifth-longest river system in North America.

Mexican forces and allied Cherokee guerrillas under Vicente Cordova and Chicken Trotter continued to resist Texan attempts to occupy the area between the Rio Grande and Nueces rivers. For the Cherokees, it was a war of vengeance following the massacre of Cherokee and Delaware Indians by Texas Army regulars in the summer of 1839. For the Mexicans, it was to prove they could return to Texas at will.

Guerrilla warfare form of irregular warfare

Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military. Guerrilla groups are a type of violent non-state actor.

Massacre incident where some group is killed by another

A massacre is a killing, typically of multiple victims, considered morally unacceptable, especially when perpetrated by a group of political actors against defenseless victims. The word is a loan of a French term for "butchery" or "carnage".

On September 11, 1842, a Mexican force of 1,600 entered San Antonio and took control there, with minimal resistance from the Texans. When the news of the fall of San Antonio reached Gonzales, Mathew Caldwell formed a militia of 210 men and marched toward San Antonio. Caldwell's troops made camp about twenty miles (30 km) east of the town, near Salado Creek, and planned their attack on the Mexicans. [4] [5]

San Antonio City in Texas, United States

San Antonio, officially the City of San Antonio, is the seventh-most populous city in the United States, and the second-most populous city in both Texas and the Southern United States, with more than 1.5 million residents. "San Antonio" ranks second worldwide on the List of popular place names. Founded as a Spanish mission and colonial outpost in 1718, the city became the first chartered civil settlement in present-day Texas in 1731. The area was still part of the Spanish Empire, and later of the Mexican Republic. Today it is the state's oldest municipality. The city of San Antonio celebrated its 300th anniversary on May 1, 2018. The only other city in the United States to celebrate 300 years in 2018 was New Orleans, Louisiana.

Gonzales, Texas City in Texas, United States

Gonzales is a city in Gonzales County, Texas, United States. The population was 7,237 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat.

Mathew Caldwell Texan settler

Matthew Caldwell,, also spelled Mathew Caldwell was a 19th-century Texas settler, military figure, Captain of the Gonzales – Seguin Rangers and a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Because of his recruitment ride ahead of the Battle of Gonzales, some have called him the Paul Revere of Texas.


On September 17, Caldwell sent a small band of rangers to draw the Mexicans toward the battlefield he had chosen. At least 1,000 Mexican soldiers moved out of San Antonio to attack the Texans. A separate company of 54 Texans, mostly from Fayette County, under the command of Nicholas Mosby Dawson, arrived at the battlefield and began advancing on the rear of the Mexican Army. The Mexican commander, General Adrián Woll, afraid of being surrounded, sent 500 of his cavalry soldiers [6] and two cannons to attack the group. The Texans were able to hold their own against the Mexican rifles, but once the cannons got within range, their fatalities mounted quickly. Dawson realized the situation was hopeless and raised a white flag of surrender.

Fayette County, Texas County in the United States

Fayette County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 24,554. Its county seat is La Grange. The county was created in 1837 and organized the next year.

Adrián Woll was a French Mexican general in the army of Mexico during the Texas Revolution and the military conflict between Mexico and the Republic of Texas which followed.

White flag neutrality sign

White flags have had different meanings throughout history and depending on the locale.

In the fog of war, both sides continued to fire and Dawson was killed. The battle was over after a little more than one hour. It ended with 36 Texans dead, fifteen captured and two escaped. At the front, Caldwell's men had repelled the Mexican attacks and inflicted heavy casualties. Woll was forced to retreat to San Antonio and then towards the Rio Grande.

The fog of war is the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced by participants in military operations. The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding one's own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign. Military forces try to reduce the fog of war through military intelligence and friendly force tracking systems. The term is also used to define uncertainty mechanics in wargames.

The next morning Caldwell's troops located the Dawson battleground and buried the dead Texans in shallow graves. The dead Mexicans were not buried. Caldwell then unsuccessfully pursued Woll's forces south as they retreated from San Antonio. Caldwell returned to San Antonio, after the Mexicans successfully recrossed the Rio Grande. [4] [5]


In late summer of 1848 (after Texas had become a U.S. state), a group of La Grange citizens retrieved the remains of the men killed in the Dawson Massacre from their burial site near Salado Creek. These remains, and the remains of the men killed in the failed Mier Expedition, were reinterred in a common tomb in a cement vault on a bluff one mile south of La Grange. The grave site is now part of the Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites. [4] [5]

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  1. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qfd01 . Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  2. "The Mier Expedition by George Lord". Archived from the original on 2010-12-05. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
  3. "Dawson Massacre". Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved Sep.24, 2006.
  4. 1 2 3 SALADO CREEK, BATTLE OF | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)
  5. 1 2 3 Battle of the Salado Creek 1842
  6. DAWSON MASSACRE | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)