VERY FINE. A RARE LETTER FROM TEXAS DURING THE SPANISH COLONIAL PERIOD WITH THE "FRANCA EN BEXAR" SPANISH COLONIAL PERIOD MARKING. PROBABLY NO MORE THAN FIVE COMPLETE POSTMARKED LETTERS FROM SPANISH COLONIAL TEXAS ARE IN PRIVATE HANDS. THIS IS ALSO THE ONLY EXAMPLE OF THIS MARKING ON A COMPLETE LETTER LIKELY TO BE AVAILABLE TO COLLECTORS.
This letter was marked Royal Service but still appears to have been charged "3" reales postage. Vince King reports that only four complete Spanish Texas letters are in private hands. The cover offered here, unknown to researchers, increases the record to a total of six, which includes one in the J. P. Bryan collection (no. 5), which is likely to remain institutionalized: 1) "BAHIA" and "FRANCA" handstamps, to Cordero in Bexar, Aug. 11, 1807 (King collection); 2) "BEXAR" black handstamp, to Cordero in Monclova, ca. 1801-05 (King collection); 3) "BEXAR" red handstamp, to Cordero in Monclova, 1803 (or 1808-09), offered in our Sale 1071; 4) "BEXAR" red handstamp, to Don Jose Juoqine in Monclova, Apr. 27, 1808, ex Camina (Siegel Sale 757, lot 2); 5) "FRANCA/EN BEXAR" red handstamp, to Cordero in Monclova, May 1, 1810, ex Camina (Siegel Sale 757, lot 3, now in the Bryan collection, likely to be institutionalized); 6) "FRANCA/EN BEXAR" red handstamp, dated May 27, 1809, to Monclova, the cover offered here. In addition to these complete letters there are a few recorded cover fronts, and of course markings used after Mexican independence (1821).
Illustrated on p. 9 of Texas: The Drama of its Postal Past by ter Braake. See website PDF for contents
A LETTER OF TREMENDOUS HISTORICAL VALUE, REPORTING IN GREAT DETAIL THE PIVOTAL EVENTS OF THE TEXAS WAR OF INDEPENDENCE -- THE SIEGE AND BATTLE OF THE ALAMO, DESCRIBED BY THE WRITER AS THE "THERMOPYLAE OF TEXAS," THE GOLIAD MASSACRE, THE "RUNAWAY SCRAPE" AND THE BATTLE OF SAN JACINTO, IN WHICH SANTA ANNA'S ARMY WAS DEFEATED.
The author of this extraordinary contemporary account of the major events of the Texas War of Independence, John L. Sleight, was about 26 years old in May 1836 when he wrote this letter to his uncle, Cornelius Sleight, a resident of the east end Long Island port town of Sag Harbor, New York, where John was born circa 1810. John Sleight traveled to Texas and established his merchant business in Brazoria in the early 1830s. When the Mexican army under President Antonio López de Santa Anna launched its campaign to crush the Texian army, Sleight, a member of the Texas Volunteer Militia as early as 1832, was an active participant in the Texas srruggle for independence. Although he did not participate directly in all of the events described in this letter, Sleight was well-informed of the details, and he served as one of Santa Anna's prison guards after the Mexican leader's capture at the Battle of San Jacinto.
A complete transcript of Sleight's letter follows:
Quintanna Mouth of The Brazos, May 15, 1836
I presume that you have been looking for some time past for letters from me but owing to our disturbances there has been but little communication with any parts of the U.S. An opportunity now offers and a leisure hour and I hasten to embrace it. You of course are acquainted with our affairs generally as I perceive that the New York papers has plenty of Texas news but I will give you a more particular description and a little more accurate. I will commence with the Fate of the Fortress of Bexhar and follow it up to the present date. The Thermopylae of Texas was taken in the latter part of February after a siege of their works by the forces of St. Anna with an army of 6,000 men. History does not record so gallant a resistance and so tragic an end. Not one of the defenders escaped to tell the dreadful tale. A negro man and wife were the sole survivors. 182 men fell gloriously fighting for liberty but they exterminated hundreds of the savage foe. 521 were left on the field and 1000 wounded most of them mortally. After burning the bodies St. Anna marched his forces to La Bahia a strong fortress on the San Antonio River and well manned and commanded by Col. Fanning [sic - Fannin] - he was ordered by General Houston to evacuate the place and retreat to the Colorado to join the Main Army. his force consisted of 487 men. their retreat was cut off and they were surrounded by 2000 of the Enemy who commenced an attack and after a well-fought action of five hours they held off - leaving 1000 men dead on the field and 600 horses. they ordered reinforcements of 900 men and camped on the field that night. he had 7 men killed and 40 wounded and consequently was obliged to remain there that night. in the morning he was completely surrounded by them and not one drop of water. proposals was made to them and articles of treaty entered into and he surrendered as honourable prisoners of war our private property to be respected and we were to be sent to the United States. Our army was marched back to the fort and detained five days when all were ordered out to march for the bay of Copona [sic – Copano Bay]. And on the way the principal part was inhumanely massacred. Not more than 20 escaped to tell the horrid tale. It would seem natural to think that St. Anna’s vengeance was nearly glutted by this time but he took up the line of march for the Brazos swearing vengeance and a total extermination of men women and children. Our army retreated towards the Trinity. St. Anna following the hot pursuit and the whole country west of the Brazos completely depopulated. On the San Jacinto our army took a stand determined to check him in his mad course. thus the army encamped 12 miles apart. St. Anna commenced fortifying and heaving up entrenchments and making his position as strong as possible. Our army attacked him [“with 1,500 men” crossed out] on the eve of the 21st of April at 4PM with 650 men and in 19 minutes completely routed his whole lines and in one hour and 20 minutes gained one of the most complete victories that was ever fought killing 690 and taking 800 prisoners. With St. Anna at their head and 42 officers many of them of rank. they had 38 officers killed, two of them Generals. Our loss is 7 killed and 15 wounded. St. Anna is very anxious about his fate. he is perfectly willing to acknowledge our independence, cede us territory to the west Bank of the Rio Grande and pay the expense of the war if the congress of Mexico will ratify it. I think he will escape with his head. I belong to the Guards stationed about his prison and have frequent opportunities of seeing him. from his appearance I should not think him a very smart man. he is six feet in height and well made and rather prepossessing but he has caused us an immensity of trouble and made hundreds of poor men. Our crops are all cut off. No cotton will be made this year. the Farmers are returning to their homes and are endeavoring to make bread. Many of the merchants are completely ruined and are Bankrupts [sic] for thousands but we have this consolation we have the finest country on Earth and our lands will soon be valuable. I do not believe there ever was so [“great” crossed out] large a field for speculation as there is in Texas at this time and will be probably for years. Cous. has lost several hundred Dols but I am in hopes that I shall recover it for him. It was done by the orders of Government. I have presented the claim and think it will be allowed. He will not do for this country. he so completely unqualified for business of any kind and so wayward in his disposition that nothing can be done with him according to your request. I have done all that was in my power to and shall continue to do so until he makes up his loss. then I shall advise him to return home [missing] up the country at present once was well [missing] from him.
I remain truly yours, Jno L. Sleight
From the Sandford M. Arnold collection.