Juan Seguin A Relatively Unsung Hero

Created Tuesday, 08 September 2009 17:09

 

Juan Seguin – A Relatively Unsung Hero

Juan Nepomuceno Seguin was a man whose good and bad fortune it was to be on the border between Anglo Texians and Mexican Tejanos. He was born in 1806, in San Antonio. He came of a prominent local family; his father was a signatory to Mexico’s 1824 constitution. Juan Seguin was himself elected to the office of alcalde – a cross between mayor and justice of the peace. Altogether, he was a promising young man in local politics, when Texas was merely a far-distant province of Mexico – and gradually becoming disaffected by the dictatorial actions of the Centralist President of Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

When Santa Anna soon dissolved the Mexican Congress, moderates such as Seguin were thrown into opposition, right alongside their Anglo neighbors. Stephen Austin granted a captain’s commission to Seguin, who raised a company of scouts. When elements of the Mexican Army under General Martin Cos were thrown out of San Antonio at the end of 1835, Captain Seguin’s company assisted with the throwing. His men then became part of the small garrison of a tumbledown old mission known as the Alamo. Some historians have even speculated that Seguin might have been its commander – but that he personally was too valuable as a scout. He was sent out of the doomed Alamo as a courier. At Gonzales, when Sam Houston began gathering his ragged Army of Texans, Seguin raised another small company of Tejanos, who served as scouts and as rear-guard, as Houston fell back into East Texas.

When Houston finally turned to fight, he wanted to leave Seguin’s company out of his line of battle, guarding the camp and the baggage train, fearing that in the thick of it all, Seguin’s men might be in danger from their own side. After the massacre at the Alamo and the Goliad, many in Houston’s army were not inclined to make distinctions between Mexicans. Seguin angrily refused, insisting on a place for his company in the line: he also had lost some of his men in the Alamo. His men could not return to their homes until Santa Anna was defeated; they had just as much or more cause to hate him as any Anglo-Texian. It was their right to take a part in the fight. Houston relented, asking only that Seguin’s men place pieces of cardboard in their hatbands, to distinguish them.

Stephen Hardin’s history of the Texas Revolution, “A Texian Illiad,” features careful sketches of many soldier-participants, including one of Seguin’s volunteers. His clothes and equipment are of the borderlands: American shoes, short Mexican trousers, a fringed buckskin jacket, a rolled serape and a Brown Bess musket, a gourd canteen and a wide-brimmed vaquero’s hat with a rosary around the crown and a slip of cardboard with “Requerda el Alamo” scrawled on it.

More about Seguin is in the Handbook of Texas Online. He served as a legislator, civic official and soldier on both sides of the border, and eventually died at the advanced age of 90, in Nueva Laredo. He appears very briefly in the 2004 move “The Alamo”, as a friend of General Sam Houston, as played by Spanish actor and filmmaker Jordi Molla.

His monument in Texas is the town of Seguin, a little south of San Antonio, where he was buried.

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