Sam Houston probably knew that the Alamo had fallen before Suzanna Dickinson reached Gonzales. Mrs. Dickinson arrived in Gonzales at dusk on March 13, 1836 and revealed the tragic story of the battle of the Alamo. Texas was now in the hands of Houston and the Texas Army at Gonzales. Sam Houston decided to retreat to the east, around midnight the order was given and the Runaway Scrape begun. The event is not well documented but are some firsthand accounts.
Texas State Archives:
Mrs. Almeron Dickinson reached Gonzales with the tragic news, when she was instantly surrounded by the mothers, wives and sweethearts of the gallant Thirty-two. "Oh, Sue, they cried, are you sure? What did they say? Did he have any last message for me?"
"All dead, all dead," was all that Mrs. Dickinson could say, but to Mrs.Gaston (Rebecca Davis), she revealed her boy's last hour. "I saw Johnny, during the very height of the battle. He came to me in the Alamo church room where I was, both jaws broken, trying to tell me something. I could not understand, and then he pressed his jaws together, but still I could not understand, and he went back into the hailstorm of bullets, a hero, Mrs. Gaston, a hero."
"I arrived at Gonzales 6th March, 1836. Some four or five days after I got there, General Houston arrived. On the 13th, Mrs. Dickinson and a negro boy belonging to Col. Travis arrived in camp, bringing the first reliable information of the fall of the Alamo. On the night of the 13th, about the time the men were preparing their nights repast, Gen. Houston came down and ordered the horses to be got up, and the fires put out; after which such a scramble and confusion commenced as I had never witnessed. About 10 oÕclock at night we were ordered to move, by whom I do not recollect; As to guards, we had none; there was no order or regularity in the retreat from there to Peach Creek, ten miles east.
The town of Gonzales was burnt; by whose order I do not know, but believe it was by Gen. Houston's for the reason that it was generally talked of and believed so to be in camp. Captain Bird Lockhart, who arrived in Gonzales on the morning of the 14th, when it was on fire, told me that the men who were setting fire to the houses said they were left there by Gen. Houston, to burn the town and gather up the horses. Some of the women and children had started before we did; some started with us, and we left others crying and screaming in the town. Some we passed on the road that night between Gonzales and Peach Creek.
W. E. Heard
*The Quarterly April 1901
Kuykendall's Recollection of the Campaign:
Accordingly, about eleven o'clock, it was announced that all were in readiness to march. We were formed four deep and at the command, "Forward! March!" commenced their memorable retreat. The night was warm, but so dark as to constrain the army to move at a very moderate pace. Silent, and, indeed, solemn was the march. As we passed through the streets of Gonzales, we noticed great lights in the houses and the people packing up their household effect in all possible haste.
A man came out on the piazza and said (addressing the army), "In the name of God, gentlemen, I hope you are not going to leave the families behind!" Some one in our ranks answered, "O yes, we are all looking out for number one." In another minute we had emerged from the illuminated street and were again "covered with darkness as with a pall." Although most of our men were accustomed to service, very few had ever served as footmen until this campaign or borne such burdens as were imposed on them that night. A mile or two east of Gonzales the road entered an extensive post-oak forest and was in some places quite sandy, which greatly increased the fatigue of the march. Many men became leg-weary, left the ranks and lay down at the roadside to rest.
About an hour before day, having felt our way to McClure's, on the east side of Peach creek (ten or eleven miles from Gonzales), we were halted and ordered to lie down on our arms. Never was an order more promptly obeyed. Many of the men did not take time to spread their blankets, but lay down on the bare ground with their knapsacks under their heads, and were almost instantly asleep. In the meantime, a brilliant light shot up far above the western horizon. This phenomenon was caused by the conflagration of the town of Gonzales. After an hourÕs repose, we were aroused. By this time many of the families of Gonzales had overtaken the army and paused for rest and refreshment.
*The Quarterly April 1901