On this day in 1862, a vigilante court opened proceedings in the incident that came to be known as the Great Hanging at Gainesville. Forty suspected Unionists were hanged that month, and two others were shot as they tried to escape. Although the affair reached its climax in Cooke County, men were killed in neighboring Grayson, Wise, and Denton counties. Most were accused of treason or insurrection, but evidently few had actually conspired against the Confederacy. Many were even innocent of the abolitionist sentiments for which they were tried.
On this day in 1942, 200 men of the Lost Battalion were shipped to Singapore as prisoners of war of the Japanese. Most of the remaining battalion members followed nine days later. The unit, the Second Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, originated as part of the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division, United States Army, in 1940 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt mobilized the Texas National Guard. The division, which soon grew to almost 16,000 men from Texas and surrounding states, reported to Camp Bowie, near Brownwood. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Second Battalion, en route to the Philippines, was diverted to Australia and from there boarded a Dutch ship bound for Surabaya, Java, to provide ground support for the Nineteenth Heavy Bombardment Group. The Second Battalion was left behind when the bomber group and other military forces were evacuated, earning the unit the title of the “Lost Battalion.” When the Japanese captured the Dutch East Indies, they imprisoned the Texans, who thus began a harrowing trip to the work camps of Burma, where the men suffered brutality and death while laboring on various building projects including construction of the famous “Bridge over the River Kwai.”
On this day in 1835, fighting broke out at Gonzales between Mexican soldiers and Texas militiamen. When Domingo de Ugartechea, military commander in Texas, received word that the American colonists of Gonzales refused to surrender a small cannon that had been given that settlement in 1831 as a defense against the Indians, he dispatched Francisco de Castañeda and 100 dragoons to retrieve it on September 27. Though Castañeda attempted to avoid conflict, on the morning of October 2 his force clashed with local Texan militia led by John Henry Moore in the first battle of the Texas Revolution. The struggle for the "Come and Take It" cannon was only a brief skirmish that ended with the retreat of Castañeda and his force, but it also marked a clear break between the American colonists and the Mexican government.