Generations of children in Mexico have grown up playing with a toy called a “balero.” It is said that the balero dates back as far as the 16th century.
The balero is a simple-looking toy made of wood and is comprised of a small cup attached to a handle, inside of which a small ball is attached to a string. The object of the game is to toss the ball around in an effort to make it land in the cup. On the surface, it looks like a cinch. But ask anyone who has spent time with a balero in hand and they will tell you looks can be deceiving.
In the summer of 1817, Col. Antonio Maria Martinez, governor of Spanish Texas, probably viewed men like Col. Henry Perry in the same manner as many children today do a balero. That is to say, “Pppffftttt … what is this?” But no sooner does the little ball begin to bounce and pull and pop and “do this” when it should have “done that,” that even the most prolific toy enthusiasts realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.
Though a rather silly analogy, it explains the dilemma that Spanish officials were facing in Texas in the early part of the 19th century. Having relied for too long on its influence through wealth and power, Spain did not take seriously the threat from within. Nor did Spain take seriously enough the notion that the United States, a young nation it had supported in the American Revolution, would ever directly or indirectly aide the cause for Mexican independence and more specifically Texas independence.
For these reasons, Col. Martinez found himself in yet another debacle at the hands of Henry Perry and Co.
On June 19, 1817, Col. Perry found himself up a creek, literally. A few miles east of La Bahia, Perry and his men were pinned down along the banks of El Arroyo del Perdido (Perdido Creek). But the creek was the least of their problems.
Even if Perry’s men crossed the arroyo, they were still completely surrounded and greatly outnumbered. In addition to the numerical disadvantage, a cavalry troupe was patrolling the plains so as to cut down anyone attempting to make a getaway.
In an effort to gain the upper-hand, Perry decided to charge at the heart of Royalist lines during the night. Having orders to attack at dawn, the Royalists were caught off-guard by Perry’s decision. As the fighting ensued, the volunteers were able to break through Royalists lines on two occasions. Following the second, however, the momentum shifted. The Royalists received reinforcements just in time to beat back Perry’s men.
As to be expected, the battle resulted in heavy casualties. Twenty-six of Perry’s 44 men were killed, most at the hands of the enemy. At least 14 others were captured and taken prisoner, the majority of them wounded. The remaining four were never accounted for and were listed as missing. Perry was among the dead, though he was killed by his own hand. Preferring death over being a prisoner of war, he shot himself with his pistol.
Though the battle was a victory for the Royalists, it came at a high cost. Nearly 20 lives were lost, including several civilians and officers. For Spanish officials, it was yet another blunder on an already too rapidly growing list. More critical was the fact that such events seemed to only strengthen the Republican’s desire for independence.