The end of Augustus Magee’s life at Presidio La Bahía would mark the beginning of the end for Republican forces in their quest to obtain independence and wrest Texas from Spain.
Relishing in their victory at La Bahía, the Republican Army of the North, now under the tutelage of Col. Samuel Kemper, followed in pursuit of Governor Manuel Salcedo and his Royalist army as the retreated north to San Antonio.
On the 29th of March 1813, Col. Kemper and the entire Republican army arrived on the outskirts of San Antonio. As they were marching along Salado Creek, their scouts detected a Royalist ambush in waiting. The result was a short but furious battle in which the Republicans defeated Gov. Salcedo’s troops once again.
The spoils of victory included the capture of more than 1,200 Royalist troops, six cannons, weapons, powder, ammunition, and upwards of 1,000 horses and mules.
A number of Kemper’s men displayed tremendous bravery in battle - most notably, an American, Lt. Col. Ross, who engaged in a gritty and bloody act of hand to hand fighting with the use of his sabre. It should also be noted that Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara, the de facto leader and organizer from the beginning, surrounded himself with several guards and observed from a post in the rear. If nothing else, he was at least consistent.
More important than material spoils of war, however, was what happened next. The following day, Col. Kemper approached Gov. Salcedo to negotiate terms of surrender. Naturally, Salcedo had a long list of terms he wanted met before he would consider surrendering. But after much talk and no progress, Salcedo eventually accepted the terms of an unconditional surrender for the sake of the city and its inhabitants.
Upon surrender, Gov. Salcedo, along with his officers, was taken prisoner and given assurances by Kemper and the Americans that their lives would be spared and that they would be paroled to Matagorda in order to board a vessel home. Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara, however, had other ideas. Gutiérrez helped persuade the Americans to send the prisoners to La Bahía, where they could be more safely guarded while awaiting passage on a ship. Having been assured by Gutiérrez and others, Kemper and the Americans agreed.
On April 3, 1813, Gov. Salcedo and 12 Royalist officers were marched out of San Antonio en route to La Bahía. In charge were Antonio Delgado, Pedro Prado and Francisco Ruiz, all former members of the Royalist forces. Just a few miles out of town, the prisoners were halted. They were dismounted, denuded, and their possessions stolen. Their guards executed them one by one, cutting their throats, and in some instances beheading them.
Gov. Salcedo suffered the most. Before being killed, he endured the agony of having his tongue cut out of his mouth. None of the prisoners were allowed last words or the opportunity for last rites. Their bloodied and headless corpses were left unburied and abandoned to rot.
When the executioners returned with word of their deed, many of the Republicans were pleased and ecstatic. For most of the Americans, however, this was repulsive and they reacted by returning to the site and burying the slain Spaniards. Unable to accept what had happened, Col. Kemper, along with a number of other Americans, decided to take leave and returned home.
For the remaining Republicans, the day seemed a fine one. It was a day of victory and celebration. The capital belonged to the Republicans and Texas would forever be free of the control of the mighty Spanish empire. However, this elation would soon pass.