The term Runaway Scrape was the name Texans applied to the flight from their homes when Antonio López de Santa Anna began his attempted conquest of Texas in February 1836. The first communities to be affected were those in the south central portions of Texas around San Patricio, Refugio, and San Antonio. The people began to leave that area as early as January 14, 1836, when the Mexicans were reported gathering on the Rio Grande.
When Sam Houston arrived in Gonzales on March 11 and was informed of the fall of the Alamo, he decided upon retreat to the Colorado River and ordered all inhabitants to accompany him. Couriers were dispatched from Gonzales to carry the news of the fall of the Alamo, and when they received that news, people all over Texas began to leave everything and make their way to safety.
Houston's retreat marked the beginning of the Runaway Scrape on a really large scale. Washington-on-the-Brazos was deserted by March 17, and about April 1 Richmond was evacuated, as were the settlements on both sides of the Brazos River. The further retreat of Houston toward the Sabine left all of the settlements between the Colorado and the Brazos unprotected, and the settlers in that area at once began making their way toward Louisiana or Galveston Island. The section of East Texas around Nacogdoches and San Augustine was abandoned a little prior to April 13.
The flight was marked by lack of preparation and by panic caused by fear both of the Mexican Army and of the Indians. The people used any means of transportation or none at all. Added to the discomforts of travel were all kinds of diseases, intensified by cold, rain, and hunger. Many persons died and were buried where they fell.
The flight continued until news came of the victory in the battle of San Jacinto. At first no credence was put in this news because so many false rumors had been circulated, but gradually the refugees began to reverse their steps and turn back toward home, many toward homes that no longer existed.