Mexican Revolution

 

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The History of Texas: Mexican Revolution

(Previous Section: Battle of Medina)

Annexation of Florida

FloridaFROM 1808 to 1815, Spain had no diplomatic intercourse with the United States. The gigantic policy of Napoleon had, for the time, blotted her out from the list of nations. It will be remembered that she still held possession of East Florida, and claimed West Florida, as also Texas; while the United States likewise claimed the two latter provinces by virtue of the purchase of Louisiana. While Spain was thus overwhelmed at home, her possessions in America were either in a state of open revolt, or subject to fall into the hands of any of those powers with whom the mother-country was at war.

The people of West Florida assembled in convention at Baton Rouge, on the 26th of September, 1810, declared their independence, and transmitted their declaration to the United States, requesting to be taken under their protection. The Congress of the Union having authorized President Madison, on the happening of certain contingencies, to take possession of the country, he accordingly issued his proclamation, and, on the 27th of October following, directed Governor Claiborne to annex West Florida to the then territory of Orleans, which was done.

By the joint resolution of Congress of the 15th of January, 1811, the president was fully empowered, in the event of an attempt of any foreign power to occupy any part of East Florida, to take possession of the same for the United States. We have already seen what was done in Texas. In Mexico, the war still continued. The vigorous conduct of Calleja, who for his services had been appointed viceroy, had rendered the royal cause victorious over the entire country, with the exception of Guanaxuato, Valladolid, and Zacatecas. Morelos, however, summoned a congress at Chilpanzingo, which published a declaration of independence. But the political movements in Europe, on which the ability of Spain to support her cause in Mexico depended, had become more favorable. Bonaparte, at the close of 1813, was compelled to restore the Spanish crown to Ferdinand VII. and, by the treaty of April 11, 1814, the former renounced the sovereignty of France, and retired to Elba. This enabled Spain to concentrate her forces against her rebel colonies.

Revolutionary Movement in Mexico Continues

In the meantime, Toledo had temporarily left his headquarters at Gaines's ferry, and was engaged in the United States collecting forces, arms, and assistance, for the prosecution of the war in Mexico. The Mexican Congress had sent Manuel Herrera as commissioner to the United States, to represent the interests of the Mexican republicans. He brought with him blank commissions, which, unfortunately, he distributed to persons of every character and nation. Generals Toledo and Humbert, however, succeeded in raising a small force, together with supplies of ammunition and provisions, which they transported to El Puente del Rey, between Vera Cruz and Jalapa. This place was fortified by the republicans. Morelos, hearing of this arrival, and being sorely pressed by the royalists, set out on his march to join Toledo; but on the way he was captured and shot. With the death of Morelos, the revolutionary cause languished for some years.

Notwithstanding this ill success, efforts were not wanting, in the southwestern portion of the American cenfederacy, to get up a campaign against Texas. Many of the leading republicans of Mexico, being compelled to fly their country, took refuge in the United States. Their condition and recitals naturally increased the sympathy felt for their cause. The peace of Ghent gave leisure to the adventurers of the latter country, and their attention was turned to Texas. True, this province had again fallen into the hands of Ferdinand VII.; but, in the various disputes and collisions between the United States and Spain, the people of the former had acquired a thorough contempt for the house of Bourbon. The triumphs of Bonaparte had broken the charm of idolatry which had so long hung over this corrupt and imbecile line of kings. Indolence and inter-marriages had deprived them of energy, liberality, and wisdom; and, though they still held the nominal sovereignty of New Spain, their power had departed for ever.

It was through the influence of the Mexican clergy, who were directly dependent upon Spain, that the first effort at revolution failed. It needed, then, only a diversion of that influence to rekindle the flame, and consume the last vestige of European authority in Mexico.

Those most influential in getting up a second invasion of Texas were Jose Alvarez de Toledo, Julius Caesar Amazoni, Vincent Gamble, John Robinson, Romain Very, Pierre Soemeson, Bernard Bourdin, and Colonel Perry. All these, except the last-named, were indicted in the United States district court of Louisiana, in 1815, for a violation of the neutrality of the Union. This had a tendency to check their movements. But Colonel Perry, though vigilantly watched, made his way, with a few followers, through Attakapas, to a point two leagues west of the Sabine, where they assembled more. From this point they embarked for the coast of Mexico, but adverse winds compelled them to return.

Perry was a bold, active, and persevering officer, and not easily discouraged by misfortune. He had shown this by remaining at San Antonio after the treachery of Gutierres; and, notwithstanding his narrow escape at the battle of the Medina, his privations in the retreat, and the difficulty of raising and providing for troops, he still persevered in his intentions against Mexico. As his movements are connected with the first occupation of Galveston island, it will be necessary to refer to it.

Occupation of Galveston Island

From the discovery of the island in 1686, by the colony of La Salle, until 1816, it had remained unsettled. A few roving Carankawaes occasionally resorted to the western end of the island for the purpose of fishing, but there were no human habitations on it. In fact, there is reason to believe that, since 1686, it has more than doubled in extent, by the recession of the waters of the gulf. In the beginning of the year 1816, it was covered with long green grass, on which fed herds of deer. It also abounded in serpents, from which it was called, by the pirates of the gulf, Snake island.

Some of the piratical vessels of Barrataria had sailed into Galveston bay, and made known the capacities of the harbor. Don Jose Manuel Herrera, the minister of the Mexican patriots to the United States, learning from them that it would answer his purposes, took steps to have it occupied. Accordingly, he sailed to the island on the first of September, 1816, taking with him Don Luis Aury, who, as commodore of the fleet of the republics of Mexico, Venezuela, La Plata, and New Grenada, commanded a squadron of twelve or fifteen small vessels. On the 12th of September, a meeting was held, and a government organized. Aury was chosen civil and military governor of Texas and of Galveston island. He took the oath of fidelity to the republic of Mexico; the several branches of public administration were arranged, the republican flag was raised, and Galveston declared a part of the Mexican republic. From this time until the 20th of October the minister and the commodore were engaged in completing their system. Among other provisions was one permitting Governor Aury, if he should deem it necessary, to change his residence to Matagorda, or any other more suitable place.*

* American State Papers, vol. xii., p. 424; vol. xi., p. 345. Luis de Aury was from New Grenada. He entered as a lieutenant in the navy of the republic, on the 9th of June, 1813. On the 10th of August, 1816, he was appointed commandant-general of the naval forces of New Grenada stationed at Carthagena. To his generosity and intrepidity hundreds of men,, women, and children, were indebted for their safety at the memorable siege of that city, when with three small vessels he broke the line of the royalist squadron of thirty-five sail, and thus escaped the hands of the cruel Morillo. This was on the 6th of December, 1815. —lb., vol. xii., p. 410. The collector of New Orleans, in his official letter of August 1, 1817, says; "The establishment at Galveston was recently made there by a Commodore Aury, with a few small schooners from Aux Cayes—manned in a great measure with refugees from Barrataria, and mulattoes." He does Aury injustice by confounding him with the Lafittes, as the facts will show

The vessels of Aury were immediately sent out as privateers to cruise against Spanish commerce; and so active and energetic were they in this bunsiness, that they completely swept the Mexican gulf of the shipping of the mother-country. The proof of this fact is to be found in the numerous complaints laid before the government at Washington by the minister of Spain.

But Galveston was likewise to be the rendezvous of a force to operate by land. Xavier Mina, a native of Navarre, who had distinguished himself in the peninsular war against the  French, being compelled to leave his country, fled to England, whence, with fifteen officers, mostly Spanish, he sailed for the United States. He seems to have brought with him a considerable amount of funds. At all events, on the 27th of September, 1816, with three vessels, containing about two hundred troops, together with arms, ammunition, and military stores, he sailed to Port-au-Prince, with the view of emancipating Mexico. General Toledo, hearing of the arrival of Mina at Baltimore, proceeded to that city to consult with him. A dispatch from Don Jose Feurtes, the confidential minister of the Spanish government at Havana, had been intercepted by the patriots, from which they were informed that Spain would not transfer the Floridas to the United States. On this intelligence they based their intended operations. The two generals were to meet at Port-au-Prince, and from that point make a combined attack upon the Floridas, wrest them from Spain, establish there a free government, and make them the asylum of the unfortunate emigrants from New Grenada and Venezuela, who, obliged to fly their country, were perishing in the West Indies; and, when the new government should be established, ask its incorporation with the American Union. Such was their plan, and, in accordance with which, Mina had sailed for the place of rendezvous. Two causes prevented its execution; Mina was partly wrecked in a storm; but, what was of most importance, Toledo deserted him, and went over to the king of Spain.

This sudden change of affairs produced two results; it caused Spain to agree to the cession of the Floridas to the United States; and Mina to sail to Galveston, for the purpose of cooperating with Aury and Colonel Perry. Mina arrived at Galveston on the 24th of November, 1816. Texas at this time was in a deplorable condition. San Antonio, prostrated and ostracized by the war of 1812-'13, was nearly deserted; the people of Nacogdoches, fugitives from their homes, were wandering on the frontiers of Louisiana. In the entire province there were not more than two hundred Spanish troops. Galveston alone, so lately occupied, seemed to be in a prosperous condition — prosperous, because fed by the industry of Governor Aury's privateers. Unfortunately for Aury, he had taken into his service some men of bad character, who did not confine themselves to depredations against Spanish commerce. Three or four American vessels, engaged in a lawful trade, became victims to their cupidity. Governor Aury had on the island his court of admiralty, in which he sat as judge. Among the prizes taken were many Spanish slavers. The slaves were brought into Galveston. It became a question of some importance what to do with them. The new government had no use for them; there were no purchasers for them in Texas; it would not do to return them to the enemy; and it was a violation of the laws of the United States to introduce them there. The latter alternative, however, as most profitable and convenient, was adopted. There were two modes of transferring these captive negroes into the United States; one by water, through the bayou La Fourche; the other by land, from Point Bolivar to Bayou Boeuf and Alexandria. The Barratarians, who had engaged in the service of Aury, undertook the former mode. They were well acquainted with all the outlets of the Mississippi, and likewise with the inhabitants of La Fourche. Those of Louisiana wishing to purchase would repair to Galveston, the mouth of the Sabine, or Calcasieu, and engage the lot they wanted, which were afterward driven to them by night. Those introduced by land were purchased by companies, brought to a customhouse-officer in Louisiana, and denounced as imported Africans. They were then sold under the law by the marshal, repurchased by the company, who as informers obtained half of the purchase-money, and by them resold to the planters. The price of negroes at Galveston was a dollar per pound, or, on an average, one hundred and forty dollars per head." *

* Letter of John J. Bowie to De Bow's Review, 1853. The three Bowies—Reson, James, and John—made sixty-five thousand dollars in this trade. On one occasion, in 1818-'19, a lot of negroes escaped from James Bowie, on the route to Alexandria. They were perhaps taken off by the Indians. He pursued them to the upper waters of the Colorado, but the Indians became so hostile, that he returned without effecting his object.

The rich and valuable prizes brought into Galveston supported the establishment handsomely. The troops and officers were regularly paid at the end of every month. Provisions and munitions of all kinds were readily procured from New Orleans. General Bernardo Gutierres, as agent at Natchitoches, was promptly supplied with funds. The government of Aury kept up a regular correspondence with the patriots in Mexico, through the port of Nautla.

The chiefs at Galveston consisted of Aury, military and civil governor of Texas, with a command of three or four hundred men, besides his privateers; Colonel Perry, stationed at Bolivar point, with about one hundred men; and Xavier Mina, with some two hundred more. Each of the commanders, ambitious of distinction, and bound to obedience by no superior authority, manifested more or less jealousy of the others. The object of the latter two was to invade Mexico, but in this project they did not have the hearty cooperation of Aury. Nevertheless, preparations were made for the invasion. In March, 1817, one of Aury's privateers captured a Spanish vessel from Tampico, and from its correspondence learned of the defenseless condition of Soto la Marina, a town standing on an elevation, on the left bank of the Santander, about sixty miles from the mouth of the river. The three commanders immediately determined to take possession of that place. Accordingly, on the 6th of April, they sailed, with their entire naval and military force, and the town fell into their hands without opposition.

It is proper here to remark that, in this expedition, Colonel Perry disclaimed the authority of Aury, and placed himself under the command of Mina. Aury, after landing the force, disgusted with what he chose to call the insubordination of his coordinate chiefs, left them and returned.

General Arredondo, commandant-general of the northeastern internal provinces, receiving intelligence of this invasion, took measures to raise a large force for meeting it. Mina, after fortifying and arming his position at Soto la Marina, was ready to march into the interior, his force consisting of only three hundred men. Colonel Perry, after declaring that the force was too small to effect anything, and that to advance would end in their destruction, determined to abandon the expedition. He did so, taking with him about fifty of his men.

General Mina, although left with so small a force, was in no wise discouraged, and set out on his march. On the 8th of June, 1817, he gained a victory, at Valle de Mais, over four hundred cavalry. At Peotillos, on the 14th, he defeated an army of seventeen hundred men; but in this last battle his loss in killed and wounded was fifty-six. On the 18th, he took Real de Rinos with its garrison of three hundred men; and, after various successes and reverses, he was defeated and captured by General Orrantia, at Venadito, on the 27th of September, 1817, and by order of the viceroy Apodaca was shot at Remedios on the 11th day of November.

We will now return to Colonel Perry. He set out on his march by land to return to the United States. For three hundred leagues he was compelled to traverse the territory of the enemy. Shortly after his departure from Soto la Marina, the forces of Arredondo attacked and recaptured that town, while a detachment of two hundred royalist cavalry was dispatched in pursuit of the retreating republicans. Unconscious of this enemy in his rear, Perry advanced to La Bahia, the scene of so many battles with Salcedo. He immediately demanded the surrender of the garrison; but, while the necessary negotiation was in progress, the royalist cavalry came up. The garrison, encouraged by this unexpected aid, sallied out of the fort; and Perry found himself engaged, in front and rear, by an enemy of five times his own numbers. He continued the unequal conflict, however, until every one of his men had fallen! Seeing himself thus helpless, the intrepid soldier blew out his own brains with his pistol thus ending his life as did his gallant commander Magee, at the same place, five years before.

[Next Section of Texas History: Jean Lafitte]

 

 

 

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