Entradas and Royal Inspection Expeditions
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Expedition of Governor Don José de Azlor y Virto
From the Diary of Franciscan Br. Juan Antonio
de la Peña
On 19 Dec 1719 the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo, a Spanish-born Coahuilan whose hacienda Patos included almost half of Coahuila, was appointed governor and Captain-General of the provinces of Coahuila y Tejas. At that time there was only one mission and presidio left in Texas in San Antonio as a result of the war between Spain and France in which the French took over Florida and penetrated into East Texas. The Aguayo Expedition departed from Monclova on 15 Nov 1720 and returned on 31 May 1722. The expedition is known as the largest and most effective mission into Texas and is credited with securing Texas for Spain. The mission included Fathers Agustine Patron y Guzman, Matias Saenz, Pedro de Mendoza and Margil. The mission started with 500 men, 3600 horses, 600 cattle, 900 sheep and 900 mules, many of the latter loaded with supplies. Aguayo is said to have left breeder pairs or more of horses and cattle at each river crossing and these are thought to have given rise to the gigantic herds of wild mustangs and cattle that populated Texas. Among the party was Captain Domingo Ramón who Aguayo sent separately to secure the coastal area around La Salle's destroyed Ft. St. Louis. Ramón reported "taken possession of La Bahia del Espiritu Santo in the name of His Majesty, the King, and had raised the Cross and Royal Standard on April 4, 1721." Gov. Aguayo left Texas with ten missions, four presidios and about 300 Spaniards including some families. He is credited with having major impact on the colonization of Texas, calling for settlement of the area between San Antonio and Nacogdoches by Canary Islanders, Cubans and Tlaxcaláns. The diarist on the expedition was Franciscan friar Juan Antonio de la Peña. At least five versions of his account were found in the archives. The party journeyed to San Antonio and then to the East Texas missions east on the El Camino Real. Upon their return they made a trip to the mission and presidio at La Bahia which took them through the future DeWitt Colony. There are multiple versions and reprints of the original la Peña diary in the public archives and libraries of Mexico from as early as 1722. The following account is extracted from The Aguayo Expedition into Texas 1721 (Jenkins Book Publishing Co, Austin, TX, 1981) which was compiled by Richard Santos from the diverse versions. (Bracketed footnotes in places are modifications of footnotes in the Santos publication) sdct
December 9. His Lordship was also informed that sixteen huts belonging to the soldiers at San Antonio had burned. The granary with 700 bushels of corn and the flour supplies [had also burned] not even leaving an ear of corn. He then ordered the mule packs which he had left at Saltillo be brought with all haste lest something happen to the bilander [also]. [The mule packs] had been left at Rio Grande with 200 loads of flour and 1,000 bushels of corn. The mule packs arrived very promptly, and it became necessary to leave enough supplies at that presidio for the maintenance of the troops as well as for the continuation of the march. [His Lordship] also dispatched expresses to Guadiana and other places asking for a herd of 800 horses as soon as possible. The troublesome journey continued with the captains and other officers also marching on foot. The Governor also marched on foot on several occasions to join them in their suffering. His Lordship arrived at San Antonio on January 23, with the happy consolation that the multitude of misfortunes had striken only the horses and mules. Their mortality rate had been so high that out of 5,000 horses no more than 50 returned. Out of 800 mules which had set out, only 100 returned. However, not a single soldier was lost. Even two [soldiers] who had left Los Adays in poor health arrived well and sound at San Antonio. His Lordship dispatched an express to the Viceroy informing him of all this as well as of the return trip. The Governor was informed through some letters he had received that the herd of horses which he had ordered would be delayed for about a month and a half. [In the meantime,] His Lordship realized that the Presidio de San Antonio as defenseless and also exposed to fire as the soldiers had recently experienced for living in thatched roof huts. Therefore, His Lordship attempted to construct an accident-proof fortress made of adobe. After ordering the cutting of the necessary lumber for the church, stores and quarters, His Lordship selected a better site than that on which the presidio used to be located. [This new site] was between the San Pedro and San Antonio rivers. [thought to be on the west bank of the San Antonio River on Josephine St.] It was first necessary to clear the land by cutting down many trees. A great number of people were then put to work making adobe [bricks]. His Lordship then outlined the fortress as a square with four bulwarks so that if ever the soldiers were out on a campaign, and there were few left [at the presidio] and it came under attack, then these few could protect the position by using only two opposing bulwarks. Two curtains [of the presidio] could be defended from each bulwark. Each curtain is only 65 varas in length. [site of current City Hall]
His Lordship encouraged the abundant planting of corn for the maintenance of the soldiers and friendly Indians who were constantly coming to see the Spaniards. The irrigation ditch which His Lordship had ordered constructed at his own expense from the San Pedro River [sic] could very well irrigate the two leagues of fertile land which it encloses between itself and the San Antonio River which it enters below the presidio. This area which actually looks like an island, is widest at the new site of the presidio which will be 30 varas from the San Pedro River [sic] and 200 varas from the San Antonio. The reply to the express which His Lordship had sent from Los Adays on November 4, arrived on March 8. It contained letters from the Viceroy in which His Excellency thanked the Governor profusely in many expressions of gratitude. He also approved all which His Lordship had done in Texas for the recovery of the Province, as well as for the fortification which he had left at Los Adays for protection [of Texas]. On the tenth of the said month [of March] after having previously selected a good site between the two missions of San Antonio and San Joseph, the Governor proceeded to place [Indian] captain Juan Rodriguez in possession of the mission for himself and for the Indians who accompanied him from the Rancheria Grande. Even though there were no more than 50 families, [Juan Rodriguez] promised and assured [the Governor] that the rest of his following would come as soon as they learned that a mission had been established for them.
Full title of possession was given [to the Indians] in care of Father Friar Joseph González who received it in the name of the College of the Holy Cross of Querétaro under the name of [Mission] San Francisco Xavier de Nájera. [thought to be current site of Mission Valero, the Alamo] All the officers of the battalion attended the ceremony. On this same day, His Lordship clothed Indian Juan Rodriguez in a complete suit of English cloth as used by the Spaniards. With the first herd of horses which arrived, His Lordship dispatched the 50 soldiers who had been assigned to La Bahia. They had volunteered from all the companies of the battalion, but only the very best were selected and placed under the command of Captain Don Gabriel Costales. Because not enough horses had come, His Lordship was not able to depart until the sixteenth of the said month [of March]. On this day a special detachment of 40 men from all the companies left with Doctor Don Joseph Codallos y Rabál and captains Don Thomas de Zubiria, Don Miguel Colón y Portugal, Don Manuel de Herrera, and Don Pedro de Oribe. The direction of the march was south to Mission San Joseph y San Miguel de Aguayo which is about two leagues distant and thence south-southeast for the remainder of the journey to the Salado River. The day's journey was of four leagues over light forests of oaks and evergreen-oaks. 4 leagues [crossing at the Old Corpus Christi Road south of Brooks Air Force Base]
17th. On Tuesday the seventeenth His Lordship continued the march in the same direction of south-southeast over the same type of terrain and forest. We passed several clearings with good pasture until we reached the Aguila campsite. There are several pools here which keep water all year round. The day's journey was of four leagues. 4 leagues [current Eagle Creek on highway 187]
18th. On Wednesday the eighteenth the Governor continued the march towards the south for about two leagues and thence took some variances towards the east for the rest of the journey to the Cibolo River which was about eight leagues [total]. It was very difficult land with sand and heavy forests of evergreen-oaks, mesquites, and oaks. There was no water in between with the exception of a very small puddle. 8 leagues [at FM 887 in KarnesCo]
19th. On Thursday the nineteenth the Governor continued the march towards the east-southeast over terrain with the same type of trees and mesquites as before. There were some sparse clearings [along the route]. The day's journey to the San Cleto creek was of seven leagues. 7 leagues [current Ecleto Creek west of Runge]
20th. The march on Friday the twentieth did not begin until the afternoon, because many horses had been lost during the rain storm which had occured in the morning with much thunder and lightning. The horses were not recovered until midday. We thence marched two leagues towards the east over the same type of terrain as the day before to a creek which His Lordship named San Joachin because it did not have a name. There are many turkeys [in this area]. 2 leagues [current Yates Creek at FM 1020 in KarnesCo]
21st. On Saturday the twenty-first His Lordship continued the march towards the eastsoutheast for three leagues over a heavy forest of oaks and evergreen-oaks. Thence [we marched] another three leagues east-northeast over a beautiful plain without trees or brush. We also declined our direction towards the east for another three leagues over an open country. The day's journey was of nine leagues [total] to a creek which His Lordship named San Benito because it did not have a name. 9 leagues [due north of Yorktown in DeWittCo] sdct
22nd. On Sunday the twenty-second the Governor marched towards the east-southeast over an open country with some broken spots for about six leagues. We thence declined our direction towards the east for another three leagues following the banks of the Guadalupe River until we found a crossing over some rocks. Since the river bed was very wide and it carried over a vara of water, it became necessary to divide each load into three parts. His Lordship selected a campsite on the opposite side of the river. The day's journey was of nine leagues. 9 leagues [crossing at the current DeWitt-VictoriaCo line]
23rd. On Monday the twenty-third His Lordship continued the march in the same direction of east-southeast. For the first half league we marched through a light forest of oaks and evergreen-oaks. The rest of the route was over a very level terrain where the horizon was expended. We thence declined our direction towards the east for four leagues. We concluded the day's journey on the bank of the San Joseph River after marching seven leagues. 7 leagues [current Garcitas Creek below where it joins Willow Creek northeast of Victoria]
24th. On Tuesday the twenty-fourth the Governor marched in an easterly direction over the same type of open land covered with flowers. After crossing two creeks with plenty of water, we declined our direction towards the east-southeast for five leagues. After having marched nine leagues [total], His Lordship arrived at the Presidio of Our Lady of Loreto de la Bahia del Espiritu Santo. 9 leagues
[The site of the Presidio is thought to be on the west bank of the Lavaca River about 4 miles south of the Missouri Pacific railroad crossing as of 1981 at the site of an oil refinery. The site chosen for the Mission Espiritu Santo was on the east side of the Lavaca River near the rail junction one mile west of Lolita. Santos notes that the Presidio may never have been built. The Presidio and Mission were moved to the Guadalupe River in DeWittCo (Mission Valley) in 1726, the site of Rivera's visit in 1727]
Nothing was accomplished during the first eight days because the Governor was confined to his bed due to his poor health aggravated by the hardships of the expedition which he had begun to suffer in San Antonio. Moreover, those days were devoted to the Church because it was Holy Week. This afforded great consolation to all because it was the first time they could observe them decently in the presence of Our Lord in the Repository. On the second day of Easter, April 6, His Lordship began to outline the foundations of the Presidio in accordance with the orders of Our Lord the King [may God protect him] at the site where the French had theirs under LaSalle from 1684 to 1690. [this is the fort established by LaSalle and the ruins found by Alonso de León in 1689] All the Frenchmen except three men and one girl had been killed by the Indians. The French had buried their artillery, and it was later recovered by the Spaniards and sent to Vera Cruz. The hole [in which the artillery had been buried] could still be seen. It fell within the site where the presidio, was to be established. They also burned their powder at this site. On digging the foundations for the fortress, we found nails, pieces of gun locks and fragments of other items used by the French. The foundation for the octagonal fortress was laid in 15 days. It was a covered moat and had only four bulwarks because the present garrison is no more than 90 men. However, its garrison will be enlarged because it is an important port. In place of the other four bulwarks, His Lordship outlined four serpentine extentions as well as a tower in the angle formed by the curtains. Each curtain was forty-five varas in length. After completing this chore, His Lordship proceeded to establish Mission Espiritu Santo de Zuniga which was located near the presidio. All this time a number of Indian families had come telling the Governor that many more [Indians] would settle here if they saw them congregated [in a mission]. There was no doubt that they would do so because they had shown much pleasure and happiness with the gifts and other items distributed among them by the Governor as at the other missions. It was also known that these Indians were more docile [than the ones who had killed the French], and they would be happier cultivating crops and their own souls. They lived in more misery than the other Indians. Their diet consisted solely of fish and [they] had no clothes. On their own they asked the Governor to baptize three of their children. He did so and then much to everyone's pleasure, he gave more presents to the children's parents. The missionary assigned to the mission, Father Friar Augustin Patrón, of the college of Our Lady of Guadalupe de Zacatecas, baptized the children.
All round the presidio there are beautiful fields of clear land and flowers which, in light of our brief and short observation of one year, is very fertile. It also has some beautiful strips of land for raising horses and all types of cattle. Moreover, there is an abundance of deer and turkey. This is especially true on the San Antonio-La Bahia road. Leaving Captain Don Joseph Ramón who is assigned to that presidio encharged with finishing the construction of the fortress, His Governor set out for San Antonio. He arrived on April 26, still in poor health. His Lordship said, however, that he was very happy to have enjoyed good health during the time he had served His Majesty in this expedition. The only thing left was for him to return with all his people to Coahuila. He was not able to do so until May 5, because the last herd of horses did not arrive until April 30. The rest of the horses had come while His Lordship was at La Bahia. The new Presidio de San Antonio could have been finished in the meantime had it not been for the continuous rains. Not only was it impossible to work for three weeks, but the 30,000 adobe bricks which His Lordship had ordered made while he went to La Bahia were all destroyed in the rains. Nonetheless, most of the task and 25, 000 bricks were completed. A large amount of material was successfully gathered for the construction by the 40 Indians whom His Lordship hired at his personal expense. All continued working. The Governor left [San Antonio] on the fifth of the said month. After two days journey, at the site called La Pita, the horses stampeded during a very stormy night. It took all of the following day to recover them, and even then, 80 horses were lost. The march was continued to the Rio Grande without obstructions or delays. The river was carrying more than a vara of water. Two days journey past the presidio [de Rio Grande], at the site called San Diego the horses again stampeded during a very stormy night. It took four days to recover them and 40 horses were lost. sdct
We crossed the Rio Sabinas with much difficulty and delay even though it was not carrying more than half a vara of water. His Lordship and the remainder of the troops were discharged on the thirty-first [of May] as per the Viceroy's orders to do so as soon as they returned to this town and concluded the expedition. [His Lordship] ordered the troops be paid two extra months above their second year and that they be given all they needed for the return trip [to their homes] which they began on June 12. The Arms of Our Lord the King [may God protect him] have been covered with glory in this expedition because with a mere threat this extensive Province and all which the French had claimed has been re-established to the Dominion of His Majesty. Moreover, many and numerous [Indian] Nations which exist in the 200 leagues from the town and Presidio of San Antonio to Our Lady of Pilar de los Adays, have been brought under the obedience of His Majesty. [The Presidio of Los Adays] was established and the 80 leagues [from San Antonio] to La Bahia del Espiritu Santo have been opened. Had there been a battle during this expedition, the captains, subalternates, and soldiers would have done their duty. The spirit of devotion they have displayed is second in a soldier only to valor. They have endured all types of setbacks in the long and exhausting marches. They bore up against the severe river floods and indifferently shrugged off all types of weather sometimes extremely hot and at others freezing cold in winter. They walked through the most vehement changes of coldness as well as sweltering heat. At times it seemed as if Hell had conjured all its power in furious, never-before-seen storms of that country where we had gone to congregate many souls within the fold of the Church and re-establish our Holy Catholic Faith in (Hell's] tyrannical empire. [Our Church] had not only been abolished and villified, but its temples had also been demolished and profaned. Even though this outrage might have not been repaired, it was at least compensated in part by all the souls from so many different languages and Nations who have now been saved in their old age. Seeing themselves on their death bed, Fthe Indians] have asked for baptism [for themselves and] for their children whom their parents realize were in danger. They continue to do so in the nine missions which the Governor has re-established as well as at [Mission] San Antonio de Valero.
All the kingdoms of New Spain are now protected by this buffer which has been added in this vast Province. [The kingdoms are also protected] by the string of presidios which had been established from Los Adays, Texas and [La] Bahia, and by fortifying the [Presidio de] San Antonio to where the Spaniards retreated when the French occupied the rest. This latter presidio, is at the entrance to Texas and had never had any fortifications. In this military engagement expanded over 26 months the Governor has shown his innate love and zeal for the Royal Service by executing all the decisions and orders of the Viceroy promptly and correctly. Of no less importance has been the care and measures he took to maintain the troops at his own expense in those distant deserts. The supplies and provisions had to be transported over 400 leagues. With the greatest complacency he has shown his love for sowing the Gospel Truth among so many souls who live in the sad shadows of mankind. [The Governor] also displayed his intention of returning the Province to its rightful ruler. It is also known that Our Lord the King [may God protect him] has a Catholic, Christian zeal to extend his dominion over the entire world and thus bring Christ, the Sun of Justice, for all to see. Our guiding light in this enterprise has been Our Lady of Pilar whom the Governor selected as guide and patroness. As a shield on the Texas frontier he left this Tower of David so that she might protect it just as she had done when the Most Holy Virgin left her image and column of Non Plus Ultra at Zaragoza which was then the edge of the known world of the Spanish people. The Plus Ultra has likewise been placed [on this frontier] to protect the most remote people who have been discovered in America by the Spaniards. In an act of thanksgiving His Lordship concluded the expedition yesterday with a beautiful and solemn fiesta in honor of Our Lady. We implored not only the maintenance of that Province, but also for the addition of all [other Provinces] where the sun might shine to the Crown and dominion of our Catholic Phillip, for in this manner they will come into the Kingdom of God which is praised by all creatures for all eternity. [Signed] at Santiago de la Monclova, capital of the Province of Coahuila, New Estremadura, on June 21, 1722. Br. Don Juan Antonio de la Peña sdct