Gutiérrez de Lara
Mexican-Texan: The Story of a Creole Hero
By Rie Jarratt
THE REVOLUTION BEGINS
As soon as Magee and his volunteers surged across the Sabine, they were in the Neutral Ground. Established in 1806 by an agreement between General James Wilkinson and Colonel Simon Herrera, the Neutral Ground was a fifty-mile-wide strip of land extending from a point above Natchitoches to the Gulf. As its name implied, it belonged neither to the United States nor to Spain, and as a result was inhabited mainly by lawless bandits who were the terror of their neighbors on both sides. Its boundary on the Texas side was the Sabine; on the Louisiana side, the Arroyo Hondo. But now the territory was no longer neutral; for soon after crossing the Sabine, scouts of the Republican Army espied a Spanish mule train leisurely winding its way toward Natchitoches. This expedition, which included many heavily laden mules, was led by Juan Zambrano, who had with him a large detachment of well-armed muleteers. Zambrano's escort was not strong enough to ward off the surprise attack of the Americans and he was forced to flee to Nacogdoches, leaving his rich cargo in the hands of the attackers. The capture of this booty, it turned out, was no small accomplishment. Besides six hundred horses and mules, the spoils included large supplies of flour and ammunition a quantity of silver specie, and 80,000 pounds of fine wool. All this was taken back to Natchitoches and the proceeds were used to buy supplies for Don Bernardo's army. The Republicans, after pursuing Zambrano some little distance, continued their advance in a more leisurely fashion. Nacogdoches, their first objective, had been founded in 1716 as the Misíon de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Nacogdoches. In 1773, Spain had abandoned the settlement in order to cut the expenses of running her New World empire. Later it was re-established by Gil Ibarbo, whose urgent petitions had at length convinced a new viceroy that the outpost was needed. Nacogdoches, however, was a favorable spot from which to conduct a lucrative illegal trade with Louisana, and the Spanish authorities soon had cause to suspect that Ibarbo had taken advantage of his position. To investigate Ibarbo's conduct, the Spaniards had sent to Nacogdoches Juan Cortés. But for Cortés, too, the temptations of the frontier were too great; and later, after some little difficulty with the authorities, he himself found it expedient to cross the border into Natchitoches, where he became the agent of Mr. Morgan.
Arriving at the Nacogdoches garrison, the Republican Army met little opposition. The propaganda distributed by Bagenas and the long-time influence of Samuel Davenport had served their purpose well. Although Montero, the Spanish commander, did make an effort to defend the garrison, the citizens of Nacogdoches flatly refused to obey his orders and all but ten of his soldiers deserted. With his little band of loyalists and the mule train leader, Zambrano, Montero fled to Béxar to avoid capture. When Don Bernardo, who had remained in Natchitoches to attend to the final details of the campaign, heard that Nacogdoches had been captured, he quickly left Louisiana to join his forces. Upon his arrival, he immediately became commander-in-chief, although Magee retained the actual command. At the same time, Gutiérrez appointed Kemper major, and Perry, Ross, Lockett, and Hall captains. James Gaines was given command of the Mexican forces in East Texas and Miguel Menchaca was made his second-in-command.
From Nacogdoches Don Bernardo issued four proclamations, all dated September 1st. One was addressed to his "Beloved Compatriots, Neighbors, and the Inhabitants of the Mexican Kingdom." He had come, he said, with a large army of Americans to free the kingdom from every European command and to enable the people of all the provinces and towns to have a free vote and to use that free right which Nature had given them. He wished to let all be free in business and exportation and to rehabilitate agriculture and art. He promised to safeguard "Our Sacred Religion" and to work for the "happiness of families". In another proclamation, he appealed to the "Chiefs, Soldiers, and Citizens of Béxar", capital of the Spanish government, to rise en masse and avenge the deaths of countrymen who had fallen unjustly at the hands of tyrants, and whose "Blood asked for a just Vengeance from the Sepulchre." With him, he wrote, were many American volunteers who had left their homes to fight for Mexican liberties, just as their forefathers had fought for theirs against Great Britain.
To his "Honored and Beloved Compatriots in Texas" he sent the third proclamation. He reminded them of the suffering which they had endured and told them that he had traveled "immense distances" to secure powerful aid. By sea and by land, troops were coming to help them overthrow the Spaniards. Nor were the American volunteers overlooked. A fourth proclamation offered them all the rights of citizens of the Republic of Mexico, once it had been established. They were to have lands and access to gold and silver mines. They would have the right to sell the wild horses of the Texas prairies and would be given a share of all confiscated properties, when the expenses of the campaign had been paid. All this Don Bernardo promised. Soon after the Republican Army had occupied Nacogdoches, Magee sent a small vanguard on to Salcedo, a Spanish post on the Trinity River, where the roads from San Antonio and La Bahia to East Texas met. Here, as in Nacogdoches, the Republicans met little opposition. They found the soldiers and citizens ready to declare allegiance to the cause of freedom.
One zealous revolutionary of Salcedo, Luis Grande, volunteered to accompany Bagenas, who had been liberated at Nacogdoches, to Béxar to distribute still more propaganda. Tricked by spies, however, they were captured. This time Bagenas was not so fortunate as he had been on his other two missions. He and his companion were taken to Béxar and executed. On September 13th, the remainder of the Republican Army left Nacogdoches and pushed on to the Colorado River, "united, well-armed, and determined to assault Hell itself". About this time Don Bernardo received word that Governor Salcedo and his lieutenant, Herrera, were massing their forces at Béxar to meet the advance of the Republicans. Crossing the Colorado, Don Bernardo's army marched southward towards the coastal presidio of La Bahia (now Goliad). Here they were to meet their first real opposition. sdct
ACTION AT LA BAHIA
Early in November the Republicans, flushed with their fresh victories, approached their second major objective, the Spanish garrison at La Bahia. As in Nacogdoches and Salcedo, they met little opposition. Although the soldiers did not rush out to embrace Don Bernardo and his soldiers as liberators, they did flee, leaving the garrison in the hands of the patriots. Because of its bastions, its strong walls, its cannon, and its comfortable barracks, La Bahia appealed to Don Bernardo as a likely place for winter quarters. Immediately he set the men to work getting the fort in order. They spent the first few days arranging their cannon and setting up a forge-tasks which Don Bernardo himself supervised. Snug in the fort at La Bahia, Don Bernardo no doubt reflected upon his good fortune. Behind him were Nacogdoches and Salcedo safely under the control of the Republicans, and now the green flag of the Mexican Republic waved over La Bahia. Before him lay Béxar, the capital, waiting just to be taken. With help from the United States no doubt forthcoming, Mexico would soon assert her independence. The picture was almost too bright. Soon it changed. On November 10th the Spanish commanders, Herrera, and Salcedo, appeared before the garrison with three divisions.
A few days later, after being reinforced by more troops, the Royalists launched an attack upon the garrison. Although the Republicans managed to repel them, the Spanish retreated only to pitch three camps and to entrench themselves in a triangle around the fort. Thus began an attempt on the part of Salcedo to starve the insurgents into submission. As the time dragged on, the Republicans, held at bay within their walls, became more and more uneasy. Were the people of Texas anxious to be liberated from Spain after all? Although a few of the Spanish troops did desert and come over to the Republican side, most of Salcedo's troops remained staunchly loyal to the King. This indeed, was somewhat different from what the Republicans had encountered at Nacogdoches and Salcedo.
At the same time, dissension began to spread among the Republicans. Don Bernardo began to have decided and ever increasing differences with Magee. Other officers, too, distrusted the leadership of the American lieutenant; and as a result of this discord among the leaders, unity in the whole command was fast disappearing. At length the Republicans, feeling that their fight was entirely useless, began to talk of surrendering to the Spaniards; and after holding a vote, they decided to do so. Accordingly, they lifted a flag and sent messages to the Spanish commanders. In reply, Salcedo agreed to let the American volunteers return to their homes, but refused to pardon any of the Mexican Republicans. Then the Americans decided to die fighting rather than to surrender a single man that had taken up arms with them. Almost immediately after negotiations had failed to bring about an agreement, the Royalists launched their second major offensive against the Republicans. Again they were repulsed; and again they withdrew to their entrenchments to protract their "war of nerves."
As the situation became more and more desperate, Don Bernardo sent Samuel Davenport to Natchitoches with letters asking "the promoters of the revolution" to send help. Later, he dispatched Major Ross to Natchitoches to recruit a new body of volunteers. Time passed but no reinforcement came. Meanwhile the battle continued. Magee, who was very ill, was in favor of surrender; but the men would not hear of it, as it meant death for the Mexicans. As a result of his attitude, Magee almost lost his position of leadership; but friends protected him and he retained command until he died on February 6th. Some say, with little foundation, that Magee took his own life, but Don Bernardo in his diary ascribed the death to Divine Providence. The Creole firmly believed that Magee had wanted to sell him to Salcedo for fifteen thousand pesos and the rank of colonel in the royalist forces. (The differences between Magee as actual head of the army and Don Bernardo as commander-in-chief apparently stemmed from two causes: the desire of Magee to run things according to a plan outlined by Shaler and the deep, inherent differences between the ideas and mores of the Anglo-Americans and the Creole-Americans.)
With Samuel Kemper now in command, the Republicans took renewed hope. The long battle continued until it had been drawn out over four long weary months. During this time, many engagements took place-some of them light skirmishes, others more serious. A typical encounter is described in the Lamar papers:
At last, after a four-month nightmare of intermittent warfare and the constant battle of nerves, Don Bernardo, having despaired of receiving reinforcements from Natchitoches, ordered the patriot forces to take the offensive. This they did, charging from the garrison before daybreak on March 2nd. The furious fighting that ensued lasted until 4 o'clock, when the Royalists were forced to retreat. After this defeat, Salcedo made two more half-hearted attempts to take the garrison and then retreated to Béxar. Shortly after Salcedo had lifted the siege, Major Ross made a belated appearance with a new volunteer army of about one hundred Indians and Anglo-Americans. These swelled the Republican forces to nine hundred men. On the 19th of March, Don Bernardo set out with his army on the march against Béxar. Behind him, over the fort at La Bahia, the green flag still waved.
BÉXAR IS TAKEN
When the Republicans had marched to within a few leagues of Béxar, they encountered Herrera, the Spanish commander, who had tried to starve them at La Bahia. This time the Royalist leader had twelve hundred men and six cannon, but these were not sufficient to check the advance of the Republicans. After putting up a short defensive battle at the Salado River, Herrera was forced to retreat to Béxar. The Republicans pursued him to the outskirts of the city, as far as the Misión de Concepcion, where they stopped to reorganize. On April 1st, shortly after the Battle of Rosillo, some of the Anglo-American officers paid a visit to the enemy held city. What was still worse-from the Creoles' point of view-was that that night they dined with Governor Salcedo himself. The Creoles were horrified. ¡Que ignominia! The next day Don Bernardo marched his troops into the city. The Royalists, having no recourse, immediately surrendered. Great was the rejoicing in this historic villa. The people swarmed the streets in typical Creole fashion, no happier souls among them than the seventeen American volunteers who had been taken captive at La Bahia and who now were free.
Soon after the Republicans had captured the Spanish chiefs, the courtyard at the Alamo became the scene of another dramatic incident-this time not such a happy one. Here Antonio Delgado [citizen of Béxar and descendant of Canary Island settler; ardent Republican soldier] caught sight of his father's head impaled upon a pike on the bridge. Enraged, he and other Creoles had to be restrained from killing Salcedo, who had ordered the execution of the elder Delgado and had desecrated his body in this barbarous manner. Much has been written about the differences that arose between Don Bernardo and Magee at La Bahia and later between the Commander-in-Chief and Kemper, Ross, and other Anglo-Americans at Béxar. Less, unfortunately, has been written about the harmony and understanding that marked the relations between some of the Mexicans and Anglo-Americans and about the efforts of Gaines to promote such amity.
Because Gaines came from Virginia, so strong in its Cavalier tradition, and because he later lived in Anglo-French Louisiana, he understood the Creole pattern of life. Hence he knew that the gallantry that Menchaca, his second in-command, had displayed in the fighting at La Bahia had stemmed not only from the Mexican's deeply patriotic desire to set Texas free but also from a strong sense of personal responsibility to redress past crimes of the Spanish against his family. His brother, José Menchaca who, it will be remembered, had accompanied Don Bernardo from Revilla to Natchitoches and then had been forced to surrender to the Spaniards after going back into Texas-had been lured to Béxar under a promise of safeguard and then executed. To Menchaca and other Creoles, outrages like this cried aloud for vengeance. Therefore, Captain Gaines, foreseeing the crises likely to result when the Republicans had entered the seat of Spanish authority in Texas, had strongly urged on the way from La Bahia that, in all trials of justice, Mexicans be tried by Mexicans and Anglo-Americans by Anglo-Americans, which became the agreement.
However, this provision did not obviate misunderstandings over the administering of justice. Soon after Béxar had been taken, the Creoles held trial for some Spanish officers, among whom were Salcedo and Herrera. After the trial, Antonio Delgado, Pedro Prado and other soldiers (including Anglo-Americans) led the prisoners a short distance from the Alamo, disrobed them, bound them, and then cut their throats. The upshot of the affair was that Captain Gaines had to explain to some of his fellow Americans the deep resentment the Creoles had against the Spaniards for the execution of Delgado and the desecration of his body, for their breach of promise to Menchaca, and, above all, for the execution of Hidalgo. The timely interference of Gaines quieted the malcontents somewhat. In Natchitoches, too, news of the event was not without its effects. Shaler, who now was bitterly opposed to Don Bernardo, played upon the incident in his letters to Monroe in an effort to cause his superior to see the necessity of making certain that Don Bernardo did not long stay at the head of the new Mexican government, which was soon to be set up. About this time there arrived on the scene at Natchitoches the author of The Friend of Man, Alvarez de Toledo. In him Shaler saw the man fitted to lead the new government, and thus two of Don Bernardo's former, friends began to plot his downfall. sdct
FIRST GOVERNOR OF AN INDEPENDENT TEXAS
On April 6th, Don Bernardo, "the Illustrious Liberator", organized the first provisional government of the Mexican State of Texas and became its first governor, with the title of "President Protector of the Provisional Government of the State of Texas". The government adopted was, naturally, true to the Spanish pattern. Don Bernardo organized a junta which included Massaçoit, Tomás Arocha, and Maríano Rodríguez among its members. On the same day, Don Bernardo and the junta issued a Declaration of Independence. While it showed the influence of French Rousseau and Anglo-American Jefferson, it also clearly proclaimed its Spanish heritage and the ideas of Hidalgo. The authors showed that they realized that North America was part Anglo-American and part Creole-American. They expressed, too, their belief that Texas was a part of the Spanish-American revolution. The colonial status of Texas-with its oppressive regulation of trade, agriculture, and manufacturing, together with the fact that the citizens were excluded from having any voice in the government-was given as the major reason for the separation from Spain. Following in the path of the United States and France, the framers of the Texas Declaration of Independence proclaimed that authority resided in the people and emphasized the Rights of Man.
The constitution, also, was a disappointment to those Anglo-Americans who expected the new Mexican state to be modeled after the Anglo-American pattern. The very first article proclaimed that Texas was a part of the Mexican Republic and that the Catholic church should be established by law. The Anglo-American influence on the constitution may have been dishearteningly small, but the volunteers were generously rewarded for the part they played in the revolution. The constitution guaranteed that each should receive a, league of land for every six months' service with the Republican forces. Henry Perry, Alexander Baillio and Francis T. Mennessier were appointed "to settle the claims of the American Volunteers against the Mexican Republic." Nevertheless, Kemper and some of the other Anglo-American officers, discontented at having been excluded from positions of authority in the new government, returned to Louisiana to pour criticisms of the situation at Béxar into the ears of Shaler, who was only too eager to listen. Although he was acting contrary to orders received from Monroe, Shaler now was aiding Toledo in every conceivable manner to oust Don Bernardo.
As a part of this plan, Don Bernardo's enemies had adopted one of the weapons that he himself had found so effective-propaganda. In May 1813, the literary Toledo set up, at Nacogdoches, Texas' first newspaper, the Gaceta de Tejas, created for the express purpose of attacking Don Bernardo. The new governor of Texas, however, continued to carry on his duties without much attention to Shaler or to the United States. On April 18th, he addressed a proclamation to "Freemen of all Nations", urging them to settle in Texas. For his military needs, Bernardo now turned to the French, who had before been so generous with offers. The French were still willing to help, and only shipwreck prevented Girard from landing six hundred troops at Matagorda Bay.
At the same time, Don Bernardo was endeavoring to free other parts of the Mexican Republic from the Spaniards. He wanted to secure the other three Eastern Interior Provinces, but the Anglo-American vote blocked this in the junta. At a second meeting, Don Bernardo, because he considered himself thus incapable of defending so large an area as the Commandancy of the Eastern Interior Provinces, offered to resign. The same coalition of forces, however, blocked his resignation. From north and south, the forces opposing Don Bernardo now became more powerful and effective. Elizondo, the Spanish commander at the presidio of the Río Grande, began to assemble his troops in April for a march against Don Bernardo. Although Arredondo, the Spanish commander in charge of the Eastern Interior Provinces, had definitely ordered Elizondo to join him at the Río Frio, the betrayer of Hidalgo left the Río Grande on June 12th, and marched toward Béxar.
When news reached the patriots that Elizondo was on his way to attack, confusion reigned at Béxar. Some of the Republicans deserted to join Elizondo; and news that some of the Mexican officers were talking of desertion caused Reuben Ross, ranking Anglo-American officer since the departure of Kemper, to leave. Despite these troublesome events, Don Bernardo was not left without loyal supporters. On the night of June 19th he rallied his followers and left Béxar to engage the forces of Elizondo before they reached the capital. The two armies clashed early in the morning at the Alazan. After two hours of furious fighting, the Republicans were in complete control of the field, having captured enormous supplies of gunpowder, arms, saddles, biscuits, flour, and clothing, besides salt, liquor, cigars, coffee, beans, and sugar. Tragically now, at the height of his triumph, Don Bernardo was forced to step down from his position of power.
The long-time efforts of Shaler and Toledo had at last accomplished their design. On August 4, 1813, the president of the junta notified Gutiérrez de Lara that he was no longer in command and that Alvarez de Toledo was the new commander-in-chief. Anxious as always to preserve unity among the Republicans, Don Bernardo accepted the decision, though not without a last minute plea to stay in office until after the fight against the approaching armies of Commandant Joaquin de Arredondo. The council reaffirmed its decision, and sadly Don Bernardo left Béxar for Natchitoches on August 6, 1813. One happiness was his: with him went his beloved wife, Doña María José de Uribe, and his children, who had arrived in Béxar on the eve of the Battle of Alazan.
EXILE IN LOUISIANA
As Don Bernardo traveled with his family back to Natchitoches, his heart must indeed have been heavy. His years of faithful work might now have seemed to serve no other purpose than to permit his fairest dream, a Mexican Republic, to fall into the hands of those who, he was convinced, were the opponents of liberty. Moreover, he was a hunted man. Not content with having ousted him from the government, the Toledo faction had put agents on his trail. Upon discovering this plot, Don Bernardo, who had taken quarters in Natchitoches in the home of Monsieur Tulin, was forced to take himself and his family into hiding in the woods. Meanwhile, things were going none too well with the new Commander in Chief of the Republican Army. Although Toledo was leader, he did not command the respect of the revolutionaries, and on every side he faced insubordination. Colonel Miguel Menchaca, who had been one of Don Bernardo's most loyal soldiers, proved to be the biggest thorn in Toledo's side. Perhaps the greatest mistake he had made was that of reorganizing his forces so that the Anglo-Americans and the Creoles were in two separate commands. The men who had fought so gallantly side by side at La Bahia and at the Alazan keenly resented this segregation.
Because of insubordination and other difficulties, Toledo was unable to rally the Republicans in time to prevent a union of the Spanish forces under Elizondo and Arredondo, who now were rapidly approaching to attack Béxar. Toledo at last managed to collect the patriots into a half-hearted battle formation and marched forth to meet the enemy. In the ensuing battle, which occurred at the Medina River, the Republicans were defeated and left in their retreat the bodies of many dead and wounded, the latter of which soon felt the saber thrusts of Arredondo's men. Thus, in the space of a very short time, the free Texas that Don Bernardo had worked hard to achieve was again under Spanish rule.
Soon after the Battle of the Medina, hundreds of refugees began to stream across the Sabine into Louisiana. They left behind them a bloody, barren country; for Arredondo, keeping his sword busy, was restoring Spanish order in Texas by way of killing and wreaking horrible vengeance upon the survivors of the expedition and upon the women and children of Béxar. Among the number that crossed the Sabine was the gallant Francisco Ruiz, who had been a commander of a wing of the Republican forces at Medina. Elizondo, who preceded Arredondo on his wild tour of pillage and murder, had heard that only a few families of loyalists remained in Nacogdoches; and so before reaching this place he granted a general amnesty to the members of the revolution. But not for the leaders! Don Bernardo, Francisco Ruiz, Samuel Davenport, and Toledo now had a price on their heads: five hundred pesos to the man who killed any one of them, the reward to be doubled if he were brought alive before the Spanish officials. In this manner did the gachupines assert their return to power in Texas.
Although the Mexican Republic had come to an untimely end and the patriots now were scattered over the Louisiana border, Don Bernardo and other leaders did not give up hopes of rebuilding what had been torn down. The Spaniards were not so secure in Texas as they might have thought. Don Bernardo went to New Orleans in April 1814, where, for two years, he was busy planning and listening to schemes for another expedition into Texas. Earliest of these was a plan conceived by interested persons who wanted Don Bernardo to take charge of an army of 2000 men. Since the project seemed likely to succeed, Don Bernardo agreed, and the recruiting part got well underway. Unfortunately, however, Don Bernardo was unable to raise money without the matter becoming public, and when this happened many of the promoters became frightened and abandoned the plot.
Don Bernardo next sent Pedro Girard to open negotiations with Alexandre Petion, in the hope that the Haitian dictator might be willing to provide troops and a loan. But Petion, asserting that Haiti would remain perfectly neutral, would give no support to the Republican cause. Then Don Bernardo began to look across the Atlantic to England for help. And only the lack of money and the difficulty of sailing from the United States to an enemy country prevented his making a trip to London. Not long afterwards, in December 1814, General Andrew Jackson arrived at New Orleans to defend the city against an attack by the British. Among the brave men that helped him were many of the Republicans who had become seasoned soldiers at La Bahia, the Alazan, and Medina. Don Bernardo was there and also Toledo. Just as the Louisianans had helped the Mexicans in their fight for freedom, the Mexicans now were helping the Louisianans in their fight for freedom. When the great battle was over, the flags of Cartagena and Mexico were flown side by side with the Stars and Stripes, as Kentuckians, Tennesseeans, Mississippians, Creoles from the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean celebrated the victory over British imperialism. Soon after he had fought at the Battle of New Orleans, Don Bernardo was approached by a group of Louisianians known as the New Orleans Associates, who were interested in promoting the freedom of the Spanish colonies. They proposed that Don Bernardo lead an expedition against Pensacola in Florida. Here, they said, were many muskets and munitions that would help to equip troops for an expedition into Texas. Moreover, Florida could probably be sold to the United States for two or three million dollars, and this huge sum would amply finance the campaign. Don Bernardo listened but declined to have anything to do with the scheme because the New Orleans Associates could not definitely guarantee that the United States would not take Florida without paying for it.
Toledo, too, ever since he had retreated across the Sabine, had been busy making plans for another expedition into Texas. It was at his urgent pleadings that the Revolutionary Congress in Mexico sent to New Orleans José Manuel de Herrera to act as their agent and to cooperate with Toledo and the New Orleans Associates. Soon after Herrera had arrived in New Orleans, Don Bernardo sought him out and tried long and earnestly to acquaint him with the true character of Toledo. But Herrera continued to work with Toledo and the New Orleans Associates, though he became strongly aware of the mercenary attitudes of some of the men in the group. Plans of the New Orleans Associates and Herrera involved such influential persons as Edward Livingston, Patterson of the U. S. Navy, and the Baratarians. The whole object of the scheme was to force open a port on the Mexican coast through which supplies and troops could enter and which would serve as a base for the conquest of the interior provinces of Mexico. Don Bernardo, too, was to play a part. He and a corsair by the name of Joseph Sauvinet were to deliver twelve blank commissions to Louis Aury at Aux Cayes, Haiti. Aury, the famous privateer, and Pedro Girard were to attack Tampico. This project absorbed the energies of the revolutionaries until 1816 when it was given up.
While Don Bernardo and the other leaders were busy in New Orleans, word came that Morelos, the leader of the patriot forces in Mexico, had been captured. This was about the same time that Napoleonic rule ended in Spain and Ferdinand was restored to power. When the monarchy was restored, Toledo, revealing his true character at last, abandoned his revolutionary tendencies and become a loyalist. Still the New Orleans Associates did not give up hopes of effecting another revolution. They next evolved a plan to establish a port of operations in the Gulf, to capture Vera Cruz, and then to invade the interior of Mexico. After considerable delay and a serious mutiny, Aury managed to establish the port at Galveston. Herrera soon afterwards joined him, and the two declared the island a part of the Mexican Republic. While Texas was suffering from the disastrous effects of the Republican defeat, Galveston was booming. Aury's privateers had virtual control of the Gulf and were driving Spanish shipping off the sea. Supplies of rich contraband and slaves were transported to New Orleans and sold at profit to traders who included the Bowie brothers James, Rezin and John.
Don Bernardo, whose activities were somewhat obscure during this period, must have gone back to Natchitoches late in 1816, for he was there early in January 1817, acting as agent for Aury. Aury paid his expenses during January and February and possibly later. Don Bernardo also co-operated with Mina when that dashing Spanish guerrilla tried to invade Texas in 1817. At this time he authorized Santiago Dill to take possession of Nacogdoches, so that volunteers going to join Mina would have a base. All during this time, the New Orleans Associates and other interested Americans still had their eyes on Pensacola, and in 1816, another rumor was spread that an expedition would march against Florida. Don Bernardo, according to this report, would lead the expedition and, as soon as he had taken Florida, turn it over to the United States. Though this did not take place, the Pensacola scheme was never definitely given up until late May or early June of 1817.
As might be imagined, Spanish officials in the New World were kept on the alert. On July 26, 1817, Felipe Fatio, a Spanish agent in New Orleans, wrote a long letter to the viceroy of New Spain telling of a new and large offensive planned for the coming November. The plot directed against New Spain, he wrote, was this: the revolutionaries would take all the ports of the Mexican coast by attacking them by sea, and then they would successively occupy all the Interior Provinces. The Comanches and their allies would operate near Santa Fe. A second division would be on the defensive in the Almazares Mountains. The third division, composed of auxiliary troops, would attack the road passing across the Brazos, Colorado, San Saba, Llano and Guadalupe rivers. The fourth division, to be commanded by Don Bernardo and to include Pawnee, Taraha, and Karankawa Indians would attack La Bahia and Refugio. The number under Don Bernardo was believed to be about 12,500. Fatio also wrote the viceroy of a plan he had conceived to capture the rebels, adding, "the most dangerous of all is Bernardo Gutiérrez." This expedition never took place.
The last expedition of the revolutionary era was organized in Natchez, Mississippi, in May 1819. Arising from the resentment over the Onis-Adams Treaty, which recognized Texas as a part of New Spain, its organization included James Gaines, John Sibley, Samuel Davenport, and Don Bernardo. General James Adair was offered command but refused. The promoters then placed command in the hands of General James Long, a veteran of the Battle of New Orleans and a relation, by marriage, of General Wilkinson. Long and his men arrived in Nacogdoches on June 2Ist and set up a provisional government on the same day. Long himself was elected president of the Supreme Council, which also included Sibley, Davenport, and Don Bernardo. A declaration of independence, based on the American document, was issued on June 23rd. The new republic, however, did not last long. The Spaniards, upon hearing of this new threat in Texas, promptly sent Colonel Ignacio Perez to drive out the invaders. When Perez and his punitive expedition drew near the Sabine, Long and his followers fled across the river. Long made two other unsuccessful attempts to organize a government in Texas, but his career as a revolutionary ended when he was captured by Perez on October 8, 1821. He was taken to Mexico City, imprisoned, and shortly afterwards he died. Long's expeditions were the last of the many fruitless attempts to establish from Louisiana an independent sovereignty in Texas. Not long, however, were such efforts necessary, for New Spain was soon free from Spanish dominion. sdct
GOVERNOR OF TAMAULIPAS
The freedom of Mexico from Spain, so ardently sought by Hidalgo, Morelos and other patriots, was finally attained under the leadership of the mestizo Agustin de Iturbide, who joined forces with the old hero, Guadalupe Victoria. Soon after he had announced the Plan of Iguala, Iturbide was successful in setting up a regency, with the last of the viceroys, O'Donoju, as one of its members. At last Mexico was free. As soon as he heard of these events, Don Bernardo wrote to his brother to express his great joy. He also wrote, on February 22, 1821, to Iturbide himself, offering his support to the new government and outlining in detail all the current developments in the United States. Iturbide's reply was full of praise for the services Don Bernardo had rendered his country.
From Monterrey, Don José Antonio, Don Bernardo's clerical brother, began to send a series of letters, in which he urged the hero to come home. He also told of the conditions at Revilla and of the privations and suffering the revillanos had endured during the ten years' fight against the gachupines. Revilla had lost three hundred men, not to mention more than a million head of sheep-as a result of the Battle of Medina alone. Not a burro remained to be saddled, nor was there a pig on their estate. But Don Bernardo, though he longed to return to the Río Grande, felt that he was still needed in the United States. He had taken upon himself the responsibility of trying to pacify and control the truculent Comanches, who had been allied with the gachupines and who were still dangerously hostile in spirit. Don Bernardo, well aware that he had undertaken a task of staggering proportions, sent urgent letters to the commandant general asking for help. He had formulated a plan for Indian control, but to carry it out he needed money-money which, despite his pleading, he never received.
It was not until 1824 that Don Bernardo saw fit to leave off his Indian affairs and return to Revilla. He had been absent almost thirteen years. During that time his mother and a brother had died. The rest of the family had suffered heavy financial losses; and little remained of the great hacienda that he had left that morning in March 1811, to go to Saltillo to offer his services to Hidalgo. If these impressions dampened the spirit of Don Bernardo, there were other thoughts to give him joy-the realization, for one thing, that victory was at last won and that the citizens of Tamaulipas were appreciative of his revolutionary efforts. Their sentiment was strikingly revealed when they hastened to offer him the governorship of their state. According to Don Bernardo's own testimony, this happened almost as soon as he had set foot on his native soil. Sacrificing his desire to return to Natchitoches for his family, he accepted office on July 16, 1824.
As soon as he heard of his brother's arrival, Don José Antonio, who had been serving as a member of the Constituent Congress at Mexico City, hurried home. The reunion of the two brothers, so long separated, took place at Padilla, which was then the seat of the Tamaulipan government. At the very time Don Bernardo was preparing to take office, Tamaulipas became the scene of an event that attracted the interest of the Mexican nation. Iturbide, the former emperor, landed at Soto la Marina, a Tamaulipan port. Because of his monarchial ambitions, Iturbide had a short time before been branded a traitor, exiled and sentenced to death if he should ever return to Mexico. Knowing this, the authorities of Tamaulipas promptly arrested him and took him to Padilla for trial. On July , 1824, the same day that Don Bernardo took his oath of office, the court sentenced Iturbide to be executed. Although Don José Antonio Gutiérrez de Lara was president of the court, he refused to vote in judgment of Iturbide; and before the sentence was carried out, he administered the last rites of the church to the traitor. On July 16, 1824, the former hero was shot as a criminal in the public square of Padilla.
As soon as Iturbide had been shot, Don Bernardo, the new Tamaulipan governor, wrote to the authorities of the central government at Mexico City to inform them of his own assumption of office and of the capture, trial, and execution of the former emperor. In reply, the Secretary of State voiced pleasure over the selection of Don Bernardo for the high state office and also praised the court for having administered justice to a tyrant. During his first month in office, Don Bernardo made a trip to the frontier on military business. On his return trip, he stopped at Refugio, and there he heard the rumor that a Spanish fleet was on its way to attack the Mexican coast. This news, which caused a flurry of excitement over all Mexico, demanded speedy action. Immediately Don Bernardo took charge of military preparations and issued arms and ammunition to the civil militia.
Fortunately for Mexico, the invasion failed to take place, and in a short time the excitement was over. Before Don Bernardo could leave Refugio, however, he was approached by the alcalde, who asked his opinion concerning a criminal case then being prosecuted. The former commander in chief, whose military career had shown him the necessity of maintaining discipline, urged that the law be strictly enforced. The prisoner was sentenced to be shot; and the criminal's relatives, holding Don Bernardo responsible for the action, became his bitter enemies. Back in Padilla, Don Bernardo applied himself to the task of organizing an effective militia; for the news at Refugio had given him a sudden vision of the resumption of Spanish control and tyranny. Don Bernardo then began to try to restore his hacienda to its former state of productivity. But to do this required money, and money he did not have. Accordingly, he drafted a petition to be sent through the proper channels to the authorities at Mexico City, asking that they consider giving him recompense for his past services. Throughout the revolutionary period he had put aside his own comfort and safety while he devoted his energies to freeing Mexico from Spanish rule. During those troublous times, financial help from the government had been scant indeed, and on more than one occasion Don Bernardo had been forced to take up occupations of the most menial sort to support his family.
The Legislative Assembly of the state government warmly seconded Don Bernardo's petition in a statement that praised him for having "united patriotism with disinterest, valor with prudence, circumspection with intrepidity, and the qualities of a good warrior with those of a good citizen." Nevertheless, the Central Government turned down his request for three thousand pesos. Don Bernardo did, however, receive some recognition from the national government when he was appointed Colonel of Cavalry and Colonel of the active militia of Tamaulipas. He was also named commandant general of Tamaulipas and assumed the duties of that office at Soto la Marina March 25, 1825. Although Don Bernardo executed the duties of his two offices with a proficiency that inspired widespread admiration, there were many who were dissatisfied over affairs. They felt that no one person should occupy two such important positions, and they began to clamor for Don Bernardo's downfall. The old soldier, who actually had more responsibilities than he could bear without the risk to his health, did not contest this opposition. Instead, he resigned his position of governor, turning his duties over to Vice-Governor Don Enrique Camilo Suarez on June 4, 1825, in Aguayo (now Ciudad Victoria), which had become the capital of Tamaulipas during his term of office.
Don Bernardo's family, which he had left in Natchitoches, reached Tamaulipas during his last days as governor, just as they had reached Béxar in the last part of his service days as head of the government of Texas. Doha María was filled with joy to see her husband. The brief administration of Gutiérrez de Lara was important in the development of Tamaulipas. Post-revolutionary conditions made defense the primary task of the governor and he fulfilled it so ably that the Central Government named him commandant general of Tamaulipas and later commandant general of the Eastern Interior States. His gubernatorial period gave Tamaulipas her first popularly elected governor, her first Congress and the adoption of her first constitution (May 7, 1825).
On March 25, 1825, Gutiérrez de Lara assumed his duties as commandant general of Tamaulipas. The headquarters of the commandancy general were then at Soto la Marina, but by June 17th he had moved to San Carlos, where he remained for more than a year. All during this time he had his family with him. As the highest military officer of the state, his main duty was to protect the frontier settlements from attack by hostile Indians-an exceedingly arduous task because of the large area involved and the ferocity of the tribes. Notwithstanding these difficulties, made acute by the scarcity of horses and arms, Don Bernardo very capably carried out his duties. His policy toward the Indians was firm but not unduly severe. An example of this is seen in the treatment of Captain Cojo, an insubordinate Lipan, whose tribe had been robbing and threatening the settlers. Lieutenant Nicasio Sanchez, commandant of the Tamaulipas frontier at Laredo, openly rebuked Cojo, making it quite clear that, though the Mexican government desired the friendship of the Lipans, it certainly would not tolerate such outrages as Cojo's men had perpetrated. Cojo, still arrogant, replied in the most insulting terms; and Lieutenant Sanchez, acting in conformity with Don Bernardo's policy, promptly put the offender in irons. Later, however, when Cojo had become submissive, he was released and even granted a passport to go to La Bahia, as he had previously expressed his desire to go.
Although Don Bernardo was very busy in his own territory, he was also able to be of service to Texas. On one occasion his men helped ward off a Comanche attack on Béxar; and a month later, despite his own shortage of mounts, he sent two hundred horses to the Béxar garrison. While at San Carlos, Don Bernardo was visited by two of his old revolutionary companions, Peter E. Bean and Francisco Ruiz. Bean may have come on behalf of the volunteers who had fought under Gutiérrez and Magee in 1813, as some of these veterans were seeking lands in Texas. Lieutenant Colonel Ruiz, however, merely stopped en route to Soto la Marina to receive funds for the troops of Texas. On December 24, 1825, less than a year after Don Bernardo had received his high military post, the Mexican government placed even heavier responsibilities on his shoulders by making him commandant general of the Eastern Interior States. Whereas before he had been responsible for the military protection of Tamaulipas only, he now had three additional states under his control Texas, Coahuila, and Nuevo León. The vastness of these four states, the long coastlines of Texas and Tamaulipas, the large number of hostile Indians, and the constant encroachment of Anglo-American settlers in Texas made this task a stupendous one.
With a greatly enlarged area to command, Don Bernardo also assumed new powers and responsibilities; for the commandant general of the Eastern Interior States, though primarily a military officer, was entrusted with certain political and financial authority, and was, in effect, the chief executive of the four states. As such he received orders from the President and from the Ministry of the Treasury, as well as from the Ministry of War. But as before, Don Bernardo's chief concern was to protect the interior settlements. To help him in this important duty, he depended, in a large measure, upon Antonio Elosúa, whom, on January 10th, he named commandant of the Line of the Frontier. Elosúa, the former commandant principal of Coahuila, was instructed to post detachments of men along the line to serve as outpost guards and to ward off, if possible, any Indian attack upon the interior. To enable him to carry out this assignment, Don Bernardo gave Elosúa command of the Flying Company of Nuevo León (a unit of picked troops that had been trained to move rapidly to any point where they were needed for combat), as well as the other forces in Laredo.
The Indian situation was particularly ominous in Texas during February. The Comanches, a constant menace in Texas, were gathering at the head of the Colorado River; and the Texas Commander, Ahumada, fearing an attack against the frontier posts of Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas, wrote to Don Bernardo asking for authority to take the offensive with a hundred men. Unfortunately for the peace of mind of Ahumada, Don Bernardo was forced to reply that, because his troops lacked adequate horses and equipment, he could not risk an encounter with the Comanches. As it turned out, Ahumada's fear of an attack proved to be groundless. As if Indian troubles were not enough, a new difficulty arose to beset the harried Don Bernardo. This time it was the growing friction between the Alcalde and the Anglo-American settlers at Nacogdoches. Fearing that this discord might flare into violence, Don Bernardo at first planned to set up a garrison of fifty men at this point; but upon the advice of Ahumada, he decided against taking this action.
Meanwhile, the threat of serious Indian uprisings grew steadily more serious. In March word came from Béxar that the Indians had attacked the capital and Río Grande, killing a few of the settlers. From Laredo came the equally distressing report that hostile tribes had penetrated Nuevo León. Don Bernardo ordered that more observation parties of three or four men under a corporal, be set up along the Line of the Frontier, and he instructed Elosúa to shift the main body of his troops to the settlements that stood in the most immediate danger. He also wrote Ahumada in Texas ordering him to redouble his efforts and vigilance so as to prevent, if possible, a repetition of the past disaster. May brought news that hostile tribes were in the vicinity of Revilla; and to meet this possible threat against the safety of his beloved birthplace, Don Bernardo promptly sent there Lieutenant Nicasio Sanchez and fifty men. Reports from other quarters were hardly less disturbing. In Coahuila, the Lipans were on the rampage; in Texas, the Tawakoni. Indeed, Don Bernardo's correspondence of this date is filled with accounts of Indian troubles throughout the Eastern Interior States.
There was one bright spot, however, in the gloomy picture that the period presented to Don Bernardo. That was the fact, reported in a letter from Ahumada in Texas, that the Cherokee chief, Richard Fields, had proclaimed his people friendly toward the Mexican republic. In June, possibly as a result of the growing tension on the frontier, Secretary of War Pedraza ordered that the presidial companies, provided for by an act of March 21, 1826, should be put in top combat condition; and Don Bernardo promptly ordered all vacancies in these units filled with qualified men. The Minister of War also issued instruction at this time that the Lipan Indians should be barred from entering Santa Rosa in Coahuila and that they should not be permitted to associate with other tribes friendly to the Mexican nation. Indian problems continued to occupy Don Bernardo until September 6, 1825, when General Don Anastasio Bustamante succeeded him as commandant general.
Despite the heavy responsibilities of his office and the many handicaps he faced, not the least of which was the lack of sufficient troops and equipment, Don Bernardo seems to have performed his duty remarkably well. Certain it is that, at a period when the Indian temperament was as explosive as a keg of dynamite, no serious uprising occurred in the Eastern Interior States. Nor is there any evidence to show that he acted unwisely or unfairly in dealing with his subordinates. Though relieved of his command of the Eastern Interior States, Don Bernardo retained for a brief period, his position as commandant general of Tamaulipas. Because of ill health, he soon requested to be relieved of this post so that he could go to Monterrey to consult doctors. sdct
THE LAST YEARS
Though Don Bernardo went to Monterrey seeking rest, he did not find there the peace he so well deserved. Soon after he arrived, he learned that Dr. Eustaquio Fernández, deputy of Tamaulipas, had made a vicious written attack on him. Fernández lodged three main charges against Gutiérrez. What were they? First, that he had conducted himself in an ostentatious manner, behaving much like a Far Eastern monarch; second, that he was responsible for the execution of Dolores Quirós, a criminal concerning whose case Don Bernardo had been asked for advice by the alcalde of Refugio, when he had visited that place shortly after being made governor; and third, that he had overstepped his authority in discharging Joaquín Durán, administrator of the Maritime Customs.
To reply to these accusations, Don Bernardo published in May, 1827, his Breve Apologia, in which he gave a summary of the services he had rendered his country from the time he left Revilla in 1811 until he surrendered his position as commandant general. He also answered the charges by saying that, as concerned the first one, he had never traveled in an official capacity except on horseback and that then he had only a small retinue to accompany him; that, as regarded the second, Quirós had been tried and convicted by Juan Longoria y Serna, the very officer who had first voiced the complaints that Fernandez had included in his attack; and that, in respect to the third charge, he had acted within his duty in discharging the customs officer, a person who was a servant of the central government, and not of the state. This statement, however, did not satisfy Don Bernardo's enemies; and in March, 1828, in compliance with orders he had received from President Victoria, the old hero, ill and heavy of heart, made the arduous journey to Ciudad Victoria to account for his alleged misconduct.
Arriving there, he immediately petitioned an audience with the Permanent Commission; and when his request was granted, he declared once again his innocence and presented an account of his past deeds as proof of his loyalty and love of country. After due deliberation, the commissioners decided that he might return to Monterrey and that no decision should be rendered until the Congress met at its regular session. But Don Bernardo was never called again. It may be that the desires of his enemies had already been fulfilled-that they wished merely to humiliate him. After his cruel ordeal at Ciudad Victoria, Don Bernardo went back to Monterrey, but he did not stay there long. In June, 1828, he returned to Revilla to spend his declining years with his family and his friends. The next year Mexico was gripped with a spasm of fear as a result of the widespread rumor that the Spaniards were sending Brigadier General Isidro Barrada to attack Tampico. Don Bernardo, patriot that he was, attempted in his infirmity to meet this challenge to the freedom of his country. Writing to General Bustamante, he volunteered his help. But the General, knowing that the old soldier was ill, ordered him to remain at his home in Revilla.
The succeeding years passed slowly for Don Bernardo. Aged and ill, he was prevented from taking part in the events that were presenting to historians the opportunity of adding more volumes to the turbulent history of Mexico. In 1836 he heard with great sadness that revolution once more raged in Texas. What were his feelings when he learned that the Alamo was again the scene of dramatic events? In 1839, when Canales attempted to set up an independent republic in northern Tamaulipas, the sixty-five year-old hero mounted his horse and rode to help defend the garrison against an attack by the rebels. Although he and the other revillanos put up a gallant defense in the ensuing struggle, they at length were forced to surrender. After the rebel leader had taken the garrison, he embarked on a wild tour of pillage and plunder. Among other outrages, he sacked Don Bernardo's home and even, it is said, tore the epaulets from the shoulders of the aged hero. Don Bernardo was protected from further violence only by the intervention of Reuben Ross [nephew of Reuben Ross of the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition].
In January, 1840, Don Bernardo, feeling that his time was drawing near, made his will. Soon afterwards, his son José Angel took his father to Linares. The father remained with his son until May 4, 1841, at which time Don Bernardo chose to go to María Eugenia (his daughter) at Santiago. José Angel, because of his father's feebleness, had a litter made for him. Almost as soon as they arrived at Santiago, Don Bernardo began to grow rapidly and steadily worse; and at length he called for a priest to come to his bedside. The good father of Santiago, Don José Ma Nuer, answered this summons and administered the last rites of his church to the dying man. A short time before he died, Don Bernardo dictated a letter to be delivered to Doña María, whom he had left at Revilla. He died at two o'clock on the afternoon of May 13, 1841. He was buried at Santiago in the parish church near the altar of San Jose.