SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
© 1997-2006,Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
Republic of Texas-Index
| S.H. Dixon 1924
[200 Copies printed 1964 by W.M. Morrison, Publishing Co., Waco, TX]
REPUBLIC OF THE RIO GRANDE
by Milton Lindheim
Forty-six days after
Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar was inaugurated second President of the Texas Republic, the Lone
Star Flag was officially approved as the national emblem. In the beginning, Lamar's
attitude toward Mexico swung like a pendulum. But later, abandoning the sane and
stabilizing policy of his predecessor. General Sam Houston, he fostered civil war along
the Rio Grande. The Texas dollar dropped in value to three American cents and despite
strenuous efforts by the President, inflation and economic bedlam ensued.
Whether Lamar espoused the Mexican Federalist cause from its inception may be subject to
debate; but by September, when General Juan Pablo Anaya, representing the Mexican
insurgents, visited the budding town of Houston, the cooperation of the President was more
than lukewarm. In October, Anaya was permitted to establish a recruiting station on the
grounds of the Texas capital, where he openly sought volunteers and financial aid.
Furthermore, according to Mayor Juan Seguin of San Antonio, President Lamar personally
urged him to render military aid to the rebels.
For perhaps a decade, Antonio Canales of Camargo, a lawyer by profession, a rebel leader
by preference, had prowled the borderlands from Boca Chica westward, strewing seditious
doctrines. He was a strange, erratic person: not handsome, but strong of body, passions,
and mind; adventurous and skilled in horsemanship; cowing weaker men and yielding to
stronger; entrancing the masses with glib talk, apparent recklessness, and masterly
propaganda. On November 3, 1838, at Guerrero, he had lingered sufficiently long to issue a
Claiming that his family property on the Rio Grande had been unlawfully confiscated by
Dictator Santa Anna, Canales vociferously attacked the Centralist government. The
following January he summoned a convention at Villa Laredo, where the people congregated
at the office of Jose Maria Ramon, justice of the peace, and unanimously approved the
"Federal system of government . . . under the Constitution of 1824."
Canales roamed far afield, resorting to pin-pricks and gadfly tactics. Queer to relate,
his favorite stamping ground lay in Texas west of the Nueces, though he also used his own
back yard along the Rio Grande. From rancho to rancho he led a band of half-wild vaqueros,
covering areas incredibly vast, jiggling along over crooked river traces, through sand and
shale and brushy chaparral. In those years no mesquite thickets grew, only grass and
scattered clumps of prickly pear. Deliberately attempting to arouse Centralist wrath, the
rebels would discharge a fusillade of shots into the night, disrupt the slumber of an
isolated outpost, then phantom-like fade into obscurity.
This self-styled GENERAL Canales had two principal followersColonel Antonio Zapata
and Captain Jose Maria Gonzales. The captain, whose political affiliations were as
changeable as the color of a chameleon's skin, was later imprisoned by order of General
Adrian Woll for selling information to the enemy.
All the while that Canales was traveling the river trails, his agent in Texas, Francisco
Lemus, was scouring the countryside in search of recruits. Most young Mexicans had little
to lose, and the Texans joined up for a frolic. Since the army of the Republic of Texas no
longer accepted enlistments, and sporadic Indian fighting offered neither loot nor pay
despite nearly a million and a half outlay that year, many Texas immigrants were eager to
fight in the Mexican civil war. Late in the summer of 1839, into the Canales mobilization
center at Lipantitlan on the lower Nueces River rode Colonel Reuben Ross, one-time
filibuster but more recently an aide to rambunctious Felix Huston at Lavaca. To
Lipantitlan also came Colonel S. W. Jordan, previously a Texas ranger captain, who brought
with him one hundred and eighty men.
Along the northeastern frontier of Mexico the Centralist government maintained two
garrisons: General Canales at Matamoros with fifteen hundred soldiers to defend the
then-navigable lower Rio Grande, and General Francisco Pavon at Guerrero with five hundred
others to prevent Indian incursions. Outside the suburbs of the interior city of Monterrey
was stationed the regional commander. General Mariano Arista, with an imposing force, his
task to keep an eye on both subordinates. Opposed to this formidable array Canales had six
hundred men all told, including three score ill-armed but obstreperous Indians. The cream
as well as the scum of this force Canales organized in two divisions: one under Jordan and
Zapata, the other under Ross and Gonzales; the overall command he reserved for himself.
Because the village of Guerrero had the weaker of the frontier garrisons, it was picked
for the initial attack. Breaking camp by the Nueces on September 12, Canales marched with
every available man. His ponderous, overladened carts sank into the sand, and a
tortoise-like progress was required to traverse the uninhabited hundred and sixty-odd
miles to Laredo.
As Canales's troops, then known as Federalists, approached the town, a hot wind off the
sandy wastes stirred eddies of fine dust that swirled between compact groups of houses and
across San Augustine Plaza to expend themselves in the gorge of the river. Clouds of
powdery silt rose in whorls as the column, trotting little faster than a walk, passed rows
of adobe dwellings whose thick walls, sturdy doors, and heavy-barred windows sheltered the
more prominent citizens. East of the town, upon a mesa near the
river, Canales called a halt.
Since the Centralist government maintained no garrison at Laredo, the majority of the
Federalists strolled about town, where they fraternized with the inhabitants. When the sun
sank to the horizon, the people descended the river bank to fill water casks, to do family
washing, and to bathe. In this last activity, which in the case of young unmarried men and
women frequently took the form of frivolity, many soldiers joined.
After dawdling about for a couple of days, Canales, on the final day of the month, issued
marching orders, and the army prepared to ford the Rio Grande above Guerrero and take the
town by surprise. But the horses in Jordan's outfit balked at the water's edge, and a
Centralist patrol spied them and warned Pavon of the impending danger. Two days later,
when Canales was prepared to attack, nothing was to be seen of the enemy but the dust from
his baggage train far down the Monterrey road.
With alacrity Canales took up the pursuit, while the Texan contingent,hardly able to
contain itself, let off whoops of enthusiasm and, joined by the borderland vaqueros.
galloped on ahead. Close to eleven o'clock, in the rocky hill country below Mier, Canales
located the Centralist line of battle along Alcantro Creek. Pavon's artillery rumbled. But
grapeshot from nine-pounders plowed into the earth far short of the target. When Canales
called up his high command for consultation,Jordan and Zapata leaped from their horses
and, leading their men, advanced against the enemy at a run. At point-blank range they
took cover in a shallow arroyo, began to pick off Centralist officers, and impatiently
waited for support to come up. They could have waited till doomsday! From a distance
Canales surveyed the field but made no move. Left to their own devices, the two officers
again plunged ahead. A half hour of close-in fighting sufficed, and the Centralists,
having sustained more punishment than they could stomach, began to abandon their position.
This was the decisive moment for Canales to throw everything he had at them. Since he did
nothing, Pavon was able to salvage his baggage train and even to extract his cannon.
Protected by a white flag, he requested a twelve-hour truce, which Canales magnanimously
Leaving campfires blazing, Pavon stole away in the night. Five miles down the road he
turned off and entered an abandoned ranch, where a tangle of stone fences seemed to offer
an excellent defense for his disheartened troops.
At daybreak, seeing what had occurred, Canales took up the pursuit. Major Joseph Dolan,
who commanded the advance guard, first established contact with the enemy and demanded
instant surrender. In the previous day's battle Pavon had lost two-thirds of his command.
Now he realized he had neglected to refill the water casks, and without water his position
was untenable. Reluctantly, in token of surrender, he proffered his sword to the major.
When Dolan requested him to deliver it to Canales, Pavon, rather than comply, thrust the
sword into the ground and turned his back on the general.
All the world loves a winner, and for the captured Centralists the transition from
prisoner of war to Federalist soldier was a mere formality. Canales gained one hundred and
sixty men plus four field guns. As for Jordan and Zapata, their casualties at Alcantro
Creek numbered but fourteen.
News of the Canales victory swept like a brush fire across country to Monterrey, and
General Arista was none too happy. Word floated downstream to Matamoros, where General
Canalize wondered when his turn would come. Every town in northern Mexico acclaimed
Canaies the conquering hero. Recruits, supplies, and hard cash poured into his till. Now,
if ever, the time was ripe for the overthrow of the Centralist regime.
Where Canales would strike next was the moot question. But Canales himself dragged his
feet, preferring to rest on his laurels. Forty days he Strutted about Mier like a cock of
the walk. Toward the end of October, when the town's brownstone houses and cobble streets
glistened with autumn dew, the festive season arrived with a burst of pageantry and color.
Guitars strummed, mescal gurgled, and senoritas giggled and flirted outrageously. In
Monterrey, meanwhile, the Centralists took courage. Perhaps, after all, Canales's triumph
had been a flash in the pan, the decisive battle yet to be won.
By mid-November, when Canales finally shook himself free of Mier, he had at his beck and
call better than a thousand men, to say nothing of the captured fieldpieces. Following the
ever-changing meanders of the river,he consumed the better part of a month to traverse the
hundred and seventy miles to Matamoros.
On December 12, well beyond range of Matamoros cannon, Canales commanded a great fanfare
of trumpets. He then set up emplacements for each of the four guns, prepared for a lengthy
siege, and waited for Canalizo to feint with a sortie. When three days elapsed and none
came, Canales ordered Colonel Zapata to take a platoon of Texans and Mexicans and drive
back the Centralist outposts. Zapata exceeded his orders. He killed thirteen of the enemy,
and those who survived scampered away to their burrows. After this skirmish Canalize
pulled in his horns still further and contented himself by threatening the besiegers.
Apparently both Centralist and Federalist leaders were equally matched.
At a council of war Canales announced that, because Canalizo was too cowardly to come
forth and fight, the siege must be lifted. Thoroughly disgusted, Ross and Jordan offered
unaided to carry the town by storm with their own troops. Canales forbade them.
Recognizing the ridiculousness of campaigning under a military nincompoop, Ross determined
to quit. In his opinion neither Canales nor Gonzalez possessed the necessary attributes of
a soldier fortitude, pugnacity, and innate fondness for battle. Of the three
Mexican leaders Zapata alone possessed these prerequisites, and he was subordinate to
Canales. Ross bade Jordan the best of luck and rode away with fifty Texans.
Not many hours later, when a scout brought word of troop withdrawals from Monterrey,
Canales pulled up stakes. Since Canalizo declined to venture out of Matamoros, maybe
Arista at Monterrey would act differently. Bowing to superior numbers. Arista's troops
might conceivably twitch sides. As Canales marched into the interior, his army must have
created a brave show. At any rate its martial spirit so impressed one alcalde that he
turned the village treasury inside out for Canales's benefit. This action of a public
servant, so in keeping with similar procedures today liberality with public funds
enabled every Federalist soldier to draw five pesos.
In the mountainous country that borders Mamulique Pass, General Arista, after hastily
recalling scattered units, lay in wait with a greatly strengthened army. Would he or would
he not play the game in accordance with the rules laid down by the rebel leader?
From the canyon walls of Saddle Back Mountain reverberated the bombardment of Centralist
cannon. The Federalist rebels accepted the challenge, and the opposing armies plugged away
for the remainder of the day. Though guns grew hot and were discharged at short range, not
a single injury occurred. The battle was drawn; both sides were jubilant. After dusk,
Arista pulled back his position closer to town.
In the early morning, when Canales observed what had happened, he was elated. He ordered
his cavalry to make a feint attack to enable the bulk of his infantry to outflank Arista
and enter Monterrey unhindered. Once again, by vacillating, Canales displayed military
ineptitude. He had only to stretch out his hand for Monterrey's well-stocked depots and
they would be his. What the did, however, was to march into the suburbs and halt outside a
walled convent, where, though his men looked askance at one another, he ordered earthworks
On Christmas Eve, after being reinforced by the Reyes Brigade, Arista reentered Monterry.
By dawn his artillery was raining shot and shell on the Federalists, who fired back as
good as they received. Though the duelists never faltered for forty-eight hours and the
expenditure of ammunition was enormous, no damage was done. Toward the close of the second
day, the opposing cavalry clashed in a furious melee. Evidently panic-stricken at the
sight of blood and naked steel. Captain Gonzalez galloped from the field. But Colonel
Zapata, who remained behind, pressed the attack with such vigor and determination that the
Centralists ultimately gave way, the majority seeking safety under shelter of their
In the case of Arista versus Canales, never was it more truly said that familiarity breeds
contempt. Indeed, had Arista not been daunted by a wholesome respect for Texas
marksmanship, he would have launched a counter attack. Convinced that there are more ways
than one to skin a cat, he waited for nightfall, then sent his agents into Canales's camp.
As tortillas toasted upon hot embers and coffee simmered in iron caldrons, more than half
the Federalist army withered away to join the Centralists, or rejoin them, as the
situation was prone to be. Morning found Canales far outnumbered. Now possessed of a valid
pretext to break off the engagement, he started back for the border faster than a startled
chaparral cock can run.
When, during the first night out, another one hundred and sixty men slipped away, Canales
assigned Jordan's Texans to the rear guard, after which scarcely a dribble of Federalists
turned their coats. Moreover, Arista's cavalry, which had been assuming threatening
gestures at the rear of the column, reined back an additional thousand yards. At Sabinas,
for reasons best known to its commander, it desisted in the nagging pursuit, and Canales
with the residue of his army, mostly Texas and borderland vaqueros, forded the Rio Grande
above Laredo at Paso de Los Indies. Now that all danger was past, forty-five more Texans
took their leave.
If years later Canales referred to the Texan officers as a set of slovenly fellows, this
surely was the jack of spades calling the club suit black. On the other hand, though
detractors have named Canales an arrant coward, it would be fairer to say he was a Fabius
sort of fighter rather than the caliber of a Hannibal.
his pedestal of glory, Canales was by no means finished. To retire from the stage was
never his intention. He set his legally trained mind to work and came up with a manifesto
that called for delegates to assemble at the Federalist encampment in order to create a
new nation. On January 18, 1840, a sufficient number of delegates having arrived, Canales
convened them at Laredo, where the Republic of the Rio Grande made its debut. For
President of the inchoate republic, he named Jesus Cardenas, who, because of his enormous
spectacles, was known as "the owl." For Secretary of State, Jose Maria Caravajal
was selected, and ail other cabinet posts were filled. Naturally Canales assumed the
portfolio of Secretary of War, which perpetuated him as Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
Highly respected Florencio Villarreal was retained as First Alcalde of Villa Laredo.
Ten days later these government officials adjoined to the sand-swept
village of Guerrero, where amid kidding pens and outlying jacales of adobe and wattle
Jesus Cardenas was sworn in as Chief Executive. Two objectors, probably drunkards, were
clapped into the calaboose.
Three days after the inauguration, Canales, wishing to boost army morale by a taste of
success, marched upstream against Presidio de Rio Grande. The small Centralist garrison,
however, which had learned of his approach, blew up the fort and streamed back to
Since Canales's army was a fraction of its former size the Texas contingent
numbered seventy-four menJordan suggested that a retreat be made to Lipantitlan, so
as to pick up fresh recruits. When Canales, for the moment riding a high horse, rejected
the proposal, Jordan departed, taking sixty men along with him. Twelve days after he had
ridden off, a strong Centralist flying column out of Monterrey intercepted Canales on the
march and mauled him so badly that he was lucky to escape to the east bank of the Rio
Grande with his pants still on.
In a letter to Antonio Navarro of San Antonio, President Cardenas of the-Republic of the
Rio Grande admits that Federalist victory rested, not on native efforts, but "upon
the success which we ought to expect to receive from the Government of Texas." As for
Canales himself, belatedly he repaired to the new Texas capital at Austin, where he found
President Lamar in high fiddle.
Fully cognizant of the situation south of the Nueces, Lamar had launched a Texas navy for
harassment of Mexican shipping and joint action with the Yucatan rebels. Now, not only did
he encourage Texans to join Canales as soldiers of fortune but he sanctioned the
withdrawal of guns and military paraphernalia from Texas arsenals. Urged by the President,
William S. Fisher,a former Secretary of War, marched with two hundred men to join the
Federalists outside San Patricia. But Colonel Hugh McLeod, though eager to hop on the
Canales chuck wagon, was dissuaded by Lamar's offer of command of an expedition destined
for Santa Fe.
That spring, when the President visited San Antonio, he was the honor guest of Mayor Juan
N. Seguin. Immediately following the Battle of San Jacinto, Seguin had been promoted to
lieutenant colonel in the Army of the Texas Republic; and Lamar, knowing him to be an able
soldier, insisted on his participating in the civil war in northern Mexico. Reluctantly
Seguin consented. After turning over the reins of municipal government and a rambunctious
citizenry to the feeble hands of venerable Francois Gilbeau, Seguin rode off at the head
of a hundred troopers.
Meanwhile Jordan, whose experience should have taught him more wisdom, could not resist
another fling and rejoined Canales, bringing with him one hundred and ten veterans, men
who had campaigned under the Federalist banner the previous year. They shouldered a
conglomeration of muskets, which included a heavy percentage of Pomeroy flintlocks,
brought into Texas in 1836, shortly after San Jacinto.
His confidence again restored, Canales accompanied by five hundred men returned to the Rio
Grande. Besides Jordan's followers, the Federalist vanguard consisted of one hundred and
fifty borderland vaqueros under joint command of Colonel Juan Molano and Colonel Antonio
Lopez, neither of whom enjoyed too savory a reputation.
Not waiting to be attacked, the small garrison that Arista had posted at Laredo scampered
over to the opposite bank of the stream. The Federalists did not give chase but proceeded
down the river road, crossed at Guerrero, and stopped some distance above the confluence
of the San Juan and Rio Grande outside Camargo. There the two Mexican colonels of the
vanguard,who pretended to have received instructions from Canales, pressed on toward the
interior, explaining to Jordan that the purpose was to gather recruits and secure
Trotting briskly through Tula, the column encamped at a small village in the foothills,
where the girls were rosy cheeked and full of fun but local recruits conspicuously absent.
At Linares the column was greeted by ringing of churchbells and shooting of firecrackers,
the celebration lasting almost a week. On the twenty-fifth, the column proceeded to
Victoria, where pinnate-leafed jacarandas were bursting into bloom. Since the Centralist
governor and his staff had gone into hiding, Molano and Lopez lingered at the state
capital to install their cronies in office.
Eighteen leagues from Monterrey, at Hacienda de Concepcion, was the encampment of General
Arista. Now news arrived that he was hastening to intercept the invaders. That was enough.
Staggering drunk, the two colonels called for their horses and were five miles distant
before Jordan succeeded in checking them. A week passed; and as nothing further was heard
of Arista, the two officers plucked up courage. With Jordan in tow,they again started off,
this time for Jaumave, where they planned to capture the Centralist governor. By the time
they arrived, however, their pigeon had taken wing.
Federalists now found themselves in the high sierras. The peaks were lofty, the trails
circuitous; and in this bleak and desolate region there existed little likelihood of
gaining recruits and less of acquiring donations. Though Jordan advocated a prompt
withdrawal, and Captain Thomas Alien backed him, both Molano and Lopez insisted that they
should go on and sack Saltillo before rejoining Canales. Finally, when Jordan reluctantly
consented, they proceeded, marching by paths that daily became narrower and more
After several days. Captain Joaquin Pena of the Texas vaqueros reported to Jordan that he
felt sure they were headed for San Luis Potosi,which lay far to the south. Jordan called a
halt and demanded that the course be changed. Despite objections from both Molano and
Lopez, the line of march was altered. The column now traveled in a more westerly direction
and on the twelfth day camped near a yucca thicket within sight of Saltillo. Here Jordan
received a message from a Federalist sympathizer, who warned him against Molano and Lopez,
accusing both of duplicity of selling out to the enemy.
Forthright and trusting, Jordan could not conceive of such foul treachery and confronted
the two colonels with the letter. Calling loudly on the Sainted Infant to bear them
witness, they denied the charge and appeared horrified that anyone should imply that they
were capable of so base a deed. Some enemy must wish to sully their reputations. Though
their vehement protestations may have alleviated Jordan's doubts, the import of the
message quickly spread among the Texans, not all of whom were as gullible as their leader.
Hereafter, like hawks, they watched the suspects.
Rather than go on at once, the entire column spent the next day in preparation for combat,
cleaning muskets and molding lead balls. At cockcrow the following day the men mounted and
rode toward Saltillo. About ten o'clock, when they spotted the Centralist trenches
on the slopes of a mountain half a mile to the west, they drew rein. Only a steep and
heavily timbered ravine separated them from the enemy.
When, after capitulation in 1835, General Cos evacuated San Antonio, General Rafael
Vasquez had been placed in command of the rear guard. Now he commanded the Centralist
forces that defended 5altillo; and though the Texans were eager to bring on an engagement,
he called for a parley. Molano spurred forward. Messages traveled to-and-fro between him
and Lopez, and Jordan was advised that Vasquez had offered a ransom of two hundred
thousand pesos if the invaders would spare Saltillo and quit the country. Molano was
pretending to have upped the ante an extra fifty thousand, and the deal hinged on that. Of
course the whole story was pure poppycock. Actually Vasquez and Molano were plotting to
annihilate the Texan contingent at the least possible sacrifice in Mexican lives. Vasquez,
moreover, was stalling for time until General Francisco Montoya could bring up
reinforcements. Shortly after midday these trudged into view.
Overconfident that their trickery was sure fire, the Centralists had invited the citizens
of the town to be spectators of the anticipated slaughter. Montoya's arrival signaled the
attack. As six hundred infantrymen peered from their trenches, Centralist cannon opened up
with grapeshot and newfangled rockets. In reserve Vasquez held four hundred cavalrymen.
Colonel Lopez, assuming the over-all command of the Federalists, ordered Jordan to
traverse the ravine, which because of dense cactus growth was practically impassable.
Hardly, however, had Jordan led the way down than Captain Alien dashed up. "In God's
name, sir," he exploded, "where are you taking us? If you take us to yonder
gorge, the enemy will not leave a man to tell our fate."
Instantly Jordan came to his senses. He snapped an order and his men wheeled and
countermarched. Without drawing fire they repassed an enemy position by a scant one
hundred and fifty yards and occupied an abandoned ranch, whose corrals unfortunately were
within effective cannon range. Turning their horses loose, the men stripped down to their
waists and prepared for action. Meanwhile the Federalist cavalry had assumed a position
three hundred yards to the left, in order, so Lopez asserted, to prevent Jordan's
followers from being outflanked. During this interval the commander of the Federalist
infantry, a brother-in-law of Molano, went over to the enemy.
Noticing what was in progress. Colonel Lopez, not to be outdone,flourished his saber and
yelled in a strident voice, "Long live the supreme government!" Then,
accompanied by two aides and trailed by the ammunition carts, he galloped frantically
across the bottom of the ravine and ducked in between Centralist trenches.
Greatly outnumbered, the Texas contingent were now on their own, save for one hundred and
fifty vaqueros from the border country, who stood firm, though possessed only of
ammunition carried on their persons. Like their Texas brothers from north of the Nueces,
the vaqueros entertained no thought of surrender only a wild lust to kill the
enemy. Many had fired at Colonel Lopez as he bolted across the valley.
From behind a stone fence of the corrals, Jordan could see nothing more than smoke puffs
from Centralist artillery, but he could hear the whiz of grapeshot and the spatter of
lead. Then he glimpsed Montoya's infantry stumbling along over brush and boulders. As they
approached, they paused to fire a ragged volley. The Texans did not reply. As the
Centralists moved up, the barrage from their big gun's increased in tempo. A stricken
horse squealed. The air became stiff with lead. Jordan continued to watch he advance of
enemy troops, his primary objective to stop them. At last he made a signal, and from the
muskets of his men there leaped a sheet of flame.
Montoya's infantry recoiled, halted. Though officers encouraged their soldiers, lines
began to dissolve into segments, and finally to fall apart like beads of a rosary when the
string is snipped.
Exultant hoots came from the Texans. Between back-slapping one another, they rammed home
fresh charges. Again their muskets spoke. Slugs found their mark unerringly. Bodies
shuddered and lay still. Of the Centralist troops who remained upon their feet, some dived
for sheltering rocks or clumps of yucca while others zigzagged frantically toward the
Noting Montoya's failure. General Vasquez ordered up additional support to protect the
battery. But a long-distance shot killed a gunner, and the gun crew took to their heels.
The artillery as well as the ammunition dump fell into Jordan's hands. The town's
inhabitants, who had come to witness the Texan debacle, were now struck with dismay.
Forgetting their lunch baskets, they streaked for home. Soon the trails that led to
Saltillo were choked alike with civilians and soldiers, pressing on as though the devil
himself were after them with a pitchfork. So destructive had been the fire from Jordan's
men that four hundred Centralists never budged again. The Texans suffered a mere twelve
Though the trap of the renegade colonels had backfired, the numerous desertions plus loss
of the ammunition and baggage train compelled Jordan to withdraw; and, after being joined
by the staunch and loyal vaqueros, the entire party struck out for the Monclova road.
General Vasquez cursed his associates as blithering idiots, then halfheartedly despatched
his entire cavalry brigade to block Jordan's retreat. A single volley from Texan muskets,
however, sent the Centralist horsemen scurrying to the rear, after which they maintained a
At the identical period that the two rascally colonels were maneuvering Jordan through
northeastern Mexico, General Canales with two hundred Texans and a like number of
Tamaulipas Mexicans began his ignominious campaign. His objective was the smuggler's
hamlet of San Marino on the Mexican Gulf Coast. Here again Canales proved himself a better
marcher than a fighter. Upon encountering a Centralist column obstructing his progress, he
bowed to fate and without expenditure of ammunition executed an about-face.
Canales, upon his return to the camping grounds on San Juan River, found grievous tidings
awaiting him: Colonel Antonio Zapata had gone down in utter defeat near Santa Rita de
Morelos. Pinned beneath his fallen horse, he'd been taken prisoner. Because he declined to
betray his colleagues, he lost his head, which was conveyed in a keg of mescal to Guerrero
and for three days was exhibited upon a pole opposite the Zapata family home.
As though the loss of his principal adherent was not in itself a big enough jolt, Canales
now learned of Molano's and Lopez's disaffection in
mid-October, at the time they made the deal with the enemy to deliver the Texan contingent
for slaughter. The publication of the full text of agreement between them reflected no
credit on General Arista, who, notwithstanding, in 1850, with resort to arms, was elected
president of all Mexico.
When at last Canales, seeing where his bread was buttered, offered to capitulate. Arista
proved himself a better politician than a soldier. He patched up their differences, took
Canales into the fold, and shortly thereafter appointed the erstwhile rebel leader
Collector of Internal Revenue for Nuevo Leon. Unhindered, Colonel Fisher, Colonel Seguin,
and their followers withdrew north of the Nueces to controlled Texas territory.
In regard to the Republic of the Rio Grande, that embryo nation died a-borning. At Laredo,
upon the high eroding bluff that overlooks the river, there still stands in mute testimony
of a dream an inconspicuous but massive walled building that once was its capital.
Antonio Canales was born at Camargo. Though educated for the law,he
chose to be a soldier-politician. In 1835, as a colonel in the Mexican Centralist army, he
dispatched Julian Mirales to Texas to investigate its political activities. After Mirales
reported that a strong sentiment existed for independence, Canales apparently conceived
the idea of carving from northeast Mexico an autonomous republic. Along with Juan Pablo
Anaya,a political agitator, and Antonio Zapata, an influential Guerrero citizen, Canales,
about August 1, plotted to establish a Federalist slate. Taking the leadership, he made
himself a general and commander-in-chief of the army;on his associates he conferred lesser
commissions. Within eleven months, however, his army was routed, and Canales and Anayo
fled to Texas, which by then had gained its independence.
In 1838 Canales visited San Antonio, where he met Samuel A. Maverick, Juan N. Seguin, and
other prominent citizens. In a proclamation Canales invited Texans to fight under the
Federalist banner, promising them equal distribution of spoils, regular monthly pay, and
half a league of land to those who would serve for the duration of the war. He sent
volunteers to the cantonment at Lipantitlan on the lower Nueces, where he continued to
recruit. He even engaged some Carrizo Indians. After Reuben Ross and Samue! W. Jordan
joined him, Canales marched the combined force to the Rio Grande. There he was joined by
The entire army then moved down stream. In the assault and capture of Guerrero, Candles
allowed his associates to do most of the fighting. When it was over, the army moved on
downstream to Matamoros, and halted. Canales not only hesitated to attack, but forbade
Ross to do so with his own men. In disgust Ross left, and his men accompanied him.
Canales then turned and marched toward Monterrey, where it was rumored the Centralists had
recently depleted their garrison. In the battle Canales almost won, but instead ended up
with a retreat to the Rio Grande. There Jordan departed, and the Federalists disbanded.
At Austin, where he went to recruit, Canales enlisted the aid of William S. Fisher, a
former Texas Secretary of War. Also Jordan rejoined Canales with a considerable number of
volunteers. Another campaign occurred with the principal battle outside Saltillo. The
Centralists had made a deal with false Federalist leaders to betray their Texan allies.
The latter, however, were able to fight their way out of the trap, after which, joined by
the loyal Federalists, they retreated to the frontier. There, yielding to temptation,
Canales capitulated when offered a pardon and a remunerative government position.
On July 22, 1842, the Centralist government made Canales a colonel. A year later he was
promoted to, brigadier. In June 1844 Canales was dismissed from the Centralist military
service for abandoning his post at Camargo in the face of the enemy. For a time he engaged
in commercial pursuits. In September he passed through Matamoros on his way to Texas.
In 1846 Canales was back in the Centralist army and stationed in the territory between
Boca Chica and Corpus Christi Bay. There he engaged in the battle against American troops
under General Zachary Taylor. Canales fought at Palo Alto and again, on May 9, at Resaca
de Guerrero, where he commanded two units of cavalry. Driven back from the border, he went
to Cerralvo and served under General Ampudia. He was at Buena vista under direct command
of General Santa Anna. Canales continued to fight against the Americans until peace was
signed at Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Afterwards Canales became governor of Tamaulipas. On July 22, 1852, he received a gold
award for exemplary conduct. When Benito Juarez became president, he named Canales
commander of the northern frontier, in which capacity he served with distinction.
The Reuben Ross who came to Texas in 1836 was a nephew and namesake of
the man who in 1813 succeeded to the command of the
American contingent of the Gutierrez and Magee expedition. Leaving Virginia, his native
state, the younger Ross arrived at the San Jacinto battlefield shortly after the fighting.
There he was fortunate in attracting the attention of General Felix Huston, the army's new
commander in chief, who appointed him to a captaincy on his staff. Ross, however, did not
hold the commission long; he resigned to accept the more lucrative position of land agent
for the general.
When the civilian position did not satisfy Ross, who craved excitement, Huston, in the
summer of 1839, secured for him the independent command of a frontier ranger company with
headquarters at Gonzales. As a ranger captain, Ross's duty was to halt the depredation of
outlaw bands that roamed the area from the Brazos to the Rio Grande, and more especially
that section west of the Nueces. Large bands were constantly on the prowl, pillaging,
smuggling, and rustling cattle.
Upon hearing that one such band planned to raid San Antonio, Ross rode there with
sixty-five men. As the outlaws, evidently apprised of the ranger's presence, did not make
an appearance, Ross moved in September to Goliad, where he met General Antonio Canales, a
Mexican Federalist leader, whose mobilization camp lay nearby at Lipantitlan on the lower
Nueces River. Interpreting his authority in a most liberal sense, Ross joined forces with
the Mexican rebel, who agreed to pay each Texan twenty-two dollars a month and a fair
share of any loot that was captured.
Along with the main force of Mexicans, Ross crossed the Rio Grande at Carrizo (old Zapata)
on the night of September 30. The next day, joined by other Texans and some Federalists
under Antonio Zapata, Ross led an attack on Guerrero, which was occupied without aid from
Canales. Among the Centralist prisoners was Benardo Gutierrez, who Ross was surprised to
learn was the same man who had led the Gutierrez and Magee expedition twenty-seven years
earlier. As the campaign progressed in its march down the river, Canales ordered Ross's
contingent to discontinue carrying the Texas flag. This incident, coupled with Canales's
frequent display of military ineptitude, caused Ross eventually to withdraw his force. He
left Matamoros accompanied by some fifty men.
Back in Texas, Ross found Colonel Ben Johnson with orders to muster the rangers out of
service for having engaged in the Mexican civil war without authority. In an angry mood
Ross appeared in Gonzales. An expert duelist, he picked a fight with Ben McCulloch and
wounded him. This affair did not end here, for on December 24, 1839, Ben's brother Henry
a quarrel with Ross and shot him. He never recovered from the injury and died early in
Antonio Zapata, whom the Indians called "Sombrero de
Manteca," was the bravest of the Mexican Federalists. Born at Guerrero of poor
parents, he progressed from humble sheepherder to great ranch owner, on one occasion
driving ninety thousand head of sheep to market at Mexico City. During the Texas
Revolution, however, Mexican armies raided his flocks, looted his properties, and left him
Politically, Zapata had always been a democrat, a believer in the Constitution of 1824,
which by far was the most liberal Mexico had ever had. Therefore, when Antonio Canales in
Guerrero on November 5, 1838, issued a pronouncement against the Mexican Centralist
government, Zapata joined him and was given the rank of colonel.
Early in 1839 Zapata was one of the Federalist leaders who defeated the Centralists at
Mier. Later, at Monterrey, he displayed great gallantry. But when the campaign terminated
with retreat and disbandment of the Federalist army, Zapata returned to his family. On
January 7, 1840, Canales again sought Zapata, and the two made plans for another campaign.
Canales called a convention of delegates to organize a new nation to be known as the
"Republic of the Rio Grande," which was to embrace the Mexican States of
Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, and that portion of the present state of Texas that lies
west of the Nueces River. Near the site of the old town of Zapata a provisional government
was organized, and Laredo, which lay within the boundary of Tamaulipas and was claimed by
Mexico, was proclaimed the seat of government.
After the Federalists captured Presidio (the modern Piedras Negras, Coahuila) the majority
of the Texans departed for their homes. Canales then sent Zapata with about forty men;
including twelve Texans, on a foraging expedition. Through treachery on the part of the
inhabitants of Morelos, Zapata and his men were captured by the Centralists on April 24.
Though Canales made strenuous efforts to rescue his comrade, he was repulsed by an
overwhelming force; and on March 28 Zapata, along with twenty-two of his followers, was
tried by court-martial, convicted of treason, and executed the following morning at ten
WILLIAM S. FISHER
William S. Fisher came from Virginia to Texas in 1834 and settled in
Green DeWitt's colony. The following year, at the convention called at San Felipe de
Austin, he represented the town of Gonzales.
On March 10, 1836, he organized a company for military service and sixteen days later
placed himself and his men under orders of General Sam Houston. At the Battle of San
Jacinto, Fisher commanded the First Company, First Regiment of Texas Volunteers. After the
victory Fisher remained in the army until September, when he accepted an appointment as
Secretary of War. In this capacity he served until November 13, 1837. When Mirabeau B.
Lamar succeeded Sam Houston as president. Fisher was not confirmed in office. Lamar,
however, appointed him lieutenant colonel of cavalry.
Fisher was stationed at San Antonio in command of two companies of regulars at the time of
the Council House Fight, when forty Comanche chiefs were killed. Shortly thereafter he met
Antonio Canales, who came to recruit both Anglos and native Texans for service in the
Federalist cause. Fisher was induced to join Canales and rode to San Patricia with two
hundred men. When the North Mexican campaign proved a failure. Fisher brought his men back
In March 1842, General Rafael Vasquez raided San Antonio, probably in retaliation for the
participation of Texans in the Mexican civil war. The Texans speedily mobilized, and
General Alexander Somervell was given overall command with instructions not to pass the
Rio Grande. He complied with his orders, but some three hundred of the men decided to
invade Mexico and elected Fisher their leader. After crossing the river near Mier, they
attacked the town. During the fighting. Fisher was wounded and his men induced to
surrender. They attempted to escape while being marched to the interior of Mexico, were
recaptured, and every tenth man was shot. Fisher was released from prison in 1843. He
returned to Texas, where he died at his home in Jackson County in 1845.
Early in February 1817, Rafael Vasquez joined in the fight against Spanish
tyranny. On May 21, 1821, after Mexico gained her independence, he was appointed a
captain, and in December was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He assisted in driving the
Royalists out of Aguascalientes and was active at the siege and capture of Durango.
In the fall of 1835 Vasquez commanded the rear guard after General Martin Perfecto de Cos
capitulated at San Antonio. The year following, when General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
invaded Texas, Vasquez participated in the siege of the Alamo and later at the Battle of
In 1839 Vasquez, now a full colonel, sent raiding parties into Texas. In March 1840 he was
promoted to brigadier general. That year at the Battle of Saltillo, through treachery, he
split the Federalist, part of whom, accompanied by the Texas volunteers, were forced to
retreat to the Rio Grande. Again in 1841 Vasquez sent forays into Texas, one of them
netting two hundred head of cattle from the Seguin ranch. In 1842 Vasquez marched his
entire brigade to San Antonio. But when the Texans mobilized, Vasquez marched in
In 1845 he was military governor of Coahuila. At the head of his own regiment he
participated in the Battle of Buena Vista, where he distinguished himself by leading
repeated charges against American batteries.
During the period of restoration that followed the Mexican War, Vasquez served at San Luis
Potosi and Queretaro. In 1849 he put down a revolt at La Griega. In 1850 he was appointed
commander at Guanajuato. The following year he was named Governor General of Jalisco.
The date of his death is unknown.
SAMUEL W. JORDAN
In October 1836 the Houston arsenal was placed under command of Acting
Corporal of Ordinance Samuel W. Jordan, who had eighteen skilled workmen subject to his
supervision. Old muskets picked up on the field at San Jacinto were renovated at a cost of
less than three dollars each. On April 22, 1839, Jordan went to San Antonio, where he
succeeded to the command of that post. Presumably it was at this time that Antonio Canales
arrived and began recruiting for the Mexican Federalist cause. The two men met, and
Canales persuaded Jordan to serve on his staff with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Also
the remuneration offered probably was an inducement. Jordan and Reuben Ross together
gathered about two hundred Texans and marched with them to Victoria, where they signed
with the Federalists, then moved to Canales's camp at Lipantitlan.
After the combined Mexican and Texan forces marched to the Rio Grande, Jordan was placed
in command of fifty unattached Anglo-Texans, who had agreed to fight for establishment of
the Republic of the Rio Grande, 1'hi's to be a buffer state, separating Texas from Mexico.
In the vanguard, Jordan crossed the Rio Grande and won a victory at the Battle of
Alcantra, twelve miles below Mier. Canales now ordered Jordan to support Colonel Luis
Lopez, whose unit was to recruit along the river road and in the foothills of the Sierra
Madre. Canales himself was to proceed with the main body and a four pounder that had been
found and unspiked at Victoria. The campaign did not go well. Outside Saltillo, Jordan
barely evaded a trap, and in December 1840 he returned to Texas.
Some months later at Austin, Jordan and Sam Houston had an alteration. Jordan reached for
an axe but was restrained from using it.
During the summer of 1841 Jordan went to New Orleans to recruit for Mariano Arista, the
commander in chief of the Mexican Centralist Army of the North. When the vessel that was
to transport Jordan and his men sailed for Yucatan without them aboard, Jordan, in
despondency, committed suicide, June 22. 1841.
JUAN NEPOMUCENO SEGUIN
A scion of an old and aristocratic family, Juan Nepomuceno Seguin was
born in San Antonio de Bexar on October 29, 1806. Twenty-eight years later, while holding
high office of political chief, he urged the towns of Texas to send delegates to a
convention for consideration of danger to the liberties of the inhabitants from the new
head of the Mexican government Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who had usurped
dictatorial powers. On October 13, 1835, at Salado Creek, Seguin met a friend of fourteen
years standing, Stephen F. Austin, and was introduced by him to General Sam Houston.
Austin then appointed Seguin a captain of Texas militia.
Seguin participated in the Battle of San Antonio, where Ben Milam was killed. When the
Mexican army capitulated and retreated to the Rio Grande, a part of Seguin's militia
resumed a patrol to forestall Indian depredations. Later, at Felipe de Austin, on January
2, 1836, Henry Smith, acting governor, confirmed Seguin's commission, then ordered him to
report to the Alamo. Soon the Texans under William Barrett Travis and James Bowie were
beleaguered by the powerful forces of Santa Anna. On February 29, Travis requested that
Seguin ride to Goliad for reinforcements. Before aid could arrive, however, the Alamo
after a siege of thirteen days was taken by storm.
Too late to rejoin his friends, Seguin rode to Gonzales, where he reported to General
Houston. As commander in chief, Houston ordered Seguin to recall those of his men who were
patrolling the lower San Antonio River and therefore had escaped the Alamo massacre. Now
began the flight of Texan colonists, which became known as the "Runaway Scrape."
Native families, like the Seguins, gathered their possessions and fled precipitately
before the oncoming Mexican armies. At the crossing of the Brazos, the Seguin sheep were
lost, and with them went the tangible wealth of the family.
When the few hundred men that accepted Houston's orders marched away from Gonzales, Seguin
with Lieutenant Salvador Flores and twenty-four San Antonians formed part of the rear
guard. Halfway across Texas, at the junction of the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou,
the little army of Texans halted and prepared to fight. Seguin's men were designated the
Ninth Company of the Second Regiment. In the ensuing battlecalled San
JacintoSeguin singled out and captured three colonels, including the Mexican chief
of staff, from whom he learned where the army quartermaster had concealed some eighteen
thousand pesos. Seguin was proclaimed a "Hero of San Jacinto" and promoted to
the rank of lieutenant colonel. His instructions were to proceed to Lavaca and here
recruit for his command, but at his personal expense, The Second Texas Cavalry.
At San Antonio, Seguin's post, his first task was to collect the charred bodies and ashes
of his former comradesmartyrs of the Alamoand give them suitable burial.
Personally he delivered the memorial address. Then in March 1837, seven months after he
assumed his duties as commandant of the garrison at San Antonio, he received orders to
demolish the city and transfer its inhabitants to the east bank of the Brazos. The order
came from the chief military officer of the RepublicGeneral Felix Huston.
Disregarding instructions, Seguin went direct to President Houston, protesting the order's
lack of strategic military value and its utter injustice to the citizens of the town.
Houston revoked the order, and Huston became Seguin's bitter enemy.
Late in January 1838 five Mexicans, after entering Texas at Laredo, were apprehended by
Seguin's men and sent as prisoners to army headquarters on charges of attempted espionage.
In May, that year, Seguin resigned his army commission and was elected senator from Bexar.
He was a member of the second, third, and fourth Congress. On January 9, 1841, he assumed
office of mayor of San Antonio. Also that year President Mirabeau B. Lamar visited San
Antonio and was the guest of Mayor Seguin. Lamar urged him to form a brigade of Texans for
cooperation with Antonio Canales, a Mexican Federalist leader. Although there was at this
period great uneasiness and lawlessness in San Antonio, and though banditry, smuggling,
and cattle rustling were rife, Seguin yielded to Lamar's persuasion. The campaign was a
fiasco, and all that Seguin accomplished was to go deeper into debt. Salaries of Texas
officials were unpaid or in arrears many months, and Seguin was desperate for means to
support his family.
In an attempt to recoup his fortune, Seguin wrote to Mexican General Rafael Vasquez for a
permit to import sheep. When Vasquiez stalled, Seguin, apprehensive of a raid on San
Antonio, placed the letter from Vasquez before the City Council. A few days later Don Jose
Maria Garcia of Laredo brought word that Vasquez was already en route. As there was no
garrison at San Antonio, Seguin notified the President of the Mexican invasion and urged
the citizenry to withdraw from town. Now an ugly rumor began to spread about Seguin. Many
Anglo-Texans, especially the newcomers, were ready to believe in his disloyalty. They
hounded and harassed him. Fearful for his life and that of his family, he sent them to his
father's ranch, in what is now Wilson County, and followed them soon after.
But even on the ranch Seguin felt unsafe. Where could he go? Without funds and speaking
little English, there was only one answerMexico. Accordingly he sent a letter of
resignation as mayor to the city council of San Antonio, and in it he renounced his Texan
citizenship. Then he set out for Laredo. There he was arrested and sent to Monterrey. Now
he was informed that Santa Anna was threatening to confine him in prison for life unless
he agreed to join the Mexican army. To provide for his family, he chose the army. He hoped
it would not be necessary to fight against his native land.
On September 11, 1842, however, when the Mexican division of General Adrian Woll! captured
San Antonio, Seguin commanded a detachment of cavalry. His old homestead he found had been
sold for taxes; and when Woll returned to Mexico, Seguin took his wife and children. Until
1846 Seguin operated with an independent command in the region south of Laredo.
In July 1845 Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas, wrote that Seguin,
like many patriotic Anglo-Texans, was adverse to annexation with the United States, but
that in his opinion Seguin was never a traitor.
In 1847, during the Mexican War, Seguin was wounded at the Battle of Buena Vista. On May
5, 1862, at Puebla, he participated in the repulse of the French column. This was his last
fight. Benito Juarez promoted him to the rank of full colonel and appointed him governor
of Texcoco. Fourteen years later, when Porfirio Diaz became President, Seguin retired from
military service. He went to his home at Villa Santiago and later removed to Monterrey.
Finally he moved to Nuevo Laredo, where on August 27, 1890, he died.
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