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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

Gutiérrez-Magee Expedition

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Nationalist activities abounded in Spain's Northern Provinces (Texas) during the first two decades of the nineteenth century. The Gutiérrez-Magee Expedition was one of the most spectacular of these adventures.

In response to Father Hidalgo's unsuccessful revolt against Royal control in Guanajuato in September 1810, the Juan Bautista de las Casas led a similar movement in San Antonio the next year that succeeded in gaining temporary control of the town. Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara, Casas' representative, then traveled to Washington to enlist U.S. assistance in sustaining his success.

The U.S. government chose to remain officially uninvolved but, it supported Gutiérrez covertly. American consular officer William Shaler, stationed in New Orleans, accompanied Gutiérrez to Natchitoches, Louisiana, and put him in contact with Lt. August Magee, who was stationed at Fort Jessup.

Early in August 1812, Gutiérrez and Magee led an expedition into Texas to establish the Republic of the North at the expense of Spain. Magee led their "army," largely composed of adventurers and more residents of the Neutral Ground—the kind of folks who liked an absence of law enforcement.

The expedition captured Nacogdoches easily, then moved on southwestward to La Bahia (Goliad), where they met and eventually defeated Spanish forces. There the expedition stalled while intrigue added the flavor of the movement.

First, Magee committed suicide, according to Gutiérrez, and was succeeded by Samuel Kemper, who led the republican forces to victory over those of Governor Salcedo, but when Gutiérrez authorized Salcedo's execution, Kemper led some of the invaders back to the United States. First Rueben Ross and then Henry Perry succeeded Kemper in the military command.

Meanwhile, maneuvers by Shaler resulted in replacing Gutiérrez with José Alvarez de Toledo in command of the civilian aspects of the independence movement, but it all came to an end when Perry's men were defeated by a superior force led by General Joaquin de Arredondo at the Battle of the Medina on August 15, 1813. Arrendondo then executed survivors of the expedition as well as anyone in Nacogdoches or San Antonio who had cooperated with them.

This suppression delayed but did not end efforts to free Mexico from Spain's control or the westward expansion of the United States, but it did constitute one interesting chapter in the progress of both movements.
© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical
July 14, 2008 column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
(The East Texas Historical Association provides this column as a public service. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.)

Books by Archie P. McDonald - Order Here

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