America was battling the British - again - in the Northeast, Texas
had its own War of 1812. That's when a ragtag group of Mexicans,
Tejanos, Anglos and American Indians calling themselves the Republican
Army of the North invaded Texas as part of a military campaign to
free all of Mexico from Spanish rule.
They actually succeeded, and on April 6, 1813 - 23 years before
the Alamo and the
San Jacinto - issued the first Texas Declaration of Independence.
Historians call this the Green Flag Revolt, or the Gutiérrez-Magee
José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara, a native of the Rio Grande town
of Revilla, and Augustus Magee, a former U.S. Army lieutenant, commanded
the Republican Army of the North. Marching under a green battle
flag, the rebels invaded Texas from the Louisiana town of Natchitoches
and quickly captured Nacogdoches,
then took a small town on the Trinity River called Trinidad de Saucedo
and the Spanish fort Presidio
La Bahia at Goliad
with very little trouble. With each conquest, the rebel army's numbers
About 800 Spanish soldiers led by Governor Manuel Maria de Salcedo
went looking for the rebel upstarts, found them at Presidio
La Bahia and fired the first shots in what would be a four-month
stalemate. Magee fell ill and died during the siege, leaving a group
of rebels already low on provisions and morale teetering on the
brink of collapse.
Weirdly enough, the Spanish decided to call the whole thing off
around this time and go back to San
Antonio. A fair number of royalist soldiers loitered long enough
to join the rebel forces, now under the command of Virginia Colonel
The suddenly mobile, expanded and united Republican Army of the
North regrouped, killed 300 royalists at Salado Creek, survived
an ambush at Rosillo Creek and marched into San
Antonio unopposed. Salcedo and a few of his top officers surrendered.
The remaining royalist troops and officers joined the rebels, along
with former rebel prisoners.
On April 6, 1813, the Republican Army of the North declared its
independence from the Spanish, and the Spanish more or less agreed.
Gutiérrez formed a provisional government, organized a tribunal
that found Salcedo and Captain Simon Herrera guilty of treason and
condemned them to death.
U.S. officers, most of them adventurers rather than patriots, protested.
Aside from any moral qualms arising from the executions, the U.S.,
with its tacit approval of or, perhaps more accurately, apathy toward
the revolution, would not look kindly upon such an episode. The
Americans thought they had the rebels talked into sending Salcedo
and the others to prison in southern Mexico or exile in Louisiana,
but they were dead wrong.
Instead, rebel captain Antonio Delgado marched Salcedo and 13 others
six miles out of town and killed them, slitting their throats and
leaving their bodies to rot in the sun. Back in San
Antonio , Delgado bragged about what he'd done and how he did
it. His conceit would be short-lived
Spain retaliated by sending General Joaquin de Arredondo and about
1,800 soldiers to take on the 1,400 rebel fighters, now under the
command of Jose Alvarez de Toledo. Hoping to spare San
Antonio the ravages of a major battle, the rebels marched out
to meet the royalists in the countryside. They set up about six
miles from Arredondo's camp, planning to ambush the royalists along
the Laredo road, but royalist scouts sniffed out the strategy and
set in motion what remains the deadliest battle ever fought on Texas
First, the royalists lured and baited the rebels into prime firing
range. Of the 1,400 rebels who marched into the trap, only 100 or
so, maybe fewer, got out alive. The rebel bodies stayed on the battlefield,
unburied, for nine years.
The first Texas revolution was over, but a couple of revolutions
later Mexico would free itself of Spanish control. Like the Spanish,
the new Mexican government would have no small amount of trouble
with rebels north of the Rio Grande.
One of the young royalist officers paying close attention and taking
notes on how all this played out in 1812-1813 was Lt. Antonio Lopes
de Santa Anna, who would come back to Texas 23 years later, under
the Mexican flag, to quell another revolt and stage his own massacres,
but with far different results.
© Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas"
June 16, 2017 column