A DARK PERIOD
First there were the politics. Politics started between issues, but ended between men. The Consultation of October, 1835, did not attempt to do much as there was not a quorum present of the expected representatives. It was decided the Consultation should adjourn until November 1, when they felt the elected representatives from all the Texas communities could be present.
A permanent Council made up of nine of the delegates from the October meeting continued to gather supplies and distribute information. The delegates appointed Thomas F. McKinney to the United States to seek a $100,000 loan.
Thomas Green was appointed the task of building a Texas Navy. He went to New Orleans where together with the Texas agent there, William Bryan, they began to purchase ships. Much of the money used was their own. Bryan used $80,000.00 in personal credit on behalf of Texas. Most of the rest of the money came from the firm of McKinney and Williams. Thomas McKinney and Samuel May Williams, including several members of the Williams family, put up a lot of their personal money to fund the Texas Revolution. Williams two brothers, Henry Howell Williams in Baltimore and Nathaniel Felton Williams in Mobile were well connected in financial circles. McKinney and Williams bought and outfitted the Texas Navy ships Invincible and Liberty.
The November Consultation met to decide, among other things why Texas was fighting. Was Texas fighting to be independent from a tyrannical Mexico, or was Texas fighting a tyrannical Santa Anna for a Mexico based on the Constitution of 1824? Most of the delegates were for the latter. Perhaps it was because that strategy played best to other countries from whom they hoped to gain help. The leaders of Texas wanted the revolution not to be seen as a device for the United States to gain a territory it only recently pledged to not seek, but as a belligerency in a constitutional issue. The United States, in the person of President Andrew Jackson, supported that legalistic view.
Most of the delegates wanted to fight for the Constitution of 1824. Some of the delegates truly felt if Texas stood against Santa Anna, other Mexican Republicans would take up the revolution elsewhere in Mexico. In connection with this thinking, the Consultation gave its endorsement to an expedition headed by General José Antonio Mexia.
This Republican expedition, after many months of preparation in New Orleans, left that city on November 6, 1835. New Orleans had a distinctive anti-British tradition. The French and Spanish periods combined with Jackson's victory united the diverse cultures that for one reason or another were against the English. This included the Irish. Among the Americans of Irish extraction in the expedition were: John M. Allen from the Irish Colonies, M. Conway, M. B. Gallagher, Daniel Donnelly, a Lambert from the Irish Colonies, James McCormick, R. McConnell, R. N. McGee, J. L. McManus, R. McKaskill, and several more. The expedition landed on the Mexican coast twelve miles north of Tampico at the mouth of the Panuco River. Nearby was a fort manned by 35 men and commanded by a Colonel Ortega. They joined Mexia. The fort then became General Mexia's base of operations. On the 15 of November, 1835, the main force of the expedition marched seven hours to Tampico. There they found Santa Anna ready and waiting for them. Santa Anna's forces overwhelmed the small expedition. Some of the expedition, including General Mexia, were able to withdraw to the coastal fort. The retreat was made possible by the units under the command of Irishmen John M. Allen and Lambert, both of the Irish colony at Refugio. Mexia and his fellow survivors waited there for ten days for reinforcements from Texas, or the United States, or from Republicans in Mexico. They never came. General Mexia, and what was left of his expedition, withdrew to Texas aboard an American schooner, The Halcyon. They arrived at the mouth of the Brazos River on December 3. Many of the Mexia expedition survivors left to join the siege at Béxar, except for the 35 Mexicans from the coastal fort on the Panuco River, they went to Goliad. General Mexia was invited by the General Council to go to Béxar, take command of his men and join the operation there. The general declined saying that he could not accept a command under the Provisional Government of Texas, as Señor Viesca was not recognized as governor. Mexia then announced his intention to take his men south to Copano, and then to Palo Blanco to join with some 200 Mexicans known to be there who would help fight Santa Anna by attacking Matamoros. Munitions and supplies were gathered to support this mission by McKinney and others.
When news of the victory at Béxar reached San Felipe, together with Mexia's negative response to the invitation to cooperate with the Texas Army; interest and support for Mexia dissipated. Mexia left what equipment remained of the Tampico expedition, and the supplies gathered for the attack on Matamoros to the Texans and returned to New Orleans. He said it was, "to employ my time and person in the common cause of the Nation, which I believe is the one at present Texas sustains."
The Mexia expedition was a disaster in every sense. It coalesced Santa Anna's determination to keep Americans out of Texas. Santa Anna, with a view to Texas, had the government formally decree: any foreigners who entered Mexican territory under arms were subject to summary execution as pirates. The captured foreign survivors of the Mexia expedition were then shot as "pirates." This decree was later used as the justification for the "executions"/massacres at the Alamo and Goliad.
The Mexia Expedition, or Tampico Expedition as it was also called, is often overlooked in terms of its importance to the Texas Revolution. Besides its relation to the Alamo and Goliad, there was another consideration. When Mexia's expedition failed, Santa Anna played up the American and Texan connections in relation to the expedition. He pointed to the American port of departure and the number of Americans in the expedition. He directed attention to where Mexia retreated when it failed: to Texas, and then to New Orleans. Santa Anna informed all who would listen where the men who remained of the expedition, went with their arms and equipment. This disaffected many of the Mexican Republicans from the Texas Revolution. They were led to believe it an American plot, and the Constitution of 1824 issue merely a ploy, a device the Americans were using to take the Mexican territory. Adding to the problem was the treatment of the Republican Augustín Viesca, the former Governor of Coahuila y Texas, when he arrived at Goliad and later at the siege of Béxar in November, 1835. At Béxar, which he hoped to make his capital, he was treated with suspicion by some and contempt by others. Dimmitt's reception was royal compared with the lack of one given Viesca by the Texans and Americans surrounding Béxar. The "bottom line" was, Republican Mexicans never thought, after 1835, there were Republicans for Mexico in charge of the Texas Revolution. They would support other efforts in trying to reestablish the Confederation of Mexican States envisioned in 1824, but not the Texas Revolution.
This feeling spread to some of the Mexican communities in Texas. The situation was made worse by outright Texan prejudice against Mexicans. There were many Mexicans who stood with the Texans in all the battles, some lost their lives. Now the character of the Texan Army changed with the influx of Americans, who were in Texas for the first time and came to fight Mexicans. The Texans knew the difference between those Mexicans who stood and fought with them or stayed out of the fight completely, from those who came from Mexico bringing to Texas the tyranny that was used in Zacatecas and Coahuila. These Mexicans killed Tejanos and Texans alike.
The new arrivals from the United States found it easier to just separate Mexicans from the Americans. One of the Tejano families thus discriminated against was that of Texas empresario Martin De León. De León was the founder of Victoria and was instrumental in the founding of Texas' second oldest church, Saint Mary's, located in Victoria. He was a supporter of Texas, yet he and his family were dispossessed of their property. It was this situation, not De León in particular, but the treatment of Mexicans in general that led Juan Sequin and other Tejanos to change their views about Texans.
Adding to the problem was another fact which made Americans act out against all Mexicans. In all the battles in which the Texas forces won, the surviving Mexicans were allowed to return to Mexico; or if they were tories, allowed to be paroled to their homes with a promise to not ever fight the Texans again. Such honorable and humane treatment of prisoners was not reciprocated.
Texans like those in the Irish colonies who were friendly to Mexicans, were also openly criticized. This prejudice soon went beyond relations with Mexicans. There was some anti-Catholicism during this period that touched not only the Mexican population, but also the Irish, French, and German Catholics in Texas. A Baptist Mexican was still abused because he was Mexican; a Protestant Irishman, Frenchman, or German escaped the degree of prejudice, unless of course he had a strong accent. Anglo-Saxon civilization had arrived. Some of the Texans must have wondered if they hadn't exchanged one tyrant for another.
There was a group of Mexicans, known as the Badeños living in the Goliad area. They were the descendants of the soldiers that were stationed at La Bahía through the years. They were a coarse type, not to be trusted but brave and excellent horsemen. They were very familiar with the topography of their area. These people were rudely pushed from their homes by the gringos. They began to congregate at the ranch of Don Carlos De La Garza, a man proud of his Mexican heritage. The Badeños, Don Carlos, and other Tejanos were literally pushed into the opposition's camp with tragic results for our side. Similarly, in the Nacogdoches area, a Vincente Cordova aroused the Mexican populace. He told them the gringos were no longer interested in a Mexican solution and, therefore, they must help the Mexican side.
All this happened before the Texans officially abandoned the idea of working within the Constitution of 1824. The continuing "Consultations" evolved into a compromise with the independence element. This was done by saying, "although Texas fought for the Constitution of 1824," thus "laying the cornerstone of liberty in the great Mexican Republic," it was also prepared to establish an independent government if Mexico were to abandon the Federalist view. The Federalist view being that of the former Republicans, and liberals; to restore the Constitution of 1824 calling for a weak president, sovereign states, and an autonomous Congress. Conversely, the conservatives, led by Santa Anna, were called the Centralists. They wanted all power in the office of the executive of the country.
When the final Consultation of the Texan colonists adjourned in November, they created more problems:
1. The Texan representatives elected a provisional government to govern Texas until the next meeting of representatives. The provisional government consisted of a Governor, a Lieutenant Governor, and the General Council made up of twelve representatives from the settlements. They did not define the duties of each position. No responsibilities were outlined. Therefore, separation of powers was not addressed. Henry Smith, a veteran of the fight at Velasco was elected the Provisional Governor; and James W. Robinson, of Scottish heritage, was elected the Provisional Lieutenant Governor.
2. Austin was sent to the U.S. to seek aid. Some said this was a maneuver to remove him from the scene because he was pro-Mexican. Thus, he was sent out of Texas when Texas needed his political and diplomatic skills.
3. In an effort to further interest Mexican Republicans (the disastrous results of the Mexia Expedition were not yet known), the politicians at San Felipe endorsed the Matamoros Expedition. This was a plan to take the war to Mexico, which the restless army was eager to do. The plan was to attack Matamoros, then work through the northern provinces, which were traditionally Republican strongholds, all the way to the Pacific Ocean; and declare a new Republic that would be a buffer between Texas and Mexico.
4. Sam Houston, a representative from the Irish colony of Refugio, was appointed Commander in Chief of the Army, but there was no army for him to command. His command was for the regular army, 95% of the army were volunteers. Most of the men, regulars and volunteers, were soon committed to the Matamoros Expedition without Sam Houston in command.
Houston reluctantly supported the attack on Matamoros, but only if it was a raid and commanded by Jim Bowie. The man behind the idea was Dr. James Grant. Doctor Grant was never a citizen of Texas. He owned extensive holdings in Northern Mexico. Grant was a large land owner in Parras, Coahuila. He was, at one time, the Secretary of the Executive Council of Coahuila, and a member of the Coahuila State Legislature. Earlier, he laid out the town of Dolores. Doctor Grant presented the plan, to attack Matamoros and then to establish a buffer state in northern Mexico, to the provisional government of Texas. As it was his idea, Grant sought command of the expedition to implement the grand plan. He argued the campaign of carrying the war into Mexico and the creation of the buffer state would hurt Santa Anna militarily and politically, and give Republicans/Federalists heart. The military action would also solve the problem of what to do with a large contingent of armed men made up largely of Americans spoiling for a fight. Dr. Grant was still trying to keep Texas for Mexico, to bolster the British plan this time for Northern Mexico and of course to preserve his vast holdings.
Henry Smith, the Governor; and Sam Houston, Commander in Chief of the Army, opposed the idea as presented. The Council voted to approve the expedition and, noting Houston's position, assigned command of the expedition to Frank W. Johnson with Dr. Grant as co-commander in charge of volunteers. Johnson, then commanding the Alamo, at first declined the assignment because of Smith and Houston's objections. The Council offered the co-command to James Fannin who accepted it. Johnson changed his mind and the Council re-instated him as the expedition's commander, but let stand all other previous assignments. The Texas army then, had four commanders, all of them Celts, and each with their own agenda.
Politics and prejudice crept in to replace leadership and loyalty at a costly time to Texas. If the Mexican Texans, the Tejanos, were made more a part of the emerging republic, and the victorious army was not weakened by being split into several factions, and if the leaders of Texas not rendered themselves ineffective by inner squabbling; the impending tragedies tethered to Texas might have been averted.
TEXAS' FIRST DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
The men of Goliad, perhaps encouraged by their recent stand with their commander and against politics, issued a Declaration of Independence. It was signed in ceremony by all present on December 20, 1835. This was not Texas' first declaration of independence. Other communities had already declared for independence including Nacogdoches on November 15 and Brazoria on December 15. San Augustine followed Goliad on December 23; and Columbia declared on December 25. The Goliad declaration was the only one formally and publically observed and the first one promulgated. The politicians, not quite ready to declare themselves, suppressed it and the knowledge that the other communities voted for independence. Texas' first published declaration of independence was written by an Irishman, Ira Ingram. He stated in plain language the cause of Texas and Texans. The text of the declaration is in Appendix VII.
As noted earlier, the declaration was done with ceremony. The garrison at Goliad was turned out on parade, the Declaration read, and a new flag was raised over the fort's walls on a tall sycamore pole cut and put in place by Irishman Nicholas Fagan. The flag was an ancient Irish symbol of rebellion, a bloody, severed arm grasping a sword. The severed arm with the raised sword was all in red on the white background of a sheet. The flagpole was in the center of the quadrangle at the fort. Morgan O'Brien raised the flag up the pole, where it was immediately pierced by a gunshot from outside the fort's walls. Like many of the other flags of Texas, you won't find it among those usually listed, as you won't find the flags of General Long, or the flag of Coahuila y Texas, or Colonel Magee. It was the First Flag of Texas Independence in the Revolution that would make Texas independent. The men of Goliad were the first Texans to formally, and with ceremony, make it known. Ninety-two men signed the document of which thirty-one came from the Irish colonies. Many of the other signers were Celts. The signatures affixed to the document included such last names as: Kirkpatrick, Fitzgerald, McMinn, Robertson, Hynes, McFarlane, Davis, Paine, White, Kelly, Malone, O'Connor, McDonough, O'Leary, O'Donnell, Lynch, Scott, O'Brien, Dooley, Day, McClure, Devereau, Dunn, Robinson, and many more. A complete listing is offered in Appendix V.
If nothing else, the document moved the people of Texas to face the obvious: either declare for independence, leave, die, or prepare for the yoke of tyranny.
Before 1836 was very old, the charade, belief, or windmill of working a Mexican Republican revolt based on the 1824 Constitution, disappeared. In early January, the persuasive Irishman, Sam Houston, declared for independence. Before the month was out, all the major leaders in Texas endorsed independence. Stephen F. Austin again declared for independence when he learned the Mexia Expedition's fate. Austin felt the Republican-Federalists of Mexico could no longer be expected to rise up and support Texas. Austin also felt that the American frontiersman was less likely to aid Texas in a civil dispute with Mexico than he was in helping Texas declare its independence. As the frontiersman and his rifle were two items vitally important to Texas' future, Austin took the more straight forward view for independence. Independence was one of the few things Texas' leadership could agree on.
The provisional government of Texas was not working. Governor Smith vetoed the first actions of the Council. A few things were accomplished including: organizing Ranger companies to deal with Indians (proposed by Daniel Parker), authorizing Houston to sign a treaty with the Cherokees, and calling for a Convention to be held at Washington-On-The-Brazos on March 1, 1836.
Representatives from the settlements were to be chosen by an election to be held on the first of February. Another little known piece of legislation that was passed was the renaming of Refugio to Wexford, after the county in Ireland from which most of the colonists came (the new name didn't stick however). All these measures and the many that did not get through were debated endlessly. When votes were taken, and issues passed, matters were delayed further when Governor Smith vetoed the Council. The Council then overrode the veto.
Tension developed between the two elements of Texas government, especially over the Matamoros Expedition. When Governor Smith learned on January 10 that Johnson stripped the Alamo of men, provisions, ammunition, and cannon in preparation for the expedition; and that Grant did likewise at Goliad, he raised a ruckus and asked the Council to cooperate with him in postponing or delaying the expedition. Failing that, he asked the Council to dissolve itself until the Convention met. The Convention could then become the government of Texas. The Council then impeached Smith and made the Lieutenant Governor, James W. Robinson, Governor Ad Interim.
Robinson, a Celt, then, was one of Texas' earliest governors during the period when Texas was just beginning to control her own affairs. However, Texas was not able to govern itself. Both Smith and Robinson were issuing proclamations. The chairman of the Council before events was the Provisional Governor, now it was the President Pro Tempore, John McMullen. All three men were trying to provide Texas leadership. The twelve man Council was increased to eighteen to include new settlements, but because of the squabbling, many representatives left San Felipe in disgust. In all, 39 men served on the Council from November 16, 1835 until March of 1836. By January 16, a quorum could not be raised. Robinson and Smith gave contradicting orders. Austin was in Washington. Houston was without an army. Texas was without leadership.
Dimmitt and his troops, who previously occupied the fort at Goliad, were relieved of duty after the victory at San Antonio and, for the most part went back to their families. General Burleson and his men did the same much earlier. Johnson and Grant, when they removed the supplies from the Alamo and La Bahía, recruited men from Dimmitt's and Burleson's units who were not ready to go home.
Sam Houston decided, with Smith's encouragement, to make something happen. Houston traveled to the Irish Colonies where the Texas armies were: Johnson with the regulars, Dr. Grant with the volunteers, and Col James Fannin with an army he recruited in the southern states of the United States.
< Sam Houston
Fannin and 450 men arrived by ship at Copano. Fannin attempted to arrange for ships to make the assault on Matamoros from the sea. While he continued to make these arrangements, his men camped at Goliad. He requested supplies from the Texas Commissariat, John Fagan. Among Fannin's men was the "Georgia Battalion" flying Joanna Troutman's Lone Star flag.
Johnson and Grant had about 500 men at Refugio. Johnson and Grant joined their forces, while Fannin continued to act independently. Johnson-Grant, and Fannin prepared to attack Matamoros with different, non-cooperating plans. From this point, the situation militarily and politically is very fluid.