Philip Nolan is listed in the Nacogdoches Census of 1792 with his birthplace listed as Belfast, Ireland. The Supplement to the Texas Handbook states Philip Nolan's father was Peter Nolan and that his mother was the former Elizabeth Cassidy. Nolan was a tall, dark haired man with a ruddy complexion. People of the time said he had amazing personal strength. Philip Nolan was raised for a time in the house of General James Wilkinson, who in 1798 was the ranking general in the United States Army.
General James Wilkinson-
Most of my research has shown Wilkinson to be of English descent, but one author, Arthur Preston Whitiker, labeled him Irish. I make note of the observation because the eminent historian, Samuel Eliot Morison of Harvard University, wrote the Introduction to Whitiker's book, The Spanish-American Frontier 1783-1795.
There are Wilkinsons of Scottish descent. As far back as 1498 there are references to the son of Wilken, or Wilkenson (later Wilkinson) in Scottish records. Whatever the general's ancestry, most of his associates had Celtic names: Michael Power, Henry Innes, Daniel Clark, Major Isaac Dunn, Hugh McIlvaine, Henry Owen, Joseph Collins, and Philip Nolan. He once used Hugh McIlvaine as an alias.
As a young man, James Wilkinson showed much promise. He studied to be a doctor, and began his practice at 17. When the American Revolution began, Wilkinson entered the Continental Army. James Wilkinson was a Brigadier General in the United States Army before he was 21. He was an officer in the United States Army for more than 30 years. Wilkinson succeeded Irishman, General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, as the senior general in the U.S. Army.
General James Wilkinson served as Chief of the United States Army for seventeen years, under four presidents.
Wilkinson laid out the town of Frankfort, Kentucky and was very popluar with frontiersmen. The Governor of Louisiana, Carondelet, wrote to Thomas Power, the governor's liaison with pro-Spanish Americans, about Wilkinson, "...he possesses the confidence of his fellow citizens and of the Kentucky Volunteers, at the slightest movement, the people will name him the General of the new republic; his reputation will raise an army for him, and Spain, as well as France, will furnish him the means of paying it".
This was in fact the case, though it was not proven until many years later. Wilkinson was a secret agent for the Spanish. He took an oath to support the King of Spain in 1787. He also had secret talks with the English.
One of Wilkinson's schemes was for the western regions of Tennessee and Kentucky to detach themselves from the United States and declare a seperate western republic. Wilkinson bribed and/or otherwise convinced U. S. commanders of the principal forts in these areas to join and then lead the revolt when the signal was given.
Spain secretly agreed to this plan, as did Great Britain. Spain wanted a buffer between its territory and the youthful, still growing United States. Great Britain supported the plan because it would destabilize the border and cause concern for both the U. S. and Spain. There were other Americans involved besides Wilkinson, but it was Wilkinson who was the key player who sold Spain and England on their respective viewpoints and support.
Wilkinson was not a double agent, he was working for himself, hoping to carve out an empire to rule in Spanish or U.S. territory, in between both, or part of both. He even had friends in high places in the United States who supported the plan. One of whom was the Republican candidate for Vice-President of the United States in 1796, and was Vice President in 1800, Aaron Burr.
The duplicity of Wilkinson touches every scandal of the period. He was an aide for General Benedict Arnold, and was heavily involved in the Conway Cabal (General Conway was an Irishman on loan from the French Army and was not directly involved in any plot. He made a critical remark about George Washington at a time when others were trying to replace Washington with General Gates. Early historians used his name for the alliterative value). In 1778, a Colonel John Connolly from Canada was in Kentucky and informed Wilkinson he was an agent for England and had money for an immediate invasion of Louisiana. He asked Wilkinson's help in recruiting an invasion force. Whether it was for ego reasons, or that Connolly's plans interfered with his own plans; or that British control of the area would not allow Wilkinson to "operate;" or perhaps the timing was not right, Wilkinson revealed the plot to United States officials. Wilkinson took kudos from the U.S. and solicited reward from Spain for stopping the invasion of their territory. Of course all these details were not learned until years later. There was street talk about Wilkinson. As early as 1790, Irish born, Doctor James O'Fallon wrote President George Washington, "..an influential American has been engaged in trade to New Orleans and now acts the part of secret agent for Spain in Kentucky and is employed by that court through Miro [Governor of Louisiana] for the purpose of a separation of Kentucky from the Union."
Wilkinson worked to discredit O'Fallon. General Wilkinson took the sting from O'Fallon's remarks by revealing that at the age of 50 O'Fallon married a girl of 15, the daughter of Irishman, George Rogers Clark. Clark was the famous American Revolution general who found the "Northwest Passage." His brother, red-haired William Clark, would later travel with fellow Celt Meriwether Lewis on the celebrated Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Wilkinson claimed that O'Fallon and Clark had more in common than the young lassie. Wilkinson reported O'Fallon and his father-in-law, General Clark, had some dealings with the Spanish about setting up a colony in the west (the South Carolina Yazoo Company). He went on to report Clark recently accepted a commission from the French to invade the Spanish territory of Louisiana in connection with the Genêt Affair.
The French minister, Citizen Edmond Genêt, attempted to break America's official neutrality during a period when France and England were at war. Genêt was asked to leave the country. Genet asked for asylum in the United States because his faction in the French Revolution had been replaced by a more radical group. He did not want to return to France and a possible visit to the gullotine. His request for asylum was granted and Citizen Genêt became an American. He married the daughter of Irishman George Clinton. Clinton was Governor of New York (the first governor 1777-1795).
The revelations made by General Wilkinson were so stark as to both, question O'Fallon's credibility, and require an investigation of George Rogers Clark's activities. At the same time it raised Wilkinson's credibility. Again, General, janus (two-faced), Wilkinson was rewarded by both his declared country for whom he wore the uniform and his clandestine country from whom he collected money.
PHILIP NOLAN AGAIN
In the late 1700's, Philip Nolan began trading with the Indians. He operated from Natchez. Nolan was known to be a very capable man. Governor Miro of Louisiana asked him, in 1788, to meet with Alexander McGillivray on behalf of the government. McGillivray was a leader of the Creek Indians, who agreed to form an alliance with the Spanish to stop the American advance into Spanish and Indian territories. McGillivray was the halfbreed son of Lachlan McGillivray, who was born in Scotland [there were quite a number of Scottish halfbreeds in the Creek nation and several of them became important men in the history of the Creek Nation. McGillivray was one, there were also several named McIntosh].
In 1789 the governor of Natchez, Manuel Gayoso de Lemos Amorin y Magallanes, began an association with Nolan that was still in place when Gayoso became Governor of Louisiana and West Florida. In fact, Gayoso seriously cosidered going into business with Nolan
General Wilkinson, for a time, left the army and began a mercantile business. Wilkinson, with Nolan's assistance, conducted a commercial venture with Spanish Louisiana and Texas until his resumption of military service in 1791. The business continued several years under Nolan. Most historians agree that Nolan was only running the business for the General, and still took his orders from his patron. When Wilkinson went back to the army, Philip Nolan handled General Wilkinson's commercial accounts in the Spanish territories. Although each was a Spanish territory, they were administered separately and differently. Louisiana was administered through Havana, Cuba; while Texas was administered through Mexico City.
Nolan kept the books for Wilkinson. When various people testified that money came from Spain to Wilkinson, Nolan's books showed the payments Wilkinson received from Spain were recorded as late payments owed for commercial reasons. These books were used in the Aaron Burr trial and went a long way in clearing Wilkinson. Nolan knew there were no "late" payments, and was keeping a false balance sheet.
During his trading years, Nolan became very proficient at sign language. He ingratiated himself with the Indians of Texas and Louisiana. Some say he did it so he could move freely about and be in a position to influence their activities later. Nolan impressed the Spanish as well. Spanish officials described Nolan as educated, talented, industrious, and a daring adventurer. He was known to be an excellent horseman and skilled with a lariat. Philip Nolan moved along the El Camino Real so often, that an offshoot trail leading to Opelousas was called the Nolan Trace before 1800.
Political changes at the time, and the two different Spanish bureaucracies worked to Nolan's advantage. The areas of Louisiana and Texas were in a state of flux reacting to the Treaty of San Lorenzo el Real, known in the U.S. as Pinckney's Treaty, signed in 1795 between Spain and the United States. The treaty ceded to the United States all territory east of the Mississippi River and north of the two Floridas. This included Natchez. The treaty also called for free navigation of the Mississippi, and the right of deposit of U.S. goods at the port in New Orleans. Irishman Andrew Ellicot was commissioned by the United States to survey and certify the new border for the United States. It is known that Nolan tagged along with Irishman Andrew Ellicot after he received his commission from General Wilkinson to survey the areas bordering the southwestern United States with New Spain. Ellicot taught Nolan how to use a sextant and navigate by the stars. Ellicot was very impressed with Nolan and considered himself Nolan's friend.
Nolan was ostensibly rounding up wild horses and trapping when he was in Texas. Wilkinson helped him in getting permits and passports from the Spanish governors of Louisiana and Natchez. Miro, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, liked Nolan and was on good terms with him. Nolan's first announced trip to Texas was in 1791. This trip was not successful as the Texas Spanish officials confiscated his goods. Nolan spent a good part of the year among the Indians of Texas. He stated he was a "..favorite of the Tawayes and the Cammanches." On his second trip, in 1792, Nolan rounded up quite a few horses and drove them to Natchez where he sold them. There is also evidence that Governor Miro profited from Nolan's horse sale.
In 1794, Nolan went into Texas again, with a letter from the new governor in Louisiana, Carondelet, and with his old permits. Antonio Leal and his wife, Gertrudis, and her brother José de los Santos built corrals on their grant in Ayish Bayou to store the mustangs Nolan would capture. Antonio Leal was an authorized Spanish trader with the Indians. Leal also assisted Nolan in his mustanging. Nolan went to Béxar in an attempt to convince the governor there to give him a permit. The Governor of Texas was charmed by Nolan and Nolan got his permit, but not without saying he was related to former Governor Oconór, which is doubtful. The governor was not the only person in Béxar who Nolan was able to charm. He became intimate with a Gertrudis Quiñones. Gertrudis, who was from a respected family in Béxar, gave birth to a daughter from Nolan in 1798 (as late as 1830, mother and daughter were shown in the Béxar census). From Béxar, Nolan went to Laredo, Revilla, and Punta de Lampazos with Antonia Leal's wife, Gertrudis de Los Santos Leal, to purchase horses.
The smooth talking Nolan had gotten praise and permits from two governors of Louisiana, the Governor of Natchez, and the Texas governor. He moved freely in these areas among lesser officials and the Indians. This made William Barr and Samuel Davenport, the traders at Nacogdoches, jealous and they sought to discredit Nolan and eliminate any possible competition.
After Nolan sold his second catch of horses (1300) to the U.S. Cavalry at Frankfort, Kentucky and settlers on the Mississippi, Nolan wrote a letter to Barr and Davenport complaining of their telling the Indians he was a "badman." The three Irish traders weren't such enemies however, that they wouldn't team together to eliminate yet another trader in the area. In 1797, Nolan and Barr acted as the court's interpreters in the Nacogdoches trial of a trader named Lucas O'Se (O'Shea?).
This was not the first time Nolan provided a service to the Spanish. He met with Alexander McGillivray for Governor Miro. The new Governor of Louisiana, Baron de Carondelet, sent Nolan on a mission to map northern Louisiana (Missouri). In 1797, Nolan was again in Texas. Besides capturing horses he also did some mapping. He presented a copy of a map he made of Texas to Carondelet. In the same year, Carondelet made a contract with Nolan to provide horses for one of his regiments. Carondelet knew Nolan was getting the horses from Texas and that he probably would not be able to obtain permission to operate there again. This did not concern the governor, in fact, he probably encouraged Nolan as there was bad blood between the two governors. The Spanish administration in Louisiana had become a burden to those who adminstered Texas. There was a Royal Order of 1780, that was never recinded, which ordered the administrators in Texas to provide the Governor of Louisiana
"...any help or assistance that may be in his power, without waiting, for our authorization."
This old decree was used often by Louisiana to cover the contraband moving between the two areas.
Late in 1797, Nolan made another "mustang" trip into Texas taking with him two men, William Scott and John Murdock (two last names that are very numerous in Belfast, Ireland). Previously, he used Indians and Spanish territory citizens like the Leals to help him round up the horses. Nolan and his party went to Nacogdoches and then on to Béxar to obtain permission. Nolan sought permission to enter Nuevo Santander to trade there. Permission was given by the officer who then held Oconor's one time position. The title changed from Inspector Commandante of the Interior Provinces to Commandante of the Interior. The man holding the office was Pedro Nava. As part of his permit, Nava allowed Nolan to take two thousand pesos worth of goods with him to trade with the Indians. Shortly after Nolan's departure, Nava had a change of heart. In March of 1798, he wrote Governor Muñoz he was revoking Nolan's permit "for good reasons." The authorities were alerted that Nolan may be more than a trader. Orders were posted for Spanish officials to be on the lookout for Nolan. Nolan knew the Spanish were looking for him and was able to keep moving ahead of them and was out of Texas by 1799.
Nolan and his crew successfully rounded up 2000 Texas horses which they took back to Louisiana. After fulfilling the terms of his contract with Carondelet, Nolan sold the rest in Louisiana, Mississippi and Kentucky. In 1799, Philip Nolan married Frances Lintot of Natchez. His wife's sister was married to the former commandant at Natchez.
Stephen Minor was born in Pennsylvania. As a young man in New Orleans he was recruited to serve in Spanish service. He distinguished himself in the Spanish attack on the British fort at Mobile. By the early 1800's he was a distinguished gentleman living in Natchez and known as Don Esteban Minor. He was married to Katherine Lintot who was known as the Yellow Duchess, not so much because of her strikingly beautiful blond hair but because she loved the color of gold and had many items including her clothing and carriage reflect this favoritism. When Don Manuel Gayso de Lemos was replaced as Governor of Natchez, it was Minor who received the appointment as the next Governor of Natchez. He even bought the beautiful home Gayso had built known as Concord.
Fannie Lintot was the red-headed younger sister of Katherine Lintot. She married Phillip Nolan and had a child by him. There is a description of a potrait of Nolan made shortly after his wedding in the book, Natchez On The Mississippi.
While Nolan's contacts in and around Natchez were of the first order. There was someone just across the Mississippi from Natchez who was not impressed. He was José Vidal, Commandant of the Spanish military outpost built opposite Natchez called Concordia. The area is now Vidalia, Louisiana.
Late in 1799, Philip Nolan received an invitation to meet with with the Vice President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was of Welsh ancestry on his father's side and Scottish ancestry on his mother's side. Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the Democratic Party, supported republican causes. He was not a supporter of monarchies. His interest in Nolan is reflected in some of his correspondence. Daniel Clark, born in County Sligo in 1766, was friend of Nolan's, who worked in the Spanish Governor of Louisiana's office, once wrote President Jefferson that Nolan was a man "who will at all times have it in his power to render important services to the United States, and whom nature seems to have formed for the enterprises of which the rest of mankind are incapable." Jefferson appointed Clark the U. S. Consul for the United States in New Orleans in 1803.
General Wilkinson, who earlier that year served briefly as an interim Secretary of War after the resignation of James McHenry, wrote President Jefferson on May 22, 1800 that Nolan was a qualified person to brief the president on Texas. Nolan gave Jefferson a copy of the map he made of Texas. It is believed to be the first known map of the interior of Texas.
Thomas Jefferson was very much interested in Spanish America as evidenced by a letter he wrote a nephew, Peter Carr, in 1797. He wrote, "Spanish, Bestow great attention on this, and endeavor to acquire an accurate knowledge of it. Our future connections with Spain and Spanish America will render that language a valuable acquisition." Later you will read Jefferson speaking more bluntly about why he thinks his nephew should learn Spanish.
It is not known if Nolan and Jefferson ever did meet. There were several arrangements made. In June of 1798, Thomas Jefferson wrote Nolan a letter indicating his interest in obtaining from Nolan information on the "large herds of horses in a wild state, in the country west of the Mississippi". Jefferson goes on to write, "ÿour information is the sole reliance, as far as I can at present see". He encourages Nolan to write him about the horses.
To read the full text of Jefferson's letter click here>
We know that Nolan was on the road to Monticello (Jefferson's home) in May of 1800 with a "fine paint stallion for Jefferson"; but there is no record of an actual meeting. It is known Nolan met with others including General Wilkinson before his last trip into Texas.
Nolan went to Natchez and New Orleans putting the word out he was hiring armed men for an expedition into Texas to mustang.
In a letter to Jesse Cook, before he left on his last trip, Nolan wrote; "Everyone thinks that I go to catch wild horses, but you know that I have long since been tired of wild horses".
In 1796 or 1797, Nolan wrote Samuel P. Moore,
..I look forward to the conquest of Mexico by the United States,
and I expect my patron and friend, the General, will, in such an event,
give me a conspicuos command.
The Spanish believed there was more to Philip Nolan's trips than horses. Since his amiable visit in 1794, there had been two governors appointed in Texas. Both became suspicious of Nolan's activities. The Spanish perception of the United States had changed and with it its perception of American and of Nolan's activities. Since 1713, Spain's arch enemy was England. Spain participated in many wars against England including the American Revolution. In 1794, America signed a treaty (Jay's Treaty) with England. This set off alarm bells in Spain. Though the Spanish signed the Pinckney Treaty with the United States in 1795 they did so because of pressures brought to bear by the treaty between England and the United States. Spain allied itself with France. The Spanish feared the Americans would attempt to take Louisiana and/or Texas. In July of 1795 Pedro Nava, Commandante of the Interior, wrote Governor Muñoz of Texas, " the United States has ordered emissaries to move here and and work to subvert the population." In another dispatch Nava noted that Baron de Carondelet in Louisiana had already reported Ameicans moving into his area. In 1796, Spain and France declared war with England. Problems between the French and the Americans escalated. The French siezure of hundreds of American ships and the X Y Z Affair brought France and the United States close to war. The ally of the French, Spain, felt there would soon be an invasion of their Eastern Interior Provinces. When President John Adams was granted authority to raise an army of ten thousand men in 1798, a nervous Nava wrote Muñoz to put his province in a state of defense, the Americans "will shortly declare hostilities", "an outbreak of war almost inevitable." The rise of Napoleon to power in 1799 and the subservience of Spain to France, further heightened tension in the Americas.
In 1799, Commandante Nava wrote to the Governor of Texas, Muñoz, he considered Philip Nolan suspect and asked the governor's input. Muñoz responded that he investigated Nolan and found "that he never did anything suspicious..." Nava persisted and ordered Nolan's arrest in June of 1799.
With all this as background, the new Governor of Texas, in 1800, Juan Bautista Elquézabal, was piqued there were American squatters in east Texas. He was aware of Nava's suspicions, he knew of Nolan's map of Texas, his visit to American leaders, and that Nolan was hiring armed men. The Texas governor posted notice for Nolan to be arrested at the border. The Governor was very suspicious of Nolan's intentions. He was sure there was a rebel plot developing and wanted to stop it before there was public support from the Nacogdoches area.
José Vidal reinforced Elquézabal's view when he wrote the governor:
The insult intended by that man Nolan to his Majesty's territory might have fatal consequences if not checked.
Should he succeed, others would follow his example, and embark in like expeditions; Americans would by degrees penetrate these precious possessions which it is important to conceal from the ambition of the Government of the United States.
Between them, Vidal and Elquezabál sent out the alarm so that in short order, from the Rio Grande to the Sabine, patrols were out looking for Nolan and his men.
In the fall of 1800, Nolan's group contained nineteen men, many of them with Irish names: Cooley, Bean, Harris, McKoy, King, Mahon, Moore (born in Ireland), Pierce, and Reed. Two brother's named House may have been Celtic. One of them referred to Bean, who was Celtic, as being his "contriman", since both of the brothers were from Virginia and Bean was from North Carolina, it is possible they were refering to a shared heritage. There were also seven Mexicans and two black slaves. Nolan knew the authorities were waiting, so he entered Texas north of Nacogdoches. He encountered a patrol, but was able to face these men down with blarney, the old permits, and his well armed men. He continued into Texas around the Brazos River near what is today Blum, Texas, about 40 miles northwest of Waco. There they built corrals and a fortified cabin with some dirt emplacements raised in front.
Another member of the group, John Henderson, born in Scotland, was to meet the group with a pack train of supplies; he was arrested by Spanish authorities when he was passing through Rapides (now Monroe, Louisiana).
Unknown to Nolan, his trip was a cause célèbre on the level of an international incident. Owing to the nervous climate at the time in the Spanish territory, the following entities and elements of the militia and army under their control were actively engaged in locating the whereabouts of the Nolan party:
The Viceroy of New Spain
The Captain General of Havana
The Commandant General of the Interior Provinces
The Governor of The Territory of Mississippi
The Governor of Louisiana
The Governor of Texas
The Governor of Nuevo Santander
The Governor of Nuevo Léon
The Commandants of;
Concordia (now Vidalia, La.)
Rapides (now Monroe, La.)
Ouachita (now Alexandria, La.)
Bahía del Espíritu Santo
La Punta de Lampazos
San Lois Potosí
San Antonio de Béxar
Atakaps (now St Martinsville, La.)
Nogales (now Vicksburg, Miss.)
In addition the Governor of Coahuila, Antonio Cordero, had 160 troops spread and stationed in the towns of: Aquaverde, Monclova, Pachuache, and Iglesias. All were on the lookout for Nolan and his band.
Nolan and his men were unaware of their celebrity status. They had captured about three hundred horses, when a full company of Spanish troops (about 120 men) surrounded them at night. The next dawn they heard William Barr asking them to surrender in the name of the King of Spain. Barr aided the commander of the troops in locating Nolan's camp through his contacts among the Indians. Though badly outnumbered and facing cannon as well, Nolan's men decided to fight. Two of the Mexicans deserted, taking with them Nolan's carbine. The rest took their stand. There were eleven Americans, most of whom were Irish Americans, five Hispanics, and the two black slaves (some of the Americans deserted at the first sign of trouble north of Nacogdoches).
Thus were fired the first shots against the foreign rulers of Texas by Americans, many of them Irish, including their leader, Irish born Philip Nolan.
Nolan was killed outright in one of the first exchanges of fire. He was killed by a cannonball. One of the spokesmen for the group was Peter Ellis Bean, an Irish American, seventeen years old. The group was almost out of ammunition. They were surrounded and badly outnumbered. Nolan, their leader, was dead. Barr told Bean that the Spanish only wanted the group out of Spanish territory and that the Spaniards would escort them to the border. A treaty was signed stating Nolan's party could keep their weapons, and that both parties would return to Nacogdoches in company. Before they left, Nolan's servants asked if they could bury Philip Nolan. They were told they could, but not before Nolan's ears were cut off by Barr. William Barr eventually brought the ears to the governor at San Antonio de Béxar along with Nolan's papers and the report of the company commander of the Spanish troops.
Two suggested sites of Nolan's encounter with the Spanish, the circle and the arrow.
So saddened was Frances Lintot Nolan of learning of her husband's death that she was dead three months (July, 1801) after learning the news. Thus ended the story of Philip Nolan. The Nolan River and Nolan's Creek in Central Texas, as well as Nolan County are named for him. The town of Belton was originally called Nolan to honor Philip Nolan.Though his story is not known by many, his name is familiar to many Americans. Not so much for what he did in Texas, but because his name was used by author Edward Everett Hale for the central character in a popular novel. The novel was about a man involved in the Burr conspiracy who was found guilty of conspiring against the United States. He was sentenced to spend a life at sea and in foreign ports. He was to be kept aboard U.S. Navy vessels, never to see the shores of the United States again. The novel was entitled The Man Without a Country. It was a very successful book and received wide readership. Hale admitted he used Nolan's name in his story, he later wrote another novel called, Philip Nolan's Friends.
Nolan's men waited in Nacogdoches for permission to enter Spanish Louisiana. This was necessary because of the separate Spanish administrations in Spanish Texas and Spanish Louisiana. Passports were required between the two Spanish territories. Nolan's men were quartered in the Old Stone Fort while they waited on the bureaucracy. While they were in the settlement, the Hispanic couple, the Leals, from the nearby settlement at Ayish Bayou were placed on trial for treason in connection with Nolan's expedition. Leal's wife, Gertrudis de los Santos, it was learned, was Nolan's mistress. Also tried for involvement with Nolan was a French trader, Pierre Longueville, and a James Cook. There was also evidence presented of the local priest perhaps being too friendly with Nolan as well as the priest at Ouachita (a Father Brady). Both, it turned out were just friends of Nolan.
While Nolan's men waited in Nacogdoches, three of them escaped: Michael Mahon, Joe Harris, and Robert Ashley. After a time, word finally came from the authorities in Mexico, but it was not the word expected. Nolan's men were put in irons and marched to Mexico and imprisoned. What to do about these men was a question that eventually was asked of the King of Spain and the President of the United States. Eventually, all but one of Nolan's men who were marched off to Mexico were to die in Mexico.
It was two Irishman then, who started and stopped the first organized resistance to Spanish authority. The incident entangled the heads of state of Spain and the United States with undertones of conspiracy and jealousy that went beyond those of Nolan and Barr. This state of affairs was agitated further by three events that quickly followed one another: The Louisiana Purchase, Zeublon Pike's Expedition, and the revelation of the Burr Conspiracy. All these events occurred between 1803 and 1806.
LOUISIANA PURCHASE, 1803
When Napoleon successfully invaded Spain, he forced through the Treaty of San Il Defenso, the return of Louisiana (as it was when France first owned it, which meant the area known as West Florida remained Spanish). The Spanish official who formally represented the Spanish king in the transfer of the territory was Sebastion Calvo de la Puerta y O'Farril, the Marques de Casa Calvo. His mother was an O'Farril from Havana whose heritage goes back to an Irish soldier who came to Havana in 1717.
Initially Napoleon had serious plans for re-establishing a French presence in North America. He planned to begin this by sending a large military force into New Orleans which would then expand in directions open to them. He dispatched his brother- in-law, General LeClerc, with 20,000 troops for New Orleans. Enroute General LeClerc was to put down a revolt led by Toussaint L'Overture in Hispainola. Bonaparte arranged for transports for another 2,400 men to leave the now dormant campaign area of The Netherlands to join Le Clerc's forces in New Orleans.
A series of events forced Napoleon to reconsider his development of Louisiana. Toussaint L'Overture and yellow fever had decimated General LeClerc's force, including the general himself; the troop transports sent to move French troops from The Netherlands to New Orleans were frozen in place, in Holland, by the worst winter storm in decades. Finally, Napoleon's navy had been seriously damaged in the failed Egyptian and Syrian campaigns. Realizing the British fleet stood between him and his returned colony, the need to focus on European affairs and the pressures of American expansion, Napoleon, surprisingly, sold Louisiana to the United States during Jefferson's presidency. Daniel Clark, the Sligo born merchant and friend of Nolan's that Jefferson had appointed U.S. Consul in New Orleans played a part in the purchase of Louisiana. Clark's ties to France reached back to when he served as an agent for Jean Lafitte and later was a personal friend of Phillippe de Comines when he was in New Orleans in 1798. Comines became King Louise Phillippe of France.
The United States initially organized the Louisiana Territory into two sections, Upper Louisiana which was above the 33rd parallel and Orleans, all the territory below the 33rd parallel. One can only imagine the feelings in Spanish Texas when they learned France regained Louisiana; and then, before they fully absorbed that fact, learned it was sold to the United States. To add to their confusion, the man President Jefferson sent to take control of Northern Louisiana, and act as military governor was General James Wilkinson.
An interesting point is why Napoleon, who crossed his "t's" and dotted his "i's", did not resolve the western boundary of the Louisiana Territory before he accepted the treaty from Spain (the western boundary was conveniently never settled during the earlier French and Spanish colonial days because the kings of France and Spain were Bourbon cousins. The cousins tolerated each others conflicting terms rather than settle them. When France ceded Louisiana to Spain in the Treaty of Fontainbleu on November 3, 1762 it did delineate the eastern boundary but purposely omitted addressing the western boundary.). The fact that Napoleon again did not specify a western boundary when he sold Louisiana to the Americans, and the comment he made when one of his advisors pointed out the vagueness in wording describing the western boundary, suggested he knew well it would create a political situation between Spain and the United States. His comment, "If there was no obscurity in it, good politics would demand they be inserted," guaranteed Spain a problem. Tallyrand, Napoleon's negotiator with the United States, when asked by the U.S. negotiators about the undefined boundary, is said "to have shrugged his shoulders" and said, "I am sure you will make the most of it."
The United States did just that. Using claims going back to La Salle and the Cruzat Charter of 1712, the United States began by claiming Texas to the Rio Grande River. Spain reacted by reopening its settlement at Los Adaes, east of the Sabine River. Tension between the two countries was escalating. Realizing La Salle's claims of the extent of French territory were not supported by recent history, and that there was a history of Spanish settlements in east Texas, the United States claimed the border to be the Sabine River. Spain said no; it was farther east. General Wilkinson personally negotiated with the Spanish officer sent to east Texas to enforce its version of the border. Wilkinson also wrote the governor of Texas:
...operations are at issue a thousand miles from the source of authority...the subject of
our test is scarcely worth the blood of one brave man.
General Wilkinson offered Simón de Herrera, the Spanish official sent to command the situation, that he would pull back to the line claimed by the Spanish (the Arroyo Hondo and Calcasieu River), if Herrera would pull back to the line claimed by the United States, the Sabine River. Herrera agreed. This buffer zone between the two contesting armies became known as the Neutral Ground. Its creation averted a war between the two countries; but it also created a haven for thieves, smugglers, and others wanting to be under the jurisdiction of neither government.
When Wilkinson was made Governor of Upper Louisiana, he made Saint Louis his headquarters. Aaron Burr came to his headquarters to confer in 1806. Burr and Wilkinson had been meeting and corresponding since 1796. Incidentally, the man financing Burr's scheme was an Irishman named Harmon Blennerhasset. Blennerhasset was born in County Kerry, Ireland.
U.S. history came very close to dramatically different outcomes because of Burr. Burr could easily have been President of the United States in 1800. He missed this distinction by only one vote. The election rules then stated the man getting the most votes was to be President and the candidate getting the next most votes became the Vice President. In the previous election (1796) this gave the United States a President of one party, Adams; and a Vice President of the opposition party, Jefferson. To prevent a reoccurrence of that, the electors voted along party lines against Federalist and incumbent John Adams and his partner Charles Pinckney. The problem was, Jefferson won 73 votes over Adam's 64, but Burr received the same number of votes. Jefferson and Burr were tied with electoral votes for the presidency. The election of 1800 was thrown into the House of Representatives. The Federalist controlled the House of Representatives. They met to elect the next President between Jefferson and Burr. For twelve weeks the situation was deadlocked. Federalist Alexander Hamilton found himself in the strange position of working for political enemy Jefferson's election, as he thought Burr a rogue. Burr could and should have withdrawn, as Jefferson was his party's candidate for President. He did nothing and the stalemate continued. On the 36th ballot, Irishman Matthew Lyon of Vermont, against his constituency's wishes, voted for Jefferson. This made Thomas Jefferson the President of the United States and Aaron Burr the Vice President. The election rules were changed after this election.
Consider what Jeffersonian Democracy brought to United State's history because of Irishman Lyon's action. Consider, too, what would have been the result of the duplicitous Burr's election to the office of President of the United States of America. What, for instance, would have happened to the Louisiana Purchase with Burr at the helm?
One person who recognized this danger was Alexander Hamilton, the son of a Scottish merchant. Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury in 1789, a Major General and Inspector General of the U. S. Army in 1798. Hamilton assisted his father-in-law's campaign for the U. S. Senate from New York in 1791. They lost to Aaron Burr.
In 1792, Hamilton called Burr "unprincipled". Hamilton was among the Federalist leaders attempting to influence the lame-duck House of Representatives of 1800 to choose Jefferson and not Burr for President. In 1801, a Burr supporter, George I. Eacker, made public negative remarks about Alexander Hamilton which came to the attention of Hamilton's eldest son, Philip Hamilton. Philip Hamilton and a friend named Price then published an attack on Eacker. The Burr supporter challenged them both to a duel to settle the matter.
In November of 1801, George Eacker stood ready at the agreed place to duel, in turn first Price and then Hamilton. Four shots, two each, all of which missed were fired in the first round between Price and Eacker. It was decided that honor had been satisfied between them. Eacker then faced Philip Hamilton. Apparently thinking the duel was wrong afterall, or perhaps because of what had just passed between Price and Eacker, young Hamilton shot into the air. He was then killed by Eacker's first shot. Alexander Hamilton was devastated over the loss of his son. His oldest daughter, Angelica became insane, unable to contain her grief. Alexander's wife was pregnant at the time and a baby boy that was born later was named Philip.
In 1804, Aaron Burr campaigned for governor of New York. The office was open because Jefferson did not trust Burr after the events of 1801 and offered the Vice Presidency to Irishman George Clinton, Governor of New York. Clinton's son, DeWitt was Mayor of New York City. Between them, the Clintons were very influential in New York politics. They worked against Burr. Alexander Hamilton again joined the campaign against Burr. Hamilton called Burr, "a man of irregular and unsatiable ambition", a dangerous and despicable person, "who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government." Burr took offense to the remarks and asked for satisfaction in the form of a duel. Dueling was still a practice in the United States, although it was coming under increased criticism. Alexander Hamilton was one of its critics: "My religious and moral principles are strongly opposed to the practice of dueling...."
Nevertheless, Hamilton reluctantly agreed to the duel. Hamilton fired his shot into the air, Burr fired his shot into Hamilton, killing Hamilton, but not before he suffered greatly. The general public was outraged at the killing of Hamilton. Burr hid in the home of Charles Biddle, a personal friend of Wilkinson. Burr alienated Jefferson, President and leader of his political party, by his inaction in 1801. In killing Hamilton, he killed the leader of the Federalist Party. His political career over, Burr spent full time on what has become known as the Burr Conspiracy.
It is said that Wilkinson sent artillery Lieutenant Zebulon Montgomery Pike on his surveying expedition into the southwest in 1806, on a spy mission as part of the Burr plot. Lieutenant Pike's mission was a legitimate one. Like the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806, Pike's explorations were approved by the President and Congress anxious to know what was within and bordered the Louisiana Purchase. Wilkinson sent Pike to explore the headwaters of the Mississippi River. If there was more to it, it was between Pike and the general. Traveling with Pike, at least during the initial phases, was Lieutenant James Biddle Wilkinson, General Wilkinson's son. Others known to have been on the expedition include: Doctor John Hamilton Robinson and Corporal Jeremiah Jackson and six other soldiers. Irishman Pike's (the name is originally believed to have been McPike) trip took him into Texas. Pike's Peak in Edwards County, Texas is named for him, as is the famous peak in Colorado. Pike was found in Spanish territory and captured by Spanish authorities below the Rio Grande. He was formally escorted back to the United States via Texas. He explained to Spanish authorities when he was discovered that he was lost and did not intend to be in Spanish territory. As an officer in the United States Army, and on official business, the Spanish decided to formally accept his story (privately they believed he was purposely in Spanish territory as part of a U.S. plan to acquire Spanish territory).The Spanish officials accorded Pike their hospitality as he was moved across Spanish territory to the United States. In Santa Fe, Pike saw Zalmon Cooley, one of Nolan's men, he saw others when he was in Chihuahua. In 1806, Pike was in Béxar where he met a Father McGuire, an Irish priest. After his return to the United States, Pike wrote a report on Texas based on his observations. In it he wrote, "twenty thousand auxiliaries from the United States under good officers joined to the independents of the country are at anytime sufficient to create and effect a revolution." This language makes one believe that Wilkinson did give some additional instructions to Pike's original orders. This was also ammunition for those out to expose General Wilkinson. They accused him of plotting against the United States.
The same accusers said Philip Nolan's trips were a part of the conspiracy. In 1806, Wilkinson played his same old song, third stanza. Seeing that his co-conspirator Burr had talked too much and was no longer cautious about what he was doing, Wilkinson told the U.S. government about Burr's plot. Burr's latest plan was to seize New Orleans, take the money from the bank there and fund an invasion of Mexico. A Colonel Fitzpatrick, a Major Flaharty and a Captain Burney of the United States Army seized supplies and provisions Burr's group stockpiled. In fact, men and supplies were on the move when the federal authorities acted. A map of Texas was found among Burr's papers. When Burr was arrested, he had with him Robert Ashley, who was with Nolan on his last trip into Texas. Jefferson, and the nation, were eager to find something on the killer of Alexander Hamilton. They were most appreciative of Wilkinson's information. Wilkinson was treated as something of a hero. While basking in the American limelight - Wilkinson once again asked Spain for a reward for having saved its territory from invasion.
Wilkinson informed Spain about the plot. John Kelly, an Irish American merchant in Mexico City, translated the message sent in English by Wilkinson to Viceroy José de Yturrigaray describing Aaron Burr's activities.
Philip Nolan's possible connection to the Burr conspiracy and Spain's trepidation of American expansion colored Spain's attitude to their new border with the United States.
Next section of Chapter I Spanish Texas....