Magee waited until the war with England was well underway before making his move. Monroe asked for war on June 1, 1812. Congress declared war on June 18, 1812. The Army of the North marched under an emerald green flag into Texas in July, 1812. The pretext under which they marched was to prevent England from taking the poorly defended Spanish territory, and then possibly launching attacks on the United States from Texas. This was a distinct possibility as evidenced by the British attack on New Orleans in 1814.
The invading army's first contact was with a Spanish mule train carrying 80,000 pounds of wool and silver specie in the Neutral Zone. These were captured. Reuben Ross and a small party were sent to New Orleans to sell the wool and with the money thus gained, plus the specie, to purchase needed supplies. Next a small Spanish force was encountered at the Sabine River and another a little farther west. Both forces were routed and the Army of about 200 rode onto Nacogdoches. The Spanish evacuated Nacogdoches ahead of the advancing Army of the North. When Magee entered the settlement, he was greeted like a conquering hero. The Republicans stayed at Nacogdoches the remainder of the summer. Gutiérrez wrote and printed proclamations addressed and distributed to the Mexican population of Texas. There they found fertile ground. Texas and most of Neuva Espana were ready for a change.
Irishman Peter Samuel Davenport of Nacogdoches became an important part of Magee's army. In the past year he lost his wife to an illness. Davenport was angry with Spanish authorities for not getting medical assistance to his wife soon enough. Trader Davenport, now 48 years old, only recently married to a sixteen year old French girl from Natchitoches, welcomed the invaders and was quickly made Colonel Davenport, Army Quartermaster. During the summer, Davenport together with a company of thirty Mexicans, gathered supplies for the Army. In mid-September, the Army was on the march again having swelled its numbers to 300 Americans and about 100 Mexicans.
Among the Americans with Celtic names in the Magee Expedition were: a Joseph Carr, a man named Scott, John or Richard MacFarland, William McLane, Reuben Ross, Henry Perry, Daniel McClean, John McClanahan, James Patterson, William Owens, William Parker, John Adair, Captain McKim, Peter Samuel Davenport, and Augustus Magee.
The Army left Nacogdoches for Trindad de Salcedo. Finding no one there, they marched for Béxar. The Governor of Texas, Manuel Salcedo, with a large force and cannon lay in their path waiting at the Guadalupe River. Magee was aware of the Spanish force and skillfully flanked them, and headed for La Bahía and the town beside it now known as Goliad. They arrived outside La Bahía on the seventh of November. The garrison and the town's civilians decided to throw in with the Republicans as they hated the "Guachepen race" (sic). The green flag was hoisted over the presidio. La Bahía was fat with stores, armament, and silver which Magee used to pay his men. Magee wrote to his supporters in Natchitoches encouraging them to urge the United States to annex all of Texas, all the way to the Rio Grande. Davenport carried the letter to Natchitoches, he arrived there December 19, 1812.
Within days of the taking of La Bahía, Manuel Salcedo was outside the presidio with his large force and nine cannon. The Republicans had three six pound cannon they brought with them and at least one nine pound cannon found in the fort. The Royalists attacked the fort on November 14, 1812, but were repulsed when the Army of the Republic of the North came out of the fort to meet them. A siege of four months did more to wilt the Spanish militia made up of mostly Creoles and Mestizos than it did the Republicans who had plenty of stores in the presidio. Armed sorties by one side or the other over the four month siege often led to fixed battles. One of these is listed in Spanish archives as the Battle of the White Cow.
The Republicans made an armed sortie from the fort to obtain a white cow seen grazing near their position. The event was in the open and was viewed by most of the men of both armies. It appeared the Republicans would be successful in getting the beef, as the Royalists could not react fast enough to organize a move to stop it. As the cow was being driven toward the fort's gates, it bolted and made right for the forming Royalist's line. A battle resulted that lasted two hours and involved hundreds of men on both sides. From the reports it is unclear who won the battle, as both sides claimed the other had substantial (over 200) losses. The white cow was successfully defended and was in Spanish hands after the battle and no doubt on Spanish plates still later.
As the siege dragged on through the winter, a strange camaraderie developed between the American and Spanish officers. Visits were exchanged, and meals and views shared. Magee indicated he felt he should take advantage of the civilities and negotiate a withdrawal of all Americans from Texas and leave the Mexicans and Spanish to deal with one another. During one of his dinners with Salcedo he mentioned it. Salcedo immediately agreed. When Magee broached the subject with his men, they adamantly rejected the idea. Although the fraternization was questioned by the men, Magee's proposal did not turn them against him. His proposal, after all, was to secure their safety. Magee, however, felt bad about the incident and withrew to his tent. This event, coupled with Magee's rapid decline in health (some said of consumption an old term for tuberculosis), began to hurt the Republican cause. By January, Magee was delirious. Augustus Magee died on February 8, 1813, and with him went some of the fervor of the cause.
Samuel Kemper, Magee's second in command, assumed command. Kemper's older brothers were key players in the separation of West Florida from the Spanish in 1810. Samuel Kemper proved to be a worthy leader. After a few skirmishes, a battle was fought under his leadership that resulted in the Spanish retreating to Béxar. The word went out and more Americans joined the Army of the North. One of the Americans joining the Army of the North at this time was General Wilkinson's son, James Biddle Wilkinson. He was also a former Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
The next battle was at Salado Creek. The Royalists waited in ambush for the Republicans. The Battle of Rosillo (so named to differentiate from a later battle at Salado Creek known as the Battle of Salado) lasted for an hour and ended with a total rout of the Royalists forces. Governor Salcedo asked for terms and was given them.
The Spanish soldiers were to be disbanded; Spanish Officers were released on parole. The Army of the North then entered Béxar uncontested on April 1, 1813. Governor Salcedo and several Spanish leaders met the Army of the Republic of the North at the city gates and formally surrendered themselves and the town.
All Royalist forces in Texas were defeated. Moral was high. The Mexican population was joining the revolution in large numbers. On April 6th, 1813, a Declaration of Independence of the State of Texas was issued, (follow this link to read it). It was based almost entirely on the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Kemper and his men talked of joining Texas with the United States.
But then, things began to come apart. Gutiérrez stated the Americans were on Mexican soil, and since the military situation was in hand, demanded control be handed to him and his Mexican associates. Gutiérrez and his Mexicans drew up a constitution for Texas not based on the power of the people, but of a Junta (follow this link to read it). The junta was not to be elected, but made up of Gutiérrez and his associates. A clause in the proposed constitution even stated "..the State of Texas forms a part of the Mexican Republic, to which it remains inviolably joined." Other stated facts were that: the Catholic Church was to be the official religion of Texas, San Fernando was to be the seat of government, and that every town would be governed by a military man appointed by the Junta. In addition there would be no jury system in matters before the courts, except in cases of murder. Even then, the chosen citizens will only `assist' the judge in making a decision.
American officials were as disturbed with the Gutiérrez constitution as were the Americans and Texans in the expedition. First of all because it tied Texas to Mexico, secondly because of the installation of an authortarian regime not unlike that of the Spanish they were replacing (what had happened to "liberty", "freedom" and "independence"?), and thirdly because Gutiérrez named as Secretary of State a Frenchman, Louis Massicott. It was known the French were trying to take over the expedition for their own purposes. Shaler reported that Gutierrez was in communication with Napoleon's agent in New Orleans, a Monsieur Gerard and had exchanged several communications with him. Robinson reported that a French official told him "the Emperor has a great desire to assist them and has promised to give them aid as soon as they have established any regular government." There was also report that General Humbert and a cadre of French officers were standing by in Louisiana ready to come forward and "manage" the military aspects of the remaining campaign for Gutierrez.
This set off alarms in Spain, France, and England, as well as the United States. President Madison resolved to replace Gutiérrez with another Hispanic leader. Some of the Americans and Texans simply left the expedition. Many of those who stayed occupied themselves with fiestas and siestas and let the Mexicans primp and preen knowing the real power was in their rifles and not any piece of paper.
Gutiérrez asked to send the captured Governor and the officers of his staff, who did not join the revolution, under escort to La Bahía where they could be better secured. Kemper agreed. Soon after, the governor and his party left Béxar, they were bound hand and foot by their escorts (led by a Capítan Antonio Delgado) and, as Texas historian and author Ted Schwarz reports from depositions taken from Mexican Royalist soldiers, "The prisoners were dismounted, disrobed, and robbed of their valuables. Governor Salcedo's tongue was cut out. After being refused spiritual sacrament, they were beheaded with swords whetted on the soles of their executioners' boots. The bodies were left on the field unburied." These murders upset many of the Americans. Magee's death, the Mexican's attempt to take control, their un-American constitution, and now the murder of Governor Salcedo and the men in his staff caused many more men to leave the expedition.
There was one Spanish military leader who believed steps should have been taken to preserve Texas for Spain and to prevent revolt from spreading into the northern provinces. He was Colonel Joaquin Arredondo, A Spaniard from Barcelona. Colonel Arredondo was successfully putting down a revolt in the province of San Luis Potosi when the heard of a proposed invasion of Texas from Louisiana. His orders were to return to the interior of Mexico upon completion of his mission. Instead, Colonel Arredondo marched north to Texas. He boldy wrote Viceroy Venegas of his plan as well as Major General Felix Maria Calleja del Rey and the governor of of the province of Nuevo Leon and provisional governor of Nuevo Santander, Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Diaz de Bustamante. Bustamante had plenty of soldiers and supplies and refused to go the the aid of Salcedo when to have done so would have, in Arredondo's opinion, stopped the revolt then. Bustamante at first complained of Arredondo's interference but then changed his tune when Bexar fell to the Army of the North. Arrendondo went about soliciting supplies and men from the provinces and cities. He investigated all declinations with a military tribunal. He asked the Viceroy for assistance in getting what he needed for his campaign. The new Viceroy of New Spain , Major General Félix María Calleja del Rey, appointed Simón Herrera to be his new Commander General of the Interior Provinces. When the Viceroy learned Herrera was murdered with Governor Salcedo, he selected Joaquín Arredondo to the position. The Viceroy made the appointment with instructions to Arredondo to clear the invading army from Texas. Arredondo was in Nuevo Santander when he learned of his appointment. He sent orders to the commander at the Presidio del Rio Grande at San Juan Bautista, Ygnacio Elizondo, to organize his men and move into Texas. Arredondo's orders were for Elizondo to march with 400-500 men and two cannon to a position between the Frio and Medina Rivers, and there await Arredondo's arrival with the main force. Arredondo specifically instructed Elizondo to not engage the enemy, only to observe and await Arredondo and the main Spanish Army.
Elizondo exceeded his instructions. He was not able to observe anything west of the Medina River. He marched within sight of Béxar stopping at Alazán Creek. He sent a message to the Army of the Republic of the North stating all repentant insurgents would be pardoned, all Americans could leave Texas unharmed. He gave the Army of the Republic of the North 24 hours to consider these terms and one other; they were to submit twelve of the Mexican leaders to Elizondo. Impatient for a response, and still outraged at the murder of Salcedo and his staff, Elizondo sent another message to Gutiérrez personally:
I am determined that in Hell shall thou be put,
which will be thy last refuge, thy hairs pulled out,
thy body burnt, and thy ashes scattered, and I
denounce thee a coward, meet me on the field....
President Monroe's candidate to replace Gutiérrez joined the Army of the Republic of the North about this time. He was a Cuban gentleman, José Älvarez de Toledo. Toledo was a former Spanish naval officer and government official. In 1810-1811, Toledo represented Santo Domingo (the present day Dominican Republic) before the Spanish Cortes.
BACK AT BÉXAR
After the murder of Governor Salcedo and his staff became known, Gutiérrez and his staff were relieved of their commands by the Americans. With Elizondo before them, the Army of the Republic of the North knew there was soon to be another battle. The murder of Salcedo and his men meant the level of violence would be raised. Gutiérrez and his group left. Several of the Americans also left. Davenport left. Kemper, who gave his word for Salcedo's safety, left. Leaving with them were several Spanish officers who had joined the revolution. They were also distressed at the murder of the Governor and his staff. Another of the American leaders who left was Reuben Ross. He left because of information he obtained from an inside source. During the stay in Béxar, Ross found himself a pretty señorita with whom he had a relationship. He learned from her that a large part of the Mexican population in Béxar planned to turn on the Americans and kill them if Elizondo or Arredondo entered the city.
Major Henry Perry assumed command of the now more than 3,000 man Army of the North. Perry was of Irish ancestry. He was of the same Perry family as Irishman Oliver Hazard Perry who earned his place in U.S. history only a year earlier during the War of 1812 when he defeated a British squadron in the Battle of Lake Erie. Toledo was installed as the leader of the Mexican contingent. Replacing Gutiérrez with Toledo proved very quickly to be a mistake. Gutiérrez was a Mexican and directly tied to the leadership of the Mexican Revolution. Toledo was a foreigner and a stranger with a Gachupíne manner. To give you an idea of how the man operated, he arrived at Béxar with a large personal entourage of servants and assistants complete with a personal French chef. The ardor of the Mexicans in the Army of the Republic of the North cooled when Toledo was placed before them as their leader. The men, Mexican and American, who remained in the Army of the North were not of a high caliber. They were not the idealists and men of honor who marched with the Army of the North into Texas. They were opportunists in it solely for themselves and what benefits it would derive them.
The American and Texan force meanwhile continued to grow. Men were still coming to join the ranks of the revolution as news reached into the United States and spread of the sustained victories of the revolution. Taking charge of the situation, Henry Perry called for the Army of the Republic of the North to organize itself and to muster for parade. When only the American and Texan men responded, he sent word to Miguel Menchaca, the senior Mexican officer who had evolved as the accepted leader of the Mexican contingent of the Army of the Republic of the North. Perry reminded Menchaca that he and many of his men were on Elizondo's list. If Menchaca did not turn out the Mexican contingent for parade, he would seize those on the list, turn them over to Elizondo and march the rest of the army to New Orleans. The Mexicans and Tejanos soon after, fell into parade formation. Perry called for another parade formation the next morning on Sunday, June 20, 1813. In the morning, Perry reviewed the parade formation and then promptly marched them out of Béxar to attack Elizondo's force on Alazán Creek. The Army of the Republic of the North surprised most of the Mexican force attending a Catholic field Mass. The battle lasted four hours and ended with Elizondo and most of his men running for their lives. A Captain Kennedy among the Republicans was noted as having distinguished himself during the battle. Five Republicans were killed and 50 were wounded. Elizondo's Royalist force suffered 350 killed and 130 captured, of which 50 were wounded. Perry's victory gained his army the following supplies which were listed in an after action report:
5,000 pounds of gunpowder
250 stands of arms
1,000 mules and horses with saddles and bridles
$28,000 worth of dry goods and clothes
$7,000 in specie
4,000 pounds of biscuits
40 pecks of flour
25 pecks of salt
coffee beans, and sugar
cigars and liquor
In July, the Republicans were in Texas a year. They controlled Texas and defeated every force they faced. They even survived the dissension caused by Gutiérrez, and then Toledo. Now after defeating the largest force they faced to date, the dissension returned.
Don José Toledo insisted on taking command of the next fight. Mexican General Joaquin de Arredondo was proceeding slowly on the road from Laredo to Béxar with a large army. Arredondo's army was joined by the remnants of the men who lost at Alazán. Toledo wanted to set up an ambush position on the road to Béxar. There was plenty of time. Arredondo was encumbered and moving slowly because of the many baggage and supply wagons, and camp followers.
Perry acquiesced to Toledo's request. Toledo then announced the Army of the Republic of the North would have a new name and be reorganized. The new name was the Republican Army of North Mexico. The new organization called for the Mexican, American, Tejanos, and Indian forces to be organized along ethnic lines. Previously the army, which successfully defeated all before it was made up of more integrated units. A few days later, August 8, 1813, Toledo ordered all units to march out of the city to a campsite he selected. Not all units marched out, morale and heavy rains were so bad it took until August 15 for Toledo to resolve all problems and get his army into the field. He moved them to a campsite just off the Laredo-Béxar road down which Arredondo was plodding, and then moved them to his chosen ambush site. The site was 6 miles southwest of the Medina River on high ground where the Gallinas Creek crossed the Laredo-Béxar road. Toledo deployed there; the Americans and Texans, about 300 strong; about 600 Mexicans including the Tejanos under Menchaca; and 100 assorted Indians who had rejoined the Republicans. Overall a force of around 1,000 men. The Republicans also set into place seven cannon to cover the ambush. The terrain favored the Republicans. They had the high ground, though cover among the live oak trees was sparse. The ground on either side of the road going west from Gallinas Creek was blackjack sand several feet deep. The sand would make it difficult for the Royalists to maneuver or escape.
General Arredondo had with him 1,830 men; 635 infantry and 1,195 cavalry as reported by Captain McFarland on a scouting trip on August 13, 1813.
On August 17, Toledo ordered Menchaca to take 50 mounted men to disperse Arredondo's caballada, or horse herd. It was his plan to disrupt Arredondo's camp and prevent his men from getting any sleep as they prepared for a possible battle the next day. After conferring with the other Tejano officers, Menchaca and his men preferred to not carry out the order. It was their plan to capture the animals after the battle and to sell them for profit. The order was not followed.
Except for a single Royalist rider, a scout who became lost from his recon party, the battle, the next day, August 18, 1813, would have been different. The Republicans had been deployed for sometime and were anxious. The scout appeared before their line of fire. Someone fired, others did the same. They all missed, but what was worse their position was now revealed, there would be no ambush. Having lost the element of surprise, the Republicans decided the best strategy was to move forward and engage the enemy before it could get organized.
The Republicans charged forward to engage the Royalists. There were some problems. The mules to move the cannons had been let out to pasture. To move quickly the Republicans found they would need to use manpower to bring the cannon with them. The blackjack sand the Republicans planned to use to slow down the Royalists was now slowing their advance. The Republicans ran into a large vanguard. The vanguard was a cavalry unit under Elizondo sent out by Arredondo to make contact with the Republicans. Elizondo's orders were to make contact and then break off and fall back. Arredondo was alerted to the contact by the sound of the rifles firing and followed not long after by the sound of the Republican cannon. The cannon were being moved forward by great effort by the Republicans on foot.
Arredondo separated himself from the supply and baggage carts and spread out his line. He intentionally made it very long on either side of the Bexar-Laredo Road. His men where in the lush cover on the east bank of Galina Creek. He then sent out a party of 150 cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel Juan M. Zambrano along with two cannon to support Elizondo's withdrawal.
Elizondo and his mounted force put some distance between themselves and the advancing Republicans coming though the sand on foot. Advancing through the sand took its toll on the Republicans, they were tiring, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to advance their cannon. The gap between the Republicans and Elizondo's men allowed Zambrano and his men to join Elizondo. When the Republican's closed the distance to Elizondo and saw the Loyalists had increased in size, they believed this was Arredondo's main force. Excited the Republicans continued their advance. Zambrano and Elizondo, as ordered by Arredondo, continued to withdraw after the renewed contact. The Republicans were thus encouraged to push on even though fatigue and dehydration were beginning to take a higher toll than any Spanish bullet.
At this point, Toledo called for pulling back to the original ambush site, but just then the Republicans were able to capture the two small cannon Zambrano brought with him as well as some prisoners. Even though some of the true position of Arredondo was now known to the Republicans, they were taking fire from the sides. They wished to push forward. Arredondo's men, stretched on a long line along the eastern side of Galvan Creek, were ready to receive them. Arredondo's men closest to the road had not yet revealed their positions because they were unable to fire with Elizondo and Zanbrano's men in front of them.
Menchaca told Toledo his men were not in the habit of retreating from a fight. A clash of wills watched by all the Republicans resulted in Toledo ordering the advance. The men of Zambrano and Elizondo crossed the Galvan Creek and took positions behind the line of defense Arredondo had drawn up. The Republicans hesitated. At that moment Arredondo's artillery opened up and immediately found its mark. Arredondo had the two ends of his long line fold in so as to begin to encircle the Republicans.
Things began to unravel for the Republicans. The sand had claimed five of the seven Republican cannon. Only two cannon were at the battle site and able to respond to the Royalists. Elizondo and Zambrano re-inforced the front line of Arredondo. All the Mexicans who had originally deserted the Royalists now deserted the Republicans. The Americans, Texans, and Tejanos fought hard. They tried the right flank, and then the left, they even were able to penetrate to the rear and attack Arredondo from that direction, but each time he was ready and foiled the parry. The Republicans were able to make an attack on the rear as Arredondo had not yet been able to move enough men there. A group of Republicans were able to penetrate there and escape north on the road. For two hours the victor was in doubt, but the Republicans in their maneuvers had left the middle open, and Arredondo pushed forward and began to roll the Republicans back all the way to the Medina River and the battle was over.
More men fought this day and died for Texas in this battle than would at the Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto combined. Yet, this battle known by Texans as the Battle of Medina, and by the Mexicans as the Battle of the Encinal de Medina is little known or appreciated by most Texans. 600 Republicans died in the battle, 100 prisoners were shot. Arredondo sent Elizondo on to Béxar to take possession of the town. Fifty Americans who made it there were turned over to him by the townspeople. They were shot.
Arredondo, knowing the fate of Salcedo and his staff, ordered no prisoners be taken. When he got to Béxar, which served as the capitol of the short lived Republic, he rounded up 300 citizens who supported the revolution and about 500 wives, daughters, and female relatives. Everyday he had three men shot, their arms, and heads cut off and placed in a public place until all 300 were gone. Arredondo had the women cook for his army. Arredondo left Béxar to conduct a sweep throughout Texas, pledging to kill any Norteamericanos found on Spanish soil. Among Arredondo's officers who did well and gained a name for himself during this campaign was a young lieutenant named Antonio Lopéz de Santa Anna.
Arredondo effectively depopulated East Texas to a level close to sixty years earlier. There are reports Arredondo killed a third of the remaining population for supporting the rebellion. He brought female captives in to Béxar from as far away as Nacogdoches to cook for his army. Arredondo offered a special reward for anyone who would kill Peter Samuel Davenport.
Spanish reaction to Arredondo's brutality was such that a general amnesty was declared before the year was out for all but twelve of the leaders. Slowly the settlers returned to their homes.
Thus an army under an emerald flag, led by an Irishman, invaded Texas to make her a part of the United States. They won all their battles and chased the enemy all the way to the southern banks of the Rio Grande River. They held Texas for a year before the Spanish could muster a force large enough to defeat them. Some historians credit Magee with making the Rio Grande the eventual southern border of Texas. His army fought to free Texas, it issued a Declaration of Independence, and a Constitution. All this, twenty three years before the Texas Revolution. Augustus Magee's name, like Philip Nolan's, deserves to be recalled in the litany of Texas heroes who died to make Texas free.