Monday, January 16, 2017

Return of the Filibusters

Attempts to try once more to liberate Texas began almost immediately after the defeat, but all plans were shelved until the end of the War of 1812. John Robinson, the agent of the U.S. government who had so antagonized Magee with his American flag, went from an official envoy to Mexico to planning a filibuster himself, but the effort, like many others, came to naught. The first serious expedition was led by the Gutiérrez-Magee Expedition’s last American commander, Henry Perry. Perry was born in 1785 in Newtown, Connecticut, and raised in nearby Woodbury. He was the son of the Reverend Philo Perry, who had been a doctor before being ordained as an Episcopal clergyman. Young Henry trained to be a doctor and was thus, after his father and grandfather, a third generation physician. In a community history, he is described as “one of those heroic and chivalrous youth, whose courage springs from the noblest impulse of nature, an enthusiastic love of liberty, and a generous sympathy for all who are unfortunate subjects of despotic power.” [1]
Perry may have served in the army before the expedition, and certainly joined it afterwards, serving in the quartermaster’s corps during the New Orleans campaign. In July of the same year, Perry signed up with Juan Pablo Anaya in New Orleans for a filibuster that would have gone through La Bahía and Béxar and then link up with rebels in the interior of Mexico. Perry recruited heavily in New Orleans, among a populace flushed with enthusiasm amid the recent victory. “The favorable moment has at length arrived for making a successful attempt in favour of the patriots of New Spain,” Perry wrote in a Louisiana newspaper. “Our cause embraces the best interest of humanity – the general enlargement of an oppressed people.”[2] Such public recruiting, and possibly a fear that the expedition might endanger the new peace led President Madison to issue a proclamation against it on September 1. Perry organized 300 volunteers, but did not have the funds to proceed, possibly as a result of Madison’s proclamation. A second attempt safely brought Perry and his force to Galveston Bay, where the schooner sank after hitting a sandbar and 60 men drowned. Undaunted, Perry joined Francisco Xavier Mina’s expedition in November 1816, capturing Soto la Marina, Tamaulipas, in April 1817. Convinced that Mina’s expedition would fail without Texas to the north properly secured, Perry led a mere 43 men north into Texas. At La Bahía they found the Spanish too strong for their small force and fled northwards. Two days later, they were surrounded by the Spaniards and attacked. With most of his men killed or wounded, Perry committed suicide rather than be captured.[3]
The next major attempt to revolutionize Texas was the Long Expedition in 1819, which included many survivors of the Gutiérrez-Magee Expedition, including a now much-diminished Gutiérrez himself under the command of James Long, a Virginian and veteran of the Battle of New Orleans. There were two men who had fought in the first filibuster and also in Perry’s recent filibuster, Warren D.C. Hall and Aylett Buckner. Seizing Nacogdoches, Long established a supreme council including several Gutiérrez -Magee men, including Samuel Davenport, W.W. Walker, Hamlin Cook, Joshua Child, Stephen Barker and Horatio Biglow. The expedition left Natchez with about 75 men, which increased to 300 along the way. In June 1819, it took Nacogdoches and declared a republic.[4] A full account of the expedition is unnecessary here; it suffices to make the case that the participants in the Mina, Aury, and Long expeditions show continuity with that of the Gutiérrez-Magee, and indicate a continued interest among Americans in the Southwest in supporting Mexican revolutionary efforts via Texas. However, these efforts were effectively abandoned following the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 and the collapse by that time of much of the Mexican revolutionary armies. Nevertheless, within two years, Mexico would gain its independence as deteriorating conditions in Spain led to a revitalization of the independence movement.

[1] William Cothren, History of Ancient Woodbury, Connecticut, From the First Indian Deed in 1659 to 1854, Including The Present Towns of Washington, Southbury, Bethlehem, Roxbury, and a Part of Oxford and Middlebury (Waterbury, Connecticut: Bronson Brothers, 1854), 454. Further genealogical information is found at Rev. Philo Perry Genealogy (Accessed March 17, 2016). 
[2] David Head, Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2015), 142.
[3] “Perry, Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association, (accessed September 23, 2016).
[4] Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of the North Mexican States and Texas in The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, Vol XVI. (San Francisco: The History Company, 1889), 48. Biglow is spelled Bigelow in some cases.

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