Blog category: Mexican History
September 1, 2017
In September 1818, a hurricane struck the coast of Texas. It destroyed pirate Jean Laffite’s settlement on Galveston Island and visited fresh horrors on the Bonapartists who had taken refuge there after abandoning their attempt to establish a colony beside the Trinity River. Though Spaniards had reported hurricanes along the Texas coast as early as the 16th century, the 1818 Texas hurricane was one of the first to be recorded in detail.
August 26, 2016
Felipe de la Garza was the most important military figure in Nuevo Santander (present-day Tamaulipas) during the 1820s. A member of the regional elite, he spent the early part of his military career in Texas. Though De la Garza remained on the royalist side during Mexico’s war for independence, he soon embraced revolutionary politics in the new nation. He became notorious for leading a failed revolt against Mexican Emperor Agustín de Iturbide. He later led Iturbide to his execution.
July 29, 2016
Father José Antonio Díaz de León, the last Franciscan missionary in Texas, was an ardent defender of the Spanish mission system. In the 1820s, he waged a long campaign against secularization of the Texas missions. Brave and pious, Father Díaz de León came to a bloody end. Was he murdered or did he kill himself?
June 17, 2016
It’s hard to avoid the name of Stephen F. Austin in Texas. The state capital is named after him, as are Austin County, Austin College, Stephen F. Austin State University, Stephen F. Austin State Park and numerous schools, buildings and associations. He has been called the father of Texas and the founder of Texas. Austin led the Anglo-American colonization of Texas, paving the way for the state’s independence from Mexico, although this was not something he initially wanted.
June 3, 2016
Captain Francisco García was the military commander of Presidio La Bahía (present-day Goliad, Texas) from 1821 to 1823. He is thus the commandant who parleys with Napoleon outside La Bahía in Napoleon in America. In 1821, American filibuster James Long captured La Bahía while García and his men slept.
April 8, 2016
Josiah Hughes Bell, the founder of East and West Columbia, Texas, was one of Stephen F. Austin’s original colonists and Austin’s trusted friend. Austin left Bell in charge of the colony when he had to go to Mexico City in 1822 to confirm his empresario grant with the new Mexican government. Thus Napoleon and his men meet with Bell, rather than Austin, when they arrive at the Brazos River in Napoleon in America. At the time, Bell was finding it hard to keep the colonists’ spirits up.
March 11, 2016
Felipe Enrique Neri, the Baron de Bastrop, was a prominent resident of Texas in the early 19th century. Charismatic and enterprising, Bastrop brought some pioneers into northern Louisiana and encouraged the Anglo-American colonization of Texas when it was part of Mexico. He also lied about his past and left a trail of litigation involving questionable land titles that lasted for over 20 years after his death.
February 5, 2016
Francisco Maynes was a Spanish-born Catholic priest and occasional military chaplain who served in Texas in the early 19th century under Spanish, and then Mexican, rule. Maynes proved quite successful in petitioning the San Antonio town council for land that belonged to the former Spanish missions, thus establishing a precedent for local clergymen to become land speculators. In Napoleon in America, Father Maynes insists he is ready to give his life to prevent Napoleon from entering San Antonio.
January 22, 2016
José Francisco Ruiz was a Mexican soldier who fought for Mexico’s independence from Spain and later supported Texas’s struggle for independence from Mexico. He is most noted for being one of only two native-born Texans to sign the 1836 Texas Declaration of Independence, even though he was “horrified” by the idea. Ruiz spent considerable time among the Texas Indians, most notably the Comanches. He was well thought of by the Indians and was influential in brokering peace agreements with several Texas tribes. Ruiz thus appears as the Mexican Indian administrator in Napoleon in America.
January 8, 2016
José Félix Trespalacios, an insurgent who fought for Mexico’s independence from Spain, became the first governor of Texas in newly-independent Mexico in 1822. As such, he has to deal with the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte on the Texas frontier in Napoleon in America. Trespalacios was a hard-working and optimistic governor. He established the first Texas bank, negotiated an agreement with the Cherokees, supported Stephen Austin’s colony, and introduced the first printing press to Texas. His term was short, however, and most of his innovations came to naught.
December 18, 2015
Cherokee Indian Chief Duwali or Di’Wali, also known as John Bowles or Bowl, was born around 1756, possibly in North Carolina. He is thought to have been the son of a Scotch or Scotch-Irish trader and a Cherokee woman. It is claimed that Bowles’ father was killed by white settlers when Bowles was a boy, and that the son killed his father’s murderers in revenge when he was 14. Bowles never learned how to read or write, and could not speak English. Late in his life, he was described as being “somewhat tanned in color,” and having “neither the hair nor the eyes of an Indian. His eyes were gray, his hair was of a dirty sandy color; and his was an English head.”
December 4, 2015
Dehahuit was the great chief of the Caddo Indians who lived in what is now southwest Arkansas, western Louisiana and eastern Texas in the early 19th century. As his tribes were positioned on the disputed border between Spanish-held Mexico and the United States, Dehahuit became a shrewd diplomat, skilful at playing the Spaniards and the Americans off against one another. He aimed to gain the best gifts, trading terms and protection from each, as well as respect for the independence and integrity of traditional Caddo lands. In Napoleon in America, Dehahuit hopes to obtain the same concessions from Napoleon.
October 23, 2015
Ben Milam is primarily known for his role in the Texas Revolution, particularly his leadership and death in the capture of San Antonio in December 1835. In Napoleon in America, Milam hitches up with Jim Bowie in the hopes of taking advantage of Napoleon’s activities in Texas. Milam’s motives are related to his hostility towards another Napoleon in America character, Texas governor José Félix Trespalacios. To fully understand what that was about, we need to look at Milam’s earlier Texas adventures.
August 7, 2015
Before Jim Bowie became one of the most mythologized figures in American history, he was a con artist. One of his partners in crime was the pirate Jean Laffite, who introduces Bowie to Napoleon in Napoleon in America. James Rhesa Bowie was born nine miles northwest of Franklin, Kentucky in the spring of 1796. He was the eighth of ten children, four of whom died young. His father, Rezin Bowie, Sr., was a planter who had fought in the American Revolutionary War.
April 17, 2015
George Schumph, who meets with Napoleon in Charleston in Napoleon in America, is one of those shadowy historical figures about whom little is known. A native of Quebec, he is remembered in the historical record because of his association with the New Orleans-based pirates, Pierre and Jean Laffite. Thanks in part to Schumph’s testimony, we have the details of Pierre Laffite’s death.
June 27, 2014
Narcisse-Périclès Rigaud and his sister Antonia were the children of General Antoine Rigaud, one of Napoleon’s officers. They joined their father in the 1818 Bonapartist attempt to form an armed colony in Texas called the Champ d’Asile (Field of Asylum). Narcisse’s distaste for Charles Lallemand in Napoleon in America stems from his experience at the colony.
May 16, 2014
Soldier, adventurer and conman, Charles Lallemand had a distinguished career as a Napoleonic officer. He was a member of Napoleon’s inner circle in the days following the Emperor’s 1815 abdication. Under a French death sentence and unwilling to settle for a quiet life, Lallemand turned to Texas filibustering, Spanish insurgency and a Greek ship-building fiasco before eventually becoming governor of Corsica.
April 4, 2014
To romantic minds, Jean Laffite could have been a model for Pirates of the Caribbean. Variously called the “gentleman pirate,” “the terror of the Gulf” and “the Hero of New Orleans,” his life is shrouded in myth. Napoleon in America is based on one of many unsubstantiated tales about Laffite.
We must confess that fate, which sports with man, makes merry work with the affairs of this world.