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Columns | All Things Historical

James Long, Filibuster

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
The United States-Spanish border saw plenty of trouble during the first two decades of the nineteenth century. For one thing, no one knew the border's precise location, since the Peace of Paris, 1763, which divided French territory between Spain and the U.S. at the Mississippi River, and the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, had not specified a western boundary line.

Then, in 1819, the Adams-Onis Treaty did-the Sabine River to the 32 parallel, then north to the Red River, and along its course westward. The Yankee John Adams had given away the South's west, in the view of Southerners, and some of them-Dr. James Long of Natchez, Mississippi, especially-determined to seize their west anyway. Eli Harris led the first 125 men across the Sabine on June 8, 1819, and occupied Nacogdoches. Long, the designated political leader of the group, arrived on June 21, assumed command, and declared Texas independent of Spain and then under the authority of his Supreme Council.

Long began fulfilling his movement's promise of generous land grants for his supporters and hoped to secure the support for his movement from others already in Texas, especially the pirate Jean Lafitte, then operating out of Campeachy, or Galveston. But he also attracted the attention of the Spanish government, which brought Colonel Ignacio Perez and his command northwards.

Long wisely withdrew from East Texas, only to return with more men later in the year, this time to Bolivar Peninsula, where he established a fort. Long brought along his wife, Jane, a niece of American frontier General James Wilkinson, their infant, and a servant, Kiamata.

In 1820, Long and his supporters attacked the Spanish outpost at La Bahia, near present Victoria, and he was captured. Six months later, Long was shot by a guard in a military prison in Mexico.

Left behind on Bolivar Peninsula, Jane Long tried unsuccessful to have her husband's killers prosecuted before returning to Mississippi. Later she returned to Texas as a bonafide colonist in the 1820s and has been honored as the Mother of Texas.


Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical
October 29, 2007 column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
(This column is provided by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.)

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