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
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.
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.)