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Clay Coppedge
Texas | Columns | "Letters from Central Texas"

A fowl insurrection
The Chicken War

by Clay Coppedge
The chickens were the real heroes of the Chicken War. Not only did they emerge from the fray with more dignity than the dignitaries and more courage than the soldiers, they were the only participants in the conflict that actually put up a fight.

This happened in 1719 when both France and Spain had plans for Texas, though neither country's plans included the other. The French had claimed Louisiana while the Spanish controlled Mexico. In between was a wilderness - today's Texas - populated only by natives whose own plans didn't include either country. France and Spain were rivals in the New World but not enemies until their respective governments reached an impasse over control of the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia and decided to wage the War of the Quadruple Alliance to settle matters.

The French government sent word to Lieutenant Philippe Blondell at Natchitoches, Louisiana that he was to muster all seven of his soldiers and locate some Spanish to attack. The closest ones were at the San Miguel de Linares de los Adaes mission near present-day Robeline, Louisiana, so Blondell and his soldiers went there and encountered a priest, an old, fading soldier and a bunch of chickens.

The priest and soldier surrendered without a fight, but Blondell was loathe to let those chickens get away without a measure of French retribution. Or maybe he was just hungry. Whatever his motivation, Blondell capped his conquest by capturing some of the mission's chickens and strapping them to his saddle. Unlike the priest and the old soldier, the chickens did not acquiesce without a fight. They put up such a squawk that Blondell's horse reared and ejected Blondell from the saddle, butt first.

In the commotion that followed -- feathers flying, horses bucking, Blondell sprawling and soldiers rushing to his aid - the priest escaped. We don't know the ultimate fate of the soldier or the chickens.

The priest made his way to the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores Mission near present-day San Augustine and repeated the same fake news that Blondell had reported to him - a large French force was on the way. The Spanish couldn't get out of east Texas and western Louisiana fast enough, a frenzied overreaction that delayed Spain's missionary efforts in Texas for more than two years.

As it turned out, the French weren't actually all that enthused about expanding the War of the Quadruple Alliance to Texas. They launched no more attacks and didn't pursue the retreating Spanish. They even set up a trading post on the Red River, but the Spanish were long gone and they had no trading partner.

People began referring to Blondell's tussle with the chickens as The Chicken War, a catchy name but not quite right. We think a better description, considering France's superfluous attack and Spain's furious retreat from a nonexistent threat, would be the Chicken Little War.


© Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas" March 23, 2018 column

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