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

Seven Flags over Texas

by Clay Coppedge

Not to get too picky with the Six Flags Over Texas folks, but a portion of Webb County operated briefly under a seventh flag, the flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande. The founders of the emerging republic were Mexican Federalists who honored the Mexican Constitution of 1824 in opposition to Antonino Lopez de Santa Anna's autocratic Centralist government in 1839.

The Federalists convened a constitutional convention at the Oreveña Ranch near present day Zapata on January 7, 1840 and named Antonio Canales, a Tamaulipas legislator, as army commander-in-chief. After Canales' force suffered a brutal defeat from Centralists in March of 1840 he made his way to Austin for a meeting with Texas President Mirabeau Lamar, who wished Canales well but offered no official help.

Canales, however, did convince quite a few Texians to join the Federalist cause. He promised any fighting man $25 a month, a half league of land in a new republic and equal shares of any loot they might collect along the way. The most intriguing of these volunteers was Samuel W. Jordan.

A captain in the Texas army from 1836-39, Jordan was essentially a man without a country who showed up to fight whenever and wherever there was fighting to be done. He joined up with Canales in 1840 and, along with fellow Texian Reuben Ross, led a group of about 140 Americans into Mexico to seek and destroy Centralist forces.

When the rebels came upon a formidable Federalist force in battle formation at Alcantra, Mexico. Canales called a meeting of his officers to decide how to proceed. Jordan and Ross, seeing no need for discussion, began sniping Centralist officers and rallied their men to charge, fully expecting Canales and his troops to follow. But Canales chose to view the battle as a spectator. He saw Jordan, Ross and the volunteers kill 150 Mexican soldiers, capture 350 more and decided to call it a day. Mission accomplished. Ross left in disgust, taking most of his men with him.

Jordan and his volunteers later followed Canales into battle again, but in a time of shifting allegiances, many of Jordan's own officers apparently chose to cast their lot with the Centralists. The turncoats tried to steer Jordan into an ambush at San Louis Potosi, but Jordan sniffed out the plot and led the volunteers toward Saltillo instead. By then most of the Federalist officers and troops had deserted or switched sides.

That left Jordan and 100 or so volunteers alone to fight more than a thousand Mexican soldiers, who advanced on Jordan's men with two cannons and plenty of confidence. Jordan moved his men to a hacienda and hunkered down to face the impending assault.

The Federalist troops got to within thirty yards of the hacienda before Jordan and his volunteers, all expert marksmen, opened fire with their muskets. The first wave of soldiers fell, and a second wave moved in. Jordan's men cut them to ribbons, too. The troops kept coming. Jordan and his men kept killing them. Finally, late in the day, the troops retreated. Citizens who had gathered on a hill to cheer them on soon joined the chaotic retreat.

Jordan and his men fought their way out of Saltillo and back to Texas. Canales, meanwhile, joined up with the Centralists, officially putting an end to the Republic of the Rio Grande.

In Austin, Jordan met with Sam Houston but the meeting didn't go well. It ended when Jordan, fighting man that he was, grabbed an axe and tried to kill Houston with it. Adolphus Sterne stepped in and wrestled the axe away from Jordan. History is grateful, even if Jordan's wasn't.

Samuel Jordan apparently never gave up on the idea of a country he could call his own, or maybe he was just looking for another fight. Whatever the motivation, we find him in the summer of 1841 in New Orleans, gathering troops for Mexican general Mariano Arista's expedition to gain control of Yucatan. As another example of the shifting loyalties of the day, Arista was a Centralists who had helped extinguish the Republic of the Rio Grande.

But the boat carrying Arista's army to Yucatan left without Jordan and his men. Jordan, with no country to fight for or call his own, killed himself with an overdose of laudanum.

© Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas" May 17, 2018 column


Clay Coppedge's "Letters from Central Texas"

  • Steinheimer's Treasure 5-2-18
  • Leigh Dyer and the T Anchor Ranch 4-7-18
  • A Fowl Insurrection, The Chicken War 3-23-18
  • Santa Anna's Adopted Texian 3-10-18
  • Pan Zareta: Queen of the Turf 2-16-18

    See more »

  • More Columns | People | Texas History
    Clay Coppedge's "Letters from Central Texas"

  • Steinheimer's Treasure 5-2-18
  • Leigh Dyer and the T Anchor Ranch 4-7-18
  • A Fowl Insurrection, The Chicken War 3-23-18
  • Santa Anna's Adopted Texian 3-10-18
  • Pan Zareta: Queen of the Turf 2-16-18

    See more »


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