Short but Eventful Life of Adrián J. Vidalby
|While you might not
be familiar with the name Adrián J. Vidal, you might recognize the name of his
stepfather - Mifflin Kenedy. Kenedy was, of course, the partner and lifelong friend
of Richard King. These two made large fortunes in shipping and warehousing along
the Rio Grande and then wisely invested their money in land. Lots of land (under
starry skies above).|
Adrián J. Vidal
by Muralist Daniel Lechon
Courtesy Kenedy Heritage Museum, Sarita
was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico in 1840. His biological father was a
Col. Luis Vidal. After the Colonel's death, Adrian's mother Petra (Vela) moved
to tiny Mier - a village on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. Mier is remembered
primarily for being the pivotal site of the misguided Sommervell
or Mier Expedition of the late 1840s.|
One day (or night) in Mier,
The widow Petra caught the eye of Mifflin Kenedy who had come there on business.
The business engagement turned into a wedding engagement and Mifflin and Petra
were married in 1852 in Brownsville. Little Adrian was then at the volatile age
of twelve. He had four siblings.
Adrian immediately and predictably fell
in with bad company. Despite (or because of) his age he wasted no time establishing
a reputation on both sides of the river for drinking, whoring and gambling - not
necessarily in that order.
the age of twenty-one, the Civil War gave him the opportunity to drink, gamble
and go whoring in distant places. He traveled to San Antonio and enlisted as a
private. The Confederate "Brass" recognized his invaluable knowledge of the border
so they promptly sent him back home as a Lieutenant of a company of militia. His
primary mission was to guard the mouth of the Rio Grande.
a Union gunboat, Vidal (since promoted to Captain) was guaranteed a bright military
future - that is, if the South won. But still under the influence of adolescence,
Vidal let his frustrations get the better of him. Insufficient supplies, nagging
military obligations, and arguments with superiors kept Adrian in a foul mood.
Finally one order or another became the last straw and Captain Vidal and his command
mutinied in early 1863.
When General Hamilton Bee sent two soldiers
to recall Vidal, Adrian raised the stakes by shooting them. One man was killed
while the other rode back to Bee to tell the tale. The dead man happened to be
the son of the Texas Adjutant General - which raised the stakes yet another notch.
Now, seriously wanted, Vidal went for broke and turned bandit, raiding ranches,
hanging a few people and taking sanctuary in Mexico.
Vidal and his men
soon grew bored so they decided to give the military another try. By this time
the area was under Union occupation. It didn't matter a whit to the Vidalistas.
They enlisted as "Vidal's Independent Partisan Rangers" and patrolled the Nueces
Strip as scouts.
But Adrian soon found out that the Union commanders
were just as demanding as Confederates. Both sides liked to receive reports every
now and then. In 1864, Vidal felt the same old frustrations coming to a head.
Although he had submitted his resignation, he didn't have the patience to wait
for an answer. He and his men crossed into Mexico to join Benito Juarez' rebellion
against the foreign-born Emperor Maximillian.
Vidal's commanding officer
here was another famous border personality - General Cortina. Adrian never grasped
the concept of a "good" reputation. In his new command he instituted a "take no
prisoners" policy. When he was later captured at the village of Camargo by Imperial
troops - his latest bad reputation was firmly held against him.
Kenedy learned of his stepson's capture and quickly went to negotiate a ransom.
But his captors knew Vidal and although a ransom was tempting, they didn't look
forward to fighting him again - whatever uniform he might be wearing. They formed
a firing squad and Mifflin Kenedy arrived in time to take Adrian's corpse back
The Kenedy family became famous for raising horses and
cattle - but Adrian's entry in the family history is one of a black sheep. Nevertheless,
he has his own entry in the murals of the new Kenedy Museum in Sarita.
On the south wall of the museum - housed in the former office of the Kenedy Pasture
Company - a striking image of Adrian Vidal appears, replete with a pistol in his
Another part of the mural illustrates his death by firing
© John Troesser
shoe horses, don't they?"
March 10 , 2004