Heritage, Volume 18, Number 2, Spring 2000 Page: 26
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From 1838-1840, forces clashed over the dividing line between Mexico and the Republic of
Texas. A provisional government, the Republic of the Rio Grande, was formed in 1840. Map by
Dr. Donald S. Frazier, McMurry University, Abilene.
single leader. Canales and Zapata favored
Anaya, the ideological gadfly with no thirst
for fighting, over Lemus. Anaya busied himself
raising support in Texas and Louisiana.
The second factor was that the Centralist
"supreme government" began to seize momentum;
it triumphed in Tampico, secured
additional economic resources, and focused
on quashing the revolt in Northern Mexico.
In practice, this focus took the form of
General Mariano Arista who arrived in
November of 1839 and soon coordinated
plans to drive the federalists from the field.
He possessed a certain swagger at this moment
and was in fact destined to be the
most significant Mexican military leader
in the borderlands region during the next
several years, earning the title "el tigre del
norte." Arista had led the centralists at
Tampico and brought the vigor of youth
buoyed by a decided superiority in numbers.
Divided leadership had already damaged
the federalists. In August of 1839 the rebels
abandoned Saltillo to unite with other federalists
but were cut off and destroyed at
Sabinas by centralist forces under Francisco
Gonzalez Pavon. Lemus and his brother
were captured, and the centralists offered
amnesty to all those who returned to the
government fold. Canales stood aside in all
this, presumably because he favored Anaya.
Those two had already made another
In one legendary fight
(Zapata) removed an
arrow from his thigh
while riding after his
whom he eventually
overtook, pulled to the
ground by the hair, and
stomped to death.
decision that irrevocably changed the
character of the federalist wars. Lacking
in resources, Anaya and Canales sought
support and troops in Texas. This gave
them strength and confidence on the one
hand but tainted the cause with the stain
of "foreign adventurers" on the other.
Canales and Zapata reached the Rio
Grande in late September with 600-900
Mexican-Indian-Anglo Texan followers
and immediately won a string of victories
over small, isolated garrisons of unsupported
On October 1, the federalist insurgents
attacked the town of Guerrero and then
pounced quickly on the garrison at Mier.
This unit under Pavon fled hastily -
without adequate food, water, or other
preparations - and surrendered after a
brisk battle. Canales then lost initiative
and slowly turned his attentions down the
Rio Grande to Matamoros. His loose siege
did not heat up until mid-December, by
which time Arista had arrived at Saltillo
with reinforcements. Canales preferred
feinting to fighting and eventually withdrew.
His caution had already caused
many of the Anglo Texas volunteers to
With uncharacteristic boldness, he
then moved toward Monterrey where he
would encounter stronger centralist reinforcements
under Arista. The armies skirmished
at Talayotes outside the city on
December 30. The federalists renewed the
attack on January 1, 1840, suffered a reverse
with modest losses and turned back
to the Rio Grande in a retreat that became
Canales had proven so far to be strategically
incoherent, tactically timid, and
HERITAGE * 26 * SPRING 2000
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 18, Number 2, Spring 2000, periodical, Spring 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45390/m1/26/: accessed March 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.