Heritage, Volume 18, Number 2, Spring 2000 Page: 28
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On January 18... a provisional government (was formed)
called the Republic of the Rio Grande. The only sense to this move
was that the federalist cause had collapsed everywhere else in Mexico,
A0kih:elr.the restoration of that constitutional order impossible.
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arrived with the main government
The federalists suffered a defeat with hea4
casualties on March 25, and Canales fled
to San Antonio. Faced with a renouncethe-cause
or die option, Zapata defiantly
declared his devotion to the revolt and was
executed three days later with 22 of his
men. Arista had Zapata's head taken to
Guerrero and placed on a pole as a warning.
Officials of the erstwhile Republic of
the Rio Grande didn't wait for such a sign
before joining Canales in Texas. These officials
slowly put together a new army.
However, public identity with the Republic
of the Rio Grande was virtually nonexistent,
the people of Northern Mexico
were war-weary, and Zapata was irreplaceable.
The volunteers who crossed the Rio
Grande had more a mercenary character
than any who came before them. In turn,
their plundering ways dismayed their Mexican
commander Juan Molano.
A force of only 250 repeated the typi
cal pattern of initial success along the river
towns before once again probing southward
toward the interior. What they found was
passive resistance among the people and
an army more than four times their number
under "el tigre del norte." His strategy
had kept token units along the Rio Bravo
except at Matamoros. Arista had a united
command and was ready to strike the final
blow in this civil war.
On September 29 the insurgents captured
Ciudad Victoria, the capital of
Tamaulipas. The minds of the Anglo Texans
were stressed by rumors and clouded
by disinformation. Their leader, Samuel
Jordan, was generally drunk and confused.
Molano behaved suspiciously, contributing
to fears of betrayal, and the whereabouts
of the supporting army under Canales were
unknown. The rebel trek to Saltillo became
a snarl of wrong roads and counter marches.
Increasingly, they merely sought compensation.
In the end they got only bitter betrayal
and a choice between death or valor. On
October 22 the rebel forces halted their
march in the face of Arista's army near
Saltillo. The next day Molano set out to
flank the opponent while Jordan's Texans
were to begin the attack. Somehow, he sobered
up in time to listen to the doubters
and held back long enough to watch the
flanking detachment ride off instead to join
the enemy. The Anglo Texans then defended
themselves from behind a stone wall
from mid-afternoon until near sundown
when they ran low on ammunition. At that
point they charged the centralist lines,
broke through to the ravine that held their
horses, and headed north. A week later Jordan
and 110 of his men reached Laredo,
having lost four killed and three wounded.
Canales and his army had crossed back over
the Rio Grande two weeks ahead, having
never gotten within earshot of any fighting.
During the first five days of November
the leader of the "Republic of the Rio
Grande" formalized the capitulation that
Molano had already arranged.Thus the federalist
wars in Northern Mexico concluded
with a whimper. However, the episode in
its entirety left a considerable legacy. It
increased feelings of animus between Texans
and Mexicans, and in the days ahead
both their governments launched ill-fated
expeditions into the territory of the other
and thereby lent additional bitterness.
Furthermore, while no one at the time
seemed to notice, the opponents in this
contest had repeatedly treated the Rio
Grande as a dividing line that they crossed
as if it were a boundary, even though the
Republic of the Rio Grande officially
claimed territory to the Nueces. Five years
later the issue of the Great River as boundary
would spark a war that became a critical
turning point in the histories of Mexico,
Texas, and the United States.
Dr. Paul Lack is professor of history and vica
president for academic affairs at McMurr'
HERITAGE * 28 * 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/m1/28/: accessed May 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.