The Long Expedition

Many Americans, especially the filibusters, were angered over the treaty, which they considered to be a surrender to a despised foreign power and a denial of their right to go where they wished. Natchez, Mississippi was a center of resistance to the treaty, and a group of citizens planned a filibustering expedition to conquer Texas. James Long, a doctor and merchant, was placed in charge, and about 300 men paid subscriptions to be part of the expedition in exchange for the promise of land in the planned "Republic of Texas."

The ragtag army occupied Nacogdoches on June 23, 1819, and declared Texas to be an independent republic. Long then traveled to Galveston in an unsuccessful attempt to win the pirate Jean Lafitte over to his cause. While he was away, Spanish troops drove his followers out of Nacogdoches and back across the Sabine River into Louisiana.

Undeterred, Long established a headquarters at Bolivar Point near Galveston, and in the fall of 1821 led an expedition of 52 men to La Bahía (Goliad). By then, Mexico had won its independence from Spain and had strengthened its defenses of Texas. The Mexicans captured Long and took him to Mexico City, where he was shot six months later by a guard. The shooting was ruled accidental, though there is evidence that the guard was hired by José Félix Trespalacios, a Mexican revolutionary and former ally of Long's.

The failure of the Long expeditions marked the end of the filibustering period. The new Mexican rulers of Texas took control of the colonization process, and it would be Moses Austin and his son Stephen, acting under the empresario system, who would establish the first real Anglo-American colony in Texas.

As the 1800s began, the Spanish had a rival for Texas--the fledgling United States. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Thomas Jefferson himself asserted that the true southern limit of Louisiana was the Rio Grande, and many Americans agreed. The Spanish could do little to stop a slow but steady trickle of adventurers, traders, outlaws, and even a few settlers crossing the Red River. Soldiers of fortune, called filibusters, fomented intrigue with Mexican revolutionaries and hatched schemes of personal empire.

Spain was anxious to shore up its borders. In 1819, Spain and the United States signed the Adams-Onís Treaty, in which Spain relinquished Florida to the U.S. in exchange for the U.S. giving up claim to Texas.

Spanish rule in Texas had always been somewhat tenuous. By around 1716, Spain had established a thin line of missions and forts on which they based their claim to the territory. Nonetheless, the Spanish were never able to establish a true colony in Texas. The native people were hostile to Europeans, the land and climate harsh and extreme, and the distances vast. With many other large colonies to govern and beset with internal problems in the mother country and a changing world scene, Spain was unable to make Texas more than a remote outpost of its empire.

Thumbnail - Long expedition listClick on image for larger image and transcript.
List of men captured with James Long on October 9, 1821.

Page last modified: March 7, 2016