Anahuac Disturbances

By: Margaret S. Henson

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: September 8, 2020

Two major events at Anahuac, in 1832 and 1835, upset those who wanted to maintain the status quo with Mexican authorities and thus helped to precipitate the Texas Revolution. Both difficulties centered around the collection of customs by the national government of Mexico.

Col. Juan Davis Bradburn and approximately forty officers and men landed at the bluff overlooking the mouth of the Trinity, called Perry's Point, on October 26, 1830, with orders to establish a garrison and a town. The garrison was originally chosen as a protected, strategic point from which to prevent smuggling on the Trinity and San Jacinto rivers; accordingly, it also aided the collector of customs, George Fisher, after he arrived in November 1831, to collect national tariffs and prevent smuggling. Bradburn was also charged with preventing the entrance of immigrants from the United States in accord with the recently passed Law of April 6, 1830, which was designed to encourage Mexican and European settlement of Texas and to restrict Anglo-American settlement.

The first trouble for Bradburn came in January 1831, when a state-appointed land commissioner, José Francisco Madero, arrived to issue titles to those residents of the lower Trinity who had settled prior to 1828. Although both the state and national governments had previously approved granting titles, Bradburn believed that the Law of April 6, 1830, had annulled the earlier grants. The matter was complicated by politics because Bradburn represented the Centralist administration, which believed in a strong central government and weak states, and Madero stood for the opposition, the states'-rights-minded Federalists of northern Mexico. Bradburn arrested Madero, but he was soon released by the state authorities, who appealed to Bradburn's superiors, and the land commissioner quickly issued more than fifty titles to local residents before he returned to his home near the Rio Grande. Madero also organized an ayuntamiento at the Atascosito Crossing of the Trinity (see ATASCOSITO ROAD) and named it Villa de la Santísima Trinidad de la Libertad, shortened to Liberty by Anglo settlers (see LIBERTY, TEXAS [Liberty County]). Although this was an act within his powers, it roused the ire of Bradburn and the Centralists, who saw it as a challenge to the national government's control of the area.

Another crisis followed the visit of Gen. Manuel de Mier y Terán, the commandant of the eastern interior provinces, in November 1831. He did not want the ayuntamiento at Liberty and ordered it moved to Anahuac. Because he did not approve of Anglo-American lawyers practicing before the court without certification from Mexican authorities, he ordered Bradburn to inspect their licenses. The general also ordered an inspection of land titles. But his greatest offense, as far as the colonists were concerned, was ordering George Fisher to begin collecting duties from all ships already in the Brazos River and Galveston Bay. The ship captains complained about retroactive laws. Moreover, the assistant collector for the Brazos had not yet arrived, and all vessels would have to clear their papers at Anahuac for the time being. This arbitrary decision was inconvenient for Brazos captains. Several left the river without stopping for clearance at the mouth, where a small number of soldiers were garrisoned, and shots were exchanged between the ships and the troops.

Further trouble stemmed from Anglo-American animosity against Bradburn and his troops, some of whom were former convicts sent to the frontier to do heavy construction work in order to earn their freedom. At peak strength, Bradburn had fewer than 300 men under his command both at Anahuac and at Fort Velasco on the Brazos, and of these probably fewer than twenty were convicts. But Anglo neighbors attributed petty thievery and an attack against a woman to the presence of prisoners among the military. Bradburn had also incorporated two or three runaway slaves from Louisiana into his garrison. Mexico allowed no slavery but had permitted Austin's colonists to bring Blacks in as indentured servants; thus Bradburn acted correctly when the fugitives applied for asylum. A slave catcher arrived but was unsuccessful in his efforts to recover the Louisiana runaways, and he hired William B. Travis to attempt to recover the escaped slaves. Travis and his law partner, Patrick C. Jack, had already antagonized Bradburn by starting a civil militia, contrary to Mexican law, to fight the "Indians," a euphemism for Mexican soldiers. Bradburn briefly incarcerated Jack for parading this militia. Later Travis decided to trick Bradburn into releasing the runaway slaves. A man, perhaps Travis, wrapped in a concealing cloak, delivered a note purportedly from an acquaintance of the commander warning that a force of Louisianans was on the march to recover the fugitives he was harboring. When he realized that he had been given false information, Bradburn arrested Jack and Travis; because the jail was not adequately secure he placed them in an empty brick kiln. Brazos valley hotheads organized a rescue force of perhaps 200 men, who reached Turtle Bayou, six miles north of Anahuac, on June 9, 1832. On their way, they captured Bradburn's entire cavalry force of nineteen men and held them hostage, planning to exchange them for Travis and Jack and a couple of others Bradburn had arrested. After a day of skirmishing, an exchange was arranged by the rebels, most of whom withdrew to Turtle Bayou, where they released the captured cavalrymen. When Bradburn discovered that not all the insurgents had evacuated as they had promised, he refused to release his prisoners and instead announced that he would fire on the town. After a skirmish between Bradburn's men and the remaining Anglos, the latter also fell back to Turtle Bayou to await the arrival of artillery. A large party bringing the ordnance up from the Brazos settlements met Mexican troops in a major engagement at the battle of Velasco. Meanwhile, the party on Turtle Bayou composed and signed the Turtle Bayou Resolutions, which explained their rebellion against Bradburn as part of the reform movement of Federalist general Antonio López de Santa Anna, who had recently won a victory over administration forces at Tampico.

The matter was resolved when Col. José de las Piedras, Bradburn's immediate superior, arrived from Nacogdoches and, thinking he was outnumbered, bowed to the wishes of the insurgents. He removed Bradburn, reinstalled the ayuntamiento at Liberty, and turned over the Anglo-American prisoners to this body. The prisoners were soon released, and after Piedras left, Travis, Jack, and the others returned to Anahuac, where they incited the garrison to rebel against its Centralist officers. A Federalist officer, Colonel Subarán, assumed command of the troops and, within a month, boarded the garrison on ships and moved to the Rio Grande.

Merchants returned to Anahuac, and business continued without national tariffs until 1835, when the government sent collectors and support troops back to Texas. The national government depended entirely upon customs duties for revenue, and Texas had to pay its share. Andrew Briscoe, a local merchant, complained that the duties were not collected uniformly in all the ports and refused to cooperate at Anahuac. He intentionally tricked the new commander, Capt. Antonio Tenorio, by loading his boat in such a manner as to excite curiosity, while stowing bricks, not smuggled goods, in the hull. Tenorio, much aggravated, arrested Briscoe and his associate, DeWitt Clinton Harris, on June 12, but Tenorio's force of some forty troops was no match for the Anglo response. When Travis learned of Briscoe's arrest, he raised volunteers who marched to Harrisburg from the Brazos and commandeered a vessel to sail for Anahuac. Tenorio surrendered on June 20 to twenty-five Anglo insurgents, who disarmed the government troops and returned with them to Harrisburg. But Travis had acted without real community support. He felt the necessity to make a public apology for his rash actions in order to keep from endangering Stephen F. Austin, who was in Mexico City.

Margaret S. Henson, Anahuac in 1832: The Cradle of the Texas Revolution (Anahuac, Texas: Fort Anahuac Committee of the Chambers County Historical Commission, 1982). Margaret S. Henson, Juan Davis Bradburn: A Reappraisal of the Mexican Commander of Anahuac (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982). Adele B. Looscan, "Harris County, 1822–1845," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 18–19 (October 1914-July 1915).

Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Margaret S. Henson, “Anahuac Disturbances,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 8, 2020

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