Filisola, Vicente (1789–1850)

By: A. Wallace Woolsey

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 7, 2016

Vicente Filisola, military officer, was born in Ravello, Italy, in 1789 and went to Spain quite early, presumably with his family. He joined the Spanish army on March 17, 1804, and was in the military for the rest of his life. Because of his dedication, six years later he became a second lieutenant. He went to Mexico or New Spain in 1811, the year after Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla's proclamation of independence in the famous Grito de Dolores of September 16, 1810. Filisola, a loyalist devoted to the Spanish cause, was made captain of artillery in 1813 and the next year captain of grenadiers. He won the confidence and friendship of Agustín de Iturbide and through this association became a leading military figure in Mexico. Supportive of Iturbide in his Plan de Iguala and his declaration as emperor of Mexico, and in command of the Trigarante ("Three Guarantees") army, Filisola was promoted to brigadier general and ordered to Central America to bring that region into Iturbide's empire. Filisola gained control of Central America only to have to relinquish it once Iturbide fell from power.

Despite his support of Iturbide, Filisola held a number of important posts in the Republic of Mexico during the 1820s, and in January 1833 he was named commander of the Eastern Provincias Internas. Because of a desperate illness he relinquished his command for a time, but was later able to resume his duties. As a minor empresario, Filisola, on October 12, 1831, received a grant to settle in Texas 600 families who were not Anglo-Americans. The area of his grant in East Texas included part of the land granted to the Cherokee Indians in 1823. Filisola failed to fulfill his contract with the government. When Antonio López de Santa Anna organized his campaign against Texas, he commissioned Filisola as second in command of his army. Thus, with the capture of Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto, he was faced with the formidable task of withdrawing the Mexican forces from Texas. Despite considerable opposition from other officers, Filisola carried out Santa Anna's orders and began to retreat. By the time he received instructions from the Mexican government on May 28, he had already ordered the evacuation of San Antonio and had ratified the public treaty of Velasco, and his army had crossed the Nueces. Upon receiving the government's order to preserve conquests already made, he offered to countermarch, but because of the condition of the Mexican troops the retreat continued to Matamoros. On June 12, José de Urrea replaced Filisola in general command; Filisola resigned his own command to Juan José Andrade and retired to Saltillo. Filisola was accused of being a coward and a traitor in overseeing the withdrawal of the Mexican troops, and he faced formal charges upon his return to Mexico. The general successfully defended himself before the court-martial and was exonerated in June 1841. Upon his return to Mexico in 1836, Filisola published a defense of his conduct in Texas. It was translated into English and published by the Republic of Texas in 1837. During the Mexican War Filisola commanded one of three divisions of the Mexican army. In 1928 Carlos E. Castañeda published a translation of Filisola's account in The Mexican Side of the Texas Revolution. Filisola's most complete account of the Texas Revolution is his Memoirs for the History of the War in Texas, which was not published in English translation until 1985. Filisola died on July 23, 1850, in Mexico City during a cholera epidemic.

Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of the North Mexican States and Texas (2 vols., San Francisco: History Company, 1886, 1889). Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924–28). Valentine J. Belfiglio, The Italian Experience in Texas (Austin: Eakin Press, 1983). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Peoples
  • Italians
  • Military
  • Soldiers
Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas
  • Texas Revolution

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

A. Wallace Woolsey, “Filisola, Vicente,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 7, 2016

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