Gutierrez-Magee Expedition

By: Harris Gaylord Warren

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: May 2, 2022

The Gutiérrez-Magee or Magee-Gutiérrez expedition of 1812–13 was an early filibustering expedition against Spanish Texas. The expedition took place against the background of growing unrest in Mexico against Spanish rule. In January 1811 a former militia captain named Juan Bautista de las Casas, inspired by the Diez y Seis revolt in Guanajuato, led an insurrectionist movement against the royalists in San Antonio, seizing Governor Manuel María de Salcedo and his military staff. In March royalists staged a successful countercoup, captured Casas, and executed him (see CASAS REVOLT). In December 1811 an envoy of the rebels, José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara, traveled to Washington, D.C., in the hope of securing United States support for the antiroyalist cause. Conferences with American officials brought only vague promises of aid, but Gutiérrez was led to believe that the United States would not hinder the organization of the expedition against Texas. After discussing his plans with José Álvarez de Toledo y Dubois, Gutiérrez sailed for New Orleans with a letter of introduction to Governor William C. C. Claiborne, who introduced him to William Shaler, a consular officer seeking to enter New Spain as an observer for President James Madison. Shaler became the principal adviser of the expedition. Many adventurers, some of whom hoped to win Texas for the United States, assembled at or near Natchitoches, Louisiana, to form the nucleus of an invading army. Shaler enlisted the aid of Lt, Augustus W. Magee and helped Gutiérrez send propaganda into New Spain. Crossing the Sabine with some 130 men on August 8, 1812, Magee scattered royalist frontier detachments and entered Nacogdoches on August 12. American and Mexican recruits, attracted by possibilities of booty and encouraged by merchants of Natchitoches, increased Magee's strength to about 300 men when he marched against Santísima Trinidad de Salcedo on September 13. Governor Salcedo concentrated his forces on the Guadalupe River to protect San Antonio, but Magee changed the direction of his attack and entered La Bahía (present Goliad) on November 7 with almost no opposition. Salcedo, pursuing the invaders with fewer than 200 men, laid siege to La Bahía on November 13. When reinforcements increased this force to about 800, Magee asked for terms of surrender. Salcedo's offer was so unsatisfactory that the filibusters decided to fight. Before any decisive action had taken place, Magee died on February 6, 1813, and Samuel Kemper succeeded to the command.

Under Kemper's leadership, the expedition won its greatest success. Salcedo, defeated in two attacks on February 10 and 13, retreated toward San Antonio on February 19. Kemper moved out in a belated pursuit a month later with 800 men, including volunteers from Nacogdoches and deserters from the Spanish army, and on March 29, 1813, defeated a royalist army of 1,200, commanded by Simón de Herrera, in the battle of Rosillo. Salcedo surrendered San Antonio unconditionally on April 1. Gutiérrez, nominally commander-in-chief of the expedition, began to assume a greater role in its affairs. On April 3 he reportedly permitted the execution of Salcedo and fourteen royalist officers, including Herrera. This act caused many Americans to abandon the enterprise at once; a few days later, having lost confidence in Gutiérrez and his provisional government, Samuel Kemper led more than 100 Americans back to Louisiana on "furlough."

Organization of the Spanish effort to recover Texas fell to Col. Ignacio Elizondo and Gen. Joaquín de Arredondo. Acting more or less independently, Elizondo laid siege to San Antonio with 900 men. Reuben Ross, successor to Kemper in command of the Americans, advised a retreat; but, when a council of war refused to support him, he resigned and was followed by Henry Perry. In the battle of the Alazán on June 20, 1813, Perry routed Elizondo's troops in a dawn attack and returned to San Antonio with considerable booty. While Elizondo was rallying his scattered forces and Arredondo was marching to join him, Shaler guided an intrigue designed to remove Gutiérrez from his nominal command. Toledo had arrived at Natchitoches on April 4, 1813, and had aroused Shaler's interest. A series of petty plots within plots kept Toledo out of Texas for four months, but American leaders in San Antonio finally agreed to Shaler's plan. Toledo arrived at Bexar by August 1. Gutiérrez left for Natchitoches on August 6, just in time to avoid impending disaster. Most of the Americans supported the new commander; but several Mexicans, led by Col. José Menchaca, attempted to sabotage the expedition by preventing Toledo from moving promptly against Arredondo's advancing forces. With a small army badly demoralized by intrigues, Toledo succeeded in moving from San Antonio on August 15, 1813, too late to prevent a junction between Arredondo and Elizondo. Three days later, in the battle of Medina, the royalists routed the republicans and filibusters; most of the survivors fled back toward Louisiana. Arredondo then entered San Antonio and proceeded with the harsh pacification of Texas (see LA QUINTA). In San Antonio royalists shot 327 persons and imprisoned women, and in Nacogdoches one of Arredondo's lieutenants carried out a similarly bloody purge. Despite the victory of the royalists, the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition so intensified interest in Texas that complete peace could not be restored. The province remained the center of plots or the object of invasion until Agustín de Iturbide finally brought the revolution to an end.

Félix D. Almaráz, Tragic Cavalier: Gov. Manuel Salcedo of Texas, 1808–1813 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971). Harry McCorry Henderson, "The Magee-Gutiérrez Expedition," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 55 (July 1951). Walter Flavius McCaleb, "The First Period of the Gutiérrez-Magee Expedition," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 4 (July 1901). Henry P. Walker, ed., "William McLane's Narrative of the Magee-Gutiérrez Expedition, 1812–1813," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 66 (January 1963).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Rebellions, Raids, and Wars
  • Military
  • Campaigns, Battles, Raids, and Massacres
  • Peoples
  • Tejanos
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas
  • Central Texas
  • San Antonio
  • East Texas
  • East Central Texas
  • Nacogdoches

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

Harris Gaylord Warren, “Gutierrez-Magee Expedition,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 2, 2022

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