Long Expedition

By: Harris Gaylord Warren

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: July 19, 2017

The Long expedition, named for its commander, James Long, was an early attempt by Anglo-Americans to wrest Texas from Spain. The expedition, the last of a series of early filibustering campaigns that included the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition and the expedition led by Francisco Xavier Mina, was mounted by citizens in the Natchez, Mississippi, area who were opposed to the boundary of the Louisiana Purchase as set up in the Adams-Onís Treaty. Financed by subscriptions said to total about $500,000, the expedition attracted recruits with a promise of a league of Texas land to every soldier. An advance force of 120 men, led by Eli Harris, crossed the Sabine River on June 8, 1819, and went on to Nacogdoches, where Long, a Natchez merchant and doctor who had been placed in command, arrived on June 21. At Camp Freeman, citizens of Nacogdoches met to organize a provisional government with Long as its chief. On June 23 this "government" declared the independence of Texas. Its Supreme Council voted ten sections of land to each private and provided for selling Red River lands at prices ranging downward from fifty cents an acre. By the middle of July, Long had more than 300 men under his command, among them John Sibley, Samuel Davenport, and José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara, and had made overtures for assistance to Jean Laffite at Galveston. Failure to receive supplies from Laffite or from the Natchez committee caused Long to scatter his men in an attempt to live off the country. Small parties took possession of strategic points in July and August, and Long continued his plan to bring Galveston into his republic. On October 9, 1819, the Supreme Council declared Galveston a port of entry, authorized the construction of a fort at Point Bolivar and made Laffite governor of the island. At the end of September, Governor Antonio María Martínez sent Col. Ignacio Pérez with more than 500 men to drive Long out of Texas. Pérez proceeded slowly, captured a few of the filibusters, and reached Nacogdoches on October 28. A month later he had driven the American settlers out of East Texas.

Long escaped capture by fleeing to Natchitoches and New Orleans. Undeterred by the failure of his first expedition, he joined forces with José Félix Trespalacios, who was organizing an expedition in New Orleans to support the Mexican liberals. Long established his headquarters at Point Bolivar, where he was joined by his wife, Jane Long, a niece of James Wilkinson. At Point Bolivar, beginning in April, 1820, Long attempted to reorganize his forces. With the aid of Trespalacios, Benjamin R. Milam, José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara, and others, Long revitalized the Supreme Council. He later broke with Trespalacios, and the expedition led an uncertain existence at Fort Las Casas on Point Bolivar until September 19, 1821, when Long and fifty-two men sailed to capture La Bahía. The town fell easily on October 4, but four days later, Long was forced to surrender to Pérez. Long was taken prisoner and sent to Mexico City, where about six months later he was shot and killed by a guard reportedly in the pay of Trespalacios. With Long's defeat and capture at La Bahía the early filibustering era in Texas came to an end.

John Henry Brown, Long's Expedition (Houston: Union National Bank, 1930). Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas, 1519–1821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992). Mattie Austin Hatcher, "Letters of Antonio Martínez, the Last Spanish Governor of Texas, 1817–1822," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 39 (July, October 1935, January, April 1936). Harris Gaylord Warren, The Sword Was Their Passport: A History of American Filibustering in the Mexican Revolution (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1943).

Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

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

Harris Gaylord Warren, “Long Expedition,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/long-expedition.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 19, 2017

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