Snively Expedition

By: H. Bailey Carroll

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: December 1, 1995

The Snively expedition was one of a series of forays in which Texas and Mexico engaged during the early period of the republic. To retaliate for indignities heaped upon the Texans resulting from the Texan Santa Fe expedition, the Mier expedition, and Gen. Adrián Woll's raid on San Antonio, Jacob Snively, on January 28, 1843, petitioned the government of the republic for permission to organize and fit out an expedition for the purpose of intercepting and capturing the property of Mexican traders who might pass through territory claimed by Texas on the Santa Fe Trail. On February 16 the War Department authorized the organization of a force not to exceed 300 men. The expedition was not to be regarded as a government undertaking, although the spoils of the campaign, to be taken only in honorable warfare, were to be divided equally between the government and the members of the expedition. The appointed place of the rendezvous was Fort Johnson at the little settlement of Georgetown near Coffee's Station on Red River in what was then Fannin County but is now Grayson. By April 24 about 150 men had assembled, and on that day the expedition, which the members designated as the Battalion of Invincibles, was organized into three companies with Snively unanimously chosen as the commandant. After late arrivals joined the expedition on the line of march, a fourth company was organized, and when the Texans reached unfamiliar country, a spy company consisting of ten men from each of the other companies went into operation.

The force marched westward along the old Chihuahua Trail, crossed Red River two miles below the mouth of the main Wichita, followed a north northwestward course across present Oklahoma, and on May 27 reached the Arkansas River and the Santa Fe Trail in the vicinity of present Edwards County, Kansas. Upon reaching the Arkansas, the first objective of the Texans was to orient themselves with their physical surroundings. The spy company immediately became active, while the main command moved from camp site to camp site along the south bank of the river. On May 30 Texan hopes were aroused by the spies' discovery of evidence of a wagon train, but on the following day they learned that the train belonged to some traders from Bent's Fort, with whom Snively and his aides spent some time. Probably as a result of advice secured from the Bent traders, Snively moved his force south of the Arkansas, first to Mulberry Creek and eventually to the head of Crooked Creek. This position enabled the Texans to command the Cimarron branch of the Santa Fe Trail and at the same time to screen their own presence in the country. The spies gave a false alarm that caused the Texans to rush to the Arkansas on June 7, and they remained in that area at various camps above the point where the Cimarron branch of the Santa Fe Trail crossed the Arkansas, about two miles west of the present town of Ingalls, until June 20, when Snively ordered the force to fall back to Crooked Creek. In the meantime Charles A. Warfield and three or four of his followers had joined the Snively party. When the Texans struck the Santa Fe Trail about fifteen miles below the crossing they encountered 100 Mexican soldiers. In the ensuing engagement seventeen Mexicans were killed and eighty-two taken prisoner, while no Texans were injured.

Long days of inactivity and reports from the spies indicating no prospect of encountering a caravan in the immediate future brought a feeling of general depression to the Texans. Friction in the command developed, and many of the men wanted to return home. Finally, on June 28 the prisoners were released, and the battalion dissolved. The mules, saddles, and arms taken from the Mexicans were divided among the Texans, who then organized themselves into two groups designated as the "mountaineers" and the "home boys." The home boys, about seventy-six in number, selected Eli Chandler, former adjutant of the expedition, as their leader, if indeed he had not already established his leadership by spearheading the opposition to Snively. Rather than heading for Texas, however, Chandler lead his followers back toward the Arkansas. It is possible that he was more interested in a separate command than in a return to Texas.

The mountaineers, with Snively in command, also marched to the Arkansas, where on June 30 they were discovered by United States Dragoons under Capt. Philip St. George Cooke, who, largely as a result of the murder of Antonio José Chaves attributed to the Warfield expedition, had been sent to protect a Mexican caravan. Cooke sent for Snively, asked to see his papers, said that he believed the Texans were on United States territory, and told Snively that his men must be disarmed. Snively protested, without avail, that he was on Texas territory. Cooke then crossed over the Arkansas, surrounded the Texan camp, and ordered Snively's men to stack arms. Cooke first turned the Texans loose with only ten muskets for 170 men, but after reflection he returned to the Texan camp and on July 1 offered to escort all who wished to accompany him to Independence, Missouri. About fifty men accepted this offer; Snively and the others rejoined Chandler on July 2. Snively was still intent upon pursuing the Mexican caravan, which, the scouts reported on July 8, had crossed the Arkansas; but he found the majority of his command unwilling to pursue the undertaking further; so he resigned his command on July 9. Chandler and his men then set out for home. The remaining Texans, deciding to continue in their attempt to capture the caravan, elected Warfield as commander and set out on their march. Several of them later rejoined Chandler's party; less than seventy were still holding to the original purpose of the expedition on July 13, when they discovered what they thought to be a large body of Mexicans under Governor Manuel Armijo escorting the caravan. Believing their forces inadequate to the task of capturing the caravan, they abandoned further pursuit and started for home. Warfield resigned; Snively was reelected to command; and on August 6, the Texan force was disbanded at Fort Bird on the Trinity. The Texas government complained that Captain Cooke had invaded Texas territory in arresting Snively's forces, and finally the United States made a trifling appropriation for the Texans engaged in the expedition.

H. Bailey Carroll, "Steward A. Miller and the Snively Expedition of 1843," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 54 (January 1951). Clarksville Northern Standard, September 14, 21, 28, 1843. Jacob Snively's Reports to M. C. Hamilton, February to August 1843, Army Papers, 1840–1845, Texas State Archives, Austin. Stephen B. Oates, "The Hard Luck Story of the Snively Expedition," American West, August 1967. Stephen B. Oates, ed., "Hugh F. Young's Account of the Snively Expedition as Told to John S. Ford," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 70 (July 1966). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970). Henderson K. Yoakum, History of Texas from Its First Settlement in 1685 to Its Annexation to the United States in 1846 (2 vols., New York: Redfield, 1855).

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

H. Bailey Carroll, “Snively Expedition,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1995