Somervell Expedition

By: Joseph M. Nance

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: October 1, 1995

The Somervell expedition was a punitive expedition against Mexico in retaliation for three predatory raids made by Mexican armies upon Texas in 1842: Antonio Canales Rosillo's descent upon Lipantitlán and the captures of San Antonio by Rafael Vásquez and Adrián Woll. By the time that Woll retreated, two regiments of Texas militia had been ordered to San Antonio, and on October 3, 1842, President Sam Houston ordered Alexander Somervell to organize the militia and volunteers and invade Mexico if the strength, equipment, and discipline of the army indicated a reasonable hope of success. Volunteers poured into San Antonio eager to pursue the enemy and invade Mexico for glory and plunder. Numbering approximately 700 men, the expedition left San Antonio on November 25; it numbered 683 men when it reached Laredo, which was captured on December 8. Joseph L. Bennett and 185 men returned home on December 10. Somervell, with a little over 500 men, forced the capitulation of Guerrero. On December 19 Somervell, recognizing the failure of his expedition and fearing disaster, ordered his men to disband and return home by way of Gonzales. Little energy had been shown in prosecuting the campaign, which apparently was undertaken as a political move to appease demands for an invasion of Mexico and to reveal the futility of sustaining an attack upon Mexico without adequate supplies, equipment, and discipline. The Texans were so disappointed with the order to disband that only 189 men and officers obeyed; some 308 men under five captains and commanded by William S. Fisher continued to Mexico on the Mier expedition.

Harvey Alexander Adams Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Sterling B. Hendricks, "The Somervell Expedition to the Rio Grande, 1842," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 23 (October 1919). Joseph Milton Nance, After San Jacinto: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1836–1841 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963). Joseph Milton Nance, Attack and Counterattack: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1842 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964).

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

Joseph M. Nance, “Somervell Expedition,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 29, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 1, 1995