José Álvarez de Toledo y Dubois, politician, propagandist, and short-term commander of Texas forces in revolt against Spain, was born on May 14, 1779, in Havana, Cuba, the son of Luis de Toledo y Liche, a Spanish naval officer and native of Seville. Toledo was educated at the Escuela Naval de Cádiz in Spain and served in both the Spanish (1806–07) and British (1808) navies. He was elected a representative from Santo Domingo to the Cortes at Cádiz, but his support of independence for the American colonies led to his exile in 1811. Toledo came to the United States and received funds from Secretary of State James Monroe to lead revolutionary activities in Cuba. Under threat of arrest by Spanish officials in Havana, however, he turned his attention to Texas. He aided United States special agent William Shaler in preparing a Mexican revolutionary, José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara, to lead a filibustering expedition that succeeded in establishing a provisional government in San Antonio. Because of Gutiérrez's disregard of American interests in Texas, Shaler and Toledo launched a propaganda campaign against him. They published two single-issue newspapers promoting Texas independence and slandering Gutiérrez: the Gaceta De Tejas, which bore the dateline Nacogdoches but was printed in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in May 1813; and El Mejicano, printed the following month and distributed widely between Nacogdoches and San Antonio. When American volunteers, who accounted for a third of the revolutionary forces in San Antonio, threatened to evacuate unless Gutiérrez was replaced, the ruling junta acquiesced and invited Toledo to assume power.
Dressed in a gold-braid general's uniform and claiming authority from both the Cortes at Cádiz and the United States Congress, Toledo entered San Antonio on August 1, 1813. Three days later he was named commander in chief of the Republican Army of the North. He initially decided to remain in San Antonio to await the arrival of Spanish troops advancing in retaliation. On the advice of United States colonel Henry Perry, however, he led a force of 1,400 men to the Medina River on August 18, 1813, with the intention of launching a surprise attack. The insurgents were lured into an ambush, and Toledo lost 1,000 men in the ensuing three-hour battle. He fled Texas. During the next two years he tried unsuccessfully to raise volunteers, arms, and funds for another expedition to Texas. He formulated plans for an overland venture from Louisiana and for a naval attack via Galveston Island. But except for a brief foray across the Sabine River in May 1814 he never returned to Texas. Toledo sought a pardon from the Spanish government in 1816. He divulged information regarding his filibustering activities in Texas and attempted to sabotage an expedition by Francisco Xavier Mina. In 1817 he returned to Spain, where he served as an adviser to Ferdinand VII. He lived the rest of his life on a government pension and held diplomatic posts in Switzerland and Italy. He died in Paris on April 16, 1858.