Adrián J. Vidal, soldier in both the Confederate and Union armies and insurrectionist with Juan N. Cortina in Mexico, the son of Col. Luis and Petra (Vela) Vidal, was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, in 1840. After the death of his father, his mother took the boy to Mier. There she met the prosperous entrepreneur Mifflin Kenedy and later moved to Brownsville, where the two were married in 1852. As a young man Vidal learned to pilot steamboats on the Rio Grande with his stepfather but gained a reputation as a habitual gambler and drunkard. In 1860 he was living in Brownsville with his mother, stepfather, and eight brothers and sisters. He was only twenty-one when the Civil War engulfed the Rio Grande frontier. He enlisted as a private in a Confederate company in San Antonio in October 1862, was promoted to lieutenant and eventually captain, and was placed in command of a company of militia at Boca del Río to guard the entrance to the Rio Grande. He was recognized for bravery by Confederate authorities for his capture of a federal gunboat and crew there. Unable to obtain adequate supplies and clothing while in the Confederate Army and frustrated with his inability to communicate in English with his superiors, Vidal led a mutiny in October 1863. Gen. Hamilton P. Bee sent two privates to recall Vidal and his company to Brownsville. Private D. H. Dashiell, son of the Texas adjutant general, was killed, and Private Litteral was wounded. Litteral escaped and reported to Bee. The Confederate troops waited at Brownsville for Vidal's attack, but it never came. Vidal and his men passed within a mile of Brownsville and plundered neighboring ranches, where they killed several Confederate sympathizers.
During the federal occupation of the lower Rio Grande valley in November 1863, Vidal enlisted in the Union Army along with many of the same men who had previously served with him in the Confederate Army. As a commissioned captain in command of "Vidal's Independent Partisan Rangers," the wily Vidal acted as the eyes of the Union Army in the Valley, scouting as far upriver as Roma and north to the Nueces. After continued struggle with the army bureaucracy, in which he experienced the sting of discrimination and was frustrated with his inability to keep the records required of a company commander, Vidal attempted to resign from the Union Army in May 1864, in order to join his family in Brownsville. By the time army headquarters finally consented to an honorable discharge, Vidal, with most of his men, had fled into Mexico. There he joined Cortina and the Juaristas to do battle with the Imperialists and quickly gained a reputation for summarily executing captives. In June 1865 he was captured by the Imperialists at Camargo. His stepfather was said to have gone to Camargo to offer a sizable ransom for Vidal's release, but Vidal was hastily executed. Kenedy brought his body back to Brownsville for burial.
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Jerry Don Thompson, "Mutiny and Desertion on the Rio Grande: The Strange Saga of Captain Adrian J. Vidal," Military History of Texas and the Southwest 12 (1974). The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Vidal, Adrián J.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 23, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
July 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
August 12, 2020
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: