First-Hand Account of the Taking of Nacogdoches

On August 12, 1812

I first ran across this account of the taking of Nacogdoches by Col. M’Gee just lately in the Pittsburgh Mercury of October 29, 1812.  It is by far the most detailed of any account I have yet read.  The Mercury cites as its source a communication from Huntsville, which could refer to Huntsville, Louisiana, or Huntsville, Alabama, which was incorporated in 1811.  Since most communications from Texas usually traveled from Nacogdoches to Natchitoches, to Natchez to Nashville, this one has an unusual origin.  This is how the head note reads:  “HUNTSVILLE, October 3.  Extract of a letter from a gentleman of the first respectability at Natchitoches to his friend in Pinckneyville, dated August 16, 1812.”   How it ended up in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Mercury, is anyone’s guess.

“Last evening an express arrived from Nacagdoches, informing that col. M’Gee, (late lieut. M’Gee, of the U. States army) took possession of the place on the 12th inst. without opposition, in the name of his excellency Don Bernard Gaucietus, (the gentleman who passed through here last fall, and went to Washington.)

Last Friday week, M’Gee was encamped on the Sabine, with three companies viz. Kemper’s, Perry’s and Taylor’s in all about one hundred and fifty men.  He had sent out four spies, who fell in with an advance guard of the Spaniards–some shots passed in which one Spaniard was killed and one wounded–the spies retreated, but not until the whole Spanish force of 150 men, under the command of colonel Sanbrano, were in sight.  On their return to camp, (three miles) M’Gee, with eighty men, advanced, but found Sanbrano retreating precipitately; he followed till night, and then returned–the next day M’Gee’s whole force pursued on the Nacagdoches road; on the night of the 10th captain Kemper, with a part of his company, surrounded and took Sanbrano’s rear guard, consisting of an ensign and eighteen men; one only made his escape, (he was gone to a small bayou for water) and next morning early got into Nacadoches with the news, where Sanbrano had already arrived, who now being abandoned by all his men except twenty, in one hour set off for St. Antonio, taking with him money and mules to the amount of 70,000 dollars, and leaving behind more than two hundred packs of fine wool, worth about one hundred dollars per pack;  M’Gee with his whole force soon arrived near the town, when a deputation of the people waited on,  and invited him in, with assurances that he would be received with open arms; accordingly on the 12th Nacagdoches was taken possession of, and captain Kemper with a select party was dispatched after Sambrano, who although he had one day the start, it was thought would be overtaken; forty regular soldiers have been made prisoners,  and in the place they found some public stores, consisting of guns, spears, swords, powder, musket, cartridges, horses and mules.

Don Bernardo arrived soon after the fall of the place, escorted by twenty gentlemen, and was received with shouts of joy.–M’Gee is now (including the friendly militia of Nacagdoches) near four hundred strong, his party will, in a very short time be double when they will march for St. Antonio, which will fall like Nacadoches, for no doubt two thirds of the regulars and nearly all the inhabitants will desert their present rulers and join the invaders.  I doubt not in a few weeks this party will be in possession of all the country east of the river Grand, ready to co-operate with general Ryan, and if the favourable accounts from Mexico be true, the revolution will soon be completed, and the country will assume a regular government, upon independent free principles.”
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About the Author

Mary Bowden is a researcher working at the Texas Collections Deposit Library at the University of Texas. A little-known but invaluable treasure of U.S. history and the history of American journalism is archived in the collection of bound United States’ Newspapers at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection began more than a century ago and has been stored in recent years in the Texas Collections Deposit Library on the campus of the University of Texas. The sizeable archive is currently in the early stages of being digitized before being moved to a more climate-controlled environment at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University, on the north side of Austin.

Mary Bowden