Saga of a Texas Ranger–Series by Jeff Robenalt

Texas history and then some.

The Mier Expedition-research for “Saga of a Texas Ranger”

Written By: admin - Nov• 30•10

The Mier Expedition

By: jeffery robenalt

The Mier Expedition 


      During his second term in office, President Sam Houston worked hard to maintain an uneasy peace between the Republic of Texas and Mexico. His efforts were tested when Mexican dictator, Santa Anna, sent General Vazquez with a thousand troops across the Rio Grande to occupy San Antonio. The Texas Congress, angered by the dictator’s action, declared war on Mexico, but Houston, knowing the nearly bankrupt republic was in no position to fight a war, vetoed the declaration stating, “Texas would defend itself if need be, but we must not attack.” 

      The political pressure continued to mount when Santa Anna again ordered the occupation of San Antonio. General Adrian Woll, a French mercenary, and his twelve hundred soldiers plundered the old mission town and fought a battle at Salado Creek with the local militia and Texas Rangers under the command of “Old PaintCaldwell. The Mexicans suffered severe casualties when they assaulted the Texas positions dug in along the creek. Unfortunately, the Texans did not possess the strength to prevent Woll from retreating to the Rio Grande with the loot and the prisoners he captured in San Antonio, including the members of the district court. President Houston could not allow such an outrage to go entirely unpunished. 

      On October 3, 1842, Houston bowed to the inevitable, ordering General Alexander Somervell of Matagorda to take command of the volunteers and Texas Rangers who had been called to muster in San Antonio and make a demonstration in force along the Mexican border. However, Houston made it absolutely clear to Somervell that the expedition was not to cross the Rio Grande unless the General was sure it could be done successfully. 

      On November 7, the volunteers assembled at Mission San Jose. The first task facing General Somervell was to move his 750 volunteers to a camp on the south bank of the Medina River and organize them into regiments and companies of infantry. Unlike the force that Caldwell commanded at the Battle of Salado Creek which consisted of local militia and a few Texas Rangers fighting to protect their families and homes, Somervell’s volunteers had been lured from afar and were mostly self-willed and undisciplined adventurers out to capture a little loot and as much glory as they could grab. Such men were sure to cause problems before the expedition was over. The mounted company commanded by Major Jack Hays and made up of sixty Texas Rangers was the exception. They would prove to be an invaluable asset to the General during the trying times that lay ahead. 

      On November 25, the expedition marched south from the camp on the Medina with Hays and his Rangers in the lead; their homemade flag proudly bearing the motto “We give but ask no quarter” hanging limp in the pouring rain. Chief Flacco and his Lipan Apache scouts had ridden out the evening before and ranged far ahead of the marching troops. The expedition suffered from a severe shortage of powder, lead, beef, bread, and most other supplies, and even lacked the wagons necessary to carry what little they did have. However, the lack of wagons was in all likelihood a blessing because the rain had been falling for several days and the land between the Medina and the Frio River was a virtual bog. 

      After slogging through the mud for three weary days, the column reached the Laredo Road, and two days later on December 1, forded the wide but shallow Frio. When Somervell sent Hays and his Rangers ahead to scout Laredo, they were forced to undress and swim their horses across the flooded Nueces River, holding bundled clothes and weapons high over their heads. The rain finally let up when the marching column reached the Nueces, and Somervell ordered the construction of a crude bridge across the main channel of the river. The volunteers were waiting on the south bank when the Rangers returned from their scout. 

      Hays reported to Somervell  that Laredo was undefended, and the General immediately ordered his small army to make a forced march to the Rio Grande. By daybreak on December 8, the Texas forces were encamped in a semicircle around Laredo. Unfortunately, only hours earlier, the alcalde had driven more than a thousand horses across the river and Somervell’s hope of mounting his entire force was lost. The Texans received a silent greeting from the citizens of Laredo when they rode into town, and Hays hoisted the Texas flag to the top of the church steeple. Later that day, Somervell pulled his men out of Laredo and relocated them three miles south of town on a high hill near the Rio Grande. 

      The remainder of the day passed without incident, but well before sunrise the following morning of December 9, more than two hundred rowdy volunteers, ignoring General Somervell’s direct orders to the contrary, reentered Laredo and looted the town, taking what they pleased from the terrified Mexican citizens including an occasional unwilling daughter or wife. With the assistance of the Texas Rangers, Somervell was able to clear the town of the undisciplined rabble and return most of the booty to the alcalde before apologizing for the misconduct of his men. However, much to the alcalde’s annoyance, the General kept the stolen coffee, flour, sugar, and soap. 

      In an attempt to avoid  the prying eyes of the Mexican cavalry, General Somervell decided to march down the east bank of the Rio Grande when the Texans pulled out of Laredo. The decision proved to be a costly mistake. Time and again the mesquite and thorny chaparral that grew thick along the border forced the column to circle well away from the river, and often there was no other choice except to chop their way through the thickets and prickly undergrowth. By the time they reached the river again six days later, the men were exhausted, hungry, and practically out of supplies. That evening nearly 200 men voted to return to San Antonio. 

      The following morning Somervell crossed the Rio Grande with the remainder of his force and advanced to Guerrero, some sixty miles below Laredo, where he demanded that the alcalde either provide him with 100 horses and five days’ provisions or the town would be sacked. Hearing rumors of a large Mexican contingent in the area, the General ordered the volunteers to retreat back across the river and await the delivery of the horses and supplies. However, when the alcalde failed to meet his demands in the morning, Somervell realized that little could be gained by sacking Guerrero. Whether his men liked it or not, they were now safe on the Texas side of the Rio Grande, and the General intended to keep them there. 

      On the morning of December 19, General Somervell reluctantly made the decision to abandon the entire operation and ordered the army to march north to Gonzales and disband. As the General had expected, many of the men were furious, and when one of the Captains of the expedition, William S. Fisher, asked for permission to march down the river with those men who were unwilling to disband, Somervell warned of the dangers in such a move and denied his request. 

      The General’s denial prompted 305 volunteers to withdraw from his command and elect Fisher to lead them in a private invasion of Mexico; in actuality more of a quest for revenge and plunder than a military action. Jack Hays and most of the Texas Rangers were among the 189 men who marched for Gonzales with Somervell that afternoon, but Sam Walker and Bigfoot Wallace decided to stay behind and join with Fisher. 

      Prior to moving  his ragtag army further south, Fisher dispatched Sam Walker and the Texas Rangers who had remained with him down the Mexican side of the Rio Grande with the dual mission of screening his force from the Mexican cavalry and scouting the area around the town of Mier for any sign of the enemy. The newly elected Colonel then marched the majority of his small army south along the Texas side of the Rio Grande, and ferried the remainder of the men down the river on small boats captured by the Rangers during the crossing to Guerrero. 

      On December 22, the Texans occupied the Mexican town of Mier unopposed, and Colonel Fisher met with the alcalde in the main Plaza. Fisher loudly demanded enough horses to mount his force and sufficient provisions to feed his men for a week, promising as Somervell had, that the town would be sacked if the horses and supplies were not delivered to the Texas side of the Rio Grande by morning. Unlike Somervell, however, Fisher meant to keep his promise. Sensing the determination in the Colonel’s words, the alcalde agreed to meet Fisher’s demands, and the Texans returned to their camp across the river to await delivery of the horses and supplies. 

      Meanwhile, Mexican General Pedro Ampudia arrived in Mier with 3000 troops and refused to allow the alcalde to deliver on his promise. Fisher and the Texans were so furious they ignored the staggering odds of more than ten to one against them and marched back to Mier on December 24, launching an immediate attack on the town. The struggle was close and bloody, but the outnumbered Texans managed to fight their way to the main plaza before nightfall. The following day General Ampudia ordered three separate suicidal charges across the plaza directly into the muzzles of the Texans’ rifles in an attempt to dislodge them, but Fisher’s small army held firm until shortages of water, ammunition, and food finally forced them to surrender the following morning. 

      In spite of being so heavily outnumbered, only 31 Texans were killed or wounded in the fighting to capture Mier while the Mexicans suffered 200 wounded and nearly 600 killed. In an act of revenge for their terrible losses, the Mexican soldiers stripped the bodies of the dead Texans and drug them through the streets of Mier. The prisoners were marched in chains to Matamoros and then on to Salado where they managed a mass escape on February 11, 1843, by disarming their guards and overpowering the Mexican soldiers guarding the arms and ammunition. Unfortunately, most of the Texans became lost and wandered for six days in the mountainous desert north of Salado until they were nearly dead from thirst and hunger. 

      The Mexicans eventually recaptured 176 of the prisoners and marched the Texans to Saltillo where President Santa Anna sentenced them to death en masse. The harsh sentence was later commuted to death for one man in ten at the urging of the American and British ambassadors. In what was to later become known as the infamous “Black Bean Episode,” the prisoners were forced to draw beans from a jar. The seventeen men who drew black beans were stood against a wall and executed by firing squad. 

      After the bloody execution, the remaining prisoners were marched to Mexico City and later imprisoned in Perote Castle. The survivors of the long ordeal were released on September 14, 1844. What President Andrew Jackson had referred to as the “wild goose campaign to Santa Fe” was finally over.  

**** If you enjoyed reading this article, you will love my book, “Saga of a Texas Ranger”; historical fiction at its finest! To find out more about the book, go to ABOUT THE BOOK and BOOK REVIEW on this web site. To order either the hardback or kindle edition, go to About the Book on this web site or click on . The second book in the series, “Star Over Texas”, is due to be released soon along with the soft cover edition of “Saga of a Texas Ranger”. ****

About the Author


Jeffery Robenalt was born and raised in Tiffin, Ohio. He served in Vietnam as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and later served as a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer with the 101st Airborne Division. He has a BS in Sociology from Troy University, a BA in History from New York University, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Texas Tech University. After earning his law degree, Mr. Robenalt was an Attorney for the State of Texas for ten years. Saga of a Texas Ranger is his first novel, however, the second volume in the saga, Star Over Texas, will soon be ready for publication. Mr. Robenalt currently resides in Lockhart, Texas where he teaches Texas history at Lockhart Junior High School.

(ArticlesBase SC #3673770)

Article Source: Mier Expedition

see Kevins blog at,

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>