Matamoros and the Texas Revolution

By Craig H. Roell | Go to book overview

6.
JUDAS, SCOUNDRELS, WOLVES,
AND RASCALLY ACQUIREMENTS

As THE MATAMOROS EXPEDITION was getting underway, the polemical division in the Texas provisional government flared into white heat between Governor Smith, who advocated independence, and the majority of the General Council, who still favored the federalist Constitution of 1824. Smith, who had authorized Houston to command an expedition to Matamoros, objected to Johnson and Grant’s leadership because he distrusted both their motives and allegiance. His misgivings were based partially on the rumor that the two men were attempting to join with Mexican insurrectionists to establish a republic in northern Mexico that would be independent of both Mexico and Texas, an objective that was apparently no secret to Austin, Houston, or Dimmitt. If indeed this was the true goal, then it ran counter to the designs of either the independence faction or those claiming loyalty to the Constitution of 1824. Smith, like Dimmitt, also distrusted the glowing reports from the Mexican interior indicating that Mexican federalists were ready to unite in strength with Texans in a Matamoros campaign.1

Nonetheless, the General Council overrode Smith’s opposition and on January 14, 1836, authorized Johnson’s command of the Matamoros expedition now underway by Grant. Yet, in their determination to carry out the project, the council on January 7 had already appointed James Walker Fannin as “agent” of a volunteer expedition to Matamoros, authorized him to call on the prestigious merchant firm of McKinney, Williams, and Company for provisions, transportation, and munitions, and sanctioned him to recruit and assign positions as needed. As the council’s agent, Fannin was essentially answerable only to himself-—not the commanderin-chief or the governor—making his powers quite extraordinary.

In effect, the council issued two separate commands, one to Fannin and one to Johnson, for a Matamoros campaign independent of Houston and Smith. Although the council’s intention seems to have been to respect Fannin’s earlier appointment, both Fannin and Johnson recruited volunteers independently for an increasingly controversial expedition that

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