Forgotten Texas Leader: Hugh McLeod and the Texan Santa Fe Expedition

By Etcheson, Nicole | The Journal of Southern History, August 2001 | Go to article overview

Forgotten Texas Leader: Hugh McLeod and the Texan Santa Fe Expedition


Etcheson, Nicole, The Journal of Southern History


Forgotten Texas Leader: Hugh McLeod and the Texan Santa Fe Expedition. By Paul N. Spellman. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, c. 1999. Pp. xii, 235. $24.95, ISBN 0-89096-869-9.)

Paul N. Spellman wishes to rescue Hugh McLeod from his relative obscurity and place him in the first rank of Texas historical figures. McLeod's story is an interesting and important one, and Spellman, his first biographer, does it justice. McLeod was raised in Georgia and attended West Point, where he excelled at drinking and gaining demerits. He graduated, last in his class, in 1835. Although many fellow Georgians joined the Texas cause, McLeod's service in the U.S. Army prevented him from following them. This was just as well for him, as the Georgians were killed at Goliad. Still, McLeod requested a leave of absence from his army post in early March 1836 and simply never returned. McLeod spent the Texas Revolution at Nacogdoches, then served as the new republic's adjutant general. McLeod's friendship and family ties to Mirabeau Lamar caused problems as Lamar and Sam Houston became increasingly hostile to each other. McLeod and Houston became lifelong enemies.

McLeod's most important command, to which Spellman devotes a third of the book, was the ill-fated Santa Fe expedition. President Lamar planned the expedition ostensibly to open trade relations with New Mexico. He also presumed, quite incorrectly, that the New Mexicans would be eager to become part of Texas. The expedition started too late in June 1841, and everything went wrong. McLeod was ill, which explains the late start and perhaps also his failure to control his men, who broke ranks to chase game, wasted supplies, and defied orders. The Texans got lost twice. By September the expedition was low on supplies, harassed by Indians, and on the verge of disintegration. …

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