September 11, 1998
By D.L. Muñoz
As the news of the insurrection led by Father Miguel
Hidalgo y Costilla of Dolores reached Texas, Mariano Jimenez, one of Hidalgos trusted lieutenants, was assigned to assess and promote resistance to the royal government in Coahuila and Texas, which were important because of proximity to the United States from which the independence movement needed sympathy and aid. The battle to defend the Spanish crown fell to the last royal governor of Sanish Texas, Manuel Salcedo.
Governor Salcedo moved quickly to organize resistance to the titanic forces of insurrection with meager resources. He realized the potential prestige to be gained by obtaining support and arms from the USA. However, he was subverted at the last moment by his uncle, Commandant Nemecio Sal-cedo. With rumors of rebel spies and assassins and even that Hidalgo forces were preparing to invade Texas, Salcedo imposed restrictions on civilian travel and actually intercepted and screened mail carried by royal carriers.
In Jan 1811, Gov. Salcedo secretly sent his family to East Texas. Gov. Salcedo planned to move troops from San Antonio to defend Texas at the Rio Grande, however, rumors circulated that the governor and Lt. Col. Herrera were leaving Texas altogether which would be at themercy of insurrectionists and Indians. On Jan 6 Gov. Salcedo issued a proclamation to counter the panic and called for renewed loyalty of Texans to the Spanish crown and way of life.
On Jan. 15, the first overt action against the royal government in San Antonio occurred. Rebel sympathizers under Lt. Antonio Saenz planned to take over the Casa Reales, the seat of the royal government in San Antonio.
Despite intense efforts of Gov. Salcedo and Lt. Herrara to maintain control and calm, fear, rebellion and revolutionary ideas began to gain a hold on Bexarenos including elements of the royal military itself.
Juan Bautista de Las Casas and enlisted men from the Quartel barracks in La Villita marched on Casa Reales and arrested Gov. Salcedo and Lt. Col. Herrara and staff.
Las Casas appointed himself head of a provisional government, confiscated loyalist property and announced his association with the Hidalgo forces. Las Casas put Gov. Salcedo and associates in chains and marched them to Monclova where insurrectionist Pedro de Aranda held them at the hacienda of former royalist turned rebel. The Las Casas movement spread to Nacogdoches and other East Texas outposts under Lt. Antonio Saenz. However, Las Casas arrogance and actions began to appear no different than the royalists that he had overturned. This was amplified by the arrogance of Hidalgo associates Ignacio Aldama and Juan Salazar when they visited San Antonio and Las Casas on their way to appeal for aid in the USA. Las Casas made the mistake of ignoring isleta aristocrats and former army officers who were Texans first and royalists second. He also alienated his chief associate Antonio Saenz. Opposition to Las Casas began to organize around Juan Manuel Zambrano, a subdeacon in the Church of San Fernando.
With the support of San Antonio notables Ignacio Perez, Jose Erasmo Seguin, Juan Veramendi and Francisco Ruiz, Zambrano seized back control of Casa Reales without a fight, pledged fidelity to King Ferdinand VII, arrested rebels and sent riders to inform Provincias Commandant Nemecio Salacedo of his actions. The messengers from Zambrano rode south and encountered royalist sympathizers near San Fernando, Coahuila who led them to Hacienda Elizondo where Gov. Salcedo was confined. Apparently association with and the persuasion of his captors and arrival of the messengers caused Elizondo to return to the royalist fold. On 21 Mar, Elizondo, Salcedo, Herrera, the riders from San Antonio and Jose Men-chaca and other royalists urprised and apprehended "mexican revolutionary," Father Hidalgo, Mariano Jime-nez, Juan Aldama, Ignacio Allende and other leaders of the insurrectionist Army of the Americas at the Wells of Baja. Gov. Salcedo hurriedly escorted 27 prisoners from Montclova to Commandant Salcedo headquarters at Chihuahua. A seven-member tribunal headed by Gov. Salcedo found the group guilty of high treason and sentenced them to death by firing squad with shots to the back. Ecclesiastical inquisitors prior to sentencing by the tribunal defrocked Hidalgo who was
shot in the chest privately because of his service to the church. Las Casas of San Antonio suffered the same fate. The heads of all were severed and were displayed in a cage at the Alhondiga for ten years in Guanajuato.
Thus ended the life of Father Miguel Hidalgo y Cos-tilla, the father of the Mexican war for Independence from Spain.
(Information derived from the morgue files of La Prensa San Diego, 1994-1997, excerpts from "Sons of Dewitt Colony Texas," by Wallace McKeehan,' and an article by Armando Alvarez in "La Voz de Colorado, of 1996.)