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Vol. 4 - No.06 June, 2022 Nooseletter Home SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
Jose Maria Jesus Carbajal
José M. J. Carbajal was born one of the eleven children to Jose Antonio Carvajal Peña and his wife Maria Gertrudis Sánchez Soto. He was born in San Fernando de Béxar, which later be known as San Antonio. His father died when José María was a young child. In the after math of the battle of Madina, his mother was among the women who were held prisoner and mistreated by Spanish Royalist forces led by General Joaquin de Arredondo. Stephen F. Austin took a liking to Carvajal and took young Jose Maria under his mentorship. Austin obtained parental permission for young Carvajal to travel to Kentucky in 1823 with a merchant named Hawkins to lean the tanning trade. Two years later, Carvajal was in Lexington training under a saddle maker named Peter Hedenbergh. Later he studied under Alexander Campbell at Bethany, Virginia.

In 1830, Austin sent the young lad to New Orleans on a business trip to meet with Rezin Bowie. When he returned to Texas, Stephen F. Austin sponsored him in obtaining employment as the official surveyor for Martin De León and his wife Patricia de la Garza De Leon, and he laid out the town of Victoria, Texas. Carvajal married De León’s daughter Maria del Refugia De Leon Garza, and the couple had three children. The state government of Coahuila y Tajas ( Coahuila and Texas) sent Carvajal and Jose Francisco Madero to conduct land grant surveys in East Texas in January 1831. A confrontation about the granting of the titles arose between Colonel John Davis Bradburn, who was the military governor over Galveston Bay. Bradburn arrested Madero and Carvajal. The two remained incarcerated for 10 days.

Aided by the influence by Stephen F. Austin, Carvajal went into politics in May 1831. Six months later, Carvajal was appointed to the San Felipe local government. In 1832, Carvajal had a seat on the Nacogdoches town council. Antonio López de Santa Anna was elected president of Mexico on April 1, 1833, after ousting and exile of President Anastasio Bustamante. Santa Anna revoked the 1824 Constitution of Mexico and replaced its Federalist form of government with a Centralist regime to further his military dictatorship. He appointed his brother-in-law Martin Perfecto de Cos as commander general.

Carvajal had been ad interim secretary for the ayuntamiento of Bexar ( ayuntamiento was the principal governing body of Spanish municipalities). In the spring he was elected deputy of the legislature. Carvajal was elected secretary and authorized to publish the laws and decrees of the state in English and Spanish. Carvajal, along with James Grant and John Durst were of the committee of Civic militia and colonization. Carvajal met with Samuel May Williams, Williams wanted to enlist Carvajal’s help in passing a new law. The Four Hendred League Law. It was passed April 19, 1834. It authorized the governor to sell up to four hundred leagues (1.5 million acres) in Texas, in order to generate income for the state treasury for the purpose for a volunteer militia to protect the citizens specifically against Indian attacks. Samuel May Williams and John Durst introduced it. On March 16, Williams, Durst and Grant proposed to buy the four hundred leagues themselves, before the land went on sale ti the public. James Grant also gave Williams his power of attorney in the sales.

General Cos declared the new law illegal. General Cos sent troops to shut down the legislature, and ordered the arrest of all who voted for the Four Hundred League Law. Mexican Colonel Domingo Ugartechea, ordered Carvajal arrested, but soldiers were unable to do so when they arrived at Victoria. Upon orders from Victoria’s alcalde, who happened to be Carvajal’s brother in law Plácido Benavides, the local Victoria militia blocked the soldiers. Carvajal had gone into hiding in New Orleans. In 1835 Stephen F. Austin issued an appeal for arms to equip the Texans in the war against Santa Anna. Carvajal responded to his old mentor’s appeal. Teaming up with brother in law Fernando De Leon and with Peter Kerr, they chartered a ship to supply the Texas forces, horses, mules and munitions were loaded aboard. They left New Orlean for Texas. The vessel was captured by Mexicans, and Carvajal was imprisoned at Brazos Santiago and then Matamoros, Mexico. While preparations were underway to transfer him to San Juan de Ulloa, he escaped and returned to Texas.

When the Texas War of Independence broke out, Carbajal did not fully support it. Like many Mexicans, Carbajal hated Santa Anna’s dictatorship, but didn’t want to take up arms against fellow Mexicans. He hoped the war would lead to a general Mexican struggle against Centralism and the restoration of the Constitution of 1824. He helped the fledging republic purchase weapons, but refused to fight against the Mexican Army. Mexicans who refused to take up arms were suspected sympathizers. Brigadier General Thomas J. Rusk confiscated the homes of those who wished to remain neutral of the war. In July 1836, Rusk ordered the Carbajal, Benavides, and the De León families of Victoria escorted off their own land. The families left for New Orleans. Having been stripped of their wealth and everything they owned. Carbajal renounced his ties with the new Republic of Texas. Carbajal’s brother in law Silvestre De León returned to Victory, and was murdered.

After Santa Anna lost Texas, Anastasio Bustamante returned from exile and in 1837 once again became president of Mexico. The people of Mexico blamed Santa Anna’s Centralist regime for the loss of Texas. They saw Bustamante as his puppet and wanted to return to the Federalist form of government. Upon returning to Mexico, Carbajal and Antonio Canales Rosillo recruited insurgents to resist the Centralist troops, and establish a breakaway republic. The pair participated in Federalist revolts in northern Mexico. They joined rebels in Coahuila and Nuevo León, Carbajal and Canales helped proclaim a secessionist movement that aimed to establish an independent Republic of the Rio Grande in 1840. During a skirmish, Carbajal was struck by a musket ball and permanently lost the use of his left arm. Low on supplies and money, and unable to resist the larger and stronger centralist army, the revolutionaries surrendered. The Mexican government pardoned Carbajal along with Canales and many other rebels.

Carbajal considered himself a Mexican patriot, he despised the centralist regime in power. The centralist General Marino Paredes y Arrillga sat as president in the months before the American-Mexican War. In January 1846, Carbajal and Canales contacted U.S General Zackary Taylor to solicit help to overthrow General Paredes in exchange to recognizing the U.S. annexation of Texas, but the conspiracy did not materialize. Rather than fighting for the U.S., Carbajal fought for Mexico. He commanded a division of Mexican volunteers during the war, attacking U.S. supply trains along the roads of northern Mexico. After the war ended in February 1848, Carbajal took up surveying in Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. In 1850, however, still critical of centralist rule, Carbajal resumed his revolutionary activities. This time, Carbajal fought for an independent, Federalist Republic of the Sierra Madre. In 1851, he organized a fighting force of Mexican and Anglo mercenaries. The border warfare that took place became known as the Merchants War.

Carbajal’s army managed to take the cities of Camargo and Reynosa but the rebels and filibusters were eventually driven into the U.S. Carbajal and his men regrouped and invaded Mexico again in 1852. Antonio Canales Rosillo, his old comrade in arms, led the Mexican National Guardsmen and defeated Carbajal and his men. Carbajal lived as a fugitive in Mexico until 1857, when the Reform War began. He supported the liberal Minister of Justice Benito Juarez. Juarez became president of Mexico in 1858, appointed Carbajal military governor of Matamoros. With the liberals in power, Benito then proceeded to defend his country by leading a battalion against the French when Emperor Napoleon III sought to take advantage of a weakened and divided Mexico. On November 12, 1864, Juarez sent Carbajal to the U.S. to raise money for Mexico’s war effort and possibly solicit the assistance of a foreign army. He successfully convinced the U.S. arms manufacturers into accepting Mexican bonds in exchange for arms and munitions. The French expedition ended in 1866.

In 1870, at the age of 61, Carbajal retired. He died in Soto Marina, Tamaulipas, Mexico on August 19, 1874.
GeneralJose Maria Jesus Carvajal
GeneralJose Maria Jesus Carvajal
by Tom Kruger of Legends of the Old West
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