Tag Archives: Elisha Pease

Today in Texas History – July 5

From the Annals of the Border Raids –  In 1855, Governor Elisha Pease authorized  Captain James Callahan to lead a party of Texas Rangers across the Rio Grande into Mexico purportedly to punish Apaches who were raiding Texas and hiding out in Mexico.  It appears more likely that the Callahan Expedition  was an attempt to recapture runaway slaves (primarily Black Seminoles) who had escaped to Mexico and obtained permission to settle there. Governor Santiago Vidaurri of Nuevo León y Coahuila had earlier rebuffed a more peaceful attempt by an emissary sent by slave owners and fearing the worst had ordered his troops to prepare for invasion. Callahan crossed into Mexico in early October and engaged the allied Seminole and Mexican forces.  A side attack was staged under the command of William R. Henry in an attempt to seize the Black Seminole women and children.  But Henry was ambushed and the entire expedition was forced to retreat to Piedras Negras.  But there they faced a large contingent of Mexican Regular Army troops supported by the Seminoles.  Callahan torched the town in retribution before skedaddling back to Texas with cover from American troops on the north side of the Rio Grande. In 1876 the Claims Commission settled claims originating from the expedition, awarding 150 Mexican citizens a total of $50,000 in damages.

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Today in Texas History – January 21

From the Annals of Stupidity –  In 1856, the American or Know-Nothing party of Texas came out of the closet and met for the first time in open convention in Austin. The party was formed by the members of the xenophobic, racist and anti-Catholic secret society known as the American Order. The origin of the “Know Nothing” term was in the semi-secret organization of the party. When a member was asked about its activities, he was supposed to reply, “I know nothing.” Outsiders called them “Know-Nothings”, and the name stuck. In 1855, the Know-Nothings first entered politics as the American Party.  The Texas Know-Nothings, led by Lieutenant Governor David C. Dickson – a former Democrat, attempted to gain control of the State.   Dickson was the candidate for governor.  Most members and Know-Nothing candidates continued to deny that they were members of the American Order.  The campaign was helped by Sam Houston who drafted a public letter endorsing the principles of the American Order. In the August election, incumbent Democratic governor Elisha M. Pease defeated Dickson.  However, the Know-Nothings had other successes.  The voters elected Lemuel D. Evans to Congress and won several seats in the state house.  The party was short-lived coming apart over the issue of slavery.  By 1857, the Know-Nothings had virtually ceased to exist in Texas.

Image of David Catchings Dickson.