Filisola's Defense of His Actions in Texas
Documenting the Defeat and Capture of Santa Anna at San Jacinto
A black tulip of Texana, Filisola's so-called Manifiesto has long been heralded as one of the most desirable of 19th-century Texas book rarities. Filisola was Santa Anna's second in command, and the present very rare pamphlet stands as his first publication relating to the Mexican retreat from Texas following the Battle of San Jacinto, in April 1836. The text includes important documents related to the defeat and capture of Santa Anna by the Texans. Thomas Streeter included Filisola's Manifiesto among the ten most important items as enumerated in the introduction of Vol. III of his Bibliography of Texas. An example of this book appeared as one of the most expensive items in Edward Eberstadt & Son's 1963 Catalogue No. 162, which was entirely devoted to Texana, for the then princely sum of $1500. The printing is rather crude, entirely in keeping with the northern Mexico outpost of Saltillo, then capital of Coahuila y Tejas, which had been renamed Leona Vicario in 1827 to honor a heroine of Mexican independence. No known example has a title page and all bibliographical authorities agree that none was issued with the book. And while Howes lists this work under a derived title (Manifiesto á la Nacion), that was likely a binder's title or supplied cover title. All recorded copies begin with page , which has the caption heading "Mejicanos," dated and signed at the foot of the page: "Leona Vicario Julio 12 de 1836. Vicente Filisola [sic]." Another single-page statement (on page 42) is dated at the same place, July 18, 1836.
This rare self-published book by Filisola presents documents in defense of his operations and conduct in the Texas campaign. Filisola had it printed hard on the heels of the official Diario of the Mexican government of June 15, 1836 which had presented various documents critical of his conduct while in charge of the Mexican army's retreat from Texas. Filisola had recently been replaced by General José Urrea, an erstwhile subordinate. The work in hand includes the text of 22 numbered documents by which Filisola presents evidence of his proper conduct. The latest date that appears herein is July 18, 1836. Upon returning to Mexico City later in 1836 Filisola would issue an extended 82-page pamphlet expanding on his defense, Representacion dirigida al Supremo Gobierno. That book is not nearly as rare as the present Manifiesto, which was printed by an unknown provincial printer in Saltillo.
Filisola declares on the opening page how he had been depicted in a manner "unbefitting" a general in a June 15, 1836 Diario Oficial of documents concerning the Texas campaign:
Various documents relating to the latest events in Texas having been presented to the public through the publication of the Supreme Government on the 15th of last June, in which I appear in a manner hardly befitting a general of the Republic, onto whom, by unfortunate accident, fell the obligation to uphold the dignity of the national arms and the integrity of its territory; and it not having been deemed convenient to insert my official reports in the same publication for the interested parties - who are all the citizens of the Republic - to weigh the reasons presented in both sets of documents and thus impartially rule on the justice or injustice of my actions... I have thought it convenient to publish said reports through the present means...
Habiendose manifestado al publico por medio del diario del Supremo Gobierno 15 del procsimo pasado junio varios documentos relativos á los ultimos acontecimiento de Tejas, en los que aparesco de una manera poco digna para un general de la Republica, en quien por accidente desgraciado recayo la obligacion de sostener el decoro de las armas nacionales y la integridad de su territorio; y no habiendose estimado conveniente incertar en el mismo diario mis parte oficiales para que los interesados que lo son los CC. todos de la Republica pesando con madurés las razones expuestas en unos y otros documentos pudieran con imparcialidad fallar sobre la justicia ó injusticia de mis procedimientos... he creido conveniente publicar dichos partes por medio de este impreso...
The first group of documents concerns the defeat and capture of Santa Anna at San Jacinto. Santa Anna was captured in the aftermath of the Battle of San Jacinto, the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution when, on April 21, 1836, under the command of Sam Houston, the Texan Army defeated Santa Anna's forces. Outstanding among the present documents:
- Document No. 1: Filisola's report to the Secretary of War dated April 25 announcing the defeat of the Mexican forces.
- Document No. 2: Santa Anna's report of April 22 on the same topic, to Filisola: "Habiendo ayer tarde tenido un encuentro desgraciado la corta Divicion que obrava á mis inmediaciones, ha resultado estar como prisionero de guerra entre los contrarios... pues se ha acordado con el general Houston, un armisticio interin se arreglan algunas nogociaciones que hagan cesar la guerra para siempre... Campo de S. Jacinto abril 22 de 1836."
- Document No. 7: On the arrival of Gen. Adriano Woll.
- Document No. 11: Filisola's report of May 14 to the Secretary of War, giving a detailed 10-page account of the Texas campaign and its aftermath.
- Document No. 12: Six additional pages by Filisola.
- Documento No. 16: Tornel's communication to Filisola of May 15, 1836: "In no case will Your Excellency commit to the recognition of the independence of Texas... But everything is left to the prudence of Your Excellency, and I once again, and with great urgency, recommend considering what the nation and the Supreme Government are interested in, which is the salvation of the General President. Original Spanish: "En ningun caso se compremeterá V. E. al reconocimiento de la independencias de Tejas... Pero todo se deja á la prudencia de V. E. y le recomiendo de nuevo y con la major vivesa lado lo que la nacion y el Supremo Gobierno se interesa en la salvacion del General Presidente."
Filisola had been an officer under Iturbide, and served as second in command under Santa Anna during the invasion of Texas in 1835. He later served as a commander during the Mexican War. He is perhaps best remembered for his Memorias Para la Historia de la Guerra de Tejas (Mexico, 1849), which John Jenkins called "the best account by a Mexican contemporary of the American conquest of Texas."
This is an exceptionally rare Texas book, of the greatest interest for mixing equal parts prime historical content and extreme rarity. Streeter singled this book out as one of the ten most desirable books in Vol. III of his masterful Texas bibliography. Streeter located only four copies: University of Texas, Biblioteca Nacional de Mexico, Yale, and Streeter's own copy. We note three additional examples, at Rice University, SMU and the Lilly Library at Indiana University.