Sunday, July 31, 2016

Scorpions in a Bottle: The Jefferson War

We resume work on Scorpions in a Bottle with the second section of chapter 7, following the course of the Trans-Oceanic War in the Jefferson settlement. As I've noted before, this part of Sobel's history is somewhat problematic, since he never gives us a reason why the Jeffersonians would rebel against Spanish rule and set themselves up as an independent state. I've done what I can to square that circle.

* * *

In Jefferson City, news of the outbreak of war between Britain and Spain met a mixed reaction. By then, the original rebels were greatly outnumbered by more recent settlers from the Southern Confederation, many of whom still had close ties with friends and relatives in the South. Of the settlement’s three governors, Hamilton sympathized most with the British, and he sought to conclude a formal alliance with the British Empire that would allow Jefferson to break away from Spanish rule and become a sixth confederation of the C.N.A.

Hamilton’s proposed alliance was vetoed by his two fellow governors, who affirmed the settlement’s loyalty to the Spanish Empire and sent a bill to the Congress requesting that a militia force be raised to defend Tejas and Louisiana from British and North American incursions. The stage seemed set for war between the Jeffersonians and the North Americans, and Hamilton chose to resign rather than direct a war against the British. Madison and Johnston nominated Senator Benjamin Rush of Pennsylvania to replace him, and Rush was unanimously confirmed by his fellow senators. [1]

The Jeffersonians’ response to the war underwent a sudden transformation when Governor Muñoz sent word in December refusing their offer to raise an army in defense of New Spain. By then, the sickly governor’s superiors in Mexico City had become alarmed at the steady influx of North Americans into Tejas, and grew determined to establish firm control over the Jeffersonians. Muñoz declared the Jeffersonian government dissolved, and announced that he was sending a subordinate to take control of the settlement. [2]

The Jeffersonians were stunned. It seemed to them that the events of the American Crisis were being played out again in their new settlement. Overnight, the determination to resist the British was redirected into a determination to resist the Spanish. Although the Jeffersonian government continued to reject Hamilton’s proposed alliance with the British, his plan to break with the Spanish Empire was adopted, and his former colleague Madison called upon him to take command of an army to seize San Antonio and end Spanish rule over Tejas.

Hamilton accepted command of the proposed army, which began assembling in Jefferson City over the winter. At Hamilton’s suggestion, a second army was formed under the command of General Jacob Mellon, who had served as Hamilton’s second-in-command during the Apache War. In March 1796, Mellon’s force was dispatched east with orders to secure as much of southern Louisiana as possible, and New Orleans as well if that proved feasible. As it turned out, Mellon’s army lacked enough artillery and siege equipment to take New Orleans, and in May Mellon left two companies of men under the command of Major Andrew Jackson to keep watch on the city. Mellon turned back with the rest of his army and joined forces with Hamilton in the south. [3]

While Mellon’s men had made their way along the Gulf coast from Henrytown, Hamilton’s army of some 1,500 men set off along the road connecting Jefferson City to San Antonio. Forty miles outside of the provincial capital, near the Rio Guadalupe, Hamilton met a force of some 500 Spanish soldiers under the command of Colonel Juan Bautista Elguézabal, on their way to Jefferson City to enforce Muñoz’s order dissolving the Jeffersonian government. Colonel Elguézabal was unaware of events in the Jefferson settlement, and he initially thought that Hamilton’s men were coming to San Antonio to join the Spanish army.

Hamilton made no reply to Elguézabal’s order to stack arms and prepare to be escorted back to Jefferson City. Instead, he ordered his men to form a line of battle. Elguézabal and his men did not understand the significance of the maneuver until Hamilton ordered his men to attack the Spanish. Despite enjoying the element of surprise and a three-to-one advantage, the Jeffersonians were nearly defeated by the Spanish. It was only due to Hamilton’s ability to rally his faltering army on several occasions, and the death of Elguézabal late in the battle, that the Jeffersonians were finally able to prevail. [4]

With their victory at the Battle of Rio Guadalupe, the Jeffersonians were able to march into San Antonio unopposed. Governor Muñoz was sent back to Jefferson City under guard, and Hamilton addressed the San Antonio ayuntamiento, declaring the formation of the State of Jefferson and asking them to send a delegate to the Chamber of Representatives in Jefferson City to act as the city’s representative. The victory over Elguézabal proved costly enough that Hamilton chose to remain in San Antonio for the rest of the campaign season. Mellon arrived with his army in September, and Hamilton spent the fall and winter months reorganizing his army and building up supplies for the spring campaign.

Leaving Mellon in charge in San Antonio, Hamilton set out in March 1797 on his march to the Rio Grande, which he intended to establish as the new state’s southern border. In April, Hamilton’s army occupied the river town of Laredo, the capital of the province of Nuevo Santander. As he had done in San Antonio, Hamilton had the governor taken into custody and escorted to Jefferson City. He then addressed the town’s residents, claiming Laredo for the State of Jefferson and asking them to choose a representative to send to the Chamber in Jefferson City. Hamilton spent the summer and fall in Laredo, fortifying the town in preparation for an expected counterattack by Spanish forces from Mexico City. In October, he left for Jefferson City to consult with the three governors. [5]
1. Guerrero. The State of Jefferson, pp. 217-21.

2. Henry Miles. Jefferson in the Trans-Oceanic War (Mexico City, 1956), pp. 42-53. Some historians believe that Muñoz was delirious or under the influence of alcohol-based medication when he issued his orders to the Jeffersonians. See Lysander Gomez. “Possible Incapacitation of Governor Manuel Muñoz,” Journal of Jeffersonian History, XCVI (February, 2002), pp. 712-19.

3. Henry Miles. The Mellon Campaign in the Trans-Oceanic War (Mexico City, 1949), pp. 173-79.

4. Elizabeth Wolters. The Battle of Rio Guadalupe (Jefferson City, 1998).

5. Miles. Jefferson in the Trans-Oceanic War, pp. 337-48.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Scorpions in a Bottle: The Florida War

Today's section of Scorpions in a Bottle begins chapter 7, The Trans-Oceanic War, which tells of the outbreak of a general European war in 1795, and its effect on the North American colonies.

* * *

Jenkinson’s declarations of war were the culmination of two years of diplomatic maneuvering following the death of Louis XVI of France in September 1793. The Queen Mother, Marie Antoinette, following in the footsteps of Catherine de Medici, had herself declared regent for her eleven-year-old son, the dauphin Louis Philippe, who succeeded his father as Louis XVII. The Queen Mother sought to renew the Franco-Austrian alliance of the 1740s, and planned a joint attack on Prussia. Jenkinson concluded a defensive alliance with Prussia and several smaller German states, as well as renewing the ancient Anglo-Portuguese alliance. Marie Antoinette and her nephew launched their invasion in April 1795, leading Jenkinson to expand his ministry to include several leading opposition figures. The declarations of war set off a series of engagements throughout the world, including a renewed Spanish siege of Gibraltar and a Russian invasion of Poland.

Word of the outbreak of war reached North America in October. In Quebec City only a few radical separationists such as Paul Cerdan favored armed revolt. The British victory in the North American Rebellion had persuaded the Quebecois that armed resistance to British rule would be futile. On the other hand, if France defeated the British in Europe, the Quebecois might very well find themselves returning to French rule in the peace settlement. Thus, although most of the Francophone population favored the French, they were content to await the resolution of events in Europe rather than attempt to precipitate an uprising at home. [1]

In New York and Norfolk, news of the outbreak of war with the French sparked celebrations, parades, and speeches. For many North Americans, it was the first public patriotic celebration since the outbreak of the Rebellion twenty years before, and served as final proof of the reconciliation between rebel and Loyalist. The Northern Confederation Council voted N.A. £12,000 towards the cost of the Tomkinson expedition into East Florida. [2]

In Norfolk, Governor Bland had more ambitious plans than simply subsidizing the Georgian invasion of the Floridas. He intended to seize New Orleans, and as much of the rest of Spanish Louisiana as possible. Together with the other governors of the Southern Confederation, Bland applied to Connolly for the creation of a united S.C. army to march across Georgia (ironically, along the trail blazed by the Greene expedition) and lay siege to New Orleans. Bland also approached Dickinson, requesting that the viceroy use his influence with the British government to gain the assistance of the Royal Navy in attacking New Orleans. [3] Bland’s relentless advocacy proved irresistible, and by the summer of 1796 a British naval expedition under Captain Horatio Nelson was ready to set sail from Halifax for a rendezvous with the S.C. militia at the mouth of the Mississippi.

In East Florida, Colonel Tomkinson’s regiment defeated and captured a smaller Spanish military force thirty miles north of St. Augustine. The road to the East Florida capital was open, and Tomkinson pressed forward, laying siege to the city on August 23, 1795. Tomkinson knew that his force, consisting largely of raw recruits leavened with veterans of his old company, was unequal to the demands of a protracted siege. Therefore, after two days spent organizing his men, he launched a sudden surprise attack on the Spanish capital. Tomkinson himself led a picked force of veteran troops against a weak point in the fortifications while the remainder of his men kept the city’s defenders occupied with a general assault on the walls. Tomkinson was able to break through, and resistance collapsed as word spread among the Spanish troops that the Georgians had entered St. Augustine.

For the next two weeks, Tomkinson’s undisciplined men gave themselves over to plunder, with the city’s taverns a particular target. Over a month passed after the fall of the city before Colonel Tomkinson was able to re-establish order over his men and resume the conquest of East Florida. [4]From their base in St. Augustine, Tomkinson’s men ranged over the Florida peninsula, destroying any Seminole villages they came across and massacring the inhabitants. By the spring of 1796, aided by reinforcements from the other provinces of the Southern Confederation, Tomkinson had subjugated East Florida and set about invading West Florida. There, through the late spring and early summer, he conquered a string of Franco-Spanish settlements on the Gulf Coast, including the capital city of Pensacola and the French outpost at Mobile. The Georgia legislature at Savannah formally annexed the Floridas to the province on July 2, 1796, without seeking the approval of the S.C. Council, Viceroy Dickinson, or the Jenkinson ministry. [5] Jenkinson grudgingly accepted the Georgian fait accompli, and the annexation was formalized in the subsequent 1799 peace treaty with Spain.

1. Davis Malone. The History of Quebec (Dorchester, 1954), pp. 73-81.

2. Madeline McIver. Financing the Trans-Oceanic War (New York, 2012), pp. 55-60.

3. Bruce. The Life of Governor Theodorick Bland of Virginia, pp. 377-88.

4. Pickett. The Florida War, pp. 46-55.

5. Bernard Telford. Georgia and the Rise of the S.C. (Mexico City, 1965), pp. 39-48.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Scorpions in a Bottle: Settlement and Conflict

Work continues on Scorpions in a Bottle. I now present the third and final section of Chapter 6: The Dickinson Era, which takes us to 1795 in the infant C.N.A. and leads us into the Trans-Oceanic War.

* * *

Like Dickinson and Howe before him, Governor-General Clinton found himself facing an ongoing insurrection in the Green Mountain region of New Hampshire, and like them he found himself unable to subdue it. The Green Mountain insurgents were augmented by farmers throughout Massachusetts who had served in the Continental Army. With the Rebellion lost, these rebel soldiers found their pay from the Congress worthless, and many lost their farms to foreclosure. Some left with Ward and were lost; some left with Greene and settled in Jefferson; most left for the Green Mountains and joined in the Allen insurgency. From their mountain strongholds, the insurgents were able to carry out sudden raids against British regulars and Northern Confederation militia, then melt away into the forests and hills.

Lord Cornwallis, the commander-in-chief of British forces in the C.N.A., was hampered by his parsimonious superiors in London, who remained obsessed with paying down the national debt and consequently kept his force undermanned and undersupplied. Cornwallis was also unable to coordinate effectively with Clinton, of whom he remained suspicious even years after the Rebellion. As a result, the Northern Confederation was never able to field a force of sufficient strength to overcome the insurgents. The conflict eventually settled down into a stalemate, in which successive governors of the N.C. chose to leave the Green Mountain region alone, and the insurgency died away into a general hostility to all government authority. It was not until the 1888 electoral triumph of the People’s Coalition (whom they supported) that the people of the Green Mountains were finally reconciled to rule by the C.N.A. [1]

Throughout the 1780s and 1790s, the N.C.’s traditional commercial activities were joined by the first appearance of mechanized industry. The invention of the spinning mule in Britain shortly after the Rebellion was followed quickly by its appearance in New England, and a cloth-weaving industry took hold there. At the same time, the presence of iron ore and coal in central Pennsylvania led to the beginnings of an ironworking industry in that province. Council delegates from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania urged the passage of import duties on cloth and iron from Europe (including Great Britain) to encourage local manufacturing. The proposed duties were voted down, but the notion of protective tariffs against the mother country had been raised, and would not go away.

The settlement of Indiana began in earnest in 1786 when a group of investors from Massachusetts formed a land company and negotiated the purchase of a tract along the Ohio River from the Indiana Council. The company purchase attracted settlers from New England, who by 1792 numbered over 500. Since the new settlement was on the far side of the confederation from the capital at Fort Radisson, the settlers petitioned the Indiana Council in 1792 to create a provincial-level government for them. The Indiana Council was initially reluctant to do so, but financial pressure from the Northern Confederation Council overcame their resistance, and in 1794 the entire area south of Lake Erie was formed into the province of Albany, with the right to appoint one third of the Indiana Council. [2]

Settlers were also crossing the Appalachians in the Southern Confederation. The first settlers in western Virginia arrived under the aegis of the Transylvania Company, an abortive attempt to establish a new proprietary colony in the 1770s. After the Rebellion, the trail blazed by these first settlers was used by a new wave in the 1780s taking advantage of an offer by Governor Bland. Bland feared that the cheap land being opened up in Jefferson would draw away Virginians, leaving the province depopulated. To prevent that, he offered 400 acres in western Virginia to any man who would settle there and work to improve it. To discourage speculators, he stipulated that any man accepting the offer would be required to remain on the land he received for ten years before being allowed to sell it. These “Bland grants” formed the basis for many of the settlements established in western Virginia, including the founding of Bland City, the largest city in western Virginia. [3]

Georgia faced a more immediate problem than a lack of settlers. Much to the colonists’ dismay, the North ministry had sold the neighboring Florida colonies to Spain, and the government in Savannah soon had its hands full dealing with parties of Seminole Indians raiding across the border. Complaints to Connolly and Dickinson had no effect, nor did complaints to the Spanish governors of East and West Florida. Finally, in 1792, Governor Thomas Brown sent a company of provincial militia under Captain Richard Tomkinson into East Florida to search for the Seminole raiders. Tomkinson’s expedition was unsuccessful, and he lost a fifth of his force to disease and desertion. In addition, the Governor of East Florida, Brigadier Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada, sent a sharply-worded note of protest to Brown, warning that any further incursions would be met with force.

Brown ignored de Quesada’s warning, and sent Tomkinson and his men back into East Florida the following year. Tomkinson once again failed to locate any Seminoles, but his losses were much lower, and he was able to avoid a confrontation with Spanish troops. A third expedition in the spring of 1794 ended with Tomkinson attacking a Spanish settlement and killing several of the inhabitants. This prompted de Quesada to send a retaliatory expedition into Georgia which attacked and plundered several plantations near Augusta before returning to St. Augustine with over a hundred freed slaves.

Planning for a fourth expedition was postponed when word reached Savannah in the spring of 1795 that war in Europe was imminent between Britain’s Prussian ally and Spain’s French ally. With the prospect of general war in the offing, Brown issued a call for volunteers to form additional militia companies. By June 1795, a full regiment of provincial militia had been organized, and Tomkinson, now promoted to colonel, led them south across the Saint Marys River in a march on St. Augustine. [4] News of the Georgian attack on Florida reached London in August, prompting Prime Minister Sir Charles Jenckinson to issue a declaration of war against the Franco-Spanish alliance.

1. Harvey Ritter. Allen’s Irregulars: The History of a Brave People (London, 1967).

2. Jane McAlaister. The Birth of Indiana (Michigan City, 2007), pp. 74-88.

3. Bruce. The Life of Governor Theodorick Bland of Virginia, pp. 308-15.

4. Ralston Pickett. The Florida War (Cornwallis, 1841).