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1836: US Army Seals Border as Texas Revolution Rages

Posted in Interesting Items  by Steven on January 15th, 2009

(This item ends Jan-17-09 18:02:16 PST)

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Description: ALS 2pp. 4to, Natchitoches, Louisiana, March 21, 1836.

Sutler and former explorer and Indian scout George Kennerly writes home to St. Louis as US troops on the border of the US and Mexico at the Sabine River await the arrival of General Gaines. Gaines, commander of the Southwest District, was overseeing operations against the Seminoles in Florida when Santa Anna’s victory at The Alamo sent Sam Houston and the Texian Army fleeing towards the US border.

At the time, some people speculated that Houston, a former protege of US President Andrew Jackson, had an understanding with the US that he would be able to flee across the US border to safety, should Santa Anna gain the upper hand.  The presense of Stephen F. Austin in New Orleans as official representative of the Texas Revolutionary government led credence to this theory.

Kennerly writes the day of the Battle of Compano, and only two days after the Goliad Massacre, and news of these events have not yet reached the US forces on the border. The news of the Fall of The Alamo of course had already raced through the United States, Santa Anna’s execution of all prisoners further inflaming passions in favor of intervention.

Kennerly adds a postscript asking his wife to let General Atkinson know that Kennerly has decided to sell his negro slave Clayborn in Natchitoches instead of selling him in St Louis upon his return, as the price of slaves was so high in Louisiana.

Complete Transcription below:

Natchitoches March 21st 1836

My Dear Aliziere,

I wrote you a few days since by Maj Herron, with a request that he would on his arrival in New Orleans place the letter in the hands of some one of the Captns running a Boat to St Louis, it being the shortest route, as the Mails is one month in going. I have also written to you by the Mails, this I shall send by the Swiss Boy, a Steam Boat that runs to Natches.—

The troops are still in the neighborhood of this place encamped, and very disagreeably so – It appears that we have gotten out of the way of all news, as we can hear nothing from Florida, or from Genl Gaines, which leaves us all in suspense as to our future destination, and until his arrival I cannot tell when it will be in my power to come home. – I am now comfortably fixed at a tavern in this place where I will remain until Gnel Gaines arrives, and we know where we are to be located. – I have made many acquaintances in this place, and have been treated with great kindness and Hospitality by many of the Citizens—

The boat will leave directly, and I can only say kiss my dear little children for me, and be assured of the ardent affections of a devoted Husband—

GH Kennerly


Give my best respects to Genl Atkinson and tell him I will write him soon, tell him also that I think I shall sell Clayborn for at least $1200 – though I now hold him at $1500—and may probably get it, as Negroes are very high here – My respects to all enquiring friends ——-


George H. Kennerly (1790 – 1867): Soldier, explorer and Indian agent, George Hancock Kennerly was an officer in the War of 1812, serving under lifelong friend William Clark of “Lewis and Clark” fame. He later served as an explorer and Indian agent under Governor Clark under Clark’s capacity as Supervisor of Indian Affairs, his name appearing on many Indian treaties through the 1820s as agent or witness. Kennerly was the leader of the expedition in 1828 that took representatives of the Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes to examine the lands west of the Mississippi River that had been set aside by the US government for their relocation. General Clark later married Kennerly’s sister, making them brothers in law.

Kennerly had a mercantile business in St Louis with his brother James from 1813 to 1827, when they won the sutler contract for the Army camp at Jefferson Barracks, south of St Louis, relocating their business there. George Kennerly was made Postmaster of Jefferson Barracks in 1828, and served as Assistant Quartermaster there during the Mexican-American War.

Condition: Usual folds, with wear repaired in some places with archival tape. Chipping along right edge. Otherwise, Good condition for a letter written “on the spot” in a little-publicized area of the Texas Revolution.

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