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Secret War for Texas

By Stuart Reid

Publication Year: 2007

Could the British have stopped Manifest Destiny in its tracks in 1836? A Scottish doctor named James Grant was the agent who tried to make it happen, and Texas was the stage on which the secret battle was fought. On the eve of the Texas uprising, only two things stood in the way of American ambitions to reach the Pacific Ocean: the British claim to the Oregon country and the vast but sparsely populated Mexican province of Texas. Britain was therefore almost as concerned with the outcome of the Texians’ war as Mexico was. At a crucial point when Texians had to decide whether to seek rights within the Federal Republic of Mexico or to secede and ally with the United States, James Grant led a band of followers toward Mexico, with the intent of forming a state within that nation. His efforts met enduring accusations that he fatally weakened the Alamo by stripping it of men, ammunition, and medical supplies. When Grant was killed on the ill-fated Matamoros expedition, British hopes of blocking the upstart Americans died, too. Yet, despite his important role, Grant remains a shadowy and often sinister figure routinely condemned by historians and frequently dismissed out of hand as merely an unscrupulous land speculator. Drawing heavily on British sources, Reid tells the forgotten story of Dr. James Grant and the twelve-year-long secret war for Texas, from his involvement in the “silly quixotic” Fredonian Rebellion to the bloody battles along the Atascosita Road. The international scope of the story makes this far more than just another tale of the Texas Revolution.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x

This book began with a not uncommon family mystery: the search for my three-times-great-grandfather, James Grant, a doctor from Scotland’s Black Isle who once worked for the East India Company but then seemingly vanished from the records in the early 1820s. At first that search was no more than a casual distraction from more serious...

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pp. 1-5

On April 2, 1836, Richard Pakenham, the British minister to Mexico, formally advised the foreign secretary, Lord Palmerston, of the latest news from Texas. As expected, San Antonio de B

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1. Gone to Texas

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pp. 6-26

In the beginning of course, Texas was Spanish territory, but in 1808 the French Emperor Napoleon invaded Spain, deposing and imprisoning its royal family and so beginning the terrible six-year-long Peninsular War. To the Spaniards it was their War of Independence, and that was exactly what it also became in their American...

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2. Revolution

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pp. 27-48

Sheer hard work was what earned James Grant his reputation as a man of progress. According to John Linn, Grant became the “resident agent of an English mining company,” perhaps pointing to a connection with the iron ore mine at Encarnación, which Wavell and Milam leased to an English company at about this time. More likely, it refers...

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3. Bexar

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pp. 49-68

Among all the other preparations recorded in Austin’s order book for November 21 is a short note directing that “the battery ordered to be erected within 300 yds of the walls of the fortifications [the Alamo] will be commenced this night, under the command of Capt. Cheshire assisted by Dr. James Grant as engineer.” This is...

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4. Contending Chieftains

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pp. 69-88

Texan historians have not been kind either to James Grant or to the expedition that he now led, and most have taken their cue from Sam Houston, who some time later charged in a vitriolic letter to Henry Smith: “Is he not a Scotchman who has resided in Mexico for the last ten years? Does he not own large possessions in the interior? . . . Is he not...

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5. High Noon at Goliad

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pp. 89-108

The garrison lay where the Atascosita Road crossed the San Antonio River at a point about ninety miles downstream from Bexar and forty miles inland from Copano Bay, and like many places in Mexico it had two names. To some it was known simply as La Bahía (or, as the Americans frequently wrote it, “Labadee”), but others knew it as...

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6. Rio Grande

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pp. 109-128

William Cooke may have thought that Houston had “completely defeated the object of Col. Grant” at Refugio, but James Grant himself may not have seen it quite that way. On the contrary, despite all the setbacks and troubles of the past three months, the plan to “revolutionize” Mexico at last seemed to be at the point of coming to fruition. Amid the chaos...

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7. “Go in and Die with the Boys”

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pp. 129-147

And so, unaware that it was already too late, Grant decided to go out again immediately, without waiting for a reply from Fannin to Johnson’s plea, in case it might bring more positive orders for Cooke and the others to fall back to Goliad. Although this foray was seemingly represented as such both at the time and later, the...

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8. From Sea to Shining Sea

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pp. 148-167

On the same day Grant was killed, the reconvened Texian Convention issued the long-expected formal Declaration of Independence from Mexico. Few of the signatories, who included Sam Houston, seem to have been in any doubt at all that this declaration was merely a temporary arrangement pending an annexation of Texas by the United States. Just...

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9. Postscript

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pp. 168-180

For the United States the annexation of Texas paved the way for the final stages of the march to the Pacific Ocean. As William Kennedy noted: “In a letter written by General Andrew Jackson, and published some months before his death, he observed—(on behalf of the American people)—‘We want Texas because we want California.’—The...

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Appendix: Grant’s Men

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pp. 181-197

This is a listing of all the men so far identified as belonging to the two companies that went forward with James Grant to San Patricio at the end of January 1836, and afterward followed him to the Rio Grande. One company was commanded by Captain Thomas Lewellen and the other by Captain Thomas Pearson. Fortunately the transcript of a final roster for...


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pp. 199-221


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pp. 223-227


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pp. 229-235

E-ISBN-13: 9781603445061
E-ISBN-10: 1603445064
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585445653
Print-ISBN-10: 1585445657

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 4 line art. 4 maps.
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 607108481
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Secret War for Texas

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Subject Headings

  • Grant, James, -- 1793-1836.
  • Soldiers -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Great Britain -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • Texas -- History -- Revolution, 1835-1836.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Great Britain.
  • Matamoros Expedition -- (1835-1836).
  • Scots -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Landowners -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Texas -- History -- Revolution, 1835-1836 -- Biography.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 1815-1861.
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