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Nolan Expeditions

In between 1791 and 1801 there were four expeditions made to Texas from Spanish Louisiana under Philip Nolan’s leadership. These expeditions are thought of as filibusters, but really, Nolan undertook them to make money trading horses rather than trying to free Texas from Spanish rule.

Nolan’s first trip was in 1791. He had a passport that was approved by the governor of Louisiana, Esteban Miró. He brought a small number of goods to trade. The Texas authorities was suspicious of Nolan and they took his goods. Nolan spent two years living with the Comanches. He became a hunter, sold skins, and captured fifty wild horses which he took back to Louisiana in 1793 and 1794. While in Texas he made some useful contacts and Governor Manuel Munoz liked him.

Nolan went back to Nacogdoches in June 1794. This time he had a passport from the new leader, the Baron de Carondelet. He was sent to get horses for the Louisiana militia. He made a deal with Governor Munoz, and returned to New Orleans in January 1796 with 250 horses, which he sold at Natchez and Frankfort, Kentucky.

In July 1797, Nolan left for his third expedition, this time with the consent of Governor Manuel Gayoso de Lemos at Natchez and getting another passport from Governor/General Carondelet. Again, he was supposed to bring more horses back. This time he had eight men to help him on his trip. Nolan was in Texas a longer time and collected 1,200 horses and made the authorities in New Spain suspicious of why he was there. He would have been arrested except Governor Munoz intervened in Nolan’s defense.

Nolan organized a fourth expedition, which proved to be his fatal one. He headed to Texas with twenty-seven men. Jose Vidal, a Spanish official from Natchez, opposed Nolan’s trip, and he alerted the frontier of Nolan’s “hostile intentions.” Troops came out of Nacogdoches under Commander Miguel Musquiz. They fought a battle against Nolan and his men on March 21, 1801. Nolan was shot in the head and his men were captured and sent to Chihuahua, where they were sent to prison.


Source: Nolan Expeditions
Copyright © Texas State Historical Association

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