On Monday, May 17, 1841 journalist George Wilkins Kendall sailed from New Orleans, Louisiana to join an expedition the Texas Republic was sending to Santa Fé, New Mexico.
Santa Fé had been a major destination of Americans heading west from Missouri for the past twenty years. Many had returned home wealthy. The Texans wanted to break a trail from Austin that would move that trade south to them instead. The resulting profits could prove critical to the Texan coffers, which were verging on empty.
If the Texans had only intended to trade, the reception the Texas Santa Fe Expedition received might have been different. But five years before, their Legislature had declared that Santa Fé and all its wealth was inside Texan borders. This was followed by President Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar’s open letter in Spring 1840 telling the New Mexicans the Rio Grande was “the natural and convenient boundary” of Texas and that “we shall take great pleasure in hailing you as fellow citizens.”
Lamar promised to send an expedition in September 1840, with commissioners who would “cement the perfect union” of Santa Fé and Texas. These men would “be accompanied by a military escort for the purpose of repelling any hostile Indians that may infest the passage.”
The Expedition he sent, which was comprised of three Commissioners, their staff members and companions, roughly ten merchants, and around 270 soldiers, was a little late getting started. It left Austin in June 1841. In the meantime, New Mexico Governor Manual Armijo had been busy gathering his resources while keeping a close eye on the Americans in New Mexico.
Although the Texans had been led to believe they would be welcomed to Santa Fé with open arms, they would find the situation a little more complicated than they assumed. George Kendall had estimated his journey would take a pleasant four months. It would actually be twelve, the majority of them uncomfortable, including time in a Mexican prison.
All because he didn’t take the time before he left New Orleans to check whether Mexico agreed with the Texan desire to take over the Santa Fé trade.
Loretta Miles Tollefson, copyright 5/15/23