Loyalists reclaim New Spain
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This is the second of two articles on the region’s early history as New Spain, compiled from archives of the Wilson County Historical Society by Gene Maeckel and Maurine Liles.
In 1811, Spanish loyalists in New Spain were overthrown in a bloodless coup by Juan Bautista de las Casas, who assumed governorship of the province in San Antonio. Loyalists were not happy with his leadership.
Among those disgusted with las Casas were the Zambrano brothers. Very influential in the area, the Zambranos were staunchly loyal to the Spanish government. Unhappy with the political situation, some of the family left San Antonio and retired to their ranch, Laguana de las Animas, located on the west side of the San Antonio River between the mission ranches, Las Cabras and Valero, in southern Wilson County. It was possible for the family to keep abreast of developments in San Antonio from the ranch.
Las Casas had won the support of the local population; however, he neglected to gain the confidence of the military officers, the large ranchers, and prominent citizens. He also lacked skill in disposing of property confiscated from the Spanish loyalists.
As discontent with las Casas grew, loyalists would journey to the Zambrano ranch to discuss his overthrow. Macario Zambrano’s son, Juan Manuel Zambrano, was convinced to return to San Antonio and assist in rescuing Texas from las Casas and his group.
Juan Manuel was a colorful person and a man to be reckoned with. A sub-deacon of the church, he also spent time gambling and visiting cantinas. Juan Manuel wore a cavalry sword strapped to his waist and liked to engage in brawls.
He readily accepted the challenge to unseat las Casas and went to San Antonio to hold a closed meeting with several close associates. Among the group was Erasmo Seguin. The conference resulted in a grass-roots whispering campaign to enlist the support of prominent citizens and army officers. Juan Manuel even extended this bold campaign to select enemy representatives.
Juan Manuel and several prominent loyalists gathered on the evening of March 1, 1811. They marched to the army barracks, disarmed the sentries, and captured the officers in command. Quickly, news of this event spread throughout the town. By midnight, the counter-revolution had proven successful.
The group of citizens decided to elect a junta, or governing body, to head the movement. Juan Manuel Zambrano was elected president. All the elected officials were immediately sworn in to defend the king of Spain, the Catholic faith, and the country.
The group then marched to the living quarters of las Casas, woke him from his sleep, and informed him of the change in government. He was arrested without resistance.
Visit the Wilson County Historical Society at http://www:wilsoncountyhistory.com.
Sesquicentennial Committee members: LaJuana Newnam-Leus, 830-393-2166; Shirley and John Grammer, 830-947-3176; Maurine Liles, 830-393-4959; Gene Maeckel, 830-484-2536.
The Sesquicentennial Committee is organizing celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of Wilson County. Anyone interested in helping with one of the celebration committees is invited to contact one of these individuals.