Texas Archival Resources Online

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary

Scope and Contents

Organization

Restrictions

Index Terms

Administrative Information

Note to the Researcher

Description of Series

University of Texas Arlington

Phillips Texan Santa Fe Expedition Letters and Documents:

A Guide



Descriptive Summary

Creator: Phillips, Michael, and Robert D. Phillips.
Title: Phillips Family Texan Santa Fe Expedition Letters and Documents
Inclusive Dates: 1842-1844
Abstract: Robert D. Phillips was one of 321 men of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition (1841-1842), a political, military, and commercial venture initiated by Republic of Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar to establish Texas jurisdiction over the Santa Fe area as well as divert some of the trade coming over the Santa Fe Trail to Texas. Poorly planned and provisioned, the members of the expedition were captured in New Mexico without a fight and forced to march to Mexico City where most remained in prison until April 1842. This collection is comprised of twelve original and transcribed copies of letters and documents pertaining to Robert D. Phillips and the concern of his father, Dr. Michael Phillips of Syracuse, New York, for the welfare of his son while imprisoned in Mexico. Original letters include correspondence from New York Congressman Victory Birdseye to Dr. Phillips enclosing a letter from U. S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster to Birdseye; a letter to Dr. Phillips from W. R. Baker of Houston; and a letter from George Wilkins Kendall to Dr. Phillips. A ten-page unattributed narrative of the expedition, “Notes Taken on Sight,” is also among the original materials.
Identification: GA37
Extent: 12 folders (0.1 linear ft.)
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries

Historical Note

The Texan Santa Fe Expedition was a political, military, and commercial venture initiated by Republic of Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar to establish Texas jurisdiction over the Santa Fe area as well as divert some of the trade coming over the Santa Fe Trail to Texas. Led by General Hugh McLeod, it departed with 321 men, including Robert D. Phillips, from Kenney's Fort north of Austin on June 19, 1841. The poorly planned expedition suffered from a lack of food, water, and supplies. The men were twice attacked by Kiowas, the first resulting in the death of Lt. George Hull and his party, the second in the loss of 83 horses and many cattle. New Mexico Governor Manuel Armijo learned of the expedition and had forces awaiting its arrival. By October 5, 1841, the entire party, badly outnumbered and starving, surrendered to the Mexican army without a fight. The men were forced on a 2,000 mile march to Mexico City where they were imprisoned. Due to U.S. diplomatic efforts, they were released in April 1842. This further strained U.S. relations with Mexico and was a major factor leading to the U.S. War with Mexico, 1846-1848. George Wilkins Kendall, editor of the New Orleans Picayune newspaper, was a member of the expedition and published a book about his experiences in 1844.

Return to the Table of Contents


Scope and Contents

The Phillips Family Texan Santa Fe Expedition collection is comprised of twelve original and transcribed copies of letters and documents pertaining to Robert D. Phillips, a member of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition (1841-1842) and the concern of his father, Dr. Michael Phillips of Syracuse, New York, for the welfare of his son while imprisoned. Original letters include correspondence from New York Congressman Victory Birdseye to Dr. Phillips enclosing a letter from U. S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster to Birdseye; a letter to Dr. Phillips from W. R. Baker of Houston; and a letter from George Wilkins Kendall to Dr. Phillips. A ten-page unattributed narrative of the expedition titled “Notes Taken on Sight,” is also among the original materials. The transcribed items include three letters written by Robert D. Phillips to his father, a lengthy narrative to George Wilkins Kendall pointing out the errors in his manuscript on the expedition, and Kendall’s letter of reply to Phillips.

Notes on the transcribed letters indicate they were copied in 1879 by F. K. Phillips. Some indicate that the originals were offered to Mr. V. O. King, Commissioner of Texas History in Austin. Valentine O. King was the first to hold this post and was in charge of overseeing the Texas State Library. The originals of four transcribed materials have been located in the Valentine O. King Papers at the Texas State Library and Archives: March 2, April 29, and September 29, 1842; and March 8, 1843. Photocopies of these plus two Robert D. Phillips letters not found in the UT Arlington Phillips collection: June 9, 1841 and December 13, 1842, have been graciously provided by the Texas State Library and Archives and are filed in the Phillips collection holding file.

Return to the Table of Contents


 

Organization

The materials comprising the Phillips Family Texan Santa Fe Expedition Letters and Documents are arranged chronologically, followed by undated items.

Return to the Table of Contents


Restrictions

Access

Open for research.

Literary Rights Statement

Permission to publish, reproduce, distribute, or use by any and all other current or future developed methods or procedures must be obtained in writing from Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. All rights are reserved and retained regardless of current or future development or laws that may apply to fair use standards.

Return to the Table of Contents


Index Terms

These materials are indexed under the following headings in the catalog of The University of Texas at Arlington Library. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Persons
Birdseye, Victory,--1782-1853--Correspondence.
Kendall, Geo. Wilkins--(George Wilkins),--1809-1867--Correspondence.
Phillips, Michael--Archives.
Phillips, Robert D.--Archives.
Webster, Daniel,--1782-1852--Correspondence.
Subjects
Texan Santa Fe Expedition, 1841--Personal narratives.
Places
Puebla de Zaragoza (Mexico)--History.
Alternate Titles
Historical Manuscripts Collection

Return to the Table of Contents


Administrative Information

Provenance

Purchased with funds donated by the Fort Worth law firm Harris, Finley & Bogle to honor the career of Jenkins Garrett, Of Counsel to the firm from 1986 until his death in 2010, 2008.

Citation

Phillips Family Texan Santa Fe Expedition Letters and Documents, 1842-1844, GA37, Folder Number, Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.

Acquisition

Purchase, 2008.

Accessioned as number 2009-10.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Brenda S. McClurkin. The finding aid was written by Keelee James in July 2011. The finding aid was updated by and encoded by Brenda S. McClurkin in November 2012.

Return to the Table of Contents


 Note to the Researcher 

Please handle all items with care. The originals of four transcribed letters have been located in the Valentine O. King Papers at the Texas State Library and Archives: March 2, April 29, and September 29, 1842; and March 8, 1843. Photocopies of these plus two Robert D. Phillips letters not found in the UT Arlington Phillips collection: June 9, 1841 and December 13, 1842, have been graciously provided by the Texas State Library and Archives and are filed in the Phillips collection holding file.

Return to the Table of Contents


Container List

 

Box Folder
GA37 1 W. R. Baker to Dr. Phillips, Houston, Texas, February 15, 1842
Relays information obtained from Houston resident Mr. Swett regarding the location and welfare of Dr. Phillips’ son, Robert, imprisoned in Mexico City. Swett interacted with young Phillips and the other prisoners and states that though they are chained and forced into work, there are no plans to execute them at this time.
2 Robert D. Phillips to Father, Puebla, Mexico (transcript), March 2, 1842
Young Phillips reports that he arrived about three weeks earlier. He relates the poor conditions he and the other Texan prisoners are forced to endure. These include being housed with murderers and thieves; chained as a gang to do hard labor overseen by Mexican convicts armed with clubs; and having their meager rations reduced by half. [Transcribed by F. K. Phillips, 1879.]
3 Robert D. Phillips to Father, Puebla, Mexico (transcript), April 29, 1842
Robert Phillips is still captive. Writing materials are scarce, so he cannot write often. The Texans are now chained in pairs with other Texans. They are still pressed to work nearly every day in the hot sun, and are badly blistered due to their scant clothing. Some merchants from the expedition have been released; the imprisoned volunteers remain continue in forced labor. Transcribed by F. K. Phillips, January 8, 1879.
4 Robert D. Phillips to Father, Puebla, Mexico (transcript), June 19, 1842
Phillips announces that he and the other Texan prisoners were freed on June 13, 1842. Many of the men are waiting only for the party of a man named Cook to arrive so they may continue on to Vera Cruz and then to New Orleans. Phillips has decided to stay in Mexico until he can secure funds to travel directly from New Orleans to Syracuse, New York, by the coming spring. He hopes to avoid the yellow fever rampant in New Orleans, or returning to Texas where his only employment prospect would be the Army. Phillips also describes the events surrounding their capture and imprisonment. Transcribed by F. K. Phillips, January 8, 1879.
5 Victory Birdseye to Dr. Phillips; Daniel Webster to Birdseye, Washington, D.C., February 15 – July 24, 1842
Birdseye has corresponded with Secretary of State Daniel Webster and the President [Tyler]. Some prisoners from the expedition have already been released. Although Robert Phillips’ name was not on the list, he is still hopeful that Phillips was discharged. Birdseye enclosed the February 5, 1842, letter from Daniel Webster. Webster acknowledges receipt of Birdseye's letter and promises to advise the U.S. Minister in Mexico of the situation so that he may, if possible, ensure the young Phillips' safe release.
6 Robert D. Phillips to Father, New Orleans, LA. (transcript), September 29, 1842
Phillips explains that he has just arrived in the cutter Woodbury, sixteen days after departing Vera Cruz with twelve comrades. He plans to board the Texan warship Austin that evening and later transfer to the steamer Merchant bound for Galveston. He would prefer to go straight to New York, but hard times preclude this possibility. Though his only possessions are the ragged clothes on his back, he remains in good health. He directs his father to send any further letters in care of W. Bryan, Texan Consul in Houston. Transcribed by F. K. Phillips, January 8, 1879.
7 G. W. Kendall to Dr. Phillips, New Orleans, LA., January 7, 1843
Reports that his son was in Galveston in good health a few weeks ago. He had escaped the lost steamer Merchant.
8 Robert D. Phillips to G. W. Kendall, Syracuse, NY (transcript), March 8, 1843
Phillips writes to provide a highly detailed first-hand account of the Indian massacre of Lt. Hull and his comrades, correcting Kendall’s own account in his soon-to-be-published book on the Texan Santa Fe Expedition. Kendall had written that Hull’s men retreated from the Indians, but Phillips states that they did not flee from their attackers. Transcribed by F. K. Phillips, January 11, 1879.
F. K. Phillips notes that the original from which this was transcribed was offered to V. O. King, Commissioner of History for the state of Texas. It now resides in the Valentine O. King Collection at the Texas State Library and Archives.
9 Robert D. Phillips, Don Jose Maria Castillo’s Liberality (transcript), approximately March 8, 1843
Phillips writes that on about May 1, 1842, they were taken to the “House of Education and Corrections,” a large building across from the prison. There they met Don Jose Maria de Castillo for the third time, a wealthy merchant who was known for making charitable visits to the city’s many prisons. Don Jose outfitted every man with a new pair of pants and a shirt, for which the captives cheered and were grateful. Transcribed by F. K. Phillips, January 11, 1879.
F. K. Phillips notes that the original from which this was transcribed was offered to V. O. King, Commissioner of History for the state of Texas. It now resides in the Valentine O. King Collection at the Texas State Library and Archives.
10 G. W. Kendall to Robert D. Phillips, New York, NY (transcript), January 25, 1844
Kendall thanks Phillips for his useful and informative letter, but regrets that it came too late to correct the first printing. The revised account will be annotated in a note to the second edition. He also apologizes for his inability to provide an agency for the sale of the book Santa Fe Expedition to Phillips because his publisher retains exclusive control of its distribution. [Transcribed by F. K. Phillips, 1879.]
11 Notes Taken On Sight, undated
A detailed unattributed first-hand account of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition. Comparing the handwriting to that on signed original Robert D. Phillips letters in the Valentine O. King collection at the Texas State Library and Archives, it appears that this document is in Robert D. Phillips' hand.
12 Transcripts, 1842-1843, undated
Typescripts of the six original documents contained in this collection.

Return to the Table of Contents