Texas HistoryToday in Texas History: Battle of the San Gabriels

A skirmish near modern-day Georgetown uncovered a plot to end the nascent Republic of Texas and led to the Cherokee War.
May 17, 2022
While no historian could completely track the countless frontier skirmishes that eventually accumulated into the peace Texas enjoys today, some of these small engagements earned a spot alongside major battles in the history books for the sheer influence they wielded over Texas.

At the center of a conflict that took place today in history is Manuel Flores, one of those figures of American history that never quite emerges from sparse secondhand descriptions in government archives and field journals. Historians leave many details of his life to presumption, but the date of his death is certain: on May 17, 1839, Flores fell about nine miles west of present-day Georgetown on the North San Gabriel River, slain by Texas Rangers in an engagement that inadvertently foiled a plot to undo the Texas Revolution.

Before the Texians wrested the state from Mexico, Flores traded with the Caddo Indians in Louisiana. He unsuccessfully tried to advise the Caddo against signing a treaty with the United States that called for their removal from Louisiana and later attempted to bring them to the Mexican side when the Texas Revolution began.

After the revolution, the Mexican government employed Flores as a diplomat. As part of an effort that continued well after the Battle of San Jacinto to destabilize the fledgling Texas government, Mexico sent Flores on a secret mission to convince Indian tribes north of the Rio Grande to help overthrow the Republic of Texas.

Meanwhile, the Republic’s first president, adopted Cherokee Sam Houston, had long worked for peace with the Texas tribes. His successor, Mirabeau Lamar, did not share his views and sought to remove the Cherokee from Texas.

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Rumors had already reached Houston in late 1836 that Mexico was tempting the Cherokee with promises of a title to their land in return for joining Mexico in an attack on Texas. At the battle of the San Gabriels on May 17, 1839, Texas Rangers clashed with Flores and his men, killed Flores in the first charge, and uncovered documents confirming plans to turn the Cherokee and other tribes against Texas in hopes of ending the nascent Republic.

The man who led the charge against Flores was James Rice, a South Carolina native who served in the Texas army after coming to Texas in 1836. Rice handed the documents taken from Flores, detailing the plot that would become known as the Córdova Rebellion, to Texas authorities.

Afterward, Lamar resolved to push the Cherokee out of Texas, beginning the Cherokee War of 1839. Along with the Kickapoo and Shawnee tribes, the Cherokee clashed with Texas forces and lost more than 100 warriors in the battles, eventually culminating with the deaths of Chief Egg and John Bowles, son of Houston’s friend and former tribe chief Bowl. According to the Texas State Historical Association, this was the last major engagement against the Cherokee in Texas.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.