Texas history is chock full of big names – Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin and Lorenzo de Zavala to name a few. Joaquín de Arredondo played an important role in the area now known as Texas in the 1800s, but there’s a reason streets and elementary schools aren’t named after him: he was remembered as a ruthless leader with a penchant for violence.
The cover of the new biography about him, “Arredondo: Last Spanish Ruler of Texas and Northeastern New Spain”, even appears to be blood-spattered.
Author Bradley Folsom, an adjunct professor of history at the University of Texas at Arlington, says that Arredondo and his troops reduced Texas’ population by half during the Battle of Medina in 1813, the bloodiest battle in Texas history. Arredondo instructed his soldiers that there would be no survivors.
Folsom says that Arredondo’s tactics are less a reflection of him and rather a reflection of the time period.
“People in Mexico from 1810 – when the war for Mexican independence broke out – to 1821, everyone was doing pretty brutal things,” he says. “The Mexican War for Independence was very different than the American Revolution [which had] relatively little bloodshed.”
People were fighting for a number of different sides, all of which were attempting to take control of the region.
“You had all these different groups fighting with one another, and I think just about every leader realized that the only way we can get things done, or the only way we can get loyalty out of people, is through violence,” Folsom says. “I think Arredondo used violence a little more efficiently than most people in Mexico during the time.”
Most people are more familiar with Antonio López de Santa Anna, one of Arredondo’s soldiers, who led the assault against the Alamo. Folsom says that many people credit Santa Anna’s decision to execute the survivors to what he learned under Arredondo.
So does Arredondo deserve the title of a ruthless villain?
“It’s hard to call somebody a bad guy when everybody was ruthless at the time,” Folsom says. “I think he definitely deserves a ruthless label, but I can understand his actions after seeing that this was the law of the land.”
Written by Molly Smith.