While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »

FINIELS, NICOLAS DE

Jack D. L. Holmes

FINIELS, NICOLÁS DE (ca. 1767–?). Nicolás de Finiels was born in France about 1767. He traveled to America with the French expeditionary force and served as a captain of engineers during the American Revolution. In 1797, armed with a passport from the Spanish minister to the United States, he went from Philadelphia to St. Louis to help with fortifications of upper Louisiana during the period when Spain feared a British attack from Canada. Despite jurisdictional disputes with the Flemish engineer, Luis de Vandembenden, and Col. Carlos Howard, Finiels drew several plans of the Missouri River and environs. Ordered to leave Louisiana and the Spanish service in 1798 by the minister of war in Spain, he went to New Orleans, where his patron, Governor-general Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, continued to employ him as an engineer and draftsman in drawing plans of Baton Rouge and New Orleans. A royal order of June 19, 1799, reinstated Finiels in the service. He was a valuable member of the staff of the governor-general, the Marqués de Casa Calvo. In addition to his skill in cartography, Finiels was an inventor of surveying instruments. Casa Calvo chose him as chief surveyor of the 1805 expedition to western Louisiana and Texas.

The party left New Orleans in October, ascended by canoe up the Bayou de La Fourche de Chetimachas, descended the Atchafalaya River, and followed the coast toward Texas. They charted the Gulf Coast and in particular the Mermentau, Calcasieu, Sabine, and Trinity rivers. The expedition employed the galiot Vigilante to explore San Bernardo Bay, from which point they trekked overland to Atascosito, near the Trinity River, and thence to San Antonio and Nacogdoches. After three weeks of examining mission records to determine the location of the mission and presidio of San Miguel de Linares de los Adaes, the expedition examined the region toward Arroyo Hondo, some 2½ leagues west of Natchitoches and the boundary between Louisiana and Texas. Upon the return of the expedition to New Orleans in 1806, Finiels and other Spanish officers were expelled from Louisiana by Governor William C. C. Claiborne. Lt. Col. Finiels was attached to the Pensacola garrison, where he soon became engineer in chief of West Florida, a post he held until 1819. He supervised fortifications at Pensacola, San Carlos de Barrancas, and Mobile, and in 1818, as a member of the Security and Vigilance Committee, was wounded when Andrew Jackson captured Pensacola. Finiels was twice married. He and his second wife, Mariana (Rivier), a native of Pensacola, had four sons, all of whom served in the Spanish army.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 
Jack D. L. Holmes, Documentos inéditos para la historia de la Luisiana, 1782–1810 (Madrid: Porrúa Turanzas, 1963). Jack D. L. Holmes, "The Marqués de Casa-Calvo, Nicolás de Finiels, and the 1805 Spanish Expedition through East Texas and Louisiana," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 69 (January 1966). Jack D. L. Holmes, "Some French Engineers in Spanish Louisiana," in The French in the Mississippi Valley, ed. John Francis McDermott (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Jack D. L. Holmes, "FINIELS, NICOLAS DE," accessed May 25, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffivw.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...