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Robert S. Weddle

CHICKEN WAR. As the Texas manifestation of the War of the Quadruple Alliance in Europe, the Chicken War caused abandonment of the Spanish Franciscan missions in eastern Texas in 1719. With news that Spain and France were on opposing sides in the conflict, Lt. Philippe Blondel at the French post of Natchitoches, Louisiana, struck in June 1719 at the nearest Spanish target: San Miguel de Linares de los Adaes Mission, at a site near that of present Robeline, Louisiana. Finding only a lay brother and one soldier at the mission, Blondel and his detail of seven gathered up the sacred vestments and provisions, then raided the henhouse. As he mounted his horse after tying the chickens to the pommel of his saddle, the chickens flapped their wings, the horse reared, and the lieutenant was spilled in the dirt. His companions rushed to his aid. Taking advantage of the confusion, the lay brother dashed off into the woods.

After reaching Nuestra Señora de los Dolores Mission (at the site of present-day San Augustine, Texas) on June 22, 1719, the brother informed Fray Antonio Margil de Jesús of what he had been told by Blondel: Pensacola had been captured by the French, and a hundred soldiers were on their way from Mobile with the East Texas settlements as their objective. Lacking confidence in the Spaniards' relationship with the Indians, Father Margil viewed retreat as the only alternative. He packed his vestments and headed for Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción Mission (in the area of present Nacogdoches County) to spread the alarm.

Capt. Domingo Ramón of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de los Tejas Presidio, heeding the clamor of his soldiers and their wives, gathered citizens and livestock to withdraw toward San Antonio and await reinforcements. Margil, Isidro Félix de Espinosa, and two soldiers remained at Mission Concepción for twenty days "consoling" the Indians, who were reluctant to let them leave. They received word on July 14 that Ramón was withdrawing farther than agreed upon, and they set out to overtake the caravan at the border of Hasinai (Tejas) country. There they encamped until the end of September, when Espinosa resolved to go personally to San Antonio de Béxar and San Juan Bautistaqqv to seek help. After traveling twenty leagues he encountered a volunteer relief expedition from San Juan Bautista and learned that no military support would be forthcoming. On October 3 the entire camp marched for San Antonio.

While Margil and the seven other friars took residence at San Antonio de Valero Mission, Espinosa went on to San Juan Bautista to make a personal appeal for military aid in recovering the missions. There he learned of the appointment of the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo as governor of Coahuila and Texas and of the military campaign Aguayo was mounting to reclaim eastern Texas for Spain. Despite Espinosa's urging, the Aguayo expedition was delayed a year and a half. In the meantime the war ended, and the operation, planned as one of reconquest, became merely one of reoccupation.

The Chicken War represented a costly overreaction by Spanish religious and military men to a feeble French gesture. The French made no aggressive move against Texas after Blondel's comical fiasco. Aside from causing a two-year hiatus in the Spanish missionary effort, the episode also disrupted the commercial aims of the French Company of the West. Directors of the company sent word to Jean Baptiste Benard de La Harpe, who had just established a trading post on the Red River in the area that is now Bowie County, that he was not to make war on the Spaniards but to pursue trade with them. The Spanish withdrawal following Blondel's raid left no one with whom he might trade.

Isidro Félix de Espinosa, Chrónica apostólica y seráphica de todos los colegios de propaganda fide de esta Nueva España, parte primera (Mexico, 1746; new ed., Crónica de los colegios de propaganda fide de la Nueva España, ed. Lino G. Caneda, Washington: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1964). Robert S. Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968). Robert S. Weddle, The French Thorn: Rival Explorers in the Spanish Sea, 1682–1762 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Robert S. Weddle, "CHICKEN WAR," accessed May 29, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qfc02.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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