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Antonio Canales Rosillo

1802 - 1869

Topic- Matamoros and Camargo, Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, Battle of Monterrey A Continent Divided: The U.S.-Mexico War

Antonio Canales Rosillo


A charismatic federalist politician and hardened military leader, Antonio Canales Rosillo was known for his leadership role in the failed secessionist movement for a Republic of the Rio Grande. He went on to reconcile with Mexico's central government and fought in the U.S.-Mexico War, attacking U.S. supply lines and participating in the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. After the war, he briefly served as interim-governor of Tamaulipas.

Canales was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León in 1802. He later moved to Camargo, Tamaulipas in the 1820s, where he enjoyed a measure of local prominence. He studied law—earning his license in 1829—and made a living both as an attorney and as the official land surveyor of Tamaulipas. In the early 1830s, Canales joined Tamaulipas' militia and led the state's northern towns along the lower Rio Grande against Lipan, Apache and Comanche raiders.

After settling in Tamaulipas, Canales married Maria del Refugio Molano. The marriage established a political family that held the governorship of Tamaulipas on several occasions. They had five children, two of which would serve as governor in the 1860s and 1870s. Maria's brother, Juan Nepomuceno Molano, became a political ally of Canales', later supporting his brother-in-law's secessionist movement. He too served as governor of Tamaulipas, on multiple occasions.

In 1835, Canales, a staunch federalist, opposed Antonio López de Santa Anna's centralist changes to the Constitution of 1824. One very practical reason Canales resented the centralists was that Santa Anna's attempt to suppress the Texas revolt required conscription from Tamaulipas. This left northern villages more vulnerable to Indian raids. By 1837, federalists began to revolt in northern Mexico. In November 1838, Canales issued a pronunciamento that urged citizens of Tamaulipas to rise up and restore federalism.

While not the most effective military commander, Canales had a talent for raising volunteers to fight. He served as the military leader of the Tamaulipas rebellion, and when centralist forces began to defeat his federalist army, he traveled to Texas to solicit material aid and recruit more men. Canales' revolt initially intended to reinstate the Constitution of 1824, but in 1840 he joined rebels from Coahuila and Nuevo León in proclaiming a secessionist movement that aimed to establish an independent Republic of the Rio Grande. Canales was named secretary of war and commander-in-chief of its army.

The secessionist movement, however, could not overcome the central government's advances. After suffering a disastrous defeat at the hands of General Mariano Arista, Canales capitulated, abandoning the movement in exchange for amnesty and a commission as brigadier general on November 7, 1840.

In 1842, Mexico resumed military operations against Texas. Canales led raids against Texans in Corpus Christi and Lipantitlán. He also participated in the successful assault against a Texas army at Ciudad Mier on December 25-26.

On December 30, 1845, conservative General Mariano Paredes y Arrillga overthrew the moderate federalist President José Joaquín de Herrera and assumed the presidency. A month later, Canales and his former secessionist comrade José María de Jesús Carvajal contacted U.S. General Zachary Taylor to solicit help in overthrowing Paredes in exchange for recognizing the U.S. annexation of Texas, but the conspiracy did not materialize. Hostilities between the U.S. and Mexico commenced that May.

During the U.S.-Mexico War, Canales commanded troops from Tamaulipas under his former adversary General Mariano Arista. Canales participated in both the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Resaca de la Palma (May 8-9, 1846), the first major engagements of the war. Arista's northern army lost both battles and was pushed back to Matamoros. As Arista was pushed back even further, he tasked Canales with staying behind and organizing a guerilla campaign against General Taylor's supply lines. Canales spent most of the remainder of the war launching raids between Corpus Christi and Matamoros. After the Battle of Buena Vista on February 22-23, 1847, U.S. troops turned their attention to hunting down Canales and his men. Mexican homes and villages were burned when suspected of providing support to the guerilla fighters. Canales' efforts were effectively mitigated by April.

When the war came to an end in February 1848, Canales spent the following three years serving as surveyor general of Tamaulipas. He then briefly assumed the governorship of Tamaulipas (August 17, 1851-September 30, 1851), and later served as a senator in the Mexican Congress.

In 1851, his former ally José María de Jesús Carvajal issued a pronunciamiento against the central government. Carvajal intended to "liberate" northern Mexico militarily from the central government with an army composed of his northern supporters and U.S. mercenaries. Canales defeated his old comrade's uprising in 1852.

Canales died in Miquihuana, Tamaulipas in 1869 at the age of sixty-seven. Two of his sons, Servando Canales Molano and Antonio Canales Molano, went on to become governors of Tamaulipas.


Chance, Joseph E. José María de Jesús Carvajal: The Life and Times of a Mexican Revolutionary. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2006.

Crawford, Mark, David S. Heidler, and Jeanne T. Heidler. Encyclopedia of the Mexican-American War. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1999.

De La Garza, Beatriz Eugenia. From the Republic of the Rio Grande: A Personal History of the Place and the People. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013.

DeLay, Brian. War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

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