The Republic of Texas coveted the lucrative Santa Fe Trail commerce and the bounty Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico
It seems as though Texas and New Mexico are destined to never be the best of neighbors. This difference of opinion goes as far back as the Spanish occupation of the great northern mystery. The upper Rio Grande Valley lent itself to a narrow Spanish corridor, and any commercial, political, or spiritual expansion from this strip tended to fizzle on the dry plains to the east. Some New Mexican influence flowed from New Mexico down the great river to the Big Bend, but not beyond. Even the main routes from the capital in Mexico City bypassed Tejas, passing through Chihuahua and EL Paso del Norte toward Santa Fe. Tejas, bound as it was by ties to Coahuila, Tamaulipas, and Nuevo León lay too far away from Santa Fe to be relevant.
Then, the Comanches moved into this gap between Spanish enclaves and settled the issue. Traffic between Béxar and Santa Fe had to cross Comancheria, and few risked the endeavor. Men like Pedro Vial were rare, indeed. Most maps had little accurate information about this region, and making a mistake when it came to reliable water in those stretches could prove fatal.
When the Santa Fe Trail opened in 1822, shortly after Mexican independence, New Mexico became a lynch pin between Missouri in the US and the interior of Mexico. Once again, a major commercial route bypassed Texas. Instead, Anglo-American settlers looked to towns on the Mississippi including Natchez and New Orleans for commercial, political, and cultural leadership. New Mexico, while decidedly Spanish, had strong midwestern American influences, including immigrants opposed to the expansion of slavery, while Texas turned decidedly southern.
When the Republic of Texas fixed its boundary at the Rio Grande at the end of the Texas Revolution, Santa Fe became some of the spoils of war. The New Mexicans, however, considered Texans strangers. In 1841, when President Mirabeau B. Lamar sent a “trade” expedition to Santa Fe to bring the old town into the Texas commercial and political sphere, Mexican Governor Manuel Armijo prepared for a fight. When the column disintegrated en route, New Mexico militia had little to do but round up the bedraggled survivors.
The 1843 efforts of Charles Warfield and Jacob Snively to interdict the Santa Fe Trail did little to endear them to New Mexicans. Warfield’s attack on the mountain town of Mora in May left bitter memories. Snively’s June 20 attack on a Santa Fe caravan defended by a column of Mexican troops added to the list of New Mexicans killed by Texans.
In the end, the United States intervened to keep Santa Fe safe from Texan ambitions and New Mexico remained outside of the Texan sphere of influence. Although thwarted in these efforts, these would not be the last Texan schemes to bring Santa Fe and the Upper Rio Grande Valley into its domain.