The transformation of Hidalgo's explosive insurrection into a prolonged insurgency was possible for a number of reasons. One was the survival of a tier of leaders ready to take the place of Hidalgo and the other principal commanders. Before heading north in March 1811, Allende had promoted Ignacio López Rayón to command the movement, with José María Liceaga as his second, and sent these men southwards with a force of several thousand to continue the rebellion. Their first attempt to rally the insurgents was at Zacatecas, where they tried to establish an autonomous government—a Junta Nacional—in the second half of April 1811. This seat of rebel government lasted barely two weeks: Calleja retook the city on May 3, and the insurgent leaders had to move on. While their followers in Zacatecas took refuge in the mountainous backlands outside the city, Rayón moved to Zitácuaro where he sought to convene a provisional government that would provide a political directorate and represent the insurgents abroad. The eleven leaders who attended accepted Rayón as “Minister of the Nation,” agreed to establish a “Supreme National American Junta,” and chose three of their number, led by Rayón, to run this government and direct its military operations. In their pronouncements, the insurgent leaders courted public support by recognizing Ferdinand VII as sovereign and embracing Catholicism as the only true religion, thereby retaining at least a symbolic allegiance to the two great pillars of the old regime. However, they also declared America “free and independent,” and their purpose was clear: to replace the Spanish authorities in Mexico City with an autonomous government of their choosing.