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Title: History of the War Between Mexico and the United States, with a Preliminary View of its Origin, Volume 1
Author: Mayer, Brantz, 1809-1879
Language: English
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[Illustration: Ant. Lopez de S^ta Anna]



[Illustration: BATTLE
of
PALO ALTO
8^th. May 1846.
Lith. by E. Weber & Co. Balto.]



[Illustration: BATTLE
of
RESACA DE LA PALMA
9^th May 1846.
Lith. by E. Weber & Co. Balto.]



 HISTORY OF THE WAR

 BETWEEN

 MEXICO AND THE UNITED STATES,

 WITH A PRELIMINARY VIEW OF ITS ORIGIN;

 BY

 BRANTZ MAYER,

 FORMERLY SECRETARY OF THE UNITED STATES LEGATION IN MEXICO,
 AND AUTHOR OF "MEXICO AS IT WAS AND AS IT IS."



 Ne dites à la posterité que ce qui est digne de la posterité.--VOLTAIRE.


 VOLUME I.


 NEW YORK & LONDON.
 WILEY AND PUTNAM.

 MDCCCXLVIII.



 Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1847, by

 BRANTZ MAYER,

 in the Clerk's office of the District Court for the District of Maryland.



BOOK FIRST:

PRELIMINARY VIEW OF THE ORIGIN

OF THE WAR.



HISTORY OF THE WAR

BETWEEN

MEXICO AND THE UNITED STATES.



BOOK I.



CHAPTER I.

Introductory views of Mexico--The people and government.


The war which broke out between the United States of North America and
the Mexican Republic, in the spring of 1846, is an event of great
importance in the history of the world. Profound peace had reigned among
Christian nations, since the downfall of Napoleon; and, with the
exception of internal discords in France, Belgium, Poland and Greece,
the civilized world had cause to believe that mankind would henceforth
resort to the cabinet rather than the field for the settlement of
international disputes. The recent conflicts between the French and the
Arabs in Algeria, and between the British and Indian races, have been
characterized by ferocity and endurance. But, it will be recollected
these encounters took place between nations unequal alike in religion,
morals, law, and civilization. The temper or character of Mahomedans was
not to be measured by that of Christians nor had we just reason to hope
for a pacific or temporizing spirit in people whose savage habits have
ever rendered them prompt to return invasion by a blow, and make war the
precursor of negotiation. It was, thus, reserved for the Mexicans, whose
blood is mixed with that of an Arab ancestry, to exhibit the spectacle
of continual domestic broils, and, latterly of a positive warfare
against a nation whose friendly hand was the first to summon them into
the pale of national independence.

The disorganized condition of our neighbor for nearly thirty years, may,
partly account for and palliate this fault. With administrations
shifting like the scenes of a drama, and with a stage, at times dyed
with blood, and at others imitating the mimic passions and transports of
the real theatre, it may be confessed that much should be pardoned by a
forbearing nation whose aggregate intelligence and force are not to be
compared with the fragmentary and impulsive usurpations in Mexico. To
judge faithfully of the justice or injustice of this war, and to
comprehend this history in truth and fairness, we must not only narrate
in chronological order the simple events that occurred between the two
nations; but the student of this epoch must go back a step in order to
master the scope and motives of the war. He must study the preceding
Mexican history and character; and, it will speedily be discovered that
when he attempts to judge the Spanish republics by the ordinary
standards applied to free and enlightened governments, he will signally
fail in arriving at truth. He must neither imagine that when the name of
Republic was engrafted on the Mexican system, that it accommodated
itself at once to our ideal standard of political power, nor that the
dominant faction was willing to adopt the simple machinery which
operates so perfectly in the United States. There are many reasons why
this should not be the case. The Spanish race, although it has achieved
the most wonderful results in discovery, conquest, colonial settlement,
diplomacy, feats of arms, and success of domestic power, has proved
itself, within the present century, to be one of the few opponents of
the progressive principles of our age. A Castilian pride of remembered
greatness, and a superstitious reluctance to cast off the bondage of the
past, have made the Spaniards content to cling devotedly to their
ancient edifice without bestowing on it those repairs or improvements
without which governments, must evidently crumble and decay. Spain
believed that what had produced national power and greatness in one age
must ever continue to effect the same results, and, thus, she was
content to bear the evils of the present time rather than disjoint a
fragment of her ancient temple, lest the whole should fall in
indiscriminate ruin. The blindness of national vanity was made more
profound by the universal glare of progressive civilization that
surrounded this doomed country, whilst superstitious influences clogged
every avenue to progress which might have saved and regenerated both the
parent and her colonies.

It may be urged by the apologists for Spain, that, being nearly as deep
in moral, political and social degradation as France was at the period
of the revolution, she naturally contemplated such an event with horror,
especially when she remembered the sensitive and excitable race that
peopled her vallies and sierras, and the likelihood that the bloody
dramas of Paris would be frightfully exaggerated in Madrid. But I still
believe that the true cause will be found more deeply seated, in the
nature of the people; and that Spain,--made up as she is of many
nations, incompetent for self-government, uneducated and bigoted,--will
ever be content to find her ideal future in her traditionary past.

Spain and the Spaniards have few more zealous admirers than the author
of this history. The nation contains individuals who in patriotism, love
of liberty, and devotion to science, literature, and art, are
unsurpassed by any people of the world. As Americans we owe a debt of
gratitude to the noble discoverers and conquerors of this continent. In
deeds of bravery, in chivalrous enterprise, and in intellectual power,
with what people may they not be matched in their perfect period. But
their golden age has passed, and manifold corruptions in church and
state have preyed upon the country with paralyzing influence.

For a long time we received from England with the submissive credulity
of children, all her traditionary ignorance and abuse of Spain, much of
which was owing to political animosity, as well as to the rivalry that
grew up between that country and the rest of Europe during the reign of
Philip the second. But the study of her language, history and
literature, has unveiled the legendary falsehoods with which we were
cheated. Whilst a large portion of her past history should be admired
and lauded, her present downfall should be regarded with compassionate
censure and sympathy. We should endeavor, in writing history, to make
ourselves men of the times and nations we describe, and it is in this
manner alone, that we can establish the spiritual sympathy between
ourselves and foreign countries, which will enable us to enter into
their feelings and motives, and thus become not only merciful but true
and discreet judges.

       *       *       *       *       *

The two great impressions made on this continent by the Spaniards were
in Mexico and Peru. Avarice and ambition induced the conquest of the
latter, while that of Mexico may also be attributed to the same motives,
although the hero who added the Aztec empire to the Spanish dominions,
modified his victories by personal qualities which were infinitely
superior to those of the conqueror of Peru.[1] Yet, in neither of these
great adventures do we find any of the fruits of peaceful acquisition,
or of those well regulated advances in civilization which always mark a
people whose conquest is undertaken under the immediate direction and
legal restraints of government. The conquests in America were, in truth,
chiefly individual enterprises, and, of course, could not be conducted
in a spirit of temperance and justice. The exploits of Cortéz and
Pizarro, especially those of the latter, are characterized by ferocity
and barbarism which would place them in the category with freebooters
and buccaneers, were they not saved from it by the splendor of their
successful results. The Indians of the countries they subjected to
Spain, were utterly vanquished; yet, unlike the hardy and warlike
aborigines of the north, they remained on their native soil, content to
serve or mingle with their conquerors.--Wherever the white man came at
the north, the Indian retreated to his congenial wilderness;--he could
not inhabit the same country or breathe the same air with the
intruder;--but, as the Spaniard advanced at the south, the
semi-civilization of the enervated native, induced him to linger near
the homes of his ancestors, and, with a tame heart, to obey his
conqueror rather than to resist him or enjoy the fierce independence of
the forest.

The territory thus seized by violence was held by fear.--Loyalty can
never be the tenure of conquerors, and, especially, of the conquerors of
an inferior race. The Spaniard and Indian lived together in a spirit of
lordly dominion on the one hand, and of crushed dependence on the other,
whilst the Castilian derived from the native nothing but his habits of
savage life, and the Indian, in turn, learned nothing from the Castilian
but his vices.

A conquest thus achieved, an empire founded in blood and terror, would
naturally seem to have a doubtful destiny. It is unquestionably true
that Spain made humane laws, and that Charles the Fifth passed a decree
by which his American possessions were declared to be integral parts of
the Spanish kingdom. It is true, moreover, that he sought to abolish the
special grants to discoverers and conquerors by which they were invested
with almost absolute authority; and, by mitigating the system
_repartimientos_[2] or of vassalage among the Indians, to raise them to
the dignity of Spanish subjects. But, at the same time, these humane
laws were badly administered in a country so difficult of access as
America was at that period from Spain; and viceroys and governors acted
as they pleased, with but little regard to the people or the country,
except for their individual interests. Whilst this system of
maladministration made the royal and beneficent laws nugatory, Spain
seems to have been engaged in creating a colonial system which was
calculated to paralyze the energies of Mexico and Peru. She taught them
to look exclusively to mining for wealth, and to their Indians for
labor. All the laws relative to the natural development of a new
country were disregarded, and civilized existence in America began on
artificial principles. The example of the last fifty years has proved
that America is capable of producing all the necessaries, and most of
the luxuries of life quite as abundantly as Europe. Yet, Spain denied
her colonies the privilege of an effort. For instance,--she resolved at
the outset not to allow them to be independent in agriculture, commerce
or manufactures. She would not permit them to cultivate the soil save
for the merest daily necessaries. Wine and oil were to be made in the
old world. Cotton and wool were not to be woven into the beautiful
fabrics for which the ancient Peruvians were so celebrated. The church
aided the strong arm of government by the weight of her exactions and
the power of superstitious control. The Inquisition put its veto on the
spread of knowledge by restraining the sale and publication of books.
Foreigners were not allowed to navigate Spanish seas or enter American
harbors. And these distant shores were only visited at stated seasons by
national vessels, carrying such produce at exorbitant prices, as Spain
might think proper to despatch from Seville or Cadiz.[3]

       *       *       *       *       *

I have thought it proper to state in my introductory chapter, thus much
of the laws and system under which Mexico began her national
existence;--for laws modify the character whenever they are not
self-imposed. Let us now, for a moment consider the population which was
subjected to the bad administration of such laws; and we shall then
understand better the character of the belligerents.

The blood of the Spaniards, even at home, is a mixed blood. But when we
remember the various races that have overrun, resided in, ruled, and
incorporated themselves with Spain, we cannot be surprised at detecting
so many and diverse characteristics in Mexico. The Celti-gallic,
Celt-Iberian, Carthagenian, Roman, Vandalic, Visigothic, and Moorish
blood have mingled again in Mexico and Peru with the Indian, and in some
cases have been dashed even with the Negro.[4] Mexicans are thus, as I
have observed elsewhere, grafts rather of the wild Arab on the American
Indian, than of the Spanish Don on the noble Aztec.[5]

When Mexico was completely conquered and emigration began to fill up the
land, the soil was divided, in large estates, among the adventurers and
the Indians, by a system of _repartimientos_, were apportioned to the
land holders.[6] This created an absolute vassalage, and bound the
Indian, virtually and forever, to the spot where he was born. As it
became wearisome to the planters to dwell in the seclusion of these vast
and lonely estates, they left them and their Indians to the care of an
_administrador_, and retreated to the chief cities of the provinces or
to the capital. Thus all the intelligence and cultivation of Mexico
became compacted in the towns, whilst the original ignorance and
semi-civilization remained diffused over the country. It is, therefore,
not at all surprising to find that out of a population of seven
millions, four millions are Indians and only one million purely white,
while more than two millions, of the rest, are zambos, mestizos and
mulattos. Nor is it singular that of this whole population of seven
millions, not more than six hundred thousand whites and eighty thousand
of other castes, can read and write.[7]

Indeed it may be said with truth,--as agriculture has received but
little attention beyond the ordinary wants of life, and as the great
proprietors of estates have chiefly devoted their attention to the
_raising of cattle_,--that the ancient nomadic habits of the Indian and
half-breed, have remained unchanged, and, consequently, that the great
body of this semi-civilized people is quite as much at home on horseback
with sword and lance as in the _corral_ or _hacienda_.[8]

The RANCHERO, who has played so conspicuous a part in this war,
is the natural offspring of such a state of society. This class of men
is composed of individuals, half Spanish half Indian, who resemble the
_gauchos_ of the South American Pampas. Gaunt, shrivelled and bronzed by
exposure, though hardy and muscular from athletic exercise, they are,
indeed, the Arabs of our continent. Living half the time in their
saddles, for they are matchless horsemen, they traverse the plains and
mountains, with lasso[9] in hand, either searching for, or tending their
herds. The slaughter of beasts and preparation and sale of hides is
their chief means of livelihood, varied occasionally by the cultivation
of a small patch of ground, or by taking part in the civil wars that are
always waging. Their costume generally consists of a pair of tough
leggings of skin and leathern trousers, over which is a _serape_ or
blanket, with a hole in the centre large enough for the head to pass
through, whence it falls in graceful folds over the chest and shoulders,
leaving room for the play of hands and arms. Add to this a broad
_sombrero_, and the _lasso_, hanging ready for use at his saddle bow,
and the reader will have a picture of the _ranchero_ as he appears in
peace or in the ordinary pursuit of his occupation. Join to this garb a
long sabre, a horse as savage and untamed as himself, and a belt
plentifully studded with pistols and _machetes_, and the _ranchero_
presents himself ready either to join a troop of banditti, or to serve
in a body of cavalry.

Cowardly as they generally are in the open field when encountering
regular troops, yet, in ambuscade, a sudden fight, or, as _guerillas_,
they are both a formidable and cruel foe. Their power of endurance is
inexhaustible. Fatigue is almost unknown to them, and a scanty meal,
each day, of jerked beef and corn or plantain, is sufficient to sustain
them on the longest marches.

Such are the _rancheros_, who, by discipline, might be rendered the best
light troops in the world. These are the men who form the material of
the Mexican cavalry; and they bear the same relation to the armies of
that republic that the Cossacks do to the Russians;--ever on the
alert,--easily lodged,--capable of supporting fatigue or hunger,--and
untiring in pursuit of an enemy, when even the most trifling plunder is
to be obtained.[10]

       *       *       *       *       *

Another large and formidable body in Mexico is that of the _Indians_,
amounting, as we have seen, to four millions; whose knowledge of their
governors' language is generally confined to such phrases as will enable
them to buy and sell, or perform the ordinary functions of life.
Formerly they lived, and usually still live, in narrow huts built of
mud, thatched with straw or palm leaves, and which have scarcely the
merit of being picturesque. In these miserable lairs, they nestle with
their families, their domestic animals, and a table or altar on which
they erect a cross or place the figure of a patron saint. Their food is
mostly maize, and their dress corresponds with this grovelling
wretchedness. Five out of every hundred may perhaps possess two suits of
clothes, but their general vesture consists of a large cotton shirt, a
pair of leathern trousers, and a blanket. Even the Indian women, who
elsewhere, like their sex in civilized countries, are always fond of
personal adornment, exhibit no desire to appear decent or to rival each
other in tasteful ornaments when they go abroad. They are as foul and
ill-clad on their festivals at church, as in their hovels at home, so
that few things are more disgusting to a foreigner than to mingle in an
Indian crowd.[11] It is impossible to imagine such a population capable
of becoming landed proprietors; and, consequently, we find them
contented with the annual product of their small fields, amounting,
perhaps, to thirty or fifty _fanegas_ of corn. When they live on the
large estates of Mexican proprietors, they are, in reality, vassals,
although free from the nominal stain of slavery.[12] On these
plantations they are beaten when they commit faults, and, if then found
incorrigible, are driven beyond their limits,--a punishment deemed by
them the severest that can be inflicted, and which they bear with as
much difficulty as our Indians do their banishment from the "hunting
grounds" of their forefathers. When they have gained a little money by
labor, they hasten to squander it by making a festival in honor of their
favorite saint, and thus consume their miserable earnings in gluttony,
gambling, masses, fire works, and drunkenness. When it is not absolutely
necessary to toil for the necessaries of life,--especially in the
_tierras calientes_, or warmer portions of Mexico,--they pass their time
in utter idleness or sleep. Zavala declares that in many portions of
the country, the _curates_ maintain such entire dominion over the
Indians, that they order them to be publicly whipped whenever they fail
to pay their _ovenciones_, or tributes, at the regular time, or commit
some act of personal disobedience. But the degradation of this class
does not stop even here, for the same author alleges that he has
frequently seen many Indians and their wives flogged at the village
church door, because they had failed to come to mass upon some Sunday or
festival, whilst, after the punishment, these wretches were obliged to
kiss the hand of the executioner![13]

It will be seen from this sketch and description that the vicious
colonial system of Spain formed only two great classes in America,--the
proprietor and the vassal,--and that, in the nature of things, it was
utterly impossible for the latter to amalgamate with the former except
by creating an inferior race, whose sympathies were with the Indian
rather than the Spaniard, and whose type is the nomadic _ranchero_. This
fact was proved in the revolution which broke out in Spanish America.
The war cry was against the Spaniard[14] and his pure descendants. The
_creole_[15] rose against the _gachupin_,[16] and the ferocity with
which the soldiers of old Spain carried on the war against the natives
confirmed their hereditary animosity.

       *       *       *       *       *

The struggle for domestic power commenced as soon as the independence of
Mexico was achieved, and the people began to establish a system of
government upon a republican basis after the downfall of the Emperor
Iturbidé. The Spaniards had taught a lesson of privileged classes which
was never forgotten; so that, when the revolution took place, THE
PEOPLE were only used to effect national emancipation rather than
to establish general political liberty.

The nobles or great proprietors, and the clergy, had, in the olden time,
formed the influential class of society which ruled the land. The theory
of republicanism was marvellously captivating so long as there was an
European foe to subdue. But, when the last remnant of Spanish power
disappeared, the men who had governed during the revolution were loath
to surrender power and subside into the insignificance of mere
citizenship. In such a country as Mexico, and in such a war as had just
occurred, this controlling influence in public affairs was, of course,
to be chiefly found in the army; so that when the nation looked around
for men to direct her at a period when Spain had not yet recognized her
independence and might again assail her, she naturally turned to the
military chieftains whose valor sustained her cause so bravely. Thus it
was that in her first moments of peace, the army obtained an important
ascendancy, which it has ever since contrived to retain during all
administrations.

It is not just to the Spanish colonies to blame them for such a
procedure, especially when we remember that even our republic is
beginning to manifest a marked partiality for military men. The great
deed rather than the great thought,--the brilliant act rather than
beneficent legislation,--arrests and captivates the multitude. In
republics, where an eager strife for wealth, distinction or power, is
constantly going on, the notice and position that each man obtains must
be won either by intrigue or by the irresistible power of talents and
achievements. Ambitious parties sometimes even compromise for the
weakest, rather than yield the palm to superior merit of which they are
meanly jealous. The great mass of the country has no time to pause in
the midst of its earnest labor to meditate wisely on the political
abilities and moral claims of individuals. They cannot weigh them in the
golden scales of justice;--but, by a more rapid and easy process, they
yield their suffrages promptly to those whose manifestations of genius
or power are so resistless as to compel admiration. Thus is it that the
brave soldier, performing his noble exploit on the field of battle,
speaks palpably to the eye and ear of the greedy multitude. His is,
indeed, the language of action, and each new deed makes national glory
more distinct, and national vanity more confident. But the more quiet
and unobtrusive statesman, with a field infinitely less glaring or
attractive, exacts from his judges a suspension of party feeling, an
investigation of motive and merit, a calm and forbearing justice, which
the impatient masses have seldom the time or talent to bestow. It is,
therefore, by no means surprising to find in history, that the sword has
commonly been mightier than the pen, and that military chieftains become
the natural heads of republics which are created by long and bitter
revolutions.

It must be remembered that the army in Mexico is not what armies are
generally understood to be in other countries. In Europe they are
designed to restrain the aggressive ambition of rival powers, to act as
military police, and, by their imposing skill, discipline and numbers,
to preserve the balance of national power. But in Mexico, whilst the
members of an immensely rich hierarchy constitute a distinct _order_ in
society, the army forms another.--The policy of the existing military
chieftains was to sustain, foster and increase their individual power
and patronage. The mere domestic police of the country could surely
never require, in time of peace, so large a numerical force under arms
as that which has always been supported in it; yet the military
presidents, at once, sought to establish an _army of officers_, and by
the enlistment of a body of commanders, entirely disproportionate to the
number of rank and file, they immediately created a _military order_
upon whose support they could rely so long as they possessed the means
of patronage. The officers thus became armed and paid politicians,
whilst the common soldiers formed a military police;--the one an
element of all political revolutions, the other a tool by which those
revolutions were effected. The great practical idea of government, it
will be perceived, was derived from _compulsory force_. The church
wielded the spiritual power, whilst the army held the physical; and,
between the two, _the people_,--composed of merchants, professional men,
farmers, proprietors, and artisans,--were refused all participation in
authority, or progress in civil order which might have placed Mexico
among the foremost nations of the world. In this manner a central despot
has always found means and instruments to suppress federalism;--for
whilst near _thirty_ revolutions have occurred in Mexico since her
independence, every one of her presidents has been a military
chieftain.[17]

Macaulay, in his essay on the life of Lord Bacon describes the condition
of England when she was governed by warriors whose rude courage was
neither guided by science nor softened by humanity, and by priests whose
learning and abilities were habitually devoted to the defence of power.
The description of that age in England is by no means inapplicable to
Mexico in the nineteenth century. "On the one side," says he, "the
Hotspurs, the Nevilles, the Cliffords, rough illiterate and
unreflecting, brought to the council-board the fierce and impetuous
despotism which they had acquired amid the tumult of predatory war or in
the gloomy repose of the garrisoned and moated castle. On the other side
was the calm and placid prelate, versed in all that was considered as
learning; trained in the schools to manage words, and, in the
Confessional, to manage hearts;--seldom superstitious, but skilful in
practising on the superstitions of others; false as it was natural for a
man to be whose profession imposed on all who were not saints the
necessity of being hypocrites;--selfish as it was natural that a man
should be who could form no domestic ties and cherish no hope of
legitimate posterity;--more attached to his order than to his country,
and guiding the politics of England with a constant side glance to
Rome."[18]

And so it was in Mexico. The sojourner in her capital is continually
warned of this double dominion over the soul and body of the people. The
drum and the bell resound in his ears from morning to night fall.
Priests and soldiers throng the streets; and, whilst the former enjoy
the comfortable revenues which are derived from the one hundred millions
of property owned by the church, the latter live upon the labor of the
people, whom they are paid to control and transfer from one military
despot to another.

The Mexican revolution,--like the revolutions of England, but unlike
that of France,--was political rather than social. The great foundations
of society were therefore undisturbed, and the priest and soldier took
the ranks of the ancient privileged classes, whilst the mixed people and
the native Indians remained what they had ever been--the subjects of
government.

Of all the officers who have commanded the army and enjoyed the
presidency, Santa Anna has occupied the most distinguished position
since the death of Iturbidé, and it is with him and the nation thus
described, that we shall deal in the following pages.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Prescott's Conquest of Peru, 2nd vol. pages 199: 245.

[2] The word _repartimiento_ means, division, partition, distribution,
or apportionment. In the old Spanish historians and English books, such
as Zaraté, Garcilasso de la Vega, Fernandez, Robertson, it is uniformly
used to denote the well known allotment of lands and vassal Indians
(_genuine adscripti glebæ_) granted to the first conquerors in reward of
their services. In some later writers, this word is applied to the
_monopoly of sales to the Indians_ exercised by the _corregedores_,
under pretext of protecting the Indians from imposition, by the official
distribution of goods. N. A. Review, vol. xx. p. 287.

"Indeed the Spanish court made no scruple of regarding the Indians in
the same light as the beasts and the soil, disposing of them as the
rightful property of the crown; for it was not till 1537, nearly fifty
years after the discovery, that the Pope issued a mandate declaring them
to be really and truly men,--"_ipsos veros homines_,"--and capable of
receiving the Christian faith." N. A. Review, vol. xix. p. 198.

[3] The American trade was confined to Seville until 1720, when it was
removed to Cadiz, as a more convenient port. On the subject of these
oppressions and misgovernment, see Zavala's "Revoluciones de Mexico,"
Introduction;--and North American Review. vol. xx. p. 158.

[4] The subjoined list shows the varieties of parentage and blood
forming the castes throughout Spanish America:

      PARENTS.
 1. ORIGINAL RACES.
      WHITE. European _whites_ are called _gachupines_ or chapetones.
             _Whites_, born in the colonies, are called creoles.
      NEGRO.
      INDIAN.

               PARENTS.                            CHILDREN.
 2. CASTES OF WHITE RACE.
      White father and Negro mother         Mulatto.
      White father and Indian mother        Mestizo.
      White father and Mulatta mother       Quarteron.
      White father and Meztiza mother       Creole, (only distinguishable
                                              from the white by a
                                              pale brown complexion.)
      White father and China mother         Chino-blanco.
      White father and Quarterona mother    Quintero.
      White father and Quintera mother      White.

 3. CASTES OF NEGRO RACE.
      Negro father and Mulatta mother       Zambo-negro.
      Negro father and Meztiza mother       Mulatto-oscuro.
      Negro father and China mother         Zambo-chino.
      Negro father and Zamba mother         Zambo & Negro (perfectly
                                              black.)
      Negro father and Quarterona mother    dark Mulatto.
      Negro father and Quintera mother      dark Mulatto.

 4. CASTES OF INDIAN RACE.
      Indian father and Negro mother        Chino.
      Indian father and Mulatta mother      Chino-oscuro.
      Indian father and Mestiza mother      Mestizo-claro (often very
                                              beautiful.)
      Indian father and China mother        Chino-cholo.
      Indian father and Zamba mother        Zambo-claro.
      Indian father and China-chola mother  Indian (with short, frizzly
                                              hair.)
      Indian father and Quarterona mother   brown Meztizo.
      Indian father and Quintera mother     brown Meztizo.

 5. MULATTO CORRUPTIONS.
      Mulatto father and Zamba mother       Zambo (a miserable race.)
      Mulatto father and Zamba mother       Chino (rather clear race.)
      Mulatto father and China mother       Chino (rather dark.)

Besides these specified castes there are many others not distinguished
by particular names. The best criterion for judging is the hair of the
women which is infinitely less deceiving than the complexion. The short
woolly hair, or the coarse Indian locks may always be detected on the
head or back of the neck. This tabular statement exhibits at a glance
the mongrel corruptions of the human race in Spanish America, and forms
an interesting subject for students of physiology. See Tschudi's Peru,
p. 80, Am. Ed.

[5] Preface to 3d Ed. of Mexico as it was and as it is, p. 12.

[6] Zavala's "Revoluciones de Mexico," vol. 1. p. 15, gives an account
of the manner in which estates are divided in Mexico.

[7] See Mexico as it was and as it is, p. 301.

[8] _Corral_ signifies cattle yard; _hacienda_, plantation; _rancho_,
small farm.

[9] _The lasso_ is a long rope, with a running noose at the end of it.
The Mexicans learn to fling this with great accuracy so as to catch a
bull, a horse, or a man with equal facility. All classes have some skill
in the use of this weapon, and I have seen children, with cords,
attempting to _lasso_ chickens and even butterflies!

[10] See Head's Rough Notes of a Journey over the Pampas. The Mexican
ranchero is somewhat superior to the _gaucho_ of the Pampas.

[11] Mexico as it was and is, p. 144.

[12] Id. p. 201; and see Stephens' Travels in Yucatan,--where, he says,
the maxim is that "los Indios no oyen sino por las nalgas,"--the Indians
only hear through their backs.

[13] Zavala Revoluciones de Mejico, vol. i, pp. 15, 16. "Este escandalo
estaba autorizado por la costumbre de mi provincia." Zavala was one of
the wisest and most illustrious patriots of Mexico. His History was
published in Paris in 1831.

[14] It will be recollected that the outburst of the Mexican revolution
was not in favor of republicanism; but only against misgovernment. It
was not against the _form_ of rule, but against the _men_ who ruled.
Even the plan of Iguala offered the crown of Mexico to Ferdinand, as a
separate kingdom. See Robinson's Memoirs of the Mexican Revolution.

"It is related that Hidalgo, the celebrated priestly leader of the
revolutionary movement, was accustomed to travel from village to village
preaching a crusade against the Spaniards, exciting the _creoles_ and
Indians; and one of his most effective tricks is said to have been the
following. Although he had thrown off the cassock for the military coat,
he wore a figure of the Virgin Mary suspended by a chain around his
neck. After haranguing the mob on such occasions, he would suddenly
break off, and looking down at his breast, address himself to the holy
image, after the following fashion: 'Mary! Mother of God! Holy Virgin!
Patron of Mexico! behold our country,--behold our wrongs,--behold our
sufferings! Dost thou not wish they should be changed? that we should be
delivered from our tyrants? that we should be free? that we should slay
the gachupines! that we should kill the Spaniards?'

"The image had a moveable head fastened to a spring, which he jerked by
a cord concealed beneath his coat, and, of course the Virgin responded
with a nod! The effect was surprising--and the air was filled with
Indian shouts of obedience to the present miracle."--Mexico as it was
and as it is, p. 230.

[15] The term _creole_ is a corruption of the Spanish word _criollo_,
which is derived from _criar_, to create or foster. The Spaniards apply
the term criollo not merely to the human race, but to animals born in
the colonies, if they are of _pure European blood_.

[16] See Robinson's Memoirs Mexican Revolution, page 15. The term
_gachupin_ has been always used by the creoles and Indians as a word of
contempt towards the Spaniards. Its origin and exact signification are
unknown; but it is believed to be an Indian, and perhaps Aztec, term of
scorn and opprobrium.

[17] A _federal_ government, similar to our own, was established in
Mexico in 1824, and overthrown in 1835, to yield to a _central_
constitution. In the meanwhile, the centralists were almost always at
war, openly or secretly, against the _federalists_.

[18] Macaulay's Essays, vol. 2d, p. 356, Bost. Ed.



CHAPTER II.

Origin of the war considered--True objects of contemporaneous history
     --Motives for war--No single act caused it--Difference between war
     and hostilities--Mexican revolution--Federalism and Centralism--
     Operation of the Constitution of 1824--History of our commercial and
     diplomatic relations--Bad conduct of Mexico in regard to our claims,
     compared with that of other nations--Commission--Award of umpire--
     Subsequent course of Mexico--History of the seizure and surrender of
     Monterey, on the Pacific, by Commodore Jones in 1842--Secretary
     Upshur's censure of his conduct--Ill feeling in Mexico towards the
     United States in consequence of this seizure.


An artist in portraying a face or delineating a landscape, does not
imprint upon his canvass, each line and wrinkle, each blade of grass or
mossy stone, yet a spectator recognizes in the complete painting, those
broad characteristics of truth which establish a limner's fidelity. So
it is with the historian. Whilst seeking for accuracy in all his
details, he aims, chiefly, at exactness in his ruling principles and
general effect, but he leaves the minute inelegances and tasteless
incidents to those whose critical fervor delights in detecting them.

It is not alone in the detail of facts that the historian is liable to
incur censure, especially when he writes a contemporaneous narrative. It
is almost impossible to suppose that he will divest himself so
completely of party feeling, as to compose an unprejudiced work. Some
critics have even declared that a historian should possess neither
religion nor country, and would thus force us to believe it utterly
impossible to be impartial unless an author were an infidel or a
cosmopolite.

The age is so characterized by political rancor and so little by true
statesmanship, that it is not surprising to hear such opinions even from
experienced and patient scholars. Yet I have always thought that a
writer who undertakes the task of delineating national annals in no
sectarian spirit but with broad and Christian tolerance,--honestly
seeking to do justice in politics and religion to all,--may so far
separate himself from the strifes of the day as to pronounce opinions as
honest, though perhaps not as learned, as those that issue from the
bench.

There is, too, a great advantage which should not escape our notice in
recording contemporaneous history and fixing permanently the facts of
the time as they occur. He who describes events or periods long since
past, is forced to throw himself back, if possible, into the scenes of
which he writes, whilst he remains free from sympathy with their
factions and parties. But if a writer of the present day will place
himself on the impartial ground of religious and political freedom, and
make himself what Madame de Stael has so felicitously styled
"contemporaneous posterity," I think he will be better able than those
who come after us to narrate with vivid freshness the story of this
sanguinary war.

The impression of public feeling both in Mexico and the United States is
still distinct in our recollection; the political motives influencing or
controlling both the great parties in our country, have not yet ceased
to operate; and the errors that may innocently creep into a narrative
may be corrected by intelligent men who took part in the war as soldiers
or civilians. A history thus dispassionately written, must, it seems to
me, have the truth and value of a portrait taken from life, rather than
of a sketch made from memory whose coloring lacks all the freshness of
vitality.

       *       *       *       *       *

The very threshold of this history is embarrassed by the party
controversies to which I have alluded. The origin of the war was
attributed by the president and his adherents to the wrong doings of
Mexico, whilst the opponents of the executive did not hesitate to charge
its unnecessary inception and all its errors directly on the cabinet.
Documents, messages, speeches, essays, and reviews, were published to
sustain both sides of the question, and the whole subject was argued
with so much ability and bitterness, so much zeal and apparent
sincerity, that an impartial mind experiences extraordinary difficulty
in detecting the actual offender. That grievances existed in the conduct
of Mexico against us during a long series of years cannot be denied;
but, it is equally true, that, between governments well administered and
entirely reasonable on both sides, none of those provocations justified
war. Yet, when offended power on one side, and passion on the other,
become engaged in discussion, it requires but little to fan the smallest
spark into a flame, and thus to kindle a conflagration, which the
stoutest arms may fail to suppress. It frequently occurs in the affairs
of ordinary life, that neighbors are the bitterest enemies. Men often
dislike each other at their first interview, especially if they belong
to families in which mutual prejudices have existed. They find it
impossible to assign reasons for their aversion; nevertheless it exists
in all its marvellous virulence. A slight disagreement as to limits
between neighboring landholders, a paltry quarrel among servants, the
malicious representation of innocent remarks, a thousand vain and
trifling incidents, may effectually create a degree of ill feeling and
cause them never to meet without scornful looks and quickened pulses.
At length, this offensive temper is manifested in personal annoyance or
insulting language, and blows are struck in the first encounter without
pausing to debate the justice of an assault. It is with nations as it is
with persons. The boasted discretion of statesmen, and the provident
temper of politicians have, in all ages, failed to control the animosity
of mankind; and we thus find as much littleness in the conduct of
governments as in the petulance of men.

I have therefore, in studying this subject carefully, been led to the
opinion that no single act or cause can be truly said to have originated
the war between the United States and Mexico; but that it occurred as
the result of a series of events, and as the necessary consequence of
the acts, position, temper, passions, ambition and history of both
parties since our international relations commenced.

The reader will observe that I draw a distinction between the _war_ and
_hostilities_. I shall discuss the latter question in the portion of
this volume which relates to events on the Rio Grande.[19]

       *       *       *       *       *

In the preceding chapter I have glanced at the character of the people
of Mexico, and I trust that the sketch I gave will be continually
remembered as illustrating the people with whom we are dealing. When our
first envoy, Mr. Poinsett, was despatched, he found Mexico pausing to
recover breath after her revolution. The bad government of Spain had
been followed by the turmoil and bloodshed of the rebellion, and that,
in turn, was succeeded by the anarchy of a distracted republic.
Revolution has followed revolution so rapidly since then, that the
historian, at a loss to discover their causes, can scarcely detect
their pretexts. For twenty years past we have been so accustomed to hear
of a new military outbreak in Mexico that the familiarized act seems to
be only the legitimate order of constitutional change. Passion,
ambition, turbulence, avarice, and superstition, have so devoured the
country, that during the whole of this period, Mexico, whilst presenting
to foreign nations, the external appearance of nationality, has, in
fact, at home, scarcely ever enjoyed the benefit of a real or stable
government that could make an impression upon the character of the
people or their rulers. It is true that, at first, she sought to adopt
our federal system; but the original difference between the colonial
condition of things in the two countries, made the operation of it
almost impossible. The British provinces of North America, with their
ancient and separate governments, very naturally united in a federation
for national purposes, whilst they retained their freedom and laws as
independent States. But the viceroyalty of Mexico, when it
revolutionized its government, was forced to reverse our system,--to
destroy the original central power, and, subsequently to divide the
territory into departments, or states. Until the year 1824, nothing of
this kind existed in Mexico. The whole country from the Sabine to its
utmost southern limit, was under the central rule of a viceroy, with the
same laws, religion, priests, judges, and civil as well as military
authorities. The constitution of 1824, for the first time broke up the
consolidated nation into nineteen states, and then, by the same
legislative act, recomposed them in a federative union. The
constitutions of these nineteen states, consequently, were creative of
differences that never existed before, and the unity of power, will, and
action, which previously existed was destroyed forever. This was,
naturally the origin of jealousies, parties, and sectional feeling; and
the result was, that the revenues of the country became wasted whilst
their collection was impeded, and that a people unused to freedom and
chiefly composed of illiterate _creoles_, were confounded by a scheme of
government whose machinery was too intricate.[20]

The state and municipal governments of Mexico were, consequently, always
quite as incompetent for self-rule as the central authority. In addition
to this, they were cordially jealous of the national powers. This arose
from the state fears of consolidation; and, as it was with these
municipal authorities, as well as with the corrupt government officers,
that our citizens were chiefly brought in contact in the ports, it is
not at all wonderful to find them soon complaining of oppression and
burthening the records of our legation with their grievances. When our
ministers sought to obtain redress, the Mexican government was reluctant
to undertake the investigation of the subject; and, when it did so,
continually encountered delay and equivocation on the part of the local
authorities. The distant peculator was anxious to escape the penalty of
his fault by procrastination, and the Mexican secretary of state, ever
willing to uphold his national pride by concealing or not confessing the
villainy of his subordinate, was ready to sustain him by an interminable
correspondence.

The history of the diplomatic and commercial relations between the
United States and Mexico, as exhibited by congress in all the published
volumes of national documents, presents a series of wrongs, which the
reader will find ably recapitulated in a report[21] made by Mr. Cushing
in the year 1842. Our claims, arising from injuries inflicted by Mexico,
were no ordinary demands founded on mere querulousness, or contrived
with a view to obtain money fraudulently from that republic. They were
brought to the notice of the ministry of foreign affairs by all our
envoys, and their justice urged with ample proof; until, at length, upon
the return of Mr. Powhatan Ellis to the United States, in the year 1837,
after demanding his passports, they became the subject of a message from
President Jackson in which he alleges that all his efforts of pacific
negotiation had been fruitless and that he found it both just and
prudent to recommend reprisals against Mexico. This serious aspect of
our difficulties immediately commended the subject to the notice of
committees in both houses of congress, and whilst they sustained the
president's opinion of the character of our wrongs, they recommended
that a forbearing spirit should still characterize our conduct, so that,
"after a further demand, should prompt justice be refused by the Mexican
government, we might appeal to all nations not only for the equity and
moderation with which we had acted towards a sister republic but for the
necessity which will then compel us to seek redress for our wrongs
either by actual war or reprisals."[22]

"Shortly after these proceedings"--says President Polk--"a special
messenger was despatched to Mexico, to make a final demand for redress;
and on the 20th of July, 1837, the demand was made. The reply of the
Mexican government bears date on the 29th of the same month, and
contains assurances of the anxious wish of the Mexican government 'not
to delay the moment of that final and equitable adjustment which is to
terminate the existing difficulties between the two governments;' that
nothing 'should be left undone which may contribute to the speediest and
most equitable termination of the subjects which have so seriously
engaged the attention of the United States,' that the 'Mexican
government would adopt, as the only guides for its conduct, the plainest
principles of public right, the sacred obligations imposed by
international law, and the religious faith of treaties,' and that
'whatever reason and justice may dictate respecting each case will be
done.' The assurance was further given that the decision of the Mexican
government upon each cause of complaint, for which redress had been
demanded, should be communicated to the government of the United States
by the Mexican minister at Washington.

"These solemn assurances, in answer to our demand for redress, were
disregarded. By making them, however, Mexico obtained further delay.
President Van Buren, in his annual message to congress of the 5th of
December, 1837, states that 'although the larger number' of our demands
for redress, and 'many of them aggravated cases of personal wrongs, have
been now for years before the Mexican government, and although the
causes of national complaint, and those of the most offensive character,
admitted of immediate, simple, and satisfactory replies, it is only
within a few days past that any specific communication in answer to our
last demand, made five months ago, has been received from the Mexican
minister;' and that 'for not one of our public complaints has
satisfaction been given or offered; that but one of the cases of
personal wrong has been favorably considered, and but four cases of both
descriptions, out of all those formally presented, and earnestly
pressed, have as yet been decided upon by the Mexican government.'
President Van Buren, believing that it would be vain to make any further
attempt to obtain redress by the ordinary means within the power of the
executive, communicated this opinion to congress, in the message
referred to, in which he said that 'on a careful and deliberate
examination of the contents,' of the correspondence with the Mexican
government, 'and considering the spirit manifested by the Mexican
government, it became his painful duty to return the subject, as it now
stands, to congress, to whom it belongs, to decide upon the time, the
mode, and the measure of redress.'

"Instead of taking redress into our own hands, a new negotiation was
entered upon with fair promises on the part of Mexico. This negotiation,
after more than a year's delay, resulted in the convention of the 11th
of April, 1839, 'for the adjustment of claims of citizens of the United
States of America upon the government of the Mexican republic.' The
joint board of commissioners created by this convention to examine and
decide upon these claims was not organized until the month of August,
1840, and under the terms of the convention they were to terminate their
duties within eighteen months from that time. Four of the eighteen
months were consumed in preliminary discussions on frivolous and
dilatory points raised by the Mexican commissioners; nor was it until
the month of December, 1840, that they commenced the examination of the
claims of our citizens upon Mexico. Fourteen months only remained to
examine and decide upon these numerous and complicated cases. In the
month of February, 1842, the term of the commission expired, leaving
many claims undisposed of for want of time. The claims which were
allowed by the board and by the umpire, authorized by the convention to
decide in case of disagreement between the Mexican and American
commissioners, amounted to _two millions twenty-six thousand one hundred
and thirty-nine dollars and sixty-eight cents_. There were pending
before the umpire when the commission expired additional claims which
had been examined and awarded by the American commissioners, and had not
been allowed by the Mexican commissioners, amounting to _nine hundred
and twenty-eight thousand and twenty-seven dollars and eighty-eight
cents_, upon which he did not decide, alleging that his authority ceased
with the termination of the joint commission. Besides these claims,
there were others of American citizens amounting to _three millions
three hundred and thirty-six thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven
dollars and five cents_, which had been submitted to the board, and upon
which they had not time to decide before their final adjournment.

"The sum of two millions twenty-six thousand one hundred and thirty-nine
dollars and sixty-eight cents which had been awarded to the claimants,
was an ascertained debt by Mexico, about which there could be no
dispute, and which she was bound to pay according to the terms of the
convention. Soon after the final awards for this amount had been made,
the Mexican government asked for a postponement of the time of making
payment, alleging that it would be inconvenient to pay at the time
stipulated. In the spirit of forbearing kindness towards a sister
republic, which Mexico has so long abused, the United States promptly
complied with her request. A second convention was accordingly concluded
between the two governments on the thirtieth of January, 1843, which
upon its face declares, that, 'this new arrangement is entered into for
the accommodation of Mexico.' By the terms of this convention, all the
interest due on the awards which had been made in favor of the claimants
under the convention of the 11th of April, 1839, was to be paid to them
on the 30th of April, 1843, and "the principal of the said awards, and
the interest accruing thereon," was stipulated to "be paid in five
years, in equal instalments every three months." Notwithstanding this
new convention was entered into at the request of Mexico, and for the
purpose of relieving her from embarrassment, the claimants only received
the interest due on the 30th of April, 1843, and three of the twenty
instalments. Although the payments of the sum thus liquidated, and
confessedly due by Mexico to our citizens as indemnity for acknowledged
acts of outrage and wrong, was secured by treaty, the obligations of
which are ever held sacred by all just nations, yet Mexico violated this
solemn engagement by failing and refusing to make the payment. The two
instalments due in April and July, 1844, under the peculiar
circumstances connected with them, were assumed by the United States and
paid to the claimants. But this is not all of which we have just cause
of complaint. To provide a remedy for the claimants whose cases were not
decided by the joint commission under the convention of April the 11th,
1839, it was expressly stipulated by the sixth article of the convention
of the 30th of January, 1843, that 'a new convention shall be entered
into for the settlement of all claims of the government and citizens of
the United States against the republic of Mexico which were not finally
decided by the late commission which met in the city of Washington, and
all claims of the government and citizens of Mexico against the United
States.'

"In conformity with this stipulation, a third convention was concluded
and signed at the city of Mexico on the 20th of November, 1843, by the
plenipotentiaries of the two governments, by which provision was made
for ascertaining and paying these claims. In January, 1844, this
convention was ratified by the senate of the United States, with two
amendments, which were manifestly reasonable in their character.

"Upon a reference of the amendments proposed to the government of
Mexico, the same evasions, difficulties, and delays were interposed
which have so long marked the policy with that government towards the
United States. It has not even yet decided whether it would or would not
accede to them, although the subject has been repeatedly pressed upon
its consideration.

"Mexico thus violated a second time the faith of treaties, by failing or
refusing to carry into effect the sixth article of convention of
January, 1843."[23]

The allegations made in this message are unquestionable. They rest upon
the evidence of documents which are accessible to all in the published
papers of the government.[24] The outrages of Mexico consisted in
seizure of property, illegal imprisonment of citizens, deprivation of
just rights, interference with our lawful commerce, forced loans,
violations of contracts, and arbitrary expulsion from the territory
without trial. All these misdeeds formed the exasperating burthen of our
complaint, and their perpetration was in fact proved beyond the
possibility of cavil by the awards in favor of our claimants made by the
Baron von Roenne, who, as Prussian minister, was umpire between the
Mexican and American commissioners.

It must not be forgotten that we had claims also against Spain, France,
England, Denmark and Naples, which were adjusted by negotiation and
liquidated in strict accordance with treaties. These, demands, however,
originated during the wars in Europe which followed the French
revolution, so that it remained for Mexico to peculate on our commerce
and persecute our people during a period of entire international peace,
and without any excuse save the direct villainy of her government, or
the corrupt ignorance of her subordinate officers.

       *       *       *       *       *

We must now retrace our steps, in order to narrate an event of interest
in the series of causes that originated this war.

It appears that the Mexican government, in anticipation of some attack
on its distant territories of California, had, in the summer of 1842,
sent a number of troops thither, under the command of Don Manuel
Micheltorena, who was appointed commandant general and inspector of both
the Californias. These troops arrived at San Diego, the southernmost
port on the Pacific side of California, in the middle of October, and
were on their way to Monterey, the capital, when the occurrences in
question took place.

Monterey, on the Pacific, is a small village founded by the Spaniards in
1771, at the southern extremity of a bay of the same name, near the 36th
degree of latitude, about a hundred miles south of the great bay of San
Francisco, and about three hundred and fifty miles north from the town
of Angeles, where the Commandant Micheltorena was resting with his
troops when the events in question occurred.

Whilst Commodore Jones was visiting the port of Callao, in September,
1842, he received from Mr. John Parrott, our consul at Mazatlan, a copy
of a Mexican newspaper of the 4th of June, containing three official
declarations against the United States, which he regarded as "highly
belligerent."[25] He also obtained a newspaper published in Boston,
quoting a paragraph from the New Orleans Advertiser of the 19th April,
1842, in which it was asserted,--upon what the editor deemed authentic
information,--that Mexico had ceded the Californias to England for seven
millions of dollars. These documents reached our sensitive commodore at
a moment when his suspicions were aroused by other circumstances. For,
on the 5th of September, Rear-Admiral Thomas, a British commander,
sailed from Callao in the Dublin having previously despatched two of his
fleet with sealed orders just received from England. The whole fleet, he
believed, was secretly on its way to Panama to embark reinforcements of
troops, from the West Indies, to take armed possession of the
Californias in conformity with the allegation of the Boston and New
Orleans editors.[26]

Commodore Jones immediately hastened from the port of Callao to Lima,
where, in a conversation with the American chargé d'affaires, Mr.
Pickett, he formed the decided opinion that there would be war not only
with Mexico but with Great Britain also.[27] Accordingly, he lost no
time in preparing for sea, and on the 7th of September, sailed for the
coast of Mexico.

On the 19th of October, Jones arrived at Monterey, in the frigate United
States, accompanied by the Cyane, Captain Stribling. They did not
communicate with the shore or endeavor, in any authentic way, to
ascertain the state of our political relations; but at four o'clock in
the afternoon, Captain Armstrong, the flag captain of the United States,
landed, and delivered to the acting governor, Don Juan Alvarado, a
letter from Commodore Jones, requiring the immediate surrender of the
place, with its forts, castles, ammunitions and arms, to the United
States, in order to save it from the horrors of war, which would be the
immediate consequences of a refusal to submit. Alvarado, upon this
summons, consulted the military and civil authorities; and, finding that
the garrison consisted of only twenty-nine men, that the artillery was
composed of eleven pieces, entirely useless from the rottenness of their
carriages, and that the whole number of muskets and carbines, good and
bad, did not exceed a hundred and fifty, he surrendered the place, which
was taken possession of by the Americans early on the 20th of October.
The articles of capitulation signed on the occasion provide, that the
Mexican soldiers shall march out with colors flying, and shall remain as
prisoners of war until they can be sent to Mexico, and that the
inhabitants shall be protected in their persons and property, so long as
they conduct themselves properly, and do not infringe the laws of the
United States. Commodore Jones at the same time issued a proclamation to
the Californians, declaring that "he came in arms as the representative
of a powerful nation, against which the existing government of Mexico
had engaged in war, but not with the intention of spreading dismay among
the peaceful inhabitants," and inviting them to submit to the authority
of a government which would protect them forever in the enjoyment of
liberty.

The evening and night of the 20th passed quietly; but, on the next day,
the commodore seems to have reflected on the results of a bloodless
conquest which was even more easily won than the victories of Cortéz and
Pizarro three hundred years before. Learning that there was late and
pacific news from Mexico, and, forthwith despatching his private
secretary and chaplain to seek for it, they discovered, in the office of
the Mexican commissary, several packages containing unopened files of
gazettes, as late as the 4th of August. "The general tone of the
articles,"--says the commodore,--"relating to the United States, in
these papers, was pacific, whilst the certainty that Mexico had not
commenced hostilities against us, up to the 22d of August, was
established by private commercial letters from Mazatlan." Thus, it
seemed to him, that the crisis had passed; that his victory was barren,
that the reported cession of the Californias to England was untrue and
could not have been prevented even by his valor. The war which had been
recklessly undertaken upon surmises or newspaper articles, and
stimulated by the sailing of an English fleet with sealed orders, came
to an end as it began--by Mexican journals.

Accordingly, on the 21st of the month, Commodore Jones addressed another
letter to the acting governor, Alvarado, announcing that information
received since the capture of the place, left him no reason to doubt
that the difficulties between Mexico and the United States had been
adjusted; and that, being anxious to avoid all cause of future
controversy, he was ready to restore the place, with its forts and
property, to the Mexicans, in the same condition in which they were
before the seizure. Monterey was therefore at once evacuated by the
Americans, and reoccupied by the Mexicans, whose flag, on being
rehoisted, was saluted by our ships.

If the commodore of our squadron had prudently despatched his secretary
and chaplain on a pacific mission of inquiry under a flag of truce,
immediately upon his arrival, it is extremely probable that they would
either have discovered on the 20th the newspapers they found on the
21st, or have received the commercial letter which terminated the
capture. This would have prevented an angry diplomatic correspondence;
it would have allayed the irritation of national sensibility, and,
whilst it saved us from the imputation of attempting to intimidate a
weak power, would not have subjected our forces to the mortification of
mistake upon such grievous subjects as peace and war. The Mexican
papers, of course, viewed the matter as a national insult; and the
government gazette, published in the capital, unequivocally asserted
that Commodore Jones attacked Monterey, agreeably to orders from his
government, with the view of conquering California, but that finding the
country in a state of defence, (for which thanks were due to President
Santa Anna and his efficient minister of war,) he was obliged to abandon
his plan and invent a story for his justification.[28]

It is scarcely possible for a citizen of the United States to take a
different view of the subject without a full knowledge of the facts; for
it could hardly be believed that the commander of a naval station,
during a period of profound peace, would venture to summon towns to
surrender, to land forces, take prisoners, and hoist our national flag
on friendly soil, without the authority or connivance of his
government.[29]

FOOTNOTES:

[19] This river is known by various names in different authors. By some
it is called Rio Bravo, by others, Rio del Norte, and by others, again,
Rio Grande. I shall adhere to the latter throughout this work.

[20] See the Natchez Daily Courier of 18th January, 1843, for an
excellent article on Mexico, signed EGO ET ALTER.

[21] Report No. 1096 to the H. of R., 27th congress, 2d session.

[22] See senate documents of that session.

[23] President Polk's annual message to congress, 8th Dec. 1846, p. 6.

[24] See Doc. No. 139, 24 cong. 2d sess. H. of R.--Senate Doc. No. 320,
2d sess. 27 cong.--Doc. No. 57, H. of R. 27 cong. 1st sess.--Senate Doc.
No. 411, 27 cong. 2d sess.--Doc. No. 1096, H. of R. 27 cong. 2d
sess.--Doc. No. 158, H. of R. 28 cong. 2d sess.--Doc. No. 144, H. of R.
28 cong. 2d sess.--Senate Doc. No. 85, 29 cong. 1st sess.--Senate Doc.
No. 151, 29 cong. 1 sess.

[25] This paper contained the circular of the Mexican minister of
foreign relations to the diplomatic corps, dated 31st May,
1842,--(answered by Mr. Thompson on the 1st of June,)--relative to
public meetings in the United States favorable to Texas; the aid
furnished Texas by _volunteers_ from the United States; and the trade in
arms and munitions of war with Texas. Doc. No. 266, H. of R., 27th
congress, 2d session.

[26] See doc., No. 166, H. of R., 27th congress, 3d session, page 85.

[27] Id. pages 15, 68, 73.

[28] Diario del Gobierno--Mexico, 1842.

[29] A correspondence relative to this seizure of Monterey took place at
Washington between Mr. Webster, secretary of state, and Gen. Almonté,
the Mexican minister; and, in Mexico, between Señor Bocanegra, minister
of foreign affairs, and Mr. Waddy Thompson, our diplomatic
representative. Mexico complained bitterly of our insulting descent on
her territory, and our ministers apologized gracefully for the
unauthorised act. The correspondence between the governments and with
Commodore Jones will be found in document No. 166, H. of R., 97th
congress, 3d session, 1843.

The recall of Commodore Jones by the secretary of the navy is the
following words:

"NAVY DEPARTMENT, January 24, 1843.

"SIR: Although no official intelligence of the recent occurrences at
Monterey has reached this department, yet the leading facts have been
communicated in a form sufficiently authentic to justify and render
necessary my immediate action. In the opinion of this government it is
due to the friendly relations subsisting between the United States and
Mexico, and to the respect which every nation owes to the rights of
other nations, that you should be recalled from the command of the
squadron in the Pacific.

"In adopting this course it is not designed to prejudge the case, _nor
even to indicate any opinion as to the propriety or impropriety of your
conduct in the matter alluded to_. That will of course be made the
subject of proper inquiry after you return to the United States, when
full justice will be done as between yourself and your own country. The
present order has reference only to the just claims of Mexico on this
government for such a disavowal of the attack on Monterey as will fully
recognize the rights of Mexico, and at the same time place the conduct
of this government in a proper light before the nations of the world.
Commodore Dallas will relieve you as soon as he can conveniently reach
the station and you will return to the United States in such mode as may
be most convenient and agreeable to yourself.

 "I am respectfully yours,

 "A. P. UPSHUR.

 "Com. THOS. AP. C. JONES, commanding Pacific squadron."

I believe that the commodore was not tried by a court of inquiry or a
court martial after his return, but that the affair has slumbered since
the date of the above letter.



CHAPTER III.

The origin of the war--History of the pacification between Spain and
     Holland in 1609--Spain and Mexico should have followed the
     example--The Texas question--Origin of the Texas revolution--
     True history of it--Resistance to the Central despotism of Santa
     Anna--Mexican war against Texas--Independence of Texas--Santa
     Anna's retraction in 1846 of his anti-federative opinions.


The student of Mexican history, at this period, will derive instruction
from a narrative of the connexion which once existed between Spain and
the Netherlands and its fatal rupture.

After the fall of the duke of Burgundy in 1477, his daughter Mary
brought the low countries to Austria by her marriage with the Emperor
Maximilian; and his grandson, Charles V, united these provinces with
Spain. During the reign of Charles, their ancient liberties were
carefully respected, and the country prospered whilst the Protestant
religion spread throughout it in spite of stern opposition. But when
his successor, Philip II, mounted the throne, all prudence in the
government of the Belgic and Batavian provinces seems to have been
abandoned, and unbridled persecution was let loose on the civil and
religious rights of the people. Granvella and the bloody duke of Alva
were the monarch's instruments in this sad misgovernment, which resulted
in a total renunciation of allegiance to the king of Spain. Long and
bitter was the rebellion,--continuing from the middle of the sixteenth
century to the year 1609,--when the Spanish claim to the sovereignty of
the new republic of Holland was virtually resigned under the form of a
truce for twelve years between the belligerents.[30]

The independence of the united provinces was thus, in fact achieved, and
it was recognized by all the great powers of Europe except Spain; still
Holland went through the thirty years war, before her nationality was
secured by the peace of Westphalia.

From this sketch it will be perceived that Spain, although willing to
forego the continuance of war, and to save the point of honor between
herself and the rebellious provinces when it was impossible to recover
her dominion over them, nevertheless, clung with stupid pride to her
abstract right of reconquest for a long period after she had
substantially acknowledged their freedom. The dismemberment of Spain
was, of course, an event which the monarch could not behold without
regret, for it was natural that he should seek to transmit his dominions
to posterity uncurtailed of their fair proportions. Yet, in the adoption
of a diplomatic _ruse_,--in the truce of twelve years,--there was a
degree of wisdom which it would have been well for Spain to recollect
when it became evident that the revolt of her American colonies was
about to terminate in their independence. The passions between the
belligerents would have had time to cool. The common ties of blood and
language might gradually have bound up the wounds made by war. The
intervention of friendly powers would have obtained concessions from the
discreet parent,--and thus Peru and Mexico might still have shone as the
brightest jewels in the Spanish crown. No quarrel ever terminated in
perfect re-establishment of amity without tolerance or retraction on the
part of one of the disputants. Superior force may overawe into silence
or crush by its ponderous blows, yet the non-resistance and taciturnity
which ensue are but the repose that precedes the hurricane, in which the
elements seem gathering strength to pour forth their wrath with
irresistible fury.

So was it with Spain and her American colonies. Instead of soothing and
pacific measures, tending to allay resentment and bring back the rebel
to allegiance, the utmost violence was at once adopted both in deeds and
language, and scenes of barbarity were enacted by Calleja and his
myrmidons from which the heart recoils with horror.[31]

Severe as was the lesson taught by the conduct of Spain to Mexico, that
republic, nevertheless, resolved not to profit by it when she, in turn,
saw one of her States discontented with her misrule and usurpations. If
Texas had been soothed; if justice had been speedily done; if the
executive had despatched discreet officers, and reconciled the
differences between the North American emigrants and the Spaniards, not
only in civil and municipal government, but in religion and
temper,--Texas might not have been lost to Mexico,--but, invigorated by
a hardy and industrious population, would have poured commercial wealth
into her coffers, and furnished her factories among the mountains with
an abundance of that staple which the native Indians are as unused as
they are unwilling to cultivate. Had Mexico been even as wise as Philip,
in 1609, and saved her punctilious honor by a twelve years truce, she
would only have postponed the settlement of her difficulties, until her
internal affairs became sufficiently pacific to enable a firm government
to act with discretion and justice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Since the year 1843 the Texas question has been so much a matter of
party dispute in the United States that the true history of the revolt
seems to be almost forgotten. I shall not hesitate therefore to recount
some of the events connected with it, because they are relevant to the
issue between us and Mexico, as well as necessary to the elucidation of
the justice of her quarrel.

It is an error that the Texan rebellion was conceived in a spirit of
sheer fraud upon Mexico; and writers who seek to stigmatize it thus are
entirely ignorant of its origin.

The contest that arose between the central and federal parties in Mexico
immediately after the establishment of independence has been narrated in
a preceding chapter. The first _federal_ constitution is an almost
literal copy of our own; but its equitable and progressive principles
did not suit the military despots who, whilst they commanded the army,
held the physical power of Mexico in their hands. The consequence was
that during the administration of the first president, Victoria, there
were _pronunciamientos_ against federation and in favor of centralism,
by _Padre Arénas_, and at Tulancingo, under the "plan of Montayno."
Quarrels in the party lodges of the Yorkinos and Escossceses--the
liberalists and centralists--next arose;--and, finally, the revolution
under the "plan of Toluca," destroyed the cherished constitution of
1824, by striking a death blow at the federative principle. This plan
vested the power in a central government, abolished State legislatures,
and changed those States into departments under the control of military
governors, who were responsible to the chief authorities of the nation
alone. These principles were embodied in the new constitution of 1836,
and were, of course, distasteful to every friend of genuine liberty.[32]

Meanwhile, the beautiful province of Texas had not been an unconcerned
spectator of events. Bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, and stretching
along our Southern boundary, it contained an extensive territory, fine
rivers, wide prairies, and a soil capable of maintaining near ten
millions of people.--Such a country naturally attracted the attention of
the people of the United States, numbers of whom are always ready, with
the adventurous spirit that characterises our race, to seek new lands
and improve their fortunes by emigrating from the crowded places of
their birth. The project of colonizing Texas, had, therefore, struck an
intelligent citizen of our country; and, on the 17th of January, 1821,
Moses Austin obtained permission from the supreme government of the
eastern internal provinces of New Spain at Monterey, to settle a colony
of emigrants in Texas. Accordingly, in the following winter, his son,
Stephen F. Austin, who undertook the enterprize in obedience to a
testamentary request of his father, appeared on the Brazos with the
first Anglo-American settlers.

In January, 1823, a national colonization law, approved by the Emperor
Iturbidé, was adopted by the Mexican congress, and, on the 18th of
February, a decree was issued authorizing Austin to proceed with the
founding of his colony. This decree, after Iturbidé's abdication and the
downfall of the Imperial government, was confirmed by the first
executive council in accordance with a special order of the Mexican
congress.

In 1824, the federal constitution was adopted and proclaimed as the
established polity of the land;--and, at this period, the character of
Texas begins for the first time to assume an independent aspect, for, by
a decree of the 7th of May, it was united with Coahuila, and, under the
name of Coahuila and Texas, formed one of the constituent, sovereign
States of the Mexican confederacy. Up to this period, whilst all was
proceeding well in the capital, the scheme of emigration, seems to have
met with no discouragement. By an act passed in August, 1824, another
_general_ colonization law was established;--and, by a _State_
colonization law of Coahuila and Texas, foreigners were invited to
settle within the limits of that especial jurisdiction. Thus it was that
State sovereignty first accrued to Texas and Coahuila under the federal
system,--a system similar to the one under which the colonists had
formerly lived in our Union and under which, by the adoption of their
own State laws, they signified their willingness to become members of
the Mexican confederacy. This State sovereignty was never resigned, but,
on the contrary, was always distinctly asserted. The federation existed
precisely for the same purposes that the union of our States was formed;
and, as soon as the constitution was destroyed by intrigue and
revolutionary violence in 1835, the several States were remitted to
their inherent rights, independent of any military despot who succeeded
in seizing the central power. Meanwhile our people had flocked to Texas
under the belief that a constitution which was a transcript of our own,
would secure peace and prosperity to settlers. Accustomed to find laws
observed and the constitution indestructible, they expected to encounter
the same regularity and firmness in that virgin State. They were
industrious in their pursuits, and willing to abide the settlement of
all quarrels in the capital; nor was it until long after the federal and
centralist disputes commenced, that they began even to notice the
political convulsions which were so ominous of disaster. The quiet and
orderly conduct of our emigrants was, nevertheless, not regarded so
favorably by the Mexicans. The rapidly growing strength of the Texans
and their strict devotion to republicanism, attracted the jealousy of
the supreme government; and when a Mexican begins either to fear or to
doubt, the provocation is quite enough to convert him into an oppressor.
Accordingly, on the 6th of April, 1830, an arbitrary law was passed by
which the future immigration of American settlers to Texas was
prohibited. Military posts of _surveillance_ were established over the
State, and ignorant and insolent soldiers of another race, began to
domineer over a people whom they regarded as inferiors. At length the
civil authorities of Texas were entirely disregarded, and the emigrants
hitherto unused at home or abroad to an armed police, or to the sight of
a uniform except on parade days, suddenly found themselves subjected to
the capricious tyranny of military rule.[33]

On the 26th of June, 1832, the colonists took arms against this despotic
interference with their constitutional freedom and besieged and captured
the fort at Velasco. The garrison at Anahuac and that at Nacogdoches,
were next reduced; and, in December of that year, when hostilities were
suspended between Santa Anna and Bustamante, the colonists were again
restored to the enjoyment of their rights guarantied under the
constitution.

In May 1824, Texas had been promised a separate State constitution as
soon as she was prepared for it, but upon application to congress in
1833, after framing a suitable instrument in general convention at San
Felipe, her request was denied. In 1835 the crisis at length arrived.
The federal constitution fell. The resistance of several States to this
despotism was suppressed by force. The legislature of Coahuila and Texas
was dispersed at the point of the bayonet. Zacatecas, a brave stronghold
of federalism, was assaulted by the central chiefs and her people
butchered. And, finally, the whole republic, save Texas, yielded to
Santa Anna.

As this state at once resolved to maintain her sovereignty and
federative rights, corresponding committees of safety and vigilance were
promptly formed in all the municipalities. An immediate appeal to arms
proclaimed the people's resolution to adhere to the constitution; and at
Gonzales, Goliad, Bexar, Conception, Sepantillan, San Patricio, and San
Antonio, they were victorious over the centralists. In November, 1835,
the delegates of the Texan people assembled in "general consultation,"
and declared that "they had taken up arms in defence of the federal
constitution of 1824, and that they would continue faithful to the
Mexican confederacy as long as it should be governed by the laws that
were framed for the protection of their political rights; that they were
no longer morally or politically bound by the compact of union; yet,
stimulated by the generous sympathy of a free people, they offered their
assistance to such members of the confederacy as would take up arms
against military despotism. This patriotic manifesto declaring at once
the freedom of Texas and offering to other parts of Mexico a defensive
alliance in favor of constitutional liberty, found no response from the
overawed States, and thus Texas was abandoned to the mercy of a military
president, who signalized his campaign of 1836 by acts of brutality
which must forever consign his name to infamy."[34] Notwithstanding
Santa Anna's successes at San Antonio and his frightful massacres,
General Houston, the commander of the Texan forces, met and conquered
the Mexicans on the 21st of April, 1836, in the brilliant action at San
Jacinto, and thenceforth, in the emphatic language of an American
statesman "the war was at an end."[35]

"No hostile foot found rest" within her territory for six or seven years
ensuing this event, and Mexico, by confining her assaults to border
forays practically abstained from all efforts to re-establish her
dominion.[36] In this peaceful interval the country rapidly filled up
with emigrants; adopted a constitution; established a permanent
government, and obtained an acknowledgement of her independence by the
United States and other powers. It was then supposed that nearly one
hundred thousand people occupied the territory; and, in 1837, they
sought to place themselves under the protection of our confederacy. But
our government declined the proposition made through the Texan
plenipotentiary, upon the ground that the treaty of amity and peace
between the United States and Mexico should not be violated by an act
which necessarily involved the question of war with the adversary of
Texas.[37]

       *       *       *       *       *

This brief history of the Texan revolt against centralism seems to place
the authorities of that country on a firm basis of natural and
constitutional right. In the constant conflicts that have taken place
throughout Mexico between the federalists and centralists, or rather
between democracy and despotism, Texas attempted no more than any of the
liberal States of Mexico would have done, had not the free voice of
educated patriots been elsewhere stifled by military power. The only
difference between them is, that in Texas there was an Anglo-American
population bold and strong enough to maintain republicanism, whilst in
Mexico, the mongrel race of Spaniards and Indians was too feeble to
resist effectually.

       *       *       *       *       *

From 1836 to 1846 Santa Anna diligently persevered in the support of his
central usurpation. But in the latter year the principles of the Texan
revolution obtained a decided victory over military despotism, and even
Santa Anna himself, who had been the originator of all the revolutions
of his country, the disturber of its peace, and destroyer of its
political morality was forced to make a humiliating confession of his
errors.

It will be remembered that he was exiled from Mexico in the year 1845,
and resided in Havana until the summer of 1846, when a revolution
against the government of Paredes prepared the way for his return. On
the 8th of March, 1846, in writing to a friend a letter which has since
been published he declares that: "the love of provincial liberties being
firmly rooted in the minds of all, and the democratic principle
predominating every where, nothing can be established in a solid manner,
in the country, which does not conform with these tendencies; nor
without them can we attain either order, peace, prosperity, or
respectability among foreign nations. To draw every thing to the centre,
and thus to give unity of action to the republic, as I at one time
considered best, is no longer possible; nay more, I say it is dangerous;
it is contrary to the object which I proposed for myself in the
unitarian system, because we thereby expose ourselves to the separation
of the northern departments, which are the most clamorous for freedom of
internal administration."[38]

In this remarkable retraction of Santa Anna's despotic principles, Texas
finds a perfect vindication of her revolt. It would have been well for
Mexico had her military president been willing to make the same
concessions before the memorable battle of San Jacinto!

FOOTNOTES:

[30] Arnold's third lecture on modern history.

[31] Robinson's Memoirs of the Mexican Revolution, pages 20, 22, 24.

[32] Mexico as it was and as it is, pp. 336, 339. Foote's History of
Texas.

[33] Document No. 40, H. of R. 25th cong. 1st sess. p. 4.

[34] A full account of this campaign will be found in a work entitled
"Primera Campaña de Tejas," published in Mexico in August 1837, by Don
Ramon Martinez Caro, who was Santa Anna's military secretary during the
campaign. He treats his former chief with unsparing severity, and very
clearly attributes to him all the ferocious acts of the war. In
Thompson's "Recollections of Mexico," a conversation of the ex-minister
with Santa Anna will be found, in which his exculpation is attempted,
pp. 68, _et seq._

[35] Mr. Webster's letter to Waddy Thompson, 8th July, 1842.

[36] Webster to Thompson _ut antea_.

[37] Letter of Mr. Forsyth to General Hunt, 25th Aug. 1847. Doc. No. 40,
H. of R., 25th congress, 1st session.

[38] Translation of a letter from General Santa Anna, in Mexico as it
was and as it is.--4th edition, page 414.



CHAPTER IV.

Origin of the war continued--Proposed annexation of Texas to the United
     States by treaty--Efforts of several administrations to recover
     Texas after the Florida treaty--President Tyler's objects--Mexican
     opinions--British intrigue--British views relative to Texas--Defeat
     of the treaty in the senate--French opinions.


There is no doubt that although the government of the United States was
anxious to preserve a strict neutrality between the belligerents in
1837, and, thus, to avoid assuming the war with Mexico by annexing an
insurgent State, it, nevertheless, refused the proffered union with
regret. From the earliest period, our statesmen contended that, by the
Louisiana treaty, we acquired a title to Texas extending to the Rio
Grande, and that we unwisely relinquished our title to Spain by the
treaty of 1819 which substituted the Sabine for the Rio Grande as our
western boundary.[39] But, divested as we were by solemn compact with
Spain, of what may have been our territory under the treaty with France,
it was idle to regard Texas as a proper subject for restoration to the
Union whilst active hostilities were waged by Mexico. Nevertheless, such
was the evident value of the province, and such the anxiety to regain
our ancient limits that before the outbreak of the revolution, Mr. Clay,
as secretary of state under the administration of Mr. Adams, in March of
the years 1825 and 1827, directed Mr. Poinsett, our envoy in Mexico, to
negotiate for the transfer of Texas. This direction was repeated by Mr.
Van Buren to our minister in August, 1829; and was followed by similar
instructions from Mr. Livingston on the 20th of March, 1833, and by Mr.
Forsyth on the 2d of July, 1835. President Jackson, however, was not
contented with negotiations for that province alone; but, looking
forward, with statesmanlike forecast, to the growth and value of our
commerce in the Pacific ocean as well as on the west coast of America,
he required the secretary of state, in August, 1835, to seek from Mexico
a cession of territory, whose boundary, beginning at the mouth of the
Rio Grande, would run along the eastern bank of that river to the
thirty-seventh degree of latitude, and continue thence, by that
parallel, to the Pacific. This demand, if granted by Mexico, not only
secured Texas, but would have included the largest and most valuable
portion of California together with the noble bay of San Francisco, in
which our navy and merchantmen might find a safe and commodious
refuge.[40]

Our anxiety to reannex Texas by peaceable negotiation was not met,
however, by a correspondent feeling upon the part of Mexico.

Mr. Poinsett, on his return from Mexico, informed Mr. Clay that he had
forborne even to make an overture for the repurchase of Texas, because
he knew that such a negotiation would be impracticable, and believed
that any hint of our desire would aggravate the irritations already
existing between the countries.[41] The events which subsequently
transpired in Texas, during the period when emigration increased from
the United States, to that of the actual outbreak of hostilities,
prevented the formation, in Mexico, of any party favorable to such an
enterprise; and, after the war began, all hope of negotiation between us
was dispelled.

"A leading member of the Mexican cabinet once remarked to me," says Mr.
Thompson, in his Recollections of Mexico,[42] "that he believed the
tendency of things was towards the annexation of Texas to the United
States, and that he greatly preferred such a result either to the
independence of Texas or any connection or dependence of Texas upon
England; that if it became an independent power, other departments of
Mexico would unite with it either voluntarily or by conquest, and that
if there was any connexion between Texas and England, English
merchandize would be smuggled into Mexico through Texas to the utter
ruin of Mexican manufactures and revenue.

"In one of my last interviews with Santa Anna," continues the American
minister, "I mentioned this conversation. He replied with great
vehemence that he would 'war forever for the reconquest of Texas, and
that if he died in his senses his last words should be an exhortation to
his countrymen never to abandon the effort to recover the province;'
and, added he: 'you know, sir, very well, that to sign a treaty for the
alienation of Texas would be the same thing as signing the death warrant
of Mexico, for, by the same process, the United States would take one
after another of the Mexican provinces, until they possessed them all.'"

Such were the feelings of Mexico in regard to annexation, and such the
anxieties in cabinets of all parties in the United States to restore
our ancient limits, when the presses of our country intimated, in the
year 1844, that President Tyler was negotiating a treaty of union with
Texas as an independent power. It was on the eve a presidential canvass;
and whilst the incumbent of the executive chair sought very naturally to
present himself to the people with the successful results of a popular
and beneficial negotiation, there were other candidates who opposed the
measure both on principle and policy, as well as on account of the mode
in which it was to be effected.

I might very properly in this historical sketch pass over the narrative
of annexation, and, deal with the union, ultimately effected between
Texas and the United States as the only important fact. Texas, bound to
the North American confederacy by a solemn act of congress,--the
indisputable constitutionality of which is implied in its passage,--is,
indeed, the only subject which the historian is compelled to regard.
Whatever results ensued, whether they were perceived and predicted by
the statesmen of the time, or, were entirely latent until developed
during the last two years, must be entirely attributed to the act of
congress which consummated annexation and reposed in the hands of a
president the executive power of solemnizing the union. Nevertheless, I
believe it due to impartial history that I should state concisely the
causes which seem to have provoked annexation, and, indeed, rendered it
almost necessary at the time when it occurred.

We have seen that active hostilities by Mexico against the insurgents
had either ceased for nearly seven years, or had been confined to such
border forays as resembled predatory incursions rather than civilized
hostilities. Statesmen, in all parties, regarded the war as ended; for
Mexico, impoverished by the thriftless administrations that ruled and
plundered her during the short intervals between her revolutions, was
in no condition to carry it on with reasonable prospects of success.
France, England, Belgium and the United States, had acknowledged Texan
independence and established diplomatic relations with the republic.
Emigrants settled the interior, and invited accessions. The constitution
and laws of the nation were fixed upon a firm basis, while the
government was conducted with ability. A lucrative commerce from foreign
countries began to pour into the territory. New towns sprang up every
where, and Texas exhibited to the world every evidence of an orderly,
well regulated government, with infinitely greater strength and
stability than the military republic from which she was divorced.
Mexico, nevertheless, refused to recognize her independence
notwithstanding her inability to make any effort for reconquest. The
leading men of Texas anxiously desired that their national independence
should continue, and the moral sense of the world, in contrasting the
superior progress of the Anglo-American race with the anarchy and
feebleness of Mexico, was naturally solicitous to behold the infant
colony successful rather than to see it fall a prey to the passions of a
people with whom it had no sympathy, and, in whose victory, they might
witness the outpouring of a pent up wrath which would never cease in its
vindictive persecutions until the province was entirely desolated.[43]
This was not alone the common feeling in the United States, but it
prevailed in Europe also. The British minister of foreign affairs, Lord
Aberdeen, and that zealous partizan of liberty, Lord Brougham, took
occasion in the house of peers in August, 1843, to express their
solicitude as to the prospects of Texas. Lord Brougham characterized it
as a country as large as France, possessing the greatest natural
capabilities, but, at the same time he perceived in it an embryo state,
(a large portion of whose soil was adapted to cultivation by white
labor,) which might become a boundary and barrier against the slavery of
the United States of America. If, by the good offices of England, Mexico
could be induced to acknowledge Texan independence upon the condition of
abolishing slavery, he suggested the hope that it would lead to the
extinction of slavery in the southern States of our Union.

Lord Aberdeen replied to Lord Brougham, that England had not only
acknowledged her independence, but had also negotiated with Texas a
treaty of commerce as well as one for the abolition of the slave trade.
He did not believe that there was any importation of slaves into Texas
by sea, but, he alleged, there was a large influx of slaves from the
United States to that country. As soon as negotiations were commenced
with Texas, the utmost endeavors of England had been used to end the war
which prevented the full recognition of the independence of Texas by
Mexico; but all their endeavors had been met by difficulties, although
he was happy to declare that an armistice had been established between
the two powers which he hoped would lead to the absolute acknowledgment
of her independence. In the existing state of negotiations between the
parties, however, he thought it would not contribute to an useful end to
express any opinion as to the state of those negotiations, nevertheless
he assured his noble friend that the matter would be pressed by every
means in the power of her majesty's ministers.

The answer of Lord Brougham to this conversational speech of the
minister of foreign affairs, was brief but ominous. Nothing, he
declared, could be more satisfactory to him, whilst the statement of his
lordship "would be hailed with joy by all who were favorable to the
object of anti-slavery societies."[44]

       *       *       *       *       *

I do not design in this history to discuss either the slavery question
or the British project of propagating seditious opinions upon negro
servitude by means of diplomacy on this continent. But, when we remember
the guaranties of our constitution and the preponderance of the black
population in our southern States, it must be conceded that it requires
no great degree of sensibility to alarm the white inhabitants of that
section and to render them anxious to counteract the avowed machinations
of Great Britain. The abstract question of the right of slavery is
altogether distinct from slavery as it exists in this Union, and as the
foundation of property, population, labor, and, even, existence in the
south.

For many years past the fanaticism of freedom has been warring against
slavery, until it has created in our country a fanaticism of slavery
which was quite as relentless in its obstinacy. It was therefore,
natural that individuals who had refused our own congress the right to
interfere with slavery, by denying the privilege of petition for the
abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, should resist most
ardently the jesuitical propagandism of a foreign power.

This was a question of grave importance to the south. It was an avowal
of European policy that struck a death blow at American property; nor
was it therefore at all surprising to see Mr. Calhoun, our secretary of
state, who was a native and inhabitant of that part of the union, at
once seize upon the project of prompt annexation as the only means of
counteracting the evils of British diplomacy. If expressions, similar to
those used by Lords Aberdeen and Brougham in the English parliament, had
been casually uttered in the warm debates of our congress, perhaps but
little attention would have been paid them by reflecting men; yet the
most trifling observations of British statesmen always deserve notice,
because they are well pondered and deliberately made. The opinions of
Lord Brougham, assented to by the silence of Lord Aberdeen, had
consequently an emphatic significance; and although the British minister
of foreign affairs, as well as the envoy at Washington, subsequently
disclaimed any attempt to interfere with the internal system of the
United States, yet there can be no doubt that they wished to modify the
condition and laws of a southern neighbor so as to effect indirectly
what prudence taught them to avoid openly.[45] "Great Britain," said
Lord Aberdeen, in a despatch to the Hon. Mr. Pakenham, on the 26th
December, 1843, "does not desire to establish in Texas, whether
partially dependent on Mexico or entirely independent, any dominant
influence. She only wishes to share her influence equally with other
nations. Her objects are purely commercial, and she has no thought or
intention of seeking to act directly or indirectly, in a political
sense, on the United States through Texas."

It cannot be expected--for it is not the nature or policy of
governments--that statesmen should disclose to each other, with perfect
frankness, all their international ambitions, projects or hopes. A wise
diplomacy conceals these things whilst in progress. But all governments
take means to obtain secretly, as far as they are able, an insight into
the views of each other. The diplomacy of the United States, although
generally very frank, is nevertheless employed sometimes in this way,
and, I believe our records will show, that wherever it became necessary
for our departments to get information upon projects touching the
interests of our country, they have always found means to discover the
truth.

It is fortunate for the history of this annexation question that the
commercial designs alluded to by Lord Aberdeen have been revealed to us.
Some of the statements are made anonymously, yet, from the very nature
of such disclosures whilst negotiations were pending, it cannot be
expected that the names of informants would be revealed. Their value and
character must be vouched for alone by the officers who communicate them
to the world, and deem them sufficient to authorize the action of
government. The authorities, to which I allude, were communicated to
congress by President Tyler in May, 1844, and were submitted to him by
Mr. Calhoun, as secretary of state, on the 16th of that month.[46]

       *       *       *       *       *

By a convention, concluded in London on the 14th of November, 1840,
between Her Majesty's government and the republic of Texas, it was
agreed that the queen should tender her good offices to Mexico as
mediator between the belligerents. Mexico, however, saw fit to reject
this offer. But Texas, still animated by a desire for peace, sought to
obtain a triple mediation of the three great powers,--the United States,
France and England,--with the hope that under their auspices a
settlement might speedily be made. To this arrangement, the governments
of France and the United States assented with alacrity; while the
government of Great Britain, though expressing an ardent desire to do
all in its power by private mediatorial efforts, inclined to the opinion
that it would be better, on all accounts, for each party to act alone,
though similarly in point of tone and argument, in urging the Mexican
government to recognize the independence of Texas.

This suggestion was communicated through Lord Cowley the British
ambassador in Paris, to the French government, by whom it was
approved.[47]

By this act of the British cabinet, it preserved its independence of all
others, and abstained from combined action which would, necessarily,
have disclosed its motives as well as its conduct. The objects of the
ministers in retaining their independence of all other cabinets will now
become more manifest.

If an abstract love of liberty is, indeed, the true cause why England
seeks to abolish slavery throughout the world and has set the example of
emancipation in her West India colonies, she may really deserve the high
commendation of philanthropists. But it cannot be denied that whilst she
diffuses a spirit of individual freedom, she does not regret to behold
national dependence on herself established by interest and necessity. We
find among the documents transmitted to congress by President Tyler, a
number of private letters, in which it is alleged that the primary
object of Great Britain's interference was to prevent absolute
annexation to the United States. Indeed, Lord Aberdeen, in May, 1844,
declared to Mr. Everett that he "shared with Lord Brougham the hope and
belief that the treaty for annexation would not be ratified by our
senate."[48]

If the independence of Texas could be secured on the only probable
ground upon which Mexico would acknowledge it,--a pledge that she would
not subsequently join the United States;--and if so desirable a
result,--which appealed directly to the ambition and vanity of the
leading men of Texas, could be effected by the secret negotiations of
her ministers, England foresaw that she would obtain a decided advantage
over us in future negotiations, without a positive treaty stipulation to
that effect. Texas, with every element of prosperity in her people and
territory, was war-worn, and suffering from pecuniary embarrassments in
which her revolution plunged her. For an agricultural and commercial
people, peace and stability, under almost any liberal government, are
all that is requisite to insure progress. England, a free, maritime and
manufacturing country, deeply interested in Mexico as a purchaser, and
in the United States as a rival, was precisely the nation to secure
these advantages for Texas, especially as that republic offered a _point
d'appui_ which she could not find elsewhere on this continent.

The "free trade" policy of Great Britain was consequently addressed to
the cupidity of Texas as a bewitching allurement; and this was, perhaps,
secretly coupled with pecuniary offers which would enable her to
struggle against adverse fortune during the first years of independence.

This liberal system, while it attracted to England the cotton of Texas
in British vessels, would necessarily raise the national duties of the
republic to the highest standard on American produce and provisions, at
the same time that it introduced the manufactures of England without
imposts. The schemers who had achieved emancipation in the British West
Indies[49] imagined that the same result might be produced in Texas by
sufficient inducements, and that white labor or _apprentices_ would
supply the place of slaves, thus striking an indirect blow at slavery
in the southern States of our Union. Besides this, England would find a
market for her manufactures which might temptingly address itself to the
cupidity of the United States and of Mexico as well as of Texas. For,
with such an extent of frontier on all sides, and with wastes between
us, inhabited by a sparse or reckless population, the greatest
inducements would be offered to convert Texas into a smuggling ground
not only for our Union but especially for Mexico, whence British fabrics
are almost excluded by exorbitant tariffs. The policy of England would
thus affect simultaneously our manufactures as well as our commerce.
Instead of sending her merchandize to New York, she would find in
Galveston a readier market to supply our southern States through the
medium of contraband.[50] Her goods would naturally have been carried in
British vessels, and thus the labor and commerce of the United States
would be directly injured by England until we could afford to navigate
and manufacture at cheaper rates.[51]

The impolicy of permitting our carrying trade and home market, in such a
country, to pass out of our hands into those of a commercial rival, and
the dangers of counteracting or creating a contraband system which would
almost immediately ensue, commended this annexation promptly to the
notice of President Tyler. He perceived in British supremacy in Texas a
multitude of evils. Collisions would arise which must endanger our
peace. The power and influence of England would be intruded,
geographically, on territory lying between us and Mexico. A large
increase of our military forces would be necessary, not only to protect
the United States from daily disputes with Texans, but to guard the
border inhabitants against hostile inroads from Indians. Texas, he was
authoritatively told, would seek the friendship of other nations if
denied the protection of ours; and, in a condition of almost hopeless
abandonment, would naturally fall an easy prey to any power that would
protect her, should we refuse our alliance.[52]

Such were some of the reasons that induced the president, in 1844, to
direct Mr. Upshur, who was the secretary of state, to negotiate a treaty
of annexation between the United States and Mexico, and thus, in his
emphatic language,--"to break up and scatter to the winds the web of
European intrigues."[53]

This treaty was transmitted to the senate on the 22nd of April, 1844,
and immediately became the topic of discussion throughout the country.
It was opposed and defended by some of the most distinguished men in the
country. General Jackson pleaded that the golden moment might not be
lost, and that we should not throw Texas into the arms of England.[54]
Mr. Clay, whose nomination as a presidential candidate was expected to
be shortly made, and Mr. Van Buren whose name was also speedily to come
before a democratic convention assembled to select a candidate for the
chief magistracy, both published long and argumentative letters against
the project. The debate on the treaty in the senate was eager, and able.
The northern abolitionists regarded it as a measure frought with danger
to their cause, and as the basis of perpetual slavery, whilst the
southern slave owners hailed annexation as a boon, which, at least for a
season, would stay the aggressive arm that was raised against their
rights and interests.

At length, the senate finally rejected the treaty; but President Tyler,
by a message to the house of representatives, dated the 10th of June,
transmitted the rejected document to the popular branch of the national
legislature, so that, without suggesting the mode of annexation, the
house of representatives might decide whether it should be accomplished
in any shape.

At that moment, however, new elements of political commotion were
introduced in the nomination of Mr. Clay and Mr. Polk by the respective
party conventions held in Baltimore, and the project passed from the
national legislature to the people for discussion during the
presidential canvass.

      NOTE.--The opinions and arguments adduced by the
      president in support of annexation have been singularly
      fortified by disclosures subsequent to the union between
      Texas and the United States. The British cabinet, mortified
      by defeat, has been silent upon the subject, but singular
      developments were made in debate in the French chambers. On
      the 12th and 20th of January, 1846, a discussion took place
      between Messieurs Guizot, Thiers, Berreyer and others, in
      which the Texas question, and the position of France, in the
      event of war between the United States and England, upon the
      Oregon question, was warmly debated. The minister, Guizot,
      alleged that in all the negotiations with Texas, France had
      sought commercial relations in consequence of the advantages
      offered of markets for French goods. He declared that it was
      his policy to interpose _an independent State in the midst
      of the United States_, and _that he believed it to be
      advisable to multiply the number of secondary independent
      States on our continent_, as the commercial and political
      interests of France would suffer materially by the
      foundation of a governmental unity in America. He watched
      our progress with a jealous eye, and he considered the
      policy of the United States in refusing to be the _ally_ of
      any European power both right and wise in our view of the
      question.

      M. Thiers, the former minister, replied to M. Guizot; and,
      after asserting that Texas had been annexed to our Union "to
      the great displeasure of England, and, as far as could be
      discovered, to the great displeasure of France," he declared
      that it was the true interest of his government to place
      Texas under the patronage of a powerful nation like ours
      rather than to abandon it to the influence of England. "You
      are aware," said he, "that _Texas is of great importance to
      the United States_, and that its possession was anxiously
      desired by that power: _I will add that never was an
      annexation made in a more regular manner_. For more than ten
      years Texas had been separated from Mexico, and all the
      powers, including France, had recognised it." He regarded
      the union of England and France in diplomacy between Mexico,
      Texas, and the United States, as adopted only to redeem the
      faults of the French cabinet during the last five years, and
      as a truckling peace-offering for its conduct on the
      question of the "right of search." But, of all the French
      orators and statesmen, none denounced the conduct of the
      cabinet with more zeal than the eloquent Berreyer. He proved
      by facts and documents that it was at the instance of
      England, and in subservience to her, that the French
      government interposed, (as will be seen in the following
      chapter,) to maintain the separate independence of
      Texas:--"We have not limited ourselves"--exclaimed he--"to a
      wish and a counsel that Texas should retain her freedom, but
      we have been led to take a part in that which I regret I am
      compelled to regard as nothing else than an _intrigue_,
      which, unfortunately for our national dignity has borne all
      the marks of an _intrigue_, and has met, at last, its
      humiliation."--Niles' Register, vol. 70, pp. 25, 26, 27, 28,
      and vol. 68, p. 290.

FOOTNOTES:

[39] See Mr. Clay's letter on the Texas question, Raleigh, N. C., April,
1844. I shall discuss the boundary elsewhere in this volume. When Texas
offered herself in 1837 to the United States it was only two years after
Mexico had overthrown the federal constitution, and not even one after
the battle of San Jacinto. A great change however took place in the
general aspect of affairs between that period and the final annexation.

[40] Executive document, No. 42, H. of R., 25th congress, 1st session,
contains the letters referred to.

[41] Mr. Clay's letter on annexation, _ut antea_.

[42] Recollections of Mexico, p. 238.

[43] It was evidently the intention of Mr. Webster, whilst secretary of
state, to adopt some prudent scheme for the settlement of the war
between Texas and Mexico. In January, 1843, he addressed a despatch to
Mr. Thompson, who was then our envoy in Mexico, in which he directs him
to use his good offices with the Mexican secretary to mitigate the
animosity of the government. "Mexico," says he, "has an undoubted right
to resubjugate Texas, if she can, so far as other states are concerned,
by the common and lawful means of war. _But other States are
interested,--especially the United States, a near neighbor of both
parties, are interested,--not only in the restoration of peace between
them, but also in the manner in which the war shall be conducted if it
shall continue._ These suggestions may suffice for what you are
requested to say amicably and kindly to the Mexican secretary, _at
present; but I may add, for your information, that it is in the
contemplation of this government to remonstrate, in a more formal
manner, with Mexico, at a period not far distant, unless she shall
consent to make peace with Texas, or shall show the disposition and
ability to prosecute the war with respectable forces_. Executive
document, No. 271, H. of R., 28th cong., 1st sess., p. 69.

For the opinions of French statesmen on this question see the debate
between Guizot, Thiers, Berreyer and others, reported in vol. 70, of
Niles' Register, p. 25, 26.

[44] Debates in the British house of lords, Friday 18th August, 1843,
reported in the London Morning Chronicle of the 19th; and see executive
document, No. 271, H. of R., 28th congress, 1st session.

[45] Ex. Doc. No. 271, H. of R., 28 cong., 1st sess. p. 48, _et
seq_:--In an interview between Lord Aberdeen and Mr. Everett, in
November, 1843, the secretary of foreign affairs told him that England
had long been pledged to encourage the abolition of the slave trade _and
of slavery_, as far as her influence extended and in every proper way,
but had no wish to interfere with the _internal_ concerns of
governments. In reference to Texas, he said that "the suggestion that
England had made or intended to make the abolition of slavery the
_condition_ of any treaty arrangement with her was wholly without
foundation."--id. page 38. The _direct_ interference of England in the
_internal_ affairs of other governments has often been very distinctly
manifested notwithstanding Lord Aberdeen's disavowal. There is scarcely
a country in Europe which has been unvisited by her arms or her
diplomacy, either when it became her interest to do so, or when she had
the necessary force to make success unquestionable. Her policy is,
perhaps, not so much one of ambition as of avarice or necessity. She
must feed her multitudes at home; and an extension of her wide spread
commerce, with co-extensive privileges in new countries, will open new
sources of wealth to her people. Nations are not to be blamed for
seeking such advantages; but the nearer neighbor should be equally
blameless for grasping, if possible, the benefit for herself, so as to
keep off a dangerous rival and secure the revenues which otherwise would
flow into that rival's coffers.

The excursive _philanthropy_ of England was admirably depicted by the
Frenchman, who, according to the London Times remarked that: "Your
Englishman knows all about Timbuctoo, or Hindoostan, or the frozen
regions about the North Pole; but ask him about Ireland, the country
lying next his own, and he is perfectly innocent of any information on
the subject. Africa he investigates--Ireland he neglects. He weeps for
the suffering of the negro, but allows his Irish fellow subject to live
in ignorance and filth, and often to die of starvation."

[46] Ex. Doc. No. 271, H. of R., 28th cong., 1st sess. p. 101, _et seq._

[47] Id.--p. 70. Letter of Mr. Van Zandt to Mr. Webster.

[48] Id.--p. 100. Washington, 24th January, 1843.

[49] See Lord Brougham's speech, _ut antea_.

[50] Any one who is familiar with the condition of our Canadian frontier
will understand the ease with which smuggling in British fabrics is
carried on between the countries. An extensive business has, doubtless,
always been sustained; and it is not unusual even for the ladies of
certain towns along the frontier, to _shop_ in Canada, with the
understanding that their purchases are to be _delivered at the risk of
the British vender, on the other side of the American line_!

[51] Executive document, 271, H. of R., 28th cong., 1st sess. Letter of
Mr. Allen to Hon. R. J. Walker, and other letters copied on pages 103
and 105 of the same document.

The government of the United States entertained such views of the
grasping policy of England for reasons which are clearly set forth in an
able despatch from Mr. Calhoun to Mr. King, our envoy at the court of
France. "The question," says the secretary of state, "is, by what means
can Great Britain regain and keep a superiority in tropical cultivation,
commerce and influence? Or shall that be abandoned and other nations,
suffered to acquire the supremacy even to the extent of supplying
British markets to the destruction of the capital already vested in
their production? These are the questions which now profoundly occupy
the attention of her statesmen and have the greatest influence over her
councils.

"In order to regain her superiority she not only seeks to revive and
increase her own capacity to produce tropical productions, but to
diminish and destroy the capacity of those who have so far outstripped
her in consequence of her error. In pursuit of the former, she has cast
her eyes to her East India possessions, to Central and Eastern Africa,
with the view of establishing colonies there, and even to restore,
substantially, the slave trade itself, under the specious name of
transporting free laborers from Africa to her West India possessions, in
order, if possible, to compete successfully with those who have refused
to follow her suicidal policy. Her main reliance, however, is on the
other alternative, to cripple or destroy the productions of her
successful rivals. There is but one way by which it can be done, and
that is by abolishing African slavery throughout this continent; and
that she avows to be the constant object of her policy and exertions."
Senate doc. No. 1, 28th cong. 1st sess. p. 44.

[52] President Tyler's message to the senate. 22nd April, 1844.

[53] Letter of President Tyler to the Richmond Enquirer in 1847.

[54] President Jackson's letter 17th March, 1844, written in consequence
of a private mission to him from President Houston of Texas.



CHAPTER V.

Change of public feeling as to annexation--Election of President Polk
     --Mr. Clay defeated by the abolitionists--Almonté's threat--
     President Tyler attempts to soothe Mexico--His failure to do so
     --Mexican projects of reconquest--Want of confidence in Santa
     Anna--Loans--Downfall and disgrace of Santa Anna--His expulsion to
     Cuba--Herrera made provisional president--Congress of United States
     reconsiders annexation--Joint resolution passed with an alternative
     of negotiation--President Tyler adopts the first clause, and why--
     European intrigues--France and England operating on Texas and Mexico
     --Mexico offers independence provided Texas will not annex herself
     to the United States--Defeat of the foreign scheme.


When Congress met in December, 1844, a remarkable change had come over
the political would in the United States. The extraordinary popularity
of Mr. Clay induced reflective men to believe, at the close of the last
session, that he would be elected president, and that the prospects of
immediate annexation would probably be blighted by that event. The great
body of his partizans opposed the project of President Tyler; but the
Democratic convention, assembled in Baltimore, in May, inscribed the
fortunes of Texas on its banner together with the name of that party's
candidate. The south immediately rallied around it, whilst the north
assumed strange grounds of objection to the course of Mr. Clay. The
Native American and Abolition parties in New York professed to vote with
the friends of that gentleman in consequence of his opposition to
annexation, and yet a sufficient number to defeat his election cast
their ballots in direct contradiction of their principles. This was but
another lesson of the danger of confiding in men or parties who have but
a single idea. The folly of fanaticism commonly leads to violent
inconsistencies, but perhaps a more palpable one was never exhibited
than in the result of the presidential election of 1844.

When the project of annexation was first discussed in 1843 in the
gazettes of the day, and before any decided action by the president or
secretary of state, General Almonté, who was then Mexican envoy at
Washington, protested earnestly against the act, and even threatened, by
express order of his government, that on sanction being given to the
incorporation of Texas into the United States, he would consider his
mission as ended, seeing that the Mexican government was resolved to
declare war as soon as it received information of such a deed.[55]

But Mr. Tyler, disregarding the irascible temper of the minister and his
government, despatched pacific and soothing instructions to our chargé
at Mexico, intimating a desire to act justly towards that republic, and
to settle all questions growing out of the treaty as well as of boundary
on the most liberal terms.[56]

The Mexican government, however, would listen to no proposals of
accommodation. The Texan question, as we have seen, was always one of
great annoyance to the Mexican authorities; for although they
acknowledged, in effect, that their dominion was really lost over Texas,
yet their national pride and public feeling forced them to project, if
they did not attempt, its reconquest.[57] Besides this, darkness was
gathering around the fate of Santa Anna, who dared not undertake
negotiations upon a subject so unpopular.

When a new congress assembled in Mexico in January, 1844, it was
disposed to aid the executive in his scheme of reconquest. Four millions
of dollars were therefore granted him; but when he claimed ten millions
for the same purpose, whilst it was notorious that the first grant had
not yet been collected, the members of congress absolutely refused to
sustain Santa Anna's measures for the recovery of the lost territory.
This refusal was not grounded upon any aversion of the Mexicans from
reconquest, but solely because they believed the money would be extorted
from the people only to be plundered by the president and his myrmidons.
The politicians and country had alike, lost confidence in him; and Santa
Anna, observing the rising storm, obtained permission from congress to
retire to his estate of Manga de Clavo near the sea coast at Vera Cruz,
whilst his friend Don Valentin Canalizo took his place in the capital as
president _ad interim_.

Santa Anna hardly reached his estate when a fatal blow was struck
against his administration from the departmental junta of Jalisco. This
revolt was lead by General Paredes, and after a multitude of military
and diplomatic manoeuvres, resulted in Santa Anna's downfall on the
4th of January, 1845. The ex-president fled towards the sea-coast; but
was captured by a detachment of volunteers at the village of Jico,
whence he was transferred under a strong escort to the castle of Peroté.
It is difficult even to imagine the bitter wrath with which the Mexican
people assailed the captured chief. He, who but a few months before
exercised despotic sway over the land, was now a prisoner and at the
mercy of the mob. His friends interposed in this emergency to save his
life both from popular fury and judicial action which might make it the
penalty of his misrule. The strife was long and anxious, but, at length,
an amnesty was declared, under which Santa Anna departed for Cuba on the
29th of May, 1845, accompanied by his wife and daughter.[58] The fury of
the people against the exile may be imagined from the fact that they
exhausted every means by which they could manifest their hatred of his
deeds and memory. They thronged the streets singing ribald songs, and
hawking ridiculous caricatures;--they tore his pictures from the walls,
and hurled his statues from their pedestals; and, with the fiendishness
of hyenas, they even snatched from the grave the leg he had lost in
battle with the French at Vera Cruz, and tossed it about the streets of
Mexico![59]

       *       *       *       *       *

The result of Santa Anna's downfall was the establishment of a
provisional government under General Herrera, president of the council.
This person is represented to have been a discreet officer, whose
judgment naturally led him to see the wisdom of a pacific course towards
the United States, but whose destiny was finally controlled by the rash
and unprincipled conduct of insurrectionary demagogues.

Meanwhile the congress of the United States reconsidered the Texan
question, and after a long and ardent debate, finally passed a joint
resolution for annexation, with an alternative permission to the
executive to negotiate; provided he thought proper to adopt that course.
This was a solemn decision of the question by the representatives of the
people, and it was sustained by the president who did not permit himself
to be influenced by the threats of Mexico or the hostile preparations
made by that country. In fact, Mr. Tyler had been careful to guard
against military surprises, for, in consequence of the early menaces of
Mexico, he deemed it his duty, as a precautionary measure, to
concentrate in the gulf and its vicinity a large portion of the Home
squadron under the command of Commodore Conner, and, at the same time to
assemble at fort Jesup on the Texan border, as large a military force as
the demands of the service at other encampments would allow.

Thus, the joint resolution for annexing Texas to the United States, with
its alternative power to negotiate, came to President Tyler and was
approved by him on the 1st of March, 1845. On the fourth of the same
month, James K. Polk, who had been chosen president of the United
States, at the last election, was to assume the reins of government.
President Tyler believed that the necessity for annexation was immediate
and urgent in consequence of the reasons he had already presented to
congress in his several messages. The only doubt therefore, that he
experienced in making his selection, arose from a point of delicacy to
his successor. The first section of the joint resolution authorized the
erection of a new State of our Union out of the republic of Texas under
certain conditions contained in the second section; whilst the third
authorized the president to negotiate with that republic for admission
either by treaty to be submitted to the senate, or by articles of
agreement to be presented to our houses of congress, as the president
might direct.

Under these circumstances a cabinet council was summoned for the 2nd of
March, and the point was resolved by informing the president's
successor, Mr. Polk, of the proposed action, and, if he desired it,
submitting to his perusal the despatch to Texas. Mr. Calhoun, our
secretary of state, at the president's request, accordingly waited upon
Mr. Polk, explained to him Mr. Tyler's selection of the first and second
sections of the joint resolution, and expressed a readiness to exhibit
the despatch to Mr. A. J. Donelson, who had been appointed chargé to
Texas.[60] Mr. Polk courteously declined expressing an opinion
concerning the executive action, accompanying his remark with some
complimentary declaration; and, on that evening, a bearer of despatches
with the requisite documents, was on his way to Mr. Donelson.[61]

This is a brief and accurate summary of the history of annexation so far
as the action of our government is involved, and as is necessary for
this narrative. The terms of annexation which were offered by the United
States were accepted by Texas, and the public faith of both nations was
solemnly pledged to a compact of union, which was finally consummated at
the following session of congress, when Texas became a member of our
confederacy.

There were other circumstances, however, which properly induced the
prompt course of President Tyler in sending the joint resolution for the
action of Texas; but, in order to understand these perfectly, it is
necessary for us to direct our attention to the French and English
negotiations between that republic and Mexico. In 1840, as we have seen,
England preferred separate action on behalf of Texas, but she was now
willing to unite with France against the aggrandizement of the United
States. Monsieur de Saligny and the Hon. Mr. Elliott were the
representatives of these European courts in Texas, and to the former of
them was entrusted the active part of the diplomacy. Whilst the
discussions were going on in the United States Mr. Elliott was never at
rest. He was heard of in Charleston, in New Orleans, in Havana, in
Mexico, and, again, in Texas. The restlessness of the agent denoted the
anxiety of his government and of France.

The rejection of the annexation treaty by congress, in 1844, had almost
deprived Texas of hope. She believed it impossible to expect a union
with the United States, and was prepared to receive the mediation of
France and England which would secure her independence. This was surely
gratifying to the emissaries of these powers and they eagerly undertook
the task of obtaining the coveted boon from Mexico. The Mexican
ministry, ever anxious to thwart the union with our confederacy, was
equally pleased to avert it by any diplomatic _ruse_ that would save the
point of honor, and place her erect before the world. Besides this, the
Mexicans relied on a hope that increasing difficulties between the
United States and England upon the Oregon boundary question, would make
us loath to undertake a war with a southern neighbor whilst our north
and our sea board were menaced by Great Britain. This hope of a
counter-menace from England inspirited the Mexican cabinet and made it
solicitous to resist us successfully. Herrera's ministry was composed of
discreet and patriotic men; but, in the first moments of their power,
they dared not oppose popular prejudices. The revolution which
overthrew Santa Anna was one of the few that sprang from the popular
branches of the nation, and originated neither in factions, the army, or
the church, but derived its success from the universal feeling that
existed against the oppressive misrule of the executive.[62]
Nevertheless popular feeling was against our country, and the cabinet
took its tone from its patrons.

There can be little doubt of the fact, that the notion of probable
difficulties between the United States and England on the boundary
question, was studiously fostered by emissaries who were hostile to us.
Herrera's cabinet therefore hailed with delight the propositions which
were brought to Mexico by Mr. Elliott, and were presented by the Hon.
Charles Bankhead and Baron Alleye de Cyprey, the British and French
ministers. These propositions, Señor Cuevas laid before the Mexican
congress on the 21st of April, 1845. The preliminary conditions offered
by Texas, under French and English mediation, and transmitted from that
republic by President Jones, on the 29th of March, were the following:

1st. That Mexico shall consent to acknowledge the independence of Texas.

2nd. That Texas shall engage and stipulate in the treaty _not to annex
herself to or become subject to any country whatever_.

3rd. The limits and other conditions shall be matter of arrangement by
final treaty.

4th. That Texas should be willing to remit disputed points _concerning
territory and other matters to the arbitration of umpires_.

These spiteful stipulations, evidently aimed against the United States,
and bearing the marks of their European parentage, suited the taste of
Mexico precisely. Her congress, therefore, at once deemed it advisable
to entertain the Texan proposals, and to proceed to the celebration of a
treaty. But when the Baron de Cyprey announced this assent to the
president of Texas, on the 20th of May, it was already too late for the
success of European diplomacy. Our congress had passed the
joint-resolution, our president had approved it, and our minister, Mr.
Donelson, was in Texas preparing the cabinet to act favorably upon our
propositions. Accordingly when Mr. Elliott returned in June to Texas in
a French corvette, the public mind was already manifesting its anxiety
to accede to our liberal offers, which were finally sanctioned by the
Texan convention on the 4th of July, 1845.

Had the resolution for annexation not been adopted at the preceding
session of congress, the pretensions of Mexico, instead of being
lowered, would have been raised still higher than they were on the
receipt of the propositions from President Jones. The mediatorial powers
of Mr. Elliott would, in all probability, have been employed in
negotiating truces and treaties until the foundation was laid for the
operation of those peaceful means by which Lord Aberdeen declared it his
intention to promote his philanthropic views. "Abandoned by the United
States, oppressed by debt, and wearied by the increasing burthens and
privations of war, Texas would have been at the mercy of Britain, and
her statesmen would have accepted almost any terms to secure
independence and peace."[63]

FOOTNOTES:

[55] Senate doc. No. 341, 28th cong. 1st sess. p. 95.

[56] Senate doc. No. 1, 28th cong. 2d sess. p. 53.

[57] General Almonté, the Mexican envoy, in a conversation in New York,
confessed to the writer, in the spring of 1843, that Texas was lost to
Mexico, but that all then desired by his countrymen was to save the
point of honor before they acknowledged its independence.

[58] Mexico as it was and as it is, 4th Ed. Letter XXV. p. 367.

[59] Id. page 382.

[60] House of Rep., doc. No. 2, 29th cong. 1st sess. p. 125.

[61] The election of the 1st and 2nd sections of the joint resolution
made by President Tyler was subsequently approved by President Polk, as
he declares both in his negotiations and in his message to congress of
the 2nd December, 1845. H. of R., Doc. No. 2, 29th cong. 1st session, p.
3.

[62] Mexico as it was and as it is--p. 390, 4th ed.

[63] Letter from Mr. Donelson to Mr. Buchanan, 2nd June, 1845, H. of R.,
doc. No. 2, 29th cong. 1st sess. p. 52. I do not discuss the question of
the _mode_ of annexation, whether by treaty, joint resolution, or
negotiation, as that would require almost a volume by itself to present
a true sketch of the debate that occurred upon it. It is my purpose
rather to narrate events than to discuss all the various subordinate
questions arising from them. "Annexation," is made one of the great
motives or causes for war by Mexico, no matter in what way it is
effected or attempted. "_Mexico would never agree to annexation_;"--said
Señor Cuevas, the Mexican secretary of foreign affairs, in April,
1845.--Mexico as it was and as it is. p. 391, 4th ed.



CHAPTER VI.

General Almonté demands passports and leaves--Shannon and Rejon and
     Cuevas--Views of the Mexican cabinet and people--Animosity--Revolt
     in Mexico--Political condition of Mexico--Her right of reconquering
     Texas--Mr. Buchanan despatches Mr. Slidell as envoy--Rejection of
     all accommodation between us--The reason why Mexico refused to
     negotiate, after promising to receive a commissioner from the United
     States--Subterfuges--Ill feeling in Mexico on the Texas question--
     Herrera overthrown by Paredes--Paredes and the monarchical party--
     Unpopularity of his scheme--Miserable state of Mexican affairs--
     Review of the Texas question.


In March, 1845, as soon as congress passed the joint-resolution, Gen.
Almonté demanded his passports and departed. A correspondence which took
place in Mexico between Mr. Shannon, our envoy, and Señor Rejon, the
minister of foreign affairs, relative to the projected union resulted
fruitlessly; and, on the 2d of April, Señor Cuevas, who had succeeded
Rejon in office, announced to our legation that his government could
neither continue diplomatic intercourse with ours, nor maintain
friendship with a republic that violated her obligations and usurped a
portion of Mexican territory. He declared, moreover, that the relations
between the two countries could not be re-established before a complete
reparation of that injury should be made.[64]

This violent and denunciatory language, together with the hint to our
minister to depart, was of course not calculated to allay ill-feeling in
either country. The Mexican congress was not less bitter in its
animadversions, thereby spreading the animosity among the people. It
promptly seconded the wishes of the cabinet, and offered two projects,
both of which asserted the unalienated rights of Mexico over Texas, and
the national resolve to maintain them by force.

Meantime, however, domestic discontent was again brewing. A certain Gen.
Rangel attempted to revolutionize the government, and is said to have
been favored by the partizans of the late administration. The insurgents
seized the palace, capturing the president and three of his ministers of
state; but they were speedily overpowered and the insurrection
suppressed. In June and July of this year all the Mexican papers were
loud in their clamors for vengeance. The minister of war, Garcia Condé,
wrote despatch after despatch; and, with the usual spirit of national
gasconade, denounced our "perfidy," and continually alluded to "the war
which Mexico waged against the United States," in consequence of our
"treachery." On the 16th of the latter month, he despatched to the
minister of foreign relations and justice a note detailing a plan for
covering the national frontiers, and asserted that Mexico would maintain
her rights by force, or fall in the struggle. "She will not consent,"
says he, "to give up one half of her territory from the base fear of
losing the other!"

Patriotic and stirring as are these declarations, they cannot but be
regarded otherwise than as the most inflated bombast when we recollect
that they were made in defiance of the United States, and after a
failure for seven years to reconquer even Texas, feeble as she was. What
just hope could distracted Mexico reasonably entertain of ultimate
victory? Several years before this period, her discreet statesmen and
reflecting citizens privately acknowledged that Texas was lost forever.
Pecuniary embarrassments, political misrule, and repeated revolutions
had still more impaired her national strength, and yet, an obstinacy as
inveterate as it was silly, forced her to make declarations of intended
hostilities which only served to kindle and spread the excitement among
the masses.

It is just that we should concede to national pride and honor all they
reasonably demand of respect, yet I have greatly misunderstood this
spirit of our century, if it does not require nations to be as
reasonable in their quarrels as individuals. Empires, kingdoms, states,
republics, and men, are equally amenable to the great tribunal of the
world's common sense, and all are obliged, if they consult their
interests, to yield to the force of circumstances they cannot control.
What then becomes of the mere abstract and visionary "right of
reconquest" which Mexico asserted, even if she really possessed it after
the central usurpation, and destruction of the federal system in 1824?
What hope was there in a war with the United States, after a failure in
that with Texas? It is true that Mexico had the power to annoy us, and
procrastinate her fate; she might oppose and resist; she might develope
all the evil passions of her people and let them loose on our armies in
irregular warfare; but these, after all were nothing more than spiteful
manifestations of impotent malice, disgraceful to the nation that
encouraged them. The cause of genuine humanity, which, I believe, in our
age, truly seeks for peace, demanded the pacification of Texas. The
cruelty with which the war was waged, and the brutal treatment received
by some of the prisoners of the Santa Fé expedition in 1841 and 1842,
convince us that a strong power should have imposed peace on Mexico.
National propriety demanded it; for how long was the "right of
reconquest" to continue? England, the proudest nation on earth,
acknowledged the independence of the United States after a seven years
war. The great powers of Europe interfered to protect oppressed Greece.
England has several times interposed in the affairs of Spain and
Portugal; and our geographical as well as political affinity to Texas
clearly indicated that it was our national interest to establish a firm
and friendly government on our border.

       *       *       *       *       *

There can be no doubt that when General Herrera was, almost unanimously,
elected president in August, 1845, he saw things in this light, and was
prudently disposed to bend to inevitable fate. Notwithstanding the
warlike despatches, speeches, and proclamations of the Mexicans in the
earlier part of the year, our secretary of state seems to have
sufficiently understood their gasconading habits, to disregard these
inflated productions. He therefore authorized Mr. Black, who remained in
Mexico as consul, upon Mr. Shannon's withdrawal, to propose that we
should send an envoy with full powers to adjust all the questions in
dispute between the two countries. Mexico, notwithstanding her open
bravado, secretly assented to our proposal, declaring that she would
receive "the commissioner of the United States who might come to the
capital with full powers to settle the present dispute in a peaceful,
reasonable and honorable manner."

Accordingly, Mr. Slidell was hastily despatched so as to be sure of
meeting the same persons in power with whom the arrangement had been
made; for in Mexico, the delay of even a day may sometimes change a
government, and create new or unwilling negotiators. Nevertheless when
our minister presented himself in the capital early in December, having
travelled rapidly but unostentatiously, so as to avoid exciting ill
feeling among the Mexicans as to the purposes of his mission, he found
the secretary unprepared to receive him. It was objected that Mr.
Slidell's commission had not been confirmed by the senate of the United
States and that the president had no constitutional right to send him;
that Mexico agreed to receive a commissioner to settle the Texas
dispute, and not a resident envoy; that the reception of such an envoy
would admit the minister on the footing of a friendly mission during a
period of concord between nations, which would not be diplomatically
proper so long as our amity was in the least interrupted;--and, finally,
that the government had not expected a commissioner until after the
session of congress began in January, 1846.

There may be some force in technical diplomacy, between the mission as
agreed on by Messieurs Black and Peña, and the one despatched by Mr.
Buchanan, for the letter of credence declares that Mr. Slidell is "_to
reside_ near the government of the Mexican republic in the quality of
envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, and that he is well
informed of the president's desire to _restore_, cultivate, and
strengthen friendship and good correspondence between us." A point of
extreme etiquette raised at such a moment, when both parties were
confessedly anxious for peace, naturally excites some inquiry as to its
probable origin. Accordingly we find that it was a mere subterfuge,
urged by a tottering administration to avert its ruin. The violence of
the cabinet against annexation had done its work among the people. When
Herrera and Peña accepted, in October, our proposal to treat, they hoped
the popular elections, as well as judicious overtures to the departments
and citizens, would so modify national opinion as to permit their
independent and liberal action. But such forbearance could scarcely be
expected from the watchfulness of Mexican intriguers. Herrera was a
federalist, but his failure to proclaim the federal system, and to throw
himself on that party as soon as he attained power, alienated a large
portion of it and made the rest but feeble supporters. The church and
the centralists soon coalesced in hostility to his government; and,
although his measures were moderate, and all his efforts designed to
correct abuses, yet every political symptom denoted his speedy fall. Of
all the popular clamors, probably none was louder in the mob and the
army, than that which arose in consequence of his effort to negotiate a
peace with our Union. General Paredes took advantage of this
unpopularity, and, at the head of five thousand of the soldiery,
pronounced against the government of the president.

It will be perceived from this sketch how completely this Texas question
and the war with our country have been made electioneering and
revolutionary elements in Mexico: not, however, with patriotic hopes, or
reasonable expectations of reconquest, but with the contemptible anxiety
of usurping a temporary power which, for a while, enabled the aspirant
to govern the country without the least prospect of settling the
difficulty with us or of regaining Texas.[65]

This revolution commenced with the army of reserve stationed at San Luis
Potosi, and was seconded by the military men generally. On the 15th of
December, 1845, Paredes issued a bombastic proclamation[66] from his
headquarters; and, in the latter part of the month the revolutionary
forces reached the capital, when a portion of the garrison pronounced in
favor of the insurgent chief. This induced an early accommodation
between the parties, and finished the outbreak without bloodshed. Yet
Paredes, having overthrown Herrera, partly in consequence of his
friendly disposition for peace with us, could not now attempt
negotiations successfully. Mr. Slidell renewed his offers to the
cabinet, but was repulsed and left the country. The lame reliance of
Mexico upon bombastic proclamations was again adopted. Yet the people
were discontented with Paredes who soon began to manifest the despotic
tendency of his nature and education. The military life of this
chieftain naturally inclined him towards centralism, but he was
altogether unfit either by character or habits for civil authority. As
soon as he assumed the reins of government, a party which had long
drooped began again to lift its head. The monarchists, led by the
Archbishop Manuel Posada y Garduño, and the wily Don Lucas Alaman, soon
got possession of the insurgent general. They were joined by a large
portion of the higher clergy, some influential men of fortune, a few
soldiers, and a number of silly citizens, who promised themselves a
futurity of progress and felicity by calling to the Mexican throne a
monarch from beyond the sea. This party of royalists was strengthened by
dissensions at home, and by the expected attack from the United States.
Many reflecting men cherished no hope of national progress so long as
the turbulent army was unrestrained by paramount authority. They desired
at once to crush freedom and domestic despotism by a foreign prince
supported by European soldiery, whilst they believed that the
continental sovereigns would greedily seize the opportunity of throwing
their forces into America so as to check the aggressive ambition of the
United States.[67] As soon as this scheme of Paredes was disclosed, his
unpopularity increased. His intemperate habits were well known and
destroyed confidence in his judgment. The financial condition of the
country was exceedingly embarrassed, and foreigners, who were the usual
bankers of the government, refused loans on any terms. Payment was
denied by the treasury to all employed in the civil departments, while
money was disbursed to none but the army. The freedom of the press
moreover was suspended; and, to crown the national difficulties, it was
at this very moment that Mexico dreamed of overthrowing the republic at
home and establishing a monarchy in its stead, whilst it simultaneously
encountered our armies abroad in order to reconquer Texas! With such
deplorable fatuity was Mexico misruled, and entangled in a double war
upon the rights of her own people and against the United States. It was
unfortunate that she fell at this crisis into the hands of a despot and
drunkard, whose mind, perplexed between ambition and intemperance, gave
a permanent direction to that false public sentiment, which Herrera had
been anxious to convert into one of peace and good will towards the
United States.

I have thus succinctly narrated the events that led to the war between
the United States and Mexico. The annexation of Texas, without the
previous assent of Mexico, may have annoyed that government. It was
mortifying to patriotic pride, and we should laud the republic for
manifesting a proper sensibility. But true national pride is always
capable of manly and dignified opposition. It does not expend itself in
bravado, petulance or querulousness. It does not assail by threats, but
by deeds; and never provokes an attack until it is prepared to return
the blow with earnest force. It is silent as the storm until it bursts
forth in overwhelming wrath. All other kinds of resistance are nothing
but miserable exhibitions of mortified vanity, and invoke the world's
contempt instead of respectful compassion.

Our government, from the beginning, desired and attempted to allay
excitement, whilst that of Mexico, revolutionary, disorganized and
impotent as it was at home, and as it subsequently proved itself to be
in the field of battle, did all it could to foment animosity between the
two countries. This sturdy resistance of Mexico did not arise from
prudence, patriotism or courage, but from intestine factions,
exasperated by rival usurpers. Our efforts to make peace and establish a
boundary upon the most liberal principles were rejected with
disdain.[68] The authorities, basing their refusal upon a frivolous
subterfuge of diplomatic etiquette, would not even hear our proposals,
or receive our minister. Our presidents were disposed to concede every
thing reasonable in negotiation that could have saved the honor of
Mexico and placed our future relations on the salutary foundation of
alliance.[69] Instead of meeting us with the pacific and compromising
temper of our age, her demagogue chieftains stimulated the passion and
vanity of the mob, until the stormy natures of an ignorant people became
so completely excited that they were unable to control the evil spirit
raised by their wicked incantations.

Blundering onward and blinded by passion, this unfortunate nation
reminds us of that passage in the Ænead wherein the sightless giant is
described:--

              "Summo quum monte videmus
    Ipsum inter pecudes vastâ se mole moventem
    Pastorem Polypheum, et littera nota petentem;
    _Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum!_

                                         Ænead, B. 3, v. 655.

FOOTNOTES:

[64] Mexico as it was and as it is--see original letter in 4th ed. p.
387.

[65] See Mexico as it was and is, 4th ed. p. 396--and Slidell's
correspondence with our government. Senate doc. No. 337, 29th cong. 1st
sess.

[66] See Mexico as it was and as it is, p. 400.

[67] Tributo á la verdad, Vera Cruz, p. 3.

[68] See Wheaton's Elements of international law. ed. of 1836, part 2d
chap. 1, pp. 88, 89, 90, 91. On the right of interference of governments
for the pacification of belligerent nations.

[69] Mr. Slidell was fully empowered to negotiate on liberal terms.



BOOK SECOND:

MILITARY OPERATIONS IN TEXAS AND ON

THE RIO GRANDE.



BOOK II.



MILITARY OPERATIONS IN TEXAS AND ON THE RIO GRANDE.



CHAPTER I.

Boundary of Texas defined by Almonté--Description of Texas--Rivers of
     Texas--Army of observation--General Taylor--Army of occupation--How
     formed--Difficulty of landing in Texas--Aransas bay--Army lands at
     St. Joseph's island--Kinney's rancho--Corpus Christi--State of the
     army during the winter--Sufferings of the troops--Alarms of war--
     General Gaines's views--Necessity of ample preparation--Our first
     aggressive war.


The scene of our observation is now about to change from the cabinet to
the field. The theatre of war properly attracts our attention, and the
spot of earth which was the chief cause of dispute between Mexico and
the United States, and where our armies assembled, justly demands our
first notice.

Texas, until she attained the rank of an independent State, seems to
have been almost an unknown country even to the Mexicans. This was
natural for a people who are not essentially agriculturists, but pass
their lives as herdsmen, miners, or merchants, and whose central
government is far removed from its outposts.

In the year 1834, General Almonté was deputed by the Mexican authorities
to visit this northern province, and prepare a statistical report upon
its extent and character. According to this valuable document, Texas
proper lies between 28° and 35° of north latitude, and 17° and 25° of
longitude, west from Washington. It is bounded on the north by the
territory of Arkansas; east by Louisiana; south by the Gulf of Mexico
and State of Tamaulipas; and west by Coahuila, Chihuahua, and New
Mexico. Almonté was informed, by the State government of Coahuila and
Texas, that instead of the Rio de las Nueces forming the boundary
between Coahuila and Texas, as the map denoted, the true limit commenced
at the embouchure of the Rio Aransaso which it followed to its source,
whence it continued by a direct line until it reached the junction of
the Medina with the San Antonio, and thence proceeded along the eastern
bank of the Medina to its source, terminating, finally, on the borders
of Chihuahua. The territory comprised within these limits is estimated
at near two hundred thousand square miles--a surface almost as extensive
as that of France.[70] But, since Texas receded from the Mexican central
government, these confines have been changed. By an act of her congress,
in December, 1836, the boundary was declared to begin at the mouth of
the Rio Grande, and thence to run up the principal stream of the said
river to its source; thence due north to the 42° of latitude, and
thence, along the boundary as defined in the treaty between the United
States and Spain, to the beginning.[71]

       *       *       *       *       *

The great body of the territory of Mexico is rich in upland vallies,
extensive plains, noble mountains, fertile soil, beautiful groves, and
rich mines, but it is almost entirely deprived of rivers, whilst Texas
is singularly favored in this respect. On the east, the Gulf of Mexico
affords her an extensive sea coast indented by the mouths of the Sabine
river and lake, the Rio Naches, the Rio Trinidad, the Rio San Jacinto,
Galveston bay, the Rio Brazos, Matagorda bay, the Rio Colorado, the Rios
San Antonio and Guadalupe, Aransaso bay and the Rio Grande, besides
numerous smaller streams that drain her soil and almost cover it with an
interlacing network of water.

Texas presents to the traveller three distinct natural regions. Along
the shores of the gulf from the Sabine to the Rio Grande, a flat country
extends from thirty to one hundred miles in the interior, widening,
towards its centre on the Colorado, and gradually diminishing towards
the Nueces. The sandy wastes and lagunes of the coast give place, at
some distance in the interior, to a rich alluvial country, diversified
by skirts of timber, insulated groves, and open prairies. A large
portion of this part of Texas is described as being singularly free from
those large collections of stagnant water, which, combined with a
burning sun and prolific vegetation, create malaria in our southern
States.

Westward of this level skirt, begins the rolling region. The land
gradually swells in gentle undulations, "covered with fertile prairies
and valuable woodlands, enriched with springs and rivulets." Farther
westward still, these beautiful hills tower up into the steeps of the
_Sierra Madre_, that great chain of gigantic mountains, which, broken at
the junction of the Rio Grande with the Puerco, takes thence a
north-easterly course, and enters Texas near the source of the Nueces.
These elevations are of the third and fourth magnitude, and abound with
forests of pine, oak, cedar, and an extraordinary variety of shrubbery.
Wide vallies of alluvial soil, commonly susceptible of irrigation from
copious streams in the highlands, wind through the recesses of these
mountains and afford a delightful region for the purposes of
agriculture. The table lands beyond these ranges have been but little
explored, and still less is known of the northern region extending to
the 42° of north latitude, as well as of that portion lying between the
Nueces and the Rio Grande. But such, in brief, is Texas from the gulf to
the mountains;--a country adapted alike to the planter, the grazier and
the farmer, while it offers to commerce a wide extent of sea coast whose
harbors may be made perfectly secure by the skill of modern science.[72]

       *       *       *       *       *

I have already stated that in 1844 President Tyler stationed an army of
observation under General Taylor, at fort Jesup, as soon as he
negotiated the annexation treaty.[73] This corps, but poorly sheltered
from the weather, and in an inhospitable climate, was, for a long time,
left inactive on the banks of the Sabine. In midsummer of 1845, after
the joint resolution was passed, and when our difficulties with Mexico
began to thicken, it was at length ordered to advance, under the same
commander, towards the southern frontier of Texas. The army then
consisted of but two regiments of infantry, one of dragoons, and a
single company of artillery, in all about fifteen hundred efficient men.
As the climate was known to the sickly, the war department despatched
only such an unacclimated force as was deemed absolutely necessary to
protect a tropical region in the month of July, awaiting the colder
months before its numbers were increased. This body was called the army
of occupation, whose appointments seem to have been extremely imperfect.
"The dragoon regiment had just been formed from a rifle corps; half of
its men were raw, undisciplined recruits, and many of them unable to
ride, while their recently purchased horses were small, weak and
undrilled. The infantry regiments were enfeebled by their long
exposure, in miserable tents, to the withering heats and drenching rains
of a low southern latitude; and the artillerists were without their
guns. Towards the end of June, 1845, a company of the last mentioned arm
of the service, equipped as infantry, at fort Moultrie, was ordered to
New Orleans. This body, armed only with muskets, sailed from Charleston
on the 26th of the month, and on its arrival in Louisiana on the 19th of
July, found that it was destined for service in Texas. The instructions
to the commanding officer informed him that his company was to be
mounted and equipped as flying artillery for the campaign under Taylor;
that horses would be sent him and a battery shipped from New York, upon
the arrival of which he was to join his general at the mouth of the
Sabine."[74] Fortunately for these troops they encountered General
Taylor in New Orleans, though they were obliged to depart without their
ordnance, which did not reach them for two months afterwards, while
their horses were even still longer in attaining their destination.

The war in Texas, and the unsettled state of that country, had prevented
the preparation of an accurate map, or indeed, even of a survey of the
coasts or interior. It was difficult, therefore, to find any one in New
Orleans acquainted with the harbors and rivers of the new State, or who
was willing to incur the responsibility of directing the army's steps.
The topographical bureau at Washington had, with infinite pains and
ingenuity, constructed a map of the country from the scant materials in
its possession; but this chart has since been proved to be almost
entirely useless as a guide.

However, after considerable difficulty, General Taylor procured a pilot
for large wages, who professed a thorough acquaintance with the Texan
waters, and a particular knowledge of his destination at Aransas bay.
This individual was immediately put in charge of one of the transports
loaded with troops, and under his lead, the commander in chief sailed
from New Orleans with three ships and two steamers in search of the port
of his disbarkation. The blundering pilot grounded his vessel among the
breakers where it would inevitably have been wrecked, had it not been
extricated by timely assistance, while the captain of another transport
coasted the low shores of the gulf for several days, in sight of land,
seeking an inlet, and when his ship was at length anchored off St.
Joseph's, he asserted that it was the island of Espiritu Santo.[75]

This bay of Aransas was perhaps one of the most unsuitable for the
disbarkation of troops on the coast of Texas, and was selected in utter
ignorance of the country. Indeed we seem to have committed two great and
often fatal errors in warfare when we contemplated hostilities with
Mexico--first, in despising our foe; and secondly, in failing to inform
ourselves of his country's geography.

Aransas bay lies between the south end of St. Joseph's and the northern
point of Mustang island, quite close to the latter, and almost at right
angles with the coast. It has a narrow but shifting sand bar at its
entrance, upon which the depth of water varies according to the action
of the winds. The bay is about twenty-five miles in length and twelve in
width, but is obstructed by a shoal and a range of islands that traverse
it.[76]

On the third of August our whole army had landed on St. Joseph's island,
about thirty miles from the Rio Nueces, across which it was to pass to
its proposed encampment on Corpus Christi bay, near a smuggling village
known as Kinney's _rancho_. As Corpus Christi and Aransas bays are
connected by a shallow and winding channel, it was at once discovered
that steamers were altogether inadequate for the transportation of
troops from the islets to the mainland; and our forces would have
remained where they disembarked had not a few skiffs of light draft,
together with some sail and row boats, been obtained in the neighborhood
at considerable expense. In these frail vessels a detachment of forty
men, armed only with muskets, crossed the Nueces, and landed on the
stormy coast as pioneers in a country asserted to be Mexican. Had the
authorities of that republic been prepared to resist our landing, a few
field pieces might have presented the alleged invasion, as our general
was unable to protect the disembarkation of his troops by cannon. In
addition to these mistakes, the 2d regiment of dragoons was not
despatched from fort Jesup in time to co-operate with our forces when
they first landed at Corpus Christi; and, as the artillery had not yet
been forwarded from our arsenals, the campaign may be said to have
commenced with _infantry alone_. This was a novelty in military science,
and indicated an ignorance of war, an unpardonable imprudence, or a
conviction that the whole drama was got up only to intimidate an enemy
we despised.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is impossible to narrate every circumstance of interest that occurred
during the encampment of our forces west of the Nueces, a position taken
by General Taylor with the concurrence of the war department. But a
history of this war would be incomplete were not the position as well as
the condition of our army accurately stated. Our government, relying
probably on the acknowledged feebleness of Mexico, and on the fact that
she had not yet declared war, imagined that the mere presence of
American troops would pacify Texas or prevent hostilities. This was an
unfortunate mistake, especially in the unsettled condition of things;
for in May, 1845, Mr. Donelson, our chargé to Texas, had warned the
government to be prepared for an immediate blow upon Mexico, if she
should unfortunately declare war against us, and that declaration might
have been expected at any moment.

The details of the organization of our forces seem, nevertheless, to
have been sadly neglected. Sailing vessels, alone, were relied on to
convey despatches to General Taylor; and, from the wreck of one of them,
a drummer boy, strolling along the beach, on the 15th of August, rescued
a valuable package containing the proclamation of the Mexican government
in which the people were summoned to unite in an army for national
preservation, under the sonorous title of "Defenders of independence and
the laws."[77] The day after this despatch was received, the smugglers
along the coast reported that Arista was rapidly advancing to attack us
with three thousand choice troops. Without artillery to defend the camp,
or dragoons to act as scouts, our general could do nothing but order
entrenchments to be thrown up. Entrenching tools, however, had not been
furnished; and, with only a few old and broken spades the troops labored
briskly, and erected, in a few days, a solid field-work a few yards from
the beach, protected in the rear by the bay. But the battery had not yet
arrived, nor was Gen. Taylor able to obtain from the sloop of war St.
Mary's, which was on the station, any guns of a suitable calibre.
Fortunately, however, he procured three pieces, indifferently equipped,
and a small supply of ammunition, from the citizens of Corpus Christi.
These guns added materially to the strength of our position in case we
were attacked, but were entirely unsuitable for field service.[78]

       *       *       *       *       *

The proclamation to which we have alluded, and the rumors of vigorous
hostility on the part of Mexico, produced great alarm in the United
States, especially along our southern frontier. In New Orleans,
indignation was openly expressed that our gallant men had been
despatched on this forlorn enterprize without the amplest means of
defence and attack, while our arsenals were filled with all the
munitions of war. A large force of volunteers was, therefore, ordered
out in the south, while two companies of artillery were immediately
despatched to Taylor's succor under the command of Maj. Gally.

The report of Arista's progress, however, proved to be false, so that we
were fortunately saved from attack. Yet the sufferings of our army did
not cease with those military inconveniences. "Two thirds of the tents
furnished our soldiers were worn out or rotten, and had been condemned
by boards of survey appointed by the proper authorities in accordance
with the army regulations. Transparent as gauze, they afforded little or
no protection against the intense heat of summer or the drenching rains
and severe cold of winter. Even the dews penetrated the thin covering
almost without obstruction. Such were the tents provided for campaigners
in a country almost deluged three months in the year, and more variable
in its climate than any other region, passing from the extreme of heat
to that of cold in a few hours. During the whole of November and
December, either the rains were descending with violence, or the furious
"northers" which ravage this coast were breaking the frail tent-poles or
rending the rotten canvas. For days and weeks every article in hundreds
of tents was thoroughly soaked; and during these terrible months, the
sufferings of the sick, in the crowded hospital tents, were
indescribably horrible. Every day added to the frightfulness of the
mortality. At one time a sixth of the entire camp was on the sick list,
and at least one-half unfit for service, in consequence of dysentery and
catarrhal fevers which raged like a pestilence."[79] The camp was
without fires, and, being situated on the edge of a vast prairie
sparsely covered with muskeet trees, was but scantily supplied with wood
even for the most needful purposes. The quarter-master's department
furnished only the weak and stunted _mustangs_ of the country; and the
little and inefficient ponies, geared in the large harness made at the
north for American horses, looked as if they would jump through their
collars instead of use them for traction. With such teams only a
sufficiency of wood could be drawn for cooking, and none for camp fires
to comfort the sick and suffering soldiers. "As winter advanced, the
prairie became a quagmire, the roads almost impassable, and as the
_mustangs_ died in large numbers, wood enough for cooking even, could
not be procured. The encampment now resembled a marsh, the water, at
times, being three or four feet deep in the tents of whole wings of
regiments. All military exercises were suspended, and the bleak gloomy
days were passed in inactivity, disgust and sullenness. The troops,
after being thoroughly drenched all day, without fires to dry them, lay
down at night in wet blankets on the soaked ground, as plank for tent
floors was not furnished by the quarter-masters until the rainy season
was over. At times the men, at tattoo, gasped for breath in the sultry
night air, and, at reveille, found their moist blankets frozen around
them and their tents stiff with ice. A portion of the men were kept
without pay for six months, and the rest for four months, although the
law strictly requires payment every two months.

"Officers and soldiers, destitute of funds, were compelled to borrow,
upon the strength of pay due, of their more fortunate companions, or of
the Shylocks, in search of victims, that polluted the camp. Sick
soldiers, directed by their surgeons to return to the United States, had
either to remain and die, or to submit to exorbitant exactions from
unfeeling villains in their pension certificates and pay accounts,
though the law requires the paymasters to cash them in specie.

"On the first landing of the 3d and 4th infantry at Corpus Christi,
"Kinney's Rancho," though a lawless, smuggling town, under the vigorous
sway of its martial proprietor, was as quiet and peaceful as a village
in New England. But every fresh arrival of troops was followed by some
portion of that vast horde of harpies, that are ever to be found in the
train of all armies, ready to prey upon the simple and unsuspecting
among the soldiers. In a short time, hundreds of temporary structures
were erected on the outskirts of the "Rancho," and in them, all the
cut-throats, thieves, and murderers of the United States and Texas, seem
to have congregated. No sight could have been more truly melancholy than
that of their bloated and sin-marked visages, as they lounged through
the purlieus of this modern Pandemonium. The air, by day, was polluted
with their horrid oaths and imprecations,--and the savage yells,
exulting shouts, and despairing groans of their murderous frays, made
night hideous. But, not content with confining their hellish deeds to
their own worthy fraternity, they laid their worthless hands on the
troops. Many of the soldiers, enticed to their dram-shops, were drugged
with stupefying potions, and then robbed of their hard earnings, or
murdered in cold blood."

General Taylor, looking to the probability of a movement against Mexico,
warned the department that a ponton train was indispensable in a country
wherein streams abounded and wood for bridges was scarce; but it was not
despatched until after the next meeting of congress.

"Six months after the army had taken the field, there were not teams and
wagons enough to transport one half of the troops; so that, in case of
hostilities, had a forward movement been ordered, it could only have
been effected by detachments, and, in consequence, that most fatal of
all military errors would have been committed, of permitting the enemy
to attack and beat in detail. The few teams furnished, it is natural to
think, were the choicest to be found in the west. For, it had been said,
that though the "Army of occupation" was small, the great celerity of
its movements, from the superiority of the American horses, would
contribute, as well as the greater bravery of its men, to make it more
than a match for the largest Mexican force. Ninety yoke of oxen and
several hundred mustangs were therefore bought, but not a single
American horse!

       *       *       *       *       *

"Three batteries of artillery were added to the one which, at length
reached the company from Charleston. Horses were sent with two of them,
to manoeuvre them rapidly on the field of battle, and to transport
them wherever the army might go. But the third came unprovided with
cavalry.

"When the New Orleans volunteers left Corpus Christi, their artillery
horses were turned over to the company from Charleston. This company,
having always acted as infantry, had never even seen a flying artillery
drill,--half of the men could not ride,--many had never ridden at all,
and, in mounting for the first time, made Mr. Winkle's mistake as to
which stirrup to use. It was certainly an original idea, to convert,
_in a single day_, a company of foot into light artillery. However, as
horses had at length been given to the company from Charleston, it was
the ardent desire of the lieutenant commanding, to teach his men to ride
and drive, and the sabre exercise. This the loyal quarter-masters
resolved to prevent, and, at the same time, to show the world how
economical they were. They, therefore, refused to purchase any more hay
and told the dragoons and light artillery, that they, themselves, must
cut and haul the dry and sapless broom straw of the prairie, and forage
their horses on that."[80]

Such is a picture of the sufferings of our army of occupation, drawn by
an eye-witness, and scarcely colored by the warmth of his feelings. If
the advice of military men, and the opinion of persons whose experience
as campaigners entitled them to respect, had been heeded, this war would
have been speedily ended. Ever since the rumor of annexation in 1843,
but, especially, since the inaugural address of President Polk in 1845,
in which he pronounced so emphatic an opinion as to our right to the
whole of Oregon, our political firmament had been clouded. Prudent men
thought it probable that there would be war with Mexico or hostilities
with England, and that the two sources of irritation, by distracting our
powers, would materially increase each other's virulence.

At this time, General Gaines, a chieftain who has become venerable in
the service of his country, and whose skill and bravery on many a field
have manifested his character in actions that no citizen can ever
forget, commanded on our south-western frontier. The delicate character
of our foreign relations, to which allusion has just been made,
attracted his anxious attention in 1845; and his responsibility as
Chief on a long, exposed frontier, compelled him to give timely warning
to the department. It seemed to this officer, if we engaged hastily in
war with Mexico or England, at such a crisis, and with no preparations
either for an army or its instruction, that the conflict would be
disastrous or procrastinated, especially as the latter power had so far
surpassed us in applying steam to naval purposes. Long years of peace
had rendered us indifferent to war; and unvarying success in other
conflicts had made us confident. Accordingly, he recommended the
concentration of a large force of volunteers on the borders of the
probable theatre of war, where they should be trained in military
science, together with the regulars commanded by General Taylor, until
the spring of 1846. If war could not be averted before that period, we
might then be able to march against the enemy with a powerful and
disciplined army. He contended that the true policy of our country, in
such an assault, was to pursue with relentless energy the military
bandits who swayed the destinies of Mexico, whilst, on all sides, we
protected the persons and property of non-combatants; so that in pushing
onward to the capital we would leave throughout the country traversed an
indelible impression of our justice. Thus the confidence of the best
portions of Mexico would be secured, the _prestige_ of her army promptly
destroyed, and peace obtained before she was able to rally. On the other
hand, General Gaines believed that if we began war without large and
instructed forces, we might count on a protracted struggle, as in the
Seminole campaigns from 1836 to 1842. The precipices upon the doubtful
verge of whose summits we tottered during the war, prove the wisdom of
these suggestions. The faithful page of history admonishes that nations
as well as individuals who recklessly disregard the essential maxims
that prescribe their prudent duties, must sooner or later pay the
penalty of neglect. But politicians, uneducated even in the pleasant
discipline of militia trainings, do not view matters in the same light
as military men whose knowledge of detail, and of the responsibilities
of real service, make them unwilling to engage in war, or even to
threaten hostilities, without the amplest preparation to perform all
they promise. Without such true and earnest discipline warlike array is
but a military cheat.

It is vain to predict what might have been the result had the advice of
the gallant and prudent Gaines been adopted; yet it cannot be doubted
that a well equipped body of twenty-five or thirty thousand men would
have marched to the city of Mexico and dictated peace at the cost of one
fourth the blood and treasure that were subsequently expended. A
lingering policy of hesitation together with the acknowledged
inefficiency of Mexico, may palliate the errors of our cabinet; but wise
politicians will not henceforth fail to be impressed with the necessity
of military preparation which this conflict has taught us.

A war which was originally supposed to be one exclusively of defence,
was suddenly changed to an aggressive conflict, and is, perhaps, an
additional excuse for our unpreparedness. Most of the events in this
narrative derive peculiar interest from the fact that it is the first
and only offensive war into which we have been forced. With every known
principle of defence we had been long acquainted; for, in the school of
Washington, we acquired a sound, practical knowledge, which subsequent
experience, under the most perfect system of self-government, enabled us
to improve. But it is to be hoped that many years will elapse before our
volunteers will be again called from their peaceful duties to take part
in an aggressive war, and especially against a government whose theory
of rule is the same as our own.

      NOTE.--General Gaines, who commanded the western division,
      was censured by the War department for having made a
      requisition on the governor of Louisiana for State troops
      to be sent to the army in Texas under Taylor's command, at
      the moment of apprehended danger described in this chapter.
      General Taylor, for more than a year previous to September,
      1845, commanded one of the brigades of Gaines's division,
      and the latter never knew _by authority_ that the former had
      been disconnected from him, except upon temporary service,
      until advised by the secretary of war on the 13th of
      September. He never received a copy of the authority given
      to Taylor to go to Texas until after the date of his
      requisition for Louisiana volunteers, on the 15th of August,
      1845; consequently he _then_ considered himself responsible
      for the strength and support of one of his own brigades, and
      bound to succor it speedily when he believed it to be in
      imminent danger.--See Senate doc. No. 378, for his
      correspondence, and especially p. 48.

FOOTNOTES:

[70] Almonté's report. Kennedy's Texas, chap. 1.

[71] Senate doc. 341, 28th cong. 1st sess. p. 56.

[72] Kennedy's Texas, chap. 1.

[73] Senate doc. No. 341, 28th cong. 1st sess. p. 76.

[74] An account of the army of observation and occupation, written by
one of its officers, in the Southern Quarterly Review for April, 1846.

[75] S. Q. Review, _ut antea_, p. 442. (April, 1846.)

[76] Kennedy's Texas, chap. 2d.

[77] Niles' Reg. vol. 68, p. 305.

[78] S. Q. Rev. _ut antea_. Senate doc. No. 337, 29th cong. 1st sess. p.
93.

[79] S. Q. Rev. _ut antea_.

[80] Southern Quarterly Review, _ut antea_. These statements are made by
an able and distinguished officer of our army, who was on the field, and
is perfectly versed in all the matters he discusses.



CHAPTER II.

Our position at Corpus Christi--Instructions to Taylor as to the boundary
     of the Rio Grande--Taylor's views--Review and history of the boundary
     question--Letter from Mr. Adams--Santa Anna's agreements with Texas,
     &c.--March to the Rio Grande ordered--Justification in a military
     point of view of the occupation of the disputed territory--Anecdote
     of Frederick the Great--War in Silesia and Austria--Madison's conduct
     to Spain in 1810--Right of declaration of war--Justifiable causes of
     war--Opinion of Sir J. Mackintosh--War and diplomacy contrasted.

One of the most inclement winters in the Gulf of Mexico had passed in
the comfortless manner described in the last chapter. Our attempts to
negotiate with Mexico were repulsed, and although our minister had not
yet returned to the United States--having delayed at Jalapa with the
hope of finding Paredes more accessible than Herrera--every thing
indicated an ultimate defeat of diplomacy.

Meanwhile our forces at Corpus Christi were gradually augmenting, under
the command of Generals Taylor and Worth. In October, 1845, the troops
amounted to near four thousand, and General Taylor made every
preparation, by reconnoissances between the Nueces and the Rio Grande
for the ultimate defence of soil which had been claimed by our
government as part of Texas.[81]

As a military man it was not his duty to affix the boundaries that were
to be the subject of negotiation or war; but simply to ascertain
precisely the extent of defence required along a disputed territory, and
to dispose his troops accordingly.[82]

In October, 1845, therefore, General Taylor reviewed the instructions
from the war department, and, seeing that he had been ordered to select
and occupy near the Rio Grande such a site as would consist with the
health of the troops, and was best adapted to repel invasion, he
ventured to suggest an advance of his army. This however, was done by
him whilst he felt great diffidence in touching topics that might become
matter of delicate diplomacy. Nevertheless, taking a soldier's view of
the topographical and not the diplomatic question, he informed our
government, that if it made the Rio Grande an _ultimatum_ in adjusting a
boundary, he doubted not that the settlement would be facilitated by
taking possession, at once, of one or two suitable points on, or quite
near, that river. At these spots, our strength would be displayed in a
manner not to be mistaken, while the position of our troops at the
remote camp of Corpus Christi, with arid wastes between them and the
outposts of Mexico, altogether failed to impress that government with
our readiness to vindicate by force of arms our title to the country as
far as the Rio Grande.[83] Moreover, General Taylor felt encumbered by
the orders from our war department of the 8th July, in which he was told
that Mexico held military establishments on the east side of the Rio
Grande, whose forces he should not disturb until our peaceful relations
were finally destroyed.[84]

Accordingly, on the 13th of January, 1846, our commander-in-chief was
directed to advance with his troops to the Rio Grande.[85] This movement
was made in consequence of the anticipated failure of our negotiations,
clearly indicated by the conduct of the Mexican government immediately
upon the arrival of Mr. Slidell in the capital. But before these orders
were despatched to General Taylor, he had already in August, 1845, been
apprised of his duties in the event of hostile demonstrations on the
part of the enemy. In case of an invasion of Texas by the Mexicans, he
was directed to drive them back beyond the Rio Grande; and, although it
was desirable that he should confine himself as much as possible to
defensive measures, yet, in the event of such a repulse, he was
authorized to seize and hold possession of Matamoros and other places on
the soil of Mexico.

This resolution of our government was made the subject of grave
complaint by persons who opposed the war. The order to advance from
Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande was alleged to be an act of invasion,
and consequently, that _hostilities_ were commenced by us and not by
Mexico.

It may be pardoned if we pause awhile to consider a subject of such
vital importance. The solution of the question was placed by one party
upon the determination whether the Rio Grande was the boundary between
Texas and Mexico before the battle of San Jacinto; and, if not, whether
it has been made so since by competent authority. Up to that period it
was asserted to be a recognized fact that the Nueces was the western
boundary of Texas. Mr. John Quincy Adams, in his controversy with Don
Luis De Onis, upon the Spanish boundary question, in March, 1818;[86]
and Messieurs Pinckney and Monroe, in their argument with Cevallos at
Madrid in April, 1805,[87] claimed the Rio Grande as the true limit
between the United States and Mexico, by virtue of the ancient rights of
France and the treaties between that sovereignty and the Spanish
king.[88] It was asserted, therefore, that by the cession of Louisiana
all the rights of France over Texas, as an integral part of her
territory, accrued to us; and consequently that when the State of Texas
was united to this country it was only _re_-annexed with what were
_claimed_ to be its ancient limits. But this was not a true statement
of the controversy, for after our treaty with Spain the aspect of the
affair changed. The question then was no longer what had been the
boundary under the laws between France and Spain, or between Spain and
the United States,--but what were the limits either under the colonial
government of the Mexican viceroyalty, or under the laws of Mexico, when
she became an independent republic. It was asserted that no map or
geography existed since the establishment of the republic that did not
lay down the boundary north of the Rio Grande. The map of Texas,
compiled by Stephen H. Austin, the parent of Texan colonization,
published at Philadelphia in 1835, and setting forth all the Mexican
grants in Texas, represents the Rio Nueces as the western boundary.
General Almonté in 1834, as I have previously stated, alleged, upon the
authority of the State government of Coahuila and Texas that the
boundary between them was even east of the Nueces. This was probably in
accordance with the ancient Spanish division; for, in 1805 Cevallos
declared to our ministers at Madrid that the province of Texas, "where
the Spaniards have had settlements from the 17th century, was bounded on
the east by Louisiana, and contains the extensive country which lies
between the river Medina _where the government of Coahuila ends_, and
the post now abandoned." Authorities to this effect might be
extensively multiplied.[90] Brazos de Santiago was a Mexican port of
entry, which continued to be held up to the period of hostilities, and
Laredo was a small Mexican town, occupied by a Mexican garrison. If such
was the geographical division between Texas and Mexico on the lower Rio
Grande, near its mouth in the gulf, it was asserted that there could be
infinitely less right to claim it as a limit nearer its source, since
Santa Fé, the capital of New Mexico, had never been within the
jurisdiction of Texas, and since the boundaries of Chihuahua commenced
near the head waters of the Nueces.

These were some of the arguments used by individuals who deemed the
march to Point Isabel an invasion of Mexican territory. It is just that
a few reasons should also be presented on behalf of those who believed
it to be lawful or expedient.

When Santa Anna was captured after the battle of San Jacinto in 1836,
the leading men in Texas had great difficulty in rescuing him from
popular vengeance for the massacres he had committed. The victory over
the central chief--the despot and dictator of Mexico--was generally
believed to be a crowning measure of success, for the bitter persecutor
soon dwindled into the humble supplicant, and pledged his name and his
oath to secure the independence of the rebellious State. Accordingly,
with every appearance and promise of good faith and honor, he executed
contracts with the Texan authorities which deserve consideration in
discussing this question. On the 14th of May, 1836, at Velasco, two of
these documents were signed by Santa Anna, Burnet, Collingsworth,
Hardiman and Grayson,--the first being a public, and the second a secret
convention between the parties. The third article of the first paper
stipulates that the Mexican troops shall evacuate the _territory_ of
Texas, _passing to the other side of the Rio Grande_, while the fourth
article of the secret agreement declares that a treaty of amity,
commerce and limits shall be made between Mexico and Texas, _the
territory of the latter power not to extend beyond the Rio Bravo del
Norte, or Rio Grande_. In conformity with these contracts, Texas set
free the prisoner, whose "prompt release and departure for Vera Cruz,"
according to their tenor, "were necessary for the fulfilment of his
_solemn oath_," to obtain a recognition of the independence of Texas,
and to dispose the Mexican cabinet for the reception of
commissioners.[91]

Santa Anna returned to his country in disgrace after his disastrous
campaign, and lurked in retirement at his farm until the French attacked
Vera Cruz, when he threw himself again at the head of the departmental
forces. In the action he fortunately lost a limb, and by the skilful
display of his mutilation in defence of Mexico, he renewed his claims
to national gratitude. Instead, however, of using his influence to
obtain the treaty, promised as the boon for his life, he became at once
the bitterest foe of Texas, and pledged himself to fight "forever for
its reconquest." Texas, meanwhile, acting in good faith, and presuming
to adopt the spirit and letter of the convention with Santa Anna, whom
she naturally regarded as the dictator of Mexico, passed the act of
December 19, 1836, establishing the Rio Grande as her boundary from the
gulf to its source. Besides this, her congress created senatorial and
representative districts west of the Nueces; organized and defined
limits of counties extending to the Rio Grande; created courts of
justice; spread her judicial system over the country wherever her people
roamed, and performed other acts of sovereignty which we are compelled
not to disregard. It cannot be contended that these acts and agreements
were alone sufficient, under the laws of nations, to confer upon Texas
unquestionable rights over the soil between the Nueces and the Rio
Grande, for a contract with the captive president and general was not
legally binding; but it is equally clear that all these arguments of the
old authorities as to the original boundary, and all the new claims set
up by Texas, under her statutes, as well as stipulations with Santa
Anna, made that territory a disputed ground whose real ownership could
only be equitably settled by negotiation. The strong language of both
the contracts, just recited, seems to _concede_ the fact that the
president of Mexico regarded, at least the lower Rio Grande, as already
the real boundary between Mexico and Texas, notwithstanding the opinion
of Almonté in 1834; and consequently that it was neither the subject of
treaty or agreement at that moment, nor could it become so afterwards
when commissioners were appointed.

When Texas was annexed to the United States she was received with these
asserted limits, though she did not join the Union with any specific
boundaries.[92] It was thought best by both parties to leave the
question of confines open between Mexico and our country, so as not to
complicate the national entanglements. After the congress of the United
States and convention in Texas had acted upon the joint resolution it
was impossible for us to recede. The course of our presidents,
therefore, was at once pacific and soothing towards Mexico. For although
they believed that republic had no right to be consulted as to the
annexation of Texas, a free and independent State, they nevertheless
admitted all her natural and just privileges in regard to boundary. Mr.
Tyler and Mr. Polk therefore despatched envoys to Mexico with the offer
of liberal negotiations as soon as a favorable opportunity presented
itself. But the chargé and minister of Mr. Tyler were scornfully
rejected, while Mr. Slidell, as has been already related, was refused an
audience upon frivolous pretences at a moment when the Mexican secretary
was secretly craving to receive him.[93]

In such a juncture what was the duty of the United States? It is an easy
matter for speculative philosophers or political critics to find fault
with the conduct of statesmen and to become prophets of woe _after_ the
occurrence of events they deprecate. But such men are timid actors on
the world's stage, and especially in such a theatre of folly as the
Mexican republic. Governments have but two ways of settling
international disputes,--either by negotiation or war,--and, even the
latter must be concluded by diplomacy, for nations rarely fight until
one of them is completely annihilated. Negotiation, or the attempt to
negotiate, had been completely exhausted by us. Meanwhile Mexico
continued to excite our curiosity by spasmodic struggles in nerving her
people for the war, as well as by gasconading despatches which breathed
relentless animosity to our country for the annexation of Texas.
Nevertheless, this sensitive and vaunting nation would neither make
peace, establish boundaries, negotiate, nor declare war. Was it
reasonable that such a frantic state of things should be permitted to
continue? Could this perverse aversion to fighting or friendship be
tolerated? Were our countries to conclude an eternal compact of mutual
hatred and non intercourse? Was such childish obstinacy and weakness to
be connived at in our country? Was it due to common sense, justice, or
the preservation of a good neighborhood that we should remain supine
under insane threats and dishonorable treatment? We asserted that, upon
the Texas question, we had rightly no dispute with Mexico, except as to
the boundary involved in the territory our forces were then occupying or
about to cross. We did not design discussing our right to annex Texas.
That was an act accomplished and unalterable. It was, doubtless,
exceedingly convenient for Mexico to maintain this pacific state of
_quasi-war_ and to reject, alike, our amity and hostilities, as long as
she owed us many millions of dollars and refused either to pay principal
or interest, or to conclude a treaty for the settlement of unadjusted
claims. Whilst her government was able to enforce non-intercourse, it
was free from importunity and payment. But this adroit scheme of
insolvency was unjust to our citizens, and only served to augment the
liabilities of Mexico. What then remained to be done? The reply may be
found in a significant anecdote related by Mr. Adams in a speech in
congress on the Oregon question, on the 2d of January, 1846.

"After negotiating"--said he--"for twenty years about this matter we may
take possession of the subject matter of negotiation. Indeed, we may
negotiate after we take possession, and this is the military way of
doing business. When Frederick the Great came to the throne of Prussia
he found that his father had equipped for him an army of a hundred
thousand men. Meeting soon after the Austrian minister, the latter said
to him: "Your father has given you a great army, but ours has seen the
wolf, whilst your majesty's has not." "Well--well!" exclaimed Frederick,
"I will soon give it an opportunity to see the wolf!" Frederick then
added, in his memoirs:--"I had some excellent old _pretensions_ to an
Austrian province, which some of my ancestors owned one or two centuries
before; accordingly I sent an ambassador to the court of Austria stating
my claim, and presenting a full exposition of my right to the province.
The same day my ambassador was received in Vienna, I entered Silesia
with my army!"[94]

Such would be a prompt and impulsive answer to the manifold
prevarications of seditious Mexico. But the army we advanced and the
country we occupied, were neither the army of Frederick nor the pleasant
vales of rich and populous Silesia. A nearly desolate waste, stretched
from the Nueces to the Rio Grande, barren alike in soil and inhabitants,
and tempting none to its dreary wilderness but nomadic _rancheros_ or
outlaws who found even Mexico no place of refuge for their wickedness.
It was, surely, not a land worthy of bloodshed, and yet, in consequence
of its sterility, it became of vast importance on a frontier across
whose wide extent enemies might pass unobserved and unmolested. With the
entire command of the Rio Grande from its source to its mouth in the
hands of our enemy, and the whole of this arid region flanking the
stream and interposing itself between Mexico and our troops, it is
evident that our adversaries would possess unusual advantages over us
either for offensive or defensive war. The mere control of the
embouchure of the river was no trivial superiority, for, on a stormy and
inhospitable coast, it was almost impossible to support an effectual
blockade and thus prevent the enemy from being succored along his whole
frontier with arms and provisions from abroad. By seizing, however, the
usual points of transit and entrance on the lower Rio Grande many of
these evils might be avoided; and, if Mexico ultimately resolved on
hostilities, we should be enabled to throw our forces promptly across
the river, and by rapid marches obtain the command of all the military
positions of vantage along her north-eastern boundary.

The foresight of Frederick the Great disclosed to him the military value
of Silesia in the event of a war with Austria, and it was probably that
circumstance, quite as much as his alleged political rights, that
induced him to enter it with an army on the day when he commenced
negotiations. He began the war with Austria by surprising Saxony, and,
during all his difficulties, clung tenaciously to the possession of
Silesia. Saxony was important as a military barrier covering Prussia on
the side of Austria, while Silesia indented deeply the line of the
Austrian frontier and flanked a large part of Bohemia.[95] Thus Saxony
and Silesia formed a natural fortification for Prussia, just as the
deserts of the disputed land, when in our rear, covered the undefended
confines of Texas at the same time that they gave us the keys to the
enemy's country at Point Isabel and Matamoros.

       *       *       *       *       *

It may be asserted that, when vacant or nearly vacant territory is in
controversy between two nations, and forms the only subject of real
dispute between them, it would be better for both to refrain from an
attempt to occupy it, provided they are willing to arbitrate the
quarrel, or settle it by diplomacy. But, when both parties assert
claims, both have equal rights to enter it, when negotiation fails. The
decision is then to be made only by intimidation or war. There is no
alternative by which collision can be escaped, and it is the duty of the
wiser of the disputants to place his national forces in such an
advantageous position as either to defend his acknowledged territory or
force himself to be driven from the soil he claims. "I do not consider
the march to the Rio Grande to have been the cause of the war"--said a
distinguished statesman, "anymore than I consider the British march on
Concord or Lexington to have been the cause of the American revolution,
or the crossing of the Rubicon to have been the cause of the civil war
in Rome. The march to the Rio Grande brought on the _collision of arms_,
but, so far from being the cause of the war, it was itself the effect of
those causes."

       *       *       *       *       *

The power of declaring war is expressly reserved by the constitution to
congress, and, though the president is commander in chief of the army
when called into actual service, he should be extremely cautious in
issuing orders or doing acts which may lead to hostilities resulting in
war. Our congress was in session in January, 1846, when Mr. Slidell was
rejected by Mexico, when our international relations were complicated as
I have described, and when the secretary of war, by the president's
direction, gave the order for Taylor's advance to the Rio Grande. This
was an act that brought the armies of Mexico and the United States in
front of each other; and although there can be no doubt that congress
would have authorised the movement of our troops under the military
advice of General Taylor,--provided the Rio Grande was to be made an
ultimatum in the ratification of a treaty by our senate,--it is,
nevertheless, to be profoundly regretted that the question was not
previously submitted to our national representatives. At that moment the
public mind was distracted between Mexico and England; but the Oregon
question nearly absorbed the apparently minor difficulties with our
restive neighbor. Congress contemplated the solemn probability of war
with one of the mightiest nations of our age, and even some of our
experienced statesmen,--as we have seen in the example of Mr.
Adams,--recommended the most stringent measures of armed occupation. At
such a crisis, and with a confidential knowledge of all our foreign
relations, it was the duty of the president to represent these matters
frankly to congress and to ask the opinion of his constitutional
advisers, as he subsequently did in the settlement of the dispute with
Great Britain. This prudent act would have saved the executive from
needless responsibility, whilst it indicated a sensitive devotion to the
behests of our constitution. Congress met whilst our troops were
encamped at Corpus Christi, as an army of observation, whose hostile,
though protective character, was unquestionable; yet our representatives
neither ordered its return nor refused it supplies. This denoted a
willingness to sanction measures which might either pacify Mexico, or
impose upon that republic the immediate alternative of war. It is not
improbable that congress would have adopted such a course, because,
according to the pretensions of Mexico, our troops had already invaded
her domains. This is an important view of the question which should not
be passed by silently. Mexico, it must be remembered, never relinquished
her right to reconquer Texas, but always claimed the _whole_ province as
her own, asserting a determination to regard its union with our
confederacy as justifiable cause of war. The joint-resolution, alone,
was therefore a belligerent act of the congress of the United States,
sufficient, according to the doctrine of Mexico, to compel hostile
retaliation. But, moreover, as the entire soil of Texas, from the Sabine
to the Nueces or Rio Grande was still claimed by Mexico as her
unsurrendered country, the landing of a single American soldier anywhere
south of our ancient boundary with Spain, was quite as hostile an
invasion of Mexican territory as the passage of our army from Corpus
Christi to Point Isabel.

Occasions upon which the eminent right of self protection has been
adopted as a principle of action in the United States, are not wanting
in our political history. The circumstances in all, are of course not
precisely the same, but the policy is identical. The conduct of our
government in regard to General Jackson's invasion of Florida for the
suppression of Indian cruelties may be referred to. But congress might
have found a still more analogous case, in the dispute between Spain and
the United States as to the eastern limits of Louisiana. Spain alleged
that Florida extended to the Mississippi, embracing what was then a
wilderness, but, now, forms the populous States of Alabama and
Mississippi; while our government asserted that all the territory
eastward of the Mississippi and extending to the Rio Perdido belonged of
right to us by virtue of the treaty concluded at Paris on the 30th of
April, 1803. By acts of congress in 1803 and 1804 the president was
authorized to take possession of the territory ceded by France, to
establish a provisional government, to lay duties on goods imported into
it; and, moreover, _whenever he deemed it expedient_, to erect the bay
and river Mobile into a separate district, in which he might establish a
port of entry and delivery.

In 1810, President Madison believing that the United States had too long
acquiesced in the temporary continuance of this territory under Spanish
domain, and that nothing was to be gained from Spain by candid
discussion and amicable negotiation for several years, solved the
difficulty by taking possession of Mobile and Baton Rouge and extending
our jurisdiction to the Perdido. This possession, he took means to
ensure, if needful, by military force. Mr. Madison's conduct was
assailed in congress by the federalists who regarded it as an
unjustifiable and offensive demonstration against Spain, but it was
defended with equal warmth by the opposition,--especially by Mr.
Clay,--and the Rio Perdido has ever since continued to form the western
limit of Florida.[96]

       *       *       *       *       *

When nations are about to undertake the dread responsibility of war, and
to spread the sorrow and ruin which always mark the pathway of
victorious or defeated armies, they should pause to contemplate the
enormity of their enterprise as well as the principles that can alone
justify them in the sight of God and man. Human life cannot be lawfully
destroyed, assailed or endangered for any other object than that of just
defence of person or principle, yet it is not a legal consequence that
defensive wars are always just.[97]

"It is the right of a State," said that profound moralist and statesman,
Sir James Mackintosh, "to take all measures necessary for her safety if
it be attacked or threatened from without: provided always that
reparation cannot otherwise be obtained; that there is a reasonable
prospect of obtaining it by arms; and that the evils of the contest are
not probably greater than the mischiefs of acquiescence in the wrong;
including, on both sides of the deliberation, the ordinary consequences
of the example as well as the immediate effects of the act. If
reparation can otherwise be obtained, a nation has no necessary, and
therefore no just cause of war; if there be no probability of obtaining
it by arms, a government cannot, with justice to their own nation,
embark it in war; and, if the evils of resistance should appear on the
whole greater than those of submission, wise rulers will consider an
abstinence from a pernicious exercise of right as a sacred duty to their
own subjects, and a debt which every people owes to the great
commonwealth of mankind, of which they and their enemies are alike
members. A war is just against the wrongdoer when reparation for wrong
cannot otherwise be obtained; but is then only conformable to all the
principles of morality when it is not likely to expose the nation by
whom it is levied to greater evils than it professes to avert, and when
it does not inflict on the nation which has done the wrong, sufferings
altogether disproportioned to the extent of the injury. When the rulers
of a nation are required to determine a question of peace or war, the
bare justice of their case against the wrongdoer never can be the sole,
and is not always the chief matter on which they are morally bound to
exercise a conscientious deliberation. Prudence in conducting the
affairs of their subjects is in them a part of justice."

These are the true principles by which Mexico should have judged the
controversy between us, before she rejected all our efforts to
negotiate, and forced our government to prepare for hostilities.

       *       *       *       *       *

The idea of war, for mere conquest, seems now to be obsolete among
civilized nations. To political dominion, as exhibited in the various
governments of the old world, and in most of the new, geographical
limits are definitely assigned. This fact must, hereafter, greatly
modify the objects of war, by narrowing them to _principles_ instead of
_territory_. Principles, however, are always the fair subjects of
controversy for the diplomatic art. Yet such is the perversity of human
nature, that, although we are convinced of the propriety and possibility
of adjusting our disputes by reason, we nevertheless go to war for
these very principles, and, after having done each other an incalculable
amount of injury, at last sit down like cripples, to negotiate the very
matters which ought to have been treated and terminated diplomatically
at first. It is, perhaps, the folly of mankind to believe that there is
more wisdom in negotiators and diplomacy when nations are lame and
weakened by war than when they are full of the vigorous energy and
intelligence of peace!

      NOTE.--It may be useful to record the following proclamation
      of General Woll, before annexation, in order to show, that
      the agreements between Santa Anna and the Texans in 1836, are
      not the only Mexican documents in existence which seemed to
      open the boundary question between Texas and Tamaulipas.


     "_Headquarters of the Army of the North, Mier, June 20, 1844._

      "I, Adrian Woll, general of brigade, &c., make known:

      "1. The armistice agreed on with the department of Texas
      having expired, and the war being, in consequence,
      recommenced against the inhabitants of that department, all
      communication with it ceases.

      "2. Every individual, of whatever condition, who may
      contravene provisions of the preceding article, shall be
      regarded as a traitor, and shall receive the punishment
      prescribed in article 45, title 10, treatise 8, of the
      articles of war.

      "3. _Every individual who may be found at the distance of
      one league from the left bank of the Rio Bravo, will be
      regarded as a favorer and accomplice of the usurpers of that
      part of the national territory, and as a traitor to his
      country; and, after a summary military trial, shall receive
      the said punishment._

      "4. Every individual who may be comprehended within the
      provisions of the preceding article, and may be rash enough
      to fly at the sight of any force belonging to the supreme
      government, shall be pursued until taken, or put to death.

      "5. In consideration of the situation of the towns of La
      Reda and Santa Rita de Ampudia, as well as of all the _farm
      houses beyond the Rio Bravo_, I have this day received, from
      the supreme government, orders to determine the manner by
      which those interested are to be protected; but, until the
      determination of the supreme government be received, I warn
      all those who are beyond the limits here prescribed, to
      bring them within the line, or to abandon them; as those who
      disobey this order, will infallibly suffer the punishment
      here established.

      ADRIAN WOLL.

FOOTNOTES:

[81] On the 15th of June, 1845, Mr. Bancroft, as acting secretary of
state, wrote to General Taylor as follows:

"The point of your ultimate destination is the western frontier of
Texas, where you will select and occupy, on or near the Rio Grande del
Norte, such a site as will consist with the health of the troops, and
will be best adapted to repel invasion, and to protect what, in the
event of annexation, will be our western border."

On the 30th of July, 1845, the secretary of war, Mr. Marcy, declared to
him that "the Rio Grande is claimed to be the boundary between the two
countries, and up to this boundary you are to extend your protection,
only excepting any posts on the eastern side thereof which are in the
actual occupancy of Mexican forces, or Mexican settlements over which
the republic of Texas did not exercise jurisdiction at the period of
annexation, or shortly before that event. It is expected that, in
selecting the establishment for your troops, you will approach as near
the boundary line--the Rio Grande--as prudence will dictate. With this
view, the President desires that your position, for a part of your
forces, at least, should be west of the river Nueces."

This, and even more forcible language, was repeated in letters from the
same source on the 23d and 30th of August, and on the 16th of October,
1845. In the last letter the secretary of war states distinctly that the
western boundary of Texas is the Rio Grande. See Senate doc. No. 337,
29th cong. 1st sess. pp. 75, 77, 80, 81, 82.

[82] That this was General Taylor's view of the question is proved by a
remark in his letter to General Ampudia on the 12th of April, 1846, on
being warned by that officer to break up his camp and to retire to the
other bank of the Nueces. General Taylor says: I need hardly advise you
that charged as I am, _in only a military capacity, with the performance
of specific duties, I cannot enter into a discussion of the
international question involved in the advance of the American
army_.--id. p. 124.

[83] See Senate Doc. No. 337, 29th cong. 1st sess. p. 99.

[84] Id. p. 75.

[85] Id. p. 82.

[86] American State papers, vol. 4, p. 468.

[87] Id. vol. 2, p. 662.

[88] As it may be important that the reader should understand the title
to Louisiana under which the boundary of the Rio Grande was claimed, the
following is a summary of its history. Louisiana originally belonged to
France, but by a secret compact between that country and Spain in 1762,
and by treaties, in the following year, between France, Spain, and
England, the French dominion was extinguished on all the continent of
America. In consequence of the treaty between this country and England
in 1783, the Mississippi became the western boundary of the United
States from its source to the 31° of north latitude, and thence, on the
same parallel to the St. Mary's. France, it will be remembered, always
had _claimed_ dominion in Louisiana to the Rio Bravo or Rio Grande, by
virtue

1st. Of the discovery of the Mississippi from near its source to the
ocean.

2d. _Of the possession taken, and establishment made by La Salle, at the
bay of St. Bernard, west of the rivers Trinity and Colorado, by
authority of Louis XIV, in 1685_; notwithstanding the subsequent
destruction of the colony.

3d. Of the charter of Louis XIV, to Crozat in 1712.

4th. The historical authority of Du Pratz, Champigny, and the Count de
Vergennes.

5th. Of the authority of De Lisle's map, and of the map published in
1762 by Don Thomas Lopez, _geographer to the king of Spain_, as well as
of various other maps, atlases, and geographical and historical
authorities.

By an article of the secret treaty of San Ildefonso, in October, 1800,
Spain retroceded Louisiana to France; yet this treaty was not
promulgated till the beginning of 1802. The paragraph of cession is as
follows: "His Catholic majesty engages to retrocede to the French
republic, six months after the full and entire execution of the
conditions and stipulations above recited relative to his Royal
Highness, the Duke of Parma, the colony and province of Louisiana, with
the same extent that it already has in the hands of Spain, _and that it
had when France possessed it_, and such as it should be, after the
treaties passed subsequently between Spain and other powers." In 1803,
Bonaparte, the first consul of the French republic, ceded Louisiana to
the United States, as fully and in the same manner as it had been
retroceded to France by Spain in the treaty of San Ildefonso; and, by
virtue of this grant, Messieurs Madison, Monroe, Adams, Clay, Van Buren,
and Jackson contended that the original limits of the state had been the
Rio Grande. However, by the 3rd article of our treaty with Spain in
1819, all our pretensions to extend the territory of Louisiana towards
Mexico or the Rio Grande, were resigned and abandoned by adopting the
River Sabine as our southern confine in that quarter. See Lyman's
diplomacy of the United States. Vol. 1, p. 368, and vol. 2, p. 136.

The following extract from a valuable letter with which the author was
favored by Ex-President Adams, who, as secretary of state, conducted the
negotiations with Spain, will explain his opinions and acts upon a
subject of so much importance.

      QUINCY, 7th July, 1847.

       *       *       *       *       *

      "Whoever sets out with an inquiry respecting the right of
      territories in the American hemisphere claimed by Europeans,
      must begin by settling certain conventional principles of
      right and wrong before he can enter upon the discussion.

      "For example what right had Columbus to Cat Island,
      otherwise called Guanahani? Who has the right to it now and
      how came they by it? The flag of St. George and the Dragon
      now waves over it; but who had the right to take possession
      of it because Christopher Columbus found it,--the paltriest
      island in the midst of the ocean. European statesmen,
      warriors, and writers on what are called the laws of
      nations, have laid down a system of laws upon which they
      found this right. Have the Carribee Indians, in whose
      possession that Island was discovered by Columbus, ever
      assented to that system of right and wrong?

      "You remember that Hume, in commencing his history of
      England by the Roman conquest says--"that without seeking
      any more justifiable reasons of hostility than were employed
      by the later Europeans in subjecting the Africans and the
      Americans, they sent over an army under the command of
      Plautius, an able general, who gained some victories, and
      made a considerable progress in subduing the inhabitants."
      Then, no European has ever had any better right to take
      possession of America, than Julius Cæsar and the Romans had
      to take possession of the island of Britain.

      "What then was the right either of France or Spain to the
      possession of the province of Texas? To come to any question
      of right between the parties upon the subject you must agree
      upon certain conventional principles: where and when your
      question of right must become applicable to the facts; and,
      as between them, it was a disputed question, and had been so
      from the discovery of the mouth of the Mississippi river by
      La Salle, and from his second expedition to find the mouth
      of the Mississippi coming from the ocean, in which he
      perished.

      "Spain had prior claims to the country, but the claim of
      France was founded upon the last voyage of La Salle, and by
      extending a supposed derivative right, from the spot where
      La Salle landed half way to the nearest Spanish settlement.

      "Mr. Monroe and Mr. Charles Pinckney, in their
      correspondence with Cevallos, assumed this as a settled
      principle between European nations, in the discussion of
      right to American territory. It was not contested, but was
      not assented to on the part of Spain; and, having found it
      laid down by Messieurs Monroe and Pinckney, I argued upon
      it, and it was never directly answered by Don Luis De Onis,
      who could not controvert it without going to the Pope's
      Bull.[89]

      "As between France and Spain therefore, I maintained that
      the question of right, had always been disputed and never
      was settled, from which opinion I have not since varied.
      That we had a shadow of right beyond the Sabine I never
      believed since the conclusion of the Florida treaty, and, it
      is from the date of that treaty, that Great Britain had not
      a shadow of right upon the Oregon territory until we have
      been pleased to confer it upon her."

       *       *       *       *       *

      "I am, dear sir, with great respect, your very obedient
      servant,

      J. Q. ADAMS."

      To BRANTZ MAYER, ESQ., Baltimore."


[89] Alexander VIth's Bull of Donation.

[90] See "Matthew Carey's general map of the world,"--29th
map--published 1814.--Kennedy's Texas, p. 4.--Mrs. Holley's
Texas.--History of Texas, by D. B. Edwards, preceptor of Gonzales
Seminary, Texas, 1836, p. 14. He says:--"Texas is bounded on the north
by Red river, which divides it from Arkansas, Ozark District, and New
Mexico; on the south by the Gulf of Mexico and the Rio de las Nueces,
_which divides it from the States of Coahuila and Tamaulipas_; on the
east by the eastern branch of the river Sabine and the State of
Louisiana; on the west by the State of Coahuila and the territory of New
Mexico."

Accompanying the work is a map of Texas with boundaries, as laid down
above. In a note on one corner of the map, speaking of the Rio Grande,
he says: "_If_ this river should ever become the western boundary of
Texas (as desired by the inhabitants) it will add a hundred miles to its
sea-coast and fifty thousand square miles to its superficies; the
southern section of the surface is sandy, barren prairie, almost
destitute of water; and its northern rocky, sterile mountains, nearly as
destitute of timber."

[91] Primera Campaña de Tejas: by Ramon Martinez Caro, secretary of
Santa Anna, pp. 122, 125.

[92] Mr. Donelson wrote to Mr. Buchanan on the 2d July, 1845, from
Washington, Texas, as follows: "_My position is_ that we can hold Corpus
Christi and all other points up the Nueces. If attacked, the right of
defence will authorise us to expel the Mexicans to the Rio Grande. It is
better for us to await the attack than incur the risk of embarrassing
the question of annexation with the consequences of immediate possession
of the territory on the Rio Grande. * * * The government left for treaty
arrangement the boundary question in the propositions for a definitive
treaty of peace. H. of R. doc. No. 2, 29th cong. 1st sess. pp. 78, 79.

[93] I am informed by Mr. Parrott, the secretary of legation who
accompanied Mr. Slidell, that no form of letters of credence--or
evidence of powers as "_commissioner to settle the Texan dispute_,"
would have secured a hearing for our envoy. The mob, the army, and
Paredes were determined that no missionary of peace should be received
from the United States.

[94] The _claim_ of Frederick the IInd to Silesia was considered
_plausible_. As Bohemia renounced not only the possession, but all its
rights to Silesia by the treaties of Breslau and Berlin and other
subsequent treaties, the kings of Prussia pretended, that by virtue of
the renunciation, they became sovereign dukes of the country and not
subject to the emperor in their new character. To this claim it was
replied that Bohemia being an imperial State, could not, of its own
authority, destroy the feudal tenure by which Silesia was attached to
it, and through it to the empire. The question was rendered more
intricate, for one party considered Bohemia feudal only as to the
electoral dignity, but as a kingdom free and independent of Germany. The
Germans argued that Silesia was part of the empire, the Prussians
considered it a separate and independent State. Frederick took advantage
of these "state right" doctrines to sustain his claim, as Texas took
advantage of her state right sovereignty when the central despotism of
Santa Anna overthrew the federal constitution of 1824.

[95] Arnold's fourth lecture on Modern History.

[96] Waite's State papers, 1809-11, p. 261; and Clay's speech on the
line of the Perdido.

[97] Pufendorf, Lib. VIII, c. 6.--Note by Barbeyrac.



CHAPTER III.

Army marches from Corpus Christi--Taylor prepares the Mexicans for his
     advance--Description of the march--Beautiful prairie and desolate
     sand wilderness--Rattlesnakes--Chapparal--The Arroyo Colorado--First
     hostile demonstrations of the Mexicans--Expected fight--Cross the
     Colorado--Worth and Taylor separate--True nature of discipline--
     Characters of Mexican and American soldiers contrasted.


On the 8th of March, 1846, the joyous news ran through the American
camp, at Corpus Christi, that the tents were at last to be struck. The
worn out soldiery had nothing to regret in quitting a spot where their
eyes were only relieved by looking from the dreary sea in front to the
desolate prairie in the rear. General Taylor had already taken means to
prepare the Mexicans for his advance, although he scarcely expected
resistance. Respectable citizens from Matamoros had frequently visited
his camp; and to all of those who were represented as possessing
influence at home he proclaimed the unhostile feelings of our government
towards their country, and that when our army marched southward it would
not pass the Rio Grande unless Mexico provoked war. He invariably
apprized these strangers of his resolution to protect the peaceful
inhabitants in all their rights and usages, as well as to pay for every
thing needed by his forces instead of plundering the country for
support.

Accordingly, on the morning of the 8th of the month, the advanced guard,
composed of the cavalry and Major Ringgold's light artillery,--the
whole under the command of Colonel Twiggs, and numbering twenty-three
officers and three hundred and eighty-seven men,--took up its line of
march towards Matamoros. This corps was succeeded by the brigades of
infantry, the last of which departed on the 11th followed immediately by
the commander in chief with his staff. The weather was favorable; the
roads in tolerable order; the troops in good condition notwithstanding
the winter's hardships; while a general spirit of animation pervaded the
whole body, inspired as it was with the hope of adventure in the
neighborhood of an enemy. All, therefore, departed on this day from
Corpus Christi by land, except the command of Major Monroe, who was to
reach the Brazos de Santiago in transports under convoy of the United
States brig Porpoise and the Woodbury. This officer was to embark with a
siege train and field battery, in season to reach his destination when
the army would be in the vicinity of Point Isabel.

The last adieus of our forces to their dreary winter quarter were by no
means tearful, as with colors flying and music playing, they crossed the
sandy hills that concealed it forever from their sight. The first day's
march passed through alternate patches of prairies and timber to the
Nueces; but, on the two next, these sad wastes were exchanged for
splendid fields blossoming with flowers of every hue. A delicious
fragrance filled the air, and the whole surface of the earth as far as
the eye could reach, seemed covered with a beautiful carpet. The edge of
the horizon, in every direction, was crowded with wild animals. On one
side thousands of mustangs curvetted over the gentle elevations of the
rolling prairie; on another herds of deer might be seen standing for a
moment filled with wonder at the unwonted sight of human beings, and
then bounding off until they were lost in the vast distance. Beautiful
antelopes, nimble as the wind, were beheld in countless numbers, while
pecarys and wild bulls rushed in droves across the path of our men. But,
on the fourth day of the march, this scene of enchantment suddenly
vanished. Uncultivated prairies and immense herds of savage beasts had
already testified the abandoned state of the country; yet the region our
forces now entered disclosed the frightful "nakedness of the land." The
water became exceedingly bad, and there was scarcely fuel enough for
culinary purposes. The blooming vegetation of the preceding days was
exchanged for sands through which the weary men and cattle toiled with
extreme difficulty. Salt lagunes spread out on every side. At each step
the fatigued soldier plunged ankle-deep in the yielding soil, while a
scorching sun shone over him and not a breath of air relieved his
sufferings. At times, a verdant forest loomed up along the heated
horizon, fringed by limpid lakes, and our wearied columns moved on
gaily, cheated, again and again, by the hope of shade and water.
Suddenly the beautiful groves dwindled into jagged clumps of thorns or
aloes, and the fairy lakes changed to salt and turbid lagunes. "The
wormwood star had fallen on every thing and turned the waters to
bitterness." The plant whose piercing spines and sword-like leaves have
entitled it to the name of the "Spanish bayonet," was the hermit shrub
of this dreadful Zaharah. Around its roots the snakes lurked and
crawled. Whenever the soldiers' path was unimpeded by these annoyances,
scarifying his limbs as he advanced, the ground seemed heated and
sinking like the _scoriæ_ of Vesuvius. Man and beast sank exhausted
and panting on the earth. The want and value of delicious water are
never known till we pass a day like this under the burning rays of a
tropical sun, toiling on foot over a scorched and arid soil without
refreshment! At length the word ran along the line that it was
approaching a lake whose waters were not salt. "Under the excitement of
hope the faint and exhausted infantry pressed onward with renewed life,
while, some miles ahead, the artillery were seen to halt enjoying the
luxury of _water_. As the soldiers reached it all discipline was
forgotten; their arms were thrown down, and they rushed boldly in,
thrusting their heads beneath the waves in their desire to quench the
thirst that was consuming their vitals."[98]

Such is the natural aspect and character of the desolate region between
the Nueces and the Rio Grande,--a chequered wilderness of sand and
verdure,--fit only for the wild beasts that inhabit it, and properly
described in former days, as a suitable frontier between the great
republics of North America.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the 21st of March, all our forces concentrated on the Arroyo
Colorado,--a salt stream or lagune nearly one hundred yards broad, and
so deep as to be scarcely fordable,--situated about thirty miles north
of Matamoros. Had the enemy attacked us here his assault would have been
formidable, wearied as were our troops with the distressing marches of
previous days. Bold, bluff banks, twenty or thirty feet high, hem in the
stream, whose borders, on both sides, are lined, for a considerable
breadth, with impervious thickets of _chapparal_. These thorny groves
are to be found in all sections of the south, varying in size from a few
yards to a mile in thickness, so closely interlaced and matted with
briers and bushes as to prevent the passage of animals larger than a
hare. They are the sorest annoyances of travellers in Mexico, and often
force the wayfarer to make a long circuit to pass their limits, though
they reward him for his trouble by supplying an abundance of the
_tuna_--a luscious fruit of the prickly pear,--which grows luxuriantly
on these natural and impenetrable walls.

Such, with the barrier of the stream, was the fortification nature had
interposed for the safe guard of Mexico at the Arroyo Colorado. But the
inert natives seemed indisposed to take advantage of those rare
defences, though not without some hostile demonstration which the
resolute conduct of Taylor soon overcame.

When our advanced corps encamped near the banks of the stream on the
19th, an armed _reconnoisance_ was sent forward to examine the country.
On reaching the river, our scouts discovered that the opposite side was
lined with a body of _ranchero_ cavalry, from whom they learned,
although no opposition was made to our examination of the ford, that we
should be treated as enemies if we attempted to pass it. Impossible as
it was to ascertain accurately the amount of the opposing force, our men
were prepared for the worst, and, at an early hour of the 20th, the
cavalry and first brigade of infantry were thrown in position, at the
ford, while the batteries of field artillery were formed so as to sweep
the opposite bank. All was now anxiety and eagerness among our gallant
men. Far along the borders of the river, above and below, the bugles of
the enemy were heard ringing out in the clear morning air. But the hope
of frightening our men by overwhelming numbers was of no avail. Our
pioneers worked steadily on the road they were cutting to the brink of
the river; and, when all was ready for the passage, the adjutant general
of the Mexican forces appeared on the ground for a final effort of
intimidation. With Spanish courtesy, he informed our general that
positive orders were given to his men to fire upon our forces if they
attempted to cross, and that our passage of the river would be
considered a declaration of war. At the same time he placed in Taylor's
hands a warlike proclamation issued by Mejia at Matamoros on the 18th,
containing unequivocal manifestations of the intention of the Mexicans
to molest us.

Our commander-in-chief, however, was not to be deterred by these threats
from the fulfilment of the orders he had received to pass the Rio
Grande. He answered the officer that he would "_immediately_ cross the
river, and that if his hostile party showed itself on the other bank
after our passage was commenced, it would unquestionably receive the
fire of our artillery." In the meantime the second brigade, which had
encamped some miles in our rear, came up and formed on the extreme
right; and, as the road to the river bank was by this time completed,
the order to advance was given.

It was a moment of intense excitement. What forces might not lurk behind
the dense walls of _chapparal_, ready to dash upon our ranks as they
deployed on the other side? Our artillerists stood to their aimed and
loaded guns. The Mexicans were doubtless eager and panting for
resistance in the rear of the bristling plants that lined the lofty
parapet of the river's bank. Every eye was strained upon the first
daring rank that was to plunge into the stream as a "forlorn hope."
Mexico would fight now if ever; for her mettle was as yet untried! For
an instant, profound silence reigned along the anxious line which the
next moment might be involved in the fire of battle. Suddenly the
gallant Worth spurred to the head of our troops, and dashing boldly into
the flood, waved them on to the further shore. But not a shot was fired
by the recreant foe, and as our men rose shouting from the water and
rushed up the steeps of the opposite bank they beheld the valiant
Mexicans in brisk retreat towards Matamoros! The fugitives were
unmolested;--a laugh of scorn and pity ran through our ranks;--and,
before nightfall, the first and second brigades of infantry, with a
train of two hundred wagons had crossed the stream and encamped three
miles from its banks.

This was an important affair, as it was the first in which the Mexicans
showed themselves in a decidedly hostile attitude; and it furnished an
excellent opportunity to try the mettle of our men both in spirit and
discipline. Not a soldier faltered.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the morning of the 23d of March, General Taylor departed with his
whole army from the camp near the Colorado. After a march of fifteen
miles he reached, on the 24th, a position on the route from Matamoros to
Point Isabel,--distant about eighteen miles from the former and ten from
the latter,--where he left the infantry brigades under the command of
General Worth, with instructions to press on in the direction of
Matamoros until a suitable position for encampment was obtained, at
which he might halt, holding the route in observation, whilst the
commander-in-chief proceeded with the cavalry to Point Isabel. At that
post General Taylor expected to meet the transports from Corpus Christi
with the force under Major Monroe, and to make the necessary
arrangements for the establishment and defence of a depot.

As soon as the army left the Colorado a new object, of more interest in
natural history than military memoirs, presented itself to the notice of
our troops. The soil was covered with a long wiry grass among which
glided immense numbers of huge rattlesnakes, more appalling to our
soldiers than the Mexicans. The country literally swarmed with serpents.
From the Colorado to within a few miles of Point Isabel their warning
rattle was heard on all sides. They crept between the ranks as our men
marched through the long herbage, and at night coiled themselves
comfortably under their blankets for warmth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Familiar as we are with the campaigns of Frederick and Napoleon, and
willing to record as classical the great deeds of the old world's
heroes, we are still often loath to do justice to the brave men in our
own country who have served the State so zealously in Florida and
Mexico. It is not simple bravery in battle that commends a soldier to
admiration, for few are cowards when the excitement of action hurries
them headlong among their foes amid the shouts and thunder of actual
carnage. But it is the preparatory discipline that tests a military
character. The camp and the march are the soldier's training. The dreary
winter-quarter passed in patient service, and the wearying advance over
burning plains or snowy mountains, are the real touchstones of courage,
and prove those powers of _endurance and subordination_ which make
resistance staunch and stubborn. These are the sources of discipline;
and it was with troops that had borne the winter hardships at Corpus
Christi, I have described, and made the short but arduous march to Point
Isabel, that Taylor felt sure of victory. They had encountered
extraordinary fatigue, and yet were ready at a moment's notice for
battle without flinching. With such schooling an army becomes a gigantic
instrument moving with the accuracy of clock-work, put in motion by the
general's genius. It can endure as well as perform all he requires, and
he knows that the result of a battle depends alone on his numbers, his
position, or his individual skill in military combination. The common
soldier and the officer thus react upon each other, and the electric
chain of mutual _confidence_ makes success an impulse.

The American and the Mexican soldier are essentially different, though
both, according to the report of distinguished officers, are almost
equally brave. In the anglo-saxon race bravery is the balance between
prudence and courage, exercised with an indomitable resolution to
achieve a desired end. The American soldier is fearless, yet he values
life and seeks to protect it. His object is to subdue or slay his foe,
still he determines to avoid, if possible, a fatal catastrophe. This
renders him intrepid while it teaches the importance of discipline and
obedience to resolute and skilful officers. He perceives at once the
object to be secured or the thing to be done, and he marches on with the
mingled caution and spirit requisite for success.

It may be said that a certain degree of timidity is necessary in every
balanced character in order to ensure reflection, for natural courage,
unaided by sensitiveness, would render it rash. But the Mexican soldier
seems to be guided by a different system, and to be brave without either
prudence or enduring discipline. He is trained in manoeuvres; and,
believing that when he masters his manual he is equal to all military
emergencies, he supposes that a battle is little more than a parade. As
Mexican troops are rather political engines, designed for the domestic
police of cities, than for actual service in the field, the soldier is
more of a plaything than a tool or weapon. Vague, ideal notions of Roman
patriotism, are infused into his mind by the demagogues of the army in
bombastic proclamations, and he imagines it better to perish than
surrender to his foe. But this murderous doctrine of "revenge or death"
serves rather to animate him _before_ battle than to carry him steadily
through its perils. He has the ability to perceive the beauty of
abstract virtue, but lacks the sustained energy, the profound
endurance, to realize it. He rushes onward without deliberation, or
regard of consequences. An international war is, in his estimation, a
personal not a political quarrel. A brutal ferocity marks every headlong
movement, and deprives him of the control of reason. Besides this,
_life_, has not the same value to a Mexican as to an American warrior,
for the objects and hopes of their lives are incapable of comparison.
One lives for practical liberty and progress, the other's existence is a
mere strife for bread under military despotism. A Mahomedan
fatalism--derived, perhaps, from his Moorish kindred--tinges the nature
of a Mexican, and the impulsive blood of a tropical climate subjects him
almost exclusively to his instincts. Hence Spanish wars have been long
and sanguinary butcheries, while their civil dissensions are the feted
ferment of corruption.

The Mexican, hot and fretful in controversy, is ever quick and sometimes
secret, in ridding himself of his foe;--the American is equally prompt
with his pistol, but gives his insulting enemy an equal chance. A sudden
conflict with knives ends a Spanish rencontre or dispute; while periods
of deliberation and cool arrangements precede the fatal field between
our countrymen. The American officer is scientifically educated in
military schools and _leads_ his men to battle. The Mexican is ignorant
of all but ordinary drills, and either _follows_ his impulsive
squadrons, or, flies at the approach of personal danger. The one has
nerve and endurance, the other impulse and passion; hence, while the
Mexican strikes his blow and retreats to his lair if foiled, the
American, equally unchanged by victory or defeat, moves onward with
indomitable purpose until his object is successfully accomplished. The
one dwindles too often into the cruel assassin or relentless
persecutor,--the other, as frequently, attains the dignity of a clement
hero.

These general observations apply, of course, only to the masses, for
truly brave and patriotic men exist in all countries, and nowhere are
the examples of heroic qualities more conspicuous than among the Spanish
races. The fault lies more in temperament than in soul. An equipoise
between intellect and passion is alone deficient in the nature of the
Mexican people, for the savage has not been entirely extirpated from the
mingled blood of Indian and Spaniard.

When the remarkable energy of men, born in genial climates, is tempered
by self restraint, it produces that urbane and chivalrous character
which once made war the school of gentlemen. But the modern ideas of
liberty and patriotism have deprived standing armies of all exclusive
claim to national protection; and, as long as each citizen feels that
the defence of his native land or of his country's rights depends upon
himself, the volunteer as well as the regular will be prompt to
discharge his military duty with skill, alacrity and irresistible
resolution.

FOOTNOTES:

[98] Army on the Rio Grande, p. 13.



CHAPTER IV.

Character of Mexican diplomacy--Genius of the Spanish language--Paredes's
     proclamation--Hostilities authorized by him--Taylor goes to Isabel--
     Description of the Brasos St. Jago and Point Isabel--burning of the
     custom-house--Made a depot and fortified--Taylor and Worth unite and
     plant the American flag opposite Matamoros--Worth's interview with
     La Vega and Césares--Fruitless efforts of our generals to establish
     amity--Description of the country round Matamoros--appearance of the
     town.


The qualities which characterize the Mexican soldier, as described in
the last chapter, mark also the statesman of that country. Their loud
and vain-glorious professions of resolve; their bombastic proclamations;
their short, passionate and revolutionary governments; their personal
rivalries and universal anarchy, denote impulsive tempers utterly
incapable of sustained self-rule or resistance. To those who are
familiar with Mexican history, this is not a novel fact, yet it has been
astonishingly manifested in the war between our countries. It would be a
tedious task to recount the various manifestos and despatches that were
written to control and satisfy public sentiment in regard to the pending
difficulties. Diplomacy is the weapon of weak powers, and the pen is a
most important implement when defeat, inaction or incompetency are to be
excused to the Mexicans. There is something perhaps in the genius of the
Spanish language that renders it peculiarly appropriate to appease the
vanity of those who speak it. The natural vehicle of eloquence, its
magic words, its magnificent phrases and its sonorous sentences march
along in solemn and pompous procession, and compel the attention of
every listener. Simple sentiments, clothed in the expressions of this
beautiful tongue assume new and striking shapes, and the judgment is
charmed or swayed by sympathy with the ear.

The statesmen of Mexico are aware of these extraordinary advantages, and
whether they have to account for a lost battle, tranquillize a
passionate mob, or satisfy an importunate _diplomat_, they are equally
ready to resort to the armory of their resounding language for defence.

We have already seen that Paredes overthrew Herrera's administration by
means of the Texan question and opposition to negotiation with our
government. When General Taylor advanced towards the Rio Grande this
chieftain was still president and quite as unable to fulfil the promises
to repel us as his predecessors had been in 1844 and 1845. Feeling,
under the peculiar views of the controversy they entertained, that the
honor of their country required our expulsion from Texas, they had
announced and pledged this auspicious result to the people. But at the
moment when all these extraordinary boasts were made, they were,
doubtless, designed only to serve a temporary purpose, under the hope
that some fortuitous circumstance might occur which would exonerate them
from war. I have heretofore stated that the Mexicans were encouraged in
resistance by the belief of impending difficulties with England. In
addition to this, Paredes probably relied on foreign interference in
consequence of his monarchical schemes; nor was it until the spring and
summer of 1846, that all these prospects were blighted by the energetic
course of our senate and the discretion the British cabinet in regard to
Oregon. But it was then too late to retreat, for hostilities had already
commenced.

Loud as were the Mexicans in their fulminations against our alleged
usurpation, I am inclined to believe they never seriously contemplated
the invasion of Texas, but hoped either to let the question sleep for
many years in the portfolios of negotiators whilst a rigorous
non-intercourse was preserved, or to solicit, finally, the mediatorial
influence of Great Britain and France in order to prevent war if our
congress intimated a disposition to declare it. This opinion is founded
upon the remarkable proclamation issued in Mexico on the 21st of March,
1846, by General Paredes.[99] His language is still decided in regard to
Mexican rights over Texas; but he asserts that "_the authority to
declare war against the United States is not vested in him_," and that
the congress of the nation, which is about to assemble, must consider
what is necessary in the approaching conflict. This proclamation was
issued in the capital after it was known that our army was advancing to
the Rio Grande, and on the very day when Mr. Slidell's passports were
sent him at Jalapa by the Mexican government. But between the 21st of
March and the 23d of April the provisional president's opinion of his
rights underwent a change, for, on that day, he published another
proclamation in which he asserts that he had "sent orders to the general
in chief of the division of the northern frontier to _act in hostility_
against the army which is in hostility against us; to oppose war to the
enemy which wars upon us;" though, in conclusion, he announces that
still he "does _not declare war_ against the government of the United
States of America."[100] Thus, under the masked name of _hostilities,
the Mexican government authorised the first warlike blows to be struck_,
because, as it alleged, we had invaded the national domain by marching
to Matamoros. It was the forced realization of all those gasconading
manifestos, which for the last two years had breathed war and defiance
against the United States. Such, then, was the actual origin of the
collision, for the troops and officers of General Taylor religiously
abstained from acts of military violence, and confined themselves
exclusively to the defence of the territory they were directed to hold.
That mere _protection_ was the undoubted purpose of our government, will
not be questioned by the reader when he recollects the smallness of our
army, and its entire want of preparation to molest or invade a nation of
more than seven millions of inhabitants.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the last chapter, General Taylor was left on his way to Point Isabel,
while Worth moved in the direction of Matamoros.[101] During the march
of our column towards the sea shore it was approached, on its right
flank, by a party of Mexicans bearing a white flag, which proved to be a
civil deputation from Matamoros desiring an interview with the
commander-in-chief. General Taylor apprised the representatives of
Tamaulipas that he would halt at the first suitable place on the road to
afford them a reception; but it was found necessary to pass on to Point
Isabel without delay in consequence of the want of water elsewhere on
the route. The deputation, however, declined accompanying our forces
towards their destination, and halting a few miles from the Point, sent
a formal protest of the prefect of the northern district of Tamaulipas
against our occupation of the disputed country. At this moment it was
discovered that the buildings of Point Isabel were in flames. The
retreating Mexicans had set fire to the edifices to prevent our
occupation; and, as General Taylor considered this a direct and
vexatious evidence of hostility, and was unwilling to be trifled with by
the tools of the military authorities of Matamoros, he dismissed the
deputation with the information that he would answer the protest when he
was opposite the city.

The cavalry was forthwith pushed on to the burning town in time to
arrest the fire which consumed but three or four houses; yet the
inhabitants had already fled, and the officer, who committed the
incendiary act under the orders, it is said, of General Mejia, was
nowhere to be found.

As our troops entered the village they were gratified to find that the
transports from Corpus Christi had exactly answered their land movement,
and that the steamers had arrived in the harbor with the convoy close in
their rear, only a few hours before our forces entered from the desert.
General Taylor immediately directed the engineers to examine the ground
with a view of tracing lines of defence and strengthening a position,
which he decided should form the great depot of our forces.

       *       *       *       *       *

Point Isabel is approached from the sea through the Brazos de Santiago.
It is a wild and desolate sea coast, defended by bars and strewn with
wrecks. In former years, a small Mexican village and fort, containing a
couple of cannons, stood upon the Brazos Point, but during one of those
terrific storms which ravage the Mexican coast, the sea rose above the
frail barrier of shifting sand, and when the tempest subsided, it was
discovered that the village and fortification had been engulfed beneath
the waves. Few places are more inhospitable on the American coast than
the bar of Brazos. There is no friendly shore under whose protecting lee
ships may seek safety during the awful hurricanes that so often descend
upon them without a moment's warning. But when a vessel has fairly
passed the entrance, she moves along securely over the waters of the
bay, and anchors under cover of the sand hills to the left whilst her
passengers and freight are landed in boats or lighters.

On a bluff promontory jutting out into the bay and sloping gradually
inland, stands the village of Isabel. Its houses denoted the character
of its people. The spars of wrecked vessels, a few reeds, and the
_debris_ of a stormy shore, thatched with grass and sea weed, formed the
materials of which they were built, while a vagabond race, fifty or
sixty in number, constituted the official but smuggling population,
which was prepared to protect the revenue of Mexico or receive bribes
from contrabandists, as their interests might dictate. A certain Señor
Rodriguez was the captain of this important port at the period of our
occupation; and, being a person equally ready to take pay from importers
or exporters of goods as well as to receive further compensation for
concealing his roguery from the government, he deemed it his duty, as a
faithful officer, to destroy the custom house by the conflagration that
incensed General Taylor against the prefect of Tamaulipas.[102] Such
was Point Isabel and its vagrant inhabitants, when abandoned to our
forces, and adopted as a depot.

       *       *       *       *       *

While the engineers were engaged in fortifying a position, which was
soon to become of so much importance in the war, General Taylor rejoined
the division under Worth's command, and on the morning of the 28th of
March, the order was given for all the columns to advance towards
Matamoros. At half past six the movement began. The arms were closely
inspected, and every man was directed to be on the alert in case of
sudden attack. Yet no symptom of fear was exhibited in our ranks, while
the squadrons pressed on gaily, with merry songs and pleasant chat.
About a mile from the Rio Grande they saw the first house on their route
of more than one hundred and fifty miles from Corpus Christi. The dark
eyed Mexicans were lounging with apparent indifference about their
doors, and returned civil answers to our inquiries. Soon after, the city
of Matamoros came in sight; and, with bands playing, and regimental
colors flying to the wind, we arrived opposite the town at noon. From
the head quarters of General Mejia, the Mexican standard was displayed,
and, in a short time a temporary flagstaff, prepared by the eighth
regiment, under the superintendence of Lieut. Col. Belknap, was raised
aloft bearing the American ensign; but no other manifestation of joy was
given than by the national airs which were pealed forth from our
regimental bands. The moment our flag was displayed, it was saluted,
from Matamoros, by the _consulate_ flags of France and England; while
the absence of our own banner from the opposite shore denoted the
departure or restraint of the commercial representative of our
Union.[103]

As soon as our colors were raised on the eastern bank of the Rio
Grande, General Worth and his staff descended to the water's edge,
bearing a white flag and a communication from the commander-in-chief,
announcing formally the purpose of our advance to the dividing stream.
General Taylor believed that this would be the means either of
establishing friendly relations between the posts, or of eliciting the
final decision of the Mexican government. As soon as Worth and his
companions were perceived from the opposite bank two cavalry officers
crossed with an interpreter. After some delay in parleying, it was
announced that General La Vega would receive our messenger on the right
bank of the river, to which he immediately passed, accompanied by his
aid-de-camp Lieutenant Smith, and Lieutenants Magruder, Deas, and Blake,
attached to his staff, and Lieutenant Knowlton as interpreter.

On arriving at the Mexican quarters, General Worth was courteously
received by La Vega and introduced to Don Juan Garza, _oficial de
defensores_, and to the _Licenciado_ Césares, who represented the
authorities of Matamoros. La Vega informed General Worth that he had
been directed to receive such communications as might be presented, and
accompanied his tender with the remark that the march of the United
States troops through a portion of Tamaulipas was considered by his
country as an act of war.

This was no time to discuss the international question, and Worth,
properly refraining from conversation upon so vexatious a topic,
proceeded, as an act of courtesy, to read the open document he bore,
which he afterwards withdrew inasmuch as it had not been received
personally by General Mejia the commander-in-chief at Matamoros.

A demand to see our consul was refused by the Mexicans, and although we
learned that he was not under restraint but still continued in the
exercise of his official duties, all communication with that
functionary was peremptorily denied. Thus terminated, unsatisfactorily,
another effort on our part to employ diplomacy in the establishment of
harmonious feelings with the local authorities of Matamoros; and
notwithstanding General Worth was assured that "Mexico had not declared
war against the Union," and that "the countries were still at peace," he
returned to the American camp with gloomy forebodings for the
future.[104]

       *       *       *       *       *

If there was little to hope from the people of Mexico, or little
attractive in the prospect of social intercourse between the camp and
town, there was much to gratify the eye of our fatigued soldiers in the
scenery that lay before them. On their long and toilsome march they had
been relieved from the dreary wastes of Texas as soon as they beheld the
blue haze hanging over the distant windings of the Rio Grande. The city
of Matamoros, as seen from the opposite side of the river, skirts the
stream for more than a mile with its neat and comfortable dwellings. As
the trade of this town is chiefly carried on with the interior, there
has been no need of encroaching with wharves and walls on the margin of
the river. Hence the city is somewhat removed from the banks, and
embowered amid extensive groves and gardens, from the midst of whose
luxuriant foliage its towers and dwellings rise in broken but graceful
lines. There is but little timber near the river, which traverses
beautiful prairies as it approaches the sea. The hand of culture has
taken these waving meadows under its protection; and, on all sides the
landscape is dotted with abundant vegetation. The grass covered banks
are screened by shrubbery or grazed by cattle; while the stream, winding
along in easy curves, is so narrow near the city that conversation may
be easily carried on from its opposite sides. "The rich verdure of the
shores,--the cultivated gardens scattered around,--the clustering fig
and pomegranate trees," contrasted with the desert through which our
troops had passed, converted this land into a scene of enchantment. The
fatigued soldiers were repaid for all their toils. Existence, alone, in
so beautiful a climate and with such delicious prospects, was sufficient
recompense for our men, and they gazed with delight at the hostile shore
as martial _don_ and gay _donzella_ poured out in crowds from the walls
of Matamoros to behold the foreign flag and the bold intruders clustered
beneath its folds.

FOOTNOTES:

[99] See Mexico as it was, &c., 4th ed. p. 407.

[100] Diario oficial--April 24.

[101] I desire it may be remembered that the important facts related by
me in regard to our military and diplomatic movements are all given upon
the authority of official papers published by congress. The reader who
wishes to verify them will do well to provide himself with the volumes
of executive documents, for I shall not deem it necessary to incumber
the margins of my pages with continual references. I have been
scrupulously accurate in all my quotations from American authorities,
and have observed the same course in regard to the Mexican reports,
proclamations and manifestos. See especially, (for this volume,) Senate
doc. No. 337, 29th cong. 1st sess.--H. of R. doc. No. 197, id.--Senate
doc. No. 378, id.--Senate doc. No 388, id.--H. of R. doc. No. 4, 29th
cong. 2d sess.--H. of R. doc. No. 19, id.--H. of R. doc. No. 42,
id.--Senate doc. No. 107, id.--H. of R. doc. No. 119, id.

[102] Our army on the Rio Grande, chap. v.

[103] Army on the Rio Grande, chap. ii.

[104] See Senate doc. 337, 29th cong. 1st sess. for a memorandum of
General Worth's spirited interview with La Vega and Césares.



CHAPTER V.

Military and civil proclamations against the United States at Matamoros
     in April, 1846--General Taylor's pacific policy--Desertion from our
     army promoted by Ampudia and Arista--Shooting of deserters, seen
     swimming the river, ordered--Construction of the fort opposite
     Matamoros--Guerillas on the left bank--Ampudia and Arista arrive--
     Death of Colonel Cross--Expedition of Lieutenants Dobbins and Porter
     --Death of Porter--Surprise and surrender of Captain Thornton's
     party of dragoons--Ampudia and General Taylor on the blockade of the
     mouth of the river--Fort capable of defence; left under the command
     of Major Brown--Walker's men surprised on the prairie--Taylor goes to
     Point Isabel--Cannonade heard from Matamoros--May with his dragoons
     and Walker sent to the fort for tidings--Their adventures--Return to
     Point Isabel--Taylor calls on Texas and Louisiana for reinforcements
     --character and quality of the Texan Ranger.


The months of March and April, 1846, were fruitful in civil and military
proclamations at Matamoros, manifesting a hostile spirit against our
country, but General Taylor persisted in his pacific conduct and
directed all under his command to observe a scrupulous regard to the
municipal rights and religious usages of the quiet Mexicans whom they
found in the neighborhood of the Rio Grande. In order that no pretext of
ignorance might be pleaded by our adversaries, in this respect, his
orders were published in Spanish as well as English, and freely
distributed among the people. It is to be regretted that a similar
forbearance was not exhibited by our opponents. As soon as our forces
appeared in the vicinity of Matamoros they began to intrigue with our
subalterns. It was known that our army, made up at random from a
population of natives and emigrants, contained individuals born in
Europe; and, to the religious and political prejudices of this class,
the authorities addressed themselves.[105]

In consequence of these seditious appeals, the evil of desertion
increased to an alarming extent, and the most effectual measures were
necessary to prevent the contagion from spreading. As our deserters, by
merely swimming the narrow river, were at once within the enemy's lines,
pursuit and apprehension, with a view to trial, were out of the
question. General Taylor, therefore, deemed it his duty, warranted by
the hostile attitude of the Mexicans, to order that all men seen
swimming across the river should be hailed by our pickets and ordered to
return, and, in case they did not obey this summons, they should be
shot. These stringent orders were verbally given to the several
commanders, about the beginning of April, and checked the practice,
though it is believed that only two men,--privates of fifth and seventh
infantry, from France and Switzerland,--fell victims to the fatal
command. Thus failed so dastardly an attempt to interfere by intrigue
with the _morale_ of our army. Taylor was undoubtedly justified in
resorting to the most efficient means to prevent the decimation of his
scant forces; and although some sensitive politicians in our Union were
scandalized by the severity of his orders, yet, when they learned that
the men who were induced to desert had been used in subsequent actions
against us by the Mexicans, their philanthropic clamor was drowned in
the universal voice of approval.

       *       *       *       *       *

The manifestly warlike appearance of the Mexicans, and the attempts they
were making to fortify the right bank of the river, induced General
Taylor to strengthen the position of his camp on the opposite side.

Accordingly on the 6th of April a battery for four eighteen pounders,
bearing directly on the public square and in good range for demolishing
the town, had already been completed and the guns mounted, whilst the
engineers were busy in laying out a strong bastioned field fort for a
garrison of five hundred men in the rear of the battery. But the
Mexicans did not leave us long in doubt as to their ultimate designs.
Their chief embarrassment seemed to consist in a want of troops and
efficient commanders, yet this was remedied by the arrival of
considerable reinforcements in the course of the month. Meantime,
however, the chapparals and lonely prairies of the left bank of the Rio
Grande, swarmed with ranchero cavalry, not authorized perhaps by the
powers in Matamoros to attack us directly, but whose predatory habits
and Arab warfare were encouraged against small bodies of our men until
the main army should be enabled to strike a decisive blow.

On the 10th of April, Colonel Cross, a deputy quarter-master-general
mounted his horse and proceeded to ride, as usual, for exercise, but the
night passed without his return, nor was his fate known until ten days
after, when a skeleton, found on the plains, was identified as that of
the unfortunate officer. The mode of his death or the names of his
slayers have never been discovered. But it was generally reported and
believed that he had been captured by the lawless band of Romano Falcon,
a ranchero bandit, and, after being robbed of every thing valuable, was
shot with a pistol by the robber captain.

With a view to check the depredations of these guerillas, Lieutenants
Dobbins of the third infantry, and Porter of the fourth,--two bold and
hardy soldiers,--were authorised to scour the country with a body of
picked men, and capture or destroy any such parties they might
encounter. It appears that they separated in quest of the enemy, and
that Lieutenant Porter at the head of his own detachment surprised an
armed troop, numbering nearly one hundred and fifty, engaged in jerking
beef. Upon the approach of our officer one of the Mexicans snapped a
musket at him, a salutation which Lieutenant Porter returned by the
discharge of his double barreled gun. Upon this the Mexicans fled to the
screen of the chapparal. Porter took possession of the horses and
blankets of the fugitives, and, mounting his men, started for head
quarters. At this moment, however, the rain began to pour down with the
violence that is only witnessed in tropical climates, and whilst the
Lieutenant and his party were passing through a dense copse of chapparal
they were fired on by the enemy from an ambush. Shot followed shot from
the secret foe in rapid succession, but our unfortunate men were unable
to sustain the contest, as their powder had been soaked by the sudden
shower. They wisely retreated, therefore, to the chapparal, and,
separating into three parties, found their way to camp; but the luckless
Porter, having been wounded in the thigh, was seized by the Mexicans as
soon as his men departed, and despatched with their knives whilst they
shrieked and yelled over his mangled body like a band of infuriate
demons.

Acts like these, characteristic of the worst periods of border raids,
denoted the approaching storm. The country east of the Rio Grande
bristled with irregular troopers. It was unsafe to go beyond the hail of
sentinels, and the peaceful aspect of nature which had charmed our men
so greatly upon their arrival was changed for the stern alarums of war.
By the joyous peals of the church bells, the shouts of acclamation, and
the report of spies, we learned that General Ampudia had arrived in
Matamoros, and that, some days later, he was followed by Arista, who
immediately assumed the chief command and apprised General Taylor, in
courteous terms, that he considered hostilities commenced and was
resolved to prosecute them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among all these notes of warlike preparation, none perhaps were more
significant than the adventure which must be now recorded. On the 24th
of April a squadron of dragoons, sixty-three in number, under the orders
of Captains Thornton and Hardee, and of Lieutenants Mason and Kane, was
despatched by General Taylor to reconnoitre the river for thirty miles
above the camp in the direction of La Rosia. When the troopers arrived
within three miles of the post they learned that the enemy had crossed
and occupied the country in considerable force. This was about
twenty-eight miles from our camp, and as soon as the news was received,
the guide, by name Capito, refused to proceed any further. It appears
from all the documents I have been able to examine that Captain Thornton
exercised a wise precaution on the march and in the disposition of his
troops, by throwing out advance and rear guards although it was
impossible to avail himself of the advantage of flankers in consequence
of the nature of the road which was often a perfect defile, admitting,
at times, of the passage only of a single horseman. As he had reason to
doubt the fidelity of his guide, he resolved to advance without him,
redoubling, however, his vigilance, and increasing his van guard, under
the command of Lieutenant Mason, whom he ordered not to fire upon the
enemy unless assaulted. The rear was assigned to Captain Hardee, and, in
this order, the party cautiously proceeded until it reached a large
plantation bordering the river and hemmed in by a fence of lofty and
impenetrable chapparal. Captain Thornton endeavored to approach the
houses at the upper end of this enclosure by entering its lower
extremity, but failing to accomplish his object, he passed around the
thicket and reached the field across a pair of bars which served for
gateway. The edifice was situated about two hundred yards from this
narrow aperture in the bristling wall, and, towards it, the whole
command directed its steps in single file, without placing a sentinel at
the bars, or observing any other precaution to prevent surprise. It
seems that Captain Thornton, though a skilful and brave officer, as his
campaigns against the Indians in Florida had proved, was prepossessed
with the idea that the Mexicans had not crossed the river, and that even
if they had, they would not fight. It was a fatal mistake. Captain
Hardee, as has been stated, was charged with the rear guard and was
therefore the last to enter with his horsemen. As he approached the
dwelling he perceived the troopers who were already within the enclosure
scattered in every direction seeking for some one with whom to
communicate. At length an old Mexican was discovered, and, while
Thornton was conversing with him, the alarm was given that the enemy
were seen in numbers at the bars. This was a bewildering surprise. Yet
the gallant commander immediately gave the order to charge and
personally led the advance to cut his way through the Mexicans. But it
was too late; the enemy had already secured the entrance, and it was
impossible to force their serried lines. Cooped and hampered as were our
men within the impervious walls of chapparal and aloes, their flight was
almost hopeless. The Mexican infantry had been stationed in the field on
the right of the road while their cavalry lined the exterior fence, so
that our retreat was entirely cut off. Seeing this, Thornton turned to
the right, and skirted the interior of the chapparal with his command,
whilst the enemy poured in their vollies in every direction. By this
time disorder was triumphant. Hardee dashed up to Thornton and urged
that the only hope of safety was in concentrated action and in the
destruction of the fence; but, though the order was immediately given,
he could neither stop his men nor his horse. Our troopers, perfectly
ensnared, seem to have become frantic with rage, and consequently to
have lost the control of discipline. Like so many animals at bay, each
one sought safety for himself, by attempting to traverse or leap the
thorny boundaries of the farm. Yet all efforts were useless, for, by
this time, the enemy had gained on our men with great numbers, and,
completely surrounded as the plantation was, nothing remained but to
surrender according to the usages of civilized nations. General
Torrejon, who commanded the Mexicans, received the submission of
Captain Hardee; and, together with Lieutenant Kane, who had also been
captured, he was conducted to Matamoros on the 27th, where they were
lodged with General Ampudia and treated most graciously by Arista.
Forty-five of our cavalry were taken prisoners in this disastrous
affair, but the brave Mason was slain during the conflict. Sergeant
Tredo, a valiant soldier, fell in the first charge;--Sergeant Smith was
unhorsed and killed,--and the bodies of seven men were found on the
field of strife.[106]

This was a disheartening event for the Americans, and a subject of
exultation for the Mexicans. It was neither a battle nor even an affray;
yet, bearing to warfare the same relation that trapping does to
sportsmanship, it nevertheless afforded material for Mexican gasconade.
"This,"--said Arista in his letter of acknowledgment to Torrejon,--"has
been a day of rejoicing to the division of the north which has just
received the joyous news of the triumph of your brigade. The delighted
country will celebrate this preliminary to the glorious deeds that her
happy sons will in future present her!" For some days it was supposed
that Thornton had been slain, but on the 29th his comrades were
delighted to hear that he had cut his way through the enemy, and after
running the gauntlet of his foes, had been captured only in consequence
of the fall of his horse.

       *       *       *       *       *

As soon as Ampudia assumed the command he ordered all Americans to leave
Matamoros within twenty-four hours for Victoria, a town in the interior
of Tamaulipas; and on the twelfth of April he addressed a note to
General Taylor requiring him, within the same peremptory period of time
to break up his camp, and retire to the other bank of the Nueces, whilst
their respective governments were deciding their quarrel by negotiation.
He informed our commander that if he persisted in remaining on the
alleged soil of Tamaulipas, arms, alone, could decide the dispute, but
that the war, which would necessarily ensue, should be conducted, upon
the part of Mexico, conformably to the principles and rights established
by the civilized world. General Taylor did not delay his reply. On the
same day he answered the Mexican chief, that inasmuch as he was charged
with the military and not the diplomatic duties of the controversy, he
could not discuss the international question involved in the advance of
the American army, but that he would unhesitatingly continue to occupy
the positions he held at Isabel and opposite Matamoros in spite of all
menaces. The hostile declarations and alternative presented by Ampudia
induced Taylor to order the stringent blockade of the Rio Grande, so as
to stop all supplies for the city, and the naval commander at the Brazos
de Santiago was directed to dispose his forces accordingly. A body of
Texan rangers, under the command of Captain Walker, a tried and daring
soldier of the frontier, was stationed on the road to Point Isabel.
During the night of the 27th and 28th of April, the troops, at the
latter place, consisting chiefly of two companies of artillery, under
the command of Major Monroe, were in momentary expectation of attack in
consequence of rumors from the enemy, for it was known that large bodies
of Mexicans had crossed the river and were striving to interpose
themselves between Isabel and the fort opposite Matamoros in order to
cut off supplies for the garrison. Several teams that departed from the
depot for the fort were forced to return, and, on the morning of the
28th the camp of Walker was surprised on the prairie by a party of bold
rancheros who killed five of our rangers and dispersed the rest, while
the officer of the company and half of his command were absent on
detached service.

By this time the works opposite Matamoros were well advanced, yet, owing
to the peculiar nature of the country and our deficiency in the proper
description of light troops, we were kept in ignorance of the enemy's
movements on the left bank. It was ascertained, however, with sufficient
certainty, that they were continuing to throw considerable forces on the
eastern shore, with the design of attacking our command; and General
Taylor received information, upon which he could rely, that Arista had
prepared to pass the Rio Grande, below Matamoros, in order to effect a
junction with his forces from above. It was not believed, however, that
he would assault the position opposite that city even with four thousand
men, and hence our commander-in-chief supposed that the depot at Isabel
was the object of his movement. This impression was strengthened by the
fact that since a rigid blockade of the river was maintained, provisions
had become exceedingly scarce at Matamoros; and, therefore, hastening
the completion of the field work, he was able by great exertions on the
part of our troops, to bring it to a good state of defence by the first
of May. The seventh infantry under Major Brown, Captain Lowd's and
Lieutenant Bragg's companies of artillery, together with the sick of the
army, were left in the work; and, on the afternoon of that day, General
Taylor moved with the main force under his immediate command in the
direction of Point Isabel. At eleven o'clock, the army, by a rapid
march, was enabled to bivouac on the prairie at a distance of ten miles
from the depot, and on the next day, it reached its destination without
encountering the enemy, though the scouts surprised and shot several
men belonging to the Mexican pickets.

On the morning and during the day of the 3d of May, a heavy cannonade in
the direction of Matamoros announced to General Taylor that an attack
had probably been commenced on the American fort. This was a different
result from his anticipations, and made him extremely anxious for the
fate of the small but brave command that had been left, with slender
supplies of rations and ammunition, in the incomplete field work.

Accordingly, on the evening of that day, a squadron of one hundred
dragoons under Captain May, accompanied by Walker and ten of his daring
rangers, was despatched to pass, if possible, through the hordes of
Mexican guerillas that lined the road. They were ordered to proceed
within a few miles of Fort Brown and reconnoitre the country on the left
towards the river; next to take a position on the edge of the chapparal,
and, if the commander heard no firing from our fort, he was then to
despatch a small command under Walker to communicate with Major Brown.
After this he was to await the return of the gallant rangers, and repair
to Point Isabel.

May and his troopers, alert for such an adventurous enterprize, stole
onward towards Matamoros, under cover of night, and, about nine o'clock,
beheld the enemy's camp fires on the field of Palo Alto. Avoiding the
outposts and cautiously circling the Mexican front, he passed the foe,
and galloped towards the American fort, until, hearing no sound of
cannon in that direction, he halted with his command under the
protecting screen of an extensive chapparal, about seven miles from
Matamoros. Here he detached Walker and six of his rangers, best skilled
in woodcraft, to communicate according to orders, with Major Brown,
while he awaited their return in his concealed position.

It was between two and three o'clock in the morning that Walker crept up
to the bastions of our fort and was hailed by the sentinel. As soon as
he was recognized his party was placed in a secure position, and the
bold ranger admitted by a ladder to the fort. Major Brown reported the
facts of the assault from Matamoros and the condition of his defences,
as speedily as possible, and Walker and his men, mounting fresh horses,
dashed off towards May so as to pass the enemy's lines before day-light.
But, as he approached the thicket where he left the command, he found
the troopers gone; and returning to the fort, which he reached before
_reveille_, he awaited the approach of night before he again attempted
to perform his dangerous service.

Meanwhile May and his men had remained in their saddles until about half
an hour before day, when, from the protracted absence of the ranger,
they believed that the enemy's scouts had detected him. Walker had been
already away about six hours; and as May's force was unable to cope with
the supposed numbers of the Mexicans, and peremptory orders had been
given to retire to Isabel, he immediately passed down the enemy's lines
at a brisk gallop over the prairie. About twelve miles from our camp he
suddenly discovered a hundred and fifty lancers drawn up across the road
to dispute his passage, but speedily forming his line, he charged the
troop, and, driving it towards the Mexican camp, followed the fugitives
for three miles on his wearied horses. Fearing, however, that larger
forces might be lying in ambush in the fields, and perceiving that the
enemy's cavalry was fleeter than his own, he abandoned the pursuit and
reached Point Isabel about nine o'clock.

But Walker was not to be defeated in his gallant effort to bear tidings
to Taylor of the fortunes of the fort. As soon as it was dark on the
4th, he remounted with his trusty band and concealed on his person the
despatch which Major Brown had prepared in the interval. Every copse and
thicket along the road, suitable for an ambush, was filled with foes
anxious to cut off his return to camp, for, as it was subsequently
ascertained, the Mexicans had obtained information of his purposes. But
Walker passed unhurt through all these impediments, and brought the
cheerful news that all was as yet safe in the staunch little fort.

       *       *       *       *       *

Late in April, and while the events, related in this chapter, were
occurring, by which it became evident that serious hostilities were, at
length, intended, General Taylor prudently began to strengthen his army
by demands for reinforcements under the discretionary powers vested in
him by government. In March, he had already called the notice of the war
department to the necessity of sending recruits to fill up the regiments
even to the extent of the existing feeble establishment; but, in April
he authorized the raising of two companies of mounted men from Texas,
and called upon the governor of that State for four regiments of
volunteers, two of which were to act as cavalry and two to serve on
foot. As some delay might occur in collecting these troops, he,
moreover, desired the governor of Louisiana to despatch four regiments
of infantry as soon as practicable, and, with this auxiliary force of
nearly five thousand men, he hoped to prosecute the impending war with
energy, or to carry it, if needful, into the enemy's country.

On the sixth of May, Lieutenant McPhail reached Point Isabel with some
recruits for the army; and, after filling up the permanent garrison with
the men who were still too raw to encounter the dangers of actual field
service, General Taylor determined to march on the following day with
the main body of the forces to open a communication with Major Brown and
to throw forward the needful supplies of ordnance and provisions. The
language of our chief did not betoken the fears which, at that moment,
were felt throughout the country for the fate of his brave command,
surrounded as it was believed to be, by an imposing army of Mexicans led
by their bravest generals. "If the enemy oppose my march, in whatever
force," said Taylor, "_I shall fight him_!" It was this little phrase
that inspirited the anxious heart of his country and denoted the
energetic character of the hero whose skill and genius were so soon to
be developed in active warfare. When he marched from the banks of the
Rio Grande on the 1st of May, the Mexicans believed that he fled to
secure his personal safety at Point Isabel, whilst he abandoned the
infantry and artillery in the fort opposite Matamoros as an easy prey to
their valiant arms. Accordingly, the bells of the city rang their merry
peals, and repeated bursts of military music denoted that it was a gala
day in the ancient city. At that moment the great body of the Mexican
army crossed the stream under the orders of General Torrejon, and these
were the forces that Walker and his rangers had eluded while bearing to
Isabel the cheering despatch from Major Brown.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the close of this chapter, and while we are preparing for graver
subjects, it may not be uninteresting for the reader to obtain a careful
picture of those TEXAN RANGERS, whose services had already
proved so useful, and who were to play an important part in this bloody
drama.

These were the bold and reckless children of the frontier, who lived
forever in warlike harness, prompt to suppress the savage raids of the
Indians and mongrel Mexicans who harrassed the settlements of western
Texas in the neighborhood of the Guadalupe, La Vaca and San Antonio.
Organizing themselves in regular companies for mutual protection along a
ravaged border, they were continually prepared alike for camp or battle,
and opposed themselves to the enemy at the outpost barriers of
civilization.

It must not be supposed that men whose life is passed in the forest, on
the saddle, or around the fire of a winter bivouac, can present the
gallant array of troopers on parade, hence the Texan Ranger is careless
of external appearance, and adapts his dress strictly to the wants of
useful service. His first care is to provide himself with a stalwart and
nimble horse, perfectly broken and capable of enduring fatigue in a
southern climate. His Spanish saddle, or saddle frame, is carefully
covered with the skins of wild animals, while, from its sides depend
some twenty or thirty leathern thongs to which are attached all the
various trappings needed in the woods. No baggage is permitted to
accompany the troop and encumber it in the wilderness. A braided
_lariat_ and a _cabaros_ of horse-hair are coiled around his saddle bow,
the latter to be unwound at nightfall and laid in circles on the ground
to prevent the approach of reptiles which glide off from the sleeper
when they touch the bristling hair of the instrument, while his horse,
tethered by the long and pliant _lariat_ trailing along the ground,
wanders but little from the spot where his master reposes.

Stout buckskin leggings, hunting shirt, and cap, protect the ranger's
body from the sharp spines of aloes, or the briars and branches of the
matted forest. His weapons, next to his horse, exact his attention. His
long and heavy rifle carries from fifty to sixty bullets to the pound;
around his waist is belted a bowie-knife or home made hanger, and
sometimes, a brace of revolving pistols is added to this powerful
armory. Across his right side are slung his pouch of balls and
powder-horn, and the strap by which they are suspended is widened or
padded over the shoulder to relieve the weight and pressure of his gun.
A practised shot, he can hit his mark unerringly in full career. He may
be called a "picked man," though not in the sense of the phrase as
ordinarily used in military affairs. Nevertheless he is a choice
soldier, for none but men of equal stamp and hardihood find their way to
the border and congregate naturally for the hazardous life they endure.

From the period of the battle of San Jacinto to the year 1841, when they
formed themselves into regular squadrons of rangers, these were the
hardy woodsmen, who defended the frontier as independent troops, free
from the control of State or government. Whenever Indians or Mexicans
approached the settlements, runners were quickly despatched along the
streams to sound the alarm, and in a few hours the wild huntsmen were
roused for a campaign of months. All they needed for the foray was their
horse, their weapons, their blankets, their pouch with fifty balls, and
their bushel of parched and pounded corn. In hot weather or cold, in wet
or dry, they carried no tents, and required no fresh food save the game
of the forest. Such was the Texan Ranger at the outbreak of this
war,--light in heart, indomitable in courage, capable of vast endurance,
and sworn in his hatred of Indians and Mexicans. His life was one of
continual anxiety and surprises which made him alert and watchful. He
was neither a troubadour nor a crusader, yet his mode of existence had
charms for multitudes of adventurers. It was not disgust with society or
disregard of its comforts that forced these knights errant to the forest
and kept them in a state of continual excitement; but there was a
certain degree of romance in their wandering career that entitled them
to respect and consideration even from the more sentimental inhabitants
of cities. A life without restraint, except needful subordination when
on actual duty, is always attractive, and the forester realizes it
completely. Thinking much and speaking little, he considers his officer
of no more value or importance than himself. Hence he yields obedience
only because he knows the necessity of discipline in a hazardous
service, while, off of duty, he is as familiar with his commander as
with a private.

Thus the Ranger's existence has ever been a scene of fierce
independence; and though approaching the _ranchero_ in some of his
restless habits, he has, nevertheless, always been distinguished from
that vile compound of ferocity, treachery and cruelty, by the remnants
of civilization he has borne to the solitudes of the wilderness. He was
destined to be of infinite value to the regular army in a country where
it was important to obtain information by reckless means among an almost
Arab population. Subsequent events proved that no scouting service was
so severe, no adventure so dangerous, that he would not risk his life
and exercise the cunning of his craft in performing it either on the
thorny banks of the Rio Grande or among the mountain defiles of
Monterey.

FOOTNOTES:

[105] The following document was circulated by Mexican emissaries and
spies among our troops:

      "_The commander-in-chief of the Mexican army to the English
      and Irish under the orders of the American General Taylor_:

      "KNOW YE: That the government of the United States is
      committing repeated acts of barbarous aggression against the
      magnanimous Mexican nation; that the government which exists
      under "the flag of the stars" is unworthy of the designation
      of Christian. Recollect that you were born in Great Britain;
      that the American government looks with coldness upon the
      powerful flag of St. George, and is provoking to a rupture
      the warlike people to whom it belongs, President Polk boldly
      manifesting a desire to take possession of Oregon, as he has
      already done of Texas. Now, then, come with all confidence
      to the Mexican ranks, and I guarantee to you, upon my honor,
      good treatment, and that all your expenses shall be defrayed
      until your arrival in the beautiful capital of Mexico.

      "Germans, French, Poles, and individuals of other nations!
      Separate yourselves from the Yankees, and do not contribute
      to defend a robbery and usurpation which, be assured, the
      civilized nations of Europe look upon with the utmost
      indignation. Come, therefore, and array yourselves under the
      tri-colored flag, in the confidence that the God of armies
      protects it, and that it will protect you equally with the
      English.

      PEDRO DE AMPUDIA.

      FRANCISCO R. MORENO, Adj. of the commander-in-chief.
      _Head Quarters, upon the Road to Matamoros, April, 2, 1846._"

Another and similar appeal was made by Arista on the 20th of April.

[106] Captains Thornton's and Hardee's reports to General Taylor. H. of
R. doc. No. 119, 29th cong. 2d sess. pp. 19 and 20.



CHAPTER VI.

The Battle of Palo Alto.


On the night of the 7th of May, with a force of over two thousand men
and a supply train of two hundred and fifty wagons, General Taylor
bivouacked on the plains about seven miles from Point Isabel. The whole
of the country is extremely flat in the neighborhood of the river and on
the road to Matamoros. In some places, broad thickets cover the levels,
in others, wide prairies spread out dotted, here and there, with bushes
and ponds. Early on the morning of Friday, the 8th, our camp was broken
up and the little army set in motion towards the fort. About noon the
scouts reported that the Mexicans were drawn up in our front, covering
the road with all their forces; and as soon, therefore, as we reached
the broad field of Palo Alto, a halt was ordered to refresh our men, and
form our line of battle with due deliberation. Far across the prairie,
at the distance of three quarters of a mile, were discerned the
glittering masses of the enemy. Infantry and cavalry were ranged,
alternately, on the level field and stretched out for more than a mile
in length, backed by the wiry limbs of the tall trees from which the
battle ground has taken its name. The left wing, composed of heavy
masses of horse, occupied the road, resting on a thicket of chapparal,
and flanked by ponds, while large bodies of infantry were discovered on
the right, greatly outnumbering our own force and standing somewhat in
a curved line, ready, as it were, to embrace our advancing columns.

Orders were directly given on the American side to form the array for
action. On our extreme right were ranged the fifth infantry under
Colonel McIntosh; Major Ringgold's artillery; the third infantry
commanded by Captain L. M. Morris; two eighteen pounders drawn by twenty
yoke of oxen and commanded by Lieutenant Churchill, and lastly, the
fourth infantry under Major Allen. The third and fourth regiments,
formed the third brigade under Lieutenant Colonel Garland, and all these
corps, together with two squadrons of dragoons led by Ker and May,
composed the right wing under the orders of Colonel Twiggs. The left was
composed of a battalion of artillery commanded by Colonel Childs,
Captain Duncan's light artillery, and the eighth infantry under Captain
Montgomery,--all constituting the first brigade under the orders of
Lieutenant Colonel Belknap. The train, meanwhile, was packed near a pond
under the direction of Captains Crossman and Myers, and protected by the
squadron of Ker's dragoons.

It was about two o'clock in the afternoon that our march against the
enemy began by heads of columns, whilst the eighteen-pounder battery
followed slowly along the road. During our advance it was deemed
especially important to ascertain with accuracy the number and calibre
of the enemy's cannon, and for this hazardous reconnoissance on an open
plain, Lieutenant Blake, of the topographical engineers, immediately
volunteered. Passing the advanced guard at full speed, he dashed over
the long grass that concealed the opposing forces, until he approached
within about eighty yards of the line where he had a distinct view of
the enemy. The Mexicans gazed with surprise at this daring act, while
Blake alighted from his horse, surveyed the whole array with his glass,
counting the squadrons and ordnance carefully, and then galloped down
their front to the other wing of their extended line.[107]

Scarcely had this gallant officer reported to our general when two of
the enemy's batteries opened on us vigorously. Taylor immediately
ordered our columns to halt, and deploying into line, our artillery
returned the fire, whilst the eighth infantry, on our extreme left, was
thrown back to secure that flank;--and, thus, with the distance of only
seven hundred yards between the opposing lines, the battle began with
rattling vollies of ball and grape bounding over our heads. The first
fires of the enemy injured us but little, while the heavy metal of our
eighteen-pounders, and the smaller shot of Ringgold's battery, quickly
dispersed the masses of cavalry on the left. Duncan's battery, supported
by May's dragoons, was then thrown forward on that flank, and for more
than an hour the incessant thunder of a cannonade raged along both
fronts, making sad gaps in the battalions, rending the prairie, filling
the air with dust and smoke, killing and wounding a few, yet, producing
no decided effect. The Mexicans, unskilled in gunnery, fired without
precision; but, at almost every discharge of the American ordnance, the
shot told with wonderful precision among the Mexicans. Our artillery was
directed not only to masses and groups of the enemy, but often to
particular men, so that the officers felt as certain of their aim, as if
firing with rifles.

Meanwhile our infantry had been hitherto rather spectators of the
artillery's prowess, than active combatants; but as the battle thickened
the manoeuvring of the enemy to outflank us commenced. With infinitely
smaller forces than the Mexicans, our policy had been to act on the
defensive as much as possible, and to _feel_ the enemy before we engaged
at closer quarters. Hence we awaited their first assault, made by a
regiment of Mexican lancers led by Torrejon and supported by two pieces
of artillery, which threatened our right flank by moving through the
chapparal in the direction of our train. The fifth infantry was
immediately detached together with a section of Ringgold's battery and
Walker's Texans, to check this dangerous movement. The gallant regiment
was thrown into a square with the Ranger and twenty of his troopers on
its right, and thus stood ready to repulse the charge. On came the
advancing squadrons in splendid array, moving in solid masses of men and
horse, each lance tipped with its gay and fluttering pennon. Ringgold,
from his advanced position, galled them as they trotted onward; Ridgely,
from his closer ground, poured into them rapid vollies of grape and
canister; still they surged onward in spite of all resistance. At
length, when within shot of the impervious square, suddenly, a sheet of
deadly flame burst from the regiment, and breaking their array, forced
them to recoil in confusion. Nevertheless the daring troop was not
dismayed by the carnage. Forming rapidly from its ruins an imposing
mass, again it dashed towards the train, until the third infantry on our
extreme right, under the orders of Colonel Twiggs, crippled its advance
so completely, that it was impossible to rally. This was the last effort
of the brave lancers. Repulsed in every effort, they began to retreat
rapidly but in order; yet Ringgold, Ridgely, and the regiments of
infantry, still hung upon their flank, and with their terrible
discharges of grape and bullets, mowed wide openings in the flying ranks
until they reached their line. Meantime the incessant blaze of our
artillery had set fire to the withered prairie, whose tall grasses
touched the very muzzles of our guns, and for a while the armies were
concealed from each other in the mingled smoke of the recent battle and
of the burning field.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a pause in the conflict, as if the two combatants, like
gallant boxers, stopped a moment to take breath and survey each other
with looks of defiance. The enemy's left had been driven back in
confusion; and, as their cannonade ceased, the road remained free for
the advance of our eighteen-pounders close to the first position that
had been occupied by the Mexican cavalry. This was promptly ordered by
General Taylor who caused the first brigade to take a new post on the
left of that formidable battery. The fifth was also advanced to the
extreme right of our new line, while the train was moved accordingly to
suit the altered front. As the battalion of artillery advanced slowly
over the field it came up to a private of the fifth, a gallant veteran
of the old world who had escaped the fires of Austerlitz and Waterloo to
die at Palo Alto. He was one of the first who fell in the action, and as
his fellow soldiers paused a moment to compassionate his sufferings,
when they saw the blood gushing with each pulsation from his shattered
limbs--he waved them onward--"Go on companions, regardless of
me,"--shouted he,--"I've got but what a soldier enlists for,--strike the
enemy;--let _me_ die!" Such were the exclamations of Napoleon's
soldiers, at Marengo, when the advancing squadrons of cavalry hesitated
to leap over the heaps of wounded Frenchmen: "Tread on _me_ comrades;
make a bridge of my body! Long live France! Vive la liberte!" The
romantic fervor of warlike enthusiasm deprives battle of half its
horrors, and makes death on the field a glorious exit from the
sufferings of humanity.

       *       *       *       *       *

The movements we made in changing our line were answered by
corresponding alterations of the Mexican front, and, after a suspension
of action for nearly an hour the battle was resumed. The effect of these
changes was to edge our right flank somewhat nearer Matamoros, and to
enable our forces to hold the road against the Mexicans who rested their
lines on the thickets in their rear.

The attack was recommenced by a destructive fire of artillery. Wide
openings were continually torn in the enemy's ranks by our marksmen, and
the constancy with which the Mexican infantry endured the incessant
hurricane of shot was the theme of universal admiration. Captain May,
detached with his squadron to make a demonstration on the left of the
enemy, suffered severely from the copper grape of the Mexican artillery.
Whilst passing the general and his staff with his troopers, the enemy
concentrated the fire of their batteries upon him, killing six of his
horses and wounding five dragoons. Nevertheless he succeeded in gaining
his desired position in order to charge the cavalry, but found the foe
in such overwhelming numbers as to render utterly ineffectual any
assault by his small command. The fourth infantry, which had been
commanded to support the eighteen-pounders, was also exposed to a
galling fire by which several men were killed and Captain Page mortally
wounded. The great effort of the Mexicans was to silence that powerful
battery, whose patient oxen had dragged it into the midst of the fight.
Hence they directed their aim almost exclusively upon these tremendous
pieces and upon the light artillery of Major Ringgold, who was fatally
struck by a cannon ball at this period of the conflict.[108]

Meanwhile the battalion of artillery under Colonel Childs had been
brought up to support the artillery on our right, and a strong
demonstration of cavalry was now made by the enemy against this part of
our line, while the column continued to advance under a severe fire from
the eighteen-pounders. The battalion was instantly formed into square
and held ready to receive the charge; but when the advancing squadrons
were within close range, a storm of canister from the eighteen-pounders
dispersed them. A rattling discharge of small arms was then opened upon
the square, but well aimed vollies from its front soon silenced all
further efforts of the Mexicans in that quarter. It was now nearly dark,
and the action terminated on our right, as the enemy were completely
driven back from their position and foiled in every attempt either to
break or outflank our gallant lines.

While these actions were occurring on our right under the eye of General
Taylor, the Mexicans had made a serious attempt against our left. The
smoke hung densely over the field and bushes so as almost to obscure the
armies from each other, and under cover of this misty veil and of
approaching night, the enemy suddenly rushed towards that wing and the
train with an immense body of cavalry and infantry under the command of
Colonel Montero. The movement was rapid and daring, but it did not
escape the quick eye of Duncan, who dashed back with his battery to the
left flank in full view of the enemy and engaged them within point blank
range of his deadly guns. So sudden and unexpected was this gallant
manoeuvre to the enemy, who, a moment before, saw this battery
disappear in the opposite direction behind the smoke of the burning
prairie,--that their whole column halted in amazement before a shot had
been fired or a gun unlimbered. But they were neither repulsed nor
dismayed. A strong body of infantry, supported by two squadrons of
cavalry, debouched from the extreme right of the chapparal, and moved
steadily forward to attack us. One section of Duncan's battery began to
play upon them with round shot, shells, and spherical case, so well
directed that the whole advance, both horse and foot, fell back in
disorder to the bushes. Meantime the other section opened upon the
masses of cavalry that halted at the first sight of our approaching
guns, and although these shots were well delivered and each tore a vista
through an entire squadron, the enemy remained unshaken. At every
discharge the havoc was frightfully destructive, but the gaps in the
Mexican ranks were immediately closed with fresh horsemen as they
pressed on to assail us.

The column of cavalry and infantry, driven back into the chapparal by
the other section, re-formed in the thicket, and, a second time,
dauntlessly advanced in order. After it approached about a hundred yards
from the screen of bushes, the section that was previously ordered to
repel it, re-opened a deadly fire and drove the foe head long into the
forest. The supporting cavalry rushed back upon the ranks that hitherto
withstood our shot, and the hurried retreat became a perfect rout.
Squadron after squadron joined tumultuously in the race, and the whole
right wing of the Mexicans was soon in rapid flight, while our
relentless sections continued to send their vollies into the broken and
scampering columns until they disappeared in the chapparal or were lost
in the darkness of night. Thus ended the brilliant affair of Palo Alto.
The enemy retired behind a protecting wood, and our army bivouacked on
the ground it had won and occupied during the protracted fight.

       *       *       *       *       *

Both parties slept on the battle field. It had been a fierce and
dreadful passage of arms, yet it was not a decided victory. We had
repulsed the Mexicans, fatally, in every attempt; we had gained a better
position, enabling us to press onward towards Matamoros, and had
inflicted serious injury on the foe; but the enemy still rested on their
arms and seemed disposed to dispute the field with us again on the
morrow. They were sadly crippled though not defeated, and had exhibited
a degree of nerve, mettle, and firmness that was entirely unexpected
from the vanquished soldiery of San Jacinto.

Wearied by the excessive labor of nearly six hours fighting, our
infantry and artillery sank on the ground wherever they found a resting
place, whilst the alert dragoons circled the sleeping camp and rode on
their outposts, among heaps of the enemy whose dying groans were heard
on all sides from the thickets to which they had crept. All night long
the medical staff was busy in its work of mercy, while the officers who
felt the dangerous responsibility of their situation collected in groups
to discuss their prospects. Some were doubtful of success, some anxious
to obtain reinforcements, some full of hope and animation, but all were
satisfied that it was prudent to hold a council on the impending
fortunes of the army. After a full examination of the difficulties and a
proper display of their resources, the enthusiasm of the young and the
experience of the old, alike, sanctioned the heroic determination of
Taylor to advance without succor. This brave resolve reassured the army,
and all prepared with alacrity and confidence for the dangers of the
9th.

FOOTNOTES:

[107] Lieutenant Blake died about the time our fight commenced at Resaca
de la Palma, on the 9th, from a wound inflicted by one of his own
pistols. He had thrown his sword, to which his pistols were attached, on
the ground on entering his tent. One pistol was discharged accidentally
in the fall, and the ball entered his thigh, but was cut out of his
breast. He died three hours afterwards.

[108] Ringgold died the day after the battle, but Page survived some
time though he was shockingly mangled by the ball which shot off the
lower part of his face.



CHAPTER VII.

The Battle of Resaca de la Palma--Defence of Fort Brown--The Great
Western.


When the sun rose on the morning of the 9th a mist of mingled smoke and
vapor hung over the battle field of Palo Alto, but, as the haze lifted
from the levels, the Mexicans were perceived retreating by their left
flank, in order, perhaps, to gain a more advantageous position on the
road in which they might resist our progress towards Matamoros. This
movement inspirited our troops, who, craving the interest of a new
position, were loath to repeat the battle of yesterday on the same
field. Accordingly General Taylor ordered the supply train to be parked
at its position and left under the guard of two twelve-pounders and the
fatal eighteens which had done such signal service on the 8th. The
wounded men and officers were next despatched to Point Isabel, and we
then moved across the Llano Burro towards the edge of the dense
chapparal which extends for a distance of seven miles to the Rio Grande.
The light companies of the first brigade under Captain Smith, of the
second artillery; and a select detachment of light troops, all commanded
by Captain McCall, were thrown forward into the thickets to feel the
enemy and ascertain the position he finally took.

In our advance we crossed the ground occupied by the Mexicans on the 8th
where their line had been mowed by our artillery. Shattered limbs,
riven skulls, slain and wounded horses, dying men, military
accoutrements, gun stocks and bayonets lay strewn around, the terrible
evidences of war and havoc. As our men pressed on they encountered, at
every step, appeals to their humanity, from the famished and thirsty
remnants of the Mexican army whose wounds did not permit them to advance
with their compatriots; but it may be recorded to the honor of the
troops, that our maimed enemies were in no instance left without succor,
and that officers and men vied with each other in relieving their wants
and despatching them to our hospitals.

About three o'clock in the afternoon a report was sent from the scouts
that the enemy were again in position on the road, which they held with
at least two pieces of artillery. The command was immediately put in
motion, and, about an hour after, came up with Captain McCall.

The field of Palo Alto was an open plain, well adapted for the fair
fight of a pitched battle, but Resaca de la Palma, which we now
approached, possessed altogether different features. The position was
naturally strong, and had been judiciously seized by the Mexicans. The
matted masses of chapparal, sprinkled in spots with small patches of
prairie, formed an almost impassable barrier on both sides of the road
along which we were forced to advance. The Resaca de la Palma, or,
Ravine of the Palm, fifty yards wide and nearly breast high, crosses the
road at right angles, and then bends, at both ends, in the shape of a
horse shoe. The low portions of the gully are generally filled with
water, forming long and winding ponds through the prairie, whilst, in
the rainy season, these pools unite across the ridge which forms the
road and flow off towards the Rio Grande. Along the banks of this ravine
the thickets of chapparal, nourished by the neighboring water, grow more
densely than elsewhere, and, at the period of the battle, formed a
solid wall penetrated only by the highway.

It was along the edges of this hollow that the Mexicans, led by Arista
and Ampudia, had posted themselves in two lines,--one under the front
declivity, and the other entrenched behind the copse of chapparal which
shielded the bank in the rear. In the centre of each line, on the right
and left of the road, a battery was placed, whilst other batteries were
disposed so as to assail us in flank. In this strongly fortified
position, supported by infantry, cavalry and ordnance, several thousand
Mexicans stood around the curving limits of the ravine, ready to rake us
with their terrible cross-fires as we advanced by the road between the
horns of the crescent.[109]

It will be perceived, from this description, that the character of the
action was essentially changed from the affair of the 8th. Almost
entrenched as were the Mexicans behind the ravine and chapparal, they
now stood on the defensive resolutely awaiting our assault, whilst, at
Palo Alto, they had assumed an offensive attitude, aiming either to
capture or destroy our army.

In the passage of our troops between Matamoros and Point Isabel, the
practiced eye of our military men often remarked the value of this
ravine as a point of strength; and it had been already supposed that
when the enemy halted, to resist our march, they would avail themselves
of it for a battle ground. Hence this excellent position was not unknown
to General Taylor, and he promptly prepared a combined attack of
infantry, artillery and cavalry by which he might succeed in driving the
American army like a wedge, through the narrow but only aperture that
admitted its transit to our fort.

Accordingly, as soon as Captain McCall received his orders, in the
earlier part of the day, he advanced with his men, and directed Captain
C. F. Smith, of the second artillery, with the light company of the
first brigade, to move to the right of the road, whilst he proceeded on
the left with a detachment of artillery and infantry. Walker and a small
force of rangers was despatched to make a hazardous reconnoissance of
the road in front, while Lieutenant Plesanton, with a few of the second
dragoons, marched in rear of the columns of infantry.

After following the trail of the enemy for about two miles and a half
across the Llano Burro, and learning from Walker that the road was
clear, McCall pushed the rangers into the chapparal, within supporting
distance, and soon dislodged some parties of Mexicans. On reaching the
open ground near Resaca, the head of his column received three rounds of
canister from a masked battery, which forced his men to take cover,
after killing one private and wounding two sergeants. They rapidly
rallied however, and Captain Smith's detachment being brought to the
left of the road, it was proposed to attack by a flank movement, what,
at the moment, was supposed to be only the rear guard of the retiring
army. But after a quick examination of the field by Dobbins and McCoun,
who discovered large bodies of Mexicans in motion on our left, while the
road, in front, was held by lancers, McCall resolved to despatch three
dragoons to the commander in chief with the news and await his arrival.

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon that General Taylor came up
with the skirmishers and received an exact report of the enemy's
position. Lieutenant Ridgely, who, upon the Major's fall, had succeeded
to the command of Ringgold's battery, was immediately ordered to advance
on the highway, while the fifth infantry and one wing of the fourth
were thrown into the chapparal with McCall's command on the left, at the
same time that the third and the other wing of the fourth entered the
thicket on the right with Smith's detachment. These corps were employed
to cover the battery, to act as skirmishers, and engage the Mexican
infantry. The action, at once became general, spirited and bloody, for
although the enemy's infantry gave way before the steady fire and
resistless progress of our own, yet his artillery was still in position
to check our advance by means of the fatal pieces which commanded the
pass through the ravine.

This was the moment, however, when the centre was destined to be
penetrated and broken--Ridgely, as has been stated, had been ordered to
the road, and, after advancing cautiously for a short distance, he
descried the enemy about four hundred yards in advance. Pressing onward
until within perfect range of his guns he began to play upon the foe
with deadly discharges. But the resolute Mexicans were not to be
repulsed. Returning shot for shot, their grape surged through our
battery in every direction, yet without repulsing the intrepid Ridgely,
who, as soon as the opposing fire slackened, limbered up and moved
rapidly forward, never unlimbering unless he perceived the enemy in
front or found from the fire of their infantry that they still hung upon
his flank. During this fierce advance into the jaws of the Mexican
crescent, he frequently threw into it discharges of canister when not
over one hundred yards from the opposing batteries and their support.

After hammering the centre for some time with this iron hail, and
keeping the wings of the Mexicans engaged with the other troops, a
movement with dragoons was planned for the final onslaught. May, with
his powerful corps, was directed to report to the general, and
immediately received orders from Taylor to charge the enemy's battery.
Thridding the mazes of the chapparal and of the road with his dense
squadron he came up with Ridgely, and halting a moment while that
gallant soldier poured a volley into the enemy, which was answered by a
shower of rattling grape, he dashed at the head of his troopers, like
lightning from the midst of the cloud of smoke, over the guns of the
astonished Mexicans. As the dragoons rushed at full tilt, with gleaming
swords, along the road, the artillerists leaped upon their pieces and
cheered them on. The infantry in the chapparal took up the shout, and
before the combined thunder of cannon, huzzas, and galloping cavalry had
died away, May and his troopers had charged through the seven opposing
pieces, and rose again on the heights in rear of the ravine. Graham,
Winship and Plesanton led the movement on the left of the road, whilst
the captain, with Inge, Stevens and Sackett, bore off to the right. But,
after gaining the elevation, only six dragoons could be rallied, and
with these May charged back upon the gunners who had regained their
pieces, drove them off, and took prisoner the brave La Vega who stood to
his unwavering artillery during the heat of the dreadful onslaught.

Meanwhile Ridgely, as soon as May had passed him, followed the charge at
a gallop, only halting on the edge of the ravine where he found three
pieces of deserted artillery. Here the Mexican infantry poured into him
a galling fire at a distance of not more than fifty paces, and a most
desperate and murderous struggle ensued, for the charge of cavalry had
not been promptly sustained by the infantry in consequence of the
difficulty it experienced in struggling through the masses of chapparal.
It was about this time that the eighth regiment was encountered by May
who informed Colonel Belknap of the exploit which had been rendered
almost unavailing for want of supporting infantry. Belknap promptly
ordered the regiment to form on the road with a part of the fifth,
whence, it was impetuously charged on the enemy's guns. This admirable
assault was executed with the greatest celerity; the battery was
secured; the infantry sprang across the ravine amidst a sheet of fire
from front and right, and drove the supporting column before it,
destroying in vast numbers the troops that pertinaciously resisted until
forced headlong from the fatal hollow. Montgomery with his regiment
pursued the Mexicans vigorously into the chapparal on the opposite side
of the Resaca until from their rapid flight, further attempts were
utterly useless.

Thus was the centre of the enemy's lines completely broken. The task
would be endless were I to recount the valiant deeds of the American and
Mexican wings in the thickets on the right and left of the road. It was
a short but severe onset, disputed on both sides, with an intrepidity
that resembled rather the bitterness of a personal conflict than a
regular battle. The nature of the ground among the groves was such as to
forbid any thing but close quarters and the use of the bayonet, knife,
or sword. Officers and men fought side by side, supporting more than
leading each other upon the opposing ranks. Bayonets were crossed,
swords clashed, stalwart arms held foes at bay, and American and Mexican
rolled side by side on the blood stained earth.

I have dwelt upon the action in the centre because it controlled the
road, dispersed the foe and won the day; but the effort would be
invidious were I to relate instances of individual hardihood and skill,
when all the valiant actors in the drama were fearless and unfaltering.
The charge of May was not unlike the assault at Waterloo of Ponsonby's
victorious cavalry, supported by Vandeleur's light horse, upon the
twenty-four pieces of D'Erlon's battery; in regard to which Napoleon
was heard to exclaim, in the heat of the battle,--"How terribly those
gray horsemen fight!" But in that conflict, Frenchmen opposed the
Anglo-saxons, and Milhaud's steel clad cuirassiers, charging Ponsonby's
brigade after it had carried the guns and attacked even a third line of
artillery and lancers, readily overcame the exhausted troopers and slew
their gallant leader.

At Resaca de la Palma, however the result was different. The artillery
battalion, which, with the exception of the flank companies, had been
ordered to guard the train on the morning of the 9th, was now ordered up
to pursue the routed enemy; and the third infantry, Ker's dragoons and
Duncan's battery followed the Mexicans rapidly to the river. Shouting,
singing, almost frantic with delight at their eminent success, our men
rushed after the flying Mexicans. The pursuit became a perfect rout as
they pressed on to the banks of the Rio Grande, and numbers of the enemy
were drowned in attempting the passage of the fatal stream. The pursuing
corps encamped near the Rio Grande, while the remainder of the army
rested for the night on the field of battle. The want of a _ponton
train_[110] prevented us from following the foe across the river on the
night of the 9th; but, as the government had failed to provide General
Taylor with that useful equipage, notwithstanding his frequent warnings
of its need, he was deprived of the first chance in this war to
annihilate the Mexican army and to seize all the arms and ammunition
collected in Matamoros. The capture, however, of Arista's camp and its
equipage was a recompense for our men who had fought so bravely. The
Mexican chief had gone into the campaign with every comfort around him,
and was evidently unprepared for defeat at Resaca de La Palma, for, at
the moment of our victory, his camp-kettles were found simmering over
the fires filled with viands from which he had doubtless designed to
make a savory meal after our capture. The food however was destined to
other uses; and, after a communication with the fort which held out
staunchly against the enemy during both contests, our men sat down to
enjoy the repast which the Mexicans had cooked.

       *       *       *       *       *

Unable as we were to secure the best results of victory, from the cause
already narrated, these battles were, nevertheless, of great importance.
We had achieved success in the face of brave foes outnumbering us more
than two to one, and had conquered an army of Mexican veterans,
perfectly equipped and appointed. In the battle of Palo Alto our force,
engaged, had been one hundred and seventy-seven officers, two thousand
one hundred and eleven men, or an aggregate of two thousand two hundred
and eighty-eight;--in the action of Resaca de la Palma we brought into
the field one hundred and seventy-three officers and two thousand and
forty nine men, or, an aggregate of two thousand two hundred and
twenty-two, while the actual number _engaged_ with the enemy did not
exceed seventeen hundred. In the first affair we had nine killed,
forty-four wounded[111] and two missing; but in the second, our loss was
three officers and thirty-six men killed, and seventy-one wounded.
Lieutenant Inge fell at the head of his platoon while charging with May;
Lieutenants Cochrane and Chadburne likewise met their death in the
thickest of the fight; while Lieutenant Colonels Payne and McIntosh;
Captains Montgomery and Hooe; and Lieutenants Fowler, Dobbins, Gates,
Jordan, Selden, Maclay, Burbank and Morris, were wounded on the field of
Resaca de la Palma.

The Mexican army, under Arista and Ampudia, amounted to at least six
thousand men, having been strongly reinforced with cavalry and infantry
after the battle of the 8th; and it is highly probable that the whole of
this force was opposed to us in their choice position. In one of his
despatches, after the battles, Arista confesses that he still had under
arms four thousand troops exclusive of numerous auxiliaries, and that he
lost in the affair at Palo Alto four officers and ninety-eight men
killed;--eleven officers and one hundred and sixteen men wounded, and
twenty-six privates and non-commissioned officers missing;--while in the
battle of Resaca de la Palma, six officers and one hundred and
fifty-four men were slain; twenty-three officers and two hundred and
five wounded, and three officers and one hundred and fifty-six
missing,--making a total loss of seven hundred and fifty-five. Eight
pieces of artillery, several colors and standards, a great number of
prisoners, including fourteen officers, and a large quantity of camp
equipage, muskets, small arms, mules, horses, pack-saddles, subsistence,
personal baggage, and private as well as regimental papers, fell into
our hands. The plan of campaign, as alleged to have been developed by
Arista's port-folio, was based upon the "reconquest of the lost
province," into which the Mexican forces were to have been pushed as
soon as our army was demolished on the Rio Grande. If it should be
necessary to secure the fruits of victory by further military efforts,
it was arranged that ample reinforcements were to be brought into the
field, and subsequently that President Paredes, himself, should march
an army of occupation into Texas and bear his conquering eagles to the
Sabine!

       *       *       *       *       *

After this narrative of our actions in the field let us recur for a
moment to the gallant garrison which had been shut up in the fort since
the beginning of the month, and in regard to whose fate the liveliest
anxiety was experienced.

When the commander-in-chief departed on the 1st of May to open the line
of communication with Point Isabel, prevent an attack upon the depot,
and, finally, to succor the fort with subsistence and munitions, the
field work, though capable of defence, was not completed. The events of
the few preceding days had denoted a resolution on the part of the
Mexicans to assail us immediately, and warned our small garrison to
prepare for all emergencies. Accordingly the labor of ditching and
embanking on the unfinished front was resumed; but neither the
draw-bridge nor the interior defences were yet commenced, and to all
these works, Mansfield, with his engineers and detachments of infantry,
devoted themselves unceasingly during the whole of the bombardment,
which began at day-break, on Sunday, the 3d of May.

The Mexicans had been engaged for some time erecting fortifications
along the river front of their town opposite our field work, and by
this time had prepared them for action. They commenced their attack
from the fort and mortar battery called _La redonda_, which they had
placed under the orders of a French officer of artillery, who
manifested a perfect knowledge of his profession during the conflict.
Nine pieces of ordnance,--four omortars, and the remainder six and
eight-pounders,--poured into our works an incessant shower of shot and
shells; but our batteries returned the fire so effectually, that in
thirty minutes, _La redonda_ was abandoned. Passing from this
fortification to another lower down, the enemy again opened upon us
from _La fortina de la flecha_, as well as from intermediate batteries
and a mortar in their vicinity. It soon became evident that our
six-pounders produced no serious effects in consequence of the
distance; and, desiring to husband his resources for greater
emergencies, Major Brown ordered the firing to cease entirely on our
side of the river. The garrison had been left with only one hundred and
fifty rounds of ammunition for each eighteen-pounder while the
six-pounders were as badly provided!

The silence of our guns in the presence of an assailing foe,
disheartened our men for an instant, but they immediately betook
themselves energetically to their task on the defences, though the
enemy's shells exploded in every direction about them. On the 4th the
Mexicans again resumed the fight and continued their vollies until
midnight. At nine o'clock on that evening irregular discharges of
musketry were heard in our rear apparently extending a mile up the
river, and continuing until near the termination of the cannonade. Every
soldier in the fort therefore stood to his arms all night long, manning
each battery and point of defence in expectation of an assault from the
forces that had crossed the river and filled the adjacent plains and
thickets. But the anxious night passed without an attack at close
quarters, and, at day-light, on the 5th, the enemy again commenced their
fire from the distant batteries. The sound of war was gratifying to the
Mexicans, but its conflicts were safer from behind the walls and
parapets of their forts, with an intervening river, than in dangerous
charges against the muzzles of our guns! As soon as the cannonade
recommenced, it was immediately returned by a few discharges from the
eighteen-pounders and six-pounder-howitzer; and the voice of our guns
once more exhilarated the men, though their shots were ineffectual. Both
batteries ceased firing simultaneously, and our indefatigable soldiers
again set to work on the defences, completed the ramparts, and made
rapid progress in the construction of a bomb-proof and traverse in rear
of the postern.

These were anxious days and hours for a garrison short of ammunition,
assailed by an enemy equipped with every species of deadly missile,
probably surrounded by superior numbers concealed on the left bank of
the river, and yet forced to labor on the very fortifications which were
to keep off the foe. During all this time, however, no one desponded.
Day and night they toiled incessantly on the works amid the shower of
shot and bombs, nor was a sound of sorrow heard within the little fort
until its brave commander fell, mortally wounded by a shell, on the 6th
of May. The game was kept up during all this day; mounted men were seen
along the prairie, while infantry were noticed creeping through the
thickets; but a few rounds of canister, from Bragg's battery, dispersed
the assailants.

About four o'clock of this day a white flag was observed at some old
buildings in the rear of our work, and a parley was sounded by the
enemy. Two officers were soon descried approaching us, and an equal
number were despatched by Captain Hawkins, (who had succeeded Major
Brown in the command of the fort,) to meet them within two hundred and
fifty yards of our lines. A communication from General Arista was
delivered by the herald, and the Mexicans were requested to retire a
short distance and await the reply.

In this document Arista declared that our fort was surrounded by forces
adequate to its capture, while a numerous division, encamped in the
neighborhood, was able to keep off all succors that might be expected.
He alleged that his respect for humanity urged him to mitigate as much
as possible the disasters of war, and he therefore summoned our garrison
to surrender, in order to avoid by capitulation, the entire destruction
of the command. This mingled mission of humanity and revenge demanded
the immediate notice of our troops, and, accordingly, a brief council
was held in which it was unanimously resolved to decline the
philanthropic proposal. Hawkins, at once despatched his courteous but
firm reply, and the enemy acknowledged its receipt by a storm of shot
and shell which was literally showered into the works.

It would be but repeating a narrative of one day's scenes were we to
detail the events of the 7th, 8th and 9th of May. The bravado contained
in Arista's despatch, had failed in its effort to intimidate us;
nevertheless we were compelled to undergo the severest task that a
soldier can suffer in passive non-resistance, whilst the enemy, from
afar, strove to bury our fort under the weight of their projectiles.
Bombs and shot were, however, unavailing. The defences proved equal to
our perfect protection; and all continued to work cheerfully in the
trenches until the distant sounds of battle were heard booming from Palo
Alto and Resaca. Anxiety was dispelled, and hope ripened into certainty
as the cannonade grew louder and drew nearer the river, until, at last,
on the evening of the ninth, the Mexican squadrons raced past the fort
and received the reserved shot of the eighteens which poured their
masses of grape among the flying groups. As our pursuing forces rushed
out from behind the thickets and beheld the American flag still aloft in
the works, they sent forth a cheer which was answered by the rejoicing
garrison, and the valley of the Rio Grande reverberated with the
exultation of delight. Victory and relief; a routed foe and succored
friends, enlivened every heart, and even the foremost and bitterest in
pursuit halted a moment to exchange congratulations upon the events of
the glorious day.

Thus the separate forces of the United States were again brought
together; and FORT BROWN,--which now received its name from the
brave Major who died on the 9th,--was found to have lost but two by
death and only fourteen wounded during the whole bombardment.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every war produces its singular characters whose influence or example
are not without their due effect upon the troops, and, at the conclusion
of these chapters, which are so stained with blood and battle, it may
not be useless to sketch, even upon the grave page of history, the deeds
of a woman whose courageous spirit bore her through all the trials of
this bombardment, but whose masculine hardihood was softened by the
gentleness of a female heart. Woman has every where her sphere of power
over the rougher sex, but the women of a camp must possess qualities to
which their tender sisters of the saloon are utter strangers.

Some years ago, in the far west, a good soldier joined one of our
regiments, with his tall and gaunt wife, whose lofty figure and stalwart
frame almost entitled her as much as her husband to a place in the ranks
of the gallant seventh. Unwilling to abandon her liege lord upon his
enlistment, this industrious female was immediately employed as one of
the laundresses, three of whom are allowed to draw rations in each
company, and are required to wash for the soldiers at a price regulated
by a council of officers. The "Great Western,"--for by this soubriquet
was she known in the army,--arrived at Corpus Christi with her husband,
and up to the period of our departure for the Rio Grande performed all
her appropriate duties, keeping, in addition, a "mess" for the younger
officers of the regiment. When the army advanced, the women, with some
exceptions, were despatched by sea to Point Isabel, while a few procured
ponies to follow the soldiers in their tedious march. The husband of the
Great Western was sent in one of the transports to the Brazos, but his
hardy spouse did not deign to accompany him in this comfortable mode of
transit, declaring that "the boys of her mess must have some one to take
care of them on their toilsome march." Accordingly, having purchased a
cart and loaded it with luggage, cooking utensils, and supplies, she
mounted behind her donkey with whip in hand, and displayed during the
wearisome advance, qualities which the best teamster in the train might
have envied. Throughout the whole journey she kept her boarders well
provided with excellent rations; and, when her brigade reached the banks
of the Colorado she was one of the first who offered to cross in the
face of the resisting enemy. After calmly surveying the scene, which has
been described in another chapter, she remarked, with great coolness,
that "if the general would give her a stout pair of tongs she would wade
the river and whip every scoundrel Mexican that dared show his face on
the opposite side!"

When Taylor marched to Point Isabel on the 1st of May, the Great Western
was of course left behind with the seventh infantry. Together with the
eight or ten women who remained, she moved, at once into the fort, where
her mess was soon re-established in a tent near the centre of the works.
The enemy's fire began on the 3d, as she was commencing her preparations
for breakfast, and the women were, of course, immediately deposited for
safety in the almost vacant magazines. But it may be recorded to their
honor that they were not idle during the siege. Nobly did they ply their
needles in preparing sand bags from the soldiers' and officers' tents to
strengthen the works and protect the artillerists whilst serving at
their guns; yet, the Great Western, declining either to sew or to nestle
in the magazine, continued her labors over the fire in the open air.
After the discharge of the first gun all were at their posts, answering
the shot from the Mexican forts; and, when the hour for breakfast
arrived, none expected the luxury that awaited them. Nevertheless the
_mess_ was as well attended as if nothing but a morning drill, with
blank cartridges, had occurred, and, in addition, a large supply of
delicious coffee awaited the thirsty, who had but to come and partake,
without distinction of rank. To some of the artillerists who were unable
to leave their guns, the beverage was carried by this excellent female;
and, as may readily be believed, no _belle_ of Orleans, ever met a more
gracious reception. The fire of the artillery was kept up almost
incessantly until near the dinner hour, when the Great Western again
provided a savory soup which she distributed to the men without charge.

Thus did she continue to fulfil her duties during the seven days that
the enemy kept up an incessant cannonade and bombardment. She was ever
to be found at her post; her meals were always ready at the proper hour,
and always of the best that the camp afforded. When the despatches, sent
by Walker, were made up for General Taylor on the evening of the 4th, a
number of officers and men wrote to their friends at Point Isabel; and
among them this courageous woman found time to communicate with her
husband who had not been despatched from the depot to Fort Brown. In
this document she expressed her full confidence in the ability of the
garrison to sustain itself, and only regretted the absence of her
spouse. To supply his place, however, she applied, early in the action,
for a musket and ammunition which she placed in security, expressing her
determination to have full satisfaction whenever the enemy dared to
approach within range of her piece. This they never did, and our
indomitable heroine must rest contented with the reflection that she
nobly performed her duty, and will long be remembered by the besieged
garrison of Fort Brown.

      NOTE.--The reader who desires to verify the accounts of
      the actions narrated in the two last chapters, will find
      all the authentic papers upon which they are founded, in
      the national documents relative to the war published
      during the two sessions of the twenty-ninth congress.

       *       *       *       *       *

      It will be observed that the name of General Worth does not
      occur in the account of these recent transactions on the Rio
      Grande. This excellent soldier had left Florida in
      September, 1845, and was early on the ground at Corpus
      Christi in command of the first brigade consisting of one
      artillery battalion and the eighth regiment of infantry. His
      march and acts on the Rio Grande have been recounted in the
      preceding chapters; but soon after his arrival he received
      the mortifying intelligence that he had been superseded in
      rank by an arrangement announced from the war department.
      He, therefore, deemed it due to himself as an officer to
      demonstrate his sensibility by resigning at once, especially
      as he was convinced that there would be no engagement
      between the armies, and that the war would be concluded by
      despatches and bulletins instead of arms. Nevertheless he
      left the American camp with regret, (tendering his services
      "out of authority," to the general in command,) and
      travelled with despatch to Washington. On arriving there he
      learned that hostilities had actually commenced; and waiving
      all his personal feeling, he immediately withdrew his
      resignation, with a request for permission to return
      forthwith to the command of the troops from which he was
      separated, by army orders, in April, 1846. His wish was
      granted by the secretary of war as soon as it was made known
      on the 9th of May, and Worth hastened back to Mexico, where
      his bravery and skill were subsequently so conspicuous.--See
      Niles's Register, vol. 70, p. 313.

FOOTNOTES:

[109] Army on the Rio Grande, p. 93, and see plan of the battle.

[110] In May 1846, _after these battles_, an act of Congress was finally
passed authorising the organization of a company of sappers, miners and
pontoniers. The war department had not the right to form such a corps
previous to this enactment.

[111] Page and Ringgold died subsequently.



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