Xavier Mina Expedition
Painting done funded by the government of Mexico for the Hundred Year anniversary of the start of the Mexican Revolution
Brief early biography from Wikipedia -
Francisco Xavier Mina was born in Otao, Navarre, Spain to Juan Mina, a wealthy farmer, and Maria Lerrea. He studied at the Seminary of Pamplona.
On the occupation of Spain by French troops in early 1808 during the Peninsular War, Mina (then aged 19) fled to the hills and forests of his native region and formed a small guerrilla force. Starting with only ten men, it quickly grew in size to over 200. Launching raids on the French, Mina captured arms, ammunition and horses. Within a year Mina's forces grew to over 1,200 men and 150 cavalry, and he began to engage in full-scale military actions, rather than hit-and-run raids. Mina was captured in March 1810. He was sent to Vincennes prison in France, finally being released in April 1814 with the collapse of Napoleon's government.
On returning to Spain he was made a colonel of the Navarre Hussars by King Ferdinand VII. Despite this, Mina was antagonistic to the King, since he had abolished the democratic government created under the Constitution of 1812 in the years of Ferdinand VII's absence. After a planned coup against the King failed, Mina was forced to flee (ironically) to France.
Servando Teresa de Mier, convinced him that it was possible to fight the absolute monarchy of Ferdinand VII in his own colonies.
In November 1816, Mina took two ships to attack Spanish shipping in the Gulf of Mexico, setting his base at Galveston Island, Texas, then part of Mexico. In April 1817, Mina took a force of about 250 men southwards, in ships provided by the privateer Louis-Michel Aury, where he hoped to join the southern Mexican revolutionaries led by Guadalupe Victoria and others.
The following is taken from the work Memoirs Of The Mexican Revolution published by printer Lydia Bailey of Philadelphia in 1820 and written by William Davis Robinson with minor editing by G. P. Moran and the addition of some illustrations. In the original form Mr. Robinson would often digress to excess. Editor Moran has reduced the text to the campaign of General Mina from just after the successful unopposed landing at Soto la Marina to the end. Due to formatting problems, Editor Moran was unable to reduce the number of single sentence paragraphs and other short paragraphs the writer used.
During the passage from Galveston, Mina published an address to his companions in arms, in which he reminded them of the sacred enterprise in which they had engaged, to constantly bear in mind that they were not going to conquer the country, but to aid in its emancipation from a tyrannical government; he particularly recommended to them, to be careful in conciliating the good will of the inhabitants, to respect their customs, to show the most scrupulous regard to the ministers of religion, and on no occasion, or under any pretence, to violate the sanctity of the temples dedicated to divine worship.
General Mina, by advices and spies, received intelligence, at the commencement of the month of May, that General Joaquin Arredondo was concentrating all the disposable force of the comandancia. Knowing that the enemy would be too strong for his small force, he proposed to throw up a small work of defense at Soto la Marina, for the purpose of protecting the military stores, and holding out against a siege, should the royalists attempt to invest it; while, in the interim, he should, by rapid marches, penetrate into the interior, and form a junction with the patriots in that quarter; an enterprise which he conceived to be practicable, and from which he flattered himself he should be able to return with an augmented force, sufficient to defeat the enemy, and also to bring with him pecuniary supplies.
<Drawing of Xanier Mina from frontispiece of William Davis Robinson's book
In pursuance of these determinations, an eligible situation was selected, on the bank of the river, a little to the eastward of the village; and the construction of the fort was commenced, under the direction of Captain Rigal, of the engineers. The whole division labored with alacrity, in the accomplishment of this work, in which they were assisted by the country people, the general himself setting the example, by sharing the labor with them. The little fortification was soon in a state of considerable forwardness ; and, although it was only a mud fort, yet it was hoped, that, when completed, it would be sufficient to bid defiance to the efforts of the enemy. As the river was here very narrow, it was intended to throw up a redoubt on the opposite bank, which should protect the rear of the fort, and cover the water.
Mina's conduct, on this occasion, was marked with the greatest firmness and intrepidity. Aware that Arredondo would put in motion an overwhelming force of two thousand men at least, he resolved to leave a garrison in the mud fort, and to cut his way, with the residue of his little band, into the interior of the Mexican empire. The fort was in quick time in a state of completion. Four carronades from the fleet, the field pieces and howitzers, were mounted. Two eleven and a half inch mortars, a considerable quantity of ammunition, and part of their cargo, were brought up. Cattle were killed, and their flesh jerked; such corn as could be procured in the vicinity was brought in, and the place was put in as good a state of defense, as the time and circumstances would permit.
As general Arredondo had commenced his march from Monterey, and was advancing upon the garrison with a body of two thousand men, and seventeen pieces of artillery, (being the united force of the eastern internal provinces,) Mina made the necessary dispositions for his intended march into the interior. He encamped the part of the expedition with which he was to perform the undertaking, on the right bank of the river, about a league distant from Soto la Marina, where it remained a few days.
Meanwhile, Colonel Henry Perry had for some time given strong evidences of discontent. He had frequently avowed his opinion, that the expedition was too weak to be of any service to the patriots, and that he anticipated its annihilation. It was afterwards supposed, that he had long meditated the scheme which he now put into execution. Taking advantage of the absence of the general and second in command, Colonel Guilford Dudley Young, from the encampment, he harangued his soldiers, and informed them of his intention of separating from Mina, and returning to the United States; he represented to them the very great perils into which they were about to be drawn, and urged them to retreat while an opportunity presented itself. By these means he prevailed on fifty-one of his troops, including Major James H. Gordon, and the rest of his officers, with one of the Guard of Honor, to accompany him. They marched in the direction of Matagorda, at which place he expected to meet with a sufficient number of boats to convey his party within the line of demarcation, between the United States and the Spanish possessions.
The colonel's conduct caused both surprise and regret; for although he had occasionally manifested some caprice and discontent, yet no one supposed it possible that he could abandon the cause in the hour of danger; and indeed his conduct on this occasion is still very mysterious. Besides, to march with such a handful of men along the sea coast, where he knew that water, particularly at that season of the year, was very scarce, and when the enemy, it was presumable, would oppose his progress, was an act of palpable rashness.
Colonel Perry had been in the United States' service, and was at the memorable battle of New Orleans. He embarked in the cause of Mexico, and was attached to the division that invaded Texas, under Don Jose Bernardo Gutierrez. He was under the command of Toledo, in the attack made on the Spanish troops commanded by Arredondo, in advance of San Antonio de Bejar, on the 18th of August, 1813. In that disastrous affair, the colonel behaved with his usual courage, but narrowly escaped with his life. His sufferings from fatigue and privations were extreme, before he again reached the United States.
The desertion of Colonel Perry, with so great a number of valuable men, was a most severe blow to Mina; but it did not daunt his resolute mind. Major Stirling, who had been in the service of the United States, was appointed to the command of the Regiment of the Union, and other officers were nominated in lieu of those who had deserted.
Arredondo (shown in a drawing to the left) having, by this time, advanced to within a short distance of Soto la Marina, the general made his final arrangements at the fort; leaving, for its garrison, detachments of the best men, artillery, first regiment of the line, engineers, medical and commissariat departments, mechanics, etc. with the sailors of the destroyed vessels, under Captain Hooper, and some recruits. The whole, amounting to about one hundred men, were placed under the command of Major Don Jose Sarda. The general instructed the Major to hold out to the last; assuring him that he would return in a short time, and compel the enemy to raise the siege, should they attempt to form one during his absence.
The general, by making the rapid and secret march of the two preceding days, not only eluded the enemy, but calculated on being able to surprise some of the rich refugees from Soto la Marina, who, he learned, were at this hacienda, which was distant from that place, by the route taken by the expedition, twenty-five leagues. He presumed they would be lulled into security, as they conceived it was impossible for him to advance by the high road, without their receiving timely advice. In fact, the mission was completely surprised; but Mina found there only some priests, and the wife of Don Ramon de La Mora, the proprietor of Palo Alto. A part of the property which had been taken by Colonel Perry, was found deposited there ; and, as it consisted of articles essential to the comfort and wants of the troops, the general ordered them to be distributed among his men.
From this place, the expedition moved forward, the next morning. Nothing material occurred, until its arrival at the town of Horcasitas, situated on the bank of the river Altamira. The river was fordable, but by a very dangerous pass; and one officer, Lieutenant Gabet, was swept away, with his horse, and drowned. About noon, on the following day, the troops reached an hacienda, on the opposite bank of the river, about five leagues down the stream, where a halt was made for the day. From this place, a party was dispatched to bring in a herd of seven hundred horses, which had been collected, in the vicinity of this place, for the use of the enemy's troops. The horses were driven in : they were a most important acquisition to Mina, while their loss was severely felt by the enemy. The following afternoon, Mina continued his progress, having mounted his troops on the best of the horses, the remainder being driven in the rear of the expedition. But, a few nights afterwards, nearly the whole of these animals were lost, while the expedition was ascending, in great darkness, a thickly wooded mountain, by a very narrow and bad road. The general was now advancing upon the town of El Valle de Mais. Mina's late movements had kept the royalists in a state of continual alarm. The enemy were at a loss to ascertain the point upon which they were directed; and, as both Altamira and Tampico were in their turns threatened, the enemy were obliged to remain in these positions, to protect them. As soon, however, as he advanced from Horcasitas upon El Valle de Mais, a strong body of troops was put in motion to pursue him. To these, the capture of the cavallada (herd of horses) just mentioned, was a sore event.
Just as the expedition was about to march, on the morning of the 8th of June, a peasant arrived, with the intelligence that the enemy from El Valle de Mais, about four hundred strong, all cavalry, had taken post some distance in advance of the town, and were determined to make a bold stand. This news raised the spirits of the little band, who continued the march, anxious to come in contact with the enemy. It was soon perceived, from various articles of provisions scattered along the road, that the enemy had changed his resolution, and had retreated: the track of wheels also denoted that he had cannon. It appeared, however, that he again determined to make a stand ; for, about noon, the expedition came upon the enemy, whose force consisted of nearly two hundred cavalry, advantageously posted on an eminence on the high road, three leagues from El Valle de Mais.
The satisfaction manifested by the expedition, convinced Mina that he could rely on their conduct ; and he immediately made dispositions for the attack. The infantry were dismounted; and the best marksmen from the Guard of Honor, and regiment of the Union, were selected to act as light troops. These, fourteen in number, were directed to enter a thicket, on which the enemy's left rested, and to dislodge it; while the main body remained firm, ready to act according to circumstances.
The light troops advanced to the thicket, and after giving a few well directed fires, by which they killed five and wounded several others, they were astonished to see their antagonists fall back on their reserve. They were pursued by the same party, who again opened a fire on them, and the whole then retreated. The general, as soon as the enemy's troops gave way, ordered the main body to move on; and, when they finally retreated, Mina selected from the cavalry twenty of the best mounted, partly foreigners, and partly natives of Soto la Marina, and boldly pursued the enemy, nearly four hundred strong, all cavalry, through the town area and a short way on the other side of it, when a part of them rallied, The general, at the head of his twenty men, dashed in among them ; they broke and fled. Mina pursued them upwards of two leagues, seized one gun, a small mountain piece, and put them entirely to the rout. He then returned and occupied the town. The enemy lost several men, and some prisoners were taken. Mina had one man severely wounded, but none killed.
The personal intrepidity and skill displayed by the general on this occasion, produced in the minds of the expedition, not only devotion to him, but the most unbounded confidence in his abilities.
El Valle de Mais is situated near the river Panuco, and not far from the town bearing that name, in the province of San Luis Potosi. It was by far the best town the expedition had yet seen. It has a large square, with extensive and well built edifices and some handsome churches. The houses generally have an air of neatness, and are well constructed. The division had almost despaired of seeing a town like this, from the gloomy appearance of the country it had hitherto traversed. The road had lain through the worst part of the Tierra Caliente, or hot region, which, from the paucity of inhabitants, the want of culture, and the scarcity of water, had induced many to form a mean opinion of Mexico. But, at the Valle de Mais, a brighter prospect was unfolded. The ascent into the Tierra Fria, or cold region, which extends over the vast mountain or table land composing eight-tenths of the Mexican kingdom, had commenced. The population of the country was becoming more dense, good towns and fine haciendas now met the eye in various directions, and every hour gave a more agreeable climate.
< Valle de Mais
El Valle de Mais is a place of important trade. Its magazines were well stored with dry goods, and many of its inhabitants were extremely wealthy. They had, generally speaking, precipitately decamped, under an impression that Mina's progress would be marked by sanguinary conduct. Their fears also were increased, in consequence of their having just celebrated, with great rejoicings, the victory which the Gazette of Mexico had announced to have been gained by the royal fleet over Mina. Such, however, had been their hurry to escape, that they left to the mercy of their conqueror their valuable and well-furnished stores. Here Mina gave an unequivocal proof of his politic and generous character. The strictest orders were given to the troops not to stain the cause they had espoused, by any act of plunder or personal violence towards the inhabitants. Only a few articles which were necessary for the troops, were taken from the stores; and he received but a moderate sum of money from the town; thus convincing the people, that he did not come to oppress or maltreat them. Some dry goods, captured during the march, were served out, and a few dollars each were given to the troops.
On the evening of the 9th, the general received information that Don Luis Arminan, commandant of a battalion of the European regiment of infantry of the line of Estremadura, was in pursuit of him from Altamira, with about seven hundred infantry, and a strong body of cavalry, and was then two days' march in the rear. The receipt of this news caused neither surprise nor dismay among the troops. They were so elated by the victory recently gained, that, had the general proposed to march, and meet this formidable force, the troops would cheerfully have obeyed the order. But the general was too prudent to seek combats with such a disparity of numbers. His great object was to form a junction with the patriot forces in the interior; and although he calculated on his troops behaving well, yet he was aware that every action against superior numbers must reduce his own : it therefore became his invariable policy to avoid, instead of fighting, the enemy. He, however, called a council of his principal officers, to consult whether it was best to await the enemy in the same position, where the attack had been made the preceding day, or, by making forced marches, endeavor to join the patriots, before the enemy could get up. The council determined in favor of the latter movement, and, at dawn of the next morning, the expedition was on its march.
The marches were now longer than heretofore; the troops obtaining scarcely any rest or refreshment: but they were cheered by Mina's example. He appeared superior to fatigues or privations, and was constantly on the alert.
On the 12th, at night, the expedition arrived and halted at a rancho. The next morning, a sufficiency of tortillas, with meat, was provided. A small detachment of cavalry was dispatched to a neighboring rancho, but was driven in by a superior number of the enemy's cavalry. It was also understood, that Arminian was uniting with a considerable body, called the Rio Verde cavalry, and was but a few leagues off. Mina thereupon caused the expedition to move forward; and as it became necessary to advance rapidly, time could not be spared to obtain provisions. On the night of the 14th, the expedition arrived at the hacienda called Peotillos. The enemy, however, by making double marches, was close up, and took prisoner a soldier of the regiment of the Union, who, unable to proceed, lagged in the rear.
On arriving at the hacienda, worn down by hunger and fatigue, the troops expected that something necessary for their refreshment would be obtained. But, to their great disappointment, they found that the Mayor Domo (overseer) had run away, and had taken with him all the Indians, so that no cattle could be procured. In the tired state of the troops, sleep was even more grateful to them than provisions, and they consoled themselves with the expectation of a good meal the next morning. Accordingly, early in the morning of the 15th, the poultry and pigs of the hacienda were laid under
requisition, and the troops were animated with the prospect of a good breakfast; but at eight A. M. while it was cooking, advice was brought, that the advance guard of the enemy was within two miles of the hacienda ; the troops were called to arms, and marched to a small eminence adjoining the hacienda, whence there was an extensive view of the plain.
The hacienda de Peotillos is the property of a convent in Mexico. It is valuable, and the buildings are extensive and handsome, situated at the foot of a range of hills running north and south, fifteen leagues north-west from the city of San Luis Potosi. East of the hacienda extends a large plain, bounded on that side also by hills. The plain, in many places, was planted with corn, but was much overrun with bushes, about ten feet high. The advance of the enemy had formed on the edge of one of these thickets, with a clear space of ground in its front, and near it was a corn field, strongly fenced in.
From the eminence, to which the expedition was marched, Mina reconnoitered the enemy. He saw that an action was now inevitable. To retreat in the presence of such a force, in the fatigued state of his infantry, and with the broken down horses of the cavalry, was destruction; and, to defend the hacienda, could only eventuate in the extermination of his little band. He therefore determined to strike a blow, trusting that it might be attended by some fortunate results. Having fixed upon his plan, he rode up to his troops, and stated to them, that the body of cavalry then in view, consisted of about four hundred men; that the, cloud of dust rising some distance in the rear, was caused by the main body; but, he thought, that before it could get up, there might be time enough to defeat the advanced guard. The general concluded by asking them, if they were willing to march down to the plain and attack the enemy. The expedition had learnt to despise the enemy's cavalry, and from the knowledge they had acquired of their undisciplined state, and the great confidence they reposed in Mina, would cheerfully have engaged any number of them. With three cheers, they, therefore, answered the general, that they would follow wherever he chose to lead them. He, thereupon, selected from the expedition, the Guard of Honor, the Regiment of the Union, detachments from the cavalry and first regiment of the line, and the armed servants, composed of colored boys, under the command of one of the general's servants, and marched to the conflict. His small band, including the general and staff, and a re-enforcement of ten cavalry ordered up during the action, was one hundred and seventy-two. Of these, the Guard of Honor and Regiment of the Union formed the line, and was commanded by Colonel Young; a detachment from the Union, with that from the first regiment, and the armed servants, operated as skirmishers, and the cavalry covered the flanks. The residue of the division remained in the hacienda, to protect the stores, of which Colonel Noboa was left in command.
Immediately on the arrival of the expedition at the cleared ground, the enemy made a furious charge; but were received with firmness. A well-directed fire checked their labor, and they fell back, leaving twenty-two dead. But, knowing the powerful support that was coming up, and being joined in the meantime by a re-enforcement of cavalry, they were thereby stimulated to continue the contest. They played round, occasionally charging, and harassed the expedition in this manner, until the main body, composed of infantry, cavalry, and cannon, arrived. It got up under cover of the bushes before described, which had concealed its approach, until the first intimation that the expedition had of its arrival was a tremendous fire from its line. Mina, on perceiving the overwhelming force, made a disposition to retire upon the hacienda, in order to re-unite his forces. But the enemy, encouraged by this movement, advanced, beating the charge and maintaining a heavy fire, by which several of the little band fell. The general, finding it would be impracticable to draw off his troops, halted them, and made some necessary movements. The enemy, thereupon, took up a position, with their left resting on the fence of the corn fields, and their right flanked by a cavalry. The expedition now saw the immense superiority of the force they had to contend with, and destruction appeared inevitable. But the serenity and courage of their leader filled the men with enthusiasm, and increased the resolution they had formed to sell their lives as dearly as possible.
The infantry had been supplied with buck shot, and many of the men loaded with eighteen in addition to the ball. They committed havoc among the enemy. But the constant fire of the royalists considerably thinned the ranks of Mina's infantry, and his cavalry sustained some sharp conflicts, and suffered severely.
At length the enemy's cavalry were observed coming up in the rear, and lancing the unfortunate wounded; several of whom had still sufficient strength remaining to fire a musket, and continued, as they lay on the ground, to give battle till they were pierced with wounds. At this juncture the order was given to charge, and the line advanced with cool determination. The enemy evinced a strong disposition to withstand it, and remained firm till Mina's infantry were within a few paces. This was the critical moment which was to decide the fate of the expedition. Mina's infantry, animated by their resolution to conquer or die, gave three cheers, and, pouring into the enemy a destructive volley of buck shot, rushed upon them; they broke; and, throwing away their arms, fled with such recipitation, that only a very few were bayoneted.
The cavalry, viewing with astonishment the fate of the infantry, partook of the terror. They dispersed, and fled in every direction. The general was unable to follow up his success, as the horses of the detachment from the cavalry, with him, were completely worn down. He, however, pursued the fugitives a short distance. Had Colonel Noboa been animated with the gallantry of Major Maylefer, who commanded the cavalry in the hacienda, not one of the enemy's infantry would have escaped. The major, anxious to signalize himself, repeatedly requested Colonel Noboa to allow him to share in the glory of the day, and to re-enforce the general with the cavalry; but, for some reason or other, he would not allow him, and thus the enemy's infantry escaped annihilation.
It was supposed, that the enemy, after flying a reasonable distance, and not finding themselves pursued, would rally, and then return to the attack. The expedition was, in consequence, ordered to the hacienda, where it arrived, after having been warmly engaged three hours and a half. The troops returned in high spirits, each man feeling conscious of having not only done his duty, but that he had escaped the destruction which, a few hours before, appeared to await him. Never was any man welcomed with more heart-felt congratulations, than those which Mina received from his troops. They rent the air with their cheers, and even the wounded seemed almost insensible to suffering, amidst the general joy.
The first impulse of the little band, on being dismissed, was to fly to the meal which had been left in cooking: but, to their keen mortification, they found, that the cooks, feeling as was natural, more interest in the fate of the battle, than in dressing the provisions, had deserted their trust. In their absence, the dogs of the hacienda had upset the pots, and had regaled themselves at the expense of the famished soldiers. Other provisions were speedily procured for cooking; but, in the meantime, an alarm was given, which, however, turned out to be unfounded.
Immediately on reaching the hacienda, the attention of the general was directed to the removal of the wounded from the field, and parties were sent out for that purpose, as well as to collect some of the fruits of the victory. Owing to the distance of the scene of action from the hacienda, and the want of the necessary means of conveyance, this duty was not finished till night had set in. Besides the wounded of the division, some of the enemy's were brought in also. From the same causes, only fifty stand of arms, one gun, three drums, some accoutrements, and eight mule loads of ammunition, were all that could be saved; of the latter, the enemy blew up a considerable quantity when they fled.
The return of the loss of the expedition was heavy, and a melancholy reduction from its strength.
Total killed and wounded, - - - - 56. Among the killed was Don Lazaro Goiii, a native of Navarre: the general was much attached to him. He was beloved by the army, and had gallantly distinguished himself.
On the body of a lieutenant colonel, killed in the action, was found the order of the day, which showed that the force actually engaged was six hundred and eighty infantry of the European regiments of Estremadura and America, and eleven hundred of the Rio Verde and Sierra Gorda cavalry; and that the rear guard consisted of three hundred men. This was subsequently corroborated by official documents, published at Mexico: so that Mina, with one hundred and seventy fatigued infantry, and badly mounted cavalry, defeated, in a plain, without even the advantage of a good position, upwards of seventeen hundred men. The royalist soldiers, who fled from the field of battle, returned to their homes, and, in vindication of their own conduct, exaggerated the numbers and intrepidity of Mina's troops, who, they said, were not men, but devils; and portrayed in melancholy colors, the dreadful execution committed by their fire. The general's fame thus spread in every direction, and paralyzed the enemy.
The action of Peotillos is yet mentioned with shame and mortification by the royalists. It was blazoned through the kingdom, and particularly in the central provinces, where it is known to all ranks of people. It will long live in the recollection of the Mexicans ; and perhaps the day is not distant, when the Mexican people will offer to the memory of Mina, those honors due to the hero of Peotillos. This, and other actions and circumstances, have created in their minds a strong predilection, and great respect for foreigners : a circumstance which would be attended by the most astonishing results, should a body of them ever invade the kingdom in the cause of its emancipation. If Mina, after this action, had had with him one thousand, instead of a hundred and fifty foreigners, he might have marched direct upon the capital of Mexico, and the royalist troops, instead of opposing him, would have flocked to his banners.
The battle of Peotillos incontestably proves the quality and character of the royalist troops, and shows what a few determined foreigners can achieve against them at the point of the bayonet. This is not the only action which can be adduced in support of this assertion. That of Colonel Perry, near Soto la Marina, and that of El Valle de Mais, already noticed.
During the action, a trumpeter was made prisoner by a Major of the enemy's cavalry. The Major immediately forced him to dismount, and then gave him his carbine to carry. The trumpeter soon ascertained that it was loaded, and when he found that the enemy's troops were in a state of confusion, he suddenly presented the carbine at the Major, and peremptorily ordered him to dismount; he did so, and the trumpeter jumping into the saddle, ordered the Major to march before him, observing to him, " as you are obliged to walk, sir, I'll not trouble you to carry the gun." So much pleased was the Major with the manner in which he was treated, that although Mina gave him his liberty, he subsequently joined the expedition. The next day's march brought the expedition to a very extensive hacienda, called Espiritu Santo. Being on the frontiers of the provinces possessed by the patriots, and open to their incursions, the hacienda was fortified, and a garrison had been maintained at the owner's expense: but, not deeming it prudent to withstand an attack from the force which now approached, they had retreated to San Luis, having the proprietor, a European Spaniard, under their convoy. The majority of the male inhabitants had been compelled to depart; but the expedition was met, at the entrance of the hacienda, by a troop of females, bearing a picture of the Virgin, and chanting hymns. Fearing the worst from victorious troops, and judging what would be the conduct of Mina, by what they had experienced from others in the same situation, they adopted this method; hoping, by the intercession of their titular saint, to awaken the compassion of the conqueror, and to obtain that clemency which was seldom extended to them. Their fears soon subsided; and, to their very great surprise, the soldiers, instead of plundering them, as had been customary with the contending parties, paid for whatever they required. The expedition bivouacked without the hacienda, rations were provided, and the next morning it moved forward.
By a forced march, the expedition reached the Real de Pinos at sunset. The term Real implies a place where mines are worked. This town is in the intendancy of Zacatecas; is extensive and wealthy; and is located on an ascent, partly surrounded by hills, out of which the precious minerals are extracted. It was fortified; being defended, on the hill side, by a very wide and deep trench, which was raked from breastworks built on the tops of the houses. On the side next the plain, the streets leading to the Plaza Mayor (principal square) were blocked up by a wall, calculated only to afford protection against musketry, constructed with loop-holes, and strengthened by ditches. These would be unavailing against organized troops, as the heights completely command the place within musket-shot. It had, however, been once invested by a body of fifteen hundred patriots, and had resisted their attacks.
At the time Mina appeared before Pinos, it contained a garrison of three hundred men. He summoned the place to surrender, promising that respect should be paid to persons and property, and threatening the consequences that awaited its reduction by force. A refusal to this summons was returned; and Mina, thereupon, made preparations for storming the place. Soon after dark, parties were dispatched to the different points of attack; and a smart skirmishing was maintained on both sides, but without causing any loss to Mina.
A little before midnight, a detachment of fifteen men from the Union was ordered up to re-enforce a party of the first regiment. At that point, the houses were low, and afforded a communication from their terraces with the Plaza Mayor, extending some distance into the rear of the enemy's works. The small party of fifteen men, anxious to distinguish themselves, immediately mounted the terraces, and unobserved, as the night was dark, proceeded along them in silence. Arrived at the square, they lowered themselves down by their blankets; where, by the light of the torches of the enemy, they saw the reserve under arms, with five pieces of artillery: they advanced upon them as long as they could do so unperceived, then gave their usual three cheers, and rushed on the enemy with the bayonet. They were completely surprised, and each one seeking his own safety in flight, abandoned the place, without farther resistance. Thus Pinos was carried, with the loss of one man. As the place had refused to surrender on honorable terms, and as it was taken by storm, Mina, in conformity with the laws of war, gave it up to be plundered; but, at the same time, charged the troops not to commit any act of personal violence. Large sums in specie were found by the troops, many of whom obtained more treasure than they could find means to carry away. They amply supplied themselves with clothing, which they much needed; few leaving the place without a richly embroidered cloak thrown over the shoulders, worth from one to two hundred dollars, and many of them far more valuable. A considerable magazine of military stores was also found here.
One of the soldiers of the Union regiment had entered a church, and was detected in the act of purloining the golden ornaments belonging to the altar. The general had always given the most positive orders to his troops, to respect all places dedicated to divine worship: and had declared his firm determination to punish with death whoever was found committing an act of sacrilege. On a former occasion, at Soto la Marina, he had caused a Creole to be shot, for breaking into a church at Palo Alto. He therefore, on being informed of the circumstance, immediately directed the soldier to be taken out to the front of the expedition, and there shot: - thus proving to the royalists, that the men whom they called heretics, and whom they had represented to the people as sacrilegious plunderers, paid more respect to the sanctuaries of religion than themselves; for the royalist troops, throughout the revolution, have invariably polluted the churches, by using them as fortifications, barracks, and stables, whenever it suited their purposes. They have, on several occasions, despoiled cathedrals and convents of immense quantities of silver ornaments, and converted them into specie. It would not, therefore, be surprising, did the patriots follow this example: but to their honor be it said, that they are more scrupulous in these matters than their enemies. In various parts of the province of Guanajuato, were seen churches in ruins, which the inhabitants had razed to the ground, rather than that they should be applied to the purposes of fortifications.
On the afternoon of the 19th, the general, after releasing on parole those who had fallen into his hands, evacuated Pinos, carrying with him a part of the trophies of his late victory, consisting of a stand of colors, four guns, several stand of arms, a large quantity of ammunition, clothing and accoutrements; but for the want of mules to remove them, fifteen cases of ammunition, two guns after being spiked, and several other articles, were thrown into a well.
It was expected that the long-looked-for junction with the patriots of the interior, would be formed in a few days. The road now traversed one of those extensive arid plains, with which the intendancy of Zacatecas abounds. A number of ruined houses, and quantities of human bones scattered here and there, gave an air of desolation to the plain, and indicated that the country had suffered severely by revolutionary ravages. For three days, the expedition marched through this solitary plain; and, as everything had been laid waste, neither human being, nor beast, were visible. No provisions were to be procured: but, fortunately, the plains were covered with grass, which afforded the horses superabundant forage, and enabled them to go over much ground every day.
After dark, on the 22d, the guide became bewildered as to the right road, and the expedition halted. It had been three days with scarcely any nourishment; and as there was no prospect of immediate relief, their situation became unpleasant. Early the next morning, an officer, with a small escort of cavalry, was ordered to advance, and seek for habitations. He had not proceeded far, when he fell in with a small party of patriots, who were reconnoitering. The detachment being well uniformed, and as the patriots had not heard anything of Mina's approach, they supposed the expedition to be hostile, and commenced firing. It was with difficulty the officer could bring them to a parley; which having accomplished, and remaining himself as a hostage, a few of the patriots came down to the expedition. The joy of the troops, at having at length, after surmounting so many obstacles, joined their allies, may readily be imagined. Every man, in his rejoicings, forgot his past sufferings, and contemplated with pleasure the field of glory which he supposed was in consequence about to be opened to him. The general immediately set off, to meet and pay his respects to the commandant of his allies, Lieutenant Colonel Don Christoval Naba; and, in the course of the forenoon, the general with the lieutenant colonel, returned to the encampment.
Mina learned from Don Christoval, that five leagues distant was a national rancho, and that four leagues farther was the national fort called Sombrero. This was cheering intelligence; and in high spirits the troops resumed the march. After dark, on the preceding evening, Lieutenant Porter was unfortunately lost. In the morning, he was made prisoner by the royalists, and sent to the town of Lagos.
While the expedition was ascending the heights of Ybarra, a strong body of the enemy were seen in the plain below. Their appearance was as unexpected as unwelcome, to the exhausted troops. As Mina expected they would bring him to action, he took the necessary measures to act on the defensive; and there is little doubt, that, had the enemy attacked him, his troops, flushed as they were with recent victory, and elated by being so near their allies, would have given him a warm reception. But for reasons inexplicable by the expedition, the enemy declined a combat, and allowed Mina to reach the rancho unmolested. There the troops found plenty of meat provided by their friends, which constituted a rich repast to men who had fasted for four days.
The enemy were encamped in a ruined hacienda, only two leagues distant from the expedition, and the next morning proceeded to the Villa de Leon. They consisted of the battalion of the European regiment of Navarre, and cavalry, seven hundred strong, under the command of Don Francisco de Orrantia, who, it appeared, had been ordered, after the defeat at Peotillos, from the city of Queretaro, to prevent Mina's junction with the patriots. The manner in which he obeyed his orders is here seen. Orrantia will become a conspicuous figure, in our subsequent pages ; and it will be perceived that his future conduct exactly corresponded with his behavior in this instance. The true cause of his declining an action with Mina, may be attributed to the respectful awe he entertained for the general.
Orrantia is one among the many Spaniards, sent to seek their fortunes in the colonies, without education or principle. It is by this class of Spaniards that the unfortunate Creoles have been so dreadfully oppressed, in every part of the New World. He soon became opulent; and was, and is yet, the owner of a large store, in the town of San Miguel el Grande, where he carries on a lucrative business. When the revolution broke out, he became a soldier; and his sanguinary enormities towards defenseless men, women, and children, recommended him to the then royal authorities, and he was promoted to the rank of colonel.
The officer who had remained with Don Christoval Naba as a hostage, and was sent on to his commanding officer, Don Pedro Moreno, the commandant of Sombrero, after having exhibited his commission to Don Pedro, received from that commander an invitation for the general, welcoming him, and requesting that the expedition might be marched to the fort. At the same time, Don Pedro sent dispatches to the patriot government, announcing the happy event, and the intelligence soon spread in every direction.
The general, with the staff, early on the morning of the 24th,proceeded to the fort. The expedition moved on soon after, and arrived at noon at the patriot fortress, where they were received with the most cordial demonstrations of joy. The patriots viewed the expedition with astonishment, and could scarcely believe it possible that such a handful of men could have penetrated such a distance to the interior, and through a country occupied by the royalists in every part of the route.
The expedition had been thirty days on the march, and had gone over a distance of two hundred and twenty leagues. It was harassed a considerable distance by the enemy, from which cause, and from the nature of the marches, no regular supplies of provisions could be procured. Frequently two, sometimes three, and even four days had elapsed, without rations: and in no instance did the expedition, except in El Valle de Mais, procure more than one meal a day, and that of meat only ; fighting, during these scenes of privation and fatigue, two severe battles, and taking one town. The troops bore up against hardships, with cheerfulness, by observing that their leader fared like themselves, and in the hour of danger was invariably at their head, cheering them on.
The privations which the expedition suffered, did not arise from the want of means in that part of Mexico, to support an army, but from the circumstances of the general being obliged to seek the most unfrequented paths, and the constant and rapid marches which his situation obliged him to make, frequently not allowing him time to refresh his troops, except by a few hours sleep, which the troops generally preferred to employing the time in cooking. If Mina's force had been strong enough to have allowed him to advance by the high road, the expedition would have fared differently, for few countries can afford more provisions for an army than Mexico, particularly in meat. A few leagues from the sea coast, where there is scarcely any population, bread is difficult to be obtained, but soon afterwards, an army reaches a delightful country, tolerably well settled, enjoying a fine climate, and where, in the towns, wheat bread can always be procured.
By looking over M. le Baron de Humboldt's chart, the only correct one extant, it will be seen that the distance by the king's high way (camino real,) from Soto la Marina to Sombrero, is not more than half the distance before mentioned, but Mina's peculiar situation obliged him to take circuitous routes, which can be seen by tracing the march on the maps.
The following is the return made by Colonel Noboa, of the strength of the expedition, on its arrival at Sombrero:
The general and staff, - 10
Guard of Honor, - - 23
Regiment of the Union, - 46
First regiment of the line, - 59
Artillerists, - 5
Armed servants, 12
Ordinanzas, . - - 5
Of these, twenty-five were wounded; and the loss, in killed, and those who were taken prisoners on the road, amounted to thirty-nine. When it is considered that the expedition marched through so great an extent of enemy's country, enduring severe privations and sufferings, for thirty days, it will appear almost incredible, that under such circumstances, besides fighting two battles and carrying by storm one town, the loss sustained should have been so trifling. It affords a criterion, which will enable the reader to judge of the skill and enterprise of Mina, and of the good conduct of his officers and men.
The fort was commanded by Don Pedro Moreno, Mariscal de Campo*, and had a garrison of about eighty infantry, and a few cavalry, tolerably well clothed and armed. Don Pedro had also under his orders, a body of about two hundred cavalry, commanded by Don Encarnacion Ortiz, who traversed the country in the vicinity of Sombrero.
*The Spanish grades, which are also observed by the patriots, are, from a colonelcy to brigadier ; brigadier to mariscal de campo ; thence to lieutenant general, and finally to captain general.
Two views of Fort Sombrero
Fort Sombrero, called by the royalists Comanja, was situated on the mountain of that name, about eighteen leagues north-west of the city of Guanajuato, in that intendancy ; from Lagos, in the intendancy of. Guadalajara, east-south-east, about five ; and from the Villa de Leon, north-east six leagues. It was a rudely fortified neck of land, about five hundred paces long, stretching north and south, and elevated above the plain of Leon, about one thousand feet. At the north end, there was a narrow ridge or causeway, skirted by precipices, which connected the neck of land which formed the fort, with a chain of hills ; one of which completely commanded it within long musket shot. This alone rendered the fort untenable against any regular attack, but, as Moreno had successfully repulsed the royalists in one attempt made by them to enter it, he considered it as a very strong hold. On the east side, the fort was separated from the mountains by a very deep and wide barranca (ravine.) At the south end, the declivity of the hill was very steep : and on the west side was a bold descent to the plain. From the south end, at a less elevation than the fort, extended out into the plain two narrow ridges. Across the end of the causeway next to the fort, where it was about fifty paces wide, a miserably constructed wall had been run. It was flanked by two ill-planned one gun batteries, which raked the greatest part of the causeway, and the declivity of the hill in front; but could not annoy the ditch.
This was the only regular entrance into the fort. In its rear was a conical hill, crowned by a work of one gun, which commanded the causeway. From the entrance, for some distance along the fort, it was naturally defended by perpendicular rocks and precipices ; and beyond them, at the south or lower end, as it was called, it was artificially strengthened by a low wall, built of loose stones, but its real defense at this place, which was bad enough, consisted in the steepness of the hill. Seventeen pieces of crooked, rough, and misshapen artillery, from two to eight pounders, were mounted on various parts of the fort. The commandant's house, magazines, hospital, and the greater part of the soldiers' dwellings - barracks there were none - were built on the south side of the conical hill; some grass huts were also standing at the lower end, and crammed in amongst the rocks in various parts of the fort. The greatest of all its defects was, the want of water, the garrison depending on a supply from a brook, (arro'ijo,) which ran through the bottom of the ravine, at a distance of nearly eight hundred paces from the fort. At the time the expedition entered the fort, it did not contain a week's provisions, and in every point of view it was badly calculated to resist any serious attack.
The officers and soldiers of Mina's little army, on entering fort Sombrero, looked forward to enjoy a few days of repose, but the enterprising general could not remain inactive, while any occasion offered to annoy his enemy. On the 28th, information was received that a movement was made in the direction of the fort, by a body of seven hundred of the enemy, under the command of Colonel Don Felipe Castanon, and that he was in the town of San Felipe, distant from Sombrero, east north east about thirteen leagues.
Castanon, from his activity in surprising parties of the patriots, and the enormities he committed, had rendered himself conspicuous. His fidelity had been rewarded by his government, by appointing him to the command of this expedition, and granting to him as a peculiar mark of confidence, liberty to act as his discretion dictated. He was allowed to move in any direction, and to enter into any province he chose, with his force, which was styled a flying expedition. It consisted of three hundred excellent cavalry, and four hundred infantry.
His movements were rapid, secret, and generally made under cover of the night. He kept the whole country in the Baxio in perpetual alarm. He had been invariably victorious, and his name had excited such terror, that the patriots, at length, could not be brought to face him; each individual, as well the peasant as the soldier, when his name was mentioned, and they supposed he was near, thought only of making his escape.
It had latterly been the practice with the royalist commanders, in virtue of orders from the Viceroy Apodaca, not to put to death, or molest the country people within the jurisdiction of the patriots, unless they were actually taken in arms. This order was in general attended to, except some occasional acts of plunder, but Castanon most wantonly disobeyed it with regard to every individual, that came within his merciless grasp. The Gazette of Mexico teemed with his dispatches, in which, after enumerating his savage acts, he invariably wound up by informing the viceroy, that the prisoners should be shot. The aged and infirm, women and children, were alike the victims of his sanguinary and vindictive spirit, so that as he advanced, every one fled to the mountains, or retired to secret retreats in the ravines, to avoid his fury. Meeting with no opposition, in the most merciless manner he murdered and robbed the unhappy peasantry, wherever they were found, and desolated every place through which he passed.
Mina, on the intelligence of his approach, rejoiced in the opportunity which offered of enabling him to attempt checking the strides of this ferocious royalist, and accordingly, on the evening of the 28th, marched to meet him with the effective force of the expedition, about two hundred strong, accompanied by Don Pedro Moreno, with a detachment of fifty infantry and eighty lancers, under Don Encarnacio Ortiz. The expedition continued its march till midnight, when, on reaching the ruins of an hacienda, they were joined by some patriot infantry, which increased the party to nearly four hundred men. At three in the morning, the expedition halted, about six leagues from San Felipe. Morning presented to view the comrades who had joined during the march. They were a motley group, that merely swelled the numerical force, without bringing an addition of strength. Over their shoulders was thrown a tattered blanket, which, with a pair of drawers, constituted their only clothing. Their muskets were generally rusty, without bayonets, locks out of repair, and many without flints. The men were unaccustomed to even the semblance of discipline, for they had lived at their own houses, scattered over several leagues of country, and had been suddenly called together for the present expedition. Such was the allied infantry; but it must not be inferred, that the lancers under Ortiz were of a similar description.
At seven o'clock next morning the troops were in motion. After advancing about a league, the enemy were discovered approaching by the same road, which lay through a beautiful undulating plain, on the lands of the hacienda of San Juan de los Llanos, distant from the town of San Felipe five leagues. The scene of action was near the ruins of that hacienda.
Hacienda San Juan De los Llanos
Mina ordered the expedition to retire behind arising ground, and there made his dispositions with his usual promptitude and skill. The Guard of Honor, Regiment of the Union, and the infantry of Sombrero, forming a column of ninety men, of whom forty-five were citizens of the United States, were placed under the command of Colonel Young. The first regiment of the line and the patriot infantry formed another column of one hundred and ten men, under Colonel Marques, commander of the former regiment. The cavalry of the division, ninety strong, were commanded by Major Maylefer; the lancers were headed by Don Encarnacion Ortiz,; and to these may be added the armed servants.
The enemy having taken up his position, Mina advanced alone to within musket shot of their line to reconnoiter. His dress, and the fine appearance of his horse, soon attracted the notice of the enemy's infantry, who made a general discharge at him, but fortunately without effect. Mina's expedition were highly delighted with this display of his intrepidity, although many of his officers regretted to see him thus expose his person.
Having, however, accomplished his object, he returned among his troops, and gave orders to advance briskly to the attack. Colonel Guilford Dudley Young, at the head of his column, moved up rapidly under a heavy fire of grape and musketry, poured into their infantry one volley, and then gallantly made a charge with the bayonet. Major Maylefer, at the same moment, falling, sword in hand, at the head of his cavalry, on that of the enemy, the whole gave way. The lancers, the instant they perceived the enemy in disorder, dashed furiously among them; the rout became general, and the victory was complete.
Three hundred and thirty-nine were counted slain on the field, and two hundred and twenty were taken prisoners. About one hundred and fifty of the best mounted cavalry made their escape.
Among the slain was a Colonel Ordonez, and several other distinguished officers. The implacable enemy of the patriots, Castanon, received a mortal wound, of which he expired, after riding about five leagues from the scene of action. The cavalry pursued the enemy about two leagues, increasing their loss.
The gallantry displayed by Colonel Young in this action, and the labor of his troops, set an example which was followed by all the rest of the expedition, and in fact, not more than eight minutes elapsed from the time Mina gave the order to advance, till the enemy were in full retreat. Mina's loss was eight killed, and nine wounded, but among the former was the brave and able officer Major Maylefer. The loss of this man almost counterbalanced the victory. The major was a Swiss, and had been an officer of dragoons in the French army ; he had served in Spain, and exclusive of his military talents, he was respected by the troops for his indefatigable attention to his duties.
There fell into Mina's hands, the result of this action, one brass field piece and a mountain gun, five hundred muskets, a greater part of which were of British fabric, a large quantity of accoutrements, and all the ammunition and baggage. It is worthy of remark, that the enemy, during this action, fired dollars from their artillery. We presume this arose from their being deficient in grape shot, for most certainly the state of the government revenue could not well afford such an extravagant mode of warfare. Be this as it may, many of Mina's soldiers were highly pleased with collecting this new species of grape shot.
Mina returned to his encampment of the preceding night, amidst the congratulations of his soldiers ; marched the next morning, and arrived at Sombrero the same evening. A discharge of artillery, announced to the royalists of the Villa de Leon, that a heavy disaster had befallen their cause. After a few days' rest at Sombrero, the general, accompanied by Don Pedro Moreno, marched with the expedition and a body of lancers, in all three hundred strong, for the purpose of reducing the highly important hacienda del Jaral, twenty leagues north from Guanajuato.
< Hacienda De Jaral
The hacienda of Jaral, as we have before stated, was of great extent: on it was a large mansion house, and several valuable and handsome buildings, combining in itself every necessary accommodation of dwelling houses, stores, etc. There were likewise extensive granaries, a neat church, and some comfortable edifices belonging to the Marques Don Juan de Moncarda's principal dependants, besides a great number of peasants' houses.
The Jaral, like all important haciendas belonging to the royalists, was fortified and garrisoned at the expense of the proprietor. It was walled in and surrounded by a ditch. As the patriots in its vicinity had for some time past been diminishing in number and enterprise, no danger of an attack was apprehended, particularly from Mina, whose distance the Marques considered in itself a sufficient protection, presuming it would be impossible for him to approach the hacienda through the dependants, which surrounded it for several miles, without his receiving timely information. Under these impressions, the Marques and his family were living there, as he supposed, in perfect security. The soldiery who had escaped the disaster of San Juan de los Llanos, were then quartered in the place, and with its garrison, the military force of the Jaral was upwards of three hundred men and three pieces of artillery.
In Mina's enterprise against this hacienda, he exhibited his peculiar talent for guerilla expeditions. Although the road lay through the thickly settled domains of the Marques, for two or three hours of the second day's march from the fort, yet such was the good management and judgment of Mina, that his advance arrived within sight of the hacienda, before the Marques was advised of his approach; and if Colonel Noboa,who had the command of the advance, had strictly obeyed Mina's orders, the Marques and the garrison would have been taken. They however had just time to save themselves by a precipitate flight. The remains of Castanon's division felt no inclination to measure their strength again with Mina, concluding it safest to accompany the Marques, with whom they fled to San Luis Potosi. It was dark when the division entered the hacienda. Mina, who was ignorant of the flight of the enemy, was surprised at meeting with no resistance, and conceived it probable that the enemy were in ambuscade. Arriving, however, at the mansion, he was met by the priest at the porch, welcoming his arrival at the Jaral, and informing him of the sudden flight of the Marques, presenting, at the same time, the respectful compliments of the latter, with a request that the general would consider the hacienda and all it contained at his service, but that the Marques hoped the general would spare the buildings.
Mina immediately issued orders to his troops to respect private property, and to refrain from ill-treating the inhabitants. The latter were likewise made acquainted with these orders, and were requested, in case of any violation of them, to give information at headquarters, that the perpetrators might receive merited punishment.
Early next morning, an inquiry was made to ascertain where the treasures were buried. One of the Marques's servants gave information, that a quantity of specie was concealed under the pavement of a small room adjoining the kitchen. After digging a considerable depth, a shovel of earth, mixed with loose dollars, was thrown up. The excavation was continued about three hours, during which time the general distributed some dollars among the troops, who, on hearing the news, had flocked to the premises to witness so novel a sight.
In the room where the excavation was going on, Don Pedro Moreno, Don Encarnacion Ortiz, three of Mina's staff, and the laborers, were the only persons admitted, sentinels being placed at the door to prevent the entrance of others. After the operation was ended, an estimate was made by the treasurer of the amount, at one hundred and forty thousand dollars. It was said that Don Pedro, and some other of the chiefs, had privately pocketed some doubloons, which it is highly probable might have been the fact; these were, of course, not included in the estimate.
At an angle of the Marques's mansion was a store, stocked with articles for the use of the hacienda. In the front it contained dry goods, of British and native manufacture, and in the rear was a magazine of sugar, cocoa, brandies, and other articles. As the dry goods were essentially necessary for the troops, they were distributed ; but so small was the quantity, that the share, to those who obtained any, was trifling, and many did not receive any thing. The brandies were particularly withheld, and not an article in the back store was moved from its place. The dry goods, the specie, and a few horses and oxen, were all that were taken. The money was put into wagons, and the same evening the division took up the line of march on its return.
During the day, a deserter came in from San Luis Potosi, and reported, that the Marques on his arrival there, not considering himself in safety, had passed through the city, and that the inhabitants were anxiously waiting for the arrival of Mina, ready to receive him with open arms. We cannot vouch for the fact, but, from subsequent information, we know that the people of San Luis were at that time ripe for a revolt.
The progress of the division was so slow, owing to the heavy, clumsy nature of the wagons, that the next day a number of asses was procured from San Felipe and its environs, and after the specie was removed to them, the wagons and the oxen, with the exception of ten, were sent back to the Jaral, accompanied by Mina's best respects to the Marques, and that at some future day he would do himself the honor again to visit the hacienda.
The next evening, Mina received intelligence that some troops were in a rancho, three leagues distant from the fort, where he had intended to halt that night. The troops in question were supposed to belong to the enemy. A reconnoitering party was dispatched to ascertain the fact, but it returned with the information that they were friends. Previous to reaching the rancho, it became very dark and rainy, rendering it difficult to keep the asses in droves ; and on arriving at the rancho, two or three of the bags of specie were missing. It was afterwards known, that some of the guard who had charge of this treasure, taking advantage of the obscurity of the night, had appropriated a few thousand dollars to their own use.
At the rancho, the general met Colonel Don Miguel Borja, the commandant of the district of the hacienda de Burras, who informed him that his excellency General Torres, with Doctor Don Jose San Martin, and other distinguished patriots, were then at Sombrero, where they had come to pay their respects to and congratulate the general. Mina accordingly set off early ext morning, to meet these republican chiefs, and the division, with its prize, entered the fort in the course of the forenoon, under a salute of artillery, whose unwelcome echoes again announced to the vassals of Ferdinand VII. in Leon, some reverse of their arms.
The money was now counted into the military chest, and proved to be one hundred and seven thousand dollars, in place of one hundred and forty thousand, at which it had been previously estimated.
The Spanish government has stated, (no doubt according to the representations of the Marques,) that the property of which the Jaral was robbed, amounted to three hundred and six thousand four hundred dollars.
The interview at Sombrero, between the general and the republican chiefs, before named, appeared to bear the features of sincerity. We have no doubt, with the exception of Padre Torres, every other individual among Mina's visitors, was not only sincerely disposed to co-operate with him, but that their professions of attachment to him, and gratitude for the important services he had rendered the cause of independence, really sprung from their hearts.
Mina's victories, his enterprise, his pleasing address, his renown, and fast-spreading popularity, were all calculated to awaken the diabolical passions, which ruled the breast of the envious Torres. He viewed the hero of Navarre as an unwelcome intruder, that would soon destroy the ephemeral authority he then exercised. He saw in Mina an energy of character, and a superiority of talent, that would soon raise him to an exalted rank among the Mexicans, and that he himself would speedily be supplanted in the seat of power. These anticipations, blended with innate depravity, made him view the noble-minded Mina with a rancorous eye, and he no doubt at once secretly resolved to destroy him; indeed, he had scarcely sufficient art or prudence to conceal the envy rankling in his bosom.
The Padre said, that in consideration of the military talents and fame of Mina, he had no objections to place himself under his orders, but, at the same time, he begged him to remember, that it was an act of condescension, because he (the Padre) was his superior in rank ; when, however, the interests of the republic required it, he was proud of having an opportunity to show his devotion to the public good, by acting under so experienced a military chief. The manner in which these sentiments were delivered, did not escape the penetration of Colonel Young, who was present, and who had attentively examined the countenance of the Padre during the whole interview.
Mina stated, to the leading republican chiefs, his perfect obedience and devotion to their government, and with his characteristic frankness laid open to them his motives for having espoused the cause of American emancipation. He stated his firm resolution to perish or succeed in it; he unfolded all his plans ; placed before their eyes their situation; his views of the method to be pursued in the future warfare; and he endeavored to convince them of the support which would be cheerfully afforded to the cause by his external friends ; he pointed out to them the cardinal value of a warm co-operation, and conjured them as men and as Mexicans, assertors of their country's liberty, to unite with him in heart and hand against the common enemy of their land. He expressed his firm conviction, that with proper exertions within, and the support which would, in that case, be rendered from abroad, the cause of liberty could not fail of being crowned with success.
Never did the character of Mina appear to higher advantage, than when uttering these pure and patriotic sentiments. The chiefs of the republic, as well as his own officers, who were present, listened to him with admiration, and every heart seemed to respond with gratitude to the hero. Even Padre Torres, at the time, seemed anxious to convince Mina of his cordial and sincere friendship. Taking him by the hand, he exclaimed, " I have six thousand men to place under your orders." " If that is the case," replied the general, " then will I march direct upon the capital of Mexico."
After the interview was closed, and the parties had separated, Colonel Young observed to one of his comrades, " I think we may rely on the sincerity of all the patriot chiefs, except that Padre; him I do not like; envy is stamped on his countenance ; we must beware of him; he will deceive us; depend upon it, he is inimical to our gallant chief." Alas ! these prophetic hints were too soon verified by the conduct of Torres.
While Mina was making his preparations at Sombrero, he received the Gazette of Mexico, in which was announced the fall of the little fort at Soto la Marina. This was indeed painful intelligence, not only on account of the loss of some valuable officers, men, arms, and munitions of war, but because it cut him off" from an external communication, so essential to the success of his operations.
The official accounts published in the Gazette, contained no more information on the subject than what the royalists thought proper to promulgate ; and, as usual, it was composed of hyperbole and falsehood. Authentic information has since been obtained, of the circumstances that occurred to that garrison, subsequently to the departure of Mina for the interior.
It was a singular coincidence of events, that on the same day, and nearly at the same hour, that Mina gained the important victory of Peotillos, the garrison of Soto la Marina was forced to capitulate. The gallant defense which it made reflects the highest honor on its garrison, and shows that the spirit of Mina had extended itself to every individual of his troops.
After Mina's departure, great exertions had been made to discipline the recruits, and to get up the stores from the bar of the river. Amongst other arrangements, a national guard was formed of the peasantry, and the command given to Major Castillo. The numerical force, under the orders of Major Sarda, amounted only to one hundred and thirty-five men.
On the 3d of June, a foraging party of twenty-five men, under the command of Captain Andreas, was dispatched to bring in a supply of corn. It was returning, on the 8th, with twenty-three mules, laden with provisions, when it encountered a party of two hundred mid twenty of the enemy. The little band maintained an obstinate action for half an hour, when the whole, except three, were killed or taken prisoners. The latter were all shot, except the commander, Andreas, whose life was spared, on his promise of rendering them services. This loss was severely felt by the commander of the fort, major Sarda, as it reduced his force to one hundred and thirteen men.
The major had received information, on the 6th, of the approach of the royalists, and immediately ordered every person to work on the entrenchments. The labor, under a scorching sun, was severe and unremitting; but not a murmur was heard from any one. All were intent on preparing to withstand a siege. Even the females of the peasantry took an active in the toil : they killed and jerked the cattle. The seamen were strenuous in their exertions to remove the stores from the beach. In the meantime, the Spanish naval squadron, recently strengthened by a brig, had twice appeared off the river, but showed no disposition to risk a landing.
On the 11th, the royalist forces made their first appearance, and occupied the rancho of San Jose, about a league distant. Major Sarda received information of the exact force of the enemy. They consisted of the battalion of Fernando 7°; an European regiment of infantry, three hundred and sixty strong; three hundred and fifty infantry of the regiment of Fixo de Vera Cruz; two hundred and eighty artillerists, with nineteen pieces of artillery; and twelve hundred cavalry: the whole under the command of general Arredondo.
To oppose this formidable force, Major Sarda had only one hundred and thirteen men; ninety-three of whom composed the garrison, the remaining twenty being occupied in attending to the preservation of the stores. Colonel Myers, of the artillery, and commissary Bianchi, had previously resigned; and Captain Dagasan, a French officer, was appointed to succeed to the command of the artillery. On the fort were mounted three field pieces, two howitzers, one eleven and a half inch mortar, and three carronades. The rear of the fort, however, was open, as there had not been time to throw up the intended redoubt. Colonel Perry, whose conduct and fate we have already narrated, had marched, it appears, to the bar, and there supplied himself with arms and ammunition. Major Sarda indulged a hope that the colonel, after deliberate reflection, would have returned to his comrades ; but unfortunately this expectation was disappointed. Had the fifty-three Americans, who abandoned the cause with Perry, returned to the fort, it is highly probable that the enemy would have been successfully resisted. This assertion is supported, not only by the gallantry displayed by the handful of men who defended the fort, but by the want of skill and good conduct on the part of the besiegers.
On the 12th, the enemy, from a distant battery on the opposite bank of the river, opened a fire, which they maintained until the 14th, without doing any material injury.
Captain Andreas, who had been taken prisoner, and whose life had been spared, as before stated, on condition of serving the enemy, accordingly wrote to Captain La Sala, the senior officer of engineers, and to Captain Martenich, of the first regiment, inviting them to desert the fort, and come over to the royalists; and, on the 13th, these two officers actually passed to the enemy. This occurrence not only excited the indignation of, but created much uneasiness among, the garrison, as La Sala was minutely acquainted with the situation of the fort, and might likewise give every information necessary for its reduction. Major Sarda, therefore, called a council of war; and, after a short consultation, the officers crossed their swords, and swore to defend the fort to the uttermost extremity.
The village of Soto la Marina had been burned, and almost everything cut down that was thought capable of affording shelter to the enemy; but on the right of the fort had been left a few bushes, under cover of which was stationed a party of three hundred cavalry, who attempted to drive away the cattle that were grazing near the fort. To dislodge these, twenty-six infantry, with one field piece, sallied from the fort, and in a most gallant manner attacking the enemy, put them to flight. This affair animated the men, inspired them with confidence in their own valor, and filled them with contempt for the enemy.
The garrison continued to work night and day to complete the fortification, maintaining, at the same time, a steady fire, whenever the enemy presented themselves ; and, in order not to lose time, a few were employed constantly in loading muskets, while the others fired. A thousand muskets, loaded, and with fixed bayonets, were kept ready, in case of an assault.
On the night of the 14th, by the direction of the traitor La Sala, the enemy planted a battery on the right bank of the river, within musket shot; and, at three A. M. of the 15th, they opened a tremendous fire, from twelve pieces of artillery, upon the rear of the fort. Soon after day-light, they brought up seven pieces of artillery on the left bank of the river; and thus the garrison was exposed to a cross fire, which spread destruction at every shot.
Mina had taken La Sala, with two other Italians, out of a state of mendacity, in London. The wife and family of one of them were brought to the United States at the expense of the general, who, as far as his means permitted, made provision for their support. This man and a brother were among the deserters at Port au Prince ; and, not content with that act of ingratitude, he had the assurance to commence a prosecution for six months' pay. But an order from General Boyer, the now president of the republic, prevented the court from proceeding in so iniquitous a case. La Sala was then indignant at the conduct of his two friends, and expressed his determination to follow the fortunes of the general. This apparent fidelity was not lost on Mina. La Sala was promoted to a captaincy, and he stood high in the esteem of the general; as a proof of which, he was entrusted with the arduous and honorable post of the engineer department of Soto la Marina. Under such circumstances, his desertion was an act of peculiar baseness; but his advising the enemy where to plant their cannon, so as most effectually to destroy his former comrades, and, as it appeared, his wantonly directing their fire even upon the place in which he knew the women and children took refuge, are circumstances so monstrous as to outrage the best feelings of human nature. Had it not been for the treacherous conduct of this faithless Italian, the enemy would undoubtedly have been baffled in their attempts on the fort.
The enemy, as soon as they opened the battery on the right bank, lined the river with the light infantry of the Fernando 7°, by which they succeeded in preventing the garrison from reaching the river. At sunrise, it was perfectly calm; but the heat became most oppressive. These circumstances, combined with the dense state of the atmosphere, and the unremitting exertions of the troops, soon rendered their thirst insupportable; and, although the river was within a few paces, so heavy and destructive was the fire of the enemy, that no man, even the boldest, would venture to allay his thirst. In this situation, a Mexican heroine, seeing the men fainting at the guns, intrepidly sallied from the fort, and, amidst a shower of balls, succeeded, uninjured, in bringing a partial supply of water to the suffering soldiers.
At noon, the artillery of the fort was either altogether dismounted, or more or less disabled ; and the grape-shot was nearly expended. The enemy had succeeded in making a breach in the face of the work. Their bugles, trumpets, and drums, now sounded the advance; and their columns were discovered moving up in close order to the assault. This was the critical moment for the little garrison to display all their energies ; and accordingly they prepared with firmness to repulse the approaching storm, or to die in the attempt. The loaded muskets were kept in readiness ; and some of the guns were temporarily remounted, as was supposed, for the last time : these were loaded to the muzzles with musket balls, the only remaining howitzer containing upwards of nine hundred. The enemy now advanced briskly, vociferating " Viva el Rey " and, presenting a formidable front, seemed determined on carrying the fort. They were suffered to approach within a hundred paces, when the garrison greeted them with shouts of "Viva la Libertad y Mina" accompanied by a heavy discharge of musket balls. The enemy, unable to withstand so vigorous an attack, fell into confusion, faced about, and fled in the utmost consternation and disorder. They rallied, and again advanced in columns of attack, driving before them droves of horses, for the double purpose of covering the men from the fire of the garrison, and filling up the ditch with those that should be killed. The garrison retained their fire, as before: the enemy approached with the same apparent resolution, but were again as effectually received, and repulsed. During this assault, Arredondo narrowly escaped destruction from a cannon ball. Once more the enemy rallied, and made a third attempt, which likewise terminated in a destructive repulse.
In this manner did a mere handful of brave men, attacked in front, rear, and on the flanks, resist an overwhelming superiority of numbers. Heroic as was this defense, yet the garrison was too weak to sustain much longer a contest so unequal and unabating, without repose or refreshment ; for incessant labor, and intolerable thirst, had exhausted almost every individual. The artillery was rendered nearly useless; most of the artillerists were killed ; and the infantry, by incessant firing, were so bruised, that they could scarcely bring a musket to the shoulder. In this deplorable situation, the
recruits became alarmed, and some of them escaped from the fort. The firing on both sides, as if by mutual consent, after the third repulse, had somewhat slackened. The slaughter which had been made among the royal troops, taught them the danger of attempting another assault on a place defended by men who had given such proofs of constancy and courage.
At half past one, a flag of truce was sent by Arredondo, demanding the surrender of the fort at discretion. He was answered that such a proposal was inadmissible; and he was even recommended to make another attempt to carry the place by assault. Major Sarda then called together the remaining recruits, and asked them if they would share the fate of the foreigners, who were determined to die, rather than submit to any dishonorable terms: " We are ready to die with you," was the reply of these high-spirited peasants. Another flag now arrived, with the offer that the lives of the garrison should be spared: the former answer was repeated. A third message as received ; and, while the conference was going on, the staff-adjutant of Arredondo came up, and stated, that his general would sincerely regret to be obliged to sacrifice men who had displayed such extraordinary bravery; and that he was empowered to accede to the most honorable and liberal terms. Accordingly, after some consultation, the following articles of capitulation were drawn up, and handed to the officer:
I. All parties composing the garrison of the fort of Soto la
Marina, as well as those that are or may have been at the bar
or on the river, shall be included in the present capitulation.
They shall surrender themselves prisoners of war, every one
receiving a treatment corresponding with his rank; and the
officers shall be paroled.
II. All private property shall be respected.
III. The foreigners shall be sent to the United States, by
the first opportunity. The natives of the country shall be sent
to their respective homes, and their past conduct shall remain
IV. The garrison shall march out with the honors of war,
and stack their arms.
Those conditions being agreed on, the Spanish officer, in the presence of the whole garrison, declared that he was authorized by general Arredondo to accede to any terms he thought proper ; and that therefore he solemnly pledged his word of honor, on behalf of his commanding officer, that the conditions of capitulation, thus placed in his hands, should be scrupulously observed. Major Sarda was well aware, that the honor of a royalist officer, thus solemnly pledged, if he were an honorable person, was a better security than any written document given by a dishonorable one; because, if there exist a disposition to violate engagements, there will never be wanting a pretext to destroy documents ; whereas, by appearing to have confidence in their honor, he was most likely to ensure the faithful performance of the capitulation. Under these circumstances, he did not deem it expedient to insist upon a formal written capitulation, with the signature of General Arredondo.
These points being fixed, hostilities ceased; and, the same afternoon, the garrison marched out with all the honors of war. Thirty-seven men and officers were all that remained of the garrison. They grounded their arms before fifteen hundred of the enemy. Those who were at the bar, or on the river, also became prisoners. Thus fell the little mud fort of Soto la Marina, after bravely sustaining a spirited attack of eleven hours. If such a defense had been made in Europe, in India, or any other part of the civilized world, it would have occupied no ordinary rank in the gazettes and military annals of the present age; and at least the commander of the fort and his brave associates would have been respected in their persons, and not have experienced a base and cruel violation of the terms of surrender.
When general Arredondo saw the little band march out of the fort and ground their arms, he approached their commander, and petulantly asked, "Are these the whole garrison?" Being answered in the affirmative, he abruptly turned round to the commanding officer of the regiment of Ferdinand VII. and exclaimed, " Is it possible?"
The loss of the royalists was three hundred killed, and a proportionate number wounded. The valuable depot of arms and military stores which fell into their hands, seemed to console them in some measure for the severe loss they had sustained; and for the first two days, the little band of heroes were at liberty, and everything indicated good faith on the part of the royalists. Their officers in general offered Major Sarda and his men their congratulations on the happy conclusion of the late affair, and stated that General Arredondo had received a recent proclamation of" the viceroy, promising the royal amnesty to all those of Mina's expedition who should abandon it; that they should be furnished with passports to the United States ; money to bear their expenses; and consequently they might rely on the capitulation being strictly fulfilled. These, however, were short-lived promises; and on the third day the unhappy captives saw the first breach of the capitulation made, by their being placed under guard, and a part being forced to bury the dead and destroy the works.
Shortly after, they saw their comrades of the foraging party, who had been taken on the 3d of June, and who had experienced from their captor, Don Felipe La Garza, a treatment the most humane, led to the front of the camp, and shot. No other reason was assigned for this barbarous act, but that they were not included in the capitulation. One of the prisoners was Lieutenant Hutchinson, a citizen of the United States. His wounds were so severe, that he was unable to sit up. He was shot as he lay in his litter. This tragedy taught the other prisoners to have little confidence in the faith of men capable of such wanton cruelty; and it was now generally anticipated, that the capitulation would be wholly set aside.
The garrison were all kept under close arrest for ten days, were then sent as prisoners to Altamira, and there put in confinement. This was such a direct infraction of the capitulation, that the prisoners naturally concluded they would ere long be treacherously sacrificed; they therefore meditated an attempt to escape. Accordingly, a plan was arranged among the greater part of the prisoners, to rise upon the guard, make their way to Tampico, and there, in case of necessity, embark in the vessels then lying in the port. An enterprise of this kind was not so difficult or desperate as may at the first view be imagined. A small band of intrepid men, indignant at the violation of the capitulation, seeing before them no other prospect but a miserable captivity, and determined to die rather than remain captives, must be, under such circumstances, capable of performing extraordinary deeds; and there is little doubt, that if they had once overcome the guard, they would have succeeded. But unfortunately for them, their intentions were suspected, or else discovered by one of their own party, and within about an hour of the time when they contemplated striking the blow, they were astonished by the sudden appearance of a detachment of soldiers entering their prison.
The royalist officer who commanded the party of soldiers, informed the captives that he had orders to put them in irons, but knew not for what cause. Accordingly, they were all heavily ironed, and conducted to different places of confinement in the town. Then commenced a scene of cruelty towards these miserable men, which, if it were possible to be described, would find but few readers willing to believe the horrid detail. Few, very few of those captives are now living ; but should any of them cast their eye on this statement of their sufferings, they will readily perceive that the following sketch is a mere outline of the miseries they endured.
They were conducted to Vera Cruz by the circuitous route of Pachuca, twenty-five leagues from the city of Mexico. Although on horseback, the weight of their irons, the length of the journey, want of wholesome food, and oppressive heat, brought on debility and disease. Their distress and torments seemed to excite joy among their Spanish conductors. Some, overcome with their sufferings, fainted on the road, and were fastened to their horses with cords; others became frantic, and begged to be shot or bayoneted; while the remainder were driven along like cattle, to the end of the day's march, and then thrown into wretched hovels, swarming with vermin. A pittance of coarse food, barely sufficient to sustain life, was given them, but so great was their fatigue and bodily pain, that to eat was to add to their sufferings. Extreme debility of course ensued, and as scarcely any rest was allowed them, it became almost impossible for any one of them even to bear the weight of his irons. Indeed, had it not been for the humanity of the Mexican population, very few would have survived.
In this dreadful condition they at length reached the city of Vera Cruz, where fourteen of them were incarcerated during a night in a room not capable of containing four men at their ease. They were all huddled together, and so closely wedged, that they were obliged to stand upright. No air entered the place. A general suffocation had nearly taken place. An officer, reduced to the last extremity, begged for a little water. The sentinel who was applied to, replied, he had positive orders to grant nothing, and wished the officer a speedy passage to the other world.
The dungeons in the castle of San Juan de Ulua, on a small island opposite Vera Cruz, in which these victims were afterwards confined, cannot be compared with any others in the world. Situated about fourteen feet under the arches of the castle, a gloomy light can only be admitted by a small grating at the top. There is a constant humidity; and as the bottom of the dungeon is below the level of the sea, water oozes in, and has opened passages through which crabs find access. These were finally welcome visitors to prisoners, serving them for occasional food. The number confined in so small a space, soon produced a pestilential air, and disease became general among them. The sentinels, on opening the doors, frequently fainted away on inhaling the horrid effluvia issuing from the dungeon. The daily allowance of food was four ounces of bread, three of rice, and three of beans. This however was frequently curtailed, and was cooked in so disgusting a manner, without salt, that nothing but extreme hunger could induce some of the prisoners to touch anything but the bread. In vain they begged that the sick should be separated from those that still retained some remnant of health. They were all chained indiscriminately in pairs, and on opening the dungeon one morning, two were found dead in their chains.
At length, when an order came to remove the sick, it was only executed in extreme cases, and even then, the victim was removed to the hospital in irons, which were never struck off, till death had put an end to the miserable sufferer. There was one instance of such deliberate and savage cruelty, as to excite the indignation and reprehension of several Spanish officers.
One of the prisoners, a citizen of the United States, had the skin of his leg chafed by the irons. From the want of dressings, and wholesome aliment, the sore rapidly increased. The irritation and pressure of the iron, caused the flesh and muscles to become completely ulcerated to the bone; the whole leg became a mass of corruption. Unavailing were his petitions to have the irons taken off; his groans and excruciating agonies at length so far arrested the attention of his keepers, that he was removed to the hospital. The physician, on examining the horrid state of the leg, immediately addressed a representation to the governor, stating, that unless the irons were removed, death would inevitably ensue. Upon the margin of the memorial, the governor wrote the following inhuman replication, and sent it to the officer of the guard: " ghie los lleva, mientras respira." Whilst he breathes, he shall wear them. This barbarian was the Brigadier Don Juan Evia. In a few hours this victim of Spanish inhumanity expired.
We forbear swelling our pages with the farther recital of these barbarous acts, and conclude by stating, that of the thirty-seven officers and soldiers who capitulated at Soto la Marina, and about thirty others, foreigners of Mina's party, who, before and subsequent to that affair, had fallen into the hands of the royalists, at least thirty died, at Altamira, on the route to Vera Cruz, and in the dungeons of San Juan de Ulua.
The few that survived the horrors of those dungeons, were shipped for Spain, to await the farther orders of the king. On their passage to the Peninsula, they were treated with every indignity and cruelty, with the exception of four, who were sent from Havana in the Spanish brig of war Ligero, commanded by Captain Martinez. This benevolent officer treated them with kindness, had their irons taken off during the passage, and gave them wholesome food.
In order to illustrate how far the Spanish authorities in Mexico carried their vindictive feelings against every individual connected with Mina's party, we must notice their conduct to a French female, who had accompanied the expedition from Galvezton. The name of this extraordinary woman is La Mar. She had formerly resided at Carthagena, and had distinguished herself on many occasions, for her intrepidity and aversion to the Spaniards. At Soto la Marina, her attentions to the sick and wounded were unceasing; and during the siege she acted with the spirit of an Amazon. On the march to Altamira and Tampico, although exposed to the wanton and scornful jests of the Spaniards, she sustained herself with unshaken fortitude. She constantly displayed a cheerfulness, which, together with her indefatigable exertions to sooth the distresses of the prisoners, proved most consoling to them.
She is said to have been afterwards a leading character in the revolt at Altamira. She was sent to Vera Cruz, and there confined in the hospital, where she was compelled to perform the most disgusting offices to the sick. At length she contrived to make her escape, leaving a letter addressed to the governor of Vera Cruz, and another to the viceroy, containing the most bitter reproaches for the violation of the capitulation, and menacing them with the revenge of the patriots. She reached a division of the troops of Guadalupe Victoria, with whom she remained some time, but was so unfortunate as to fall again into the hands of the royalists. In July, 1819, she was confined within the walls of Xalapa, condemned to perform servile duties in a private family. In vain has this woman presented frequent petitions to be permitted to leave the country. The spirit of revenge and the cruelty of the immediate agents of Ferdinand VII., appear to have taken the place of their former gallantry to the sex, and they hold her of so much importance, as to determine on keeping her a prisoner.
The fate of the captives who arrived in Spain, was, if possible, more dreadful than their previous sufferings in Mexico. This will be more clearly perceived by the royal order, communicated to the governor of Cadiz, from Eguia, the minister of war, of which the following is a translation:
" The viceroy of New Spain having communicated to this department his intention of dispatching for the Peninsula, to be placed at the disposal of our lord the king, the individuals named in the accompanying list, who, having been attached to the rabble (gavilla) with which the traitor Xavier Mina invaded the territory of that kingdom, took the benefit of the amnesty (indulto) which the viceroy had there proclaimed, his majesty has been graciously pleased to command the supreme council of war, to determine what would be the best measures to adopt respecting them, on their arrival at Cadiz, or any other port in the Peninsula ; and the said tribunal having declared its opinion, which has been approved of by his majesty, he has been pleased to order, ' That the thirty-six individuals comprising the said list, shall, on their arrival in Spain, be distributed by fours, to the presidios of Cadiz, Malaga, Melilla, Penon, Ceuta, and Alhucemas, and the remaining twelve shall be placed at the disposal of the captain general of Majorca, in order that they may be distributed in the same proportions through the district under his command. In these places, they are to be retained as convicts, (presidarios,) there to remain during the pleasure of his majesty. The said governors are most scrupulously to watch over their conduct, and give timely notice of anything they may remark, in order that the greatest rigor may be enforced against them; keeping constantly in view, that they are responsible for whatever disturbance may be created by them, in whom not the smallest confidence can be placed, until by indubitable proofs they render themselves worthy of it, and of the clemency of his majesty. This royal decree is sent for your government, that as far as concerns yourself, you may be prepared to carry it into execution.
Signed. " Eguia.
" Madrid, June 11, 1818."
On the arrival of these unfortunate men at Cadiz, the royal order just cited was strictly carried into effect, and they were dispatched to Malaga, and the presidios on the coast of Africa. Their treatment was various, and depended on the caprice of the several commandants. To a few, it is true, some kindness was shown, but the majority were loaded with chains, and linked to a galley slave, a Spanish, or a negro malefactor. Some were thrown into dungeons among the vilest criminals; and any melioration of these scenes of cruelty, could only be effected by money. But the little pecuniary supplies which were sent to them, by benevolent Americans and others, from Gibraltar and Malaga, were in some instances extorted from them by their merciless keepers, on the most absurd and trifling pretexts. In fact, so deplorable was then situation, that many of them contemplated, and some of them actually succeeded in escaping to the Moors; thereby risking their lives, rather than remain in the hands of the Spaniards.
It is thus made manifest, by this unadorned narrative, that in despite of every principle of honor and humanity, the gallant fellows who capitulated at Soto la Marina, were not only deprived of most of the stipulations of that solemn capitulation, but after suffering the most horrid outrages, were at last condemned, by a royal decree, to indefinite or perpetual bondage, as if they had been malefactors of the worst class.
No subtlety of policy can sanction a breach of good faith so inhuman and flagrant; and surely no civilized nation in the world, besides Spain, would at the present day openly avow, that she was not bound to fulfill engagements solemnly entered into under a capitulation, which her honor was pledged to observe.
At the close of the month, information was brought to Mina, that the troops composing the garrison of the Villa de Leon had that morning marched from the town, leaving only a small detachment for its defense. Conceiving that this afforded him a good opportunity to try the character of his recruits, and strike a blow against the enemy, he determined to attack the place. The Villa de Leon is an extensive, populous, and wealthy town, situated in a plain, abounding with wheat fields. After Mina's arrival at Sombrero, the enemy, anticipating an attack on Leon, strengthened its works. Its garrison was likewise augmented to seven hundred men, who were under the command of Brigadier Don Pedro Celestino Negrete, a man famous in the annals of the revolution for acts of depravity and cruelty. The streets leading to the principal square of the town were defended by a traverse, composed of a wall, with a ditch on the outside. This work enclosed the buildings, consisting of lofty churches and heavy mansions. The place had hitherto been considered impregnable, having baffled all the efforts of the patriots to take it. From their massive architecture, every house and church was in itself a fortification.
Mina, on the same evening that he received the information, after having taken every precaution to prevent intelligence of his design being conveyed to the enemy, marched from the fort with his division and some Creole cavalry, in all about five hundred men, and a piece of artillery. His intention was to take the enemy by surprise, in the night. On arriving within half a mile of the town, a piquet of the enemy was unexpectedly encountered, which fled and alarmed the garrison; who, it afterwards appeared, had been strongly re-enforced by a division of Linan's army; a circumstance of which Mina was totally ignorant. On arriving near the square, his troops were received by a heavy fire from the artillery, and musketry from the tops of the houses. The attack was made with vigor; but all attempts to carry it failed : the storming parties were overpowered by numbers. The Guard of Honor and regiment of the Union, succeeded, however, in dislodging the enemy from a strong barrack, and took a few prisoners; but they could not force their way any farther. At dawn, the general, finding it impracticable to carry the place, drew off his troops, and fell back upon the fort. So well satisfied were the enemy to get rid of him, that they made no attempt to harass him on his retreat. This was the first reverse experienced by the arms of Mina. It was severe: the killed and wounded were nearly one hundred, and among them were several foreigners. Some of the wounded, who could not be brought off, fell into the hands of the enemy, and were immediately put to death; while the prisoners that Mina had taken were liberated.
On the morning of the 30th of July, intelligence was received, that the enemy were in the plain before the fort; and, soon after, the army of Linian was seen ascending the heights.
The fort was not calculated to sustain either a formal siege or a vigorous assault. Padre Torres had not sent any of the expected provisions; and a supply for ten days was all that the fort contained. The ammunition also was deficient, but twenty-five boxes remaining. But the most serious evil was, that the third division of the enemy was so posted as to cut off all communication between the garrison and the water in the ravine. It was, however, hoped that this evil would not be seriously felt, as the rainy season had commenced. The only succor which the garrison received from Padre Torres, was about two days previous to the arrival of the enemy, and consisted of sixty cavalry, under the command of Don Miguel Borja. The whole force of the garrison, including these and a party of the cavalry of Don Encarnacion Ortiz, did not exceed six hundred and fifty. When to these are added the peasantry who were employed in working parties, the women, and children, the whole number of souls in the fort was about nine hundred.
Map of the fortifications and locations of units at Fort Sombrero
At day-break of the 31st, the enemy opened a heavy fire of shot and shells, which continued incessantly till dark; their fire being occasionally returned by the fort. This cannonading continued, with little intermission, during the whole of the siege; and on some days, the besiegers discharged from their battery on the hill as many as six hundred shot and shells. To the besieged, this appeared a useless expenditure of ammunition, unless it was intended to display the great resources and indefatigable exertions of the enemy; for, as the principal buildings were under cover of the conical hill, and the others were in such positions as to be protected by the rocks, and as no one moved from his covert unless compelled by duty, the fire of the enemy was ineffectual, their shot falling harmless among the rocks, or flying entirely over the fort. Indeed, their artillery was so unskillfully served, that it annoyed their own works on the south side. This random firing continued for several days, without any casualty occurring, except among the horses which were roaming about the fort.
The enemy undoubtedly flattered himself with the hope of making an easy conquest of the fort, expecting that the first assault would produce a surrender. At two o'clock A. M. on the 5th of August, a spirited attack was made upon the fort, at three points which were considered assailable: but it failed, and the enemy were compelled to retire, with some loss. In this affair, the general, who commanded in person at the main entrance, displayed his usual intrepidity. With a lance in his hand, he was foremost in withstanding the enemy, and received a slight wound.
But now another circumstance created more serious uneasiness than the assaults of the enemy. The communication with the ravine, on which the garrison was entirely dependent for water, had been totally cut off, by the third division of the enemy, who had entrenched themselves in an impregnable position close to the watering place, and who at night posted a chain of videttes along the ravine. Mina, as well as Moreno, had calculated that it was practicable to cover the watering parties from the fort; and to have anticipated this disaster, by preserving water within the fort, was impossible, as there was but one small tank, capable of holding no more than was sufficient for a few hours' supply. As the rainy season had commenced, it had been supposed that the garrison would not suffer for want of water. All these expectations were disappointed: for the watering parties, which were sent out nightly, generally returned without having succeeded in their attempt, or with such a partial supply as was of no adequate use; and, although it constantly rained around, yet no rain fell in the fort.
The watering parties being obliged to descend to the rivulet down the declivity of a very deep barranca, which rendered it impossible to conduct these sallies with any degree of order, the enemy were always apprised of their approach, and of course prepared to resist them. Hence it was, that no supplies of any consequence could be obtained. Those who have not seen the Mexican barrancas, can scarcely form an idea of the difficulties they present at every step. Abounding in immense rocks, precipices, and thick bushes, it is impossible to conduct any military enterprise with compactness and order.
The small quantity of water which each individual had collected on the first appearance of the enemy, had been soon expended. The only well in the fort, which was at the house of Don Pedro Moreno, had never contained water. All the stagnant water in the crevices around the fort, was consumed. The horrors of thirst became dreadful. Recourse was had to some wild celery, which luckily grew around the fort: it was plucked, at the risk of life. But these were only partial alleviations. Some of the people were four days without tasting a drop of water.
The situation of the garrison was fast approaching to a crisis. The troops at their posts were hourly becoming less capable of exertion, from the severity of their sufferings. Horses and cattle were wandering about, in the greatest distress. The cries of children, calling on their unhappy mothers for water, gave to the scene of suffering peculiar horror. The countenance of the general showed how deeply he sympathized in the sufferings of his associates : but he cheered them with the hope that the God of nature would not abandon them; he pointed to the heavy clouds with which the atmosphere was loaded, as the source from which relief would speedily be obtained; and such was the effect that Mina's example and consoling observations inspired, that each individual strove to vie with another in bearing with fortitude the severity of his distress. With anxious expectation, they marked the approach of the heavily charged clouds, hoping that the predictions of a supply from them would soon be verified. Every vessel was ready to receive the grateful showers. The women brought out the images of their saints, supplicating their intervention for that relief which Heaven only could bestow. The clouds covered the fort: no sound was heard, amidst the general anxiety of the wretched garrison, save the thunder of the enemy's artillery, whose troops, with savage exultation, looked down on the besieged from their position on the hill. The flattering clouds passed slowly over the fort, - the moment was anxiously looked for, which was to ease their sufferings; - a few drops fell; - anxiety was wrought up to the highest pitch; - but the clouds passed, and burst at a short distance from them ! Language is inadequate to describe the emotions of despair which at that moment were depicted on every countenance in the fort. For several days the clouds continued thus to pass, without discharging a single drop on the parched garrison, who had the cruel mortification of seeing their enemies frequently drenched with rain, and the large lake of Lagos constantly in view. Such were the trials experienced at this ill-fated spot. At length, after a lapse of four days, a slight shower fell. Every article capable of containing the desired fluid was in readiness, and in spite of the incessant fire of the enemy, a supply was collected, sufficient to yield a temporary relief to the suffering garrison. A small supply was collected in reserve.
The bread stuff, which it had been impossible to use, for want of water, now became serviceable ; and the troops were invigorated. Many of the Creole recruits, during the late scene of distress, had made their escape, which had considerably diminished the numbers of the garrison.
During this time, Padre Torres had marched from Remedios with a body of troops, and a small supply of provisions; but advancing with his accustomed carelessness, he fell into an ambush, laid by the enemy near Silao. His troops made scarcely any opposition, and were soon dispersed; every one fleeing to his home. The Padre made his way back to Remedios. The provisions were at some distance in the rear, and escaped falling into the hands of the enemy. No further attempts were made by the Padre to succor the fort, although he knew that it must inevitably fall, if not speedily relieved. All his promises to Mina were thus forgotten, or deliberately violated. The enemy, notwithstanding their vast superiority, had met with such an unexpected repulse in their late assault, that they declined making another attempt, and directed all their attention to reduce the fort by famine; well knowing that without water or provisions, it could not hold cut long. To prevent the introduction of supplies, as well as the retreat of the garrison, they stationed piquet's of cavalry, in all directions about the fort. Nevertheless, some resolute men did bring in a few articles every night, but they were supplies not very essential to the garrison. The enemy still kept up an incessant fire from the hill, and by stationing some light troops among the rocks, considerably annoyed the besieged; but very little loss resulted, from the reasons already mentioned. The posts could only be relieved at night, and even then the danger was great, from occasional random discharges of grape shot from the hill. The ammunition of the besieged was fast diminishing, and could only afford occasional discharges; but as the foreigners, particularly the American citizens, were far superior marksmen to the enemy, many of their skirmishers were killed.
In the meantime, the enemy occasionally held conferences with the garrison. Some of the Spanish officers, who had been intimate with Mina in Spain, advanced to the walls of the fort to see him. They used every possible argument to induce Mina to accept the royal amnesty. They urged in support of it, his forlorn situation, and the impossibility that relief could be given him. Mina answered them with frankness, and explained the motives which had induced him to espouse his cause, and concluded by informing them, that his determination was taken to conquer or die. They parted on the most friendly terms; the officers expressing their regret at his inflexibility. A momentary cessation of hostilities having taken place, upon the return of the officers to their posts, the action was renewed.
Three nights after the attempt by the enemy to enter the fort, Mina, with two hundred and forty men, made a sortie on the encampment of Negrete. The remains of the Guard of Honor and Regiment of the Union, thirty in number, all Americans, with the general at their head, surprised and carried the redoubt thrown up on the knoll. The main body of the enemy, which was encamped some distance in the rear, was alarmed, and on the alert before the Americans could reach them. Had they been properly supported by their Creole companions, something important might have been accomplished. But the Creoles would not advance ; thus leaving the Americans to sustain a sharp conflict, until; overpowered by numbers, they were obliged to retreat to the fort. This was effected under a heavy fire from the enemy, which killed and wounded several. Among them were eleven of the little band of foreigners. Some of the wounded men could not be brought off, and therefore fell into the hands of the enemy. And it will scarcely be thought possible, but such was the fact, that the atrocious commanding officer, having ordered those wounded men to be carried in full view of the fort, caused them to be strangled in the sight of their commiserating and enraged comrades, whose attention had been cruelly attracted to the scene. Their bodies, stripped of their clothes, were thrown down the precipice of the barranca, to become the feast of vultures.
The general now saw, that unless some speedy external relief was afforded, the fall of the fort was inevitable; and finding that Torres fulfilled none of the promises he had made, nor was making any diversion in his favor, he took the bold determination of going in person, to Endeavour to procure the necessary assistance which he still flattered himself would be furnished by Torres. Accordingly, the night after the sortie on Negrete, he left the fort, accompanied by only three companions ; his aid, Don Miguel Borja, and Don Encarnacion Ortiz ; leaving Colonel Young in command of the garrison. They eluded, but with difficulty, the vigilance of the enemy. Mina, in a short time, made attempts to throw some water and provisions into the fort; but having with him only a few cavalry of Ortiz, he was defeated in his object, by the number and vigilance of the enemy.
Mina had likewise the deep mortification of soon ascertaining, that all the statements of Torres, about the troops he could concentrate, were a mere fiction; or rather, that he had made no effort to effect the concentration which he easily could have done. All hopes of succor from Torres were vain. Under these circumstances, the general sent an order to Colonel Young to draw off the garrison.
Meanwhile, the enemy prosecuted the siege with vigor. The cannonading was incessant by day, and continued occasionally at night. A few of the besieged were killed, and several wounded. The stock of water collected from the last shower was exhausted, and the sufferings of the garrison, as well from hunger as thirst, again became intolerable. Several clays had elapsed without water. The children were expiring from thirst; many of the adults had become delirious, and had resorted to the last and most disgusting of all human expedients, to allay for a moment the torments of thirst; while some few, driven to madness, would steal down at night to the rivulet, and flying from the death of thirst, receive it at the hands of their enemies. At this juncture, a generous trait was manifested by the enemy. They were moved to pity at the dreadful situation of the women, and allowed them to descend to the water and drink, but would not permit them to carry any up to the fort. This solitary act of humanity was however rather a "rusede guerre," as the enemy, by this means, obtained from the women correct information of the state of things in the fort, and finally, on one occasion observing a large number of women at the watering place, with characteristic perfidy they seized them, and sent them as prisoners to the town of Leon.
The besieged were suffering not only the extremity of thirst, but their provisions were nearly all consumed. Every weed around the fort was plucked, and some of the men imagined they found relief by chewing lead. The flesh of horses, asses and dogs, furnished a partial resource.
The stench of the animals which had died for want of food, or from the enemy's shot, and the dead bodies of the enemy which were suffered to lie unburied, caused such a dreadful state of the atmosphere, as to be almost insupportable. Large flocks of vultures, attracted by the dismal scene, were constantly hovering over the fort, and fortunately diminished an evil, which otherwise could not have been borne.
Their sufferings having become intolerable, many of the troops deserted, so that not more than a hundred and fifty effective men remained. The ammunition was so far expended as only to admit of very partial firing. The guns had been for some time served with the enemy's shot ; which, dug out at night from the rubbish outside of the fort, was fired back to them in the morning.
The unutterable sufferings of the garrison induced some of the officers to entreat colonel Young to send a flag of truce to know what terms of capitulation the enemy would enter into. The colonel was decidedly opposed to the measure, but was so importuned by the garrison that he unwillingly consented to it; telling them to remember that the act was at variance with his judgment.
The flag of truce returned with the answer of Linan, that the foreigners must surrender at discretion, and that the natives should receive the benefit of the royal amnesty. When this answer was reported to Colonel Young, he said, it was no more than he expected, and that he hoped that none of the garrison would thenceforth speak to him about capitulating with an enemy, from whom neither mercy nor honor was to be expected.
The enemy, amongst other operations, had latterly directed their fire against the front wall; and as it was built of unbaked bricks and loose stones, the shells that entered it buried themselves therein, and exploding, did irreparable damage to the work. The wall was thus destroyed, and its rubbish so filled up the ditch, as to form a fair, broad passage into the fort. The breaches hitherto made in the wall had been repaired at night; but it was now so completely battered down, that any further attempts to repair it were useless. A work was therefore thrown up within it. In fact, the fort, as well from that cause, as the want of ammunition, the reduced strength of the garrison, and the wretchedness of its defenders from hunger and thirst, was no longer tenable, and Colonel Young determined upon its evacuation. While arrangements for that purpose were making on the evening of the 17th, the colonel repaired to the quarters of Don Pedro Moreno, to concert the plan of the sally. There he found Don Pedro, with several of his Creole officers, and Major Mauro, who then commanded the cavalry of the division. They told the colonel that the fort could yet be defended, and that they would do it themselves, without the aid of the Americans. Colonel Young, piqued at the ridiculous conduct of Major Mauro, resolved to defer the evacuation.
The conduct of Don Pedro, during the siege, had been base in the extreme. He did not take an active part in the defense; and, while the garrison was suffering from hunger and thirst, he was living in comparative luxury, upon supplies he had preserved in his house. Some trifling succors, as we before observed, had been brought into the fort: he speculated on such part of them as he thought proper, and the residue only he permitted the importers to vend. He would not even allow the swine that he had about his house to be killed, for the use of the men who were defending his country, himself, and his family. During their severe privations, he retailed, at an exorbitant price, pork, lard, sugar, cigars, and even some water which he had collected in the shower. It was therefore a general opinion, that the resistance of this man to the sally, at the time it was proposed, was merely made to gain time to skulk off with his money. With such chiefs as this man, and Padre Torres, were Mina and his brave officers and men fated to act, at this critical juncture.
Colonel Young having determined to defend the fort to the last, declared that he would be the last man to leave it; and to this resolution he fell a sacrifice.
On the 18th, the sound of the enemy's bugles echoed through the barranca, and announced some movement of the besiegers. Their infantry at the watering place, and at the south end of the fort, were observed to be forming, and it was supposed an assault was impending. Preparations for defense were made by the besieged, who, although greatly diminished in numbers, and emaciated by severe privations, yet resolved to prevent the entrance of the enemy, or die in the breach. Colonel Young, ever on the alert, made the most of his handful of troops. Sixty men were placed for the defense of the front wall; and the remaining few were so arranged as to be prepared to meet the assailants at the several points at which an entrance might be gained. Some of the few females who still remained, aware of the horrors to which they would be exposed should the enemy succeed, cheerfully flew to re-enforce the several positions, armed with missile weapons.
At one o'clock, the enemy sounded the advance from his headquarters, which was repeated by his respective divisions.
Soon after, a strong column appeared on the hill, marching down; at the same time, the division at the watering place ascended the hill, threatening the east side; while the other division, at the south end, marched up the hill, carrying scaling ladders. The enemy boldly advanced along the causeway to the breach, under cover of a heavy fire from their battery on the hill, and in face of the galling fire of the garrison from the two flanking works. When within a few paces, the heavy fire they encountered compelled them to halt : unavailing were the endeavors of their officers to get them up to the breach; they retreated in the utmost disorder. At the other points of attack, they were equally unsuccessful. At the south end, the hill being very steep, they ascended with difficulty, and soon became exhausted; and, as they approached, a destructive fire was opened upon them, while the women rolled down huge masses of stone. No longer able to withstand so vigorous and unexpected an opposition, they withdrew their forces, having sustained a severe loss.
At that moment, a copious shower of rain fell : it was the first which had refreshed the garrison for many days. The enemy conceived that this was a propitious moment to renew the assault, presuming that as the fire-arms would be rendered unserviceable from the rain, superior numbers would enable them to force their way into the fort. Again their martial instruments sounded the advance. The column again moved forward, and approached the breach with a scaling ladder, displaying a black flag, as a symbol of the fate which awaited the besieged. Fire-arms could not now be used on either side, The enemy continued to press on, and were opposed only by missile weapons. Fortunately, at this moment, the rain ceased. The defenders of the works were invigorated by the shower; and, when the fire-arms could be used, again commenced a well-directed fire. The bearers of the scaling ladder were killed. The enemy, urged on by their officers, still continued to advance; but, within a few yards of the breach, they received such a galling discharge, that they again broke, flying for shelter among the rocks and bushes, where they remained until night enabled them to retire.
In this affair, the garrison suffered a severe loss, but particularly in the death of the gallant Colonel Young, who gloriously fell, in the moment of victory. On the enemy's last retreat, the colonel, anxious to observe all their movements, fearlessly exposed his person, by stepping on a large stone on the ramparts; and, while conversing with Dr. Hennessey on the successes of the day, and on the dastardly conduct of the enemy, the last shot that was fired from their battery carried off his head. Colonel Young was an officer whom, next to Mina, the American part of the division had been accustomed to respect and admire. In every action, he had been conspicuous for his daring courage and skill. Mina reposed unbounded confidence in him. In the hour of danger, he was collected, gave his orders with precision, and, sword in hand, was always in the hottest of the combat. Honor and firmness marked all his actions. He was generous in the extreme, and endured privations with a cheerfulness superior to that of any other officer in the division. He had been in the United States' service, as lieutenant colonel of the twenty-ninth regiment of infantry. His body was interred, by the few Americans who could be spared from duty, with every possible mark of honor and respect; and the general gloom which pervaded the division on this occasion, was the sincerest tribute that could be offered by them to the memory of their brave chief.
The command of the division now devolved on Lieutenant Colonel Juan Bradburn. Hopes were indulged by the garrison, that the enemy, finding they could not carry the place by storm, would raise the siege. But the enemy were too well aware of the miserable state of the garrison, to allow such a prize as Mina's officers to escape them. They had likewise found, by the extraordinary defense of the fort, that it contained a body of men highly dangerous to the royal cause; and it was supposed that if Mina could be deprived of his foreign troops, he would then be incapable of causing the royalists further serious annoyance.
The enemy, on the following day, evinced not the least indication of raising the siege. And the provisions and ammunition being entirely exhausted, it became impossible to hold possession of the fort any longer. The abandonment of it was therefore resolved upon; and, every preparation having been made, it was determined that it should take place on the night of the 19th.
On examining the state of the treasury, it was found that there remained in it only about eighteen thousand dollars. This comparatively small amount was caused by the encroachments that had been made on the funds, by the sums paid Torres for provisions; the amount that had been expended for clothing ; a sum that had been paid Don Pedro Moreno an amount that had been taken in doubloons by the general, for the purpose of procuring provisions; and a sum that had been given to Don Pedro, on the night of the 17th, when arrangements had been made for a sally, which money was carried out by the peasantry. These were the causes which had reduced the specie on hand to the sum before mentioned, which amount, together with some spare arms and artillery, were buried; the limbers of the latter were burned, and shot rammed tightly into the guns.
Everything being in readiness, the garrison prepared to evacuate the fort. A trying scene then took place. The necessity of abandoning the unfortunate wounded, whom, from the nature of the barranca over which it was necessary to pass, it was impossible to carry out, was imperious. The hospital was filled with these victims, the majority of whom were the officers and men who had accompanied Mina from Soto la Marina: they were incapable of bodily exertion, the limbs of the most part being broken. The parting with such men, who had fought so bravely, and who were so devoted to the cause they had espoused, was a heart-rending scene. Some anticipated the fate that awaited them, and entreated their friends to terminate their existence ; some indulged hopes of mercy from the Spaniards; while others, overwhelmed with grief and despair, covered their faces, and were unable to bid what they considered a final adieu.
At eleven o'clock at night, Colonel Bradburn proceeded with the division to the appointed spot, whence the sally was to be made. The route chosen was through the barranca before described, and was the only direction by which there was any chance of escape. On arriving at the rendezvous, Colonel Bradburn was surprised to find that Don Pedro, who had reached there first, had imprudently permitted the women and children to precede the march. They soon got into confusion, and by their screams alarmed the enemy; and thus apprized them of what was in agitation. From the difficulty which the barranca presented, it was impracticable for the troops to remain formed in their march, and from this cause, as well as the darkness of the night, they soon dispersed; every one exploring his path, and endeavoring to take care of himself.
In the bottom of the barranca, the piquet's and sentries of the enemy were encountered; with whom a continual skirmishing prevailed. Many of the fugitives dropped down from weakness; others were shot by the random fire of the enemy. The screams of the women, the reports of the enemy's muskets, the cries of those who fell, the groans of the wounded, and the intense darkness which reigned around, gave to the scene indescribable horror. Some few were so dismayed, particularly of the females, that they returned to the fort; preferring the chance of a pardon to the risk of that destruction which then seemed inevitable. The greater part, however, by the dawn, had gained the opposite summit of the barranca.
Here, many of them flattered themselves, the danger was over; but the foreigners, being ignorant of the topography of the place, were uncertain which way to direct their course, fearing that every step might place them in the power of the enemy. They marched on as chance directed them, in parties of two, three, or six, Soon after day-light, they were beset by parties of the enemy's cavalry, who had been ordered along the summit of the barranca, as soon as it was known that the garrison had evacuated the fort. Another scene of horror began: - the enemy's cavalry rushed in among the flying and kneeling individuals. No quarter was given. Cut to pieces by the sword, or perforated with lances, the greater part of the fugitives were destroyed. The few who escaped, among whom was
Don Pedro Moreno, owed their preservation to the dense and foggy state of the atmosphere. The clothes and money found on the victims, were looked upon as prizes by the cavalry soldiers, who for that reason preferred the killing to making prisoners of them; for if they had spared their lives, and conducted them as prisoners to head-quarters, the booty would not have been so great, as, in that case, they might have lost the clothes.
The next morning, the enemy entered the deserted fort in triumph. Then ensued a tragedy, by the orders of the infuriated Linan, which it is in vain to attempt to depict in colors sufficiently strong. The hospital, as we have before observed, was filled with wounded; a large majority of whom were foreigners, principally Americans.
Those who could hobble to the square, a few paces distant, were made to do so, while those whose fractured limbs would not permit them to move, were inhumanly dragged along the ground to the fatal spot. There stood the ferocious Linan, feasting on the spectacle. Regardless of their miserable situation, of their former gallant conduct, of the clemency and respect which they had shown to royalist prisoners; unmindful of all these considerations, he ordered them to be stripped of all their clothes, and shot down, one by one.
Linan occupied three days in compelling the other prisoners that were found in the fort, to demolish the works; which being effected, he ordered them to be brought to the square and there shot. One of the prisoners, just before he was shot, discovered the place where the treasure and other articles were buried, but this information could not save his life.
Thus terminated the siege of Sombrero. Out of the two hundred and sixty-nine men who had entered the fort with Mina, fifty only escaped.
Baffled in every effort to succor Sombrero, Mina remained for several days in the mountains in its neighborhood, with a small body of cavalry. Having sent several messages to Padre Torres, to urge him to order up troops for the relief of the fort, or to cover the movements of its garrison, but receiving only trifling and evasive answers, he resolved to repair to the headquarters of Torres, and there personally incite that chieftain to the performance of his engagements. Taking with him, therefore, an escort of one hundred of the cavalry of Ortiz, he proceeded to Los Remedios, on the 17th, two days prior to the evacuation and fall of Sombrero. The road lay across the plain of Silao. While crossing it, between the town of that name and the Villa de Leon, he encountered a body of two hundred of the enemy's cavalry. Mina, with his usual gallantry and skill, led his men into action, and in a few minutes put the enemy to flight, with some loss. They lost their commander, who was dragged off his horse by a lazo and killed.
Mina, upon his arrival at Los Remedios, found Padre Torres assiduously engaged in strengthening his position, in victualling it, and making every preparation against the siege which he anticipated would be laid to it, after the reduction of Sombrero. He had taken none of the steps that he had promised, and which he ought to have taken, to afford assistance to Sombrero. Under the direction of Mina,- the aid he could have given might have prevented the accomplishment of the plans of the enemy, and might probably havered to their destruction. At the pressing solicitations of Mina, Torres issued an order to some of his commandants to repair as soon as possible with their troops to Los Remedios; but Alas ! this order was issued too late to be of use to Sombrero. For while they were collecting, advices of the disaster of the fort, reached Los Remedios. This event affected the general deeply. It was difficult for him to conceal his conflicting emotions of sorrow, for many of his brave companions, who he presumed had fallen in the struggle; and of indignation, at the shameful neglect of Torres in not having made seasonable exertions in favor of Sombrero. He preserved, however, his usual serenity, well knowing, that either reproaches or despondency must produce bad effects at the then juncture of affairs.
< The mountain at Los Remedios
A few of Mina's officers and men reached Los Remedios, and from them he obtained details of the disaster that had befallen them; but of the extent of the loss he was still uninformed. He dispatched several persons to seek out the foreigners, and conduct them to him. Thirty-one only were found; but, nevertheless, Mina still indulged the hope, that as the sally had been effected at night by the barranca, the rest of the troops might have gained the mountains near Sombrero, where they would be taken care of by the cavalry of Ortiz.
Advices also reached the fort, that Linan, flushed with his late success, was advancing with re-enforcements against Los Remedios. This movement of his was anticipated, but it was likewise supposed that it would be the close of his career. This opinion was founded upon the strength of the fort, and the arrangements made for harassing the enemy.
The fort of Los Remedios, or as it is called by the royalists,San Gregorio, was situated on a lofty, though not extensive range of mountains, rising abruptly out of the delightful plains of Penjamo and Silao, in the province of Guanajuato; being distant from the city of that name south-south-west about twelve leagues, from Sombrero south about eighteen, and from Penjamo east-north-east four leagues. From the plain, the road wound up the declivities of the mountain, (and in some places it was remarkably steep) by a ridge, for a distance of nearly two miles to the highest elevation of the fort called Tepeaca. From that point the hill again descended, widening a considerable distance into the heart of the mountain, to the extremity of the fort which was denominated Pansacola.
The ascent was not fortified either by nature or art until arriving at a place called La Cueva, at about one-third of its height from the plain; whence the road continued, by a difficult, narrow, and, in places, very steep ridge, up to Tepeaca. On the left of La Cueva, the ridge was skirted by a tremendous precipice of from one to two hundred feet perpendicular height; which continued on that side of the fort, with little variation, to Pansacola. On the right of La Cueva, the ridge was likewise bounded by a precipice, to within a few paces of a small work called Santa Rosalia. From the termination of this precipice, a wall of three feet in thickness extended up to Tepeaca. Between these two points the ascent of the barranca was easy, and from thence to Pansacola, it was naturally defended by a continuation of bold, elevated, and broken ground. At this place there was a small passage into the fort, but the precipices made the access to it very dangerous. In short, the whole of the fort, with the exception of the small entrance at Pansacola, and that part on the right of the road ascending to Tepeaca, in the vicinity of the work of Santa Rosalia, was surrounded by a continuance of awful precipices, forming barrancas immensely deep, and from one to three hundred yards in width; and it was at these places only, or at the gate at La Cueva that an entrance could possibly be gained into the fort.
At La Cueva, where the ridge ascending into the fort was only thirty feet in breadth, a traverse wall was thrown up on which were mounted two guns. The work next above La Cueva was a small half-moon battery of one gun called Santa Rosalia, which raked the wall up to the next battery called La ibertad. This was a work of two guns, which enfiladed the space down to Santa Rosalia. Above La Libertad was a small one gun battery, and above it Santa Barbara, a battery of two guns, which commanded the others; while Tepeaca, mounting two guns, crowned the whole, commanding the barranca, and the heights' on its opposite side; but, from its great elevation, it did not command the works of the fort. Across the only weak part of Pansacola a breastwork was thrown up, merely to cover infantry, as the difficulties of its approach rendered it secure, if defended by a few steady troops.
One height, in front of Pansacola, commanded the fort, and likewise a hill, opposite to Tepeaca ; but, from the difficulty of ascending the latter, owing to its extraordinary steepness, Torres, and Colonel Noboa who had examined it, considered it was impossible to transport artillery to that summit. In fact, the strength of this fort, whose natural advantages were so much improved by art, seemed to warrant the opinion, that, protected by a garrison of resolute men, it would be impregnable.
Within the fort, near Pansacola, was a well affording a constant supply of water that had never yet been found deficient even in seasons of drought; there was likewise a large rivulet which ran through the barranca on the left of the fort, and washed the feet of the precipices. This stream, during the rainy season, and for two or three months afterwards, yielded abundance of water. It was therefore deemed impracticable to deprive the garrison of a supply of water. The fort was victualled with twenty thousand fane gas (about one and a half bushel English measure to the fanega) of Indian corn, ten thousand of wheat, a large quantity of flour, six hundred head of cattle, txvo thousand sheep or goats, and three hundred large hogs. The supply of ammunition was considerable, besides a quantity of nitre, sulphur, iron, copper, and lead. The garrison of the fort consisted of about fifteen hundred troops, of whom three hundred had been trained for infantry by Colonel Noboa, and were under tolerable discipline. The rest of the troops formed a motly group, undisciplined, but brave.
When Mina arrived at the fort, its works were in many parts defective ; but, by the exertions of his officers, and fourteen hundred peasantry who were kept there for that duty, they were placed in a more perfect order. The whole number of persons in the fort, including the peasantry, women and children, was about three thousand.
As the enemy could not succeed in their attempts to carry Sombrero by assault, it was presumable they could never so carry the fort of Los Remedios, since the latter presented so many more obstacles to such an endeavor, than the former. To attempt to reduce it by famine was considered as preposterous, as it would consume much more time than the enemy could devote to such an operation. In short, the fort was deemed capable of withstanding a siege of at least twelve months.
We have been thus particular in describing the fort of Los Remedios, in order to show that if Torres had been a man possessing even true patriotism, without military discernment, and had acted with zeal and good faith towards Mina, he would have advised the latter to have repaired with all his officers and men to Los Remedios, there to have concentrated their forces, and formed their plan of future operations. Instead of doing this, Torres induced Mina to remain at Sombrero, by deluding him with hollow promises of supplies of provisions and troops, until his prospects were blasted by the destruction of his division. It is impossible therefore for us not to accuse Torres of treachery or ignorance, and in fact of both, in all his conduct towards Mina. But let us resume our narrative.
It was determined between Torres and Mina, that while the former should remain in defense of the fort, the latter should take the command of a body of cavalry, for the purpose of harassing the enemy, by infesting the roads, and preventing supplies from reaching them. Meanwhile, Linan was enabled, in consequence of the severe blow which he had struck at Sombrero, to advance, with a strong re-enforcement, against Los Remedios; and on the 27th, a division of his army made its appearance before that place.
Mina thereon withdrew from the fort with nine hundred cavalry, with the view already stated. He wished to take with him all his officers, but at the earnest solicitation of Torres, who considered them of the highest importance for the defense of the fort, he left the whole behind him, with the exception of his aid de camp. It is true, that these officers were of essential consequence, for the defense of the fort,but the loss to Mina was most serious; for had he taken them with him, there would have been more likelihood of his accomplishing his views, than when he was dependent upon men among the patriot officers, whose characters and abilities he had yet to ascertain. Perhaps there is no circumstance in Mina's career, that displays more clearly his generous and magnanimous disposition, than his thus yielding to the importunities of Torres, after the shameful manner in which the latter had neglected him at Sombrero. He was now to take the field with a body of irregular troops, without even the semblance of discipline, and without possessing either confidence in him, or in one another, and to enter on an active campaign, which peculiarly required the aid of experienced officers. However, to do his best was all that was left to him; and he consoled himself with the reflection, that his officers would essentially contribute to baffle the enemy's designs upon Los Remedios.
The general marched to the Tlachiquera, an hacienda near the cantonment of Ortiz, on the heights of Guanjuato, ten leagues north of the city of Guanajuato, by the route of the mountains. He had ordered Don Encarnacion Ortiz to meet him at the hacienda, and there he expected to have found the greater part of the officers and men of his own division, who, he still flattered himself, had survived the disasters of Sombrero.
We have before noticed the loose financial and military regulations prevailing among the patriots, within the command of Padre Torres; but it is now necessary to describe particularly the troops as arrayed under the orders of Mina, to demonstrate the great disadvantages he was obliged to contend against.
In the early stages of the revolution, it will have been perceived by our former statements, that there were periods at which several divisions had attained to a considerable degree of discipline and regularity, under Morelos, Matamoros, the Rayons, Teran, Victoria, and other distinguished patriot officers; but, from the want of a cordial understanding among those chiefs, the cause of the republic had retrograded, as we have already noted.
In the latter stages of the revolution, capable and experienced men were scarce ; there was no opportunity for selection; the commandants were not only illiterate men, but unfortunately men who entered into the cause of their country, as into an adventure or speculation, and who made their own convenience or personal views paramount the success of the revolution, or the interests of their country.
The funds which ought to have been appropriated for the pay and equipment of their troops, were absorbed and squandered by the commandants and their satellites. With no check upon their cupidity, they enriched themselves with impunity. The troops were allowed to live at their respective homes, and were never called together but on a pressing emergency. When they did assemble, each man was clothed as suited his particular taste or circumstances. The soldier received no pay, unless in active service, and then it was only two reals per day, out of which he supported himself. On Sunday they would assemble at a pueblo, for the double purpose of hearing mass, and of receiving, when the commanders chose to be in funds to supply them, a hat, or shirt, and sometimes a dollar or two, not on the score of pay of which no rolls were kept, but as a gracious donation. Beyond this they were seldom supplied ; in short, they were generally to be seen in their shirt sleeves, covered with a mangas or a blanket. The only exception to this description were the escoltas (escorts) of the commandants, consisting of from ten to fifty men, agreeably to the means and consequence of the commandants. These were picked men, who had distinguished themselves for courage. They were well dressed, according to the taste of the commandant; were mounted on excellent horses, and were generally well armed; they acted as a body guard to the commandant, with whom they fled when it became necessary.
The whole of the troops, with the exception of those in the forts, were cavalry, a horse being given to each man, which he was obliged to protect from the enemy. Living at their respective houses, they were constantly on the alert, and on the approach of the enemy, instead of uniting for common defense, each man was provident for his own safety. The commandants of the districts asserted, that this was the only way to save their men, as the incursions of the enemy would nor permit them to be embodied in troops or squadrons.
This system, it is true, had in some degree become necessary; but it was a fatal necessity, created by the vicious character of the commandants themselves, who amassed and dissipated the resources of the country, for their own personal gratifications, in place of devoting them to clothing and subsisting a respectable body of troops.
Whenever their soldiers were to be collected, it was usually accomplished, by dispatching persons around the country, with orders for them to repair to an appointed rendezvous, which they obeyed at their pleasure. The men generally appointed their own officers, with the exception of the commandants of the district, and it was not uncommon to see captains, majors, colonels, and brigadiers, who had once been field laborers, mayor domos, or arrieros, (muleteers.) Few of them could read or write, and none of them had any pretensions to military knowledge of any kind. They had been chosen by their companions for personal intrepidity and activity, qualities, in their estimation, of primary importance; and which the most of them possessed in an eminent degree. It is hence obvious, that no discipline nor military arrangements could exist among such troops and officers. Incapable of forming in line with precision, unaccustomed to any sort of uniformity in the language of command, or the practice of even reducing or forming column, they were no more than a disunited mob, destitute alike of the knowledge of arriving at, and the sense of the importance of, compactness and unity of action. The confidence which a disciplined soldier places in the support of his companions, the result of a simultaneous motion at command, was unknown to them. But, notwithstanding all these defects, their natural bravery enabled them occasionally to perform most daring exploits. They charged desperately, in loose and broken masses; and, if they succeeded in piercing the enemy's line, made great havoc; but if checked, they broke. It was in vain to attempt to rally them. Like Scythians, they came down in a hail storm, and retired in a cloud, each man seeking his safety in flight, not like disciplined troops when broken, to rally and form at some convenient position, but to save themselves altogether. In these scenes, the flying soldiers, and particularly the officers, frequently gave proofs of great personal valor and presence of mind.
The Mexican, mounted on his horse on whose speed and activity he can rely, places the most unbounded confidence in him. Neither showers of balls nor the numbers of his opponents dismay him. The officers dash in among the enemy, and, perfectly regardless how their men act, seem only intent on setting them an example of courage. When compelled to retreat before superior numbers, the Mexican, instead of jading his favorite horse, proportions his flight to the speed of his pursuers; and if he perceive one or two of the enemy detached from their main body, he will face round and give them battle in presence of the rest. In short, we know, from frequent personal observation, that no men possess more innate courage than the Mexican Creole. He has every necessary ingredient to form the soldier; and, as an individual, seated on his usually high spirited horse, with his sword and lance, is as formidable an opponent as any in the world. But for want of discipline and military regulation, the Creoles are of little use when embodied, and can easily be put to the rout. Hence the royalists, whose troops are composed of artillery and trained infantry, besides cavalry, have been enabled to gain advantages over them; and more especially at the period of which we are now treating, when the destinies of the republic were in the hands of such men as Padre Torres and his commandants.
This description of "the Creoles is not peculiar to those of Mexico; but may with a little modification be considered, we think, as a correct one of those of all the Spanish settlements on the American continent. The natural qualities of this race, their intrepidity, their capacity to endure hardships and privations, their sobriety, their self possession, and their abstemiousness, are qualities so well calculated for military enterprise, that the intelligent reader will at once perceive that discipline alone is necessary to render them, in their own country and climate, the most formidable and effective soldiers.
Shall this fine race of people become free and independent, and allies of the republic of the United States, or are they to become like the Asians, in circumstances nearly similar, the subjugators of their own country under European discipline, and the terror and scourge of adjacent countries ? Who can foresee what might be accomplished by two hundred thousand Mexican Creoles, versed in the tactics of this day, with ambitious European leaders. This is a subject which opens a wide field for reflection, and particularly merits the regard of the American statesman.
The equipments of the patriots have already been briefly noticed. Their ammunition was in general of their own manufacture. The physical resources of the country are superabundant, with any common management. For Mexico abounds with salt petre : the craters of her volcanoes yield sulphur ; while the forests afford charcoal. Thus, although the manufacture be rude, they can make quantities of powder. Flints are found in the rivulets of the mountains ; and from the bowels of the latter are extracted lead, copper and iron, as well as gold and silver. They have thus the means within themselves of carrying on war; but the want of artists and mechanics renders their productions of but little use to them.
The body of nine hundred cavalry, which was place under Mina's command, was composed of men such as we have described, who may be properly styled Mexican Cossacks. Hosts of officers were among them: a corps of two hundred and fifty men would be commanded by brigadiers, or colonels; colonels again would command a body of fifty men. The subalterns were numerous; in one body of two hundred and fifty men, commanded by a brigadier, there were above eighteen captains.
Different descriptions of arms were found in the same company; and a just subordination was unknown among them.
With such troops was Mina now destined to act. Almost any other man would have been filled with desponding apprehensions, under such circumstances. But, although he was aware of their want of discipline, yet as he had seen the same description of troops behave well in the affair of San Juan de los Llanos, and as in the recent attack on the enemy's cavalry between Leon and Silao, he had been an eyewitness of their valor, he imagined that by perseverance he should be able to remedy all their deficiencies.
The general, with great pains and patience formed his nine hundred men into three squadrons ; the carabineers formed the vanguard; the centre was composed of lancers, and the rear guard of carabineers; he assigned commanding officers to each division; and contemplated establishing a Guard of Honor from his supernumerary officers, on the model of his old guard, but he did not accomplish it.
The Captain General Don Jose Maria Liceaga, whom we have before mentioned, had joined Mina. His advice and information were of great importance. The patriots however viewed Liceaga with a jealous eye. He had become unpopular by endeavoring to adhere to a system of strict discipline, as is always the case where discipline is neither established nor its advantages appreciated.
On the morning of the 30th Mina was near the Tlachiquera; there he met Ortiz, with nineteen of the division, who had escaped from Sombrero. There were six officers among the nineteen men. The moment the general saw them, he put spurs to his horse, and flew to receive them. He cordially gave them a soldier's embrace, and with great eagerness asked; " Where are the rest?" He was answered; "We are all that are left." The blow was severe: his countenance depicted the anguish of his heart; and placing his leg across the pummel of his saddle, he reclined his head on his hand. His fine eye glistened with the warrior's tear of sensibility, but quickly recovering himself, his countenance resumed its accustomed serenity. The general retained four officers and six soldiers of the nineteen men, and ordered the rest to take commands under Ortiz.
In the meantime the army of Linan had invested the fort, and the formal siege of Los Remedies commenced on the 31st of August. The barrancas and precipices which encircled the fort, were alike important to defend the besiegers against sallies, and the besieged against assaults. The former posted their infantry on positions with one exception inaccessible to assault, on the opposite side of the barrancas, and in front of the works of the fort.
Map of the fortifications and location of units at Fort Remedios
The enemy , not satisfied with occupying naturally impregnable holds, entrenched themselves wherever they planted their batteries. Their front was protected against the assaults of the. besieged, by insurmountable precipices ; and their rear was secured against the movements of Mina, as it was impossible for cavalry to ascend those heights. The grand encampment of the enemy was formed in the plain, immediately at the foot of the ascent to the entrance of the fort From this position, they could more easily re-enforce their works around the fort; thence they could cover them from Mina's attacks, and besides. prevent the escape of the garrison by that passage. The only possible way left for escape, was by Pansacola. The headquarters of Linan were placed on the summit, on the opposite side of the barranca, directly facing Tepeaca. After the enemy had broken ground in front, they had, by incredible labor, drawn up cannon, and planted on the summit a battery of three guns and two howitzers. This battery, being within a short range of Tepeaca, severely annoyed that position; but, from its great elevation, could not fire into the other works.
It was an annoyance not anticipated by the besieged, as they had calculated that it was impracticable to raise cannon to that spot. The enemy, however, after some time, made an excavation in the side of the precipice, below the above work, sufficient to mount one gun, from which they effectually raked the works of the fort, from Tepeaca down to Santa Rosalia. On the side of the barranca, fronting the works of Santa Rosalia and La Libertad, the enemy had erected two batteries, the one commanding the other, which threw shot into the works of the besieged, from the distance of half musket shot. In the first work of the enemy were planted three pieces of heavy artillery; in the second, two pieces. In the rear of the latter, on a small table land, was an entrenched camp, with one piece of artillery, and likewise naturally well defended. On a commanding height, in the rear of the whole, were planted a twelve pound battering gun and a howitzer. From this position, the whole of that part of Los Remedios, from La Cueva up to Tepeaca, was much annoyed. Opposite the weak part of Pansacola, another encampment was formed, and a battery of two pieces of artillery and two howitzers was there opened. On the left of La Cueva, three pieces of artillery and two howitzers were subsequently planted in battery, which fired into the rear of that work.
Between their several positions, on every place where escape was in any way practicable, were posted entrenched piquet's, with the view also of cutting off from the fort all possible external communication. A corp of eight hundred well equipped infantry and cavalry, under the command of Don Francisco de Orrantia, was ordered to observe the movements of Mina.
Thus had the enemy, with extraordinary trouble and skill, completed a line of attack, which effectually hemmed in the garrison, and menaced the works, of Los Remedios. We have already described the defenses of the fort; and, although at the time the siege was commenced many parts of the works were defective, yet, by the labor of the peasantry, and the skill and activity of Mina's officers, they were daily improved and strengthened.
Mina advanced from the Tlachiquera to the cantonment of Don Encarnacion Ortiz, where he augmented his force with two hundred and fifty of the cavalry of that officer, and marched the same evening. His first great object was to interrupt the enemy's line of communication between the city of Mexico and the northern provinces. By destroying their fortifications in that direction, their convoys would be deprived of their strong places of depot, and consequently would be exposed to the incursions of the patriots of Xalpa, who were in strong bodies about Queretaro, and on that road. Thus, also, supplies for the besieging army at Remedios would be rendered precarious.
Mina advanced rapidly, the first night of his march; and, at sun-rise next morning, came up to a fortified hacienda, called Biscocho. Its defenses were insignificant. The garrison took possession of the church, and from the top and steeple fired on the assailants. Mina sent a summons, demanding their immediate surrender. A refusal having been returned, the place was attacked, and after a short conflict, carried. The garrison were made prisoners, with the exception of the commandant, who had prudently decamped on the first appearance of Mina's troops. The recollection of the dreadful massacre at Sombrero, the clamors of Mina's surviving companions, and the rage of his whole division, now operated on his feelings; and, for the first time, he listened to the cries of revenge. Thirty one of the garrison were taken out, and shot. The mere mention, a few weeks before, of such a sacrifice of prisoners, would have filled the general, as well as his troops, with horror; but the wanton barbarity of the royalists rendered it necessary to repress the feelings of humanity. The extension of mercy to an enemy who spurned at every principle of civilized warfare, had become impolitic and preposterous; and it was now necessary to repel acts of barbarism, by measures of just retaliation. The remains of Mina's division vowed to sacrifice every royalist taken in arms, until they had expiated the blood of their murdered companions, or until the enemy should refrain from immolating their prisoners in cold blood. It was not, however, Mina's intention to cherish these views of retaliation. On the occasion in question, he permitted the principle to be acted upon; but it is the only act, bearing the apparent impress of cruelty or severity, with which his name can be charged.
After ordering the hacienda to be burned, to prevent its being immediately re-occupied by the enemy, and driving off the cattle, the general, next morning, continued his march towards San Luis de la Paz; a pueblo of some importance, situated about fourteen leagues to the eastward of Guanajuato. San Luis de la Paz had suffered much during the revolution, and many of its principal edifices were in ruins. It was occupied by a division of the enemy, consisting of a hundred infantry, aided by some of the male population of the place. On Mina's approach, the enemy had ordered them to repair to the fortifications, and had made preparations for resistance. The church, the parsonage house which joined it, and the cemetery, were the chief places of defense. The former was in itself a strong hold; while the latter was surrounded by a wall pierced with loop holes, outside of which was a dry ditch, crossed by a drawbridge, affording the only approach to the church. Its garrison, sheltered by the wall, gave great annoyance through the loop holes, and every place around their little work was commanded by infantry posted on the top of the church and in the belfry, the openings of which had been filled up with bricks, sufficient to protect the men.
The garrison, supposing that Mina would be repulsed, with the same ease with which the attacks of other patriot commanders had always been foiled, had been careless in supplying the place with provisions; but they had water from a fountain at the parsonage house. Against organized troops this place could not have been defended; and if Mina had then had with him his former little band of foreigners, he would have carried it in a few minutes by storm. But he now found that the patriot troops, whom he had beheld in combats in plains against the enemy's cavalry and infantry acting with the greatest gallantry, when brought to scale walls, or to resist infantry posted behind a fortified place, were totally ineffective.
The general summoned the commander of the garrison to surrender. A refusal having been returned, Mina surrounded the place, so as effectually to prevent the escape of the garrison. He determined on making an experiment to carry it by assault, particularly as some ruins of houses stood within twenty paces of the drawbridge. He made the necessary dispositions, but soon perceived that is was difficult to draw his soldiers from, their coverts among the ruined houses. In vain he tried to make them advance in a compact body. They scattered and fell back before the fire of the infantry of the garrison. Some intrepid officers and men of the storming parties boldly advanced, but not being properly supported, their lives were sacrificed to their gallantry. The general was deeply mortified. He resolved, however, to reduce the place by famine, in case he could not otherwise effect it. The patriots at times would seem anxious to renew the attack, and the general, enlivened, would again lead them on : but it was in vain; they invariably shrunk back, at the very critical moment when firmness was necessary. Various plans were now devised to destroy the drawbridge, but none of the troops could be prevailed upon to carry them into execution. Bundles of faggots were prepared to be thrown into the ditch to burn it down: but the few bundles, which some spirited volunteers carried to the spot, were not sufficient to accomplish the object. The drawbridge was suspended only by strong leather thongs. To cut these, was one plan; and several bold attempts were ineffectually made to reach them. On one of those occasions of fitful animation among his troops, Mina ordered one of his officers, Captain Perrier, to head the storming party. This brave fellow found no difficulty in scaling the wall, and, supposing his troops would follow him, leaped in among the enemy; but, on turning round, he found himself alone, - abandoned at a moment when an easy victory might have been gained. The gallant captain, with great exertions, made his escape back, but was severely wounded.
Mina, after spending four days in these abortive attempts at assault, resorted to sapping and running a covered way from the ruins of the houses, to the drawbridge; which he accomplished, and the bridge was then cut down. The garrison at once surrendered, without further opposition, and called for quarter. The scenes of Sombrero were still fresh in the recollection of his troops; they demanded revenge, and reminded the general of their recent oath not to spare a royalist taken in arms. But the merciful disposition of Mina now displayed itself. He interposed between the conquerors and the vanquished, and succeeded in preventing an indiscriminate slaughter of the prisoners; but, to appease the patriots, he consented to make an example of three persons: the commander of the place; that of Biscocho, who was found here; and a European soldier. They were shot. The greater part of the prisoners expressed a desire to join Mina's banners; and the rest were set at liberty.
The fortifications of San Luis were demolished, as it was impossible to attempt to hold it against a regular siege. Colonel Gonzales, in whose district it lay, a celebrated warrior of the troops of Xalpa, was left in command of the place, to watch the movements of the enemy. Mina then advanced against San Miguel el Grande, a town of considerable importance, fourteen leagues south-east of Guanajuato. While making preparations for its capture, which, from its position, he had every ground to calculate upon, he received advice that a very strong body of the enemy were advancing for its defense; he therefore considered it prudent to draw off his troops and retreat. He now saw the misfortune of having occupied so much time in the reduction of San Luis de la Paz. If he had proceeded to San Miguel el Grande three days sooner, he could have taken the place. Immense resources of every kind would have been there acquired; he would have completed his plan of cutting off the enemy's chain of communications; and the war might have assumed a new character. But to fail, where success was justly anticipated, is an event incident to the species of warfare in which he was then engaged. It is ever to be regretted that he was frustrated in the prosecution of his plan.
Mina being thus under the necessity of abandoning his design upon San Miguel, proceeded to the Valle de Santiago, a place of some importance, situated on the south side of the river of that name, sixteen leagues south of Guanajuato. The Valle de Santiago, whose destruction by Torres has been before noticed, was one of the few towns which remained in the possession of the patriots. When Mina entered it, he found it in ruins; the churches alone remaining uninjured. A considerable population, among whom were some very respectable families, still dwelt amidst this scene of desolation, in huts erected on the sites of their former handsome edifices. The inhabitants of the Valle de Santiago, animated by their hostility to Spanish authority, scarcely appeared to regret that their comforts had been sacrificed at the shrine of liberty. Enthusiastically devoted to the cause of their country, they had always rejected with scorn every overture of the royalists to seduce them. Most tenderly did they cherish the thought of the independence of their country, - most faithfully did they cling to her through the dark night of her misfortunes; and, finally, sealed their attachment to her, by deserting the place of their nativity, when it subsequently fell into the hands of the enemy.
The district in which it is situated is not extensive; but valuable from possessing a soil more productive, perhaps, than that of any other part of the kingdom. If enjoyed, at that time, a great commerce; the annual revenue of the comandancia being one hundred and twenty thousand dollars. Don Lucas Flores, the commandant, was a hardy, intrepid man, and, as a guerilla chief, had been distinguished by his enterprise. Being so destitute of education, as to be unable to write his own name, the regulation of the finances was committed to a treasurer. The principal care of this man was directed to the enrichment of himself; so that the revenue of this important district disappeared, and the public coffers were kept empty.
Don Lucas was one of the confederated commandants under Padre Torres. Operated upon by the bad example of his chief, he became dissipated and inactive, and lost his popularity by the commission of arbitrary and vexatious acts. It was in the power of Don Lucas, by cordially co-operating with Mina, to have rendered the most essential service to the common cause. He had secreted upwards of fifteen hundred stand of excellent arms, which he had taken from the enemy in different actions; these, with the resources of his comandancia, properly applied, would have been all important at that juncture. We believe that he was sincerely attached to his country, but from his great regard for Torres, or from pride, ignorance, or some other motive, his conduct towards Mina was characterized by reserve. Don Lucas commanded a body of brave troops - than whom none had displayed more gallantry in the irregular conflicts with the enemy's cavalry. But, as was usual, the escort of the commandant was the only portion of them properly equipped. Gaming and disorderly conduct of every kind, predominated among them, as it unfortunately did among all the revolutionary troops.
Mina had selected the Valle de Santiago for his headquarters, on account of its position, its abundant resources for the supply of his troops, and the confidence he reposed in the patriotism of its inhabitants. On entering the town, the respectable inhabitants received him in the most affectionate and enthusiastic manner, conducting him to the church amidst a concourse of people. A Te Deum was chanted, and every eye beamed with satisfaction at beholding Mina. The troops encamped near the town; where provisions and pay were furnished them by the comandancia and by patriotic individuals.
During his stay in the Valle de Santiago, Mina attempted to remedy the want of discipline among his troops. But the officers were so illiterate, and so entirely strangers to military subordination, that he could accomplish but little in the short time he was among them. A total change of system, and much time were requisite to eradicate their pernicious habits, and establish discipline. To change or instruct the officers, to regulate anew the finances, to repress the excesses of anarchy and establish order and subordination, were objects to be executed only by degrees. Besides, had Mina attempted to introduce the change at once, his measures would have been viewed as harsh and despotic, and he would have created enemies among those whose good will at that crisis was so important to him. Under these circumstances, there remained no alternative for him but to make the best use of the means which were presented to him, and to adopt such a system of tactics as was best suited to troops undisciplined, and unacquainted with the importance of military subjection, until time and events should enable him gradually to effect a change. He flattered himself that this would be more speedily accomplished, could he only succeed in raising the siege of Los Remedios.
While waiting for re-enforcements, he advanced with a select corps to attack a fortified hacienda, called La Sanja, a few leagues distant from the Valle de Santiago. This position is strong, and being in a low situation near the lake of Jurida, the country around it is capable of being inundated at pleasure. It is likewise encompassed by broad and deep ditches. These difficulties were not to be surmounted by inexperienced troops, and the attempt to take it by storm proved abortive. He therefore returned to the Valle de Santiago.
After his return, he issued orders to the surrounding commandants, urging them to direct all their exertions to cut up the intercourse by the roads to Los Remedios; pointing that out, as the most effectual measure to defeat the views of the enemy. Having received a small re-enforcement of troops, he marched, with nearly one thousand cavalry, to the vicinity of the fort, for the purpose of attacking the enemy, upon the first favorable opportunity. With this view, he proceeded to the hacienda of La Hoya.
The enemy, when apprised of his approach, dispatched a strong division under the command of Don Francisco de Orrantia, to attack him. The general made his dispositions for battle ; but finding, on reconnoitering, that the force consisted of a body of infantry and cavalry against which it would be imprudent to contend, he ordered a retreat. The enemy pursued him to the foot of the mountains near Guanajuato, where the patriots adopted the usual mode of eluding the enemy, by separating into small detachments, each one following the route to its own comandancia. The general, with a small
party, hung on the rear of the enemy, skirmishing with them, until they entered the town of Irapuato. He then proceeded to the Valle de Santiago, and issued orders to the commandants to reassemble their troops as early as possible. The junction of their forces being accomplished, he marched to the plain of Silao, between the place of that name and Los Remedios, where he was re-enforced by other divisions of patriots; with one of which came Don Pedro Moreno, the co- commandant of Sombrero. The general's force then amounted to about eleven hundred men, a great proportion of whom were miserably equipped. He menaced the enemy's fortified towns, and, by his rapid and unexpected movements, kept the Baxio in a state of constant alarm, thereby preventing supplies from reaching the besieging army at Los Remedios; while Orrantia, with a division of picked troops, followed the movements of Mina, but did not attempt to attack him. The royalists generally bivouacked in the same positions which Mina had occupied on the preceding night.
Mina was in close correspondence with some of the leading inhabitants of the enemy's towns; and, as he found that the enemy at Los Remedios drew their principal supplies from the city of Guanajuato, he considered its capture as the most effectual means of cutting them off, and thus raising the siege of the fort. Mina well knew the strength of Linan's position at Los Remedios. He was aware of the deficiency of discipline among the patriot troops; and that the numerical force of the enemy was nearly seven times greater than his own, consisting principally of European veterans, with their best cavalry, adapted to the nature and circumstances of the country.
To attack the encampment of Linan, therefore, in the plain at the foot of the hill of Los Remedios, under such circumstances, would have been a disregard of all military principles; it would have been rashness in the extreme ; and, much as Mina liked dashing operations, he was too prudent to attempt to perform them, with such troops as those then under his command. To attack the enemy's entrenchments around the fort, was impracticable. Besides, could he have ascended the heights with cavalry, he had seen enough to convince him that the patriot troops were not capable of assaulting by escalade. These considerations united in confirming his purpose; and, having received the most flattering assurances of support from some of the most respectable citizens of Guanajuato, he decided on the attack of that city.
Mina communicated these intentions to Padre Torres, by couriers. But this man, either from ignorance, or from the apprehension of the consequences that would arise in favor of Mina, if the latter should take Guanajuato, opposed the plan; insisting that the only possible mode of relieving the fort was by attacking the besiegers. In vain did the general represent to him the advantages that mast arise from the capture of Guanajuato, and the disadvantages attendant upon attacking the besiegers, from the relative strength and composition of the adverse forces; and that therefore the only effective blow which could be struck against the enemy, would be the capture of Guanajuato. Torres at length threw off all reserve; he not only disapproved of Mina's plan, but resorted to the disgraceful step of sending an order to Don Lucas Flores, and to others of the commandants, to put their best troops under Mina's command only in the event of his attacking the enemy at the fort ; otherwise, that they must afford him only partial succors, of the worst of their troops. This was an unexpected blow to Mina. He could scarcely repress his indignation at the baseness of Torres; but it was not the moment to indulge in expressions of displeasure, and he therefore strove to accommodate himself to circumstances, which it was not in his power to resist or to modify,
Mina continued his operations by a system of guerilla warfare in the Baxio, and actually reduced the enemy to so great a degree of want, that desertions from their ranks commenced. A sergeant and two men, of the European regiment of Fernando 7°, presented themselves to Mina in the hacienda de Burras, five leagues from Guanajuato. From these men he learned that the enemy had been compelled to subsist chiefly upon the green corn, which their cavalry brought in from the neighboring ranchos; that their troops received no pay; and that discontent was becoming general. They also stated, that he might expect soon to be joined by a number of deserters; that many soldiers, before that time, would have passed over to the patriot standard, had it not been from an apprehension of being put to death by some roving band of patriots, before they could reach Mina.
During these operations of Mina in the Baxio, the enemy was carrying on the siege of Los Remedios with vigor. They had already been employed twenty days in throwing up entrenchments, to protect themselves from the assaults which they feared Mina might attempt to make on them. The lines of approach, for the reduction of the fort, were daily becoming more formidable.
The garrison, in the meantime, was not inactive. Under the direction of Mina's officers, the curtain, if it may be so termed, and the works extending from Santa Rosalia to Tepeaca, had been nearly completed; and to their unintermitted exertions was Padre Torres wholly indebted for the fort's being placed in a state capable of making so gallant a resistance, against an enemy so much more numerous, and so far superior in the character of his troops, and in artillery.
From the opposite heights, which were within musket shot, the enemy frequently held conversations with the besieged, and vauntingly expressed their confidence of gaining possession of the fort by storm, at the very first attempt. Accordingly, about the 20th of September, they advanced in three columns, and assaulted the fort at the points of Pansacola and Tepeaca; but directed their principal efforts against a part of the curtain which was then unfinished. The battery of La Libertad, which had been planned by Mina, and which his officers had labored to complete, was also unfinished. They advanced against each point simultaneously, and upon the opening in the curtain, in admirable order; but they were received in a manner which they expected not. After an inveterate conflict of three hours, finding their attempts to enter the fort were abortive, they were compelled to retire after suffering very severely.
Linan, being thus disappointed in carrying Los Remedios on the first assault, determined to open a mine under the work at Tepeaca. In this effort he also failed; twice was he disappointed in his attempts to destroy the battery by explosion. Could he have accomplished that object, the fort must have fallen into his possession, as Tepeaca commanded the whole line of works. But the engineers of Linan must have been deficient of skill; for, on springing the mine, the explosion each time issued by the mouth of the gallery, killing and wounding many of the miners. This, conjoined with the frequent sorties from the fort on the mining parties, at length compelled the enemy to abandon the project of undermining it.
Meanwhile, they had erected batteries in front of that of La Libertad. From these they opened a heavy fire, which seriously injured the curtain and works generally. As Linan had been foiled in his attempts to blow up Tepeaca, he determined, once more, to resort to open assault. Having succeeded in making a breach in the curtain, below Santa Rosalia, the enemy prepared to storm it, making, at the same time, judicious diversions on Pansacola and Tepeaca. The design of the enemy being soon perceived, the gun from Santa Rosalia was carried down and planted in the breach, supported by infantry, and peasantry armed with missile weapons. A strong column of European infantry moving up to the breach, under cover of a fire from their works, advanced intrepidly to within a few paces of it, when they were received with so much spirit that they soon fell back. They rallied and returned to the attack, but on approaching the fatal breach were again repulsed. At the other points of assault they were received with the same gallantry; and, after having suffered a severe loss in each attack, the enemy beat the retreat and retired within their entrenchments.
The garrison, animated by their recent exploits, determined to become the assailants. The batteries opposite to La Libertad had seriously annoyed the besieged ; for the superior artillery of the enemy, placed there within short range of the works, did them great injury. The damage committed thereby during the day, was repaired by night with stones and sand bags. But, wearied with the great and repeated fatigue, the garrison resolved to attempt the destruction of the enemy's first battery, on which were mounted three heavy pieces of artillery. This enterprise was to-be performed against European troops, strongly entrenched.
A party of two hundred and fifty men was selected for this daring operation, commanded by Captains Crocker and Ramsay, and Lieutenant Wolfe, three officers of Mina. Lieutenant Wolfe, with a detachment of fifty men, was ordered to gain the rear of the enemy's first work, by a circuitous route, and act simultaneously with the remainder of the party, which was to advance in front. Favored by the obscurity of the night, the parties gained their positions unobserved by the enemy. Lieutenant Wolfe opened a fire from the rear; and, scarcely had the enemy directed their attention to that point, when the party in front gallantly rushed forward. The enemy, being in a state of continual alarm of Mina, and not expecting an assault from the besieged, finding themselves attacked in front and rear at the same instant, supposed that the attack in front was in co-operation with that of Mina in the rear. Under this impression, we presume, they discharged a couple of guns loaded with grape shot, at the party in front, but without any effect; and, struck with a panic, exclaiming, Mina! Mina! they leaped their works in confusion, and fled to their second battery. The two heaviest guns were spiked, and their limbers destroyed ; the work was leveled, and the party retired without the loss or injury of a man. They brought off the third gun from the enemy's works, but could not carry it further than the foot of the barranca, where it was rendered unserviceable and abandoned.
Thus was executed an enterprise entirely unexpected on the part of the enemy, the effect of which on their minds must have been very considerable, however unimportant it may be viewed in relation to the force on either side. The enemy, however, shortly after replaced their artillery, and thenceforward limited their operations to a cannonading and blockade. The damage which their artillery effected on the works of the fort, was speedily repaired by the ordinary means of war. The siege did not excite much uneasiness, for in despite of the enemy's vigilance, some of the brave peasants found their way into the fort almost every night, with powder and other articles.
Provisions were abundant in the magazines. The finest fresh bread was daily served out; meat was plenty; and in fact the garrison had not only necessaries but luxuries.
The enemy's situation presented a striking contrast. They had scarcely any other subsistence, than unripe corn, as before mentioned; for Mina had effectually cut off their supplies. All the country, for several miles around Los Remedios, had been deserted by the inhabitants, who had likewise driven off their cattle. The situation of the enemy was soon known to the garrison; and, in order to show them the hopelessness of an attempt to obtain Los Remedios by famine, presents of fresh baked bread, meat, brandy, and even fruit, were frequently placed at about half way between the hostile works.
The general was still pursuing his guerilla warfare, harassing the enemy incessantly, and. cutting off their provisions, with an effect which every day made their situation more critical.While Mina was marching through the hacienda of La Caxa, on the 10th of October, a peasant brought him the intelligence, that Orrantia was approaching, and was but a short distance in the rear. Having had some opportunities of instilling a little more confidence in his troops, Mina thought the present a fit occasion to try them in the field, and therefore determined to give battle to Orrantia.
The experiment recently made in attacking fortifications, had convinced him, that they could not be relied upon for such operations; but as his force was then numerically superior to the enemy's, he entertained expectations, that they would feel a confidence in themselves, and that amidst the fortuitous occurrences of an engagement, his experience might enable him to seize upon some advantageous moment to decide the conflict. To succeed in destroying this enemy would be in effect to raise the siege of Los Remedios, as Linan could not detach from his force such another body of infantry and cavalry, as that of Orrantia's; and Mina would thereby be enabled to prosecute other plans against the enemy with facility, in which he had been hitherto frustrated by the position of Orrantia's division. Mina, it must be acknowledged, was not very sanguine of the result of the battle; but as in war, under such circumstances, delay itself is disadvantageous, and as he hoped, at all events, to occasion a severe loss to the enemy, as well as to give the patriot troops an opportunity to distinguish themselves, he therefore took his determination to await the attack.
The hacienda of La Caxa is situated on elevated ground, in a pass between two hills, distant from the enemy's town of Irapuato three leagues. The buildings of the hacienda were strongly fenced in. In front of them extended large plantations of Indian corn, which at that time was in full growth. The whole was enclosed by a very strong wall, with a small gate in one side, through which lay the road to the hacienda through the corn fields. Immediately contiguous to this wall, on both sides, the ground was laying fallow.
Mina had with him, at this time, about eleven hundred men; but their character as soldiers must be bore in mind: for, in consequence of the disgraceful order issued by Torres, these troops were composed of the most ordinary men of the different comandancias, and many of them only armed with lazos and machetas. Desertion, as might be expected from such troops, was frequent, and from the deficiency of all ideas of discipline, was practiced with an impunity the most pernicious, because irremediable. Whenever they were wearied with service, or were anxious to return to their families, they retired in pairs or dozens; and sometimes, at a critical moment, when an action was about taking place, they went off in still more considerable numbers. Mina, at length, finding it indispensable to interpose a check to this practice even at the risk of losing his popularity, issued an order declaring the penalty of death on the deserters. He sentenced to be shot two deserters, one of whom held the rank of a colonel. This act of firmness on the part of Mina, at least put a temporary check on desertion. Another evil had considerably injured the troops; it was a custom they had adopted of permitting females to accompany the expedition. At the time we are speaking of, Ortiz had re-enforced Mina with some cavalry, and many of the officers had brought with them their wives. Whether this was from anticipating an attack on the city of Guanajuato, where the females would expect to come in for a share of the spoil, or from some other cause, is immaterial, but it was the first time that Mina had been encumbered with such auxiliaries, and they were of very serious disadvantage to him on this occasion.
The general, under all these embarrassing circumstances, made his dispositions for action. He posted a piquet at the gate of the enclosure; nd, at some distance in the rear, on an elevated position, established his advanced guard, composed of two hundred and fifty men, such as he thought the best adapted for that duty, under the command of a dashing Creole, nicknamed El Giro." In the corn field, in front of the hacienda, on each side of the road, he posted the main body, resting obliquely upon it as a center, and within the fence of the hacienda, was the rear guard of two hundred men, with the women, ammunition, etc.
These dispositions were scarcely made, when the enemy were descried in motion upon the fallow ground before mentioned, outside the fence, where they halted for a considerable time, apparently undecided how to act. Mina, thereupon, having given his instructions to the commander of the main body, proceeded to the advanced post, whence he could better reconnoiter the enemy, and seize upon any opportunity for a favorable movement. At length the enemy attacked and drove in the piquet, and passed within the fence; and again halted on the clear space within it, in close order. Apprehensive of an ambuscade, the enemy threw out some light troops among the corn, but these were soon recalled, and whether or not they were afraid to advance by the high road, we cannot say, but after a considerable time spent in preparation, they filed off to the right, thereby appearing to menace the left of Mina, and turn his flank. In executing this movement, their infantry fell into disorder, and Mina supposing that he could reach them before they could form anew, made a charge on them with the advanced guard. It was executed with spirit; but his distance from the enemy was so great, that they had time to form, and thereby save themselves. Mina, with only two hundred and fifty men, now found himself engaged with the enemy's whole force. In the height of the action, a party of thirty of the enemy's cavalry, having made a circuit, approached the hacienda where the women were placed, who became alarmed, and fled. This created a panic in the rear guard, who took to flight. The main body, seeing the flight of the rear guard, without knowing the cause, likewise broke and dispersed, while Mina, with his little corps, was left to sustain the whole brunt of the action. The enemy's cavalry, seeing the confusion, pursued the fugitives, and the rout became general.
Upon this unexpected disaster, no other resource was left to Mina, than to cut his way through the enemy, which he most gallantly effected, after sustaining some loss. Orrantia then proceeded to the hacienda, where he shot some of the peasantry for not having remained in the place during the action.
Their houses he gave up to pillage. Mina, with the brave little party who had supported him so well, bivouacked near the scene of action, while Orrantia passed the night at the hacienda, without venturing to attack the general. Next morning, Mina proceeded to a small place, about four leagues off, called Pueblo Nuevo, where he found some of the fugitives, but the greater number had crossed the river on whose banks the place stands, and had returned to their respective homes.
In the late affair, the general again experienced the lamentable evil, of the want of discipline, among the patriot troops, and of the fatal consequences of allowing females to accompany them. But he was so highly pleased with the valor and conduct of the advanced party, under his immediate command, that he felt a renewed conviction, that he should be able to produce a considerable reformation among the patriot forces, by their example and success. He was convinced that if the unlooked for panic-terror we have mentioned, had not taken place, and that if his main body had been once closely engaged, the defeat of Orrantia would have been certain, or at the least that he must have been seriously crippled, and compelled to retire.
Despondency under any circumstances formed no part of Mina's character. His first care was therefore to adopt measures the best calculated to remedy the evils by which he was encompassed ; and as he knew that it would take a considerable time to reassemble the scattered troops, he resolved, in the interval, to visit Xauxilla, the seat of the patriot government, with which he wished to consult as to his future operations. With this view he selected an escort of twenty men, and dismissed the rest, after dispatching orders to the different commandants to assemble with their troops on a certain day at La Caxa. He proceeded in the evening for Xauxilla, and arrived there the next day.
Xauxilla was a small mud fort, the construction of which displayed the exercise of some military science. It was situated on an island just large enough to contain it, in the lake of Zacapo, a short distance from the village of that name, in the intendancy of Valladolid, about twenty leagues south-west of the Valle de Santiago, and eighteen north-west of the city of Valladolid. It was surrounded by a swamp or pond containing from five to six feet of water in depth, and could only be reached by canoes. Its garrison was composed of one hundred tolerably well disciplined infantry. At this place, the Republican Gazette was printed. There was likewise within the fort an extensive manufactory of powder, whence supplies had been sent to Los Remedios. The members of the government (if it may be so called) received Mina with cordiality. He frankly unfolded to them his plans, particularly that of attacking Guanajuato. But this plan did not meet with their approbation. They did not believe that it eould be accomplished with such troops as could then be placed under Mina's command. They were aware that with undisciplined men, nothing could be effected that would shed a lustre on Mina, or be of essential benefit to their country.
They strongly recommended to the general, to withdraw his remaining officers and men from the fort of Los Remedios, the place being impregnable, and well stored with provisions; and there being consequently no apprehensions of its falling into the hands of the enemy, there was no absolute necessity that called for the presence there of Mina's officers.
The members of the government endeavored to impress upon Mina's mind, the importance of organizing a body of troops, before he should undertake any momentous enterprise, and that, for the accomplishment of that purpose, the country between Xauxilla and the shores of the Pacific ocean was the most proper place, as the enemy there were less numerous than in the Baxio, and the people were universally earnest in the patriot cause; besides, that the fertility of the country yielded ample supplies, and its natural positions afforded complete security. They made use of the most cogent
arguments to persuade Mina to adopt this plan: but after giving them all the solidity to which they were entitled, he remained unconvinced of its feasibility. His primary object was to relieve Los Remedios. Knowing the critical situation to which the enemy were reduced, by the failure of their supplies of provisions, and believing that if the design of compelling Linan to withdraw from the siege of that fort, by the extremity of hunger, was abandoned, such another opportunity might not again occur, he nattered himself that if he could effect this his favorite point, that the affairs of the revolution would then assume a different aspect. He was, it is true, sensible that full reliance could not be placed upon the troops he commanded, but he thought that if he could obtain fifty infantry from Xauxilla, to be added to a like number from among the prisoners of San Luis de la Paz, whom Ortiz had undertaken to train, that with these, and an overwhelming force of cavalry, he should be able to capture the city of Guanajuato. Mina likewise informed his counselors, that his honor was implicated in relieving the fort of Remedios, and that he had also pledged himself to attack Guanajuato.
The government, on finding his resolution taken, ordered fifty infantry of the fort to march to his place of rendezvous. Although the members of the government much regretted Mina's determination, yet they all admired the generous sentiments by which he was actuated in support of his plan, and earnestly wished him full success.
The general marched from Xauxilla, taking, on his return, a circuitous route through Puruandiro, formerly a considerable and rich town, but which, by the mandates of Torres, had been reduced to a heap of ruins, with the usual exception of the churches. It lies about sixteen leagues north of the city of Valladolid, and was at that time in possession of the patriots, who hailed the arrival of Mina among them by illuminations and other public monstrations of joy. After remaining there two days, for the purpose of procuring some pecuniary aid, to carry into effect his intended object, he proceeded to the Valle de Santiago. He there found a small party of the patriot troops from Xalpa, awaiting his arrival. But he had been in the town only a few minutes, when the approach of a strong body of the enemy was announced from the look-out posts on the heights. It was the division of Orrantia. Mina, who entertained the most sovereign contempt for Orrantia, as a military man, could not endure the thought, of making a passive retreat, although he knew the enemy's superior numbers. He therefore placed his few men in ambush, in the corn that was growing in the vicinity of the place, and close to the road by which he presumed the enemy would pursue him; intending, if their cavalry only advanced in pursuit of him, to draw them into the ambuscade, in which case the destruction of a portion of them was certain. Orrantia, having entered the town, and receiving information that Mina, with some troops, was hovering about the place, halted his troops. After a considerable lapse of time, he again advanced from it, but so cautiously, that Mina, finding it impossible to succeed in his designs, withdrew his men from their ambuscade, covering their retreat in person, with a few men. By taking a circuitous route through the heights, he descended in the rear of the enemy, and proceeded to La Caxa, passing through Pueblo Nuevo. A Spanish officer, whose name we do not think fit to mention, there presented himself as a deserter to Mina. He obtained the confidence of the general; and, after having been furnished by him with some money, was dispatched upon a secret mission. A sergeant and two soldiers of the regiment of Zaragoza likewise there deserted to him. They confirmed the accounts which had been previously received of the enemy's famished condition, of the discontent which prevailed among their troops generally, and of the numerous desertions which took place every night among the Creoles in particular. But the spirit of desertion which Mina's operations had begun to excite in the enemy's ranks, was at once checked by the unexpected and disastrous events we are to narrate in the succeeding chapter.
At the hacienda of La Caxa, Mina assembled about eleven hundred troops, with which he advanced to the hacienda of Burras. In the night of the 23d, avoiding the high roads, and having made a circuit through the cultivated grounds, he passed along the heights immediately over the city of Guanajuato, and gained, by day-light, an unfrequented spot called La Mina de la Luz, in the mountains, about four leagues therefrom. He halted there during the day, awaiting the arrival of some re-enforcements of infantry and cavalry, dispatched by Don Encarnacion Ortiz. They joined him in the afternoon, and his force, thus augmented, amounted to nearly fourteen hundred men, of whom ninety only were infantry.
It is evident from the description we have given of Guanajuato, that artillery, placed on the heights which encompass it, would soon cause it to succumb. However, as the enemy entertained no apprehensions of formidable attacks from the patriots, they had neglected to fortify the passes of the mountains leading to the city, and relied for their defense on a castle or strong barracks which stood in a central position.
Mina was not provided with the necessary artillery to occupy the heights; and as Orrantia was following him, he resolved to carry the city by a coup de main. His intention was communicated to the troops, who manifested an anxiety to be led on. Pleased with their enthusiasm, and flattering himself that he was about to strike a blow which would give a decisive turn to the revolution, he made his arrangements accordingly. Filled with these presages, he appeared more than usually animated, and at dark advanced upon the city. At eleven o'clock the advanced guard arrived in the suburbs. A considerable halt was there made, to enable the division to close up, as the defiles through which the place had been approached were very narrow; in some places not affording a passage for more than a single file of men. The troops at length reunited, and although the sentinels were proclaiming within a short distance their "all's well," yet such had been the silence and good order on the part of Mina's troops, that the enemy were not apprised of his approach until after midnight; they received the first intimation of it, by the surprise and capture of one of their outposts. The alarm of the enemy became general, and a firing commenced from the castle.
But habits of discipline were again found wanting, and scenes even more disgraceful than those we have formerly described as having occurred at San Luis de la Paz, were here reacted at the critical moment when order and obedience were most required. Mina found himself surrounded by a military mob. In vain did he employ persuasion or threats; his mildness won them not; his orders were not obeyed; and although the enemy's fire had slackened for some time, thereby offering an opportunity for the assault, all his attempts were fruitless - he could not induce them to move forward. Until near the dawn did the general fruitlessly exert himself to restore some order, and prevail on the troops to advance; but finding it impossible, and knowing that Orrantia was approaching, he was compelled to abandon the assault, and to commence a retreat. With such troops as these, after the failure of an enterprise, a retreat must be synonymous with flight. insensible that they could pass with more celerity and safety by preserving a regular order of march, they crowded to the defile by which they had entered, each one endeavoring to precede the other; they soon choked up the pass, and a tumult ensued. A few of the enemy perceiving the retreat, ventured from their position, and fired some random shots. The confusion augmented with the alarm of the fugitives, lest they should be overtaken by the enemy, as they were thus huddled together. At length the general, with infinite difficulty, succeeded in allaying their apprehensions, and restored some little order among them. During this disastrous scene, Don Francisco Ortiz, one of the patriot officers, had with part of his troops gained the height on which stand the works of the Valenciana mine ; and most wantonly set fire to them. This act highly incensed Mina as he had uniformly given the most positive orders against the destruction of private property.
The troops were at length extricated from the defile, and a little after sunrise reached La Mina de La Luz where a halt was made. The general could no longer conceal his deep mortification, nor restrain his exasperated feelings. To a body of patriot officers who were assembled around him, he observed, that they were unworthy that any man of character should espouse their cause. "Had you done your duty," said he, " your men would have done theirs, and Guanajuato would have been ours." The order of the day passed a censure on those who deserved it, and commended a few who had merited his applause by their good conduct.
Having thus failed in his favorite enterprise against Guanajuato, and having now no immediate object in view to employ the troops; in order to deceive the royalists as to his own movements, he dismissed them to their respective comandancias, where he believed they might be useful in harassing the enemy, until he again required their services; thereby, at the same time, preserving his men and horses from the marches and countermarches to which they would have been subject from the pursuit of Orrantia, and recruiting them for his next attempt. He strictly enjoined those commandants whose stations were around Guanajuato not to allow supplies of any kind to enter the city; still fondly persuading himself that he would be able to renew the attack upon it with more effect. Retaining with him forty infantry and thirty cavalry, the general determined to proceed to the residence of his friend Don Mariano Herrera, at a neighboring rancho called El Venadito. Accordingly, on the same evening, after having dismissed the troops, he took up his march for that place, but passed the night at a short distance from La Mina de la Luz.
The Rancho del Venadito was composed of a few houses on the lands of the Tlachiquera, about one league distant from the hacienda, and eight from the town of Silao. Its owner, Don Mariano Herrera, was a native of Guanajuato. A man of high respectability, and of a mind well cultivated. He had suffered severely from the royalists. Orrantia had laid waste the hacienda, burned the buildings, and pillaged the church, converting it into a stable. The unfortunate Don Mariano had fallen a prisoner into his hands, and had been carried off by him, together with all the property that could be collected. After being thus despoiled, and his fine estate destroyed, he was compelled to ransom his life by paying twenty thousand dollars. Upon being set at liberty, he returned to his estate, and there employed himself in the pursuits of agriculture. His mansion and buildings being burned, his crops destroyed, his cattle and moveables taken away, and his funds exhausted,
he was unable to restore his estate to its pristine condition; and it became a place for his personal subsistence and rest. Indeed, had he possessed the means of recalling its former comforts and beauties, it would only have exposed him anew to the depredations of an insatiable rapacity. He therefore constructed only a small house, and as his dependants were devoted to him, he hoped from the peculiar situation of the Venadito to enjoy a secure retreat.
The Venadito was placed in a small circular barranca, in front of which was a small plain. The barranca was more or less covered with a copse, among which were interspersed large masses of rocks. Through these wound the only path to the high grounds surrounding, - a spacious table land, bounded at its extremity by barrancas. The road from Guanajuato and Silao running through a long, narrow, and intricate barranca, in which dwelt a numerous peasantry warmly attached to the cause of liberty, and devoted to Don Mariano, was supposed to afford complete protection from a surprise by the enemy in that direction, as their approach could be communicated to Don Mariano in sufficient time to enable him and his attendants to take refuge among the barrancas in the rear of the Venadito. On the other side, there were no royalist posts for a considerable distance, and as the patriot troops under Ortiz ranged unmolested in that direction, no danger was thence apprehended.
The Venadito was therefore deemed perfectly secure from a surprise by day, and at night it was the custom of Don Mariano to take refuge in the mountains ; so that although living in constant apprehension, yet he considered his person as secure. In this solitary spot Don Mariano passed his time, solaced by the attentions of a beloved sister, who had torn herself from her friends in Guanajuato, to partake of her brother's fortune.
Mina and Herrera had formed for each other a warm friendship; the former gave to the latter his entire confidence, of which he was in every respect deserving. Mina arrived the next day, about noon, at the Venadito, where he was most cordially received by his friend. He understood that Orrantia was in Irapuato, at a loss to discover what direction he had taken, and he knew that he would be more confounded when he heard of the dispersion of the patriot troops. From these circumstances, and the position of the Venadito, Mina thought himself perfectly secure. He therefore determined to pass the night at the rancho with his friend, and ordered the horses of the cavalry out to pasture. During the afternoon Don Pedro Moreno, who resided in the neighborhood, visited Mina and remained with him. The troops encamped in advance of the house; videttes were posted; and the general was so satisfied of his security, that, contrary to his usual custom, he retired to rest on the floor in the house. We mention these circumstances, because the sequel will show, that the general, in this rare instance of a departure from his usual habit of sleeping with his men, committed a most unfortunate error.
Among the pernicious and impolitic practices of the patriots, was that of permitting priests to come out of the enemy's towns to perform mass among them. Many of these men were spies and agents of the royalists, and never failed to collect every possible information for the advantage of their masters. The road by which Mina had that morning passed, lay through a small pueblo to which a padre repaired weekly from Silao. It was Sunday when the general passed through it. The padre waited on him to pay his respects, conducting himself with all that humility and sycophancy which his fraternity so well know how to use, when a point is to be gained. Mina treated him as he always did persons of his description, with attention and respect, but at the same time with caution. The padre either was informed of or conjectured Mina's destination; but be that as it may, he was so very anxious to carry the gratifying intelligence to the royalists, that the instant
Mina departed from the pueblo, without waiting for his dinner, he mounted his horse and set out for Silao, distant about five or six leagues.
Mina's suppositions of Orrantia's incertitude of the course of his proceedings were well founded; for the latter was totally at a loss where to look for the general, and had marched to Silao in that state of uncertainty. The dispersion of Mina's troops increased the perplexity of Orrantia; but while he was in this state of confusion, (as he expressed himself in his dispatches to the viceroy,) he received from the priest the unexpected but important information, that Mina had gone to the Venadito. Had not Orrantia by accident arrived in Silao that very evening, the padre's intentions and information must have been of no avail, because it was the intention of Mina to have marched from the Venadito the ensuing morning. A concurrence of unfortunate circumstances, however, seems to have led to that catastrophe which we are about to narrate. Orrantia, notwithstanding the fatigue of his troops, lost not a moment in putting them in motion, and having gained a position suitable for his design, placed them in ambush near the Venadito, intending, as soon as day -light should enable him to discern objects, to fall upon Mina's party.
At dawn of the morning of the 27"th, Orrantia's cavalry sallied from the ambush, and advanced in full speed on Mina's encampment. The alarm was given. The troopers of Mina, finding themselves cut off from their horses at pasture, mingled with the infantry, whose first impulse was to save themselves by flight. If thirty infantry only had united at that juncture, such was the situation of the ground, that they could have repelled the whole force of Orrantia, or at least could have held him in check and made good their retreat. But officers and soldiers thought of nothing but their own safety; in the utmost disorder they rushed forward to gain the summit of the hills, and thence escape by the barrancas in the rear.
Mina, awakened by the noise and tumult of his flying troops, started from the floor, and rushed out of the house in the same apparel in which he had passed the night, without coat, hat, or even his sword. Regardless of his person, his first object was to attempt the rallying of his flying troops: but all his exertions were unavailing. He soon found himself alone. He beheld the enemy pursuing and cutting down his flying comrades; and attempted, when too late, to secure his own safety: but the enemy were upon him. Still hallooing to the fugitives to halt and form, he was seized by a dragoon: having no arms whatever, resistance was useless.
If Mina, on first leaving the house, had attempted to escape, he might have succeeded with as much ease as many others: but we suppose such a thought never entered his mind. His favorite servant, a colored boy of New Orleans, after the general left the house, saddled his best horse, and went in pursuit of his master, carrying likewise his sword and pistols; but unfortunately he found him not.
The dragoon who captured Mina was ignorant of the rank of his prisoner, until informed of it by the general himself. He was then pinioned, and conducted into the presence of Orrantia, who in the most arrogant manner began to reproach him for having taken up arms against his sovereign, and to interrogate him concerning his motives in thus becoming a traitor, insulting him, and lavishing upon him the bitterest criminations. Mina, who on the most trying occasions never lost his presence of mind and characteristic firmness, replied to the interrogatories in so sarcastic a strain, and with such
strong expressions of contempt and indignation manifested in his countenance, that the brutal Orrantia started from his seat, and beat with the flat of his sword his disarmed and pinioned prisoner. Mina, motionless as a statue, endured this indignity; and then, with a crest brightened by conscious greatness, and an eye glowing with the fires of an elevated spirit, he looked down upon his conqueror, and said; "I regret being made a prisoner; but to fall into the hands of one regardless of the character of a Spaniard and a soldier, renders my misfortune doubly keen." The maganimity of Mina filled every man present with admiration, and even Orrantia stood confounded with the severity of his rebuke.
The capture of Mina was considered by the Spanish government as an event of such high importance, that they have honored the present viceroy, Don Juan Ruiz de Apodaca, with the title of Conde del Venadito. Linan and Orrantia have been presented with military crosses; and to the dragoon who actually took Mina, a yearly stipend has been assigned, accompanied by promotion to the station of a corporal.
A letter, purporting to be written by Mina to Linan, on the 3d of November, after his capture, has appeared in the Mexican Gazette, which, although it contains nothing but what might be expected from a man whose mind was soured by the conduct of such men as Padre Torres, yet is couched in a style that renders it a suspicious document; besides that the whole tenor of Mina's conduct, from the moment of his capture to that of his execution, forbids the belief of his having written the letter in question. We further know, that subsequent to his capture, he wrote a letter to his countryman, Don Pablo Erdozain, who commanded at the work of Tepeaca, in which letter, written in the provincial dialect of Navarre, he gives some instructions about his own private affairs, and concludes by wishing Erdozain success, and exhorting him to pursue a conduct marked by honor and consistency. We have thought proper to mention these circumstances, in order to counteract any erroneous impression that may have been made by the publication before alluded to in the Mexican Gazette. We have, on other occasions, noticed the recantations and penitential documents published in that Gazette, relative to Hidalgo, Morelos, and other patriot chiefs, all of which are now well known to have been forgeries of the royalists, for the purpose of deceiving the people.
Five of the officers of Mina's division, and some few of the soldiers, escaped from the Venadito. Don Jose Maria Liceaga succeeded in his flight on horseback. The Creole troops in general began their flight so early in the alarm, that they had time to conceal themselves in the broken ground. Of the division, four men were killed. Don Pedro Moreno, who had fled up the side of the barranca, was overtaken, killed, and his head severed from his body: this trophy was afterwards stuck on a pole. Don Mariano Herrera, and about fourteen of the troops, were made prisoners: these, with the exception of Don Mariano, were executed.
On reaching Silao, Mina was put into irons by his savage conductor. Thence he was removed to Irapuato, and finally to Linan's head-quarters in front of Tepeaca at Los Remedios, where he was committed to the care of the regiment of Navarra. There, his treatment was such as a brave man deserved; every humane attention was shown him, and his situation was made as comfortable as possible.
We have understood that among the few of the papers which fell into the hands of the enemy were some in cipher. To obtain an explanation of these was a matter of great consequence, because they would develop the names of certain patriots who resided within their walls, and who had held correspondence with Mina. Fortunately for the writers, Mina had been accustomed, on receiving any communication of importance, to copy it, and destroy the original. All his answers to their inquiries breathed fidelity to a cause in which he had been so shamefully treated, and thus displayed in a new light the nobleness of his character. We have conversed with some royal officers who were present at these conversations; and they have assured us, that such was the admiration excited by his conduct, that there were few officers in Linan's army who did not sympathize in Mina's misfortune, and were much more disposed to liberate than to sacrifice him.
Upon the arrival at Mexico of the express which had been dispatched to announce the capture of Mina, couriers were sent by the viceroy to every part of the kingdom, to convey the cheering intelligence. Te Deums were chanted in the churches; salutes of artillery, illuminations, and rejoicings, took place in every town in possession of the royalists; and such was the general joy among them, that they hailed the capture of Mina as the termination of the revolution. These demonstrations on the part of the government and its adherents, are in themselves no common eulogium on the character of Mina.
In the city of Mexico, a great anxiety prevailed to behold Mina, and had he reached that place, great interest would have been made to save his life; but the viceroy, fearing the consequences that might ensue should he be brought thither, and being in constant dread lest he should escape, dispatched an order to Linan for the immediate execution of his prisoner.
When this order was communicated to Mina, he received it without any visible emotion. He continued to resist all overtures for the purpose of drawing information from him, but regretted that he had not landed in Mexico one year sooner, when his services would have been more effective. He likewise regretted quitting life so deeply indebted to certain individuals, who had generously aided his enterprise.
On the 11th of November (as well as we can now recollect) he was conducted under a military escort to the fatal ground, attended by a file of the Cacadores of the regiment of Zaragoza. In this last scene of his life was the hero of Navarre not unmindful of his character; with a firm step he advanced to the fatal spot, and with his usual serenity told the soldiers to take good aim. The officer commanding gave the accustomed signal; they fired ; and that spirit fled from earth, which, for all the qualities which constitute the hero and the patriot, seemed to have been born for the good of mankind.
Thus ends the expedition and life of Xavier Mina - editor
Who is William Davis Robinson and where did he get his information. The answer to these questions is provided by the author in his Introduction:
It is incumbent on every person who presents a statement of important events to the public, to unfold the sources from which he derives his information. The writer therefore, in the first instance, with great pleasure acknowledges his obligations to Mr. James A. Brush, a gentleman who accompanied general Mina from England to Mexico, and was finally appointed his commissary general.
The journal of Mr. Brush was submitted to the inspection of the writer, with the liberty of making such use of it as was thought proper, and from it he compiled the narrative of the military operations of general Mina, of the fidelity of which not the least doubt exists in his mind; indeed all the essential facts contained in the narrative were fully corroborated by information derived from various sources, while he was in Mexico, and by the testimony of the few surviving officers of Mina's expedition, whom he met with in Mexico and in the United States, and who were carefully consulted on the subject.
To John E. Howard, Esq., of Baltimore, he likewise feels under particular obligations, for having furnished him with the greater portion of the facts contained in the biographical sketch of Mina, and indeed for having infused into that sketch more animation than it would have been in his power alone to have given it.
The perusal of the correspondence of Mina with various distinguished individuals in Europe and the United States, from which the writer obtained important information, was politely afforded him by general Winfield Scott, to whom he likewise begs leave to offer his acknowledgments.
The writer has also examined, with much attention, files of the Mexican, Havana, and Madrid gazettes, for the last ten years, and however ridiculous or exaggerated may be their statements of the operations of the royal forces against the patriots, one feature of the story, we may be assured, they have not too highly colored - the cruelties exercised by them.
It is from such indubitable sources, and others of a similar character, which were submitted to his inspection in Mexico, and other parts of Spanish America, as well as from personal observation, that the writer has been enabled to draw the dark hued picture of Spanish inhumanity which is exhibited in the following pages.
As respects the general remarks on Mexico, and the situation, political and civil, of the people of Spanish America, he has endeavored to divest himself of those prejudices which a citizen of the United States may be supposed to entertain in favor of a people struggling against oppression, and to state faithfully what came under his own personal observation, as well with regard to royalists as revolutionists.
It is now more than twenty-one years since he made his first visit to Spanish America; and as far as it has been in his power to gather information he has done so. If he could not obtain all that he desired, it arose from his having constantly to be upon his guard against the jealousies of the Spanish government, and from the difficulty of gaining access to the Spanish archives ; but nevertheless, he flatters himself the reader will find in the work now submitted to his inspection, some facts entitled to consideration, as well from their importance as novelty.
It will naturally be asked, how he gained admission into the Spanish territories in America, in contravention to the laws of the Indies? To this it is replied, that his first visit was to Caracas, in the year 1799, where he continued, in the prosecution of extensive mercantile engagements with the Spanish authorities, until the year 1806. Those engagements were with the approbation of his Catholic majesty, and consequently his residence in that country, during the time before mentioned, was under the royal sanction. The extraordinary manner in which his interests were sacrificed, and his personal rights outraged, by the bad faith and arbitrary conduct of the Spanish authorities in Caracas, will be found in a statement of his claims on the Spanish government, in the appendix to this volume, and to which he particularly refers such of his readers as may feel any curiosity to see the extent of the injuries he has suffered as a merchant, in his intercourse with the Spanish government. As respects his subsequent visits to the Spanish dominions, more especially to Mexico, he is perfectly aware that the government of Spain has said, and will continue to say, that such visits being contrary to her laws and her policy, she had a right to punish him for their infraction. She has, on several occasions during the last ten years, enforced those laws against foreigners, by imprisonment, and in some instances by death.
When the Spanish general Morillo captured Carthagena, he seized all the British and other foreign merchants, threw them into dungeons, threatened to try them by a military tribunal, and would unquestionably have shot them, had it not been for the timely interference of the British admiral on the Jamaica station, who dispatched a frigate to Carthagena, with such communications from the British authorities at Jamaica, as at once settled the question, and compelled Morillo instantaneously to release all the British subjects. The American government likewise sent a vessel of war to Carthagena, and obtained the liberation of several American citizens. If these measures had not been adopted, no mercy nor regard would have been extended to any foreigner who might unfortunately have fallen into the hands of the Spanish government, because not only by the " Leyes de las Indias" was it a capital crime for a foreigner to enter the Spanish dominions without a special authority from his Catholic majesty, but during the present revolutions in America, the Spanish government have issued various decrees, expressly declaring that all strangers aiding the insurgents, or found residing among them, were to be punished as insurgents, by death. If these decrees have not been executed by the Spanish government, it was by no means for lack of disposition, but from the apprehension of the resentment of those governments whose subjects and citizens held intercourse with the insurgents.
As the writer has been thus particular in stating these facts, because they show that any individual, not engaged in the military or naval service of the insurgents of Spanish America, is under the protection of the laws of nations in favor of all non-combatants; and that any attempt on the part of Spain to infringe this security is a violation of the usages of civilized nations, and a direct outrage against that nation whose subjects may have been thus wantonly punished. It is not only on these principles that the writer feels justified in complaining of the barbarous treatment he has received from the Spanish government, during an imprisonment of two years and a half but because there are some peculiar circumstances attending the affair, which, if he is not much mistaken, will excite the indignation and surprise of every unprejudiced reader.
The recital of this case has become the more necessary, because, during his imprisonment in the dungeons of Mexico, he was honored with the sympathy of his fellow citizens, and the interference of his government in his behalf. He therefore deems it incumbent upon him to prove that he was not undeserving of such sympathy and protection. In addition to this, he is anxious to remove all doubts with regard to his conduct, that may have arisen from the misrepresentations made in the public newspapers respecting him; for in some of these he has been called Doctor Robinson, and in others it has been asserted that he held a military command in the service of the Mexican insurgents, and was taken prisoner on the field of battle. The writer has not in any one instance violated his neutral obligations as a citizen of the United States. But while making this assertion, he does not at all hesitate openly to avow, that if an ardent desire to promote the independence of all Spanish America, and more especially of Mexico, constitutes him an enemy of Spain, and criminal in her eyes, - then he is guilty. If the fact of his having visited New Grenada, Caracas, and Mexico, during the political commotions of those countries, for the purpose of ascertaining their actual condition, and of succoring the revolutionists, as a neutral merchant, by all fair and honorable means, renders him an enemy to Spain, - then is he her enemy. If cherishing those sentiments, and a determination to persevere in promoting the independence of South America and Mexico, by every means in his power, consistent with his duties as a citizen of the United States, proves him to entertain criminal intentions towards the Spanish government, - then indeed is a criminal.
Having thus acknowledged all that the government of Spain can possibly lay to his charge, he now invites the attention of the reader to the following detail of facts.
On the 4th of March, 1816, he embarked at New Orleans on board the United States' brig of war Saranac, commanded by John H. Elton, Esq., bound on a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. When he applied for a passage, he stated to the naval commander on that station, commodore Patterson, that he wished to be landed on the Mexican coast, for the purpose of having an interview with some of the Mexican authorities, on whom he had drafts for a large amount of money, due to certain merchants in the United States. His request was politely acceded to, and captain Elton received directions accordingly-. The writer premises this, to show that he did not depart from the United States in an unauthorized manner, or with an illegal object in view.
On the 4th of the ensuing month, he was landed from the Saranac, at Boquilla de Piedras, a post then in possession of the revolutionists, on the coast of Vera Cruz. He thence proceeded to the headquarters of Don Guadalupe Victoria, commandant general of the patriot forces in the province of Vera Cruz, who received him in the most friendly manner. Upon his explaining the object of his visit to Mexico, general Victoria observed, that although he was unable immediately to pay the drafts on the Mexican government, yet if the writer would remain a few weeks in the country, payment should be made. He was more readily induced to wait, as he was desirous to view the interesting country in which he then was, and likewise to acquire correct information respecting the political state of affairs, in the expectation that it might be such as would justify his entering into some commercial arrangements as well with the government as with individuals.
But he soon discovered that the representations made to him at New Orleans by the Mexican minister, Don Jose Herrera, and by Don Alvarez Toledo, were destitute of foundation, and indeed that in many points they had deceived him. However, as he received some flattering accounts of the situation of the patriots in the interior, and had a prospect of obtaining the payment of his drafts at a place called Tehuacan, he proceeded thither, and was received with every mark of civility by the patriot commandant, Don Manuel Mier y Teran, who accepted and paid part of the drafts, and promised to discharge the residue in a short time.
Robinson travelled with Don Manuel Mier y Teran and was captured with him by Spanish troops and incarcerated. The viceroy avowed his intention not to grant Mr. Robinson the benefit of the royal indulto, and sent him to Spain; recommending to the authorities there his close confinement for life, because he has attained such a knowledge of the actual state of the insurrection in this country, and of the dispositions of the Mexican subjects, that it would be highly dangerous to his Catholic majesty's interest ever to give the said Robinson an opportunity to publish such information abroad.
After thirty months' imprisonment, in castles, jails, dungeons, and convents, without a hearing, or even the shadow of a legal trial, Dr. Robinson escaped aboard a ship that took him to Gibraltar.
Editor's note - William Davis Robinson who wrote so vehemently of his treatment by Spanish authorities was not just a simple merchant, more often than not his export product was guns, he was a gun runner selling arms to Spain's enemies. He was also an ardent supporter for the independence of Mexico from Spain and published a brochure in 1815 entitled A Cursory View Of Spanish America that was a manifesto of sorts for the United States to assist Mexico and others in achieving independence from Spain. It also did not help that there was another Robinson, Dr. John Hamilton Robinson, who had been with Zebulon Pike and his 1806 expedition that went into Spanish Territory. Dr. Robinson later (1812-1814) became a U.S. envoy to Mexico that was never trusted by Nemesio Salcedo because of his liberal ideals. This was later proven by the publication, in 1813, of Dr. Robinson's brochure entitled Europe Enslaved Millions! America Freed Them! and his subsequently joining the revolution in Mexico rising to the rank of Brigadier General before he returned to the United States in 1815. It also did not help that William Davis Robinson met with Dr. Robinson while in Tehaucan with Teran in July 1816 shortly before his capture. It took a while for William Davis Robinson to convince the Spaniards that he was not Doctor Robinson.
Editor's note - among the known Celtic men to be with General Mina was Colonel Henry Perry, Major James H. Gordon, Colonel John Bradburn, a Lieutenant Colonel Daly, Irish born Samuel Adams, Doctor Michael Kelly, Irish born Patrick Hurley, Irish born John Smith, Irish born David Slater, Scottish born: William Thompson, John Robinson, Antonio Miller, William Patten, John McKendry, Patrick McDermitt, John McHenry,and a Doctor John Hennessey from Jamaica.