Mr. Seward to Mr. Bigelow

No. 49.]

Sir: I transmit, for your information, a copy of a letter of the 7th instant, and of the accompanying papers addressed to this department by the Assistant Secretary of War, relative to the surrender by General Mejia, at Matamoras, of refugees from Texas as deserters from the insurgents. This was the subject of the instruction to you, No. 38, of the 7th instant.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


John Bigelow, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Dana to Mr. Seward

Sir: I am instructed by the Secretary of War to transmit, for your information, and for such action as you may consider appropriate and necessary, the enclosed communication from Major General Canby, with its accompaniments, in relation to the surrender by General Mejia, commanding at Matamoras, Mexico, of citizens of the United States, deserters from the rebel service, or refugees from the rebel territory.

I will thank you to return the enclosures, after having availed yourself of their contents.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

C. A. DANA, Assistant Secretary of War.

Hon. W. H. Seward, Secretary of State.

General Canby to Mr. Stanton

Sir: I have the honor to transmit, for the information of the Secretary of State, copies of certain papers, marked A, B, C, and D, in relation to the surrender by General Mejia, commanding at Matamoras, Mexico, of citizens of the United States, deserters from the rebel service, or refugees from the rebel territory, on the pretence that they are criminals and fugitives from justice.

The course of General Mejia, which, from his own statement, appears to be authorized by the Emperor Maximilian, is one of direct hostility to the government of the United States, and, in my judgment, should be so treated. For reasons that have been impressed upon me by the Secretary of State, I shall, until otherwise advised, take no further steps in this matter [Page 372] than to send an officer to the Rio Grande, for the purpose of ascertaining the extent of this extradition, and the names of the unfortunates, who have been turned over to the vengeance of the rebels, and, by remonstrance with General Mejia, prevent any addition to the number of victims.

Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,

ED. R. S. CANBY, Major General Commanding,

The Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.

General Vile to Lieutenant Colonel Drake

Colonel: On assuming command at this place I immediately made such arrangements as greatly assisted deserters and refugees to reach my lines from Mexico.

This had the effect to increase the number of deserters very materially, and threatened to destroy the organization and efficiency of the rebel troops on this border.

Rumors have been reaching me for a month that the authorities of the Maximilian government were arranging to return deserters to the rebel authorities. During the last two days there has been a stampede among the very large number of these persons now on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. As near as I can learn, some forty to sixty have been arrested by the Mexican authorities at Matamoras and delivered to General Slaughter.

I have not been able to hear from the United States consul at Matamoras for some days. If I had horses to draw the light artillery on the island I could easily drive Slaughter out of Brownsville. I have been over and felt of him sufficiently to satisfy me that he does not intend to fight in case we should advance. But it could not be held with the means of this command, and no material damage could be inflicted on him without a cavalry force.

No permanent relief can be given these destitute people without occupying and controlling the valley of the Rio Grande, which, of course, can best be done by going in from Matagorda bay and occupying San Antonio, which is the key to this whole valley and frontier.

These facts are stated for the information and consideration of the major general commanding department of the Gulf.

I have no doubt of the fact that deserters are being delivered on the claims of the rebel authorities. I shall learn more in a day or two in relation to the matter, and will report further.

I shall be glad to receive any instruction or orders deemed necessary (if any) in the case. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WM. A. VILE, Brigadier General Commanding military Division West Mississippi.

Lieut. Col. Geo. B. Drake, A. A. General, Department of the Gulf.

Official copy:

C.G. CHRISTENSEN, Lieutenant Colonel, Assistant Adjutant General,

General Mejia to Mr. Etchison


No. 852.]

Mr. Consul: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of and to answer your official despatch of the 8th instant, containing a serious complaint in favor of the rights and liberties of American citizens residing in this city, and of those who, having escaped from the army of the Confederate States, have come seeking the protection of the government of Mexico.

You assure me that you have reliable information to the effect that the so-called authorities of Brownsville are daily carrying off American citizens, upon the pretext that they owe allegiance to their government, and that such abuses are committed by virtue of an agreement, made for the purpose, between the commander of the imperial forces at Matamoras and the confederate authorities at Brownsville. You conclude by stating to me that the government of the United States possesses the will and the power required to protect its citizens residing in foreign countries.

This last declaration, Mr. Consul, is an unseasonable threat, and the entire despatch is written under a strange hallucination of mind, entirely different from the measured language that is customary in the official intercourse between two countries, besides having no foundation in facts.

[Page 373]

When you have deliberately considered their import, you will withdraw your words, or the government of the United States will do us justice by reproving the acts of its agent at Matamoras.

It is sufficient for me to state to you at present that it is untrue that any arrangement has been made by which American citizens are pursued, arrested, and conveyed to Texas, under the pretext that, owing allegiance to the confederacy, they have deserted from their army. Through grivate communications, the principal articles of the extradition treaty in regard to criminals, fugitives from justice, celebrated between Mexico and the United States during the ministry of Mr. Dobadao, have been agreed upon; from which slaves, also excepted by that treaty, are now expressly excluded, and deserters from the army who may seek refuge in Mexico; against these two classes of persons no claims can be attempted by the confederate authorities.

These private stipulations have been submitted for the approval of my sovereign, and, by his command,, will be faithfully executed, as, being not only based on a pre-existing treaty, they attack the liberties of none others than criminals, but also in a sure manner expedite the ends of justice.

When the military commanders of the United States have pursued a course so diametrically opposed to humanity and civilization towards Mexico, as witnessed by the recent act of delivering Don Manuel de Regon, esq., a political exile, who sought refuge under the American flag, into the hands of his enemies, it appears incredible that an agent of that same government should not desire that at Matamoras, where the memory of that horrible violation is more indelibly impressed, the rights of citizens who are in no danger, and whose liberties no one pretends to attack, should not be protected.

The indecorous terms in which your note is couched authorize me, according to established custom, to return it without answer. I answer solely for the purpose of conveying the views herein expressed, but in future will limit myself to acting as is customary in these cases.

Accept the assurance of my particular regard.

THOMAS MEJIA, Com’dg General of New Leon, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas.

The Consul of the United States at Matamoras, Present.

I certify that the above is a true copy.

D. G. FENNO, Lieut, and A. D. C.

Headquarters Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, January 26, 1865.

Official copy:

C. S. SARGENT, First Lieut. A. A. A. S.

Mr. Etchison to General Vile

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 13th instant, in relation to the surrender of deserters and others from the so-called confederacy to the rebel authorities commanding at Brownsville, by the authorities of Matamoras.

I addressed a very severe letter to General Mejia on the subject, and a copy of his reply (translated) I enclose herewith.

It is reported in town that as many as twenty or more have been sent over, and without any trial or investigation being made. They are arrested, generally, very early in the morning, and are at once taken, with a file of soldiers, to the river, when they are delivered to the rebels. The whole proceeding is an outrage, as there can be no extradition treaty between two governments that have not in either case been recognized; and our treaty does not authorize the return of even criminals, until undoubted proof is shown that they are guilty. General Mejia’s letter is a lame reply, and savors much of the pen of a rebel.

Referring to the cotton question, Dr. McManus requests me to say that, if you will have the kindness to send his cotton to the mouth of the Rio Grande, and have it surveyed and appraised, he will pay the salvage to you or your order.

I am, sir, very respectfully,

E. DORSEY ETCHISON, United States Consul at Matamoras, Mexico.

Brigadier General W. A. Vile, Commanding United States Forces, Brazos Santiago, Texas.

I certify that the above is a true copy.

D. E. FENNO, Lieutenant and A. D. C.

Headquarters Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, January 26, 1865.

Official copy:

C. S. SARGENT, First Lieutenant 2d La. Vols., A. A. D. General.
[Page 374]

General Vile to Lieutenant Colonel Drake.

Colonel: Since my communication of the 5th instant, in relation to the agreement between the Maximilian and confederate authorities, by which deserters from the rebel army are being surrendered to the confederate military authorities, I have received a letter from Hon. E. D. Etchison, United States consul at Matamoras, Mexico, enclosing copy of the reply of Brigadier General Mejia to the protest of the consul on this subject, copies of each of which are enclosed for the information of the major general commanding department.

I am reliably informed that these persons are being delivered to the confederate officers at various other points on the river.

From all I could learn, I think about seventy-five have been given up in this way.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WM. A. VILE, Brigadier General Volunteers,

Lieut. Col. Geo. B. Drake, Assistant Adjutant General, Dep’t of the Gulf.

Headquarters Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, La., January 26, 1865.

Official copy:

JOS. HIBBERT, Captain and A. A. General.