Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, Accompanying the Annual Message of the President to the Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Congress
Mr. Romero to Mr. Seward
Mr. Secretary: Continuing the transmission to your department of documents coming into my bands that may give a just idea of events now occurring in Mexico, I have the honor to enclose the documents mentioned in the accompanying index, showing recent transactions on the eastern military line of the Mexican republic.
Nos. 1 and 2 show what the Mexican patriots are doing on the eastern line, comprising the States of Vera Cruz, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Oaxaca, Tabasco, and Chiapas, for the independence and institutions of the republic—efforts that would be attended with better success if they had arms and ammunition, very difficult to procure in their actual position.
No. 3 contains the most important part of the republican general Don Ignacio Alatorre’s official report on his defence of the town of Tlapacoyam, where his forces conducted themselves with the greatest courage.
Nos. 4 and 5 contain the correspondence between Lieutenant Colonel Zach, of the so-called imperial forces in the north, and General Alatorre, in regard to exchange of prisoners. That correspondence shows the necessity in which the invaders of Mexico are placed to acknowledge the absurdity of the usurper Maximilian’s decree of the 3d of October, where the republican forces are denied the rights of belligerents; for though that decree is used to shoot the defenders of independence at certain times, on other occasions the invaders or their adherents, prompted by interest, exchange prisoners formally, and thus confess that the national forces are not composed of highway robbers.
No. 6 gives the official report of General Lazaro Muñoz on his victory at Espinal, State of Vera Cruz.
No. 7 is the report of Colonel Luis P. Figueroa on his occupation of the city of Villa Alta, in the State of Oaxaca.
No. 8 contains the terms of capitulation at Papantla, (State of Vera Cruz,) where General Alatorre retired after his defence of Tlapacoyam, and which was given up to Lieutenant Colonel Zach and his Austrian soldiers. It will also be seen in this treaty that belligerent rights are necessarily granted to the republican forces. The cause of General Alatorre’s surrender is explained in General Garcia’s letter to President Juarez, marked No. 2
No. 9 is Don Mariano Ramos’s account of the cruel treatment to which he was subjected while he was prisoner at Tezuitlan, of which district he was political chief under the constitutional government. This account, the original of which is in my possession, exhibits the conduct of the enemies of the Mexican republic, even towards the most respectable citizens who have the misfortune to fall into their hands.
No. 10 is a very interesting account General Porfirio Diaz gives, in a private letter, of all his movements, after his escape from the Puebla prison, on the 20th of September last. This brief narrative is another proof of the courage and bravery of this patriot general; and it shows the determination of the people of the Mexican republic to resist the empire as long as they have arms and other means to carry on the war.
Nos. 11 and 12, containing the official reports of the French agent, Luciano Prieto, to the usurper, show that Colonel Figueroa attacked the city of Tehuantepec, in the State of Oaxaca, on the 7th of January last, with a force of two thousand men. This information, coming from a French source, cannot be doubted, and proves that the contest in Mexico, so far from being at an end, as the French would have us believe, is hardly begun, and that the Mexican people [Page 81] continue to struggle for their independence and their institutions through the whole territory of the republic.
I avail myself of the occasion to renew to you, Mr. Secretary, the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.
Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.
List of the documents sent by the Mexican legation in Washington to the Department of State of the United States with the note of this date, in relation to events on the eastern military line of the Mexican republic.
No. 1. January 17, 1865.—General Garcia to Mr. Romero: Account of the condition of things, and a letter for President Juarez.
No. 2. January 17, 1865.—General Garcia to President Juarez: Information of recent events on the eastern line.
No. 3. General Garcia to General Alatorre: Official report of the defence of Tlapacoyam, south of Vera Cruz.
No. 4. November 27, 1865.—Lieutenant Colonel Zach to General Alatorre: Proposal to exchange Austrian prisoners for Mexican prisoners.
No. 5. November 29, 1865.—General Alatorre to Lieutenant Colonel Zach: Answer to the above, accepting the exchange.
No. 6. November 30, 1865.—General Muñoz to General Garcia: Official report of the battle of Espinal.
No. 7. December 21, 1865.—Colonel Figueroa to Colonel Garcia: Official report of the occupation of Villa Alta, in the State of Oaxaca.
No. 8. January 15, 1866.—Terms of the surrender of Papantla.
No. 9. January 13, 1866.—Prefect M. Ramos to General Garcia: Cruel treatment of prisoners by the French.
No. 10. January 14, 1866.—General Diaz: Reports what happened after his escape from prison.
No. 11. Don Luciano Prieto: Official report of the attack of Tehuantepec, by Colonel Figueroa, with 2,000 men.
No. 12. January 11, 1866.—Report on the same subject.
Much-esteemed Friend: Your favor of the 25th November was received after long delay.
The letter you sent me for Colonel Mendez, governor of Tabasco, was forwarded to him by the first opportunity.
* * * * * * *
General Diaz wrote to me on the 22d November, from Tlapa, that he was going to begin serious operations against Oaxaca. Colonel Figueroa marched from Ixcatlan to join him, but, as you will see from my letter to President Juarez, he is now within the limits of Guerrero and Michoacan, and I do not know what has become of Figueroa. I heard to-day that he was in Tehuantepec, but the report needs confirmation.
I have no time to write more, but refer you to my letter to the President, which I enclose to you.
Your true friend,
Senor Don Matias Romero, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Mexican Republic in Washington.
Much-respected Friend: * * * *
The situation is much as I predicted, and as I told you in my previous letters. In No. 25 of the official bulletin enclosed you will see that General Alatorre has been repulsed at [Page 82] Tlapacoyan, after a stout resistance, in which the soldiers proved themselves heroes, because he had not arms and ammunition enough for his troops. I sent him $2,000 in drafts, as he could make use of them in that part of the country, and empowered him to draw two thousand more from the State fund; but I fear the means reached him too late, or that it is the same there as here—there is no powder to be had, and no other munitions of war to be purchased, and for that reason General Alatorre may have to give up for want of them, in spite of his well-known courage and patriotism.
Colonel Figueroa asked me to aid him in the campaign against Oaxaca from the east, while General Porfirio Diaz was to attack from the west; but, with all I can do, I cannot get enough provisions for both of us in such an undertaking. I sent him all I had, and $1,000 in silver, with which he set out. God grant that he may not meet the fate of General Alatorre, and for the same reasons. I have not heard from him since his arrival at Villa Alta, on the 21st December. General Diaz, they say, is in Guerrero or Michoacan; and if that is so, Figueroa must be alone in the vicinity of Oaxaca. A few days ago I heard he was in Tlacolulan with his force, and to-day the chief of Tuxtepec writes me that he has taken Tehuantepec; but this last needs confirmation, for I should have heard it from Juchitan or Acayucam.
* * * * * * *
For all this, and notwithstanding the candor in which I write to you, to convince you of the danger of our situation and ask your aid, do not think we are discouraged, or that our nationality is in greater peril than before. Our courage has secured us a position, and has made the enemy dread us; so we will keep up our spirits and retain our independence to the last.
* * * * * * *
There is no more news in the part of the State of Vera Cruz which I occupy than what I have already told you about General Alatorre. We are daily threatened with an invasion by the enemy, but it does not come, nor do I think it will very soon, for they cannot spare the forces from Orizava, Cordova or Vera Cruz.
There is nothing new in Tabasco and Chiapas, and I can say very little to you about the State of Puebla, for the governor is on his way to Tezuitlan, almost cut off from this line.
* * * * * *
Some American officers recently came to me and offered to enlist volunteers among their countrymen in this State, to fight fox Mexican independence, but I could not accept their services for want of arms.
With the hope that you will not disregard my request, and will continue to write to me, I remain your true friend, &c., &c.,
Senor Don Benito Juarez, President of the Mexican Republic, Paso del Norte, (or wherever he may be.)
Report of General Ignacio Alatorre on the defence of Tlapacoyan.
The great length of the report of the citizen general-in-chief of the northern coast to headquarters prevents us from giving it entire, but we will copy the most important paragraphs, that our readers may hear of the brilliant actions that have taken place in a portion of our State, and of the patriotism, valor and enthusiasm of those of the northern coast who follow the republican banner, guided by the loyal and valiant General Ignacio Alatorre.
This leader speaks thus:
“After the brilliant feat of arms executed at Tlapacoyan by my aid, General Manuel Andrade, last September, only a few encounters worth mentioning have taken place with the rebellious Indians of Misantla, which resulted in their being dispersed and driven from their mountains to the city of Jalapa, with their so-called General Calderon.
“The most noted action in the lowlands was the occupation of Huatusco by Captain Manuel Marrero, who, with two companies of infantry and cavalry, took that place after two hours’ fighting, killing many of the enemy, taking thirty prisoners, sixty guns, provisions, four cornets, a war chest and other valuables.
“While this was going on in that quarter, Colonel Honorato Dominguez was raising forces in Actopam and Coatepec.
“General Lara died on the 2d, and on the 13th General Mendez arrived and told me of General Lucas’s victories in the State of Puebla.
“On the 12th I received the appointment with which I have been honored, and I immediately proceeded to organize all the forces into a north division, divided into four expeditionary columns, and giving the second command to General Andrade. General Juan N. Mendez was put over the first, in Papantla; General Andrade over the second, in Tlapacoyan; Lieutenant [Page 83] Colonel Fernandez over the third, in Misantla; and Colonel Honorato Dominguez over the fourth, on the road between Vera Cruz and Jalapa.”
The attack which he repelled at Tlapacoyan is thus described by the deserving general:
“On the 15th the enemy took possession of Dos Cerros, with all the military apparatus of a large army on a grand campaign. They numbered over 2,000 men, of the best Austrian regiments, with eight pieces of rifled artillery and an immense train of supplies, on more than one hundred mules. My forces consisted of 200 soldiers and 250 national guards, with two pieces of mountain artillery. There were four of the enemy to one of my men. I did not think they would attack my small number with their entire force. I knew that I must get the worst in the fight, but I was determined to accept it, on account of the enthusiasm of my men, and to show the enemy what they had to expect. I ordered, therefore, the selected positions to be taken. On occupying Dos Cerros the enemy used a cannon and kept up a continued fire of musketry against my cavalry scouts, who were not injured. During the night I learned that the enemy consisted of more than two thousand men, and had ten pieces of artillery.
“On the 16th, at 8 o’clock in the morning, a strong column of infantry and cavalry moved upon Tomata Point, defended by Colonel Gonzales, who withdrew to the town with his forty men. At five in the afternoon I examined the lines of defence, and found the soldiers resolved to fight till death. I placed Commander Vicente Acuna over the Texcol, Paulina Machorro over the small fort of Izapa, and left Colonel Gonzales for the reserve. The rest of my forces, consisting of eighty men, under Colonel Miguel Perez, formed the general reserve.
“During the night there was some shooting in front.
“On the 17th, at eight in the morning, five, hundred of the enemy, with two pieces of rifled cannon, swept down upon the flanks of my position, coming almost to the trenches of Izapa on my left. The trenches were occupied by fifty of my men, who kept the enemy at bay for a while, and finally dispersed them with their unerring shots, leaving the plain covered with dead bodies. The enemy did not stop till they had reached a distant part of the road, where they reformed under shelter of artillery.
“While this was taking place on the left, the rest of the enemy came down from the Gentile heights on the right and planted a battery of six pieces in a prominent place, and opened fire upon the town and the forts of Texcol, Arenal, and Zapote. While at a distance they gave us some trouble, but when they came nearer they were closely attacked and readily dispersed. This was continued all day till 5 o’clock In the evening, when the enemy retired from our reach, part to Gentile hill and the rest to Point Tomata.
“I then prepared to attack Tomata with two hundred men. General Andrade was to lead one hundred and I the other. He left Izapa and marched parallel to Tomata, while I took the other hundred diagonally from Texcol to the same point. I found two very deep ravines in my way, which stopped my progress, but General Andrade continued to advance till he attacked the five hundred of the enemy with their artillery. The assault was terrible, but unfortunately We had to retreat with a slight loss. I then joined Andrade, and we continued to the town, the enemy not daring to follow us. Our loss during the day consisted in the death of two brave captains, Amaro and Cervantes, one sergeant, one corporal, and two soldiers; Commander Granada and Captain Torres were wounded, and ten soldiers of different companies We also lost six horses in a charge that Captain Torres made against some of the enemy’s infantry.
“The town suffered much from the artillery that day, several houses being burnt or destroyed, and a part of the principal church considerably injured. The body of an Austrian officer was brought in, one wounded soldier, three prisoners, and five carbines.
“The morning of the 18th was rainy. I sent out thirty men with officers Luyando and Aguirre, to observe the enemy’s position at Dos Cerros, and a squad of cavalry explorers to reconnoitre their position at Tomata. It was ten o’clock at night and the infantry had not returned. It caused me some uneasiness for those brave men. The scouts I sent to Naranjal brought back a prisoner, two carbines, and some bloody clothing showing the enemy had suffered in their retreat in that direction. Luyando and Aguirre returned at midnight with their thirty infantry, having been to Dos Cerros and Eytepegeo, where they found no enemy, they having probably retreated to Cuantosca and Huitamalco, to get out of the rain. On that day I had our wounded carried to the Jobo hacienda, six miles from town.
“At six in the morning of the 20th my cavalry scouts attacked Tomata. At eleven the enemy sent out some infantry and apiece of artillery and attacked Izapa, but soon retreated. General Ortega sent me word that three hundred Austrians, with two pieces of artillery, were coming from Huitamalco to occupy Tomata. The resi of the day and night passed quietly.
At six on the morning of the 22d the enemy began to move with their entire force, and at seven their artillery was in position. They opened a terrible fire upon Texcol and Izapa at that early hour.
Two companies of skirmishers that I had ordered to the Izapa and Penascal heights were dislodged by a large body of Austrians. At eight o’clock two columns of eight hundred men took position in front of Texcol and Izapa, and opened a terrific fire upon the latter. The brave soldiers sustaining the republican banner there waited till the enemy had come within forty paces of them, when they broke fire with such terrible effect the enemy fell [Page 84] back, leaving the field covered with their dead and wounded. The enemy now increased their artillery to eight pieces, and soon levelled the Texcol fort, leaving its brave defenders of one hundred and fifty men exposed to a storm of projectiles. The column that had been repulsed from Izapa now joined the rest of the enemy’s forces, and came down upon Texcol. Here they were warmly received, and soon retreated. The main column returned to the charge, retreated, hesitated, and then attacked us again. My soldiers fought in an open sea of fire, and the hail of musketry and artillery made sad havoc among them. The enemy finally succeeded in taking Texcol. Many of its brave defenders were killed; among them was Colonel Manuel Antonio Ferrer, the bravest of the brave, who fought with sword and pistol till he fell.
Once in possession of the key of all my positions, the enemy dashed on the Arenal, Zapote, and the church, scattering our soldiers in every direction. I felt that the numerical superiority of our opponents would give them the victory; so all that I could do was to march back to the plaza and retreat orderly with my remaining forces. I gathered up the wounded, collected what ammunition remained, and marched with one hundred and twenty men that evening to Ixcacoaco, less than five leagues from Tlapacoyam. I left Captain Aguirre with forty men to collect the scattering and bring up the rear.
My losses at Tlapacoyan were one colonel, five officers, twenty-five men, and one horse among the killed. The wounded were three chiefs, two officers, twenty-eight soldiers, and four horses. One hundred and twelve soldiers were missing. Two officers and eight of my soldiers were made prisoners; five of the soldiers were badly wounded. I also lost a mountain howitzer, with its caisson and ammunition.
“After their victory the enemy did not venture to send a single soldier in pursuit of us, which plainly shows how much they had suffered. Report says their lass was great; I reckon it at three hundred men.”
Mr. Alatorre recommends no one, for he says they were all heroes, each rivalling the other in bravery. He mentions Lieutenant Juan Mejia, who being surrounded by the enemy, charged them boldly, and sacrificed himself before he would give up his sword. He says the coolness of Commanders Acuña, Granada, and Machorro merits the greatest praise.
General Alatorre mentions the burial of Colonel Ferrer by the Austrians; his body was borne by four captains, and his funeral was attended by all the officers.
This battle was a great calamity to our forces, but at the same time it was a triumph. The loss of the enemy was greater than our whole force. This will teach them what kind of men they have to deal with, and what they may expect while defending the unpopular and hateful cause of the empire. With many victories like this, the enemy will soon disappear from our soil, and foreign armies will no longer be found in America.
We lament the loss of Colonel Ferrer, for it is great. His sociability, his good humor, his elegant education, and his bravery, made him beloved and esteemed by everybody. He was a firm friend and a worthy leader. We must do him the justice to make known his good qualities, that his family may be proud to have had among their number such a man as Colonel Manuel Antonio Ferrer.
The general-in-chief, Ignacio Alatorre, in the defence of Tlapacoyan, has given another proof of his ability as a general, and of his cool courage as a soldier. We congratulate him on the defeat that has been regarded by us as a triumph, owing to his skill, activity, zeal, and well known courage. We have witnessed the pleasure that General Alatorre’s courageous conduct in this affair gave to the general-in-chief of the eastern line, who has done him justice in extolling his merit.
Correspondence between General Alatorre and Lieutenant Colonel Zach, commander-in-chief of the imperial forces in the Sierra del Norte, No. 1810.
Tezuitlan, November 27, 1865.
General: I received your note of the 25th instant, in regard to exchange of prisoners, to-day. It was directed to the commander at Tlapacoyan.
From the reputation you enjoy everywhere, I would not have believed for a moment that you would have ordered the fifty Austrian prisoners to be shot, as reprisals.
I have ordered the prisoners of Tlapacoyan to be well treated. As to reciprocal exchange, I propose to you to exchange the fifty Austrian prisoners of war, now at Mizantla, for the prisoners of war that fell into my hands on the 22d instant. This proposal may seem strange to you, but I would accept a similar proposal.
If you choose to accept my proposal, please inform the commander at Tlapacoyan, who will at once receive orders to set the Tlapacoyan prisoners at liberty.[Page 85]
I avail myself of this occasion, general, to say to you that I sincerely wish you to acknowledge the empire. You love your country, and could be much more useful to it in sustaining the new government than in fighting hopelessly, as you are now doing.
This last battle does honor to your military skill, but it ruins your country.
Accept the assurances of my high consideration.
General J. R. Alatorre, Jicaltepec.
In answer to yours of the 27th I inform you that the commander at Tlapacoyan sent two Austrian officers to the Jobo hacienda to agree upon the terms of exchange with one of my officers. The terms arranged by them was twenty-five men for a captain, ten for a lieutenant, and the soldiers man for man. This I hope is settled, as it was arranged by an Austrian who knew his business and complied with the customary formalities. If you have any objections to the terms, please let me know.
In reference to the latter sentences of your letter, you will excuse me from making any answer to them. My public conduct ought to be a sufficient answer for you.
I repeat the assurances, &c.
Lieutenant Colonel Zach.
Report of General Muñoz on the victory at Espinal.
MEXICAN REPUBLIC—MILITARY AND POLITICAL COMMANDANCY OP THE NORTHERN LINE.
After the events I communicated to headquarters, saying that an invasion was apprehended upon this line from the traitors of Zacapoastla, I did all I could to prepare for defence. I placed 200 men in Espinal, eight leagues south of this canton, under command of Colonel Juan N. Mendez, chief of the first expeditionary column of this northern division.
The enemy, to the number of 400 traitors, appeared yesterday before Espinal, and began the attack. They were immediately routed, as will be seen by the official report of Colonel Mendez, which reads as follows:
“At 7 o’clock in the evening of the 23d instant I heard that the enemy had occupied the hacienda of San Pedro with 300 men, and were marching on this place. So the captain of the fourth company of the first Papantla battalion immediately set out to take possession of Naranjo Pass, according to orders. I set out to re-enforce him with the other companies in El Rincon, and to defend the river; but when I reached there, I found the captain had already done so, as the enemy had crossed and taken possession of the place where he had intended to camp. Informed of this, I advanced towards the enemy’s camp, with Lieutenant Colonel Jose Maria Zamarti, to examine their position and discover the best point of attack, since we had lost the best positions on the river. We came to Santa Catarina creek without meeting the enemy. I stationed two bands of fifteen men each at this place, under Lieutenant Manuel Fajardo and Sergeant Antonio Mata, and ordered them to open fire upon the enemy as they passed. As I was certain that I could find no better place to meet the enemy than the cemetery, I returned there, and ordered a slight intrenchment to be thrown up. I thus prepared for defence, and waited for daylight and the enemy.
“At 6 o’clock in the morning the enemy came up to the bands I had stationed on the roadsides, and a few shots were exchanged. They came on till they got in our front. They consisted of 400 men, and came shouting for the empire. They opened fire, and came rushing upon us in double-quick time; but our firmness and steady fire stopped them, and they turned our right flank. Their attack there met with no more success than in front; so they tried our left flank. Perceiving their intention, I gave orders for the second reserve to march across to that side; this was bravely accomplished. Disappointed in their expectations, the enemy began a shameful retreat. I then ordered Lieutenant Colonel Zamarti to pursue them with a company of fifty men. He followed them for two hours, till they crossed the river, when it was useless to go any further. He returned to Naranjo Pass with four prisoners.[Page 86]
“While this was going on I ordered the dead and wounded the enemy had left to be taken care of. There were seven dead and two wounded. Two Austrian officers were killed, and one native officer. Five guns were picked up, some loose ammunition, and one of the commander’s horses. I had no doubt but many more could be found in the mountains.
“We lost not a single man on our side; only one resident of the place fell a victim to the enemy’s balls.
“All the chiefs, officers, and men behaved bravely. It would be wrong to make distinctions among them, for they all did honor to their country. Yet, as the fortunate result of the action was mainly due to the bravery of Lieutenant Colonel Zamarti, I must make honorable mention of that distinguished name.
“I congratulate you upon this glorious triumph, and do not doubt that the valiant patriots I have the honor to command will conquer new laurels in defence of our dear country.”
I am pleased to communicate the above to headquarters, and rejoice over a day that has brought honor to the brave republicans who are defending the sacred cause of the nation in this canton.
Independence and liberty! Papantla, 30th November, 1865.
General Alejandro Garcia, Chief of the Eastern Lines, Tlacotalpan.
Tlacotalpan, December 30, 1865.
A certified copy:
Colonel Figueroa’s report.
STATE OF OAXACA—NORTHERN LINE—COLONEL-IN-CHIEF.
At 6 o’clock this evening I occupied this town, after driving the enemy from their formidable positions of Puente de Piedra, Puente de Tempascalapa, and Cuesta del Limon—all strong places, regularly fortified.
I shall take possession of Chuapam to-morrow. There is not a single soldier there now; those that were left there have deserted.
The traitor chief had the arms taken away; ten, however, remained on the ground.
The General-in-chief of the Eastern Line, Tlacotalpan.
Terms upon which the military question of Papantla was arranged, between the commander of the Austrian troops, Major Sachonowsky, on the one part, and Mr. Lazaro Muñoz, political chief of the line of the State of Vera Cruz, and General Ignacio R. Alatorre, chief of the forces of the same line, on the other part.
1. The republican forces shall be disbanded, and the sums necessary to carry them home shall be advanced to the soldiers on account of the empire. These same forces shall take care of the garrison of the place, till a force composed entirely of Austrians shall replace them, which shall be on the day after the ratification of these terms by the commander-in-chief of the imperial column, Major Sachonowsky, who will sign them. Previous to that day an officer will come to receive the munitions of war remaining in the place, the artillery, and the spare guns. The generals, chiefs, and officers shall retain their arms.
2. The generals, chiefs, and officers in the place who do not spontaneously volunteer to adhere to the empire shall have full liberty to go where they please, with the necessary securities, and without being molested in any manner. As many of them cannot set out very soon because their families are not here, or for other reasons, a month shall be allowed them to leave in. This month shall begin on the day that the place is occupied by the Austrian troops. All of the generals, chiefs, and officers shall have passports granted them as soon as they request it, giving them due protection. A list of all the generals, chiefs, and officers who do not submit to the empire shall be made out and delivered to Mr. Sachonowsky,[Page 87]
3. The wounded and sick of the republican forces, now in the hospital of Papantla, shall be attended and taken care of, and shall receive the pay corresponding to their rank; this pay shall be on account of the empire. When they have recovered, they shall have full liberty to go where they please, and passports shall be given them, with all the necessary guarantees, and money shall be given them, on account of the empire, to take them to their places of residence.
4. The debts contracted by the republican forces in the cantons of Hapacoyan and Mizantla shall be recognized and paid. Those who have been political and military chiefs of those cantons, Mr. Miguel Perez and Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Andicochea, shall arrange this business, and shall certify the debts, which shall not exceed eight thousand dollars; and the debt shall be subject to liquidation by the imperial commissary in his name.
5. The decision of the political question shall be made separately and alone with Lazaro Munoz, after these terms are ratified, and the imperial commissary and the commissioner who comes in his name.
6. Six copies of these terms shall be made out and signed by the proper persons: three shall remain in the hands of the general-in-chief of the republican forces, the other three in the hands of the commander of the Austrian forces.
My Much Esteemed Friend: I will proceed to inform you of my situation. I had the misfortune to be taken prisoner at Zopiloapam, on the 18th of last month. Five months ago I was political chief and military commander of the district of Texiutlan, for the republican government, and in that capacity I labored incessantly, with the few loyal left in the district, for the triumph of the national cause.
After our last defeat at Tlapacoyan, Ixcamaco, and Zanjamala, the governor, Don Fernando Ortega, endeavored to fall back to Papantla, and charged me with the collection of a loan he had imposed upon the estates in my district. The discharge of this duty was very dangerous, as the enemy in large bodies occupied Hueytamala and Mecapalco, and made frequent excursions to the other estates in the lowlands, but my duty and the need of money for the troops made me brave every danger.
At first I executed my commission entirely alone, without much difficulty; I had to devise many ways and suffer much mortification on account of the avarice and obstinacy of three or four proprietors, who tried to get off from paying small sums. They even put themselves under the protection of the Austrian commander at Mecapalco; they gave a description of me, and mentioned places where I might be found; they furnished men and mules to hunt me, until I was caught at last.
As my vigilance and precaution had disappointed the enemy up to this time, they determined to disguise themselves as lowland muleteers, besmearing their bodies and faces with dirt, like the laborers in that country.
I was at Zopiloapan, the estate of my friend, Rafael Avila; we had just breakfasted and had gone out to look at the road where mule-gangs were passing now and then loaded with sugar, flour, mats, and other goods, on the way to Papantla. Presently a drove of eight mules came up; one man was on the front mule, and three or four followed on foot, clad in coarse cotton and palm hats. When they got to the foot of the hill of the farm, they halted to water their beasts at a rivulet that ran near. About five hundred yards behind them three other muleteers, without mules, made their appearance. This circumstance attracted my attention, and I remarked to my companion that there seemed many drivers for so few mules. My horse was saddled and I was going to mount, when Mr. Avila said, “Don’t be afraid; there is my son just coming from the field behind the last men; if they had been enemies they would have taken him and his horses.” This reasoning seemed correct, and we looked at the passing muleteers. When they got close up to us, all seven darted upon us like lighthing, drawing their knives and revolvers, and proclaimed us their prisoners. We found, too late, that all the men were Austrians except the one mounted in front, whom I recognized as a man from Mecapalco. The mule loads were fictitious; the rolls of matting contained ammunition and the rifles of those who had apprehended us.
In less than five minutes thirty infantry and ten cavalry, all Austrians, came dashing upon us. They surrounded the house, broke it open, and took whatever they wanted. Saddles and harness, provisions and clothing, carpenters’ tools, everything was taken, just as if the house had been a strong citadel defended by a powerful enemy. I immediately told them who I was, and assured them that the owner of the place had taken no part with me. They [Page 88] would not listen to me, but secured us, Bon Rafael, his son, and me, in a room, and tied a stable boy and an old cook; all others on the place managed to escape. Every cabin was searched, and everything that could be of any use was taken. A double sentry was placed over us, and the officers themselves stood watch over us during the night. They shot a bullock and built large fires out of the fencing to cook it, and eat everything they could lay their hands on. The next day they took us five prisoners, like malefactors, to Mecapalco, each horse led by a dragoon and a foot soldier. Of course they took my papers, my sword, the only arm I had with me, and my knapsack of provisions, hanging on a nail. We were locked up at Mecapalco in the same manner, a soldier all the time on guard before me. The officer who had charge of me at Mecapalco accused me of having said to a servant, at the Mirador farm, that Don Fernando Ortega would soon come and release me. “That is not so,” I replied, “for all I did was to write to the owner of that ranch, and to the owners of Coaxocota, Canoas, and of this place, who tried to avoid the payment of their taxes; I said I could patiently bear my present misfortune, but some day the defenders of the national cause would revenge me.” The papers that were taken from me will show what I am; that, as a faithful servant of the republican government, I have obeyed commands and the inspirations of patriotism in defence of the national cause; but there is not a single document or declaration of any kind among them to prove me a bandit or an assassin. I am ready to suffer the full rigor of the law, but I am not willing that Mr. Avila and the others who were taken with me should suffer, because they are innocent.
This declaration did no good; we were carried to Texuitlan, where I repeated what I had said to Major Zenowiski. I don’t know for what reason, but the next day after our arrival Mr. Avila, his son, and servant were set at liberty, after the farm-house had been sacked and abandoned.
I was to have been sent to the fortress of Perote the next day, but the tears of my family induced the authorities to let me remain one more day to have my clothes washed. All the clothes I had were what I wore, for I had lost all the rest in my visits to Zacapoastla, Tetela, Alcuacatlan, and other places in the mountains and lowlands.
On the 23d I was put on a miserable horse and escorted by Don Ermenegildo Carrillo, one sergeant, and two Austrian dragroons. The four good horses of Mr. Avila, my own, and everything we had was declared booty.
From the 23d to the 29th of December I was confined in a dark, dirty prison; was not permitted to see any one, nor even to write to my family. I requested to be brought to this place that I might have the comfort of seeing my children, Albert, and General Ramirez, who had been six months in prison.
On the 30th and 31st the journey from Perote to this city was continued, my horse being fastened to that of a lancer. One officer, twelve Mexican cavalry, and two Austrian officers, one sergeant, and two soldiers, escorting an unfortunate man like a criminal, attracted the attention of the people along the road, and it gave me great mortification, because they could not know who I was, or the cause of the outrage. My arrival was in the night, as fortune would have it.
At eight o’clock I was before the door of Mr. Thun’s house, in Old Post Office street, with my guards. An orderly was coming out as the Austrian lieutenant went in. He brought back a written paper, and I was taken by the guards to the hospital, and from there to this convent.
At my request they took me to the jail where my son was confined, with fifty of our unfortunate companions. Generals Tapia and Ramirez had been exchanged; so, of course, we did not see them. I embraced my son Albert, after fourteen months’ separation. When he was wounded by a shot at Tezuitlan I was in Zacapoastla; and for some days I thought he was dead, for his wound was very serious. When he began to recover he was taken at Couxtoca, where he happened to be with two of his sisters and Ramirez, who had just married one of them. They were at the wedding feast; and he intended to settle down and go into some business to support our distressed family. Vain resolutions! They were denounced, captured, and led to prison, no attention being paid to their excuses or requests.
The consolation of being with my son did not last long. An adjutant came to the prison the next day, the first instant, with an order signed by Mr. Thun, that I should be separated from my son, and not allowed to communicate with any one. And here I have been to this day, in a room, having a sign written over the door with charcoal—“El Gabinete Negro”—The Dark Closet—often without light at night, and during the first days needing everything to make my situation tolerable. Slowly I obtained a few comforts, and I have lately managed to write, secretly, to several friends, informing them of my misfortune.
The barbarous decree of the 3d October weighs upon my heart, and though it has not yet been carried out, a fatality, a revenge, or some other incident might cause the completion of my sacrifice, and perhaps it would remain unknown for some days to the world, and particularly to the republicans.
I am the only chief here who has been captured since the decree. The officers and soldiers who were taken prisoners at Tlapacoyan and Izcuacaro have been exchanged for fifty Austriaus who were in our hands. I have no hope of exchange; the last have been surrendered, and I am still in Perote, perhaps forgotten.
The rigor and care with which I am guarded, the imprudence of our leaders, and the crimes [Page 89] of some perverse men who exist, might cause the death of some Austrian chief outside of the battle-field, and then I would be the certain victim of reprisal.
I am not afraid of death, and I can bear it; but I do not wish to be buried in the sad obscurity that has always attended me by nature or by circumstance, and I wish my posthumous reputation to be beneficial to my children.
I have struggled ten years for the supreme principles of democracy, with my voice, my pen, and my sword. Though my efforts have been on a small scale, they were as great as my genius and my means would allow, and my sacrifices have been many.
I lost a beloved mother from grief at my joining the revolution. I spent a fortune of five thousand dollars in raising a squadron of cavalry that served in the State of Vera Cruz during the revolution of Ayutla, and afterwards in the campaigns and sieges of this city and district of Tepeaca. And the rest of my property was lost at the sacking of Acatzinco, where the last walls of my house were destroyed.
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Calumny throws her poison at the unfortunate who cannot defend themselves, and this evil is the one I most dread, for it is hard, when I am doing my best for my country, to hear it said I am not doing my duty—that I have turned traitor and been pardoned. These are the slanders that kill or injure the honor of a citizen.
These are the reasons that induce me to write to you, begging you as a good Mexican, who would care for the reputation of a man in adversity, now that your pure and disinterested patriotism has placed you, pen in hand, against the empire, that you will consecrate a few lines to me at present, if possible without compromising you in any manner.
Your estimable paper has a large circulation, and it would be very agreeable to me to let my fellow-citizens know that I have done my duty, and that I am ready to seal with my blood the political creed I adopted in my childhood, and have never once changed.
Your true and affectionate friend,
Mr. Rafael J. Garcia, Editor of La Idea Liberal, present.
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I am going to tell of what happened to me after my escape up to the present time, and if you have read what I wrote before, this will be a tedious repetition.
I made my escape on the 20th of September, at midnight. On the 22d and 23d I had two skirmishes with the traitors who pursued me; the first was with twenty cavalry at Tehuicingo, the second with forty at Piastla. The rest of the month was taken up in going to Tapla, where I took a small force of the national guards and returned to meet Visoso, who was still within the limits of Puebla with Guerrero, and had been one of my most vigorous persecutors. I overtook him at Tulcingo; a fight took place, the enemy retreated and left everything, money, arms, and ammunition, in my hands, besides forty dead upon the ground.
After this, placing all my booty in the hands of General Alvarez, I went to Providencia to have a conference with him. I was well received in all the towns, and at the headquarters of the south. The governor was disposed to give me what he had, that is, arms and ammunition, but no money, because he had none. I could get any number of troops from the south, on condition that I supported them from the time they enlisted. While at Tixtla, on my return from Providencia, I heard that a column of the enemy, consisting of seven hundred men of all arms, traitors and Austrians, had occupied Tlapa, while about two thousand French and traitors threatened El Paso del Mescala, from Iguala. I took three hundred infantry from Chilapa, with a few mountaineers, and marched upon Tlapa. The enemy retreated, leaving Visoso with two hundred and fifty men to watch us. I had to discharge the men from Tlapa, because I could not maintain them. I gave Visoso positive information of this, when I was sick in Tlapa and he twenty-one leagues distant at Comillipa, and he was very much emboldened by this. On the 3d of October I ordered the military commander to march the national guard into the square; he did not know why it was done. After the morning parade I started out, and on the 4th, soon after sunrise, I had given Visoso a good whipping. He left eighty-one dead, three officers among them, twenty-four prisoners, arms, horses, &c. I obtained some re-enforcements there, with Bernardino’s cavalry, which made me one hundred cavalry and as many infantry. I returned to Tlapa, and went from there to Silacayoapam, which I reached on the 13th, the traitor garrison having escaped before my arrival. I organized the authorities and the national guard, and then went to do the same at Tlaxiaco; but I had hardly been three days in the place when a column of Austrians and traitors of seven hundred men made their appearance. I was compelled to evacuate the [Page 90] place; so, on the 22d, I left Tlaxiaco and retreated only as fast as the enemy pursued me, but so slowly that I only went seventeen leagues in one week, while the enemy came nine. The Austrian column returned to Oaxaca, where it was needed, and left one hundred and fifty men to watch me, while three hundred were stationed in Tlaxiaco. I prepared to attack those that were watching me, but hearing of my intention they retreated to Tlaxiaco. I now got the aid of one hundred and fifty infantry, and approached Tlaxiaco. The enemy came out to meet me, and were beaten in two different encounters, after which they retreated to the town. I took four horses, fourteen lances, five guns, four prisoners, one bugle, six muskets, and scattered thirty of their men. I cannot exactly tell the cumber of killed and wounded; they say they had but one killed and five wounded. I had one lieutenant killed; I was two days in possession of part of the town, within pistol-shot of the enemy, and they did not dare to attack me; but as they were expecting re-enforcements, and I had no such expectations, I had to go to the towns where I could get provisions for fifty horsemen and one hundred and sixteen infantry. I had to discharge one hundred and forty men, because I could not feed them without trespassing upon the inhabitants. While I was threatening Tlaxiaco, Silacayoapam was evacuated by the enemy and reoccupied by the political chief with his national guards.
Although five hundred re-enforcements have arrived for the enemy in Tlaxiaco, and one hundred of them are Austrians, they have not ventured to attack me.
This is all I have done up to this time. I will inform you of my future movements as they take place. I have ordered the poll-tax to be reduced to one real, and have given back the excise to the State, as it was in 1864. I have not been able to pass to the northern part of this State, I sent my orders everywhere, but have received favorable answers only from Figueroa and Juchitan. This is a good time to effect much and to extend the eastern line much more than it was in 1864, but I have no means and can do nothing.
Your true friend,
C. Matias Romero, &c., Washington.
I take great pleasure in informing you that at 7 o’clock this morning the dissidents of Juchitan, assembled by Figueroa, made their appearance in the suburb of San Blas to the number of two thousand infantry and cavalry, with the intention of attacking Tehuantepec.
They divided their troops into three columns, one on the hill, and began the attack. Two of the columns assaulted our fortifications on the north and south. They were bravely defended I then sent a reserved section, protected by artillery, to attack the enemy on the hill. With an impetuosity worthy of all praise it drove them in disorder, and took possession of the heights.
Those that had attacked north and south could not stand the warm reception our garrison gave them, and they soon retreated in confusion.
I cannot at present say what was the enemy’s loss, but I am told it is over one hundred killed, and Masimiano Vera is among the number. We took one hundred guns, six chests of ammunition, and some horses. On our side, as far as I can ascertain, the loss was seven killed, among them one officer, and thirty wounded, some of them seriously.
Your Excellency: I have the honor of communicating to you that on the 7th instant at 7 o’clock in the morning, the liberals from Juchitan, re-enforced by others from the mountains, the latter of whom came down on the 4th, and all of whom were under the orders of Figueroa, attacked this place, being over two thousand strong and divided into three columns. One column moved directly against the fort on the hill, and the other two columns moved from the north and south, so as to flank the fort and gain possession of the breastworks. Being aware of the fact that the possession of the aforesaid hill would be of great advantage to the enemy, I detached a column to drive them back. This column was successful in attaining the desired result, as the fire which it opened on the enemy was so severe [Page 91] that he could not stand it, and therefore broke in all directions. At the same time I ordered a general fire along the whole line of the breastworks, which checked the columns advancing from the north and south. Finally these columns had to retire, after suffering considerable loss.
In this engagement, which lasted little over one hour, and which redounds much to the credit of Tehuantepec, the enemy lost one hundred and eighteen killed, and among the number Figueroa.
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The Minister of Internal Affairs.