Mr. Romero to Mr. Seward

Mr. Secretary: I Have the honor to transmit to you, for the information of the government of the United States, the documents contained in the annexed index, received by the last steamer from Vera Cruz, showing the state of affairs in the military eastern line of the Mexican republic.

I accept the occasion to renew to you, Mr. Secretary, the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.


Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.

Index of documents sent by the Mexican Legation in Washington to the Department of State of the United States, with the note of the 9th of March, concerning events on the military eastern line of the Mexican republic.

No. 1. February 14, 1866.—General Garcia to Mr. Romero: Remission of several packages for the federal government of Mexico.

No. 2. February 14, 1866.—General Garcia to President Juarez: Report of the state of affairs on the eastern line.

No. 3. February 9, 1866.—General Garcia to General Mejia: Official despatch of General Alatorre, relating to the loss of the coast north of Vera Cruz, and the condition of the south coast, for want of means.

No. 4. February 14, 1866.—General Garcia to General Mejia: Official despatch of Colonel Don Luis Figueroa, concerning the battle of Tehuantepec, on the 7th of January, 1866.

No. 5. January 20, 1866.—General Diaz: Report of his last movements in the State of Oaxaca.

[Page 100]

No. 1.


Sir: I have received your two estimable letters of the 3d and 20th of January last, and will now answer them. * * *

You will also see what I say to Mr. Juarez and the department of government in regard to the presidential question. I am sure all the people of that line will vote for him to continue in the presidency of the republic till a new election can take place, and as the acts have not yet been printed, I transmit to you a copy, in case you should need it in your diplomatic relations with that government; and should you want the printed proceedings before I receive them, you can make use of my official despatch to the department, as it is an exact expression of the truth and a certain announcement of the result this affair is going to have.

I have no time for more, but referring you to my official ccmmunications, I remain your affectionate friend,


Minister Don Matias Romero, Washington.

No. 2.


Your Excellency: I had the honor of receiving your estimable favor yesterday, dated in Chihuahua on the 1st of December last, which I now have the pleasure to answer. * * *

With your usual good judgment you advise me to attack Orizava, Cordova, Jalapa, and Vera Cruz, while General Diaz is operating in the State of Oaxaca. That has been my intention for some time, but I could not accomplish it, because, as I told you several times since last May, there are no arms here, and we do not know where to get them; consequently my forces cannot be increased by a single man, for I would not have a gun to give him. I have been able to procure small quantities of powder and lead at exorbitant prices, but I cannot get arms, for none are manufactured in this section, and the enemy prevents their import by sea from other countries by means of their navy. Neither you nor Mr. Romero have been able to send me any, though I have repeatedly asked for them since I was appointed general-in-chief of the eastern line in May last.

For these and other reasons, I repeat that I wish to give up the command of this line to General Diaz, if I could communicate with him, for I had rather continue to fight for national independence with less responsibility and fewer serious inconveniences.

You will see from my despatches to the war department, that General Alatorre has at last given up the northern coast of this State, for want of means to carry on his heroic defence of that portion of the country; and that General Figueroa was defeated on the 7th instant at Tehuantepec, after attempting a coalition with General Diaz near Oaxaca, which could not be effected.

I had anticipated General Alatorre’s misfortune, and even told you of it, for he had not enough arms and ammunition to resist, and I had none to send him. I sent him $2,000, at a considerable sacrifice, to purchase a few necessary articles, but as the sum was small, and arms could not be procured, he suffered an inevitable disaster. I have just now learned officially that the Austrians, violating the capitulation of Papantla, have sent General Alatorre a prisoner to Mexico, and did not grant him passports to go where he pleased, as they did the other chiefs and officers. Colonel Figueroa’s forces, all we have on the road between here and Oaxaca, were in a very bad condition after the defeat at Tehuantepec, and I have continued to aid them up to this time with ammunition and money, as far as my means would allow, and I am going to send them clothes, for they were nearly naked when they returned from Tehuantepec.

There is nothing particular in the State of Tabasco. The governor of Chiapas is sending armed forces and ammunition to aid Juchitan.

It is again reported that a hostile expedition is to invade this part of the State from Vera Cruz. It may be true this time, as it is announced that the column under Count Thun, who concluded the treaty with Alatorre, and has now nothing to do, will turn its attention to the southern coast.

I learn through the papers that you are at Paso del Norte.

I wish you well, and desire that you continue your estimable correspondence with your friend and servant,


President Don Benito Juarez, Paso del Norte.

[Page 101]

No. 3.



Citizen Minister: With a letter I addressed to the constitutional president of the republic, through the citizen minister of the republic in Washington, I sent No. 25 of the official bulletin of headquarters of the eastern line, containing an extract from the long despatch on the defeat at Tlapacoyan, by General Ignacio R. Alatorre, chief of the northern forces in the State of Vera Cruz, on the 30th of November last.

I presume the supreme government heard of that disaster by the despatch. The mishap was caused by the want of arms and ammunition; and from what I wrote at that time the President will learn of a still greater disaster in that quarter, the principal cause of which was a want of those same elements of war.

My prophecy was unfortunately fulfilled. General Alatorre sent me the following report from Papantla, dated the 8th of January last:

“I will give you an account of the latest military events that have taken place on this line, and their final results. As some of the chiefs and officers who fought under me may happen in your part of the country, they can give you a verbal account of the particulars of the events to which I now refer in a very general manner.

“After the defence of Tlapacoyan, (a report of which I sent you with the account of General Mendez’s victory in Espinal,) I left ninety men in Ixcacoaco, five leagues from Tlapacoyan, under General Andrade. The rest of the Zamora battalion that had taken part in the defence mentioned marched to Mizantla, and joined the main body.

“I permitted the national guards of Pital, Jicaltepec, and Nautla, with the exception of eighty men, the garrison of Ixcacoaco, to disband and go home temporarily, to provide themselves with clothing, which they absolutely needed. After the events of Tlapacoyan I called together the chiefs to deliberate upon the best steps to take in case the enemy continued their incursions on the line. We decided the best thing to be done was to concentrate all the forces at one point, and gather all the resources we could, to make the best defence possible under the circumstances. The place chosen unanimously for concentration was this town.

“The heroic defence of Tlapacoyan by my forces a short time previous awed the enemy, and kept them at bay. They did not dare to attack me till they were prepared for a regular campaign against this town of Papantla and the places I held. The advanced force of Ixcacoaco was beaten on the 17th of December last by 400 men from Tlapacoyan. Notwithstanding the numerical inequality, they prepared for the combat, resolving at least to make such a resistance as to cause some damage to the enemy; but a column of the latter, taking a circuitous road that had been stopped up by an abatis, as was supposed, came out in the rear of the small republican force, which had to disperse to save themselves from useless destruction. The picket of the Llave battalion, in the centre of the village of Ixcacoaco, was surprised by the enemy and scattered, losing the safe of the second column and all the money it contained, 3,000 gun-cartridges, and a few arms. Besides this, they lost one officer killed, several soldiers wounded, and twelve prisoners. Although the enemy’s force that came up in our rear spent four hours in opening the road we had stopped by felling trees, we had no notice of their coming from the pickets we had sent to watch them. I mention this to show the selfishness and indifference that prevails in those towns, and which has caused me much harm.

“Almost at the same time with these events at Ixcacoaco, news came to me from Zacapoastla that great preparations were making for a descent on Papantla. Now was the time for the concentration of the troops to save them from being cut up in detail. In the mean time, to stop the advance of the Austrians that threatened to come out from Ixcacoaco, I gathered the men I had disbanded in that section, ordered out the national guards of Pital, Jicaltepec, and Nautla, had them armed, and assembled them in Maria de la Torre, a place I had already ordered to be fortified.

“When about to give orders for the third column of the division to leave Mizantla, it occurred to me that it would be wrong to leave that place, whose inhabitants had given me so much assistance, to the ravages of the mutinous Indians, from which it had previously suffered. The place must be protected from the savages; and this was hard, because the garrison must be withdrawn. After much reflection and consultation with my officers, I determined to leave Mizantla to the care of the Austrian forces, who would certainly protect it from the Indians. Now, the time occupied in this arrangement would give me leisure to move to Papantla, which I could not do if the enemy resolved to oppose me vigorously. I addressed Major Schonowsky, the commander of the imperial forces in the Sierra, and told him why I was obliged to put Mizantla under his protection. An eight-days’ armistice was agreed upon, during which time I had all of my forces and supplies moved to Papantla, only leaving a few troops to hold the pass to Maria de la Torre. Mizantla was, therefore, occupied by a column of Austrians on the 26th of December, the same day the troops I had left to guard it came out. On the 27th I went to Papantla. The rest of the troops I had left to guard the road came in on the 31st. As soon as the armistice expired, which was on the 28th at six in the evening, the enemy moved towards us.

[Page 102]

“All of our troops, including the first column under General Mendez, who had remained in the neighborhood since his victory at Espinal, amounted to 477 men, with three pieces of artillery and very little ammunition. I detailed all my plans of operation to Colonel Honorato Domingues, of the fourth column, and gave him instructions to act according to emergency. From my first arrival at the place, I feared my campaign would soon be at an end.

“This apathy of the inhabitants had often before given me much uneasiness. The political chief of the line announced to me at once that it would be impossible to obtain supplies for the support of my forces; and he told me frankly that what was given to me the first day was all I could get, and it was with much difficulty that was obtained. Huasteca had submitted to the empire a few days before my arrival; Martinez had given up everything. Had I anticipated that I would not have returned to the place.

“I assembled General Muñoz, the political chief of the line, General Ortega, (governor of Puebla, who had taken refuge here because his State was entirely invaded,) and Generals Andrade and Mendez, to consider what was to be done in this critical situation. We resolved that an armistice should be obtained at all hazard, to give us time to reorganize. To effect this a commissioner was sent to Mr. Esteva, informing him that it would be acceptable if the licentiate Galicia could come and make honorable arrangements to prevent the effusion of blood in this town. Information of this step was given to the Austrian commander, requesting him to suspend operations on the place. The object we had in view was to give up Papantla to the enemy, for it could be of no use to us, and then have time to move to some other more desirable locality, where we could carry on the war to a better advantage.

“When our commissioner delivered the note to Mr. Schonowsky in Texuitlan, he consented to the armistice, but insisted that his troops should hold the river, and advanced his columns accordingly to different points. I had sent General Mendez with my first division on a foraging expedition in the district of Texuitlan, but he had to fall back to avoid a collision with the enemy, which would break the armistice we so much needed.

“The enemy were not satisfied with occupying a few points on the opposite side of the river. On the 1st they crossed over to this side, and we could not prevent them, for our force was not large enough to defend all the fords.

“On the 10th they established themselves in San Pablo, four leagues northeast of this place, and at the hacienda del Rincon, six leagues southeast. They numbered 1,500 men, with eleven pieces of rifled mountain artillery and plenty of ammunition.

“On the same day General Mendez’s column was re-enforced by one hundred men under Colonel Lorenzo Fernandez, of the Zamora battalion, and stationed itself at Agua Dulce to watch the enemy at Rincon hacienda.

“On the 11th the enemy advanced upon Agua Dulce. Our troops waited for them, and the battle began at eight o’clock in the morning. The hundred men of the Zamora battalion, with some slight assistance, under the command of their gallant colonel, formed a line of battle in the open field, and met the imperialists with such determination that they fled in great disorder, followed by our men for a league They left two pieces of artillery and fourteen boxes of ammunition on the field, and most of their men and mules fled to the woods. The Zamora Actives then returned to their former position and formed a line of battle. The ground was level. They had hardly formed when eighty or one hundred Austrians suddenly attacked them with great fury. After a few rounds our soldiers charged bayonets, but could not resist the impetuosity of the hussars. The enemy had turned their left wing, and despite the gallant efforts of the brave Lieutenant Colonel Fernandez and his worthy officers, one of whom was killed in battle, the victory escaped us.

“Unfortunately General Mendez’s column, composed of the national guards imperfectly organized, could give no assistance to Fernandez’s men, and the enemy recovered what they had lost in the beginning of the fight, with the exception of one piece of artillery and the prisoners that had been sent to this town. A part of the national guard, under Colonel Miguel Perea, stationed at Tesolutla, was also surprised and routed the same day by the enemy’s column from San Pablo.

“After those unfortunate events, that cost us three officers killed and four wounded, thirty-six soldiers killed, nine wounded; one colonel and eleven soldiers prisoners, and the dispersion of all of our forces that had taken part in the combat, our situation was much worse, as might be expected.

“Soon after the battle of Agua Dulce, the commissioner we had sent to the Austrian commander to protest against the advance of his troops during a negotiation, returned, bringing a letter agreeing to an armistice till Mr. Galicia and General Thun should arrive with forces to garrison San Pablo and Agua Dulce. He told the commissioner he was sorry the battle had occurred; he had ordered his troops to take possession of Agua Dulce, but he thought it was not occupied. In the letter he proposed a conference between General Muñoz and himself at Rincon, to arrange the positions of the two armies till Messrs. Thun and Galicia should arrive. The consultation took place, and it was agreed that the enemy should occupy Rincon and San Pablo, but Agua Dulce should be neutral ground. This took place on the night of the 11th and we returned the next day.

“On the 13th Mr. Muños received a letter from Don Ignacio Toledano in Rincon, stating that he was Galicia’s commissioner, and had come to attend to the business. Haste was urged in this letter, as the Austrians were anxious to break the armistice. This was true; [Page 103] the commander in San Pablo had opposed the armistice, and was determined to advance, having already made a demonstration to that effect against positive orders.

“An Austrian captain, who came on the 13th to arrange an exchange of prisoners, and small-arms for the piece of artillery we had taken, showed by his manner and vague answers that they did not intend to observe the armistice, and I thought we had better retire. Mr. Toledano was written for. He could not come; so, on the morning of the 14th, we had to go back to the enemy’s camp, whence we returned with Major Schonowsky, commander of the Austrian forces, and two of his officers, to this place to conclude the agreement.

“After some discussion, where we were the weak against the strong, the terms which I enclose you were agreed upon. They were literally complied with; the greater part of the troops have left, and I with the officers will soon. quit. The Austrians came in on the 16th, leaving a garrison, and then going to Texuitlan or Zacapoastla on the 18th. As is stated in the caption of the terms of treaty, only military affairs are treated of. Everything in relation to the canton of Papantla was settled on other bases formed two months ago by the imperial commissioners. I presume Mr. Muños, who had charge of the arrangement, will give you the particulars.

“Thus, general, has the campaign of the northern line ended. I regret it; but I and my companions in arms have fought confidently, and have suffered all sorts of hardships and privations, until circumstances rendered it impossible to continue the struggle longer. My trouble is great; but I could not change the decrees of fate, that have brought me to this extremity after nine months of terrible contest. My trouble is great; but my conscience and that of my subalterns are calm, because we know our duty has been accomplished, and our honor has come out of the trial untarnished.”

I regret being obliged to send you this, with a copy of the capitulation mentioned, for the information of the supreme magistrate of the republic.

I tried in vain to furnish General Alatorre with arms and ammunition to defend the northern coast of this State. I wrote to the President several times since last May, to send me arms, as none could be had in this part of the country, except at a very high price, and not many of any kind remained. As the enemy have possession of all the seaports, they have very carefully excluded all articles contraband of war.

General Alatorre also did all he could to keep up the defence of that line; and although I sent him an order for $2,000 which he collected in Tecaltepec, it was of little use, for he needed arms and ammunition which could not be obtained; so that, with all his bravery and patriotism, he could not longer resist the large number of Austrians that came down upon him, amply provided with every necessary of war.

That important part of our territory, then, must remain in the power of the enemy, not for the want of inclination of the good Mexicans to defend it, but for want of the means of resistance.

Thus the enemy, victorious at Papantla, with nothing to attract their attention elsewhere, may realize their original design to invade the rest of the State of Vera Cruz, where the purest republican sentiments and the most tried patriotism have prevailed. If that should be the case, it is my duty to repeat it here, so that you may inform the President, we have no means in the line and cannot procure any, though I have applied to the governor of the State, to the President of the republic, and to our minister in Washington, to whom I sent a special commissioner for that purpose, who has not yet returned.

My situation for these reasons is very precarious, and it is my duty to inform the supreme government of it; but I do not wish to insinuate that we are in despair, or intend to shrink from the performance of our duties. You may be sure, Mr. Minister, we will all do our duty, but I must repeat, we can do nothing without arms. This I said to the President in my despatch of the 30th of November last: “Let the enemy come upon us in all their strength; I will die like a good Mexican in defence of my beloved country, and that is all they can ask of me; but if this portion of the republic is lost for want of resources, I am not responsible for it.”

With such intentions, I protest to you the assurances of my respect.


The Citizen Minister of War and Marine, Paso del Norte, (or wherever he may be.)

No. 4.



On the 27th of January last, citizen Colonel Luis P. Figueroa wrote me from Seyaltepec, as follows:

“As a result of my expedition against the enemy in this State, I send you a report of my assault, capture, and abandonment of Tehuantepec. At 8 o’clock on the night of the 5th [Page 104] I surprised the enemy, cutting off the rear guard at Mistequilla, and countermarching to Comitancillo.

“At two o’clock on the morning of the 7th I set out for Tehuantepec, where I arrived at half past 7. I immediately arranged the attack with my two columns, under Ramirez, Zaragoza, Sarmiento, the Zaragoza battalion under Colonel Cosine Damian, Gomez, and Commander Cristoforo Canseco. The signal of attack being given, fire was opened upon the enemy, and they were soon driven by our valiant forces from their strongholds of San Bias Hill, the convent of Santo Domingo, and their intrenchments. Victory was smiling upon us, with the prospect of possessing a fortified town, defended by 1,500 men and two pieces of rifled cannon, when the auxiliaries from Juchitan, who were ordered to hold the San Blas Hill, rushed into the town to participate in the general fight, where they were desperately cut to pieces and were compelled to retreat.

“I did my best to keep the forces together and retain possession of the place; but all my efforts were vain, and I saw my defeat would be complete if I did not withdraw my forces; so I fell back with considerable loss of dead and wounded, lamenting the death of the intrepid squadron commander, Pedro Sanchez. I am generally opposed to the recommendation of those who do their duty merely; but on this occasion I must commend every man I have, from the soldier to the highest officer, and I am compelled to specify the battalion commanders citizens Jesus Ramirez, Ramon Sarmiento, and Felipe Zaragoza, and squadron commander Lorenzo Guzman, in my recommendation, to your particular attention.

“In short, every man did his duty; and I beg you, in your report of this feat of arms to the superior authorities, that you recommend all my subordinates.”

I communicate this for your information, calling your attention to the recommendation of Colonel Figueroa to some of his chiefs.


The Citizen Minister of War, Paso del Norte, (or wherever he may be.)

No. 5.


Very Dear Friend; * * * * * * *

On the 6th of this month, for the purpose of drawing out the Austrian garrison from Silacayoapam. I threatened Tlaxiaco, succeeded in my plan, and took possession of the former place. I intended by this same movement to attract an Austrio-traitor column, which was marching to attack Figueroa.

On making my appearance before Tlaxiaco, its garrison, superior in number to my forces, under Ramirez de Acevedo, came out to meet me. My cavalry (the same that Ramos had at Oaxaca in 1860) drove them back three times. We could not follow them on account of the deadly fire from the tower and high buildings in the vicinity. I remained two days within gunshot of Tlaxiaco and the enemy did not venture out to attack me a fourth time.

Having heard that their re-enforcements were approaching, I withdrew four or five leagues, and marched through several towns of the district, hoping the enemy would come out to give me battle; but I was mistaken—the aid came and began to fortify, while I had possession of all the towns except Tlaxiaco. Silacayoapam is still in our power, held by one of my commanders, who also holds Huajuapam and the neighboring places.

I have several plans on hand that I cannot mention to you till they are carried out, either with success or failure. They are grand schemes, but I must have money to carry them out; I dare not attack them in my present condition.

The district of Iuquila is quiet with the garrison I have there.

I hope you will assist one who is working with all his might for the cause of independence, and has a sincere friendship for you.


Citizen Matias Romero, Minister of the Republic at Washington.