Mr. Scruggs to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Bogota, January 11, 1885. (Received May 11.)
Sir: Since the date of my No. 180, of the 23d ultimo, there has been no general engagement between the two hostile armies; and, aside from the capture of Honda by an insurgent force under the command of one Gaitan, and similar raids in other parts of the country, the military situation is not materially changed.
It it understood that Hernandez, the insurgent chief, is still encamped near Tunja, though he has retired from his former position. The main body of the Government troops, under Generals Aldana and Mongan, have been massed at a point some three days’ march south of that place near Zapaquera.
Meantime, the raiding party which occupied Honda have sent a detachment down the Magdalena River in two small steamers, which they captured at Carocali. Their destination is not known. They may [Page 202] have proceeded to the coast, for the purpose of seizing the customhouses; or they may aim merely to blockade the river, and thus cut off all communication with the coast. It is only known here that mail communication with the coast has been interrupted. I therefore send this and other dispatches, as also duplicates of my former dispatches (from the 24th to 31st December, inclusive), by a special messenger to the care of the United States consul at Barranquilla.
In anticipation of a possible attempt by the insurgents to seize the customhouses, the Government has ordered the entire force at Panama (numbering about 500 men under command of General Vela) to Savanilla. This will leave that State at the mercy of any revolutionary faction that may arise therein; and, what is more serious, expose the Isthmean transit to constant interruption. I therefore respectfully repeat the suggestion (made in my No. 180) that one of our war vessels be sent thither, and that it remain within easy call of our consul-general there during these public disorders. Its presence would restrain the spirit of lawlessness, and thus save our Government a series of embarrassing questions in the future. * * *
I have, &c.,
P. S.—I have just learned, from a source deemed reliable, that the man Gaitan (referred to above) robbed the mails that were coming up the river in the Stevenson Clarke, somewhere below Nare, on the 9th instant. The mails contained the usual packages for the foreign legations here; but none of them were respected by this freebooter, who, it seems, now has undisputed possession of the river between the ports of Baure and Honda, covering a distance of about 400 miles. The overland mail, via Buenaventura, had been likewise cut off by the insurgents. Thus we are completely cut off from all mail or telegraphic communication with the outside world. My latest date from the Department is November the 26th last.