No. 343.
Mr. Romero to Mr. Bayard.


Mr. Secretary: I have had the honor to receive your note of yesterday, acknowledging the receipt of that which I addressed to you the 29th of April last, in reply to the one from your Department in regard to the unhappy engagement at Teopar between volunteers of the State of Chihuahua and Indian scouts of the Army of the United States.

You are pleased to state that, as both Governments are awaiting later development of facts necessary to fix the responsibility of that unfortunate occurrence, you presume that my note is to be understood as written with extreme caution and reserve, and not as leading to the discussion of the question on its merits so far as these are now known.

In my said note of April 29 last I informed you of the different measures taken by the Mexican Government to obtain detailed and exact reports of this occurrence, and these explanations indicated its intention not to discuss the affair until it should possess the necessary data to enable it to judge it fundamentally in all its details.

The other statements contained in my said note were intended to express to you my personal conviction, in my opinion not without foundation, that that encounter had been accidental; that is, that the Chihuahuan troops thought that the encampment of Indian scouts was an encampment of hostile Indians, and that in attacking it they could not, for this reason, have intended to attack the Army of the United States, to [Page 729] which the Indian scouts belonged, and with this intention I adduced the considerations given in said note, because I have always thought it my duty to make explanations that might conduce to prevent misunderstanding between the Governments and people of two friendly and neighboring countries whose cordiality and pleasant relations I have endeavored to cultivate.

I could state various other considerations in favor of my conviction concerning this affair, but not being in possession of the facts which maybe proved by the military investigation ordered by the Government of Mexico, it seems preferable to put off this discussion until the said investigation has been made.

You refer also to the mention contained in my note of April 29 that, in my opinion, from the said official report of Lieutenant Maus, of which you were kind enough to send me a copy with your note of the 22d, may be inferred that the attack was accidental, and you state that there were two attacks—one at dawn, which might have been due to error in regard to the identity of the troops of Captain Crawford, and the other after daybreak, when, in your opinion, the identity of the United States troops was fully known to the Mexican soldiers.

If you will permit me, without entering into discussion which will take place when the Government of Mexico receives all the information it has solicited, I may note some of the considerations which make me think that the Mexican troops had not this knowledge, which I do in deference to the good understanding between the two countries, I shall show, in the first place, that, as the volunteers of Chihuahua were not regular troops, they were, therefore, not under strictest discipline, and accordingly the orders of their officers to stop firing when Captain Crawford proposed its cessation were not obeyed, as neither were those of Lieutenant Maus obeyed by the Indian scouts of the United States Army in regard to the cessation of their firing, as stated by him in his said report.

It is easy to understand that another difficulty with Lieut. Santana Perez, in making his subordinates obey him, was the death of their leader, Commandant Corredor, who fell at the first fire of the second attack.

I have, further, the conviction that the troops of Chihuahua, by their organization and by a combination of unfortunate circumstances which occurred in this event, were not persuaded that the troops under Captain Crawford were Indian scouts of the United States Army until long after the termination of the second attack, nor perhaps till: after the 11th of January, when this was proved.

Bearing in mind that men’s actions are always impelled by some motive which it is necessary to know to comprehend them, those persons who attribute to the Mexican forces the intention to attack those of the United States explain this motive in two ways. The first consists in saying that the Mexican forces desired to possess themselves of the supplies of the Indian scouts, and that this was the object of their attack. This explanation does not seem to me likely. In the first place, because peaceable citizens, who had armed themselves to defend their lives and property, could not think of exposing them, especially as the scouts occupied a very strong and advantageous position, for the purpose of despoiling their allies, since the United States troops are naught else as regards the hostile Indians, from whom they were endeavoring to defend their property.

When we consider the manner in which these citizens were organized and armed, the time employed by them in looking for the Indians, the [Page 730] difficulty they had in finding their trail and discovering their encampment, it is impossible not to recognize that they were under the conviction that in that encampment were their enemies; that is, the hostile Indians. If they had had at least the slightest suspicion that the scouts of the United States Army were there I surely believe they would not have been attacked, because such an attack could have answered no purpose but that of exposing their lives without obtaining any favorable result for them nor realizing the end for which they had organized and armed.

The second explanation which is given in support of that theory is that the volunteers of Chihuahua proposed to present the leaders of the Indian scouts to the Mexican Government in order to receive the reward of $400 apiece, which is said to have been decreed by that Government.

I think proper to inform you on this point that there is not a single law, decree, circular, or provision of any kind in Mexican law which grants rewards to those who present Indian chiefs, and that therefore the federal Government of Mexico cannot concede any reward whatever for them.

Having asked the governor of Chihuahua if in the especial laws of that State there was any provision of this kind, he informed me that the legislature of that State issued on the 25th of May, 1849, a decree having for object to forward the war against the hostile Indians that were then desolating that State.

I have the honor to send you herewith copy of that decree, in which you will see that no reward is conceded to him who presents the Indian leaders, and that its Article 5 promises a reward of $200 for every armed Indian killed in action during war, $250 for every Indian under arms who might be brought in prisoner, and $150 for every female Indian of whatever age, or every Indian under fourteen years, that should be produced as prisoners.

This decree shows that the legislators of Chihuahua preferred the presentation of Indians as prisoners to the finding of those killed in the campaign, since they offered a higher reward for the former.

This reward was the only one received by the citizens of the State for arming to defend themselves against the Indians, since they were paid no allowance as soldiers, nor rations, nor any other compensation.

Article 6 does not exact the presentation of the Indians killed or prisoners to the governor of the State of Chihuahua, nor to any authority at a distance, but to the council of whatever district within whose jurisdiction the finding or the capture of the Indians had occurred.

But the clearest proof that the desire of reward for the capture or presentation of the Indian scouts could not have been the object of the attack on the 11th of January is, that according to the above mentioned decree that those sums were to be paid for the wild (bárbaros) Indians that might be exhibited as killed in action or captured, and the Indian scouts are not in the category of wild Indians, as they form part of the troops of the United States.

If the volunteers of Chihuahua knew, as it was thought, that the encampment at Teopar was occupied by Indian scouts, they could not expect that by killing or capturing these they would be paid any sum whatever, inasmuch as they were neither wild nor hostile Indians, and this, in my opinion, shows conclusively that the desire to earn said sums could not in any way have led to the attack.

Be pleased to accept, &c.

[Page 731]

Law 4.

  • Art. 1. It is declared that war against the barbarian Indians bárbaros) is under present circumstances the prime necessity of the government.
  • Art. 2. The government of the State is empowered, in order to wage this war, to contract for native and foreign volunteers.
  • Art. 3. The contract or contracts to be made by the government shall be upon the basis of the sums of money awarded for every Indian shown to be killed in battle or made prisoner.
  • Art. 4. The government is authorized to make such moderate outlays as it may think necessary to carry out the contracts mentioned in the foregoing article.
  • Art. 5. The contracts spoken of in Article 3 shall be as follows: Two hundred dollars for every Indian killed under arms and two hundred and fifty dollars for every such Indian prisoner that may be brought in (?) (presentado); for every female Indian of whatever age, and for every Indian less than fourteen years of age, brought in prisoners, one hundred and fifty dollars shall be paid.
  • Art. 6. The killed or captured Indians mentioned in the foregoing article may be immediately presented before the council before which they are to be presented.
  • Art. 7. When congress is not in session the permanent committee shall decide any doubts the government may have in the fulfillment of this decree.
  • Art. 8. The government will account to congress for the contracts it may make.

May 25, 1849.