SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
© 1997-2006, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved


Juan Nepomuceno Almonte 1803-1869

Son of Fray José Morelos

Secretary-Advisor to Santa Anna

Bustamante's Minister of War

Veteran Alamo & San Jacinto

Minister USA & Great Britain

Maximilian's Executive Council

Almonte was a natural son of mestizo parish priest, guerilla leader and revolutionary for separation of Mexico from Spain, José María Morelos y Pavon and an Indian woman Brigida Almonte, born in Necupétaro, Michoacán on 15 May 1803. Historian Foote conjectured that the origin of the surname Almonte was as follows:

"Morelos was at the head of his troops one day, when an infant, whose birth was thus unceremoniously made known to him, was brought into his sight by the mother. 'Almonte, Almonte,' ---to the mountain with the brat' and Almonte was thenceforth his name."

Although the young Almonte was thought to have been at his father's side including in some battles, this is likely a myth since his mother was likely named Almonte and in tradition of the time, illegitimate children were given the name of their mother's family.

Morelos is said to have sent young Almonte to be educated in America with Republican emissaries Don Manuel de Herrera and Pedro Ellis Bean in July along with 30,000 pesos for purchase of support for the revolution to the United States. Father Morelos was captured, defrocked and shot as a traitor in December 1815 after which Almonte's education was ended prematurely and he became a clerk in a hardware store in New Orleans. Almonte allied with Vicente Guerrero at the beginning of the Mexican revolution and was in Nacogdoches when Mexican independence was won in 1821 at which time he returned to Mexico with Bernardo Gutierrez who was appointed Governor of Tamaulipas.  He was on the staff of José Félix Trespalacios in Texas.  In 1824 he was in the Mexican legation to Britain and in 1824 credited with being instrumental in finalizing independent Mexico's first commercial agreement with England or any foreign power. In 1830 Congressman Almonte was censured and forced into hiding.  As an editor of a newspaper called El Atleta, he criticized President Anastasio Bustamante for permitting foreign intervention in Mexico.  He allied with Santa Anna and in 1834 he was sent by Santa Anna to Texas to prepare a Statistical Report on the status of the territory, and most likely to assess the colonists loyalty to Mexico and the feelings toward independence. Most of the three months he was with Colonel Bean, the old friend of his father Jose Morelos. Almonte filed a favorable report concerning the Texas colonists, their economic development and future contribution to the Mexican Republic. It was believed to be influenced by Col. Bean who Almonte complimented in a later letter by stating "only his [Bean's] good offices and prestige.......conserved order in this part of our territory."Although brief and relatively superficial, the report is one of the few insights into the economics and demographics of the colonies as well as an honest non-biased technical assessment from the Mexican government at that juncture in Texas and Mexican history. Almonte stayed allied with Santa Anna during his seizure of power under the Republican banner and his abrogation of the Constitution of 1824. In 1836, Almonte became Santa Anna's secretary and confidential adviser. He was with Santa Anna at the Alamo in Feb-Mar 1836 and participated in the assault.

Almonte surrendered with the Mexican army at San Jacinto and an account by General Rusk was as follows:

"At the close of the fight, and just after sundown, Colonel Almonte came out of the woods with about 250 men. There were at that place not exceeding ten or fifteen Americans; and none of them could speak the Mexican language well. The prisoners were asked if they could speak English. Almonte answered in Spanish that they could not. They were then told in Spanish to form two and two deep and march with us to camp. They formed and commenced marching accordingly. Our few men were distributed around them as a guard. Most of us were very much fatigued, and such was the condition of the Mexicans, also. As we proceeded in this way, one of our men, who was so tired he could hardly walk, being incommoded by a Mexican who had dropped out of the line cursed and threatened him in a very rough manner in English. This threat was immediately repeated to the Mexican in Spanish. I concluded that he, at least, must understand English very well, and that it was probably Almonte whom I saw before me. I therefore observed to him, 'You must be Colonel Almonte'. He replied in English, 'You speak well.' I then rode up to him and gave him my hand, saying to him, 'It affords me great pleasure to see you, Colonel.' With great presence of mind and his customary politeness he responded 'The pleasure is reciprocated.'" Almonte remained by Santa Anna's side during his imprisonment acting as both interpreter and negotiator. He accompanied the dictator to the US and returned with him to Mexico upon his release.

Author Thrall pointed out that in the estimation of Almonte, defeat was not an extraordinary event in the life of a soldier of fortune. He conversed freely and without reserve with those Texans whose acquaintance he had formed two years before. There is no doubt but that his philosophic and cheerful temper had its effect upon the Texans, and reconciled them to the measures of the President and Cabinet in sparing the lives of Santa Anna and his officers.

Ferdinand Maximilian, Archduke of AustriaIn 1840 Almonte became Minister of War under Anastacio Bustamante, and was instrumental in suppressing a rebellion inaugurated by his former colleague Gen. Jose Urrea. After Bustemente's overthrow, Almonte for a while supported himself by lecturing. After Santa Anna returned to power, Almonte was appointed Minister to the United States. When Congress passed the bill for the annexation of Texas, Almonte denounced it and demanded his passport. He stated "that America had committed the most unjust act recorded in history." In 1846 he was Minister to Great Britain; 1853 to the United States; 1856 again to Great Britain. In Europe and in contrast to his earlier nationalistic views, Almonte promoted European intervention in Mexico and return to monarchy and returned with French troops in 1862. He was appointed "supreme chief" of Mexico by the French and president of the French Executive Council that brought in emperor Maximilian (photo left). Almonte died 21 Mar 1869 in Paris while envoy to France appointed by the emperor. Modified from Thrall, A Pictorial History of Texas

 

See The Charlotte and Maximilian Collection
Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University

"Maximilian, Miramón, and Mejía were awakened on June 19 to a fanfare of bugles and drums.  Maximilian asked Miramón:  'Miguel, is this for the execution?'  'I cannot say, Señor," the young general answered, 'as I have not been shot before.'  The three were taken to Cerro de las Campanas to be killed by fusilade.  Maximilian behaved with great bravery, demanding that Miramón take the place of honor in the center.  He gave each soldier in the firing party a gold piece and comforted Mejía at the last moment.  Maximilian died like Hidalgo, crying 'Viva Mexíco!'   His body....was given back to the Austrians, whose warship waited to bear it home."--From Fire and Blood by T.R. Fehrenbach

 

Execution of Maximilian

The Execution of the Emperor Maximilian, 1867 by E. Manet
Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim

Thought to be influenced by Goya's The Third of May, 1808, French impressionist painter Manet created the above as criticism of France's involvement in the affairs of Mexico.  Politics prohibited Manet from exhibiting the painting.


From Recollections of Mexico by American envoy Waddy Thompson, 1846.  General Almonte is known to many in this country, and wherever he is known, it would be superfluous to say that his is in all respects an elegant and accomplished gentleman, virtuous, brave, and honorable.  I have heard some of the Texans who were at the battle of San Jacinto say that the Mexicans who were saved on that occasion, owed their lives to General Almonte.  The desperate onslaught of the Texians with their wild yells, glittering bowie knives, and clubbed rifles, was a thing to which the Mexicans were so entirely unaccustomed, that they were thrown into a state of perfect panic.  They would not fight, and the thought never occurred to them to lay down their arms, or otherwise make a formal surrender.  The Texans, of course, continued the slaughter; for after the charge of the Texans, it ceased to be a battle.   In this state of things, Almonte said to the officers who stood around him---"Gentlemen, you see that our men will not fight, they are panic-stricken; let us get them together and surrender them," which he did, and thus put a stop to the massacre.  He it was who saved the life of the women, the only survivor of the sanguinary scene at the Alamo, and afterwards furnished her with a horse, and the means of going to her friends.  He was Secretary of War in the administration of Bustamente, and a very recent experience has shown how large a fortune may be realized by the incumbent of that office.  Almonte, however, left the office with a large portion of his salary due him, and was so poor that he supported himself until he was appointed Minister to the United States, by delivering popular lectures.

I trust that I commit no indelicacy in stating a fact universally known in Mexico; if I thought that it would in any manner be so regarded by General Almonte, I would on no account do it.  He is the son of General Morelos, the name most honored and enshrined in the heart of every Mexican, as it well deserves to be.  Hidalgo and Morelos were the principal authors of the revolutionary movement of 1809; they were both Priests.  Morelos in command of the patriot army had a brilliant career of victories, but was at last vanquished by a superior force, and made prisoner and shot.  His life was as pure as that of Aristides, and he died with all the dignity of Socrates.  Like Socrates, too, the means of escape were offered him, which he rejected.  I have seen his portrait in the house of General Almonte, and elsewhere; he is always represented in the uniform of a Mexican general, but with a priest's mitre, instead of the military chapeau on his head.


From Mexico and Her Military Chieftains by Fay Robinson, 1847.  Don Juan Nepumoceno Almonte, so favorably known in this country, where he as long resided, is said to be a natural son of the distinguished General Morelos.  In Mexico, where some time since the celibacy of the priests was scarcely a matter of profession even, the fact has never been denied; and the picture of the priest of Nucupetaro is said by travelers to have hung in the house of Almonte, and to have been treated with that respect which would scarcely be elicited by the picture of one who was not a relation.  When Santa Anna marched against Texas, we first find the name of Almonte occupying a prominent position.   In the massacres which will long serve to render the name of the Mexican soldier in opprobrium, and which disgrace that campaign, we do not find, for a long time, any account of Almonte, and when we do, it is in the act of performing a military duty, and exhibiting a presence of mind which seemed to have deserted all others. 

At the battle of San Jacinto, when the Texans made the famous charge with their clubbed rifles and bowie knives, which won the day, so utterly unused were the Mexicans to such an attack, that it never occurred to them either to resist or surrender.  Trusting exclusively to flight, they were soon overtaken by the hardy western hunters who composed the mass of Houston's force, and indiscriminately slaughtered.  General Almonte, seeing that the fight was over, called around him a few officers, and by great efforts contrived to surrender the remnant of that army with which Santa Anna had boasted he would encamp on the Sabine.  By the terms of the capitulation, Almonte returned to Mexico, where he found all things in disorder, the cause of his friend and patron, Santa Anna, ruined, and Bustamente seated in the chair of state.  He was, it was said, very poor, but had by his talents made himself so well known, that the new government was glad to avail itself of his talents as minister of war.  When the pronunciamento of Urrea and Farias occurred, Almonte adhered to the president, and on one occasion distinguished himself by the same courage which was so pre-eminent at San Jacinto.  When the first overt act was made, Almonte chanced to be in the street, and was met by Urrea at the head of few soldiers, who asked for his sword, saying, at the same time, the president was arrested.  Almonte drew his sword, but instead of surrendering it cut his way through the insurgents, and reached the citadel, where he concerted the measures which enabled Bustamente to repress the revolution of July.  Urrea immediately retrace his steps, and passing the house of Almonte, discovered his lady at the window, of whom, as quietly as if nothing had occurred, he asked after her husband's health.  Her astonishment may well be conceived, when, not long afterward, she heard what had happened.  When the revolution in the fall of the year deprived Bustamente of power, Almonte left office with a great portion of his salary undrawn, and was so poor that, previously to his appointment as ambassador to the United States, he supported himself by delivering popular lectures in the capital on scientific subjects.

General Almonte  resided long in this country, making many personal friendships, which have not been interrupted by the occurrence of national difficulties; and finally returned to Mexico.  When diplomatic intercourse was terminated by the retirement of Mr. Shannon from the city of Mexico, he continued high in favor with Santa Anna, until the cabal arose which exiled him; and even while the dictator was in prison, worked in his favor with such zeal, that more than once it was doubtful if he would not be removed from the citadel, where he was a prisoner, to the national palace as president.  These efforts, however, were unavailing; and, when all was over with his friend, Almonte was sent, in a diplomatic capacity, to the courts of France and England.  He repaired thither by way of Havana, where he saw and had much intercourse with General Santa Anna.   Whether it be that the appointment he had received was a ruse to remove him from Mexico, or that Herrera had become alarmed at the results of his conference with the ex-dictator, cannot now be determined, but his mission was immediately revoked.  He returned to Havana, where he remained until the recall of Santa Anna, under whom he has filled important functions.

Few men in Mexico are more favorably known.  He is brave, cultivated, and intelligent; and is likely to rise to a more exalted position than he has yet reached, having now the respect and support of the better class of his countrymen, of all phases of political opinions.


Colonel Almonte's Journal Account of the Siege and Battle of the Alamo 23 Feb-6 Mar 1836

At the Battle of San Jacinto, Col. Almonte was taken prisoner by the Texian army on 21 Apr 1836. According to an article in the New York Herald, his private journal was found on the field and confiscated by Anson Jones. It was sent to and published by the newspaper in installments. The Herald reported that the journal was examined by Mr. Childress in New York City before the journal was published and the journal was sent on to Washington D.C. to the President. The fate of the journal is unknown.  Journal entries covered Feb. 1 through April 16 tracing entry of Santa Anna's army into Texas and ending at San Jacinto.  Only the Feb. 23-March 6 entries are below.

Tuesday 23---At 7 1/2 A.M. the army was put in march---To the Potranca 11/2 leagues---to the Creek of Leon or Del Medio, 3 1/2 leagues---To Bexar 3 leagues, in all 8 leagues. At half a league from Bexar the division halted on the hills of Alazan at 12 1/2 o'clock. General Sesma arrived at 7 A.M. and did not advance to reconnoiter because he expected an advance of the enemy, which was about to be made according to accounts given by a spy of the enemy who was caught. There was water, though little, in a stream of Las Lomas del Alazan. At 2 PM the army took up their march, the President and his staff in the van. The enemy, as soon as the march of the division was seen, hoisted the tri-colored flag with two stars, designed to represent Coahuila and Texas. The President with all his staff advanced to Campo Santo (burying ground.) The enemy lowered the flag and fled, and possession was taken of Bexar without firing a shot. At 3 PM the enemy filed off to the fort of Alamo, where there was---pieces of artillery; among them one 18 pounder: It appeared they had 130 men; during the afternoon 4 grenades were fired at them. The firing was suspended in order to receive a messenger, who brought a dispatch the contents of which appears in No. 1, and the answer which was given will be found in No. 2. 1. conversed with the bearer who was Jameson (G.B.) and he informed me of the bad state they were in at the Alamo, and manifested a wish that some honorable conditions should be proposed for a surrender. Another messenger afterwards came, (Martin) late a clerk in a house in New Orleans. He stated to me what Mr. Travis said, "that if I wished to speak with him, he would receive me with much pleasure." I answered that it did not become the Mexican Government to make any propositions through me, and that I had only permission to hear such as might be made on the part of the rebels. After these contestations, night came on, and there was no more firing. In the night another small battery was made up the river near the house of Veremenda. I lodged in the house of Nixon, (Major) with Urriza and Marcil Aguirre, An inventory of the effects taken was made; many curious papers were found. One Smith, carpenter and cabinetmaker they say was the owner of the effects. I did not sleep all night, having to attend to the enemy and the property the charge of which was entrusted to me; its value was about $3000.

Wednesday 24th---Very early this morning a new battery was commenced on the bank of the river, about 350 yards from the Alamo. It was finished in the afternoon, and a brisk fire was kept up from it until the 18 pounder and another piece was dismounted. The President reconnoitered on horseback, passing within musket shot of the fort. According to a spy, four of the enemy were killed. At evening the music struck up, and went to entertain the enemy with it and some grenades. In the night, according to the statement of a spy, 30 men arrived at the fort from Gonzales.

Thursday, 25th---The firing from our batteries was commenced early. The General in Chief, with the battalion de Cazadores, crossed the river and posted themselves in the Alamo, that is to say, in the houses near the fort. A new fortification was commenced by us near the house of McMullen. In the random firing the enemy wounded 4 of the Cazadores de Matamoros battalion, and 2 of the battalion of Jimenes, and killed one corporal and a soldier of the battalion of Matamoros. Our fire ceased in the afternoon. In the night two batteries were erected by us on the other side of the river in the Alameda of the Alamo---the battalion of Matamoros was also posted there, and the cavalry was posted on the hills to the east of the enemy, and in the road from Gonzales at the Casa Mata Antigua. At half past eleven at night we retired. The enemy, in the night, burnt the straw and wooden houses in their vicinity, but did not attempt to set fire with their guns to those in our rear. A strong north wind commenced at nine at night.

Friday, 26th. - The northern wind continued very strong; the thermometer fell to 39, and during the rest of the day remained at 60. At daylight, there was a slight skirmish between the enemy and a small party of the division of the east, under the command of General Sesma. During the day the firing from our cannon was continued. The enemy did not reply, except now and then. At night the enemy burnt the small houses near the parapet of the battalion of San Luis, on the other side of the river. Some sentinels were advanced. In the course of the day the enemy sallied out for wood and water, and were opposed by our marksmen. The norther wind continues.

Saturday, 27th---The northern wind was strong at day break, and continued all the night. Thermometer at 39. Lieutenant Manuel Menchacho was sent with a party of men for the corn, cattle, and hogs at the Ranchos (small farms) of Seguin and Flores. It was determined to cut off the water from the enemy on the side next to the old mill. There was little firing from either side during the day. The enemy worked hard to repair some entrenchments. In the afternoon the President was observed by the enemy and fired at. In the night a courier extraordinary was dispatched to the city of Mexico, informing the Government of the taking of Bexar, and also to Genl. Urrea, Filisola, Cos & Vital Fernandez. No private letters were sent.

Sunday, 28th---The weather abated somewhat. Thermometer at 40 at 7 A.M. News were received that a reinforcement to the enemy was coming by the road from La Bahia in number 200. It was not true. The cannonading was continued.

Monday, 29th---The weather changed---thermometer at 55---in the night it commenced blowing hard from the west. In the afternoon the battalion of Allende took post at the east of the Alamo. The President reconnoitered. One of our soldiers was killed in the night. The wind changed to the north at midnight. About that time Gen. Sesma left the camp with the cavalry of Dolores and the infantry of Allende to meet the enemy coming from La Bahia or Goliad to the aid of the Alamo. Genl. Castrillon on guard.

March 1st---The wind subsided, but the weather continued cold---thermometer at 36 in the morning---day clear. Early in the morning Gen. Sesma wrote from the Mission de la Espador that there was no such enemy, and that he reconnoitered as far as the Tinaja, without finding any traces of them. The cavalry returned to camp, and the infantry to this city At 12 o'clock the President went out to reconnoiter the mill site to the north west of the Alamo. Lieut. Col. Ampudia was commissioned to construct more trenches. In the afternoon the enemy fired two 12 pound shots at the house of the President, one of which struck the house, and the other passed it. Nothing more of consequence occurred. Night cold thermometer 34 Fahrenheit and 1 Reaumur.

Wednesday 2d---Commenced clear and pleasant thermometer 34---no wind. An Aid of Col. Duque arrived with despatches from Arroyo Hondo, dated 1st inst. in reply, he was ordered to leave the river Medina, and arrive the next day at 12 or 1 o'clock. Gen. J. Ramirez came to breakfast with the President. Information was received that there was corn at the farm of Sequin, and Lieut. Menchaca was sent with a party for it. The President discovered, in the afternoon, a covered road within pistol shot of the Alamo, and posted the battalion of Jimenes there. At 5 A.M. Bringas went out to meet Gaona.

Thursday 3d---Commenced clear, at 40 without wind. The enemy fired a few cannon and musket shots at the city. I wrote to Mexico and to my sister, directed them to send their letters to Bexar, and that before 3 months the campaign would be ended. The General-inChief went out to reconnoiter. A battery was erected on the north of the Alamo within musket shot. Official despatches were received from Gen. Urrea, announcing that he had routed the colonists at San Patricio---killing 16 and taking 21 prisoners. The bells were rung. The battalion of Zapadores, Aldama, and Toluca arrived. The enemy attempted a sally in the night at the Sugar Mill, but were repulsed by our advance.

Friday 4th---The day commenced windy, but not cold---thermometer 42. Commenced firing very early, which the enemy did not return. In the afternoon one or two shots were fired by them. A meeting of Generals and Colonels was held, at which Generals Cos, Sesma, and Castrillon were present (Generals Amador and Ventura Mora did not attend---the former having been suspended, and the latter being in active commission). Also present, Colonels Francisco Duque, battalion of Toluca, Orishuela, Battalion of Aldama; Romero, battalion of Matamoros; Amat, battalion of Zapadores; and the Major of the battalion of San Luis. The Colonels of battalion of Jimenes and San Luis did not attend, being engaged in actual commission. I was also called. After a long conference, Cos, Castrillon, Orishuela, and Romero were of the opinion that the Alamo should be assaulted---first opening a breach with the two cannon of---and the two mortars, and that they should wait the arrival of the two 12 pounders expected on Monday the 7th. The President, Gen. Ramirez, and I were of opinion that the 12 pounders should not be waited for, but the assault made. Colonels Duque and Amat, and the Major of the San Luis battalion did not give any definite opinion about either of the two modes of assault proposed. In this state things remained---the General not making any definite resolution. In the night the north parapet was advanced towards the enemy through the water course. A Lieutenant of Engineers conducted the entrenchment. A messenger was despatched to Urrea.

Saturday, March 5th---The day commenced very moderate---thermometer 50---weather clear. A brisk fire was commenced from our north battery against the enemy, which was not answered, except now and then. At mid-day the thermometer rose to 68. The President determined to make the assault; and it was agreed that the commanding officers, and they came to the conclusion that they should muster at 12 o'clock tonight and at 4 o'clock to morrow morning (Sunday 6th) the attack should be made.

Sunday 6th---At 5 A.M. the columns were posted at their respective stations, and at half past 5 the attack or assault was made, and continued until 6 A.M when the enemy attempted in vain to fly, but they were overtaken and put to the sword, and only five women, one Mexican soldier (prisoner) and a black slave escaped from instant death. On the part of the enemy the result was 250 killed and 17 pieces of artillery---a flag; muskets and fire-arms taken. Our loss was 60 soldiers, 5 officers killed, and 198 soldiers and 25 officers wounded---2 of the latter General officers. The battalion of Toluca lost 98 men between the wounded and killed. I was robbed by our soldiers.


SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
© 1997-2006, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved.