SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
1997-2001, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
Goliad Massacre-Index | Independence-Index

 

The Prisoners of Matamoros and "The Ladies Lojero"

By Captain Reuben M. Potter

.....On the following day petitions were prepared and signed in duplicate; one by the municipality, one by the prominent citizens and residents, and another by the ladies of the city, led by Lojero's wife......As Texas is bound to remember with gratitude the friends whom her adopted sons found in an alien and hostile race....

.....Don Francisco Lojero was distinguished among the minor leaders of the Mexican Revolution, and in one of the provisional governments of that era filled the office of Secretary of War. His wife was the daughter of General Allende, one of the most illustrious chiefs in that contest. The daughter is worthy of a hero who gave his life to his country.....

......tall stately figure of Bravo......I thought or imagined there was a slightly longer breath when he came to the line which alluded to his father.....Bravo, I have no doubt, had determined when he first read the petition to liberate the prisoners.....and his report to the Government probably stated that intent.

From Bits of Texas History in the Melting Pot of America (Jose Tomas Canales, Ed.)

One of Thomas H. Benton's most eloquent speeches was a tribute delivered in the United States Senate to the "Ladies Lojero," inspired by some of the events related below. Benton's speech is not now available, but the story of the good deeds of those noble ladies of Matamoros was better because more intimately told by Captain Reuben M. Potter, a former officer of the United States Army, who was himself an actor in most of what then transpired. Potter's reminiscence was published under the title "Prisoners of Matamoros," in the Magazine of American History, Vol. 111, No. 5, in May, 1879, and is now virtually out of print.

The material portions of it read:

Incidents connected with the uncertain fate of certain prisoners of war in Matamoros, during the spring and summer of 1836, form an episode in the epic of the Texas Revolution which, though not historically important, is interesting from the showing it gives of the better side of the Mexican character. The prisoners taken by Urrea in the two actions (at San Patricio and Agua Dulce) numbered twenty-three. Two of them were detained in Texas, though eventually released and the remaining twenty-one were sent under an escort to Matamoros. Of the latter number, seven were Mexicans of San Antonio; one was an Englishman; one an Irishman, and one a German of culture, named Langenheim. The remaining eleven were natives of the United States. Before their capture Urrea had received orders from Santa Anna to have all Texans, and foreigners in Texas found in arms against the Government, promptly shot. Urrea, though a man of not much capacity or principle, was not blood-thirsty, and when not overruled by orders of a superior, or stirred by irritation, was disposed to treat prisoners with lenity. On this occasion he wrote to Santa Ana that he could not bring himself to execute men in cold blood and begged his General-in-Chief to excuse him for having turned his prisoners over to the officer in command at Matamoros. I learned this from General Bradburn. He was present when the letter was received and read by Santa Ana, who made no comment on it to those present. Urrea, however, though he did not covet the office of executioner, in this act merely shifted to another a task which was repugnant to himself, as he afterward did when he left behind him the prisoners of Goliad. Those from San Patricio arrived in Matamoros, where I then resided, before the middle of March, and were confined in a large barrack in the lower edge of the city, where the garrison was quartered.  sdct

A few days after the arrival of the Texian prisoners from San Patricio, the American residents of Matamoros learned that they were suffering from hunger. The officers of whom inquiry was made concerning this said that the deficiency of food was owing to some derangement in the routine of the commissariat, as well as its lack of means, which had put the garrison also on scant allowance, but that it had been and still was the intention of the military authorities to give the prisoners the same rations allowed to the troops. It was then proposed by the American residents who made the inquiry, that they would furnish the prisoners with rations if the commissariat would, when in funds, pay to the contributors the regulation price of the rations so furnished. This was agreed to, and the food of the prisoners was supplied on this footing for over six months. During about two months, the funds were derived by a subscription among the aforesaid residents; but for the rest of the time, four months and upwards, owing to a misunderstanding among the contributors, the burden was thrown wholly upon one of them, who acted as factor for the rest. No part of this outlay was ever refunded by the Mexican authorities, but the portion paid by the largest contributor was afterwards returned to him by Texas. He ceased to supply the prisoners at their own request; for when they learned that the burden had long been thrown upon one, they offered to take the risk of starvation rather than let the imposition continue, saying they would bear three days' hunger to see if it would shame their custodians into doing their duty. The experiment succeeded without the penance apprehended, for when the dole of charity stopped, the government rations took its place.

Before this transaction came to an end, however, the prisoners underwent more trying vicissitudes. Immediately after their arrival they were, one after another, put under examination of a military commission to elicit evidence of the circumstances under which they were taken. It was not a formal trial, and seemed to be conducted in a way so leisurely that it appeared like an expedient to delay action on their case. We, the foreign residents, though we had heard of the massacre at the Alamo, and the execution of Captain King's and Colonel Fannin's men, entertained hopes, perhaps unreasonable, that under the influence of success, Santa Ana's thirst for blood had become sated; and that these men, being more out of range of his notice than those who had gone before them, would be spared. It was, then, with some surprise as well as extreme pain, that we learned, early on the 16th of April, that the prisoners were all to be shot at dawn the next morning. I happened to be one of the first of the American residents who heard the news, and, luckily, I hit upon the safest person I could have selected, to apply to immediately for advice and aid. This was Don Francisco Lojero, a citizen of the place, who had, at different times, filled important offices in that country. I inquired of him if the painful report I had heard was true.

"Too true, to my sorrow he replied. "But", said I, "how is it that these men are to be executed within twenty-four hours after their doom is announced? Does not the law allow to all persons under sentence of death three days grace?" "It does;" said he, "the respite we call capilla; the object of it being to give all criminals time to make religious preparation, for death. These unfortunate men are entitled to it by law, and I do not know why the General has not allowed it. I will go to him immediately and inquire about it."

He went at once. The officer in command was Brigadier General Vital Fernandez, who had been the local commandant before Urrea's arrival, and after his departure. His headquarters were near, and Lojero soon returned. "The General , said he, "informs me that he has not allowed the usual respite to the prisoners before execution, because he thought that it would only prolong their mental sufferings; but he admits, they are entitled to it, and he will grant it still if they will petition for it. Here are pens, ink, and stamped paper. Please take a seat and write out a petition for the prisoners to sign. I do not offer to do it, because it had better be in English, that they may understand it at once, and sign without hesitation." I wrote, in brief terms, a supplication for the brief respite the law allowed, and explained it to Lojero who approved of it, and advised me to go at once to the barrack, and request the officer of the guard to have the paper sent in and signed by the prisoners, and then forward it without delay to the General. In a few minutes I was at the barrack, where I saw an increase of the outward signs of vigilance. The guard was doubled, and the sentry hailed me with more curt formality than usual. The officer of the guard wore a sad solemnity of visage, which lightened up a little when I read into Spanish the paper I held in my hand. He took it, and assured me that all I requested should be dispatched. The news of the day not only brought profound grief to the foreign residents of whatever nationality, but served to sadden the inhabitants generally. Matamoros was a new place which had grown from a village to a city in less than twenty years, and it had never been, like other parts of Mexico, the scene of those revolutionary outrages which harden the hearts of a people. The population, moreover, had no love for Santa Ana, though it had joined in no effort to resist his usurpation.  sdct

I felt no anxiety about the General's failing to fulfill his promise, but I did not learn that the granting of the respite had been formalized till late in the night, when the official translator, a Franco-American, came to me with the petition I had drawn up in his hand, now bearing the General's endorsement of approval. It had been handed to the translator that he might attach to it a certified version in Spanish; and as I had written the original he came to me for the courtesy of submitting his rendering of it to me. This gave me an opportunity of seeing the paper after it was signed. I looked well at the signatures of those men who believed themselves about to die; and not one of them showed any signs of tremor.

On the following day the American Consul, D. W. Smith, addressed to General Fernandez a strong protest against the execution. He could claim nothing for the prisoners as citizens of his own country, but he remonstrated against their sentence as contrary to the dictates of humanity and civilization, quoting Vattel largely to show that such blows of martial authority, even against rebels, could no longer be reconciled to the rules of warfare, or to existing laws of nations. But neither this nor anything else seemed to be of any avail. I think it probable, although I do not know it to be so, that a recent communication from Santa Ana had put an end to the temporizing delay with which Fernandez had at first hoped to save the prisoners, and that he was under a sudden fright when he withheld the respite of Capilla. Each lagging day now seemed to take away the third part of the life of each doomed man. Still, sympathy with their lot grew more intense, and seemed as strong in the better class of natives as in the American residents. The third day came, and then the night, supposed to be the last; for no hope, so far as I then knew, had dawned. But there was movement stirring which I did not yet know of. Late that night, after I had lain down sleepless, there was a knock at my door. I opened it, and Mr. Schatzell, one whose name was afterwards well known in Texas, entered. "New hope," said he. He then went on to explain his meaning. A project, which originated on the Mexican side of the sympathetic community, and was, I think, first started by Lojero, had ripened at the eleventh hour, and had been eargerly embraced by Schatzell and other wealthy American merchants. It was a new proposal to General Fernandez, with a condition. The proposal was, that an additional respite of twenty days should be granted to the prisoners, to give time for sending petitions for their pardon to the Government at Mexico, and to Santa Ana in Texas. The condition was, that if, in consequence of that delay and those petitions, the lives of the prisoners should be saved, twenty thousand dollars should be paid to the Mexican Government. Those who made the offer guaranteed the amount. The General knew them to be responsible. The Mexican gentlemen who backed the proposal had great weight with him; his own feelings were with them; and at a late hour he assented, and ordered the respite. Thus, for a third time, was averted the sword which hung over those men, each time by a more slender hair than the last. After hearing the news I slept.

On the following day petitions were prepared and signed in duplicate; one by the municipality, one by the prominent citizens and residents, and another by the ladies of the city, led by Lojero's wife. The petitions were dispatched by express the two sets in the opposite directions before indicated. The amount stipulated was promptly subscribed. There was hardly a single foreign resident, however poor, who did not give something. Several of the leading American merchants and prominent native residents entered their names for two thousand dollars each. When the second respite had nearly half run out, and before either of the petitions had been heard from, I one day met Lojero on the street with a beaming countenance, and he cried out "Albricias" which means a reward for good news. "Your friends are safe," said he, "and through other means than our efforts and pledges," and he drew from his pocket and handed to me a printed paper, which I found to be a proclamation of amnesty from the Mexican Government. It reprieved all captured rebels not yet executed, and provided for their liberation and expulsion from the country. The author of it, I opine, "builded better than he knew" in the way of mercy. I have heard of a Spanish prime minister who in his last moments was exhorted by his confessor to forgive all his enemies. "Father" said the dying Christian, I have none to forgive---I have had them all shot". The two cases were somewhat parallel; for though the decree was dated just before the prisoners in Matamoros were to have been executed, it was doubtless then believed by the Cabinet of Mexico that they were already disposed of.

As it was, the delay secured by intercession saved them, but without the aid of our petitions, which were of later date than the amnesty, and consequently those who had subscribed for the ransom were released from their obligations. Lojero told me that the reprieve was already announced to the prisoners, and suggested to me to go and congratulate them. "For now," said he, "you will be allowed ready admittance and free conference." I went accordingly with a friend whom I then fell in with, and for the first time I had a long conversation with the men who had suffered such a lingering death of suspense. One of them told me that when they were formed in line to have the decree read to them, the officer of the guard, who held the paper in his hand, seemed under some strong feeling, and looked as pale as a corpse. They concluded that it was a new death warrant. The document alluded in more than one place to the capital penalty from which it relieved them, and as the officer read it with deep emotion, the word "muerte" (death) was the only one they understood. They were renerving themselves for their fate, when after the reading was done, an interpreter, who stood ready, explained the meaning of what had been read. The emotion of that officer speaks well for his sensibility. The prisoners had prepared to meet their doom with firmness, and the letters they wrote as their last were heroic. But now they showed no exuberance of joy; for the same voice which announced their reprieve told them their cause was crushed, and their adopted country wholly subjugated. We were unable to contradict the dreary intelligence, for it was what everybody in the city then believed. The news they said was almost like a renewal of their sentence.  sdct

Ignacio AllendeAs Texas is bound to remember with gratitude the friends whom her adopted sons found in an alien and hostile race, I will say a word more about the two I have mentioned by name, and placed in prominence. Don Francisco Lojero was distinguished among the minor leaders of the Mexican Revolution, and in one of the provisional governments of that era filled the office of Secretary of War. His wife was the daughter of General Allende, one of the most illustrious chiefs in that contest. The daughter is worthy of a hero who gave his life to his country.  It was I think about ten days after the announcement of the reprieve that news of the defeat of Santa Ana at San Jacinto, and his subsequent capture, became public in Matamoros. It was is possession of the military authorities three days before it leaked out, and then it spread as rapidly as if proclaimed from the house-top, and with unusual correctness of detail, for the totality of defeat by an inferior force was not conceded. The joy it caused among the foreign residents can hardly be described, but the rapture it brought to the prisoners is unspeakable. Not till then did they fully appreciate the boon of their reprieve. Their liberation, though pleaded, was long in coming.

Then came the retreat of the Mexican army, under the command of Urrea, now a full Brigadier, who superseded Filizoli after the truce made by the latter with Houston had been repudiated by the Government of Mexico. Filizoli had permitted two Texas Commissioners, Captains Karnes and Teal, to proceed to Matamoros with their orderlies to attend to the fulfillment of certain stipulations of the truce, but that agreement being now ignored, Urrea caused the envoys to be arrested. The two soldiers were put into the barracks with the rest of the Texan prisoners.  The decree of amnesty, as I have said, provided for the liberation and embarkation of all prisoners which it relieved from the death penalty. General Fernandez, being a local commander, did not feel authorized to carry out those provisions without special orders. He had been relieved after Urrea's return, and the latter, though possessed of ample authority, was not disposed to make a benign or just use of it. Smarting under the failure of the campaign in which he had been engaged, he felt less considerate toward those prisoners than when he first captured them; and as there were some hundreds of Mexican prisoners in Texas, he probably thought it advisable to keep hold of a small handful of flesh and blood, on which he might if needful, make reprisals. Soon after he took command in Matamoros he caused the Texan prisoners, still fed by charity, to be employed in sweeping the streets; and though they had not before had any degrading labor imposed on them, they were kept to this servitude as long as their captivity lasted, and while engaged in it, if they happened to be under the supervision of a brutal guard officer, were at times treated with cruel indignity. This roused anew the sympathy of the ladies of the place, who would sometimes come out and warn the officer to leave their part of the sidewalk untouched, as they would sooner sweep it themselves than have it done for them by the poor prisoners.

In August, when I thought Urrea's mind had became sufficiently unruffled for a tolerably candid view of matters, I drew up for the prisoners a petition in Spanish, asking for the liberation to which the decree of amnesty entitled them. They signed it, and I sent it to the General. I did not present it in person, nor seek an interview, which I knew would not aid the supplication; for Urrea, owing to the interest I had taken in the prisoners, or from some other cause, suspected me of having corresponded with the rebels and aided prisoners to escape. As Grant's men had been taken under the flag of 1824, their memorial appealed to him as men whose cause had died with their leader on the day of their captivity; as soldiers whom his own arms had conquered; as captives, whose lives his clemency had spared when higher authority demanded their blood. The appeal was made in vain. Urrea made no response to the petition, nor did I ever learn in what kind of temper he received it.

We learned, some time after, that General Bravo had been, or would soon be assigned to the command of the army at Matamoros, with which the Mexican Government hoped, ere long, to recommence operations against Texas. He consented to take the command only on condition that a certain amount of force and means, which he deemed indispensable, should be placed at his disposal, and that a course compatible with the rules of civilized warfare should be observed. Both conditions were agreed to, but the event proved that the crippled government could not carry out its promise in regard to men and resources. Everyone acquainted with the history of the Mexican Revolution, will remember the act which ennobled the life of Don Nicholas Bravo. During that struggle, when his father and himself both had commands in the field, the former was captured. It was a time when no mercy was shown by Spaniards to rebels. The younger Bravo knew that his father's fate was sealed, and that no threat of retaliation would save him, though the son had a number of Spanish prisoners in his hands. He immediately liberated those prisoners, saying he would not trust himself with the temptation to make a bloody reprisal.

After his prisoners were beyond his reach he heard of his father's execution. From the high opinion I had ever held of General Bravo, I indulged strong hopes that, so soon as he should take command, he would deal justly with the prisoners, and give them the liberty which a public decree had pledged, and I advised them not to risk attempts to escape till the soundness of this hope had been tested. But the expected liberator did not come as soon as expected. At some time in the fall Urrea was relieved by General Amador; but as the new commander seemed a man of mere negative qualities, and had only a temporary assignment, I knew that he would take no new action toward the prisoners, and made no attempt to obtain it.

General Bravo did not arrive till January, 1837. Before this time a slight change had occured in the original number of prisoners. Two out of the seven Mexicans of San Antonio, named Arriola and Zambrano, had been liberated early, before Fernandez' order for execution was issued. Their friends had brought some influence to bear on Santa Ana while he was at their native place, which plead effectively. The young Irishman, Mitchell, escaped soon after the reprieve, and later in the season two of the Americans, Brown and MacNeely, also escaped. All of those succeeded in reaching Texas. Still later, another got away from the barrack and across the river, but was overtaken and brought back. Thus five of the original twenty-one were gone, but the two orderlies of Karnes and Teal had been added to the remainder, making the number eighteen.  sdct

As soon as General Bravo arrived, I prepared a new petition. I at first proposed to write it in Spanish, and submit it to a Cuban gentleman, who lived at Matamoros, for any correction it might need. "No", said he. "Do not hamper your ideas with a language not your own, but put your document into your best English, and I will engage to give it equal force in Spanish." His advice was good, and he did not overrate his own ability as a translator from my language to his, for he was the best I ever knew. Having made a good copy of the Spanish version, I got it signed by the prisoners, and so soon as the new General was well settled in his seat, I delivered the document into his own hand. It stated that the petitioners were the first taken and the last retained of all the prisoners made in the late campaign; that they had seen the sword three times suspended over them, when it was averted by the decree of amnesty; that they had petitioned General Urrea in vain for the liberation which that decree had pledged to all whom it relieved from the penalty of death; and that they supplicated from the General now in command the boon before denied. The closing appeal was in the English original, as follows:

"Appealing to that heart which has known the agony of a father's martyrdom, and trusting in the generosity which refused to retaliate so cruel a blow, we call on your Excellency to consider the woes of our own parents and kindred, who have long bewailed us as dead, and would now view our reappearance among them as a return from the tomb. For the sake, not of us, but of those beloved mourners, grant that we may behold them again, and their prayers shall call down Heaven's choicest blessing on the head of the magnanimous Bravo".

When I presented this petition I got my first view of the tall stately figure of Bravo, with what might be called a Spanish version of Washington's face. He motioned me to a seat, and taking another himself, proceeded to read with apparent close attention the paper I had handed him. How intently did I watch his manly, impassable features as he read down one page, and turned to another, till he came to the end. His face told nothing, but I thought or imagined there was a slightly longer breath when he came to the line which alluded to his father. Having finished the slow reading, he as deliberately refolded the paper, and turning to same said, "This is Tuesday. I will answer this communication on Thursday." On Thursday I again called, and in reply to my inquiry he said, "I have reported on this matter to the Government." My hopes sank. "When", inquired I, "may an answer be expected from the Government?" "Perhaps", said he, "in twelve days." My hopes did not rise. It was only three or four days after the second interview, that when I had lain down for a siesta, a friend bolted into my room, and cried out, "The prisoners are free!" I said, "Let me see and I will believe." I went to the door, and the liberated men came flocking around me. Bravo, I have no doubt, had determined when he first read the petition to liberate the prisoners, if he found that their memorial gave a correct statement of facts, and his report to the Government probably stated that intent. The friends of the prisoners in the course of a week or two enabled them to secure passages to New Orleans; and with the end of their imprisonment and exile my narrative closes.


Nicholas BravoYoung Nicholas Bravo's Reprieve of Execution of Captured Royal Spanish Soldiers.  After the Mexican Patriots, under the leadership of General Morelos, broke through the siege of the City of Cuautla, in 1812, one of these, Don Leonardo Bravo, an officer under Morelos and father of Don Nicolas Bravo, was betrayed and fell into the hands of the Viceroy, Venegas. His execution was suspended in the hope that in order to save the life of his father, don Nicolas would also surrender under the false promise of sparing his father's life. General Morelos anxious to save the life of don Leonardo Bravo, offered the Viceroy to exchange 800 Spanish prisoners then in his custody for the life of don Leonardo. Morelos, however, left don Nicolas Bravo entirely free to accept the offer of the Viceroy. In the meantime Gral. Nicolas Bravo was successful in an engagement with the Spanish forces known as "San Agustin del Palmar" where he took prisoners several hundred Spanish soldiers. Don Nicolas refused the offer of the Viceroy; and, thereupon, the Viceroy ordered the execution of don Leonardo Bravo by the then inhuman method of being garroted to death as though he were a common criminal. When Gral. Morelos learned of the death of Don Leonardo Bravo he communicated the information to his son, don Nicolas Bravo, and authorized him to put to death the 300 of the Spanish prisoners he had in his custody. When don Nicolas Bravo received the fatal news, about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, he was so impressed and overcome with grief that he, instantly, ordered the prisoners to be placed in "capilla"; this meant that they were permitted to take confession and communion, and to prepare themselves for death. During that night don Nicolas could not sleep at all thinking of his own action in putting to death 300 innocent persons to avenge the death of his father. A scene very similar to that of Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo's immortal novel "Les Miserables" took place; and, early in the morning, after praying all that night, a sublime idea entered into his mind as a Christian gentleman; and that was to pardon the prisoners and to set them at liberty. On the following day, about 8 o'clock in the morning, he ordered his troops to form a hollow square and placed the prisoners in the center, and then he approached the prisoners and addressed them as follows:

All of you know that General Morelos offered to set you at liberty in exchange for the life of my father; but the Viceroy refused to accept such humanitarian proposition, ordering my dear father to be garroted as if he were a common criminal. Your Government, according to the laws of War, has exposed you to lose your lives, but I am not willing to follow the erroneous conduct of the Viceroy. I come to announce to you the following: "I have decided to give you, not only your life, but also your liberty, therefore, you may go wherever you please."

The prisoners, who were expecting to be put to death, were completely astonished, for sometime and then all of them, exclaimed: "We are not going away. We are going to fight with you for the independence of Mexico. Long live our General Bravo!"

This is a brief summary of the historical facts and of the incident mentioned in Capt. Potter's article.  J. T. CANALES  sdct


English Version of the Petition Written by Capt. Reuben M. Potter and Presented to General Nicolas Bravo

To His Excellency, the General in Chief of the Army of Operations against Texas:

We, the undersigned, prisoners of war, taken at St. Patricio and Agua Dulce, would respectfully make known to your Excellency, that so far as we have learned, we are the first captured, and the last retained, of all the prisoners of the campaign. Great as may have been our error in taking arms against the Federation ( for it was in that cause we fought), our punishment has also been great. Though many others of our class have been set at liberty, we are still held in confinement, and we long had the prospect of death before us. In the commencement of our imprisonment we passed many successive days of hunger, until charity gave us wherewith to appease it; and since then, though we have labored daily for the public, we have most of the time subsisted on a dole, supplied by an individual of this place. After having seen the sword five times suspended over us, and suffering as it were a lingering death of suspense, the decree of amnesty issued by the supreme government gave us hopes that our sufferings would soon be ended. That law provided for our liberation, and we petitioned General Urrea for its benefit, but in vain. The arrival of your Excellency, whose character, recorded as it is in the imperishable history of the age, is well known to us, has revived our long deferred hopes, and we venture to renew our supplications.

The dream which incited us to take up arms is now dispelled; our only wish now is to behold our bereaved parents and return to the peaceful pursuits of our native land. Were we again free we would wish to fly far from the shore of this republic, and shun all participation in the unhappy contest existing within it, agreeably to the terms of the amnesty. But though we ask freedom on this basis, we would also gladly receive it in any other mode, by which the cause of humanity would be better served. Liberty would be doubly sweet to us if it were made the means of imparting the same blessing to others, and procuring the release of those who in Texas suffer the same privation we endure here. Therefore in whatever terms may suit your Excellency, and in the name of those dearer to us than life, we ask the grace of liberation. Appealing to that heart which has refused to retaliate so cruel a blow, we call on your Excellency to consider the woes of our parents and kindred, who have long wept for us as dead, and would view our re-appearance among them as a return from the tomb. For the relief not of ourselves, but of those beloved mourners, grant that we may behold them again, and their prayers shall call down heaven's choicest blessings on the head of the Magnanimous BRAVO.

P. JENKS MAHAN (and others) Matamoros, January 19th, 1837
(Houston DAILY TELEGRAPH, May 6, 1875. Texas State Library)  sdct


 Contemporary Newspaper Accounts of the Prisoners of Matamoros
(From Jose Tomas Canales, Bits of Texas History)

Potter's story of the "Prisoners of Matamoros" is well documented in the news dispatches of 1836. The National Banner and Nashville Whig, of Nashville, Tennessee, in its issue for May 13, 1836, [p. 2, col. 5] under a New Orleans date line, said:

"The following named persons who were taken prisoners of war at San Patricio on the 14th of March and carried to Matamoros, were shot on the 14th of April at Matamoros by order of the Mexican Commander

S. S. Custis

Samuel McCauley

Thomas T. Mitchell

R. R. Brown

G. Copeland

William Langinhum

B. J. E. Mahan

S. Francis

N. Jones

M. Hall

L.H. Ben

Wm. Brunson

M. Levric

"Mr. Leven, an officer of the schr. Invincible was shot at the Brazos. The above information was brought by a gentleman arrived last evening in the schr. Compeer from Matamoros direct, and can be relied on."

Notwithstanding the reliability of its derivation, this story was, of course, in error in stating that the prisoners, with the exception of Living, had been shot. The names of the prisoners, as published, were badly garbled, and became more so as the New Orleans item was copied by newspapers through the United States.

In the Kentucky Gazette, of Louisville, Kentucky, it appeared on May 23, 1836, [p. 2, Col 51] in the following form.

"A list of the 14 prisoners who died at Matamoros:

S. S. Cartis

S. McCauley

H. M. Betman

J. W. Bryan

J. J. Mitchell

Richard Brown

F. Copeland

W. Langinham

R. Jenks

Markan S. Francis

N. Jones

William Hall

L. H. Ben

W. Benson

W. Levans

Some of these errors were corrected in a news item in New Orleans Commercial Bulletin for May 27, 1836, [p. 2, col. 2] the pertinent portions of which were:

"We are obligingly furnished with following copy of a letter, dated Matamoros, 23rd, April, 1836; [and signed "A merchant".

"Sir - Herewith hand you a list of 14 prisoners under sentence of death in the cuartel at this place, taken in Patricio or river Nueces, all foreigners, with them were 7 Mexicans, making in all 21, (before the trial by Fernandez, who has the command in this quarter) the seven Mexican prisoners were set at liberty, the 14 foreigners condemned to death. The execution was to have taken place on the 20th inst at 8 o'clock. The ladies of Matamoros petitioned the General for a respite until a petition could be forwarded to Mexico; it was not granted, the merchants then called on Fernandez (after the American Consul had passed an officio to him pointing out the violation of the treaties of nations, in such cases, which was not adhered to) and offered to make up the sum of $30,000 for their ransom; the general then assented to the proposition and delayed the execution until a correo could be despatched to the commanding general Santa Anna, the president, at Bejar, in Texas, to ascertain if he would accept of the proposition. This will require about 12 days time hard riding, before we know the fate of those unfortunate fellow creatures. We have raised about $16,000 in commencement; the balance will be difficult [to] make up."

The appended roll of the prisoners read:

"List of names of fourteen prisoners taken at the river Nueces in Texas, and in confinement under sentence of death at Matamoros, in the Republic of Mexico:

Thomas S. Mitchell, aged 24 years, born in Coswell, Milton County, North Carolina.

S. S. Curtis, aged 23, born in Madison County, New York.

S. W. McKinly, aged 17, born in East Feliciana, Jacksontown, La.

Lewis H. Kerr, aged 33, born in Pennsylvania.

P. S. Mahan, aged 22, born in Philadelphia. Reuben R. Brown, aged 22, born in Green County, Georgia.

James Wilson, aged 23, born in comer Spring and Sullivan streets, New York.

John W. Bryan, aged 26, born in Georgia. William B. Benson, aged 20 years, born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Sebastian Francis, aged 20, a native of France, friends in Ohio.

George Copeland, aged 16, born in Philadelphia.

Wrn. Laugnheem, aged 29, born in Germany.

W. Hall, aged 24, born in England.

Hutchings M. Pittman, aged 26, born in Wilson, Ten. son of William Pittman."

[This "Matamoros, April 21, 1836" is a correct list, but for errors in initials and spelling; and except that "McKinly" is a misprint for "McKneely", and "James Wilson" for "Jones, Nelson". Langenheim's name is almost unrecognizable it is so badly misspelled.]  sdct


Goliad Massacre-Index | Independence-Index
SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
1997-2001, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved