The Mier Expedition by George Lord
(From clippings from the Cuero Star, Cuero, Texas 1883 and present in the Valentine Bennet Scrapbook by Miles S. Bennet, Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin)
Various accounts have been given time to time of this memorable expedition and in all of them occur more or less error, and as I am one of the few survivors who passed through the tragic scenes and being in possession of authentic data, I desire to make a few corrections and in connection with this article, I wish to refute the charge made by some, that the expedition was made up of a band of freebooters whose only aim was that of plunder, and to prove that the movement was authorized by the government of Texas. The troubles with Mexico in 1842 commenced by a raid into Texas by the Mexican Gen. Raphael Vasquez with a force amounting to about 700 men and captured San Antonio, without a gun being fired on either side. Gen. Canales the old federalist chief with 750 men and one piece of artillery attacked Gen. Davis then in command of the Texas troops at Lipantitlan, which is about three miles west of San Patricio on the Nueces, July 7, 1842 and were repulsed with one slightly wounded on our side; the enemys loss unknown. The lamented Capt. Cameron of whom we will speak more hereafter saved the command from utter disaster.
On September 11th the same year San Antonio was again capture; this raid was made by the Mexican Gen. Adrian Woll who with 1200 Mexican marauders sacked the town and captured fifty-three prisoners, all citizens. The report of the enemys arrival at San Antonio reached Gonzales the same day when the citizens to the number of eight men under command of Capt. Mathew Caldwell set out to meet him. He was re-enforced at the Cibolo by 140 men which made the force 220 men all told. We organized and duly elected Capt. Caldwell our commander. We marched the same night to the Salado Creek about five miles east of San Antonio and took our position; about 11 oclock a.m. the 17th we were attacked by the whole Mexican force, together with all the Mexican citizens of San Antonio except a few, among whom I will mention the Navarros and Manchacs firm friends to the Texan cause. The action continued till near sunset when the enemy fell back badly cut up with a loss of sixty killed and perhaps as many wounded. Our loss was one killed, Jett, who was killed about a half a mile below the battle ground, and nine wounded. But just as the fight ceased between Caldwell and the Mexicans a fearful tragedy occurred. Capt. Dawson with fifty-tree men from LaGrange, in attempting to join our command, was discovered and surrounded by the Mexicans. Dawson found a grove of mesquite bushes in which he rallied his men and commenced his defense, but the Mexicans withdrew from the range of his rifles and poured in upon his unprotected company a shower of grapeshot. Dawson sent out a white flag but it was fired on. Thirty-two of his men were killed, two escaped, fifteen surrendered and the remainder were cut down after they had surrendered. Among those who escaped was Capt. Wood, who, in the act of delivering up his arms, received a cut from a sword. He seized a lance in the hands of one of the enemy, killed the lancer, mounted his horse and escaped. His father, Zadoc Wood, aged 80 years, was killed. His brother Normon was badly wounded and died afterwards, while a prisoner, form his wounds. The other escape was A.S. Miller. I will here give a copy of Col. Caldwells first report of the engagement.
On the 18th about daylight we were reinforced by about 100 Texans. By the 19th we were reinforced until our command amounted to about 500 arms bearing men. On the 19th the Mexican forces took up their line of march to the Rio Grande with a great many of the Mexican citizens of San Antonio. Twice we came up with them but feared to attack them on account of jealousy of new comers, Cols. Mayfield and Moorethe most disgraceful affair that ever occurred in Texas. The command returned to San Antonio and disbanded.
The third invasion of our country in the same year and the atrocities with which it was accompanied was well calculated to arouse anew the war feeling which president Houstons procrastinating ingenuity had, in a great measure, allayed. The people of Texas thus viewed with dismay and indignation the wanton neglect of the navy, his refusal to prosecute the war after congress and the nation had decreed it, and his disbandment and abuse of the several hundred brave volunteers from the United States under Gen. Davis. Gen. Woll entered Bexar county on the 11th of September and as before stated captured judge, jury, bar and citizens under her own toots, and while in discharge of their peaceable advocation. This news reached the president at Houston on the 16th of the same month on which day he issued another flaming proclamation. Volunteer corps were raised with great dispatch in different portions of the country and from one organized in the city of Houston which elected Gen. Moseley Baker to it command, he (the president) required a pledge that they would cross the Rio Grande and fight the enemy before he agreed that they should have any ammunition from the public store. The president appointed Gen. Somerville to take command, he being brigadier general of the militia, who arrived at San Antonio during the month of October. Here Gen. Somerville found about twelve hundred men scattered around the town at from one to ten miles in some sic to eight different encampments and instead of concentrating his camp or organizing and drilling his men he sits down in the town for two weeks receiving the hospitalities of those very individuals who had just before been foremost in entertaining the Mexican Gen. Woll; hence on account of dissatisfaction arising from Gen. Somervilles appointment to command some four or five hundred, returned to their homes, reducing the army to about seven hundred and sixty men. Gen. Somerville left the Nooden Ruis, November the 18th and arrived at Laredo on December 8th 1842. The following affidavit speaks on the mooted question of responsibility of the failure of this expedition.
The dispatch from president Houston to Gen. Somerville, commanding the latter to break up the expedition, was kept secret from the command. On the march to Laredo about twenty more men became dissatisfied and left for home, reducing us to seven hundred and forty, men. On the 9th, about 6 0clock PM, we broke camp and proceeded southward down the river, and then bore a course due north toward San Antonio. We camped without supper or water. The next morning about one mile we camped, and after getting breakfast, the officers were called together in council. Out of fourteen captains present eleven were for pursuing the enemy into Mexico and giving them battle. The council adjourned and the troops were accordingly again paraded. The Gen made a speech in which he desired that all who were in favor of crossing the Rio Grande could step to the right, and those in favor of returning home would go to the left, that if it was still their desire to pursue the enemy he would lead them, but if not his commission was in their hands and he would cheerfully serve among them the foremost in the ranks. Throughout his remarks were patriotic and cheering and by acclamation he was elected without one dissenting voice, their "volunteer" leader. By the laws of Texas the army had a perfect right to select their commander, but heretofore they had not claimed this privilege for fear it might create division and furnish a pretext, as it had the spring previous for thwarting the expedition. When the proposition came from Gen. Somerville to elect their commander, it was unanimously met by the men I as magnanimous a spirit by electing him. Of the seven hundred and forty men present about two hundred voted to return. They were placed under Colonel Bennett, of Montgomery, and did return, while the balance insisted upon being led against the enemy in the most enthusiastic terms.
On December 10th 1842 we took up our line of march towards Mexico, our force numbered 540 men. We marched down the east side of the river, opposite Guerrero. It took us five days to perform this march. This tardy and zigzag march of Gen. Somerville completely bewildered the enemy, and they took for a cunning military maneuver what the tattered pantaloons and sore shins of our men too plainly told them was an unpardonable piece of stupidity and a cruel waste of time. Had Gen. Somerville promptly crossed the river at Laredo on the 8th and swept down it by the main road with a celerity befitting the occasion he would by the 5th have taken every town down to Rhinosa and created such a universal panic in that country as to have caused th enemy to evacuate Matamoros and fall back on Tampico, leaving the former city entirely exposed. On the 14th after we crossed the river from Mexico, Gen. Canale "defensores" numbering about 300 mounted men, bantered us for a fight and we ingloriously declined it. Col. Ben McCulloch had been sent to the city to demand of the alcalde or magistrate rations and other necessaries for the army. The alcalde returned a cheerful answer that everything should be forthcoming by time the army arrived in town, where good quarters were prepared. That evening the 16th the army was marched in the direction of the town, encamping one mile form it in an exposed situation, it being one of the most inclement nights ever experienced. To this exposed situation the Alcalde sent a few old hats and filthy blankets, some few beeves, and less than a quart of corn for each horse. The old hats and blankets would have been an insult to the general as they were to the me, and the insufficient quantity of rations more calculated to make men mad then to allay their hunger. Why did the general not go into the city instead of exposing his men to such a cold rain? Was asked throughout the camp and no answer given. The next morning when all were cold, wet and hungryhaving no supper the night before---and expecting to be marched into comfortable quarters in the town, the line was again turned toward home and the army marched rapidly back to the former crossing, to facilitated which the general made a detail and carried down six large flat-bottom boats each capable of carrying 100 men. A portion of the army recrossed that evening and the remainder the next morning. Here the army found themselves again upon the Texas side of the river and their faces fairly turned homeward after getting in sight of the enemy and not fighting him. The general started home on the 19th inst., with 200 and odd men, including the extensive staff, numerous enough f a field marshal of France, while he left behind him 304 men to do the fighting. The march he had now to accomplish to Bexar was far more difficult than the one which had occupied him 17 days to Laredo in which he had used more than 300 beeves, and though there were an immense number of beeves, sheep and goats in the immediate neighborhood of the camp, yet this difficult march was undertaken, as I have been informed without his collecting any, trusting to the precarious chances of killing a wild cow or such game as good fortune might throw in his way. The consequences were his whole command came near starving, many reaching home on foot, having to leave their horses broken down and bogged, the generals among the rest. Now to show that the expedition was duly sanctioned by general Somerville, a thing that has been denied by certain individuals in a spirit of partisanship, I herewith give a copy of an affidavit from J.J. Humphreys, a Mier prisoner now living in the city of San Antonio.