The Mier Expedition
REPORT BY GEN. PEDRO DE AMPUDIA CONCERNING THE BATTLE OF MIER TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR AND NAVY, DECEMBER 29, 1842.
Army of the North Corps. First Division.
Even since the 14th of last month, when H.E. the Commander in Chief obtained news of the reunion in Bexar of 3000 adventurers with artillery, to harass this frontier, he warned me to take indicated measures toward holding this fortified point and its environments, assigning me a radius up to Colorado Creek, a scarce 14 leagues -56 miles -, while on his part, he caused the Second Division to advance from San Fernando to Rio Grande, to block the expected hostilities. At the same time, he ordered me that 300 infantrymen from the Division under my command move to Laredo, to escort 20,000 pesos set aside for me to cover my estimated expenditures for one month, after the four months during which my Staff and Company Officers, and the troops, had subsisted on their rations only. Due to the shortages that weighed me down, I could not move this force in its entirety and could only detach 100 picked Sappers, but I sent ahead my Adjutant, Battalion Commandant Miguel Aznar, to hurry on by stage to Laredo, to take charge of this greatly desired remittance, cutting out in Guerrero 50 well mounted troopers from the Auxiliary Regiment of the Northern Towns, for the purpose of receiving these funds and bringing them to the said town of Guerrero, where the Infantry would take then, over and convoy them to Matamoros.
From Laredo, my above mentioned Adjutant wrote me that the money had not yet arrived at the outpost, and that according to news received from General Headquarters, the latter was moving against the Nueces, since the Texans had already crossed the Rio Frio. Just then, Colonel Canales advised me in rapid messages dated the 7th and 8th inst., that the town of Laredo had been captured by the adventurers; that he himself stood in Guerrero without sufficient ammunition or forces to contain their advance, also that up to that day, he had received neither supplies nor any communication whatever from Y. E. the Commanding General. Although these coincidences appeared impossible at first sight, since over there, to the left, existed respectable forces, among them 500 Cavalry, who could have thrown themselves rapidly against the invaders, I nevertheless assumed that possibly a part of the enemy was accosting the Commander in Chief, while the others were devastating and leveling the settlements in the center of our frontier. Considering that taking advantage of time and defending these was of the greatest advantage, I ordered that 400 Infantry and two 4-pounder pieces under command of the gallant Colonel Romulo Diaz de la Vega, should advance by forced marches to join Col. Canales, while the latter stayed in observation of the enemy. All this was actually carried out, in spite of a strong incessant downpour, and an absolute lack of resources that were due to me. But in extraordinary cases, it is unavoidable to undertake extraordinary measures; I pledged 1500 pesos against the income from the federal tobacco administration, while it would be collected, to be able to show something to the troops, and without paying attention to the rain and the muck that had inundated even the streets of the town, I strained to get moving, and did it on the 16th. This same day, Mr. Canales sent word to me, that the Texans had advanced to within sight of the town of Guerrero, and that, in his opinion, they would occupy it on the next day. This news confirmed my foresight, and without regard to my broken health, also without losing a minute, I arranged the defense of Matamoros, leaving the diligent and expert Colonel Parrodi in command there, and doubling march schedules, I went ahead to direct compaign operations.
In Reynosa, I met Prefect Jesus Cardenas, who was awaiting my arrival in order to mobilize all the inhabitants and Auxiliaries who did not stand in the field already under Mr. Canales. Without a moment's loss, I organized the citizens of Reynosa and Camargo into Companies, entrusting to the above leader that he join me when ready, with the precaution of leaving small squads to observe the invaders at close range. Not taking heed that my Infantry was worn out to exhaustion, as soon as they had choked down their ration, I undertook the crossing of San Juan River, a maneuver that started at 4 o'clock in the afternoon and ended at 2 in the morning, since I had no other means of transportation than a small raft and two canoes. There, my Adjutant Aznar reported to me, after having come through the enemy lines, bringing instructions from H.E. from General Headquarters, that the previously mentioned 20,000 pesos be delivered in Monterrey instead. In spite of the impression that such an announcement caused in my subordinates, and of their real weariness, I started my movement toward that town, and Mr. Canales fell in with me at 4 leagues - 16 miles - toward the Southeast of it, leading the 100 Sappers and 137 horses.
As the enemy had occupied Mier that day, my troops were barely left time to eat some roasted meat in the ranks before we marched off again, sending out small parties in all directions to spy out the enemy, so as to calculate whether I ought to establish myself here for the night, or not. My spies returned assuring me that the town had already been evacuated by the enemy who had moved back to his camp at Chapeho on the left bank of the Bravo, 4 leagues - 16 miles - to the Northeast, taking along with him Mayor Francisco P6rez as hostage until he would receive the ransom demanded. On the strength of these news, I decided to enter the town, which I did at 8 o'clock that night, warning my column not to sound any drum or trumpet, to keep our entry secret, and surrounding myself with small cavalry advance posts, I sent the rest of the arm to turn their mounts out to pasture, half a league - 2 miles - to the East, behind a hill.
On the 24th, irked that the enemy did not undertake a new incursion into this town, I resolved to go and look for him in his encampment located on both banks of the Rio Bravo, with five large rafts and four canoes as communication, which craft he had brought with him down river all the way from Guerrero; but notified on the march that the enemy was moving with the flow of the river, I too, changed direction by my right flank, to await him at the confluence of the river and the Alamo that waters this vicinity, choosing that point as being militarily more advantageous, because of its dominant situation. There, I remained in ambush nearly an hour, and since the day was drawing to a close, and at the same time word reached me that the Texans had already come to a halt at Casas Blancas, I countermarched to Mier to let my men and their animals get some food, just in case the enemy had planned to occupy the place tonight. Our scouts captured two Texan spies who, questioned when caught, admitted that their comrades were determined to wreak depredations on the other three towns, before reaching the outskirts of Matamoros.
On the morning of the 25th, I set out again toward the confluence of the rivers; but before reaching it, another two prisoners declared that they were just concluding the crossing of the Bravo, to occupy the town; again I turned about and countermarched, and achieved the objectives of my desires, namely to make the enemy attack me in the base of operations where I had planned it from the beginning. I ordered Mr. Luciano Garcia in command of the scouts, to start firing on the enemies alternately, drawing them closer to my line, and by 7 o'clock at night, the flashes of firing revealed to me the direction of the enemy's advance. Intentionally, I left unoccupied and at his disposal a few of the houses close to the lower part of the said Alamo River, while I emplaced my Infantry on the higher elevations, setting up my two cannon at the entrances to the town square, toward the side where the affray began.
In a sudden and headlong rush, they tried to penetrate to the center, but the havoc that greeted them from the rooftops, and the running rain of projectiles threw them back on the spot. They crenelated various houses and a deadly exchange of fire commenced, sustained so steadfastly by both armed sides that, were it not for the solidity and consistency of the buildings due to the thickness of their walls and the materials of which they were constructed, this action would have unquestionably concluded very quickly, and would have cost less victims than the ones sacrificed on the altars of the Fatherland. During this interval, I disposed that the Cavalry move up to the rear of the Texans, to prevent them from retreating to the gullies and brambles whence they had started, taking advantage of the darkness of night and the incessant rain. I also constantly maintained within the square, a column of 100 Infantry with bayonets fixed, to lend a hand wherever it might have been necessary. A rainy dawn broke; and the firing increased progressively on both sides; noticing that the enemy fire was causing me many losses among my brave men posted on the rooftops, and that the gunners of one of the pieces were nearly all down, I ordered the other cannon to be rolled around to my right and the enemy's left, supported by 70 infantrymen, to molest them more actively by crowding them together, while at the same time, 100 of the Defenders were to tether their horses and, taking advantage of the stonewall fences, attack him from the rear. This measure rendered the results I expected, and the frontal fire instantly started to grow weaker.
The other cannon, serviced by Sappers, and I myself taking care of aiming it through a large aperture I had caused to perforate in the Town Hall wall, likewise contributed to the enemy's loss of the strong corrals where he had entrenched himself. Unable to reach them with the piece I had thrown against their left flank, I had it transferred to the hills where the cavalry was stationed, to strike them from the rear. Pressed from all sides and realizing that they would be put to the knife at the first signal, for the sake of humanity and as proof of magnanimity of the Mexican heart, I offered them a chance to surrender within 5 minutes; they asked that I go over to talk to them, but the Field and Company Officers who were at my side prevented me from doing this; in my stead, Colonel Vega did it and at the end of a short conference, he conceded them, in my name, an hour during which to decide to lay down their arms at the feet of our intrepid soldiers. At the end of the hour, they acceded, and with part of our Infantry in battle formation, without the rest of them leaving their positions, the haughty conquerors started to march past in platoons, depositing their rifles, pistols and daggers on the ground, in front of the unconquered and faithful defenders of the integrity of the great Nation to which we by good fortune belong.
Fearing that I may tire the attention of H. Excel. the President, and of Y.E., I enclose instead, in a separate folder, the detailed listing of resplendent merits and important services contributed and rendered during this notable action I describe, by the gentlemen Field and Company Officers, and Soldiers of the Army, Auxiliaries, authorities and civilians of the frontier, requesting that they be remunerated according to justice. I likewise enclose for Y.E. the nominal lists of prisoners, a statement of arms they had surrendered, of the dead and wounded we had, of the ammunition consumed, a description of the material encountered in their camp, and the original letter that the chief of the Texans, William Fisher, passed on to me soon after the surrender.
I congratulate the Supreme Government again on this signal victory, remitting through the bearers, Brevet Colonel, Battalion Commandant Jose Ma. Carrasco and Ensign Cayetano Ocampo, the only flag found among their humble equipment that was returned to them, since the garments they wore during this combat were tattered to little pieces, as I had already notified Y.E. in my previous note. May Y.E. kindly accept the considerations of my constant appreciation and profound respect.
God and Liberty. Mier, 29 December 1842. Pedro de Ampudia (Signature). To the Most Excel. Secretary of War and Navy, Sir Jose Ma. Tornel.
(From Lamego, Gen. Miguel A. Sanchez. The Second Mexican-Texas War 1841-1843. Hill Junior College Monograph 7, Texian Press, Waco, TX, 1972 copied from the metropolitan newspaper "El Siglo Diez y Nueve" dated on March 1st, 1842).
See also an extract of McCutchan's description of the battle and surrender at Mier.
As the writer was one of those "poor unfortunates," who were left at the city of Matamoras unable to travel, he is brought to the necessity of depending upon oral knowledge relating to those events which he is about to record in the present chapter. This knowledge, however, has been derived from the very best authority, among those who were eye witnesses of, and partakers in, those scenes about to be depicted and for whose integrity the writer would willingly vouch were it probable that such a voucher would fortify or assist in the least the truth of the record. Or, at any rate, the writer feels fairly convinced of the truth of what he writes.
On the 14th of January 1843, the main body of prisoners left Matamoras for the City of Mexico under the escort of Genl. Canales and seven or eight hundred of his Rancheros, or citizen soldiers taking the road to Monterey. On the march, while they were yet in the vicinity of the Rio Grande, there was an effort made to induce the Prisoners to attempt a Rescue; which, however, proved fruitless. After a fatiguing march, they arrived at Monterey on the 1st of February. After a short rest of two or three days, they were again put on the road and arrived at Saltillo on the 6th 2 without the occurrance of any thing worthy of note. On the 7th they again took the road, pursuing their march without any occurrence capable of giving interest and reached "El Rancho Salado"' (The Salt Farm) on the evening of the 10th of the same month.
There, the writer takes pride in acknowledging it his duty to record one of the most glorious achievements that adorns the annals of National History. It was on that night, while the Mexican sentinel dozed at his post or drowsely uttered the occasional "Sentinella alerto!" and the Mexican officer slept quietly in his "Serape," that a small band of prisoners resolved to free themselves, though unarmed and five hundred miles within the bounderies of an enemies country. The treatment which they received, the harsh abuses heaped upon them, the insults which were continually offered to their high and freeborn souls had become to grevious to be borne by such spirits; therefore, though Death in its most awful forms and Dangers of every kind hovered near to deter them from the step, a large majority of the Texian prisoners resolved to free themselves-to enjoy one moment's liberty-although Death might quickly follow---or perish in the attempt. They understood the hazards that were to be run. They were not quite two hundred and twenty strong, without arms-not even a pen knife with which to offend or defend; while their guard numbered something over Four hundred well armed men, a part of whom were Cavalry. They had difficulties to surmount, which would, under other circumstances, have detered any but Texians from taking such a step. To make the necessary charge, they must pass through two doors, the first of which was not wide enough to admit of two men passing through at the same time. On each side of this narrow entrance stood a sentinel. Between that and the second door was a strong guard. There seems to have been a traitor among the prisoners, for the conduct of the Mexicans clearly proved that they entertained some idea that all was not right, which was seen by the alertness of the guard, and more satisfactorily, by the guard being doubled. (The writer will not say that there was a traitor among his countrymen, for he wishes not to accuse unjustly; and least he might, he lets the matter rest.)
But the Rescue had been determined upon, and Capt. Ewing Cameron chosen as its leader; and on the following morning, when the hour drew near at which the fearful trial was to be made, although these difficulties and dangers were clear to every mind, no one that had resolved gave back; not one that had set his hopes upon his own prowes trembled; and all who had the night previous given their voices for the rescue, now stood ready to lend it their hands; aye, and surrender to it their lives! The time of receiving breakfast had been fixed as the moment for the outbreak. They formed as usual to receive their morning rations. Cameron stood foremost; an unbroken silence reigned over that daring band; every eye is turned to the noble Cameron, who stands like a statue, his head erect, his eye fixed upon vacancy, his nerves steady; no one moves, none seem excited, but anxiety has a place upon the features all save Cameron. The moment arrives; his piercing eye lights up, and throwing his timeworn hat far above his head---the preconcerted signal---he utters the word; the door is reached placing a hand upon the breast of each sentinel at the narrow doorway the Lionlike Cameron hurls them far away in opposite directions as the whirlwind scatters chaff, and with a bound he rushes through the remaining door. The Texians pour out after their leader. The Mexicans rally for a few minutes, but it is useless; for the whirlwind impetuosity of the Texians bears all before it. In a very short time the Texians were masters of the field, and the Mexicans were scampering away for life. They fought hand to hand, but the struggle was to deadly to last long. Cameron had instructed his men to kill none of the enemy if they could avoid it; consequently, there were only five or six Mexicans killed, and a very few wounded, while the Texians lost five killed and had taken from the enemy, the efficacy of which and the fear which they impose on the Mexican people is far inferior to the arms with which Texians go to meet liberties foe. But we will, hereafter, say more on this subject.
On the twelfth, they, misjudging their policy, left the road and took to the mountains. To this Cameron was bitterly opposed, but it appeared to be the general wish of the men and he consented. In that he was to blame, for he should have assumed the entire command, as he had been chosen for that purpose, but he was too much given to acceding to the propositions of his men. Still Captain Cameron cannot be censured; he must not be answerable for the acts of others. There were two (perhaps more) of the captains who went to Cameron telling him that if he did not leave the road that they would draw off their companies and leave the command. Here Cameron was placed in a dellicate and critical position; he saw that he must either go directly contrary to his own will, or that he must see a band of brave men, already to small for the undertaking bursted asunder and cast apart in an enemy's country, where distruction would soon overtake them. Here were two verry great evils presented to his view, and he finally concluded to give the reign to his men in preference to seeing them disunite. Of the two evils he chose the least. No man can be found who would not have acted the same way under similar circumstances.
On the fifteenth, being in great want of food, and finding a water hole convenient, but small, they killed their horses and dried the flesh, or a portion of it. This place furnished them the last water they received, some for six days, some seven, and others were eight days without a drop of water. From this place they moved on to gain the pass through the mountains; but, finally, from exhaustion and want of water (food they had but could not eat) the desparate became unable to stay in a body. Water was the only wish-the only cry-Water! Water! Water!!! But none was to be had! They scattered over the small valleys in serch of water, and thus were taken, unable to resist. The largest body of them with Cameron at their head were taken on the 25th of Feb. Poor fellows, they were willing to sacrifice their life! nay more their liberty, for one sup of water. They were all taken, save sixteen, four of whom came in-the remainder were missing, and supposed dead. After the recapture they were marched to Saltillo where they arrived on the second of March.
Conduct of the General Government of Gen. Mahier, Governor of the State of Saltillo. The cause for the conduct of the General Government. When they reached Saltillo, the President, Santa Anna, sent an order to Gen. Meheir, the governor, to shoot every man without distinction. This was a peremptory order, but the Noble and Generous Meheir refused to execute it, saying that he would be murderer for no man or government, for which generous resolution he was removed from his office. Thare, among those people, was he dishonored for an act which would have raised him in the estimation of any other people on the globe who bear the credit of civilization. It is the belief, and it is my opinion, that the cause which, in a great measure, is to be attributed this determination of the General Government was that about this time Sam Houston caused Capt. Elliott, "the English Charge d'affaires to Texas, to write a letter to Packingham," the English Minister to Mexico, stating that although we had entered on the Expedition contrairy to the wishes of the Texian government, he (Sam Houston) wished him (Packingham) to see that we were treated with all the lenity that could be possibly extended to such men. This gave Santa Anna the power to act as he thought propper. But we will speak of this hereafter.
We will now return to the narrative. They left Saltillo on the 22nd, handcuffed two and two, and arrived at the Salado on the 25th, where an order met them for the shooting of one tenth. This was effected in the following manner; thare being 176 men, thare were 176 beans put into a small pot, 17 of which number were black-the others of a yellowish cast. Those who were so unfortunate as to draw the former were shot that evening within hearing of their companions, who were handcuffed and made to set down, and sentinels drawn up in front of them with arms presented and express orders to fire on the Texians if one of them attempted to rise from his position. What an aweful crisis! What a solemn, heart rendering position for men! They knew that seventeen men must die! The dread edict had come from the Despot! and they must die! The drawing was over; the doomed were marched out to receive their death! The only dry eyes in that little band of Warrier Prisoners were those of the doomed ones! They said they were willing to die in the cause in which they had fought and which they loved. The observation of one of them was in effect this---"They murdered my uncle! they butchered my brother! and now they call for my blood! Let them have it! Ere this have I seen them drop before my rifle! My death is already well revenged! Farewell Soldiers of liberty I die content! Farewell!" So went the brave, the sacrificed men to slaughter, with cheeks unblanced and lips that quivered not! Thare escaped not a tear from their eyes, nor a sigh from their lips! but they went like the bridegroom to his bride, the soldier to battle, or the Saint to Glory.
On the following morning one of the bodies was missing, the name of which was Shepherd. We afterwards learned that he had received a ball in each arm breaking the bone and one in the neck, thus he lay untill dark, and then cralled off. He went to the home of a sheapherd who cured him of his wounds. He then erroniously went to Saltillo where he was recognized and shot in the street.
"Poor fellows! Yet better to die than endure such misery as we have suffered. We know not that they were buried." They lie neglected by friend and foe; but now carless of the storms of life, they are in a better world.
The Cause why we were not all Shot. The circumstance of Gen. Mehier's refusal to obey orders saved the Mier prisoners from an untimely and bloody death. When Gen. Wady Thomson, the United States Minister heard of the order of Santa Anna for the death of every Texian prisoner, he immediately went to Doyle, Her Britanic Majesty's Minister, and requested his cooperation in saving the Texians. Doyl, at first, refused to comply, alledging as his reason that "he as the Minister of H. B. M. at Mexico had no right to interfear in the coarse of justice for men who were outlawed by their own country, which he said we were, and as a proff he produced the letter which I have beefore mentioned from Elliott to Packingham. Thompson then produced the order under which we left our homes, and proved clearly to Doyle that we had acted under the authority of the Texas Government. From this he agreed to cooperate with Thompson. They did do so, and we were saved from death to live a life of misery. The French Minister also told Santa Anna that if he dared shoot another of the Texian Prisoners he would immediately demand his papers and return to his Government, for he could not stand a silent spectator of the most barbarous acts that ever did disgrace civilization. They were acts, high acts of murder, worthy of barbarians alone. It is probable that the words of the Minister of France had more influence over Santa Anna than both Thompson and Doyle, for he well knew if the Frenchman went home it would be but little time before the Fleet of France would commence opperations on Vera Cruz. He had previously had ample proof of its efficacy. But there are many officers in Mexico to whom, if the order had been given, which was given to Mehier, they would have executed it with such promptitude that foreign powers could not have effected any good in our behalf. But Mehier, with that spirit of bravery, that soul of man, said, "So far from these men deserving death, if I had it in my power, they should have their liberty."
On the morning of the 26th of March they took up the line of march for San Louis Potosi, where they arrived on the sixth of April. From hence, they started for the City of Mexico. They arrived at Huehuetoca, on the twenty-fourth. On the 25th Capt. Ewing Cameron was shot by order of the general government. I will take occasion to speak more explicitly on this hereafter. On the evening of the 26th they arrived at the City of Mexico and were put in the convent Sandiago.
From Journal of the Texian Expedition against Mier by Gen. Thomas J. Green 1845 (original spelling). March 21st (1842). The cavalry arrived from San Luis Potosi to guard our men to the city of Mexico. In the meantime, an order bad reached Saltillo from Santa Anna to shoot the whole of our men, which was also disobeyed by Governor Mexier. On the 22d they took up the line of march under command of Colonel Ortis. That night they reached Aqua Nuevo. On the 23d marched fourteen leagues to San Salvador. Here their handcuffs were examined, being ironed in pairs, a right and left band of each two closely fastened with large irons, and the sick also ironed. Now they began to suspect something wrong, but still hoped otherwise. On the 24th marched eleven leagues. On the 25th marched early, and arrived at the Salado about 2 o'clock P.M. Soon after they arrived, our men received the melancholy intelligence that they were to be decimated, and each tenth man shot. It was now too late to resist this horrible order. Our men were closely ironed and drawn up in front of all their guards, with arms in readiness to fire. Could they have known it previously, they would have again charged their guards, and made them dearly pay for this last perfidious breach of national faith. It was now too late! A manly gloom and a proud defiance pervaded all countenances. They had but one alternative, and that was to invoke their country's vengeance upon their murderers, consign their souls to God, and die like men. Could these martyrs in liberty's cause, who so proudly yielded up their lives for their country, have known that their President had endorsed their execution by the most villanous of all falsehoods, declaring them brigands-great God ! What would have been their feelings!
The decimator, Colonel Domingo Huerta, who was especially nominated to this black deed after Governor Mexier refused its execution, had arrived at Salado ahead of our men. The "Red-cap" company were to be their executioners; those men whose lives had been so humanely spared by our men at this place on the l1th of February. The decimation took place by the drawing of black and white beans from a small earthen mug. The white ones signified exemption, and the black death. One hundred and fifty-nine white beans were placed in the bottom of the mug, and seventeen black ones placed upon the top of them. The beans were not stirred, and had so slight a shake that it was perfectly clear they had not been mixed together. Such was their anxiety to execute Captain Cameron, and perhaps the balance of the officers, that first Cameron, and afterward they, were made to draw a bean each from the mug in this condition. The opposite plate, sketched by Charles M'Laughlin, who was an eyewitness, and so fortunate as to draw clear, represents the gallant Cameron in the act of drawing first. He said, with his usual coolness, "Well, boys, we have to draw, let's be at it;" so saying, he thrust his hand into the mug, and drew out a white bean. Next came Colonel Win. F. Wilson, who was chained to him; then Captain Win. Ryan, and then Judge F. M. Gibson, all of whom drew white beans. Next came Captain Eastland, who drew the first black one, and then came the balance of the men. They all drew their beans with that manly dignity and firmness which showed them superior to their condition. Some of lighter temper jested over the bloody tragedy. One would say, "Boys, this beats raffling all to pieces;" another would say that "this is the tallest gambling scrape I ever was in," and such like remarks. None showed change of countenance; and as the black beans failed to depress, so did the white fail to elate.
The knocking off the irons from the unfortunate alone told who they were. Poor Robert Beard, who lay upon the ground near by exceedingly ill, and nearly exhausted from his forced marches and sufferings, called his brother William, who was bringing him a cup of water, and said, "Brother, if you draw a black bean, I'll take your place; I want to die." The brother, with overwhelming anguish, said "No! I will keep my own place; I am stronger, and better able to die than you." These noble youths both drew clear, but both soon after died, leaving this last Roman legacy to their venerable parents in Texas. Several of the Mexican officers who officiated in this cruel violation of their country's faith expressed great dissatisfaction thereat, and some wept bitterly. Soon after, the fated were placed in a separate courtyard, where about dark they were executed.
Several of our men were permitted to visit the unfortunate previously to the execution, to receive their dying requests. Poor Major Cocke, when he first drew the fatal bean, held it up between his forefinger and thumb, and with a smile of contempt, said "Boys, I told you so; I never failed in my life to draw a prize;" and then he said to Judge Gibson, "Well, judge, say to my friends that I died in grace." The judge, much affected at this last sad parting, showed it from his tears. The major replied "They only rob me of forty years," and then sat down and wrote a sensible and dignified letter of remonstrance to General Waddy Thompson, the United States minister in Mexico; and knowing that his remains would be robbed of his clothes after his death, drew off his pantaloons, handed them to his surviving comrades, and died in his underclothes. Poor Henry Whaling, one of Cameron's best fighters, as he drew his black bean, said, with as bright a look as ever lighted man's countenance, "Well, they don't make much off me, any how, for I know I have killed twenty-five of the yellow-bellies;" then demanding his dinner in a firm tone, and saying "that they shall not cheat me out of it," he ate heartily, smoked a cigar, and in twenty minutes after was launched into eternity! The Mexicans said that this man had the biggest heart of any they ever saw. They shot him fifteen times before he expired! Poor Torrey, quite a youth, but in spirit a giant, said that "he was perfectly willing to meet his fate; that for the glory of his country he bad fought, and for her glory he was willing to die;" and turning to the officer, said "After the battle of San Jacinto, my family took one of your prisoner youths, raised and educated him, and this is our requital." Edward Este spoke of his fate with the coolest indifference, and said that he would rather be shot than dragged along in this manner. Cash said, "Well, they murdered my brother with Colonel Fannin, and they are about to murder me."
J. L. Jones said to the interpreter, "Tell the officer to look upon men who are not afraid to die for their country." Captain Eastland behaved with the most patriotic dignity; he desired that his country should not particularly avenge his death, but for her own honour he implored her never to lay down her arms until the most ample reparation and her unconditional freedom should be secured. He said "I know that some have thought me timid, but, thank God! death has no terrors for me." Major Robert Dunham said "he was prepared to die, and would to God that he had a chance to do the same thing over again ; that he gloried in the demonstration they had made, which showed Texians without arms to be more than equal to Mexicans with them." James Ogden, with his usual equanimity of temper, smiled at his fate, and said, "I am prepared." Young Robert W. Harris behaved in the most unflinching manner, and called upon his companions to avenge the murder, while their flowing tears and bursting hearts, invoking heaven for their witness, responded to the call. I have the utmost confidence that this pledge, so solemnly plighted, will be redeemed. They one and all invoked their country to do both them and herself justice.
Captain Cameron, in taking his leave of these brave men, and particularly of Turnbull, a brother Scotchman, with whom he had been in many dangers, wept bitterly, and implored the officers to execute him and spare his men. Just previous to the firing they were bound together with cords, and their eyes being bandaged, they were set upon a log near the wall, with their backs to their executioners. They all begged the officer to shoot them in front, and at a short distance; that "they were not afraid to look death in the face." This he refused; and, to make his cruelty as refined as possible, fired at several paces, and continued the firing from ten to twelve minutes, lacerating and mangling these heroes in a manner too horrible for description. Our interpreter, who was permitted to remain with them to the last, says that "fifteen times they wounded that iron-nerved soul, Henry Whaling; and it would seem that Providence had a special care in prolonging his existence, that he might demonstrate to his enemies the national character they had to contend with; for he gritted his teeth at and defied them in terms of withering reproach, until they placed a gun to his head and blew his brains against the wall."
Such was the effect of this horrible massacre upon their own soldiers, who were stationed as a guard upon the wall above, that one of them fainted, and came near falling over, but was caught by his comrades. During the martyrdom of these noble patriots, the main body of our men were separated from them by a stone wall of some fifteen feet high, and heard their last agonized groans with feelings of which it would be mockery to attempt the description. The next morning, as they were marched on the road to Mexico, they passed the mangled bodies of their dead comrades, whose bones now lie bleaching upon the plains of Salado, a perishing remembrance of exalted patriotism, but a lasting, one of the infamy of their President, Sam Houston, who caused them to be falsely executed as robbers and marauders upon Mexico.
From the Account of William Preston Stapp 1845. Jaded with the barbarous stages imposed on us in our fettered condition, and worn down with the severity of our morning's tramp, we entered our former quarters (the corral of the ranch), and gladly sought repose for our wearied limbs upon the filthy floor of the shed that ran round the enclosure. The morning had been clear and beautiful, and the noon warm to sultriness; but a few miles before we reached the ranch the sky became suddenly overcast, and fierce gusts of wind came whistling along the plain, blinding us with clouds of sand, and whirling the heavy leathern caps of the cavalry from their heads as lightly as though they were children's bonnets. So sudden and violent a transition of the element around us would have passed unheeded at any other time or place. But occurring on the eve of our return to a spot with which we were connected by memories of blood and violence, whose transactions vague rumor had also associated with some impending atonement, inspired a presentiment of approaching evil in the minds of most of us. Still there was nothing either in the communications or deportment of our guard along the road, to excite the slightest suspicion of their design, and by the time we had reached our pen and huddled under its shelter, the tempest began to lull and our apprehensions were departed.
But a few minutes had elapsed before a group of Mexican officers entered our quarters, and one of them, holding a paper in his hand, directed the interpreter to summon us around him, when he proceeded to read its contents in Spanish to the assembled prisoners. As no second order enforcing the execution of the one from Santa Anna commanding our deaths had been received at Saltillio, a hope had sprung up amongst many, that some possible clemency might be in store for them. A few, therefore, of the more sanguine, pushed their way into the circle, and bent their eager eyes on the reader, half expecting his communication to be a mandate for our release. Who can describe the thrill of horror and consternation that electrified every heart, when the interpreter, in broken and tremulous tones, announced it as an order from the supreme government, directing every tenth man amongst us to be shot! the lots to be decided on the instant, and the execution to follow immediately. So entirely unexpected was this murderous announcement, so atrocious in its character, and so inhuman and indecent in the haste of its consummation, that a stupor seemed to pervade the whole assembly, not a word escaping from the lips of any for more than a minute. The silence was at length interrupted by the interpreter, who, in obedience to his directions, proceeded to inform us further, that all had been sentenced to the same fate, but the humane government had been graciously pleased to commute the just claim to this decimal exaction. A low clatter of the handcuffs was now heard, as some of the most desperate of our fellows essayed to free themselves from their shackles. This had been foreseen and provided against. An order was promptly given us to fall back within the shed, and the doorway and top of the sunken wall bristled with the muzzles of muskets presented to enforce it. We were helpless as the bound victim under the sacrificial knife, and had no alternative but to obey.
Whilst we were marshalled in an extended file, a Mexican subaltern and soldier entered the yard together, bearing a bench and earthen crock. The bench was placed before the officer who had communicated the order, and the crock set upon it, containing one hundred and seventy-four beans, (the number of prisoners present amongst which were seventeen black ones. A handkerchief, so folded as to hide the colour of the beans, was then thrown over the crock, and a list of our names, taken down when we were recaptured, placed in the hands of the interpreter. When these funeral preliminaries were completed, the name of our dauntless leader was first called, who, with a step as stately and brow as serene as he ever previously wore, stepped forward and drew. Each name continued to be called in their order on the list, and the individual compelled to draw, until the seventeen black beans were taken from the crock. When a bean was drawn, it was handed to the officer, and the bowl well shaken before the lottery proceeded. As they drew, each person's name was entered upon another memorandum, with the colour of his bean. In many instances the doomed victim was enforced to revisit the fatal urn, to allow the comrade to whom he was chained to try the issues of life and death. Appalling as was the first effect of the order, and rapidly and voraciously as our self-dug graves yawned around, not a step faltered, nor a nerve shook, as the sickening ceremonial proceeded. Several of the Mexican officers seemed deeply affected, shedding tears profusely, and turning their backs upon the murderous spectacle. Others again leaned forward over the crock, to catch a first glimpse of the decree it uttered, as though they had heavy wagers upon the result. Three-fourths of the beans were exhausted before the fatal seventeen were drawn. When the sacrifice was made up, the victims, names were called over, their persons scrutinized, and being removed outside, their irons were knocked off. A few of us were permitted to go out and take a hasty leave of them. A priest had accompanied the march from Saltillio, who was now present to offer them extreme absolution; but only two could be prevailed on to accept of his intercession. Major Robert Dunham, being importuned to confess him to the holy father, repelled the proposition with warmth, preferring, like a good Protestant, to shrive himself, which he knelt down and did mutely and earnestly. This brave and honest man was then solicited by the rest to offer up a prayer in their behalf; but, as he was about to comply, he was rudely stopped by the officer on duty, who sternly and profanely forbade it. As the hour of twilight advanced, two files of infantry, consisting of twenty men each, with the whole of the cavalry, escorted the doomed party to the eastern wall, selected as the site of their execution. Here, being made to kneel down, with their faces to their butchers, they were blindfolded and shot, in two parties, successively, nine first, and eight soon afterwards. Huddled together in the stalls of the corral, the surviving prisoners were forced to sit down, and a heavy body of sentinels placed over us, with their firelocks cocked and at a present, ordered to shoot the first man who should move or speak whilst the execution was progressing.
Tears forced their way down many a rugged cheek, as, silent and manacled, we listened to the mournful and plaintive notes of the dead march, swelling and sinking on the ear, as the procession rounded our prison, to the eastern flank of the ranch. The wall against which the condemned were placed, was so near us we could distinctly hear every order given, in halting and arranging the command for the work of death. The murmured prayers of the kneeling men, stole faintly over to us---then came the silence that succeeded, more eloquent than sound-then the signal taps of the drum-the rattle of the muskets, as they were brought to an aim-the sharp burst of the discharge, mingled with the shrill cries of anguish and heavy groans of the dying, as soul and body took their sudden and bloody leave. The names of the victims of this perfidious and most atrocious tragedy, were (spellings and full names modified from Stapp):
In counting the corpses the ensuing morning, the body of the latter [James L. Sheperd] could not be found, and various were the strange surmises indulged by the Mexicans and recounted to us in explanation of its absence. Dead or alive, the vanished priest had the credit of having carried him off; for what use, none who asserted it undertook to conjecture. Certain it was he was missing, and his mysterious disappearance continued unexplained to any of us for months afterwards. Captain C. Buster and one of his men (Toops) having been left in the mountains, managed to elude the Mexican cavalry, and succeeded in reaching the banks of the Rio Grande, on their way to Texas. Here, after all their toils and hardships, their good fortune deserted them; and, being recaptured by the enemy, they were brought to Saltillio, where in prison they learned from their gaolers the sad particulars of poor Shepherd's fate. When kneeling with his unfortunate companions, they received the fire of their executioners, all were killed or mortally wounded, save Shepherd. The ball aimed at his head passed along his cheek, cutting his face severely, but inflicting nothing more than a bad flesh-wound. At the discharge, he fell with the rest of his companions forward on his face, and bleeding profusely affected to be dead. Here he lay, without motion or apparent animation, until the soldiers retired, and, night coming on, immediately escaped to the mountains. Secreting himself by day, and travelling by night, for several weeks, ignorant of the way, and restrained by apprehensions of exposure from inquiring, he was at length compelled, by hunger, thirst, and debility, to surrender himself; and, being carried to Saltillio and recognised by his former executioners, was led directly to the public square and shot to death, amidst the pitiless exultations of its citizens.
The next morning as we left the shambles of the Salado, we caught a mournful glance of the mangled bodies of our comrades. Their stiffened and unsepulchred bodies, weltering in blood, lay where they had fallen; whilst their rigid countenances, pallid and distorted with agony, appealed in death for retribution on their slayers. And many were the vows of vengeance registered that moment against their cowardly assassins; and fearfully will they yet be redeemed, when the hour of atonement rolls round. At the ranch we parted company with the infantry, who returned to Saltillio; the infamous miscreants having only been brought thus far to perform the butchers' work agreed upon. These were the identical heroes whom, with naked hands, we had disarmed and routed the morning of our break at this place, and who, smarting under a sense of their disgrace, had petitioned for the brutal employment just despatched. Should a Texan army ever penetrate to Saltillio, let the memory of this transaction claim the amplest expiation.