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Previous page 4 Captivity by Hanighen (continued)
Premature gratitude, premature rhetoric! For when it was known that Santa Anna was on the ship, popular feeling ran high---a Texan high---and a mob gathered. Possibly no small part of this was directed at President Burnet for his release of the captive. But it all came to a climax through an unforeseen event. At this juncture a party of volunteers who had been long overdue from New Orleans came into port two hundred thirty strong in two ships. Their leader joined with the anti-Santa Anna party and his weight in the balance upset Burnet's plans. This man, Thomas J. Green, promising the President that the captive would come to no harm from the mob, influenced him to send an order to the Invincible requesting that Santa Anna should be sent back on shore. Our hero, agitated by the delay in the sailing, was greatly upset by this message and refused to move saying melodramatically that he would never leave the vessel alive. An almost feminine hysteria seized him now and when Green with some others went on board to get him, they found him lying in bed, crying,
No amount of explanation could persuade him that he would be safe ashore. He rushed around and took some opium---more opium, he said---he had taken so much, he averred, that he would soon die anyway. Almonte who stood out in serene and tranquil contrast, was asked to add his powers of influence to get the raving General to leave the ship. But Almonte who knew his Santa Anna, replied that it was impossible to advise him, that he was obsessed by this idea of execution, and diplomatic as ever in smoothing over his superior's scrapes, suggested that they wait a bit. But the resolute Green had to be shown. He had a surgeon examine the General's pulse and had the satisfaction of hearing it pronounced normal. Then he tried his own remedy. He ordered irons to be brought and when the formidable chains appeared, his prescription worked. For the sick man jumped up readily from his bed, adjusted his collar, put on his hat and announced that he would leave the ship. Emerging from his cabin, however, he almost collapsed when he saw the sentinel on deck; he bared his bosom dramatically and offered to die then and there. More expostulation, more persuasion until he reluctantly descended into the gig-boat weeping bitterly. As the observant naval officer paraphrased,
"His coward lips did from their color fly
Approaching the shore, his captors had another struggle with him, when he noticed a crowd gathered at the dock in Velasco and threatened to drown himself unless the boat landed somewhere else. Green tried to calm him, saying that the crowd was not violent, only curious and,
Placing the emblem in his quivering hands, and indeed practically moving his arms for him, the crew gave three cheers as he feebly waved the banner. But Green thought it safer to land his man across the river from Velasco in the small hamlet of Quintana where his fears were allayed and where President Burnet made Green responsible for his safety. The latter decided to feast his famous prisoner in the only manner the little town could offer. The erstwhile banqueter in the halls of Montezuma, who customarily dined off monogrammed silver and china sat down with the rude soldier of fortune on a rough pine bench and sopped up some beefsteak and gravy from a tin pan. The elegant Almonte stood behind his august master and served him coffee in a sooty tin cup. But Santa Anna, delighted at what he considered his escape from death, sat astraddle the uncomfortable bench as if it were the upholstered throne of Iturbide. When Green jested that he might take a trip to Mexico and that he expected Santa Anna to serve him with better coffee cups, the President of Mexico laid his hand on his breast and with all the earnestness which he knew so well how to assume, said
But his terror returned when he was taken across to Velasco on the 7th of June and put under the guard of a Captain Patton who was to be his jailer for some time to come. Someone had told him that there were four desperadoes among Patton's troops who had sworn to kill him. At this news his secretary, even more agitated than his master, collapsed. But Santa Anna recovered his composure sufficiently to write a protest to President Burnet, saying that he was being treated "more like an ordinary criminal than a prisoner of war, the head of a respectable nation." With the scene of his humiliating breakdown and approach to shore in his mind, he protested about the act of violence" to which he had been exposed and the "abuse" in being forced to go to shore. He also complained about his present lodgings and the "privations" which almost rendered life unsupportable. Burnet replied with dignity and moderation.
But while he was enduring this unpleasant captivity, he made his first effort to escape. A young Spaniard who worked in a saloon in the town came to him and said that as he was going to New Orleans he might be able to arrange for an escape if given the necessary funds. He was given some rather equivocal letters to the Mexican consul there but they contained no direct mention of funds. Evidently Santa Anna did not know how far the Spaniard could be trusted, and he relied on the rumored intention of the Mexican Government to pay huge sums for his rescue to facilitate the plan. Shortly after Patton removed the President and his suite to a house in the nearby town of Columbia. He seems to have been somewhat careless of the safety of his charges for an incident took place in Columbia which provoked Santa Anna to further alarm and hysteria. A drunken man staggered up to the house and asked for Santa Anna. Obtaining no satisfaction from the sentinel he approached window of a room in which Almonte and Nuñez were sitting---Santa Anna was in a chamber adjoining---gurgled out his demand again and as the Mexicans either did not understand or would not answer, whipped out a revolver and fired into the room. The shot went wild, hurting neither of the occupants, and the assailant was arrested. Santa Anna protested bitterly against this attack and also against the breaking of the treaty he had signed.
But his protests meant little to President Burnet who was overcome with the new problems arising from the situation. He had tried to temporize by making Santa Anna's position indeterminate until the Constitutional Convention met and decided his fate. But the die-hards among the army were at work, insisting that Santa Anna be turned over to them, and finally the San Jacinto veterans who had at first yielded to Sam Houston's orders to respect Santa Anna's life, now joined the rest who yelled for his blood. This move was made by none other than Rusk himself who seems to have been won over by the execution party and took the form of an order to Patton to bring Santa Anna to the army which was at Victoria. This was equivalent to a death warrant and he was never in greater danger. But he had powerful protectors. Burnet put up a stiff fight against his Pretorian guards, and now Stephen Austin returned flushed with his success in rousing sentiment in the United States favorable to American recognition of the new Republic. He displayed a keen interest in Santa Anna's plight and allayed the popular fury by a new stroke of policy---the suggestion that Santa Anna write President Jackson asking him to start mediation between the new Republic and Mexico and to exert his own influence to bring about a settlement. Perhaps Austin himself anticipated little from this but at least it was an excellent measure to gain time. Meanwhile Sam Houston was returning to Texas from New Orleans where he had spent some time treating his injured leg. When he heard of the move to take Santa Anna to the army he correctly interpreted it as an order for his execution and he wrote an energetic protest. It was a noble letter and must have had its effect, for Santa Anna was soon after moved not to the army but to a Place called Orozimba, a ranch owned by Dr Phelps about twelve miles from Columbia.
There at last the much disturbed lodger found a quiet, happy haven. Dr. Phelps and his family were kindness itself and hospitably did everything to make him comfortable and happy. His spirits revived and he received many visitors with all his pristine affability and capacity to please. Stephen Austin dropped in and he gaily scolded him on his defection from the cause of Mexico. Sam Houston came and the captive fell on his neck, watering the manly shoulders with the tears of gratitude. Grateful yes, and happy too with a virile defender like old Sam and the prospect of enlisting Andrew Jackson's aid. Another visitor was Colonel Bernard Bee, a wealthy backer of the Texan Republic. He had recently met J. R. Poinsett during a tour of the United States and conveyed a rather reproachful message to Santa Anna from his friend the former Minister to Mexico. Poinsett lamented the fact that Santa Anna had turned against the Principles of Federalism and had unkindly remarked that the former President deserved his fate, for he had "turned from liberty to despotism." In good form now, Santa Anna replied with a rare burst of honesty:
Happy days, destined to be rudely broken. For one day the Spaniard who had approached him in Velasco appeared. He told Caro that the plan he had worked out for Santa Anna's escape was impossible now since Orozimba was too far from the coast. Furthermore, he disclosed that the authorities in New Orleans had become suspicious and that he had great difficulty in leaving that port. He offered however to return another day with some supplies and articles for the General's comfort. But Patton's suspicions were aroused and he had the Spaniard arrested. The local judge freed the man of any complicity, but meanwhile news had reached Texas from New Orleans that a vessel had been sent to rescue Santa Anna, and Minister Rusk ordered both the General and Almonte put in irons. A heavy and most uncomfortable ball and chain was placed on the leg of our hero---on Almonte's too---and it was kept there for "fifty-three days" as he mentions with circumstantial bitterness in his letters.
In this melancholy condition Santa Anna received another blow. Old Hickory in Washington had been advised by the Mexican Minister there that no act of Santa Anna while a prisoner would be held binding in Mexico. Accordingly he wrote an evasive letter saying he would talk to the Mexican Minister privately but that he could do nothing, being on friendly terms with the Mexican Government; furthermore Texas had not yet been recognized by either the United States or Mexico. With some finality he stated that he felt that he could not enter into negotiations as suggested by Santa Anna. It should have been a rude rebuff, but Santa Anna with his usual elasticity rebounded from it with great art. He pretended that Jackson had not understood him and on this basis began to agitate for his release so that he could journey to Washington and personally carry on negotiations with Jackson himself. This impressed Houston as well as Austin who were both anxious to get Santa Anna away from their vindictive colleagues. By October their moderating influence was such that the President decreed that the ball and chain should be removed. Patton received instructions to treat his prisoner with all manner of indulgence. sdct
Apparently others beside Santa Anna possessed the gift of florid oratory. For a storm was blowing in the Convention at Austin. The Demosthenes was Senator Everett and he was supporting with all his words and will the party which opposed the release of Santa Anna. Fortunately for the latter, Burnet, Austin and Houston were working hard not only for his safety but his release. Meanwhile he experienced concern about the shifting forces in Mexico. The keen old hunter could hear from afar the notes of the political horns in the valley of the Aztecs. He was gratified that the government had decreed that the soldiers should wear a band of crepe on their collars during his captivity and that all flags should be half mast. But it implied that he was politically dead and indeed some newspapers had begun to refer to His Excellency as the "late" President in a satirical vein. His nature did not appreciate these sallies and he noted that scurrilous pamphlets had begun to appear:
There were enemies undoubtedly forming combinations against him and for all the loyal defense of his friends, Tornel and Sierra y Rosso, he was eager to get back and into the game again. Finally the movement to keep him was quelled in the Convention and Sam Houston, now President, took on himself the responsibility of releasing Santa Anna so that he could visit Jackson in Washington. On the 25th of November, 1836, he set out escorted by Colonels Bee and Hockley and Captain Patton, in a stage-coach. As he passed by the field of San Jacinto, he gave a shrug of relief, but he must have heaved a great sigh of satisfaction as he crossed the border into Louisiana where his companions were no longer captors but charming associates on a happy journey.
He created a sensation wherever he stopped, the curious coming down to the landings on the Mississippi to lure him out of his cabin on the river boat which was carrying him to Louisville. He exerted his great talents for courtesy and compliment so that even in Kentucky the home-land of many of the Alamo victims, he received warm attentions. Almonte with his less demonstrative manner, his cool poise and his policy, no less brilliant than his Commander's, was much more popular. Besides our hero was taken with ills, probably real this time, for the country was strange and the weather in the dead of winter was often severe. Perhaps for this reason he did not appear at his best for the Louisville correspondent of the New York Express:
The farther north he got, the more popular he became, especially after he passed the Mason and Dixon line. For the anti-slavery partisans felt that the whole Texas war was but part of a conspiracy to bring another slave state into the Union. Accordingly it was no surprise that the Woonsocket, R. I. Patriot should salute him in the following terms:
In Kentucky for the first time he saw the "cars," as they called the first steam railroads of that day, and he boarded them at Louisville, going as far as Lexington where a huge crowd met him at the depot. Whether he mistook their curiosity for some other violent feeling, or whether the "cars" made him dizzy, is not recorded, but Almonte hustled him to a hotel saying that the General was unwell. His fastidiousness and ill-health was costing Colonel Bee not a little by this time, for with the Texan treasury empty, their Maecenas had put up two thousand dollars for the expenses of the trip out of his own pocket. Santa Anna drew a draft on Lizardi of Vera Cruz, saying he knew he had no money but hoped that Lizardi would honor it. He arrived in Washington on January 18th, 1837, and put up at Mrs. Ulrick's boarding house.
He found Old Hickory in a vigorous mood and especially ready for a Mexican, for he had just scored off the Mexican Minister Gorostiza when the latter had run to the President to protest when he heard that Jackson was going to recognize the Texas Republic. "Sir," said the Minister, it looks as if you were going to recognize the Texans. Don't you know that there are treaties which prohibit this government from intervening in a dispute of our family?" To which Jackson had retorted: "Sir, it looks as if you were thirsty for American blood. Don't you know that such an appetite occasions indigestion?" In a private interview the American President lectured Santa Anna severely on his desertion of the liberal cause, and on his conduct at the Alamo and Goliad. They discussed in detail the future of Texas and a possible treaty for the cession of Texas to the United States. Beyond these facts Old Hickory would not divulge any further details of the conversation.
But Santa Anna discussed with great freedom and candor the situation with Wharton the Texas envoy who was trying to obtain recognition from Jackson. Yes, certainly, he hoped for American recognition of Texas, it would facilitate matters for himself when he returned to his country. And why not a treaty selling Mexican rights to Texas to the United States for a sum---say thirteen million dollars? Then, jocularly, he hoped the Texans would not put anything in the way of his getting a few millions from the Yankee treasury. In fine fettle now our hero rattled on. Texas could never be conquered by Mexico, he knew now. The rumored invasion which had been agitating the Texans for the past month? Humbug---and if there were anything to it, he would put a stop to it when he returned. Ah, when he returned, he would show the Texans that he was their friend, that he was not the perfidious and ungrateful monster they pictured.
Why wouldn't such an accommodating and gracious fellow become popular in Washington? For had he not asked---rare gesture among Latin-Americans---for a copy of all claims for damages inflicted on United States citizens in Mexico so that he could arrange for payment when he reached his capital? He was eager to return and he even declined a banquet invitation from Jackson himself so that he could take the "cars" to the sea port. It was none too soon, for a disquieting incident had occurred. The Minister Gorostiza. had left and the Mexican charge who was staying in Philadelphia wrote to Santa Anna about the newspaper accounts of his mission to Jackson for Texan recognition and a treaty with Mexico, reprimanding him for his policy and lodging formal protest against his proceeding with the matter. Santa Anna incensed, ordered his diplomat to appear before him at once. But the charge refused and immediately sent off a report of the matter to the Mexican Government. sdct
So as Santa Anna approached Vera Cruz he felt no little apprehension. Was the home government, as this incident indicated, unfriendly? His friends themselves were a little uncertain for they provided a vessel at the port for him to go elsewhere if his reception was unfavorable. But temperamental Vera Cruz responded with joy to its former tyrant's return and proclaimed a holiday. Salutes were fired, citizens met him with acclamations of rejoicing and he was borne in triumph to a hotel where a banquet was given in his honor. The crepe had been removed from the soldiers' lapels and the flags hoisted to full mast. Outwardly it seemed that all was well. But he learned that there had been a strong party in Congress which tried to declare him a traitor and to remove him from the nominal occupancy of the Presidential chair. This measure had been defeated but the suspicious Congress voted that he should send them an accounting of his actions and promises in Texas. He sent a letter reassuring them of his loyalty and promising an early report on the whole affair, and started off for Manga de Clavo escorted by his friends in Vera Cruz.
He had no small task before him now---an explanation of his actions in Texas that would not only clear him of the charge of betrayal but regain some of his lost popularity. No one reading his long "Manifiesto" can say that he did not do his best; dramatic references to his wife and children, to the marks which the chains left on him, his victories in former years, his services to the Republic. His resume of the fatal campaign was comparatively easy and his authority as commander carried him through numerous prevarications. But in his explanation of the negotiations with the Texans during his captivity, he had to fall back on the distinction between what he promised his captors in his own name as a private individual and what he prornised as President of Mexico. He excused even these personal concessions on the ground that he was saving the lives of his fellow captives. It was all very ornate and abounded in such periods as this,
It was to shrill motifs like this, accompanied by the apologetic diapason of his co-plotters in the capital, that he resigned the Presidency and retired to Manga de Clavo. As the music died down, Anglo-Saxon ears were cocked to hear if there was any coda, in a diplomatic key, from the glib and obliging guest of Houston, Rusk and Jackson, but they heard, what they should long ago have expected, nothing, absolutely nothing.
It is agreed that no man can be a hero to his valet, and poor Martinez Caro, while a secretary, had all the intimacy of a lackey. This in itself should have restrained His Excellency from assailing the humble fellow and what was worse of accusing him of stealing a costly shirt stud. Caro who had hitherto loyally kept the many incriminating secrets about his employer, now flowed over with bitterness and published his own account of the disastrous campaign and its humiliating sequel. In lengthy and circumstantial detail he refuted innumerable statements in Santa Anna's Defense and with cool narration of facts gave a terrible picture of the General's conduct. No wonder then that Colonel Almonte and another officer, doubtless at the instance of their chief, seized the indiscreet scribe and threw him in prison. But Caro's pamphlet had started the ball of controversy rolling. Filisola who had published his own Defense was assailed in another pamphlet by Urrea and neither could say much in Santa Anna's favor. It was well that the Clove-Spike hacienda was far from the capital and that other clouds on the horizon were rolling up to cloak the too recent and ugly spectacle. sdct
The following account of the capture of Santa Anna, on the 22d of April, 1836, the day after the battle of San Jacinto, is given on the authority of an officer present at that battle.
On the morning of the 22d of April the report came into camp that Messrs. Carnes and Secretts, with about twenty or twenty five soldiers, had hemmed in Santa Anna and Cos, with about fifty Mexicans, ten miles from camp. Col. Burleson came round for volunteers to accompany him as a reinforcement. He soon raised fifty or fifty-five mounted men, and they proceeded to Sim's Bayou, near Vince's, where they expected to join Carnes' party; but, not being able to overtake them, hesitated whether to follow them on to the Brazos---where it was understood they had gone---or to return to the camp. Finally, thirty of the party agreed to go on: the balance made a move to return to the camp. When they arrived at Vince's, it was proposed to go down Buffalo Bayou, which was accordingly done. They had positive orders from Burleson not to kill any prisoners, but to bring them into camp. They had not proceeded far, when they espied some four or five deer on the west side of a branch that made into the prairie from the Bayou. They rode on within forty or fifty yards of the branch, when they halted. The deer started, and, on looking to the right, they espied a Mexican, bending his course towards the bridge: he stopped a moment to gaze around him, and then started on. They rode up to where he was. As soon as he saw them, he laid down in the grass which was high enough to hide him from their view. They arrived at the spot, he was lying on his side, with a blanket over his face. They called to him to rise, when he only took the blanket from his face. They called to him a second time, and a third, to get up; whereupon he rose and stood up for a ma ment, and, finding himself surrounded, advanced towards them and desired to shake hands; whereupon one immediately offered him his hand. He pressed and kissed it.
He then offered them as a bribe, a splendid watch, exceedingly valuable jewelry, and a large sum of money, which, to their great credit, and to the credit of the American as well as Texan character, they refused. He then asked where their brave Houston was. They replied he was in camp. Through one of the party, acting as interpreter, they asked him who he was. He replied a private soldier; when one observing the bosom of his shirt, which was very splendid, directed his attention to it. He immediately said that he was an aid to Santa Anna, and burst into a flood of tears. He was told in a mild tone not to grieve, he should not be hurt. He was dressed in common clothes, had no arms, and appeared dejected, complaining of pains in the breast and legs, and of not being able to walk. They proceeded with him two or three miles, which distance he rode, then dismounted, and walked into camp, where he was conducted by Messrs. Miles, Thompson, and Vermillion. When conducted into the tent of Gen. Houston, Santa Anna addressed him as follows---" Soy Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Presidente de la Republica Mexicana y General-en-Gefe del Egerito de Operaciones." sdct
The following account relative to Santa Anna, immediately subsequent to his capture, is as substantially related to the author by Gen. Houston. The General was lying upon a blanket at the root of a tree, with his saddle for a pillow, when Santa Anna approached his tent, studiously inquiring for Houston. The General was in a partial slumber, and lying, for the sake of an easy position for his wounded ancle, upon his left side, with his face turned from Santa Anna as he approached. The first he knew of Santa Anna's presence was by a squeeze of the hand, and the calling of his name; whereupon he looked upon Santa Anna with a mild expression of countenance, which seemed to inspire him with confidence and hope of life, which he had evidently expected to forfeit. The General desired him to be seated upon a medicine chest standing by, upon which accordingly he sat down, much agitated, with his hands pressed against his chest. Presently he asked for opium, which being given him, he swallowed a considerable quantity, and soon became more composed. He said to Gen. Houston---"You were born to no ordinary destiny; you have conquered the Napoleon of the West." He soon desired to know what disposal was to be made of him; whereupon Gen. Houston, waiving the question, told him he must order all the Mexican troops in Texas to march beyond the Rio Grande, and then spoke of his late cruelty to the Texans, and first at the Alamo; upon which Santa Anna said, that at the Alamo he had acted according to the laws of war of all nations. The General then spoke of the massacre of Fannin and his men, and said to Santa Anna --"You cannot be so exculpable in that deed, for Fannin surrendered upon capitulation;" upon which Santa Anna denied that any treaty had been made with Fannin, and proceeded to say that the execution of Fannin and his men was in obedience to the orders of the Mexican Government. "You are that Government, and it has been represented that a treaty was made with Fannin," said Gen. Houston; and then remarked, that, any way, even had the massacre at Goliad been ordered by the Government of Mexico, it was of a nature not to be justified by modern usages of war, and that in disobeying such an order, he would have shown himself a magnanimous commander, and would have been justified by the world; whereupon Santa Anna remarked that the Mexican Government could not consider Americans in Texas as in any sense a nation; that they had not even been fighting under a Revolutionary standard, and could only be considered as banditti or land pirates.
Upon this the subject of conversation was waived, and, it being night, the General asked Santa Anna if he would have his camp bed, which, being desired, the General ordered it to be brought into his tent. Santa Anna reclined upon it, but did not sleep during the night, being in constant dread of assassination. A majority of the Texans in camp were anxious for his execution; and, had it not been for the firmness of Gen. Houston, his life would immediately have appeased the just vengeance of his enemies.
It is the opinion of Gen. Houston that Santa Anna is one of the ablest men of the age, and that he sustained himself after his capture as well as any man in like circumstances could. It is the opinion of other Texans that Santa Anna exhibited great address and knowledge of human nature whilst a prisoner, and that, indeed, they never met with a more talented man. Gen. Houston with difficulty preserved the life of Santa Anna, and with still greater difficulty effected his liberation, which he did in the firm conviction that it would result in good to Texas. He believed that to keep Santa Anna a prisoner would only be a useless expense, but that, if sent back to Mexico, his presence would be at least a constant check upon the Government in any movement it might make to effect another invasion of Texas, because, besides Bustamente, he was the only sufficiently popular man to command a strong party in Mexico, and that Bustamente could never, with safety to himself, lead or send an army into Texas whilst Santa Anna was in Mexico. Santa Anna himself, if reinstated in power, would not, Gen. Houston believed, lead another army into Texas, because he was evidently too well convinced of the great uncertainty of success to try the experiment again; and he would not, the General believed furthermore, confer the command of an army, destined to operate against Texas, upon another, lest his own glory should be yet more eclipsed in a more successful rival.
The blade of the sword which Santa Anna wore in the battle of San Jacinto, was found stuck in the ground; the hilt, valued at $7000, had been broken off by some one who had been careful to secure and secrete so valuable a prize. Santa Anna, it is said, wore in his shirt three studs, valued at $1700 each; upon these was written his name, in parts, as follows: Antonio---Lopez de---Santa Anna. His camp furniture was exceedingly rich and splendid; he had silver tea urns, silver cream pots; splendid chinaware, marked in monograms; rich cut glass tumblers and decanters, the latter with stoppers mounted with gold; and almost every thing compatible with a camp which could contribute to comfort and luxury. sdct
SONS OF DEWITT