Narrative of the Texan Santa Fé Expedition
The following narrative consists of chapters 13-16 from George W. Kendall's detailed two volume account published in 1844 of his arrival in Texas and his experiences with the Texian Santa Fé Expedition . Kendall's complete work covers in great descriptive detail the landscape and hardships on the way to Santa Fé where they were captured by Mexican authorities near San Miguel and the forced march to Mexico and prison experiences. Chapter 13 begins with the capture of the contingent of the expedition that Kendall was with near San Miguel, the narrative includes their experiences while in custody in San Miguel and the capture of the other contingent up to departure on the march to Mexico. The narrative is characterized by Kendall's observations on personalities encountered while in custody, local New Mexican habits and dress, particularly women, and the despotic personality of New Mexico governor Armijo.
ARRIVAL AT SAN MIGUEL (Chapter 13). Van Ness Lewis, and myself arrived in the valley some ten minutes before Howard and Fitzgerald. While our eyes were turned towards the hillside, waiting their approach, we were suddenly surrounded by more than a hundred roughly-dressed but well-mounted soldiers, armed with lances, swords, bows and arrows, and miserable escopetas, or oldfashioned carbines. The leader of this band, whom I will at once introduce as the notorious Dimasio Salezar, instantly rode up, and addressed us as amigos, or friends, with the greatest apparent cordiality. He asked us who we were, and whether we were not from Texas. Lewis at once informed him that we were, and that we had been detached from the main body, then some thirty miles distant on the Gallinas, for the purpose of consulting with the authorities, either at San Miguel or Santa Fé, and that he was anxious to see the governor. To this Salezar bowed, as much as to say that all was right, and we fairly congratulated ourselves upon our reception. There was a frankness, a plausibility about the miscreant that completely concealed his real intentions.
On the arrival of Howard and Fitzgerald we remounted our horses, and, in company with our new acquaintances, rode to the first house that presented itself. Here Salezar called a halt, and after his men had completely surrounded us on every side, as if to hear any conversation that might ensue, but with no other intentions, their leader remarked, with the utmost blandness, that we must be aware we could not enter their territory with arms in our hands-that it was contrary to the laws and usages of civilized nations-and that he hoped we would have no objections to placing our rifles and pistols in his keeping, each labeled so that its owner might know it again, until the business we had with the authorities should be arranged. He appeared deeply to regret that his duty compelled him to make this request of persons evidently gentlemen, and whose objects, he doubted not, were of the most friendly nature; he had been ordered by his superiors, he said, to request us to deliver up our arms, and sincerely hoped we would excuse him.
Finding themselves surrounded by a force at least twenty times their number, without the remotest chance to escape by flight even if they felt disposed, and completely imposed upon by the apparent fairness and openness of Salezar's conduct, my companions gave up their arms. It was now necessary for me to inform Salezar as to my position and intentions. Through Van Ness I told him that I was a citizen of the United States, that I was merely a traveler, on a journey through the interior of Mexico, and that I had a passport from the Mexican consul at New Orleans, which I took from my pocket and handed him. Not a word could the fellow read, but, placing the document in the hands of his second in command, Don Jesus, who only wanted natural talents to make him even a greater villain than his master, Salezar told him to examine it. [I have given this name the Spanish spelling, although it is pronounced Hesoos. Among the women of both Mexico and Spain Jesusa is a very common, and considered a very pretty name. By the same rule of pronunciation it is called Hesoosa. As is remarked above, I have given these names, singular and irreverent as they may appear to an American, their Spanish orthography. Were a Mexican to see Hesoos in print he would not know it, even were it his own namefootnote by Kendall]
After reading the passport from first to last, the worthy lieutenant and secretary returned it to his captain, who remarked that he presumed all was right, but he was reluctantly compelled to demand my arms and retain them until I had seen the governor. With even more reluctance I gave my rifle and pistols into the possession of the miscreant, although my companions openly expressed their confidence that they would be returned in good faith. Now that he had our weapons in his power, I thought I could discover a gleam of satisfaction lighting up Salezar's countenance, yet his feelings did not openly betray him. It was afterward evident enough that he had used dissimulation, and adopted a courteous tone foreign to his nature-even with his myrmidons around him, the Cowardly man did not dare peremptorily to demand our rifles and pistols.
Having distributed all our weapons among his principal men, Salezar next drew his officers into the little house in front of which the scene had taken place. In the meantime we were left outside, under no apparent restraint. I led my horse, the faithful old "Jim the Butcher," as he was called, to an irrigating canal close by, and after allowing him to drink his fill of the cool and excellent water, walked back with him to my pack-mule, opened one of the leathern panniers, and commenced feeding him on bread which I had purchased that morning at Anton Chico. While at that village, so great was my craving for bread after being without it for months, I had purchased all that was offered for sale, really thinking that I should eat it all, although I had at least a month's supply. A moment's reflection now taught me that I was in a country where I could have it fresh every day, and as my appetite by this time was somewhat appeased, I began to feed my horse upon the stores I had provided for my own use. A crowd of men and half-naked women and girls pressed around me, apparently astonished that I should give my horse what was really one of their greatest luxuries, and it was while I was thus engaged that Salezar and his officers stepped from the house and a second time approached us.
His first request was that we should form in a line. He then said he was obliged to take from us any papers or articles we might have about our persons-such were his orders from the governor. There was even an approach to delicacy in this command, for the scoundrel had not as yet shown his real colors; and as we were weaponless, and completely in his power, we submitted to the degrading operation of having our pockets turned inside out and our persons searched by a committee of his officers. During this process, very fortunately for me, neither my gold pieces nor my other valuables were discovered; but all my papers, notebook, penknife, with such other articles as I happened to have in my pockets, were taken from me. At one time, one of the fellows had his hands upon the end of the old linen belt in which I had carried my gold, and which still contained nearly a hundred dollars; its ragged appearance alone saved it, for, thinking it but a worthless piece of worn-out cloth, he permitted me to retain it in my possession. Had Salezar got hold of this belt he would at once have seen the places from which I had but recently cut a number of doubloons, as well as found such of the gold as was still left; and so great was the scoundrel's avarice that I believe he would have boiled me could he have found no other means to extract my treasures.
Up to this time, the conduct of Salezar, with the arguments he used to sustain him in arresting us and taking our papers and other articles, was to a certain degree honorable, and it was impossible to suspect the deep treachery and atrocious designs lying under an exterior so apparently fair; we were now to read a new chapter in his character, one that broke upon us with all that suddenness and startling effect which fiction-writers strive to attain in their scenes of most thrilling, blood-freezing horror. Our papers and effects had been tied in a handkerchief and removed, and we were waiting the next movement of our captors with some little impatience, when Salezar suddenly ordered twelve of his men, all armed with old muskets or carbines, to march up in front of us. The movement appeared strange, more particularly when we noticed that the men, now paraded directly before us and within three yards, were pale, and fairly trembling as with fright; but still we could not suspect the horrible design of their leader. Our suspense was of short duration, however; for no sooner had he arranged the twelve men in front of us than it became but too evident his intentions were to shoot us on the spot! Fitzgerald was the first to speak. The brave but eccentric Irishman had seen much service in Spain, understood not only the language, but the treacherous and suspicious character of the Mexicans, and now fathomed the intentions of Salezar. Prefacing his short speech with a strong oath, the excited man, with fists clenched, and a rich brogue exclaimed, "They're going to shoot us, boys; let's pitch into 'em and die in hot blood; it's much easier!" At the same moment I cast my eyes around, and noticed that the crowd in the rear were falling back in two straight lines, as if to escape the balls in their passage, while the women and girls were wringing their hands and flying from point to point, apparently in deep despair.
That we were to be immediately shot was now terribly manifest. We exchanged glances with each other, and those glances plainly told that each of my companions, in obedience to Fitzgerald's emphatic call, was prepared to rush upon the cowardly and faithless miscreants the moment they were in the act of leveling their guns, to wrest their weapons from them, and then to sell his life at as dear a rate as possible. I will give Lewis the credit of acting, in that moment of extreme peril, as became a man. My station happened to be on the extreme left of my companions, the position bringing me within a yard of a young Mexican whom I afterward ascertained to be a son of the Alcalde of San Miguel. Tied loosely around his waist was a coarse cotton handkerchief, in which he had stuck two of Colt's revolving pistols taken from one of my friends. These I instantly determined to seize upon in the melee, while each of my companions had singled out his man to spring upon at the signal.
A man lives almost an age in a single moment of imminent danger-his thoughts crowd upon each other with such lightning rapidity, that his past life, its promises and hopes, are reviewed at a glance. I thought of home, relations, friends, in the fleeting moment which passed after Salezar had manifested his inhuman intentions; but the thoughts that came uppermost with all of us were of deep regret that we had given up our arms to such cowardly assassins, mingled with the bitter consciousness that we were to be shot down like dogs, without a possible chance that our friends could ever know the place or manner of our death. But our thoughts were suddenly checked by a motion from Salezar, as if to give the word of command for our execution. I cast hurried glances at Fitzgerald and my comrades for a signal to make a dash; but at this juncture an altercation ensued between Dimasio and a Mexican named Vigil. Not a word could I understand, but from my companions I learned that the latter was interfering for our lives. He contended that we had entered the settlements openly and peacefully, and that we had asked to see and hold converse with Governor Armijo. With him rested the power of life and death, and before him we must be taken. Vigil prevailed over the bloodthirsty captain, and thus were our lives spared; but in the few moments which had passed since we were first drawn up, we had lived a common lifetime of excitement.
Foiled in his murderous intentions by the prompt aid of Don Gregorio Vigil, whom we afterward saw and thanked for his timely interference, Salezar now ordered Don Jesus to march us immediately to San Miguel, where it was thought Armijo had arrived with a large body of troops. With regret we saw our friend Vigil leave us. He was the owner of an estate near San Miguel, a man of good heart and correct principles, and had no little influence with the Mexicans in that quarter. Under an escort of some half a dozen men, and followed by a rabble of men, women, and children, we now set off on foot for San Miguel, leaving our well-tried animals in the hands of the miscreants who had captured us. Arrived at the little village of Cuesta, we were marched into the house of the alcalde, where, after placing two sentinels over us, Don Jesus left us to make some arrangement for the march. While in this house we were visited by every woman and child in the place, the former giving us bread, cheese, and stewed pumpkins, and appearing deeply to compassionate us in our unfortunate condition. They undoubtedly thought we should be executed immediately on meeting with the governor, who they took every means to inform us was a brutal and unfeeling tyrant, delighting in every act of cruelty which might impress his subjects with fear, and ever anxious to show off his great influence and power by acts of the most atrocious persecution.
In half, an hour Don Jesus returned, and ordered us to prepare for instant departure. We were destitute of every article of clothing except what we had on, and as the nights among the mountains were at this season of the year raw and chilly, we asked him to return at least one of our blankets to each of us. Without apparently heeding this request, he turned to one of his men and ordered him to bring three or four lariats, or ropes, with which to tie us, intending, as he said, to take us before the governor in that degrading condition. Our friend Vigil was now out of the way Salezar had taken the road towards Anton Chico with the main body of his men, and thinking that the heartless villain who now had charge of us might have adopted this plan to place us completely in his power, and then butcher us under orders from his superior, we peremptorily refused to be tied. He still insisted; but on our informing him that we would walk peaceably to San Miguel, he finally gave up his purpose. Forming us in front of the house, he then placed two of the guard in advance with bows and arrows and heavy clubs, two more in the rear armed in the same manner, and all of them barefoot, while he himself mounted a mule, and took his place at the side of our party. He had an American rifle resting before him on the pommel of his saddle, and drawing an old rusty sword, he started us off, simply informing us that the first one who left his place would be rewarded by the loss of his head.
There was something supremely ridiculous, not only in his threat, but in the appearance of our guard, and gloomy as our situation was, we could not help laughing. We could easily have fallen upon the miserable apologies for men who were guarding us and disarmed them in a twinkling; but we had no means of getting clear, and rejoining our men afterward; and as recapture would have been death, thoughts of an escape were not entertained. A rapid march of an hour, along the valley of the Pecos, brought us to the little village of Puertecito, the residence of both Salezar and the fellow who now had charge of us. Here we were halted for a short time, to give the inhabitants an opportunity of gazing at five unfortunate prisoners, and to convince them of the great prowess of the redoubtable Dimasio Salezar, and his equally valiant second in command, who had boldly conceived and successfully carried into execution a daring plan for our capture. That the women all pitied us was evident; for the commiserating exclamation of pobrecitos! as they gave us bread, cheese, and such food as they had at hand, fell from their tongues in softest and most feeling tones. They knew their husbands and brothers, and knowing them, felt that little of mercy or kindness could we expect at their hands. [Kendall footnote: Poor fellows! I believe, is a literal translation, although it means much more. Nothing can be more touchingly sweet than the pronunciation of this word by a Spanish or Mexican woman. The tones come fresh and warm from the heart when an object worthy of compassion presents itself. sdct]
A short distance above Puertecito we were obliged to ford the Rio Pecos. The water was not more than two feet in depth; but as my lame and weak ankle had now begun to swell from the active and unwanted exercise, I was deterred from taking off my boots by a fear that I could not get them on again. To soak my feet thoroughly, and to continue the march in this disagreeable plight, was therefore my only alternative. The distance from Cuesta to San Miguel was fourteen or fifteen miles; and it was nearly sundown before the spire of the little church at the latter appeared in sight. Weary and faint from the unusual exercise, and extremely unwell from the great change which had recently taken place in our diet, we were escorted through the principal square or plaza, and taken to a little hole which was dignified with the name of a room. A crowd followed us to our prison doors, and continned to gaze at us until the last minute. The alcalde, a gruff, bad-countenanced man, sent us in a miserable meal of tortillas and weak mutton broth, while the priest of the place, more liberal, sent his servant with a generous bowl of hot coffee for each of us. Our scanty supper over, our thoughts were next turned towards sleep; but the earthen floor of our quarters was without a single blanket to relieve its hardness, and the chilling blast that came down from the adjoining mountains as the shades of evening drew nigh, told us, more plainly than words, that we need expect neither comfort nor sleep that night. We sent word to the alcalde of our unfortunate plight: he answered our petition by saying that he could do nothing for us. A kind-hearted woman living close by, however, sent us a buffalo skin and a single blanket, and another blanket I purchased of a man in the crowd, for which I gave him an English sovereign. With these we made up a bed for five persons. I suffered more than any of my companions, the bread I had eaten giving me a severe attack of colic; and I crawled from the ground in the morning weak and unrefreshed. Thus did we spend our first night in prison.
FATE OF HOWLAND'S PARTY (Chapter 14). We had no sooner risen than Don Jesus told us that the governor had not yet arrived, and that he should march with us directly towards Santa Fé, distant some sixty miles, in the hope of meeting him upon the road. Before starting, we sent out and purchased an entire sheep, an officious fellow, named Tomas Bustamente, whose countenance appeared to indicate that he had some honesty, acting as our agent in the transaction. A part of this sheep Tomas cooked for our breakfast, the priest again sending us a large pitcher of coffee. It was nearly nine o'clock before everything was in readiness for our departure. Although we were anxious to see the governor and learn the worst, it may be imagined that our anticipations were not of a very pleasant nature. Had we been prisoners in the hands of any other people under the sun our feelings would have been far different; but we were now in the power of men who possessed all the vices of savage life without one of the virtues that civilization teaches. We felt that although our lives had been spared the previous day, it was but a reprieve; that we were still in the hands of a semi-civilized enemy-cruel, relentless, and treacherous-who looked upon us as heretics, and the common enemies of their religion and race; and we had fearful reason to believe that the appearance of Armijo would be the signal for our immediate execution. Surely, the emotions of that hour, when the future was looming up so close and dark upon us, are not to be appreciated by the reader.
Our guard, which on the previous day had only consisted of four, was now increased to eight men, four members of the country militia, armed with bows and arrows, and mounted upon asses, being stationed, two on either side, while Don Jesus on his mule hovered around, as if to guard the weaker points in the order of march. This addition to our escort had been provided by the old alcalde of San Miguel, with the view, probably, of rendering our escape a matter of positive impossibility; yet, enfeebled as we were from our many privations, and the long, weary pilgrimage across the prairies, we still were certain that we could, at any time, capture Don Jesus and all his men with the greatest ease. A determined rush, accompanied by a true Anglo-Saxon shout of defiance, would have brought every one of the cowardly wretches to his knees begging for mercy; yet we should not have been able successfully to run the gauntlet of well-mounted men stationed at all the passes between us and our friends.
After parading us in front of our miserable quarters, and arranging his guard around us with much pomp and show, Don Jesus ordered us to march. The plaza was again crowded with the women, children, and old men of San Miguel as we hurriedly marched through it, many of the boys following and gazing at us until we reached the extremities of the town. We had not traveled more than a couple of miles before a tolerably well-dressed woman came running towards us from a small house, bringing a bottle of the country whiskey, and saying that it was for our use. This we drank upon the spot, and as we thanked the good-hearted creature for her kindness she appeared to feel deeply for us in our misfortunes. Even after we had been hurried off by our inhuman guard, the woman still remained to gaze upon us, looking her last at the pobrecitos, whom she really thought the sun would not set upon alive. The almost universal brutality and cold-heartedness of the men of New Mexico are in strange contrast with the kind dispositions and tender sympathies exhibited by all classes of the women.
A brisk walk of another mile brought us in contact with a party of some two hundred half-dressed and miserably-armed Mexicans, on their march towards San Miguel. Their commander was a brutal, piratical-visaged scoundrel, who, after ordering Don Jesus to halt, cursed us with every opprobrious epithet, said we should have been shot when first taken, and then asked why we were not tied. While Don Jesus was stammering forth some excuse, the fellow ordered his trumpeter to sound an advance, and in three minutes a turn of the road concealed this extremely valiant party and their doughty captain from our sight. Before they departed, however, we learned that they were to act against Colonel Cooke, Captain Sutton, and their men, and we were also informed that Armijo had left Santa Fé in the morning with several hundred men, and that we should meet him before nightfall. The miscreant who had charge of us now stated that his imperative duty made it necessary to tie us. With a mock sensibility he pretended that it was against his wish to do this, but as a superior officer had ordered him he must comply, simply for form's sake.
After a little hesitation on the part of Van Ness and Fitzgerald they consented to be tied, and a lariat was accordingly fastened around their wrists, while the other end was held by one of the guard. Lewis was also tied and led along like a dog; but as Major Howard was suffering from an old wound received in an Indian fight, and as I was also lame, and as Don Jesus well knew, had slept none the night before, he allowed us to continue the march without being confined. He ordered us, however, whenever we met with any of the different parties of troops we were now constantly passing, to fold our hands upon our breasts as a token of submission! Never shall I forget this Don Jesus. He had a coarse, dark, hang-dog face, a black but vicious eye, a head which I am phrenologist enough to know was as destitute of the organs of benevolence and the better attributes of our nature as outer darkness is of light, and if he had a heart at all, it legitimately belonged to a hyena or a prairie wolf. He pushed, or rather drove us rapidly onward until past the middle of the afternoon, during which time we must have passed nearly a thousand troops, the larger portion of them armed with bows and arrows or old and worn-out muskets. The sun had hidden himself behind a range of mountains which divides the valley of the Pecos at this point from that of the Rio Grande, and we were approaching an old and ruined mission, which, in former times, had served the double purpose of a church and fortress, when suddenly the sharp and discordant blast of a trumpet announced the approach of General Manuel Armijo, governor of New Mexico.
An abrupt turn in the road had at first concealed his ragged but numerous cavalcade from our sight, but a few steps brought us in full view of all the pomp, circumstance and chivalry, bows and arrows, sycophants and rascals, with which the governor is usually surrounded. When I say that our guard had been entertaining us during the day with stories of Armijo's cruelty and barbarity, and that they freely gave it as their opinion that we should be ordered to execution on sight, I need not add that the present moment was exciting to a painful degree. The governor himself, a fine, portly man, was mounted on a mule of immense size, and gayly as well as richly caparisoned. Don Jesus had formed us into line by the roadside, there to await the advance of Armijo. The moment the quick eye of the latter caught a glance of us he rode directly up to the spot where we were standing, and, without dismounting, addressed us with no little politeness, shook each of us by the hand with much apparent cordiality, called us amigos, or friends, and after saying that he had heard of our capture, asked us who we were. Lewis immediately answered-and here the spirit of the craven caitiff first manifested itself-that we were merchants from the United States. Van Ness interrupted him at once by saying that, with the exception of myself, we were all Texans; but, without heeding him, Armijo grasped Lewis by the collar of his dragoon jacket, dragged him up alongside of his mule, and, pointing to the buttons, upon which were a single star and the word "Texas," he sternly said, "What does this mean? I can read Texas!" at the same time pointing to the latter word and pronouncing it emphatically. Lewis quailed under his iron grasp, but without heeding him the governor continued, "You need not think to deceive me: no merchant from the United States ever travels with a Texan military jacket."
After asking several questions, to which Lewis returned stammering answers, Armijo finally spoke of our main party, and inquired its number and the intentions of the commissioners. He was answered by Van Ness and Howard that it was a mercantile expedition from Texas, and that the intentions of the leaders were pacific. Mr. Van Ness then told him that I did not belong to the party any farther than that I accompanied it for the protection it afforded against Indians, and added that I had a passport from the Mexican consul in New Orleans. This passport, with all my papers, was in the hands of Don Jesus, who immediately gave it to Armijo. After reading it aloud in presence of all of us, he gave it back into the hands of the captain of our guard, at the same time remarking that the passport was a good one, but that, as I was found in company with the enemies of New Mexico he should detain me until he could learn farther of my intentions. My companions had invariably assured me that I should be released immediately on having an interview with the governor; but by this time I had seen enough of the people of New Mexico, and heard enough of Armijo, to convince me that I need not look for justice at his hands, and was therefore but little disappointed at the disposition he made of my case. After what we had heard of the fellow, and his cruel barbarities, we felt in a measure satisfied on ascertaining that we were not to be shot upon the spot, and without a hearing.
After disposing of my case and passport thus summarily, Armijo gratuitously informed us that he was an honorable man and not an assassin, and, what was more, that he was a great warrior. Whatever doubts we might have entertained on this point, we did not see fit to express any at the time, and the fellow may have taken our silence for a tacit acknowledgment of our belief in his magnanimity and bravery. He next asked us which of our little party best understood the Spanish language, as he wanted one of us to accompany him as interpreter. At this question Lewis eagerly pressed forward, and after asserting that he could speak the language more fluently than any of his companions, at once proffered his services. He really was more fluent with Spanish than any of us, having resided many years in Chihuahua and other parts of Mexico. Armijo immediately ordered a mule for him to ride, and after his hands were untied he mounted the animal and rode in among his new associates. That up to this time he had acted in perfect good faith towards Colonel Cooke and the expedition, I have not the least doubt; but he now saw that he was completely in the power of men whom he understood thoroughly, and from whom he well knew he could expect neither mercy nor justice; he saw, too, that by betraying his former associates, those who had often befriended him, he might gain life and liberty, and for this he at once sundered all the holy ties of religion, honor, companionship, and patriotism. Not one of us suspected him at the time of other than honorable intentions, but after circumstances rendered his base treachery unquestionable.
Armijo now turned to Don Jesus, and in a pompous and bombastic tone ordered him to guard us safely back to San Miguel that night, as he wished to hold a conversation with us early on the ensuing morning. "But they have already walked ten leagues today, your excellency, and are hardly able to walk all the way back tonight," was the answer of the fellow, who was thinking of his own personal convenience and comfort all the while. "They are able to walk ten leagues more," retorted Armijo, with a stately wave of his hand. "The Texans are active and untiring people-I know them," he continued; "if one of them pretends to be sick or tired on the road, shoot him down and bring me his ears! Go!" [The Spanish league lacks but a small fraction of being equal to three English miles-Kendall] "Yes, your excellency," was the obsequious answer of the cringing Don Jesus, and with a flourish of trumpets the great General Armijo and his motley army now left us. As they filed by, in helter-skelter order, we noticed our former guide, the runaway Carlos, in the crowd. He was seated upon a mule, his arms and breast bandaged, and we afterward learned that he had been stabbed and severely wounded by a nephew of Armijo, for his supposed connection with the Texan expedition. sdct
The sun had ceased to tinge the highest tops of the eastern mountains ere the last stragglers and camp-followers of Armijo had trotted past us, and we were extremely tired and faint after our weary march of nearly thirty miles; yet this fellow, who in one breath told us he was "an honorable man," almost in the next ordered us back over the same rough and broken road without food or sleep! The penalty of failure was death, and to be certain that his orders had been strictly fulfilled, or perhaps to gratify his curiosity, he wished to see the ears of such of us as might fall by the roadside, unable to endure the excessive fatigue. As if fearful of not having an opportunity to fulfill Armijo's last command, Don Jesus now rushed us back over the same ground at a more rapid pace than ever. I was not only weary and unwell by this time, but my lame ankle was so swollen and stiff, from the unusual exercise, that I could hardly drag it along; yet, determined that the honorable governor should see something of me in the morning besides my ears, I hired the privilege, at an exorbitant rate, of a seat on the donkey of one of the Mexicans, the owner to ride behind me. The poor, scraggy animal could not be more than eight hands high, and appeared hardly able to bear up under one full-grown man; yet the Mexican told me he was strong enough to carry two, and hurriedly helped me to mount a miserable apology for a saddle strapped loosely to the back of the donkey. Possessing all the perverseness and obstinacy, and up to all the tricks of his race, he still allowed a perfect stranger, not only to him but his kind, to mount in quietness. Not so when his owner undertook the task of bestriding him; for no sooner had he placed his hands on the donkey's hip joints, in the act of springing to his perch behind me, than the animal kicked violently up-landing him several yards in the rear, flat upon his back, while the same movement hoisted me skyward in a line as straight as a rocket. Although extremely poor in flesh, I still had specific gravity enough to bring me down; and while in the act of descending directly upon the haunches of the ass, another kick-up gave me another hoist in the air. I fortunately made the ground in my second descent, without sustaining the least personal injury. Gloomy as were our prospects, my companions could not resist the temptation to laugh heartily at my ludicrous exhibition of ground and lofty tumbling, and I even took a part myself in the merry outbreak when I ascertained that I was unhurt.
The road between Santa Fé and San Miguel is rough and uneven, running over hills, and crossing deep gullies. [This road, I believe, was made at the expense of the St. Louis traders, and is the only part of the long route between Independence and Santa Fé upon which any work has been done or money expended--Kendall] Bad as it was, however, and faint and tired as we were, we reached a small prairie within six miles of the latter place about midnight. The heavens now became suddenly overcast, and a dark thunder cloud soon rendered it impossible for even our guard to see the way any farther. Just as the shower commenced falling a halt was called, and lying upon the ground without blankets, and in the midst of a tremendous rain, we slept sound till morning. A walk, or rather a hobble of two hours, for we were so stiff and footsore that we could not walk, brought us once more to the plaza or public square of San Miguel. The place was now literally filled with armed men-a few regular troops being stationed immediately about the person of Armijo, while more than nine tenths of the so-called soldiers were miserably deficient in every military appointment. A sergeant's guard of the regular troops was immediately detailed to take charge of our little party, and after bidding adieu to Don Jesus, as we hoped forever, we were marched to a small room adjoining the soldiers' quartel. This room fronted on the plaza, and had a small window looking out in that direction; but the only entrance was from a door on the side.
Sentinels were immediately placed at the little window and door, leading us to suppose that this was to be our regular prison-house; but we had scarcely been there ten minutes before a young priest entered at the door, and said that one of our party was to be immediately shot! While gazing at each other with looks of eager inquiry, wondering that one was to be shot and not all, and while each one of us was earnestly and painfully speculating on the question which of his fellows Armijo had singled out for a victim, the young priest raised himself on tiptoe, and looking over our heads, pointed through the windows of our close and narrow prison. We hurriedly turned our eyes in that direction, and were shocked at seeing one of our men, his hands tied behind his back, while a bandage covered his eyes, led across the plaza by a small guard of soldiers. Who the man was we could not ascertain at the time but that he was one of the Texans was evident enough from his dress. The priest said that he had first been taken prisoner, that while attempting to escape he had been retaken, and was now to suffer death. A horrible death it was, too! His cowardly executioners led him to a house near the same corner of the square we were in, not twenty yards from us, and after heartlessly pushing him upon his knees, with his head against the wall, six of the guard stepped back about three paces, and at the order of the corporal shot the poor fellow in the back! Even at that distance the executioners but half did their barbarous work; for the man was only wounded, and lay writhing upon the ground in great agony. The corporal stepped up, and with a pistol ended his sufferings by shooting him through the heart. So close was the pistol that the man's shirt was set on fire, and continued to burn until it was extinguished by his blood!
Scarcely was this horrible scene over before we were taken by a strong guard from our prison. Without even being able to divine their intentions, we were marched directly by our late companion, conducted through two or three streets, and finally paraded in front of a small and gloomy hovel having a single window. The movement was conducted silently, and there was a mysterious solemnity about it which, added to the late barbarous murder of one of our party, overwhelmed us with sensations of doubt and alarm, even more insupportable than would have been an order for our instant execution. Immediately in front of the little window, and at a distance of twelve steps, we were next formed in line by our guard, and ordered not to leave our position or move in the least. All was mystery, uncertainty, anxiety. Soon Armijo, dressed in a blue military jacket, with a sword at his side, was seen to approach the window. One by one he pointed us out to some person behind him, of whom we could not obtain even a glimpse, and as he pointed he asked the concealed individual who and what the person was to whom his finger was now directed, his name, business, and the relation in which he stood with the Texan expedition. These questions were asked in a loud tone of voice, and were distinctly heard by all of us, but the answers did not reach our ears, although we listened with an earnestness and intensity that were almost painful. It seemed to us that we were undergoing an arbitrary trial for our lives a trial in which we could have no friendly counsel, could bring no witnesses, offer no proofs or arguments to the bloodthirsty and lawless wretch who alone constituted the tribunal. But this torturing suspense was of short duration, for, after having questioned his concealed agent as to each of us separately, Armijo issued from the little house on an opposite side from the window, and with a pompous dignity of manner slowly approached the spot where we were standing, awaiting, with deep anxiety, a sentence from which we knew there was no appeal.
This was delivered in a loud, military voice. While congratulating ourselves upon this most unexpected termination of a trial of such harrowing interest, and wondering who the Don Samuel was whose testimony had thus evidently saved our lives, our old friend and guide, Howland, was led forth from the little room. The truth now flashed upon us we knew that his name was Samuel, that he had been acquainted in former years with Armijo, and that the Mexicans seldom use other than the Christian appellative when addressing or speaking of a man. Howland's hands were tied closely behind him, and as he approached us we could plainly see that his left ear and cheek had been cut entirely off, and that his left arm was also much hacked, apparently by a sword. The guard conducted their doomed prisoner directly by us on the left, and when within three yards of us the appearance of his scarred cheek was ghastly; but as he turned his head to speak, a placid smile, as of heroic resignation to his fate, lit up the other side of his face, forming a contrast almost unearthly. We eagerly stepped forward to address him, but the miscreants who had charge of us pushed us back with their muskets, refusing even the small boon of exchanging a few words with an old companion now about to suffer an ignominious death. Howland saw and felt the fate of movement on our part. He turned upon us another look, a look full of brave resolution as well as resignation, and, in a low but distinct tone, uttered, "Good-by, boys; I've got to suffer. You must-" But the rest of the sentence died on his lips, for he was now some yards in the rear of us, and out of hearing.
The guard who had charge of us now wheeled us round, and marched us in the same route taken by our unfortunate guide, and within ten yards of him. A more gloomy procession cannot be imagined. With Howland in advance, we were now conducted to the plaza, and halted close by the spot where, in plain sight, lay the body of our recently murdered companion. A bandage was placed over the eyes of the new victim, but not until he had seen the corpse of his dead comrade. Worlds would we have given could we be permitted to exchange one word with our unoffending friend-to receive his last, dying request-yet even this poor privilege was denied us. After the cords which confined his arms had been tightened, and the bandage pulled down so as to conceal the greater part of his face, Howland was again ordered to march. With a firm, undaunted step he walked up to the place of execution, and there, by the side of his companion, was compelled to fall upon his knees with his face towards the wall. Six of the guard then stepped back a yard or two, took deliberate aim at his back, and before the report of their muskets died away poor Howland was in eternity! Thus fell as noble, as generous, and as brave a man as ever walked the earth. He was a native of New Bedford, Massachusetts, of a good family, and by his gentlemanly and affable deportment had endeared himself to every member of the expedition. In a daring attempt to escape, and reach Colonel Cooke's party, in order to give him important information, he had been retaken after a desperate struggle, and the life he could not lose in the heat of that struggle was taken from him in this base and cowardly manner.
Our feelings, while looking upon this brutal tragedy, it is impossible to describe. A fearful, a terrible thing it is to see a man shot-one who deserves his fate-even when he is allowed to stand bravely up and die facing his executioners: for much as every human being may dread the king of terrors, there is hardly one so base as not to wish, when death makes his last inexorable call, to meet him face to face. How much more terrible, then, to see a brave and honorable being like Howland, full of manhood and capable of no base or craven deed, led out and shot in a manner so cowardly, and to see this, too, without the power to act in his behalf! Tumultuous feelings did the scene call up-feelings of indignation and deep hatred for his worse than savage murderers; and for him, between whom and us the common ties of friendship had become strengthened and drawn into more than fraternal closeness by our long intercourse in the wilderness, were mixed ernotions of regret, pity, love, and admiration at a fate so horrible so heroically met.
The barbarous execution was no sooner over than we were conducted to the portales in front of the soldiers' quartel, and again placed under a strong guard of the regular troops. The sergeant appeared to have more kindness of heart than his fellows, as he gave one of my companions a blanket to spread upon the hard earthen floor which was chosen as our sleeping-place for the ensuing night. The young priest, who had called upon us in the morning, shortly made us a second visit, telling us that we need be under no alarm, as the governor had determined upon saving our lives unless we made an attempt to escape. There appeared to be an exceeding degree of delicacy, not only in the visits, but in the conversation of this young man, which denoted that he possessed finer feelings than either his master or the herd by whom he was surrounded. He was evidently a man of education, acquainted with the usages of the world; and his actions showed that he was anxious to impress us with a belief in our own personal security while scenes of the most sanguinary nature were going on around us. Often, on that eventful day, did recollections of the French Revolution pass through my mind. Armijo I could not look upon but as a second Robespierre, only requiring a field of equal extent to make him equally an assassin, a murderer, a bloodthirsty tyrant. His power, I knew, had been purchased by blood-I saw that it was sustained by blood. Human life he regarded not, so that his base ends were attained; and he would not shrink from sacrificing one man on the altar of his sanguinary ambition, if by so doing he could impress another with a due sense of his boundless authority and power to do whatever might seem meet unto him. The young priest was well aware that we knew the man Armijo, and hence his benevolent desire to quiet any apprehensions that might arise of our personal safety. It was this feeling which brought him to our prison before the first of our comrades was killed-the same humane motives actuated him in calling upon us after the murder of Howland. But to return to my narrative.
From the time of our first arrival in San Miguel that morning, to the death of Howland, the plaza had been nearly filled with armed men. Two pieces of artillery, badly mounted and every way ineffective, were standing immediately in front of our quarters, in the porch. These cannon were drawn by oxen, the animals yoked and hitched, but lying down after a hard march from Santa Fé and quietly ruminating within ten yards of us. Immediately after the execution of Howland, detachment after detachment of mounted men left the plaza for Anton Chico, where we now learned that Captain Sutton and Colonel Cooke, with their men, were encamped. Next the two pieces of cannon were dragged off in the same direction, surrounded and followed by a motley collection of Indians and badly-armed, half-naked, wretched Mexicans, whom Armijo dignified with the title of rural militia. By the middle of the day the town was completely deserted, except by the women and children and some two hundred of the chosen troops and friends of the governor; for, great warrior as he was, he contrived to keep the prudent distance of some thirty miles between himself and the Texans so long as they had arms in their hands. The plans of the very valiant and most puissant Armijo were laid with consummate skill so far as his own personal safety and that of his property were concerned. He had now surrounded Colonel Cooke with at least a thousand of his men, while there were but ninety-four Texans in all. In case the latter defeated the Mexicans-and Armijo trembled and feared lest they should-his plan was to retreat to his residence at Albuquerque as fast as picked horses would carry him, and then, after gathering all his money and valuables, make his escape into the interior of Mexico. With these intentions he remained behind at San Miguel, and there anxiously awaited the news from the little frontier town of Anton Chico. sdct
The command of the troops, acting against Colonel Cooke, Armijo had assigned to his few personal friends-toadies and sycophants whom he always has about him, and for whose adherence he pays a good round sum. He well knew that nine tenths of his people hated and despised him, and were also inclined for an immediate annexation to Texas; he knew, too, that they feared him, and that nothing but their extreme ignorance and timidity had prevented them, years before, from throwing off his yoke. So long as they were commanded by officers in his pay he felt confident that he could make a show if not a fight with them, and he felt the fate of equally confident that if parade, fair promises, and treachery could induce the Texans to lay down their arms, he could still retain his ascendency. Such was his policy, such were his plans, and fate decreed that they should prove successful. From some of the soldiers of our guard we gathered, during the day, full particulars of Howland and his unfortunate companions. They had reached the settlements some three weeks before us, when Armijo, suspecting their intentions and the object of their mission, had them arrested at San Miguel and sent to Santa Fé. From this place they effected their escape three or four days before we were arrested. Until their recapture they had been secreted in the mountains between the two places, traveling by night only, and using every exertion to reach Colonel Cooke, of whose approach they had heard from their guard at Santa Fé.
Armijo immediately sent out large parties to retake them, being extremely anxious that they should not reach the Texans and give information of his plans. On the morning of September the 17th they were fallen in with on the side of a mountain, near San Miguel, by a company of Mexicans ten times their number. Although armed only with pistols and swords, which they had taken from their guard when they effected their escape, they still made a brave and vigorous resistance. Rosenbury was killed on the spot, and Howland and Baker were not taken until severely wounded and weak from loss of blood. The latter was the man we saw shot a short time before Howland, the bandage over his face preventing us from recognizing him. He could not speak Spanish, and the tyrant Armijo ordered him to death without even saying a word to him. Howland, on the contrary, was well known in New Mexico, having lived in Santa Fé several years before. The governor offered him his life and liberty-the same terms Lewis accepted-if he would betray his companions and assist him in capturing them. The brave and noble spirited man rejected the offer with scorn, and notwithstanding the disgraceful mode of his execution, his death was an honorable one. Grecian or Roman history, or the heroic deeds of later days, can hardly furnish a parallel to that of Howland--to that of one who fearlessly met the most terrible death conceivable rather than betray his friends.
The bodies of the murdered men were allowed to remain where they had fallen until near night, a large pack of dogs congregating around them, licking their blood and tearing their clothes. They were then taken to a prairie near the town, denied a burial, and were finally devoured by wolves! Several Mexican officers called at our quarters during this eventful afternoon, among them a pursy, bloated, sallow-faced wretch, named Manuel Pino. He rode a beautiful and spirited black horse, of which he was so proud that he was continually galloping and fretting him about the square, and spurring him to the execution of such curvettings as would most induce a rattling of his sword, spurs, holsters, and the other jingling appointments of a Mexican horseman. Ever and anon he would dash up to our quarters, throw himself heavily from his truly gallant animal, and recount some exploit which he vainly hoped might excite our admiration. He said that he had not only begged, but prayed Armijo to allow him to lead a charge against our friends at Anton Chico, but that the governor would not consent that so brave a man should leave his side for a moment. In short, this fellow took such particular pains, on all occasions, to impress us with a belief in his prowess and bravery, that we finally became thoroughly convinced of his being an arrant coward; and after circumstances fully justified our opinions. Not only Pino, but the other Mexican officers attached to the personal staff of Armijo, informed us that a nephew of the latter, in company with Lewis, had departed for Anton Chico with the hope of bringing the Texans to terms. They also said that our friends were surrounded by more than a thousand of the best troops in New Mexico and that reenforcements were hourly reaching the spot; and they even went so far as to assure us that, if they did not surrender quietly, our own lives would be sacrificed by a lawless and unrestrainable mob-anything but a consoling assurance to men who were perfectly confident that our friends would never surrender without a desperate struggle. That they did not come to the country to make war upon the inhabitants we well knew; we were equally well convinced that such men as Colonel Cooke, Dr. Brenham, Captain Sutton, and the brave spirits under their command would not tamely submit to be deprived of their arms and made prisoners, intrenched, as we had been informed they were, in a ravine, and so fortified that they could easily defeat ten or even twenty times their number of such cowardly and badly-appointed men as they would have to contend with.
The hours flew swiftly by, couriers constantly departing to, and arriving from, Anton Chico. At one time it was represented to us that a dreadful battle was raging-then, that the parties would come to terms. At sundown, a Mexican came riding into the square with the intelligence that the Texans had all surrendered. Instantly the air was filled with vivas, and in ten minutes we received a visit from the governor's secretary and the brute Manuel Pino, corroborating the news. They said the terms were an unconditional surrender; but this we could not believe. Even at this time it was suggested by one of our little party that if Colonel Cooke had surrendered without a terrible fight, treachery had done the work, and that Lewis was the instrument; but such was our confidence in the man that a majority of us could not believe he had turned traitor. It was but too apparent, however, that our comrades had been taken. Nothing was heard, in any quarter, but rejoicings and congratulation. Shouts of "Long live the Mexican Republic!" "Long live the brave General Armijo!" "Long live the laws!" and "Death to the Texans!" were heard on every side and these were followed by discharges of musketry, ringing of bells, blowing of trumpets, and such music as may be produced by cracked mandolins and rickety fiddles when execrably played upon. A Te Deum was in the meanwhile sung in the church, a short distance from the plaza, and the guardian saint of the place, San Miguel, with all his finery, feathers, and wings, was dragged from his resting-place to take part in the show.
Fandangos were got up in the different houses on the plaza, a drunken poet was staggering about singing his own hastily made-up verses in praise of Armijo, taking his pay, probably, in liquor-all went perfectly mad, and spent the night in revel, riot, and rejoicing. A grim, swarthy sentinel, with a face hideously ugly, was stationed directly in front of the little porch where we had cast our weary limbs. As if to add to the general din, he howled forth the dismal "Centinela alerta!" [Sentinel, be on the look-out, or alert] every ten minutes during the night, and his cry appeared to be the signal for some six or eight others, stationed in different parts of the plaza, to join in the doleful chorus. This startling watchword I thought the most discordant, grating, and hideous sound that had ever greeted my ears. Drawled out to a distressing length by a voice hoarse, cracked, and scarcely human, and then caught up in different parts of the square by men who appeared emulous of making a still more doleful and wobegone noise, and I, all the while, ignorant of its import-what with all these hellish orgies and cabalistic sounds in our ears, and with all the startling and horrible incidents of the day in our minds it may be imagined that we slept but little that night. The shouting, firing, ringing, dancing and carousing were kept up until morning; and why-Because some fifteen hundred or two thousand cowardly wretches had succeeded in capturing ninety-four half-starved Texans-not by the intervention of battle or military strategy, but by the blackest piece of treachery to be found on record.