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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History

LET IT END WHERE AND HOW IT MIGHT


THE ADVENTURES OF BEN THOMPSON SOUTH OF THE BORDER

by TOM BICKNELL

PAGE ONE

Few Texans can claim to have crowded more excitement and drama into their lives than Ben Thompson.; On America's western frontier during the post Civil War years, his name claimed as much recognition and respect as Wild West icons Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, John Wesley Hardin, Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok and Bat Masterson. During his long and desperate career, Thompson was a duelist, Indian Fighter, Confederate cavalryman, mercenary, professional gambler, hired gun and lawman. Today, only a handful of western history buffs know something of his remarkable life, and fewer still, are familiar with his adventures as a mercenary south of the Rio Grande.

Thompson's experiences in Mexico were unknown to the general public until a few weeks prior to his sudden death. In his last newspaper interview, Thompson revealed that shortly after the close of the American Civil War, he "was in the service of the Emperor Maximilian in Mexico." In March 1884, newspapers throughout Texas published obituaries depicting his life, however the articles only briefly mentioned the time he spent fighting for Maximilian. The Austin Statesman stated that Thompson.....

"...Joined Maximilian in Mexico and became one of the most daring officers in that unfortunate prince's army; for his brave and gallant conduct Maximilian promoted him to the rank of major, and it is authentically reported that the unfortunate Maximilian once remarked that not an officer in all his forces possessed the daring of Major Thompson."

William Walton, a prominent Texas attorney, was Thompson's friend, lawyer and original biographer. In his book The Life and Adventures of Ben Thompson, the Famous Texan, Walton quoted extensively from Thompson's memoirs on his time as an officer fighting with the Imperial Army of Mexico. Since the publication of Walton's biography in the spring of 1884, to our knowledge, no in-depth analysis of Thompson's account of his Mexican adventures has been published.; This study integrates Thompson's narrative with historical fact and contemporary reports of the events occurring in Mexico.

THE CIVIL WAR ENDS IN TEXAS

On Friday, June 2, 1865 at the Confederate headquarters in Galveston, Texas, General Edmund Kirby Smith signed an agreement formally surrendering the armies and property of the Confederate States in the Trans-Mississippi Department. With this, the last significant Confederate army officially laid down their arms. The American Civil War had finally come to an end.

Ben Thompson was stationed in Waco, Texas when news of the surrender spread through the state. His regiment immediately disbanded, and according to Walton, Thompson returned to Austin where he lived quietly and attended to his own business.

Before the summer ended, United States troops had arrived in central Texas.; The first Louisiana Cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel A.S. Badger, occupied Austin. Similar to most Texans who served in the Confederate military, Thompson received parole from the Federal provost-marshal, however, to his surprise, he was later arrested by Federal soldiers and confined in the Travis county jail. Walton claimed that Colonel Badgers arrest order did not mention any crime or offence. His wife and mother visited the jail daily bringing food, clean clothes and information about the outside world. Thompson learned that Imperial agents had moved into Texas seeking to recruit men to fight in Mexico for the Emperor Maximilian.

EVENTS SOUTH OF THE RIO GRANDE

The American Civil War was not the only war raging on the North American continent in the early 1860's. In 1862, the duly elected president of Mexico, Benito Juarez and his Liberal party were in full retreat from almost fifty thousand French soldiers.

The instability of the Juarez government and the United States inability to enforce the Monroe Doctrine allowed France to intervene into the internal affairs of Mexico through military and political activities. President Juarez and the Liberal controlled Mexican legislature sowed the seeds of the French intrusion by suspending the repayment of loans made to Mexico by French, English and Spanish bankers. The bankers appealed to their governments but only Napolean the Third, The Emperor of France, was bold enough to defy the United States and send troops into Mexico. The French armed forces quickly captured the principal gulf-port town of Vera Cruz and the country's capital, the City of Mexico.

Six years before the French arrived, the popular Liberal party finally and permanently had removed Santa Anna from power. With his downfall, the struggle to control Mexico became a fight between ideologies and not personalities.; The battle lines were drawn between the Liberal and the Conservative parties. The leaders of the Liberal party were dedicated to establishing a Republic and for this aim, they received the whole-hearted support of the United States government. The Conservative party, comprised of the Roman Catholic Church, upper-class Creoles and a cadre of professional army officers, was struggling to hold on to their traditional role of dominating Mexico.; They desired rule by monarchy.; Having lost the loyalty and support of the majority of the peasants to the Liberals, the Conservatives eagerly sought the intervention of the French. Napoleon and Conservative Mexican leaders scoured the royal courts of Europe for a man to rule over Mexico on their behalf. They approached the Archduke Maximilian, a Hapsburg prince and the brother of the Emperor of Austria. Deceived of the true political situation and believing that a majority of the Mexican people would accept him as their regent, Maximilian unwisely accepted Napoleon's offer to rule Mexico.

MAXIMILIAN ARRIVES IN MEXICO

In the spring of 1864, Maximilian's party disembarked at Vera Cruz.; He was shocked to learn the true condition of the country and immediately set to work to establish an effective government and to regenerate the impoverished Mexican economy. Maximilian was eager to abolish injustices and to help the oppressed. One focus was a Liberal law known as the Ley Lerdo. Enacted in 1857, the Ley Lerdo allowed only individuals to own land and, inadvertently, had stripped many Indian tribes of their communal lands.; The wealthiest of landowners, primarily investment corporations and the Church, were mostly successful in circumventing the law. The tribes, however, had a cultural tradition of communal ownership and did not adapt. Instead, the Indians felt the full effect of the Ley Lerdo and many of them lost their lands for trifling sums.

Maximilian pronounced decrees returning the land to the tribes.; From that time on, many Indians showed a fanatical enthusiasm and loyalty for the Emperor but none more so than a chieftain named Tomas Mejia.; Since October 1858, from his base deep in the mountains surrounding the town of Queretaro, Mejia had led his tribe in rebellion against the rule of the Liberal party.

The power of the French military allowed the empire to expand its government into the northern provinces.; In September 1864, transported by four French frigates, Major General Tomas Mejia led a combined Imperial force of French and Mexican troops into the large northeastern city of Matamoros and its port, the town of Bagdad.; They met little opposition.; After securing Mejia's position, the French warships and troops departed, leaving behind only Imperial troops of Mexican nationality to garrison the town.

Matamoros was situated directly across the Rio Grande River from the town of Brownsville, Texas.; With a population of nearly twenty thousand people, for a decade it had been one of the largest commercial marts on the gulf.; The Union blockade of Texas ports had enhanced Matamoros' commercial value.; Goods and merchandise of every description could be shipped into Matamoros without interference from the United States Navy.; These imports passed through the city's customhouses, were taxed and then sold in northern Mexico or across the Rio Grande in central Texas.; The taxes collected at the gulf-port customhouses of Vera Cruz, Matamoros and Tampico financed Maximilian's government and provided the cash necessary for the repayment of the European loans.

For a year, General Mejia successfully defended Matamoros from Liberal attacks on the city.; The most serious threat came from a Liberal division commanded by President Juarez's Minister of War, General Negrete. On May 1, 1865, an outnumbered Mejia opened fire on the attacking Liberal columns with his artillery park of fifty cannons.; The fighting raged for hours.; With the outcome in question, Mejia led his lancers and a flying battery of light cannons out from his fortifications and charged.; The Liberal troops reeled from this unexpected assault and within thirty minutes of Mejia's counterattack, General Negrete reluctantly retreated.; The next day, with the crisis past, the Matamoros customhouses resumed their important business of collecting import duties.

Four months after Negrete's failed attack, the Liberal's again moved against Matamoros.; The end of its own Civil War allowed the United States to flow munitions, medical supplies and money across the Rio Grande River to President Juarez and his supporters.; With American aid finally unleashed, the Liberal forces started to show a remarkable ability to recuperate after a defeat, while a victory would swell their ranks with thousands of new, eager volunteers.; In early September word of another Liberal advance reached the city.; This new Juarista offensive was being led by Generals Escobedo, Espinosa and Juan Cortina.; General Mejia desperately needed more men, especially seasoned fighters to booster his army.; Ex-confederate veterans like Ben Thompson were ideal targets for recruitment.

ESCAPE TO MEXICO

After weeks of imprisonment and with no foreseen hope of being released, Thompson planned an escape.; He cautiously approached the guards who had charge of him. Two sergeants agreed to a bribe.; Thompson's plan was to join Mejia's garrison at Matamoros.; A commission as a lieutenant had already been prepared for him and was in the possession of one of Mejia's adjutants, a Captain Gilly.; Several times Thompson was allowed to secretly leave the jail late at night to visit with his family and to prepare for a prolonged stay in Mexico.; The two bribed sergeants decided to accompany Thompson and enlist in Mejia's command.; Five other soldiers also agreed to join in deserting and to seek their fortunes in Mexico.

On Sunday night, October 22, disguised as a federal soldier, Ben Thompson was released from his jail cell for a final time. Riding his mule, he slipped out of Austin.; Thompson and the seven deserters easily avoided the sentries stationed throughout the city. They separated and planned to rendezvous sixty miles southwest of San Antonio. Sergeants Benito Gomez and Jack Brickhouse rode south with Thompson. The fast and unrelenting gait of Ben's mule punished and almost ruined the other men's horses.; Moving at such a hard pace the three men were first to arrive at the rendezvous point. They waited there for more than a full day, but the others failed to appear.; Deciding it was foolish to remain in Texas any longer, they pressed on and crossed the Rio Grande River.

Once inside the siege lines of Matamoros, Thompson reported to Captain Gilly.; Thompson was placed as lieutenant in an independent company of contra-guerrilla cavalry.; the company was comprised of a total of one hundred and fifty-three men including Gomez and Brickhouse.; General Mejia had readied the cities of Matamoros and Bagdad to withstand an attack.; The regular troops of the Imperial Army were ordered to stand on full alert and the citizen volunteer companies were called to muster.; At dawn the next morning, with Ben Thompson among their ranks, the contra-guerrillas' went into battle.

The headline of the Daily Ranchero of October 27, 1865, screamed.....

"THE FIGHT OPENED !

PROBABLY OVER !

SPLENDID CONDUCT OF IMPERIAL
OFFICERS AND MEN

Gen. Espinosa Killed.

THE OUTLAWS ROUTED.

Long Live the Empire

HONOR TO GEN. MEJIA.

"At 5 o'clock this morning the outlaws made, as was expected, an assault on the fortifications surrounding the city.; They appeared at different points in small force, leaving it matter of doubt whether an attack or a feint was intended. At length a charging party was formed to attack in earnest the artillery picket at the southeast point of the city...

Whilst the charge was being made at the lower end of the line, a furious artillery and musketry fire was being kept up on the upper forts, but without effecting anything. Fully one thousand men were led against these forts...

An Imperial cavalry force went up to see how things were going, where so much smoke was rising. Upon seeing the situation of affairs, with Gen. Mejia at the head, dashed in and put the rascals to flight.....

The very latest from the front leaves the Imperial troops in pursuit of the fleeing outlaws....

Imperial loss, several wounded and less than a dozen killed....

If possible, the confidence in Gen. Mejia is augmented..."

Elsewhere in the same edition the Ranchero provided additional details of the results of the fight;

"The force of the enemy was broken against the breastworks.....The punishment and slaughter of the outlaws was terrible.....Not less than a hundred of their dead have fallen into Imperial hands for burial; nearly a hundred of their wounded are receiving attention in Brownsville.....Their loss in killed and wounded undoubtedly reaches the startling figures of five hundred..."

During the battle, General Mejia took notice and admired the actions of his new lieutenant. Mejia acknowledged Thompson's fighting ability with a field promotion to the rank of captain.

Ben Thompson set down in his own words the fate of his two companions who had enlisted with him.

" After returning to the city, the ambulance corps with flags, went out to bring in the wounded. I went along to give my personal attention to the men of my company who had been wounded, and more than twenty of these were missing. Although I had been with them but a little more than twenty-four hours, I had become acquainted with every one, and had found strong attachments to several and some of these were missing; my promotion would take me to another company the next day, still I felt a great interest in those who bravely had procured me my promotion. we went to where the fight had occurred and found all my missing men, among them Sergeant Gomez, mortally wounded, and Jack Brickhouse, who had been hit on the head with a gun, perhaps, insensible, but not dead. Jack got well, but was [later] killed in a fight near Camargo "

The Liberal army commanders had made plans to capture Matamoros with more cunning than just a frontal assault. Throughout the war, many Mexican soldiers changed their allegiance for the opportunity to plunder and loot. For officers, bribery proved to effectively motivate acts of treason. The commanding officers of one of the principal forts guarding the city, all of the Americans, were to be paid $20,000 to assassinate General Mejia and an additional $35,000 to surrender the fort they were assigned to defend. Mejia's secret police uncovered and foiled the plot. One of the principal conspirators escaped across the Rio Grande to Brownsville, but the captain in charge of the fort was arrested, tried and executed.

After Mejia's victory, Thompson explained his subsequent movements...

" Sorties were frequent occurrence for several weeks. I was engaged in every one. I asked permission of the general on one occasion to go to the country with about fifty men, if we succeeded in breaking the lines. He consented. I picked my men all had good horses, not large, but active and swift. I told my comrades my design, and requested them to stay close by me - to fight in a body, so we could get away together. We went through and struck up the river, and thence westwardly. I had no particular object in view, but knew I could hurt only enemies out here; the friends were inside the city or had gone to other places of safety. We traveled about fifteen or eighteen miles in a northerly and westerly direction, when we came in sight of a train of some fifty or sixty wagons, which proved to contain commissary stores for the enemy. We had heard that the besieging army was short of provisions, and if we could destroy this train we would do great service to General Mejia. The guard consisted of about eighty or ninety men, but they were poorly armed compared with us; but they promptly threw themselves in line and awaited our movements. We opened on them with our rifles at about two hundred yards, and so rapid and effective was our fire that confusion among them ensued very quickly. When a few more rounds were sent into their ranks I saw they would not stand, and ordered a charge. My men responded with a shout, and, with six-shooters drawn, we dashed forward. They broke and fled. We did not follow but a few hundred yards, then returned, made the teamsters cut the mules out, set the wagons on fire, and remained long enough to see the stores destroyed. I then ordered the teamsters to mount their saddle mules and drive the others rapidly to the river, some eight miles off, and cross them to the American side. This they did. We followed, leaving the teamsters to go their own way. The river was low and the swimming but a few rods. The crossing was effected without loss of difficulty. The mules were turned over to James Mason, a ranchero, with the injunction to turn them into money and deposit two thousand dollars of it with Mr. Twohig, banker, at San Antonio, payable to the order of my wife, and do what he pleased with the balance. I never again heard of Mason, the mules or the money. Some men are ungrateful rascals. We moved down on the American side of the river and crossed over to the city, a little after daylight, and I reported to the general the results of the raid.; He was kind enough to offer me a promotion to a majority, but I declined it on the ground that I could do better service in the position I occupied besides I was not capable of managing a battalion."

The siege of Matamoros and Bagdad drew to a close with the arrival of two ships loaded with Imperial troops. Although this minor reinforcement was welcomed by Mejia, he realised it was insufficient to initiate his strategic plan to permanently defeat the Liberal forces in Northern Mexico. The Daily Ranchero, briefly presented Mejia's plan and the French high commands reaction to it.

"Gen. Mejia informed Gen. Douay that the garrison at Matamoros would have to be strengthened or abandoned. He implored General Douay to send him assistance. He discussed at length the importance of Matamoros as a port, and the importance of patrolling the line of the Bravo, so as to cut off the assistance, and strength, which the Liberals were deriving from this (the American) side.

"To these letters, General Douay replied in terms clear and emphatic. He told Gen. Mejia that it was not the policy of the empire to station forces along the Rio Grande and in such close proximity to the territory and forces of the United States. He apprehended collision and war. He told Gen. Mejia that no assistance could be rendered him - not even for the purpose of continuing the occupation of Matamoros."

General Douay offered only advice on how best to extract his army from Matamoros should the fortunes of war; turn against Mejia. Only a jumble of small Liberal companies remained scattered outside the city. In a formal ceremony honouring their efforts, the citizen volunteer companies were permitted to stand down. Matamoros returned to a relative calm. The city was now considered safe.

TROUBLE WITH THE POLICE

One night, Ben Thompson and his friend Captain Gilly decided to seek entertainment at one of the many gambling halls in the city. Thompson described their results of their night on the town.

"After the withdrawal of a large portion of the forces of Escobedo, the siege was only nominal, and the troops on the inside fell into lazy habits and indulged in dissipation. The police of the city was very numerous, inefficient and unpopular. captain Gilly, whom I liked very much, went with me to a gambling house one night where we bet a monte until quite late, luck was against us, we lost our money, our watches, and he a diamond ring, making several hundred dollars in the aggregate. we were getting good wages and the pay prompt, our losses ought not to have been taken much to heart, but Gilly did not like it. He began drinking before the game ended, and continued so until he was three sheets in the wind, the police did not like the soldiers and I was apprehensive that we might get into trouble on our way to quarters. I therefore insisted in going right away, but Gilly delayed to take another drink, and still another, and every glass made it that much the worse. I had not drunk and was therefore perfectly at myself. At last we started getting along finely, when Gilly commenced yelling, fired off his pistol, and really ought to have been arrested, I determined he should not be if I could help it, as he was doing no real harm.

In a moment a body of police came up and proposed to arrest him. I explained to them who he was, and proposed to prevent any disturbances and get him home to headquarters. Other members of the force came up, Gilly was noisy, tho' attempting no violence. As if by a pre-concerted signal, the guardians of the night presented their pistols right in our faces and thus held us still until we were disarmed then began the march to the city jail it was quite a distance to the lock-up. On the way we met one of my men. I said in a low tone to him in English "Go to the camp and tell the men to arm and meet me at the market house instantly, you see the police have me and Gilly" The man left, the market house was on the way to the calaboose. I did not intend to do any harm if the men came, unless my captors refused to release Gilly and myself this I did not suppose they would decline to do if confronted by the soldiers. Our former conversation had been in Mexican and when I spoke to my man in English I did not suppose any of the police understood me, as they were all Mexicans but one did understand and made me understand that he understood me. He said "You will send for your soldiers to shoot us, will you, you gringos" and with that he jabbed me two or three times under the jaw below the ear and in the throat with his pistol, and then continued: 'you send for soldiers, you scoundrel' I never had anything to hurt me so in my life. I really felt for the moment that the fellow had punched my head off, or at least had torn a great hole in my neck. I put my hand up and felt myself. I was so mad I almost took a fit but discretion is the better part of valor sometimes. I said to this man: " very well, sir, very well. I am a prisoner and you have maltreated me" He was evidently a man of very rascible temper, and I believed he would have shot or knifed me right there had [his] attention not been called to the firing of guns and pistols not far away. I must return a moment to explain the firing. The man to whom I spoke and sent the message to my men, blundered miserably in delivering what I said. He arrived out of breath and much excited, and in speaking he got the manner all mixed. "Capen Ben-market house-killy - Capen Ben - guns - police - quick" The men understood that the police had killed me at the market house. They waited for no further information. Not liking the police anyway, they grabbed their arms, and in undress rushed out onto the street and commenced firing at every policeman they saw, and they made deadly work of it too, eleven or twelve were killed and as many wounded, and many more would have met like fate had not the firing aroused the camps.

The long roll was beaten, the general came out, the belief was that the forces of Escobedo had been reinforced and entered the city. The confusion was extreme, but the disturbance and firing being explained the shooting was discontinued and the men returned to their quarters. My punching friend darted away and so did his companions when the rapid report of firearms was first heard. I had photographed this man in my mind so that I should remember him, fully intend[ing] to give him a piece of my mind if I met him again.

The next morning General Mejia sent for me to explain the disturbances of the night. I stated to him truthfully my connection with it. he only said " Very well, see to it that such occurrence does not take place again" The fact is the life of a Mexican policeman was not valued very highly"

THE TIDE OF WAR TURNS

The New Year brought more evidence of General Mejia's deteriorating position. At 4a.m. on January 5, about sixty-five American and Mexican adventurers crossed over the border. It was a private venture without allegiance to either of the fighting political factions in Mexico. The small band surprised and easily captured most of the four hundred men Imperial garrison posted at Bagdad. Their sole purpose was to loot the town. The majority of the captured Imperial garrison were immediately released and gleefully joined in the looting.

Liberal leaders tried to take advantage of the confusion and moved a small number of troops into Bagdad. Ultimately, United States forces had to cross over from Brownsville to establish order and to protect the lives of American citizens. Loyal Imperial soldiers did not enter Bagdad until three weeks later, and that was only after the looters had abandoned the town because there was nothing more to steal.

Throughout Mexico, the tide of war was beginning to turn against the conservatives. The Imperial garrison at Chihuahua city surrendered after a Liberal assault. Maztalan fell and the entire eight hundred men Imperial garrison was reportedly executed after surrendering. Liberals controlled the countryside from Matamoros south for two hundred and fifty miles to the gulf-port town of Tampico and Texas newspapers reported that Tampico itself was under siege.

MERCHANDISE TRAINS

Imperial soldiers were needed to protect any merchandise trains moving in the interior. On Sunday, April 8, Liberal troops attacked French General Jeaningros and his train of two hundred wagons of merchandise, which was also transporting half a million dollars worth of gold specie to Matamoros. General Mejia and his division, acting with Colonel Miguel Lopez, commander of the prestigious Empress regiment, scattered the Liberals after a brief but bloody fight. Colonel Lopez remained behind to cover their back trail while Mejia escorted Jeaningros' wagon train into Matamoros. Encouraged by the success of this campaign, the merchants of Matamoros convinced Mejia to provide a protecting military convoy for another 'conducta' to travel the two hundred miles to the interior city of Monteray.

A local newspaper announced the planned wagon train and predicted its success of getting through the Liberals unmolested.

" A force of two thousand men have just been spared to conduct a merchandise train of great value to the interior leaving behind a competent force to hold the city against the combined outlaw power of Northern Mexico. The train will not be attacked, for the double reason that, it is too strongly guarded and because the outlaws to all government prefer to rob and plunder the country on a small scale. That they have an abundance of war munitions, is as certain as that the federals had enough to sell them for stolen stock."

General Mejia remained at Matamoros. He retained nine hundred men from his division to guard the city and to command the column he assigned Brigadier General Rafael Olvera. Captain Ben Thompson and his company was chosen to ride point guard leading the conducta.

Thompson left a vivid description of events and the fate of the merchandise train.

"The fighting between the besieged and those on the outside continued daily, the besiegers were getting decidedly the worst of it. Nom impression was made on the city. Time wore on. General Escobedo could maintain himself no longer. It became necessary to his safety to withdraw his troops and retreat. The monotony was relieved only by the excitement of gambling, the fandango, bull fights and private brawls..... I was informed my company would be ordered, with a brigade of other troops, as an escort for a treasure train..."

"We went out in fine style, all dressed in the...finest Mexican clothes...laughing, singing, anticipating a pleasant journey. Quite a number of the ladies, accomplished and beautiful, accompanied their friends for a few miles and were escorted on the return by a squadron of cavalry. My company was the advance guard on the march. No danger was looked for. Escobedo was thought to be many miles in the interior, and no other enemy force had been reported nevertheless, I kept as vigilant a watch as if I had known an attack would be made. We marched and camped and marched the next day until nearly four o'clock, when I was ordered to join the main body, as an attack was threatened from the rear. I hastened to obey...but by the time I reached the command, the attack had been made and the fight became general. I obeyed orders, and fought as I never fought before or since...Our men fought for the train, over it, under it, around it, it was no use, the attack was too strong to resist.... Out of the fourteen hundred splendid soldiers, we lost over eleven hundred. Out of my fifty-eight....I now had but seventeen, and eight of them seriously wounded, the forty-one were not wounded, they were dead, and yet I had not been touched in the flesh ; my clothes had many holes in them. Our Commander ( not Mejia but a subordinate general..) had been struck twice, left arm broken and a flesh wound in the side.; Mules in every team had been killed. We were terribly whipped, the treasure lost. Nothing could be saved but the lives of the few who remained. It was suicidal to fight longer. The general gave the order to retreat, and in darkness and silence we left our dead comrades to the mercy of the jackals and crows."

"A long and weary march under the circumstances carried us to the river. We slowly crept along the Mexican bank, ready to plunge into the water and attempt to cross if our enemy came in sight but we were not molested. To the Heroic City we again returned, demoralized, despondent and gloomy."

Many residents of Matamoros decided to flee across the river to the safety of Brownsville. Newspapers across the United States reported the events in Mexico as they unfolded. The Chicago Tribune confirmed Ben Thompson's account of the disaster.

"THE BATTLE OF CAMARGO

Utter defeat of the Imperialists

Massacre of Austrian Prisoners
Perfidy of the Mexican Allies
Capture of a Valuable Convoy
Matamoros in Danger.

"The convoy was attacked on Saturday last ....at about three leagues from Camargo. The Liberal forces amounted to twenty-five hundred men, well armed and equipped. After an hours severe fighting, the whole convoy was captured, together with eight pieces of artillery and the train and ammunitions belonging to the convoy. Gen. Olivera is reported wounded. The loss is reported as being severe on both sides.
Eight hundred prisoners of Olivera's command and about four hundred others, with the convoy, were sent to Camargo....with orders from General Escobedo not to allow anything to be touched. That order has created great dissatisfaction amongst the troops, who are eager to divide the spoils.
The Austrians fought bravely, firing forty-two rounds from artillery and then using their carbines, fiercely contesting every inch of ground....After being surrounded, the Austrians surrendered and stacked their arms, not withstanding which, they were slaughtered in cold blood, the Liberal officers telling their men to kill the s-ns of b---hs but save the Mexicans. The result of the battle was assured as much from the defection of the Cerro Gordians as from any superior force of strategy. That battalion, instead of coming to the aid of the Austrian force, refused to move - the commanding officer telling Gen. Olivera that liberty was sweet, and setting his men the example by crying "Viva La Libertab" The whole battalion took up the shout and immediately turned their guns on their former comrades.; A sergeant rushed from the ranks and fired at Gen. Olivera, but missed his aim. At this stage of affairs, gen. Olivera ordered a retreat and drew off his remaining forces, principally contra-guerilla's in good order.
Stragglers are arriving hourly in Matamoros, bareheaded and exhausted. Everything indicates a complete route....It is said that thirty-seven contra-guerilla's are among the missing...It is a notable fact that one company of the Cerro Gordo battalion remained true and refused to join the Liberals at the time the rest deserted.......
The convoy consisted of 250 wagons of the most valuable merchandise collected in Matamoros the last year for Monteray and the value is estimated at several millions of dollars. It is confidently expected that the Liberal forces emboldened by success will now attempt to capture Matamoros. there is but a force of 900 men in the city and there is a prospect of success if the Liberal party is made up of fighting men. there is great excitement throughout the country - a perfect panic among the Mexicans, and they are already fleeing to the Liberal standard, either for safety or plunder...
....unless reinforced at once from Vera Cruz, Gen. Mejia, at Matamoros, is at last in most serious danger."


French General Douay kept true to his word and refused to reinforce the garrison at Matamoros. In order to extract the remnants of his army, Mejia began to negotiate the peaceful surrender of the city. Eager to take the city intact the Liberal generals granted the following terms:; Mejia's troops would retain their weapons:; second, he would be permitted to assemble his troops, withdraw through Bagdad and board French vessels without molestation.


PAGE TWO>


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