Friday, 26 August 2016

A bit about the Battle of Mier - Christmastide of 1842

David Christian Newton submitted the material below onto a Facebook screed that pertains to people who are interested in their Spanish Colonial Period ancestral roots and who seriously study and develop their genealogies. The events centre around a city named Mier, a present-day county-seat in the long, northern panhandle of Tamaulipas State of Mexico.  It has seen and felt the effects of much wild weather, military engagements, and recently the effects of the drug-trafficking and human smuggling activity plaguing the Mexico - Texas frontier.  

 It is well that this event be covered and studied deeply.

      It is of interest to some Texians that General Adrian Woll entered into the centre of the Republic of Texas in 1842 in command of a punitive expedition and also to remind the Texians that Mexico could bring serious force against the outnumbered and less productive and less powerful Texas. Both Mexico and Texas at that time were boiling over with their own internal political warring and arguing.

    Woll's army arrived in good order outside of San Antonio and promptly took control of the city in the late Summer of 1843.  His approach consisted of essentially of five major columns coming up from Laredo, Matamoros, Rio Grande (aka - San Pedro / (to-day) Miguel Aleman), and Reynosa.    The combined rosters suggest that the total force was 2,600 effectives.

   The whole event was terribly humiliating to the Texians who had been impotent in the face of overpowering and more professional military force....and then forced to pay for their own failure to prepare, to be aware, or even lift a finger in terms of maintaining a ready defense posture.  As the Mexican forces deployed near the edge of the city and then gave demonstrations  that they were going to enter, a delegation came forward to request that the application of force be avoided because many people who were innocent of any wrongdoing would be subject to injury or death.
         There was an engagement where about 150 citizens of San Antonio had taken a defensive position, in a building owned by a leading rancher and businessman, Samuel A. Maverick.   Civil Authority was brought forward, along with good numbers of the business class, and were informed that the General was imposing a Punitive Charge against the Texians and he exacted, if I recall, about 3,000 dollars and supplies, a couple of cannons, various weapons, powder, medicines, and forage enough for his retirement back to Laredo.

     A useless cavalry charge of about 67 or so Texian regulars and momentary volunteers made a rearguard harassment of Woll's main body, in spite of Woll's written notice to them to not engage, due to the fact that their lack of familiarity with warfare would lead to devastating losses, referred to at times by the Texians as the Salado Creek massacre.   There were several engagements in and around San Antonio, to the east Sequin,  Hondo to the west, each of which the Mexicans said they won, and the Texian declared themselves the victors.  Woll was a respected enemy, as had been Urrea, Castrillon, and even Perfecto de Cos, and General Filisola after a fashion during the 1836 War.   

    Woll returned in good order to Laredo with his punitive rewards and called it a day.  His Expedition was widely applauded and lauded, perhaps with considerable justification.   They had gone up in pretty fair order, and come back the same way with all their standards and minimal casualties.  Further service awaited in a matter of weeks.

  The Texian Congress demanded that an Army be equipped and sent to Laredo to punish the Mexican's embarrassment of the San Antonio population. Sam Houston was not in favour of such an action but the Congress and other powerful political figures were in favour of it. General Somerville, the actual winning general in charge at San Jacinto, was chosen to the lead the reverse punitive expedition.

     It left in earliest December with about 760 effectives along with about 300 from local militia units and some artillery. At about the time of arrival near staging places north of Laredo, messengers arrived from Washington on the Brazos with orders stating that the Act of War against Mexico and commissioning of hostilities had been withdrawn by the Congress of the Republic of Texas. This was something for which Sam Houston took credit and considerable heat both then and during later years.
    Somervell had been left on the line to dry, so to speak. He informed his Army, and then requested a parley with the Mexican military and civil authority in Laredo. There was meeting and all agreed to call it a day, let the Texians regress to their homes....according to some accounts there was quite a pachanga (barbecue and celebration) to celebrate the new Pax Texana - Mexicana.   It is noted here that Laredo in those days was entirely on the left side (north) of the Rio Grande.  All the remaining organised cities downstream in this region were established on the right side (south) of that watercourse.

     The problem was that "Colonels" Fisher and Green and their contingent of "soldiers" essentially declared that they were not gong to abide by the agreements. There were 303 who broke with the main body, and began, somewhat stupidly, to head downriver going through Palafox, San Ygnacio, Ramiren~o, Ureben~o, Revilla, Chapen~o, and Salinen~o, exacting payments, forage, and other things. The film suggests that at around Christmas-time the Texians were in Chapen~o, but my understanding is that they were in Salinen~o and they were preparing to attack Mier.  These above named hamlets were small affairs, almost all entirely located on the north side of the Rio Grande, a small but difficult distance from their controlling urban centres, like Camargo, Mier, and Reynosa.

     By that point general Ampudia and various elements of the Mexican regular army and the various Guadias Nacionales between Matamoros, San Felipe de China, Reynosa, Camrgo, and Mier itself had been made aware of the approach of this Army-without-commission.
      One thing that most Texians....and well as descendants of the Spanish settlers in the area of Mier.....are not aware of is that the man put in command of significant elements of Mexican cavalry at the Battle of Mier was Juan Sequin, one of the great Texian heroes of the Battle of San Jacinto. The outcome of that Battle is pretty well known.   Sequin's story after that 1836 engagement is complex, and he did return to his homeland in later live to resume ownership of lands his family had, and he died in Texas.

     It was a pointless military function and the slaughter was immense. It is probable that about 120 men died on both sides.   Each side badly overestimated the size of its opposition.  General  Ampudia was certain that there were almost 1,000 Texian effectives.  Texians at first thought Mier would be a cake walk like the tiny hamlets through which they had passed during preceding days.  Only after engagement did it become clear that they were dealing with real military resistance.  Their estimates of 1,600 Mexican  Army soldiers was also inflated, there having been about 760 or so.   Another quirky thing was the proclivity for the Mexican formal military reports to refer to Green, and Fisher, and a couple of other ranking Texians as "Generales" which was probably less a courtesy than an attempt to imply that the Texian force was larger than than it truly was.

 It should also be pointed out that the people of Mier treated the Texian prisoners with considerable kindness.  Ampudia arranged with the remaining officers to allow for their repatriation with the agreement to not bear arms against Mexico again, but that agreement was rescinded personally by a messenger bearing orders from Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, declaring the prisoners to be war criminals.

     They were to be interned in deep into the interior of Mexico. Another small correction to the presentation might be that the escape of prisoners did not include all of them. But a significant number ran off into horribly unsupportable territory. There was even some dispute that the "Black Bean" matter was overplayed because few if any of the Texans who returned (at the demand of Lopez de Santa Anna's wife's deathbed request) mentioned the event in their writings.

    Bigfoot Wallace was one of the few who talked about it. It was one heck of a Christmas. There are many, many others stories related to the Battle of Mier, but there is neither time nor space here to delve into it. One last thing, the Texians did comment on the incredible and elegant and massive buildings of Mier in writings.

Thanks for the time.  There should be more commentary about this and other related matters of Texian History and how that relates to Mexico of yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow.