Saturday, 17 September 2016

Ya, que se termino' el Diez y Seis de Septiembre....(Now that the 16th of September is over!)


     Some considerable noise is made every year at this time....or a day or two earlier, pertaining to the beginning of hostilities that brought on the ten to eleven year slog from the first battle to the last rubrics being placed on something like a cessation of hostilities.   The hostilities initiated as one type of Spanish subject fighting another, and ended up with the Spanish having lost their crown for a short lived Republic and the new country, Mexico, having established a short-lived new Monarchy that would be replaced by something like a New Republic.

     This event, The Mexican Independence Revolution, was similar to it American homologue in very few ways.   For one, save for the benefit of self-rule, with a capital and government close at hand, there was little parallel in the comparison between what would become Mexico, and what would become America.
 Viva, Her Excellence, Saint Mary of
Guadalupe - the first battle banner
of the Mexican Revolution for
    The people bringing War against the Crown of Spain, were doing so because Spain was overthrowing its Crowned ruler in Madrid (a brother to Napoleon I) and attempting to put into place something much akin to a Republic  The conservative element in the New Spain (the country to be named "Mexico" a bit later, did have intelligencia, and wealthy people with capital to invest, a labouring class that was somewhat capable but having its "quirks", and an indigenous population that still in the main did not speak Spanish or understand the absurd (in the Indians' minds) system of land utilization and distribution.  It also had a proprietor and professional class, and some decent schools of mining, engineering, some liberal arts and philosophy, and medicine.   It also had massive natural resources that, still to this day, are remarkable and abundant.  In short, they wanted to install their own Monarch and rule in the old established way as had been practiced for nearly 400 years in Mexico.  It was not a proletarian revolution by any means, but a reaction to the same forces the Mexican Conservatives thought  smelled much like Voltaire, Robespierre, Guillotines, and unbridled democracy of the mob.

     All these things considered, Mexico, in 1810, began a conservative (Scottish Rite) versus liberal (York Rite) political war that would not be resolved, literally, until the year 2,000.   The provocateur? Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo-Costilla y Gallaga Mandarte Villaseñor, a parish priest, ultra-conservative, also known as "El Zorro" due to his quick wit and discernment ability, and also as Reverendo Padre Don Miguel Hidalgo y Castillo.   Perhaps we could say his motto could have been, "Out of many names, few".
     The intrigues and bravery of both the revolutionaries and the Spanish loyalists was remarkable, during this period.  The slaughter was immense.  It was the proverbial irresistible force meeting the immovable object.   More "revolutionaries" than Spanish loyalists, to be sure, but also much more advanced military strategists and tacticians on the side of the Spanish.   But, please remember that there have been well over 100,000 books written about almost every grain of sand on that beach.  Your story diverges here and takes the OROG in the direction of Texas and activity during the early stages of a Mexican Revolution against the Spanish Empire and how the population was dealt with by Spanish authority.

     We delve now into one of the reasons the Mexican "police action" in Texas during the period from 1835 up to and including 21 April 1836 went as well as it did.  Another man, whom we have discussed at length and at various times on this blog, Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrun, aka: Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.   What in the name of Jumping' Jehosophat does Santa Anna have to do with the Revolution of 1810?   What is going on here?  

     Let us accompany a boy, born to a lower level, but aristocratic, bureaucratic administrative family  of the colonial government. Antonio's father and mother were both "criollos" (creoles), meaning white persons who were subjects of the Crown, but not born in Spain.  While as full-blooded Spaniards, they carried a high position by birth in New Spain (Mexico), they, in truth, could only reach the rung on the sociological ladder just below the top rung.   "Peninsulares" had the full swagger of the deck and the first and second tiers of government, industry, agricultural, and even the pecking order in The Church.   Criollos, as it was said, ".....agarraron las migas was grandes  de abajo de la mesa.....luego los mestizos y los indios lo demas".....The Creoles gathered the largest crumbs from under the table, and then the mixed-race and Indians the rest.
     Antonio's father did have properties near Xalapa, an administrative centre in the colonial provence named for the True Cross....known as Vera Cruz.   The mother and father wanted Antonio to move into the dependable trade and commerce that seemed to keep the axis from Vera Cruz city (the port) and the abundant hinterland, the large sub-vice regency of Vera Cruz, flush with food and money.  With its perpetual production of quality fruits and vegetables as well as fish other seafood resources, perpetual Spring and Summer growing seasons, it seemed to be a reasonable calling.
     But Antonio saw himself as something different, at least a priest in some fine cathedral...or perhaps, even a soldier.   He completed a considerable amount of studies, both in academy and by tutelage, bending ever steadily to the idea of becoming something like his father, but more powerful, like a military officer.

     By the age of 16 Antonio Lopez had finished more studies than were taken by 96 per cent of his contemporaries.   He was also in uniform as a cadet (sub-lieutenant) in the cavalry detail of an infantry regiment, the Regimento Fijo de Vera Cruz.  If he had wanted action and glory, his wait was short because the time between his "swearing in" as a soldier and the starting of the Revolution under the command of Father Hidalgo, was about four months.   Antonio was serving in the State of San Luis Potosi' which is adjacent to the State of Guanajuato where Hidalgo had pronounced the Insurrection from the belfry of his Church of Dolores....a small parish between San Miguel (de Allende) and the capital of the administrative district  of Guanajuato full of mostly upper - Tarascan Indians

     Antonio Lopez sees action in the critical and strategically important San Luis Potosi area.   He is also wounded when an arrow penetrates, through and through, his right hand.   He was at the Battle of the Calderon Bridge outside of Guadalajara, it is thought, where the forces of Father Hidalgo met their first really bad defeat.   We can find no record of him serving at the battle that sapped the will of the insurrection, the Battle of the Monte de Cruces...where highwaymen had been crucified by the Spanish authority for many years during the latter Colonial Period.   It is known, however that the Spanish general Arrevelos had Santa Anna's commanding officer,  Colonel Jose Joaquin Arredondo on his staff. 
This is Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
in a uniform of the Emperor Agustin
de Iturbide Period, 1821 - 1822
     Once the Royal Spanish Army had dispatched the heroic but futile Father Hidalgo and his gaggle of 90, 000 willing but incompetent peasant "soldiers", another menace appeared to the north.   It was in a place known as "Texas" or "Tejas" which was mystical, lightly populated, and removed far from Mexico City and even further from Madrid.

     All of this brings us to why Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was so sharp when he went into Texas, disposing of all opposition, subduing Zacatecas State and the Yucatan before that.  When he finally overplayed his hand (in 1836) and became over-extended in the area around the swamps of the near-coastal San Jacinto River, it was because there was pitifully little left to fight against.

     His strategic and tactical understanding of the job at hand was guided by his previous guessed Texas during the revolt against the Crown of Spain, back in 1813, in service to his very brilliant, but very brutal General Jose Joaquin de Arredondo.
     During the summer of 1813, a large group of Americans, coming out of New Orleans and southwestern Louisiana, crossed over  the Sabine River into still-Spanish Texas on their way to attempt to subdue and occupy Texas and pronounce it a sovereign State within a Mexican Republic.  It was led by the Spanish-turned-Mexican General Jose Alvarez de Toledo y Dubois and an American agent by the name of Augustus William Magee, openly invading and supporting the Mexican revolutionary cause and purpose.

      They had considerable success in their adventure, encountering lively but shallow, Spanish resistance all the way through a winding path running from East Texas, down all the way to La Bahia - Goliad - Victoria area, and then back up and over to San Antonio de Bexar with their force of Anglo, Spanish, Caddo / Coushatta Indians, Negroes (free and slave), and even some former Royalists who had changed sides.
      Augustus Magee suffered some nature of illness, we have seen written everything from a heart attack to food poisoning to a form of galloping cholera, etc. and he died at the Spanish fort near La Bahia near the coast at the Bahia del Espiritu Santo.   General Toledo made pronouncements upon occupying San Antonio that the new State of Texas, as a sister of other free and independent Mexican States would now govern the expansive territory previously held by the Spanish.  The original surviving partner in the invasion, Gutierrez, had been dismissed during a bit of a mutiny following the death of Magee, leaving General Toledo in full charge of the situation.

     But, of course, sometimes the fly and the ointment have other ideas.  The Spanish General Joaquin de Arredondo comes up from Laredo, arriving at a point to the south-southwest of San Antonio where the Medina and Atascosa Rivers come together.   In a battle named by the Spanish victors "La Batalla de la Selva de Roble y El Rio Medina" a great conflict is commenced.   The so-named Battle of the Live Oak Forest and Medina River resulted in the total destruction of the American / Spanish rebel effort, the insurrectionist general, Toledo y Dubois, and 90% of his army of 1,400 effectives were killed or executed mercilessly.   Toledo fell for the old "follow that detail over there" trick and was lured out of his forest...where he could win....and into a "llano" (rolling, sandy, plain) and attacked simultaneously on three sides.  The battle lasted four hours.
     The Spanish Royalist General, de Arredondo went on in to an unprotected San Antonio, and promptly rounded up 300 more suspected rebels, some of the women, and after a spate of torture and abuse put the all to the sword or hanged them.   Some were then decapitated and their heads placed on cavalry lances in key places of the city so that the people would understand the cost of conspiring against the Mother Country.
     It was, and remains, the greatest loss of life in any battle ever in the history of Texas.  It was the rebels almost 1,600 effectives and some civilian authorities, and de Arredondo, Antonio Lopez's boss, losing about 55 men.   There was considerable concurrence with those figures by all sides and historians over the years.

     But, all of the above is written really with only one or two points in mind.  Santa Anna was not a stupid Mexican general who was outwitted by great and better generals in 1836.  His true failure was that he really was the best trained, the best endowed with the native military acumen, the best experienced, and even courageous to a fault.....but his arrogance caught him napping.  Underestimating an enemy is never a wise idea, no matter how many times one has beaten him.

     By the time Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna made it back to his beloved Jalapa, Vera Cruz area for a bit of rest and relaxation, he was a Capitan, on his way to Coronel.   There is considerable material available concerning this encounter of Armies, some a little light in the understanding and other that is quite well researched, complicated, and compelling.  It is certain that President Madison had active agents poking and prodding to get the Spanish at least off of the mainland of the New World.   Some say that ideas were swirling around Washington, D.C. about establishing a commonwealth territory or another "in-between nation" (Texas) between the United States and what would become a new nation (Mexico) with which the burgeoning United States of America would have to deal.  It would have been nice to have an English-speaking nation full of troublesome blowhards "over there" so as to be able to have an intermediary with Mexico, if need would be.   Strategic thinking was a bit different in those days;  European geo-political rules.

   The clumsy Gutierrez - Magee Expedition needed more support, but at that time the United States was dealing with an enemy on the ground (War of 1812 with the British), and the French had their hands full in Europe on several fronts.  It was a pretty messy chessboard.
More on all of those matters at some happy time in the near future.
El Gringo Viejo