« PředchozíPokračovat »
Instead of money to buy provisions, came an order
from the Secretary of War to authorize the collection of 1847. duties levied on merchandise entering the Mexican ports.
In the same communication was another order to levy contributions upon the Mexican people. This Scott absolutely refused to obey, as General Taylor had also done, giving as a reason the poverty of that part of the country. Says Scott in a letter to the Secretary : “If it is expected at Washington, as is now apprehended, that this army is to support itself by forced contributions upon the country, we may ruin and exasperate the inhabitants and starve ourselves ; for it is certain they would sooner remove or destroy the products of their farms, than allow them to fall into our hands without compensation. Not a ration for man or horse would be brought in except by the bayonet, which would oblige the troops to spread themselves out many leagues to the right and left in search of subsistence, and stop all military operations. And he continued to buy provisions for the army at the regular prices of the country, and thus did much to allay a rising feeling of hatred toward the Americans.
The Secretary had given as a reason for this order, that the Mexican people thus laid under contribution, and compelled to bear the expenses of the war, would soon become willing to conclude a treaty of peace. This might apply to the public revenues, and that part of the order the General took measures to have complied with.
Other difficulties arose. After the capture of Vera Cruz General Scott suggested to the President the sending of commissioners to head-quarters to treat for peace, should an opportunity occur.
For this important duty, the president appointed Mr. N. P. Trist, whose qualifications were that he had been Consul at Havana, could
Gen. Scott's letter to the Sec. of War, as quoted by Ripley, Vol. ii., p. 95.
INSTRUCTIONS OF COMMISSIONER TRIST.
speak Spanish and professed to understand the Mexican CHAP. character, his skill as a diplomatist could be inferred only from the fact that he was “Chief Clerk” in the State 1847. Department. Having in his possession the draft of a treaty fully drawn out at the department of State, he left Washington and arrived at Vera Cruz. He also bore a May. despatch from the Secretary of State, Mr. Buchanan, to the Mexican Minister of Foreign Relations. The plan of the treaty and his instructions he was directed to make known confidentially both to General Scott and Commodore Perry. The Secretary of War, Mr. Marcy, wrote to the General-in-Chief, informing him of the mission, but in general terms, and directed him to suspend active military operations till further orders, unless he was attacked.
Instead of making known to General Scott the designs of his mission as directed, Mr. Trist sent a short note to head-quarters from Vera Cruz, and transmitted the sealed despatch to be forwarded to the Mexican Minister, and the letter from Secretary Marcy ; the latter could not be understood without the explanations which Mr. Trist alone could give. The general could only see in this an underhand attempt to degrade him by making him in some way subordinate to the “Chief Clerk.” However, in a few days he wrote to Mr. Trist, what he knew of the views of the Mexican people and government in relation to a treaty of peace, to which at present they were opposed. In conclusion, he remarked, that the suspension of hostilities belonged properly to the military commander on the field, and not to a Secretary of War a thousand miles distant.
In reply Trist gave full explanation of his mission, but in disrespectful and arrogant terms, assumed to be the aide-de-camp of the President, and in that capacity to order the General-in-Chief.' This correspondence led to
CHAP. much harsh feeling and retarded the advancement of the LIV.
cause, At length explanations in relation to the com1847. missioner of peace came to the general from the authori
ties at Washington. The Secretary of State severely censured Mr. Trist “for his presuming to command the General-in-Chief."
Santa Anna fled from Cerro Gordo to Orizaba, where he remained some time to organize bands of guerillas to harass the American trains, which would be on their way from Vera Cruz. Afterward he returned to Mexico to find his popularity on the wane. For a time the Mexicans were paralyzed with consternation. Their army on which they had depended so much had been totally routed at Cerro Gordo. The invincible enemy was pressing on ; not a barrier intervened between them and the capital. The city was filled with factions ; the national councils were divided ; ambitious men forgot their patriotism in their desire for self-aggrandizement. The treasury was bankrupt, its only resource forced loans. Yet in the face of all these difficulties, Santa Anna did succeed in raising an army of twenty-five thousand men with sixty pieces of artillery, and in having the city fortified. After all he was the best commander the nation could afford, and the soldiers once more put themselves under his direction, to repel the invaders of their country and their sacred homes. They did not flock to his standard from a prestige of victory, for even when his boasts were still ringing in their ears, he had been ignominiously defeated ; nor were they induced by the confidence reposed in the integrity of a great and good man, to whom, as if to a superior being, the multitude turn in times of great peril; but from sheer necessity.
Santa Anna understood the Mexican character. By intrigue and the exercise of a vigorous arm, he seized property, and imprisoned or banished his opponents; by pre
PROCLAMATION TO THE MEXICAN PEOPLE.
tending to be desirous of peace he gained time, and dis- CHAP.
LIV. honestly entered upon negotiations ; offered himself to be bribed, and was accepted. His plans were cunningly de- 1847. vised : if they succeeded, the glory would all redound to his name ; if they failed, the censure could be thrown upon others.
Thus he employed the three months that General Scott was forced to wait for the arrival of reinforcements. Had the volunteers consented to remain in the service six months longer, in all probability the capture of Mexico and a treaty of peace would have ended the campaign, and the blood spared which was shed in such profusion in the subsequent conflicts.
When at Jalapa General Scott issued a proclamation April
20. to the people of Mexico. This manifesto, in its tone and spirit, was well adapted to the state of affairs of the country, in showing that the true policy of the Mexican people was to conclude a treaty on the liberal terms offered by the government of the United States. The proclamation was issued at the instance of several Mexican gentlemen of influence, one of whom composed it in original Spanish, as it was dictated by the general. It was well received by the people in the country ; but Santa Anna captured a courier, who was bearing copies of it to the capital. He at once discovered by the style that it was not a translation, and he proclaimed with his usual virtuous indignation, that it was the production of some Mexican traitor, and thus neutralized its effects on the people of the city.
At this time, he had by secret agents intimated to Mr. Trist that he was desirous of peace, and plainly that money would be still more acceptable : if a million of dollars were placed at his disposal something might be done. That this proposition might be considered, a re
June conciliation took place between the general and the com 25.
CHAP. missioner ; as neither could well act without the other LIV.
General Pillow, who had just arrived at Puebla, was also 1847. admitted to these conferences. He was a particular
friend of the President, and, owing to the “informal and confidential request ” sent from Washington, this participation was granted. Communications were continued with Santa Anna, but with no more important result than that the latter received ten thousand dollars of the secret service money at the disposal of General Scott.
As might have been anticipated, it was soon seen that Santa Anna's only object was to obtain money and gain time, and General Scott made preparations to advance upon the city as soon as the reinforcements under Brigadier-General Franklin Pierce would arrive from Vera Cruz. Meantime, the way to the city had been thoroughly reconnoit red, and General Worth sent forward with the first division. The whole army consisted of not more than ten thousand men, as great numbers had been left in the hospitals at Perote.
The region through which they marched was a high table land beautiful in the extreme, well watered, interspersed with valleys and mountains, whose slopes were covered with the richest verdure, while in the distance their snow-capped summits glittered in the bright sunshine of August. Almost from the same spot where more than three hundred years before Cortez and his followers viewed the distant temples of the city of Montezuma, the Americans hailed with cheers the city of Mexico.
The passes on the direct route had been well fortified, and were well garrisoned in the confident expectation that their positions could not be turned. The strongest of these was El Penon, to capture which the American engineers stated would require the loss of three thousand lives. General Scott was proverbially careful of the lives of his soldiers; the sacrifice must be avoided. The vicinity of the city was reconnoitred in the most daring manner :