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pered confession and the muttered absolu The problem of the existence of the tion; the tonsured priest and the besotted Mexican people, as illustrated in those of people, have disappeared for ever; and the Presidio de Rio Grande, is of no simple ruin with its inexorable grasp has given solution. Food and clothing are universal walls and arches, corridors and columns, necessities of mankind, to which this porto the wild flowers for their dominion, tion of the human family is no exception ; and to the birds of heaven for their revels. but while they are in possession of both,
The cavalcade entered the town with the mystery is, whence they are procured. guidons flying, and the band playing“ Hail There are no indications of mechanical Columbia.” The doors and windows industry-I saw but one approach to it were planted thickly with the inhabitants, in the case of a man who was mending a eager to see the invading “barbarians of woman's shoe—there are no workshops the North.” By the time we reached the and no stores; no gardens and no fields: plaza, the whole place was in motion, and idleness and indolence are every where every house had disgorged its occupants. lords of the ascendant. There was one The children were most conspicuous in place of general resort, and it appears to numbers, and not least striking from their be common to all latitudes and to every apparel-or the want of it. The Indian people: it was the village grog shop. mother, nurtured only in the school of Muscal, or Mexican whiskey, distilled nature, gives to her child a girdle about from a wild plant indigenous to the country, the middle: the Mexicans, inheritors of forms the staple article of this establishSpanish civilization and refinement, dis ment, though nuts, rice, sugar. &c., are pense with so superfluous a garment. kept in small quantities. Sweet potatoes The Colonel presented to the Alcalde a were also disposed of here at a picayune letter from General Wool, whereupon, as a pound. In the distillation of their Gil Blas says, were many compliments on alcoholic products however, it must be both sides. The official was as conde acknowledged that the Mexican people scending and affectionate as a stump can act with more wisdom than ourselves, and didate three weeks before the election, and, that in one thing at least, we may derive notwithstanding we were all on horseback, from them a wholesome example. They passed round most graciously, careful to do not make the staff of life its destroyer, omit none, shaking every one's hand and, and so abuse an inestimable blessing that leading us to infer that if we had been on it becomes a withering and deadly curse. foot, we should have had still more touch No: instead of perverting what may be ing evidence of his esteem.
called pre-eminently the great North The buildings are generally of a similar American plant, which Providence has character to those of San Antonio, many given for man's subsistence, to the uses of which, of the better looking class, were of evil habits, the production of vice and deserted; the inhabitants who had the misery, and the degradation and prostitumeans apparently thinking it preferable tion of humanity, they apply it to its to leave their homes, rather than see them legitimate ends, and gratify their depraved desecrated by the presence of a military appetites by extracting their intoxicating rabble, judging our troops by the charac drinks from the more natural source of a ter of their own. None of the houses have wild plant of the prairies. What little wooden floors: the arrangements for light labor is rendered by the people, is chiefly in those of most pretensions, are gratings agricultural, and a fertile soil and genial rising from a broad sill projecting a foot climate, doubtless yield at a trifling cost or two from the walls, the bars of which rich returns to the toil of the cultivator. are elaborately carved or turned. These The habits, manners, and costume of the window recesses are also useful to the people, are simple in the extreme, and a young ladies in another way; as the be small 'infusion of Anglo-Saxon energy, witching señoritas may frequently be seen could it possibly be effected, might perthere in the cool of the day, puffing their haps be followed by a corresponding incigarritas, and ogling the passers by: fusion of Anglo-Saxon intelligence and Many of the doors are rudely ornamented prosperity. So much would certainly be with men's heads, the figures of animals, gained in purity of morals, government, &c., intended to resemble perhaps, as near and religion, that a revolution of this sort as any thing else, the ancient gods of the ought to be encouraged by every Mexican Aztecs. I observed, as at San Antonio, who loves his country. Every philanthat the chief occupation of the women thropist must desire that the present inwithin doors, consists in looking the dolent effeminacy may soon cease to exist, heads, or taking the census per capita, and that the energies of a people who may of their children, and of each other. boast of the “Great Admiral,” the “Great
Captain,” Cortez, Alvarado, and a host fight the battles of their country, and perof other illustrious names, may once more haps with honorable aspirations after a be quickened into life. And though they distinction that might survive him. He have known us only as enemies, let us arrives in sight of the soil of the enemy, hope now that peace is restored, they may but his foot is not permitted to touch it. take an example from us in activity, in Death strikes him at the very threshold. industry, in enterprise, and resolve to The tender cares and sacred affections of elevate their country to the position which a mother or a sister are not present to Providence has assigned it, and to leave hallow or to soothe his dying hours; but our vices—if any they have observed-to stretched upon a blanket, on the bosom moulder in the grave in which their own of the cold earth, to which the body must ignorance and lethargy would then be so soon return, he yields up his last breath buried. Then indeed would Mexico be among his comrades, and his “spirit to worthy of her ancient renown; and though Him who gave it.” Then, indeed, the she might not attain to the pre-eminent martial mockery of a military funeral position which she held in the days of does honor to his remains : music, in Aztec splendor and power, towards the melancholy and mournful strains, precedes other nations of America, she would be him to the grave, and volleys of musketry able to engage in honorable rivalry with eloquently tell of a country's gratitude, the Republic of the North, in advancing and the Republic's respect for her patriotic the common wealth and common intelli defenders. The clods of earth fall coldly gence of nations; in the prosecution of the -not upon his coffin, for that his country arts and the cultivation of science; in denies him-but upon the pittance of prorendering the whole people industrious tection which his comrades have procured and intelligent; in contributing to the for his mortal remains; the grave closes, universal amelioration of mankind, by the procession returns with the gayest securing with a panoply of law, virtue and music, and the soldier is forgotten. On true religion, the person and property of the wild and solitary banks of the Rio every individual.
Grande, in a grave perhaps unsanctified The Rio Grande at the ford, is by cal by one tear of affection, and unballowed culation two hundred and seventy-two by the rites of Christian burial, he sleeps yards wide; the current rapid, and the the sleep that knows no waking. bottom hard. The water is much like On the 11th of October, at eleven o'clock, that of the Missouri, and after filtration the main body crossed the river. At the is probably quite as good. A substitute right bank we found Captain Morgan and for this operation is furnished by the his company, of the 1st regiment, stripped prickly pear, which, stripped of its skin, to their shirts and drawers, engaged in and deposited in the vessel of water, very getting a wagon out of the river, which soon precipitates the earthy matter. It the mules had not been able to extricate. is perhaps the only known application of They had blocked up the point of exit the plant-except the torture.
from the stream, and those in the rear The dragoon who so mysteriously therefore were compelled to await their vanished after disposing of the Alcalde, movements. The Captain in his red flannel turned up the next day and exhibited no seemed to waive all considerations of rank, signs of having passed the night under and was in the midst of his company, setwater. He was only classifying and ting the right sort of an example, and qualifying himself as an old soldier; and making himself not only ornamental but being on guard, very sagely concluded, useful. On ascending the bank, in the that a night in the chaparral was prefer midst of dragoons and infantry, teamsters able to one on post.
and baggage wagons, a dozen or more One of the Arkansas volunteers died Mexican carts were discovered, loaded just after reaching the Rio Grande, and with sugar-cane, chickens, sweet potatoes, on observing a man carrying a barrel on corn and wheat bread, a variety of which his shoulder to their late camp, I was told was very like the “ ginger cake" bought on inquiry, it was for a coffin,—that no and sold by the boys at general trainother material was to be had, and that ing." The latter was decidedly the most bis comrades were about to inclose a por popular purchase-partly, perhaps, betion of his form thus, rather than leave it cause it could be eaten on the ground, and to the cold embraces of the earth. Poor partly on account of early associations. fellow! he doubtless left home, like the While the larger portion of us were enmost of us, with high anticipations and gaged in the vigorous mastication of the chivalric hopes; joyfully enrolling himself various viands before us, we observed our among those who were going forth to gallant commander, seated in a small skiff,
towed by a horse, making his entrance gay, checkered quilts three or four wooden into Mexico. Not many minutes after his benches, like those found in a back-woods arrival, he was met by a Mexican Teniente meeting-house in Georgia ; a looking-glass, (Lieutenant) with an escort of two men, nine by fourteen inches; a rude table, who brought a complete copy of the upon which writing materials were spread articles of capitulation at Monterey, with alongside of one of Mr. Fenimore Cooper's a letter from a Mexican colonel.
novels; a wooden image of Christ on the The General soon put himself at the cross, and a picture of the pope or some head of the battery, the dragoons being in other respectable gentleman, which might front, and with the military ambassador in very well be taken for the 's man of sin.” his immediate vicinity, and the cavalcade There was also a stone or earthen jug enveloped in impenetrable clouds of dust, standing in the window-sill, from which advanced towards the Presidio. It was we supplied ourselves with water out of nearly one o'clock when the party left the a broken tumbler. The interview lasted river, and the green tops of the lofty pecan but a short time; the object of it was aptrees of the town became visible in a little parently not very clearly comprehended, less than two hours.
even when we rose to depart. The GeneJust before entering the principal street, ral gave each of the ladies a very affecwe passed on our right a large reservoir, tionate squeeze of the hand, and the less formed by a high embankment or dam favored members of the party bowed across a small stream that winds around themselves out of the room. the place, from which the irrigating canals As we were leaving, we observed in the radiate over the surrounding region. court a remarkable looking man, oblivious Above the gate or sluice-way, there is a of all things going on around him, walking conspicuous wooden cross, which, with an to and fro, with a wisdom-giving pair of inscription below, indicates the usual tinc spectacles astride his nose, and an ancient ture of priestcraft and superstition. On volume in his hands, with numerous leaves the southern side of the town, at the ex turned down, and slips of paper inserted, tremity of a street leading to the plaza, to mark the places. He was without coat stands a small stone building, evidently
His gray hair was “ cropped constructed for defence, to which is attach short” enough to excite the admiration ed a castellated tower. The position is an of a writer of army regulations, and in his important one, and would permit an effec round, rubicund face, there twinkled two tive fire in almost every direction.
cunning little eyes, above which hung a The residence of Miguel Arsiniega, Gefe pair of brows in overshadowing humility. Politico, the Political Chief of Department He proved to be the priest of the village, and commonly known as the Alcalde, to conning over his paternosters, and so which the column proceeded, is a one story laboriously, that it appeared to be an act building of stone or adobe, in the form of of self-imposed penance. Notwithstanding a hollow square, with an interior court of the gravity of his appearance, and his twelve or fifteen hundred square feet. very clerical austerity of demeanor, it is Availing myself of the broad shoulders said he is decidedly a jovial companion, of
I was permitted to enter and for this reason likes San Fernando, with the crowd. The rooms are spacious his previous parish, much better than the and airy. On being ushered into the Presidio. He states that there were in parlor, the carpet of which was of good the former place a few worthy and conhard Mexican clay, we met the Alcalde, genial associates, with whom he could clad in a white, homespun frock coat, play a game of cards or take a social glass decorated with immense black buttons, without scandal upon his profession, but his nether proportions encased in similar he adds-with perhaps not so much truth material, but of variegated hues; his wife, —that here such innocent enjoyments are a not ill-looking, buxom specimen of her loooked upon with great horror. Some sex, and several younger females, whom who were disposed to sympathize with we presumed to be her daughters. One him in his unaccustomed privations, invited of them—a youthful mother—was yield him to camp, where he would be permitted ing from the lacteal fountains that to indulge his animal propensities to the nourishment of a maternal nature which top of his bent.” From him we learned comes from no other source, and which that the old "Mission” was erected early the baby in her arms was extracting with in the eighteenth century, and had been as much vigor as might have been looked abandoned for nearly fifty years. for in one east of the Sabine.
After leaving this pious father to his The furniture of the room consisted of pages, his penance, and his paternosters, a high-post bedstead, embellished with a we continued our route through the town
towards the encampment. The houses &c. They seemed not at all disinclined to were filled with spectators, gazing at the furnish supplies, according to the full unusual exhibition; pigs and poultry were extent of their abilities, and on reasonable picking up corn, with the naked children terms. Indeed, they did not evince quite on the floors and in the streets, and the such a mercenary disposition, such a deusual process of gathering in the harvest termined pertinacity for public plunder, of the hair, was going on industriously as our friends in Texas. There a bushel among the women. These were generally of corn cost a dollar and fifty cents: here dressed with less regard to neatness and it could be bought for about half that display, than when Colonel Harney arrived, on which occasion the newest calicoes It was rumored that there was as much seem to have been in requisition. The difficulty at head-quarters, in translating females to-day were, in most cases, reduced the communications received by the Tenito the last layer of drapery, while from ente, as Tony Lumpkin once encountered the waists of a few, there hung a petticoat in reading a certain "cramped piece of in addition.
penmanship.” The conclusion, however, About a mile from town, it became arrived at by all the interpreters, as renecessary to cross one of the irrigating ported, was that the Mexican officer who ditches, over which the Mexicans had con wrote the letter, and who somewhat loftily structed a rude but practicable bridge. signed himself “ Francisco de Castañeda, We found, however, on our arrival that Colonel, commanding the left wing of the the genius of
had been moved Northern army,” entertained the opinion as usual, to leave the impress of his mind that the articles of capitulation at Monand power, upon the stumps and logs be terey, prohibited by implication General fore him, and he was actively engaged as Wool from crossing the Rio Grande, and the chief pioneer. From almost the com that such a movement would involve a mencement of the march, he had become violation of their spirit and intent. It is the absorbent, whenever the opportunity not known what reply the commanding offered, of all the operations. Snatching general made; but we may infer that he from the commanding general his commis informed Colonel Castañeda that he could sion, from the engineer his compass, from construe those articles without Mexican the quarter-master his responsibility, assistance; that he had crossed the river, from the adjutant-general his pen, from and that if the “ Commander of the left the ordnance officer his powder, from the wing of the Northern army" objected wagon master his whip, from the surgeon thereto, he might resort to such means as his lancet, from the teamster his reins, should seem proper to him, to put General and from the pioneer his pickaxe and Wool on the other side. shovel, he appropriated to himself the As the sun rose on the 13th, the flag functions of the whole—a self-constituted of the United States rose upon the soil of itinerant military pantheon. If Leonidas Mexico: as the stars of heaven paled becould have had three hundred such, the fore the great luminary of the universe, story of Thermopyla would have a differ the stars of the Republic waved above a ent conclusion.
foreign horizon. There may be something The encampment was upon an open grand and poetical, perhaps, to a Frenchprairie, with mezquit trees scattered in man, in the idea that the government thus clustered coruscations, and with a sprink- symbolled forth, should be displayed at ling of the prickly pear, and a new variety such an hour, saluted with the roar and of the chaparral, more thorny is possible blaze of gunpowder, and the virgin beams than any of its predecessors. The water of the morning; but if there be a thought was of a rich sulphurous taste and odor, or association of power or protection with and might well lay claim to medicinal the flag, why should it not be unfurled virtues. It was nearly dark before we by night as well as by day? According completed the pitching of our tents, and to Walter Scott, such was the practice night with a thick garniture of clouds, with the Crusaders : why and when was fell long before we received our suppers.
it discontinued ? On Friday morning we had something The morning was fair and charming ; like an April shower; which was followed the air pure and bracing. Every inhalaby a regular, sober, steady, energetic rain, tion seemed to give new vigor to the syscombining the power of the storm with tem. The dew-drops sparkled on the the pertinacity of the drizzle. It proved, grass, and hung like clusters of jewels however, no obstacle to the out-door efforts from the branches of the chaparral. The of the Mexicans, who swarmed into camp birds had caught the inspiration of the to sell their figs, cakes, bread, potatoes, hour, and made nature vocal with their
grateful and joyous melody. Not to trifle own positions, trifle with human life as away in camp such opportunities for they would amuse themselves with the rational enjoyment, and such an invoca balls of a billiard table. Yet these men tion to a proper acknowledgment of the we are told are “ Christian Statesmen;" benevolence of the Creator, by a contem looking to divine law as their rule of acplation of His works, a party was made tion; professing to ask and to do nothing up for town. The road was alive with but what is right, while forgetting: yea the industrious Mexicans of all sizes, bring trampling deliberately under foot, the ing in the surplusage of their labors for edict which was thundered forth in such sale. Boys with unripe melons, sweet terrible sublimity from the throne of Ompotatoes, cigarritas, eggs, chickens, pol- nipotence, " Thou shalt not kill.” onces (sugar in the form of truncated The population of the Presidio is probcones about the size of a common tumbler), ably not far from two thousand; but the preserved pumpkin, dried figs, looking and juvenile proportion is enormous, if not tasting like prunes, tortillas, tamales, &c., alarming. Nearly every house displays &c., and men with the more bulky and three or four naked boys and girls, at the substantial products, were rushing into doors and in the court yards, all appacamp, to reap the harvest while it lasts.
rently of the same age, as they are of the Before arriving at the Presidio, alias same size. It would appear from the San Juan de Bautista, alias Villa del fecundity here, that the population of Herriero ; for the town is known by the Mexico must reduce itself elsewhere in a three names, we met General Shields, with most mysterious way, if at present, as has two or three officers, just from Camargo been estimated, it does not amount to to join this column. We thus gathered more than seven or eight millions. And many particulars of the great battle or whatever process they may have for currather battles of Monterey, of a victory to tailing numbers, a disciple of Malthus our arms which was purchased at the would be very apt to complain in the price of some of the best blood of the na most deprecatory terms of the frightful tion, and which carried grief, and sorrow, consequences that must ensue from the and lamentation, and brokenness of heart, masses of juvenility presented here, and to many a widowed wife and childless would doubtless suggest remedies not enmother. The son, the husband, the lover, tirely in accordance with the tastes and and the brother had fallen, and the glory appetites of the people. of such a triumph is wrung from bitter The jurisdiction of the Alcalde, or Pretears and written in priceless blood. Nu fect of the Presidio, extends over a departmerous instances of the thrilling horrors ment comprising six towns, in which he of the scene were described, but there is is the chief, if not the only civil officer. none perhaps more affecting than the fate The precise nature of his duties and exof Lieutenant of the Infantry. tent of his powers cannot be very accu
According to report, he was wounded rately defined; but in addition to the early in the action by a musket ball, and function of judge and juror, he has the stretched almost lifeless upon the earth. general supervision of the revenues, and In the heat and melée of the carnage, it is responsible within his department for was impossible to remove him from the the faithful execution of the laws, particufield, and thus weak from loss of blood larly those in reference to government dues. and suffering the most intense agony, he The truth is, there is very little of law in remained an entire day ; balls hurtling the country, except the forms, and these through the air, and the rain falling in it may be feared will not long survive. torrents nearly the whole time. Almost The canon [query-cannon ?] law really exhausted, he was an agonized spectator prevails over every other, and there is no of the battle raging fiercely around him, functionary whose power is so unlimited and of the warring of the elements, rival as that of the priest. ling that of man with man. When taken At a short distance from the road, up, life was nearly extinct, and the affec about half a mile this side of the town, tionate efforts of his friends seemed only are the ruins, or rather the remnants of to prolong agony with which he had the foundation of one of the earliest miswrestled in vain.
sions erected on the continent. It was The heart turns with horror from the known as the church of San Juan Bau-, contemplation of such details, and which, tista; and was built, it is supposed, in the terrific and revolting as they are, are too latter part of the seventeenth century. often aggravated by the consideration Nothing remains at present but a shapethat they arise from the mad ambition and less pile of rubbish and stones. We were petty policy of those who, secure in their furnished here with another sad illustra