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University of California Berkeley




1














REMINISCENCES



OF



FILIBUSTER" WAR



IN



NICARAGUA



BY



C. W. DOUBLEDAY



NEW YORK AND LONDON

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS



1886



COPYRIGHT BY

C. W. DOUBLEDAY



Press of

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
New York



PREFACE.



IN this narration of events that, in their
day, attracted a large share of the atten-
tion of the civilized world, some criticism of
the acts of a very remarkable man is neces-
sarily included. Entertaining, as I did, a
warm personal attachment for General Walker,
whose character was singularly free from the
petty traits and vices of ordinary men, and a
high admiration for his splendid courage, I
was, nevertheless, opposed to the course he
adopted in the affairs of Central America.

My own somewhat Quixotic espousal of
the " people's cause," as it was called, was
prompted by youthful enthusiasm for that
most fallacious of human illusions, popular
liberty, and antedated Walker's appearance in
the field by more than a year. During that
time suffering and privation had only intensi-
fied my desire to see the people freed from
the tyranny of a dominant ecclesiasticism.

Hi



iv The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua.

When Colonel Walker's plans confiden-
tially unfolded to me, as hereafter related
were understood to include the ideas of con-
quest and absolute empire, I begged leave to
withdraw from the enterprise. He persuaded
me, however, to accept instead, an indefinite
leave of absence. My return to him in his
days of disaster only proves that my sympathies
were stronger than my ethical sensibilities.

Should my plain criticism in any way offend
those survivors of that heroic episode who en-
tertain unqualified admiration for their chief,
they will, I trust, after this explanation, credit
me at least with honesty of purpose.

As for the opprobrious and unjust appella-
tion " Filibuster," which attaches to Walker's
name and to that of his adherents, and which,
while denying its appropriateness, I have
adopted in these memoirs, I have explained
its origin and cause further on.

Whatever stigma unjustly attaches to it was
shared by valued comrades, whose bones will
not on that account rest less peacefully be-
neath the soil of their adoption. I would not,
by seeking to deny the consequences, seem to
avoid complicity in their acts, but would rather
emphasize, by the adoption of the term, my



Preface. v

preference for an association with the mem-
ories of heroes.

The survivors of those who exhibited such
courage and fortitude in the " Filibuster " ex-
peditions to Nicaragua, may feel that in con-
nection with a narration of events the names
of many who so heroically participated should
be mentioned. A just attention to such a
claim would, however, convert these personal
reminiscences into an historical record, and
enlarge the book beyond the limits designed.
The attention of the American reader is re-
spectfully called by the author to the sub-
stance of his remarks in the appendix ; relative
to the desirability of an American inter-oceanic
canal across Nicaragua, as a measure equally
demanded by the exigencies of commerce, and
of the national safety and honor.

C. W. DOUBLEDAY.
CLEVELAND, O., June, 1886.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I.

PAGE

Voyage and arrival in the tropics A revolution La Demo-
cracia Lively scenes and picturesque adjuncts Novel
method of landing ........ I

CHAPTER II.

Bathing under difficulties Lake Nicaragua Gorgeous scenic
effect A beautiful sunrise Loss of baggage Philo-
sophical reflections Animated forest life Adventure with
monkeys Recruiting for adverse factions in the same
town 9

CHAPTER III.

Departure from San Juan Rum and glory Flattering recep-
tion at Rivas March to Granada War's desolation A
shot from the enemy Reception at Granada Contract for
military service Captain de Riflcros ..... 24

CHAPTER IV.

Sharp-shooting Death of Doctor Peck Colonel Don Mariano
Mendez A Foray and its consequences Killing of prison-
ers Burning a hacienda A perilous situation ... 43

CHAPTER V.

Visit of the American Minister Truce declared, for the occa-
sion only Major Dorse's insidious treachery An affair in
the suburbs Death of Dorse Cholera and other sickness
Radicate's fiasco I form a native company of riflemen
Assigned to the "post of honor , . , , 6 1



viii The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua.

CHAPTER VI.

PAGE

Evacuation of the cantonment at Granada Severe fighting
and loss in my company A Bongo cruise on Lake Man-
agua An earthquake Arrival at Leon Amusements and
gayety 78

CHAPTER VII.

El Tamarinda Trip to Honduras Return to Leon Arrival
of General Mufios Vacillating policy Advent of the
' ' Filibusters " Their impressions of the country Jarring
councils Military expedition to the Department Merid-
ional Night march Capture of enemy's picket . . 94

CHAPTER VIII.
Battle of Rivas Retreat to San Juan . . . . .117

CHAPTER IX.

Seizure of a Costa Rican brig Burning of the barracks
Escape from San Juan Death of Dewey Dangerous
navigation In a fishing-smack On the sick list Pre-
parations for another expedition ..... 138

CHAPTER X.

Departure of the second expedition Narrow escape of Colonel
Ramirez Land at San Juan March out to meet the
enemy Battle of Virgin Bay Visions of empire I ob-
tain a furlough ......... 155

CHAPTER XL

Quiet of home life Review of the acts of Colonel Walker His
successes [and subsequent reverses My return to Central
America British interference Operations on the River
San Juan Blown up Return to the United States . .170



Contents. ix

CHAPTER XII.

PAGE

The Americans beleaguered in Rivas Accept terms from the
enemy They leave Nicaragua Subsequent efforts at re-
turn Tried for violation of the neutrality laws Acquitted
An expedition from Mobile Evading the revenue cutter
"Over the blue waters" A shipwreck Rescued Life
on a coral island Return to Mobile Take leave of
Walker His subsequent expedition and death . . .192

Appendix 219



CHAPTER I.

Voyage and arrival in the tropics A revolution La Democracia
Lively scenes and picturesque adjuncts Novel method of landing.

" What is a man,

If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed ? "

IN the early spring of the year 1854 I had
taken a trip from the mining camps on
the Tuolumne River down to San Francisco.

I had been among the earliest invaders of
those sylvan solitudes, which the aura sacra
fames had converted from the peaceful abode
of the acorn- and root-eating Digger Indian to
that of the pork- and hard-tack-subsisting min-
er, the pioneer band, usually composed of the
nomadic pike, or still more gypsy-like Gambu-
sino from the Mexican State of Sonora.

To have a glimpse of the unaccustomed
life of the city was the only reason for leaving
my beloved haunts " 'neath the greenwood
tree," and, as the hurry and activity of city life
was sure to pall upon me in a very short time,



2 , The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua.

I took care to see all that might interest me as
quickly as possible. With this end in view, the
morning after my arrival I had wandered
towards the quays, and soon became interested
in watching the busy throng of passengers em-
barking on the Pacific mail steamer, the smoke
from whose funnels proclaimed her near de-
parture for her distant port over the wide sea.
She was bound for San Juan del Sur, a port in
Nicaragua a land of the tropics, a land,
moreover, where the dulcet language of the
Spaniards, with which I was familiar, was
spoken, and where the genius of the do Ice far
niente presided. Why should not I, who had
no ties to keep me in any particular place,
subject only to the whim of the moment, go
aboard, sail away, and wander among the trop-
ical forests, as I had already done over those
vast regions, inhabited by wild game and wilder
Indians, that lie between the Mississippi River
and the Pacific Ocean ? Or, should Nicaragua
prove uncongenial, I could continue my way
to the United States, and look upon the faces
of loved parents, ere again returning to my
life of mountaineering and hunting. The
thought was quickly father to the deed, and
within an hour I was on board with my worldly



The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua. 3

effects. Very soon we were careering over the
majestic bosom of the Pacific Ocean.

Voyages have been described ad nauseam.
This was by no means my first, and the usual
accompaniments of sea-sickness, flying fish,
porpoises, et id hoc, failed to interest me as
much as did the sound of the anchor chains
running through the hawse-holes, proclaiming
our arrival and anchorage in the Bay of San
Juan.

The stoppage of the ceaseless jar of engines
and of the forging motion of the vessel was
very welcome, and enhanced the pleasure im-
parted by the sounds wafted from the shore
through the tranquil air of the early morning.

First the awakening gun, and then the notes
of the reveille, substantiated the expectations,
excited by the captain of the steamer, con-
cerning the condition in which we should
probably find the Transit Company's affairs.
When he had left this post a month previously,
since which time there had been no oppor-
tunity to receive news of the progress of events,
the Democratic, or people's, party in the State
had resorted to arms in order to seat the presi-
dent-elect. The president in office, whose
term had expired, supported by the Church,



4 The "Filibuster " War in Nicaragua.

whose policy he sustained, had refused to abdi-
cate the office.

Either the exigencies of war or its violence
might readily have necessitated the horses and
wagons, by aid of which we were to obtain
transport over the twelve miles of road between
San Juan and Virgin Bay, the point of depar-
ture for San Juan del Norte, or Grey town, on
the Atlantic seaboard. For my part, so much
had the captain interested me by his account
of the haughty and tyrannic action of the party
in power, backed by the dominating hierarchy,
who sought to restrain the liberal measures
advocated by the people's champions, and of
the determination of the latter to achieve their
liberties or suffer death, that I was already
strongly inclined to join the Democrats in their
struggle.

The arrival of the company's agent on board
the steamer soon put us in possession of all
the news. The Democrats had in successive
days' fighting forced their enemy back into the
city of Granada, to the very borders of the
lake, but their losses and the severe wounding*
of their gallant leader had so crippled them,
that any attempt to force a final issue at this
time would have been imprudent. They had



The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua. 5

therefore gone into cantonments in the upper
end of Granada, known as Jalteva. Each party
was now busy in fortifying its respective posi-
tion. President Chamorro, the head of the
Church party, in order to strengthen his hardly
pressed army, had withdrawn the garrison
which the government usually kept at San
Juan, and the Democrats, who assumed the
responsibility of public affairs from their seat
of government at Leon, had promptly occupied
the place, and were prepared to protect, at all
hazards, the treasure of the Express Company
and the property of the Transit Company.

While the agent was on the deck of the
steamer, giving us this hasty account of the
condition of things ashore, the brilliant tropical
sun shone above the dense foliage that nearly
encircled the little town and bay, and illumi-
nated with unusual splendor at least to our
eyes the luxuriance of the vegetation, and
the animated scene on the sunny beach a few
yards distant.

The semi-monthly arrival and departure of
the steamer was for the inhabitants the event
to which all intermediate days led up, the in-
tervals between these important crises being
mostly passed by them in sleep. Just now,



6 The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua.

however, owing to the presence of the newly-
arrived garrison of Democrats, flushed with
victory and newly acquired power, the place
was unusually wide-awake. As there was no
wharf in this remote though long-established
port, a primitive method of landing the passen-
gers was resorted to. They were conveyed in
small boats from the side of the steamer, as
near to dry land as the shelving sands and the
high surf would permit, and were thence carried
ashore upon the brown shoulders of the native
boatmen. During the transit funny mishaps
were not rare. These may be laid to the frolic-
some spirit of these darkies, who, often rinding
themselves too heavily weighted, or, again,
feigning to be choked by the too tightly clasp-
ing arms of some timid female, would lose their
balance, when porter and burden would go
floundering into the limpid water. This per-
formance always excited great merriment
among the lookers on, and nothing worse hap-
pened to the luckless passenger than a wetting
in the warm sea-water, and possibly a tem-
porary loss of temper.

On shore, tents and booths were erected for
the convenience of the venders of breakfasts
and aqua ardiente al fresco. These were usu-



The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua. 7

ally presided over by females whose limpid
eyes and fascinating smiles, when serving
(^por ^m concideracion) the susceptible miner,
aided greatly in the disposal of the more sub-
stantial viands, which were sought as a wel-
come change from the steamer diet.

For those disposed to more ceremonial and
expensive habits, the hotels of the town offered
a breakfast as elaborate in variety, if not in
cookery, as could be desired.

At the table of one of these, with a high-
sounding name, and furnishing, as its adver-
tisement set forth, " all that the country
afforded," I found, besides the usual hard-
boiled eggs and harder chicken, a coterie of
uniformed army officers, to whom, by the
kindness of the purser of the steamer, I was
introduced. When they found that I spoke
their language and was, moreover, much inter-
ested in the popular cause for which they were
contending, they became communicative about
the cause and present status of the war, adding
to the interest of what they told by that
charming politeness which is characteristic of
the educated Spanish-American.

The facility with which I had made up my
mind to leave California may have been re-



8 The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua.

marked ; it will, therefore, cause no surprise
when I record the fact that I at once decided
to remain and join my fortunes to those of La
Democracia, in the efforts to establish by the
sword that will of the people which had been
declared through the ballot.

Little time was left me for carrying my
decision into effect, for the passengers, after
a few hours' delay at San Juan, mounted
horses and mules, and started on the journey
of twelve miles over the transit road to Virgin
Bay. The baggage had already been forwarded
to that point. I wished to take leave of my
fellow-countrymen and companions, albeit but
of a few days, so I mounted the horse assigned
me and accompanied them, intending when the
baggage should be claimed at Virgin Bay, as
we were informed it was to be, to withdraw
mine and return thence to San Juan. I had
been told that here might be picked up a scat-
tered number of Europeans and Americans,
who might be induced by the offer of good
pay and adventure to join the Democratic
army at Granada.



CHAPTER II.

Bathing under difficulties Lake Nicaragua Gorgeous scenic effect
A beautiful sunrise Loss of baggage Philosophical reflec-
tions Animated forest life Adventure with monkeys Recruit-
ing for adverse factions in the same town.

THE greater part of the journey to Virgin
Bay was over the beautifully graded road
made by the new Transit Company through
the tropical forest. As I accompanied the rude
and boisterous passengers made more noisy
by the liberal potations of aguadiente imbibed
at San Juan, and their freedom from the re-
straint of life, a necessity within the narrow
limits of the ship, I consoled myself by ob-
serving the extreme beauty and tranquillity of
the woods, with the lovely parasitical plants,
climbing, trailing, swinging, on each side of
the way, the bright sunlight darting between
their leaves and casting shadows of arabesque
pattern before and all about me.

I promised myself further pleasure in all
this beauty when I should retrace my steps in



io The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua.

solitude to San Juan. At Virgin Bay a re-
newal of the dissipation of San Juan was in
order. I presented the remainder of my first-
class cabin ticket to a friend of former days-
Mr. Gibbs George, of Fulton, Missouri (I
wonder if he is yet alive and remembers the
occurrence), and was not sorry to see the boat
leave the wharf, about midnight, freighted with
my turbulent fellow-voyagers. The fatigue of
a day of such diverse and arduous experiences
soon dissipated the slight sensation of loneli-
ness which accompanied me to the hard couch
assigned me at the rather squalid hotel.

No amount of exhaustion, however, could
long withstand the combined attack of the
myriad of fleas with which the bed was infested,
and, after a restless night, I arose with the first
streak of dawn, and wended my way through
the now silent and deserted street to the
shore of the lake. My purpose was to seek
relief from the soreness inflicted by my tor-
mentors, by a bath in the limpid water. The
pleasure and relief which I had hoped to de-
rive from the bath were checked when, after my
first plunge, I observed an attendance of large
and repulsive-looking fish. Seeing a female
of mahogany-colored complexion in the act of



The "Filibuster " War in Nicaragua. \ I

filling an earthern jar with water near by, I
asked her what kind of fish they were. " They
are sharks," she replied, "and they will eat you
if you do not come out of the water."

I stood not on the order of my going,
and learned afterwards that the sharks came
up the San Juan River from the Atlantic
Ocean into this large inland lake. The possi-
bility of finding them in fresh water had not
before occurred to me. As I was about to
retrace my steps to the hotel, the peculfar
brilliancy of the tropical sunrise arrested my
attention. In the background, on what seemed
to be the farther shore of Lake Nicaragua, a
serrated ridge of extinct volcanic peaks stood
up in the clear ether ; the sunlight, streaming
from behind and between them, irradiated the
landscape without dazzling the eye of the be-
holder. The grandeur of these giant volcanoes,
and their power of projection upon the vision,
was startling. They caused comparatively dis-
tant objects to seem as near as those close at
hand. Out of the centre of the tranquil lake,
which occupied the foreground, the cone of
the extinct volcano Ometepec rose straight up
in the form of an obelisk, and with approxi-
mate symmetry. Its side and base down to



12 The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua.

the water were draped in the exuberant
foliage of the tropics, while its tapering bare
gray summit towered to the skies. No move-
ment except the flicker produced by the sun-
light on the slightly rippling surface of the lake
disturbed the grand solemnity of the view.
The general effect, in the clear atmosphere, of
the grouping of such mountains I have no-
where seen equalled, except among the snow-
capped ranges of Switzerland, and these,
though not less grand than the Nicaraguan
chains, are of a wholly different type, are sur-
rounded by a different atmosphere, and clothed
with a different vegetation. I turned from the
lovely panorama with regret, once more to
plunge into the business of life, with its tur-
moils and disappointments.

On presenting my baggage-check at the
office of the company, I was informed that in
consequence of the general inebriety of the
passengers, many of whom were in no condi-
tion to see to their effects, it had been deemed
best to forward all the baggage to the Atlantic
steamer. No telegraph existed in those days,
so I could not reclaim mine on this side of the
company's offices in New York. This was a
severe blow to me. I had a handful of loose



The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua. 13

coin in my pocket, but the few hundred dollars
I possessed, with some valuable gold speci-
mens, and a very good outfit of clothing, were
in my trunk. No legal relief was to be had.
As expostulation was unavailing, I turned on
my heel and left the office. I have never
heard what became of my effects. Drunkenness
has never been among my sins, but I had to suf-
fer for the faults of others, and trust to what
Mr. Emerson would designate the law of com-
pensation in human affairs for balancing the
account.

After paying my bill at the hotel, and pur-
chasing a quantity of fruit and cooked viands
in the market, which I tied in my handker-
chief, and seeing that my revolver was proper-
ly loaded, I threw over my shoulders the light
scrape, or blanket, of which my camping habits
had taught me the value, and leisurely began
to retrace my previous day's journey through
the woods to San Juan. Having gone far
enough to secure quiet and isolation, I seated
myself in the shade of a gigantic seiba tree,
near the bank of a rippling stream, and ate my
breakfast amid the forest solitudes, undisturbed
by the thought of my limited pecuniary re-
sources. I had rather more than the tradi-



14 The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua.

tional twenty-five cents with which self-made
men have founded their fortunes when they
crossed their Rubicon. Health and that confi-
dence of youth which I had trusted before, in
more forlorn situations, sufficed, with a philo-
sophic disposition, to enable me to dismiss all
care.

To the dreamer of pantheistic proclivities
there is, indeed, a solace and affinity in nature,
breathing of a presence dim and shadowy, con-
nected by mysterious yet sympathetic chords
with the human organism. Science vainly
strives to analyze such feelings, and as vainly
bids us ignore them. In such moments we
seem to grasp a remote past of our being.
Sensation and the trivial surroundings of daily
life are for the time disregarded ; the poten-
tialities of existence seem to have expelled the
myriad petty worries of ordinary life, and we
find ourselves in the presence of that myste-
rious Nirvana source of past and final rest.

In such musings, congenial to my habits of
thought from earliest youth, though sadly out
of joint with the practical spirit of the times, I
passed many hours in this tranquil spot, until
the slanting beams of the sun warned me that
my journey was nearly all before me. As I



The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua. 15

had determined to sleep in the woods, in order
to enter San Juan and pass the military out-
post by day, instead of by night, I proceeded
leisurely on my way. I encountered no human
being, but in no wise lacked company, and of
a very animated kind. My foot-falls made
very little noise, and as the various native den-
izens of this vast tropical forest were seldom
molested by the native people, I found the
trees full of gayly-plumaged macaws, parrots,
and various other birds whose names I did
not know. Rolling in the gravel of the road,
or digging among the roots by the wayside, I
observed many of the kinds of animals which
I had hitherto only seen through the bars of
cages in travelling menageries or shows. Ar-
madillos, ant-eaters, the guatuso, peccaries, or
wild hogs, and many other kinds I passed, in-
tent usually on seeking their evening meal ;
while the monkeys seemed to rise from the
earth and fill the tree-tops every step of the
way. These monkeys alone seemed to pay
any attention to my passage over the road,
chattering and using threatening gestures, ludi-
crous considering the panic of fear that fol-
lowed any assumed aggressive action of mine.
As the sun, sinking behind the tree-tops,



1 6 The "Filibuster" War in Nicaragua.

warned me of the approach of night, I found
myself crossing a little rustic bridge, thrown
over a clear stream, on the farther bank of
which I descried what on investigation proved
to be the remains of a woodman's cabin. In
the immediate vicinity of this the trees had
been cleared away, probably, in part, for the
construction of the bridge and hut, which lat-
ter, though deficient in roof or door, was not
to be despised as a kind of fortress. The four
walls opposed a barrier against any possible
sudden inroads of wild beasts ; besides that,
the fire-place, and the four posts, over which
a stretched bullock's hide still remained, might


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