James Jeffrey Roche.

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General Jerez, commanding the Democratic army at Leon, had made one or
two contracts with other Americans, unknown to his superiors. The
Granadinos, too, not to be behind their Democratic rivals, had sent Don
Guadalupe Saenz to California to drum up recruits for their side. But
nothing came of either venture, and the Leonese, now hemmed in their
own department by the victorious Legitimists, looked wistfully for the
coming of Walker. He at last succeeded in collecting the barely
necessary amount of money, and cast about him for a suitable vessel to
carry the new Argonauts.

In the shipping intelligence of the day is chronicled amongst the
clearances at the San Francisco Custom House, on April 21st, the brig
_Vesta_, Captain Briggs, for Realejo, forty-seven passengers. She
did not sail, however, though some fifty or sixty passengers had taken
their quarters on board. For at the last moment a new obstacle arose.
Walker had bought her outright, though she was a slow, unseaworthy
craft, some thirty years old, as nothing better offered, and found out,
when too late, that she was liable for several debts incurred by the
former owners. The sheriff seized her and, for security, had her sails
stripped off and stored on shore. New creditors with old claims also
appeared, ready to serve other attachments as soon as the first should
be dissolved. Everybody who held a claim, real or fictitious, against
the luckless craft, hastened to present it, knowing that Walker must
pay their demands or incur a delay of tedious litigation, and delay
meant death to his hopes. A revenue cutter drew up alongside the brig,
ready to prevent a possible attempt at departure. The expeditionists
grew restive, but Walker quieted them with the promise of a speedy
departure. Seeking out the creditor who had attached the vessel, Walker
persuaded him to grant a release on easy terms, but it took his last
cent to defray the sheriff's extravagant fees of three hundred dollars.
The last charge was paid on the 3rd of May, and Walker was authorized
to ask the revenue cutter's aid in having the brig's sails bent on,
which was rapidly and noiselessly done at night. But though out of the
hands of the Government officers, the _Vesta_ was still liable to
detention by civil process, and a sheriff's keeper remained on board.
The captain fearing to risk illegal steps, a new commander, M. D. Eyre,
was hastily engaged. He went on board about midnight, having hired a
towboat to carry the brig out to sea, and about the hour of one on the
morning of May 4, 1855, the legal functionary was put on board the
tow-boat, the lines cast off, and fifty-six filibusters embarked on a
voyage of 2,700 miles in a crazy brig bound for a hostile port. A story
is told that just before putting to sea, Walker invited the sheriff's
officer into the cabin and addressed him briefly as follows: "Here,
sir, are wine and cigars; also handcuffs and irons. Please make choice
of which you will have. This vessel is going to sea." The officer,
according to this rather apocryphal story, was a man of the world, and
the _Vesta_ put to sea.

Walker breathed more freely as the Golden Gate closed behind him, and
the tug-boat _Resolute_, fading to a smoky speck on the water,
loosened the last tenacious tentacle of the octopus - law. Harassed
like Cortez by petty trials, he was, like him, sailing with a few
chosen followers to a new destiny. He confided in the superiority of
civilization over barbarism, and the certainty that he would receive
his country's support the moment that success should first crown his
arms: success which condones even greater faults than illegal warfare.
The cost of failure he did not count. The stout-hearted hunter who
enters a lion's den does not ask what will happen if nerve or steel
fail him confronting his angry foe. Despite the result, there is
something thrilling in the story of the fifty-six men who stole out of
a harbour by night to conquer an empire - and all but succeeded! For
not by armaments nor resources should such enterprises be judged, but
by the deeds of the adventurers. As Prescott says, "It is not numbers
that give importance to a conflict, but the consequences that depend
upon it; the magnitude of the stake, and the skill and courage of the
players - the more limited the means, even, the greater may be the
science shown in the use of them."

They sailed down the Pacific coast - a long and stormy voyage - and,
after touching at Tigre Island for a pilot, cast anchor in the port of
Realejo, Nicaragua, on the 16th day of June. Old Realejo, at which the
_Vesta's_ voyage ended, was the site of a once prosperous Spanish
town with a good harbour and deep tide-water; but so often had the
buccaneers ravaged it, that the inhabitants had abandoned it and built
a new town of the same name five miles further up the river, accessible
only to boats of light draught. The strangers re-embarked in several
canoes, or _bongoes_, hollowed from the ceiba tree, and by four
o'clock that day arrived at New Realejo. Castellon and his cabinet were
at Leon, the Democratic capital, whither Walker and Major Crocker set
out the next day escorted by Colonel Ramirez and Captain Doubleday of
the native army. The Provisional Director warmly received his new ally,
and promptly and formally accepted the immigrants into the military
service of Nicaragua. They were organized as a separate corps, under
the name of "La Falange Americana," or American Phalanx, and placed
under the immediate command of their own officers. Commissions were
issued on the 20th of June to Walker as colonel, Achilles Kewen as
lieutenant-colonel, and Timothy Crocker as major. Orders were given
them at once to proceed by water to Rivas, in the Meridional
department, which was held by the enemy. Colonel Ramirez, with two
hundred natives, was detailed to help the Falange, but only half that
number answered the roll-call, when the _Vesta_ weighed anchor at
Realejo, on the 23rd of June.

Walker had seen enough of his new friends to convince him that his
ambition had nothing to fear from such rivals. Castellon was an amiable
and irresolute gentleman; Munoz was ambitious and vain, but incapable.
The native soldiery were ill-trained and fickle-minded. Faction had
stifled any faint sparks of patriotism in their breasts. A few hundred
of them who bore the proud title of _veteranos_, had smelt powder and
could face an enemy after a march of forty miles under a tropical sun.
They wore a tasteful uniform and carried muskets and knapsacks.

But the hundred recruits of Ramirez were a Falstaffian corps of
indolent, good-natured rascals, who devoted all the intervals between
skirmishing to gambling and gossip. As their country's proverb hath it,
"they would gamble away the sun before sunrise." In striking contrast
with those children of nature were the men of California, with iron
nerves and dauntless courage, in whose characters vice lost half its
evil by losing, if not its grossness, all its meanness; men who "deemed
no crime, or curse, or vice as dark as that of cowardice." Their
manliness was incapable of treachery, falsehood, or the meaner
passions, born of a society in which law, the only remedy for wrong,
too easily becomes the strongest shield of the wrong-doer. Having
summed up their virtues in the comprehensive ones of courage and
loyalty, there is little else to be said in their favour. For
themselves they would have asked no higher praise, and strict justice
can accord them little beyond.

It was a bold move to attack the enemy in his stronghold. Rivas and the
adjoining country are the most densely populated parts of Nicaragua.
The city of Rivas contains eleven thousand inhabitants, while the
department of that name and the adjacent Oriental department number
respectively twenty thousand and ninety-five thousand. Four days after
leaving Realejo, the party, to the number of one hundred and sixty-five
landed at a point on the coast near the town of Brito, and immediately
began a forced march to Rivas. Midnight and a severe rain storm
overtook them in the midst of a strange country, but they trudged
patiently along, ankle-deep in mud, shielding their precious ammunition
from the falling torrents. On the second night of their march the
weather proved a useful ally, enabling them to surprise and overpower a
picket of the enemy at the village of Tola. Next morning they were
rewarded by a first sight of Lake Nicaragua in all its matchless
beauty. Walker, who had beheld the glories of Switzerland, Italy, and
California, pauses in the recital of his dangerous adventures to note
the charms of the earthly paradise upon which he had come to launch the
horrors of war. Between him and the lake six hundred Legitimist's
troops lay at Rivas, awaiting the attack.

No time was lost in forming the plan of assault. To the Falange was
awarded the post of honour, the native command of Ramirez being
reserved to support them. Kewen and Crocker led the Americans, who, at
the word of command, advanced steadily, receiving the enemy's fire with
the coolness of veterans, and reserving their own until it could tell
most effectively. Then after pouring in a volley they charged with a
yell, and drove the advance guard of the Serviles down the narrow
streets to the plaza. A stubborn resistance was made at this point.
Crocker was dangerously wounded in two places, his right arm was broken
by a musket shot, but he carried his pistol in his left hand and
continued to fire it into the faces of the enemy, until a third shot
laid him dead. Walker, who had joined his countrymen in the charge, now
called for the native reserves to decide the issue; but they were
nowhere to be seen. The poltroons had fled at the first shot. The enemy
perceived the defection and pressed the abandoned Falange so hard that
they were driven for shelter to some adobe huts, behind whose walls
they held their own for three hours. It was a losing game with so small
a force, for every man slain was equal to thrice the number of enemies
added. Achilles Kewen was the next officer to fall. The hardy pioneer,
Doubleday, was shot in the head, though not fatally. Seeing six of his
men dead, and twice as many wounded, Walker ordered a sortie. The enemy
had lost a hundred and fifty in killed and wounded, and General Boscha,
their commander, deemed it wiser to offer no opposition to the
departure of the Americans. The Serviles, with cowardly ferocity,
killed the wounded men who had been left on the plaza, and celebrated
their victory by burning the bodies. The ghastly bonfire lit up the
city as the weary filibusters halted on their retreat near the Transit
road to San Juan del Sur. The following morning they resumed the march
to that city, where they arrived about sunset, on June 30th, in a most
deplorable plight. Some were hatless, some shoeless, and all exhausted
with battle and travel, as they marched into the town. There is a whole
epitome of filibustering in the fact that at such a time two recruits
were found to join the ranks of the Falange. "The Texan, Harry McLeod,
and the Irishman, Peter Burns," deserve mention for this characteristic
piece of hardihood.

The _Vesta_ was cruising off the coast, awaiting orders from Walker,
who therefore impressed a Costa Rican schooner, the _San Jose,_ for
the purpose of carrying his command to Realejo, defending his action
upon the ground that the same vessel had already been used to carry
General Guardiola from Honduras to Nicaragua upon a hostile mission,
thus forfeiting her neutral rights. The schooner was confiscated a
year afterwards, by Walker, for sailing under a false register, and,
being converted into a man-of-war and renamed the _Granada,_ played
quite an important part in the climax of this tragedy.

In this critical hour of his fortunes, Walker's firmness was put to a
severe test. A couple of dissolute Americans, who had been living for
some time at San Juan, either through drunken folly or private spite,
or for the purpose of plunder, set fire to the barracks on shore,
for a time placing the whole town in danger of destruction. Walker,
foreseeing that the act would be at once attributed to his men, took
measures to punish the offenders. One of them escaped from the party
detailed to execute him. The other, a gambler named Dewey, took refuge
in the hold of a small boat attached to the stern of the _San Jose_.
The desperado was well armed, and any attempt to capture him would
have proved fatal to one or more of his assailants. So all the night
Walker and a guard of men kept watch over the boat, ready to shoot
or seize the villain if he tried to escape. At daybreak the schooner
put to sea, towing astern the boat in which Dewey lay sheltered
behind a poor native woman, his wretched mistress. The gambler, as
everybody on board knew, was a dead shot, while his guard lay under
the disadvantage of fearing to injure the woman if they fired. At last
he rose to cut the boat's painter, and at that moment a rifle ball
ended his career. The poor woman was wounded also, but not mortally.
Walker takes pains to recount minutely the details of this incident,
in order to vindicate the character of his followers. So severe a
punishment was not lost upon those of his men who might be inclined to
take a baser view of filibusterism than their leader did.

On the same day they met the _Vesta_ at sea, and embarking on board
the old brig, arrived at Realejo on July 1st. Walker was justly
incensed at the defection of his native allies at Rivas, and
positively refused to continue in the Democratic service without
better guarantees of support on emergency than the jealousy of the
native commanders seemed likely to allow. The Falange remained several
days at Leon, where the firmness of their leader alone averted a
collision between them and the troops of Munoz, who had set the
example of hostility and distrust towards the new-comers. At last,
finding the Cabinet unable to agree upon a fixed policy (though a
modified contract had been drawn up, by the terms of which the Falange
were to be enlisted in the army of Nicaragua to the number of three
hundred, and receive one hundred dollars a month per man, and five
hundred acres of land each at the close of the war), Walker withdrew
his men from Leon to Realejo. There he embarked them on the _Vesta,_
with the pretended purpose of departing for Honduras, and entering the
service of President Cabañas. Nothing however, was farther from his
intention. The Meridional department, commanding the Transit route,
was the point at whose acquisition he steadily aimed. To maintain his
foothold in Nicaragua he well knew he must keep open his communication
with the United States and the recruits who were sure to flock thence
to his standard.

Castellon was perplexed, fearing equally to part with his valuable
allies and to displease Munoz by retaining them. The fortune of war
decided the question. The Legitimists under Corral and His Hondureño
ally, Guardiola, were drawing close to Leon. Santos Guardiola (his name
is still muttered with a curse throughout the length and breadth of the
isthmus) was a native of Honduras, who joined the Guatemalan enemies of
his country, and, by his unparalleled cruelties to young and old, men
and women alike, acquired the dread name of "The Tiger of Honduras." He
was sprung from the stock which produces nine-tenths of the murderers
and thieves of Central America, the offspring of Indo-African
amalgamation known as "Sambos."

A deadlier foe, the cholera, was also beginning to ravage the
Democratic department. To meet Corral and his forces, Munoz went forth
with six hundred men, and a sharp engagement occurred at Sauce, in
which the enemy was repulsed, but Munoz was slain. The loss of that
commander influenced Castellon more than the temporary victory, and he
continued to beg Walker to return. But Walker had already secured the
co-operation of an influential partisan, Don Jose Maria Valle, who
readily enlisted a hundred and sixty men for the enterprise against
the Meridional department, and, with the easy loyalty of his nation,
proposed that Walker should pronounce against Castellon and set up an
independent government. Walker was honourable enough to reject the
ungrateful suggestion, although he did not hesitate to disobey the
Provisional Director's commands when they crossed his own policy.
Accordingly, on the 23rd of August the _Vesta_ sailed once more for
the Meridional department, and arrived at San Juan del Sur on the
29th. The Legitimists fled at his approach. While the Americans were
there the steamer from San Francisco arrived and departed, carrying
back with her, as a recruiting agent, the afterwards notorious Parker
H. French.

After a stay of four days Walker set out for Rivas, where Guardiola and
six hundred Serviles lay waiting to regain the laurels lost at Sauce.
The Americans, after a few hours' march, halted for breakfast at Virgin
Bay, on the lake, and were at once attacked by Guardiola's whole
command who had made a forced march towards San Juan, and then,
doubling, followed the Americans to Virgin Bay. Attacked on front and
flank, Walker made a good disposition of his little force. Previous
experience had taught him that no superiority of discipline, skill, and
courage sufficed to counterbalance the numerical odds of eight to one
on an open field. He was now to try the effect of pitting the same
against a proportion of only five to one, with the ground in his
favour. The Falange, as usual, bore the brunt of battle; but the
natives, being better officered than before, fought well. Guardiola was
driven back at every point, notwithstanding that his men showed
desperate courage. But no courage could withstand the deadly
marksmanship of the Americans, who, with rifle or revolver, always
engaged at close quarters and never wasted a shot. The combat, which
hardly deserves the name of a battle, lasted only two hours;
sufficiently long to inflict on the enemy a loss of sixty killed and a
hundred wounded. At its conclusion Guardiola withdrew his demoralized
forces and fled to Rivas. Walker, Doubleday, and a few others were
wounded, but none of the Americans, and but three of their native
allies, were killed.

Walker now returned to San Juan, where he picked up a few recruits from
among the ranks of homeward-bound Americans on the steamer from
California. Here also he learned of the death of Castellon, who had
fallen a victim to the cholera. His successor, Don Nasario Escoto,
warmly congratulated Walker on his success at Virgin Bay, and promised
further aid. Learning from intercepted letters of the authorities at
Granada that the city was in an almost defenceless condition, he
determined to attack the Legitimist stronghold without awaiting the
advance of Corral, who had replaced Guardiola in the command of the
enemy. To show his contempt of the latter, he sent the intercepted
correspondence to the Legitimist headquarters, and was not a little
surprised at receiving a polite acknowledgement of the courtesy, and a
hieroglyphic document from Corral, which proved to consist of Masonic
signs. A freemason in the Falange, De Brissot, interpreted them to mean
an overture for confidential negotiations. No reply was made to the

Recruits continued to flock to the Democratic standard. Colonel Charles
Gilman, a one-legged veteran of Sonora, came down with thirty-five men
from California. The native allies now numbered about two hundred and
fifty. Two small cannon were procured and mounted. By the 11th of
October Walker had everything in readiness for his most audacious
stroke, the capture of Granada, a city as dear to the Legitimist cause,
and especially to its proud inhabitants, as was its namesake to the
Moors of old Spain.

Corral was massing his forces at Rivas, hoping, yet fearing, to meet
his enemy on the Transit road. No suspicion of an attack on the capital
seems to have entered his mind. Dissension was rife in the Legitimist
camp, Guardiola and Corral quarrelling for the supreme command. The
native Democrats on the other side, whatever of jealousy they may have
felt towards their foreign allies, carefully veiled their feelings and
made a show of the utmost cordiality. Walker enforced absolute
discipline without distinction of nationality, a spice of grim humour
sometimes seasoning his decisions. Two native officers, having
quarrelled all night over some old or new feud, were ordered to settle
the affair by going out and fighting a duel next morning, but their
courage had oozed away by daybreak, and the trouble was heard of no

At last, on the morning of October 11th, the Democratic army, about
four hundred strong, took the line of march over the white Transit road
to Virgin Bay. The Falange were in good spirits as they marched gaily
along the dusty highway. They were nearly all in the prime of
life - tall, robust, and spirited. Their only distinctive uniform, if it
might be called such, was the red ribbon which they wore tied around
their black "slouch" hats. They wore blue or red woollen shirts, coarse
trousers tucked into heavy boots, with a revolver and a bowie knife in
each belt, and a precious rifle on every man's shoulder. Many new faces
were in the ranks, and some old ones were missing which could ill be
spared from a service of trust and danger. Ten of the original
fifty-six had fallen in battle - Kewen, a brave veteran of Mexico and
Cuba, Crocker, McIndoe, Cotham, Bailey, Hews, Wilson, William and Frank
Cole, and Estabrook. Some were absent on leave, amongst them the
pioneer, Doubleday, who had returned home piqued by an untimely rebuke
from his commander. The estrangement did not last long. Doubleday soon
wearied of a peaceful life, and was welcomed back by Walker on his
return to active service.


A Servile victory in the North - Walker in the enemy's stronghold -
Negotiations for peace - Execution of Mayorga - Rivas chosen
Provisional Director - Corral's treason and punishment - Newspaper

Corral lay with the main body of the Legitimist army at Rivas, keeping,
through his scouts and spies, a close watch on the movements of his
enemy. One of those spies, having been caught within the Democratic
lines, was tried by court-martial and summarily shot. Corral fancied
that he had his foes in a trap, and he accordingly devoted all his
efforts to prevent their retreat to San Juan, as well as to cut off
reinforcements from California. Matters, indeed, looked desperate with
the Democrats. On the North the Leonese had just been routed in battle
by General Martinez at Pueblo Nuevo, and the victor had only halted for
a time at Granada to receive a triumphal ovation before coming down to
Rivas to join in the extermination of the filibusters.

It had been a gala day in the city of Granada. From early dawn to
midnight her ten thousand citizens filled the streets and plazas with
revelry and congratulations. Salvos of artillery thundered a welcome to
the victors, joy bells rang all day, and _bombas_ and rockets wasted
precious powder in their honour. _Aguardiente_ flowed freely as water,
until the valiant soldiers prayed that Walker might be spared
destruction long enough to meet the heroes of Pueblo Nuevo. Far into
the night lasted the grand fiesta, till the last drunken reveller had
hied him home or lain down in the street to dream of renewed happiness
on the morrow. The tardiest lover had tinkled his farewell on the
guitar. In the grand plaza the guard nodded around the watch fire,
while from distant pickets came at intervals the long-drawn nasal
"Alerte!" of the sentinels. It was a melodious cry, equally unlike the
sharp challenge of the Frenchman or the stern English monosyllables.

Granada slept, the while a little steamer, with lights cloaked and
furnaces hidden, steamed slowly along the shore. Not a sound broke the
stillness of the lake, save the lap of surf or the plash of the
startled saurian. The jaguar prowling among the orange trees on the
shore challenged the unfamiliar noise, and the night birds passed along
the cry of warning which was lost upon the ears of the sleepy
sentinels. They drowsed over their waning fires until the gray of
morning broke on the mountains, and from convent and church tower the
joy-bells renewed the merry peals. Here and there a straggling sentry
discharged his piece in response. Another and another shot were heard;
then, suddenly, a short, sharp volley such as never came from the mouth
of smooth-bore musket. The joy-bells changed to a loud alarm as a
terrified sentinel rushed in from the South suburb, crying, "The enemy

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Online LibraryJames Jeffrey RocheBy-Ways of War → online text (page 7 of 17)