James Jeffrey Roche.

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are on us! the Filibusteros!" Close upon his heels came the broken and
demoralized picket, with the advance guard of Americans under Walker
and Valle galloping on their track.

The surprised garrison, after the first panic, rallied and made a short
stand on the plaza, until an impetuous charge of the invaders swept
them away. In less time than has been taken to tell it one hundred and
ten filibusters had carried by assault the city of Granada, without
losing a man - literally, for a drummer-boy was the only victim on their

The surprise was complete, and the consequence of supreme importance to
Walker, who, from the chief city of the Servile party, might dictate
terms to Central America. Corral had been completely outgeneralled,
nobody but Walker himself and his trusted aids, Valle and Hornsby,
having been acquainted with the object of the expedition when it set
out from Virgin Bay.

Walker, as soon as he had organized a provisional government and
convinced his native allies by vigorous measures that the conquered
city was not to be subjected to the usual treatment of plunder and
violence, sent a delegation to negotiate with Corral. The envoys were
met with a polite negative, while the United States minister, Mr.
Wheeler, who had accompanied them in the character of a peacemaker, was
thrown into prison and threatened with other punishments, whence ensued
much diplomatic correspondence and official shedding of ink.

Meanwhile the hope of a peaceable understanding was seriously
jeopardized by the folly of Walker's recruiting agent, Parker H.
French. He had come to San Juan with a body of new men from California,
and after crossing the Transit had seized one of the lake steamers,
with the intention of capturing Fort San Carlos, at the head of the San
Juan River, the same stronghold which in its days of power had been the
key to the Transit route and to lake navigation. French was easily
repulsed, and made his way to Granada to report his misadventures.
Tidings of his deeds reaching Rivas in the meantime, some Legitimist
soldiers, by way of reprisal, attacked and killed six or seven
Californian passengers who were awaiting at Virgin Bay a chance of
passage to the Atlantic coast. Shortly afterwards the commandant of
Fort San Carlos fired into a westward-bound steamer, killing some
passengers who were as innocent of complicity with French or the
filibusters as had been the other victims at Virgin Bay. The protest of
the American minister being treated with contempt, Walker, with
questionable justice, retaliated by ordering a court-martial on the
Legitimist Secretary of State, Don Mateo Mayorga, who had been captured
at the taking of Granada. Such a method of holding a cabinet minister
responsible for the acts of his government was enforcing the principles
of constitutional rule with a vengeance. The court was composed of the
secretary's countrymen, who brought in a verdict of guilty, and Mayorga
was promptly executed. Although personally refraining from interfering
in the case, and only reluctantly sanctioning the sentence of death, it
is evident that Walker had begun to learn the Central American method
of conducting warfare. But the execution, if morally unjustified,
proved to be a wise act politically. Corral at once agreed to treat for
peace, and a meeting between him and Walker was arranged to take place
at Granada on the 23rd of October.

Again the bells of Granada rang out in joy, and the light-hearted
populace welcomed the festival whether of peace or of war. The Falange,
now some tenscore strong, joined with the native soldiery in a military
welcome to their late enemies.

At the approach of Corral, Walker, attended by his staff, rode out of
the suburbs to meet him. The commanders saluted each other with grave
cordiality, and re-entered the city side by side, proceeding to the
grand cathedral, where Padre Vijil, the curate of Granada, offered up a
High Mass, and _Te Deums_ of thanksgiving were sung. Nor did the good
father fail in his sermon to show the advantages to his beloved
country attending the presence of the strange American of the North.

Handsome Corral was the darling of the Granadinos. He had the
superficial traits which draw popularity - dash, openhandedness,
physical beauty, and a sunny disposition; but he was weak, vain, and
untrustworthy, for all that. We have seen how he coquetted with Walker
while in command of the Legitimist forces, treating for peace and
imprisoning its envoys. Having come to Granada to complete the
negotiations, he now betrayed the rights of his principal, the
President, so called, Estrada, and entered into a sacred compact with
the Leonese, whose acts were sanctioned by their nominal President.

By the terms of the agreement Don Patricio Rivas was appointed
President _pro tempore_, with the following cabinet: Maximo Jerez,
Minister of Relations; Firmin Ferrer, Minister of Public Credit; Parker
H. French, Minister of Hacienda; Ponciano Corral, Minister of War.
Walker was appointed generalissimo of the army, which consisted of
twelve hundred men, distributed throughout the country in small
garrisons. Five hundred men were stationed at Leon and the remainder at
Virgin Bay, Granada, Rivas, and other fortified positions. The general
in chief received a salary of five hundred dollars a month, and his
subordinates were awarded correspondingly liberal pay, or promises to
pay. There were seven surgeons and two chaplains attached to the
forces; the former held no sinecure.

During the progress of the negotiations Corral, with the small subtlety
of miniature politics, had sought to entrap Walker in various ways,
such as requiring him to take the oath upon the Crucifix, and similar
ceremonial punctilioes, to which Walker, as a Protestant, might have
been expected to object, but, like a man of sense, did not. He rightly
judged that the keeping of an oath was of more importance than the form
of taking it; and therein he differed from Corral, who was detected, a
few days after the formation of the government, in treasonable
correspondence with the neighbouring states. A native courier deceived
the traitor, and placed in Walker's hands the fatal letters containing
indisputable proofs of the writer's guilt.

To Xatruch, a Legitimist refugee, he had written, nine days after the
signing of the treaty, begging him to foment hostility against the new
administration. In a similar strain he wrote to Guardiola, the Honduran
Servile leader, conjuring him to arouse the Legitimist element
everywhere against the American intruders: "Nicaragua is lost, lost are
Honduras, San Salvador, and Guatemala if they let this thing prevail.
Let them come quickly, if they would meet auxiliaries." General
Martinez, commanding at Managua, was also implicated in the treason,
but received warning in time to fly the country.

Walker at once requested the President and Cabinet to meet him, and
laid before them the evidence of Corral's guilt. A court-martial was
convened, the members of which were all Americans, such, it is said,
being the wish of the accused, who knew that he could expect no mercy
from his countrymen. From the same motive, he did not deny his guilt,
but threw himself on the mercy of his judges, relying, as it proved,
over-much on the magnanimity which the Americans had heretofore
displayed. He was sentenced to die by the fusillade at noon of the next
day, November the 7th. The time of execution was subsequently postponed
two hours. The friends of the condemned made earnest appeals for mercy
in his behalf, being seconded by the leading public citizens, and
particularly by Padre Vijil, the gentle apostle of peace; but Walker,
though much moved and fully aware of the odious construction which his
enemies would put upon the act, firmly refused the petition. The
treason was too flagrant, the example unfortunately too necessary, and
mercy to such a traitor would have been injustice to every loyal man in
the state.

Corral died at the appointed hour, and the lesson was not wholly lost
upon his accomplices. Walker has been bitterly censured for this piece
of stern justice, especially at home in the United States, where the
act was misrepresented as that of a suspicious tyrant who thus rid
himself of a dangerous rival. But there is not the slightest reason for
regarding Corral's death as aught but the well-merited punishment of an
utterly unscrupulous villain. His whole conduct in connection with the
late war was consistent with his last and fatal treachery. Even the
morality of Nicaragua, loose as it was in matters of public faith,
while lamenting the fate of Handsome Ponciano, confessed that he was
well-named "Corral," the beautiful but deadly serpent of the country.

That impartial justice governed the action of Walker is evident from an
incident which occurred on the very day on which Corral was inditing
his treason to Xatruch and Guardiola. Patrick Jordan, a soldier of the
Falange, while intoxicated, shot and mortally wounded a native boy.
Jordan was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death. Padre Vijil
and many others, including the mother of the murdered boy, begged in
vain for leniency to the culprit. On the 3rd of November, two days
after the commission of his crime, Jordan was shot at sunrise. Walker's
detractors commented characteristically upon this execution, picturing
the impartial judge as another Mokanna, delighting in the suffering of
friend as of foe. The historian, groping in the darkness of
contemporaneous journalism for facts of current history, wherever those
facts bear upon the so-called political issues of the time, finds
himself floundering at every step in sloughs of falsehoods or
quicksands of misrepresentation. The evil, unhappily, is confined to no
party or epoch. Walker being a champion, and a bigoted one, of a
certain party, paid the inevitable penalty, that of being equally
over-praised and underrated, according to the political prejudices of
his critics.

To Don Buenaventura Selva was given the vacant portfolio of war. The
representative of the United States recognized the new administration.
The neighbouring states of Liberal tendencies sent assurances of hearty
friendship; those in which the Servile party was supreme maintained a
diplomatic silence. Peace reigned throughout the length and breadth of
Nicaragua, the peace of her own slumbering volcanoes.


Filibusterism abroad - Kinney's Expedition - The Filibusters and their
allies - An aristocracy of leather - Pierce and Marcy - A rupture with
the United States - Costa Rica declares war - Schlessinger's fiasco -
Cosmopolitan adventurers - Steamers withdrawn - History of the Transit
Company - Vanderbilt plans vengeance - The printing-press on the

In the United States, particularly in California, Walker's amazing
success gave an impulse to filibustering of a different, because more
sanguine, nature from that produced by the first expeditions of Lopez
to Cuba. France and England also awoke to behold with dismay this
solution of the Central American problem. Not less alarmed was the
Conservative element in Spanish America, the more reactionary part of
which talked wildly of calling in a European protectorate and of
breaking off commercial intercourse with the North Americans. Mexico,
Cuba, Ecuador, and Central America were threatened by invading
expeditions, while Nicaragua was made the objective point of an actual
invasion from the Atlantic coast. It will be remembered that the
Mosquito king's grant to the Shepards had been transferred to a
colonization company in the United States; upon the strength of which
Henry L. Kinney, of Philadelphia, proceeded to occupy his property. But
there were many difficulties in the way. The grant had been revoked by
his Majesty in a lucid interval. Great Britain, as guardian of the
kingdom, repudiated the contract. Nicaragua steadily declined to
recognize the rights of either party to her territory; and, to complete
the adventurer's misfortune, the Federal authorities arrested him when
about to lead his first detachment of colonists to his tropical
possessions. Not to rehearse the tedious litigation which followed, it
suffices to say that the Kinney Expedition, having succeeded in
embarking, was shortly afterwards wrecked on Turk's Island, finally
reaching San Juan del Norte in a most forlorn plight. There new
misfortunes overtook them. Most of the military colonists sailed up the
river to share the more promising fortunes of Walker, to whom Kinney
himself, despairing of success unaided, at last made overtures for an
alliance offensive and defensive. But the messenger found Walker firmly
entrenched in power and, as a member of the government, bound to
consider all foreign claims on the Mosquito coast as mere usurpations.
Had it been otherwise, he might perhaps have returned a less peremptory
answer than the brief threat: "Tell Mr. Kinney, or Colonel Kinney, or
whatever he calls himself, that if I find him on Nicaraguan soil, I
will most assuredly hang him." The new element in Nicaragua did not
fail to uphold the sovereign independence of the country with zeal,
even if it may have sometimes lacked discretion. Walker was a stickler
for dignity, and never failed to exact the respect due to himself, his
office, and his flag. An English merchant, of Realejo, who had resisted
a Government levy, and, with the sublime assurance of his race, had
hoisted the Union Jack over his house, was caustically invited by
Walker to lower the emblem or produce his Government's license to
display the flag of a representative. "If he refuses," said Walker,
"tear it down, trample it under foot, and put the fellow in irons." The
Englishman knew enough of law to see that he had no authority for the
display of bunting, which he accordingly furled, paid the requisition,
and cursed the Yankee lawyer who had taught him a lesson. Walker was
versed in the law of nations, but he unfortunately overlooked the fact
that those wise statutes are framed for the control of strong nations
dealing with their peers. It is not enough to be right, or to know
one's rights, unless the power to maintain them accompany the
knowledge. A touch of the lawyer's weakness for technical rights always
marked this curious outlaw.

In the dazzling success of the Falange, the disasters of Kinney were
forgotten, and many a band of hardy adventurers was tempted to rival
their deeds. For a time it seemed as though the spirit of the Vikings
had been revived in the land discovered by Eric the Red. On the Pacific
coast those incursions sometimes assumed, as we have seen, formidable
proportions. Sonora, Arizona, Lower California, and even the Sandwich
Islands, were the various goals of ambitious adventurers, some of whom
never carried their schemes into effect; others, like Colonel Crabbe,
made a really imposing campaign for a brief space, only to die
fruitless deaths.

The filibusters were by no means impelled to risk life and liberty
through an abstract love of freedom or disinterested affection for
their oppressed allies. They were, on the contrary, rather prone to
turn to their own advantage the fruits of hard-won victory. Their
extenuation lies in the worthless character of their allies, who
invariably deserted them in extremity, and left the foreigner to save
himself. It was so in Cuba, in Sonora, in Nicaragua, though there were
honourable exceptions everywhere. A contempt and mistrust of the native
character, often but ill-concealed, did not serve to make the alliance
any more sincere. In Nicaragua, for the present at least, gratitude
was stronger than prejudice, and the party favouring the Americans
was powerful and enthusiastic. The common people remained faithful
throughout; it was the _calzados_, the middle and upper classes
composing the Conservative party, who hated the foreigner because they
felt his superiority, and his still more galling consciousness thereof.
The _calzados_ were those who wore shoes, as distinguished from the
barefoot rabble. Aristocracy, based on such transcendent merit, is
naturally jealous of its prerogatives.

Almost every steamer from California brought down a squad, greater or
less, of recruits. Amongst the earliest was a brother of the Achilles
Kewen killed at the first battle of Rivas. E. J. C. Kewen was one of
the most valuable of Walker's staff, on which he served throughout the
war. Quite characteristic of the time and place is the matter-of-fact
way in which the San Francisco papers state that Colonel Kewen
participated as second in a duel at that place on the day preceding his
departure for Nicaragua. Business before pleasure.

During the four months which followed the formation of the new
government, Walker gathered about him a force of Americans and other
foreigners numbering twelve hundred. They came from all parts of the
Union, but chiefly from the Southern and Pacific states. Recruiting
offices were opened in San Francisco, whose agents penetrated the
mining camps and interior towns, unnoticed or unhindered by the
Government authorities. Whenever any opposition was offered, the
volunteers frequently bought through tickets to New York, and stopped
at Nicaragua to enjoy a little filibustering. In the east more
stringent precautions were taken by the authorities, though without
much effect, as the colonists were responding to the invitation of the
Nicaraguan Government, and could not be legally hindered.

Among the adventurers were many idle and desperate characters attracted
by visions of beauty and booty, with the broad license of a
freebooter's camp. To such the reality proved a terrible revelation;
they found, instead of a free lance's easy discipline, a system of
military government emulating in its stringent laws that of the great
Frederick. Walker's abstemiousness was supplemented by the virtue, much
rarer in men of his class, of absolute personal chastity in thought,
word, and deed. Drunkenness, debauchery, and profanity were vices which
he abhorred. The man who was detected selling liquor to a soldier was
punished by a fine of 250 dollars; the drunkard was sent to the
guard-house for ten days. With whisky of a vile quality selling at two
dollars and a half a bottle, and the terrors of punishment before the
eyes of both buyer and seller, drunkenness was rare in Granada. On the
outposts discipline was more lax, officers and men availing themselves
of secrecy to evade their general's stern commands. The well-behaved,
on the other hand, were treated with the greatest favour, receiving
their regular pay of a hundred dollars a month, according to some - a
quarter of that sum, according to others - and a contingent title to
five hundred acres of land.

The assurance of peace alone was needed to make Nicaragua, the
veritable "Mahomet's Paradise" which its discoverers had named it. But
there was no such assurance or prospect in view. Even had Walker been
willing to rest content with his present wonderful success, he would
not have been permitted so to curb his ambition. His enemies were too
many and too powerful and implacable. Great Britain, which had been
trespassing, secretly or openly, for half a century, on the rights of
the weak Spanish-American republics, could not allow so rich a prize to
pass into the hands of the hated "Yankee." Money, men, and arms were
furnished to the neighbouring states, and every pretext was made use of
to stir up a crusade against the Americans.

Enemies as bitter, though less powerful to injure openly, influenced
the administration at Washington. The Secretary of State, William L.
Marcy, was a politician who is best remembered by his enunciation of
the notorious political maxim, "To the victors belong the spoils."
Marcy had no personal ill-will towards Walker or his political friends;
he was not the man to indulge a wanton grudge, but he carried into the
great office which he filled the aims, sympathies, prejudices, and
alliances of a thorough politician. To him the traditions of his
country, the dignity of his high position, the honour of the republic
were secondary ideas. What his party would say, how his acts would be
criticized at Albany or on Wall Street, these were the thoughts which
swayed his mind and governed his conduct. Like master, like man,
Franklin Pierce was mentally as small as his secretary. So when a
minister plenipotentiary from Nicaragua presented his credentials at
Washington, and the other resident ministers protested against his
being received, a terrible consternation fell upon the minds of
President and Secretary. Mr. Marcolletta, the former minister, though
recalled by the Government of Nicaragua, stoutly refused to resign. The
other foreign ministers espoused his cause, and the secretary had the
amazing stupidity to argue the case gravely with those officious
gentlemen. Colonel Wheeler, the minister to Nicaragua, being appealed
to, confirmed the _de facto_ and _de jure_ claims of the Rivas
Government, adding, as a proof of the country's tranquillity, the
striking fact, that "not a single prisoner, for any offence, is now
confined in the Republic - a circumstance unknown before in the

Mr. Marcy had now no choice but to acknowledge the credentials of the
new representative, when the discovery of a grave blunder of Walker's
saved him the humiliation. No official objection could be urged against
the minister, but unfortunately for him, there were pronounced personal
objections strong enough to warrant the district attorney of New York
in ordering his arrest on a criminal process. The individual, Parker H.
French, was the same one-armed hero whose fiasco before Fort San Carlos
had brought the Falange into disrepute and provoked the Virgin Bay
massacre. Walker discovered when too late the unworthy antecedents of
his envoy, whose conduct in Nicaragua should have been enough to
disqualify him; but regarding his arrest as a violation of diplomatic
privilege, he had him recalled, dismissed the American minister to
Nicaragua, and suspended diplomatic intercourse with the United States.
Some months later, and after the United States had declined to receive
a second minister, Don Firmin Ferrer, Walker sent a third
representative, in the person of the good Padre Vijil, who proved
acceptable at Washington, as much on account of his high character as
for the news which he brought with him, that Walker had routed his
Costa Rica enemies, and frightened back the Serviles of the North.
Franklin Pierce was not the man to turn his back upon a friend in
prosperity, though his good will was not shared by Mr. Marcy. The
Nicaraguan minister was received in form, but met with such studied
discourtesy from the Secretary of State and his underlings that the
cultured and amiable gentleman was glad to return, after a brief
sojourn, to the better-mannered society of Nicaragua.

But the fickle conduct of President Pierce and his cabinet had exposed
the weak joint in Walker's armour to his quick-eyed enemies in Central
America and in Europe. The filibuster, so far from having the support
of his native country, was apparently without a friend there. English
consuls and men-of-war captains saw that they might crush out with
impunity this adventurer and restore the supremacy of European
influence on the isthmus. All the Servile partisans in the neighbouring
states and the disaffected Legitimists of Nicaragua united to expel the
foreign element. The Costa Rican consul-general in London wrote to his
President, Don Juan Rafael Mora, in a letter which fell into Walker's
hands, that the British Government would sell to Costa Rica two
thousand army muskets, at a nominal price, for the purpose of "kicking
Walker and his associates out of Nicaragua." British friendship was not
purely disinterested nor did it proceed solely from hatred of
Americans. Seventeen million dollars invested by English capitalists in
Costa Rican bonds were the substantial basis of that interest. It is
painful to reflect upon the fact that those bonds were afterwards
defaulted to the last dollar.

A deputation sent from Nicaragua to negotiate a treaty of peace with
Costa Rica was ignominiously expelled the latter country. Guatemala,
San Salvador, and Honduras also declined to recognize the new

On the 26th of February, 1856, Costa Rica declared war against
Nicaragua, for the expressed purpose of driving the foreign invaders
from the soil of Central America. Distant Peru sympathized with the
crusaders by advancing a loan of $150,000 to aid the righteous
campaign. President Mora at once collected a force of nine thousand

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Online LibraryJames Jeffrey RocheBy-Ways of War → online text (page 8 of 17)