In late 1842, Private William Preston Stapp and about three hundred other citizens of the Republic of Texas took it upon themselves to invade Mexico. They intended to retaliate for a recent Mexican attack on San Antonio and to humiliate President Sam Houston, who had been hesitant to seek revenge.
Stapp provides a closely observed, day-by-day narrative of the disastrous adventure later known as the Mier expedition. While his style might be described as "elegantly restrained" in comparison to the literary excesses of that early Victorian age, Stapp's flair for drama and description makes for colorful reading.
In response to the public outrage prompted by the San Antonio incident, Houston issued a presidential proclamation inviting volunteers for a retaliatory expedition across the Rio Grande. After the bloodless "capture" and pillage of two Mexican border towns, he called the volunteers back home. Most were relieved to comply, but some felt compelled to pursue the honor of the Republic further, and the Mier expedition was launched on December 20, 1842. On the day after Christmas, all save a forty-man camp guard were captured outside of Mier, a few miles across the Mexican border.
The prisoners faced a brutal forced march to Mexico City. Stapp was one of a large group that escaped along the way, became lost in the mountains, and suffered badly from hunger and thirst before recapture. He survived the notorious Black Bean Episode in which 17 of the 176 returned escapees were shot after drawing black beans in a lottery. The Texans were delivered to Perote Prison near Mexico City in September 1843, where a few of them tunneled to freedom and many more died in captivity. Mexico released the last of the prisoners in 1844, and Stapp was among them.
First published in 1845 and later issued in pamphlet form in 1933 by the La Grange Journal, The Prisoners of Perote is a fascinating view of a painful episode in Texas history.
The foreword by Joe B. Frantz provides a perspective on the Texas-Mexico relations during this period "when both countries were shaking down and had not yet found their way." He points out that The Prisoners of Perote provides some clues to the reasons behind the inherent tenseness that exists between Texas and Mexico today.
William Preston Stapp (1812–1861) was a soldier in the Republic of Texas.
Chapter I. Texas Independence · Rapid advance in improvement · Santa Anna · Alarms on the frontier in 1842 · Incursion of General Bascus · Affairs of Davis and Candles on the Nueces · Capture of Bexar by General A. Woll · Affair of the Salado · Massacre of Dawson’s Company · Retreat of Woll, and his conduct whilst at Bexar · Rendezvous of Sommerville’s expedition
Chapter II. San Antonio de Bexar · The Alamo · The Missions · The Desert of the Nueces · Organization of the Army · March to the Nueces · Prairie Bog · Capture of Rancheros · Loredo · Pillage of Loredo · Sedition amongst the Troops · Retreat and Division of the Forces · Council of War · Departure of Colonel Bennett’s Command · Capture of Guerero
Chapter III. Guerero · Presents to Officers · The Requisition · Discontents of the men · Return home of General Somerville and Companions · Election of Colonel Fisher to the command · March upon Mier · Successful stratagem of Ampudia · Battle of Mier · Surrender of the Texans
Chapter IV. Texan and Mexican forces in the battle of Mier · Killed and wounded · Intention of the Mexicans to retreat · Our prisons · Escape of our camp guard · Mysterious conduct of our captors · March for Matamoras · Numbers and appearance of the guard · Arrival at Camargo · Entrée into Reinosa · Dr. W. M. Shepherd and the Padre
Chapter V. Mass at Reinosa · Fare on the march · Approach to Matamoras · Preparations of the guard · Spectators from the town · Reception from the citizens · Runaway negroes · Humanity of the citizens · J. P. Schatzell · Detention at Matamoras · Ampudia · Canales and the new guard · The Texan staff
Chapter VI. Route from Matamoras · Knavery of the Mexican commissariat · Scarcity of provisions and water · Arrival at Sacata · Plan for assailing the guard · How prevented · Arrival at Catareta · Beauty of the town · Our reception · Mexican oration · Supply of delicacies · Doctor Bullock · Present of tobacco
Chapter VII. The Valley of Monterey · Sugar Plantation · Cultivation of the Maguey · City of Monterey · Our Reception · Cumanche Saddle · Puerto de los Muertos · Humanity of Citizens · Change of Guard · Colonel Baragan · Ranch of Rinconada · Attempt on the Guard · How frustrated · Negro Sawney · Saltillio · March through the Mountains · Captain Dimitt · Ranch Salado
Chapter VIII. Our quarters · Distribution of the detachment · Attack on the guard · Killed, wounded, prisoners, and spoils · Interview with Colonel Baragan · Appearance of our men on the march · Thoughts of home · Fired on from a ranch · Meet with a friend · His counsel · Refused provisions at ranches · Conduct on the road · Retreat to the mountains
Chapter IX. Mountains of Coahuila · Fired on by Mexican scouts · Horrors of our situation · Find water · Butcher horses and mules · Comrades who give out · Fruitless search for water · Famine and thirst · Descend from the mountains · Sufferings · Recapture by Mexicans · Reception in camp · Officers · March for Saltillio · Order for our execution · Refusal of General Mexier to obey it · Marched into town
Chapter X. Error in leaving the road explained · Cameron · Troops by whom we were recaptured · Arrival of our men from the Mountains · Visit from American Wagoners · Their deportment and communications to us · Five of our sick Baptized · Examination of our Interpreters · Colonel Baragan · Arrival of Guard from San Luis · Leave Saltillio · Reach the Salado · Order from the Government · Draw for our Lives · Seventeen of our Comrades Executed · Their Names · Escape of Shepherd
Chapter XI. A glance at our murdered companions · The Hacienda St. John · Baptism of more of our men · Their Catholicism · Beauty of the village Benado · Colonel Ortis · San Luis Potosi · Death of five more of our men · Freed from our hand-cuffs · Mexican Felons and Soldiers · San Felipe De Lazos · Paintings · San Miguel · Mine of Valenciana · Plain of Baxio · Marquis of foral
Chapter XII. Deserted Monastery · Queretaro · Convent of Santa Clara · Aqueduct · Major Murray · Tula · Reverence of Convicts for Religious Houses · Wetoke · Strange Coincidences · Captain Cameron · His Execution and Character · Arrival at Santiago · View of Mexico · Visit from Foreigners · Proposition from Governor · Indignation of Prisoners · American Minister · His advice adopted · New Uniforms
Chapter XIII. Leave Santiago for Tacubaya · Santa Anna’s country palace · His guards · Our superintendent · Employment · Behaviour of the men · Change of overseers · Stratagems to avoid work · Flogging prisoners · Change of superintendents · Visiters and equipages · Salute to Santa Anna · His cowardice at Velasco
Chapter XIV. Santa Anna’s personal appearance · Sketch of his history · Passion for Cock-fighting
Chapter XV. Tacubaya · The Egertons · Their mysterious murder · Hopes of release · Santa Anna’s alleged reason for a refusal · Fourth of July, and petition for its observance · Preparations for the fête · Stratagem to supply our table · Oration and other ceremonies of the day · Conclusion of the fête
Chapter XVI. Escape of nine prisoners · Release of Dr. · His unpopularity · Holidays and their amusements amongst the prisoners · Private dinner given us by the ladies · Beauty and kindness of our entertainers · Return to Santiago · Get rid of our irons · Route through the valley, and view of it from the mountains · Rio Frio and its bandits · Haciendas and volcanoes
Chapter XVII. Aspect of the country near Puebla · Indian family · Republics of Tlascala, Cholula, and Huexotzingo · Pyramid of Cholula · Puebla de los Angelos · Convent Alameda, Plaza and Cathedral · Female felon · Manufactories of Puebla
Chapter XVIII. Route between Puebla and Perote · The castle of Perote · Bexar prisoners · Our treatment · Arrival of Santa Anna · Hopes of liberation · Refuse to work · How compelled · Sweeping the castle · Carrying sand · Epidemic amongst prisoners · Hospital
Chapter XIX. St. Carlos day · Its celebration in the castle · Devotion of two Catholic Texans · Rage of an epidemic · amongst the prisoners · Rumours concerning it · Proclamation of Santa Anna and the governor · Sanitary regulations · Storms in the valley · Christmas · Monotony of our confinement · Cessation of epidemic · The 1st of March · Release of Ogden and thirteen of our men in Mexico · Visit from the American minister · His communications to us
Chapter XX. Release of the Bexar prisoners · Remarks upon their treatment · Escape of sixteen prisoners · Confusion of the garrison and rage of the governor · Mode of escape · Committee of safety and vigilance · Letter from General Jackson · Santa Anna’s lady · Letter from General Green · Sham fight and participation of prisoners · Recapture of seven of the fugitives · Depositions · Adornment of the castle · Release of the author
Chapter XXI. Return to Mexico · Changes since the conquest · The lakes · Architecture · Dress of the upper classes · Mexican lady · Her Donzella · Castes · Creoles · Negroes and Indians · Character, condition, and employment of the latter
Chapter XXII. Plaza · Monté · Passion for it amongst the Mexicans · Stoicism of the players · The cathedral · Mexican calendar · Amusing superstition connected with it · Virgin of Remedios · Archbishop’s and national palace · Chambers of the senate and deputies · Museum · Cortes and Alvaro · Indian picture · The evangelistas · Monté Pio · Opera and Theatres · A tragedy in real life
Chapter XXIII. National religion · Murder of Hay den · Passage of the Host · Estates of the Church before and since the Revolution · Number of the clergy and conventual establishments · Character of the Mexican clergy · Festival of the Virgin of Guadaloupe · Festival of the Virgin of Remedios
Chapter XXIV. Mexican vagrancy · Fraternity of thieves and robbers · Affair at the Adouana · Colonel fanes and Santa Anna · The Ladrones and their mode of operation · Madame Castellan and the American Minister · Mexican morgue · The Accordada · The Garotte · Female convicts
Chapter XXV. The Alameda · Santa Anna · The Passeo Nuevo · Bull-fights · Departure from Mexico · The corpse and cross · Town of Perote · Visit to the Castle · Sufferings of the prisoners · Their memorial to Mr. Bankhead · Their liberation · Mr. Navarro
Chapter XXVI. Perote civility · Tie road · View from Las Vigas · Beauty of Xalapa · Wagons and conductas · Puente Nacional · Tierrtf caliente · Liters · Manga de Clavo · Vera Cruz · Castle of Ulloa · Cutter Woodbury · Mr. Dimond · Home
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