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impossible to ascertain the amount of that loss with any precision, but there is little hazard in asserting that the action of Congress in May, 1846, has consigned fifty thousand Mexicans to a premature grave, and ten times that number to poverty and wretchedness.
In the vast number of falsehoods of which this war has been so prolific, may be included the general unqualified eulogiums passed by its advocates upon the humanity of the American soldiery. We are not aware of any peculiar trait in our national character, that would render our soldiers remarkable for meekness and forbearance, or that would necessarily counteract that arrogance and selfishness which are the natural fruits of a bloody trade, and of military superiority. But national vanity is ever ready to believe a flattering lie, and demagogues equally ready to offer incense to every popular delusion. It is our object to tell the truth, and by so doing, to exhibit the odious and execrable character of war. American soldiers are like other soldiers, just what war, and discipline or the want of it, may make them. Human nature is the same in every land, and its evil propensities are equally developed under similar circumstances. It would have been an anomaly in the history of mankind, if soldiers, flushed with victory and scattered over a conquered country, and holding the vanquished in utter contempt, had not been guilty of great atrocities. It would be but cumbering our pages to detail the various instances of cruelty and oppression perpetrated by our troops, which have found their way into the public prints. A few specimens, selected from journals supporting the war, and therefore not disposed to throw unjust odium on the American army, will suffice to prove that our assertions on this point are not unsupported by facts:
“Buena Vista, August 20.—A ranger is missed, search
is made for him by his comrades, his body is perhaps found, perhaps not. The nearest Mexicans to the vicinity of his disappearance are required to account for him. They will not, or cannot. The bowie knife is called for, and deliberately every male Mexican in that rancho is speedily done for, guilty or not guilty. But this is not enough to make an offset for the life of a Texan. Another rancho receives the fearful visit, and again blood flows." Camargo, January 8, 1847.-Assassinations, riots, robberies, &c., are so frequent that they do not excite much attention. Nine-tenths of the Americans here think it a meritorious act to kill or rob a Mexican."
In Camp, Walnut Springs (near Monterey), April 25, 1847.-"You have published accounts of the disgraceful outrage perpetrated before the battle of Buena Vista, and will be no less shocked to learn that an equally sickening scene of outrageous barbarity has been perpetrated in this region by persons calling themselves Americans. It appears that near a little town called Guadaloupe, an American was shot two or three weeks ago; and his companions and friends determined to revenge his death. cordingly a party of a dozen or twenty men visited the place and deliberately murdered twenty-four Mexicans."
The correspondent of the Louisville Republican writing from Aqua Nueva, after mentioning that the body of a murdered Arkansas volunteer had been found, says, "The Arkansas men vowed vengeance deep and sure. Yesterday morning a number of them, some thirty persons, went to the foot of the mountain two miles off, to an arrego which is washed in the sides of the mountain, to which the 'pisanos' of Aqua Nueva had fled upon our approach, and soon commenced an indiscriminate and bloody massacre of the poor creatures who had thus fled to the mountains and fastnesses for security. A number of our regiment being
out of camp, I proposed to Colonel Bissell to mount our horses and ride to the scene of carnage, where I knew from the dark intimations of the night before, that blood was running freely. We had turned out as rapidly as possible, but owing to the thick chapperels, the work of death was over before we reached the horrible scene, and the perpetrators were returning to the camp glutted with revenge. God knows how many of the unarmed peasantry have been sacrificed to atone for the blood of poor Colquit. The Arkansas regiment say not less than thirty have been killed."
This anonymous account of the massacre is sustained by the following order of General Taylor :- The Commanding General regrets most deeply that circumstances again impose upon him the duty of issuing orders upon the subject of marauding and maltreating the Mexicans. Such deeds as have recently been perpetrated by a portion of the Arkansas cavalry cast indelible disgrace upon our arms, and the reputation of our country. The General had hoped that he might be able, in a short time, to resume offensive operations; but if orders, discipline, and all the dictates of humanity are set at defiance, it is vain to expect anything but disaster and defeat. The men who cowardly put to death unoffending Mexicans are not those who will sustain the honor of our arms in the day of trial."
If the General meant to intimate that cruelty and bravery are incompatible, he is contradicted by the unanimous testimony of all military history.
The correspondent of the Charleston Mercury, writing from Monterey after its capture, says, "As at Metamoras, murder, robbery, and rape, were committed in the broad light of day; and, as if desirous to signalize themselves at Monterey by some new act of atrocity they burned many
of the thatched huts of the poor peasants. It is thought that more than one hundred of the inhabitants were murdered in cold blood."
It is not to be supposed that where human life is thus atrociously sacrificed with impunity, the decencies of society and the rights of property will be respected. A correspondent of the New Orleans Picayune writes from Ceralvo: "On arriving at Mier, we learned that the second regiment of Indiana Troops had committed, the day before, outrages against the citizens of the most disgraceful character, stealing, or rather robbing, insulting the women, breaking into houses, and other feats of similar character. Recently the people here have received treatment from men stationed here, that negroes in a state of insurrection would hardly be guilty of. The women have been repeatedly violated (almost an every day affair), houses broken open, and insults of every kind have been offered to those whom we were bound to protect."
The correspondent of the St. Louis Republican, writing from Santa Fé, Aug. 12, 1846, says, "I regret to say, nearly the whole territory has been subject to violence, outrage, and oppression, by the volunteer soldiery against all alike without distinction."
When we reflect how extensively Mexico has been traversed by our troops, we cannot doubt that a prodigious amount of property has been most wantonly destroyed. We are told by one of the letters describing a Mexican defeat, "Captain Morier followed up his advantage with decision, pursued the enemy, and devastated the valley of the Moro, burning everything in his path. The people, terrified, fled to the mountains where death in the shape of starvation awaits them." "Between Metamoras and Monterey," says another, "nearly all the ranchos and towns are destroyed."
General Scott, when about marching from Jalapa, upon Mexico, issued an order which is a singular illustration of military morality. He tells his army that it can no longer receive supplies from Vera Cruz, but must trust for them to the resources of the country- that the people must be paid for provisions, or "they will withhold, conceal, or destroy them. The people moreover must be conciliated, soothed and well-treated by every officer and man of this army, and by its followers." This preamble is succeeded by a declaration almost avowedly prompted by the fact, that supplies could no longer be brought from Vera Cruz: "Whoever maltreats unoffending Mexicans, takes without pay, or wantonly destroys their property, of any kind whatsoever, will prolong this war, waste the means present and future of subsisting our men and animals, as they successively advance into the interior, or return to our water depot (Vera Cruz); and no army can possibly drag after it to any considerable distance, no matter what the season of the year, the heavy articles of breadstuff, meat, and forage. Those, therefore, who rob, plunder, or destroy the houses, fences, cattle, poultry, grain, fields, gardens or property of any kind along the line of our operations, are plainly the enemies of this army. The General-in-Chief would infinitely prefer that the few who commit such outrages would de
sert at once and fight against us. Then it would be easy to shoot them down, or capture and hang them.”
Military discipline confines to the commanding officer the prerogative of plundering the enemy, and he would. no doubt wish to protect it from encroachment at all times. On the present occasion the General thought proper to dissuade the army from indulging their larcenous propensities, not from motives of justice and humanity, but the difficulty of procuring supplies!