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    [John S. "RIP" Ford]. Civil War Era Autograph Letter Signed by Four Officers of the Army of the Republic of Mexico to Ford, in Spanish, with contemporary translation. Twelve and one-half pages, 8.25" x 10.25", on blue, lined paper, Brownsville, October 4, 1864. Translated into English by N[estor] Maxan on fourteen, 5.25" x 8" pages, written on the verso only. Written to Ford by four officers in the army of Juan Nepomuceno Cortina, Colonel Julian Cerda, Colonel Servando Canales, Lieutenant Colonel Mario G. Hidalgo, and Major Jose A Puentes, to explain the actions of Cortina against the Confederates and their disapproval of it.

    As the Civil War raged in 1864, tensions along the Texas-Mexico border were strained. The Union army had abandoned the town of Brownsville that summer and the "Cavalry of the West" under Confederate Colonel John S. "RIP" Ford had reoccupied the town. Ford's old enemy, Mexican General Juan N. Cortina, was across the river in the town of Matamoros dealing with French occupation troops during the Franco-Mexican war. Cortina was convinced Ford had allied with the French to drive him out of Matamoros.

    In late August, Cortina organized a junta to argue that the Mexican cause would be best preserved by allying with the United States and the Federal army. The officers write: "He stated further that as we were surrounded on all sides by hostile forces [French and Confederate] which would not long delay in attacking us, this step was the only one remaining to us..." and also "the Commander of the U. S. troops had the greatest willingness, not only to make the said agreement, but also to attack in concert with us the French forces." Cortina had Puente translate into English his idea to the U. S. Consul stating: "...with the force under his command agreed to the most solemn manner to aid in every manner the forces of the U. S. and even to attack Brownsville if necessary." The Consul replied that neither he, nor the U. S. commander, "were sufficiently empowered to make this treaty, and that he could only assure that...the Cortina Brigade would be well received."

    Shortly thereafter, Cortina attacked the French at La Burrita as a ruse to cross the border into Texas where he would join the Federals, and after half-heartedly attacking the French, he "opened fire on a Confederate force on this side of the river." Cortina's adjutant confirmed to Canales that "Cortinas had opened fire on the Confederate Troops, and that the cavalry had crossed the river & were still fighting the forces of the South."

    Cols. Canales, Cerda, and Echazarreta agreed that "Cortina had just taken a wild & criminal measure, which on no account should be sanctioned by us if we desired to preserved the good name of our State, that it was now impossible to prevent the crossing of the cavalry, because that has already been accomplished, but that it was very easy for us to refuse to cross over however much it might displease Cortina." Canales reports he confronted Cortina telling him his action was "not only insane but criminal, that the people of Tamaulipas would not pardon him such an act, and that it was a treacherous deed to set aside his own flag in order to array himself against a people fighting for its independence just as we are."

    They conclude by stating: "...that in this last expedition which started from Matamoros to attack a French force said to be coming up the river, the Battalion of Colonel Canales was placed in the rear, and neither he, or any of his command ever saw the vessels. Colonel Cerda, who by that time was the senior officer of the Brigade embraces this opportunity to state that the force directly under Cortina, was the only one which fired on the foremost vessel, and this by direct orders of that officer which could not be destroyed even when it was found out that the said vessel carried a flag of truce; and further that whatever was done on this occasion was by the express orders of Genl. Cortina."

    Text of the original letter is faded, but the signatures of all four officers are bold and bright. Translated text is easily legible with little damage to paper other than the usual folds and some minor staining. Fine.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    March, 2012
    3rd Saturday
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