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    [Cortina War] and [Samuel P. Heintzelman]. Later Fair Copy of a Letter to Colonel Robert E. Lee. Thirty-five pages, held with two staples at the top, 8.5" x 14", Fort Brown [Texas], March 1, 1860. Written from the "Headquarters Brownsville Expedition," Lee had just returned to Texas two weeks prior to resume command of his regiment and Heintzelman is giving an account of activities leading up to, and including his involvement in, the so-called First Cortina War.

    Heintzelman begins by giving a description of Juan Nepomuceno Cortina, "the leader of the banditti who have for the last five months been in arms on the Lower Rio Grande, murdering, robbing, and burning." He describes Cortina as: "...a ranchero, at one time claiming to be an American, and at another a Mexican. At the same time General [Zachary] Taylor arrived...he was a soldier in General Arista's army. He has been for years noted as a lawless, desperate man."

    He describes the first incident of hostilities: "on the 13th of July last he was in Brownsville with some of his ranchero friends, when a man who was formerly a servant of his was arrested by the city marshal for abusing a coffeehouse keeper. Cortinas attempted to rescue the man; he fired twice on the marshall [sic], the second shot wounding him in the shoulder, and rescued the prisoner. He mounted his horse, took the prisoner up behind him, and with his friends around him rode off defying the authorities to arrest him. He escaped to Matamoros, and there was treated with consideration and lauded s the defender of Mexican rights."

    On September 28, 1859, Cortina and forty to eighty men entered the town of Brownsville. "The citizens were awakened by firing and cries of 'Viva cheno Cortinas!'...'Viva Mexico!' The city was already in his possession...He avowed his determination to kill the Americans, but assured the Mexicans and foreigners that they should not be molested. Thus was a city of two thousand to three thousand inhabitants occupied by a band of armed bandits." Two days later, after evacuating Brownsville, Cortina issues a proclamation, "in which he bid defiance to law, and assumed to protect those whom he alleged had been injured on account of their Mexican origin."

    Heintzelman describes the events up to his arrival on December 5 with a detachment of the United States army. Trying to get assess the situation, he writes: "The morning after our arrival I endeavored to get information as to the number, position, and objects of Cortinas; everyone appeared to be as ignorant of these matters as I was." A combined force of Texas Rangers under John S. Ford and U. S. Cavalry finally defeat Cortina at the battle of Rio Grande City. Of the victory, Heintzelman says: "The defeat was complete. We captured his guns, ammunition and baggage carts, provisions, everything he could throw away to lighten his flight, and entirely dispersed his force."

    One year later, with the eruption of the Civil War, Heintzelman would be promoted to brigadier general of volunteers and brevetted the same rank in the regular army in 1862. He commanded at First and Second Manassas. Robert E. Lee remained in Texas until the secession of the southern states forced his recall to Washington to take command of the Union army. He politely declined and followed his home state of Virginia into the Confederate States.

    Heavy damage along the margins of the first and last page with moderate toning of page edges throughout; text is unaffected and is bright. The letter was intended as a report of events to a superior officer, but unintentionally reads like a western novel. Except for the flaws mentioned, it is in near fine condition.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    March, 2012
    3rd Saturday
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