State of Mexico

The orders with regard to Vera Cruz are that on the outward bound voyage you are to land your Mail there and proceed. But on the present occasion not having arrived till late in the afternoon, and there being little wind and that foul, it was impossible to comply with these orders. Besides there was another and most imperative reason why we could not set sail immediately. We waited a considerable time for the health boat – after which the Captain went ashore, and returned with the Consul’s Clerk to look after the Mail to see that all was right, at it was of no use to land at Vera Cruz if in the then state of the Country. It was thereafter proposed that the Courier should call onboard at 4 oClock next morning for the Mail, in a boat belonging to his Majesty’s sloop of war the Rose, [4] which was to convey him to a place 21 miles from Vera Cruz, & there land him; leave him to pursue the remainder of his journey to the City of Mexico by land. Thus you see that it was impossible for us in any case to have started this night.

I have now to mention in most imperfect statement why such a course with respect to the Mail was pursued, in order that you may understand what otherwise would be implausible to you.

At present the whole of Mexico is in a state of civil war. There are two parties, the Ministerialists, or Government party & the Liberadors. At the head of the latter is Santa Anna, the same who defeated the old Spaniards when they made a descent on Tampico with the view of recovering their lost dominion. By his success on this occasion he has rendered himself very popular and this popularity has I suspect given birth to projects of ambition in his mind. The present government with the President of the Republic at their head had latterly rather shown an inclination in favour of the old Spaniards by allowing many of them to return and to establish themselves again in the country as merchants &.This very ambiguous policy has been laid hold of by Santa Anna, as a ground for undermining the administration of the existing Government and perhaps of laying the foundation of his own power by securing his election as President. The passions and prejudices of those among the people who have not yet forgotten the insults and oppression received at the hands of their old enemies, and the fears of others, and these not a few, lest the return of the Spaniards should be followed by the restitution of the property of every description which they had appropriated to their own use, powerfully cooperated to advance the cause of Santa Anna & to procure him many adherents. All the principal sea port towns have declared in his favour. Vera Cruz with its impregnable castle is his chief strong hold. Many towns in the Interior also are said to be disposed to side with him but are overawed and prevented from declaring their real sentiments by the presence of the Government troops.

Siege of Vera Cruz

Santa Anna commenced his Act of Rebellion by a manifesto setting forth a long list of grievances (among which the residence of the old Spaniards, among them was not the least), and calling upon one and all to obtain their freedom from the tyrannical party in power. To enforce these complaints S. A. had made careful preparation. Every thing was done to put the places that declared for him in a state of defence. Meanwhile the other party were not idle. On the contrary they dispatched a considerable number of Troops against the Insurgents and twelve days before our arrival, they set down before Vera Cruz, and regularly laid siege to it. They even went so far as to dig trenches for the protection of their own men, and commenced operations with just spirit. For six days they plied this trade of smoke and thunder and were favoured in return with equally noisy salutes from the Town. What a pleasant employment the cannonading must have been, and the more because very few accidents happened on either side. How vastly more delightful to set off a 32 pounder instead of a 4 penny gun – as in days of yore. I should have enjoyed the sport hugely. During this busy time three men in the city were accidentally knocked in the head by their play fellows in the fields, who again complained that they had been more roughly treated by the Townies. Little real injury was done to the houses, from their strength. Either the balls fell off harmless as against a wall of iron, or if they [were not] hard, they only stuck in the wall, but never penetrated, being rather an ornament than otherwise.

The founders of Vera Cruz had certainly looked to some such spot as the present, knowing that English metal was driven home with good will, and has accordingly made all their houses ball proof. The tops of the city walls were on the present occasion covered with sand bags as were also the flat roofs of the house, so that every shot fell harmless. Tired at last with their fruitless labour and despairing of success, they broke up the siege, under pretence that the rainy season was approaching, and that it [might] occasion a great fatality among their troops to keep them unprotected in the field. Santa Anna, collecting what troops he could, immediately pursued after him, & in a partial engagement had come off victor. This was the latest news we received, and it was added, that Santa Anna was on his route to the city of Mexico, where the Ministerialists had concentrated their forces for its decisive struggle and that he expected to have his present small force augmented by some thousands from Puebla & other places. All at Vera Cruz were of course in a state of great anxiety.

Various contradictory rumours set afloat by the friends & enemies of the Insurgent General within the City, but no authentic intelligence was known. It was impossible to travel by the direct road to Mexico in a private capacity as both parties would be interested in stopping you. Our passengers were therefore to pursue a very circuitous route in order to arrive at their destination. For this reason also the Mail had to be conveyed by water 21 miles from V. Cruz & from thence carried safe on mules (all except Newspapers which were left behind) the courier being furnished with protection from the Belligerents.

Such my dear [blank space] is a very imperfect statement of the circumstances which influenced our stay at Vera Cruz, and now I shall proceed on.

Read on … Tampico, Mexico