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Rebellion of 1847 Treason Trials
The Revolt and Treason Trials of 1847
By Robert J. Torrez
The occupation of New Mexico by United States troops in 1846, like the much better known reconquest of New Mexico by Diego de Vargas in 1692, is often characterized as peaceful and bloodless because it was accomplished without firing a shot. The fact is, however, that just like the events of De Vargas\' reconquest the permanent occupation of New Mexico—then part of Mexico—by American troops in 1846 was anything but "bloodless” or "peaceful." When all was said and done, as many as three hundred nuevomexicanos gave their lives in defense of their country. Almost two dozen of these were hanged in Taos for the crime of taking up arms against the United States. Although many history books have viewed these rebels as traitors, if events are assessed from a more objective angle it may be time to re-evaluate whether we, and certainly the taoseños, should continue to characterize their ancestors in these terms.
The declaration of war between the United States and Mexico was issued on May 13, 1846, but the seeds of this conflict had been sown a decade earlier when Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836. Almost as soon as the Texas Republic was born, it became clear it was only a matter of time before this fledgling nation would itself become part of an expanding United States, a country whose borders were creeping westward, a country intent on achieving its destiny—some say its manifest destiny—to encompass the continent from "sea to shining sea."
There was great support in the United States for the annexation of Texas. But, although the Mexican territory of Tejas had declared itself an independent nation, Mexico\'s government did not recognize it as such. Mexico viewed Texas simply as a Mexican province in revolt and legally still part of the Mexican Republic. Many Americans seem to have failed to recognize Mexico\'s determination to resist foreign annexation of its sovereign territory.
The election of James K. Polk as President of the United States in 1844 sparked a series of events that finally led to war. Polk had been elected on an expansionist platform which supported Texas annexation and sought to extend the boundaries of the United States to the Pacific coast by obtaining New Mexico and California. In July of 1845, the United States Congress began this process when it voted to annex Texas, and, in an attempt to avert war, Polk dispatched John Slidell to offer the Mexican government thirty-five million dollars in exchange for nearly half of its territory. Five million were for Mexican recognition of Texas independence, five million more for New Mexico (which then included all of present-day Arizona), and twenty-five million for the real prize, California. It should have been no surprise that Mexico declined the offer.
The Mexican rebuff only temporarily stymied the advance of Manifest Destiny. Polk quickly ordered the American Army under Zachary Taylor to march to Texas and "defend the Rio Grande." In early 1846, the Americans built a fort north of the Rio Grande crossing at Matamoros, a site which most sources agree was not within the historic boundaries of Texas, and waited for the Mexicans to respond. They did not wait long. In late April 1846, elements of the American and Mexican armies engaged in several skirmishes in which a number of American troops were killed. When news of the clashes reached Washington nearly three weeks later, President Polk had accomplished what he hoped for all along—the ability to claim American blood had been spilled on American soil by a foreign aggressor, and he immediately went before Congress and asked for an acknowledgement that a state of war existed with Mexico. Congress complied on May 13, 1846.
For New Mexico, the first few weeks of the war were uneventful, at least militarily. But that was to change in June, when the American Army of the West, commanded by soon to be general Stephen Watts Kearny, began its march along the Santa Fe Trail towards the undefended northern Mexican frontier. By late July, Kearny and his troops had marched unopposed into New Mexico. The reasons why the Americans were able to take New Mexico without firing a shot are varied and complex, and certainly in need of objective study, but they beyond the scope of this discussion.
Suffice it to note that on August 15, 1846, the American army reached Las Vegas, New Mexico, where Kearny climbed on the roof of one of the buildings that surrounded the plaza and proclaimed himself Governor. After forcing a number of local officials to take an oath of allegiance to their new government, Kearny and his troops proceeded west towards the New Mexican capital in Santa Fe.
Three days later, Kearny and his troops entered Santa Fe, assembled the residents in the central plaza, and informed them that he had taken possession of this northernmost portion of the Republic of Mexico. "We come as friends," he assured the assembled crowd, "to better your condition and make you part of the Republic of the United States. We mean not to murder you or rob you of your property..." Although it was later determined Kearny exceeded his authority in doing so, that day he generously conferred United States citizenship on the people of New Mexico and absolved them of any loyalties to the Mexican Republic.
A few days later on August 22, perhaps anticipating that the lack of military opposition did not mean this new government was entirely welcome, General Kearny issued another proclamation which contained a stern warning to the citizens of New Mexico. He carefully pointed out that his forces were equal to the task of suppressing any opposition and made it clear that it would be "foolish, ignorant and downright insanity for any discontented person to even think of resisting..." Two weeks later, Kearny decided to follow up his warning with steps to disarm the New Mexican garrison. During the first week of September, he issued orders to the Mexican presidio companies at Santa Fe, Taos, and San Miguel del Vado to turn in their weapons and ammunition. For the remainder of 1846 there is little evidence of overt opposition to the new government, and, while war raged in Mexico, New Mexico seemed quiet.
But the silence was deceptive. In mid December after General Kearny had left New Mexico, Charles Bent, the civil governor appointed by Kearny, advised Colonel Sterling Price, Bent\'s military counterpart, that a group of men from the Taos area were trying to "excite" the citizens of New Mexico against the American government. Towards the end of the month, Governor Bent reported that seven "secondary conspirators" in what he described as a plot to overthrow the new government had been arrested. Bent turned the suspects over to Colonel Price because he felt the military authorities could deal with them "more summarily and expeditiously" than the civil government. Two unnamed "leaders and prime movers," presumably Tomas Ortiz and Diego Archuleta, were still being sought. The role of these men and the events of December 1846 are not well explained by the contemporary literature and documentation and need to be the subject of more intense investigation.
Despite the arrests, planning for a general uprising against the Americanos apparently continued. On January 19, 1847, a group of armed men attacked the home of Governor Bent at Don Fernando de Taos, seventy miles north of Santa Fe. By the end of the day, Governor Bent and six officials of the recently organized civil government lay dead. Within two days, the uprising had spread through much of northern New Mexico, and several Americanos and Mexicans supportive of the new government were killed.
At Santa Fe, on January 20th, Colonel Price received word of Governor Bent\'s death and learned a large force of rebels was advancing towards the capital. On the 23rd, Colonel Price marched north from Santa Fe with nearly 400 troops and several pieces of artillery, which proved instrumental in the ensuing battles. Price\'s force included a company of volunteers under Ceran Saint Vrain recruited from among the American merchants, fur trappers, and Santa Fe Trail freighters who were at the capitol when Price received news of the insurrection. St. Vrain\'s company, incidentally, included seven men with Spanish surnames.
The following day, Colonel Price\'s troops engaged and dispersed the New Mexican forces at the settlement of Santa Cruz de La Canada, about twenty-five [miles] north of Santa Fe. The official report of the encounter tells us that the American troops suffered two men killed and six wounded. Thirty-six "rebels" were killed. On the 29th, Price\'s force assaulted the Mexican position near Embudo, where they had retreated to a strategic gorge that guarded the principal route to Taos. When the smoke settled, the American forces controlled the pass, and the New Mexicans were in retreat to Taos, where they regrouped and fortified themselves at the Indian Pueblo of Taos. Again, casualty reports show the New Mexicans with approximately 20 men killed and 60 wounded, while the American troops had one killed and one wounded.
In the meantime, a number of American traders had been killed on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, in the vicinity of Mora, east of Taos. A force of American troops from Las Vegas proceeded to attack the settlement of Mora on January 24th. Their initial assault was repulsed by the New Mexicans, but a week later the United States forces returned to Mora and on February 1 mounted an artillery barrage which forced the New Mexicans to abandon the town. Then, in a portent of actions to come, the Americans proceeded to raze Mora to the ground.
Back on the west side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colonel Price continued his advance on Taos. On February 3rd, he marched through the settlement of Don Fernando and commenced an artillery barrage on the Pueblo of Taos, where the New Mexicans and their Indian allies had fortified themselves. Late the following morning, Price\'s troops began their assault on the pueblo along two fronts. The Americans managed to fight their way past the outer defenses but were unable to dislodge the New Mexicans from the church of San Geronimo, whose massive adobe walls provided a large measure of protection from the artillery.
Finally, at 3:00 that afternoon of February 4, the Americans wheeled the largest gun they had—a six pounder—to within sixty yards of the church and began to batter the wall at a spot where an earlier attempt to chop through with axes had been beaten back. When the wall was breached, the cannon was brought up to point blank range, and several rounds of grape shot were poured into the hole.
The onslaught was too much for the valiant but apparently outgunned defenders to resist, and a general retreat was ordered as the Americans stormed through the breach. Several hundred Mexicans and Pueblo allies fled to the mountains, but according to several sources more than fifty were killed by St. Vrain\'s company as they attempted an escape. Various sources estimate between 150 and 200 defenders died at the pueblo, bringing the total number of New Mexicans who died on the battlefields of northern New Mexico to between 250 and 280, although the actual number will likely never be known. Several dozen survivors were captured, including Pablo Montoya and Tomas Romero who were identified as principal leaders in the insurrection. Romero was killed the following day, shot by a nervous guard while allegedly trying to escape.
On the February 6th, Colonel Price convened a military court to try Pablo Montoya and several unnamed individuals for their part in the revolt. Montoya had three separate charges lodged against him. The first was that on January 19, 1847, the day Governor Bent was killed, Montoya "did...excite the Indians and Mexicans to rebellious conduct." Second, that on January 25, 1847, he had issued a proclamation "exciting the people to rebellion," and, finally, that he had conspired to "rob United States wagons loaded with public funds." While it is possible to interpret these charges as being synonymous with treason, contrary to many published sources the word treason does not appear in the charges against Pablo Montoya.
Pablo Montoya\'s trial was held that same day. He was quickly convicted and sentenced to hang. According to the death warrant issued by Colonel Price, Montoya was hanged on February 7, 1847, sometime between eleven in the morning and two o\'clock that afternoon, "in the centre of the plaza" of Don Fernando. The scant documentation does not explain what happened to the unnamed individuals who were to be court martialed with Montoya.
Following Montoya\'s execution at Taos, the scene shifted to Santa Fe, where a grand jury was convened on March 8. This jury, which was described by an observer as a "motley mixture—German, French, natives of the United States and Spaniards," returned indictments for "High Treason" against four men believed to be the principal leaders and organizers of what has come to be known as the "Revolt of 1847."
The first indictment in these "Treason Trials" was against Antonio Maria Trujillo. On March 12, Trujillo was tried and convicted of treason, and four days later he was sentenced to hang. Judge Joab Houghton\'s sentence is not only the earliest, but one of the most eloquent of the many such condemnations pronounced by New Mexico\'s territorial judiciary. One can imagine the hush which descended over the crowded, sweltering courtroom as Judge Houghton addressed the condemned prisoner:
(extract) Your age and grey hairs have excited the sympathy of both the Court and the jury. Yet while each and all were not only willing but anxious that you should have every advantage placed at your disposal that their highly responsible duty under the law to their country would permit. Yet have you been found guilty of the crime alleged to your charge. It would appear that old age has not brought you wisdom nor purity or honesty of heart...You have nourished bitterness and hatered (sic) in your soul. You have been found seconding the acts of a band of the most traitorous murderers that ever blackened with the recital of their deeds the annals of history... ...For such foul crimes, an enlightened and liberal jury have been compelled from the evidence...and by a sense of their stern but unmistakable duty, to find you guilty of treason against the government under which you are a citizen. And there only remains to the court the painful duty of passing upon you the sentence of the law, which is, that you be taken hence to prison, there to remain until Friday the 16th of April next and that at 2 o\'clock in the afternoon of that day you be taken thence to the place of execution and there be hanged by the neck till you are dead! dead! dead! And may the Almighty God have mercy on your soul.
Trujillo\'s conviction and sentence seems to have sent a shock wave through the community. In the days following Trujillo\'s trial, the three other men indicted for treason, Pantaleon Archuleta, Trinidad Barcelo, and Pedro Vigil, were also tried. However, the trials of these three ended in hung juries, and by the time court adjourned, charges against all three were dropped.
The reasons for this turn of events are unclear. It may be that the juries, after hearing the death sentence imposed upon Trujillo, simply no longer wanted to be part of any such actions. It also may be because immediately following his conviction, Trujillo\'s attorney had filed an appeal which questioned the authority of an American court to try a Mexican citizen for treason.
Regardless, within days of Trujillo\'s conviction and sentence, many individuals, including judges, the United States District Attorney, and even members of the jury which convicted him, became convinced Trujillo was "a proper subject for the mercy of the government," and joined to support a petition to the President of the United States requesting an suspension of the sentence and pardon for Trujillo.
There is no evidence, however, that President Polk directly pardoned Trujillo. Instead, Secretary of War W. L. Marcy acknowledged it was probably not "proper use of the legal term" to convict Mexican citizens as traitors to the United States and authorized Colonel Price, as military governor, to use his own discretion as to whether Trujillo should be pardoned. A diligent search has found no primary evidence of Trujillo’s execution or any evidence of any official actions taken by Colonel Price, but all indications are that Price subsequently exercised the pardon or at least ordered Trujillo released.
The probability that Trujillo was not executed is supported by several histories of the period. Senator Thomas H. Benton, who was in position to know these things, writes that a pardon presented a quandary for the president. According to Benton, since the court which had convicted Trujillo clearly had "no jurisdiction for treason," a pardon would have meant the government supported "the legality of the condemnation." Yet, not to pardon him and allow the execution to proceed would "subject him to murder." According to Benton, a compromise was reached by which Trujillo was simply turned loose. Twenty-five other persons being held prisoner in Santa Fe also were discharged at this time. According to one official, they all were released "for want of testimony to indict them for treason."
In the meantime, more than forty men, possibly the ones captured with Pablo Montoya that past February, were still being held prisoner at Taos. A civil court convened there on April 5, with Judge Charles Beaubien presiding. It should be noted that Jose Narcisco Beaubien, Judge Beaubien\'s son, was one of the men killed in Taos at the onset of the revolt on January 20. That first day, a grand jury was convened, with George Bent, brother of recently assassinated governor serving as foreman. Among the first indictments were Polio Salazar and Francisco "Rovali" [Ulibarri], who were determined to have exercised a leadership role in the abortive rebellion and charged with "high treason" against the United States. On April 7, Beaubien\'s court convicted Polio Salazar of treason and sentenced him to hang. Ironically, Francisco Ulibarri, the other person indicted with Salazar for treason, was acquitted of the charge a few days later. Ulibarri\'s acquittal and Antonio Maria Trujillo\'s earlier release give Polio Salazar the dubious distinction of being the only person actually executed for treason as a result of the events which have become known as the "Treason Trials of 1847."
At least sixteen of the other prisoners were somehow singled out and indicted for murder in the January 19th killing of Governor Bent and other American officials. On April 7, the same day Polio Salazar was convicted of treason, Jose Manuel Garcia, Pedro Lucero, Juan Ramon Trujillo, Manuel Romero, and Isidro Romero were convicted of the murder charge. All five were sentenced to hang with Salazar on April 9.
Official records provide no details of the April 9 executions which took the lives of Salazar and his five companions. Catholic Church burial records simply tell us that Father Antonio Jose Martinez, the famous Padre Martinez of Taos, buried five of the six the same day they were hanged. The individual burial entries note that after receiving the last Sacraments of the Church, each "died by judicial sentence."
The most complete account of the events of that fateful day comes from Lewis H. Garrard\'s book, Wah To Yah and the Taos Trail. Garrard\'s eye-witness story describes the last hours of the condemned men and their final walk from the jail to a gallows which had been erected on a field north of Don Fernando\'s plaza. As the prisoners and their military guard, which included Garrard, neared the gallows, a wagon was driven under a crossbeam which had been fastened to two upright poles. The six condemned men were positioned carefully on a thick plank placed across the rear of the wagon. The men were so close together, Garrard noted, "they touched." After the ropes were adjusted around their necks, each was allowed to say a few words to the sparse crowd which had gathered.
The one sentenced for treason [Polio Salazar] showed a spirit of martyrdom worthy of the cause for which he died—the liberty of his country...his speech was firm asseverations of his own innocence, the unjustness of his trial, and the arbitrary conduct of his murderers. With a scowl, as the cap was pulled over his face, the last words he uttered between his gritting teeth were, \'Carajo, los Americanos\'...
After the condemned men bade each other farewell, the wagon was driven out from under them. Their bodies swayed back and forth, bumping against each other as they struggled against their bonds. As they slowly strangled to death, two of them managed to grasp hands and for a few moments held on to each other in a desperate grip until unconsciousness and then death overtook them. One wonders if the two who held on to each other were Manuel Antonio and Isidro Antonio Romero. Burial records show they were both from the nearby mountain settlement of Los Dolores and may have been cousins, if not brothers.
On April 12, three days after Padre Martinez buried Polio Salazar and his companions, the appalling spectacle of the executions and the continued condemnation of others prompted Martinez to send a runner to Santa Fe with two letters. The first was addressed to Manuel Alvarez, a prominent merchant and United States Consul at the capital. Padre Martinez informed Alvarez that Charles Beaubien, the presiding judge whose son happened to be among those killed on January 19th, seemed intent on killing everyone in Taos. Already, he noted, the events of the past months had deprived many households of their men, and, if the executions continued, there would soon be no one left to work and plant fields at this critical time of the year. With the dark specter of famine looming over the Taos Valley, Padre Martinez pleaded with Alvarez to accompany the runner when he delivered the other letter to Colonel Price and do what he could to put a stop to the suffering at Taos.
Padre Martinez\' second letter, which was addressed to Colonel Price, is a poignant appeal for mercy and a condemnation of the proceedings in Taos. Besides the trials being held in English because the prosecuting and defense attorneys did not speak Spanish, Martinez noted the juries which condemned those being tried were "a class of ignorant men...tainted with passion." The trials and executions at Taos, he concluded, no longer served any perceived need or desire for vengeance and justice and had instead deteriorated into a "frightful spectacle" which was causing general discontent and resentment. There is no record of Price\'s response, and the trials and executions at Taos continued.
The extant court records show there were ten additional convictions for murder before court adjourned at Taos. All ten received sentences of death by hanging. Nine of this group, Francisco Naranjo, Jose Gabriel Samora, Juan Domingo Martin, Juan Antonio Lucero, Manuel Sandoval, Rafael Tafoya, Juan Pacheco, Manuel Miera, and another identified simply as El Cuervo, were sentenced to hang on April 30. Juan Antonio Avila was scheduled to hang on May 7. Catholic Church burial records for Taos, however, confirm only the burials of Manuel Sandoval and Rafael Tafoya from this group. Incomplete documentation makes it impossible to determine if any of the others were executed as scheduled, but there is no reason to believe any of the ten were spared. If the hangings continued, these last ten condemnations brought the total number of executions from the April 1847 Taos trials to seventeen.
With the closing of court at Taos, it appeared New Mexico\'s harsh introduction to American jurisprudence was over. But the summer of 1847 brought more tragedy. In early July 1847, Santa Fe was stunned when the bodies of a Lieutenant Brown and two enlisted men who had been missing since late June were discovered near Los Valles, a settlement which is now known as Los Valles de San Agustin, about twenty miles south of Las Vegas. Suspicion immediately fell upon the residents of this isolated community, and, warranted or not, reprisals were quick. On or about July 6, 1847, a detachment of American troops descended on Los Valles and literally erased the community from the face of the earth. Within hours, at least six of Los Valles\' townsmen lay dead, and nearly every building in the village destroyed. At least forty men were taken prisoner and marched to Santa Fe for trial. On July 26, Colonel Price ordered a "drumhead court martial" to try those suspected of killing Lt. Brown and his men. The court transcript does not specify how it determined which of the forty or so persons being held prisoner would stand trial for murder, but on July 27, seven were singled out. The charge for all seven was the same, that (extract) on or about the 29th of June 1847, at or near the town of Los Valles...[they did]... aid, abet, or assist in the killing or murder of Lieut. Brown...Private James McLanahan... [and] ...Private Charles Quisenberg... in violation of the civil and military law governing the citizens of the United States and its territories.
Of this group, Manuel Alvarado was acquitted and presumably released, but the other six were convicted and sentenced to hang. The executions of Jose Tomas Duran, George Rodriguez, Manual Saens, Pedro Martin, Carpio Martin, and Dionicio Martin were carried out on August 3, 1847. A witness noted that as the Los Valles men were hanged, all the church bells in Santa Fe "went into motion with the solemn knell." The tolling of Santa Fe\'s church bells sounded the end of the events we generally associate with the Revolt and Treason Trials of 1847.
During January and February 1847, nearly three hundred nuevomexicanos were killed in the battles associated with the insurrection. During the following six months, survivors witnessed the conviction and execution of twenty-one of their countrymen for the crime of murder, one for treason, and another on the dubious charge of fomenting "rebellious conduct." The death of so many in so short a time certainly provided an ample demonstration of General Kearny\'s early warning that armed resistance to the Americanos was futile.
This traumatic time in New Mexico history undoubtedly carried serious implications. The Pueblo of Taos had certainly incurred severe damage during the assault. Two communities, Mora and Los Valles, were in ruins, and the villages around Santa Cruz and in the valley of Embudo possibly deserted. Not only were many men dead and others seriously impaired by wounds, but did not all these deaths create dozens of widows and possibly hundreds of orphans? What effect would this have had on familial relations throughout the territory? And as Padre Martinez noted in his letter to Colonel Price, the loss severely impacted the ability of several northern New Mexico communities to plant the crops needed for their subsistence.
It is also probable that the bells which tolled for the Los Valles group on August 3, 1847 also sounded severe consequences for the manner in which New Mexican juries subsequently approached their duties after New Mexico was annexed to the United States of America when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848. For several decades following the American occupation, New Mexico\'s territorial officials were often puzzled and frustrated by the difficulty with which courts obtained convictions in capital crimes. In 1857, New Mexico Governor Abraham Rencher described a "general unwillingness of local juries to find a verdict in favor of the death penalty." In 1868, Judge Perry Brocchus also noted New Mexican juries\' "natural and educational repugnance to convict for a crime punishable by death."
As late as 1886, Elisha V. Long, one of New Mexico\'s most noted jurists, commented in a letter to his wife that he was hearing a murder case in which he expected a verdict of guilty in the first degree. In territorial New Mexico, such a verdict carried a mandatory sentence of death by hanging, but, Judge Long noted, "the tender hearts of these Mexicans is likely to make it more merciful."
Capital punishment was certainly not unknown in New Mexico during the Spanish colonial and Mexican periods, but this harsh introduction to American jurisprudence seems to have had lingered in the memory of New Mexicans. The reluctance described by early judges seems apparent in the three counties which suffered the greatest impact of the Revolt of 1847—Santa Fe, Mora, and Taos. Mora County, for example, had no legal executions during the entire territorial period, while Santa Fe had only two during the first forty years of American territorial government. It may be significant that these two Santa Fe executions, which took place in 1849 and 1860, involved individuals named Andrew Jackson Simms and Thaddeus Rogers. Santa Fe did not witness the execution of a person with a Spanish surname until 1895. Taos, the site of the revolt\'s bloodiest battle and most ruthless administration of justice, witnessed only one execution between 1848 and 1906—and that was for an 1864 conviction orchestrated byKirby Benedict, who was arguably territorial New Mexico\'s most colorful judge.
We know little of the motives of the men who decided to take up arms against the Americanos in 1847. So far, the documentation shows only that many suffered terribly for having done so. We will have to wait until the documentary record uncovers more facts before deciding whether individual actions were based on patriotism, hate, fear, or some other reason.
History has demonstrated that although it apparently took New Mexicans a long time to forget that the Americanos killed many of their forefathers, the descendants of these men as a group have remained steadfastly loyal to that same United States. Yet, history has and continues to label those who participated in these tragic events of 1847 as traitors, despite the widely acknowledged fact that the United States army had no authority to condemn Mexican citizens for treason against the United States.
Many questions regarding these events still await answers. The events of December 1846 and the conditions under which early plans for the revolt were discovered need further research. There also are numerous references to the Pueblo Indians of Taos, who not only sided with and died alongside their New Mexican neighbors but may have been a primary force behind the revolt itself. Who were they, and what were their motives?
These questions apply not only to the individuals who participated and died but to those who supported the new American government. What, for example, were the motives of those seven Spanish surnamed individuals who served in the volunteer company raised by Ceran St. Vrain and fought against their fellow New Mexicans? Two of these individuals, Nicolas Pino and Manuel Chavez, who achieved prominence in the subsequent affairs of territorial New Mexico, seem to be the same persons who were among those arrested as conspirators that previous December. What are the stories behind these developments? Did they serve willingly or, as has been suggested, were they taken along by St. Vrain so the Americans could keep an eye on them? What of the other men recruited by St. Vrain? How many of them may have been naturalized Mexican citizens, and as such do they not deserve to be considered traitors?
What, if any, was the connection between the December 1846 plans and the Mexican troops which were defeated at Brazitos on Christmas day of that year? How about those who served on the various juries which convicted and condemned their neighbors? And of some consequence, why was there no apparent support for the insurrection from the rio abajo or southern region of New Mexico.
As research continues in our attempts to answer these questions, we should consider what these events meant to our New Mexican ancestors. Very little of the information presented here is new; however, our history books have tended to treat the persons involved in these events anonymously, possibly in the hopes that if they remained nameless, it would serve to lump them all together as a "band of murderers," or "miserable, ignorant, deluded wretches," who consisted of the "more ignorant and vicious classes," undeserving of and bereft of any recognition or honor.
I suggest that instead of the dishonorable anonymity in which they have been held, we now dare to consider whether the events of January 1847 should even be called a "revolt." Instead, we must face the challenge of considering whether the men (and, yes, possibly even the women), who died resisting the Americano invasion, should be remembered not as rebels and traitors, but as Mexican patriots who died defending their country.
Garrard, Lewis H. Wah To Yah and the Taos Trail. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1955.
Meketa, Jacqueline Dorgan. "A Soldier in New Mexico, 1847 1848. " New Mexico Historical Review, (January 1991): 19.
Torrez, Robert J. “The Man Who Was Hanged Twice.” True West (November 1989): 24-27.
Twitchell, Ralph Emerson. The History of the Military Occupation of the Territory of New Mexico from 1846 to 1851... . Chicago: The Rio Grande Press, Inc., 1963.
Various documents in the State Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe NM.
Newspapers: Daily Missouri Republican, April – August 1847; Daily New Mexican, May 5, 1868.