Mexican Heritage Coupled To
Lively History Of Silver State
It's Time To Celebrate Cinco De
by David Thompson
The month of May is a time of
celebration. It gives The Nevada Observer the chance to recognize the
contributions that Mexican-Americans have made to our community, by
celebrating Cinco de Mayo.
Not many people know it, but Nevada
used to be part of Mexico. It all started with the Spanish
conquistadors. Exploring expeditions in the 16th, 17th and 18th
Centuries allowed Spain to lay claim to a vast portion of North America,
stretching from Florida to California, and from Tierra del Fuego at the
southernmost point of South America to what is now the Canadian border.
The Spanish called their vast empire in North America “New Spain.” It
lasted for nearly three hundred years.
After the French revolution,
Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Spain and made his brother, Jerome, king of
that country. Jerome sold a large parcel of New Spain to Napoleon, who
in turn sold it to the United States – the Louisiana Purchase.
With the overthrow of the Spanish
monarchy by the French, the Spanish colonists in both North and South
America grew restless. In Mexico, the colonists declared their
independence and established the independent country of Mexico on
September 16, 1810.
Like many newly-established
countries, it took a while for Mexico to settle upon a form of
government. The country was administered by the
Generalissimo of the American Armies
(1810-1811); the Supreme Governing Junta of
America, also called the Supreme Junta of the Nation (1811-1813);
a Generalissimo of the
North American Armies in charge of the Executive (1813-1814); an
Executive Power (1814); several Presidents (1814-1815); a
non-functioning Executive Commission (1815-1817); a President of the
Provisional Governing Junta (1821); a President of the Regency of the
Empire (1821-1822); an Emperor (1822-1823); a President of the
Constituent Congress (1823), by Presidents of the Supreme Executive
Power (1823-1824); and from 1824, by Presidents of the Federal Republic
turbulent era also saw a number of wars, which reduced the territory of
Mexico by over one-third. In the north, the state of Tejas seceded in
1835, forming the Republic of Texas in 1836. Shortly after the Republic
of Texas became one of the United States in 1845, another war broke
out. This war (the “Mexican War” of 1846-1848) was a disaster for
Mexico. The United States annexed all of the northern part of that
country, which included the present-day states of California, Oregon,
Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and parts of
Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington.
Mexican War, more troubles were in store for the Republic of Mexico. In
an effort to end the economic stranglehold of the Catholic Church over
the land and people, Mexico adopted a new constitution, and in 1857 the
country broke down into civil war (la guerra de la Reforma, “the War of
the Reform”). The combatants in the fighting were the Liberals and
Conservatives. The Liberal faction was headed by Benito
Juárez (Benito Pablo Juárez
García), Mexico’s greatest statesman, whose capitol was
at Vera Cruz. The United States gave its diplomatic recognition to this
government. The Conservatives, with their capitol at Mexico City, had
several leaders, the most prominent of which was General Félix Zuloaga (Félix María
Zuloaga Trillo). By 1860, the Liberal party prevailed,
and Benito Juárez took control of Mexico at the end of the year.
same time, the United States was sliding into a civil war of its own.
Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in November of 1860, most of
the southern states seceded and formed the Confederate States of
America. When the Confederate troops of South Carolina bombarded and
then forced the surrender of the US garrison at Fort Sumter in April of
1861, the War of the Rebellion began and raged until May, 1865 -- four
the various factions that fought their civil war had borrowed large sums
of money from foreign creditors. The fighting devastated Mexico’s
economy, and the country had to suspend payments on its debts. Taking
advantage of the relative weakness of the United States during the US
Civil War, in December of 1861 the governments of France, Great Britain
and Spain landed an allied military force at Vera Cruz to protect their
interests in Mexico and to try to collect the debts owed to their
citizens. Juárez negotiated with the allies and promised to resume
payments, and the British and Spanish troops began to withdraw from
Mexico in April, 1862.
French, however, did not withdraw and instead sent reinforcements to
their troops in Mexico. At the time France was ruled by Louis Napoleon,
the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. Louis Napoleon was elected President
of France, but after the election he proclaimed himself Napoleon III,
Emperor of the French (the British referred to him as “the nephew of the
negotiations for the Mexican government to repay its debts were ongoing,
the French commander, General Charles
Ferdinand Latrille, comte (Count) de Lorencez,
advanced on Mexico City from
Vera Cruz, occupying the mountain passes which led down into the Valley
point it became clear that Napoleon III planned to turn Mexico into a
colony. The French advance was along a route that had been used several
times in the past to conquer Mexico, first by the conquistador Hernan
Cortes and most recently by US General Winfield Scott during the Mexican
declared war on Mexico, and called on those Mexicans who had fought on
the side of the Conservative Party in the civil war to join them.
Napoleon III planned to turn Mexico into an empire ruled by Archduke
Ferdinand Maximilian Josef von Habsburg, the younger brother of the
Emperor of Austria-Hungary.
Charles Ferdinand Latrille, Count de Lorencez, was the leader of the
French forces – the Corps Expéditionnaire – which numbered about 7,300
men. He had been their commander for about two months. He was
confident of victory. He boldly proclaimed, "we are so superior to the Mexicans in race,
organization, morality, and elevated sentiments that as the head of six
thousand soldiers I am already master of Mexico."
that less than 6,000 US troops – considered poorly trained and
disciplined by European officers – had defeated a Mexican Army of 30,000
men under President General Antonio de Santa Anna
(Antonio López de
Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón) and taken
Mexico City in 1847. General Count de Lorencez had over 1,000 more men
than US General Winfield Scott, and the Mexican Army facing the French
at Puebla numbered about 6,000 men (the French would later say 12,000) –
far less than the army General Scott had defeated.
Furthermore, de Lorencez considered his own French troops far better
trained and disciplined than the troops fielded by either the United
States or Mexico. In order to make his entry into Puebla as impressive
as possible, General Count de Lorencez ordered his troops to apply fresh
whitening to their gaiters before the attack.
The Mexican Army of the East (Ejército
de Oriente), under the command of General
Ignacio Zaragoza, took up positions at the town of Puebla (Puebla de los
Angeles). This maneuver blocked the French advance on Mexico
Ignacio Zaragoza addressed his troops, telling them,
"Your enemies are the first soldiers in the
world, but you are the first sons of Mexico. They have come to take your
country away from you." Zaragoza ordered his commanders –
Generals Felipe B.
Berriozabal, Porfirio Díaz (José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori),
Félix Díaz , Miguel Negrete and Francisco de Lamadrid, to occupy the
Cerro de Guadalupe, a ridge of high ground dominating the entrance to
Puebla, and the five forts which surrounded the town.
Of the forts, the two most
prominent were situated on the Cerro de Guadalupe on either side of the
road to Mexico City -- the fort of Loretto to the right, and the
fortified monastery of Guadalupe to the left. These were the positions
that General Count de Lorencez ordered the
Corps Expéditionnaire to attack on May 5, 1862 – Cinco de Mayo.
brief artillery bombardment the French began their assault. Caught in a
devastating crossfire from the Mexican troops manning the loopholes of
the two forts, the French line faltered and then broke. The soldiers of
the Corps Expéditionnaire charged the Mexican positions two more times,
but each attack was repulsed by the withering musket fire of the Mexican
beaten French began their retreat, Mexican General Porfirio Díaz, at the
head of a troop of cavalry, attacked them. Though badly shot up, the
Corps Expéditionnaire was able to retreat in good order. They spent the
evening of Cinco de Mayo waiting for an attack which never came. The
next day, they began to withdraw back down the road towards Vera Cruz.
word of the defeat reached Napoleon III, he replaced General Count de
Lorencez as commander of the Corps Expéditionnaire with
Elias Frederic Forey, and sent 30,000 troops as reinforcements. The French reaction
did little to lessen the shock of the defeat in Europe, and particularly
in France. The Mexican Army had proved itself capable of standing up to
a first-class European army, and defeating it. The victory of the Cinco
de Mayo at Puebla is still celebrated today, 142 years later.
staff of The Nevada Observer has prepared these maps, paintings,
photographs and captions for the use of teachers in the public schools.
Use them in good health. ¡Viva Mexico!
[Benito Pablo Juárez García] (1806-1872) – born March
21, 1806, at San Pablo Gueletao, in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico,
Benito Juárez was a native American of the Zapotec tribe.
When Juárez arrived in the City of Oaxaca at the age of 13, he
could not read or write Spanish. He took full advantage of
every opportunity for self-improvement. He graduated from
the Franciscan seminary in Oaxaca in 1827, and served as city
councilman in 1831-1833. In 1834 he graduated from Oaxaca’s
Institute of Science and Art with a degree in law, and became a
judge in 1841. He served a term as a federal deputy and
served as governor of the state of Oaxaca in 1846-1852.
On April 20, 1853 General Antonio de Santa
Anna seized power in Mexico and had Juárez arrested. Juárez
escaped and fled to New Orleans, Louisiana that October. He
returned in time to help with the overthrow of Santa Anna’s
dictatorship on August 12, 1855, and was named Minister of Justice
in the new Liberal national government. As Minister of
Justice, Juárez instituted a number of reforms which were written
into the Mexican Constitution of 1857. In 1856-1857 he again
served as governor of Oaxaca.
He became the Mexican Minister of the
Interior in November, 1857, and the next month Juárez was named
chief justice of the Supreme Court of Mexico. When General
Félix Zuloaga deposed Mexican president Ignacio Comonfort
following a coup in December, 1857, Juárez became interim
president of Mexico on January 19, 1858.
Two months later, Juárez narrowly escaped
death when he was captured at Guadalajara, sentenced to death by
Conservative officers, and put up against a wall by a firing
squad. The poet Guillermo Prieto courageously stood in front
of Juárez, shouting at the commander of the execution detail:
"Brave men do not assassinate." The soldiers lowered their
rifles and Juárez escaped to Manzanillo, where he re-kindled La
Reforma’s resistance movement.
From January of 1858, Juárez served as
president of Mexico until July 18, 1872 – more than 15 years.
He led his country through some of its most difficult years,
notably the La Reforma (1857-1860) and French intervention
(1861-1867) periods. While still serving as president,
Juárez died of an apoplectic stroke at the National Palace in
Mexico City on July 18, 1872. His birthday – March 21 – is a
national holiday in Mexico.
General Félix Zuloaga [Félix María Zuloaga Trillo]
(1814-1876) – born at Alamos in the state of Chihuahua, Zuloaga
joined the Mexican Army as a National Guard Lieutenant in 1824.
He saw service against the Apache Indians on the northern frontier
until 1837, when he joined the Corps of Engineers. He
continued to serve in the Army through the riots of 1840 and the
Yucatan insurgency of 1842-1843, by which time he was a
During the Mexican
War against the United States Zuloaga supervised the
construction of the defenses of Monterey and Saltillo, and in 1847
he built the fortifications on the southern approaches to Mexico
City. He retired in 1848 to Chihuahua.
In 1853 Zuloaga
was recalled to active service, promoted to the rank of Colonel,
and named president of the Mexican Army’s perpetual court-martial.
In 1854 Zuloaga became a brigade commander fighting in the south
against the Liberal revolution of Ayutla. At Nuxco in 1855
Zuloaga was forced to surrender to the rebels. Liberal
General Ignacio Comonfort saved him from being shot and made
Zuloaga a member of his general staff.
After Comonfort became president of Mexico in
September, 1856, Zuloaga began to conspire against the Liberal
government. On December 17, 1857, he and the brigade he
commanded rebelled at Tacubaya against the new constitution.
He dissolved the Mexican Congress and
then proclaimed himself president at Mexico City on January
This act set off the bloody "War of the
Reform." A junta of Zuloaga’s own supporters deposed him as
president of Mexico on December 23, 1858, forcing him to seek
asylum in the British legation. His successor, General
Miguel Miramón, tried to reinstate Zuloaga as president, but he
refused to serve.
In July, 1860, however, Zuloaga issued a
manifesto, revoking his resignation and declaring himself
constitutional president. Before the final defeat of the
Conservative party that year, Zuloaga reconciled with Miramón.
The day after the battle of Calpulalpam, the two divided the funds
of the Mexican treasury between themselves.
Zuloaga fled into the mountains to raise
guerrilla bands together with Generals Marquez, Mejia, Negrete,
Taboada, and other Conservative party chiefs. When the
French invaded Mexico in 1862, Zuloaga refused to serve the
foreigners. Between that time and his death in 1876, he took no
further part in politics.
[Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte] (1808-1873)
– born April 21, 1808 at Paris, he was the son of Louis Bonaparte,
king of Holland 1806-1810, and Hortense de
As the nephew of
Bonaparte, Louis Napoleon believed that he was the
rightful heir to the French throne. In 1836 he tried to seize
power in an unsuccessful coup d'état. He fled to New York, but
returned to France and tried a second unsuccessful coup d'état.
This time he was captured and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Bonaparte escaped in May, 1846 and took refuge in London. During
the heady days of the French revolution of 1848, he returned and
was elected to a seat in the French parliament.
In December of 1848, he was elected President
of France. The French constitution restricted holders of the
office to a single term, and after an attempt to amend the
constitution failed in July of 1851, Louis Napoleon engineered a
coup which overthrew the government that December. The new French
constitution of January, 1852 gave Bonaparte dictatorial powers to
rule by decree. In November of 1852, he became Napoleon III,
emperor of the French.
Napoleon was constantly looking for ways to
improve French prestige in Europe and the world. Under his
direction France allied itself with Great Britain, to first fight
the Crimean War in 1854-1856 against Russia, and then to fight a
war against China in 1857-1860. The French Army seized Indochina
and fought to end Austrian influence in Italy in 1859.
In 1861, Napoleon III plotted to carve out a
French empire in Mexico. When Mexico was forced to suspend
payments on its foreign debts, France, Great Britain and Spain
landed an expeditionary force at Vera Cruz. Great Britain and
Spain withdrew after Mexican president Benito Juárez promised to
see that the debts were paid. The French, however, marched on
Mexico City. The French forces were defeated at the battle of
Puebla (May 5, 1862), setting back Napoleon III’s plans for a
Although the French took Mexico City and
installed Maximilian von Hapsburg as emperor of Mexico, they could
not hold their ground. The French had to withdraw, and Maximilian
was defeated and executed by the Mexicans in 1867.
This ill-fated Mexican adventure was the
beginning of the end for the empire of Napoleon III. Seeking to
make up for lost prestige, Napoleon III vigorously opposed a
Prussian candidate for the throne of Spain. A coalition of German
states inflicted a disastrous defeat on the French Army at Sedan
in September, 1870, capturing Napoleon III. The French refused to
acknowledge their defeat and deposed Napoleon III. This resulted
in an even greater German victory, the loss of the territories of
Alsace and Lorraine, the merging of the German states into a
single country ruled by the King of Prussia, and his coronation at
the French palace at Versailles in 1871.
Following this calamity, Louis Napoleon
Bonaparte went into exile in England, where he died at
Chislehurst, Kent on January 9, 1873.
Napoleon III, Emperor of the
French (Chateau de Versailles)
General Ignacio Zaragoza (1829-1862) –
born at Bahía del Espíritu Santo, Texas, Zaragoza was educated in
Matamoros and the Seminary at Monterrey. In 1853 he joined the
National Guard of the state of Nuevo Leon, and helped to overthrow
the dictatorial Mexican president Antonio López de Santa Anna in
1855. Zaragoza served as Minister of the Army and Navy under
President Benito Juárez between April and December, 1861, but
resigned to take command of the Mexican army opposing the French
invasion. He defeated French General Count de Lorencez at the
battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. On September 8 1862, just a few
months later, the 33 year-old general died of typhoid fever at the
scene of his victory.
The Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862 --
This period painting shows the beginning of the French attack on
Puebla de los Angeles (Puebla), May 5, 1862. The heights of the
Cerro de Guadalupe, a ridge of high ground dominating the entrance
to Pueblo, the fort of Loretto and the fortified monastery of
Guadalupe rise in the background.
Díaz at Puebla – This painting shows
one of the critical moments of the Cinco de Mayo battle. The
French assault has begun to break up under the deadly fire of
Mexican marksmen from Fort Loreto and
the fortified monastery of Guadalupe. Just then, General
Porfirio Díaz appears, leading a detachment of Mexican cavalry in
a charge against the dispirited French troops.
The Victory of Cinco de Mayo. In this
painting, as the defeated French troops stream back from their
failed assault, Mexican cavalry with lances pick off the
stragglers. French troops of the elite 2nd Zouave Regiment, with
their distinctive baggy red trousers, are in the foreground. The
white gaiters or “spats” over their shoes are those that General
Count de Lorencez ordered them to freshly whiten in order to
impress the Mexicans in what he hoped would be his triumphal entry
into Puebla. Meanwhile other French infantry, wearing white
trousers, blue coats and fezzes, can be seen fleeing in the
General Felipe B. Berriozábal
(1829-1900) – born in Zacatecas in 1829, Berriozabal studied at
the National Engineering School (la Escuela Nacional de Ingenieros)
in Mexico City. As a young lieutenant, he fought for Mexico
against the United States in the Mexican War of 1846-1847. During
the War of the Reform, Berriozabal fought on the side of the
Liberals, who were ultimately victorious. Between 1857 and 1862
he served as the provision governor of the federal district of
Berriozabal commanded an infantry brigade of
regular soldiers and Mexican volunteers at the battle of Puebla on
May 5, 1862. In 1863 he served as Mexican Minister of War and the
Navy in the government of Benito Juárez, and was governor of the
state of Michoacán from late 1863 to1864.
In 1876, Berriozabal was named Minister of
War in the brief interim government of President José María
Iglesias Inzaurraga. He was Minister of Government and later,
Minister of War and the Navy for a third time in the
administration of President Porfirio Díaz. After a long and
distinguished career, Berriozabal died at Mexico City on January
Félix Díaz – Lieutenant Félix Díaz was the
younger brother of General Porfirio Díaz. He commanded a
provisional regiment of cavalry, consisting of squadrons of
lancers from the cities of Oaxaca and Toluca, at the battle of Puebla
Díaz [José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori]
(1830-1915) – born September 16, 1830 in Oaxaca, the youthful Díaz
worked as a shoe-maker to help support his widowed mother. He
graduated from the Franciscan seminary in Oaxaca and studied law
at Oaxaca’s Institute of Science and Art. In 1846 Díaz joined the
Mexican National Guard to fight against the United States in the
Mexican War (1846-1848), but did not see any action. Díaz opposed
Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s seizure of power
in 1853, and was forced into exile. He helped overthrow of Santa
Anna’s dictatorship on August 12, 1855, and distinguished himself
in the War of the Reform (1857-1860), fighting for the Liberal
During the French intervention, he continued his
distinguished career, fighting in the battle of Puebla and
elsewhere until the Mexicans prevailed. He was twice wounded in
combat, escaped capture three times, surrendered once, and
inflicted nine defeats on the imperialist forces. When, at the end
of the fighting, Díaz returned 87,232 pesos which he hadn’t spent
in the fight against Maximilian, he gained a reputation for
honesty as well. This photograph of General Díaz dates from about
1866, when the fighting against the French intervention was still
Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Josef von
Habsburg [Maximilian] (1832-1867) – born July 6, 1832 at Schoenbrunn castle in Austria, Maximilian was the younger brother
of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary. This engraving shows
him in the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet in the Austro-
Hungarian Navy. A dreamy romantic, he was selected by Napoleon III
to be the puppet Emperor of Mexico in 1862. He and his wife
Charlotte (Carlota), daughter of King Leopold of Belgium, traveled
to Mexico in a sincere attempt to improve the country. When the
naïve Maximilian accepted the offer, he was derided as the
“Archdupe” Maximilian. When the Mexican adventure of Napoleon III
collapsed in 1867, Maximilian was captured and executed by a
Mexican firing squad.
Departure of Maximilian – April 14, 1864
– This period painting depicts the departure of Archduke
Maximilian and his wife Charlotte (Carlota) from Trieste, Italy,
on their way to Mexico to become imperial majesties. The sea
journey took six weeks. At a goodbye party in Rome at the Palazzo
Marescotti, a cynic notices the large French guard of honor and
remarked: “No wonder they guard Maximilian so well. They would
have difficulty finding anyone to take his place.” An anonymous
verse – The Pasquinade – circulated in the city: “Maximilian, do
not be misled./ Go back to the castle of Miramar./ That
beguiling throne of Montezuma/ Is nothing but a cup of Gallic
froth./ Remember Danaos and his dangerous gifts./ Under the
purple you may find a hangman’s rope.”
Arrival of the Emperor and Empress of
Mexico at Vera Cruz, May 29, 1864. The imperial couple is
greeted by a carefully selected crowd of religious reactionaries,
ex-Conservative party members defeated in the War of the Reform,
European military officers and hirelings.
Maximilian and the Mexican Deputation
Here, Jose Maria Gutierrez d’Estrada, formerly Mexican
Ambassador to Austria, Mexican Ambassador to the Vatican, and Mexican
Foreign Minister, later a Mexican expatriate and intriguer in Europe,
introduces a group of Mexican reactionaries to their new Emperor in
Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico, c.
1864-1865 – This powerful formal portrait conceals more than
it reveals. Beneath the façade of brilliant parties and stately
spectacles, the Emperor’s position depended on French troops.
Since the French billed the Imperial Mexican Treasury for the
costs of occupation, Maximilian had insufficient funds to
undertake his ambitious program of reform. In his efforts to be
true to his liberal ideals, fair to the Mexican people and improve
the country, Maximilian alienated the minority of Mexican
reactionaries who had supported him in the first place. In the
end, he had no support from anyone.
Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico (Museum of History, Chapultepec)
Empress Carlotta of Mexico [Princess
Charlotte-Amelie of Belgium] (1840-1927) – Charlotte was the
daughter of King Leopold I of Belgium. She married Archduke
Maximilian in 1857, when she was 17. This formal portrait shows
her dressed in the national costume of Lombardy, where her
husband served as Viceroy in 1859-1861. Intelligent and
energetic, she tried to help Maximilian govern Mexico, but the
imperial couple never had a chance. Charlotte returned to
Europe in 1866, trying to get financial help to prop up the
disintegrating Empire of Mexico. All she got was sympathy and a
nervous breakdown. After Maximilian’s execution in 1867, her
condition grew worse and she slipped into madness. She died in
Belgium in 1927 at the age of 86.
Carlotta, Empress of Mexico (Museum of History, Chapultepec)
A cavalry skirmish (L'Illustration, July 1863)
Alfred, Baron Van der Smissen (1823-1895) – born February 1, 1823
at Brussels, Belgium, Baron van der Smissen began his military
career in 1843, at the age of 20. He served with French troops
during the Algerian uprising of 1851, where he gained experience
in irregular warfare. The Austrian Archduke Maximilian’s wife,
Charlotte (Carlotta), was the daughter of King Leopold of Belgium,
and when Maximilian and Carlotta went to Mexico in 1864, the
Belgian King provided a volunteer force – the Belgian Foreign
Legion. Baron van der Smissen was chosen as its commander. The
Belgian Foreign Legion was inexperienced, and on April 11, 1865,
shortly after its arrival, it was badly mauled by Mexican troops.
Of three hundred Belgians engaged in this fight, 110 were killed,
including its commander, two captains (one the son of the Belgian
Minister of War) and three lieutenants. The remaining 190 men,
with three surviving officers, surrendered. The Belgian Foreign
Legion was disbanded in December of 1866, and Baron van der
Smissen returned to Belgium with them. Baron van der Smissen then
became commander of the Belgian Royal Guards. He was promoted to
the commander of the military district of Brussels in 1882, and
while holding this command he ruthlessly suppressed a workers’
uprising at Charleroi in 1886. Promoted to the rank of lieutenant
general, he died at Brussels on June 16, 1895.
Ambush (L'Illustration, February 1864)
Troops of the Belgian Foreign Legion, 1865
Franz Graf Thun-Hohenstein (1826-1888)
-- Born at July 27, 1826 at Choltic, Bohemia, in the present-day
Czech Republic, Graf Thun-Hohenstein began his military service as an
18-year-old infantry cadet in 1844. As an Austrian Army officer,
he helped suppress the uprisings of 1848 at Milan, Italy and in
the Austrian capitol of Vienna.
He enjoyed a distinguished military career as
a staff officer and as commander of Austrian units, seeing action
in Italy. When Archduke Maximilian decided in 1864 to raise
a military unit of his countrymen to help in his struggle to rule
what he thought would be his empire in Mexico, he chose Count
Thun-Hohenstein, then a Colonel in the Austrian Army, to lead it.
Commissioned as a general in Maximilian’s
Imperial Mexican Army, Count Thun accompanied Maximilan to Mexico
with the Austrian Volunteer Corps. The corps was stationed
at Puebla, where much of Count Thun’s energy was spent resisting
Emperor Maximilian’s desire to have the different foreign legions
merge into an Imperial Mexican Army. When the foreign
legions were disbanded in December 1866, Count Thun refused to
join the national Mexican army and returned to Europe.
In February 1867 he was recalled to duty in
the Austro-Hungarian army, where he enjoyed a distinguished career
as a general officer. Franz Graf Thun-Hohenstein died at
Schwaz, near Innsbruck, Austria, on July 30, 1888.
Death of a Zouave (Bello Museum, Puebla)
Soldiers of the Austrian Volunteer Corps, 1866
Imperial Volunteers – This painting
from the Belgian Royal Museum of the Army and Military History
captures the hard, dusty campaigning which characterized warfare
in northern Mexico. By the end of 1866, the French forces,
Austrian Volunteer Corps and Belgian Foreign Legion evacuated
Mexico, leaving the Emperor Maximilian alone.
Miramón [Miguel Gregorio de la Luz Atenógenes Miramón y Tarelo] (1832-1867) -- born at
Mexico City on September 29, 1832, Miramón took part as a cadet in
the unsuccessful defenses of Molino del Rey and the Military Academy
at Chapultepec against United States troops during the Mexican War
in 1847. He was wounded in the fighting and captured. Released after
the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican War, Miramón
completed his studies at the Chapultepec Military Academy and joined the
Army in 1852. He fought on the side of the Conservative party during the
War of the Reform (1857-1860), rose to a leadership position, and was
named president of Mexico, replacing Félix Zuloaga,
in January 1859. Miramón’s forces were totally defeated on December
22, 1860 at the battle of Calpulalpam and he fled into exile. This
battle effectively ended the War of the Reform, leaving the Liberal
party of Benito Juárez as rulers of Mexico.
Miramón volunteered his services to Emperor Maximilian, and in
November of 1866 he was commanding a division in the Imperial
Mexican Army. His troops were defeated in the battle of San Jacinto
on February 1, 1867 by the Juarista General Mariano Escobedo, and
Miramón was forced to withdraw to Queretaro. After a siege, the city
was taken by the forces of Juárez, who captured Miramón, General
Tomas Mejia and Emperor Maximilian. All three were put on trial by a
military court, convicted of various war crimes, and sentenced to
death by firing squad. Miramón was executed at Queretaro on June 19,
General Tómas Mejia (c. 1815-1867) --
born in the Sierra Gorda of Guanajuato state in about 1815, Mejia
was a pureblooded Indian. He was an ardent defender of the Catholic
Church, and after the overthrow of the dictatorship of General
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in 1855, he began raising his fellow
Indians to fight against the new Liberal regime. He distinguished
himself as a capable military leader during the War of the Reform
(1857-1860). When the Conservative forces were defeated, Mejia and
his men retreated into the mountains to continue the fight.
When the French invaded Mexico and promised to restore the
Conservative party to power, Mejia joined them. He won a series of
victories as military commander in northeastern Mexico, gaining a
reputation for fighting skill and for the humane treatment of his
captives. He and his troops joined Emperor Maximilian at Queretaro,
and when that city fell, he was captured by the Liberal forces of
Benito Juárez. Mejia put on trial by a military court, convicted of
various war crimes, and sentenced to death by firing squad. He was
executed at Queretaro on June 19, 1867, along with Emperor
Maximilian and General Miguel Miramón.
Last Moments of Maximilian, June 19,
1867 – Sentenced to death for war crimes by a Mexican court martial,
Emperor Maximilian consoles his priest confessor before being taken
away to face the firing squad.
Execution of Maximilian – An oil
painting by the French artist Edouard Manet shows the death of the
Emperor Maximilian, General Tómas Mejia and General Miguel Miramón.
Maximilian was the second man to call himself Emperor of Mexico. The
first Emperor, Agustín I (General Agustín de Iturbide y Arámburu),
was also executed by firing squad.
Momento mori – The starched shirt in
which the Emperor Maximilian was executed, carefully arranged and
photographed, shows the firing squad’s handiwork.
Maximilian Dead – Maximilian’s
mummified body photographed in his coffin, before being shipped back
to Austria on the same vessel – the Novara -- which brought him and
his wife to Mexico in 1864.
Return of Maximilian, December 1867
– This painting shows the mournful salutes from the cannon of ships in
the harbor of Trieste, as Maximilian’s body was brought back to
Austria-Hungary for burial.
Sebastian Lerdo [Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada y
Corral] (1825-1889) -- born at Jalapa on the 25th of April 1825, Lerdo was educated as a lawyer. He was a leader in the Liberal party
and a strong supporter of President Juárez. Lerdo served as a
member of the Supreme Court of Mexico, was Mexico’s Minister of
Foreign Affairs in 1857, and became president of the Chamber of
Deputies in 1861. During the French intervention he again served as
Foreign Minister in the Juárez government. When Juárez died in 1872 Lerdo succeeded him in office. Lerdo was reelected to the
presidency on July 24,1876. but was overthrown in a coup led by
Porfirio Díaz in January of 1877. He fled to the United States and
died in obscurity at New York in 1889.
Díaz, President of Mexico – Díaz ran against Benito Juárez in
the Mexican presidential elections of 1867 and 1871, losing both
times. The second time he started an uprising against the
Mexican government, which was still going on when Benito Juárez
died of a stroke in 1872. Though Díaz was defeated, he
gained absolute power when he overthrew the government of Juárez’s
successor Sebastian Lerdo in 1876. Díaz ruled Mexico for the
next 35 years. Díaz served as president from 1876-80 and
from 1884-1911, ruling through his puppet, president Manuel González, in 1880-1884.
The Last Days of Porfirio
-- This masterpiece by Mexican artist David Alfaro Siquieros
brilliantly captures the period of Díaz's presidency leading up to
the Mexican revolution of 1910, in which Díaz was overthrown.
Imperiously seated on a raised red platform, with one foot on the
constitution and crowned by a silk top hat, Don Porfirio watches a
swirl of well-dressed young dancing girls. Brutal and corrupt
industrialists and an army general whisper in his ear as he
arrogantly surveys the scene, surrounded by an entourage of foreign
investors, domestic capitalists, and his científico advisors.
This feature continued in
The Mexican Revolution,
Part 1; Related
Photo Gallery: Prominent
Personalities of the Mexican Revolution 1910-1928