Vol. 1,  No. 13     May 1, 2004

Nevada's Online State News Journal -- Serving Informed Nevadans Since 2003

 

     
   
 
 
This feature continued in The Mexican Revolution, Part 1; Related Feature: Photo Gallery: Prominent Personalities of the Mexican Revolution 1910-1928

 

Mexican Heritage Coupled To Lively History Of Silver State
It's Time To Celebrate Cinco De Mayo
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 of Mexico.

This 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.

After the 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. 

At the 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 long years.  

In Mexico, 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.

The 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 uncle”). 

While 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 of Mexico.

At this 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 War. 

France 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. 

General 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." 

He knew 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 City. 

General 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.

After a 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 troops. 

As the 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.

When word of the defeat reached Napoleon III, he replaced General Count de Lorencez as commander of the Corps Expéditionnaire with General 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.

The 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!

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Benito Juárez [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.

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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 Lieutenant-Colonel.

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 11, 1858. 

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.

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Napoleon III [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 Beauharnais.  As the nephew of Napoléon 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 year.

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.

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Napoleon III, Emperor of the French (Chateau de Versailles)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 background.

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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 Mexico City. 

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 9, 1900.

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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 in 1862.  

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General Porfirio 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 party.

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 ongoing.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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 1864.

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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.

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Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico (Museum of History, Chapultepec)

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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.

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Carlotta, Empress of Mexico (Museum of History, Chapultepec)

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A cavalry skirmish (L'Illustration, July 1863)

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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.

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Ambush (L'Illustration, February 1864)

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Troops of the Belgian Foreign Legion, 1865

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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.

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Death of a Zouave (Bello Museum, Puebla)

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Soldiers of the Austrian Volunteer Corps, 1866

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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.

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General Miguel 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, 1867.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Momento mori – The starched shirt in which the Emperor Maximilian was executed, carefully arranged and photographed, shows the firing squad’s handiwork.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Don Porfirio 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.

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The Last Days of Porfirio Díaz -- 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 Feature: Photo Gallery: Prominent Personalities of the Mexican Revolution 1910-1928