History of the War with Mexico - H. O. Ladd

New Mexico and Santa Fe

Proclamation of Kearney—The destiny of a State—Reforms—The Mexican Stamp Act—Santa Fe and its history—The expedition to Albuquerque—The valley of the Rio Grande—Governor Bent.

As the civil and military governor of New Mexico, General Kearney, on the 22nd of August, issued the following important proclamation. It indicated the intentions of the United States Government and the course which would be pursued to provide for New Mexico and other conquered provinces a free government as a territory whose citizens should hereafter enjoy all the privileges of the American Union:

"As by the act of the Republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that Government and the United States, and as the undersigned, at the head of his troops, on the 18th instant took possession of Santa Fe, the capital of the department of New Mexico, he now announces his intention to hold the department with its original boundaries (on both sides of the Del Norte) as a part of the United States, and under the name of the Territory of New Mexico.

"The undersigned has come to New Mexico with a strong military force, and an equally strong one is following close in his rear. He has more troops than necessary to put down any opposition that can possibly be brought against him, and therefore it would be folly and madness for any dissatisfied or discontented persons to think of resisting him.

"The undersigned has instructions from his Government to respect the religious institutions of New Mexico, to protect the property of the church, to cause the worship of those belonging to it to be undisturbed, and their religious rights in the amplest preserved to them. Also to protect the person and property of all quiet and peaceable inhabitants within its boundaries, against their enemies, the Eutaws, Navajos, and others. And while he assures all that it will be his pleasure as well as his duty to comply with those instructions, he calls upon them to exert themselves in preserving order, in promoting concord, and in maintaining the authority and efficiency of the laws; and to require of those who have left their homes and taken up arms against the troops of the United States to return forthwith to them, or else they will be considered as enemies and traitors, subjecting their persons to punishment and their property to seizure and confiscation, for the benefit of the public treasury. It is the wish and intention of the United States to provide for New Mexico a free government, with the least possible delay, similar to that in the United States, and the people of New Mexico will then be called on to exercise the rights of freemen in electing their own representatives to the Territorial Legislature; but until this can be done, the laws hitherto in existence will be continued until changed or modified by competent authority, and those persons holding office will continue in the same for the present, provided they will consider themselves good citizens and willing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.

The undersigned hereby absolves all persons residing within the boundary of New Mexico from further allegiance to the republic of Mexico, and hereby claims them as citizens of the United States. Those who remain quiet and peaceable will be considered as good citizens and receive protection. Those who are found in arms or instigating others against the United States will be considered as traitors and treated accordingly. Don Manuel Armijo, the late governor of this department, has fled from it. The undersigned has taken possession of it without firing a gun or shedding a drop of blood, in which he most truly rejoices, and for the present will be considered as governor of this territory.

"Given at Santa Fe, the capital of the territory of New Mexico, this 22nd day of August, 1846, and in the 71st year of the independence of the United States. By the Governor:

"S. W. KEARNEY, Brig.-Gen."

Thus a territory embracing two hundred thousand square miles, with a magnificent climate, stately mountain ranges containing inexhaustible resources of mineral wealth, vast plains for pasturage and grazing, and fertile valleys, where by irrigation the most valuable grains and delicious fruits in the world can be cultivated with ease and in abundance, passed forever from the dominion of the race that had held its inhabitants in oppression for three hundred years, to freedom and prosperity in the future that can only belong to an integral part of the grandest republic and most populous nation of the world.

The population of New Mexico was at this time about one hundred and sixty thousand. One third of these were Pueblo Indians, who, though they had submitted to their conquerors the Spaniards, and were outwardly conformed to the Roman Catholic religion and the laws of the State, lived apart in villages or pueblos, refusing to marry with the Mexicans, and maintaining their ancient social customs. During the disturbances and changes in the central government, New Mexico had been exposed to the incursions of savage tribes and rent by feuds, so that there was left but a weak sentiment of loyalty to the Mexican Government in the people, with which they could be aroused against the American invaders, while the native Indians were quite indifferent to the fate of the territory.

Santa Fe, at the time of its occupation, contained about six thousand people. It was the site of an Indian pueblo, when the country was first occupied by the Spaniards, who found it then a populous village, and made it their capital and military head-quarters. They gave it the name La Villa Real del Santa Fe—the Royal City of the Holy Faith. Its age is unknown. Traditions discover it before its Spanish occupation, in the earliest history of the country. To the little American army, its last invaders, who had now taken possession of it, this city was a place of romantic interest. Its brown adobe walls and low houses had an indescribable strangeness about them. Its churches, built three centuries ago by Spaniards, were of the rudest architecture, hung with old battered Spanish bells, but ornamented within by oak and cedar beams roughly but curiously carved. Its plazas, its fort-like houses with inner courts and portals, and windowless walls three or four feet thick; its narrow and crooked streets; the numerous vestiges of Indian habitations, cooking implements, weapons of stone and volcanic glass, broken crockery with strange paintings, and human bones of an ancient people, all mingled with the mud of which the walls were constructed, gave a singular charm to the surroundings of the soldiers. Tales of merchant adventure and Indian warfare had for years been associated with Santa Fe. It was the point where ended the long journeys of the slow-moving wagon trains. Here the goods thus transported from the Missouri River were distributed farther west and south among the Indians and Mexicans by the merchants from Central Mexico who obtained from them their annual supplies.

The location of Santa Fe was indeed inviting and restful to the exhausted soldiers. A clear mountain stream issued from the canyon in the Santa Fe range, three miles away, and flowed through the centre of the town. In the season of rain its bed was filled with a roaring flood. Rising behind the town to the north were the Santa Fe Mountains, capped. with the white summit of Old Baldy, one of the Rocky Mountain range, thirteen thousand feet high. To the west rose the distant Jemez Mountains, beyond the fertile plain irrigated by the river which stretched southward between the foot-hills sixteen miles, hemmed across by the Los Cerrillos, Placitas and Sandia ranges. A more beautiful situation could not have been chosen for a large city. The troops were comfortably encamped on the south bank of the stream, in the reservation above the plaza, now Fort Marcy, and on the Loma north-east of the town, and freely mingled with the citizens in their amusements and social life.

General Kearney, occupied by the delegations who came from all parts of the territory to offer allegiance, sent dispatches to Washington, announcing the bloodless conquest of New Mexico, and asking for further instructions. The change of government was a relief to the common people, who had long been subjected to extortion and slavery, from which a nobler race would have freed themselves, as did the inhabitants of the American colonies.

One day General Kearney was told by the Alcalde of Santa Fe that he could not make a legal document of the simplest kind, which he had occasion to do, without using stamped government paper, sold at eight dollars per sheet. General Kearney immediately took a slip of paper and wrote a short proclamation, declaring that the use of stamped paper by the Government of New Mexico was henceforth abolished. It was such an infliction of the Stamp Act by a foreign government which so roused the indignation and resistance of the New England colonists against their mother country. But this people had meekly suffered much extortion for years, and were glad of a deliverance which Providence had brought to them. So much consideration was shown by the American governor to the Mexicans, that it was commonly remarked by the volunteers that their general treated the people of New Mexico better than he did his own soldiers.

On the 2nd of September, General Kearney, with a force of seven hundred and seventy-five mounted men, made an expedition southward to Albuquerque on the Rio Grande, to put down an insurrection which was reported to have been raised there at the instigation of Armijo, the late governor. Following the Chihuahua road over a dry and barren plain to the Gallisteo River, they proceeded to the pueblos of San Domingo and San Felipe, where the Indians cordially received them with a dashing cavalcade and entertained them by a sham fight on horseback. Entering the valley of the Rio Grande they followed the river by the towns of Algodones, Bernalillo, and Sandia, numbering from three hundred to one thousand inhabitants, until they reached Albuquerque. A hospitable salute of twenty guns from the top of the Catholic church dispelled all expectations of an engagement with Armijo's followers, and they peaceably marched into the town which had been his birthplace and residence. The troops during this march had experienced something of the famed luxuries of a tropical climate. For sixty miles they had passed through vineyards laden with the most luscious grapes, along well-stocked ranches and comfortable adobe houses. They had found apricots; pears, peaches, and melons in great abundance, while wild ducks, geese, cranes, swans, and pelicans were swarming in the Rio Grande.

This expedition proceeded as far south as St. Tome, one hundred miles from Santa Fe. Instead of meeting with resistance they were often hospitably entertained by the inhabitants, who invited them to their feasts, religious celebrations, dances, races, and theatrical exhibitions, to which this season was usually devoted. And after an absence of twelve days, they returned to Santa Fe again without blood having been shed.

During the expedition to St. Tome, the troops who had been left behind under Colonel Doniphan began the erection of Fort Marcy, on the hill north of the city. It was built of adobes of sufficient size to hold a garrison of one thousand men, and remains well preserved, completely commanding the city at the present time.

Civil government was now established. A constitution and laws for the territory of New Mexico were drafted, translated into Spanish by one of the American officers, Captain David Waldo, and published on an old government printing-press found in the capital. Charles Bent, of Taos, was appointed by General Kearney as the governor of the territory, and Francis P. Blair, Jr., district-attorney. Some of the other officers were Mexicans.

Among the Indians who continued to come in great numbers to Santa Fe was the chief of the tribes of the savage Apaches, who desired to hold a council with the governor-general. He was assured that if his tribe would abstain from violence, robbery, and crime, and live peaceably toward their white brethren, they should be protected and defended the same as the New Mexicans. They departed with presents of blankets, knives, beads, mirrors, and other things acceptable to the squaws, promising that they would be good and faithful citizens of the United States.