Title:
Lew Wallace and the French Intervention in Mexico

Author:
Robert Ryal Miller

Date:
1963

Source:
Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 31-50

Article Type:
Article

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Lew Wallace and the French Intervention in Mexico

Robert Ryal Miller*

That Lew Wallace of Indiana was at one time an officer in the Mexican army as well as a secret agent for the Mexican government should be no surprise considering his varied and colorful life as soldier, lawyer, politician, author, and diplomat. Wallace's fame rests on his two best-selling novels, Ben-Hur and The Fair God, but he was also once an Indiana state senator, a major general in the Union army during the Civil War, governor of the Territory of New Mexico, and United States minister to Turkey. His role in connection with the French Intervention in Mexico, while not well known, is no less bizarre than other phases of his career.

Wallace's sympathetic interest in Mexico dated from 1843 when he was enthralled by William H. Prescott's History of the Conquest of Mexico. Intermittently for the next thirty years Wallace worked on his first novel, The Fair God, based on the clash of Spanish and Indian cultures in Mexico. For years he studied Spanish and tried to read all the material he could find about Mexico. He got his first look at the land of Montezuma in 1846 as a lieutenant in the First Regiment, Indiana Volunteers, during the Mexican War.1

In 1865, after the close of the Civil War, Wallace received a secret assignment and a major general's commission in the Mexican army. In addition to his army salary, Wallace was promised $100,000 for his services to the Mexican Republic.2 He spent the next two years in New York, Washington, Texas, and Mexico working for the Republic of Mexico by giving legal, financial, and military counsel and recruiting volunteers for duty in Mexico.


  • * Robert Ryal Miller is assistant professor of history at New Mexico State University, University Park, New Mexico.
  • 1 Irving McKee, "Ben-Hur" Wallace: The Life of General Lew Wallace (Berkeley, Calif., 1947), 9-10, 13-17, 122-123.
  • 2 Josè M. Carvajal to Wallace, April 26, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection (Indiana Historical Society Library, Indianapolis); McKee, "Ben-Hur" Wallace, 95-96; [Lewis Wallace], Lew Wallace: An Autobiography (2 vols., New York, 1906), II, 869. Hereafter the work by Wallace will be cited as Wallace, Autobiography.

Mexico in the 1860's was torn by civil war and foreign invasion; this predicament prompted representatives of that country to engage the services of General Wallace. Under pretext of collecting defaulted debts, a French army intervened in Mexico in 1861 and subsequently installed Maximilian as emperor of Mexico. But the constitutional president of Mexico, Benito Juàrez, opposed this aggression, set up a fugitive republican government, appealed to the United States for assistance, and fought a six-year war against the French and Maximilian's Empire. Withdrawal of the French troops and the capture and execution of Maximilian in 1867 sounded the death knell of the Empire. The victory of Juàrez was partially due to the arms, men, and money secured in the United States by agents such as Lew Wallace.

Wallace's association with the Juàrez government began early in 1865 when both the United States and Mexico were convulsed by civil war. The two struggles were interrelated for there was cooperation between the Confederacy and Mexican Imperialists while the Union supported Juàrez and the Mexican Republicans. Through Wallace there was a further relationship; he had a plan to bring the Confederate rebels back into the Union by permitting them to join an American expedition to oust Maximilian and the French troops from Mexico. He visualized a great crusade that would enforce the Monroe Doctrine and unite North and South under one flag. Wallace thought that at least the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederacy could be counted on to support such a move.3

At the beginning of 1865 the end of the Civil War was in sight, but President Lincoln and his cabinet were worried about affairs in Texas where Confederates, in touch with Mexican Imperial troops, were utilizing Mexican ports to outflank the Union blockade. Northern statesmen also feared that the Confederates in desperation might cross into Mexico, take advantage of the disordered conditions there, and continue the war from across the Rio Grande River. To pursue such a force might draw the United States into entanglements with European powers and lay the Union open to charges of aggression against a friendly neighbor.

Major General Wallace urged an immediate expedition to Texas, but the President and General Grant opposed Union


  • 3 Wallace's notes, March 12, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection.
intervention at that time. Then in a letter to Grant dated January 14, 1865, Wallace asked to be allowed to try his peace plan on the Confederate commanders in Texas. He added, "You know how to get me there—an order to make an inspection of affairs on the Rio Grande will do so."4 Eight days later Wallace was ordered to "proceed via the Rio Grande to Western Texas, and inspect the conditions of military affairs in that vicinity and on the Rio Grande."5 The assignment also anticipated a rendezvous with a Mexican Republican general for planning concerted action to frustrate any alliance between the Confederates and the Imperialists. Through the Mexican minister to the United States Wallace received a letter of introduction to General Josè Marìa Jesùs Carvajal, the governor of the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

Notification of Wallace's mission to the Rio Grande was not communicated to the American secretary of state. "In an interview with President Lincoln on the subject," Wallace recalled, "he admonished me not to mention the business to Mr. Seward."6 The secretary of state was opposed to any positive step which might give France an excuse to recognize the Confederacy.

Wallace proceeded by railroad and river steamer to New Orleans. From that city he reported to Grant that Matamoros, Mexico, was to all intents and purposes a Confederate port and that there were daily from seventy-five to one hundred and fifty vessels discharging and receiving cargoes at Bagdad, on the Mexican side near the mouth of the Rio Grande.7 A dispatch of the United States military commander at New Orleans gives more details on the smuggling:

Casks and crates of crockery, freighted with rifles and musket barrels, bales of codfish, with the small parts of those arms, kegs of powder in barrels of provision, pistols and percussion caps in boxes of soap and barrels of fruit and clothing, shoes and other army supplies with scarcely any attempt at concealment are constantly transferred to the insurgents in Texas.8


  • 4 Wallace, Autobiography, II, 814.
  • 5 Ulysses S. Grant to Wallace, January 22, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 6 Wallace, Autobiography, II, 843.
  • 7 U.S., War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (128 vols., Washington, 1880-1901), Ser. I, Vol. XLVIII, pt. 1, 937-938.
  • 8 Edward R. S. Canby to Henry W. Halleck, December 9, 1864, copy in Lew Wallace Collection.

After withdrawing $4,000 in Secret Service funds9 Wallace boarded a military steamer, the Clifton, which was put at his disposal for the trip to the mouth of the Rio Grande. Although the general's orders stated that he was to proceed via the river to western Texas, he found such a trip inadvisable since the left bank was controlled by the Confederates and the right bank by the Mexican Imperialists. The Union forces held only Point Isabel, Texas, near the mouth of the Rio Grande.

Wallace and his staff met with Confederate General James E. Slaughter and his aide, Colonel John S. Ford, at Point Isabel in March, 1865. Negotiation for the exchange of prisoners was the ostensible reason for this meeting of Union and Confederate officers, but proposals for the pacification of the trans-Mississippi area were discussed along with plans for driving the French out of Mexico.10 The Southern officers agreed to forward the propositions and terms to their superior, General John G. Walker, then the Confederate military commander of Texas.

In his confidential report to General Grant, Wallace wrote that "both Slaughter and Ford . . . entered heartily into the Mexican project. It is understood between us that the pacification of Texas is the preliminary step to a crossing of the Rio Grande." He also noted that "General Slaughter was of the opinion that the best way for officers in his situation to get honorably back into the Union was to cross the river, conquer two or three states from the French, and ultimately annex them, with all their inhabitants; to the United States."11

But the Wallace peace plan was not accepted; moreover, Walker reprimanded Slaughter and reproved Wallace for "seeking an obscure corner of the Confederacy to inaugurate


  • 9 Signed quartermaster vouchers dated February-May, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 10 Wallace's proposition is outlined in his memo dated March 12, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection. Point Isabel is now called Port Isabel. Usually in this article the military rank given is the one customarily assigned the person in popular usage or the one mentioned in the letters and documents cited. Thus, except for Wallace, no distinction is made between the different ranks of general. Brevet ranks, which were common in the Union Army from 1863 on, are likewise ignored.
  • 11 Confidential report, Wallace to Ulysses S. Grant, March 14, 1865. See also the official report of the same date, Lew Wallace Collection. Letters cited from Wallace refer, unless otherwise indicated, to draft or retained copies.
negotiations."12 Wallace later asserted that Walker's refusal was due to the huge profits the Confederate general was making in cotton by trading with the Galveston blockade runners.13

The second phase of Wallace's mission to the Rio Grande involved contacting the Mexican Republican forces to ascertain what they would do if Confederate troops crossed over into Mexico in large numbers and joined Maximilian. If the Juaristas would oppose such an invasion, they were to be promised material aid from the United States. The nearest Republican officer was General Josè Marìa Carvajal, and a courier was dispatched to locate him. "My messenger found the General in the fastness of the mountains near San Carlos," Wallace wrote, "so reduced that for want of better arms, he was actually practising his few followers with bows and arrows."14 General Carvajal slipped through the Imperial lines and came to the Mexican-American frontier where he met with General Wallace. The Mexican general had lived in the United States for some years; he spoke English fluently and was a graduate of Bethany College, Bethany, Virginia (now West Virginia). Wallace observed that Carvajal "was an American in tastes and ideas."15

In the course of the interview between Wallace and Carvajal the Mexican officer produced a document from his government naming himself as a commissioner with extensive powers for one year. This authorization from Juàrez, dated November 12, 1864, empowered Carvajal to purchase 40,000 rifles and other munitions abroad, to enlist up to 10,000 foreigners for service in the Mexican military forces, and to contract for a foreign loan.16 Upon seeing General


  • 12 John G. Walker to Wallace, March 25, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection. Slaughter later joined the Imperialists in Mexico and warned them of Wallace's plans. J. Fred Rippy, The United States and Mexico (New York, 1926), 244.
  • 13 Wallace to Ulysses S. Grant, April 18, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 14 Wallace to American-Mexican Claims Commission, November 25, 1869, Lew Wallace Collection. The original petition is in U.S., Department of State Records, United States-Mexican Claims Commission of 1868, Record Group 76, Docket 425 (National Archives, Washington).
  • 15 Wallace, Autobiography, II, 869.
  • 16 Carvajal's commission is printed in U.S., Congress, House, House Executive Document 33, 40th Cong., 1st Sess., 112-113. See also Mexico, Responsabilidades contraidas por el gobierno nacional de Mèxico con los Estados-Unidos en virtud de los contratos celebrados por sus agentes, 1864-1867 (Mexico: Imprenta del gobierno, 1867), 24.
[Figure]

GENERAL JOSÈ M. CARVAJAL

Photograph by Brady's National Photographic Portrait Galleries, courtesy Indiana State Historical Society Library, Indianapolis

Carvajal's commission and being assured that if the Juàrez forces were in power they would stop every armed Confederate who attempted to enter Mexico from Texas, Wallace persuaded the Mexican officer to accompany him to Washington. The American agreed to pay for Carvajal's clothes and other expenses and promised to help him in placing a loan and in negotiating the arms purchases. In Carvajal's interest, Wallace noted:

... it was very desirable, for a time, at least, to conceal his departure; at the same time, it was of absolute importance to me personally that the intrigue I was inaugurating should be covered up as effectually as possible; so the General took the name of "Mr. Joseph Smith," by which he continued to be known in Washington and New York.17

By the time the two generals arrived at the American capital late in April, 1865, Lee had surrendered to Grant, Lincoln had been assassinated, and the American Civil War was rapidly drawing to a close. General Wallace was detailed to serve on the court-martial board for the trial of those implicated in the plot to assassinate Lincoln, Grant, and Seward and was thus occupied for the next few months.

Nevertheless, on April 26, 1865, Carvajal offered Wallace, upon his impending resignation from the United States army, a commission as a major general in the Mexican army. Wallace was to be paid $100,000, and his duties would be to put the Mexican general in touch with persons able to help him financially, to assist him in procuring munitions, and to organize and lead a corps of American volunteers who would serve under the flag of the Mexican Republic. According to Wallace this agreement with Carvajal was sanctioned by Grant with whom Wallace conferred before accepting the offer.18

Wallace subsequently arranged a conference with Carvajal and introduced him to a fellow Hoosier, General Herman Sturm. The three generals conferred on the plan to raise an auxiliary force of ten thousand Americans, and Sturm, chief of ordnance for the state of Indiana, was commissioned by Carvajal to produce the necessary military supplies and to provide for the transportation and care of the foreign


  • 17 Wallace to American-Mexican Claims Commission, November 25, 1869, Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 18 Josè M. Carvajal to Wallace, April 26, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection; Wallace, Autobiography, II, 869; McKee, "Ben-Hur" Wallace, 95-96.
legionnaires until they reached Mexico. The American volunteer corps, composed primarily of recently discharged veterans, was to assemble somewhere on the Rio Grande. In order to circumvent neutrality laws these men were to be organized as emigration societies.19

Hoping to establish chapters "in every country town," Wallace organized the Mexican Aid Society to raise funds and recruit soldiers for the contemplated expedition. He wrote to friends asking their help in organizing branch clubs that would

control public sentiment, govern the politicians, raise funds, recruit soldiers, and beget cooperation and united intelligent management. Any number of veterans will wish to go to Mexico as soon as they are somewhat wearied of the monotony of home. They will want to know how to get there. These societies will show them the way and afford information generally.20

General Grant was conversant with the Wallace-Carvajal plans, but he had another candidate for leader of the proposed volunteer force—his trusted subordinate, General John M. Schofield. Grant mistrusted Wallace and feared that under him the enterprise would end discredited,21 but the Mexican minister, Matias Romero, urged that Wallace be left in charge until the group crossed into Mexico where Schofield might take command.22 Although Wallace had requested command of the United States army corps on the Rio Grande so that he could organize and direct the volunteers, General Philip Sheridan was named to that post. Then in June, 1865, Wallace was again passed over when Schofield was selected to command the projected army of Union and Confederate veterans in Mexico. Schofield, who was granted a year's leave of absence and permitted to take his staff with him, conferred


  • 19 Herman Sturm, The Republic of Mexico and Its American Creditors (Indianapolis, 1869), 2-4. Sturm's commission, dated May 1, 1865, obliged him to resign from his Indiana state position. See the author's article, "Herman Sturm: Hoosier Secret Agent for Mexico," Indiana Magazine of History, LVIII (March, 1962), 1-15.
  • 20 Wallace to Thomas Buchanan Read, April 30, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 21 This distrust was largely the result of Wallace's failure to participate in the first day's fighting at the Battle of Shiloh. See Harold Lew Wallace, "General Lew Wallace's March to Shiloh Revisited," pp. 19-30 of this issue.
  • 22Mexico, Correspondencia de la legacyòn Mexicana en Washington durante la intervenciòn extranjera, 1860-1868 (10 vols., Mexico: Imprenta del gobierno, 1870-1892), V, 722; hereafter this work will be cited as Correspondencia.
with Grant, the Mexican minister, the American president, and the secretaries of state and war before accepting the position.23

The Mexican minister and Schofield signed a little-known contract which outlined the organization and plans for the auxiliary army. Romero previously had received authorization from his government to make such an agreement. The nine major points of the Romero-Schofield convention are worth summarizing since they resemble the concessions promised to Wallace. Schofield agreed to accept a commission as a major general in the Mexican army and to command the American volunteer forces; a group of emigrant-soldiers consisting of three infantry divisions, one cavalry division, and nine artillery batteries, was to be organized along the frontier; regulations of the United States army would be followed in organizing the force; Schofield would name the officers of the corps; the Mexican government would determine the pay and bonuses; upon their discharge the volunteers would have the rights and privileges of Mexican citizens; the enlistment term was three years; the president of Mexico and the commander in chief of the corps could grant commissions; and financial support of the group would come from a loan negotiated by the Mexican Republic in the United States.24

Meanwhile Grant was taking steps to aid the enlistment of men for the corps and to assure a supply of arms for their use. He wrote Sheridan on July 25, 1865, and, noting that there were probably large deposits of captured and surplus arms in Texas, directed him to "place them convenient to be permitted to go into Mexico, if they can be got into the hands of the defenders of the only government we recognize in that country." Grant added that he expected Schofield to receive orders to appropriate the munitions; Sheridan was to let him have them unless contrary orders were issued. Sheridan was also advised that he was going to be directed to discharge all the men he thought could be spared from the Department of Texas and reminded that "existing orders permit discharged


  • 23 John M. Schofield, Forty-Six Years in the Army (New York, 1897), 379-380.
  • 24 Romero's authorization, dated March 29, 1865, Corpespondencia, VI, 121-124. The Romero-Schofield contract is in Fernando Iglesias Calderòn, Rectifacaciones històricas: La supuesta traiciones de Juàrez (Mexico, 1907), 28.
soldiers to retain their arms and accoutrements at low rates, fixed in orders."25

It was obvious that discharged veterans, fully equipped, were to form the core of the auxiliary army unit destined to help Juàrez drive the French army from his country. The ranks could easily be swelled by recruiting veterans in other parts of the United States.

The plan was well conceived and the organization under way when the American secretary of state thwarted the project. Seward, who was constantly trying to avoid any possibility of war with France, called Schofield for a conference and informed the general that he had been selected to go to Paris to try to convince Emperor Napoleon III that the French troops should be withdrawn from Mexico. Seward came right to the point when he said: "I want you to get your legs under Napoleon's mahogany, and tell him he must get out of Mexico."26 Schofield reflected that on the one hand he had authority from the secretary of war to organize and lead an army to chase the French out of Mexico, and on the other a request from the secretary of state to go to France and try to accomplish the same end by peaceful means. He accepted the mission to France, but he never did have a private interview with Napoleon.27 General Schofield returned to Washington almost a year later having accomplished one end Seward had in mind—Schofield's absence from the United states.

While all the negotiations were going on regarding Schofield's command in the Southwest and his assignment to Europe, General Wallace continued to work in the interest of the Republic of Mexico. Following his duty on the Lincoln assassination court-martial board, he was appointed president of a military commission to try Confederate Captain Henry Wirz, warden of the infamous Andersonville, Georgia, prison. In August, 1865, Wallace informed Carvajal: "I am fully embarked in your cause. This duty (the commission) will serve me excellently for a cover under which to work."28


  • 25 Ulysses S. Grant to Philip Sheridan, July 25, 1865, quoted in Adam Badeau, Grant in Peace: From Appomattox to Mount MeGregor, a Personal Memoir (Hartford, Conn., 1887), 181-182.
  • 26 Schofield, Forty-Six Years, 385. See also Schofield's article, "The Withdrawal of the French from Mexico: A Chapter of Secret History," Century Magazine, LIV (May, 1897), 128-137.
  • 27 Schofield, Forty-Six Years, 383-393.
  • 28 Wallace to Josè M. Carvajal, August 25, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection.
About the same time Wallace's wife wrote: "Mexico is uppermost in Lew's mind, at present—when he dies, Mexico will be found written on his heart. Surely we have made graves enough there, without marching an army against Maximilian."29

But Wallace continued with his plans to enlist a corps of American veterans for service in Mexico. He wrote to a number of his army-officer friends in various localities and asked them to recruit soldier-emigrants for the projected expedition. In the first part of September, 1865, he reported that he had men "all ready and was waiting only for the means."30

Later, in a note to General John W. Geary asking him to organize men in Pennsylvania, Wallace reported that arrangements had been made for nine other states. General James P. Brownlow was in charge of Tennessee, Colonel W. E. Woodruff of Kentucky, General Thomas O. Osborn of Illinois, Generals Robert S. Foster and John Coburn of Indiana, General Erastus B. Tyler of Ohio, General Maxwell Z. Woodhull of Maine, and Colonel Lionel A. Sheldon of Louisiana. Confederate officers were also involved in the widespread scheme; Colonel John S. Mosby was to forward emigrants from Virginia while Colonel John S. Ford, the officer Wallace had met at Point Isabel, was to direct recruiting in Texas.31

One of Wallace's most active agents was a former Confederate officer, Colonel R. Clay Crawford, of Tennessee, who was not only eager to lead a brigade into Mexico but was also willing to use some of his own money for the organization. On November 4, 1865, Crawford was sent to the Rio Grande with a set of orders from General Wallace. He was to get in touch with Mexican Colonel Andreas Treviño (then in Brownsville, Texas), organize one thousand men, and encamp them on the river above Brownsville. Some of the units already formed, such as Colonel Ford and his group, were to be incorporated into the brigade. Crawford was instructed not to open negotiations with the Mexican Republican leaders; nor was he to cross the river until the arrival of Wallace or


  • 29 Susan Wallace to her mother, Mrs. Isaac C. Elston, [August, 1865], Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 30 Wallace to his wife, September 4, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 31 Wallace to John W. Geary, [September, 1865], Lew Wallace Collection.
[Figure]

LOWER RIO GRANDE RIVER AREA

This map was sketched by the author and redrawn by Armando Quintana, University Park, New Mexico.

General Carvajal. He was informed that arms, uniforms, and other provisions would be forthcoming.32 Wallace wrote to General Grant informing him of Crawford's mission and asking that some of the arms at New Orleans be made available for the brigade.33

When he arrived on the Rio Grande Crawford had difficulty enlisting recruits. There was a lack of money to advance salaries and bonuses and to outfit the men. Wallace was not able to send the promised supplies because the Mexican bond issue that he and Carvajal had been negotiating proved a failure. But Crawford and his second in command, Colonel Arthur L. Reed, did gather a few followers, some of them Negroes, and they prepared for an offensive. It was reported that Crawford was offering $50 per month to all those who joined his corps.34

In the first part of January, 1866, Crawford decided to move across the Rio Grande and capture the town of Bagdad at the mouth of the great river. This action, of course, violated Wallace's instructions as well as international law, but one of Crawford's motives was the liberation of seventeen of his men who had been captured by the Mexican Imperialist commander at Bagdad. These prisoners were under death sentence in accordance with the infamous "Black Flag" decree of Emperor Maximilian which ordered the execution of all those caught fighting against the Empire, The fact that these prisoners were in Mexico would indicate that Crawford or his men had crossed the river on a previous sortie. In any event, on the first of January, Crawford wrote to General Godfrey Weitzel, the ranking American officer in Texas, and asked him to intercede on behalf of the prisoners; Weitzel's request for clemency, however, was not granted.35

On January 5 at about four o'clock in the morning, Lieutenant Colonel Edmundo Davis, commander of the 118th Colored Battalion, United States Forces, crossed the Rio Grande at the head of about one hundred of his men and some twenty or thirty soldiers of fortune including Crawford and Reed. The force surprised the Mexican Imperial guard


  • 32 Wallace to R. Clay Crawford, November 4, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 33 Wallace to Ulysses S. Grant, November 16, 1865, Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 34 J. Passama Domenech, L'Empire Mexicain, la paix, et les interets du monde (Mexico, 1866), 39.
  • 35 Emmanuel Domenech, Histoire de Mexique: Juarez et Maximilian (3 vols., Paris, 1868), III, 374.
of about two hundred men, took them prisoner, and began to sack the town; wholesale looting then broke out. Seven witnesses later declared that Colonel Davis was drunk at the time and that he returned to his base leaving the town in the hands of the adventurers who had accompanied him and of others who arrived after the capitulation.36

The following day Colonel Enrique A. Mejìa of the Mexican army, along with two hundred volunteers, presumably Mexican Republican exiles, crossed the river and took over as military commandant of Bagdad. He had to overcome, however, the strenuous opposition of Crawford and Reed who momentarily made Mejìa and his officers prisoners.37 The French ship Antonia appeared off Bagdad on January 6, 1866 and opened fire on Crawford's men killing two of the Negroes.38 The land force lacked artillery, but they returned fire on the vessel and evened the score by mortally wounding a French corporal and an Austrian sergeant.39 At this juncture the American merchants of the town sent strong protests to General Weitzel across the river; they feared a further loss of real estate and merchandise through the looting and warfare. Because he could not control the American adventurers, Colonel Mejìa also appealed to the American general for assistance.40

General Weitzel, observing the anarchy that followed the capture of Bagdad, decided to intervene with federal troops. Colonel Hudson was dispatched to the city with 150 Negro troops and instructions to restore order. This only served to complicate matters since Hudson's men promptly united with Crawford.41 Weitzel then saw that he would have to move across the river in strength and, on January 13, he went to Bagdad, promptly established military law, curbed the excesses, and restored order. Crawford was arrested and sent to Fort Jackson, Louisiana, and his men were returned to the American side of the river.42


  • 36 Enrique A. Mejìa to Mariano Escobedo, January 10, 1866, Enrique Antonio Mejìa Papers, Part II, Box 1, Folio 98 (Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley). Letters from Mejìa refer to draft copies.
  • 37 Enrique A. Mejìa to Mariano Escobedo, January 9, 1866, Mejìa Papers, Part II, Box 1, Folio 92.
  • 38Ibid.
  • 39 Domenech, Histoire de Mexique, III, 375.
  • 40 Enrique A. Mejìa to Godfrey Weitzel, January 13, 1866, Mejìa Papers, Part II, Box 1, Folio 114.
  • 41 Domenech, Histoire de Mexique, III, 376.
  • 42Ibid., 377.

But the confusion in Bagdad continued because the Mexican Republican leaders and local politicians fought each other. By January 17, Colonel Mejia was forced out as military commandant due to the squabbles between Mexican generals and demagogues, one of whom wanted the adventurer Reed appointed as commandant.43

When elements of the French Gulf Fleet appeared in the harbor and protested the occupation of the Mexican city by the United States army, the Bagdad affair ended about as swiftly as it had begun. Weitzel, who most certainly had orders to avert war with the French, withdrew his force to Brownsville, and the Imperialist troops moved back into Bagdad on January 24, 1866.44 Thus ended the three-week interlude of nominal rule by the Mexican Republicans, both aided and impeded by regular and irregular American troops.

The raid on Bagdad irritated General Wallace and it delayed his Mexican plans. In a letter to Carvajal about Crawford he understated the case:

The newspaper reports satisfy me that he is not the man for delicate duty he was assigned to. Yet we had no choice—he only had the money. If he should succeed, he will have lost the advantages of a surprise. Let him go on, however. All eyes will be centered on him there, leaving us comparatively free from espionage here.45

Crawford was later released from custody, and he sent Wallace a full report of the Bagdad melee along with a bill for $122,000 as compensation for his services. Wallace, who refused to answer the report, was embarrassed and angry over the incident which he said was due to Crawford's "stupidity, madness, and gross violation of instructions." Nevertheless, he suggested to Carvajal that they take no action against Crawford "until we are in your country, when you can act as justice dictates, free from danger of law suits, etc. . . ."46

Undaunted by the experience of Crawford's raiders and optimistic over the prospect of a Mexican loan being guaranteed by the United States, General Wallace continued to make


  • 43 Enrique A. Mejìa to Matìas Romero, January 17, 1866, Mejìa Papers, Part II, Box 1, Folio 121.
  • 44 Adolfo Garza to Enrique A. Mejìa, January 25, 1866, Mejìa Papers, Part II, Box 1, Folio 133.
  • 45 Wallace to Josè M. Carvajal, January 11, 1866, Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 46 Wallace to Josè M. Carvajal, January 24, 1866, Lew Wallace Collection. Carvajal's disapointment with Crawford is recorded in Josè M. Carjaval to Matìas Romero, January 20, 1866, Matìas Romero Correspondence (Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).
plans for a large military expedition which he would lead into Mexico. He renewed his contacts with the emigration societies and organized three brigades of infantry in Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee. The groups had a dichotomous designation; privately they were brigades, but publicly they were known as the Order of Miamis, an Association of Emigrants. In the manner of a number of clubs and fraternal groups there were code names for the various elements within the organization. Armories were referred to as "wigwams"; companies, named after the counties, were "tribes"; and the officers were "sachems," "chiefs," "braves," and "runners." Although the Miamis had initiation fees and dues, Wallace had to advance much of the money for the organization.47

During the spring of 1866 the Wallace-Carvajal organization made plans for a new military offensive on the Rio Grande. General Carvajal left New York and went back to northeastern Mexico. There had been numerous reports of factions and personal feuds among the Republican leaders of that area; thus Romero and Grant urged Carvajal to return to his homeland and try to reconcile the factions. Herman Sturm promised to send him military supplies and General Wallace agreed to provide American auxiliary troops. Within a short time Carvajal consolidated his position and became master of the border towns along the Rio Grande. On June 23, he reported he was in control of Matamoros, the city that was to be the rendezvous for the Carvajal-Wallace-Sturm expedition.48

Back in New York, General Sturm chartered the steamship J. W. Everman and loaded it with enough supplies to equip seven thousand soldiers. Although the $30,000,000 in bonds which Carvajal floated failed to sell to the public, Sturm was able to negotiate them for munitions. He convinced the American arms manufacturers that the bonds represented a legitimate claim on the Mexican government, and he ultimately purchased $2,000,000 worth of goods by offering the bonds at sixty cents on the dollar as payment.49

At the same time, Lew Wallace, who had been designated to conduct the arms shipment to Mexico, notified the officers of the Order of Miamis about the projected campaign. In a


  • 47 McKee, "Ben-Hur" Wallace, 103; constitution and initiation ceremony of the Order of Miamis, notebooks, Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 48 Wallace, Autobiography, II, 871, 873.
  • 49 Sturm's purchases are outlined in Mexico, Contratos hechos en los Estados-Unidos por los comisionados del gobierno de Mèxico durante los años de 1865 y 1866 (Mexico: Imprenta del gobierno, 1868), 500-501, 504-506.
letter to General Thomas Osborn, then in Chicago, Wallace observed that he expected to have five thousand men on the way to Mexico within the week. In a subsequent note, dated July 14, 1866, he ordered Osborn to start moving his men. "DO not wait for arms ... send your men forward ... in squads of eight or ten."50 Although the recruits were directed to go first to New Orleans and then to Matamoros, only a few of the Miamis ever made it to Mexico. True, all of the members wanted to help liberate Mexico from the foreign invader, but only if their salary and the money to defray costs of equipment and transportation were advanced. And neither Wallace, Osborn, nor any of the other "sachems" provided that essential element.

The Everman expedition sailed from New York on July 26, 1866. The departure was highly publicized, and a United States revenue cutter escorted the ship to open water. Sturm had received permission from a fellow Hoosier, Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch, to ship the arms to the neighboring republic.51 In addition to Wallace the passengers included some Mexican army officers returning to their country as well as seven Americans who were a part of the Wallace-Sturm-Carvajal coterie. Among the latter were: Colonel George E. Church, who represented the New YorkHerald and carried in his pocket blank contracts for railroad and telegraph concessions from Mexico; Wilbur F. Stocking, an agent for the firm negotiating Carvajal's bonds; and Herman Sturm's brother, Captain Frederick C. Sturm.52

Writing to his wife while aboard ship, Wallace was apprehensive. He noted that "the question close upon us is: Can I succeed in landing in Matamoras [sic] the material—contraband with the French—now in our ship's hold?"53 The answer was soon forthcoming, for after the cargo was transferred to a river steamer and then unloaded on the Matamoros levee, a local revolt against Carvajal occurred. In this tumult the munitions were pillaged, the Americans jailed, and Carvajal escaped into Texas only by shooting the officer who tried to arrest him.54 Later the new commander, Servando


  • 50 Wallace to Thomas Osborn, July 12, 14, 1866, Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 61Herman Sturm versus the Republic of Mexico (Indianapolis, 1872), 25-26.
  • 52 U.S., Department of State Records, United States-Mexican Claims Commission of 1868, Record Group 76, Dockets 673, 763 (National Archives, Washington); McKee, "Ben-Hur" Wallace, 104.
  • 53 Wallace, Autobiography, II, 874.
  • 54 Wilbur Stocking to Herman Sturm, August 13, 1866, Herman Sturm versus Mexico, 39-40.
Canales, released the Americans and permitted some of the munitions to be transferred to the other side of the river for warehouse storage. The American vice-consul at Matamoros, Louis Avery, told Wallace the revolt had originated among Carvajal's subordinates and against the wishes of Canales. He reported that Carvajal was a despotic ruler, giving too many concessions to Americans and underpaying his army.55

Wallace, Church, and Stocking then determined to go to Monterrey, Mexico, where they hoped Juàrez' commander in chief, General Mariano Escobedo, would accept the arms and sign receipts for the merchandise. After a month of preliminaries with Escobedo during which his agent agreed to take 1,000 rifles, 345 pistols, 6 artillery pieces, and other munitions,56 Wallace and Church decided to go on to the city of Chihuahua where Juàrez and the central government were located. It was a twenty-day journey in the carriage supplied by General Escobedo, and along the way they looked over some of the silver mines of northern Mexico.

In Chihuahua, the temporary capital of the Mexican Republic, the Americans met with Juàrez and his cabinet and submitted a written report on the Everman expedition. In the months that followed, Church, a civil and military engineer, and Wallace, the soldier-lawyer, tried to get mining, colonization, and telegraph concessions from the Republican government. The draft propositions in the Wallace Papers indicate that a number of American capitalists were behind the schemes. Cyrus W. Field, president of the Atlantic Telegraph Company, David Hoadley, president of the Panama Railroad Company, and General E. S. Sanford, vice-president of the Adams Express Company, are but three of the names mentioned in the documents.57 Wallace's opinion of the Mexican officials was revealed in a letter to his wife:

The attaches of this government here, from Juàrez down, are very polite and kind to me. My opinion of the former grows better every day. Without doubt, he is really a great man in the true sense of the words. I wish we had as good a one at the head of our government. And as to his cabinet, I think I told you it was composed of abler men


  • 55 McKee, "Ben-Hur" Wallace, 106.
  • 56Mexico, Circulares y otras publicaciones hechas por la legaciòn Mexicana en Washington durante la guerra de intervenciòn, 1862-1867 (2 vols., Mexico: Imprenta del gobierno, 1868), I, 475-476; hereafter this work will be cited as Circulares.
  • 57 Draft proposals, Wallace to Benito Juàrez, October 22, 1866, Lew Wallace Collection. For the names of other Americans who arrived in Chihuahua at this time, see the author's article, "The American Legion of Honor in Mexico," Pacific Historical Review, XXX (August, 1961), 229-241.
than ours. I have seen a good deal of them lately, and what I thought before, I am sure of now.58

With the resurgence of the Republican forces and the concomitant collapse of Maximilian's Empire, the Juàrez cabinet moved back toward central Mexico. Wallace and Church accompanied the Juaristas on the 450-mile trek to Durango, but when the officials moved farther south to Zacatecas, Wallace returned to the United States and arrived in Indiana in February, 1867. He had been in Mexico almost seven months, and, in addition to the fiasco of the Everman expedition, his plans for concessions had been thwarted or at least delayed in the classical mañana manner. Colonel Church remained in Mexico until May, reporting for the New YorkHerald and helping Jàrez' minister of war plan the closing campaigns of the conflict.59

Meanwhile, Wilbur Stocking returned to Brownsville, Texas, where he turned over the munitions to a local firm that arranged for their ultimate sale to Juarist commanders. The governor of Coahuila and the commander of Tampico received the bulk of the arms, amounting to more than 3,000 rifles, 500 pistols, 250 sabers, 1,000,000 percussion caps, and 274,000 cartridges.60 Although the Everman expedition was in many ways a misfortune, it did result in the delivery to the Mexican Republicans of a considerable quantity of first-rate arms and ammunition.

About the time of Maximilian's surrender in May, 1867, Lew Wallace resigned his commission u an army officer and agent of the Mexican Republic. He spent parts of the next two years in Mexico trying to get cash compensation or a business or mining concession in exchange for Carvajal's written promise of $100,000; Carvajal himself was out of favor with the Juàrez administration and in exile in the United States. Wallace accepted $2,500 from Romero in 1868, but he maintained that this was only a partial payment on account. He later filed a suit with the United States-Mexican Claims Commission of 1868-1876, an international board that met in Washington to settle outstanding claims of citizens of both nations. The commission in ruling against Wallace's petition for $25,552.50 asserted that Carvajal had exceeded his authority in engaging Wallace and added that the claimant


  • 58 Wallace to his wife, October 5, 1866 [autograph letter signed], Lew Wallace Collection.
  • 59 George Earl Church, Aborigines of South America, ed. by Clements R. Markham (London, 1912), xv.
  • 60Circulares, I, 476-476.
had performed no real service for Mexico. Finally, in 1882, the Mexican government paid Wallace $15,000, a sum considerably less than the amount promised by Carvajal but one accepted as payment in full by the Hoosier general.61

What did Lew Wallace accomplish as an agent of the Mexican Republic during the war known as the French Intervention? By bringing to Washington and New York General Josè Carvajal, who had broad powers from his government, Wallace served as a catalyst in the important financial and logistic negotiations that led to succor for the Juàrez forces. As legal adviser, the Indiana general drew up several contracts for Carvajal that enabled him to float a $30,000,000 bond issue in New York. He also participated in the unsuccessful attempt to have the bonds guaranteed by the United States government by introducing Carvajal and the plan to friends and politicians in Washington. It was through Wallace that another Hoosier, General Herman Sturm, was employed by the Mexican Republic as an expeditor of military supplies. Wallace later noted that in the closing battles of the war in Mexico two of the armies, "the most important, that of Diaz and that of Escobedo, were in great part equipped by Sturm and I, under the Carvajal arrangement. . . ."62 Wallace conducted a shipload of munitions to Mexico and through his friends in the United States army arranged for some surplus American weapons to be turned over to Mexican officers. Although he agreed to lead a large expeditionary force of Americans to Mexico and drew up detailed plans for the logistic and military operations, this foreign legion never assembled because of opposition by the American secretary of state and lack of financial support. Wallace's recruiting activities, while abortive with respect to the large expedition, resulted in a number of the volunteers crossing into Mexico individually and in small groups. In the field of propaganda Wallace established chapters of the Mexican Aid Society, which kept the issue of French violation of the Monroe Doctrine before the American public and raised money for Juàrez. Perhaps most important of all, Lew Wallace enthusiastically lent his name to the cause of the Mexican Republic and thereby gave that government added popularity and respectability in the United States.


  • 61 Wallace to American-Mexican Claims Commission, November 25, 1869, Lew Wallace Collection; U.S., Congress, Senate, Claims on the Part of Citizens of the United States and Mexico under the Convention of July 4, 1868 (Senate Executive Document 31), 44th Cong., 2d Sess., 1877, pp. 38-39; McKee, "Ben-Hur" Wallace, 112-113.
  • 62 Wallace, Autobiography, II, 872.


Published by the Indiana University Department of History.