I am incredibly blessed to have become a historian in the 21st Century – modern technology has made our ability to discover new information considerably easier. Whereas earlier historians would have to travel to widely dispersed libraries and pour through physical card catalogs (have any teenagers ever even seen one?), our modern computerized access to library materials and databases are comparatively easy. The largest problem for a researcher is often the opposite of what our parents faced – sorting through the mountains of information to find the golden nuggets of information.
Among the best sources for historical information are collections of historical newspapers. Multiple state historical societies have begun scanning surviving newspapers from archives around the nation, cataloging them, and posting them online, usually for free. Here in Texas the main driving force for this project has been the University of North Texas – thousands of newspapers are available and searchable by keyword, date, title, etc.
While preparing a lecture on the Republic of Texas, I ran across the October 4, 1836 edition of the Telegraph and Texas Register. It was published out of the town of Columbia, edited by one Gale Borden, who would eventually become a leader in the dairy industry.
This particular newspaper edition carries a pair of letters written by heads of state – the first is by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, still in captivity at the time of writing. Here is the full text, taken from the newspaper’s column:
After inspecting this letter closely, several observations come to mind:
- What a crybaby. The 1st, 5th, and 6th complaints all involve the loss of his personal dignity and comforts. He had no doubt read about how Napoleon was treated by his captors, and probably can’t understand why the Texans would consider treating him with anything other than the highest deference and care. Honestly, the fact that he still had all of his fingers and toes intact is a testament to the respect afforded to General Houston by his own army (for the time being, at least).
- His 2nd protest about General Adrian Woll’s treatment is unfortunately rather vague – I can find no reference to his treatment in any other source I have found, but it is clear that the good General felt that the Texans has mistreated him. He probably expected to be held in awe, considering the fact that he was a French general working for Mexico. I’ll investigate this issue further and see what turns up.
- In the 5th complaint, I love the sense of embarrassment. Occasional moments of schadenfreude pop up in Texas history, and this one is richly deserved. Again, why wasn’t he just simply murdered by this mob? Considering how many of the Texan volunteers had lost family members to Santa Anna’s butchery, I am quite impressed that he made it through this experience with his skin intact.
- At the very end of the letter, I find it amazing that he is willing call upon the “Supreme Ruler of the destinies of mortals” to backup his claims. This is the same guy who chose to NOT bring any priests along with his army, meaning that none of the poor Mexican soldiers who were killed at the various battles received Last Rites. For that matter, he deliberately avoided giving proper burials to any of the dead Texans under his care – the Goliad victims were still exposed to the vultures at the time he wrote the letter. And now he’s calling upon God to back him up on those whole honor and integrity ideas?
Tomorrow: Ad interim President Burnet’s reply to Santa Anna…