THE SAINT PATRICK’S BATTALION

In 1835, Texas that two years before had obtained its independence from Coahuila in Mexico and its recognition as a state that became independent from Mexico, in 1846 the war broke out between Mexico and the U.S., the cause of the dispute was the difference of ideas in the border between the two countries, since the South border of the U.S. had extended towards Mexican territory.

The problem of the borders grew worse in 1845 when the American congress approved the Annexation of Texas: the Texan government had declared that the South border went up to the Rio Grande, but in reality the border was up north more to Nueces River. The Mexican minister Luis Gonzalez Cuevas, through a note to William Shanon, the American minister, declared the relationships between both countries broken. Notwithstanding the rupture was diplomatic and the action was warlike, it took more than a year to be presented.

In March 1846, the provisional president Mariano Paredes refused to recognize John Slidell as Minister of the U.S; Meanwhile the American forces concentrated threateningly over the line of the Rio Grande in the territory of dispute. The U.S.A. militia sends General Zachary Taylor; he camped near Matamoros, despite of the protests of the authorities of Ciudad Victoria. General Pedro Ampudia named Chief of the Mexican Army in the middle of the internal division that existed in the national politics; he arrived to Matamoros in April. The first encounters were skirmishes without

Importance and in May the first battle of Palo Alto took place. It was the prelude of a war that would last up to July 1848, when the last invading forces (American) departed from Veracruz. Just then, the border of the South of the U.S. not only took up Texas but also: New Mexico, Upper California, part of the state of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Chiuhuahua and Sonora. In exchange of the lost territory and all of the blood shed, the Mexican government received 15 million dollars, notwithstanding the internal political instability in the War of 47 made heroic actions and the defense of the country was assumed by troops of all social classes and political affiliations.

Very little known is the defense taken up by the Battalion of Saint Patrick made up of Irish immigrants descendants of those 300 catholic families who were persecuted by Protestantism, Moses Austin directed those protestants in the colonization of Texas and the persecution of the Catholics in the beginning of the XIX century. When the U.S. congress voted in favor of the war against Mexico, many immigrants and Irish descendants enrolled in the rows of Taylor’s army. Some historians assure that the natives, this means the Anglo-Saxons born in the U.S. territory, underestimated the Irish immigrants and Catholics, since they opposed to slavery, which was in use in the South of the U.S. That is why since the hostilities began in the border, the Irish began to leave Taylor’s army and went to form part of the Mexican side, maybe they identified more with the Mexican liberals as well as the Mexican conservators both sides Catholic and against slavery.

Soon the deserters made up a company named the Battalion of Saint Patrick in honor to holy patron of Ireland and it was made up of 260 Irishmen that showed great courage and determination in the most relevant battles of the war. They wore a white sign with the shields of Mexico and Ireland. The name of their captain John O’ Reilly was embroidered with green, distinctive color of Ireland, also called the Green Erin.

The majority of the Irishmen died in battle, in battle actions like the one in Monterrey and in the Angostura, this last battle was in a valley close to Saltillo, they managed to snatch away three flags and caused many casualties to the invading army in November, 1846. As the Americans got closer dangerously to the capital of the country, the Battalion was falling back to the valley of Mexico and faced combat in the Battle of Cerro Gordo. In the battle of Padierna, the Irish were especially useful to General Valencia, despite of the final loss due the contradiction of mistaken orders of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

Saint Patrick’s Battalion also stood out in Churubusco, on August 20, 1847 when General Pedro Maria Anaya with very bad burns gave up with reluctance the convent of the place to the division commanded by General Twigs, at that time only about 72 Irish soldiers survived and they were apprehended as deserters and they were sentenced to death, except for their captain.

Days before, the governments at war had started negotiations for peace event though they didn’t prosper due to the different conditions: The U.S government asked for Texas, New Mexico, the two parts of California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon.

Tamaulipas and free transit in the isthmus of Tehuantepc that united the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.On September 8, the Battle of Molino del Rey took place, and it was lost by the Mexicans in spite of the courageous participation of the civil population , and even though it was the battle that cost the most lives in the American side. The next day, with the capital of Mexico practically in the hands of General Winfield Scott, the summarized executions of the Irishmen started. “The men of Saint Patrick”, says Guillermo Prieto a famous historian, “have created lively sympathies for their irreproachable conduct and for the courage and enthusiasm with which they defended our cause”. That is why, the news that they would be hanged cause a great commotion among the community. Conservators and liberals mobilized to gather money and influences to buy off the life of the heroic Irishmen.

A group of the most distinguished and respectable ladies went to see Scott, an imposing figure in front which they trembled with fear and cried of compassion. They argued that the Catholic Irishmen, just like them, had united to Mexico because of religious motives convinced by the insistence of the eloquent writings of Luis Martinez de Castro, the Martyr of Churubusco and also of other reporters that had convinced them with their intense arguments. It was all useless in the San Jacinto Plaza in San Angel, 16 Irishmen were hung. Their slow agony was shared by the inhabitants of the small town of Tlacopac, in the South of the city, the flag of the Battalion waved in the wind, a handkerchief with the image of Saint Patrick and the harp with which according to tradition, the serpents were expelled from Ireland; In the back it had the name of the Battalion and the Mexican shield. Other four Irishmen were executed in Mixcoac on September 10, another 30 on the 13th and finally 22 more in Tacubaya.

Captain John O’ Reilly and a few more that escaped the death penalty that the American congress had imposed in the deserters, they were sentenced to receive 50 whips on their bare back and to have a “D” on their hip, which stood for “deserter”, branded on them with hot iron. Years later those foreigners that offered their life were given a tribute with a commemorative tombstone in the Plaza of San Jacinto. In the commemorative speech was given by Miguel Angel Mendez who said: “ They were not deserters, they were loyal to themselves, loyal to dream of being free that brought them to the American Continent.

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