By Lawrence Phillip Knight, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University-Kingsville
SAN ANTONIO AND THE CART WAR,1857
During the political contests between the Democrats and Know-Nothings, each party attempted to convince the Hispanics of San Antonio that it considered them Americans. Each party also explained that its goals, views, and interpretations of American were best for the Hispanics. The close of 1856 saw the end of the Know-Nothing party in San Antonio and the ascendancy of the Democratic party. At each election, the Hispanics and most of the voters of San Antonio believed the Democrats. The Democrats again ruled a one-party city, with the exception that now the Democrats were actually organized. With the Know-Nothings gone, at least as a party, and the Democrats firmly in power, one question remained, whether all the campaign talk about Hispanics equality, of Hispanics truly being Americans, was only rhetoric, or did the San Antonians of both parties actually believe that Hispanics had all the rights and privileges of Americans. If those rights were jeopardized, would non-Hispanic Democrats and Know-Nothings, who had professed such idealistic sentiments during election campaigns, provide more than words to protect the Hispanics? That question might have remained unanswered had not a combination of factors in the summer and fall of 1857 combined to create the Cart War in Texas.
Throughout the 1850's, as was the case for decades before, the main source of freight transportation to and from San Antonio was the Mexican two-wheeled cart. In the 1850's American teamsters had moved in as well, but the Mexican cartmen had lower rates and carried a majority of the freight. There seemed to be little opposition to this in 1857 or in prior years in San Antonio; only one mention was made in the papers against Mexican cartmen, and that was about those who were not Tejanos. In April 1857 a motion in City Council opposing freight haulers who were "Mexicans foreign to the soil of Texas & not citizens of the United States" was so unimportant that it was referred to a committee and never heard of again. What was true in San Antonio, however, was not true of the area between San Antonio and the Gulf Coast. Mexican cartmen, despite being United States citizens and native Texans, were harassed and even killed while merely hauling freight at a lower cost than the "American" wagoneers.
The story of what became known as the Cart War is not entirely clear. The attacks apparently began in July 1857 in Goliad and Karnes counties, but the first mention of them in the San Antonio papers was in August, and quickly thereafter a public meeting was called to condemn the attacks. A week later, the Ledger reported that commerce between the coast and San Antonio had almost ceased because of the attacks upon the Mexican cartmen. The paper condemned the attacks and further reported that a committee consisting of Sam Maverick, J.R. Sweet, T.N. Waul and J.A. Wilcox was formed to discuss the "cart wars." The committee suggested that a $1,000 reward be offered for catching the murderers.
In early October, the City Council gave the Chief Marshall of San Antonio, G. H. Nelson, a two months leave to command a company of volunteers "called into service by the Governor to suppress the lawless band in Karnes County." By the end of October, the Ledger reported that a large cart train had left and returned to San Antonio unmolested. Thus according to the San Antonio papers and council minutes, the violence against the Tejano cartmen not only did not occur in San Antonio, but was opposed by the people and leaders of San Antonio.
What occurred, then, in San Antonio concerning the Cart War and concerning the attitude of the people and leaders of San Antonio toward the Hispanics who were victims of the attacks on the carts? Was their sympathy in San Antonio for them, and how far did that sympathy extend?
The first of San Antonio's leaders to take action to protect the cartmen was John A. Wilcox. Wilcox at first glance was an unlikely candidate to rise up as the protector of the cartmen--both Tejanos and Mexicans. He had been such an ardent support of the Know-Nothings that he had joined John S. McDonald when McDonald confronted Mayor J.M. Devine; Wilcox was also reported to have attacked Devine with McDonald, an event that led to McDonald's death. But Wilcox, the ardent Know-Nothing, had often spoken to the Hispanics of San Antonio and assured them that the Know-Nothing party was not opposed to them or to their religion; the Hispanics would be safe under a Know-Nothing regime. Wilcox's actions in the Cart War reveled that he at least among the Know-Nothings meant no harm to the Hispanics.
Wilcox's first action to protect the Tejanos was to write Governor Elisha Pease and offer him the services of the Alamo Rifles, newly formed in April 1857 and of which Wilcox was the elected captain. Wilcox wrote,
In view of the alarming and repeated depredations committed by the citizens of Goliad County upon the Cartmen & Teamsters generally of this city and vicinity, I consider it to be my duty as a good citizen and as the commanding officer of the Alamo Rifles to tender to your Excellency, if you deem it expedient, the services of my company.
Word from the governor was not forthcoming, so Wilcox and other leaders of the city called the public meeting already mentioned. Approximately a week later, with still no word from the governor and no action forthcoming from other sources, Wilcox, joined by his political foe Sam Maverick and others whose names were not recorded, rode to the scene of the killings and robberies to ascertain the problem and see if a solution could be reached.
Isaiah Paschal, another of Wilcox's political foes, remained behind to receive information. After waiting for over two weeks, Paschal was hunted down after dark on September 13, by a messenger directly from Wilcox. Paschal quickly scrawled a letter to Governor Pease.
[A]n Express has arrived informing us that an attack was last night made on a train of Mexican cart fifty five miles below this place and about seven miles above Helena by some thirty armed men all disguised as Indians. Several of the attacking party were wounded and one killed painted black but who he is no one knows. There was one Mexican killed Antonio Delgado and two or three wounded.
I believe the civil authorities of Karnes County to be wholly inadequate to the protection of this road from these depredations and that there exists as great a necessity for keeping protection on this road as there does upon any part of our frontier. This is the universal sentiment of the people of this place. There is no jail in Karnes and for all purposes of protecting the Mexican carts from these depredations or of consigning the parties to justice the civil authorities are helpless.
Any man to make an affidavit against the guilty parties would sacrifice his life rashly in all probability. A large party will go down tomorrow morning under the escort of the Sheriff but they are justified in going no farther than the line.
I believe this matter will not be easily quelled. For God's sake give authority to raise a company for the protection of the people on this road--if Genl. Twiggs has no men to spare for the purpose--With the authority to station such protection on the road an abundance can be formed to go.
Four days later, Wilcox, returned from his investigation, also wrote a letter to the governor. Wilcox was in no mood for niceties. He reminded the governor that his first letter had been written "some weeks ago," and reported that the situation demanded the immediate attention of the governor. The authorities in Karnes County, even if they were willing, could do nothing to stop the attacks, and the governor was wasting precious time if he was waiting for the local authorities to do anything. Wilcox demanded that the governor act like General Jackson and send troops to the area. If the governor did not act, the cartmen would seek revenge, and the result would be a racial war. Wilcox ended his letter with the reminder that the Alamo rifles were still available.
Proof that the attack was not an isolated incident was provided in affidavits sent with Wilcox's letter. One was signed by C.G. Edwards who later died of his wounds. He testified that at midnight on July 31, 1857, he was
sleeping under a mexican Cart loaded with my goods as I was awaked [sic] by firing of guns and in the act of getting up was shot in the breast and fell immediately senseless. About one our [sic] afterwards I came to sens [sic] and every thing was still...I found two Mexicans of my Company also slightly wounded...This occurred in Goliad County by parties and persons not known to me.
The other affidavit confirmed Edwards' testimony and was signed by two of his cartmen, Martiniano and E. Valdez. They testified that the train had been attacked by about forty men with shot guns and six shooters; all the attackers were disguised.
Further proof of the serious nature of the conflict was soon forthcoming. Two days latter a letter was written from U.S. Army Headquarters, Department of Texas, San Antonio, that informed the governor that the attacks on trains were so serious that the army was sending an escort with its next train. The train was to leave San Antonio on September 22, travel to Powder Horn and return. The escort would consist of "one subaltern, two sergeants, and twenty privates."
The next day both Paschal and Maverick wrote letters to the Governor. Paschal largely repeated the pleas of Wilcox's letter of the seventeenth. The situation was critical, the local authorities of Karnes County would do nothing, the cartmen were on the verge of retaliation that would lead to civil war, and only a large force sent by the governor could stop continued and escalating violence. Maverick added a note at the bottom of Paschal's letter
I fully concur in the above. I went down the road some weeks since with Col. Wilcox and others as a Committee; and we found several individuals who disapproved of the lawlessness of the main actors. I saw then that it was useless to expect to get the murderers apprehended by the local authorities. Unless you can place a force on the road to discourage these lawless persons, I feel sure that in a few days we will be thrown into a serious civil strife. We ask for a force to prevent bloodshed and uphold the law. In Karnes Co. the question is a political one, and emanates from Know-Nothingism.
Governor Pease was apparently convinced by the letters that the local authorities would take no action, and that the situation was serious enough to warrant troops. He named the Chief Marshall of San Antonio, a man with the unlikely name of Governeur H. Nelson, as the commander of the Texas Mounted Volunteers. The city of San Antonio responded by giving the now Captain Nelson a two month leave "to suppress the lawless band in Karnes County." The Governor also wrote a letter to General Twiggs, Commander of the Department of Texas, United States Army, asking for arms. The governor reported that a company of Texas Rangers had been authorized under the command of Captain G.H. Nelson of San Antonio. Nelson was responsible for raising the company, but Governor Pease reported that, "the State is without arms at this place," and requested that Nelson be allowed to draw "75 rifles and 150 horsemans pistols," from the U.S. Army Depot in San Antonio.
Captain Nelson immediately set about his task--a task that gave the promise of being more profitable than his previous foray, mentioned in Paschal's first letter, to the county line. Nelson began to swear in his troops on October 10, and on October 13, he signed a contract with Alexander H. Rhodes (misspelled Roads in the contract) for rations for Company F, Mounted Volunteers from October 10 to December 10. While procuring the rations was easy, the procuring of men proved more difficult. Nelson wrote Governor Pease on October 14, that to date he had only thirty men in camp. He explained that his difficulty in raising the company was caused by "every sort of rumor and opposition" that had been "thrown in my way to intimidate and dissuade men from joining," he added that "the agents or those feeling a sympathy for the people engaged in this disgraceful affair have been very active." Nelson was at that very moment awaiting a stagecoach that would take him to San Marcos and Lockhart in search of further volunteers. He assured the governor that he would have men enough to fill the company roster. His letter ended, "The Stage is at the door and will wait no longer for me." Nelson succeeded in raising his company, but how many men it contained, and how many of them were from San Antonio and Bexar County is uncertain.
Captain J. McNutt, the Ordinance Officer in San Antonio, informed the Governor on October 14 that the arms requested by him were ready for Nelson's company. The same day a letter was sent to the Governor by the Assistant Adjutant General in San Antonio which included the extract from a letter written by the commander of the army escort that had accompanied the army's supply train to the coast to General Twiggs. Lieutenant George Bell reported that the train had successfully reached Powder Horn, and on its return was joined by numerous carts that desired the protection the escort afforded. The train had returned as far as Victoria when Lt. Bell received information that it would be attacked. He assured General Twiggs that his information was accurate; it had been given him by "an old and responsible citizen and the report has been corroborated by other respectable citizens."
Meanwhile the Cart War had come to the attention of the Mexican authorities and was an international incident. Manuel Robles Pezuela, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary assigned to the Mexican Legation in Washington, D.C., wrote to Secretary of State Lewis Cass on October 14 concerning the Cart War in Texas. Robles related that the stories from Texas were too "extraordinary and atrocious" to be given credence, except that his information was from officials in Mexico. The news that Mexican cartmen "in the neighborhood of San Antonio de Bejar" had been attacked robbed and even killed--the number was reported to be above seventy-five--was an outrage. Robles followed this letter with another five days later. The second letter carried the extracts of two Texas newspapers concerning the attacks in case Cass needed proof. Both papers, the Spanish language Brownsville paper La Bandera Americana and the San Antonio Ledger condemned that acts. In La Bandera Americana article, the authorities of Uvalde County were condemned for "prohibiting any Mexican from traveling through the county without previously procuring a passport from some American!" It was worse, however, in Goliad where "they killed some of [the Tejano cartmen] for presuming to drive their carts over the public highway!" The Ledger article was entitled "Aggression upon Mexicans." The San Antonio paper was also amazed that the people of Uvalde County would require passports of all Mexicans traveling through the county, regardless of citizenship, but was appalled by the exclusion of all Mexicans from Uvalde County. The author of the article, however, was most upset because the Constitutional rights of the Tejanos were cast aside.
"We moreover object to the 'resolutions'; because it works indiscriminately against a class of our citizens (the Mexicans) who are as noted as any other for their respect for the laws and their obedience to them. To compel them, like slaves, to carry a pass in their pocket, is repugnant to our notions of constitutional liberty."
Both of Robles' letters were forwarded to Governor Pease by Secretary of State Cass. An accompanying letter from the Secretary of State warned Governor Pease that the rights of American citizens, regardless of ethnicity, could not be violated with impunity and that Cass hoped that Pease had already taken steps to protect the Mexican cartmen whatever their citizenship.
The use of force finally ended the crises. The promised attack on the train escorted by the U.S. Army never occurred, and the trains escorted by Nelson's Rangers were likewise not attacked. However, a final attack on a cart train occurred after it was assumed the threat was over. Nelson's troops traveled into Karnes and Goliad counties sometime in mid October. No reports of attacks on the trains after that are extant. By November 21, Captain Nelson felt confident enough to leave his troops under the command of Lieutenant E.A. Stevens. On the same day Nelson departed the camp, Lt. Stevens received word that a train owned by C.L. Pyron of San Antonio had been attacked and two of the Mexican cartmen killed. Lt. Stevens noted that the attackers' intent seemed to be to kill Mexicans; "from the facts it appears they now do not seem to care about cutting up the carts but that they wish to exterminate the Mexicans & intend to do so even if they commit murder." Pyron's carts had not been part of the Ranger's escort, but joined the escorted train after the incident.
Three days later, Captain Nelson wrote the Governor in further detail. Nelson's primary purpose was to distance himself and his Rangers from any fault in the attack. Pyron's carts were not with the train being escorted, in fact Pyron, who apparently thought he had an agreement with the attackers--having sent many trains during the war, yet never having any come to harm--refused the protection of the company. As proof that he and his troops had done their job, Nelson added, "I will only state that as far as the carts and property that has [sic] been under my protection has [sic] all arrived safely and without any difficulty at its [sic] destination." Nelson added that Pyron's carts had joined Lt. Stevens escort following the raid and were safely on the way to Port Lavaca. By December the Cart War was over and Nelson had received orders to disband his company of sixty day volunteers and divest himself of the supplies.
The Cart War was brought to an end largely through the efforts of leading Anglo citizens of San Antonio. What were the motives of the leaders? Were they primarily economic; had the economy of San Antonio not been threatened would they still have reacted in the same manner?
J.A. Wilcox, the ardent Know-Nothing who adamantly attempted to convince the Hispanic voters of the good intentions of the American Party, revealed no hint of racism in his letters to Governor Pease. In his letter to the governor prior to his visit to the scene of the attacks, Wilcox called the attacks, "depredations." Upon returning from his reconnaissance, he termed the attackers, who, it was certainly supposed, were Anglos, "as public enemies-as outlaws-as devils incarnate-as insurrectionists." Wilcox wanted the governor to act with force against those people. But who was being attacked? Hispanics; Wilcox noted that the attacks were carried out primarily against "Cartmen & Teamsters generally of this city and vicinity." When Wilcox later wrote the Governor describing the situation, he included in his report not that an old Mexican man had been murdered, but that the victim was "Old Man Delgado an aged and respectable citizen.". It was apparent that the attacks were aimed at the Hispanic cartmen, and that caused Wilcox's greatest fear. He wrote the governor that the Hispanics were on the verge of retaliation. "Great God," he exclaimed, "what will be the consequences." He feared that such a response would take the life of every Hispanic "from here to the Rio Grande." Had Wilcox been a racist, had he wanted to rid the area of Hispanics, he could certainly have informed Governor Pease that the local authorities had the situation well in hand. Nor did Wilcox's motives appear to be economic. The only mention he made of economics was that he had "spent 17 days from my office in trying to arrest this difficulty. I am done." Even then Wilcox mentioned nothing of lost revenue, only of frustration at having accomplished little on his journey, but he finished the letter by reminding the governor that the Alamo Rifles were still ready--a group he would obviously lead (and therefore be away from his office again) if they were called up.
Isaiah Paschal voiced a like concern in his letters to the Governor. He, like Wilcox, mentioned Delgado by name. He told the Governor that there was no protection for the Hispanic cartmen in Karnes County, and he pleaded with the governor to send troops. "For God's sake give authority to raise a company for the protection of the people on this road." To Paschal, the cartmen were not Hispanic subhumans, they were people and had names. A later letter from Paschal to Governor Pease echoed the fear that the Hispanics would seek revenge. "Many of the Mexicans are burning with the spirit or revenge and if no aid should be afforded they will resort to acts of retaliation. The result of such a course may be readily imagined." Paschal, like Wilcox, was horrified at the prospect of a racial war, a war he knew would end in the deaths of many, if not most, of the Hispanics of San Antonio.
Samuel Maverick, who had lived with the Tejanos in San Antonio for over twenty years, likewise feared a reprisal by the Tejanos would result in much bloodshed. He, like his fellow San Antonio leaders, asked the Governor to use force to stop the violence.
When Maverick, Wilcox, Sweet, and Waul returned from visiting the scene of the attacks in August, they wrote a report "To the People of Bexar County" that was published in the Ledger. The report to the people was balanced. Apparently the Hispanic cartmen had committed some violations of private property that angered the citizens of Goliad and Karnes counties, but the "overwhelming majority" of the people of those counties were opposed, as were the committee, to the killings. The committee also noted that the San Antonio newspapers had written "inflammatory articles" that further angered the people of Karnes and Goliad counties, which was not the way to solve the problem. Most important, though was how the committee described the victims of the violence: "Your committee found that, notwithstanding, a feeling of general dislike exists against our Mexican cartmen," The committee's answer was that "a reward of $1000 should be offered for each and every conviction of parties engaged in these depredations." The cartmen were not simply Mexican cartmen, but "our Mexican cartmen," and their lives were worth something.
As was noted by the committee, the San Antonio newspapers, like some of the leading citizens, came to the defense of the Hispanic cartmen. Beginning in early August when the first attack became known, the Ledger supported the cartmen. The editor lashed out at not only the attackers and those who supported them but also at those who did not oppose them. The Ledger also kept San Antonio abreast of the events of the war. Port Lavaca was praised for creating a committee of its leading citizens to meet with San Antonio's committee in Goliad to attempt to stop the attacks. The paper printed in full Judge Thomas J. Devine's charge to the Bexar County Grand Jury concerning the attacks--a grand jury of fifteen, five of whom were Tejanos. The paper especially noted Devine's declaration to the grand jury that "All men are equal before the law." In late October the paper carried a letter written by Clemente Delgado, a relative of the recently slain Antonio Delgado. Clemente Delgado claimed that he had run many trains between San Antonio and Port Lavaca during the war, and had never been attacked. He declared that the citizens of Karnes and Goliad counties treated him "with uniform politeness and courtesy." If, he related, the trains were of sufficient size to provide their own protection, and if they did not "commit depredations upon property," Delgado believed the trains would meet with no opposition. The Ledger was not so sanguine, however. It believed that Nelson's Rangers were still necessary to maintain the peace, even though that was "galling to the citizens of Karnes and Goliad." But the Ledger thought the citizens of those counties were guilty not because they actively attacked the trains, but because of their "state of inertness which, in the eyes of the law, is, in some cases, tantamount to complicity." The Ledger saw certain proof of the evil in its neighboring counties in the proclamations by the Chief Justice of Karnes County, Mr. Lowrie, who wrote that, "To a man almost all the citizens along the road are in favor of stopping the carts, driving the Mexican out of our county, and many are not very choice as to the means adopted to effect it." He also noted that if pushed by anyone "our citizens [will rise] in their might to expel from their midst a race of murderers, thieves, and vagabonds, who pollute the very soil upon which they tread, &c." Nor did the Ledger hold the Goliad paper in high regard. It reported that the Goliad Express was "over bold" in its sympathy toward those who attacked the Hispanic cartmen. All in all, the Ledger was not satisfied with the efforts of the Karnes and Goliad Counties to stop the violence, nor of the citizens, leaders, or newspapers of those counties.
From the Ledger's articles, from the letters of Wilcox, Paschal, and Maverick, from the willingness of the city of San Antonio to send its leading citizens to seek a solution to the problem, from the city's sending its own posse to the limits of its own county, from the willingness to give its chief marshall a leave of absence to command a group of state volunteers to escort the trains, from the charge given the grand jury by Judge Devine, there was much evidence that the people of San Antonio treated the Hispanics differently than did the neighboring counties. The Chief Justice of Karnes County was not alone in his disparagement of the Tejanos. Leading citizens of Goliad wrote an address "To the People of Bexar County," stating that the Cart War was made worse by the attitude the people of Bexar County had toward the Hispanics of San Antonio. "[W]e cannot avoid realizing that the difficulties are aggravated by the manner in which you have expressed an invidious preference for Mexican teamsters," most of whom the Goliad paper stressed were "San Antonio Mexican teamsters." The Goliad paper considered the cartmen thieves had brought the violence upon themselves, and was appalled that the people of San Antonio defended them. "But you want us to sympathize "with your Mexicans. That's it." The paper also warned that any attempt by the Tejanos to retaliate would "be a signal to sweep them from the face of the earth." Before any progress could be made toward stopping the violence, the thieving Tejanos had to desist. "The first wrong is the stealing by the Mexican cartmen. This must be corrected first and then you may talk (to the right people) of correcting the second wrong."
The Goliad response was in direct contrast to the charge to the grand jury made by Judge Devine. He abhorred the murder of the cartmen even if they were guilty of stealing--
alleged offences upon which the law, in most cases, casts but a few years imprisonment, and for which the pubic feeling of this and other counties, as manifested by the verdicts of petit juries, considered eighteen months, or two or three years imprisonment a sufficient punishment.
None of this is to imply that the citizens of San Antonio were of one mind concerning the cartmen specifically or Hispanics in general. Certainly Paschal's declaration that there was "universal sentiment" in San Antonio against the attacks was refuted by Wilcox's revelation that there were "men of wealth in this town who have taken sides with the murderers of Karnes and Goliad and the people of K & Goliad boast of it." But the preponderance of evidence was that the people of San Antonio, including leaders from the Democratic and the by then defunct Know-Nothing parties, opposed the violence aimed at the Hispanics, and exerted great effort in quelling that violence. The opposition by the City Council to the Cart War was also accomplished without any Tejano aldermen; therefore, the voice of the persecuted Hispanics was non-Tejano aldermen.
However beginning in 1873, and continuing to present day, readers have been assured that the violence of the Cart War was visited on the people of San Antonio not just as they passed through Uvalde, Karnes, or Goliad Counties, but in Bexar County as well. The Mexican Border Commission of 1873 reported that "Mexican citizens by birth, residing peaceably at San Antonio, under the protection of the laws, had been expelled from the place." J. Fred Rippy used the Commission report as the basis for his statement that "parties of Mexicans were driven out of San Antonio" in 1857. Arnoldo de León used a different year, but further reinforced the notion that the mistreatment of the Tejanos resulting from the Cart War reached into San Antonio. De León determined that "In 1858, two hundred families negotiated for their removal to Mexican soil because of injustices in Texas." De León's source was an article in the Belton Independent republished in the Pioneer News-Observer, in San Angelo. Paul D. Lack misused De León's source to further reinforce the idea that "a portion of the Mexican-born residents of San Antonio were dispossessed and driven across the border sometime later," that is during the Cart War in 1857. Most recently Timothy Matovina used Rippy's article as a source to note that Tejanos left San Antonio as a result of the Cart War, however, like De León, he used 1858 as the date of departure.
Four misconceptions have led to this continued confusion. The original confusion came not from the Commission's report in 1873, but from the basis of that report, the first letter from Manuel Robles Pezuela, on October 14, 1857. In that letter Robles wrote,
it is also affirmed that from the town of San Antonio de Bejar, the residents of Mexican origin have been expelled, living there in a peaceable manner, under the protection of the laws of the United States and of the treaties subsisting between the two governments.
The wording of the Commission report and Robles' letter are too close to be coincidence; the report used Robles as its source. But what did Robles use? He stated that his information came from "frontier authorities of Mexico [who] have officially reported on [the Cart War]." Robles was, therefore, using second or third hand information, but his letter, not official reports from frontier authorities, was used as the basis of the Commission's report. While many sources confirmed the violence in Karnes and Goliad Counties, none confirmed Robles report of the Hispanics being "expelled" from San Antonio. Robles himself in his following letter gave tangential proof that the events he previously related about San Antonio were not accurate. His second letter was primarily comprised of two extracts from Texas newspapers, one the San Antonio Ledger. The gist of the Ledger article has been given above, but the importance at this point is that the Ledger, so adamant in defense of the Hispanics, nowhere mentioned in any extant edition in 1857 that Tejanos were forced out of San Antonio. The evidence extant indicates that the event, which has been given credence and increasing authority by usage over the years, did not occur.
The second piece of confusion, however, was the date. Robles, the Commission, Rippy, and Lack used 1857, or in Lack's case simply the vague "sometime later." De León and Matovina used 1858. De León's source for that date was the aforementioned Belton newspaper; Matovina used El Correo, a Spanish language San Antonio paper. El Correo itself used an article in the San Antonio Texan, in the summer of 1858 that noted, according to Matovina, that the "Tejanos were disgruntled with recent violent outrages committed against Tejano cartmen." If 200 Hispanic families left San Antonio as a result of the Cart War, they apparently left in 1858 and did so as a choice, not because they were expelled by the citizens of San Antonio.
The third piece of confusion comes from the context of the events. Each of the writers, excluding the Commission report, correctly placed the Cart War in the context of the issue of runaway slaves. The border with Mexico with its promise of freedom was too alluring for many slaves, and many of them escaped, or attempted to, into Mexico. It was almost universally believed that the Hispanics not only sympathized with the escaping slaves, but aided them in their attempt. Rippy prefaced his account of the Cart War with the invasion by three companies of Texans led by San Antonian J.H. Callahan in 1855. Rippy believed that the invasion had the dual purposes of punishing marauding Indians and of recovering runaway slaves. He noted that six of the leading citizens of San Antonio, including J.A. Wilcox and Sam Maverick, comprised a committee, the intention of which was to invade Mexico after Callahan had been thoroughly whipped doing the same thing. Using Olmstead as his source, Rippy then related that the flow of runaway slaves into Mexico continued in 1856, and that combined with a slave plot that "was discovered in Columbus, Colorado county," in which the local Hispanics were involved, led to the expulsion of the Tejanos from San Antonio.
De León also related the Cart War to the issue of runaway slaves. He noted that in 1854 and 1855 there was great agitation in San Antonio over runaways, and it was believed that Tejanos were in large part responsible for the departures. The Ledger, De León noted
suggested that every Mexican stranger coming into the city register his name at the mayor's office, and give an account of himself and his business. Should a person be unknown to any respectable resident of San Antonio and should he be unable to produce a satisfactory certificate, he would be required to leave the city premises immediately."
The slave plot mentioned by Rippy, De León noted, caused further tension between Anglos and Tejanos in the area, and many Tejanos were expelled from Matagorda County. Within that context the Cart War occurred and within it De León reported that the 200 Tejanos families left San Antonio.
Lack, whose article focused on Austin, related basically the same scenario, but neither Rippy, De León, nor Lack wrote exclusively or even primarily about San Antonio. They each, therefore, assumed that San Antonio was like its surrounding area, and that in the years immediately prior to the Cart War that slavery was the dominant issue. It was not. From August 1855 until December 1856, the dominant issue in San Antonio was the Know-Nothings. A cursory perusal or an in-depth study of the city's newspapers reveals this. In fact, four newspapers were established in San Antonio as a direct result of the Know-Nothing invasion, the Sentinel, the Herald, El Bejareño, and El Ranchero. Also none of the newspapers in San Antonio, nor any of the private letters, mentioned slavery in the context of the Cart War, and Sam Maverick clearly believed that the Cart War, at least in Karnes County, was a direct result of "Know-Nothingism." Slavery, more as an idea than as an economic factor, was important in San Antonio and would increase in importance as the decade continued, but slavery, runaways or not, was far from the dominant force in San Antonio in the two years prior to the Cart War.
Even Matovina, whose focus was San Antonio, placed less importance on the Know-Nothings as the primary antecedent of Cart War than he did on slavery, but in his treatment of slavery, his sources revealed that the importance of runaway slaves in the city stopped in 1854 and began again in 1858, proof that the Know-Nothings, who filled much of that time gap, were more important than slavery in San Antonio immediately prior to the Cart War.
The Know-Nothing antecedent to the Cart War is critical to understanding it in San Antonio. Both Democrats and Know-Nothings had rhetorically savaged each other, and both claimed to be the friends of the Hispanics. Each party made great noise in proclaiming that the Hispanics, Roman Catholics included, were Americans, and each party downplayed the role of Hispanics and runaway slaves--a role the Know-Nothings gladly heaped on the Germans. Thus when the Cart War occurred, the leaders of the city were surrounded by their own words. Had those words been false, Hispanics would have found few allies in the city, but allies in abundance were found, and the election rhetoric proved, in the case of the Hispanics at least, true.
The final area that has helped mask the events and attitudes of the Cart War in San Antonio, was racism. Certainly the Commission report, Rippy, De León, Lack, and Matovina give much credence to the effect of racism on relations between Anglos and Hispanics, but again what was true for much of Texas was not necessarily true in San Antonio, especially following the Know-Nothing invasion. No word more clearly encapsulated the racism directed against the Hispanics than greaser. It epitomized all that the Anglos found to hate in Hispanics from both sides of the border, and the hatred visited on the Hispanics. Both groups knew the word, one used it as a curse, and the other received it as the most derogatory of slurs. Therefore when the word is found in historical research, it strikes a deep chord.
De León noted that the San Antonio Herald labeled the Tejanos greasers. The Herald, on August 14, 1855, according to De León, labeled the "Bexareños 'ignorant, vicious, bigoted greasers.'" Except that bigoted was actually besotted, the quote is correct, but in context it reads quite differently.
The partial returns received from San Antonio by Wednesday evening's mail, presents to the mind of the true American, and to every lover of this country, reflections of fearful importance. We care not to what party a man may be attached, he cannot be a true patriot who fails to discover in the result of the contest in Bexar and Comal, consequences of direful import. He who argues that the unanimity with which the German and Mexican vote was cast against the American candidates, is an evidence of the purity of the principles of the anti-American party, the thousands and tens of thousands of European paupers who swarm the land, are more capable of self government, more deeply imbued with the spirit of republicanism, more competent to perform the duties which the constitution and laws of the land require at the hands of every citizen, than those to the manor born; either these ignorant, vicious, besotted greasers, who have swelled to such an unprecedented extent the majority of the anti-American party in Bexar county are wrong, or the seventy thousand intellectual, educated and refined Virginians, who supported the American ticket at the late election in that State, are in error. Both cannot be right.
Greaser, in this context could certainly be construed to mean all of the foreign born voters (and native born too as far as the Know-Nothings were concerned) who voted for the Democrats. Also the article was not written in San Antonio but copied from the Austin State Times. Neither explanation, however meant that the Herald disagreed with the sentiments of the Austin paper, nor that the Herald meant for the term greaser to be taken in any way other than its most common meaning. Even if that was the case, however, in comparison both the Germans and the political enemies of the Herald received much harsher treatment at the hands of the Know-Nothing press than did the Tejanos. The Herald portrayed the Germans as murderers, revolutionaries, deceivers, abolitionists, and often referred to them as krouts, and it portrayed the Democrats as being unprincipled, Sabbath breaking, racist, liars, who used force to retain political power, and who were dominated by foreigners and priest, themselves the enemies of American liberty.
Matovina discovered two other instances when the Herald invoked the moniker greaser, but only noted the use of the term without context or details. The first of these two instances was reviewed in the previous chapter. A similar article appeared in the Herald on October 9, 1855 with almost the same story, though it was aimed at the Tejanas. The article is given here in full.
In the Texan of the 20th ult., in an article headed "The Ball," the editor of that...organ proceeded deliberately, and with the most careful selection of words, to insult [words unclear] of the most beautiful, refined and respectable young ladies of our city. In that article the gallant editor said, "next comes the Misses R_____, each a perfect caricature of loveliness." Be it known that the ball which gave occasion for that article was an exclusive one, gotten up by the Kroutocracy and bombshellocracy, and to which none of the American party were invited. And be it further known, that the distinguished members of the bombshellocracy failed to carry with them to said ball their wives, daughters, or lady friends, fearing, as is believed, that they might be contaminated by coming in contact with the greaser gals. Notwithstanding the purposes for which, and the manner in which the said ball was gotten up and notwithstanding the manner in which the Mexican young ladies were slighted by their professed friends, the bombshellocracy, the foul mouth piece of that party inflicted upon them the further indignity above given. It is surely time that our Mexican citizens were learning who their true friends are; and our lovely and accomplished Mexican ladies will not be slow to discern who are chivalrous and gallant. They will find that true Americans will be proud of their presence at balls and parties, and that, when they favor Americans with their attendance, they will not be subjected to the indignities which their professed friends have heaped upon them. We think that the editor of the Texan should feel himself called upon to explain, if he can do so, the above named insult to the Misses R______. Otherwise he need consider himself convicted by the community of a very low and unmanly act.
The context revealed that the intent of the above two articles was political. The Know-Nothings, in their heavy handed way, attempted to show the hypocrisy of the Democratic party. The context makes it clear that the use of the word greaser was intended to shock the reader and make him ponder the truth of the article, not to enshrine racism.
Of course, greaser was not the only derogatory word used to describe the Hispanics during this time. Even in attacking the Roman Catholic clergy, the Know-Nothings proclaimed that the priests were easily able to sway the ignorant Hispanic voters. Nevertheless, blatant racism, though surely practiced by individual San Antonians, was not practiced in the San Antonio newspapers, nor was it rampant among the leading Anglo citizens. If one assumes blatant racism, then the expulsion of 200 Tejano families from San Antonio follows as a logical outcome. However since the expulsion apparently did not occur, perhaps one can, and with good proof, also assume that blatant racism on a community wide basis did not exist.
The Cart War which cause the destruction of much property, and far more importantly, which took the lives of so many Tejanos, had many antecedents. The greed of Anglo teamsters, the latent hostility of the War with Mexico and even earlier of the Texas Revolution, the belief that the Tejanos not only sympathized with but also encouraged and helped runaway slaves, and the Know-Nothing nativist crusade all played a part in the event. But none of these was as important as the underlying factor of racism. Although Anglos, like Edwards who lost his life, and Pyron who lost his property, were also victims, the writings of the newspapers and leading citizens of Karnes and Goliad counties placed the onus of the Cart War on the Tejano and Mexican teamsters. Without those targets of Mexican ethnicity, no Cart War would have occurred. Racism was inherent in the war, however, although San Antonio was not immune to racism, the people of San Antonio reacted far differently than did the people of Karnes and Goliad counties where the attacks occurred, or the people of Uvalde county where Mexicans were expelled. While the leaders of other counties passed laws restricting the rights of Hispanics, and allowed their citizens to kill the Hispanics with impunity, the leaders of San Antonio (though previously political rivals) urged Governor Pease to action, took official and private action to stop the violence, supported the governor in his decision to send troops to protect the Hispanics, condemned the acts of violence that occurred in Karnes and Goliad counties and the inaction of the authorities in those counties, and declared, through Judge Devine, that, "All men are equal before the law," and none of those acts was opposed by the citizens of San Antonio; thus, Hispanics in San Antonio were considered Americans While San Antonio was certainly not without racism, the events of the Cart War also showed that San Antonio was not much like anywhere else.
San Antonio Ledger, Aug. 15, 22, 1857 (quotation); Waul lived in Gonzales County on the Guadalupe River, not in San Antonio, though he was at times involved in the affairs of the city, see Ron Tyler et al. (eds.) New Handbook of Texas (6 vols.; Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996), 6, 852.
"The Examination of Dr. J.M. Devine for the Killing of J.S. McDonald, on a Writ of Habeas Corpus, before Chief Justice Hemphill, of the Supreme Court, San Antonio, Texas, August 5, 1856" (San Antonio: The Texan Office, 1856), 5-22, Copy in the Devine file at the Center for American History, the University of Texas at Austin (cited hereafter as CAH).
Wilcox to Pease, Sept. 17, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease (ADTSL); in addition to being a leading Democrat, Paschal was one of the defense lawyers for J.M. Devine in the examination of Devine on the charge of murdering J.S. McDonald, Wilcox's political ally and friend.
Governor E.M. Pease to Bvt. Maj. Genl. D.E. Twiggs, Comg. Dept. of Texas, Oct. 3, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease (ADTSL); San Antonio, Council Journal, Book C, Oct. 2, 1857, 86, (first quotation), April 20, 1857, 59 (SACCO); G.H. Nelson was elected by the City Council to the office of City Marshall on April 20, 1857 after J.C. Crawford resigned the office; Pease to Twiggs, Oct. 3, 1857, (second and third quotations) Governors' Papers: Pease (ADTSL).
Muster Roll of Texas Mounted Volunteers, Oct. 10-Dec. 28, 1857, Texas Muster Rolls (ADTSL); Contract between Captain G.H. Nelson and Alex. H. Roads, Oct. 13, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease (ADTSL); Captain G.H. Nelson to Governor E.M. Pease, Oct. 14, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease, (ADTSL) (quotations).
Muster Roll of Texas Mounted Volunteers, Oct. 10-Dec. 28, 1857, Texas Muster Rolls (ADTSL), the Muster Roll extant is alphabetized but incomplete, it ends with last names beginning with the letters Sch, to that point the roll contained sixty-two men, fourteen of whom, including Nelson were from San Antonio, eight were from other parts of Bexar county, and seventeen were from nearby Atascosa county.
Copy of a letter from Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Mexican Republic Manuel Robles Pezuela to Secretary of State Lewis Cass, Oct. 14, 1857, in Secretary of State Lewis Cass to Governor E.M. Pease, Oct. 24, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease (ADTSL).
Copy of a letter from Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Mexican Republic Manuel Robles Pezuela to Secretary of State Lewis Cass, Oct. 19, 1857, in Secretary of State Lewis Cass to Governor E.M. Pease, Oct. 24, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease (ADTSL).
Lieutenant E.A. Stevens to Captain G.H. Nelson, Nov. 24, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease Copy of a letter from Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Mexican Republic Manuel Robles Pezuela to Secretary of State Lewis Cass, Oct. 14, 1857, in Secretary of State Lewis Cass to Governor E.M. Pease, Oct. 24, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease (ADTSL).
Nelson to Pease, Nov. 27, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease's Copy of a letter from Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Mexican Republic Manuel Robles Pezuela to Secretary of State Lewis Cass, Oct. 14, 1857, in Secretary of State Lewis Cass to Governor E.M. Pease, Oct. 24, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease (ADTSL); Pease to Nelson, Dec. 19, 1857, Executive Record Book of E.M. Pease, Governor of the State of Texas, (microfilm, ADTSL).
Wilcox to Pease, Aug. 4, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease's Copy of a letter from Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Mexican Republic Manuel Robles Pezuela to Secretary of State Lewis Cass, Oct. 14, 1857, in Secretary of State Lewis Cass to Governor E.M. Pease, Oct. 24, 1857, Governors' Papers: Pease (ADTSL).
Paschal to Pease, Sept. 13, 1857 (first quotation), Governors' Papers: Pease (ADTSL); Wilcox to Pease (second quotation), Governors' Papers: Pease (ADTSL); San Antonio, Council Journal, Book C, Jan. 19, 40, March 2, 1857, 47 (SACCO), Alderman Rodriquez resigned on Jan. 19, and Alderman Urrutia resigned on March 2.
Report of the Mexican Border Commission of 1873 in Carlos E. Cortés, The Mexican Experience in Texas (New York: Arno Press, 1973), 131 (first quotation); J. Fred Rippy, "Border Troubles along the Rio Grande, 1848-1860," Southwestern Historical Quarterly (cited hereafter as SHQ), 23 (July 1919), 103-104 (second quotation); Arnoldo de León, "White Racial Attitudes toward Mexicanos in Texas, 1821-1900" (Ph. D. diss., Texas Christian University, 1971), 142 (microfilm, Latin American Collection, Bensen Library, University of Texas, Austin; cited hereafter as LACBL) (third quotation); Paul D. Lack, "Slavery and Vigilantism in Austin," SHQ, 83 (July, 1981), 19, fourth quote; Matovina, Tejano Religion and Ethnicity, 78.
Arnoldo de León, "White Racial Attitudes toward Mexicanos in Texas, 1821-1900" (Ph. D. diss., Texas Christian University, 1971), 142 (microfilm; LACBL); Matovina, Tejano Religion and Ethnicity, 78, (quotation).
Arnoldo de León, "White Racial Attitudes toward Mexicanos in Texas, 1821-1900" (Ph. D. diss., Texas Christian University, 1971), 136-147 (microfilm; LACBL); Lack, "Slavery and Vigilantism in Austin," SHQ, 19; Rippy, "Border Troubles," SHQ, 100-103; Matovina, Tejano Religion and Ethnicity, 74-75.