In September 1842, Mexican General Adrian Woll invaded the Republic of Texas and retook San Antonio. On September 20, after having inflicted losses on Texan volunteers and having sustained losses of his troops, Woll withdrew but took a number of prisoners including a district judge and other officials. The Texas militia was called out and about 750 men deployed from San Antonio in pursuit around the middle of November. Under the leadership of General Alexander Somervell, the militia took the city of Laredo on December 8, after which part of the force disbanded and returned home. The remainder continued to march along the Rio Grande until December 19, when Somervell ordered them to retire to Gonzales.
About 300 refused to obey Somervell’s orders and organized under Col. W.S. Fisher and marched down the Rio Grande toward Mier, Mexico. There, after a desperate battle with General Ampudia, they surrendered on December 26. They were marched as prisoners into Mexico, where one tenth of the Texan forces were ordered shot and the famous drawing of the black beans occurred. The drawing determined who would live and who would die. The survivors were ultimately imprisoned at Perote Castle with survivors of the Texas Santa Fe Expedition.
In the July 17, 1936 edition of the Comanche Chief there is an article related to letters written from the castle by one of the prisoners. The article follows in its entirety. There is no record of what became of these valuable letters.
“DE LEON MAN HAS 93 YEAR OLD LETTER FROM TEXAS PRISONERS IN OLD MEXICO
E.O. Insall of De Leon has more than twenty letters written nearly a hundred years ago by a group of men in a Mexican prison to relatives living in the then Republic of Texas.
Some of the prisoners were the survivors of the Mier Expedition who were taken to prison after their less fortunate companions by lot had drawn the black beans and had been put to death. Others were soldiers who were captured at San Antonio and in other Texas battles by Santa Anna. Following are some of the items taken from the letters:
April 10, 1843, Castle of Perote and a Strange Land
The Mexicans have become more enraged and place a double guard over us. The next day they examined our chains and finding some of them, or all of them, in a bad state of repair, they ordered us to the shop where they welded or stuck together our chains and riveted them fast to our legs. This did but little good, before the last was fast the first was loose. This enraged them but Hell is yet to pay. The same day 8 of our boys were sent to town for bread. The next day when they returned. Milvern was the only one left. They made their escape. One was Morgan, a noble fellow and spoke the Spanish language well. Another was Hatch, his home is near Columbia on the east of the Colorado. He is a noble hearted and useful man.
Yesterday all were order out to work as common. The officer who was in charge gave orders to the guard to make us bring good loads and not let us stop one moment.
If you receive this letter, remember it is from a friend in fine health and good spirits, yet he is a noble-heated and useful and subject to the insults of a people he hates worse than he possibly could describe. A people that has murdered his only brother in cold blood and butchered his father, himself having been driven before the bayonet many hundred miles and that too without a blanket or coat to shield him from the weather, fed on the refuse flour that was full of bugs and worms with a small quantity of beef. He reached this castle not to cease his daily labors or to increase his rations under a guard with more authority than an overseer driving his Negroes.
Our chains were then examined again and again riveted and ourselves examined with as much contempt as they possibly could contrive or invent to show their authority. This somewhat surprised me and on looking around–what did I see—a company of soldiers sulked in a corner of the house with loaded guns and a canon. Another company in like manner with muskets ready to fire on a parcel of us, armed men from the tops of the surrounding houses, not daring to face free but timid men.
I would say that we are to see hard times. When we shall get out God only knows. My only hope is an exchange of prisoners, things grow daily worse and more gloomy.
I see in the (New Orleans) Pickayune a proposition of Santa Anna through Roberson. The worse man that Texas ever had within her borders. Say to him for me that his blood shall atone for his conduct toward us. His conduct is the sole cause of our lengthy confinement here in this hell.
If I am fortunate enough, I will give him the sentiment of 9 of the men confined in this prison. It is as follows: Texas should not listen to any proposition that Santa Anna should make that they should leave the country as soon as God will let them. My prayer is that she should listen to nothing short of her Independence and if she does that like Sodom and Gomarro she will be burned by a fire from Heaven. If she does I will pay to visit to Texas but it will be only for the purpose of removing my little brother and sister from the country and if I should remain, it would be for the purpose of becoming a rebel on the Rio Grande. I will have revenge or I will die in the attempt.
Say to every body who takes a second thought, that all Santa Anna wants is time to breathe. All that is wanted is a rapid movement on the part of Texas. Yucatan is going I hear. The last report is that the Mexicans are surrounded and will be compelled to give up their officers. Santa Anna can’t hold out long. That is he must either drop Texas or Yucatan. I hear that Santa Anna narrowly escaped. A soldier struck at him with a knife, but missed his mark.
I made an attempt to escape, but was stopped by my fellow prisoners who thought it would act to their harm. The Mexicans point me out and say I am the worse one in the castle. I have worn hobbles two weeks, been beatten (sic) with their spades and muskets, been callaboosed and everything they could think of to cow me.
You need not write me any more for I think I shall make my escape, there is no hope of release.
Our food gets worse, in the morning we have a half pint of corn meal and some coffee, then work until twelve, then we get a small quantity of potatoes badly sprouted and a small piece of bread. In the evening we are let out at six or seven and our supper is the same as breakfast.”