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for new recruiting, the army increasing so rapidly that in ten days' time its leader took the bold step of advancing upon Mexico, the capital city.
The approach of the insurgents, who had now grown greatly in numbers, filled the people of the capital with terror. They remembered the sack of Guanajuata, and hastened to conceal their valuables, while many of them fled for safety. As the insurgents drew near they were met by the army of the viceroy, and a fierce battle took place upon an elevation called the Monte de la Cruces, outside the city. A hot fire of artillery swept the ranks of the insurgents, but, filled with enthusiasm, and greatly outnumbering the royal troops, they swept resistlessly on, bearing down all before them, and sweeping the viceroy's soldiers from the field with heavy loss. Only his good horse saved Trujillo, the commanding general, from death or capture, and bore him in safety to the city.
Mexico, filled with panic and confusion at the news of the disastrous defeat of its defenders, could perhaps have been easily taken, and its capture might possibly have closed the struggle in favor of liberty. It certainly was a moment for that boldness on which success so often depends, but Hidalgo at this critical stage took counsel from prudence instead of daring, and, fearing the arrival of reinforcements to the beaten army, withdrew his forces towards Querétaro-a weak and fatal retrograde movement, as it proved.
The viceroy had another army advancing from
the north, under the command of Calleja, a skilful general Meeting Hidalgo at Aculco on his march towards Querétaro, he attacked him with such vigor that, after a hot combat, the insurgents were utterly worsted, losing all their artillery and many
In fact, the whole loose-joined army fell to pieces at this severe repulse, and Hidalgo was followed to Valladolid with an insignificant remnant of his mighty host.
Calleja followed up his victory with a pursuit of Allende and a fierce attack on him at Guanajuato, forcing him to abandon the city and retreat to Zacatecas, which had proclaimed independence. Calleja, who had much of the traditional Spanish cruelty, now sullied his triumph by a barbarous retaliation upon the people of the city he had taken, who were most savagely punished for their recent plundering outbreak.
The remainder of this story of revolution is a brief and unfortunate one. Hidalgo gathered another army and led them to Guadalajara, where he organized a government, appointed ministers, and styled himself generalissimo. He despatched a commissioner to the United States, but this personage soon found himself a prisoner. Arms were collected and the army organized as rapidly as possible, but his forces were still in the rough when, disregarding the advice of Allende and others, he resolved to attack Calleja. He advanced on the 16th of January to the Puenta de Calderon, where he found himself in face of a well-equipped
and disciplined army of ten thousand men, superior in everything but numbers to his undisciplined levies. They fought bravely enough in the battle of the next day, but they were no match for their opponents, and the contest ended in a complete rout, the insurgents scattering in all directions.
Hidalgo hastened towards Zacatecas, meeting on his way Allende, Jiminez, and other leaders who had escaped from the fatal field of Calderon. The cause of liberty seemed at an end. Calleja was vigorously putting down the revolution on all sides. As a last hope the chiefs hastened towards the United States borders with such men and money as they had left, proposing there to recruit and discipline another army. But before reaching the frontier they were overtaken by their pursuers, being captured in a desert region near the Rio Grande.
The captives were now taken under a strong escort to Chihuahua, where they were tried and condemned to death. Allende, Aldama, and Jiminez were shot on the 26th of June, and Hidalgo paid the penalty of his life on the 31st of July, 1811. Thus, in the death of its chiefs, ended the first struggle for independence in Mexico. The heads of the four chiefs were taken to Guanajuato and nailed to the four corners of the stronghold which they had taken by storm in that city. There they remained till the freedom of Mexico was won, when they were given solemn burial beneath the altar of the sovereigns in the cathedral of Mexico. The Alhondiga de Grenaditas, the building to which
their heads were attached, is now used as a prison, but its walls still bear the spike which for ten years held Hidalgo's head. Before it there stands a bronze statue of this earliest of the Mexican patriot leaders.
Shall we add a few words descriptive of the later course of the struggle for independence? The death of Hidalgo left many patriots still alive, and one of these, Moreles the muleteer, kept up the war with varying fortunes until 1815, when he, too, was taken and shot.
The man to whom Moreles owed his downfall was Augustin de Yturbide, a royalist leader, who pursued the insurgents with relentless energy. Yet it was to this man that Mexico in the end owed its independence. After the death of Moreles a chief named Guerrero kept up the war for liberty, and against him Yturbide was sent in 1820. As it proved, the royalist had changed his views, and after some fighting with Guerrero he joined hands with him and came out openly as a patriot leader. He had under him a well-disciplined army, and advanced from success to success till the final viceroy found himself forced to acknowledge the independence of Mexico.
The events that followed—how Mexico was organized into an empire, with Yturbide as emperor under the title of Augustin I., and how a new revolution made it a republic and Yturbide was shot as a traitor-belong to that later history of the Spanish American republics in which revolution and counter-revolution continued almost annual events.
PAEZ, THE LLANERO CHIEF, AND
THE WAR FOR FREEDOM.
On the 3d of June, 1819, General Morillo, the commander of the Spanish forces in Venezuela, found himself threatened in his camp by a party of one hundred and fifty daring horsemen, who had swum the Orinoco and galloped like centaurs upon his line. Eight hundred of the Spanish cavalry, with two small field-pieces, sallied out to meet their assailants, who slowly retired before their superior numbers. In this way the royalists were drawn on to a place called Las Queseras del Medio, where a battalion of infantry had been placed in ambush near the river. Here, suddenly ceasing their retreat, and dividing up into groups of twenty, the patriot horsemen turned on the Spaniards and assailed them on all sides, driving them back under the fire of the infantry, by whom they were fearfully cut down. Then they recrossed the river with two killed and a few wounded, while the plain was strewn with the bodies of their foes.
This anecdote may serve to introduce to our readers Joseph Antonio Paez, the leader of the band of patriot horsemen, and one of the most daring and striking figures among the liberators of South America. Born of Indian parents of low extraction, and quite illiterate, Paez proved him