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The engagement is scarcely ended, when an indiscriminate massacre of the prisoners takes place ; nor is the slaughter only confined to the captives, the field also undergoes an inspection, when the helpless wounded are in like manner put to the sword.
The following instance of vindictive cruelty on the royalist side, was related to me by an officer who was present in the engagement in which the transaction originated. In this action, a young French officer, in the service of the Independents, had his arm severed from his shoulder by a sabre cut, and being unable to sustain himself from loss of blood, he sunk to the ground. His distinguished bravery had however previously been observed by his companions, who succeeded in bearing him off the field, from whence they conveyed him into the woods, and sheltered him in a negro hut; where having applied such balsams as could be procured, they departed. The armies retired to other parts of the country, and the officer was fast recovering from the effects of his wound, when Gene
ral Morillo, advancing upon the same route, discovered his retreat, and had him instantly put to death.
Such was the barbarous system pursued by the belligerent parties ; although I must in justice observe, that I have always understood the exercise of these cruelties originated with the Royalists, and were subsequently resorted to by. the Independents on principles of retaliation. Hence the system became reciprocal ; passed into a general law, and has now, it is to be feared, become unalterable.
The sufferings which the Independents undergo during their campaigns, from the difficulty of procuring food, are most severe; mules' flesh, wild fruits, and some dried corn, which they carry loose in their pockets, frequently constituting the whole of their subsistence : and we were confidently assured, that the army, under General Bolivar has even often been for days together dependent for support, solely upon the latter description of provisions and water. · Pay was now totally unknown to them, in consequence of the utter exhaus
tion of their resources; and, however successful they might eventually be, there existed no probability whatever, that they would even then possess the means of affording pecuniary compensation to those who
may have participated in the struggle. : As confirmatory of the foregoing information, I shall refer the reader to an extract of a letter from Trinidad, written by a most intelligent officer, with whom I am intimately acquainted, and addressed to our particular friend in London, some time previous to my return from the West Indies. This gentleman proceeded from England under the auspices of. Don Mendez, on board the Gladwin, about two months prior to my departure to join the patriot standard in South America. No man left this country for that purpose possessing greater spirit, and few. more scientific military talent; with a mind more enthusiastic in favour of the cause, or a firmer determination of meeting and encountering every attendant difficulty and hazard. Yet notwithstanding this ardent prepossession, he was so forcibly struck on his arrival at Marga
66 On our ar
ritta, with the barbarous and inhuman
proceedings of the contending parties, the laws less and despotic characters of the patriot chiefs, and the state of indescribable misery and desolation to which that island had been reduced, that he turned in disgust from the enterprise, and proceeded to Trinidad ; trusting to his natural abilities, and the kindness of the inhabitants for support, rather than become an accomplice in acts so repugnant to every feeling of honourable warfare.
Trinidad, Dec. 18th, 1817. rival at Margaritta, we were struck with the desolate appearance of the place, which is, wretched and barren beyond description, the earth totally parched, not having any rain for the last eight months. The Royalists had been there about a month previous to our arrival, and had destroyed every thing in their progress through the island. There was not a single house with an entire roof, and but two or three with bare walls, the rest had been totally destroyed, together with every human being they discovered. Women and infants, all
shared the same indiscriminate fate; and many by the severest tortures. The priests were cut to pieces at the altars, to which they had fled for protection, and the churches stripped of every thing valuable. The convents were in like manner destroyed, and such of the nuns as were reserved from slaughter, were carried away with them as victims of their brutality. In several places the remains of carnage were distinguishable by the bleached bones of the sufferers. Some few miserable wretches who had by a timely flight to the mountains escaped slaughter, were observed nearly starved, and half naked, sitting amongst the ruins of their former houses. In
every occurrence a total want of system in the leaders was evident; each merely made the cause a pretext or cloak for his own private views: there are no laws or regulations to bind them, or even to control their inclinations, each possessing absolute, arbitrary power, without a sentiment of honour, justice, or humanity. An instance of this was related to me by a black ruffian, who is the interpreter to