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The San Patricios
Digital History ID 552

Author:   Mariano Arista

Annotation: During the Mexican War, approximately 250 United States soldiers defected to the Mexican side and fought American troops carrying a green flag with a gilded image of St. Patrick on one side and the Mexican eagle on the other. Known as the San Patricios, the soldiers were mostly recent immigrants--largely from Ireland, but from Germany as well--were motivated by the harsh treatment and anti-Catholic, anti-foreign harassment they experienced in the United States army. Some were flogged and placed in solitary confinement in a hole covered by a wooden door. Others were subjected to bucking and gagging, a punishment in which a soldier was hog-tied for hours with a rag stuffed in his mouth. The San Patrios were also motivated by the desecration of Catholic churches. The Mexicans distributed thousands of leaflets in U.S. army camps offering soldiers $10 bonuses and 320-acres of land. Captured at Churubusco in 1847 in one of the war's final battles, fifty of the San Patricios were hanged. Another sixteen San Patricios were spared death and were horsewhipped and branded with a D (for deserter) on their faces.

In 1846 General Mariano Arista, commander-in-chief of the Mexican Army, issued the following call for U.S. soldiers to desert.

Document: Soldiers!--You have enlisted in time of peace to serve in that army for a specific term; but your obligation never implied that you were bound to violate the laws of God, and the most sacred rights of friends! The United States government, contrary to the wishes of a majority of all honest and honorable Americans, has ordered you to take forcible possession of the territory of a friendly neighbour, who has never given her consent to such occupation. In other words, while the treaty of peace and commerce between Mexico and the United States is in full force, the United States, presuming on her strength and prosperity, and on our supposed imbecility and cowardice, attempts to make you the blind instruments of her unholy and blind ambition, and force you to appear as the hateful robbers of our dear homes, and the unprovoked violators of our dearest feelings as men and patriots. Such a villainy and outrage, I know, is perfectly repugnant to the noble sentiments of any gentleman, and it is base and foul to rush you on to certain death, in order to aggrandize a few lawless individual, in defiance of the laws of God and man!

It is to no purpose if they tell you, that the law for the annexation of Texas justifies your occupation of the Rio Bravo del Norte; for by this act they rob us of a great part of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Chihuahua, and new Mexico; it is barbarous to send a handful of men on such an errand against a powerful and warlike nation. Besides, the most of you are Europeans, and we are the declared friends of a majority of the nations of Europe. The North Americans are ambitious, overbearing, and insolent as a nation, and they will only make use of you as vile tools to carry out their abominable plans of pillage and rapine.

I warn you in the name of justice, honour, and your own interests and self-respect, to abandon their desperate and unholy cause, and become peaceful Mexican citizens. I guarantee you, in such case, a half section of land, or three hundred and twenty acres, to settle upon, gratis. Be wise, then, and just, and honourable, and take no part in murdering us who have no unkind feelings for you. Lands shall be given to officers, sergeants, and corporals, according to rank, privates receiving three hundred and twenty acres, as stated.

If, in time of action, you wish to espouse our cause, throw away your arms and run to us, and we will embrace you as true friends and Christians. It is not decent or prudent to say more. But should any of you render important service to Mexico, you shall be accordingly considered and preferred.

Source: U.S. Congress. House. Mexican War Correspondence. House Executive Document 60, 30th Congress, 1st Session, pp. 303-4.

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