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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

The Black Tragedy

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While the raw recruits crowded one another for breath in the dark vaulted church of Goliad, a little swarthy man in a gorgeous uniform sat dining luxuriously in the best house in San Antonio, far to the northwest. Some of his favorite generals were around him, Castrillon, Gaona, Almonte, and the Italian Filisola.

The "Napoleon of the West" was happy. His stay in San Antonio, after the fall of the Alamo, had been a continuous triumph, with much feasting and drinking and music. He had received messages from the City of Mexico, his capital, and all things there went well. Everybody obeyed his orders, although they were sent from the distant and barbarous land of Texas.

While they dined, a herald, a Mexican cavalrymen who had ridden far, stopped at the door and handed a letter to the officer on guard:

"For the most illustrious president, General Santa Anna," he said.

The officer went within and, waiting an opportune moment, handed the letter to Santa Anna.

"The messenger came from General Urrea," he said.

Santa Anna, with a word of apology, because he loved the surface forms of politeness, opened and read the letter. Then he uttered a cry of joy.

"We have all the Texans now!" he exclaimed. "General Urrea has taken Fannin and his men. There is nothing left in Texas to oppose us."

The generals uttered joyful shouts and drank again to their illustrious leader. The banquet lasted long, but after it was over Santa Anna withdrew to his own room and dictated a letter to his secretary. It was sealed carefully and given to a chosen messenger, a heavy-browed and powerful Mexican.

"Ride fast to Goliad with that letter," said Santa Anna.

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The messenger departed at once. He rode a strong horse, and he would find fresh mounts on the way. He obeyed the orders of the general literally. He soon left San Antonio far behind, and went on hour after hour, straight toward Goliad. Now and then he felt the inside of his tunic where the letter lay, but it was always safe. Three or four times he met parties of Mexicans, and he replied briefly to their questions that he rode on the business of the most illustrious president, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Once, on the second day, he saw two horsemen, whom his trained eyes told him to be Texan hunters.

The messenger sheered off into a patch of timber, and waited until the hunters passed out of sight. Had they seen him much might have changed, a terrible story might have been different, but, at that period, the stars in their courses were working against the Texans. Every accident, every chance, turned to the advantage of their enemies.

The messenger emerged from the timber, and went on at the same steady gait toward Goliad. He was riding his fourth horse now, having changed every time he met a Mexican detachment, and the animal was fresh and strong. The rider himself, powerful by nature and trained to a life in the saddle, felt no weariness.

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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