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- REAL SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE - 20/25 -


Transit Company agreed to pay to Nicaragua ten thousand dollars annually and ten per cent. of the net profits; but the company, whose history the United States Minister, Squire, characterized as "an infamous career of deception and fraud," manipulated its books in such a fashion as to show that there never were any profits. Doubting this, Walker sent a commission to New York to investigate. The commission discovered the fraud and demanded in back payments two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. When the company refused to pay this, as security for the debt Walker seized its steamers, wharves, and storehouses, revoked its charter, and gave a new charter to two of its directors, Morgan and Garrison, who, in San Francisco, were working against Vanderbilt. In doing this, while he was legally in the right, he committed a fatal error. He had made a powerful enemy of Vanderbilt, and he had shut off his only lines of communication with the United States. For, enraged at the presumption of the filibuster president, Vanderbilt withdrew his ocean steamers, thus leaving Walker without men or ammunition, and as isolated as though upon a deserted island. He possessed Vanderbilt's boats upon the San Juan River and Nicaragua Lake, but they were of use to him only locally.

His position was that of a man holding the centre span of a bridge of which every span on either side of him has been destroyed.

Vanderbilt did not rest at withdrawing his steamers, but by supporting the Costa Ricans with money and men, carried the war into Central America. From Washington he fought Walker through Secretary of State Marcy, who proved a willing tool.

Spencer and Webster, and the other soldiers of fortune employed by Vanderbilt, closed the route on the Caribbean side, and the man-of-war _St. Marys_, commanded by Captain Davis, was ordered to San Juan on the Pacific side. The instructions given to Captain Davis were to aid the allies in forcing Walker out of Nicaragua. Walker claims that these orders were given to Marcy by Vanderbilt and by Marcy to Commodore Mervin, who was Marcy's personal friend and who issued them to Davis. Davis claims that he acted only in the interest of humanity to save Walker in spite of himself. In any event, the result was the same. Walker, his force cut down by hostile shot and fever and desertion, took refuge in Rivas, where he was besieged by the allied armies. There was no bread in the city. The men were living on horse and mule meat. There was no salt. The hospital was filled with wounded and those stricken with fever.

Captain Davis, in the name of humanity, demanded Walker's surrender to the United States. Walker told him he would not surrender, but that if the time came when he found he must fly, he would do so in his own little schooner of war, the _Granada_, which constituted his entire navy, and in her, as a free man, take his forces where he pleased. Then Davis informed Walker that the force Walker had sent to recapture the Greytown route had been defeated by the janizaries of Vanderbilt; that the steamers from San Francisco, on which Walker now counted to bring him re-enforcements, had also been taken off the line, and finally that it was his "unalterable and deliberate intention" to seize the _Granada_. On this point his orders left him no choice. The _Granada_ was the last means of transportation still left to Walker. He had hoped to make a sortie and on board her to escape from the country. But with his ship taken from him and no longer able to sustain the siege of the allies, he surrendered to the forces of the United States. In the agreement drawn up by him and Davis, Walker provided for the care, by Davis, of the sick and wounded, for the protection after his departure of the natives who had fought with him, and for the transportation of himself and officers to the United States.

On his arrival in New York he received a welcome such as later was extended to Kossuth, and, in our own day, to Admiral Dewey. The city was decorated with flags and arches; and banquets, fetes, and public meetings were everywhere held in his honor. Walker received these demonstrations modestly, and on every public occasion announced his determination to return to the country of which he was the president, and from which by force he had been driven. At Washington, where he went to present his claims, he received scant encouragement. His protest against Captain Davis was referred to Congress, where it was allowed to die.

Within a month Walker organized an expedition with which to regain his rights in Nicaragua, and as, in his new constitution for that country, he had annulled the old law abolishing slavery, among the slave-holders of the South he found enough money and recruits to enable him to at once leave the United States. With one hundred and fifty men he sailed from New Orleans and landed at San del Norte on the Caribbean side. While he formed a camp on the harbor of San Juan, one of his officers, with fifty men, proceeded up the river and, capturing the town of Castillo Viejo and four of the Transit steamers, was in a fair way to obtain possession of the entire route. At this moment upon the scene arrived the United States frigate _Wabash_ and Hiram Paulding, who landed a force of three hundred and fifty blue-jackets with howitzers, and turned the guns of his frigate upon the camp of the President of Nicaragua. Captain Engel, who presented the terms of surrender to Walker, said to him: "General, I am sorry to see you here. A man like you is worthy to command better men." To which Walker replied grimly: "If I had a third the number you have brought against me, I would show you which of us two commands the better men."

For the third time in his history Walker surrendered to the armed forces of his own country.

On his arrival in the United States, in fulfilment of his parole to Paulding, Walker at once presented himself at Washington a prisoner of war. But President Buchanan, although Paulding had acted exactly as Davis had done, refused to support him, and in a message to Congress declared that that officer had committed a grave error and established an unsafe precedent.

On the strength of this Walker demanded of the United States Government indemnity for his losses, and that it should furnish him and his followers transportation even to the very camp from which its representatives had torn him. This demand, as Walker foresaw, was not considered seriously, and with a force of about one hundred men, among whom were many of his veterans, he again set sail from New Orleans. Owing to the fact that, to prevent his return, there now were on each side of the Isthmus both American and British men-of-war, Walker, with the idea of reaching Nicaragua by land, stopped off at Honduras. In his war with the allies the Honduranians had been as savage in their attacks upon his men as even the Costa Ricans, and finding his old enemies now engaged in a local revolution, on landing, Walker declared for the weaker side and captured the important seaport of Trujillo. He no sooner had taken it than the British warship _Icarus_ anchored in the harbor, and her commanding officer, Captain Salmon, notified Walker that the British Government held a mortgage on the revenues of the port, and that to protect the interests of his Government he intended to take the town. Walker answered that he had made Trujillo a free port, and that Great Britain's claims no longer existed.

The British officer replied that if Walker surrendered himself and his men he would carry them as prisoners to the United States, and that if he did not, he would bombard the town. At this moment General Alvarez, with seven hundred Honduranians, from the land side surrounded Trujillo, and prepared to attack. Against such odds by sea and land Walker was helpless, and he determined to fly. That night, with seventy men, he left the town and proceeded down the coast toward Nicaragua. The _Icarus_, having taken on board Alvarez, started in pursuit. The President of Nicaragua was found in a little Indian fishing village, and Salmon sent in his shore-boats and demanded his surrender. On leaving Trujillo, Walker had been forced to abandon all his ammunition save thirty rounds a man, and all of his food supplies excepting two barrels of bread. On the coast of this continent there is no spot more unhealthy than Honduras, and when the Englishmen entered the fishing village they found Walker's seventy men lying in the palm huts helpless with fever, and with no stomach to fight British blue-jackets with whom they had no quarrel. Walker inquired of Salmon if he were asking him to surrender to the British or to the Honduranian forces, and twice Salmon assured him, "distinctly and specifically," that he was surrendering to the forces of her Majesty. With this understanding Walker and his men laid down their arms and were conveyed to the _Icarus_. But on arriving at Trujillo, in spite of their protests and demands for trial by a British tribunal, Salmon turned over his prisoners to the Honduranian general. What excuse for this is now given by his descendants in the Salmon family I do not know.

Probably it is a subject they avoid, and, in history, Salmon's version has never been given, which for him, perhaps, is an injustice. But the fact remains that he turned over his white brothers to the mercies of half-Indian, half-negro, savages, who were not allies of Great Britain, and in whose quarrels she had no interest. And Salmon did this, knowing there could be but one end. If he did not know it, his stupidity equalled what now appears to be heartless indifference. So far as to secure pardon for all except the leader and one faithful follower, Colonel Rudler of the famous Phalanx, Salmon did use his authority, and he offered, if Walker would ask as an American citizen, to intercede for him. But Walker, with a distinct sense of loyalty to the country he had conquered, and whose people had honored him with their votes, refused to accept life from the country of his birth, the country that had injured and repudiated him.

Even in his extremity, abandoned and alone on a strip of glaring coral and noisome swamp land, surrounded only by his enemies, he remained true to his ideal.

At thirty-seven life is very sweet, many things still seem possible, and before him, could his life be spared, Walker beheld greater conquests, more power, a new South controlling a Nicaragua canal, a network of busy railroads, great squadrons of merchant vessels, himself emperor of Central America. On the gunboat the gold-braided youth had but to raise his hand, and Walker again would be a free man. But the gold-braided one would render this service only on the condition that Walker would appeal to him as an American; it was not enough that Walker was a human being. The condition Walker could not grant.

"The President of Nicaragua," he said, "is a citizen of Nicaragua."

They led him out at sunrise to a level piece of sand along the beach, and as the priest held the crucifix in front of him he spoke to his executioners in Spanish, simply and gravely: "I die a Roman Catholic. In making war upon you at the invitation of the people of Ruatan I was wrong. Of your people I ask pardon. I accept my punishment with resignation. I would like to think my death will be for the good of society."


REAL SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE - 20/25

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