Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Maximilien: Ópera historique en 3 actos et 9 tableaux

A couple of years ago, the late great Mexican art historian Don Ricardo Pérez Escamilla very generously gave me his copy of a rare French libretto and program of the opera performed in the Académie Nationale de Musique et de Danse, Maximilien (libretto by R.S. Hoffman; adapted from the work by Franz Werfel; French adapted version by Armand Lunel; music by Darius Milhaud). The libretto was published in 1931 in Vienna.

The cast of characters (my translation):

Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, Emperor of Mexico (Baritone)

Carlota, Empress of Mexico (Soprano)

Princess Agnes Salm-Salm (Mezzo)

Chancellor Stefan Herzfeld, childhood friend of Maximilian (Baritone)

Tomás Mejía, Mexican General serving the Monarchy (Tenor)

Colonel Miguel López (Tenor)

Francois Achille Bazaine, Marshal of France, Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Forces (Baritone)

Monsignor Pelagio Labastida, Cardinal of Mexico City and Puebla (Bass)

Three Mexican Republican generals reporting to Don Benito Juárez)
Porfirio Diaz (Bass)
Riva Palacio (Tenor)
Mariano Escobedo (Bass)

The Mayor (Basse)


Indigenous People and Notables (Men)
Maximilian's Guests (Mixed)
The Crowd (Mixed)
Rebellious Soldiers, Indigenous People, etc. (Mixed)
The Delegantes of the Junta (2 tenors)
The Generals (2 tenors, 2 baritones)
Imperial Soldiers (Men)
The Crowd of Querétaro (Mixed)
Guards (2 tenors, 2 baritones)
An Officer and the Firing Squad - a Chaplain (Mute actors)
Republican Crowd (Mixed)

For more operas and musicals about Maximilian and Carlota, scroll down to the bottom of the Maximilian von Mexiko links page.

Next post next Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal by Thomas M. Settles

As the subtitle indicates, most of Thomas M. Settles' splendid biography of John Bankhead Magruder (1807 - 1871) is dedicated to a detailed examination of his role in the U.S. Civil War, specifically, his audacious if nonetheless inevitably doomed defense of Richmond, and later, Galveston. Though this part of the narrative does not have direct bearing on Mexican history, it informs the portrait of an unusually flamboyant Confederate who, in defeat, looked south to a future in Maximilian's Mexican Empire.

Based on three decades of archival research, this biography must have been a titanic task, for Magruder left no diary and many of his most important papers were lost in a San Francisco fire. Worse, he was much maligned during his lifetime, victim of both malicious gossip from his Confederate rivals and less than sympathetic Federals-- just the sort of thing to send a biographer down blind alleys. In addition, there were misunderstandings, as when earlier historians, in recounting what appeared to be a less-than honorable leave-taking from Washington DC at the start of the Civil War, confounded Magruder with a relative.

General John Bankhead Magruder was, as Settles convincingly argues-- backing every point with what sometimes seems a forest of footnotes-- a Civil War general whose tactical ingenuity and tenacity are deserving of far greater respect than he has been accorded. Most of the book details his early military career, from West Point to a garrison duty and recruiting at various army posts from the Carolinas to Maine, until, with the invasion of Mexico in the late 1840s, his fortuntes took a radical turn. Along with many of the men who would later play major roles in the U.S. Civil War-- Grant, Lee, and McClellan, among them-- Magruder distinguished himself in several major battles against the Mexicans. (Magruder's artillery was, in fact, the first to fire upon Chapultepec Castle.) Following the U.S.-Mexican War, Magruder served in California, where in Los Angeles, briefly, he ran a saloon.

He was on a visit to Europe when recalled to Washington DC in 1861, only a month before his native state of Virginia seceded. He had not wanted to leave the U.S. Army, but as "he could not fight against his own people," he resigned, calling it "the most unhappy moment of my life." He walked across the Potomac, offered his services to the Confederacy and, in short order, was reporting to Robert E. Lee.

Settle's treatment of Magruder's return to Mexico in 1865, in the final chapter, "Postwar Odyssey," is a relatively brief one; nonetheless, it is an important contribution to understanding the nature and role of the ex-Confederates in Maximilian's government.

At the end of the U.S. Civil War, General Magruder was one of several thousand ex-Confederates who pulled up stakes for Mexico. In 1865 the French Imperial Army, considered the greatest in the world, occupied most, if not all of Mexican territory, while the ex Archduke of Austria, Maximilian, a direct descendant of the King of Spain during the Conquest, reigned as Emperor. Though by the late summer and fall of 1865, when the ex-Confederates began arriving en masse, the French occupation was beginning to fray at the edges, Maximilian and his consort, Carlota, still presided over a court and elaborate palace balls and other festivities that were, to Americans at that time, considered the height of glamor. In the words of journalist William V. Wells, this was the "high noon" of the empire, when it was impossible for many to even imagine the catastrophe that would, in only a matter of months, befall the "cactus throne."

Some ex-Confederates came to Mexico because they could not bear living in a defeated South, others, because they had expected to participate in a dynamic plantation economy under the French-backed Maximilian (who, to entice the ex-Confederate colonists, proclaimed slavery legal in Mexico). But others, such as General Magruder, simply felt pushed out. As Settles writes:

"It must have been extremely difficult for so proud a man as John Bankhead Magruder to have signed the articles surrendering the Trans-Mississippi Department. But when the Federals began arresting and imprisoning high Confederate officials, he resolutely refused to submit to such personal humiliation. He was not eligible for the amnesty proclaimed by President Lincoln on December 8, 1863, or that proclaimed by Andrew Johnson on May 29, 1865"

Although I had spent several years researching Mexico's Second Empire under Maximilian for my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, until recently, I was flummoxed as to the background of the author of the exceedingly rare English language memoir, Sketches of the Last Year of the Empire, Henry R. Magruder. It turns out he was the son of General John Bankhead Magruder and I now know, from Settles' biography, that father and son did not arrive in Mexico via the same route. General Magruder came down overland from Houston with General Shelby, while his wife, son Henry, and unmarried daughter, Kate Elizabeth, arrived via Veracruz, for they had come from Florence, Italy, where they had been residing for some years. As Settles explains,

"[B]ecause of the hardships of travel, uncomfortable living conditions, and extremes of climate found in the remote locales where magruder was stationed during his military career, [Mrs Magruder] found it more practical to live and raise her children in the comforts of Baltimore, where she could stay closer to family business interests. She remained there until 1850 when, as a consequence of [daughter] Isabella's ill health, she took her children to Europe. Mrs Magruder had relatives in Germany, but she moved to Italy, living briefly in Rome, then in Florence."

From Texas, not yet reunited with his family, Magruder headed straight down to Monterrey and then to Mexico City, arriving in the summer of 1865. Writes Settles:

"Magruder checked into a room on the first floor of the fashionable Iturbide Hotel, and there he received several distinguished visitors, including Matthew Fontaine Maury and his old friend Marshal Francois-Achille Bazaine, now in command of the imperial forces in Mexico. He also met with the British minister to Mexico, Sir Peter Campbell Scarlett, whose nephew, Lord Abinger, had married Magruder's niece, Helen Magruder, in Montreal several years earlier."

It appeared Magruder felt as at home as an American could be in Mexico City. He bought himself a new wardrobe, "'a cut-a-way suit of salt and pepper color, with a tall dove-colored hat and patent leather boots,' and then went to the palace of Montezuma [the Imperial Palace], which Scott's army had victoriously occupied eighteen years earlier."

Soon after a successful interview with Maximilian and Carlota, Magruder, now a naturalized Mexican citizen, was appointed head of Maximilian's Land Office of Colonization. The idea was to establish colonies along the main route inland from Veracruz to Mexico City, on land Juarez (under the Republic) had expropriated from the Church.

Settles covers the rapid collapse of the scheme along with Maximilian's government, and Magruder's return to the U.S. In 1867-- surprisingly, for memories of the Civil War remained fresh--- he attempted to set up a law office in New York City. His family had returned to Italy, but he remained in the U.S. to work the lecture circuit with a crowd-pleasing talk on Maximilian and Carlota. He was on that tour when, in a Houston hotel in 1871 he died of a stroke.

In sum, this is an important addition to the bibliography on Confederates in Mexico, and crucial reading for anyone who studies the U.S. Civil War, the U.S.-Mexico War, and / or Mexico's Second Empire. Highly recommended.

Next post: next Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Confederates in Mexico: A Brief Bibliography

An exotic but enduring subject of interest among U.S. Civil War history aficionados is the role played by Confederates, such as Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury (pictured right), and later, a passel of ex-generals (Shelby, McGruder, and more), in lending, or perhaps I should say, attempting to lend prestige to Maximilian's monarchy in Mexico. After the surrender at Appomattox in 1865, an important number of ex-Confederates immigrated to Mexico, many (though not all) with the aim of establishing colonies. To war-weary ex-Confederates, Maximilian's Mexico might have appeared a delectable glass of water, but as quickly as if left out in the Mexican sun, it evaporated. In general, the ex-Confederates' stay south of the border was short, their attempts at establishing colonies intensely frustrating, and, ultimately, catastrophic, for by early 1866, Maximilian's government, bankrupt and demoralized, and having lost its French ally, was crumbling before the Juarista onslaught. Maximilian himself was captured, tried, and then executed by firing squad in June of 1867.

[Pictured right: General Joseph Shelby]

My own sense is that there is much still to be written about the ex-Confederates in Mexico, for so many of the historians of Mexico's Second Empire have lacked funding, or simply the wherewithal, to delve into the relevant Confederate archives, and vice versa--- it's nothing new that even otherwise beautifully educated Americans are more often than not woefully ignorant about Mexico and Mexican history, and, alas, the Spanish language. Serious research into the ex-Confederates in Mexico requires, at a minimum, three or more languages (Spanish and English, of course, plus French and German-- and the more German the better); deep knowledge of both Mexican politics, and Confederate politics, as well as culture, geography, terrain, mid-19th century farming practices, economics, and more. And not only all this: Mexico's Second Empire / French Intervention is an essentially transnational period, which is incomprehensible without an understanding of European and American geopolitics. Among the European actors in Mexico's French Intervention: France, of course, Austria and its dominions, Belgium, England, Spain, and-- vitally--the Vatican.

(Ay, not something to research just over a weekend! It took me more than seven years to research and write my novel about the true story of the half-American prince, Agustin de Iturbide y Green, in Maximilian's court, and I am still awed by the amount of research I could yet undertake... and I am so often tempted... )

To return to the point of this blog, which is to share my research, and so make it easier for other researchers to cover new ground:

Herewith, the major titles on the specific subject of Confederates and ex-Confederates in Mexico during the reign of Maximilian (and please leave a comment if you know of any title(s) I may have overlooked-- though, please note, with the exception of Stevenson, I am not including works that cover Maximilian and the Second Empire generally, or adventures not specifically about the Confederates, e.g., Blasio, Corti, Haslip, Niles, Pani, Ratz, Ridley, the Salm-Salms, et al. ):

Harmon, George D., "Confederate Migration to Mexico," The Hispanic American Historical Review (Nov., 1937)

Arthur, Anthony, General Shelby's March (Random House, 2010)
Note: This may be the most important recent addition to the literature on Confederates in Mexico. Alas, Arthur passed away in 2009. As soon as possible, I will make a note about this work on this blog.

Davis, Edwin Adams, Fallen Guidon: The Saga of Confederate General Jo Shelby's Expedition to Mexico (TAMU Press, 1995)

Edwards, John N., Shelby's Expedition to Mexico (Kansas City, 1872)
Note: the link is to a new edition, edited by Conger Beasely, Jr. (University of Arkansas, 2007)

Hanna, Alfred Jackson, "Role of Matthew Fontaine Maury in the Mexican Empire," An address before the annual meeting of the Virginia Historical society, January 17, 1947

Harter, Eugene C., The Lost Colony of the Confederacy (University of Mississippi Press, 1985)

McGruder, Henry R., Sketches of the Last Year of the Empire (London, 1868)
Note: The author was the son of General Magruder. The link is to my blog post about his book.

O'Flaherty, Daniel, General Jo Shelby (1954; reprint 2000)

Padgett, James A., ed., "Life of Alfred Mordecai in Mexico 1865-1866, as Told in His Letters to His Family (North Carolina Historical Review, April 1946 and January 1946)

Rister, Carl Cooke, "Carlotta, a Confederate Colony in Mexico" Journal of Southern History 11, February 1945

Mahoney, Harry Thayer and Majorie Locke Mahoney, Mexico and the Confederacy, 1860-1867 (San Francisco: Austin & Winfield, 1998),

Rolle, Andrew F., The Lost Cause: The Confederate Exodus to Mexico (University of Oklahoma Press, 1965)

Ruiz Ramón Eduardo, ed., An American in Maximilian's Mexico, 1865-1866: The Diaries of William Marshall Anderson (San Marino, 1959)

Terrell, Alexander Watkins, From Texas to Mexico and the Court of Maximilian in 1865 (Dallas, 1933).

Settles, Thomas M., John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal (LSU Press, 2009)

Stevenson, Sara Yorke, Maximilian in Mexico: A Woman's Reminiscences of French Intervention 1862-1867 (The Century Co., 1897)
(The link goes to my blog post about this wonderful and very richly detailed eyewitness memoir.)

Williams, Frances Leigh, Matthew Fontaine Maury: Scientist of the Sea (Rutgers University Press, 1963)


>>Finally, different as they are, the novel by Elizabeth Boatright Coker, The Grasshopper King (1981), and the movie The Undefeated (1969), starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson, both have to do with the saga of the Confederates in Mexico.

>>Confederate characters appear in Fernando del Paso's novel Noticias del Imperio and, fleetingly, in my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire.

>>For a general selected bibliography of the Second Empire, please visit my "Maximilian" page.

Next post next Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monseñor Eulogio Gillow, the Iturbides, and the ex-Hacienda de Chautla

One of the most moving and curious things about having written a book about the 19th century is that, on many an occasion, I am reminded that it wasn't all that long ago. True, everyone alive in the 1860s is long dead, but there are many people alive today who knew people who knew those people*. I'm not yet 50, and I remember my great grandmother, who grew up in the house of her uncle, William Wirt Calkins, who fought in the U.S. Civil War and wrote the magnificent History of the 104th Illinois. Several descendants of the people upon whom I based the characters in my novel have written to me; I am more grateful and touched than I can say. And there are others, who are not related, but have shared letters, documents, photographs, books, and more. One, a Mexico City editor and historian, a relative of Monseñor Eulogio Gillow, lent me a copy of Gillow's rare and very illuminating memoir, which was published, alas, obscurely, in Spanish in 1921 in Los Angeles. I had never, in all my several years of researches and reading, come upon it. (Admittedly, in the last couple of years, the google searches have begun to yield far more fruit-- google and ye shall find. Also try www.abebooks.com, the used / antiquarian on-line bookselling mega-site.)

Monseñor Gillow

But first a bit of background about Monseñor Gillow. Some 10 years ago, when I began my research into Mexico's Second Empire/ French Intervention, I did not know who he was, so when, in the Matías Romero archive at Banco de México, I came upon his circa 1890 correpondence with Romero and Porfirio Díaz about then cavalary captain Agustín de Iturbide y Green, I assumed he was an American. Wrong I was.

Gillow was a powerful Mexican cleric, a close confidant of Porfirio Díaz, the then President /dictator (not overthrown until the Revolution of 1910). Whence the name Gillow? He was the son of Thomas Gillow, an English jeweler who had come to Mexico from Liverpool. Don Tomás, as he became known in Mexico, had first married the spectaculary wealthy Mexican Marchioness of Selva Nevada, and upon her death, married her daughter, his own stepdaughter, Mara Zavalza. It was from this second marriage that Euologio was born, and so it was that Eulogio inherited the vast Hacienda de San Antonio Chautla, then one of Mexico's most important estates.

Eulogio was educated in England, joined the Church, served in the Vatican as Pope Pius IX's personal aide, and then, having returned to Mexico, as Archbishop of Oaxaca.

His Memoir,
Reminencias del Ilmo y Rmo Sr Dr D Eulogio Gillow y Zabalza, arzobispo de Antiquera (Oaxaca), Los Angeles, California, 1921

The book has two chapters of special interest for anyone researching the Second Empire / French Intervention:

Chapter X, which recounts the Empress Carlota's mental breakdown in Rome in 1866, is something very unusual. I have not seen it quoted in any of the mountain of works I've read on the Second Empire-- tell me, readers, did I miss something?-- which is astonishing, for Gillow, a Mexican, was with the Pope at the time, a "camerero secreto supernumerario" (a secret supernumerary chamberlain-- that's my guess at the proper translation.)

Chapter XIX, pp. 202-207 recounts visits from Doña Alicia de Iturbide (the American mother of Agustín de Iturbide y Green) several anedcotes about the grandsons of the Emperor Iturbide, and how Doña Alicia came to to purchase an hacienda in the neighborhood. (And there is a description of that hacienda in Fanny Chambers Gooch's Face to Face with the Mexicans.)

The Ex-Hacienda de Chautla
Long an avid adopter of the latest agricultural technologies, in the late 1890s Monseñor Gillow determined to found an agricultural college on his hacienda; the lovely little English castle served as its headquarters. It was elaboraely furnished, and had a gallery with armor and uniforms of the Pope's Swiss Guards.

It was this wonderfully detailed article in MexConnect by Tony Burton that made me determined to go see the ex-Hacienda de Chautla for myself. And, last week, on the way back to Mexico City from Puebla (where I attended the book launch for Margarita López Cano's Ópera en la Puebla Imperial, I finally did.

It's just a hop off the road from Cholula. The property, drastically reduced after the Revolution, is now owned by the state of Puebla and has been turned into a family oriented trout fishing center. The little castle, terribly neglected, and used now as a cafeteria, is much prettier seen from a distance. I arrived too late to try the trout, but I can recommend the fresh air, and the views of the volcanoes.
*More about that in my article for beatrice.com, "What Connects You to the 1860s?"

Next post next Tuesday.


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