- The True History
Teudilli sent a message to Moctezuma in Mexico describing everything he had seen and heard, and asking for gold to give the captain of the strangers, who had asked him whether Moctezuma had any gold, and Teudilli had answered yes. So Cortés said: "Send me some of it, because I and my companions suffer from a disease of the heart which can be cured only with gold."– from Narratives of the Coronado Expedition 1540–1542, ed. George P.Hammond and Agapito Rey, (Albuquerque: U of New Mexico Press, 1940)
Let it be said here and now that a Texian has no taste for discipline. This I freely admit. But when a man of parts hears the call to arms, when his mind's eye imagines the sweep of his country's swift sword of destiny, there can be little choice but to heed the call. And so, as a servant of God and the state, being twenty years of age, bould, fearless, and believing the Mexicans to be a feeble, mongrel, Priest-ridden race, I took it upon myself to enlist in Sam Houston's Army of the Republic. There was also, I admit, some talk of treasure. But then, there's always talk of treasure, the soldier's goad.
I had made a hash of farming, or so my good wife ceaselessly insisted. My name is Ellet Mayfield, and even this she turned against me with "May-Not-Field," her constant joke to the ladies of her circle. Not content to stay at home and play the fool for her amusement, and desperate to establish some other way of life before next planting season, my enlistment was, I admit as well, an effort to reassert the manhood that God bestowed upon me. I yearned for the crisp uniform, the polished boot, the sound of the charge arousing noble hearts. These fine features, I was soon to learn, were not part of Mr. Houston's army, which was so poorly supplied that we looked more like a band of brigands than a well sorted out brigade of soldiers. Still, it was well-known that the towns along the lower Río Grande were groaning with the weight of treasure heretofore [End Page 5] beyond calculation. The stores of silver alone would make each of us a rich man. But there was more, as any faithful reader of the Telegraph and Texas Register well knew. Mountains of gold and the landscape a moving black mass of livestock as far as the eye can see. How such a backward race had been able to amass such riches was a question that did not much trouble us.
Our little company of thirty-four volunteers was bivouacked for the night on our way to San Antonio. Not two days before, General Santa Anna had taken the city, but reports of late had him already leaving. Was it cowardice or deep strategy from the "Napoleon of the West"? For us, it was the first of many confusions. Why did we make haste to San Antonio if he was already half-way to the River? Houston would never give the order to follow. He believed a war on Texas soil was winnable but not on Mexican soil. And yet he had surprised us before this sudden about-face, now sounding the call to arms where before he played the coward's part.
Our lieutenant joined a few of us at our campfire, where we enlivened ourselves with liquor. We talked as if we'd been soldiers for many years, when in fact, we were veterans of a day. He was a fair-featured man whose brown hair, even in the field, was oiled and combed smartly to the side. Indeed, some said he dressed his hair with so much pomade it was proof against any musket ball. And though his jaw was fringed with a trace of beard, there was something womanish about his face, a softness that I took for good breeding. He had the eyes of a poet, focused distantly on other worlds. He did not impress as a man of action. But then, right few of...