Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.
I knew the Mexican army was affected by their long journey north to San Antonio, but the description here is one of pure misery. The vast majority of the troops were forcibly conscripted from wherever bodies could be found, including prisoners, Indians, and anyone unlucky enough to be caught as the army traveled north.
The farther north they reached, the more Santa Anna's blitzkriegers looked like refugees. Their shoes and sandals gave out. Their shirts rotted, leaving them to wear their uniform jackets against their skin. And they hungered.
Food was provided to soldiers below the rank of first sergeant, but only half rations: One pound of meat and some beans or corn per day. For the final thirty days before reaching San Antonio, soldiers ate only eight ounces of toasted corn cake daily.
There was little in the way of medical care. Only one self-styled “physician” and no medicine or medical supplies.
Once hostilities actually began with the Anglo-Americans in Texas, the absence of physicians became especially desperate. Scores of wounded men died for simple lack of care. And as they approached death and cried for spiritual consolation, one more failing appeared. In the whole Catholic army, there was not a single priest.
These conscripted troops were not exactly armed, either. Some were given no weapons at all, but those who were weren’t much better off. The Mexican army used discarded British “Brown Bess” muskets, which required 18 steps to load and another 4 steps to fire.
American minister Waddy Thompson observed, “There is not one in ten of these soldiers who has ever seen a gun, nor one in a hundred who has ever fired one before he was brought into the barracks… Their powder, too, is equally bad… not one cannon ball in a thousand reached the enemy – they generally fell about half-way between the opposing armies.” He did not exaggerate.