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[255]

Confederate treaty.

The only one ever Negotiated with a foreign power.


A Washington correspondent of the Chattanooga Times writes. August, 1900: Although the Confederate Government was in existence for a period of four years, history furnishes us with but one example of a treaty ever concluded between that government and a foreign power. The representative of Jefferson Davis, who succeeded in effecting the consummation of this unique treaty, was Lieutenant-Colonel C. H. Giddings, of the Confederate States of America, who was in command of the Confederate forces of Fort Duncan, Eagle Pass, Texas, in 1863 and 1864. Colonel Giddings is now in Washington, and his account of this transaction is both interesting and novel.

“In 1863 I was commissioned by Jefferson Davis as lieutenant-colonel in command of the Confederate forces at Fort Duncan, Eagle Pass,” said Colonel Giddings to your correspondent.

On assuming command of the fort, I was advised that an old Federal soldier, by the name of McManus, who had been paroled at the surrender of General Twiggs and broken his parole, and crossed the Rio Grande and opened a recruiting office for the Federals in Piedras Negras, Mexico, and, that it was the headquarters for the organization of bands of renegades and Mexican thieves, who were committing depredations upon the property of citizens of Texas. I called on Colonel Garza, who was in command of the Mexican forces and found my information to be correct. I filed a protest with Colonel Garza, stating that it was in violation of international laws, etc., and asked him to have the recruiting office discontinued, which he did. Nevertheless, McManus continued to carry on practices clandestinely, and organized a band of renegades and Mexicans, who attacked me in the night. This happened when a large part of my command were out scouting after these cattle thieves. I easily defeated and drove them back across the river without any loss, one man, Captain Pickrell, my adjutant, being wounded.

Numerous complaints were made to me and my assistance asked for by citizens of Texas, who informed me that their stock, cattle, horses, etc., had been stolen by an organized band of thieves, composed of renegades from Texas (too cowardly to fight on either side [256] in their country), assisted by Mexican thieves that were continually raiding that section between Laredo and Fort Clark, a distance of about 200 miles, which was under my command. I was also informed that at that time there were a large number of cattle and horses, over 5,000 head, but a few miles above Piedras Negras, in charge of a band of thieves, too strong for them to attack. I promised the parties that I would call the attention of the Mexican officer in command of the Liberal forces on the Mexican frontier to the facts in the case, and that in the event he did not take immediate action I would cross the river with my troops and bring back the stolen stock and deliver it to the owners. I at once called on Colonel Garza, the commanding officer, and demanded that such stolen stock as could be proved by the owners, then at my headquarters, should be delivered to us. He replied that he had no authority to act as I had indicated, but said if I would make a written statement of the facts, and suggest some remedy, not in violation of international law, he would forward my statement to President Juarez, who was then at Monterey. I told him that the proper thing to be done was to make a treaty providing for the rendition of criminals and of stolen property, upon proper proofs as to their ownership. He said he would be pleased to have that done, as the same condition of affairs complained of by me existed on our side of the river. I prepared a rough draft of a treaty in accordance with our views, and Colonel Garza forwarded it, with his approval, to President Juarez, asking for investigation.

While waiting for the return of the papers and instructions from the President I received an order from General Magruder to arrest one Louis Pless and send him, under guard, to his headquarters at Houston. Accompanying the order was a letter from General Magruder's adjutant, stating that Pless had stolen several hundred bales of Confederate cotton, and that he was in Piedras Negras, and it would be a feather in my cap if I were able to arrest him, even, if I had to get him out of Mexico, and that I was authorized to expend a reasonable amount of gold to accomplish the arrest, for which I would be reimbursed.

I also, at the same time, received a letter from Governor Lubbock, of Texas, urging me to make the arrest of Pless, and making similar suggestions. I had at that time an intelligent Mexican scout and guide. I ordered him to go on to Piedras Negras and ascertain if Pless was there. He soon reported to me that he was, but would leave for Monterey the following night in an ambulance with one [257] man and a driver. I then offered my Mexican agent $100 in gold if he would place Pless on the Texas side of the river, so that I could arrest him, and suggested that some of my men might assist him, but that I would not order him to do so, nor did I wish to know how it was done, so it was done quickly.

The following night the Mexican scout brought Pless to my headquarters and I arrested him. He was very much frightened and implored me to protect him, saying that he would willingly go to Houston. I sent him off that night, under guard, and he was safely delivered to General Magruder at that place.

The Mexican authorities were indignant at what they deemed the invasion of the sacred soil of Mexico by Americans, and demanded the immediate release of Pless. This I refused, stating that I had arrested him in my headquarters in obedience to an order of my commanding general, and that he was at that time more than 100 miles on his way to Houston.

On receipt of my refusal the commanding officer at Piedras Negras organized a blockade of the port; arrested all Americans that happened to be in Piedras Negras at that time, a few of my soldiers being among the number; sent out for reinforcements and announced his intention to attack my command. I at once ordered in what troops there were at Fort Clark and Inge and prepared for a strong defence. In the meantime communications, under a flag of truce, were passing two or three times a day between the Mexican commander and myself for four days, trying to amicably settle matters and to gain time for reinforcements to reach me. On the fifth day I was ready, and notified the Mexican officer in command that I had a strong force and that if the port were not opened in two hours and every American in prison released and allowed to return to the Texas side of the river, and an agreement to deliver to me the stolen stock, then a few miles above Piedras Negras, I would cross the river with my troops and take the town, and hold all the Mexican property I could find as security until the stolen property was delivered to me. I at once ordered my entire command to prepare to move. I had them mounted and formed in line on the banks of the river in full view of the Mexicans.

Just before the expiration of the two hours the port was opened, and the Americans who had been detained released, and my adjutant brought me a note from the commanding officer, saying that he had just received a note from President Juarez authorizing him to make a treaty with me on the basis I had suggested, and asking for [258] a conference at his headquarters as soon as convenient. In order to conclude the matter I called on him at once, with the result that we made a treaty providing for the rendition of criminals and delivery of stolen property. The treaty was both fair and just to the Mexican and Confederate governments alike. Colonel Garza signed for Mexico, and I signed as lieutenant-colonel, commanding Fort Duncan, for the Confederate Government. The treaty was forwarded to President Juarez, who approved it. I also sent it to President Davis, with copies of all correspondence on the subject, a statement of the situation on the Rio Grande that caused me to take the responsibility I had, expressing the hope that my action in the matter would meet with his approval.

President Davis acknowledged the receipt of the treaty, announced his approval, and paid me a high compliment for my efforts in the field of diplomacy.

Immediately after signing the treaty the Mexican officers delivered to me over 5,000 head of cattle and horses that had been stolen from Pecos.

Soon after this I received a letter from the Governor of Texas (Lubbock) that a party of seven men had murdered a family of four persons, on the road, who were returning from Eagle Pass to Fredericksburg, having sold their cotton. These men had stolen from the party $1,500 in gold. The Governor said in his letter that he was advised that the murderers were in Piedras Negras, and requested me to demand their surrender under the terms of the treaty, and send them to Austin under guard. He sent me the names and descriptions of the seven men, and I at once crossed the river, showed the Governor's letter to the officer in command, and demanded that he deliver the seven criminals to me. The Mexican officers sent for the guard, and in about one-half hour had the men in the guard-house. I went with Colonel Garza to identify them. They acknowledged that they were the men described in the Governor's letter. I made arrangements for them to be delivered to me on the following day, the delivery to be made in the middle of the Rio Grande. There was a good deal of formality attending the delivery.

I have since been informed that they remained in jail in Austin until the close of the war, and were then released by the Federal officers without even a trial.

While in command at Eagle Pass I received a large amount of stock that had been stolen and carried across on the Mexican side. [259]

I was told by Jefferson Davis, after the close of the war, that this was the only treaty made by the Confederate Government and ratified by a foreign power.

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