Tomás Mejía: Biography, Military Career, Execution

Tomás Mejía (1820 – 1867) stood out for his role in the army during two of the most convulsive decades in the history of Mexico. His full name was José Tomás de la Luz Mejía Camacho and he was a military man of indigenous origin who fought on the conservative side in several different conflicts.

Despite being born into a humble family, his good work on the battlefield made him reach the rank of general. He participated in the war against the United States, in the War of the Reform and, finally, he joined the imperial side during the Second Mexican Empire, in his words, thinking that it would only be a transitory period.

Tomás Mejía

Apart from this, he was a member of some of the armed uprisings that took place in the country, always on the conservative side. Both he and his family had strong Catholic beliefs, which led him to oppose the liberal governments of the time.

After the defeat of the Empire, Mejía is captured by the republican forces and sentenced to death. He was shot together with the emperor and General Miramón in 1867.

Article index

  • one

    Early years

  • two

    Entry into the army

  • 3

    Military career

    • 3.1

      War with the United States

    • 3.2

      Sierra Gorda Plan

    • 3.3

      Reform War

  • 4

    Second Mexican Empire

    • 4.1

      At the command of Maximilian

    • 4.2

      Defeat

  • 5

    Shooting

  • 6

    References 

Early years

José Tomás de la Luz Mejía Camacho was born in Pinal de Amoles, Querétaro, on September 17, 1820. His family was Otomí and did not have many financial resources. Despite this, Tomás Mejía was able to study at the village school and receive some training.

Entry into the army

However, it was a military career that awaited him. Very young, the influence of various personalities who passed through his region made him join the military service. One of these influences was that of Isidro Barradas, a Spanish military man who hid in Sierra Gorda after independence.

Apart from this, two other men marked the beginning of his military life: General José Urrea and Juan Cano. In 1841 both had been sent by Anastasio Bustamante to try to pacify the area of ​​the Sierra.

There they meet Mejía and are very impressed by his skills in handling horses and by his knowledge of the region. This causes them to offer him the rank of lieutenant and put it at their service.

One of his first destinations was Chihuahua, where he fought against the Apache tribes that penetrated the northern border of the country. The three years in which he remained in that position, until 1845, earned him promotion to Captain.

Military career

War with the United States

When the war against the United States broke out, Mejía distinguished himself by his actions in battle. His great performances in the fight against the North American invaders made him worthy, despite the defeat, of obtaining the rank of commander.

This led him to be appointed military chief when he returned to Sierra Gorda and for a couple of years he dedicated himself to trying to stop various rebellions in the area. In 1851 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and, only 3 years later, he was already a colonel, also assuming the political leadership of the region.

Sierra Gorda Plan

The so-called Ayutla Revolution, in 1855, caused the Mexicans to be definitively divided between the conservatives and the liberals. The rebels belonged to this second current, while Mejía’s deep religiosity made him opt for the conservative option.

The triumph of the Liberals and their arrival to the presidency led Mejía and other military personnel, such as Lieutenant Colonel José Antonio Montes, to proclaim the Sierra Gorda Plan. Ignacio Comonfort, Mexican president at the time, sent troops to the region for the rebels to lay down their arms.

Ignacio Comonfort

With the motto of “Religion and fueros!” the rebellions continue throughout the year 1856, trying to stop the preparation of a new Constitution.

Reform War

Finally the conflict becomes general, beginning the so-called War of the Reforms. Mejía joins the conservative side, under the orders of Miguel Miramón and Leonardo Márquez.

Portrait of Miguel Miramón. Source: Enrique Cárdenas de la Peña, A thousand characters in 19th century Mexico. 1840-1870, volume II, Mexico, Banco Mexicano SOMEX, 1979, p. 534

During that conflict he participated in battles such as that of Ahualulco. It was there that the military man was seriously wounded, having to be taken to Querétaro for convalescence. For his achievements, he received a tribute in his land and was presented with a sword. After the battle of Tacubaya, he was promoted to major general.

However, in 1860 his side is doomed to defeat. The Battle of Silao, in which Mejía leads the army and is defeated, is essential for the course of the conflict. Tomás Mejía is forced to flee back to the Sierra Gorda. On him weighs a death sentence imposed by the liberals.

On December 22 of that same year, Miramón and the rest of the conservative troops were defeated in San Miguel Calpulalpan. The War of the Reform was over. In 1861, Benito Juárez assumed the presidency and Miramón had to go into exile in Europe.

Second Mexican Empire

Two years passed in which Mejía hardly had any military activity. His return to action came when the French took advantage of the Juárez government’s suspension of payments. The Mexican foreign debt with the European country gave Napoleon III the perfect excuse to invade it.

Napoleon III

Gallic troops entered Mexican territory in early 1863, with Maximilian as a candidate to head an Empire. Mejía hesitated, not deciding whether to join the invaders or not. The death sentence that still weighed on him and his firm belief in conservative ideals led him to enlist in the imperial side.

At the command of Maximilian

Mejía enters combat fighting in the Bajío and in Dolores Hidalgo. At that time, he declared that if he had joined the French it was because he thought that the invasion would not last long and that Maximiliano was going to be a liberating figure.

His skill was essential in the victory of the royalists at the end of 1863. The following year, he was awarded the rank of Grand Cross of the Order of the Mexican Eagle by the emperor himself.

The rebellions against the new regime follow one another and Tomás Mejía distinguishes himself in the attempt to stop them. Collaborate in improving the defenses of the city of Matamoros, reinforcing the forts of the town, as well as the defensive wall.

Defeat

Despite the attempts of the imperial army and the military talent of Mejía, the constitutionalist troops achieve important advances. The defeat at Santa Gertrudis, in June 1866, is a decisive blow to the fortunes of the war. Matamoros also falls into liberal hands and the Empire begins to crumble.

Mejía travels to San Luís Potosí and sees how the French forces are withdrawing towards Mexico City. In October 1866, the emperor commissioned him to form a great division to try to recover several lost cities, but it was too late for any attempt to counterattack.

The Republicans continue with their victories and arrive in San Luis Potosí; then, Mejía must retire to Querétaro. In that city he meets with Maximiliano and they try to set up a defensive system that prevents the taking by his enemies.

Their efforts are in vain and on May 15, 1867 they are defeated. The main leaders, Emperor Maximiliano, Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía himself are taken prisoner.

Shooting

The Council of War held after the capture condemns the three men to be executed. On June 19, 1867, Tomás Mejía was shot in Querétaro along with Maximiliano and Miramón.

References

 

  1. Biographies.es. Tomás Mejía. Obtained from biografias.es
  2. Tinajero Morales, José Omar. Tomás Mejía, conservative general, biography. Obtained from histormex.blogspot.com.es
  3. Valtier, Ahmed. June 19, 1867: execution of Maximiliano, Mejía and Miramón. Obtained from relatosehistorias.mx
  4. Wikiwand. Tomás Mejía Camacho. Retrieved from wikiwand.com
  5. Harding, Bertita. Phantom Crown: The Story of Maximilian & Carlota of Mexico. Recovered from books.google.es
  6. Hamnett, Brian. Mexican Conservatives, Clericals, and Soldiers: The ‘Traitor’ Tomás Mejía through Reform and Empire, 1855-1867. Recovered from jstor.org
  7. Werner, Michael. Concise Encyclopedia of Mexico. Recovered from books.google.es

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