Czech Genealogy – Second Installment of the Original Translation of 1881 Amerikán Národní Kalendář article “Experiences of one Bohemian in the Mexican War”
Onward To Our Past® is proud to announce the publication of our newest original English translation from the Czech-American genealogy goldmine of Amerikán Národní Kalendář.
This article, found in the 1881 Edition, takes the reader farther afield than our previous translations as we find ourselves transported, courtesy of Bohemian Josef Lebeda, to Mexico at the time of The Second Franco-Mexican War and the reign of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, a Habsburg.
We trust you will find this story as interesting. Enjoy the second installment of this detailed, first-person account.
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Amerikán Národní Kalendář
EXPERIENCES OF ONE BOHEMIAN IN THE MEXICAN WAR
“In May of 1865 we accompanied the Empress to Vera Cruz. There she boarded a ship to Europe. We boarded another ship with our 2nd and 4th Companies and one battery. Our commander was Lieutenant Koudelic. On the third day we entered Bagdad harbor and then we sailed to Matamoras where we spent two full months. Bagdad was later assaulted by the rebel forces and plundered. We were sent there at night. When we started to fight we got to know, that our enemies were blacks. We drove them out to the Rio Grande and most of them drowned there. Then for some time we were without any assignment again, and we went to Matamoras and stayed there for seven more months. On 7 June 1866 we went out with wagons to Monterey. There were 3,000 men.
The first day was great, but the coming days we were in battle every day.
We suffered from the lack of water and as a result we were losing 6 – 8 men every day from thirst and its consequences. On the 16th of June at 4 a.m. we battled with the rebels under command of General Oibera(?); this bloody battle lasted for 2 hours and we lost. There were a multitude of dead soldiers covering the battlefield, but we had no chance to bury them, because we survivors were captured and all our clothing was taken with exception of our underwear. They forced us into a cattle corral in the town of Camargo. General Escobedo told to us to behave well and wait until the time when they would free us. They brought water to us and after 3 days drove us away again. They gave each of us one biscuit per day and we were driven to a small town locked into another cattle corral. In this place where received just one pound of meat daily, but no salt, water, nor bread. We barbecued the meat without any dishes in a fire. In this poverty we stayed for forty-five days.
Later they marched us to Monterey, but the travelling was difficult because we were all barefoot and failing due to malnutrition. Monterey welcomed us with music, bells were ringing, and we were forced to march through all its streets, then we were locked in a fortress. As prisoners we had to sweep streets every day for four weeks. We also had to make cartridges that were used against the Imperial Army. When this town decided they no longer wanted to feed us we were divided into several groups and sent to other towns. I was sent, together with 30 others to Damaris, located 40 miles from Monterey. We worked in a sugar factory there for 50 cents a day, but without any food at all. Our captivity lasted for 8 months all together.
Sometime later one Mexican officer came to us, accompanied by some unknown German. They asked us who wished to go home, and who wished to go elsewhere. Only three from the 150 of us wished to go back home. The rest of us asked for our freedom to go as we wished. We received the necessary documents, but no money and were finally freed.
I went first to Monterey, where I worked as a coachman for $6 per a month, but I decided go to Texas, together with several friends of mine. This was in April 1867. Our travels took us to Austin, Texas, and took us 45 days to get there. I received a job from an American who supplied the army with groceries. I received $10 per a month.
At this time I asked if any Czechs were living in the area. One German told me that a lot of our people lived in Fayette County. So I went there and found a job with a certain Mr. Novak for $10 per a month. However I became very ill and therefore I lost that job. When I recovered I discovered that as a single fellow I did not have any future there.
Finally I married and established my own home where I am still living today (Ed: Lavaca, Texas). I live among our Czech compatriots and I can call myself a satisfied and happy man.”
We hope you enjoyed this article and the story of Bohemian-American Josef Lebeda and his time in the Second Franco-Mexican War.
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