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The Texan Scouts: A Story of the Alamo and Goliad, a novel by Joseph A. Altsheler

Chapter 17. The Sad Surrender

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Ned took another look at the beleaguered force, and what he saw did not encourage him. The men, crowded together, were standing in a depression seven or eight feet below the surface of the surrounding prairie. Near by was an ammunition wagon with a broken axle. The men themselves, three ranks deep, were in a hollow square, with the cannon at the angles and the supply wagons in the center. Every face looked worn and anxious, but they did not seem to have lost heart.

Yet, as Ned had foreseen, this was quite a different force from that which had held the Alamo so long, and against so many. Most of the young faces were not yet browned by the burning sun of Texas. Drawn by the reports of great adventure they had come from far places, and each little company had its own name. There were the "Grays" from New Orleans, the "Mustangs" from Kentucky, the "Red Rovers" from Alabama and others with fancy names, but altogether they numbered, with the small reinforcements that had been received, only three hundred and fifty men.

Ned could have shed tears, when he looked upon the force. He felt himself a veteran beside them. Yet there was no lack of courage among them. They did not flinch, as the fire grew heavier, and the cannon balls whistled over their heads. Ned was sure now that General Urrea was around them with his whole army. The presence of the cannon indicated it, and he saw enough to know that the Mexican force outnumbered the Texan four or five to one.

He heard the Mexican trumpets pealing presently, and then he saw their infantry advancing in dark masses with heavy squadrons of cavalry on either flank. But as soon as they came within range, they were swept by the deadly fire of the Texan rifles and were driven back in confusion. Ned noticed that this always happened. The Mexicans could never carry a Texan position by a frontal attack. The Texans, or those who were called the Texans, shot straight and together so fast that no Mexican column could withstand their hail of bullets.

A second time the Mexicans charged, and a second time they were driven back in the same manner. Exultation spread among the recruits standing in the hollow, but they were still surrounded. The Mexicans merely drew out of range and waited. Then they attacked a third time, and, from all sides, charging very close, infantry and cavalry. The men in the hollow were well supplied with rifles, and their square fairly blazed. Yet the Mexicans pressed home the charge with a courage and tenacity that Ned had never seen among them before. These were Mexico's best troops, and, even when the men faltered, the officers drove them on again with the point of the sword. General Urrea himself led the cavalry, and the Mexicans pressed so close that the recruits saw both lance and bayonet points shining in their faces.

The hollow in which the Texans stood was a huge cloud of flame and smoke. Ned was loading and firing so fast that the barrel of his rifle grew hot to the touch. He stood with two youths but little older than himself, and the comradeship of battle had already made them friends. But they scarcely saw the faces of one another. The little valley was filled with the smoke of their firing. They breathed it and tasted it, and it inflamed their brains.

Ned's experience had made him a veteran, and when he heard the thunder of the horse's hoofs and saw the lance points so near he knew that the crisis had come.

"One more volley. One for your lives!" he cried to those around him.

The volley was forthcoming. The rifles were discharged at the range of only a few yards into the mass of Mexican cavalry. Horses and men fell headlong, some pitching to the very feet of the Texans and then one of the cannon poured a shower of grape shot into the midst of the wavering square. It broke and ran, bearing its general away with it, and leaving the ground cumbered with fallen men and horses.

The Mexican infantry was also driven back at every point, and retreated rapidly until they were out of range. Under the cloud of smoke wounded men crept away. But when the cloud was wholly gone, it disclosed those who would move no more, lying on every side. The defenders had suffered also. Fannin lay upon the ground, while two of his men bound up a severe wound in the thigh that he had sustained from a Mexican bullet. Many others had been wounded and some had been killed. Most alarming of all was the announcement that the cannon could be fired only a few times more, as there was no water for the sponges when they became heated and clogged. But this discouraged only the leaders, not the recruits themselves, who had ultimate faith in their rifles.

Ned felt an extreme dizziness. All his old strength had not yet returned, and after such furious action and so much excitement there was a temporary collapse. He lay back on the grass, closed his eyes, and waited for the weakness to pass. He heard around him the talk and murmur of the men, and the sounds of new preparations. He heard the recruits telling one another that they had repulsed four Mexican attacks, and that they could repulse four more. Yet the amount of talking was not great. The fighting had been too severe and continuous to encourage volubility. Most of them reloaded in silence and waited.

Ned felt that his weakness had passed, opened his eyes, and sat up again. He saw that the Mexicans had drawn a circle of horsemen about them, but well beyond range. Behind the horsemen their army waited. Fannin's men were rimmed in by steel, and Ned believed that Urrea, after his great losses in the charges, would now wait.

Ned stretched himself and felt his muscles. He was strong once more and his head was clear. He did not believe that the weakness and dizziness would come again. But his tongue and throat were dry, and one of the youths who had stood with him gave him a drink from his canteen. Ned would gladly have made the drink a deep one, but he denied himself, and, when he returned the canteen, its supply was diminished but little. He knew better than the giver how precious the water would become.

Ned was standing at the edge of the hollow, and his head was just about on a level with the surrounding prairie. After his look at the Mexican circle, something whistled by his ear. It was an unpleasant sound that he knew well, one marking the passage of a bullet, and he dropped down instantly. Then he cautiously raised himself up again, and, a half dozen others who had heard the shot did the same. One rose a little higher than the rest and he fell back with a cry, a bullet in his shoulder.

Ned was surprised and puzzled. Whence had come these shots? There was the line of Mexican cavalry, well out of range, and, beyond the horsemen, were the infantry. He could see nothing, but the wounded shoulder was positive proof that some enemy was near.

There was a third crack, and a man fell to the bottom of the hollow, where he lay still. The bullet had gone through his head. Ned saw a wreath of smoke rising from a tiny hillock, a hundred yards away, and then he saw lifted for only a moment a coppery face with high cheek bones and coarse black hair. An Indian! No one could ever mistake that face for a white man's. Many more shots were fired and he caught glimpses of other faces, Indian in type like the first.

Every hillock or other inequality of the earth seemed to spout bullets, which were now striking among the Texans, cooped up in the hollow, killing and wounding. But the circle of Mexican horsemen did not stir.

"What are they?" called Fannin, who was lying upon a pallet, suffering greatly from his wound.

"Indians," replied Ned.

"Indians!" exclaimed Fannin in surprise. "I did not know that there were any in this part of the country."

"Nor did I," replied Ned, "but they are surely here, Colonel, and if I may make a suggestion, suppose we pick sharp-shooters to meet them."

"It is the only thing to do," said Fannin, and immediately the best men with the rifle were placed along the edge of the hollow. It was full time, as the fire of the red sharpshooters was creeping closer, and was doing much harm. They were Campeachy Indians, whom the Mexicans had brought with them from their far country and, splendid stalkers and skirmishers, they were now proving their worth. Better marksmen than the Mexicans, naked to the waist, their dark faces inflamed with the rage to kill, they wormed themselves forward like snakes, flattened against the ground, taking advantage of every hillock or ridge, and finding many a victim in the hollow. Far back, the Mexican officers sitting on their horses watched their work with delighted approval.

Ned was not a sharpshooter like the Panther or Davy Crockett, but he was a sharpshooter nevertheless, and, driven by the sternest of all needs, he was growing better all the time. He saw another black head raised for a moment above a hillock, and a muzzle thrust forward, but he fired first. The head dropped back, but the rifle fell from the arms and lay across the hillock. Ned knew that his bullet had sped true, and he felt a savage joy.

The other sharpshooters around him were also finding targets. The Indian bullets still crashed into the crowded ranks in the hollow, but the white marksmen picked off one after another in the grass. The moment a red face showed itself a bullet that rarely missed was sent toward it. Here was no indiscriminate shooting. No man pulled the trigger until he saw his target. Ned had now fired four times, and he knew that he had not missed once. The consuming rage still possessed him, but it was for the Mexicans rather than the Indians against whom he was sending his bullets. Surely they were numerous enough to fight the Texans. They ought to be satisfied with ten to one in their favor, without bringing Indians also against the tiny settlements! The fire mounted to his brain, and he looked eagerly for a fifth head.

It was a singular duel between invisible antagonists. Never was an entire body seen, but the crackling fire and the spurts of flame and smoke were incessant. After a while the line of fire and smoke on the prairie began to retreat slowly. The fire of the white sharpshooters had grown too hot and the Indians were creeping away, leaving their dead in the grass. Presently their fire ceased entirely and then that of the white marksmen ceased also.

No sounds came from the Mexicans, who were all out of range. In the hollow the wounded, who now numbered one-fifth of the whole, suppressed their groans, and their comrades, who bound up their hurts or gave them water, said but little. Ned's own throat had become parched again, but he would not ask for another drop of water.

The Texans had used oxen to drag their cannon and wagons, and most of them now lay dead about the rim of the shallow crater, slain by the Mexican and Indian bullets. The others had been tied to the wagons to keep them, when maddened by the firing, from trampling down the Texans themselves. Now they still shivered with fear, and pulled at their ropes. Ned felt sorry for the poor brutes. Full cause had they for fright.

The afternoon was waning, and he ate a little supper, followed by a single drink of water. Every man received a similar drink and no more from the canteens. The coming twilight brought a coolness that was refreshing, but the Indians, taking advantage of the dusk, crept forward, and began to fire again at the Texans cooped up in the crater. These red sharpshooters had the advantage of always knowing the position of their enemy, while they could shift their own as they saw fit.

The Texan marksmen, worn and weary though they were, returned to their task. They could not see the Indians, but they used an old device, often successful in border warfare. Whenever an Indian fired a spurt of smoke shot up from his rifle's muzzle. A Texan instantly pulled trigger at the base of the smoke, and oftener than not the bullet hit his dusky foe.

This new duel in the dark went on for two hours. The Indians could fire at the mass in the hollow, while the Texans steadily picked out their more difficult targets. The frightened oxen uttered terrified lowings and the Indians, now and then aiming at the sounds, killed or wounded more of the animals. The Texans themselves slew those that were wounded, unwilling to see them suffer so much.

The skill of the Texans with the rifle was so great that gradually they prevailed over the Indians a second time in the trial of sharpshooting. The warriors were driven back on the Mexican cavalry, and abandoned the combat. The night was much darker than usual, and a heavy fog, rising from the plain, added to its density and dampness. The skies were invisible, hidden by heavy masses of floating clouds and fog.

Ned saw a circle of lights spring up around them. They were the camp fires of the Mexican army, and he knew that the troops were comfortable there before the blaze. His heart filled with bitterness. He had expected so much of Fannin's men, and Crockett and Bowie before him had expected so much! Yet here they were, beleaguered as the Texans had been beleaguered in the Alamo, and there were no walls behind which they could fight. It seemed to Ned that the hand of fate itself had resolved to strike down the Texans. He knew that Urrea, one of Santa Anna's ablest and most tenacious generals, would never relax the watch for an instant. In the darkness he could hear the Mexican sentinels calling to one another: "Sentinela Alerte!"

The cold damp allayed the thirst of the young recruits, but the crater was the scene of gloom. They did not dare to light a fire, knowing it would draw the Indian bullets at once, or perhaps cannon shots. The wounded in their blankets lay on the ground. A few of the unhurt slept, but most of them sat in silence looking somberly at one another.

Fannin lay against the breech of one of the cannon, blankets having been folded between to make his position easy. His wound was severe and he was suffering greatly, but he uttered no complaint. He had not shown great skill or judgment as a leader, but he was cool and undaunted in action. Now he was calling a council to see what they could do to release themselves from their desperate case. Officers and men alike attended it freely.

"Boys," said Fannin, speaking in a firm voice despite his weakness and pain, "we are trapped here in this hole in the prairie, but if you are trapped it does not follow that you have to stay trapped. I don't seek to conceal anything from you. Our position could not well be worse. We have cannon, but we cannot use them any longer because they are choked and clogged from former firing, and we have no water to wash them out. Shortly we will not have a drop to drink. But you are brave, and you can still shoot. I know that we can break through the Mexican lines to-night and reach the Coleto, the water and the timber. Shall we do it?"

Many replied yes, but then a voice spoke out of the darkness:

"What of the wounded, Colonel? We have sixty men who can't move."

There was an instant's silence, and then a hundred voices said in the darkness:

"We'll never leave them. We'll stay here and fight again!"

Ned was standing with those nearest Fannin, and although the darkness was great his eyes had become so used to it that he could see the pale face of the leader. Fannin's eyes lighted up at the words of his men, and a little color came into his cheeks.

"You speak like brave men rather than wise men," he said, "but I cannot blame you. It is a hard thing to leave wounded comrades to a foe such as the one who faces us. If you wish to stay here, then I say stay. Do you wish it?"

"We do!" thundered scores of voices, and Fannin, moving a little to make himself easier, said simply:

"Then fortify as best you can."

They brought spades and shovels from the wagons, and began to throw up an earthwork, toiling in the almost pitchy darkness. They reinforced it with the bodies of the slain oxen, and, while they toiled, they saw the fires where the Mexican officers rested, sure that their prey could not break from the trap. The Texans worked on. At midnight they were still working, and when they rested a while there was neither food nor drink for them. Every drop of water was gone long since, and they had eaten their last food at supper. They could have neither food nor drink nor sleep.

Ned had escaped from many dangers, but it is truth that this time he felt despair. His feeling about the hand of fate striking them down became an obsession. What chance had men without an ounce of food or a drop of water to withstand a siege?

But he communicated his fears to no one. Two or three hours before day, he became so sore and weary from work with the spade that he crawled into one of the half-wrecked wagons, and tried to go to sleep. But his nerves were drawn to too high a pitch. After a quarter of an hour's vain effort he got out of the wagon and stood by the wheel. The sky was still black, and the heavy clouds of fog and vapor rolled steadily past him. It seemed to him that everything was closing on them, even the skies, and the air was so heavy that he found it hard to breathe.

He would have returned to work, but he knew that he would overtask his worn frame, and he wanted to be in condition for the battle that he believed was coming with the morrow. They had not tried to cut out at night, then they must do it by day, or die where they stood of thirst.

He sat down at last on the ground, and leaned against a wagon wheel, drawing a blanket over his shoulders for warmth. He found that he could rest better here than inside the wagon, and, in an hour or two, he dozed a little, but when he awoke the night was still very dark.

The men finished their toil at the breastwork just before day and then, laying aside their shovels and picks and taking up their rifles, they watched for the first shoot of dawn in the east. It came presently, disclosing the long lines of Mexican sentinels and behind them the army. The enemy was on watch and soon a terrible rumor, that was true, spread among the Texans. They were caught like the men of Refugio. Only three or four rounds of ammunition were left. It was bad enough to be without food and water, but without powder and bullets either they were no army. Now Ned knew that his presages were true. They were doomed.

The sun rose higher, pouring a golden light upon the plain. The distance to the Mexican lines was in appearance reduced half by the vivid light. Then Ned of the keen eye saw a dark line far off to their right on the prairie. He watched them a little, and saw that they were Mexican cavalry, coming to swell still further Urrea's swollen force. He also saw two cannon drawn by mules.

Ned pointed out the column to Wallace, a Major among the Texans, and then Wallace used a pair of glasses.

"You are right," he said. "They are Mexicans and they have two pieces of artillery. Oh, if we could only use our own guns!"

But the Texan cannon stood as worthless as if they had been spiked, and the Texans were compelled to remain silent and helpless, while the Mexicans put their new guns in position, and took aim with deliberation, as if all the time in the world was theirs. Ned tried to console himself with the reflection that Mexican gunners were not often accurate, but the first thud and puff of smoke showed that these were better than usual.

A shower of grape shot coming from a superior height swept their camp, killing two or three of the remaining oxen, smashing the wagons to pieces, and wounding more men. Another shower from the second gun struck among them with like result, and the case of the Texans grew more desperate.

They tried to reach the gunners with their rifles, but the range was too great, and, after having thrown away nearly all the ammunition that was left, they were forced to stand idly and receive the Mexican fire. The Mexicans must have divined the Texan situation, as a great cheer rose from their lines. It became evident to Ned that the shallow crater would soon be raked through and through by the Mexican artillery.

Fannin, lying upon his pallet, was already calling a council of his officers, to which anyone who chose might listen. The wounded leader was still resolute for battle, saying that they might yet cut their way through the Mexicans. But the others had no hope. They pointed to the increased numbers of the foe, and the exhausted condition of their own men, who had not now tasted food or water for many hours. If Urrea offered them good terms they must surrender.

Ned stood on one side, saying nothing, although his experience was perhaps greater than that of anybody else present. But he had seen the inevitable. Either they must yield to the Mexicans or rush boldly on the foe and die to the last man, as the defenders of the Alamo had done. Yet Fannin still opposed.

"We whipped them off yesterday, and we can do it again to-day," he said.

But he was willing to leave it to the others, and, as they agreed that there was no chance to hold out any longer, they decided to parley with the Mexicans. A white cloth was hoisted on the muzzle of a rifle. The Mexican fire ceased, and they saw officers coming forward. The sight was almost more than Ned could stand. Here was a new defeat, a new tragedy.

"I shall meet them myself," said Fannin, as he rose painfully. "You come with me. Major Wallace, but we do not speak Spanish, either of us."

His eye roved over the recruits, and caught Ned's glance.

"I have been much in Mexico," said Ned. "I speak Spanish and also several Mexican variations of it."

"Good," said Fannin, "then you come with us, and you, too, Durangue. We may need you both."

The two officers and the two interpreters walked out of the hollow, passing the barricade of earth and dead oxen that had been of no avail, and saw four Mexican officers coming toward them. A silk handkerchief about the head of one was hidden partly by a cocked hat, and Ned at once saw that it was Urrea, the younger. His heart swelled with rage and mortification. It was another grievous pang that Urrea should be there to exult.

They met about midway between the camps, and Urrea stepped forward. He gave Ned only a single glance, but it made the boy writhe inwardly. The young Mexican was now all smoothness and courtesy, although Ned was sure that the cruel Spanish strain was there, hidden under his smiling air, but ready to flame up at provocation.

"I salute you as gallant foes," said Urrea in good English, taking off his hat. "My comrades and associates here are Colonel Salas, Lieutenant Colonel Holzinger and Lieutenant Gonzales, who are sent with myself by my uncle, General Urrea, to inquire into the meaning of the white flag that you have hoisted."

Each of the Mexican officers, as his name was called, took off his hat and bowed.

"I am Colonel Fannin," began the Texan leader.

All four Mexicans instantly bowed again.

"And you are wounded," said Urrea. "It shows the valor of the Texans, when their commander himself shares their utmost dangers."

Fannin smiled rather grimly.

"There was no way to escape the dangers," he said. "Your fire was heavy."

Urrea smiled in a gratified way, and then waited politely for Fannin to continue. The leader at once began to treat with the Mexican officers. Ned, Durangue and Urrea translated, and the boy did not miss a word that was said. It was agreed that the Texans should surrender, and that they should be treated as prisoners of war in the manner of civilized nations. Prompt and special attention would be given to the wounded.

Then the Mexican officers saluted courteously and went back toward their own ranks. It had all seemed very easy, very simple, but Ned did not like this velvet smoothness, this willingness of the Mexicans to agree to the most generous terms. Fannin, however, was elated. He had won no victories, but he had saved the lives of his men.

Their own return was slow, as Fannin's wound oppressed him, but when they reached their camp, and told what had been done, the recruits began silently to stack their arms, half in gladness and half in sorrow. More Mexican officers came presently and still treated them with that same smooth and silky courtesy. Colonel Holzinger received the surrendered arms, and, as he did so, he said to Ned, who stood by:

"Well, it's liberty and home in ten days for all you gentlemen."

"I hope so," said Ned gravely, although he had no home.

The Mexican courtesy went so far that the arms of the officers were nailed up in a box, with the statement that they would be given back to them as soon as they were released.

"I am sorry that we cannot consider you an officer, Senor Fulton," said young Urrea to Ned, "then you would get back your rifle and pistols."

"You need not bother about it," said Ned. "I am willing to let them go. I dare say that when I need them I can get others."

"Then you still mean to fight against us?" said Urrea.

"If I can get an exchange, and I suppose I can."

"You are not content even yet! You saw what happened at the Alamo. You survived that by a miracle, but where are all your companions in that siege? Dead. You escaped and joined the Texans at Refugio. Where are the defenders of Refugio? In the swamps of the Guadalupe, and we have only to put forth our hands and take them. You escaped from Refugio to find Fannin and his men. Where are Fannin and his men now? Prisoners in our hands. How many of the Texans are left? There is no place in all Texas so far that the arm of the great Santa Anna cannot reach it."

Ned was stung by his taunts and replied:

"You forget Houston."

Urrea laughed.

"Houston! Houston!" he said. "He does nothing. And your so-called government does nothing, but talk. They, too, will soon feel the might and wrath of Santa Anna. Nothing can save them but a swift flight to the States."

"We shall see," said Ned, although at that moment he was far from confident. "Remember how our men died at the Alamo. The Texans cannot be conquered."

Urrea said nothing further, as if he would not exult over a fallen enemy, although Ned knew that he was swelling with triumph, and went back to his uncle's camp. The Texan arms were taken ahead on some wagons, and then the dreary procession of the Texans themselves marched out of the hollow. They were all on foot and without arms. Those hurt worst were sustained by their comrades, and, thus, they marched into the Mexican camp, where they expected food and water, but General Urrea directed them to walk on to Goliad.

Fainting from hunger and thirst, they took up their march again. The Mexican cavalry rode on either side of them, and many of the horsemen were not above uttering taunts which, fortunately, few of the prisoners could understand. Young Urrea was in command of this guard and he rode near the head of the column where Ned could see him. Now and then a Mexican vaquero cracked his long whip, and every report made Ned start and redden with anger.

Some of the recruits were cheerful, talked of being exchanged and of fighting again in the war, but the great majority marched in silence and gloom. They felt that they had wasted themselves. They had marched into a trap, which the Mexicans were able to close upon them before they could strike a single blow for Texas. Now they were herded like cattle being driven to a stable.

They reached the town of Goliad, and the Mexican women and children, rejoicing in the triumph of their men, came out to meet them, uttering many shrill cries as they chattered to one another. Ned understood them, but he was glad that the others did not. Young Urrea rode up by the side of him and said:

"Well, you and your comrades have now arrived at our good town of Goliad. You should be glad that your lives have been spared, because you are rebels and you deserve death. But great is the magnanimity of our most illustrious president and general, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna."

Ned looked up quickly. He thought he had caught a note of cruelty in that soft, measured voice. He never trusted Urrea, nor did he ever trust Santa Anna.

"I believe it is customary in civilized warfare to spare the lives of prisoners," he said.

"But rebels are rebels, and freebooters are freebooters," said Urrea.

It seemed to Ned that the young Mexican wanted to draw him into some sort of controversy, and he refused to continue. He felt that there was something sinister about Urrea, or that he represented something sinister, and he resolved to watch rather than talk. So, gazing straight ahead, he walked on in silence. Urrea, waiting for an answer, and seeing that he would get none, smiled ironically, and, turning his horse, galloped away.

The prisoners were marched through the town, and to the church. All the old Spanish or Mexican towns of Texas contained great stone churches, which were also fortresses, and Goliad was no exception. This was of limestone, vaulted and somber, and it was choked to overflowing with the prisoners, who could not get half enough air through the narrow windows. The surgeons, for lack of bandages and medicines, could not attend the wounded, who lay upon the floor.

Where were the fair Mexican promises, in accordance with which they had yielded? Many of the unwounded became so weak from hunger and thirst that they, too, were forced to lie upon the floor. Ned had reserves of strength that came to his aid. He leaned against the wall and breathed the foul air of the old church, which was breathed over and over again by nearly four hundred men.

The heavy doors were unbarred an hour later, and food and water were brought to them, but how little! There was a single drink and a quarter of a pound of meat for each man. It was but a taste after their long fast, and soon they were as hungry and thirsty as ever. It was a hideous night. There was not room for them all to sleep on the floor, and Ned dozed for a while leaning against the wall.

Food and water were brought to them in the same small quantities in the morning, but there was no word from the Mexicans concerning the promises of good treatment and parole that had been made when they surrendered.

Ned was surprised at nothing. He knew that Santa Anna dominated all Mexico, and he knew Santa Anna. Promises were nothing to him, if it served him better to break them. Fannin demanded writing materials and wrote a note to General Urrea protesting strongly against the violation of faith. But General Urrea was gone after Ward's men, who were surrounded in the marshes of the Guadalupe, leaving Colonel Portilla in command. Portilla, meanwhile, was dominated by the younger Urrea, a man of force and audacity, whom he knew to be high in the favor of Santa Anna.

Captain Urrea did not believe in showing any kindness to the men imprisoned in the church. They were rebels or filibusters. They had killed many good Mexicans, and they should be made to suffer for it. No answer was returned to Fannin's letter, and the men in the somber old limestone building became depressed and gloomy.

Ned, who was surprised at nothing, also hoped for nothing, but he sought to preserve his strength, believing that he would soon have full need of it. He stretched and tensed his muscles in order to keep the stiffness from coming into them, and he slept whenever he could.

Two or three days passed and the Mexican officer, Holzinger, came for Fannin, who was now recovered largely from his wound. The two went away to Copano on the coast to look for a vessel that would carry the prisoners to New Orleans. They returned soon, and Fannin and all his men were in high hopes.

Meanwhile a new group of prisoners were thrust into the church. They were the survivors of Ward's men, whom General Urrea had taken in the swamps of the Guadalupe. Then came another squad, eighty-two young Tennesseeans, who, reaching Texas by water, had been surrounded and captured by an overwhelming force the moment they landed. A piece of white cloth had been tied around the arms of every one of these men to distinguish them from the others.

But they were very cheerful over the news that Fannin had brought. There was much bustle among the Mexicans, and it seemed to be the bustle of preparation. The prisoners expected confidently that within another day they would be on the march to the coast and to freedom.

There was a singular scene in the old church. A boy from Kentucky had brought a flute with him which the Mexicans had permitted him to retain. Now sitting in Turkish fashion in the center of the floor he was playing: "Home, Sweet Home." Either he played well or their situation deepened to an extraordinary pitch the haunting quality of the air.

Despite every effort tears rose to Ned's eyes. Others made no attempt to hide theirs. Why should they? They were but inexperienced boys in prison, many hundreds of miles from the places where they were born.

They sang to the air of the flute, and all through the evening they sang that and other songs. They were happier than they had been in many days. Ned alone was gloomy and silent. Knowing that Santa Anna was now the fountain head of all things Mexican he could not yet trust. _

Read next: Chapter 18. The Black Tragedy

Read previous: Chapter 16. Fannin's Camp

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