February 17, 2021

Page 95: Tragedy in Taos


On January 21st, Colonel Price led more than 300 U.S. troops and 65 volunteers north through the snow from Santa Fé to Taos, beating back a contingent of some 1,500 Nuevomejicanos and Pueblo Indians at Santa Cruz and Embudo Pass. On February 3rd, Colonel Price marched through the city of Taos unopposed, and discovered the insurgents, who had retreated to the Taos Pueblo, taking refuge in the thick adobe walled church of San Geronimo.
While the native resisters fought mostly with bows and arrows along with a few guns, the Americans responded with cannons. Price’s cannons shot through the church walls, nearly destroying it. In the ensuing battle, about 150 rebels were killed, while another 400 were captured. Seven Americans were killed, including Captain John H. K. Burgwin, for whom Fort Burgwin was later named. The next day, the rebels surrendered. More than one hundred native men were arrested and jailed under military guard in Santa Fé and Taos.

Rebel Leaders Captured

Colonel Price had captured the two reputed leaders, Tomás Romero, a Pueblo whom he contemptuously referred to by only his first name, and Pablo Montoya, a Mexican. Romero was imprisoned, and the next day a Private Fitzgerald shot him in “ his cell before he could be brought to trial.Technically, Nuevomejicanos were still Mexican citizens, who should have been considered not traitors but prisoners of war. The Euro-American prosecutor, sought an incredible 79 indictments against Mexican and Pueblo Indian men for Bent’s murder.
An eyewitness, Lewis Hector Garrard, described the trials and events:“It certainly did appear to be a great assumption on the part of the Americans to conquer a country and then arraign the revolting inhabitants for treason. American judges sat on the bench, New Mexicans and Americans filled the jury box, and American soldiers guarded the halls. Verily, a strange mixture of violence and justice—a strange middle ground between martial and common law. After an absence of a few minutes, the jury returned with a verdict, ‘Guilty in the first degree’. Five for murder, one for treason. Treason, indeed! What did the poor devil know about his new allegiance? … I left the room, sick at heart. Justice! Out upon the word when its distorted meaning is a warrant for murdering those who defended to the last their country and their homes.”

Nearly two dozen rebels were executed by hanging, including a man named Manuel Romero.