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JOURNEY TO SAN SALVADOR. 41
Journey to San Salvador.—A new Companion.—San Alejo.—San Miguel.—War Alarms. — Another Countryman. — State of San Salvador. — River Lempa. — San Vicente.—Volcano of San Vicente.—Thermal Springs.—Cojutepeque.— Arrival at San Salvador. — Prejudice against Foreigners.— Contributions.— Pressgangs.—Vice-president Vigil.—Taking of San Miguel and San Vicente. —Rumours of a March upon San Salvador.—Departure from San Salvador
At five o'clock the next afternoon we set out for San Salvador. Don Manuel Romero furnished me with letters of introduction to all the Gefes Politicos, and the captain's name was inserted in my passport.
I must introduce the reader to my new friend. Captain Antonio V. F., a little over thirty, when six months out on a whaling voyage, with a leaky ship and a mutinous crew, steered across the Pacific for the Continent of America, and reached the port of La Union with seven or eight feet water in the hold and half his crew in irons. He knew nothing of Central America until necessity threw him upon its shore. While waiting the slow process of a regular condemnation and order for the sale of his ship, General Morazan, with an escort of officers, came to the port to embark his wife and family for Chili. Captain F. had become acquainted with them, and through them with their side of the politics of the country; and in the evening, while we were riding along the ridge of a high mountain, he told me that he had been offered a lieutenant-colonel's commission, and was then on his way to join Morazan in his march against Guatimala. His ship was advertised for sale, he had written an account of his misadventures to his owners and his wife, was
tired of remaining at the port, and a campaign with Morazan was the only thing that offered. He liked General Morazan, and he liked the country, and thought his wife would; if Morazan succeeded there would be vacant offices and estates without owners, and some of them worth having. He went from whaling to campaigning as coolly as a Yankee would from cutting down trees to editing a newspaper. It was no affair of mine, but I suggested that there was no honour to be gained; that he would get his full share of hard knocks, bullets, and sword-cuts; that if Morazan succeeded he would have a desperate struggle for his share of the spoils, and if Morazan failed he would certainly be shot. All this was matter he had thought on, and before committing himself he intended to make his observations at San Salvador.
At ten o'clock we reached the village of San Alejo, and stopped at a very comfortable house, where all were in a state of excitement from the report of an invasion from Honduras.
Early the next morning we started with a new guide, and a little beyond the village he pointed out a place where his uncle was murdered and robbed about a year before. Four of the robbers were caught, and sent by the alcalde, under a guard of the relations of the murdered man, to San Miguel, with directions to the guard to shoot them if refractory. The guard found them refractory at the very place where the murder had been committed, and shot them on the spot. At eight o'clock we came in sight of the Volcano of San Miguel, and at two entered the city. Riding up the street, we passed a large church with its front fallen, and saw paintings on the walls, and an altar forty feet high, with columns, and images sculptured and gilded, exposed to the open
SAN MIGUEL. 43
air. AL along the road we had heard of war, and we found the city in a state of great excitement. The troops of Honduras were marching upon it, and then only twelve leagues distant. There were no soldiers to defend it; all had been drawn off for Morazan's expedition. Many of the citizens had already fled; in fact, the town was half depopulated, and the rest were preparing to save themselves by concealment or flight. We stopped at the house of John, or Don Juan, Denning, an American from Connecticut, who had sold an armed brig to the Federal Government, and commanded her himself during the blockade of Omoa, but had married in the country, and for several years lived retired on his hacienda. His house was deserted and stripped, the furniture and valuables were hidden, and his mother-in-law, an old lady, remained in the empty tenement. Nobody thought of resistance; and the captain bought a silver-mounted sword from one of the most respectable citizens, who was converting his useless trappings into money, and who, with a little trunk in his hand containing la plata, pointed to a fine horse in the courtyard, and without a blush on his face said that was his security.
The captain had great difficulty in procuring mules; he had two enormous trunks, containing, among other things, Peruvian chains and other gold trinkets to a large amount; in fact, all he was worth. In the evening we walked to the plaza; groups of men, wrapped in their ponchas, were discussing in low tones the movements of the enemy, how far they had marched that day, how long they would require for rest, and the moment when it would be necessary to fly. We returned to the house, placed two naked wooden-bottomed bedsteads in one, and having ascertained by calculation that we were not likely to be disturbed during the night, forgot the troubles of the flying inhabitants, and slept soundly.
On account of the difficulty of procuring mules, we did not set out till ten o'clock. The climate is the hottest in Central America, and insalubrious under exposure to the sun; but we would not wait. Every moment there were new rumours of the approach of the Honduras army, and it was all important for us to keep in advance of them. I shall hasten over our hurried journey through the State of San Salvador, the richest in Central America, extending a hundred and eighty miles along the shores of the Pacific, producing tobacco, the best indigo and richest balsam in the world. We had mountains and rivers, valleys and immense ravines, and the three great volcanoes of San Miguel, San Vicente, and San Salvador, one or the other of which was almost constantly in sight. The whole surface is volcanic; for miles the road lay over beds of decomposed lava, inducing the belief that here the whole shore of the Pacific is an immense arch over subterraneous fires. From the time of the independence this state stood foremost in the maintenance of liberal principles, and throughout it exhibits an appearance of improvement, a freedom from bigotry and fanaticism, and a development of physical and moral energy not found in any other. The San Salvadoreans are the only men who speak of sustaining the integrity of the Republic as a point of national honour.
In the afternoon of the second day we came in sight of the Lempa, now a gigantic river rolling on to the Pacific. Three months before I had seen it a little stream among the mountains of Esquipulas. Here we were overtaken by Don Carlos Rivas, a leading Liberal from Honduras, flying for life before partisan sol
THERMAL SPRINGS. 45
diers of his own state. We descended to the bank of the river, and followed it through a wild forest, which had been swept by a tornado, the trees still lying as they fell. At the crossing-place the valley of the r.ver was half a mile wide; but being the dry season, on this side there was a broad beach of sand and stones. We rode to the water's edge, and shouted for the boatman on the opposite side. Other parties arrived, all fugitives, among them the wife and family of Don Carlos, and we formed a crowd upon the shore. At length the boat came, took on board sixteen mules, saddles, and luggage, and as many men, women, and children as could stow themselves away, leaving a multitude behind. We crossed in the dark, and on the opposite side found every hut and shed filled with fugitives; families in dark masses were under the trees, and men and women crawled out to congratulate friends who had put the Lempa between them and the enemy. We slept upon our luggage on the bank of the river, and before daylight were again in the saddle.
That night we slept at San Vicente, and the next morning the captain, in company with an invalid officer of Morazan's, who had been prevented by sickness from accompanying the general in his march against Guatimala, rode on with the luggage, while I, with Colonel Hoyas, made a circuit to visit El Infierno of the Volcano of San Vicente. Crossing a beautiful plain running to the base of the volcano, we left our animals at a hut, and walked some distance to a stream in a deep ravine, which we followed upward to its source, coming from the very base of the volcano. The water was warm, and had a taste of vitriol, and the banks were incrusted with white vitriol and flour of sulphur. At a distance of one or two hundred yards it formed a ba