A TRAGEDY AT THE PALACE
Articles by Marc Simmons
date Sept. 6, 1844, was one that Santa Fe residents would long
remember. On that day a bloody battle with the Ute Indians occurred
on the Plaza, and New Mexico's Gov. Mariano Martinez narrowly
had been in office only a few months, having been sent from Mexico
City by the central government. The 36-year-old governor was something
of an aristocrat, his parents being immigrants from Spain. Arriving
in this provincial capital, he went straight to work putting local
affairs in order. He introduced civil and military reforms and
even embarked on a municipal beautification program, planting
trees and construct-ing the first public park, La Alameda, where
the National Cemetery is today. His attractive wife, Dona Teresita,
undertook significant works of charity, providing food and clothing
for the poor.
the afternoon of Sept. 5, a delegation of six Ute chiefs with
an escort of 108 warriors arrived in the capital. They were in
an ugly mood, claiming that settlers on the Chama frontier had
recently attacked their villages. They were demanding compensation
for damages they said were done by the Chama settlers.
a large force of armed Indians in their midst caused much uneasiness
among the Santa Fe folk. Officials informed the chiefs that the
governor would receive them in the Palace on the following morning.
All night the Indians stayed up holding a dance. A resident long
afterward would say: "They kept the people in constant alarm with
their warlike songs and continual clamor until dawn."
had sent over a generous supply of mutton, bread and tobacco that
was all consumed quickly. But it seemed not to have improved the
disposition of the painted visitors. Shortly after sunup the chiefs
and several warriors headed for the Palace. Under the portal they
exchanged angry words with the guards, and as an act of disdain
they tossed into the street some gifts given them earlier by Martinez.
official report says the delegation now was invited into the governor's
office for a conference, but the citizens swore that the Utes
forced their way in. Martinez received the unruly band and tried
to calm them. The excited chiefs began to insult him and make
huge demands. These he rejected. Then the head chief approached
and began to pound him on the chest.
governor shoved him away, and all the Indians suddenly produced
tomahawks from under their blankets. When they charged him, Martinez
used his office chair in self-defense and began to yell at the
top of his lungs. His wife, Dona Teresita, heard the commotion
and rushed into the room carrying her husband's sword. After she
tossed it to him, he was able to beat back the assailants until
his orderlies arrived.
of the Utes broke through the shuttered window, providing them
an avenue of escape. Once in the Plaza they uttered piercing war
whoops that summoned the warriors still camped in the vacant lot.
By now, though, a squadron of Vera Cruz dragoons stationed adjacent
to the Palace were streaming out of their barracks to join the
fray. The historic Santa Fe Plaza suddenly became a furious battleground.
later wrote: "Various citizens joined the guards and commenced
a fight which ended in eight deaths, in spite of everything I
could do to stop this tragedy."
Utes fled down San Francisco Street and out of the city, with
50 soldiers dragging a cannon in full pursuit. It was several
days before Santa Feans calmed down enough to remove the bodies
that lay scattered downtown. Everyone, it seems, had his own story
to tell about the startling episode.
war with the Utes followed, but the brunt of it fell on the exposed
settlers in the Chama Valley, the very people who had started
the trouble in the first place. Gov. Martinez was recalled from
office in March 1845. He died on Dec. 18, 1854, at Saltillo, Mexico,
where he was serving as the governor of Coahuila.
See Marc Simmons's "Massacre on the Lordsburg Road: A Tragedy
of the Apache Wars" (Texas A&M University Press.)
Articles by Marc Simmons