Documents of Texas History Page: 37
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king's troops. But, as some were dead, there were but
nine of us, and, out of the nine, but one had to die. This
was to be decided by throwing dice on the head of a drum.
Whoever threw lowest, was to be executed.
It was then agreed that the oldest must throw first.
I was the youngest, and had to throw last. The first was
blindfolded, and two dice put in a glass tumbler. He was
led to the drum which was put in the room, and there
cast the dice on the head of the drum. And so we went
up, one by one, to cast the awful throw of life or death.
All of my companions, except one, threw high: he threw
four. As I was the last, all his hopes were that I should
throw lower than he. As for my part, I was indifferent
The Neutral Ground Agreement 37
about it, for I had resigned myself to fortune. I took the
glass in my hand, and gained the prize of life, for I threw
five. My poor companion, who threw four, was led away
from us, surrounded by the clergy, to be executed the
next day. This was done in the presence of many sorrow-
ful hearts that beheld it.
The rest of us were returned back to prison, without
any other notice; and we so remained three or four days,
when orders came that some of us were to be sent away,
and I was one of them. The next day the governor came
and told us that I and four of my companions were to
be sent to the South sea, to a place called Acapulco, and
that we had first to go to Mexico....
17. THE NEUTRAL GROUND AGREEMENT
October 29 and November 4, 1806
From the correspondence of General James Wilkinson to Governor Anthony [Antonio] Cordero [y
October 29, 1806, and General Symon de Herrera to General James Wilkinson, November 4, 1806
States War Department Records, W-211, WD-3, National Archives, Washington).
No agreement on a boundary between Texas and Louisiana had
been reached when Napoleon in 1803 sold Louisiana "with the same
extent that it now has in the hands of Spain, and that it had when
France possessed it" to the United States. President Thomas Jeffer-
son asserted that Texas was a part of the purchase, but Spain pro-
tested the transaction and sent troops to the border for the purpose
of maintaining her jurisdiction at least to the Arroyo Hondo, a
small stream between the Sabine River and Natchitoches marking
the eastern limit of Spanish occupation. To avoid an armed clash,
General James Wilkinson, in command of United States forces in the
West, agreed to occupy the territory no farther west than the Arroyo
Hondo, and General Sim6n de Herrera, in command of the Spanish
forces, agreed to remain west of the Sabine River, until their respec-
tive governments negotiated a permanent boundary settlement or
issued further instructions. The land between the Arroyo Hondo and
the Sabine River, sheltering lawless elements from both Spanish and
American possessions, came to be known as the Neutral Ground.
General Wilkinson's proposal to establish the Neutral Ground and
General Herrera's acceptance (written in English) follow.
1. JAMES WILKINSON TO GOVERNOR
ANTHONY [ANTONIO] CORDERO
Octr. 29th, 1806
Sir, ... In my letter to your Excellency the 24th ultimo,
. . I emphatically remarked to your Excellency, "that
the ultimate decision of the competent authority had been
taken, that my orders were absolute, and my determina-
tion first to assert and, under God, to sustain the juris-
diction of the United States to the Sabine River, against
any force which may be opposed to me." ...
Your Excellency appears to lay much stress on the
letter of the Captain General Salcedo [Don Nemecio
Salcedo, commandant-general of the Interior Provinces]
to Governor [William] Claiborne [Governor of Louis-
iana Territory], but as that letter treats generally on
subjects of civil import, and as my functions are purely
Military, it does not fall within my province to take
particular cognizance of it. I will however beg leave to
observe that His Excellency's exposition of the grounds
on which he asserts the Arroyo Honda [sic] to be the
line of provincial demarcation, carries with it an air of
much plausibility, but being diametrically opposed to the
sense of Expression of my Government, I cannot respect
it; . . .
Your Excellency is sensible to the extreme delicacy
with which a Military man may exercise his discretion,
when shackled by specific orders, yet such instances have
occurred even on the field of Battle, and must frequent-
ly become necessary, where operations are at issue a
thousand miles from the source of authority. Believing
that the controversy in which we are engaged presents
a case precisely in point, I am willing to risque the
approbations of my Government to perpetuate the tran-
quility of the inhospitable wilds, where waving the point
of Honor, the subject of our test is scarcely worth the
blood of one brave man.
Permit me then in the true spirit of conciliation to
propose to your Excellency, without yielding a Preten-
sion, ceding a right, or interfering with the discussions
which, belong to our superiours, to restore the "Status
quo" at the delivery of the Province of Lousiana [sic]
to the United States, by the withdrawal of our troops
from the points they at present occupy to the post of
Nacogdoches and Natchitoches respectively; your Ex-
cellency's assent to this proposition shall be conclusive on
my conduct, and I will commence my retrograde, on the
day you break up your Camp on the right bank of the
Sabine; under the joint stipulation that the troops of my
Command shall not cross the Arroyo Honda, so long as
those under your orders are restrained from crossing the
Sabine, or until we may receive further instruction from
our respective Governments....
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Wallace, Ernest; Vigness, David M., 1922-1979 & Ward, George B. Documents of Texas History, book, 2002; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth296840/m1/50/?q=inhospitable: accessed February 16, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.