The Mexican Campaign, 1862-1867

Period : 2nd Republic / 2nd Empire
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This timeline forms part of our close-up on: the Mexican campaign, 1862-1867.

6 July 1832: Ferdinand Maximilian, second son of Archduke Franz Karl and Princess Sophie of Bavaria, was born in Schönbrunn, Austria. Sophie was known to have been close to the Duke of Reichstadt, son of Napoleon I, and it was rumoured that Maximilian was actually the son of the duke, and not of Franz Karl.

1838 – 1839: The Franco-Mexican War, known as the Pastry War, came about because of long-standing Mexican debt and also because French citizens (and a well-known pastry chef to the presidency, hence the sobriquet) in Mexico had their businesses damaged or destroyed during a period of political instability. The Mexican government refused to compensate them for the damages. In 1837, ships under the command of rear-admiral Botherel de Labretonnière demonstrated of the coast of Veracruz, and in March 1838 a naval division – comprising six ships – arrived of the coast of Veracruz. A blockade of Veracruz and Tampico was announced. On 27 November 1838, Veracruz was bombarded. On 28 November, a convention was signed and the French flag was raised in the Veracruz garrison, with one thousand French troops authorised to be stationed there. On 30 November, the Mexican president declared war on France, and Mexican troops under General Antonio López de Santa Anna reoccupied Veracruz. On 5 December, French troops attacked the city, and captured it back, bringing an end to the war. The peace treaty was signed on 10 March 1839, which saw Mexico agree to repay France 600,000 pesos: instead of war indemnities, France received future trade commitments.

7 June 1840: Marie Charlotte Amélie Augustine Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine was born to Leopold I, King of the Belgians, and his second wife Queen Louise-Marie of Bourbon-Orléans, in the Palace of Laeken, near Brussels.

1856: Maximilian travelled in the Brazils and through South America.

1857: José Hidalgo, a young Mexican diplomat allied with the conservative Félix María Zuloaga – who would briefly assume power as an unconstitutional president – met the French empress Eugenie in France. Hidalgo’s memoirs recount how this “impromptu” meeting proved an excellent opportunity to present the sorry state of Mexican affairs and suggest the institution of a Mexican monarchy in order to save Catholicism and the Latin race on the continent. Despite Hidalgo’s suggestion that the idea to discuss the Mexican situation occurred to him spontaneously, the meeting between the two seems a little too convenient for it to be anything other than a premeditated attempt to enlist the French empress, and by extension, the French emperor, in a change of regime in Mexico.

1858 – 1861: a civil war broke out between partisans of the republican constitution (led by Benito Juárez) and its conservative opponents (led by Félix Zuloaga).

24 November 1858: A letter from the Spanish ambassador to France, Senor Mon, to Count Walewski, outlined “the necessity of establishing a strong power and government in that country [Mexico].” (Quoted in Maximilian in Mexico, Percy F. Martin, 1914, p.66)

1859: The Juárez government was recognised by USA.

24 May 1860: military intervention (by France and Spain) was suggested to Britain: Lord John Russell, the British foreign secretary, refused to agree to such a plan.

December 1860: Benito Juárez placed a moratorium on repayment of European loans for two years.

January 1861: Republican Liberals captured Mexico City. Shortly afterwards, the newly-installed liberal government dismissed Joaquin F. Pacheco, the Spanish ambassador to Mexico.

17 July 1861: With his country crippled by debt and caught up in a bloody civil war, Mexican president Juárez announced a law suspending payment plans agreed with the European powers.

Diplomatic relations suspended

25 July 1861: In reaction to the moratorium on loan repayments, Britain and France suspended diplomatic relations with Mexico.

27 July 1861: Jean Pierre Isidore Alphonse Dubois de Saligny, the French ambassador in Mexico, explained in a letter to Édouard Antoine Thouvenel, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, that he and sir Charles Wyke, the British ambassador, were agreed regarding proposed measures to answer this latest “outrage” with the seizure of Mexican ports, including Vera Cruz and Tampico, and custom houses.

13 September 1861: A formal alliance between Britain, France, and Spain against Mexico was discussed by Sir John Crampton (British ambassador to Spain) and Marshal Leopoldo O’Donnell (president of the Spanish Council of Ministers).

23 September 1861: the Spanish ambassador to London, Xavier de Isturiz, informed Lord Russell that an alliance between the three European powers would be far more successful in forcing Mexico to establish a permanent, stable government, and thereby ensuring the honouring of European loans. A united front, so argued Spain, would also serve to prevent any one nation from profiting from the Mexican situation and securing individual advantages as a result of the intervention. Britain’s motivation for involvement appears to have been supervisory, the idea being that British participation in any action would allow them to keep an eye on any attempts – French or Spanish – to interfere in domestic affairs in Mexico or simply profit from the country’s prolonged state of turmoil. Indeed, Russell even informed Crampton on 27 September 1861, that British participation would be dependent on American involvement in the alliance. Britain feared that the allied intervention would upset the United States, despite private opposition within the British government to the Monroe Doctrine (which argued that European involvement in American territories was an act of aggression against the United States).

30 September 1861: Lord Russell informed Lord Cowley, British ambassador to France, that on no account could Britain support any attempt at regime change in Mexico, even if – as Thouvenel had suggested – there was Mexican impetus to do so. Russell’s concern stemmed partly from the belief – a prescient concern that would be borne out by subsequent events – that any foreign army’s attempt to bring about a change in regime, in any form, would be met with fierce Mexican resistance.

7 October 1861: Britain dispatched a draft version of the treaty, clearly outlining Russell’s concerns. The intervention was intended purely to persuade the Mexican government to enter into discussion regarding the reinstatement of repayments, and was in no way to interfere in internal affairs.

11 October 1861: Thouvenel, after an interview with Napoleon III, informed the Spanish ambassador to Paris, Alejandro Mon, that if the Mexican population requested assistance in executing regime change – particularly in favour of a monarchy – the three European powers should lend any aid considered feasible in order to achieve this wish. This represented a clear difference of opinion between on the one hand Britain and on the other Spain and France.

19 October 1861: Napoleon III wrote to August-Charles Flahault, French ambassador to Britain, informing him that a stable government in Mexico would present a “impassable barrier” to American encroachments and that with the US tied up with the Civil War, the three European powers would be free to intervene. His sources in Mexico also informed him that there was there was a well-established political party ready to call a national assembly and proclaim a monarchy.

31 October 1861: A tripartite treaty was signed by France, UK and Spain in London. The three nations were united in their resolve to compel Mexico to honour the loans that had been contracted. The European powers also undertook to send a combined navy and army to Mexico, with the aim of seizing key military positions, and ensuring the safety of foreign residents in case of hostilities. The treaty also stipulated that no territorial gains would be sought or made, and no attempts to intervene in Mexican domestic policies would be countenanced. No precise military action however was explicitly specified.

1 November 1861: Lord John Russell, in letter to Charles Wyke, emphasised once again the importance of not becoming involved in Mexican internal affairs.

11 November 1861: Napoleon III issued instructions to vice-admiral Jurien de la Gravière to occupy Mexican ports and hold them until the issues had been resolved. Revenue from any Mexican customs houses was to be seized as repayment for the loans. The French emperor’s instructions also contained an acknowledgement that French troops might have to advance on Mexico City if necessary. In the same dispatch, De la Gravière received secret orders to encourage the monarchists in Mexico to hold an assembly calling for a monarchy and requesting assistance from the allied powers. De la Gravière was instructed to keep these orders secret from Britain for fear of jeopardising the alliance.

The expedition launched

12 – 29 November 1861: The first troops from the French contingent of the expeditionary force left France.

29 November 1861: Spanish troops, having already crossed the Atlantic, left Havana, Cuba, in direction of Veracruz.

8 December 1861: A force of 6,000 Spanish troops, lead by general Prim, anchored off Velacruz.

14 December 1861: The Spanish issued a final ultimatum, calling on the governor of Veracruz, Ignacio de la Llave, to surrender.

17 December 1861: Spanish forces occupied the city of Velacruz, contravening the tripartite treaty which declared that any action would be a joint operation.

7 January – 16 February 1862: French troops (about 2,500) from the first part of the expeditionary force arrived in Mexico, along with about 700 British troops.

9 January 1862: French troops disembarked on Mexican soil and a Franco-Spanish force occupied La Tejeria, Medellin, and San Juan de la Loma, all in the Veracruz vicinity.

12 January 1862: An ultimatum was issued by the allies, with the French demanding twelve million francs in loan repayment from the Mexican government.

25 January 1862: Juárez proclaimed a law sentencing to death any individual found to have aided or collaborated with the expedition party in any way.

28 January – 8 February 1862: The second part of the French expeditionary force left France, comprising 4000 troops commanded by General de Lorencez. These troops arrived in Mexico between 5 March and 17 April.

31 January 1862: The candidature of the Count of Flanders as king of Mexico was floated to John Russell, who confirmed that he could not consent to any such plan to create a monarchy in Mexico.

The Convention of La Soledad

19 February, 1862: The Convention of La Soledad was signed, agreed by General Prim as the allied representative. The convention recognised the Mexican Republican government, and confirmed that the allied expedition had no interest in interfering with the ruling powers in Mexico. Further talks were set for 15 April 1862 in order to discuss the debt problem.

23 February 1862: Juárez ratified the Soledad convention and talks began. Britain was represented by Sir Charles Wyke, Spain by General Prim, and France by M. Dubois and Vice-Admiral Jurien de la Gravière. Three cities inland to the west of Veracruz – Cordoba (5 March), Orizaba (7 March), and Tehuacan (12 March) – were occupied by allied troops as they were higher above sea level and therefore healthier for the European troops. An agreement was made that if negotiations failed, the stationed French troops would evacuate the Mexican cities and return to Veracruz. There was already considerable tension between the allied powers regarding the interpretation of the tripartite treaty signed in October 1861. Britain continued to maintain a non-interventionist approach, made all the more clear by the reduced British force dispatched as part of the expedition. The French representatives were however instructed to go beyond the articles outlined in the treaty, and if French satisfaction could not be achieved in agreement with the other members of the alliance, then France would pursue its own agenda independent of Britain and France. On 17 March 1862, General Prim wrote to Napoleon informing him that he could not support plans to create a monarchy in Mexico. Negotiations came to a halt, and the tripartite alliance collapsed on 9 April, with European powers unable to find common ground. Separate peace negotiations were conducted between Mexico and Spain and Britain, and the Spanish and British troops engaged in the campaign withdrew. The Spanish troops left Veracruz on 24 April, by which time Britain had already evacuated Mexico. French troops remained in Cordoba before moving out to Orizaba on 18 April, under de Lorencez.

24 March – 24 April 1862: The third part of the French expeditionary force (about 500 men) left France, arriving in Mexico between 15 May and 20 June.

Military operations take over

19 April 1862: The first military confrontation, at Fortin, took place, during which five Mexican soldiers were killed.

20 April 1862: A declaration was made by France, announcing a state of war between France and Mexico. The French army occupied Orizaba.

25 April 1862: An official letter from France criticised Jurien de la Gravière for having signed the Soledad Convention and he was removed from overall command of the expedition. General de Lorencez, then stationed in Orizaba, took over, with Dubois de Saligny receiving responsibility for diplomatic negotiations. Jurien de la Gravière remained in charge of the naval division.

27 April 1862: de Lorencez established his camp in Acultzingo, near Puebla.

28 April 1862: At the Battle of Las Cumbres, French troops attempt to advance on Puebla via Las Cumbres, but were repelled by Mexican troops holding the passage.

4 May 1862: de Lorencez arrived at the head of 5,000 men before Puebla. Lacking promised reinforcements (Saligny had promised him an extra 10,000 troops under General Marquez, but these did not arrive) and assured by his advisors that the Mexicans in the city would not put up much of a fight, de Lorencez decided to launch a quick assault, thereby catching the Mexican troops by surprise. Puebla was manned by 12,000 Mexican troops, commanded by General Zaragosa.

5 May 1862: The attack was launched, and the defence of the city proved far more hardy than expected. The French artillery failed to make the inroads hoped for, and de Lorencez was forced to call a retreat at day’s end. The French lost 476 men killed, wounded or missing, whilst two were taken prisoner. Mexican losses totalled 227 killed, missing or wounded.

9 May 1862: French troops left Orizaba and retired to Amozoc, in the hope of meeting the promised reinforcements. None arrived, and the withdrawal continued.

18 May 1862: As the troops under Marquez finally advanced on the French position to join up with the French army, they were attacked by the liberal general Tapia and about 2,000 troops. The battle is known as The Battle of Barranca Seca. Troops dispatched by the French colonel L’Hériller managed to repel Tapia’s men and the combat resulted in a Mexican defeat. 200 Mexicans were killed or wounded, against minimal French losses.

June – August 1862: The French troops under de Lorencez were stationed in Orizaba, where they were threatened by sporadic Mexican assaults. Mexican troops filled the area, making it difficult to find provisions. Yellow fever ripped through the ranks.

30 June 1862: Napoleon III, in an official communication issued through his war minister, Marshal Randon, indicated his displeasure with the action attempted on Puebla, and criticised de Lorencez for his disagreements with de Saligny. As a result, on 9 August, de Lorencez requested leave to return to France, a request that was granted. He would leave later that year, following General Forey‘s arrival in Veracruz on 24 September.

In a letter to General Forey dated 5 July 1862, Napoleon III explained the reasoning behind his desire to create an “independent” Mexico, principally as opposition to American expansion into the gulf.

August 1862: Further French forces were dispatched to Mexico, bringing the French army total to about 39,000 troops.

24 September 1862: General Forey arrived in Veracruz at the head of 9,000 men and 900 horses, and took command of the campaign.

The Battle of Puebla

16 March 1863: Once again the French set out to capture Puebla.

22 March 1863: The first key advance made during the siege of Puebla was the Battle of Cholula, which saw the French troops defeat the Mexican forces in front of them: 200 Mexican troops were killed and wounded. A week later, on 29 March 1863, the fort of San Javier was captured by French troops. As the French troops moved through the city, on 14 April 1863, the Battle of Atlixco took place, with the Mexican liberal troops forced to retreat. On 25 April 1863, French troops attacked the convent at Santa Inez, where Mexican troops were holed up, but were repulsed. On 5 May 1863, an attempt to break out through the French siege at San Pablo, led by General Comonfort, met with failure. On 8 May 1863, at the Battle of San Lorenzo, Mexican troops under General Comonfort launched a spirited attack on the French forces under Bazaine which lasted through the night and into the next day; Comonfort and his men were finally forced to withdraw, having lost 800 troops (killed and wounded), and having abandoned their baggage train. 1,100 Mexican troops were taken prisoner and the road to Puebla lay open.

17 May 1863: General Mendoza, in command of the Mexican troops defending Puebla, requested an armistice. This was agreed to, but the French commander, General Bazaine, refused to allow the Mexican troops to march out with full honours of war. Mendoza returned to Puebla, blew up the magazine, and levelled the fort.

19 May 1863: The Mexican defence force in Puebla surrendered to the French, and Bazaine marched into the town. The general was left with a huge number of prisoners, 1,000 of which (from rank and file) enrolled in the Mexican army allied to the French expeditionary force, commanded by General Marquez. The conflict was developing into a civil war again. French attention turned to the Mexican capital, Mexico City.

31 May 1863: Despite being in command of 12,000 soldiers, Juárez ordered a withdrawal from Mexico City (only 130km from Puebla), and fell back on San Luis Potosí in order to continue the war against the French-Mexican forces.

The Proclamation of Empire

By 4 June 1863, French troops were at the gates of Mexico City.

10 June 1863: French troops, under General Bazaine, entered the city in triumph and a new imperialist government was proclaimed.

10 July 1863: The “Proclamation of Empire” was issued, and the new government was given the title of “Regency of the Empire”. With the French presence installed in Mexico City and overseeing proceedings, Maximilian was offered the imperial throne and the Regency government subsequently nominated a commission charged with leaving for Europe in order to present the offer to the Austrian prince.

11 August 1863: The port of Tampico, the next important after Veracruz, was occupied by French forces. Over half of the French garrison stationed there died from yellow fever and the port was eventually abandoned.

15 August 1863: Four members of the regency commission set sail from Veracruz for Europe. The remaining members set sail on 16 August from San Nazario. They arrived in Trieste in October of that year. Juárez’s government remained in Mexico, installed in San Luis Potosí. The United States refused to recognise the regency government. The Regency government quickly found obtaining finance difficult and there was a general reluctance displayed by Mexican subjects to pay taxes to a foreign-backed authorities. Juárez received financial backing from USA, and discussions were underway to secure a $50,000,000 bank loan from the United States, in exchange for Lower California.

1 October 1863: General Forey was recalled to France, handing over command of the French army in Mexico to General Bazaine.

3 October 1863: The Mexican delegation, arrived in Trieste, offered Maximilian the Mexican throne.

The French push through Mexico

24 October 1863: General Forey set sail from Vera Cruz.

19 November 1863: As part of French attempts to seize Republican strongholds, Queretaro (just over 200km north-west of Mexico City) was occupied. On 24 November, General de Castagny captured Acámbaro, south-west of Queretaro.

30 November 1863: General Berthier, at the head of a French force, captured Morélia, capital city of Michoacán state, in central Mexico.

8 December 1863: Bazaine captured the mining town of Guanajuato. This area was a rich mining district with extremely productive silver mines.

17 December 1863: A fierce battle took place near Piedra-Gorda between General Uruaga – leading the Mexican liberal force – and General Marquez. Marquez was wounded, and the battle is notable for the absence of French troops. It was the first battle to pitch Mexican troops against one another. Marquez, despite his wound, succeeded in driving back Uruaga.

20 December 1863: As the French-imperial troops pushed northwards, Juárez and his Republican government abandoned San Luis Potosí – now just a couple of hundred kilometres to the north of Guanajuato – and withdrew to Saltillo, 428km north, near Monterrey.

27 December 1863: the town of San Luis Potosí, which had shortly before been abandoned, was taken by imperial troops under General Méjía. A few days later, General Negrete – who had abandoned the city with Juárez but had by now been reinforced – launched an attack on San Luis Potosí but was repelled.

5 January 1864: Guadalajara, the capital city of the state of Jalísco, fell to Bazaine. By this point, the imperial forces had captured eight of Mexico’s principal cities (Queretaro, Morélia, Guanajuato, Leon, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosí, and Guadalajara). The northern and southern states of Mexico still remained to be conquered.

10 – 11 January 1864: Acapulco was bombarded by a French naval squadron.
The months of February and March, 1864, were marked by minor combats, Mexican guerrilla warfare, and disease, which caused the French army great discomfort.

10 April 1864: The Convention of Miramar (external link) was signed between France and Mexico, outlining a reduction in French troop presence and a gradual evacuation. Mexico’s commitment to financially supporting the French troops still stationed there amounted to millions of francs, plunging the country deeper into debt.

14 April 1864: Having accepted the offer of the Mexican throne, Maximilian left Castello di Miramar, his stately home near Trieste.

17 May 1864: Liberal forces were defeated at Matehuala.

Maximilian arrives in Mexico

28 May 1864: Maximilian and Charlotte arrived off Veracruz, weighing anchor at 2pm.

29 May 1864: At 5am, Maximilian and Charlotte disembarked and arrived in Veracruz. The couple proceeded on to Cordoba, arriving just before midnight.

30 May 1864: The imperial couple arrived in Orizaba, before reaching Santa Maria de Guadeloupe, on the outskirts of Mexico City, on 7 June.

12 June 1864: The imperial couple acceded to the imperial throne of Mexico.

1 August 1864: As French forces swept westwards towards Ayutla (on the west coast) and the Pacific, combat took place at Candelaria between French troops under Colonel Tourre and Republican forces under General Ugalde. The French soldiers, although superior in number to the Liberals, were caught in the defile of Candelaria, and were forced to desperately fight its way out, surrounded on all sides and in extreme heat. The battle can be considered a French success, in that they managed to extricate themselves from an extremely difficult and dangerous position.

5 November 1864: General Bazaine was named maréchal d’empire.

14 December 1864: With French troops beginning to get stretched across the wide expanses of Mexican territory, Acapulco, an important port on the west coast of Mexico which had been occupied since June 1864, was abandoned by the French forces holding it. The ports of Mazatlán and Manzanillo were also abandoned.

1 January 1865: The Imperial Order of the Mexican Eagle was created by Maximilian, with the reigning emperor instituted as the head of the order.

29 March 1865: A grand dinner was held to celebrate Bazaine’s elevation to maréchal.

April 1865: The French forces under Maréchal Bazaine numbered about 64,000 men, which included Mexican troops and 7,000-odd Austrian and Belgian volunteers.

14 April 1865: The Battle of Tacambaro, fought between the Belgian brigade of French troops (supported by Mexican troops) and Liberal forces, resulted in a Belgian victory. In May 1865, Bazaine began a new campaign to drive Juárez, who was by now installed on the Mexican-American border, out of Mexico. In August 1865, Juárez was based in El Paso del Norte, today known as Ciudad Juárez. The Republican government’s proximity to the United States meant any French action would be difficult, and Bazaine was reluctant to venture too far north.

The “Black decree” and the end

3 October 1865: Maximilian announced the Black Decree, ordering the execution any Mexicans who bore arms against the imperial regime and refused to surrender. Decidedly dishonourable in military terms, the decree soured relations with the French forces and intensified the struggle between Liberals and Imperials.

21 October 1865: Following a Liberal defeat on 13 October, the Liberal officers General Arteaga and General Salazar – taken prisoner by Colonel Mendez (an imperial officer) – were executed in accordance with the Black Decree.

January 1866: Napoleon III, who – like the French public – was growing weary of the Mexican campaign, announced his decision to begin the French withdrawal, with the first batch of troops set to leave in November 1866, the second in March 1867, and the third in November 1867.

At the beginning of the year, the imperial army (native Mexican troops with Austrian and Belgian volunteers) comprised over 43,500 men and 12,400 horses.

31 January 1866: French troops abandoned Chihuahua, leaving a small Mexican garrison that was soon defeated (on 25 March) by advancing Liberal troops.

1 March 1866: an entire Franco-Mexican column under General de Brian was destroyed at Santa Isabel.

23 June 1866: Imperial troops under the command of General Méjia were forced to surrender at Matamoras.

26 July 1866: Monterey was abandoned by imperial troops.

5 August 1866: Saltillo was also abandoned by imperial troops.

8 August 1866: French troops under Colonel du Preil defeated liberal troops at Noria de Custodio.

9 July 1866: Charlotte left Mexico City for Europe.

10 August 1866: Charlotte arrived in Saint Nazaire, and proceeded directly to Paris, intent on persuading Napoleon III to announce a clear policy regarding Mexico.

19 August 1866: After attempts to avoid any contact with Charlotte, Napoleon III accorded the Mexican empress an interview. In the meeting, Charlotte urged Napoleon III to offer financial assistance to her husband. The French emperor and his advisors refused, informing Charlotte that the French withdrawal would not be slowed or reversed. The interview finished with Charlotte angrily denouncing Napoleon, declaring “What after all, should I, a daughter of a Bourbon, have expected from the word of a Bonaparte!”

27 September 1866: Charlotte, now in Rome, obtained an interview with the pope, Pius IX. Although well received by Pius, Charlotte was unsuccessful in securing any support for her husband.

30 September 1866: A distraught, hysterical Charlotte pleaded with the pope in an impromptu private meeting, to no avail. The disappointment experienced on the European trip, coupled with her concern for her husband, brought about a breakdown. Transported to the imperial home of Miramare, near Trieste, on 9 October, she would never return to Mexico.

3 October 1866: A battle took place at Miahuatlán, during which General Porfirio Diaz – in command of 1,200 men – defeated French and imperial troops commanded by General Carlos Oronoz.

5 October 1866: Liberal troops besieged Oaxaca City, Diaz’s native town. The city eventually fell on 30 October.

18 October 1866: The Battle of La Carbonera saw General Porfirio Diaz briefly abandon his siege of Oaxaca City to defeat a relieving imperial army, taking 500 Austrian prisoners in the process. The victory opened the route to Mexico City and Puebla.

11 January 1867: Maximilian called a conference, attended by Bazaine, during which the question of abdicating was debated. Maximilian was assured that the Mexican imperial army could carry on the fight after the French withdrawal, despite Bazaine’s words to the contrary.

5 February 1867: Bazaine took command of the remaining French troops in Mexico City.

19 February 1867: Maximilian, far from abdicating his throne, arrived in Queretaro to take command of the imperial forces.

1 March 1867: The final French troops reached Veracruz. On 11 March, the last transport ship departed Veracruz.

5 March 1867: The Liberal army, under the command of General Mariano Escobedo, arrived into view before Queretaro. The siege of the city began.

6 May 1867: Bazaine arrived in Toulon.

By 11 May 1867, provisions in Queretaro were almost exhausted.

15 May 1867: Liberal troops gained entry to Queretaro. Maximilian had been betrayed by Colonel Lopez, who opened the gate he was guarding at La Cruz and stood aside as Liberal troop poured through. Maximilian was subsequently taken prisoner, with General Méjia and General Miramón.

13 June 1867: A short military trial was convened and Maximilian was sentenced to death.

19 June 1867: Maximilian was executed with generals Miramón and Méjia. The Mexican emperor, who refused a blindfold, handed over a gold coin – a Maximilian d’or – to each member of the firing squad, and told them, “Muchachos, aim well, and aim right here,” indicating his heart. His final words were recorded as:

“Mexicans! persons of my rank and origin are destined by God either to be benefactors of the people or martyrs. Called by a great part of you, I came for the good of the country. Ambition did not bring me here: I came with the best of intentions and sincerest wishes for the future of my adopted country and for that of my soldiers, whom I thank before my death for the sacrifices which they have made for me. Mexicans! may my blood be the last which shall be spilled for the welfare of the country ; and if it should be necessary that its sons should still shed theirs, may it flow for its good, never by treason. Long live Independence; long live Mexico!”

12 November 1867: Maximilian’s body was handed over to Admiral von Tegethoff, the Austrian naval officer who had arrived in Mexico in 25 August to request the release of the executed emperor’s remains. The embalmed body was laid to rest in the Capuchin Chapel in Vienna, Austria.

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