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Plot To Bring Cuba Into the United States to Support Slavery


Excerpt From:

Frank Yerby: A Victim’s Guilt

Revised/Abridged Edition


Episode Three: The Invasion Of Cuba



Excerpt From:

Frank Yerby: A Victim’s Guilt

Revised/Abridged Edition



Monmouth Plantation boasted the Grecian architectural style that excites Mississippi’s planters.Tall and white columned, Monmouth manor is the gentility and order known as the ‘Southern way of life.’ Here is found beauty, chivalry and racial purity, the ideals prized by Monmouth’s owner, former Mississippi governor, John A. Quitman.  Though Quitman’s grandfather was the governor of Curacoa, the home of the oldest Sephardic Jewish community in the western hemisphere, Monmouth is meant to showcase ‘arian’ pride and racial arrogance.

Monmouth’s manor house is exquisitely appointed. Delicate glass panels emblazoned with the great  symbol of ‘G’ bordered by compass and square set off the great oaken doors leading into Monmouth’s manor house. The ubiquitous masonic symbols are also etched into the doors’ silver knobs and gold fittings. Gleaming mirrors with gold-leaf frames above marble mantelpieces adorn every room. Crystal chandeliers and bronze lamps with glass-blown globes that illuminate Monmouth’s interior also display the cherished symbols of the masonic order. The hardwood floors are covered with gay Brussels carpeting and the walls lined with hand-blocked wallpaper. Windows with gold cornices are covered by exquisitely hand-knitted lace curtains and heavily brocaded draperies. All the rooms are elaborately furnished with carved and richly upholstered chairs and sofas. In the bedrooms, great canopied double posters covered with silk sheets, satin comforters and down pillows,  are complimented by scented rosewood chests, great hand carved wardrobes and porcelain chamber pots. Silver plate gleam from the sideboards and delicate china and crystal grace the banquet tables. Throughout the manor house are bronzes, marble sculptures and old world paintings themed to connect European culture and arian supremacy to the medoeval guilds whose antecedents can be traced back to the builders of Solomon’s Temple.

 

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Monmouth’s thousands of acres boast fields of corn, oats, barley and, of course, cotten laying in neatly arranged rows on acre size plots. On  the plantation’s wetlands grows a hardy rice crop. Pastures feed herds of sheep, goats and cattle while pens burst with pigs and chickens. A cluster of stables houses the pride of Monmouth plantation, magnificent racing thoroughbreds, great horses for drawing coaches and wagons, plow and field horses and ordinary saddle horses. But the most valuable resource Monmouth possesses are the thousands of African slaves bound to the plantation by iron manacles, physical intimidation and legal sanctions. And it is to the continuation and expansion of the slave empire that his forbearers founded on the island of Curacoa centuries earlier that John Quitman dedicates all his energies. Assisting Quitman in his life long mission is freemasonry,  the world’s most powerful secret society. Not only is John Quitman the grand master of all masons in Mississippi, he is the grand sovereign over the southwest masonic lodges, the grand inspector general of the 33rd Degree Ritual for the Southern Masonic Division and the founder and charter member of the Supreme Masonic Council for the United States. In order to defend himself and his followers against the growing opposition to the expansion of his slaveholding empire, John Quitman becomes the pre-eminent  member of the Council of Thirteen, the governing body of the ultra-secret Knights of the Golden Circle which recruits and drills the thousands of soldiers who will ultimately become the backbone of the Confederate army that almost split the union in twain. After their ignominious defeat in the Civil War, the Knights of the Golden Circle metamorphoses into the Ku Klux Klan, the ‘Council of Thirteen’ institutionalizes itself as the American Legion and KGC and Klansman, Albert Pike, protects the society of freemasons inabling it to pursue its goal of establishing a worldwide plutocratic society.

 

 

 

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Today John Quitman sits in his study, busily dictating a mountain of correspondence to his secretary. Once in awhile he pauses to briefly look out the window at his lovely garden before continuing his work. A recent federal indictment had forced Quitman to resign as Mississippi’s governor. President Zachary Taylor personally ordered Quitman’s indictment because the Mississippi governor provided federal arms and munitions in support of an earlier Cuban invasion.  “I’m going to hang every secessionist that I find,” the President Taylor had vowed, “starting with Quitman.” But shortly after ordering Quitman’s indictment, President  Zachary Taylor dies mysteriously. Some believe Quitman, himself, had Taylor poisoned. Whatever the case, Quitman’s indictment is dismissed and all the leading pro-slavery politicians turn to him for leadership. Now Quitman’s correspondence has become massive. Each day the number of letters requiring his attention grows larger. But Quitman is tireless. He spends hours reading correspondence from all over the country and dictating responses. On this day,

 

 

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Mississippi’s former governor is interrupted by a knock at his study door and he welcomes the interruption.

“Yes!” Quitman booms out imperiously.

In shuffles an old black slave dressed in livery styled after a gentlemen’s wardrobe of the previous century including white silk stockings, brocaded sky blue frock coat and a powdered white wig. A lifetime of humiliating service had bent the old servant’s body into a permanent stoop.

 “The Honorable Caleb Cushing,” the black servant announces.

A distinguished looking gentleman pushes past the black servant and enters Quitman’s study. The former governor rises up from his desk to greet his guest warmly.

“Caleb, my dear sir,” Quitman says expansively as he seizes his visitor’s proffered hand to give the secret shake known only to his society’s most elite inner circle. Caleb Cushing is a Northerner, born in Massachusetts, a graduate of Harvard and  a member of Boston’s elite social class known as the Brahmins. Unlike Quitman, Cushing is not a soldier, but a government diplomat who amassed his wealth, as did many Boston Brahmins, by financing the slave and opium trade.

 

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 “Governor, I heard the great news that the Lopez expedition left for Cuba several days ago?” Cushing speaks with the distinctive Boston twang that sounds like a cross between an Irish brogue and an English whine. “I salute you, sir, and offer my heartiest congratulations.”

“That is mighty white of you, Caleb,” Quitman replies cordially, “coming all this way and leaving your duties as a representative of the Massachusetts legislature.”

“Nonsense!” Cushing replies with a  conspiratorial smile. “Few men in the country or even the entire world could have pulled off the Lopez expedition as deftly and as satisfactorily as you, Most Worshipful Grand Master.”

Quitman is appreciative of the effusive praise, but what counts most is Cushing’s personal loyalty. Few northern slave and drug traffickers are as trustworthy as this greedy little man. Of course, their common lodge membership helps, but loyalty in the face of religious and cultural differences among traffikers in human misery is rare. Northern slave and drug dealers are notorious for their use of treachery, deceit and ruthlessness to amass their fortunes. Caleb Cushing is exceptional. His loyalty to the solemn oaths of their secret order has been proven on many occasions. For this Quitman is grateful. “Shall we adjourn to other matters,” Quitman asks his guest with a twinkle in his eye.

“Of course,” Cushing replies.

Quitman dismisses his secretary. Then tugging at an inconspicuous cord, he summons the butler. “Bring me my usual, Scipio,” Quitman says when the black slave shuffles in, “and, I believe, a whiskey for Mister Cushing.That is correct, isn’t it, Caleb?”

“Whiskey would be fine,” Cushing responds heartily. “Whiskey clears the dust from a traveler’s throat!”

The two men chuckle. Quitman and Cushing look forward to enjoying each other’s company in a leisurely Southern manner.

“You are most kind, sir, most kind, indeed.” Cushing toasts his host with the first of several alcoholic beverages. “For that reason, sir, I am proud to call you my most wor-

shipful grand master.” They exchange the secret signs and traditional greetings with jovial cordiality.



“I appreciate your kind words and faithful support, Caleb,” Quitman tells his lodge brother. “It is often very lonely for those of us entrusted with sacred duty. The need for secrecy, even from our own, makes it hard for those of us charged to bring order out of chaos.”

As each man settles back into a great overstuffed chair and sips his drink in an atmosphere of contented comradeship, they continue to observe the ritual toasts and awesome pledges that are meant to solidify loyalty within their order.

“It is simply amazing,” Cushing says after awhile,“that you used that pompous Spanish peacock to accomplished so much for our cause.”

“We, my good friend … we!” Quitman reminds Cushing. “Had you not brought General Narciso Lopez to me in the first place, none of it would have happened.”

“You’re right, most worshipful master,” Caleb says. The chubby little man lets out a giggle. “But I almost slipped up on this one,” he admits. “At first I couldn’t understand what he was talking about. Narciso’s English was intolerable.”

“But you understood enough Spanish to hear one million dollars,” quipped Quitman.

 

A V I C T I M ’S G U I L T 1 7 1

 

“I believe if it looks like a turkey and says ‘gobble, gobble,’ it must be Thanksgiving dinner,” Cushing shoots back gleefully.

“But even so,” Quitman says, “you are to be congratulated.”

“It was only after our Cuban brothers got Lopez’s friend, Cirilo Villaverde, out of prison and up here to the United States that I began to appreciate the opportunity that had fallen into our laps.” Cushing sips at his whiskey with a smile. It’s good to have the respect of the Supreme Grand Master, he thinks to himself, even if he is a Jew. “After hearing what the Americans did during the Mexican War, Lopez was convinced that the Americans would have no trouble in Cuba,” Cushing commented. “‘Cuba is not even a quarter of Mexico’s size,’ Lopez told me. ‘Five thousand Americans should have no problem ousting the Spanish from Cuba’.” Narciso Lopez promised to pay Cushing one million dollars to raise an American army. And Cushing, realizing that he had been given a once in a lifetime opportunity, took full advantage of it. Now settled back in his overstuffed armchair, the Boston Brahmin enjoyed reminiscing with the Supreme Grand Master. Suddenly the idea of a free Cuba seemed funny. Maybe it was the whiskey or the long drive or the hot weather, but all of a sudden, Caleb Cushing just couldn’t stop laughing.

“A free Cuba, ha, ha,” Cushing cried with mirth, “Lopez is as interested in freeing Cuba as I’m interested in freeing darkies.”

With that Quitman joined in the laughter. “Actually the darkies are free,” chuckles the master of Monmouth, “its expensive to get them to do anything.” With that the two men explode in laughter. They grabbed their sides and tears rolled down their cheeks. After they regain their composure, the men refill their glasses. “Those Cubans who are paying us,” Quitman asks, “what did you call them?”

Hacendados?”

“Right, hacendados ,”Quitman says barely able to control himself.” Those hacendados sent us Ambrosio.”

 

 

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“Ambrosio Jose Gonzales …” Cushing pronounces the name with mock dignity.

“And Ambrosio Jose Gonzales offered us three million dollars not to have Americans come down and invade their island,” Quitman recalls. The fact that Narciso Lopez offered them a million dollars to send 5,000 mercenaries to Cuba and Gonzales offered them three million dollars not to send them, strikes the two men as funny. And once the pair are struck with another fit of laughing. They laugh until tears stream down their cheeks. Even when their laughter subsides, when they look at each other, their laughing fits begin again. Finally Cushing says,“The hacendados gave us three million dollars to do nothing, ” Quitman settles down.

“Yes, but that Lopez only paid us three hundred and fifty thousand dollars,” Quitman reminds him. “The bastard cheated us.” This thought also sobers Cushing. He hated to lose anything, especially money. Also if it bothered the Grand Master, it bothered him. “It’s not as if we didn’t have expenses,” Quitman observes. “We had to put on a good show and that wasn’t free. We had to do a lot of recruiting and then there was the matter of securing weapons and ammunition.”

“And newspaper articles that needed to be run, especially in those northern papers,”

Cushing adds. “But I’m afraid you’ll not be receiving any more money from our friend, General Narciso Lopez.”

“You’re right,” Quitman agrees. “He ’s going to be quite busy once he arrives in Cuba.”

“I still say that it was the finest piece of bamboozling this old boy ever did see,” Cushing proclaims. And the laughing begins once again.

 

A V I C T I M ’S G U I L T 1 7 3

 

Quitman and Cushing had planned the campaign well. Contacts in the national and international press did their work.The Knights of the Golden Circle organized demonstrations in several major cities both North and South. ‘Good old boys ’from Kentucky went across the county creating the illusion that recruits from across America were marshalling for a Cuban invasion. Alarmed the U.S. Secretary of State sent a wire to the Spanish Minister reassuring him that America “…wholly condemned any planned Cuban invasion and would earnestly do everything possible to defeat these plans.” The next day the Spanish Minister chartered a schooner and personally delivered

intelligence to Cuba’s Captain-General, Jose Guiterrez de la Concha on General Narciso Lopez’s invasion.

“Still, it’s a shame that we have to lose so many fine boys,” Cushing reflects.

“Yes, but they’re casualties of war,” Quitman observes. “Some of them had to go over to Cuba with Lopez. We had to make it look good. Besides we didn’t send many, just enough. Some were boys from the docks in New Orleans. None of those boys had any

 

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real fighting experience, so we didn’t lose many fighting people. Only about three hundred.”

“I understand John Crittenden’s nephew, William,  joined Lopez,” Cushing says

“Yes, he did! Yes, he did!” Quitman repeats to himself absentmindedly. “That boy will be sorely missed.”

“He surely will.”

The governor thinks about Billy Crittenden and then about Lucy Holcomb, the Texas beauty who announced her engagement to young Crittenden right here at Monmouth Plantation, some months ago. How Lucy Holcombe adored Billy Crittenden. But another of Quitman’s guests, the fifty-year-old Francis W. Pickens, an arch-secessionist and governor of South Carolina, was smitten by the nineteen year old Texas beauty. Pickens even accompanied Lucy Holcombe and her mother all the way back to Texas. Destined to lead South Carolina out of the Union and inaugurate America’s Civil War, Pickens was an important leader in the Southern seccessionist  movement as well as a powerful Quitman ally. But while Billy Crittenden lived, Francis W. Pickens had absolutely no chance with Lucy Holcombe. So John Quitman, always alert to take advantage of an opportunity, won the gratitude of his South Carolina ally by eliminating Pickens’ rival for Lucy Holcombe’s affections. It was Quitman who sent Billy Crittenden to Cuba with Narciso Lopez’s expedition. And afterwards, when Lucy Holcombe of Texas became Mrs. Lucy Pickens, wife of the governor of South Carolina, no one ever suspected that the Grand Master of masonry’s highest orders was guilty of the basest of treachery.

“I’m gonna make sure that that young man will never be forgotten,” Quitman vows solemnly. “People need to know the sacrifice that fine boy made for our cause.”

“Well, at least we saved Teddy O ’Hara,” Cushing observes.

“Now that is a fighting man and we’re gonna need all the fighting men we can get before long,” Quitman says.

“I’ll drink to that,” toasts Cushing.

After a silent spell, Quitman says,“We also got that young upstart, Ross Pary, on the boat.”

“Pary?” Cushing asks as much to himself as to Quitman. “I don’t believe I recall a Ross Pary.”

“No matter,” Quitman drawls, “he wasn’t much of a fighting man.”

 

 

 

A V I C T I M ’S G U I L T 1 7 5

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

P

edro! Wake up! Wake up!” Tolomeo bursts into the bohio where Pedro and Carlota sleep.“The americanos have landed!”

Clearing the sleep from his eyes, Pedro rolls out of his hammock and focuses on what his uncle is telling him.“Yes, the americanos are here!”Tolomeo shouts.

“Where are they, Uncle Tolomeo?” Pedro asks. “Who told you?”

“The hacendados sent a messenger. The americanos landed in Bahia Honda two days ago,” the Babaluaye says.

“But uncle,” Pedro asks, “how can that be? Bahia Honda is the home of the Spanish fleet.”

“I know, I know,” Tolomeo says shaking his head.

“Did you question the messenger?” Carlota asked with a yawn.

“Yes,” Tolomeo responds. “I asked him several times. He only repeated what he was told. ‘The americanos have landed at Bahia Honda’.”

“It’s just not possible,” Pedro exclaims.“They were to meet us in Puerto Principe, three hundred miles east of Havana where all of our Lukumi brothers can meet them in safety. The americanos have landed west of Havana in the middle of the whole Spanish fleet.”

“I do not believe the americanos landed in Bahia Honda,” Tolomeo says, “but they might have landed at Morrillo; it’s close by.”

 

 

 

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“It’s close by,” Pedro agrees, “but isn’t it further west? We can’t help them out there. That’s on the far western end of Cuba. There ’s nobody there.”

Yerby joins them. “Since they have chosen to attack Havana and the entire Spanish navy, maybe these Americans have enough men and ships to attack Cuba and don’t need the Lukumi,” he reasons.

“Not need the Lukumi!” Pedro shouts. “The Lukumi will lead the rebellion. I will lead the Lukumi and we will free all the slaves. Let us sound the drums, now!”

“Bahia Honda!” Tolomeo mutters. “We’ve been expecting them east of Havana. Why would these crazy americanos land in Bahia Honda, west of Havana?” The Babaluaye thinks for awhile. Finally he announces, “No matter where they are, we’ve got to find them.”

“What about the drums?” Pedro asks his uncle. “Shall I sound them?”

Pedro loves the drums. It was through the drums that he talked to his people. No one, not even the Babaluaye Tolomeo, himself, has as much power over his Lukumi as Pedro and his drums.

 

 

A V I C T I M ’S G U I L T 1 7 7

 

 “I don’t think the drums should sound until we know where the americanos actually are,” Tolomeo decides. Yerby breathes a sigh of relief. The last thing Yerby wants to see is a general insurrection and a massacre of these ill-equipped, poorly led and wholly ignorant Lukumi. Perhaps Yerby’s mission in Cuba is to prevent this senseless slaughter planned by evil men. Pedro frowns in disappointment, but does not comment.

“We can sail around to Bahia Honda,” Tolomeo says. “Once we contact them, we can offer our assistance.”

 “Then let’s hurry, we must be off,” Pedro replies eagerly. Joining us, Señor

Yerby?”

“Of course,”Yerby replies. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

“When we find these crazy americanos, I will beat the drums for the Lukumi and lead them to victory over the Spanish.”

 

Carlota has been listening. Fear rises in her throat. She cannot breathe. Even under normal circumstances, Carlota never wants to leave Pedro’s side. With the rebellion beginning and the americanos losing their way, Carlota fears she will never see Pedro, again. The thought of losing him is unbearable. So as Tolomeo, Pedro and Yerby prepare to sail out into the Caribbean in search of the americanos, Carlota makes her own plans.

 

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She attempts to board the boat, but Pedro has other ideas. “No, no, no! Dear one!” Pedro smiles. “This is not the trip for you, or for my son.You should know better. Now be off before I ask Tolomeo to cast a spell and lock you in a ceiba tree until we return.”

“You would not lock me in a ceiba tree,” Carlota replies, defiantly. But she is not brave enough to test the Babaluaye’s curse. Reluctantly, Carlota does as she is told. Picking up her things, she makes a great pretense at withdrawing to her bohio while Tolomeo, Pedro and Yerby pull the fishing boat out of its dock and down the channel into the Caribbean. Once they are out to sea, Carlota is forgotten. They sail due west towards Bahia Hondo hoping to rendezvous with the americanos. From Guanabacoa to Bahia Honda is barely 60 miles. But in between, they pass by the entire Spanish fleet. Several Spanish warships train their cannon on Tolomeo’s fishing boat. Even Castillo del Morro, the fortress guarding the entrance to the Havana harbor, opens its gun ports and rolls out its long-range cannon. The fort’s cannon could have sunk Tolomeo ’s fishing boat with a single salvo. But neither the fortress nor any Spanish ship fires upon the harmless looking fishing boat.The Spaniards have bigger quarry in mind. Tolomeo and his companions continue sailing westward. And the further west they sail, the more Spanish warships they encounter. “Truly the americanos must have sent a mighty force,” Pedro says, awestruck by the size of the Spanish fleet.

 

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Tolomeo had guessed right. The Pampero landed the pitifully small American army at Morrillo ten miles west of Bahia Honda. Narciso Lopez left Billy Crittenden with the supplies of food, weapons and ammunition unloaded from the Pampero and left on the beach. Guarding the supplies were Crittenden’s New Orleans wharf rats. General Lopez marched his main force into the Cuban interior to find the blacks he expected to support his men and transport their supplies. Against General Lopez’s 450 invaders, de la Concha mobilized his entire army of 8,000 regular soldiers, dragoons and artillery supported by an armada of ships. Seven hundred and fifty Spanish marines from the warship Pizarro, choke off Narciso Lopez from his supplies and attack the wharf rats on the beach. Half are killed in the attack; the remainder, including Billy Crittenden, are captured and marched the fifty miles to Havana and imprisoned in the fort of Castillo del Morro.

 

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Days after the slaughter, Tolomeo lands his fishing boat at Morrillo. Death and destruction are everywhere. The corpses of dead Americans sprawl about in a grotesque tableau, their sightless eyes staring about in terror. Many of the corpses lay with hands and arms extended outwards as if trying to ward off a final bayonet thrust or a killing musket shot. Burned out crates and charred rubble are all that remain of the Americans’ supplies. Tolomeo and Pedro are nauseated by the pungent odor of gunpowder and human flesh. The Negroes climb over the sides of their fishing boat and wade to shore. But even before they are able to think about their next move, Spanish marines surround them, muskets at the ready and bayonets fixed.

“What is your business here?” an officious looking sergeant barks at them.

“We are but poor fishermen, señor,” Tolomeo replies in a pleading tone. “We just pulled into this place for the evening. Tomorrow we go out to catch the mackerel.”

“You don’t look like fishermen to me,” the sergeant says, eyeing Frank Yerby suspiciously. “Where are you from?”

“Guanabacoa, señor,” Tolomeo replies.“We come here to fish because, as the captain surely knows, the mackerel do not swim on the other side of Havana.” Tolomeo takes off his tattered straw hat.

“You look like rebels,” the sergeant says, “I’d better take you to my captain, he’ll know what to do with you.”

Suddenly there is a stirring from the boat. Another figure jumps over the side and splashes over to where the soldiers detain Pedro, Tolomeo and Yerby.“No, no, señor,” Carlota pleads.“Do not take them. They only came here to Morrillo for me. I needed a rest from the sea.” Carlota looks up at Pedro with a mischievous smile, “You see, I am with child.”

Pedro can barely control his anger. Will this woman ever do as she is told? he asks himself, but he already knows the answer.

 

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The Spaniard stares first at Carlota and then at Pedro. He is still suspicious. Pedro has no choice; he must follow Carlota’s lead. “Yes,” Pedro says, “my woman gets sick when she is at sea too long.” And giving Carlota an angry glare, he continues, “And, as you can see, she is too stubborn to remain home as she has been told.” Pedro’s look was meant

to wilt Carlota. But she returns his angry look with a smile. The Spanish officer stares at Carlota a long while. He is not above relieving his sexual desires on whichever mulatto or black wench happens along. And this beauty appeals to him. It is small enough compensation for soldiers earning the pitifully small wages paid by the Spanish Crown. But just recently, the sergeant has drawn the line at pregnant women. He told his men that his newfound moral scruples stem from his feelings for his wife and daughter whom he hopes to see again one day. In reality, the marine sergeant has become squeamish after the last pregnant woman he raped suffered a miscarriage while he was still impregnating her.

The sergeant orders his men to inspect the boat.Three marines disappear over the side of the fishing boat but shortly reappear reporting that they had found nothing other than fishing nets, bait and tackle.The sergeant pauses to think about what he should do. But in the end, he knows how little his captain wants to be bothered with trivial matters.

“Okay,” the sergeant decides, “I will let you go, but get out of here before I change my mind.”

Tolomeo makes a deep bow and with profuse thanks and beckoning to Pedro and Yerby , turns and climbs back into the boat. Pedro grabs Carlota. He wants to drag her back into the boat by her hair. But with the Spanish sergeant continuing to eye him, Pedro, in a quick motion, picks her up and, lifting her over his back, as if she were a sack of potatoes, climbes back into the boat. Hoisting the sails and lowering the keel, Tolomeo sails his boat out of the inlet and back into the Caribbean.

 

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“Carlota,” Pedro groans once they were out of earshot of the Spanish marines, “whatever are you doing here?”

“Does it matter?” Yerby asks. “Had she not been on board, we could be well on our way to a Spanish prison.”

“…or dead,” Tolomeo adds.

“Do you believe that any of the Americans survived?” Pedro asks his uncle anxiously.

“There were signs,” Tolomeo replied,“but the signs were not good.”

“But,” Pedro exclaims, “with all those Spanish soldiers, it looked like all the americanos are either dead or in prison.”

“No,” Yerby replies, “some of the Americans survived.”

“The Lukumi and the hacendados must be warned about this disaster,” Tolomeo remarks.

Pedro doesn’t know who offends him more, the stupid americanos who landed three hundred miles from where his Lukumi stand ready to help or Carlota’s reckless behavior. How can I love such a woman? Pedro ask himself. But right now Pedro has no time for Carlota’s antics.

“Someone needs to find out what has happened to the other americanos,” Tolomeo advises.

“I’ll go back,” Pedro volunteers. “Just get me close to shore and I’ll swim the rest of the way.”

“No, no,”Carlota wails. “Do not go, do not leave me and your child. If you leave now I will never see you again.”

“Don’t say that,” Pedro replies. “I will return to you.”

“No you won’t,” Carlota cries.“I had a dream. You and I will never see each other again.” She was frantic and then she falls to sobbing. Tolomeo loved Carlota like she was his own daughter, but there is nothing he can say to console her. Pedro had no choice. He had to find the other americanos before someone else sounded the drums and Lukumi blood was spilled, senselessly.

 

 

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Tolomeo guides his fishing boat to a secluded spot a couple of miles west of Morrillo. From there Pedro prepares to swim to shore.

“I’m coming with you,” Yerby announces.

“Si, Señor Yerby,” Pedro replies, “I am happy for the companionship.” Pedro makes no attempt to console the grieving Carlota. Her slender body, swollen with child, heaves with each sob. He and Yerby splash over the side and swim towards the shore. Pedro takes a last look at the woman who has been in his life for as long as he can remember. The only woman he has ever loved, the only woman he has ever wanted. “She is such a pain,” Pedro tells himself. “I will make it up to her when I return.” But Pedro will not keep his promise. He will never see Carlota again nor will he ever forget her last anguished cries.


 

A V I C T I M ’S G U I L T 1 8 5

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

I

t was mid-afternoon. Narciso Lopez and his men had marched a good distance inland before arriving at Las Pozas, a sleepy little village. But Las Pozas was empty; all its inhabitants fled when they learn the americanos were approaching. This was not the reception Narciso Lopez expected. Where is everyone? he wonders.

“General!” Lopez’s orderly and interpreter hurries over to he established his headquarters. The orderly wears a worried look. “General, the scout you sent to check on the supplies has reported back.”

“Tell him to instruct Lieutenant Crittenden to move the supplies up here. This is where we’ll meet the leaders of the insurrection. They should send someone out to meet

us very soon, now.”

“General, the scout has bad news,” the orderly continues. “The Spanish attacked Lieutenant Crittenden on the beach. He and his entire command have been annihilated.” Narciso Lopez’s jaw drops. “Furthermore, the scout reports that we were landed on the western side of Havana. From the looks of all the ships sailing about, I’d say we’ve landed right in the middle of the Spanish army.”

 

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“How is that possible?” Lopez shouts. “The captain of the Pampero was given specific instructions.” But before his orderly can reply, a commotion begins. His officers begin shouting and ordering the men to form a battle line.

A company commander races up and reports. “General, a detachment of Spanish dragoons are heading this way.”

Spanish dragoons, an advanced unit of de la Concha’s army, strike directly at the American invaders. The officer in charge of the lightly armed cavalry unit wants the glory of inflicting the first wounds on the invader. But the Americans’ greater numbers and superior firepower beat off the dragoon attack. The victory is short-lived. Scouts report the approach of more heavily armed Spaniards regulars. Las Pozas sits in the middle of a flat area and the Americans cannot defend themselves against the approaching regulars. Lopez calls his officers together. “We must get away from here before we are surrounded. Get your men up to the hills as quickly as you can.” The men grumble; they prefer to remain and fight. The officers get the men moving just before the arrival of a regiment of Spanish regulars. But in their retreat, the Americans must leave fifteen dead and dying including the scout who reported on Lieutenant Crittenden.

De la Concha has the Americans trapped. There is no sport more dear to Spaniards than bullfighting. They love to torment the bull, draining the animal’s blood and his spirit before putting the creature out of his misery. This is exactly what de la Concha intends to do to Narciso Lopez and his Americans. Over the next several days, de la Concha tightens his noose. forcing the Americans into a continual retreat, killing them slowly and deliberately.

The Americans hack through the spiny thorns of the subtropical Cuban cactus that tear through clothes and rip through flesh. In Cuba’s sweltering heat, the wounds fester and ooze. And the oozing attract all manners of bugs and insects.These once proud veterans of the Mexican War and the war for Texas independence are reduced to a pitiful band of starving, thirsty and tormented fugitives, like black slaves being chased through the swamps to escape their master’s whips.

After awhile seeing that Lopez is unable to handle the situation, his officers stop taking his orders. Lopez begins talking to himself. What happened to my support? Where are Cirilo and Ambrosio? Where is my transportation? Where is everybody?  But the only answers he hears are the sobs of dying men and the cries of officers urging his men further into the jungle. In only two days, disciplined American veterans intent on slaughter become a cowering band of fugitives engaged in a headlong flight, their scanty supply of food and water exhausted along with their order and discipline. Enjoying their sport, the Spaniards methodically force the Americans further into the Cuban jungle with brutal efficiency. Like bulls in the ring, many of the Americans become too exhausted or too severely wounded to continue. They collapse in their tracks and pray for a merciful death.

 

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 “They’ve got to be around here somewhere.”

“The Spanish don’t leave much to find.”

Pedro and Yerby search for the Americans by following the carnage. They find bodies hacked to pieces, trampled under the hooves of horses, or impaled on stakes. The Americans have but one chance of escape. If they can get up the foothills skirting Havana and through the jungle, the Lukumi can help them escape down to the plains of San Cristobal and across the Bay of Pigs on Cuba’s southern side. Pedro’s and Yerby’s persistence pays off when they find nearly one hundred Americans hiding in a cave midway up in the Cuban highlands.

The Americans are sprawled about. This is not the army that Pedro was hoping to find. Not a single sentry has been posted and the Negroes enter the  camp unchallenged. Totally exhausted, Ross Pary is laying on his back when he spots the two blacks cautiously making their way into their camp.

“Where do you come from?” Pary croaks, his throat is parched from a lack of water.

“We come from Guanabacoa, a small village on the other side of Havana,” Pedro replies. “We were told you would be landing in the vicinity of Puerto Principe. Many of us were prepared to assist you.”

“Where are they? Did you bring food?” Pary asks. The presence of these blacks gives him a sense of relief. “Who sent you here to save us?” Pary asks.

 

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The irony escapes Pedro but not Yerby. This is the ‘natural order’ of things, Pary laughes to himself, relieved that the prospect of his death is not as imminent as before. “You boys, come with me and I’ll take you to the general.”

“General,” Pary announces to Narciso Lopez, “these, Negroes, say that they have come to help us.”

Narciso Lopez sits on a rock, staring into space. His eyes are lackluster and his face haggard and covered with gray stubble. Lopez’ uniform, once so fine and perfectly fitted, is shredded, stained with mud and blood. But with all that said, General Narciso Lopez still stumbles to his feet and offers his hand. “Welcome, my friends,” the Spanish aristocrat says.

Pedro gazes about; his disappointment is profound. I will not be the saviour of my people, he thinks, bitterly. Then he shouts out loud at Narciso Lopez. “How did you come to this place? Don’t you know that you are surrounded by the entire Spanish army?” Narciso Lopez looks at Pedro helplessly.

 

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“Did you intend to land west of Havana?” Yerby asks quietly. “Or didn’t you see that this was a trap, that you had been betrayed?”

Lopez shrugs. “Who sent you, my friends?” he asks. “Can you help us escape?”

“We were sent by the Babaluaye Tolomeo,” Pedro replies. “He sent us to lead you to the Lukumi. They want to participate in your war against the Spanish.”

Lopez looks about at what is left of his mercenary force, a wry, sad smile plays at the corner of his lips.

“My men, muchachos, are unable to attack the Spanish.”

“Then, general,” Yerby says, “you must act quickly and leave here.”

“Yes,” Pedro agrees, “we must get you and your men into Matanzas if you are to have any chance of surviving. We will take you through the jungle and down onto the plain of San Cristobal.”

“I will tell the men,” Pary volunteers and turning he calls the men to assembly. But when Pary explains their good fortune, the begin muttering. “No! No more goddamned marching. We’ve had a bellyful.We’ll stay right here. It’s safer. We can hide in this

cave.” His officers had intended to relieve Lopez of command and fight their way out of this trap. If Lopez decides to leave with these two niggers, all the better. No matter that Pary explains that Pedro can lead them to safety, the officers are adamant. “We’re taking over and we are staying here, for now.”

“General,” Yerby says, addressing Narciso Lopez, “we must go now!”

“Then you must go,” Lopez replies,“and leave us to our destiny. I will not abandon my men.” With that Cuba’s would-be liberator bows his head and returns to the rock that served as his headquarters.

Ross Pary convinces George and Henry Metcalf, his friends from Natchez, to follow Pedro and Yerby with him. “These niggers are going get us out of here,” Pary says. This

 

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all Pary needs to say and the two men join up. Even if  they are just as hungry, just as thirsty, just as exhausted as the others, the Metcalf brothers are practical. They trust Pary’s judgement. Somehow the three white men find the will and the strength to follow Pedro and Yerby further up through the jungle. The ceiba and bougainvillea trees, bamboo groves and manigua create barriers nearly impossible to penetrate. But they walk until they stumble and they stumble until they crawl. Despite the jagged rocks, prickly bushes and sharp cactus that scrape, cut and gouge, they fight, push and hack their way onward. The next day, they hear echoes of guns firing, men screaming and bugles blaring.

“Well,” Pary says, looking at the Metcalf brothers, “I guess that’s the end of that.”

Pary is right. Narciso Lopez ’s expedition meets its inevitable end.

 

De la Concha launches his final assault. After a brief fight, General Narciso Lopez and what remains of his americano army surrenders. The Spanish draped their prisoners in chains and drive, drag and beat them all the way down to Havana. where Cuba’s Captain-General plans a fitting reception. Pedro leads the three white Americans up to the top of the foothills and down onto the plain of San Cristobal. Once they descend onto the coast, Lukumi transport them across the Bay of Pigs on a fishing boat to Matanzas and to safety.


READ:  EPISODE FOUR NEXT WEEK