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Pro-Union Tejanos lynch secessionist judge

December
26
1862

On this day in 1862, an armed group of 100 pro-Union Tejanos captured and hanged the wealthy rancher Isidro Vela, the chief justice of Zapata County and an outspoken supporter of the Confederacy, in the presence of his family. Vela was born in Mexico in 1798 and served as president of the secessionist meeting held in Zapata County in December 1860. He and the other landowners in the area strongly supported secession, in contrast to the mostly Hispanic local populace. Guerrilla warfare ensued, as pro-Union, anti-Anglo bands staged raids into Texas and retreated into Mexico. In April 1861 Vela had faced down a band under the leadership of Antonio Ochoa, a follower of Juan N. Cortina who threatened pro-Confederate county officials, and later that year had been forced to seek refuge with a neighbor when another such band raided his ranch. After Vela's death, Capt. Refugio Benavides caught and defeated the raiders near Camargo, Mexico. Papers seized in the battle implicated Leonard Pierce Jr., the United States consul in Matamoros, as an instigator of the raid.

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