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To the Honorable THOMAS L. WINTHROP,
President of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Carthage, Costarrica, Febr'y. 16th, 1837.
I had the honor of transmitting to the Society from London, my Chorographical Description of this State and Central America in general. The Introduction is by Captain John Washington, R. N., Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, a native of Cheshire, in England, who assures me he is a relation of your great liberator. Father Gage, mentioned therein, was the first author who gave any account of Central America, in the English language. He travelled through the greater part of our five States, just two centuries ago, and, as far as I am enabled to judge, his History is one of great veracity, excepting where his superstition misled him.
Thomas Gage was born in England, at the latter end of the 16th century, the second son of a highly respectable Catholic family. His father, resting every hope on having Thomas educated for a Jesuit, sent him in 1614 to the College of St. Omers in France. Incurring his father's most vindictive anger, he however professed as a Dominican at Valladolid in Spain, and passed to the monastery of that order in Xerez, under the name of Fray Tomas de Santa Maria. In consequence his father wrote him that he would have preferred seeing his son a scullion in a College of Jesuits, than a general of the Dominican order; intimating to Thomas never to see him again, and that he would disinherit him; which threat the old man, dying some years afterwards, kept punctually.
Banished from and disinherited in his native land, friar Thomas was induced to abandon Europe, and join a mission of Dominicans destined to the Philippines. In the port of Cadiz, however, he was nearly detained by a particular order from the king of Spain, that no English priest should
pass to the Indies, having a country of their own to convert. Nevertheless, his brother Dominicans, and their superior, Antonio Calvo, smuggled him on board, hiding him from all search in a biscuit barrel.
The route of the mission was by Vera Cruz, Mexico and Acapulco, across the Pacific. The fleet in which they sailed, touched at Guadaloupe, which island they found still (1625), solely inhabited by the aborigines, whom Gage describes as Indians, with straight hair; whereas the sole remnant of the Caribs, who were transported in 1796 by the British government from St. Vincent to the Bay of Honduras, were and are a race of negroes at the present day.. These Guadaloupe Indians, though at first apparently friendly, set upon a watering party of Europeans on shore, and killed and wounded several with poisoned arrows.
The Dominican' mission was lodged nearly five months in a country house near the city of Mexico, waiting the period for their proceeding to Acapulco. But the evening before Calvo and the rest of the monks departed, Gage and three others fled from Mexico for Guatemala, deterred from following their original destination by bad accounts they heard of the Philippines, and the great distance of the voyage to those islands. An Irish friar had agreed also to accompany his companions in their flight; but his heart failed before the day arrived, and he proceeded with Calvo to Acapulco.
The runaways were well received in the convents of the kingdom of Guatemala, and Gage remained about six months in that of Chiapas, as professor or teacher of Latin. He however had previously determined to practise philosophy and divinity in the university of Guatemala, and set out for that city in September, 1626. He describes the prior of the cloister at Comitan as a Frenchman, and the only foreigner besides himself in the whole country. He speaks in most grateful terms of that prior's civilities, which he experienced on his way to Guatemala from Chiapas.
The following year, Gage was appointed reader of arts in the Dominican convent of Guatemala, and two years later received a formal authorization from the bishop to preach, hear confessions &c., throughout the diocese.
Shortly afterwards, he joined friar Francisco de Moran, prior of the Dominican convent of Coban, in an expedition to cross the continent from Verapas to Yucatan. The two
monks were escorted by 50 Spanish soldiers and 100 Indians, and penetrated some way towards the lake of Peten, of which they were informed by some prisoners they made. However they were twice attacked by the Indians, and disheartened in pursuing their journey, returned to Coban.
From that city, Gage accompanied Moran on an idle journey to the Golfo Dulce and Trugillo, from whence they returned to Guatemala by land, through Comayagua and Gracias, in which former city they were received with great and general applause for their perilous expedition towards Peten, and attempts to reduce the Indians; which Moran again undertook, passing on foot with only two or three Indians by the lake of Peten, as far as the Spanish settlements in Yucatan. He was kindly treated by the Indians, and described the great numbers of the Itsaes (a powerful tribe of Mayas) inhabiting about the lake. He returned the way he went, wrote a book about the country he discovered, and proceeded to Spain to urge the conquering of it. But, however, this was not effected till sixty-six years later; and indeed, the final conquest of the remnant of the Mayas, was only completed in 1833, by myself; as detailed in the bulletin enclosed to the American Antiquarian Society on the 13th of April of that year.
Gage preferred being priest of the two procouchi towns of Mixco and Pinula united, both situated on the table land, where New Guatemala now stands.
Gage's own work, published in 1648, continues his subsequent history; how much to his credit, each reader will determine for himself.
After his return to England and profession of Protestantism, Gage was the principal adviser of the undertaking against Haiti, and took upon himself to be the chief guide. He died in Jamaica, shortly after its capture by the English.
I have the honor to be
Your most Obedient,
To the Massachusetts Historical Society.
In the Memoirs of Major General Heath, page 129, is this statement, concerning the battle near Saratoga, in 1777-" Among the wounded, were Generals Arnold and Lincoln, both in the leg. The former, but slightly ;-it was problematical whether the latter was wounded by a British or American soldier."
In February last, being in company with General Ebenezer Mattoon, of Amherst, I ascertained that he was present on that occasion; and I addressed to him a letter, requesting any information on the subject of the wound received by General Lincoln, he might possess.
Having received from him the accompanying letter, I transmit it, for such use as the Historical Society may deem it expedient to make of it.
I have received your letter of the 2nd inst., requesting me to state, in writing, the circumstances within my knowledge, which prove that General Lincoln was wounded in the leg by a shot from the enemy, and not by a shot from an American soldier, as has been intimated in a publication by an officer in the American army. In reply to your in
quiry, I would observe, that on the morning of October 8, 1777, I, being a Lieutenant of Artillery, was requested by General Lincoln to accompany him on horseback, while reconnoitring the lines of the enemy, as his aids were then engaged. I told him, I would accompany him with pleasI according mounted a horse, belonging to one of his aids, and rode with him, agreeably to his request. The two armies were posted on Bemis's Heights, the American army on the west, and the British army on the east. While riding notherly, in the direction of the lines of the two armies, and between them, I being on the left of General Lincoln and very near him, he exclaimed, "The rascals have struck me." On hearing this exclamation, I immediately turned my horse to his right, and on examination, found that his right ancle had been severely fractured, by a musket shot from the enemy. I have been thus particular in describing the relative position of the two armies, and the direction in which we were riding, as confirmatory of my statement, that the wound, being in his right ancle, must have been caused by a shot from the British line, and not from one of our own men. I am not aware, that there was ever any contemporaneous report, contravening the above statement.
Your obd't. serv't.,