Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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MEJIA, Tomas (may-hee'-a), Mexican soldier, born in Sierra Gorda, Guanajuato, about 1815; died in Queretaro, 19 June, 1867. Little is known of his earlier years, only that he was of pure Indian race, and born in humble circumstances, he was bred under the influence of the parish priests, and from early life was conspicuous in defence of the Conservative church party, at the head of the natives, over whom he exercised a powerful influence, as he claimed lineal descent from the Aztec emperors of Mexico. Scarcely had the government of Santa-Anna ceased in 1855, in consequence of the revolution that resulted from the plan of Ayutla, when Mejia rose in arms against the Liberal authorities in his native mountains, and soon became so formidable that Ignacio Comonfort sent General Ghilardi at the head of a strong army against Mejia, but obtained little success in the difficult mountain fastnesses. When Mejia descended to the plains to attack the city of Queretaro, he was defeated in J, me, 1856, and his forces were dispersed, but they soon rallied again in the mountains, and early in 1857 he captured San Luis Potosi, but he was defeated on 6 February in Tunas Blancas. By June of the same year he was so strong again that the government entered into negotiations with him, offering favorable conditions, but Mejia refused to treat. After the fall of Comonfort in January, 1858, Me-jia joined the Conservative government of Zuloaga and afterward that of Miramon (q. v.), and, being appointed commander of a brigade in April, 1859, was one of the chief supporters of the reactionary government. On 13 November, 1859, he command-e(l one of the wings of Miramon's army in the defeat of the constitutional forces under Santos Degollado near Queretaro, and in May, 1860, accompanied Miramon in his campaign in the south of Jalisco. After the final defeat of the Church party at Calpulalpam and the flight of Mira-mort, Mejia returned to the mountains, and continued his resistance against the government of Juarez. General Mariano Escobedo, who was sent against him, was defeated in the mountains near Queretaro, and in February, 1861, was captured, with nearly his whole force, after a desperate resistance, in the town of Rio Verde, by Mejia and Leonardo Marquez. The latter wished to shoot Escobedo, but Mejia saved his life. In March of the same year he captured Arroyozarco, and in June was included in the decree of congress that offered a price for the heads of the principal reactionary chieftains. Although he had often but a handful of followers, their enthusiastic adherence made up for their small number, and he soon became one of the most dreaded opponents of the Liberal government. After the French had occupied the capital, and the Church party proclaimed the empire, Mejia joined their cause with enthusiasm, and on 27 September, 1863, defeated, near San Luis Potosi, the Juarist general, Negrete, and, together with French troops under Colonel Aymard, routed Escobedo in Matehuala in May, 1864. He was then appointed chief of operations on the northern frontier, oc.cnpied Matamoras, 26 September, 1864, and in 1865 defeated an attack of Escobedo on the city, for which Maximilian bestowed on him the grand cross of the newly created order of the Mexican eagle. When the French troops began to evacuate Mexico, Mejia marched to the capital, where he was appointed commander of the third military division of the empire, with headquarters at San Luis Potosi. There he sustained several encounters with the Liberal forces, and was even said to contemplate an advance on Monterey, but on the advance of Escobedo's army he evacuated the city on 24 December, 1866, and retired to Queretaro. Mejia assisted Maximilian with never-wavering loyalty in the defence of the city, and led several brilliant charges against the besiegers, but when Queretaro fell he was taken prisoner with the emperor, and with him and Miramon was shot on the Cerro de Campanas. Though a fanatic, he was thoroughly honorable, and never sullied his fame by unnecessary cruelty.
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