Tomas Mejia
         Little is known about the exact origins of Tomas Mejia. According to some accounts he was born in Santa Catarina, Sierra de Xichu in 1812; others that he  was born in Sierra Gorda, in the state of Guanajuato probably sometime in 1815. An Indian, he claimed to be a direct descendant of the Aztec emperors of old Mexico. He grew up poor and greatly admired the parish priests who worked in his community, caring for him and the rest of the Indians. As a result, from early in life he was intensely devoted to the Church and defending religion in Mexico. When the comparatively conservative government of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was overthrown in 1855 following the Plan of Ayutla revolution, Mejia took up arms against the liberal, anti-clerical regime in the mountains near his home. His partisan raids in the area became so successful that President Ignacio Comonfort sent a large force against him, which Mejia made short work of in the rough mountainous terrain.
         The following year in 1856 he came down from the mountains to attack Queretaro but was defeated. However, ever zealous, his small army quickly reassembled in their mountain sanctuaries and the next year captured San Luis Potosi in early 1857 before being defeated on February 6 at Tunas Blancas. Yet again though he had reformed and built his troops back up by June. The government had grown extremely frustrated and tried to negotiate a peace with Mejia but he refused to make any agreement with the enemies of the Church. In January of 1858, when Comonfort was overthrown, Mejia proudly joined other conservative forces in support of President Miguel Miramon.
         In appreciation for the support of Mejia, who had gained widespread fame and an intensely loyal following especially among the Indians, Miramon promoted Mejia to brigadier general in April of 1859. That November Mejia commanded a  wing of Miramon's army in the victory over the liberals under Santos Degollado near Queretaro, and in May, 1860, he accompanied Miramon in his campaign in Jalisco. Ultimately though, the conservatives were defeated at Calpulalpam after which Mejia returned to the mountains and continued his resistance against the government of Benito Juarez. The liberal General Mariano Escobedo was quickly sent to crush him, but like those who came before him he was soundly defeated by Mejia and his men. General Mejia along with the conservative General Leonardo Marquez counterattacked in early 1861 and captured Rio Verde along with General Escobedo and virtually his entire force. General Marquez wished to execute Escobedo but Mejia, ever the gallant warrior, spared his life.
         In March General Mejia captured Arroyozarco, his successes becoming so problematic to Juarez that the liberal congress included him on a list of their greatest enemies upon whom they put a hefty ransom. General Mejia seldom had more than a very small force at his command, but his troops were instilled with a religious enthusiasm and were zealously loyal to their upright commander which more than compensated for their small numbers. By this time, the name of General Tomas Mejia had become one of the most feared in the liberal, anti-clerical camp and one of the most celebrated among traditional, conservative Mexicans. Colonel John S. Ford, a Texas Ranger and the Confederate defender of the Rio Grande valley wrote that Mejia was a man with "rugged features" who was "honest, sincere and truthful...who had fought his way up from a low position to the top of the ladder". At a time when the Mexican government and military was overrun by corrupt, self-seeking men, Mejia was, as an Austrian officer wrote, "one of the best and most honest citizens".
         When the French occupied Mexico City and joined with the Mexican monarchists and churchmen in proclaiming the restoration of the Empire of Mexico, General Mejia was quick to join in the new enterprise. His devotion and talent were displayed when he defeated the Juarista General Miguel Negrete at San Luis Potosi on September 27, 1863. Then, along with French troops under Colonel Aymard, Mejia routed his old enemy Escobedo in Matehuala in May of 1864. Mejia was then appointed chief of operations on the northern frontier and fought his way north, occupying Matamoras on September 26, 1864. The following year, General Escobedo, along with the forces of the bandit chief Juan Cortina as well as U.S. army troops attacked Matamoros for more than two weeks. General Mejia fought valiantly, leading the troops in person, charging with his cavalry to close gaps in his lines and defeating Escobedo, inflicting losses on the enemy vastly greater than his own. For this victory, Emperor Maximilian of Mexico awarded him the Grand Cross of the Order of the Mexican Eagle.
          Ultimately though, when Emperor Napoleon III of France began withdrawing his forces, Mejia had to evacuate Matamoros and marched south with his men to Mexico City. The cause of Emperor Maximilian was now desperate and with the Empress Carlota in Europe trying to win him support, and U.S. troops massing on the border to oppose him, Maximilian needed every loyal man desperately. General Mejia was given command of the third military division of the Mexican Empire, with his headquarters at San Luis Potosi. Although vastly outnumbered and with few supplies, General Mejia fought off repeated republican attacks and at one point even considered an offensive against Monterey. However, when General Escobedo approached with a massive army, Mejia had no choice but to evacuate San Luis Potosi on December 24, 1866. Emperor Maximilian was gathering his forces together for a final and decisive battle at 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, the Hill of Bells. Faithful to the end, his last words were, "Long live the Emperor!"