General Victoriano Lorenzo and the Wisconsin Pact of 1902

The USS Wisconsin about 1901.

“The final settlement of the revolutionary disturbance was largely due to his efforts,” wrote Rear Admiral Henry Glass approvingly in his report lauding the “diplomatic services” of his predecessor Rear Admiral Silas Casey’s handling of the “Panama Crisis.”

The War of a Thousand Days had ended. However, another war was soon to begin as reprisals were being exacted from the still rebellious Indians in the countryside. What was to become the Central Provinces (Provincias Centrales) of the new republic would become a place of pure hell for Indian people, as the garrisoned Colombian Army troops scoured the countryside on patrol burning and pillaging Indian settlements.

Roadblocks were set up as a routine, as they had been on the Portobelo-Panama Road, now controlled by the American Railroad Company security forces. Church baptismal records were now suddenly important to the Colombian Army recruiters, who used such records as proof of persons they deemed protected by Godfathers (padrinos) who were owners of large tracks of land with much cattle.

The people of Penonomé were amongst the most wanted because of their association with the feared and most influential Indian Chief who was Victoriano Lorenzo, imprisoned under heavy guard in Panama City for more than a couple of months. The people in the hinterland relied on rumors, sending messengers from the towns nearer to Panama City to hidden troops all over the far western part of the country. The messages alerted their people to remain ready as Indian troops and collaborators were prepared to take Panama City. Seasoned warriors and patriots awaited the call from their commander General Victoriano Lorenzo. However, much to their dismay, no call to arms ever came.

Meanwhile, the City of Panama remained quiet as government troops maneuvered around the city. The Panama Railroad seemed to make more trips than usual as shored troops from some American Navy fleet filled the streets with their white uniforms. No newspapers were published during these times of quiet emergencies for the Colombian Army in charge. Soon newly arriving army troops filled the two cities, Panama and Colon, and the countryside with armed troops.

By the 22nd of November of that fateful year of 1902 the stage was set for the signing of the Peace Accord aboard the USS Wisconsin anchored in the Bay of Panama. Aboard that ponderous war vessel the atmosphere was of a joyous victory. The two warring factions cordially saluted each other in military dress in their special uniforms for the occasion.

The Wisconsin was blazoned in all her mighty warship splendor with sailors and officers dressed neatly to receive the visiting guests of the Colombian Army brass who left a detachment on the docks until their return for the 5 O’clock blast on the canons signifying that all was well. The signing of the Wisconsin Peace Accord sealed the pact between the elite military and the civilian elite (the former Liberales) and the conspiracy to summarily execute the “mutinous” Indian General, the very same patriot General who had brought the war to victory for them.

On the morning of November 28th General Lorenzo was presented with official notice that he would be tried by a military court. In essence, he was charged with refusing to sign, and, therefore refusing to cooperate with what he considered in his declaration as a giveaway of his country aboard the USS Wisconsin. The General was being accused, in fact, of stating that he would take up arms against this act.

As these developments took shape on the evening of the 28th of November the only large groups of persons still visible were the American sailors on shore leave, parading, as usual, on the side walks on both sides of the street of the well known Central Avenue in Panama City. Amongst the multitude were also groups of unemployed railroad workers and some French Canal Company Workers who had been unemployed for a long time since the failure of the French Canal.

Meantime, the rumors of future large construction projects to be started by the Americans kept them anxious and at the ready in Panama City. Many of the former workers with the American Railroad Company just stopped to gape at the passing trains that they could not afford to buy a first class ticket on, as they stopped all traffic and frightened the horses.

This story continues.

One response to “General Victoriano Lorenzo and the Wisconsin Pact of 1902


    Cant wait for the continuation. really good. Seems Americans have always been irratating.