1815 - June 30, 1868
Manuel Dominguez was born about 1815, probably in Puebla, Mexico. Prior to the U.S.-Mexico War, he was a weaver and fabric merchant. In 1847, shortly after Puebla was occupied by U.S. troops, Gen. William Worth arrested Dominguez “on complaint of his own people,” and recruited him to work for the U.S. Army.
Initially, Dominguez carried dispatches from the U.S. Army back down the National Road to Vera Cruz. In time, “Colonel” Dominguez found himself in charge of a company of one hundred men, each of whom received $20 per month from the U.S. Army.
During the year the “Mexican Spy Company” spent in the service of the United States, it was employed as a band of “contra-guerrillas” whose principal job was to police the National Highway that ran from Vera Cruz to Mexico City.
Although opinions varied as to their reputation and abilities, Dominguez and his men rendered invaluable service to the United States. With Ethan Allen Hitchcock acting as intermediary, they answered only to General Scott, who respected them for their bravery in battle and employed them on at least one occasion as his personal escort. They were also known for their distinctive dress—“round felt hats encircled with a red band and short “parrot green” coats “with a red collar and cuffs,” which provided a colorful contrast to the sky blue uniforms worn by American soldiers.
In August and September 1847, after participating in the battles of Churubusco and Chapultepec, Dominguez’ loyalty to the Americans was affirmed when he spurned an offer of clemency from Santa Anna. Following Scott's triumphant entry into Mexico City, the “robber chief” and his men returned to their original job of carrying dispatches and escorting and protecting U.S. troops and wagon trains on the National Road.
Dominguez’s dislike of the Mexican ruling class was amply demonstrated in early 1848 when he and his men captured several high-ranking Mexican generals. Treating them roughly, Dominguez was only restrained from executing them by “threats of punishment from the authorities of the United States.” During this same period, the Spy Company and Jack Hays’ regiment of Texas Mounted Volunteers teamed up to search for the guerrilla leader Padre Jarauta, who managed to elude them.
With the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Mexico in June 1848, the Spy Company sailed with Hitchcock from Vera Cruz to New Orleans. In September Dominguez visited Washington, where he met President Polk. During a trip to New Orleans in 1849, Colonel Hitchcock found the Dominguez family living in destitute circumstances and tried unsuccessfully to obtain federal relief for the Mexican exiles.
In 1849 the Dominguez family moved from New Orleans to Brownsville, Texas. A year later, when the federal census of Cameron County was taken, Dominguez gave his occupation as “gentleman” and declared assets worth $2,500. In 1856, the former colonel and some of his followers attempted to obtain bounty land under a law passed by Congress for the benefit of Mexican War veterans. None of their applications were approved, probably because they were not mustered into federal service under any law that existed at the time of the war.
Manuel Dominguez died on June 30, 1868 at his home in Brownsville.
Butler, Steven. “Heroes or Traitors? Mexican Citizens Who Fought for the United States During the War with Mexico,” Mexican War Journal, volume 7, nos. 1 & 2, Fall 1997 and Winter 1998.