The Undefeated (1969)

 

 

 

Director:     Andrew V. McLaglen. 

Starring:     John Wayne (Col. John Henry Thomas),  Rock Hudson (Col. James Langdon, CSA),  Antonio Aguilar (Juarista Gen. Rojas),  Roman Gabriel (Blue Boy, John Henry's Cherokee Indian adopted son),  Marian McCargo (Ann Langdon),  Lee Meriwether (Margaret Langdon),  Merlin Olsen (Cpl. Little George, CSA),  Melissa Newman (Charlotte Langdon),  Bruce Cabot (Sgt. Jeff Newby CSA),  Jan-Michael Vincent (Lt. Bubba Wilkes, CSA,)  Ben Johnson (Short Grub),  Edward Faulkner (Capt. Anderson, CSA, Col. Langdon's aide),  Harry Carey Jr. (Soloman Webster, Thomas rider),  Paul Fix (Gen. Joe Masters),  Royal Dano (Maj. Sanders, CSA, one-armed major).

a group of Confederate soldiers from USA decide to establish a new life in Mexico under French Emperor Maximilian

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

At the end of the Civil War, a group of Yankees overwhelm the rebs. After the skirmish is over, Corporal Clemens from Mastersí Brigade at Danteís Crossroads, rides up to Col. John Henry Thomas and says the warís over. The Yankees all yell with glee. Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. This was three days ago. Thomas looks at the dead soldiers on the ground.

Col. Thomas goes to the rebs under a flag of truce to give the Major there the news. But the Major knew the news yesterday. Thomas canít believe the Major kept on fighting. The defiant Major says they will keep on fighting until the Yanks leave their land.

Confederate Col. James Langdon rides over to the wagon train he is putting together. He is disappointed to see the men still in rebel uniforms and toting guns. He scolds Captain Anderson for this. A group of Southerners are going to travel 700 miles to get to the Mexican border and from there they have1,300 miles more to go. Through the 700 miles they will be going through Yankee occupied territory. Arms and ammunition will be stored in the bottoms of the wagon and the men will pack away their military uniforms and wear regular clothing.

After the Mexican border they have 500 miles to go to a town called Durango. There they will meet the representatives of Emperor Maximilian and they will escort the wagon train to Mexico City. They will be leaving at midnight.

A black man and a white man drive over to talk with, they presume, Mrs. Langdon. The white fellow is Thad Benedict of Natchez, but previously from Pittsburgh. Benedict introduces his partner Jimmy Collins. The woman tells them they will have to speak to the owner of the house Mrs. James Langdon. The "carpetbaggers" have come to give her an offer for the house. But the men have the information wrong. They are not selling the place. Colonel Langdon shows up and he doesnít like the newcomers one bit. He tells them to get off the land. The house and land are not for sale. But Benedict is not easily discouraged. He says he knows that Langdon went bust outfitting that wagon train and the taxes on the house will be very high. His top offer for the land is 60 cents an acre. Langdon throws the man backside down into the carriage and Jimmy Collins takes off.

Langdon goes to see how the preparations are going for the midnight departure. Bubba Wilkes makes Charlotte Langdon uneasy because he keeps on staring at her. He wants to marry her, but she has never even answered his proposal.

Col. Thomas is leaving the military service. He says out of his seventy-five volunteers he started with, he only has ten left and two of them wonít last Ďtill Christmas. His plan is to take the remainder of the volunteers to catch horses and sell them to the army. He turns in his letter of resignation. Citizen John Henry Thomas now leads his men west.

Langdon burns his home and barn. The wagon train moves out.

John Henry plans to go to Oklahoma. But for right now he is hooking up with a small army of workers to help him capture horses. With them is a chuck wagon and a cook. Col. Thomas and one of the cowboys named Short Grub head over to a stage coach station. There are two men there waiting for him. One is Monsieur Pierre Petain and the other is Senor Luis Escodero. They are representatives of Emperor Maximilian. They want to buy the horses sight unseen at top dollar. Thomas tells them that his horses are going to the United States Army and thatís that.

The stagecoach comes in to Pedro Flats. The government agents get out and inquire about the horses. Thomas says he has 3,000 horses to sell the army. But thereís a problem. The representatives only expect to buy the 500 best horses of the 3,000. Thomas says theyíll take all the horses on none.

Thomas tells his partner to go get the other prospective buyers. Maximilianís representatives say they will pay $35.00 dollar per head (while the government is only offering $25 dollars per head.). So Thomas says he will sell the horses to Maximilian.

A cavalry unit of the U.S. Army has an order to detain, search and send back the 18 rolling units of men, women and children suspected of being rebels. The Confederates passed through Gladesville, Texas not long ago. The troops are not far from the wagon train.

The wagon train makes a break for the river to get across it. The cavalry are able to detain the last wagon in the wagon train. Langdon shouts for the men to get their weapons, but itís not necessary because the army captain tells his men to let the wagon go. The wagon proceeds the rest of the way across the river. The captain tells his sergeant that if he canít have the whole dog, he surely doesnít want just the tail.

Thomas and his men start pushing the herd toward Durango, Mexico.

When the Southerners get into Mexico the men get into their rebel uniforms.

The cavalry out of Fort Clark is coming toward Thomas and the horses. Thomas tells the men to make a dash to get across the river. They are almost completely over the river by the time the cavalry arrives.

Thomas tells his crew that theyíve got Maximilian on the one hand and Juarez on the other and bandits in between. Yes, heís expecting trouble. In addition, they are Americans in Mexico taking horses to the very unpopular government of the Frenchman Maximilian.

Thomas sees the rebel wagon train flying the rebel flag. He and the scout Blue Boy, Thomasís adopted son, ride down and tell Langdon that they are heading into an ambush. The scout Blue Boy, a young Cherokee Indian, says there are 40 to 60 riders riding parallel to the wagon train just out of sight. Langdon thanks the two men and invites them to stay for dinner. Charlotte Langdon and Blue Boy seem to take a liking to each other.

Langdon and Thomas quarrel about the war a bit, but it doesnít get out of hand. Thomas sends Blue Boy with a message back to the horse herd. In the morning the night pickets come in, except for Jamison. Then he shows up. But the man is dead and has been tied upright into the saddle leaning against a backstop.

The Mexican bandits show up. Langdon and Thomas go out to talk with the bandit leader. The leaders says his name is Escalante. He is going to take everything from them including their women. Sensing trouble Thomas draws against Escalante and shoots him first, then Langdon hits him with one shot. They race back into the circle of wagons.

The bandits charge and lose a great many men. They have to retreat. But as they retreat they run into some of Col. Thomasís men who kill a bunch more of the banditos. Then the bandits are hit by Blue Boy with a large group of Indians. Langdon wonít have to worry about the bandits any more.

Langdon thanks Thomas for his invaluable assistance. Thomas suggests that Langdon take his people and go on home. Thereís no telling what dangers lie ahead of them. But Langdon says they are going home. Itís just that itís ahead of them and not behind.

Charlotte watches as Blue Boy comes in with the men. Blue Boy waves his hat to her. Later he tells his adoptive father that he wants Charlotte and she wants him.

A reb rider comes to give a message to Thomas. Itís an invitation to a Fourth of July party at the wagon train. They go. Charlotte goes over to speak with Blue Boy. Thomas stops to talk to Mrs. Langdon, the sister-in-law of James Langdon.

They arrange a boxing match, reb versus yank, and it soon spills over into all the rebs versus all the yanks. And then itís Langdon versus Thomas. Mrs. Langdon, the sister-in-law, shoots her rifle into the air and demands that all the fighting stop. Thomas and the guys ride back to the herd after saying goodbye.

The cowboys come across a scene of carnage of a group of French soldiers. Blue Boy rides back to tell Langdon that the French escort was massacred four or five miles south of here. He also wants to see Charlotte again.

At night Charlotte and Blue Boy kiss. Charlotte asks to go with him now. Then Captain Anderson knocks Blue Boy down and starts kicking him and hitting him some more. Then he and Bubba put Blue Boy on his horse, slaps the horse on its rear and it takes off. As Captain Anderson turns toward the camp, Langdon hits him in the face and knocks him down and out.

Blue Boy sees the Juaristas on the march. Back at the herd Thomas tells the men that they have lost 500 horses so far and thatís way too many. Heís in a bad mood because of it. Thomas is also worried because Blue Boy should have caught up with them three days ago.

The herd arrives in Durango. Pierre Petain and Luis Escodero ride out to greet Thomas and the men. Thomas, of course, asks about their pay and is told that a special envoy is bringing the money. John Henry is happy to hear that and tells the representatives that they wonít be hard to find.

The Confederates arrive in Durango. They come to the town hall where they are greeted and welcomed by Lazaro Rojas in uniform. The town will have a banquet in their honor tonight. The banquet turns out to be a trap set up by the Juaristas. The Confederates are surrounded by men with rifles. General Rojas tells them to consider themselves prisoners of the Revolution. Langdon says he will protest to Emperor Maximilian. Rojas says they donít follow the Frenchmanís orders. Their president is Don Benito Juarez.

Rojas and Langdon talk while walking. (The Juaristas have taken some French soldiers captive also and they are being paraded down the main street.) Rojas explains that the Confederates are friends of Maximilian. And Maximilian and the French have tried to ride roughshod over Mexico. And now Maximilian is bringing in Americans from the South because he can no longer get help from Napoleon.

The Juaristas execute the French prisoners by firing squad.. The Juaristas shout: "Viva!" Among the Juaristas is Blue Boy in Mexican attire. Rojas gives Langdon a note to deliver to Thomas. Langdon reads the note and says he wonít do it. As a Confederate he canít be expected to go begging to a Yankee for anything! And Thomas wouldnít do it anyway! Rojas tells Langdon that he will do this or his people will all be shot. One of the Confederate group is grabbed and placed in front of the firing squad. Langdon says: "Iíll go." Rojas tells Langdon that he will have the horses here by noon tomorrow or his men will be shot.

Langdon rides through the night. His group sleeps in the courtyard. Charlotte awakens and walks around the courtyard. She is seen by some of the Mexicans and is abducted. Blue Boy who is a big fellow easily overpowers the three men. He takes Charlotteís hand and starts running from the area. When they get to a safe area, Charlotte and Blue Boy hug and Charlotte tells him to please never leave her again.

Indians have captured Langdon and bring him to Thomas. Thomas laughs and tells Langdon that he told him that uniform of his would get him into trouble. Landon quickly tells the men that his people are all prisoners of a Juarista general. He gives John Henry the note. The note tells them to deliver the horses to the Juaristas. Thomas asks the men what they think they should do. They agree to deliver the horses. About this time they see Petain and Escodero ride away.

The men start moving the horses forwards. Petain and Escodero return and they bring a group of 60 or more French cavalry men with them. Thomas tells someone to bring the two wagons forward filled with men with rifles. As Thomas approaches the French he puts his plan in action. The wagons come forward and they create a big opening in the French line. The wagons and horses go through the hole. There is a running battle as the horses rush forward. The chuck wagon overturns killing the cook.

General Rojas prepares to shoot the first five Confederates, including Captain Anderson. But he stops the executions when he hears the sound of lots of horses approaching. The Confederates go wild when they see Langdon and Thomas arrive in front of the horses.

Thomas and Langdon and their crews head out for the United States. Blue Boy and Charlotte ride together.

 

Pretty good movie.  Good cowboy movie.  John Wayne, of course, is always John Wayne, take him or leave him.  I think he was a pretty good, reliable actor.  He's like McDonalds, you always know what you're going to get.  Ben Johnson is another good actor who gives the same performance again and again.  Rock Hudson also gave a good performance.  There's quite a bit of historical background bedause in the movie are mentioned a number of historical events:  the American Civil War;  Mexican history under the leadership of President Benito Juarez;  and the French dictatorship of Emperor Maximilian in Mexico; and the settlement of some Confederates in Mexico.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

See Juarez (1939).

 

1863 Ė Napoleon seized control of Mexico and placed it under the rule of his Habsburg relative, Maximilian.

Maximilian and Napoleon III sponsored a colonization movement to Mexico that appealed to quite a few former Confederates in the USA. They wanted colonists for the undeveloped parts of the public domain of Mexico.

1865 Ė Maximilian's protťgť and friend Virginian Civil War leader Matthew Fontaine Maury Maury was made commissioner of immigration and colonization in Mexico. He appealed for settlers to Mexico among the former Confederates.

1865 (September 5) Ė Maximilian set aside a tract of 500,000 acres for the immigrants under the leadership of Maury. They established the community of Carlota, located about seventy miles west of the port of Vera Cruz. Every man with a family received 640 acres, at $1 an acre, plus a lot in town.

1865 (January) Ė 260 American immigrants settled in Campeche and Tampico.

The U.S. Government wanted the Confederate emigration to stop. One of the measures they took was to start arresting Maury's agents.

In all, about 2,500 Confederates eventually settled in Mexico. 

After the Juaristas got rid of Maximilian, their forces plundered and burned the Confederate colonies in Mexico and drove the Confederate colonists out of Mexico .

 

Source:

"Civil War History: Confederate Descendants in Mexico."  Parts I and II.  http://www.trivia-library.com/a/civil-war-history-confederate-descendants-in-mexico-part-1.htm

 

 

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