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should not be true to history if I did not state what is within my own personal knowledge—that companies were formed, and others forming, composed of persons of wealth, influence, and adroitness, who projected extensive schemes for the purchase of these claims, with the view of extorting them from the Congress of the United States.
I have said nothing in this sketch of the races of men which inhabit this vast western region. I have attempted only to present such a general view of the country as will prepare the reader for the more detailed description of each portion of the boundary line, and the memoirs of the assistants on the separate branches of geology, botany, and zoology, and the ethnographic information which will be found in the local geographical descriptions.
I give in its proper place a table of latitudes and longitudes determined by myself and assistants, and also those determined by others, which have been used in the projection of the general map which accompanies this memoir.
The mode in which these determinations have been made will form the subject of a separate chapter. It will be sufficient to state here, that the important points in the boundary have all been determined by the largest and most improved portable instruments—the latitudes with forty-six inch zenith telescopes, by Troughton & Simms, of London, and the longitudes by moon culminations, observed with telescopes of equal power. As the occasion for taking these large instruments into the interior of the continent, thousands of miles from navigable streams, will perhaps not again soon occur, I have aimed to produce results which would inspire sufficient confidence to make the determinations on the boundary the base of future and minor surveys in the interior of the continent. It has been suggested to me that all the astronomical, magnetic, and hygrometric observations should be published, particularly the observations on the moon and the moon culminating stars; but these alone would form a volume as large as the volume of observations made at the royal observatory at Greenwich, published annually.
The results of the observations made by me and under my orders, as fast as attained, have been given freely to all who asked for them ; but I regret they have been used in several notable instances by officers of the government, and others, without due acknowledgment to myself or my assistants.
The best excuse that can be offered for such plagiarists is their ignorance of the labor, privation, self-denial and exposure incurred in the accurate determination of a single point in those far distant regions...
At none of the cardinal points have less than three lunations been used in the determination of longitude, and six nights for that of latitude.
LOWER RIO BRAVO.
DRAZOS SANTIAGO AND MOUTH OF RIO BRAVO AS PORTS OF ENTRY.-POINT ISABEL.-PALO ALTO._RESACA DE LA PALMA.---COAST. -
HURRICANES. —-TIMBERED BELT. —COUNTRY WEST OF RIO NUECES.---MUSTANGS. BURRITA.—BROWNSVILLE. —-FILLIBUSTERING.-REYNOSA. ---RINGGOLD BARRACKS.—ROMA. ---POPULATION.--ISLANDS.-RIO SALADO AND BELLEVILLE. —LOREDO.---RAPIDS. --TORT DUNCAN.-SPANISH RULE AND MISSIONS. ---AMALGAMATION OF RACES. --DEVIL'S RIVER.---NAVIGATION. --CAÑONS.—MEXICAN SIDE. STATISTICS. DISTANCES.
The general view which I have attempted to sketch of the region traversed by the boundary, will prepare the reader for the more minute description of the different sections of the country, and the individual reports of the assistants. It will not be convenient to arrange these sections in the order in which the work was pursued, nor to follow the order in which the general view was presented, commencing on the Pacific, and ending on the Gulf of Mexico. The order has been reversed. The first section embraces the lower Rio Bravo, from its mouth up to its junction with Devil's river; the second, the Rio Bravo, from the mouth of Devil's river to the initial point of the treaty of 1853, in the parallel of 31° 47'; the third, the line west to the intersection of the 111th meridian; the fourth, the line thence to the Pacific.
It will be remembered that I stated in the Personal Account, that in the year 1852, while engaged under the old commission, I found it necessary to suspend the work after bringing it as far down the river as Loredo. The following year, under a new appropriation by Congress, and a new organization, I sailed from New Orleans in the month of May, in a miserable steamer, for the mouth of the Rio Bravo, accompanied by a well organized party, with a complete set of instruments, camp equipage, &c. In crossing the Gulf, the sea was happily smooth, and it was not until we neared the coast and encountered the trade winds, which blow there almost ceaselessly from the southeast, that it became very rough. The steamer did not enter the mouth of the Rio Bravo, but steered her course towards the Brazos Santiago, eight miles up the coast. It was a long time before a pilot could be got on board, and then we were informed the sea was running so high on the bar, it was impossible to cross, and we were reduced to the necessity of lying 5 off and on” until the sea ran down. The captain gave orders to the mate to put the vessel's head to sea and stand out until day-break, under easy steam, and, with the pilot, went to sleep. The mate, a silly young man, addicted to intemperance, had made several remarks which destroyed my confidence in him, and having much at stake in the safety of the vessel, I did not go to bed. It was fortunate I did not, for, while dozing on the upper deck, I was gradually aroused by a roaring, seething sound, and on looking forward, saw that we were going head on to the breakers. There was no time to wake the captain, and I gave the alarm to the man at the wheel, and ran to the engineer to make him put on all steam. For many moments it was doubtful if the vessel could be got round. By great exertion, however, the steam was raised, and she barely escaped what appeared to be inevitable destruction.
The next day the sea continued to run high, and being thoroughly disgusted with my sojourn aboard the steamer, I went ashore in the pilot-boat.
The steamer was stranded a few trips subsequently, in attempting to make the entrance of the Brazos Santiago.
The bar has but eight feet of water, and is very shifting. That at the mouth of the Rio Bravo has still less. Yet it was at these two points that the troops were landed, and all the supplies for the army which invaded Mexico, under the orders of General Taylor. Most of the merchandise intended for the lower Rio Bravo is landed at the Brazos, and thence reshipped in a strong river steamer, which passes out to sea and thence into the Rio Bravo. The channel of the mouth of the Rio Bravo varies a little in depth, but is seldom more than six feet or less than four; it is of soft mud, and of the numberless vessels grounded there during the war, not more than one or two were lost. The bar of Brazos Santiago is of hard sand, and a vessel grounded there is certain to be stranded. The mouths of both these harbors open towards the prevailing wind, and I can suggest no method by which they can be improved at any reasonable cost. The town of Brazos stands on a sand-spit immediately within the bar, and is little more than a collection of wooden shanties, left there by the army, which may be washed away some day by a norther forcing the water from the lagoon, or bay, above, faster than it can escape over the beach and through the narrow inlet into the sea.
Three miles within the lagoon, or bay, and standing upon the first firm ground, a bluff of alluvial soil, about six or ten feet high, is Point Isabel. Here is the custom-house, where the goods intended for the river, as high up as Roma, are entered. Those for the towns above that point are supplied usually by the way of Indianola and San Antonio. Point Isabel is a small settlement, the principal buildings being those erected by the army of occupation in 1846. It was from this point the army made its march to fight the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Fort Brown, &c.
It is well known that the Mexicans selected their own ground for the two first named battles ; but if General Taylor had had in his hand the correct map now presented of that country, as will be seen by a glance, he could not have selected, in the neighborhood, a better field than Palo Alto to fight a small force against a larger one. This fact may have been known to others, but was not developed to my mind until the completion of this map. It will be seen that both flanks of the American army were protected, and the Mexicans were prevented by the ground from using the advantage due a much superior force to extend their flanks and envelope the American forces. The country is almost a dead level, and presents to the view of a horseman one unbounded plain, relieved by clusters of mezquite trees, (chapparal,) and the existence of the morasses to the right and left of the American position was probably not known to the Mexicans until they attempted to outflank their adversaries.
It was not my good fortune to have been present at either of those engagements; but I trust some of those who were will take advantage of the map now furnished, to figure for the military student the position and manoeuvres of the troops on both sides, in those battles, so unique in their execution and results. Those two battles gave the prestige to our arms in the Mexican war, and saved the United States Military Academy from destruction.
The Mexican army was well organized, well disciplined, and well equipped, inured to war by contests with the Indians, and in suppressing internal revolution. The American army was perfectly disciplined, but, with the exception of its chief, and a few other gallant old officers, had never been under fire, and numbered only one-third of the opposing force. Yet on