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BATTLE OF BUENA VISTA.
reached the head of the second gorge. The one half continued to move across the plateau, resisted only by O'Brien's guns ; while the other half occupied each side of the gorge, and marched down upon the American troops there crowded together, and scarcely able to stand on account of the inclined position which they occupied. The slaughter was great, and the Americans pressed down the gorge, to escape by its mouth to the road, while the whole line of their retreat was strewed with the dead and dying.
On reaching the opening of the gorge, they found a large body of cavalry just closing up the door of escape. Some endeavoured to force their way through, but sank beneath the lance-points of the enemy; while the work of destruction went rapidly on among the densely-crowded masses in the ravine. In this fearful moment was heard the thunder of Washington's battery, and spherical case-shot falling amid the enemy's cavalry, exploded with signal effect, causing confusion, dismay, and rout-and upon their rapid retreat, the remnants of the Illinois and Kentucky regiments escaped to the road, leaving hundreds of their brave companions behind them in death-among them the gallant Colonels Hardin and McKee, and Lieutenant-Colonel Clay.
After the escape of the enemy's right, consequent on Santa Anna's stratagem, General Taylor ordered the troops from the American left to the plateau, where he expected a strong demonstration. While these were coming up, the American infantry had been driven, as related, by a part of the Mexican reserve, and O'Brien and Thomas, with their artillery, were endeavouring to hold in check the other portion, which kept steadily advancing. At every discharge avenues were made through the enemy's column, but the men soon closed up, and moved firmly on, while they assailed the battery with a steady fire. Nearly all his horses and cannoneers were killed and wounded, as O'Brien saw Bragg's battery coming into action, and Davis and Lane, with their brave
troops, ascending the plateau. The enemy by this time was quite upon him,-he gave a final and murderous fire, and, with the few crippled companions that remained, fell back from the contest. The guns thus obtained by the enemy for want of horses to bring them away, were subsequently recaptured by Captain Drum, 4th artillery, at Churubusco.
Bragg's battery now opened upon the enemy, with terrible fury; Sherman's battery soon united its fire, and the Mississippi riflemen and Indiana volunteers poured a severe enfilading fire upon his flank. Still raged the iron tempest, and still, as the front ranks of the enemy fell, others succeeded to their places, who in their turn were shot down. To advance against such a storm was impossible—the enemy at length began to falter-confusion spread through their ranks, and they retreated to the great ravine, leaving the ground covered with the dead and dying, in fearful evidence of the severity of the contest.
It was now about five o'clock, and the batteries moved up a few hundred yards, and opened a destructive fire upon the battalion of San Patricio, supported by the Mississippi regiment and other troops, while General Taylor despatched the cavalry under Lieutenant-Colonel May to the left, to guard against any attempt again to turn our flank in that direction.
General Minon with his cavalry had advanced against Saltillo during the day, but was received by a heavy fire from the redoubt occupied by Captain Webster's company, which caused him to move off with rapidity. Towards the close of day he renewed the attempt, when, galled by a severe fire from two pieces of artillery, under Captain Shover and Lieutenant Donaldson, and a mixed command of volunteers, he hastily fled up the base of the mountains to his encampment.
As the sun set, the firing on both sides slackened, and at length ceased, and darkness and comparative silence settled down upon the two armies. Expecting a renewal of the attack,
BATTLE OF BUENA VISTA.
General Taylor made due preparations for the next day, but when the morning dawned, the dense masses of the enemy were nowhere to be seen, and shouts of victory went up from the American host that shook the very hills around. The Mexicans had fallen back upon Agua Nuera, and subsequently retreated to Encarnacion, strewing the desert between with the dead bodies of men and horses, who had perished for lack of food. Indeed the great physical exertions, and, in a measure, the success of the Americans, may be attributed to the fact that during the pauses in the fight they were regularly refreshed, while the enemy passed three days with no more than a single meal.
The battle of Buena Vista may be considered the crowning glory of the brave old chief, who had already covered himself with imperishable renown upon the fields of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, and at the heights of Monterey. The exultation of victory, however, was saddened by the loss of the many valorous spirits, who had gone down amid the storm of battle, in the vigour of manhood or the full honours of years. The American loss in killed, wounded, and missing, was seven hundred and forty-six; that of the Mexicans upwards of two thousand.
The battle of Buena Vista left General Taylor in undisputed possession of the whole line of the Sierra Madre. Nothing was afterwards attempted by the enemy in that quarter, beyond the depredations of small parties of guerillas. For the purpose of strengthening General Scott's line, further drafts were made the following August upon his forces, which had been considerably increased. Having made proper disposition of the remaining portions for the maintenance of his own line, General Taylor obtained leave of absence in November, and returned home, having left General Wool in command of all the forces.
Conquest of New Mexico.- Recognition of the War, and Disposition of the
Forces-General Kearny--Army of the West--Instructions from the War Depart.
The story of the recent conquest of New Mexico and California is one of rare and romantic interest. Yielding the preeminence in brilliancy of achievement and blood-bought triumph to the operations in southern and central Mexico, it takes no second place in the importance of its results, while it asserts for the force employed, skill, valour, devotion, and endurance, unsurpassed in military annals, and has crowned our arms with the truest and most abiding fame.
On recognition of war between the United States and Mexico, the American land forces designed to operate against the latter formed three divisions, with distinct points of attack. The “ Army of Occupation,” under Major-General Taylor, was instructed to move forward from its position on the Rio Grande, and subjugate and hold Coahuila, New Leon, and Tamaulipas. Brigadier-General Wool, with the “Army of the Centre,” was to rendezvous at San Antonio de Bexar, and move on the city and state of Chihuahua; while at Fort Leavenworth, on the Missouri, was concentrated the “ Army of the West" under Colonel Kearny, of the 1st regiment United States dragoons. His primary instructions were to march upon Santa Fé, the capital
of New Mexico, and effect the conquest and occupation of that state or department, but they were subsequently enlarged so as to embrace the conquest of California.
Mounted troops were considered best for the expedition ; and agreeably to the requisition of Governor Edwards of Missouri, companies began to arrive at Fort Leavenworth in the early part of June, 1846. They were immediately mustered into se
service, and instructed and drilled in military exercises. Horses, mules, wagons, ordnance, subsistence all the necessary materiel for an invading army were collected with prudent haste, and before the end of June, the expedition, fully organized, was on its route for Mexico.
The little army under Colonel Kearny numbered 1658 men, with sixteen pieces of ordnance, twelve 6-pounders, and four 12pound howitzers. It consisted of the following corps :-Five companies 1st regiment United States dragoons, under Major Sumner, three hundred men, and the only regulars in the army; Captain Hudson's company of St. Louis dragoons, the “ Laclede Rangers,” one hundred and seven men ; two companies of flying artillery, under Captains Fischer and Weightman, two hundred and fifty strong, with Major Clark as field-officer; a battalion of infantry, numbering one hundred and forty-five men, under Captains Angney and Murphy; with eight companies, composing the 1st regiment of Missouri mounted volunteers, eight hundred and fifty-six men, with the following field-officers-William Gilpin, Major; C. F. Ruff, Lieutenant-Colonel; Alexander W. Doniphan, Colonel, and second in rank to the commander of the whole column. A gallant band of field and topographical engineers accompanied the expedition, consisting of Lieutenants Emory, Warner, Abert, and Peck. They received their orders at the seat of government, on the 5th of June, and within twenty-four hours thereafter were on their way, and having expeditiously completed their equipment at St. Louis, reported to Colonel