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The American Army concentrated at Puebla-Scott determines to advance on the
Capital-Description of the Route—Twiggs reaches Ayotla-The Divisions close up-Reconnoissances upon El Peñon-Advance by the National Road abandoned -The Army moves round Lake Chalco to the Acapulco Road—Description of the March-Concentration of the Divisions upon the Acapulco Road.
The numerous delays by which a portion of our troops was detained so long at Puebla, were at least beneficial in one point of view, by enabling the new levies, as they came up, to acquire that perfect discipline and thorough knowledge of their officers, without which it is doubtful whether they would have achieved those signal victories which have since made the Anglo-Saxon name a terror to the hearts of the inhabitants of the valley of Mexico.
It must be remembered, that of the force which left Puebla for the Mexican capital, nearly one-half was new and untried. Most of them were men suddenly called from the occupations of civil life, from the plough, the loom, the desk, and the anvil; and though perhaps there were none among them wholly unaccustomed to the use of arms, there were, yet, very few indeed who were expert in the manual, or who could have performed with precision the numerous and complicated manœuvres, the knowledge of which is always requisite in the presence of an enemy, and so often essential to the success of a battle.
The rigid system of military instruction instituted at Puebla, made every man a soldier who arrived early enough to participate
in it, so that, before the army left that city, it had acquired the high distinction of being the best disciplined of any which had yet been sent forth by the American nation on the road to conquest. Its subsequent deeds fully proved that this estimate of its character was not less just than true.
One of the most remarkable features of the war, was the unbounded confidence which animated the American army on all occasions. No matter by how many obstacles surrounded, or by what numbers opposed, the possibility of defeat never seems to have been entertained for a single moment. To anticipate a battle was to anticipate a victory; and that the city of Mexico would be reached, in despite of the difficulties which were known to beset the way, was entertained with so undoubting a belief, that the possession of the Aztec capital was assured from the very moment that Puebla was left in the rear.
Leaving the meagre force of three hundred and ninety-three men under Colonel Childs to garrison the latter city, and charged with the protection of eighteen hundred sick in its hospitals, the army advanced towards the capital in four divisions, preceded by a cavalry brigade.
These divisions had been previously arranged as follows:
MARCH ON THE CAPITAL.
2d Infantry. COLONEL RILEY.
14th Infantry. GENERAL CADWALADER.
New York regiment.
South Carolina do.
2d Pennsylvania regiment. COLONEL ROBERTS.
But though the above was the arrangement of the divisions, the order of march was different. Twiggs's division, preceded by
Harney's cavalry, was in advance; then followed Quitman's division; to this succeeded the division of Worth; and the division of Pillow brought up the rear.
These divisions left Puebla on four successive days, beginning on the 7th of August, and ending on the 10th, but were at no time beyond five hours' march, or supporting distance, apart. On the 8th, the General-in-chief overtook and continued with, the leading division.*
The route by which the troops marched was over a rolling road, gradually ascending towards the Sierra Nevada. During the first day of their departure from Puebla, the country through which they passed, was of great natural beauty and fertility. well-watered, and bore evidences of the most careful cultivation. In the midst of the magnificent estates before them, were to be seen the haciendas of wealthy proprietors, embosomed in foliage, each with its appropriate chapel gleaming white through the trees, and surrounded by the numerous habitations of the labourers. Upon the left, at the distance of many miles, though seemingly close by, rose high, clear, distinct, and sharply defined in the pure atmosphere of the mountains, the mighty summits of Popocatapetl and Iztaccihuatl, clothed densely around their bases with the dark verdure of forest trees, but crowned with everlasting snows; while nearer yet, and between the road and the mountains, were to be seen the ruins of the pyramid of Cholula, the only vestige remaining of the populous city of the Aztecs, which in the days of Cortez numbered two hundred thousand souls.
During the morning of the second day, the face of the country began to wear a more rugged aspect; the signs of cultivation gradually grew less, and, after passing a few miles beyond the village of San Martin, terminated altogether.
The road now became wilder, winding about and over a suc
Scott's Official Despatches, No. 31.