페이지 이미지

ful and imposing state, and rolling helplessly, a shattered hulk, upon a stormy sea, subject to the sport of every wind and the treachery of every wave.

The fact that General Santa Anna had made great personal sacrifices for the Mexican nation, even to the impairment of his private fortune ; that he had succeeded in organizing three large armies; that he had raised unexpected, though limited supplies ; that he infused an unwonted energy and uniformity of action into the complex machinery of government; that he had stilled the unnatural feud existing between opposite factions in the republic; that he had blended, for a time, the heterogeneous elements of which parties are composed in that unhappy land; that he had built admirable fortifications, at points judiciously selected for defence, and that he had offered a steady and continuous, though unavailing resistance to the American arms, wherever resistance promised success, should at least have shielded him from many of the calumnies to which his ill-success had exposed him, and should have taught the Mexican people to look leniently even upon his errors. No other man in the republic possessed either the power or the ability to have achieved as much in its defence; and though his frequent manifestoes exhibit an absence of that modesty so becoming in a great man, there is little doubt the peculiar idiosyncrasy of the Mexican mind had often before mistaken the vapourings of Ancient Pistol for the self-sacrificing spirit of Leonidas.


City of Puebla threatened by General Rea-Situation of the Garrison-Loss of an

American Detachment-Puebla invested-Summons of General Santa Anna to Colonel Childs-His noble Reply-Operations of the Besiegers—General Santa Anna leaves the city to intercept General Lane-Successful Sortie from the Garrison—The Besiegers Reinforced-Severe Street-fight-Approach of General Lane-The Siege raised.

In the mean time the city of Puebla was seriously threatened by General Rea. No sooner was this active partisan chief aware that the divisions under General Scott had left Puebla, and were fairly on their march towards the capital, leaving behind them only a weak garrison to hold the former city, than he moved down from his fastnesses, and after hovering about Puebla for some time in the hope of cutting off foraging-parties from the garrison, he commenced its investment on the 13th of September. Left entirely isolated, without communication with the coast, or the possibility of aid from General Scott, the situation of Colonel Childs as Governor of Puebla was in every respect a critical one.

With a slender command, amounting in all to only three hundred and ninety-three men, exclusive of convalescents from the hospitals under his charge, he had to garrison the grand depot of San José within the city, and the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe, two tolerably strong works crowning the heights to the east of Puebla, and distant from it about a mile.

The first open act of hostility by which the presence of General Rea was signalized, resulted in a loss to the Americans, which, considering the weakness of the respective garrisons, may be considered serious.

On the morning of the 26th of August an express arrived at San José, with the tidings that the guerrilleros had broken into the stock-yard near Fort Loreto, and driven off in the direction of Camargo seven hundred and fifty mules.

Five teamsters immediately started in pursuit ; but after a slight skirmish, in which one Mexican was killed, this small party were driven in by superior numbers. Unable to dispense with the services either of the cavalry or infantry, which constituted the effective force of the already too limited garrison of San José, Colonel Childs consented to the formation of an irregular force of mounted men for the purpose of pursuing the guerrilleros and recovering the stolen animals. This little detachment, consisting of thirty-three men under the command of Captain Blanchard, of the Quartermaster's department, followed the tracks of the mules for some miles, until they were lost in the bed of a ravine.

With the reckless impetuosity of the American character, the advance guard clambered across the ravine closely followed by their companions, and were in the act of dashing over the crest of the hill beyond, when they were fired upon from a clump of trees, and a few guerrilleros were seen in full flight towards an old stone building at the foot of the hill.

Unconscious of the trap which had been laid for him, Blanchard gave the order to charge upon the fugitives, when the chase was suddenly arrested by the appearance of the main body of the guerrilleros darting out from their hiding-places among the willows beyond.

Finding himself thus drawn into an ambuscade, with bodies of lancers increasing on all sides, until their numbers, including the infantry afterwards discovered, amounted to eight hundred men, Blanchard ordered his men to retreat in the direction of the city. In an instant the whole array of the enemy was let loose upon them, and, like a pack of famished wolves panting for blood, they sprang from all points of the compass, and with screams and



vivas darted towards the common centre formed by the devoted band they had so successfully decoyed.

On approaching the ravine so lately crossed with impunity, the opposite bank was found lined with the enemy, holding their lances ready couched for the attack. As the ravine only admitted the passage of a single man at a time, it would have been madness to have attempted its passage in the face of an enemy possessing the advantage both of position and numbers.

Hemmed in on all sides by a force continually increasing, Captain Blanchard, who had hitherto kept his little command well together, now gave the mournful order for every man to look to himself, and sell his life as dearly as possible.

In an instant his command scattered in all directions; some forced their way across the ravine, and precipitating themselves upon the enemy died hardily, pierced with innumerable wounds; others dashed along the bank of the ravine in search of a more favourable outlet, bụt the quivering lances met them at every point. A few sought the tempting refuge of a neighbouring cornfield, but were forced back by finding it filled with infantry. Tossed to and fro, the little band of victims turned daringly upon their pursuers, and fighting desperately, died literally hacked to pieces. Of thirty-three men only eleven, more fortunate than their comrades, succeeded in cutting their way through the dense ranks of the enemy, or in outstripping pursuit by the superior fleetness of their horses. Among the victims was the brave Captain Blanchard.

During the three following weeks, the enemy, as if satisfied with his bloody achievement, remained inactive, or contented himself merely with cutting off such straggling soldiers as chanced to fall in his way. This interval was improved by Colonel Childs, who, confining his defence to the principal squares around the Plaza, threw up breastworks across the principal streets that

led to it, and by the energy of his foraging-parties was enabled to obtain a small but much needed supply of provisions.

On the night of the 13th the investment commenced in earnest. Emboldened by the cautious policy to which Colonel Childs prudently restricted his command, the guerrilleros entered the city, and combining with a portion of the citizens, seized such positions as could be made available, and opened a heavy fire upon San José from the tops of houses and churches, from balconies, and from the corners of the various streets leading to the Plaza.

As the safety of the posts of Loreto and Guadaloupe depended upon the successful defence of San José, the immediate command of the latter was intrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Black, of the 1st Pennsylvania regiment, with Captain Ford's company of cavalry, Captain Miller's company of 4th artillery, and four companies of the 1st Pennsylvania regiment, together with such convalescents from the hospital under his charge as were enabled from time to time to do duty.

The point of attack being San José, the enemy, in constantly increasing force, kept up an incessant firing upon that post by day and night, in the vain hope of breaking down the courage of its defenders through the effects of utter physical exhaustion.

On the 23d of September, a joyous ringing of bells throughout the city announced the arrival of General Santa Anna; but the melodious congratulations were speedily silenced by a discharge of shot and shells from Loreto into the heart of the city.

On the 25th, General Santa Anna, having united his force with that of General Rea, and assumed command of the whole, despatched the following message to Colonel Childs, in which he informed him he was surrounded by eight thousand men, and demanded his evacuation of the city and of the posts of Loreto and Guadaloupe within a certain and peremptory time.

« 이전계속 »