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ALVARADO.-SECOND EXPEDITION. ITS
SINCE the excursion of our fleet down to the river Alvarado, the firing of a few guns into the fort of the enemy, at the mouth of that river, and our return again to the anchorage off Anton Lizardo, there have been occasional whispers, that a successful expedition against that fort, and an attempt made to cut out the vessels belonging to the Mexican government, would be put into execution in a few days. It was felt that the first movement had been a display off the mouth of that river, which reflected no honor upon the flag; and it could not be concealed, that deep chagrin had been experienced on account of it, by almost every officer attached to the squadron. Preparations had been partially made for a landing on shore, on the first occasion of visiting the Alvarado; and disappointment and murmurs of complaint were loud at the failure; and letters from the fleet, whether the course was justifiable or not, filled the northern papers, reflecting upon the Commander-in-chief, as having but ill supported the honor of that flag which he had, in other days gallantly defended, and under which he had victoriously sailed. The Mexican papers, too, noticing the movement of the American fleet, seemed to have deemed it only a feint, and confessed that no resistance could have been made by them, unless the enemy had come ashore.
And besides, on the arrival of the squadron, off the river, the Mexican vessels got under way, and as soon and as fast as possible, made their way up the stream. The force, at this point, seemed to have been very inconsiderable, according to the Mexican papers; and the Mexicans themselves, af. ter the leaving of the fleet, would hardly ever have dreamed that the Americans designed them injury by the visit of our ships, unless they had learned it afterwards, by the statements in the United States papers.
It is not for me to scrutinize the motives of the Commander-in-chief. But so obviously did it appear to others, that Commodore Conner's naval reputation, as well as the reputation of the Navy itself, required some action of the fleet, which should regain what was deemed to be a false step, in this movement at the mouth of the Alvarado, that no one was surprised to learn, that the Commander-in-chief meditated another attack, at this place. And if another demonstration should be made there, it must be successful. The alternative of this, as a possible occurrence, was never admitted to the thought of an officer of the fleet. It was the reputation of the Navy, as well as the personal fame of the Commanderin-chief, which was now concerned, and to be cared for, protected, and reinstated beyond the power of question, either by friend or by foe. A second failure, would be suicide to. the fame of a proud service, to which every officer felt it an honor to belong, in the associations of its past story, and in the honorable expectations of the nation, which looked on it in every emergency confidingly, for the national defence. Those high expectations of a people, who had always contemplated the service with fondness and liberality, that Navy now and ever would sustain, while it should and would maintain the glory, which it had so honorably and so gal. lantly in other days achieved. Such was the breathing of every officer on board our ships.
I stop not here to criticise the peculiar policy, taste, or propriety of any of the details of the Commander-in-chief, in his direction of the movements of the Home Squadron, in generals or in particulars. Every man has his own way of doing things. There are modes, however, of causing preparations to be made and information to be communicated, which will develope no important secret-an encouragement and a conversation, which will awaken enthusiasm, secure devotion, and produce and deepen love, and make men who are brave, braver still, and willing men, more willing still. But such mode and manner are not in the power or the practice of every man. It was Napoleon's.
For two or three days of the week previous to the 11th of October, officers and men were detailed to the boats. Guns were examined, pistols assorted, cutlasses appropriated, some swords ground, and ammunition sent on board the various small vessels, as it was needed. The prize schooner Nonata was fitted up with four 42-pound carronades, and other instruments of war, and with quarters for men and officers. A thousand other things seemed to be developed, (though sat rather a late hour for the needed training and manæuvring of men and officers,) which seemed to indicate war upon somebody or something, but where, certainly yet seemed to sit as darkly aback the veil of the future as did the coming of the Norther, which, for a few days more delayed the consummation of the plans of the Commander-inchief, and the exercising of the boats and men.
On the 13th of October, however, a diagram, which was not without its merit in the arrangement, was developed to the squadron as the plan of operations against the fort, at the mouth of the Alvarado river, and the cutting out of the Mexican vessels. Attached to this diagram was the following order:
“U. S. Ship Cumberland,
. 13, 1846.} “Sir,-The accompanying order is that for towing and sailing in a line ahead. The order of sailing or towing, in two columns, will be formed as follows: the McLean on the larboard beam of the Vixen. The Reefer, on the larboard beam of the Nonata. The Petrel, on the larboard beam of the Bonito ; and the Forward astern of the Petrel.
“Close order will be, half cable's length between the two columns; and half that distance between each vessel, to be increased or diminished as circumstances may require.
“ It is intended that the boats shall pass the bar, as arranged in the accompanying diagram, should it be sufficiently smooth. But in case there is so much surf as to endanger dashing the boats against the vessels towing them, it may then be necessary for them to cast off, and make their way across the bar separately, making fast to the vessels again,
In this case, the boats' crews alone will be placed in the boats. The marines belonging to them will remain on board the vessels which had them in tow. Circumstances may occur, to change or modify these arrangements, for which it would be difficult to give specific orders. "I am, respectfully, &c.
Commanding Home Squadron. * Captain F. FORREST, Commanding U. S. Ship Cumberland.”
as soon as over.
These orders and the diagram having been issued, there became a general and settled feeling of interest in the expedition. The expedition itself now seemed quite probable and almost certain. The necessity of a successful expedition was universally affirmed, and universally felt.
For several days the waters about the ship presented at
times an animated spectacle, as the boats from the different ships joined the boats of the Cumberland, when they prac. tised several evolutions in forming lines and taking various positions, which exhibited all the interest that a fine regatta presents, when boats, ready for the contest, gather at their goal. Flags were displayed from the stern-sheets of each boat-launches, cutters, and barges—and the boats' numbers on flags at their bows; and thus a gala scene was exhibited to the view, as one watched them at one's leisure, from the poop-deck of the Cumberland.
The boats also pulled for the neighboring little island, before mentioned as Salmedina. And on this island, the marines and the seamen exercised in marches and countermarches, and firing at a target. But they visited this island only twice, and, doubtless, succeeded in making the command quite familiar in getting into (not to say forming) a hollow square, or a circle for a like purpose of repelling a body of cavalry, in case the Mexican cavaliers should come down upon them with their horses and lances.
The Sunday of the 11th of October passed stilly and calmly by, after the noise and the stir of the last few days of the preceding week. Several officers from the other ships were aboard the Cumberland, to attend the religious services of the day-Captain Gregory, Commander Ingham, and Lieutenants Hunt, Parker, Rogers, and others. It seemed like Sunday on shore-more than usually so. The Commodore and Captain, and other officers of our own ship, and men, gathered in their places. The ship's bell was tolled. The music was good and plaintive; and though I felt that my discourse was less relevant than I wished to the circumstances of the squadron on the eve of an expedition, which all now began to feel would be attended with danger, as I had prepared this discourse earlier than the announcement of the intended movement, yet it was easy to direct its conclusion