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« U. S. SHIP CUMBERLAND,
Off Vera Cruz, October 17, 1846. “ It is with feelings of deep mortification that I apprize the Department of the failure of another attempt to enter the river of Alvarado.
“ On the morning of the 15th, a little after sunrise, I reached the entrance of that river, with the steamer Vixen, the three gunboats, the prize schooner Nonata, mounting four guns, and the revenue vessels, schooner Forward and steamer McLean, accompanied by the Mississippi, Commodore Perry. It was intended the latter should cannonade the battery, while the smaller vessels crossed the bar. It was found, however, she could not approach near enough to make any impression on the work with her shells. This battery mounted seven guns; and immediately behind it, on an elevated knoll, was a platform, on which was a mounted pivot-gun. Knowing the small power of the steamers on which I depended to tow the small vessels over the bar, and up the river, I was desirous of having a favorable wind to assist them. For this purpose, I delayed moving until nearly two o'clock, but seeing no prospect of the usual sea-breeze setting in, I determined to proceed. The first division, composed of the Reefer and Bonito, in tow of the Vixen, got under way, and was followed by the second division, consisting of the Nonata, Forward, and Petrel, towed by the McLean. As they approached the bar, the current became stronger, causing the steamers to steer badly, and lessening their progress to not more than a mile, or a mile and a half the hour.
“ The first division continued to advance steadily, and had been some time engaged with the battery, when I had the mortification to see the McLean aground on the bar, and the vessels she had in tow foul of each other, in the greatest disorder.
“ As it was evident no support could be expected from the second division for some time, if at all, and as the three vessels composing the first were wholly inadequate to prosecute the attack, even if they could pass the battery, with which we were engaged, I was constrained to order the Vixen to be put about, and repass the bar.
“ It may be as well to observe here, that besides the battery at the entrance of the river, there is another at the town, one and a half miles distant, of three guns, with two brigs, each mounting nine guns, a schooner of seven guns and two gunboats, each carrying a long twenty-four-pounder-all so disposed as to command the channel. By the time the Vixen joined her, the McLean was again afloat, without having sustained any material injury. It was obvious, however, her draft (ten feet two inches) was too great to pass the bar in its present state. Generally, there are from thirteen to fifteen feet on it, and my information led me to believe I should find that depth now, but the late floods have probably lessened it, as on sounding, previously to entering, there were barely twelve feet. The Vixen struck twice on going over, though drawing only seven feet. The current was also stronger in the river than I expected, and even if she could pass the bar, I felt convinced the power of the McLean was inadequate to make head against it with any vessel in tow. These considerations—and the day being far spent-induced me, however much against my inclination, to abandon any farther attempt at present to enter the river.
Except for a short time, from early in the spring to the commencement of the rainy season, no one, not acquainted with them, can have any conception of the difficulties attending naval operations on this coast. The north winds, during the winter months, are sudden and violent, accompanied by high seas and strong currents. No judgment can be formed as to what moment they may cominence. Under such circumstances, an opinion may be easily formed of the difficulty of landing a body of men on the open coast, and also of the danger from the elements attending it.
“ I am, very respectfully,
“ D. CONNER,
Commanding Home Squadron." “ Hon. John Y. MASON,
Secretary, of the Navy, Washington."
EXPEDITION TO TABASCO FROM THE HOME SQUADRON, UNDER
THE COMMAND OF COMMODORE PERRY.-DEATH OF LIEUTENANT CHARLES W. MORRIS.--THE LIEUTENANT'S BURIAL.
The squadron reached the anchorage of the Flag Ship Cumberland, on its return from Alvarado, in the edge of the evening of the 15th of October. The Commander-in-chief came over the sides of his noble frigate, as he was the first to reach the ship, and a deep sensation evidently was producedas all who had been left on board the frigate deemed, with others, that there were many chances against their shipmates' return. And every heart and every officer of the squadron, I have reason to believe, would have delighted in the triumph of Commodore Conner on this expedition. And what had been its success now was unknown, as the squadron's return had brought its own news, and the first, of the action of the fleet. But it was soon known to be a failure ; and while there were many mitigating circumstances-the grounding of the McLean constituting the chief one-to apologize for the abandonment of the expedition, under the circumstances in which the fleet withdrew, yet every officer knew, that nothing would apologize with the country at large for the failure of any naval attempt upon the enemy, whatever might be the difficulties or accidents occurring at the time. Success is the criterion of merit--failure, of inca
pacity, in the judgment of the nation, when contemplating naval or military operations.
I know not what were all the counsels between Commodore Conner and Commodore Perry, the succeeding morning. But it was soon known throughout the squadron, that another expedition was immediately to be put into execution. The very next night it would sail—the same vessels—the same officers, with some few exceptions, were to compose the little feet. Additional ammunition was given to the different vessels—a fortnight's provision served out—and men and officers, before late of the evening of the same day, were distributed to the different vessels. Commodore Perry was to have command of the expedition.
Accordingly it was arranged that the same vessels, with the exception of the Petrel, under the command of Commodore Perry in chief, should get under way at midnight, and stand down the coast. It was generally supposed to be, for the purpose of making an attack on Tabasco, and securing whatever vessels there might be in the river, of the same name, on which the town is situated. The Mississippi, Com. modore Perry's Flag Ship, the Vixen, McLean, and the schooners Nonata, Bonito, Reefer, and Forward, composing the little fleet, were under way at midnight, as had been anticipated ; and in the morning, they were not to be seen. But it was thought, at about the hour when the steamers, with their tow, might be expected to be off Alvarado, guns were heard, and as the day broke yet more brightly, smoke was seen to rise at the point, where the mouth of the Alvarado was known to be. “Have they made another attack there,'' was the question among those of the mess table, who had remained behind, the next morning. “If they have, they will be successful,” was the reply. 6. And the course that has been pursued, doubtless is this—they have passed, at break of day, directly over the bar, heedless of the fort-have urged their
way up the river-laid the different vessels or their manned boats along side of the Mexican vessels, which are said to be anchored across the stream--carried them by boardingcut the springs on their cables—and brought the guns to bear on the fort, as the vessels swung with the stream. And thus have they secured a surrender of the enemy or abandonment of their works by bombarding, and by landing a force to take the fort, and spike the guns; and have afterwards retreated from the river with their prizes or advanced upon the town of Alvarado. This seemed all so plausible—so practicable to one, at least, whose head was not to be risked in the fight, that I could not myself but believe, that such was the secret which ere long should be devoloped as the action of the little fleet, and account for the firing thus early heard. But the one drawback to this apparently very plausible speculation was, that Commodore Perry had promised that ALVARADO should be respected as he passed, and be still left for Commodore Conner to take, when he should have arranged his plans for a third demonstration there, which it was affirmed still to be his purpose to make, and with a hoped-for success, that should show, not only that personal courage is his, which all will accord to him, but also, that his judgment in conducting naval operations is not so much at fault, as some may have supposed, from the failures at this point. It may
here be added, that the appearance of a fine ship in the offing and her anchoring under the stern of the Cumberland the succeeding day, gave us the secret of the firing that was heard at the south of us, the preceding morning. The ship was a prize, sent up in charge of an officer from the Mississippi, which the fleet had found off Alvarado, where she was lying, ready to discharge her cargo, but slipping her cable, on the appearance of the fleet, endeavored to escape. A few guns from the Mississippi brought her to, and her case awaits for adjudication, as a valuable prize,