Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

CHAP.
LII.

His extravagant professions of patriotism were not

without effect; his countrymen deposed Paredes, and 1846. elected him President. Though they had been unfortu

nate in the field, their spirits revived, and in a few months

he had an army of twenty thousand men concentrated at Dec.

San Luis Potosi.

Meanwhile General Wool had marched from San Sept. Antonio. His indefatigable labors had converted the vol

unteers under his care into well-drilled soldiers. Part of their way was through a region but thinly inhabited and without roads, and across a desert in which they suffered much for water. A laborious march of six weeks brought him to Monclova, seventy miles from Monterey-here he learned of the capture of the latter place. It was now arranged that he should take position in a fertile district in the province of Durango, that would enable him to obtain supplies for his own men, and the army under General Taylor. The inhabitants cheerfully furnished provisions, for which they were paid promptly, and in truth received more favor than they had recently experienced at the hands of their own rulers, as General Wool kept his men under strict discipline and scrupulously protected the persons and property of the Mexicans.

The cessation of hostilities, by orders from Washing

ton, ceased on the 13th of November. Two days later Nov. General Worth took possession of Saltillo, the capital of

Coahuila, and General Taylor himself, leaving a garrison in Monterey under General Butler, marched toward the

coast in order to attack Tampico, but as that place had Dec. already surrendered to Commodore Connor, he took pos

session of Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas.

The United States government now prepared to invade Mexico by way of Vera Cruz. Just as General Taylor was ready to commence active operations, General Scott was about to sail for that place with the

15.

29.

TROOPS WITHDRAWN FROM TAYLOR'S ARMY.

713

LII.

intention of capturing it, and then, if peace could not be CHAP. obtained, to march upon the city of Mexico itself.

To carry out the plan of operations, it was necessary 1846. to increase the force under General Scott's immediate control. Troops in sufficient numbers could not be drawn from the United States, and a portion of Taylor's army was ordered to join him before Vera Cruz. He thus in a private letter expresses his generous sympathies with the latter : “My dear General,” says he, “I shall be obliged to take from you most of the gallant officers and men whom you have so long and so nobly commanded. I am afraid that I shall, by imperious necessity—the approach of the yellow fever on the Gulf coast-reduce you, for a time, to remain on the defensive. This will be infinitely painful to you, and, for that reason, distressing to me. But I rely upon your patriotism to submit to the temporary

sacrifice with cheerfulness. No man can better afford to do so. Recent victories place you on that high eminence.”

General Taylor, though deeply disappointed, at once complied with the orders of the government, and detached Generals Worth and Quitman with their divisions and the greater part of the volunteers brought by General Wool: in truth, the flower of his army. These troops were speedily on their march from Saltillo toward the Gulf coast. Thus Taylor was left with a very small force. During the month of January, and a part of February, reinforcements of 1847 volunteers arrived from the United States, increasing his army to about six thousand; but after garrisoning Monterey and Saltillo, he had only four thousand seven hundred effective men, of whom only six hundred were regulars.

General Scott sent Lieutenant Richey and a guard of men with a despatch to General Taylor. The Lieutenant imprudently left his men, went near a Mexican village, was lassoed, dragged from his horse and murdered,

LII.

CHAP. and his despatches sent to Santa Anna. From these tho

Mexican chief learned the plan for invading his country. 1847. He promptly decided upon his course of action-a ju

dicious one. Trusting that the strength of Vera Cruz, and of the Castle San Juan d'Ulloa, would long resist the enemy, and even if they both should be captured, that the fortified places along the road would still retard the advance of the Americans upon the capital, he determined to direct all his force against Taylor, who was now weakened by the loss of the greater part of his army.

Santa Anna's difficulties were almost insurmountable. The city of Mexico was in confusion, torn by factions. He took most extraordinary and illegal measures to enlist men and obtain the means for their support; raised money by forced loans ; made the church property contribute its share of the public expense ; the Priests protested and appealed to the superstitions of the people ; he immediately seized one of their number, the most factious, and threw him into prison, and the rest were intimidated. Thus, for nearly four months, he exercised an arbitrary, energetic,

and iron rule. With a well-organized army of twentyJan.

three thousand men, and twenty pieces of artillery, he com26. menced his march for San Luis Potosi in the direction of

Saltillo, and within sixty miles south of that place he halted and prepared for battle.

Rumors reached General Wool that Santa Anna was approaching Saltillo. Major Borland was sent with thirty dragoons to reconnoitre ; he was joined on his way by Major Gaines and Captain Cassius M. Clay, with another company of thirty-five men. No enemy appeared, and they pushed on during the day, and carelessly encamped for the night, but, in the morning, found themselves surrounded by one thousand horsemen under the Mexican General Minon. They were taken prisoners, and Santa Anna sent them, as the first fruits of the campaign, to be paraded through the streets of the city of Mexico.

TAYLOR AT SALTILLO—M'CULLOCK'S ADVENTURE.

715

LII.

4.

General Taylor now advanced from Monterey, and CHAP. established his head-quarters at Saltillo. Leaving there his stores, he made a rapid march to Agua Nueva, eighteen 1847 miles in advance, on the road to San Luis Potosi, thus to secure the southern extremity of the defile through the Sierra Nevada, rather than the northern one at Monterey. Feb. At the former point the Mexicans must fight or starve, because of the barrenness of the country in their rear ; while, had he remained at Monterey, Santa Anna could have had his head-quarters at Saltillo, and drawn his supplies from that comparatively fertile district.

Scouts reported that General Minon with a large body of cavalry was to the left of Agua Nueva, and that the American position could be turned. Companies of dragoons from time to time were sent in different directions to reconnoitre. They at length learned from a “ Mexican, dressed as a peon," that Santa Anna had arrived in the neighborhood with twenty thousand men, and that he intended to attack the Americans the next morning.

The clouds of dust toward the east, and the signal fires that blazed upon the tops of the distant hills, seemed to confirm the report. But that daring Texan ranger, Major McCulloch, was not satisfied ; and, accompanied by some dozen volunteers, he determined to ascertain the truth of the “peon's” story. They pushed on across a desert of thirty-six miles to Encarnacion, where they arrived at midnight, and found the enemy in force. Sending back all his men, save one, McCulloch entered their lines, and, undetected, went from point to point, obtained more correct information of their numbers, then passed out, and escaped to Agua Nueva.

On the reception of this intelligence, Taylor, leaving a small guard as an outpost, retired up the valley in expectation that Santa Anna in hot haste would pursue him, while he himself should await his approach at a point, which, in passing, he had already noticed. The conjecture was correct.

CHAP.
LII.

Santa Anna knew well the position of the Americans.

He thought they would not retreat, and he resolved to 1847. surprise them. But between him and Agua Neuva there

intervened fifty miles, the last thirty-six of which were across a desert. His soldiers were each supplied with water and provisions ; in the morning the march commenced, and at noon they entered the desert ; in the night they halted for a while to refresh, and at dawn they were to attack the unsuspecting foe. The march was rapid and secret ; the silence of the desert was not disturbed—not a signal was used, not a drum beat. After so much toil he was sadly disappointed ; his enemy bad disappeared. He firmly believed the Americans were in full flight, in order to avoid a battle. Some days before he had sent General Minon with his cavalry across the mountains, to their rear, and he now hoped that Minon would be able to hold the fugitives in check until he himself could come up with his full force. He halted only to refresh his wearied soldiers, and then pursued with all his vigor.

The ground chosen by General Taylor on which to make a stand, was the pass—since so famous—known among the Mexicans as La Angosturas, or the Narrows. It was at the north end of a valley, about twelve miles long, and formed by mountains on either side. Here an ascent rises to a plateau, a little more than a mile wide, on each side of which rugged mountains, inaccessible to artillery or cavalry, rise from two to three thousand feet. Numerous ravines or deep gullies, formed by the torrents rushing from the mountains during the rainy season, rendered the surface in front and on the sides very uneven. Neither flank could be turned except by light troops clambering up the mountains. The plateau was somewhat rough, with here and there open and smooth places, as well as clumps of thorny chaparral. The road through

« PředchozíPokračovat »