Chapter II

 

Nothing could exceed the heat of the weather during the few days we spent in New Orleans.  All were anxious to hear of the action of the Texas Convention, and we found some little difficulty to restrain our impatience to be “off.”  General Taylor and staff did not accompany the troops on their departure from Fort Jesup.  He remained behind to see that every thing was arranged for the departure of the Dragoons, and arrived in the city on the 15th.  In the mean time, vessels had been engaged to transport the troops to the point which should be selected by General Taylor, and all was life and animation in getting the necessary stores on board.  On the 4th of July the Texas Convention decided upon accepting the propositions of annexation (with one exception) by a unanimous vote.  According to instructions, an immediate move became necessary, and that the general should make choice of the position he intended to occupy.  He was, you may say, in utter ignorance of the country; but decided, after carefully weighing the advantages (as represented) of the different points upon the Gulf, to repair to Corpus Christi.  The glowing descriptions which we received of the beauty of its location, and of the immense number of fish, oysters, deer, and every kind of game, gave up pleasurable anticipations.

 

On the 15th of July a gloom was thrown over us all by the sudden and unexpected demise of Colonel J. H. Vose of the 4th Infantry.  This sad event occurred at New Orleans Barracks.  He was on drill within a few moment of his death.  He fell back on the porch of his quarters in a fit, and died before medical aid could be of any avail.  He died like a true soldier, with his sword and sash around him – literally “in harness.”  On the 16th he was buried with funeral honors; the 3d Infantry formed his escort.  We could not but be impressed with so melancholy a commencement of the campaign.  Few of us will forget the melting heat we endured while marching from our quarters to the Barracks.

 

On the 19th Lieutenant Bragg arrived from Charleston with his company of the 3d Artillery, with orders to report to General Taylor for duty with the “Army of Observation.”  A light battery, with the necessary horses, should have met him at New Orleans.  Nothing of the kind made its appearance, and the company embarked without it, for the time being serving as infantry.  The steam-ship Alabama was assigned to the 3d Infantry.  The general and staff (Captain Bliss, acting adjutant-general, and Lieutenant Eaton, aid-de-camp), Captain Crossman, acting quartermaster, and Captain Waggaman (acting commissary of supplies) decided upon embarking in her.  During the day and evening of the 22d the baggage and subsistence were placed on board.  Ships were chartered for the 4th Infantry and Bragg’s battery, who were ordered to leave as soon as they could prepare themselves.  The 3d Infantry, at eleven o’clock at night on the 22d of July, were formed in line in the street running between the yards of the Cotton Press, wheeled into column, and, to the soul-inspiring air of their regimental quick-step, marched through the streets, thence to their transport.  Many curious heads were seen protruding from half-opened doors and windows, to know what all the fuss could be about; and many an old veteran had the dormant feeling of the 8th of January rekindled by the “ear-piercing fife” and “spirit-stirring drum.”  The moon was just rising as we marched out, gilding and domes and house-tops, and caused our bayonets to glisten in the mellow light.  The deep shadows on one side of the street, the bright moonlight upon the other, the solemn quiet of a sleeping city, disturbed so harshly by the martial music of the column, formed a scene which touched one’s feelings, and will not easily be forgotten.

 

The Alabama left her moorings at three o’clock on the morning of the 23d, and by twelve M. had crossed the bar at the southwest pass, and was gallantly and rapidly cutting her way over the Gulf, barely ruffled by the soft breeze.  At anchor outside lay the sloop-of-war St. Mary’s, commanded by that gallant and excellent seaman, Captain Saunders, ordered from Pensacola to convoy the troops.  As we had steam, she remained o convoy the sail vessels.  At twelve o’clock on the 25th, after a delightful run, we made Matagorda Island.  It was the first glimpse of the promised land, the land of “the lone star” no longer.

 

          Matagorda Island is properly St. Joseph’s; and the one put down on the maps as St. Joseph’s should be Espiritu Santo.  We ran along the coast (about two miles distant) all the afternoon.  Its white sand-beach and rolling sand-hills, from twenty to fifty feet high, covered with verdure, presented quite a bold and picturesque appearance.  It resembles very much the Florida coast.  You miss, however, the palmetto and pine; to the latter-named we have bidden a long farewell.  The live-oak, of immense size, through whose thickly-interlaced leaves and limbs the sun’s rays never pierce, has taken their place.  I regret to part with the stately, long-leaf pine; it has been associated with my southern service, and its “music” has oft lulled me into happy reveries.  A fierce band of Indians, the Caranchuas, formerly, and within a very late period, inhabited this island.  They are cannibals, and proved a scourge to the early settlers of this portion of Texas.  A small band of Texans gav them battle, and, after a fierce fight, whipped and drove them from the island.  The spot on which the battle took place bears the name of “Battle Island.”  In the course of several fights they have nearly been exterminated.  They are now reduced to a few warriors, and are located upon Padre Island.  They are very brave and warlike, and celebrated for the accuracy of their shooting.  An instance is related of a warrior lying down upon his back, using his feet to draw his bow, and driving an arrow, at the distance of 175 yards, through a man and six folds of buckskin.

 

We made Aransas Bay, latitude 27° 45², early on the morning of the 26th of July.  Lieutenant C. landed at nine o’clock, and on the top of one of the loftiest sand-hills erected a pole, from the top of which was unfurled the star-spangled banner.  It floats over a rich acquisition, the most precious Uncle Sam has yet added to his crown.

 

“Long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”         

 

The company I commanded had the honor of landing first.  The vessel, drawing too much water, could not cross the bar; it therefore became necessary for us to land in small boats.  Seventy-five yards distant from the shore the men had to jump overboard into the roaring surf.  They made a real frolic of it.  Some old veteran camp-women took to the element as if they were born in it; while others, more delicately-nerved, preferred a man’s back, and rode on shore.  This island (St. Joseph’s) is a curiosity, in many respects.  If you dig a well four feet deep any where, even on the sea-shore, you obtain fresh water.  Into these wells a barrel is usually sunk, to prevent their caving in.  My company was encamped near a fresh-water pond; within a few paces there was another pond, of precisely similar appearance, but salt as brine.  No one was aware of this fact until we saw one of the men, who was very thirsty, rushing to it, flattering himself he was about having a refreshing drink, spitting out the first swallow, with strong symptoms of disgust.  I can not satisfactorily account for the water in some places being fresh and in other’s salt.  The most plausible theory is, the water of the ocean, filtrating through the sand, loses its saline property.  Every thing goes to prove this.  If you dig a little lower in the same well, after reaching fresh, you will strike salt water.  The fresh water, at best, has a most unpleasant taste.  There are three or four families residing upon this island, who depend upon this water for their drinking.  The fishing here can not be surpassed; sheep-head, drum, mullet, red-fish, and many others too numerous to mention, abound; the water is literally alive with them.  The red-fish are most prized; the men caught great quantities of them; they bait with fiddlers, wade out into the surf, and as fast as they throw in their lines are sure to have a bite; not so sure, however, to catch the fish, for they often strike such large ones they snap their hooks like pipe-stems.  As soon as you have fastened one, you throw the line over your shoulder and put for the shore “double quick;” often, by this means, landing the largest fish without any difficulty; for they swim along with you, and find themselves caught before they know it.  A sergeant of my company hooked such a monster that he could not budge him; the fish darted between him and a comrade standing by his side; as he passed they laid violent hands upon him, unhooked him, and started for shore.  They had not proceeded ten paces, when he flapped his tail and threw them both on their backs, and escaped.

 

The hunting here is unsurpassed.  Deer abound.  If you are in want of meat, you have but to station yourself behind some of the innumerable sand-hills, near ponds of fresh water.  Here may be seen the deer for half a mile, when feeding or coming to water.  There you can quietly sit, and the deer will walk within thirty yards of you; or, if you prefer it, mount your horse, dash over the island, and you can have the excitement of shooting them under full run.  An officer of our regiment jumped on a horse, rode to the shooting-grounds, and in twenty minutes from the time of dismounting killed three fine, fat fellows.  Teal and mallard duck were found in the ponds with their young; also jack-snipe.  This is somewhat astonishing, as it is the general impression they migrate to the north to breed.

 

The soil of the island is peculiarly adapted to the cultivation of sea-island cotton.  Potatoes and melons flourish luxuriantly.  It is a light soil, quite sandy, mixed with a great deal of shell; and no matter how much time elapses between rains, the moisture from the soil (water being found so near the surface), combined with the heavy dews, affords sufficient nourishment for the plant. 

 

The landing of the troops’ supplies was effected with great difficulty.  On the 20th, two companies of the 3d, one of which was mine, embarked on the seamer Undine for Corpus Christi.  Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays are separated by a long flat of land.  It was discovered that the Undine drew too much water to pass over it.  We were forced to leave the steamboat, and cross the bay, a very rough one, in small boats.  We landed on the main shore on the 31st of July.  On the 14th of July Captain Tompkins’s company of the 3d Artillery sailed from New York in the United States sore-ship Lexington, for the mouth of the Columbia River.  He carried with him a battery of artillery, besides heavy guns, and every material requisite for the erection of a permanent fortification.

 

     Chapter III

 

The village of Corpus Christi, or “Kinney’s Ranch,” as it is generally called, is situated on the western shore of Corpus Christi Bay.  The town consists of some twenty or thirty houses, partly situated on a shelf of land, elevated some six to eight feet above the water, about two hundred yards broad, and on a bluff which rises from the plain to the height of one hundred feet.  The bay at this point is in the shape of a crescent, extending in a southeast direction to Padre Island, and northwest to the mouth of the Nueces.  The bluff presents a beautiful aspect, the rise being sufficiently gentle to deprive it of all appearance of abruptness, clad with the mesquite-grass, and evergreen bushes scattered in clumps hither and yon in graceful confusion, looking, in its gentle undulations, as if its pleasing irregularities had been fashioned by the hand of man.  The bluff and the plan presented, early on the morning after our arrival, quite a pastoral appearance.  First came a large drove of cattle, driven by two Mexicans, mounted upon their mustang poneys; then followed at least five hundred goats and sheep, which, dispersing themselves in groups over hill and plain, added much to the beauty of the scene.  The shepherd and his rusty dog accompanied them; Fancy placed in his hands the crook, and brought vividly to mind the poetic descriptions of his life.  From the top of the bluff the view that burst upon us was magnificent in the extreme.  Far off to the east the scene was bounded by the white-caps of the beautiful bay; to the southeast Flower Bluffs stood out in bold relief; in the northeast the distant highlands of Maglone’s Bluff were dimly visible; to the northwest, the land near the mouth of the Nueces; in the west, one unlimited plain presented itself, extending to the mountains, the home of the mustang and buffalo, the hunting-ground of the bold Camanche and the fierce Lipan.  The scene was charming, and the soft, refreshing sea-breeze, cooling the atmosphere to the temperature of an October’s day, made one exclaim, in the enthusiasm of the moment, “It is God’s favored land – the Eden of America.”  When the enthusiasm subsided, it was not exactly that, but it certainly is very beautiful.  The atmosphere is tempered by a constant breeze, and you hardly feel the heat.

 

          This place was first settled by Colonel H. L. Kinney, in 1838, who, in conjunction with his partner, Mr. Aubrey, established a trading-post, to meet the immense traffic carried on by the Mexicans.  It was the extreme frontier settlement.  The incursions of the Indians were so frequent, and attended with so much danger, that he was forced to keep a regular company of men, at his own expense, to defend his “ranch.”  Its proximity to the Rio Grande made it the most convenient point for the contraband trade.  This trade is carried on by Mexicans, who bring in immense droves of horses and mules, saddles and bridles, Mexican blankets and silver, and in return take back the common unbleached domestics and tobacco.  From the great extent of frontier on the Rio Grande, they are enabled to escape the custom, and realize immense profits upon their goods.  Colonel Kinney’s life has been a romance from his first entrance into the country; and those accustomed to the luxuries of cities, and unacquainted with border life, can hardly realize, much less credit, some of the astonishing adventures in which he has been a prominent actor.  His ready wit, generosity, indomitable courage, and perseverance have relieved him from many perplexing situations.

 

As the concentration of our army at this point has rendered it notorious, I can not refrain, even at the expense of being considered prosy, from relating a few anecdotes connect with the place and its spirited proprietor.  For the suppression of this illicit trade, the government of Mexico kept constantly stationed on the Rio Grande a species of troops called “comisiones.”  They were usually commanded by some worthless vagabond, who was ready in a moment to sacrifice his duty for a bribe.  The government, looking with a jealous eye at the increasing trade of “Kinney’s Ranch,” dispatched an officer of the “comisiones,” with two hundred men, to destroy his contraband goods and take him prisoner.  At this time Kinney had with him a company of forty men.  Receiving information of the intended expedition, he hurried to “Live-oak Point,” a neighboring settlement east of the Nueces, to obtain all the assistance they could spare.  On his return he found that his valiant company had not only deserted him, but stolen many of his good.  The “Ranch” was, in itself, a pretty strong work, being surrounded by a wall pierced for infantry, and having two pieces of artillery mounted for its defense.  The commanding officer of the detachment halted his men within three miles of the Ranch, and dispatched a messenger to Colonel Kinney, telling him if he would give up his goods peaceably, he would not molest his person.  The colonel’s force consisted, all told, of eight trusty adherents.  While the messenger was delivering the mandate of his superior, they were employed, by order of the colonel, digging holes in which to place some bomb-shells, the “Ranch” being well supplied with the various materiel of war.  Observing that the proceedings of his men had attracted the attention of the messenger, the colonel said to him, “Go back to your captain; tell him I’ll neither surrender my goods nor myself; I’ll fight him to the last, and will lay his bones and those of his command to bleach at my door.”  This reply being reported to the worthy commander, he exclaimed, “Why, what has got into this d—d American? He must have been sure of whipping me, or he would never have sent so fierce an answer.”  The affair, thus savagely commenced, ended in a conference.  A few insinuating gold pieces, placed most unostentatiously in the hands of the worthy and valiant defender of his country’s laws, sent him back to the Rio Grande, to report to his government that the conduct of the colonel was unexceptionable.  So much for a little ingenious bravery, and a happy application of the lever of the world.

 

The settlement was almost entirely at the mercy of the numerous bands of Indians.  So daring were they in their fierce incursions, that it became necessary to make every house a castle.  The colonel’s Indian adventures were numberless.  I have only space to relate some of the details of one in which he was concerned with a party of Camanches.  They are the most war-like tribe of Indians on this continent; neither ask nor give quarter; being mostly armed with the bow and arrow, they have acquired a skill in its use that is perfectly wonderful.  The party with whom he had the combat was headed by Santa Anna, a noted chief, and numbered seventeen.  The party which Colonel Kinney commanded numbered eleven.  Santa Anna had been in the “Ranch,” committing depredations.  Being mounted on fleeter horses, the colonel and his party soon overtook the illustrious chief.  The two parties dismounted and approached each other, skirmishing, to within fifty yards.  Each shot from the unerring rifle of the border men told with terrible effect.  The Indians fought with desperate valor; no signs of flinching.  Presently Santa Anna, with his raw-hide shield before him, dashed to the front, and ran along the line of his opponents.  Each fired as he passed them, but with no effect.  You could hear the balls rattle harmlessly on his shield.  Just as the colonel fired at his legs, the object of this bold maneuver of the wily chief flashed across his mind.  It was to draw their fire, and rush upon them while their pieces were discharged.  He cried to his men to mount, and vaulted upon his noble steed.  His men, objecting to mount before they loaded, were dashed upon by the enemy.  Now they were all mingled in a hand-to-hand conflict.  The man who first objected to mounting his horse was immediately speared and killed.  Another was speared and shot in several placed with arrows.  Colonel Kinney’s clerk, a young Mexican, was speared, had his horse shot under him, and fell.  The colonel seized him, and placed him on his horse.  An Indian rushed at and speared the poor fellow again, the spear cutting Kinney in the back.  Another Indian rushed at him; he met and parried the spear, which pierced his buckskin hunting-shirt through both sleeves.  At this critical moment the Mexican bit saved his life.  By its great power he was enabld to stop his horse, and, by turning him suddenly round, succeeded in tearing the spear from his sleeves.  The poor clerk all this time had him clasped around the throat.  Another savage rushed at him, bu fell dead in his tracks by the unerring aim of an arm which grows stronger as death stares him the face.  Another rushed from behind, and speared the boy through the kidneys.  The poor clerk relaxed his hold, told Colonel Kinney to keep cool, and he would be saved, and fell to rise no more.  While the colonel’s arms were yet unloaded, he was again set upon by a fierce devil; he dashed his pistol into his face, and again disarmed the savage of his spear.  By this time Santa Anna, as well as the colonel and his party, were satisfied with this desperate conflict, and retired from the field.  Of the colonel’s party three men and nine horses were killed, and all wounded.  Santa Anna lost seven men.  One of Kinney’s men came to him with five arrows sticking in him, besides being speared in two places.  The arrows were pulled out, and, incredible as it seems, he survived.  Tell me where, in the romance of history, you ever read of a more desperate, gallant, and bloody fight and yet many such have taken place between the Indians and those brave pioneers of civilization, the recital of which almost makes the blood chill in one’s heart, and of which the world remains totally ignorant.

 

To give an idea of the obstinate courage of the Camanche, I must cite one instance of desperate resistance in a chief.  A party of them had been for some time annoying the settlements in the vicinity of San Antonio.  A large force had been collected to pursue them.  A battle ensured near the town; many were killed, and some taken prisoners.  One chief and his squaw shut themselves up in an old Spanish house, resolutely refusing to surrender.  The command was drawn up around the house, and he must have seen that every avenue of escape, as well as all hope of success, was cut off.  Wishing to spare him, they sent the prophet of his band to use his influence to prevail upon him to surrender.  He scorned their proposals, and for an answer sent an arrow among the troops, which killed one of their men.  His position was so favorable that he killed seven.  To get him out, they made holes in the roof and threw composition balls into the house.  Suddenly he opened the doors, and with desperate energy rushed forth, and nearly succeeded in making his escape.  He dealt dealth-blows to the last, killing three more before he was shot down.  One can hardly realize such desperate resistance from one man.  His squaw was killed during the attack.  He had buried her.  She was found in her simple grave, with the warrior’s saddle as her tomb-stone.

 

Chapter IV

 

Friday, August 1st.  After enjoying the delightful view from the bluff, a party of use strolled over the beautiful plain, on the borders of which many Mexican families reside.  Their residences are primitive enough; nothing more than sheds, partially inclosed with the crooked mesquite-wood, and their roofs thatched with a long grass which grows in the marshes, called “tula.”  A dam thrown across a deep ravine furnishes the people with a plentiful supply of rain-water, not only for themselves, but for the stock, and for the immense droves of horses and mules brought in by the Mexicans.  A very capital mustang can be purchased for fifteen dollars, or from that to twenty-five, depending upon the manner in which he is broken.  On the side of the pond, under a grove of beautiful live-oaks, was encamped a company of Texas Rangers.  It was under the command of Colonel Bell, an officer who had greatly distinguished himself in this border warfare.  They were paid by the government of Texas, and were stationed at this point for the protection of the inhabitants.

 

The men have been busily employed all day digging wells.  The best of the water is slightly brackish.  The ground will admit of an extensive encampment, immediately along the shores of the bay.  Another company arrived to-day.  The whole command will thus be brought up by detachments.  Our means of transportation are too limited, and one can not but reflect how completely we would be at the mercy of an active and energetic enemy.

 

         General Taylor is still at St. Joseph’s Island, with his usual energy pushing forward his troops and supplies, with the contemptible means he has at command. 

 

22d.   For the first time had the pleasure of riding a mustang, with complete, though rude Mexican rigging.  The animal was lively and frisky enough, but a mere rat compared with our northern horses.  The ride was delightful; the atmosphere as cool as an autumn day.  The face of the country was a rolling, gently-undulating plain, covered with the most luxuriant grass, and interspersed with “mots” (islands) of timber, looking as though they were planted to ornament some gentleman’s country-seat.  Your imagination would lead you to assert you saw the elegant mansion corresponding with such noble grounds.  For the first time saw the mesquite-tree; it resembles very much the wild locust, and bears a bean having a delightfully-sweet taste, very nutritious for animals, and eaten by many persons.  The wood of the mesquite is unsurpassed for fuel, giving an intense heat, and the best coal for cooking that ever gladdened the eye of a professor of that delicate science.

 

August 3d.  Details from the command were kept in the water from morning until night, unloading the vessels.  Hearing there was to be Catholic service at one of the houses in the Ranch, a friend and myself decided to attend.  The service had not commenced when we arrived.  There were about a dozen females collected, the majority of them Mexicans.  I can not say much for their beauty.  There was one, the Señora Leonora, a Mexican widow, who looked quite sweetly.  To delicate features, good figure, and blood-like Castilian carriage, were added the softest, deepest-fringed black eyes I ever saw.  Beauty in that organ is common to them all.  There is a softness, an abiding confidence in its expression; one so full of the gentler feelings which constitute the poetry of woman’s character, that you can not fail to admire them.  Their dress is very simple, consisting of a skirt, generally of a gay color, with the graceful rebosa, which completely conceals the nudity of the bust.  The service was performed at the house of an Irishman, whose lady was a fair specimen of the Emerald Isle.  Her husband came grunting out of the room, complaining in most audible terms of a pain in his back.  Lest the company might be impressed with the belief that it arose from a belaboring he might have received from his more muscular better half, he explained to them that wind in his intestines, by a sudden exertion, had been driven to his kidneys, and pained him powerfully.  It may well be imagined, if there was not a regular burst of laughter, there was a most decided smile.  The priest soon made his appearance.  His name is Estené, a native of Old Spain, who, filled with the enthusiasm of the Gospel, has become a traveling savior of souls.  He resides on the San Antonio River, and makes his periodical visits to villages in a circumference of four hundred miles.  He gave us an excellent sermon in Spanish and English.

 

        There is a singular state of affairs existing between the Texans and Mexicans, at least at this point.  When you reflect how long they have been in a state of war, and how great an antipathy must exist between them for the numerous acts of savage barbarity committed during the Texas struggle, one would suppose there would be complete non-intercourse.  On the contrary, the most friendly relations exist between them, no doubt occasioned by the profitable contraband trade.

 

We here meet with the chaparral, which, strictly, signifies a “plantation of evergreen oaks,” but which here means an almost impenetrable thicket of small bushes, so interlaced with a thick undergrowth, covered with thorns, that a passage through it is next to impossible.  Every tree and bush has its thorn.  The deep black-green of the foliage is almost inconceivable.  The temperature is delightful; in the shade you do no feel temperature is delightful; in the shade you do not feel the heat of the sun; and the never-ceasing trade-winds at times occasion the chilly sensation belonging to a fall day.

 

August 5th.  We all feel under obligations to Mr. B., the governor of Kinney’s Ranch during the absence of its gentlemanly proprietor.  In truth, I have never met a community who have no universally extended to us unlooked-for civilities.  This afternoon, at Mrs. B.’s, I ate a Mexican preparation called themales.  It is made of corn-meal, chopped meat, and Cayenne pepper, nicely wrapped in a piece of corn-husk, and boiled.  I know of nothing more palatable.

 

August 6th.  We hear that Commodore Connor is coming round with the whole Gulf Squadron.  Troops still arriving by small detachments.  General issued his first order, dated “Headquarters, Army of Occupation;” no longer Observation.  The men catch quantities of fine fish with a seine.

 

August 8th.  The wind has blown a perfect hurricane, and it was with great difficulty our tents could be kept standing.  Heard from the Dragoons; they had reached the Trinity River.  Our camp-ground is infested with rattle-snakes; as many as two at a time have been found in the tents of the officers.

 

August 9th.  Two Mexicans arrived from the Rio Grande.  They report only five hundred men at Matamoras, and Arista still at Monterey, no movements being made.  That, however, is no sign; the government is despotic, and no movements are made public.  The Undine succeeded in getting over the flats, and will now ply between them and the camp.  Two companies of the 4th Infantry came in her.  That regiment arrived safely at the island several days since.  Drills are the order of the day, and every exertion is made to prepare the command for any emergency.  Great attention is paid to the target practice; we may have use for sharp shooting.  Nothing of any moment transpired until the 12th, when we received information that the Mexican troops were in motion; that Arista had left Monterey with one thousand infantry and five hundred cavalry for Matamoras.  War had not yet been declared, but the people were daily in expectation of it.  It is reported that General Arista is deficient in funds to pay his army.  The great majority of us are of opinion there will be no fighting, although Mexico may declare war, if only to save her pride.  She is incapable, in her present distracted state, in the utterly prostrated condition of her treasury, to sustain a war.  The information of Arista’s movements was brought to us by a Mexican called Chapita, the favorite and confidential spy of Colonel Kinney.  He is a man in the prime of life, middling height, broad shoulders, muscles like whip-cords, a dark, piercing eye, prominent forehead, and bushy eye-brows; having that determined expression of countenance common to one who follows so dangerous an occupation.  He is devotedly attached to Colonel Kinney, and assisted him in his escape from the prison at Matamoras, in which he had been confined by the military commandant.  He always travels alone through the desolate and dreary wilderness extending to the Rio Grande, and had ridden from that river to Corpus Christi (one hundred and fifty miles) in a day and night.  His favorite horse is a Mexican, about thirteen hands high, and so thin you would hardly think him fit for the crows.  The report gave us some little excitement, and we could not help laughing at our situation.  With no dragoons nor artillery, and our force scattered between St. Joseph’s and this place, we would not have been in a position to withstand a vigorous assault of five thousand men.

 

August 14th.  The schooner Swallow, with baggage and stores for the troops, went on the bar, and was wrecked.  An immense mail was thoroughly soaked.  Among the last things found was a paper containing the Mexican minister’s proclamation to the commanders of departments, urging upon them the necessity of increased energy in recruiting the army.  This begins to look rather more serious.  The reception of this letter, combined with the different reports we have received, has created no little excitement.  Our lieutenant-colonel, E. A. Hitchcock, commanding officer, deemed it prudent to throw up a line of defense, which was commenced on the 15th, under the superintendence of Captain Larned, 4th Infantry.  In case of an attack, we have only six hundred and ninety-nine men with whom to oppose the enemy.  The policy of the government is niggardly in the extreme.  If the object in sending us here was political effect, that might have been attained by simply publishing a bulletin on this side of the Sabine; if o take and hold possession of the country against an enemy, it is entirely inadequate.  It is on a par, however, with all the first military operations of a republic.  We may consider ourselves a mere bait for the enemy.  Bait as we are, under it they would find a hook, though small, yet, if skilfully managed, would hold and land them.  That we could conquer Arista to-morrow, none doubts; but it would be after a bloody battle and great loss of life.  Not many historians would be left to tell the tale.

 

General Taylor arrived from St. Joseph’s Island on the 15th of August.  The 7th Infantry is ordered to join us.

 

This land of Texas is celebrated for many things; in fact, for almost every thing but the refinements of society.  Among those characters who have gained a reputation that can only die with the history of horse-thieves and abominable rascals, the name of Garner stand conspicuous.  He was one fo the most notorious rascals in the country.  He held at one time the honorable station of high private in the army of Texas.  Feeling discontented with his position, and believing his light was hidden under a bushel, or that he would become rusty in the art of horse-stealing, he deserted.  Apprehension, trial, and condemnation followed.  He was sentenced to be shot.  On the day appointed for his execution General Houston was present.  The prisoner knelt with perfect composure upon his coffin, before which was the grave.  He requested permission not to have his eyes blinded; that he was not afraid to look death in the face.  The ceremony proceeded, the command, “ready!  aim!” was given, when General Houston reprieved him.  Garner rose from his coffin, and, with perfect effrontery and sang-froid, approached the general, and exclaimed, “Fun’s fun, general, but I’ll be — if this is not carrying a joke a LITTLE too far;” and then added, “If you had shot me you would have lost the best man in your army!”

 

Chapter V

 

Nothing of great importance occurred between the 16th and 25th of August.  He traders drove a brisk business in mustang horse-flesh; many of the officers supplied themselves, but at prices nearly fifty per cent, higher than the usual rate.  As regards color and gait, nearly all could be suited.  The best look as if they had lost all the fire they possessed in a state of nature.  Their look is one of regret, as if they were dwelling upon the glories of untrammeled motion on the boundless plains.  The entrenchments were pushed on vigorously.  Some cannon were borrowed from Colonel Kinney, and placed in position, to give us a more terrific appearance.  I question whether they were not more dangerous to ourselves than the enemy.  The general ordered all operations to cease upon it, feeling convinced, from the position, it could afford us very little protection.  The work has been of some service, as it has given us a practical knowledge of the manner of hastily throwing up a temporary defense.  The steamer Undine was discharged, and a poor, miserable wreck of a boat, called the Dayton, took its place.  The Dragoons have been heard from at San Antonio, and were to leave for San Patricio on the 21st.  Had a visit from two Lipan chiefs.  They were magnificent specimens of the Indian race; tall, huge frames, with muscles well developed, and with open, fearless countenances, they appeared, in every particular, warriors of the desert.  Their usual array is very simple and curious.  Their saddle is a simple tree, primitive enough in its construction, from which it would be very difficult to be thrown.  Their arms are the bow and arrow, and tomahawk; the bow is made of mesquite, covered with the skin of some animal, to which is attached a pouch for their arrows, the whole decorated with beads.  General Taylor and staff left on the 23d for San Patricio, to meet the Dragoons.  On the 24th we were visited by a terrific thunder-storm, accompanied by torrents of rain.  Lieutenant Bragg had one of his negro boys killed instantaneously, and another badly injured, by lightning.  The crash was tremendous, and was felt throughout the camp.  My arm was shocked as severely as if I had received a discharge of electricity from a heavily-laden battery, and the whole air was impregnated with a smell of sulphur.  A child was born at the height of the storm, and should certainly be christened “Thunder.”  A few more such storms, and feather-beds will be in demand.  They are perfectly awful— take your breath away, and make you sit bolt upright in your chair, feet on the rung, as if your life depended upon it.

 

General Taylor returned on the 25th.  His meeting with the Dragoons was somewhat singular.  The heavy thunder we had on the 24th was taken by them for the distant rumbling of cannon.  They felt assured we were attacked.  “To horse!” was sounded.  Men who before were on the sick report found themselves by their horses’ sides, and they all gallantly dashed in and swam the Nueces.  When they met the general, they were marching by squadrons, with the full belief we were engaged with the enemy.  Their promptness and gallant passage of the river in the saddle reflect great credit upon them.  The 2d Dragoons arrived at San Patricio, a small village on the Nueces River, on the 23d of August.  They accomplished this fatiguing march in the heat of summer, with horses perfectly in acclimated, in thirty days.  They are in fine health and spirits, and will join us in a few days.

 

August 25th.  The arrival of Lieutenant Ringgold, with dispatches from Washington to General Taylor, threw the whole camp into a fever, and prevented any thing like going to bed until the small hours.  What is the pay?  The 5th concentrate at Jefferson Barracks.  The news received at Washington from Mexico has caused the greatest alarm as regards our fate.  The impression at Washington was, that we were in the most critical position, and that it was questionable whether any troops could be found to re-enforce us.  If they really had advices of a warlike nature, of which we at the time had none, save the Mexican bombastic paper threats, there might have been a little mental suffering when they calmly reflected upon our destitute condition, and how insignificant was our force if there was the remotest probability of a conflict with Mexico.  If reports could have reached the north on the 6th of August which could have led them to believe the Mexicans had invaded the country with so large a force as to have demolished us, what will they think upon the reception of General Herrera’s war message to the Mexican Congress, which did not reach New Orleans until the 7thThen they will have us buried.  Despite all these alarms, we are ready for any thing that may occur — never felt our oats better.

 

Up to this date there is nothing new from Mexico.  Our information of movements is accurate, and can be relied upon.  There is no force of any amount, as yet, collected.  General Arista is still at Monterey.  Last reports from Matamoras make out one thousand five hundred troops there.  A declaration of war was constantly looked for by the people.  I do not know how they can well avoid it, but I do not believe a mother’s son of them will cross the Rio Grande.  Many differ with me in opinion—nous verrons.  If there is a declaration, it may well have been brought forth by the knowledge of the paltry number of troops at present here.  A respectable force would have overawed them.

 

The steam-ship Alabama arrived to-day with five companies of the 7th Infantry, under command of Major Brown, and two companies of Volunteer Artillery, with their battery and horses, under the command of Major Gally.  These companies were called out by Major-general Gaines.  The citizens of New Orleans were under great apprehensions for our safety.  That patriotic city, composed of citizen-soldiers, is ever ready and foremost to take up arms and fly to fight the battles of her country.  Long may she be renowned for it, and receive all the credit that is due such patriotic impulses and prompt action.

 

Two companies of the 4th Infantry arrived to-day, in the barque “William Ivy.”  They are commanded by Major Graham, and were last stationed at Fort Scott, Missouri.

 

When all the troops arrive at present under orders for this place, the “Army of Occupation” will consist of 2d Dragoons, five companies of Artillery, 3d, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th Regiments of Infantry, making an aggregate of three thousand men.  That will be quite a respectable show; and when well supplied with all the munitions of war, from a bullet to a bomb, from a musket to a siege-piece, will be quite a dangerous crowd to fall in with.

 

Colonel Twiggs, with his Regiment of Dragoons, arrived on the 27th.  Three companies fo the 7th arrived on the 28th.  From this date drills were the order of the day.  A depot was formed on the beach, directly behind the line of intrenchments, of which I have previously spoken, and great activity prevailed in the attempt to purchase mules and cattle for transportation of the army in case of an emergency.

 

The spy, Chapita, returned from Matamoras on the 6th of September.  He reports no warlike preparations, and that the two thousand men at Matamoras have again dwindled to five hundred.  He says the people in that vicinity are opposed to the war.

 

          An additional force is ordered here; it is taken from the artillery regiments, so that each shall have four companies in the field, in all sixteen companies.  The three companies of the 2d Dragoons, marched from Fort Washita under the command of Major Beall, are to be stationed in San Antonio and Austin.

 

September 12th.  This afternoon Lieutenant graham, of the 4th Infantry, arrived in camp badly scalded, and reported that the steam-boat Dayton had burst her boilers, killing Lieutenants Higgins and Berry, of the 4th, and some others, and scalding many in the most shocking manner.  The Dayton left in the morning for St. Joseph’s Island, having on board Captain Crosman, Lieutenants Graham, Higgins, Berry, and Woods, of the 4th Lieutenant Gordon, of the 3d, and Doctor Crittenden.  Besides  these there were several soldiers and citizens.  At twenty minutes past twelve M., being opposite Maglone’s Bluff, she burst her boilers, scattering death and destruction on every side.  Lieutenant Higgins, just before the explosion, was sitting talking to Doctor Crittenden, and Lieutenants Berry and Woods were lying down near them, the former asleep, all being in the small cabin aft the social hall.  Captain Crosman, Lieutenants Graham and Gordon, with many others, were standing on the boiler-deck.  Lieutenant Higgins was killed immediately by a piece of iron striking him on the head; Doctor Crittenden and Lieutenant Woods escaped any material injury; Lieutenant Berry was killed; all on the boiler-deck were blown high into the air, and were thrown into the water some distance from the boat.  Lieutenant Gordon was uninjured, Captain Crosman very slightly, and Lieutenant Graham very badly.  There were eight killed and seventeen wounded.  The scene baffles description.  After the first boiler burst, the second was thrown into the water, and exploded with a crash like thunder, throwing volumes of water high in air.  The water was quite deep; the poor, mangled fellows lay clinging to pieces of the wreck, until, fortunately, they were all picked up by the yawl, which was energetically employed under the immediate direction of Lieutenant Gordon.  The wounded were brought up this evening.  As they were landed, it was horrible in the extreme to look at them; some with nearly all the flesh off; one with his leg broken; and all more or less mutilated; some perfectly blackened; and one negro not only scalded, but his flesh burned to a crisp.  Every aid that experienced and talented medical officers could render was freely and promptly given.  The general hospital was placed at the disposal of all, soldiers and citizens.  The amount of terrible suffering that is going on within its walls would rend the heart of the most indifferent.  The boat is a complete wreck, literally blown to atoms.  It was an old hulk of a thing, totally unfit to carry passengers.  It was our only choice in the absence of proper transportation.  In an evil hour she was chartered, and was the means of sending eight souls, and possibly more, into eternity.  Lieutenant Berry’s body was recovered.

 

The fate of poor Higgins is particularly melancholy and sad.  He married Captain M.’s daughter last July, and separated from her two weeks after their marriage, to join his company, then on its way to this place.  Theirs had been an attachment of many years; it was a marriage of a day.  The spring of their love had hardly opened, when the frost of death deprived it of its bloom, without deigning to grant it the existence of a summer.

 

Poor Berry! The amiable, the mild, the pure, whose heart knew no guile, shall we never see you more?  To die, too, ye gallant souls, so miserable a death! One from which your relatives can draw no consolation!  Had it been on the field of battle, after a hard-fought and well-earned day, a battle for liberty and your country, there would have been a secret satisfaction and pride in yielding up thy warm spirits; but to die the death of a dog, from the carelessness of others, is too, too bad!  May the God of Battles receive and cherish them, and carry the consolation so necessary to the hearts of their bereaved friends and relatives.  They were buried on the 13th, with appropriate military honors.  From some unavoidable delay, the procession did not take up its line of march until after sunset.  It was a solemn, sad march; and the circumstances and the time rendered it very impressive.  The sun had just set; the clouds, piled up in pyramids, were tinged with golden light; flashes of lightning were seen in the north; the pale moon, in the east, was smiling sweetly forth, seemingly regardless of the sad feelings of those in that solemn funeral procession.  They were buried about half a mile from camp, on the top of a beautiful bluff, commanding an extensive and picturesque view.  The service of the dead was read by the light of a lamp.  Three volleys were fired over their graves.  The escort wheeled into column, and, to a lively air from fife and drum, we left the soldiers to their long sleep, and their dreary but romantic graves.

 

    Chapter VI

 

Between the 13th and 24th of September the following companies of United States troops arrived, viz.: General Worth, with six companies fo the 8th Infantry; Major Ringgold, with his company of Horse Artillery; two companies of the 8th, under Captain Ogden; also, Lieutenant Duncan’s company and battery.  His horses have suffered very much, he having lost fourteen.  Add to these Captain Burke’s command (artillery), and five companies of the 5th Infantry, under Captain Smith.  These latter-named troops have made a prompt and exceedingly rapid movement; they traveled two thousand five hundred miles in twenty-one days.  Detroit was their starting-point; thence across to the Ohio River by canal; down the Ohio and Mississippi in steam-boats to New Orleans, and by the steam-ship Alabama to Aransas Bay.

 

A movement of this kind brings into bold relief our grand system of internal navigation, which, in connection with our rivers, enables the government, in an incredibly short period, to send troops from one extremity of the Union to the other.

 

A company of Texans are to be mustered into the service at each of the following places: Victoria, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Austin.

 

The son of an alcalde of one of the towns across the Rio Grande came over and proposed to furnish the army with fresh beef.  That is very indicative of war — against beeves!  In the States the cry is war!  War!  War!  With the Mexicans it is beef!  Beef!  Beef!  Their cry is decidedly the most sensible.

 

On the 29th Doctor Hawkins arrived, with his amiable lady.  She designs making camp her home.

 

October 13th.  It is generally believed there will be a movement to the Rio Grande in a short time.  A large proportion of the force constituting the “Army of Occupation” has arrived.  The morning report o to-day gives the following as the strength of the command: to hundred and fifty-one officers, three thousand six hundred and seventy-one rank and file; grand aggregate, three thousand nine hundred and twenty-two.  These are on the coast.  The three companies of Dragoons in the interior number about one hundred and fifty.  The following is the distribution of the forces: The 1st Brigade is on the right; it is composed of the 8th Infantry and twelve companies of Artillery, the whole commanded by Brevet Brigadier-general Worth.  Next comes the Dragoons, commanded by General Twiggs.  Then the 2d Brigade, composed of the 5th and 7th Regiments of Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant-colonel McIntosh.  Then a command of four companies of Horse Artillery, under Major Erving.  Then the third Brigade, composed of the 3d and 4th Infantry, commanded by Colonel Whistler; and then two companies of Volunteer Artillery, under the command of Major Gally.

 

Of late we hear very little talk of war.  The time not spent in drilling is actively employed in riding, fishing, and hunting.

 

Colonel Payne has been appointed inspector-general for the “Army of Occupation.”  He reviewed the different brigades on the 15th and 16th.  The display was quite creditable; and we all felt that a more efficient army, for it size, was never brought into the field.

 

A party of five officers left on the 23d for a three days’ hunt upon the Nueces.  We were completely equipped in every respect.  Nothing could exceed the beauty of the weather, the sweet, charming scenery, and the buoyancy of all.  It is no little relief to escape for a few days from the everlasting sound of the fife and drum.  We all lay claim to a good share of patriotism, and are exceedingly ambitious of drilling; but, then, “too much of a good thing is good for nothing.”  No one but the most irreclaimable cynic could have ridden over the beautiful country in the vicinity of the Nueces without being enchanted with its beauty.  The grass is of a rich pea-green; the “mots” of timber, with their deep black-green, scattered about in picturesque confusion; the rolling prairie, and the level plain, and the sweet Nueces, coursing its quiet way, as if through a green meadow, presented a picture of which the eye could never tire, and to transmit which would require the pencil of a Loraine in his happiest mood.  There are some sites for building which surpass, in quiet, pastoral loveliness, any I have ever seen.  Our party was made of the right stuff; good men and true; ready for any emergency; and were each on the qui vive for tiger or panther.  We were gratified in killing one of the latter gentlemen.  The second day we had all returned to camp for some grub except D., when we saw him coming on horseback with (as we supposed) a deer behind him.  To our joy, instead of a deer, he threw down an enormous panther.  “Well done, D.!”  was the involuntary exclamation.  “Where did you kill him?”  “Under what circumstances?”  “Easy, my boys; just hold your horses; I’ll tell you; but just tip me some grog, for I am rather used up.  Well, I shot a busting big buck, and saw it fall, about a hundred yards from me, in a ‘mot.’  Knowing when ‘Old King Death’ (name of his rife) sends a ball that it is all up with any thing it hits, I gave myself no uneasiness about the buck, and was crawling upon another, when I heard the greatest fuss and growling where the buck fell, and concluded the wolves must have got it.  I ran up, and got within six feet before I saw the cause of all this confusion; when, simultaneously with my sight, with a sharp, cat-growl, and desperate leap, a panther sprang at me.  I had barely time to fall back a few feet, when he brushed past me in full leap, just missing my person, lighting on the ground about twenty feet from me.  He instantly turned toward me, and prepared, with teeth shown, tail on his back, and death in his eye, to make another spring at me.  I drew up ‘King Death,’ saying, ‘It is you or I, old fellow,’ cracked away, and shot him through the center of the forehead, a little lower than the eyes.  He fell, and, with some desperate struggles, died, relieving me from rather an unpleasant predicament.”  “Good, old fellow! bring out that bottle of Cozzens’s old brandy; none but the best to drink to the panther-killer.”  It certainly was a dangerous, most fearfully dangerous situation.  D.’s coolness, daring, and ready command of nerve saved his life.  The animal weighed one hundred and sixty pounds, was seven feet eight inches from tip to tip, and four feet high.  The spotted tigers are terrible animals, and the fiercest hunting dogs cower at their approach.  Colonel C., of Texas, told me that, on the Bernard River, while hunting coons with a friend, the dogs treed, in an immense live-oak, something over which they made an unusual commotion.  Being the youngest, it was his fate to climb the tree, and get, as they thought, the coon down.  The tree was directly on the river bank, and its horizontal branches reached nearly across.  The trees are no saplings in that section of country, the live-oaks especially; for they do say that under the shade of some five hundred persons could dine.  If they could have had these trees in the sylvan times in merry England, what dances the good people could have had under them!  But to return.  He climbed the tree, and crawling out on one of these horizontal limbs, expecting every moment to see the coon, what should present itself, upon rising up to look round, but an immense spotted tiger, with eyes “like balls of fire.”  What to do was the question.  He could not back out; he dared not drop into the river, for it was full of alligators.  He fell upon this plan: swing himself below the limb, and hung on by his hands!  The tiger walked over him, descended the tree, and went through a crowd of nine dogs, as fierce ones as there were in Texas, who never even growled at him.

 

Our hunting was entirely still hunting; the ground will not admit of any driving; the deer have no regular runs.  At the point where we encamped our hunting was confined to a strip of mesquite chaparral, about twelve miles long and two or three broad, running parallel with the Nueces.  The deer are attracted to it by their fondness of the bean of that tree.  The number of deer is incredible.  Passing through the chaparral, you come to the bald prairie, in which you find hundreds in a drove.  In the prairie they are only a curiosity for their numbers; the hunter has no chance; for it is impossible to crawl upon them, and still more impossible to run them down, as the ground, in places, is so mellow that the horse sinks in above his knees, which would make the chase very dangerous both to horse and rider.  Our most exciting sport was shooting wild geese.  Every morning they fly from the prairie to the salt marshes, and return in the evening.  Stationing ourselves on one of the innumerable bluffs, we knocked them over right and left.  Two of the mornings proving very foggy, and the geese flying very low, we slaughtered them out and out.  Job was heard a quarter of a mile from camp, cracking away as fast as he could load.  “Bang!  Bang!  How Job is giving it to them!”  Presently he made his appearance, without any geese, and as he came in we all cried out, “Why, what luck?  You have been firing away as if you were protecting yourself from being knocked down by them!  We never heard such a firing!”  “Firing away!  Yes, you’re a pretty set of fellows; here I have been hallooing as loud as I could, and getting no answer.  I took to firing off my piece — regular distress-guns; and now you tell me I was having tip-top sport!  I was completely lost!  And not knowing how far I was from camp, I have hung up five geese, and shall never find them.”  We had a hearty laugh at the “lost one.”  Two of the geese were afterward found, but the buzzards had appropriated to themselves the rest.  Lieutenant R., separating from his pony to kill a deer, after butchering it was unable to find his horse, as it was dark, and arrived in camp on foot; on his way he killed some geese, and hung them up to guide him back in the morning.  The next morning he found his pony and deer.  It is not every where you can find your way to a lost horse by leaving your game along the road.  We reached camp on the evening of the third day.  Return of killed, ten deer, fifty-one geese, four bittern, two sand-hill crane, sixty-nine snipe, eighteen ducks, four curlew, three turkeys, and one panther.

 

This is a specimen fo the success of the many hunting parties who frequently went off for several days, and will give some idea of the abundance and variety of the game.

 

Chapter VII

 

November 1st.  The time for which Major Gally’s battalion of volunteers were called out having expired, the general has decided upon sending them home.  They have conducted themselves with great propriety, and have been indefatigable in their drill.  At ten o’clock A.M. they gave the camp a farewell salute.  On the 4th they embarked, and were saluted in return.

 

One can hardly realize that the Corpus Christi before us now is the settlement of scattering houses we saw upon our landing.  At the end of November its population was computed at one thousand.  The majority of them are grocery keepers and gamblers, who have come here to feed upon the army.  Houses appear to have grown in a night.  There are all sorts, from a frame covered (from the want of lumber or cash, or both) with common domestic, to a tolerably respectable one, clapboarded and shingled.  A theater, of no inconsiderable dimensions, is about being erected, and a company of actors are anxiously awaiting its completion.

 

During the latter part of November and the month of December we had the most shocking weather imaginable; either cold “northers” or drenching rains, without intermission.  Hast thou, dear reader, ever felt a norther?  Heard tell of one?  No.  Well, your northern cold is nothing to it.  It comes “like a thief in the night,” and all but steals your life.  You go to bed, weather sultry and warm, bed-clothes disagreeable, tent open; before morning you hear a distant rumbling; the roaring increases – the norther comes.  For several minutes you hear it careering in its wild course; when it reaches you it issues fresh from the snow-mountains, and with a severity which threatens to prostrate the camp.  The change in one’s feelings is like an instantaneous transit from the torrid to the frigid zone; blankets are in demand, and no one thinks of living without a good supply on hand.  Ice has formed in pails several times, and one morning every tent had an ice covering; the sleet had frozen upon it, and the crackling of the canvas sounded like any thing but music.  We were forced to throw up embankments and plant chaparral to the north of our tents, to break the wind.  The men, of course, suffer a great deal.  The constant dampness and bad water have produced many serious cases of dysentery.  The beauty of this climate is decidedly in the summer.  I’ll venture to say ther is no part of the United States cursed with such a variable one in the winter.  Oh!  Texas, if we have not “fought, bled, and died” for you, we have done as Dick Riker (peace to his ashes) did, “suffered some.”

 

Our encampment presented quite a picturesque appearance, with the evergreen inclosures.  It looked like an encampment among orange groves.

 

The morning after our coldest night, cart-loads of the finest fish and green-turtle were driven on shore at the Nueces reef in a torpid state.  Wagon-loads were carried off by the men.

 

For the last month, whenever a day would permit, some kind of a pony-race came off.  For short distances, some of the mustangs make quite a respectable show.  One race, for three hundred yards, between two cream-colored ponies, was inimitably rich.  The first heat was declared lost from foul riding; the parties agreed to run it over.  In the next, one pony bolted, and, not at all alarmed by the crowd, cleared two or three piles of rubbish, knocked one man down, threw his rider, ran about fifty yards, stopped, turned round, and snorted, as much as to say, “Beat that, if you can.”  That pony was hard to beat.

 

Some who read these pages will remember the fun and merriment produced at the mustang pony-races, and never can forget the “modus operandi” of roping mules to mark them.  A Mexican goes into the heard, and dextrously throws the lasso over the one designated, and then all hands bend on and pull him (after great resistance) out of the pen.  Just as he goes out, a man at the gate, with consummate skill, throws a lasso, and catches the mule by one of his legs; and then commences the sport.  The object now is to throw them to be branded.  Sometimes they are cast very easily, and then,  again, they resist for several minutes, kicking, jumping, and performing all kinds of gyrations; every motion has something comical and ridiculous about it.  Sometimes, when one is down and is branded, instead of flinching the moment the iron sears him, he lies still for a moment, and then, as if he had forgotten himself, thrashes around, and plays the very devil.

 

Early last month (October) a party of Mexicans brought in a horse, which was reported to be the celebrated “White Horse of the Prairies,” the one so often seen and described by travelers over the southwestern prairies.  He was a flea-bitten gray, fourteen hands high, well proportioned, and built a good deal after the pattern of a Conestago No. 2.  His head and neck were really beautiful, perfect Arabian; beautiful ears, large nostrils, great breadth of forehead, and a throttle as large as any I have ever seen in a blooded nag.  His white main was two feel long.  He looked about twenty-five years old.  He was driven into a pen with some hundred others, and lassoed.  Thus, by an artifice, was entrapped the monarch of the mustangs: no more will he lead the countless herds in their wild scampers of freedom; no more will be seen his noble form, with head up and eye dilated, standing on the prairie-knoll, snuffing danger in the breeze, and dashing off at lightning-speed when it becomes apparent.

 

Lieutenant-colonel Hoffman, of the 7th Infantry, died on the 26th of November, and Lieutenant Allen, of the Dragoons, on the 6th of December.  The former was an old and faithful officer, the latter a grade of 1846.

 

The army theater opened on the 8th of January, 1846.  It was a capital building, capable of containing some eight hundred persons.  The scenes were painted by officers of the army.  A very clever company was engaged, and many an otherwise dreary evening was spent by many of us with infinite pleasure within its walls.

 

Early in February General Taylor received orders to march to the Rio Grande, and select some eligible and healthy situation on that river for his command.  It is idle to discuss the propriety of this move.  In annexing Texas to the Union, we were bound to take her as she was.  Texas, with her prescribed limits.  She claimed to the Rio Grande.  The moment the annexation was consummated the Mexican minister demanded his passports, and left the country.  Was appeared to be inevitable.  Our government, anxious to avoid any conflict, took means to ascertain whether an agent would be received, with power to adjust all questions in dispute between the two governments.  Having received assurances that such an agent would be received, Mr. Slidell was selected by the President, and immediately dispatched to Mexico.  The fleet, at the request of the then President of Mexico, was removed from before Vera Cruz; and there can be little or no doubt that Herrera was sincere in his desire to settle all difficulties in the most amicable manner.  At the head of a government as unstable as the winds, his seat was entirely too insecure to retain it, and at the same time act with that dignity, honesty, and firmness so necessary to terminate successfully so delicate a negotiation.  Upon the arrival of Mr. Slidell, the Council of Mexico resolved not to receive him.  On the 29th of December, 1845, the presidency of Herrera was superseded by that of Paredes, placing an insuperable barrier in the way of negotiation.  Hostility to the United States was the countersign and watchword of this military chieftain.  Mr. Slidell presented his credentials to the new government, and was again refused reception.  Our government left nothing undone which might lead to a peaceable settlement.  But what could be expected of a government depending entirely upon the caprice of military factions, where the president of to-day was superseded by the successful general to-morrow?

 

During the latter part of January and February, 1846, reports were daily coming in from the Rio Grande of the concentration of troops upon that river, and that a forward movement would certainly meet with resistance.  That was of little consequence to us, professionally; our orders were out, and all that was required of us was prompt obedience.  Various rumors reached us regarding the state of affairs in Mexico, more especially of the northern states.  It was generally believed there was another revolution on foot.  General Arista, suspected of good-will to this country, was rendered hostile by being superseded in command of the “Army of the North.”  It was thought the people of the northern states would rise, throw off the military yoke of Paredes, declare themselves independent, form for themselves a separate and independent government, and elect Arista their governor.  The friends of this move dispatched Colonel Carabahal to General Taylor, to prevent, if possible, the advance of our army, fearing it would check the outbreak, and cause the people to be united against us, and thus, for a time, retard their political regeneration.  It would be sad to think such would be the effect, of no lover of freedom can refrain from shedding tears to witness the deplorable, degraded state into which the poor Mexican is cast.  Ground down by oppressive taxation, subject to the caprices of every military upstart, deprived of all their freedom of thought and action, it is to be feared that, unless the taper of freedom (which is still burning in their bosoms, and occasionally gives us some proofs of its existence by its feeble attempts to kindle the hearts of the people) is carefully nursed, it will be extinguished forever.  It is in the natural course of things that, sooner or later, the northern states will declare themselves independent.  Not many years hence there may be another state still further west, begging to be annexed; and who shall say the cry will not be responded to, and another star added to the bright ones of Liberty?  It is by “annexation” the whole American Continent is bound to be peopled by us; and fate, no doubt, has decreed that, ere long, the anthem of Liberty shall be sung along its length and breadth.

 

The press of the country estimates our force at four thousand.  It is questionable whether we will advance with more than two thousand five hundred bayonets.  Colonel Churchill, inspector general, reviewed and inspected the troops just prior to our departure for the Rio Grande.

 

Owing to the submerged state of the country during December, 1845, and January, 1846, it was thought the march across the country would be impracticable.  Fortunately, in February we had delightfully warm weather, and the ground was rapidly dried.  The report of two reconnoitering parties, one for some forth miles into the interior, and the other along the shores of Padre Island, as far as Point Isabel, enabled the general to decide upon crossing the country.

 

During the winter months the most active means were used by the quartermaster’s department to collect transportation.  We were miserably deficient; wild mules were purchased and broken; and every thing, you may say, had to be created out of nothing.  To the exertions of Captain Crosman, but more particularly to the energy and untiring zeal of Colonel T. Cross, were we indebted for the meager supply with which the army effected its march.  Every preparation was made by the general to break up all his depôts at Corpus Christi, and remove them to St. Joseph’s Island.  At that point the general hospital was established.

 

Prior to the departure of the army, General Taylor issued a proclamation, which was translated into Spanish, and sent to the Rio Grande for distribution.  Its pacific tendency could not fail to produce a good effect.  It showed the people we were coming there with the most amicable intentions, determined to respect the civil and religious rights of the inhabitants, and maintain, as far as in us lay, the most friendly relations; politely telling them if they would bring in marketing, they would be paid the best of prices, and saying every thing, in fact, that could possibly conduce to perfect confidence.

 

We are delighted at the prospects of the march, having become restless and anxious for a change; anticipate no little fun, and all sorts of adventure, upon the route.

 

The impression gains ground that the reports which have been received here lately, regarding the number of troops concentrating upon the Rio Grande, are greatly magnified, if not totally untrue.  Many of us think there is not the remotest prospect of a brush with them.  I think it more than probable there are some scattering troops on this side of the river; it is much more probable they will retire upon our advance.  I think it is the object of the Mexican government to prove that, at the time of our arrival, they had military possession of the country, believing that this might, in some future negotiation, gain for them no small sum of money.

 

The army was ordered to more by brigades, and to concentrate at the Colorado River, about sixty miles from the Rio Grande.

 

And now, dear reader, I hope, if you have had patience to wade through the dull monotony of our sojourn at Corpus Christi, you will be repaid by the perusal of subsequent chapters, detailing events which led to a most momentous period of our national history.

 

Chapter VIII

 

March 8th.  We are off for the Rio Grande!  Colonel Twiggs, with the 2d Regiment of Dragoons, and Major Samuel Ringgold, with company of Horse Artillery, left at ten ....

 

 

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