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A start for Chihuahua - Mail with Letters from Santa Fe -Bent's murder, and the true cause of it - Doniphan and thetraders - Lake of ducks - A seasonable rain - A warm spring -Carrizal - Wind storm - Another warm spring - Expectation, andalarm - Grass catches fire and runs up the mountain - Rumor ofMexicans near - Another fire and danger - Enemy not far off -Major Owens takes charge of the wagons - A Mexican spy chased -Picket squad drives in advanced guard of the enemy - Army movesout in solid square - The enemy - a reconnoitre - Doniphanresolves on an attack - The battle of Sacramento; and itsresults

ON the eleventh day of February, we started for Chihuahua. Thetroops left the Rio Grande about thirty miles below fort SanElecario, striking across a dry stretch of ninety miles, enteringit on the evening of the fourteenth.

It was on the next day that a mail from Santa Fe overtook us,letters and newspapers. We now first heard that General Wool badchanged his route, and that we should not find him at Chihuahua. It was singular enough that this mail brought no dispatches forColonel Doniphan.

In this situation, a council was held; and the question debated,whether we were to go on to Chihuahua, or turn back to Santa Fe. It was decided to proceed. But we halted while the mail wassorted; and each man, in saddle,


received his letters. It was amusing to hear scraps of home newsbandied about among my colleagues. Not having one to discuss myown letters with me, I left the road, dismounted, sat myselfunder a large soapweed, and proceeded to read the budget that had fallen to my share. In spite of ourrather unpleasant position, in the midst of a dry plain, andalready one night and day without water and with a knowledge thatan almost overwhelming force was but a few leagues from us, andno American troops within even a hundred miles, many pleasantjokes connected with our homes were passed this night and thespirit of our letters kept us cheerfully up to a late hour.

A sad piece of news reached us by this mail--the assassinationof Governor Bent at Taos. His death was particularly felt by themembers of my own mess. Governor Bent had often come amongst uswhile we were at work on our theatre at Santa Fe, with a kindlyinterest in our pleasure and showing, in many ways his amiabledisposition. It seems that after the insurgents had seized him,they took him to his own house, and gave him a choice of instantdeath or the loss of eyes and other atrocious disfigurement. Heboldly bid them to kill him. To the District Attorney Liel, whohad been one of our battalion, they gave no such choice, but usedhim badly and killed him piecemeal. We had left some of ourcompany at a grazing ground near Taos; and therefore, felt greatanxiety for them.

From circumstances which have come to my knowledge, I do notconsider that the murder of Governor Bent was caused by theinsurrection at Taos, but rather that this oc-

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currence was used as a cloak to cover what was, undoubtedly, anact of private malice, instigated by his wife. She was aSpaniard, very beautiful, but had not lived with him for someyears, and resided at Taos, where Bent had large properties. There had been several previous attempts to murder him; from oneof which he had only escaped by killing his assailant. Bent had been warnednever to approach Taos, and this he had not done for some timeprevious. In order to further her own designs, this woman had


could not be punished for it.

Soon after our departure from El Paso, two of the traders--allof whom had received positive orders to keep close to us--ventured to lag behind, preferring to await the issue of theapproaching contest in safety; and one of them even went so faras to hire a band of Indians to run off his cattle. ColonelDoniphan was rather too old a hand to be thus caught, so he sentColonel Mitchell with a detachment of men to urge them on. Colonel Mitchell merely told these traders that he would givethem one hour to harness-up and proceed, and that if they did notdo so in that time, he would string them up to one of theneighboring trees. They rolled their wagons into camp withoutdelay. One of them afterwards ventured to repeat the hesitationto proceed. Colonel Doniphan told the drivers of this trader'swagons, that, from that moment, they were to obey him only, andthat he had taken the responsibility to confiscate the goods inthem to the United States. However, he afterwards returned themto the owner.


On the seventeenth day of February, we arrived at the remarkableLago de los Patos, Lake of the Ducks, which is about four milesin length, into which several large streams empty, but having novisible outlet. Its water, at most times, is too brackish foruse; but now it was fuller than usual from there having beenconsiderable rain in the mountains. This lessened thebrackishness; and we found the water very welcome, for our pooranimals had been entirely without any for three days and nights,and were almost furious. They instantly filled themselves almostto bursting; and had the water been very salty, it would haveinjured them.

About a quarter of a mile from this pond, is a singular spring,highly impregnated with sulphur. It rises from the point of agrassy cone, about fifteen feet high, which is as regular inshape as if made by man. The water, although abundant, only runsto the foot of the mound, there sinking into the sand at once. And with the exception of the cone, there is nothing green to beseen in the neighborhood, and this verdure continues the yearround.

Soon after we had encamped, a heavy shower of rain came up. Itwas a blessing to our provision train, which, mostly drawn byoxen, had not yet got through the jornada, and, indeed, neverwould have got through, had it not been that the rain descendedin such torrents as to run in streams across the road, and soenabled the exhausted oxen to drink plentifully, and also stopand rest. It was the opinion of all, that, had it not been forthis rain, not a single provision wagon would have ever arrivedat the lake.

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A few miles to the south, a warm spring rises out of the sandbetween two small pointed mounds. The water, from its abundance,forms a large stream. The whole bottom of the basin, which isabout ten feet across, is in motion from the boiling up of thewater. I passed my sabre down through the sandy bottom withoutthe slightest difficulty and struck a rock about three feetbelow, apparently quite level and extending under the wholebasin; yet singularly enough, there is no rock visible around itfor some distance.

On the eighteenth, we encamped near the little town of Carrizal,which was, at one time, a principal military post. It has a verylarge fort, almost equal to that of San Elecario, at El Paso, andwhich had, until lately been garrisoned by a large body ofMexican soldiers, who were posted here to protect the surroundingcountry from the Navajos; but these savages, with theiraccustomed daring, had laid waste every rancho and house outsideof the shadow of the walls, and, in consequence, the inhabitantswere fast deserting their homes. In a few years the place willbe in ruins. The next day we remained in camp to rest ourselves,and recruit our animals, but experienced the most severewind-storm I ever witnessed. Tent after tent went down; and ifany stood, it was only those which were well lashed with ourlassos to sabres and bayonets run into the ground.

On the twentieth, we only marched eight miles, stopping by theside of a deep and swift running stream, made by an immense warmspring which rises about six miles from the road. I did not goto it, but those who did, described it as a most beautiful basinabout thirty feet in diameter, pretty deep,

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and of a very comfortable warmth. Some of my comrades remarkedthat the water was rather too warm for their liking; and I,myself, observed that even where it crossed our road, it was notquite cold in spite of its six miles run. The channel of thisstream, which is narrow, is perfectly straight, and the waterruns about four feet from the surface of the ground. What makesit more singular is, that it is supposed to be the water of theriver Carmen, which disappears in the sand two or three milesabove the spring, and, although cold when it goes into theground, rises thus, hot. I believe that no solution, however,been given for this singularity. Here we cooked for a two days'march, having to cross another jornada of sixty miles in length. However, this was not so bad as usual, as there large holes in arock about half-way across which generally contain rain water.

We were in constant expectation of being attacked, and, whilemoving on, had just crossed the dry bed of the Rio Carmen, whenan alarm was given that the enemy was coming, and, certainly, acloud of dust was seen rapidly approaching. So, our advanceguard fell back on the main body; and the battery was, at once,unlimbered and everything got ready for action. We had stoodthus some minutes, when the cause of alarm turned out to be thedust raised by our own picket guard, which had been stationed sixmiles on the road above, and, being relieved, had come in towater their horses before starting on the jornada.

Curiosity induced me to wander down the dry bed of the river,which I found to be very wide and sandy. When about a mile fromthe road, I found, under the roots of an

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immense oak, which projected from the bank to some distance, abeautiful pool of clear icy-cold water of great depth. It wasdirectly in the sand, which at all other parts, was as level as afloor.

On the evening of the second day, in the jornada, we came to theholes in the rock I have before mentioned, and found them nearlyfull of water. It was rather bitter to the taste and muddy, andenabled us only to fill our canteens for immediate use and nomore. On the afternoon of the next day we discovered water abouttwo miles off the road in a canyon in the mountains. While. here, the short dry grass caught fire, and the flame sweptgrandly over the mountains, urged by a stiff breeze. I never sawa more beautiful sight than the steady progress at night of thatlong line of fire-up one surface of an immense mountain by ourside, it extended from base to summit; and the timber, in thehollows behind the mountains, having caught, the air was glowingwith a rich, red glare, all around.

The next day rumor said that the Mexicans were in great force atthe Laguna de Encenillas, which was the real termination of thejornada we were in, and, to reach which, we had to pass one morenight without water. Here, it was stated, they intended to awaitus, expecting that ourselves and our animals would be worn downwith thirst.

It would have proved rather a serious business for them, for Ibelieve that men will fight harder when thus suffering fromthirst, than from any other excitement. We certainly often


odbetween us and a full canteen. However, when

page 109 GRASS ON FIRE.

we reached the laguna, our foes had retired. This laguna is alarger pond of water than the Lago de los Patos, but with similarpeculiarities of brackishness, shallowness, and having no outlet. We were just making camp,when an accidental fire caught in the grass behind us, and,sweeping towards us with great speed, forced us to harness up ourteams again and run. The race lasted two or three miles; andfinding that the fire was gaining on us rapidly, the men weredismounted, and placed in a line leading from the lake up to theroad, with branches in their hands to beat out the fire at thispoint, their horses having been first led in a constant stringover the line; and in their passage, passing a short distance through the water. The wagons all got over intime. But the artillery had to take refuge, by a quick run, intothe lake-frightening thereby a party of Mexican soldiers, whowere at a rancho across it, so that they hastened to themountains and hid themselves, supposing that the artillery weregoing to charge across the lake, which is in no part very deep. Immediately the fire was checked, we all moved over on to theburnt part, and thus avoided all danger.

On the twenty-sixth, we reached the Rancho of Governor Trias, andfound that a large body of the enemy had encamped there theprevious night, and had only left at ten o'clock that morning. The rancheros said that these troops had gone back to Chihuahua;but we afterwards found that they had only withdrawn themselves alittle off the road, and had followed us the next day, but hadnot the spirit to attack our rear, which they had been ordered todo. They had,

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however, driven off all the beef cattle, except about half adozen, which we soon slaughtered.

The next day, we only marched a few miles, coming to a few smallbrackish ponds. Some time was spent in arranging the plan ofadvance for the morrow--when we should certainly meet the enemy. The wagons, numbering over three hundred, were given in charge ofMajor Owens, a trader who formed all his teamsters into twocompanies, arming them, and explaining to them that, untilorders, they were to drive their wagons along in four parallellines about fifty feet apart, thus forming a rectangle over aquarter of a mile in length, and they were to be all prepared to form a square corraal or fort with the wagons for the soldiers,should it prove necessary.

This evening, Captain Skillman and another trader had chased aMexican spy so hard as to force him to dismount, and seek safetyon foot. They brought in the horse, beautifully equipped withsilver mounted saddle and bridle, and fine holster pistols. Ourpicket-guard also, on going out after dark to take up theirposition, had driven in the advance guard of our foe, althoughtwice their number.

The next morning, Sunday, the twenty-eighth of February, we movedout of camp, the wagons first taking up the positions fixed uponthe evening previous; and the artillery occupying the centrespace between the two battalions of Doniphan's regiment, whofilled the two outside spaces. Our company marched ahead of thenow solid square.

Although I was very unwell, and almost unable to ride, I had goneforward with three others to reconnoitre; and get-


ting upon some rising ground, with the aid of a telescope, Iobtained a fine view of the whole of the Mexican force; and I donot hesitate to say that, as I turned from viewing that densemass of soldiery to look at our little band as it came slowly butsteadily on, my heart felt a little faint. I could see thenumerous entrenchments and batteries of the Mexicans; and Iobserved to myself, that there was but one way by which we couldpossibly fight them on at all even ground--and this was, bycrossing a deep gully, when we should get upon a grassy plain,extending with a slight ascent up to their position. On allother sides the high bluff bank forbade all attempt.

I rejoined our company; and found that Colonel Doniphan hadresolved to attack: following exactly the route I have abovementioned. And now, spades and pickaxes are put in requisition,and numerous willing hands soon fill up the gully.

As our troops cross it, the trumpets sound the Trot. All moveout from the cover of the wagons, and take up a position aboutnine hundred yards from the most advanced of the enemy, and, fromthe sloping ground, rather below them. Nothing can exceed theenthusiasm of the men--one would suppose they are rather thinkingof getting up a fandango, than of going into such an unequalfight. That overwhelming force in their front had no othereffect than to raise their spirits still higher.

But slowly and majestically above our heads, sails America'sbird, a large bald eagle.--"An omen, an omen,"

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runs through our ranks, and all eyes glance at him for amoment.

Our little battalion occupies the centre of our position--onthe right and left of it are two companies of cavalry, one ofthem Col. Mitchell's escort and behind them, dismounted andacting as infantry, impatiently stand the rest of Doniphan'sregiment.

As we form, the enemy's artillery opens upon us, and, at thatinstant, Weightman's deep voice is heard "form battery, actionfront, load and fire at will;" and our pieces ring out thedeath-knell of the enemy; now comes the friendly strugglebetween our gunners, who shall pour in the deadliest and quickestfire, and beautifully are those pieces served, mowing lane afterlane through the solid columns of the Mexicans. In the centre ofour battery, their horses bounding at every discharge, standClark and his officers. As the balls fly through the opposingranks, and the shells tear their columns, shout after shout isheard from our men.

Further to our right is Colonel Doniphan on his beautifulchestnut charger, with his leg crossed over the saddle, steadilywhittling a piece of wood, but with his eye glancing proudly overthe ranks of his little band. As the cannonading becomes hotter,he quietly says "Well, they're giving---us now, boys" andpasses coolly to the left of our position, untouched by thecopper hail that pours around him.

And here we are (at a distance too great for anything butcannon), sitting on our horses, dodging Mexican balls as theycome humming through our ranks, first striking the ground


about midway, and so becoming visible. It was surprising theskill which we soon obtained in this employment. After a fewshots, we could tell to a foot where the copper messenger wouldalight; although, a few minutes before, joke after joke waspassing among us, the silence was now almost unbroken, fornothing acts so well, by way of a safety valve to a man's courageas having to sit on horseback half an hour and dodge cannonballs. As yet we know of no injuries amongst us, but suddenly, aGerman close by, blurts out "I'se kilt," and, tumbling off hishorse, rolls up his trowsers, showing a severe contusion on hisleg, caused by a stone thrown up by the ricochet of acannon-ball; round the limb goes a handkerchief and up mounts theman again. At that moment a groan bursts from the line to myleft, and a man is borne dying from the ranks, while off goes thehead of Lieutenant Dorn's horse. Hot work on all sides!

So confident are the Mexicans, that some of the richest citizensof Chihuahua have come out as spectators; but now, judgingwisely, off they fly at all speed to the city, giving notice ofthe probable result, but are so little believed that, like theprophets before them, they are actually stoned in the streets.

A shell explodes directly in the ranks of the enemy--they drawback behind their entrenchments--and we immediately advanceuntil within four hundred yards--again the deadly showeropens from our ranks, fiercely returned The order to charge rings through our lines. Colonel Mitchell on his favorite whitecharger, Roderick, waves his sabre as he leads us on; rumblingand crashing behind us comes Weightman

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with his howitzers, leaving the rest of the battery in positionto cover our advance. Dashing past us goes Major Owens, wavinghis hand in an exulting manner, and shouting out, "Give it tothem, boys! they can't withstand us" -and away he goes: falling,in two minutes a corpse, struck in the forehead by a grape-shotwhile storming the redoubts, and being so close to the gun thatthe fire actually burns his clothes. Rapidly is our charge made;but just fairly under way, it is about to be ruined! Acountermanding order, as if from Doniphan, is given by a drunkenofficer whose rank (alone) requires respect. In surprise wesuddenly halt within a few yards of the redoubts, and are fullyexposed to the whole of the enemy's fire. "For God's sake,advance!" roars out our sutler Pomeroy, who was fighting in theranks--our hesitation vanishes, and away we instantly dashforward, gallantly led by Mitchell and Gilpin, while Weightmanfires his howitzers loaded with canister, with great effect, andagain advancing, wheels them to the right and left, throwing inanother charge of grape and canister and raking the whole line ofthe enemy's position. To our left is a battalion of bravecavalry, from Durango, who have arrived on the field only half anhour before--'tis their last fight--they are terribly cut topieces, and are forced to retreat. A piece of their artillery,being dismounted, they attempt to "snake," by fastening theirlassos to it, and drag it along the ground, but they areovertaken and made prisoners, and the gun is ours. Our men,pouring over the embankment, actually push the Mexicans out. Nowcomes the rout; the Mexicans give way; and sauve qui peutis their


only object. We are in possession of their main position. Therest of our battery comes galloping up to occupy it. A body oftheir lancers reforms and prepares to renew the attack--but theyare soon sent after their flying companions. We are aboutcongratulating ourselves on a victory: when bang goes a cannon,and a ball bounds amongst us, knocking the saddle-blanket off themule of one of our company, from which he has this instantdismounted. A cloud of white smoke curls gracefully upwards froma hitherto masked battery to the right upon yon high mountain,as shot after shot falls amongst us. Two of our six pounders areat once placed in one of the deserted entrenchments and commencea well directed fire, which soon dismounts one of the enemy'spieces. Up charges Mitchell at the head of his company, andtakes the position; yet down, with headlong speed, dashes anofficer waving a Mexican flag--one of our gunners points hiscannon at him--a moment and he would have been no more, but hishorse is recognized, 'tis Colonel Mitchell's Roderick, while theColonel himself is the standard bearer.

Numerous skirmishes occur as pursuit takes the place ofresistance. Weightman dashes on with the cavalry towards thecity. Looking over his shoulder, he sees his howitzers halted onthe hill side instead of following him, and galloping back, heshouts "On with that battery; if I knew who had halted you, I'dcut him down." The officer who had done so said not a word.

But the battle is won. And gradually we assemble on the

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battle-field. The enemy are fast disappearing in the distance,baffling pursuit.

And what has, all this time, been the conduct of the priest Ortisand the three other Spaniards we brought down to see the fight?At the commencement of the struggle, they stand up in their lightcarriage, to which two mules are attached, and which stillremains in the centre of our wagon columns. Seeing the densemass of their countrymen, they cannot contain their joy--the firstfew shots are exchanged.--Ortis and his three companions arestill standing in the vehicle with outstretched necks and eagereyes.--But see the Mexican columns waver, and rank after rankbites the dust,--at last, they fly--the countenances of the priestand his companions fall, their bright visions vanish, and,jumping out, they run behind that very large wagon-wheel. Goodmen, they are praying and telling their beads with unusualrapidity, with trembling voices and shaking hands. A sad taskwas the priest's that night, and many a poor Mexican soldier diedmurmuring his confession into his ear.

Recognitions and congratulations take place. "Why, I heard youwere killed!" is said by one to another, until after everybodyhad shaken hands with almost everybody, and then the questionarose, who was killed? For, with the exception of Major Owens, wehad not lost a man! but the dead and the dying of the enemy wereall around us. It is true, that we had several severely wounded,and many slightly; and as the shot fired at us was of copper, wewere afraid we should lose many of our wounded; but three only,as I understand, have since died.


On examining the ground we had won, it seemed almost impossibleto believe that, in only three hours, we had beaten such a largeforce, holding so excellent a position, the hill which they hadchosen giving them the advantage of ground on all sides, andcommanding all three roads into Chihuahua. There were five largecircular redoubts, connected by long entrenchments for infantrybetween; the whole number of redoubts and entrenchments wastwenty-eight, and these were defended by ten pieces of four, six,and nine pound-artillery, with six musquetoons or escopetas,carrying one pound lead balls. Several loads of ammunition wereleft behind; and among the spoil were nine wagon loads or aboutthirteen thousand pounds of hard bread, four loads of dried meat,weighing over sixteen thousand pounds, and any quantity ofsweetened flour for making atole, besides over seven hundredthousand cigaritos, several thousand head of cattle, and tenacres of sheep.

I have said that the dead and dying Mexicans were around us; buthaving found, in their medical wagon, a quantity of excellentlitters, we had all the wounded brought in. Their surgeon, whowas a prisoner, was requested to attend to them, but heobstinately refused; and numbers bled to death that night frominattention. Our men showed their natural goodness of heart bythe kind attention they paid to them; and the next morning, ourown surgeon dressed their wounds. I was much struck with one ofthe prisoners, who was secretary and aid-de-camp to the Governor,Angel Trias; he was a Spaniard, and a very handsome man, both inface and figure. He had received a rifle ball in the small ofthe back, which

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had passed through just inside the spine, thus making anexceedingly painful, although not dangerous wound. He hadevidently had enough of fighting Americans: and afterwards, whilerecovering at Chihuahua, was much pleased when any of us wouldvisit him. The enemy lost, in killed and wounded, about elevenhundred men, besides a considerable amount of property. Severalof our soldiers found large sums of money at the camp, in thetrunks of the officers, which they broke open. There must havebeen over fifty thousand dollars, altogether; and as every mankept his own counsel, it was not recovered.

I found a white flag on the battle field; and one of our menpicked up the black flag that had been brought out to us atBracito. It was brought home by Major Clark, who still retainsit. Several national and regimental colors were also taken.

In one of the wagons, left behind by the Mexicans, were severalbundles of rope, cut into short convenient pieces. These hadbeen provided to tie us when we should have been conquered. There were also great quantities of small bags, which a Mexicanofficer told us were to have been filled with cotton, and hungaround the necks of their soldiers, as a sort of protectivearmor;--they must have heard of General Jackson and the cottonbags at New Orleans.

In a hollow near the Mexican camp, we found a large wagon, withthe mules ready harnessed; but one of the animals was killed by acannon ball. Under the wagon a fire was kindled, and some of ourmen, lifting the cover, saw several wounded Mexicans lying in it,whom they helped out, after


kicking away the fire, which had almost burned through thebottom. Among those in the wagon, to our astonishment, we foundan old acquaintance; being no other than the sergeant whom Imentioned as being cured of three bullet holes through hisintestines at Bracito. This time he had not come off so well, asboth of his legs were shot off. He died in the hospital atChihuahua. Under these poor fellows, we found about threehundred pounds of fine Kentucky rifle powder, which the enemy,being unable to carry off, on account of the wounded mules, hadthus attempted to destroy,--fifteen minutes more, and the poorwounded Mexicans would have been blown to atoms.

I should have mentioned, that about a month before, a notice hadbeen forwarded by Colonel Doniphan to the Governor of Chihuahua,that if he did not come out and fight us in open field, he wouldburn the city. They had, accordingly, come out here with Frenchengineers, and erected their defences: and no place could havebeen better adapted for it. If two thousand Americans were tooccupy this position, no five thousand men could drive them fromit; but we had not more than nine hundred in the action, yetdrove more than four thousand out. I saw their AdjutantGeneral's book, which showed their force to be four thousand twohundred men, commanded by "Generals Heredia; Garcia Conde; AngelTrias, Governor of Chihuahua; and Cuilty."

A detachment was at once sent on to the city, to secure it, andto send the alcalde to bury the dead, which he did, by havingthem thrown into the trenches, and tumbling the embankments uponthem. Little did those now under them

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think, when throwing up the redoubts, that they were diggingtheir own graves.

I have understood that, as we started on the charge, ColonelDoniphan covered his face with his hands, and almost groaned out,"My God! they're gone! the boys will all be killed!" Theninstantly raising his head, he struck his spurs into his horse'ssides, and came dashing after us.

We encamped upon the battle field this night. The next day, wemarched but a few miles; and the day after brushed ourselves upfor a triumphal march into Chihuahua. My company carried in thecaptured banners and lances, and I had the honor of bearing oneof the Mexican national flags, now, however, closely gatheredround its staff, and not flaunting the air as it had done the dayit was borne out of the city. In our line, were all the capturedartillery and other trophies.

The road, by which we approached the city, was thickly strewedwith fragments of arms and other military things, showing thehaste with which the Mexicans had fled. *


* See the official account of the battle in the Appendix, No. 2.

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