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Orders to proceed south. San Juan. General Wool, and was theresuch a man! Battle field of Buena Vista. Mexican shells. Theburied Mexicans. Falsehood of Santa Anna. General Wool and areview. Compliments; and plain speaking. Saltillo. Theprettiest girl. Mexican women. A regular soldier's ignorance. Bishop's palace and Monterey. Walnut Springs. General Taylor Doniphan's account to Taylor of the battle ofSacramento. Leave Walnut Springs. Horrible sight of the remainsof the wagon-train surprised by Urrea. Dead Mexican, and howkilled. John Smith, a Texian ranger. Brutality of the rangers;and execution of a brave Mexican. Camargo and its canvas houses. A man shot; and revenge. Armadillos, and a story. Descriptionof the soil and its productions. Steamboat seen once again. TheRio Grande and its windings. Burning of saddles, etc. Embarkation and home.

WE here received orders to proceed southward; and after restingtwo days, again moved on. Looking back on Parras, the scene wasbeautiful; interspersed, as it was, with palms, lemon trees andvineyards. A short distance from this town is a large hacienda,which the owner is trying to arrange in American style. Thoughtsof home were awakened by the sight of the first peaked roof thatwe had seen since we left Missouri.

On the twentieth we encamped at San Juan, the scene of a battlebetween Santa Anna and the Spaniards, during their


revolution, as well as of a skirmish between a part of Taylor'sforce and the Mexicans.

The next day we pitched our tents at Encantada, half a mile fromthe battle-field of Buena Vista; and found a regiment of Arkansascavalry encamped on the field. The next day a question, whichhad been frequently agitated in our camp, Was there really such aman as General Wool? (for we had gone some two thousand mileswool-gathering), was to be satisfied: he having now sent us wordthat he should review us the next day. We were certainly to haveseen him at El Poso; we were positively to have aided him in thetaking of Chihuahua: and he was most undoubtedly to receive us atParras!

But now, we had unearthed out game; General Wool was certainlyencamped only six miles off, in the direction of Saltillo. Someof us took the opportunity of going over tho battle-field ofBuena vista; and it well repaid the trouble. The Americanposition, under the hills upon which Santa Anna had posted hisartillery, was sufficiently marked by the ploughed-up ground,caused by the Mexican cannon-shot, and by marks of what had beenpools of blood. It must have been a dreadful struggle. Remnantsof uniform were strewed around, and one of my companions pickedup a half of one of Santa Anna's forty-two pound shells.

I haveunderstood that all the Mexican shells burst exactly in halves,which was on account of the bad powder used to fill them; theservice of a shell being, of course, increased according to thesmallness of the fragments into which it splits. The half wefound could not have been fractured more evenly

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with tools.

On one part of the field is a long row of stones, Ibelieve some three hundred in number, laid at the side of atrench in which the dead Mexicans were buried by theircountrymen; and so slightly are they covered, that here an armsticks out and there a leg. A stone was placed for each bodydeposited in the trench. I deem it unnecessary to give adescription of the field; and would only remark upon thefalsehood of Santa Anna's statement, that his army had beenwithout food and water for forty-eight hours previous to, andduring this battle; for one of his generals has since published astatement showing that he had several hundred head ofbeef-cattle, while a fine stream of water runs directly throughthe battle-ground.

The next day, the twenty-second of May, General Wool came overwith his staff}, in full uniform, and a guard of honor. After aformal review, he decided to keep our American battery of sixpieces, but arranged that we should take the Mexican guns home. The next morning, as we passed his camp, the artillery companymarched into it to deliver the guns; -- and General Wool made manycomplimentary remarks, and, among others, gave us to understandthat we were covered with glory. This might be; but we werecertainly not covered with it as with a garment. General Wool,turning to our major, remarked, that he should be very muchpleased, indeed, to retain the company; but Major Clark told himthat his boys had been too badly treated to wish to reenlist."But, "returned Wool," it shall be my endeavor to make themforget that, and I promise, if they will remain, they shall betreated in the best manner."


"That's what they told us when we started," gruffly respondedthe major. The general said no more.

*We passed through Saltillo the next day; and I was agreeablysurprised to find it such a large and handsome place. Thecathedral is beautiful, and most of the houses are high andornamental. The inhabitants turned out to see us; and I beheldthe prettiest girl I saw in all Mexico, standing at the door of amean-looking dwelling in the main street. Her complexion, ofmarble whiteness, showed delicately a slight rosy color in thecheek, while her beautiful large dark swimming eyes, with theiraccompanying heavy lashes and eyebrows, rested with a pityingexpression upon me -- for I was lying at the time in a wagon onaccount of sickness. Oh the beauty of the exquisite Spanish wordpobrecito, (poor fellow) when heard from such lips -- the sweetestof all sweet sounds.

The Mexican women in general are not handsome, for they commonlywant the clear complexion, which we deem inseparable from beauty;but they have that large dark swimming eye, a lip usually highcolored, and good teeth. But their principal charm lies in theirmanner. In entering a house, which you may do, even though astranger, and be


*Indeed, our treatment had been throughout very hard. Sometimes we were almost starved; and we did not receive, exceptduring the last month of our time, the full rations of foodallowed by law to United States soldiers; and, on our arrival atNew Orleans, our pay was also reduced a dollar a month, and weeven then only received twelve and a half cents a day ascommutation money for forage for our horses, during the time wereceived no corn from the government; whereas, I had frequentlypaid from fifty cents to seventy-five cents a day for my horse'sprovender.

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sure of a welcome from its owners, the senoras, without rising,offer you a seat, and are ready at once to converse with you onany subject, and this with a piquancy and naivete exceedinglyattractive to a foreigner. It is a pleasure to meet some prettydona of your acquaintance after a short absence. Wherever it maybe, she immediately grasps your hand, draws you towards her,passes her arm round your waist, and presses you gently to her. This habit, of course, struck us at first as singular and ratherforward, but the perfect nonchalance with which a lady friendwill thus press you to her heart, perhaps every day, soon showsthat it is, in reality, only a common kindly recognition. Butthe gusto and real grace with which two dirty old beggars willthus hug each other, is a singular sight. This mode of greetingis not confined to either sex.

The day before we arrived at General Wool's camp, we had polishedup our American cannon so that we could see our bearded faces inthem. While we lay there, a "regular" of Wool's army, (one ofWashington's battery,) was examining them; while standing aroundwere several of our men.

"Why," said the regular, "these guns are quite new, a'n't they? You've never fired them, I suppose."

This remark awakened the ire of one of our men, particularly asthe regular calls himself a veteran, and looks down upon a raggedvolunteer; and he tartly responded:

"No, of course not; what do you think we found to fire at, you fool? But those pieces," pointing to our captured Mexican guns, "have been fired several times. By the by, Mr. Regular," added he, "what do you do withall the pieces you capture?"

He of


Washington's battery, completely crest-fallen, said,

"We haven't captured any yet!"

This the inquirer well knew, and also that, at Buena Vista, instead of taking any cannon, they had, in fact,lost three pieces. But the idea that any "regular" should not have heard of our gallant little battle, was rather annoying.

On the twenty-fifth, we encamped two miles from the celebratedBishop's Palace, near Monterey. The capture of this massivestone building, which, from its position, was easily defensible,had proved a difficult and bloody undertaking, for, besides thebuilding, there is a high stone enclosure, in front, which musthave been carried only after a hard struggle. The edifice had,evidently, been a fine one; but it was now almost in ruins. Thetremendous effect of artillery could here be observed. Iremarked where a ball had entered the door, and, glancing off theside of the massive stair-case, had passed through, first astrong stone wall, which supplied the place of hand-rail, thenthrough a partition wall, and then through the side of thehouse-the two last walls being of large stones, firmly cemented. As we marched through Monterey, we passed, to our left, thecemetery in which Worth had placed his mortar, when bombardingthe city. Monterey is beautifully situated in a very richvalley; it is a place of considerable size, and has been a finecity. But the houses are very much cut up by musket and cannonball. One of the principal public buildings, I understood it hadbeen the custom-house, was completely destroyed in the siege. The wall surrounding the plaza is pierced at every short distancewith port-holes,

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through which the inhabitants fired upon their assailants. Thechurch itself bears numerous marks of balls. In front of thewindows of all large houses in Mexico are gratings of iron, veryoften fancifully ornamented, and which form a cage about a footdeep round each window. In passing through the streets, many ofthese might be observed through which cannon balls had passed,cutting and twisting a gap through, perhaps, twenty bars; andthere were many house walls upon which a hand could not be placedwithout covering the mark of a musket ball.

The Mexican houses are well adapted for a street fight, as, fromthe flat roofs above which the walls rise to a height of abouttwo feet, a constant fire could be kept up without exposing anypart of the person, while the streets, from being entirelyunobstructed, present a clear sweep for the musketeer on thehouse-top.

We passed, on the road three miles beyond Monterey, the BlackFort, which had resisted Taylor in his attack on the city. Atthat time it was not finished, but has been since completed bythe general's orders, and is rendered almost impregnable. It isadvantageously situated, and there are many heavy guns mounted init -- among them are two very beautiful long "forty-two's," ofEnglish manufacture, several Spanish and many American pieces. There is one large gun with which the Mexicans attempted to senda shell to Taylor's camp at Walnut Springs, (three miles,) butputting in too much powder, the whole breech flew out and killednumbers of the sapient artillerists. There is also a Mexicanpiece, which, in one of the battles, received a ball directlyin


the muzzle, knocking out a large piece of the under-part of themouth.

About noon we encamped at Walnut Springs. We saw nothing of OldRough and Ready for some hours afterwards, although we were nearto the General's tent. In the afternoon, a rather common-lookingman, dressed in a check shirt, fancy trowsers of common stuff,brown holland coat, and large straw hat, was observed examiningour Mexican pieces of cannon very attentively; and it was soonwhispered around, "that's him!" His whole appearance was such acontrast to Wool, for the latter came to our camp in fulluniform, and in review style, that this unceremoniousness took uspleasantly by surprise. Many of our men, who had served withhim in Florida, went up and shook hands with him, and weredelighted to find he had remembered them. General Taylor hardlyneeds description now; and yet it is by no means an easy task togive it. His face, if it were not for the soul's expressionthere, would be considered far from handsome. But that simple,good and firm look which beams from his eyes is indescribable. In figure he is short, and -- to use an ordinary but expressivephrase -- stumpy, being inclined to embonpoint; and yet, when youhear him speak, you feel that a man not of the common mouldstands before you. I was surprised to observe that his orderlyservant was exactly the opposite in appearance to his officer,for although Taylor is by no means slovenly in his dress, yetthere is a comfortable abandon about him that shows he takes nopride in dress: -- while his orderly is the very pink

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of soldiers, being a young man of very fine form, and with longglossy black ringlets descending to his shoulders.

While we were at Walnut Springs, General Taylor addressed ColonelDoniphan thus:

"By the by, Colonel, every one is talking of yourcharge at Sacramento. I understand it was a brilliant affair. Iwish you would give me a description of it, and of yourmanoeuvres."

"Manoeuvres be hanged," returned Doniphan, andadded, "I don't know anything about the charge, except that myboys kept coming to me to let them charge, but I would not permitthem; for I was afraid they would all be cut to pieces. At last,I saw a favorable moment and told them they might go -- they wereoff like a shot -- and that's all I know about it!"

We left Walnut Springs about noon on the twenty-seventh of May,and continued our route to Camargo, where we were to take boatfor the mouth of the Rio Grande. On the road we met with twothousand five hundred pack mules, carrying provisions for thearmy, on their way to Monterey. At sundown we encamped at Marin. General Taylor had ridden out with us two or three miles, andthen, bidding us farewell in the kindest manner, returned to hiscamp.

The next day, we passed the place where the large train of wagonswas burnt by Urrea's men, about the same time that the battle ofBuena Vista was fought.

It was, indeed, even then a horrible sight to behold; anddisgrace must ever attach to those officers having charge of thewagon-part of the quarter-master's department, who allowed thepoor drivers to go unarmed, and the wagons to proceed with soexceedingly slight an escort. Every here and


there were the burnt remains of wagons which the brutal Mexicansset fire to without unharnessing the mules from them, so that thefrightened animals dashed off until they became wedged among thetrees, where they were burnt with the wagons -- and the bones of theslaughtered drivers were lying about in alI directions. A spotwas pointed out to me where one of the teamsters had been stakeddown, and then inhumanly butchered inch by inch; -- others wereburnt alive, and but few escaped.

A few steps from this scene, I beheld the dried-up body of aMexican, who met his death under the following circumstances. AnArkansas cattle-driver had been to Monterey on business, and wasreturning with some soldiers who were carrying an express down tothe mouth of the river; but the drover lagged behind some two orthree hundred yards, when a Mexican shot at him from the side ofthe road. The ball fractured his thigh, and he fell from hishorse. His assailant, thinking he was dead, jumped upon him,when the drover, drawing his pistol, shot him. The soldiers,returning on hearing the shots, left the Mexican to become thewithered example I saw, and took the drover to Ceralvo, where hisleg was amputated; and from this operation he was justrecovering, when he caught the small-pox, and, at the time wepassed through that place, was dying.

At this same Ceralvo we arrived on the twenty-ninth. It is oneof the few places which Taylor did not destroy along the road: -- hehad been compelled to lay waste most of the ranchos and smalltowns, on account of their affording concealment to parties ofguerillas who would occasion-

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ally rob the wagon trains. We only halted here a few hours torest, intending to proceed fifteen miles further in the cool ofthe afternoon. The heat had now become so excessive as to renderit almost impossible to march in the middle of the day.

Taking a stroll through the town of Ceralvo, I found, sittingunder a tree, dealing monte, a genuine specimen of the Texianranger. His name, he said, was John Smith -- a name which I thoughtI had heard before. In height he was about six feet four inches,of a stout sinewy frame, dressed in a mongrel attire, his coatbeing of American manufacture, his pantaloons Mexican, and hisbelt Indian. A fine white shirt, open some distance down, tiedwith a black silk handkerchief, studiedly knotted, and a Mexicansombrero, completed his dress. By his side was standing hisyounger brother, about fifteen years old, dressed, with littlevariation, in the same style, and with two enormoussilver-mounted holster pistols in his waist, one under each arm. The elder also had a quantity of silver buttons and littleornaments upon his hatband and clothes; while, on the faces ofboth, the word desperado was indelibly stamped. I sat down byJohn Smith and drew him into conversation. He told me that theUnited States did not give the rangers any rations either for manor horse, but paid an equivalent; and that they procured theirsubsistence out of the Mexicans. And the process of doing thishe thus graphically described: "Waal, you see when we wantanything, a few of us start off to some rich hacienda near here,and tell the proprietor that in half an hour we must have so muchof provisions. Waal, of course he don't


like that much, so he refuses. One of us then just knots a lassoround the old devil's neck, and fastens it to his saddlebow,first passing it over a limb of some tree; then mounting hishorse he starts off a few feet giving him a hoist, and thenreturns dropping him down again. After a few such swings, hesoon provides what we have called for. Perhaps you think we'vedone with him then, eh? Not by a long shot. We have to jerk hima few times more, and then the money or gold-dust is handed out. When we've got everything out of him we let the yellow devil go. We don't hurt him much, and he soon gets over it." Who canwonder at the Mexican becoming a guerilla!

I have been credibly informed that when these rangers are sentout on scouting parties, a Mexican guide is generally provided,but that he never returns; the Texians always shooting him onsome pretext or other before he gets back. Their usual mode isto frighten him with threats, and, after putting him under guard,to have one of their number go up to the poor fellow, and advisehim to run off immediately, he sees the sentinel's back isturned. This he does, and the sentinel, having received his cue,shoots him while attempting to escape. One of the most dastardlyacts I ever heard of was perpetrated by half a dozen Texianofficers a short time before we came down. They had lost theirway, and hired a Mexican to show them to their camp, which hefaithfully performed; but when they came in sight of it, theydrew lots who should shoot their faithful and unsuspectingguide -- the one on whom the lot fell, immediately drew a pistol andshot him.

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Most of these rangers are men who have been either prisoners inMexico, or, in some way, injured by Mexicans, and they,therefore, spare none, but shoot down every one they meet. It issaid that the bushes, skirting the road from Monterey southward,are strewed with skeletons of Mexicans sacrificed by thesedesperadoes.

While we rested at Ceralvo, I witnessed the execution of aMexican supposed to be one of Urrea's lawless band. The Texianspretended to consider him as such; but there was no doubt thatthis was only used as a cloak to cover their insatiable desire todestroy those they so bitterly hate. A furlough was found uponthis Mexican, from his army, to visit his family, ending as ourfurloughs do, that should he overstay his leave of absence, hewould be considered a deserter. This time he had considerablyoverstayed; and he himself stated that he had never intended toreturn, being in favor of the Americans. But the rangers triedhim by a court-martial; and adjudged him to be shot that veryday. As the hour struck, he was led into the public plaza; andfive rangers took their post a few feet off, as executioners. The condemned coolly pulled out his flint and steel, and littlepaper-cigarito; and, striking a light, commenced smoking ascalmly as can possibly be imagined, and -- in two minutes -- fell acorpse, with the still smoking cigarito yet between his lips. Idid not see a muscle of his face quiver, when the rifles werelevelled at him, but he looked coolly at his executioners,pressing a small cross, which hung to his neck, firmly againsthis breast. I turned from the scene sickened at heart.


The habit is universal among the Mexicans of both sexes ofwearing around the neck a medal or cross, usually suspended by asmall rosary. The medals, which are of brass and of Englishmanufacture, often bear the figure and name of the patron saintof the wearer, but most of them are stamped with the form andname of "The Lady of Guadalupe" -- of whom many miraculous talesare told; and on the reverse of the medal is the inscription, Non fecit taliter omni nationii,, which a late writer onMexico translates, wittily, She never made such a fool of anyother nation. The crosses are often of silver or gold. Thelove of ornament and false jewelry among the lower orders of theMexicans is remarkable. Every man and woman have their fingersloaded with common brass rings set with glass; and one of themost profitable articles of sale carried out by the traders, arethe common gilt trinkets, usually styled Paris jewelry.

On the night of the thirtieth, we encamped at Mier, the scene ofone of the bloodiest struggles of the Texian Revolution betweenthe Texians, who had invaded the country, and the Mexican army. The buildings still stand in which General Green and his littleband made such a desperate resistance against more than thricetheir force, armed, too, with artillery. Now, in riding throughthe place, you find such signs as these: "Rough and Ready EatingHouse." "Hot Coffee and Cakes;" "Taylor's Hotel. GoodSegars."

We reached Camargo on the thirty-first; but found that the RioGrande, which we here first saw again since leaving El Poso, wastoo low to allow steamboats to come up thus

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far -- indeed, to me there was no perceptible difference in theappearance of the river, from what it was where we had left itsbanks, a thousand miles above. Camargo has now become a place ofsome importance, for, although there are but few substantialdwellings, yet there are quite a large number of canvas housesused for the protection of provisions and other stores landedfrom the steamboats, when the river is high, and sent hence inwagons to the army. These canvas houses are of immense extent,and stand in a cluster, surrounded by a trench and embankment. The River San Juan, which empties itself into the Rio Grande atthis point, is ferried by means of flatboats guided by largeropes stretched from bank to bank.

We had brought several of the great traders' wagons down with us;and these immense machines, with their long ten-mule teams,proved a source of wonder and amusement to the teamsters who werehere driving the United States wagons -- they using moderate-sizedlight vehicles, drawn by only five mules. The latter are not sowell adapted to this country as the large ones; and so thoughtthe quarter-master stationed here, for he at once relieved usfrom most of our wagon-train, and tried to hire some of our oldand experienced drivers for the ten-mule teams, which he intendedto put on the road at once. But, although he offered sixtydollars a month, and double rations, he could not procure asingle hand, they having a great dislike to the regulars.

An attempt was also made by two of our officers, to induce someof us to re-enlist during the war, but this object could

page 159 A MAN SHOT, AND REVENGE. 169

not be accomplished; we were for going home to Sarah and thechildren! -- and for our pay, as even up to this point we hadreceived none.

We marched but nine miles during the first morning we leftCamargo; and before we reached our resting-place; we lost a mannamed Swain. He had very incautiously gone ahead of our advancedguard, some two or three hundred yards, and was riding throughthe muskeet bushes which skirt the road, and only a few pacesfrom it, when he received a bullet in the back, killing himinstantly. The advance guard pressed on, hearing the report, andcaught sight of five mounted Spaniards going off at full speed. They chased them for some distance; but lost them on account of adeep gully which crossed their path. A few miles further, and wecame to a town (the name of which I have forgotten), where wewere to rest until the afternoon; and the guard, having observedthat the Mexicans who had committed the outrage had taken thisdirection, searched the town, and found, at one house, fiveMexicans, who evidently had just come off a journey, and also alike number of mules, the backs of which were yet wet from theirsaddles. On questioning the men, they said the mules did notbelong to them, and that they had no saddles in the house; but,on searching, five were found, evidently only just removed fromthe backs of the mules. The Mexicans were at once arrested, andtaken to the quarter-master who was stationed here. In spite ofthe evident guilt of the men, this officer said that he knewthem, that they were in his employ, and that they could not beguilty. He removed them from our custody, and placed them in

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charge of his own guard. This incensed the messmates of poorSwain, and they vowed vengeance. Eight of them, mostlyneighbors, at home, of his family, remained concealed behind us,and, as the quarter-master's guard escorted the suspected men outof the town, and turned them free, each Mexican received arifle-ball, and never moved again. The avengers then proceededto the house where the culprits had been found, and, aftershooting two who were there, having since come in, burnt it tothe ground, and quietly and coolly followed us.

News had been brought to us that five steamboats were lying atReinosa; and several regiments, which had been discharged byTaylor, being also on the march for that place, we were obligedto push on as fast as possible, in order that we might get thefirst chance. This we did, and we managed to get ahead of allbut one regiment, which was only a few hours' march before us; soit was resolved to push on all this night, in order to reachReinosa by sunrise. At midnight, as we were moving as rapidly aspossible, we came upon the above regiment encamped; and they,perceiving our object, at once struck tents, and came after us;but we had got too much the start of them, and they did notarrive at Reinosa until after our officers had secured the onlytwo available boats; three others being hard aground on the barbelow the town, and the water falling fast.

In coming down the road, our men caught three armadillos. Asoldier amused me one evening, by describing his encounter withone of these harmless creatures. It seems, he had gone among thebushes to shoot a deer which he had


seen pass, when, as he said, an armadillo, the like of which hehad never seen before, ran at him! (quite an improbability,)caused his mule to rear, and he, shooting the animal instanter,never stopped to examine it, but hurried back as fast as possibleto the ranks.

The general appearance of the country has not been previouslymentioned. The whole extent of what we had travelled through,except just along the banks of streams, is of the most barrendescription, being principally composed of a hard yellow clay, sopoor that, in most places, grass cannot be raised. I havetravelled more than a hundred miles at a time without seeingsufficient grass to furnish my horse with a meal, and withoutmeeting with a stone as large as a pebble. The roads, except ina few places where they happen to cross mountains, are excellent,being as hard and level as a floor. The land can only becultivated just along the banks of the streams; and there thefertility of the soil amply repays the farmer, as the crops donot seem to exhaust the ground. Many farmers work the sameground fifty years or more, without spreading upon it a particleof manure. The seasons are also favorable to the husbandman. Rain, however, is rare. Before we left El Poso, which was inJanuary, the inhabitants were ploughing and sowing corn. I haveno doubt that, were the Mexicans not so excessively lazy, theymight produce anything they chose; but when they have put seedinto the ground, they think they have done enough; and if itshould not come up and the plant thrive, instead of doing as weshould, setting to work to remedy it, they simply "call onHercules;" in other words, fall upon their knees

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at the altar before the priest, tell him how unfortunate theyhave been, buy a blessing from him, and go home in blessedness. The inhabitants produce maize, wheat, oats, onions, melons,grapes and several other fruit. I never saw any potatoes,although, as we know, it is currently said that the root growswild in the southern parts of Mexico. I have seen as finemelons, grapes and corn in Mexico as I have observed anywhere;and I have purchased onions as large as an ordinary sized dinnerplate.

The first sight of the steamboat pipes on the Rio Grande washailed by us with three cheers, for they were the first we hadseen since we left Missouri, and we now felt sure we were gettingtowards home-and perhaps the feeling was increased with me, forit happened to be my birth-day. All the sick were put into thefirst boat the next morning. They numbered about one hundred andfifty, and then about as many more were crowded in. Our voyagelasted four days, we stopping every evening at sundown, when wewould land to cook and sleep.

The Rio Grande can never be considered a navigable river, forthis it is not even for the very smallest steamboat higher upthan Reinosa, except in extraordinary stages of water; and evenin the few miles we sailed down it, we were almost all the timestruggling over sand-bars, and the river was so crooked thatthere was hardly room for the boat to turn properly. Thescarcity of wood along its bank will always be a drawback to itsnavigation; but still the little wood found is of the bestquality, being mostly ebony and lignum vitae, which, from thegreat quantity of oil contained

page 163 RIO GRANDE

in them, make an intense fire. The windings of the Rio Grandeare remarkable. There is one hacienda on its banks which a boatpasses in front of seven times, after coming in sight of, andbefore actually reaching it: -- the river making seven closeconvolutions east and west in perhaps twelve miles of country;and there is one of the turns where you pass a long low bank forfive miles, and can look over and see the river again not onehundred feet from you on the other edge. Thus, after sailing inreality ten miles along, the voyager has actually only advancedtwo hundred yards south. The banks and channels of the river arecontinually changing, and the sand of which the former are whollycomposed, is constantly being washed down and filling up the bedof the river.

Colonel Doniphan here published an order from the Secretary ofWar, requiring him to detail ten men from each company to takethe horses of the whole command to Missouri by the way of Texas;but a difficulty arose from an inability to find men willing toprolong their term of service, which had, in fact, alreadyexpired, because such a journey would occupy two months, whereaswe might go at once to New Orleans in less than two weeks. Atlast, the affair was settled by a sergeant agreeing to take anynumber of the horses at five dollars a head; and he thuscollected several hundred of them. The officers, whose duty itwas to see to the shipping of the returned volunteers, notifiedus that, with the exception of blankets, arms and clothing,nothing would be transported for us, and we were thus reduced tothe necessity of leaving our saddles and other things on thebanks of the river. The equipments, thus about to be left, werelooked

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at with wistful eyes by the lower order of Mexicans, so we piledthem in a large heap and burnt them. All our extra blankets,buffalo robes, and everything we could spare, we cast upon thepile. I observed a Mexican knocked over by one of our men foroffering him one dollar for his saddle, the latter declaring thata saddle which had carried a Missourian so many miles as his had,should not be sold to a Mexican for twenty dollars -- and it wasinstantly committed to the flames.

We passed Matamoros on one side and Fort Brown on the other, butwere not permitted to land. The next evening we encamped at themouth of the river, and found there a New York regiment, waitingfor a boat to take them up; and among the officers, I recognizedold acquaintances, and heard home news. One of the officersdesired to know from me, how we had fared? and when I had givenhim a few items, he thought it rather tough; "but," observedhe, "we shall be treated better," adding, with a sneer, "we arenot volunteers, we are regulars."

We lay encamped here until noon of the ninth of June, when wemoved to Brazos Santiago. I believe that the position of thisplace is not properly understood. It is simply an island formedby a shallow arm of the sea, which is nearly dry at low tide onthe western side, where the water is narrow which separates itfrom the projection of land forming the mouth of the river. Onthe north-east, across the strip of water, which is here ofconsiderable depth, is Point Isabel, now the site of a finehospital, being the only kind of building that should ever bepermitted upon that barren sand bank,


which has proved destructive to many brave soldiers. Oneregiment alone left three hundred, who had died there of fever. The island of Brazos is supposed to have been the site of one ofthe largest and richest of the ancient Mexican cities, but whichwas swallowed up by the sea.

Our embarkation for New Orleans was in two vessels, one of them asmall bark, wherein myself and some three hundred and fiftycompanions were packed. Her hold, containing one hundred doubleberths, was in such a filthy condition that we preferred the deckas a sleeping-place, and it was a struggle with us who should gethis blanket first on deck, as those who were crowded out werecompelled to go below. We ran short of water, and began to thinkourselves on a worse jornada than ever.

Oh! the relief felt after almost four thousand miles of roughtravel,* as we reached New Orleans, and placed our feet once moreupon American soil! We were still in our tattered clothes, withunshorn beards and without a cent in our pockets; but "Sarah andthe children" were now not far off!

*See table of distances traversed, in the Appendix No. 4.

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