Notes of the Mexican war 1846-47-48/Chapter 2
Tuesday, March 9, 1847.—This morning we had orders to pack up and prepare to land. There was great excitement among the soldiers and sailors on board the ships, and much confusion in the fleet, while making preparation for landing, in fact the whole scene was full of wild excitement. The passing of small boats to and fro, the dashing of the oars, the clangor of the officers' sabres and the clinking of-the cables, the sharp clarion voices of order by the officers, and the quick response by the officers and men. The soldiers mingling with the sailors in singing their favorite songs will ever be remembered by those who saw it the longest day of their lives. We were taken off our ship "Statesman" and put on so-called surfboats, after which we were taken and put on board of the United States frigate "Potomac." In fact nearly the whole army was taken from the transport ship to the man-of-war. Some say it is on account of the channel being too narrow for all the ships to anchor, others have it it is to protect the troops when they land in case of an attack. After we were all safely on board we weighed anchor, with bands of music playing the national airs, after which we started for the Island of Sacrificios and passed on until we arrived opposite the island, when the anchor was again let go to the bottom. Here are numerous vessels from all parts of the globe. The tops of masts and other rigging were filled with officers and sailors watching the movements of the ships, as well as the soldiers on board, all anxiously looking with strained eyes to see the landing and the attack upon our soldiers as we land. In fact, it put me in mind of seeing so many robins or black birds on a wild cherry tree, or crows on trees watching the dead carcass lying beneath.Gen. William J. Worth's division, which is mostly composed of regular soldiers, was ordered to land first, about half past 3 o'clock, p.m. We saw from seventy to eighty surf boats holding from seventy to one hundred men each, with five or six sailors as oarsmen, coming alongside of the ships containing Gen. Worth's division, for the purpose of embarking in these surf boats, after which they were drawn into line. Everything was now ready. The signal gun on board the flagship "Massachusetts" was fired. Off they started for the Aztec's shore, with great excitement and cheers from all the soldiers still on board as well as from the foreign spectators on the rigging of their respective vessels. It was truly a magnificent sight to see them gliding towards the shore and the bright muskets and bayonets flashing in the sun. As soon as the surf boats struck the beach the soldiers instantly jumped on shore, some in the water. We are now looking for the Mexicans to attack our men, but on they rushed in double-quick time until they came to a sand hill. Here they planted the flag of our country with three hearty cheers, responded to with great enthusiasm by every soldier on board of the ships, as well as from all the vessels in this port. During all this bustle and excitement the bands were playing the national airs, "Yankee Doodle," "Star Spangled Banner," and "Hail Columbia." They effected the landing southwest of Vera
Cruz. The whole of Worth's first division was now safely landed without the firing of a single gun, and without any opposition from the enemy. This was without expectation from us soldiers as well as a great disappointment to the spectators and foreigners who came many miles to see the attack upon our troops.
Gen. Robert Patterson, who commands the second division, was ordered to land next. This division is called the Volunteer Division, it being composed of all volunteers, and our regiment is in this division. Surf-boats came alongside of our ship and we embarked in these surf-boats loaded down with as brave and gallant men as there is in the United States Army. The sailors rowed us to shore, when the boats struck the beach we leaped on shore, everyone wanted to be first. Some had to jump in the water and hurried on, and, like Gen. Worth's Division, landed without any opposition. Cheered our flag now waving triumphantly in the land of the Montezumas.
Gen. David E. Twiggs, who commands the third division, landed after our division, they of course all landed safely. Thus it will be seen that the orders and plans of Gen. Winfield Scott in landing the United States troops was well carried out, and by 9 o'clock, p.m., the whole army, numbering about 12,000 men, were all safely landed without the least accident and without the loss of a single man. After the whole army were formed into position we were ordered to stack our muskets and unsling our knapsacks, after which we took our supper from the following bill of fare: A piece of fat pork and biscuit and washed it down with some of the ship "Statesman's" dirty water, after which we received orders to lay down on the wet beach close by our muskets with our feet towards the gulf and our heads towards the sand hills to rest and sleep, if we could, for we are all much fatigued.
About midnight our whole camp was aroused by the firing of several volleys of musketry from the enemy who were stationed on top or back of the sand hills (which are numerous here) right in the rear of our encampment, but doing no damage except to one of our men belonging to Co. I, First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, who was wounded. Thus the first soldier wounded and first blood spilt in Gen. Scott's army was of Pennsylvania Volunteers. This little excitement raised the whole army on their feet in a minute; expecting an attack by the enemy. Officers were dashing along the line urging the men to be quiet, for they wanted to make a charge on the sand hills. All was soon quieted, and all, except the guards, laid down again with their muskets close by their sides and finished our first nap on the Aztec shore.
Capt. A. Cady and Lieut. Fitzergald, of Co. H, Sixth United States Infantry, were the first to land and form their company on the beach below Vera Cruz.
Wednesday, March 10, 1847.—This morning the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa commenced firing some of her heavy shots toward our encampment, but all fell short. We finished our breakfast on some of Mr. Mason's mouldy crackers and old fat pork, having no cooking utensils on shore to cook anything. Some made their coffee in their tin-cups, others were compelled to wash fat pork down with bad water. After breakfast we were formed into line of march to surround the city of Vera Cruz, and it was one of the marches the volunteers will never forget. All along the road-side men could be seen, who had dropped down with blistered feet, exhausted and thirsty for want of water. In fact we could hardly walk ten steps without seeing some poor soldier, whose tongue was thirsty for water, laying on the wayside and begging for a drop of water.
Lieut. Casper M. Berry, of our company, was sun struck. It looked as if you could almost see his brain gushing out of his forehead. He is not expected to live. We marched on until we arrived at a chaparral tangled with the thickest of cactus. Here we struck what we called an Indian pathway, filed through the chaparral, headed by Brig.-Gen. Gideon J. Pillow. When we were almost half way through, the Mexicans, who were lying back in ambush, fired volley after volley upon us. We, without orders, instantly returned the fire, and all was soon quiet again. In this little skirmish several of our men got wounded, but not dangerously. After a little rest we again marched on until we came to an old stone building which looked as if it had been in ruins for a number of years. Here we lay in ambush, awaiting and expecting that the Mexican cavalry, who had been cut off, would make an attempt to get into the city of Vera Cruz. After lying and waiting for several hours, and finding that the cavalry would not come, we again marched on until we came to a large sand hill, which was partly occupied by the Mexican Lancers and cavalry. This is a prominent point and a good position, it being back of Vera Cruz. Here we halted for a short time and could plainly see the manœuvring of the Mexican Lancers, mounted on spirited horses. Orders now came from Gen. Patterson stating that the sand hill must be taken before night. So we again started and went direct for the sand hill. The First Tennessee Regiment, Col. W. B. Campbell commanding, was this time in the advance during the ascent on the hill. The Castle of San Juan de Ulloa and all the forts around the city of Vera Cruz kept up a constant firing with round shot and thirteen-inch shell, whistling, cracking and snapping through the chaparrals like lightning, but so far have done no damage to our men. The road we had to go on was very narrow, being like all the by roads, a mere Indian pathway. Only two and in some places only one could pass at a time; besides this it was very difficult to ascend the hill on account of numerous thorns. When we got near the top of the hill we were ordered to charge on the Mexicans, which we did with a yell, driving and dispersing the enemy in all confusion. We are now in full possession of the sand hill, and the First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Col. F. M. Wynkoop commanding, were the first ones to plant the flag of our Keystone State on the sand hill, overlooking the city of Vera Cruz. From here can be seen a fine view of the city, and from appearances it looks like a fair city, with plenty of domes. The scenery from here is very rough, and in place of seeing splendid country seats, mansions, gardens, lawns, flowers, shrubbery, trees, cultivated fields, &c., like it is in other cities, where we came from, it is a barren wilderness, mostly covered with wild, ragged, small knotty trees, gnarled and twisted, with wild chaparral, with thorns from one to five inches long, making it difficult to pass through without first cutting the way. Indeed, we Yankees wonder how the people live here, as we could not get a mouthful to eat since we landed. Nothing grows here but sand hills and wild chaparral. Snakes would even starve to death. Even drinking water is not to be found in this miserable section of country.
In our march up to the sand hills we were ordered to leave our knapsacks at the old stone ruins; so to-night we had to sleep without blankets. The sand hill was our bed tick and the blue sky our covering. I thought to myself where is the richness in this country.
Thursday, March 11, 1847.—This morning we were all anxious to see what had become of the Mexicans. We soon discovered them in large numbers on the adjoining hill near the city.
We instantly went to work, digging trenches with our hands and bayonets. Before we had finished the work the Mexicans opened on us with their musketry; but seeing that their shots all fell short, fell back, and then the castle of San Juan de Ulloa and all the forts stationed on the top of the stone wall surrounding the city, commenced to fire upon us. Our position being a very exposed one, we were ordered to fall back of the hill, more under cover. By this temporary retreat we expected the Mexicans would pick up courage and make a rally upon us, but they could not be bamboozled or drawn out in that way. We were in possession of a position to play havoc to a charging enemy.
Seeing that the Mexicans would not likely charge upon us, we were ordered to hold ourselves ready to charge upon the Mexicans at any moment. By this time Gen. Twiggs' division was passing us on their way to Vergara, the other end of the city, where they are to camp at the National road, leading to the city of Mexico. At this time the Mexicans commenced to fire upon Gen. Twiggs' division, when the order charge was given, which was done with a yell and hurrah, driving the Mexicans in every direction. Some never stopped until they got to the gates of the city. This was the last time we saw the Mexicans. In this little engagement Capt. Alburtus, of Company G, Third Artillery, was instantly killed, having his head carried off by a cannon ball. Lieut.-Col. Dickerson, of the Palmetto (South Carolina Regiment), was wounded in the left breast by an escopet ball, and a little drummer boy named Rome, belonging to Company B, First Artillery, had his arm shot off The boy cried.
When Gen. Twiggs heard of this, he remarked that it was only lent and he will make up for it before long.
Several other officers and private men were slightly wounded. Gen. Twiggs then marched on through the sand hills and chaparral to his camp-ground, Vergara, northwest of our camp, without any more trouble.
I now learn that Gen. Scott and his staff landed last evening, and were highly pleased when they heard of the action the troops took since we landed, and complimented our officers and soldiers for their gallantry and good conduct.
At noon Gen. Robert Patterson came up on the sand hill on crutches, addressing the men in a neat and well appropriate speech, saying that it makes his very heart feel good to see the Pennsylvania troops and other boys hold such a good position. At the same time bombs and round shots were flying and bursting over our heads and all around us, fired from Fort Santiago and from the city wall. The General ordered the men to lay down and not expose themselves. So, at this, one of Tennesseean boys cried out:—"Lay down yourself, General, or the Mexicans will presently knock you over." "No, sir," said the General, "my duty requires me to be where I am. The President of the United States can make generals every day, but he cannot make soldiers." [Laughter and cheers].
Early in the evening we were released, not having much of of anything to eat for over twenty-four hours. We marched back to the old ruins, or monastery, so called, and on our way down we saw two lancers riding as fast as their horses were able to go, back to the city. One of the Tennesseeans who, by-the-by, had his own hunting rifle with him, was seen to watch for the lancers for some time and fired from behind some thick bushes and brought the noble lancer to the ground, which caused a great shout among the Yankees. His gray horse fled into the city of Vera Cruz.
When we arrived at the old ruins and after we had something to eat, we went to work and built a small breastwork across one of the railroads so as to stop all communication with the Mexicans at Vera Cruz. After our work was finished we went to our old quarters and beheld our knapsacks, which we were ordered to leave here last evening to lighten us for the charge on the sand hills, were either all stolen or plundered. Mine I could not find until late at night with nothing in it except my government blanket.
There were no Mexicans within three miles of this place so it must have been some of our own gallant fellows, who make it their business to linger back on the excuse of being exhausted, worn and tired out, for the purpose of robbing their comrades of rare articles.
Some lost many valuable things given to them by their friends and sweethearts at home. They are swearing vengeance should they ever catch the thieves who plundered and robbed them while they were charging and driving the enemy helter skelter.
Late in the evening, and for the first time since we have been on shore, we had good crackers, pork and coffee, of which we all ate a hearty meal. To-night strong picket guards were thrown out and posted on all the important points, for it is rumored that there is a strong force of Mexicans behind the sand hills who are trying to make their way into the city of Vera Cruz.
Laid down to sleep with no shelter except the sky above us.
Friday, March 12, 1847.—This morning our company was detailed to dig an entrenchment across a road below the railroad. We were kept at it all day without being relieved, which was anything but pleasant, working under the rays of the hot sun with bad water to drink.
At noon we saw Gen. Patterson move his quarters to the old ruins, but the Mexicans must have noticed him moving, for the General was not long in his new quarters when they commenced to bombard it so hard the General was obliged to leave it in double-quick time and hunt other quarters.
In the evening, while we were lying down under the bushes resting ourselves, a "northern," (so-called,) wind of the Gulf blew up fearful, and it wasn't long before we were buried in the floating drifts of sand, the sand being so light that during the least wind it drifts and makes hills, and when the wind changes drifts and make hills elsewhere. We had to leave and seek shelter in the chaparrals.
Saturday March 13, 1847.—This morning the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa and the forts of the city opened some of their big guns on our men, but done very little damage. We were only sorry that we could not return the compliment.
There is not much firing from our side, owing to heavy northern winds, which still continues to blow, which prevents our men from landing our cannons and munitions of war.
This evening it is reported that Gen. Scott, with his spyglass, discovered the Mexicans hoisting a cannon on one of the church steeples. He immediately sent orders to Com. Oliver H. Perry, who is now commander of the fleet in Vera Cruz Harbor, to fire a few round shots towards such a steeple, which he did, and soon made them leave the steeple. No news to-night, except the castle and forts around the city are constantly firing bomb shells, which keeps our men from sleeping.
Sunday, March 14, 1847.—This morning we noticed that the Mexicans had taken down their cannon from the steeple. Old Perry's shots were too hot for them.
The wind still prevails, which keeps everything back; for as long as this northern wind continues we can't land our horses and ammunition.
To-day I have been informed that several schooners were blown on the beach last night, damaging their whole cargoes.
At noon the infantry were ordered to advance nearer to the city. When our men commenced to move the Mexicans seemed to get very much excited. They opened a tremendous firing from all their forts on Gen. Twiggs' division, camped at Vergara and our camp. They no doubt, when they saw us move, expected our men to charge upon the city, for such ringing of bells and people crying, mingled with the shrill trumpets, made it an exciting time among the frightened Mexicans and foreign residents.
In the afternoon our scouts captured a Mexican courier, who had several letters in his possession stating that the city of Mexico was now in a state of revolution; also instructions from Gen. Santa Anna to Gov. Morales and Gen. Landero, now guarding the city of Vera Cruz, not to yield or give up to the infernal Yankees (as he calls us). That they would soon be reinforced with about five thousand men from Alverado. He also had a newspaper giving an account of Gen. Taylor's great victory over Gen. Santa Anna at the battle of Buena Vista, which took place on the 22d and 23d of February. This has caused great rejoicing among our men.
In the evening several sailors went beyond our camp and had a fight with some of the Mexican lancers. One of our sailors, named Mr. Welsh, had his throat cut from ear to ear. This outrage caused great deal of excitement among the tars, and they expressed a determination to have revenge at some future time. To-night pickets are posted on all the roads leading into the city. Some are doubled, and defended by several pieces of artillery. Our men are also cautioned to be careful with their muskets.
Monday, March 15, 1847.—This morning all seems quiet in and around camp, with the exception of the booming of cannons from the castle and forts.
The wind still continues to blow, in consequence of which it keeps everything back.
In the afternoon Gen. Scott and his staff of engineers passed our camp, visiting and inspecting the important points. When the old hero of Chippewa, Niagara and Lundy's Lane passed we all stood in line and tipped our caps, which compliment he returned in the same manner, after which three cheers were given him. To this salute he took off his hat, bowed and passed on to Gen. Twiggs' division camp at Vergara.
Tuesday, March 16, 1847.—This morning we find the northern wind still prevailing, which renders it impossible to land our heavy ordnances and other war-like material for the destruction of life and property.
At noon it was reported that the revolution in the city of Mexico has ceased, and that Gen. Anton Lobes de Santa Anna is now President, and Senor Gomes Farrias Vice President, and that the whole Mexican Government is united on the war question, and their cry will be "death to all traitors and invaders."
On the top of this rumor comes in a squadron of Col. William S. Harney's dragoons, who have been out scouting, reporting to Gen. Scott that there was a large body of Mexican soldiers, with four or five pieces of light artillery, with some cattle, camped at Medallin River, about five miles from our quarters, trying to make their way into Vera Cruz. On the receipt of this report. Gen. Scott immediately dispatched his friend Col. Harney with one hundred and fifty picked dragoons, several pieces of light artillery under the command of Capt. Taylor and Lieut. Judd, and about five hundred and fifty of the Second Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, under the command of Col. William T. Haskell, all under Gen. Robert Patterson. Off they started with cheers and waving of their caps, promising to bring good news.
After they arrived at Medallin (once a town). Col. Harney opened fire upon the Mexicans to draw their attention, so as to find out their position, and at the same time gave Lieut. Judd a chance to plant his artillery. After this was accomplished, Lieut. Judd opened on the Mexicans and their small breastworks. At this Col. Harney made one of the most gallant charges on the Mexicans that has ever been heard of, it put Col. May's charge at Palo Alto entirely in the dark, charging with full speed of their horses, running their horses over the Mexican infantry, following and cutting the lancers down right and left, and killing twenty or thirty of the enemy. Col. Harney's loss was one Tennesseean killed, and four of the dragoons wounded. The victory was complete. They captured two pieces of artillery each, six brass pieces and several small arms. Col. Harney thinks that the Mexican forces were commanded by Gen. Harrah in person, yet he was lucky enough to make good his escape.
The Medallin river, above mentioned, was so named by Conqueror Cortez, who also built a town of the same name, in memory of his Cortez birth-place in Spain, but the town was soon destroyed by some of his Cortez men. Some of the ruins are still standing, and the whole place looks like a Godforsaken place.
Towards evening the northern wind ceased to blow. Mr. Welsh and myself took a walk down the sea shore to see the sights. The sun was just setting in waves of gold and purple, the long stretch of glittering sand with misty splendor, the tide rolling in with a low musical murmur, here we sat down on the beach, and saw our sailors and laborers busy in landing artillery, ammunition, ordnance stores and provisions. Further down the bay we saw no less than five schooners and one brig lying high and dry on the shore, all driven ashore by the late northern gale. Towards dusk returned to our camp; passed Col. Haskell's Second Tennessee Regiment, who have just returned from the fight at Medallin creek. They were, all in high glee and seemed much rejoiced over their grand victory. Even the Mexicans in the city must have heard the result, as they commenced firing upon us rapidly.
It was given out this evening that the city of Vera Cruz was thoroughly surrounded from beach to beach and all the roads leading into the city are double guarded. Gen. Twiggs' division is encamped on the northwest side of the city. Gen. Worth's division southeast end and Gen. Patterson's division in the centre of the line. To-night different details were made for to-morrow to land ammunition.
Wednesday, March 17, 1847.—This morning the whole beach presents a lively appearance. The different details were busy in getting the artillery, ammunition, provisions, horses, &c., on shore.
The Alabama and Georgia regiments have just arrived from Tampico. They are now landing.
At 10 o'clock, a.m., our regiment was detailed to drag the cannon up to the sand hill to make a battery. We succeeded in getting up six pieces of heavy artillery two of them being sixty-four pounders and four twenty-four pounders; also built breastwork and stationed a battery. The breastwork was built with bags filled with sand. We were kept busy at this work until dark, when we were relieved, and I must confess that this was the hardest day's work I have ever experienced. Being exhausted from exposure to the hot sun and bad water several of our men were sun-struck and gave out before noon. Beside the artillery we planted to-day there were ten mortars and some howitzers landed to-day, and if old Neptune will keep quiet for several days more we will have all our artillery and ammunition landed.
Returned to our camp and after supper we laid down to rest and sleep, providing the Castle and other forts, the anteaters, lizards and other creeping things which are numerous among the chaparrals will let us alone; but I fear the way the old Castle has been howling and grumbling at us all day it will not be so kind as to let up on us to-night, she being very angry at us for giving them such a dreadful flogging the other day at Medallin river.
To-night a French bark ran the blockade at Vera Cruz loaded with artillery and ammunition for the Mexican Government. This raised considerable excitement among the officers who are stationed here to watch the blockade. The bombs are flying all over our heads.
Thursday, March 18, 1847.—This morning the dragoons captured a splendid horse fully equiped with saber and escopet on the saddle, and at noon news came from somewhere fully confirming the news of General Santa Anna's defeat at the battle of Buena Vista, which caused much rejoicing among the soldiers and sailors; and the saying now is, that it will be our turn next.
This afternoon one of Co. B's men, of Pottsville, dropped down dead while standing under the door-way of the hospital; to-night there were eight companies of our regiment detailed to go out scouting. We marched down the road for several miles, and were there let stand in all the rain; never did I see it rain harder. Seeing that there was no likelihood of ceasing to rain, we marched back to our camp soaked through and through with rain. Lieut. C. M. Berry, who was sun-struck on our first day's march, has reported himself to our Captain, fit for duty; at 12 o'clock to-night, we were ordered to close gradually nearer the city, the trenches are nearly all done and our big guns will soon open on the city. Fort Conception was trying the range of their guns on Gen. Twiggs' division.
Friday, March 19, 1847.—This morning the Castle and forts around the city are still blazing away at us, but not with much damage, while we are quietly preparing and planting our heavy artillery, mortars, and landing horses, wagons, provisions, and other ammunitions of war. At noon, news came to our camp that Lieuts. E. C. Lewis, of Co. G, C. M. Berry, of Co. C, First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, with a few soldiers, had fallen in with a large body of Lancers, and after some hard fighting our men had to retreat to a ranch where they are now penned in. Four companies of our regiment were instantly ordered out, and on our way, we were joined by the New York regiment; we had not marched more than four miles when we came upon our penned-in men and released them before the Mexicans discovered them, after which, we marched on until we saw the Lancers drawn up into line on an open common showing fight. The New York regiment filed to the left into the chaparral, and our regiment took to the right also into the chaparral, here we crawled on our hands and knees for about fifty yards trying to surround them, but they saw us and kept backing out; here we laid and watched their movements until near dark, when we came out in the open field, at this, the Lancers put spurs to their horses and fled in all directions; after which we left for our camp, and on our way in we found Mr. Miller's body, of Co. G, First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, stripped and stabbed in the most horrible manner; we took it along and arrived in our camp at 10 o'clock in the evening, much fatigued and tired of marching.
Last night John G. Craig of Co. C, First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, was put on picket guard, and about 2 o'clock this morning he heard something approaching towards him through the chaparral. The sentinel holloaed out: "Who comes there?" No answer was given. Holloaed out again. At this time it stopped. In about ten minutes afterwards it again began to approach towards the sentinel. "Who comes there?" No answer. Up with his musket and fired away. He heard it fall, and was satisfied that he hit the object before him. The night being very dark, he could not see what it was until daybreak this morning, and behold, what do you gentlemen think it was? It was a jackass, which caused a great laughter among the men, and the by-word was: "Who shot the Jackass? John G. Craig of Co. C." On our guerilla hunt to-day I was handed the following piece of poetry. Its title is the "Landing at Vera Cruz, March 9, 1847," by Major G. W. Patton of the Second United States Infantry, who was one of the first officers that landed on the shores of the Aztec. It's true as a die.
LANDING AT VERA CRUZ, MARCH 9, 1847.
The signal flag is in the sky,
Twelve thousand hearts are beating high;
Ye of the foremost line draw nigh;
Prepare to land; take heed; stand by.
The surf boats touch the ship's tall side;
Along the lea they smoothly ride.
Cling to the ropes your step to guide,
Down, down descend with rapid stride.
Now watch the war words once again;
All eyes upon Gen. Scott's flag-ship main.
Land, land, now reads the signal plain;
Cast off, give way, with stalwart strain.
Trim, trim the boat; play, play the oar;
The waters foam, the war dogs roar;
The death shall burst behind, before;
Bend to the stroke, strain for the shore.
The sea walls shake with thunder riven.
Around ye war's red bolts are driven,
Above ye floats the bird of heaven.
Strive, comrades, as ye never have striven.
The foremost surf boat nears the land;
It grounds. Out dash the dauntless band.
Follow, my brave boys, with flag in hand,
We will breast the surf—we gain the land.
Now raise the starry banner high;
Rally, close up, crowd around and stand by;
Our eagle rules the Aztec sky;
Comrades, one cheer for victory on the Mexican soil.
Sunday, March 21, 1847.—This morning sure enough our United States fleet weighed anchor and ran up under cover, and opened a tremendous firing on the city of Vera Cruz (True Cross). This I understand is done for the purpose of drawing the enemy's fire from our men, now building breastworks and planting batteries.
The guns of the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa were turned toward our fleet, and replied with real madness. The enemy firing off nearly two hundred shots in less than one hour and a half, and all the damage that they have done is the killing of one marine. This surely was a great loss to the poor man. He was a good soldier, and was stationed on the United States frigate "Potomac."
To-day has been a hot one, both in climate and among our gallant tars on board of our man-of-war. Several of our men, while working at battery No. 4, died from the effects of the heat, and drinking too much of this bad water.
I regret to mention that my friend, Lieut. C. M. Berry, was again affected from the hot sun and exposure, and reported unfit for any duty.
In the evening it clouded up and got very dark, and looked as if it was going to rain hard. It being dark it made it a beautiful sight to see the shells from our navy flying through the air into the city and Castle of San Juan de Ulloa, and shells and round shot are flying toward our fleet and elsewhere. It looked like so many rockets in the air.
The battery of Gen. Worth's division is nearly finished, and it is reported that Gen. Worth will open on the city tomorrow. The Mexicans have not yet discovered Gen. Worth's battery, although they have fired several shots in that direction.
Monday, March 22, 1847.—This morning; it is reported that Gen. Worth's battery is finished, and is ready to open on the city at any moment. This battery is composed of seven ten inch mortars and is in command of the regular officers and artillerists. As stated before, the Mexicans don't know the whereabouts or anything about the location of this battery. It is built behind a thicket of chaparrals. Also another battery of two eight-inch Howitzers, four twenty-four pounders and four mortars are stationed near the cemetery, still a little closer to the city.
At noon Gen. Scott sent a flag of truce into the city of Vera Cruz with a summons for the surrender of the city and Castle of San Juan de Ulloa with the understanding that if this summons is rejected an attack on the city would immediately follow, and no quarters or safeguards would be given or granted to the citizens until it surrenders. The flag of truce soon returned with a message from Gov. Morales, of the city, and Gen. Landora commanding the forces of the city and Castle. The summons and proposition was most emphatically rejected; asking for no quarters, safeguards or any favor from the Yankee. That they are ready to contest the fight at any moment.
About 4 o'clock, p.m., Gen. Scott ordered Gen. Worth to open his batteries on the doomed city as fast as his mortars would permit. The chaparrals in front of these batteries were soon cut away, when, for the first time, the enemy was much surprised when they saw several batteries within about eight hundred yards from the walls of the city. The moment the Mexicans espied our batteries they instantly changed the position of their big guns, and opened a heavy fire on Gen. Worth's batteries, the balls striking the sand bags, and clouds of dust were flying in the air.Gen. Worth has now got the range of his guns on the enemy, and has commenced firing in earnest, and I tell you the way
he is sending; those nasty balls into the city is not slow. The thundering-and roaring of the heavy cannons now tells us that the war has fairly commenced.
The Mexicans have now opened three batteries from the city on Gen. Worth's breastworks. The Castle is assisting the city efforts besides, and does everything in her power to protect the city from being destroyed by the Yankee. Oh! I tell you the bomb-shells and round shot are flying like hail-stones into the city of the True Cross. Think of it eighty-five bomb-shells were thrown into the city the first two hours, and over one hundred bomb-shells the next two hours. Everything is darkened from the clouds of smoke, and the city looks like Pittsburgh on a rainy day, all black with gunpowder smoke.
During the afternoon our navy opened on the Castle to draw the enemy's fire from our batteries.
This evening I was informed that Capt. John R. Vinton, of the Third United States Artillery, was killed behind his battery. He was a brave, gallant and skilful officer, as well as a Christian soldier. He has a brother a quartermaster in Gen. Taylor's army. This will be sad news to the brother.
Our division is still busy in building our volunteer battery, and when we have it finished ready to open, the enemy will be still more surprised; for it is nearer to the centre of the city.
To-night we can plainly see the bombardment of the city, and it is one of the most magnificent and striking displays that I have ever seen, and, as a soldier said, I shall ever remember the bombardment of Vera Cruz.
At 10 o'clock to-night I was informed that Capt. John R. Vinton was buried as he fell, with all of his clothes on, and with all the honors of war. He was a good and kind officer to his men, which is something rare among the regular officers.
Tuesday, March 23, 1847.—Last night after 12 o'clock the Plaza de Toras bull pit was set on fire from our shells, which illuminated the whole city, and caused great excitement among the citizens. After a short pause this morning; the Mexicans again opened their batteries on Gen. Worth's division and his battery, and of course Gen. Worth answered them bravely with his mortars.
To-day we were detailed to assist the sailors in pulling cannons and mortars to battery No. 5, and I assure you it was a hard day's work, but we are all anxious to have the battery thoroughly completed, so that we may be ready to open on the Mexicans to-morrow.
At noon while we were dragging up the cannons a sailor and one of the Tennessee Volunteers had a falling out, and it resulted in the sailor getting killed. He was shot dead by the Tennesseean; rum was the whole cause of this sad affair, but it raised a great deal of ill-feeling between the tars and the Tennesseeans. There was also one man killed to-day by the bursting of one of the Mexican shells.
To-night there were bomb-shells thrown right into our camp and near the volunteer battery, but fortunately no harm was done, and we will return the compliment tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 24, 1847.—This morning Capt. Breese, of the United States Navy, with a party of sailors and volunteers brought with them three sixty-eight and three twenty three pounders and some Paixhan shells over to our Naval and Volunteer battery No. 5. The captain is a jolly-looking officer, and says that this is the best position of any of our batteries. It commands the whole city of Vera Cruz. This battery the Mexicans have not yet seen. It being in the rear of a thicket of chaparrals, and sand hills all around.
About noon our battery No. 5 was completed and ready for destruction of life and property.
Gen. Scott was notified of its completion, and he ordered the battery to open for the first on the city of Vera Cruz. So after the chaparrals in front of our battery was cleared away, and, in fact, before it was all cut away, the Mexicans discovered us, and was astonished to see another battery still closer, as it is reasonable to suppose, for they instantly changed their fire from Gen. Worth's batteries to us. The Mexicans opened on us with determined bravery, and fired in quick succession. The sailors, with the assistance of the volunteers. now opened with a daring and tremendous fire upon Fort Santiago. Every discharge the battery made the earth fairy trembled. The Mexicans took better aim at our battery than they did at Gen. Worth's batteries. Their big guns did a great deal of damage to our battery in bursting open the sand bags, of which it was composed. In our battery No. 5, four sailors were killed outright, and also Midlshipman Shubrick, a young, brave and daring officer. He was killed while mounting upon the breastworks to see what effect his last shot had on the Mexican Fort Santiago. At this moment an eighteen pounder from Fort Santiago took his head off close to his shoulders, and he almost fell upon the very gun that he had just fired off. He was soon picked up and carried to our rear and laid under a tree for the present. We of course did not cease firing, but kept blazing away with more vigor and determination, and made every ball fired tell, until a big breach was made in their forts, and we could plainly see some of their guns dismounted. This has been the hottest day in the art of firing of the present war, and as the boys say, "By golly it was closely contested by both parties." The Mexicans, we must confess, did handle their pieces well, for almost every shot they fired took effect on our sand-bag battery.
This evening the sailors and the officer, who were killed, were buried close by our battery.
To-night the Mexicans ceased firing, and we were not sorry for it. We all feel much fatigued and worn out from constant duty in building batteries and carrying cannon balls to the battery.Thursday, March 25, 1847.—This morning all of our batteries were in full operation, they opened with terrible effect upon the city, and in fact we could sometimes hear our shells fall in the city and make a tremendous crash. Some of the fine buildings as well as the domes and steeples of churches
were on fire, and falling to the ground. The way things look now the city must either soon surrender or be burnt to the earth.
At noon we noticed that our battery had more effect on the forts and city from to-day's firing than any previous time. At noon one of Capt. William Frederick Binder's Company (E), First Regiment Pennsyhania Volunteers, named Rupe, was killed by the explosion of a bomb-shell fired from the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa. He was the first soldier killed belonging to our regiment.
This afternoon our foraging party, who had started out after beef, had a skirmish with a band of guerillas, and in the fight our men had one man killed, and the Mexicans left seven killed on the field and fifteen wounded.
At 4 o'clock this afternoon the Mexicans again ceased firing, shortly afterwards a flag of truce came from the city asking for two hours' armistice to bury their dead bodies, and also a memorial from consuls of European people to allow the women and children in the city of Vera Cruz to come out and seek the shelter of more safety.
Gen. Scott granted the first request, which is the customary rule in all wars, but the latter he could not grant; stating that he could only grant passes to pass them out on the application of Gen. Morales, Governor of Vera Cruz, with the view to surrender. After the expiration of two hours both the Mexicans and all our batteries opened in earnest, and most every shot or shell were thrown directly into the heart of the city. A big breach is now made in the wall, and it is rumored this evening that we will storm the city at the point of our bayonets tomorrow at noon. So we may look out for breakers ahead.
Our bosom we will bare on the glorious strife,
And our oath is recorded on high;
To prevail in the cause that is dearer than life,
Or crushed in its ruins to die.
To-night I was put on picket-guard, stationed near the walls of the doomed city, and I could plainly hear the people cry out for to rendiren tregar de cindad (surrender the city) before they were all killed off. That these Yankees won't give up firing. Also could hear the bells ringing and trumpets sounding to arms, to arms. It was really laughable to hear the Mexicans talk, and I heard enough to convince me that the city cannot hold out much longer, that something must be done soon or else the citizens would rebel against the government of Vera Cruz.
Our batteries to-night are throwing rocket after rocket into the city, which illuminated the sky as well as the whole city, and made it a most beautiful scene.
About 12 o'clock to-night Lieut. Tower, of the United States Corps of Engineers, came to my post with a squad of soldiers on a reconnoisance. I was ordered to fall in the rear and follow them. The lieutenant seems to be well acquainted with the whole exterior of Vera Cruz. We kept on marching until we come within two hundred yards of the outside of the city walls. Here I was told to stay until a little before daylight, then I was to return to our line of defence. This I thought to myself is a very dangerous position for an humble soldier like me to be placed in, but such is the fortune of war. I have been informed by one of the sergeants that the illumination was done to give Lieut. Tower a chance to see what damage our batteries have done to the walls, and also to find out the most suitable place to charge upon when the order for the assault is given. From this position I could hear the Mexicans talk more plainly, and it sounded to me that they were quarreling and fighting among themselves. I could even hear the dogs moan, and other strange voices.
Lieut. Tower has finished his mission. He has returned to camp and left me here all alone. The firing of the rockets had also ceased. Oh! this is a dreary night, dark as pitch and standing in the midst of chaparrals and thorns with strict orders not to make any noise, for fear the Mexicans might discover me. Friday, March 26, 1847.—This morning I was released from guard-duty before daylight, so that the Mexicans could not see a Yankee soldier so close to their walls.
The forts and Castle are still constantly firing on our line of operation with awful activity. We have partly ceased firing, and all the necessary arrangements to carry the city by assault is now completed. Gen. Worth's division is to attack the city from the beach on the right of our division. Gen. Patterson's (our) division is to attack right in the centre, where the breach in the wall is made. Orderlies are now being despatched to different quarters to see that everything is ready to make the assault. The Mexicans have now partly ceased firing, which gave me and others a chance to write letters before the assault is made. After I had written my letter and delivered it in the United States mail-bag, I noticed a flag of truce accompanied by several officers coming out of the city toward Gen. Scott's headquarters. Our batteries immediately ceased firing until further notice from the commanding officer. Soon afterwards I learned their errand (fortunately for themselves as well as ourselves) was to make a final arrangement to surrender the city of Vera Cruz, but not the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa. This proposition Gen. Scott most emphatically rejected, saying that he must have both or nothing. So, after consulting over it a little while, Gov. Morales and Gen. Landora yielded to all of Gen. Scott's demands and returned to the city to make the final arrangements for surrender.
Everything is now quiet. All the soldiers and sailors are in a high glee; and all of the officers, soldiers and sailors are making preparations for the surrender of the Mexican Army.
To-night a heavy northern wind sprang up, and blew a perfect hurricane, blowing a number of small vessels on shore. To-night, for the first time since we are on shore, we can sleep without being annoyed by the roaring of cannon balls, &c.
LETTER TO MY PARENTS.
Camp near Vera Cruz,
March 26, 1847.
Dear Parents:—This morning, after I was relieved from picket guard, I thought that I would write you a letter and let you all know of my whereabouts and destination. I have no doubt you have been apprized long before this first letter reaches you of my occupation and position, which I am now in, and, if not, you will no doubt be sadly surprised to hear the undersigned, your son, in such dangerous and perilous position. Yes, while I am writing this very letter the balls, shells and fragments of shells are flying around my head like so many hail-stones, and do not know what moment I may be killed or victimized by a Mexican cannon ball or the fragments of shells. Well, as a fellow soldier said, if it is my lot to be killed, it shall be gloriously in defence of our country and our glorious old flag. Landed on the 9th without any opposition. During all this time we were busy working in building breastworks and batteries and making preparation for the bombardment of the city. During all this labor and operation we were, and are to this writing, constantly annoyed with daring and ceaseless fire from the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa and the batteries on the walls of the surrounding city of Vera Cruz. We commenced firing on the city on the 22d inst., and kept busy at it until the present time. We have made several large holes, or breaches so-called, in the walls, and it is now rumored this morning that Gen. Scott has finally concluded to take the city by assault, which, of course, means by the point of the bayonet. So if this rumor is true, and the assault takes place, there will be a great many killed before the city can be taken; but let the result be what it may, I for one shall do my duty as a true soldier. Again, I often think (and, in fact, sometimes dream) of the romantic hills, valleys and dales in which I passed my boyhood, and contrast it with the many dangerous struggles, places and positions I am placed in now at war in this hot tropical climate; but there is now no use of thinking and fretting, but march and push onward, and never mind or think of them, and let us all put our trust in God, and all will assuredly be well. The assault on the city is to take place this afternoon at 2 o'clock, unless otherwise ordered, and our division is to make the assault on breached walls. So let the result be what it may, you will hear of me either dead or alive; if dead, from my commanding officer; if alive, from me. No more, but one word that I am well and hardy, and have been so ever since I am in the army. Write soon.
3 locks above Lewiston, Pa. Your son, J. J. O.
Saturday, March 27, 1847.—This morning Gens. Worth. Pillow and Col. Joseph G. Totten, of the Engineer Corps, were appointed by Gen. Scott commissioners on the part of our army, and Senors Vellanner, Robles and Gen. Herrera appointed by the Governor of Vera Cruz, on the part of the Mexican Army. This evening the commissioners of both parties came to terms and the articles of surrender were signed and approved by the two commissioners and commanding officers. The terms are as follows:—
Article 1. The whole garrison to be surrendered to the Army of the United States as prisoners of war, and to lay down their arms to such officers as may be appointed by the General-in-Chief of the United States Army and at a point to be agreed upon by the commissioners. The surrender is to take place on the 29th instant.
Article 2. Mexican officers shall preserve their arms and private effects, including horse and horse fixtures, and to be allowed regular and irregular officers, as also the rank and file five days to return to their respective homes, on parole, as hereinafter prescribed.
Article 3. Coincident with the surrender, as stipulated in article I. the Mexican flags of the various forts and stations shall be struck, saluted by their own batteries and immediately thereafter forts Santiago and Conception and the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa occupied by the forces of the United States.
Article 4. The rank and file of the regular portion of the prisoners to be disposed of after surrender and parole as their General-in-Chief may desire, and the irregular be permitted to return to their homes, the officers in respect to all arms and description of force giving the usual parole that the said rank and file, as well as themselves, shall not serve again until duly exchanged.
Article 5. All material of war and all public property of every description found in the city and Castle of San Juan de Ulloa, and their dependencies, to belong to the United States, but the arms of the same not injured or destroyed in the further prosecution of the actual war may be considered as liable to be restored to Mexico by a definite treaty of peace.
Article 6. The sick and wounded Mexicans to be allowed to remain in the city and no property is to be taken or used by the forces of the United States without previous arrangement with the owners and for a fair equivalent.
Article 7. Absolute protection is solemnly guaranteed to all persons in the city.
Article 8. Absolute freedom of religious worship and ceremonies is solemnly guaranteed, and the sick to be attended by such medical officers of the army as may be necessary to their cure and treatment.
All quiet to-night and can sleep without being annoyed by the roar of artillery and the explosion of bombshells over our heads.
Sunday March 28, 1847.—This morning we had orders read to us to clean our belts, brasses, and brighten up our muskets. Also to wash and clean ourselves and clothing, so as to look like soldiers and not like so many sand diggers and battery builders, which profession we have been following for the last five and six days, and were dirty enough.
At noon, our regiment was ordered from our old quarters, No. 5 Battery, to a place in front of the city of Vera Cruz, and here encamped until our advance on the capital in the afternoon. Some of our men started out after beef. They were not gone long before they fell in with some of the guerillas, and after a hot skirmish, our men were obliged to return to camp without the beef. They were fortunate enough to make their escape to camp in safety. They say that there is plenty of the finest cattle in the country about ten miles from Vera Cruz. They are guarded by a strong body of guerillas; no doubt, belonging to some of the cattle dealers in Mexico.
Monday, March 29, 1847.—This is a lovely morning, and everybody is in high spirits making preparation for the grand surrender. About 8 o'clock, a.m., the drums began to beat to fall in line; after a few complimentaries from our officers, we marched down towards the city and formed in front of the city. The regulars and sailors were formed opposite to us, and Col. W. S. Harney's dragoons and several pieces of artillery on the right, leaving an aisle for the Mexican soldiers and their followers to march out in the circle to surrender.
After the arrangements were all completed, a signal was given, requesting the Mexicans to march out. At 10 o'clock, a.a., the Mexicans blowed their trumpets announcing their coming, and all eyes were then cast towards the Mexicans. It was a beautiful sight to see the Mexican army with their drums, fifes and bands of music playing and their flags flying in the air, marching out of their doomed city, which they have so bravely and gallantly defended to the last hour.
As they marched, we could see them now and then look back to Vera Cruz, kiss and wave their hands and bidding it good-bye, when they came to a halt opposite the flag-staff. The Mexican officers then came to Gen. Scott's head-quarters, who was surrounded in full uniform, by his staff Commissioners, and Commodores Oliver H. Perry and Tatnall, and their staff officers. After greeting one another, some conversation took place in regard to the stipulation and agreement. After this the signal was given for the Mexican soldiers to stack their arms, or muskets, cartridge boxes, belts, and other munitions and implements of war, after which they were let go to their homes.
Some showed signs that they were glad to get rid of their arms, and seemed to lay them down cheerfully, while others slammed their muskets and accoutrements down on the ground with an oath and anger. One fellow could be seen taking the flag off the pole and hiding it away in his bosom, no doubt presented to him by some fair lady of Vera Cruz, and he swore by the great God of the Universe, that he would forever protect it, stand by and defend it from falling into the hands of the enemy. He was let keep it. He was o rejoiced over it that he cried like a child.
The whole number of prisoners were nearly six thousand soldiers. They were all well uniformed and drilled, but they were nearly all what we called black men. Some were real negroes, while others were Mexican Indians, who are composed of all mixtures and of all grades of color, which is naturally very dark and coarse. I must now again speak of the surrender. It was one of the grandest sights and spectacles that I have ever seen. Yet I tell you it was hard to see the poor women with their small children strapped upon their mother's back, and with what little clothing they could carry, toddling along with the Mexican soldiers.
Everything passed off quietly; no insulting remarks or fun was made towards the Mexicans as they passed out, we looked upon them as a conquered foe, who have fought for their firesides and property, the same as we would have done if attacked by a foreign foe.
After they had all marched out that wanted to go, Gen. Worth, with his division, triumphantly marched into the beautiful city of the True Cross, with the bands playing "Yankee Doodle," "Star Spangled Banner," "Hail Columbia." The Mexican flags were hauled down and the Stars and Stripes put in their place, waving in the breeze and saluted by our artillery, which caused great shouts and cheering among all the soldiers and sailors. The sailors were not long afterwards until they pulled down the Mexican flag from the flag-pole on the strong and impregnable Castle of San Juan de Ulloa and ran up the victorious American flag in its place. We could plainly hear the sailors shouting and cheering in our camp. We were all sorry that we were not allowed to march into the city and see some of the fun. Gen. Worth was made Governor and commanding officer of Vera Cruz until our army marches on to the capital. After all the excitement had died away, we were ordered to march back to our encampment, well pleased with the sublime sight—the surrender of Vera Cruz. Our loss during the siege of Vera Cruz from March 9th until to-day, was seventeen killed and twenty-eight wounded; the Mexican loss by their own report, was over eleven hundred killed and wounded, mostly all killed by the explosion of our shells and shots. Tuesday, March 30, 1847.—This morning we received our tents, which we have not seen since we left Lobos Island, and went to work and pitched them in line. So we are again under cover, and protected from the hot sun.
At noon Alburtus Welsh and myself got permission from our Captain to go to the city. We passed through a large gateway, and in walking through some of the principal streets we noticed that our naval battery did some heavy damage to the public and private buildings. The Mexicans informed us that the loss among the women and children was far greater than among the soldiers. There is one place where there are more than two hundred soldiers buried, all killed at the battery. According to our promise, we both soon returned to camp, where we learned, I don't know how true it is, that an expedition was to start this evening to Alvarado on the coast, a town containing about twelve hundred or thirteen hundred inhabitants. It is to consist of the South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia Volunteers and two hundred dragoons, under the command of Maj. Beale, and a section of Capt. Steptoe's battery, commanded by Lieut. Judd, and the whole under the command of Gen. John A. Quitman. The United States Navy, under Com. Tatnall, is to co-operate with Gen. Quitman's force. The object is to communicate with the town and clear our rear.
This afternoon I noticed a good many of our soldiers, as well as sailors, going out to the outskirts of Vera Cruz; in fact so many that the guards received strict orders to stop all men from going outside of the picket-line, as the chaparral is full of rancheros and ladrones. Sure enough, this evening, some of them returned, and stated that they had been several times chased, and the only thing that saved them was that they had their muskets and six-shooters with them.
They think that the rancheros or lancers have captured several of our "tars;" and if this is true, I would not give much for their lives. It seems the Mexicans are very bitter against Uncle Sam's sailors. The latter had better obey orders and stay in camp. Wednesday, March, 31, 1847.—This morning the soldiers had the privilege of visiting the city in squads of ten men from each company, accompanied by a non-commissioned officer, and with strict orders not to insult or molest any of the citizens. I was one of the lucky ten from our company. We started, and soon got to the outskirts of the city. We walked on until we were stopped by sentinel, who was stationed at a stone bridge; this bridge is just outside of the gate of the city entrance. It is built like some of our country road bridges, arched and parapet on each side, and a few old benches, which looked as if they had been used for lounges. There are several shady trees around this bridge, but their appearance proves that they suffered considerably from our shots and shells. After showing our passes to the officer at the gate we walked on, and came to the fountain called "Central," which seems to be the favorite place of resort of the poorer class, and for the watering of beasts. We noticed several water-carriers, and an aquador, with his donkey with kegs or earthen jars, halt and fill them up with water; after which he drives around the city and distributes it to families, who pay a few pennies daily.
Walking around, I took more pains in examining the city to-day than I did yesterday, for I was then in a hurry.
We find Vera Cruz well and strongly built with stones; the houses are mostly two stories high; the streets, except the main street, are mostly narrow, that is they are not so wide as the streets of Philadelphia. They also have a fine cathedral, which is the main one in this city. The floor is paved with small marble blocks. This church has suffered considerable during the bombardment, because it was more conspicuous than any other building in the city.
We also visited the forts and half-moon batteries, which has a full sweep over the plains; and by taking it by assault, which was intended, had the Mexicans not surrendered, it would have cost at least over one thousand men. It is true, a great many of the batteries were disabled and guns dismounted, but every main street was strongly barricaded with breastworks and artillery. The wall which surrounds the city is about fifteen feet high, with half-moon batteries thereon, and a deep ditch about twenty feet wide, and five or six feet deep, filled with water.
In fact, there seems to be no end to the artillery. There must have been from one to two hundred in the city, besides the ammunition. The walls were at several places crushed pretty badly. The little Catholic Church near the gate suffered very much.
The Mexicans seemed to be very shy; they are afraid to even show themselves, particularly the women, who, whenever they see us Yankee soldiers coming, would instantly run into their casas and shut the door until we had passed, after which they would peep out and look where we were going. They, no doubt, say to themselves, "There go those barbarous and murderous Yankees."
We also saw several flocks of large black fowls, looking somewhat like our crows or buzzards. I noticed they mostly roost and rest upon the towers and crosses of churches, cupalos and house-tops. They fly about singly and in pairs; they descend upon the streets and pick up all the offal and refuse; in fact, they seem to be the only offal gatherers in the city. They mostly gather at the fish market, and steal fish from the sellers. There is a penalty for shooting or harming these zapilates, as they are called in the Spanish language.
After we had seen all we cared to see, we returned to our camp well pleased with our visit to the first city in Mexico.
Vera Cruz was built by Cortez and his men as soon as they landed. After it was built, Fernando Cortez and his officers held a council of war and resolved to destroy and burn all their ships, and either conquer or die in the country, which resulted in conquering and plundering the whole of Mexico, with the loss of a great many men on both sides. Thursday, April 1, 1847.—This morning being the 1st of April, it being All Fools' Day, I saw several of our men fooled, and some were made to believe that peace is declared, and that we will soon be on our way way toward home.
To-day several of our men went to the city, and some visited the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa. After they returned to camp they reported that the castle was an immensely strong fortress, mounting some of the largest guns in the world, and having any quantity of ammunition.
Friday, April 2, 1847.—This morning there was a small paper published in the city by some of our enterprising Yankees, called the American Eagle, a very appropriate name. It sells for twelve and a half cents a copy. Gen. Scott is now preparing his army for an advance on the city of Mexico, but is still lacking in horses, mules, wagons, ammunition, fieldpieces, or light artillery; also, provisions, which have not yet arrived from the United States. This is what keeps us here in this hot and sickly place.
At noon Col. Harney, with a detachment of his dragoons, under the command of Capt. George A. H. Blake, and several pieces of Capt. Taylor's artillery, and about five hundred infantry, started on an expedition toward a notorious town called Antiguo (Old Town). The object is to break up a gang of guerillas, rancheros and murderers, who constantly kill our soldiers and sailors if they happen to catch any alone, or who may unfortunately go beyond our encampment.
Saturday, April 3, 1847.—This morning orders were issued from Col. Wynkoop not to permit any soldiers to leave the camp, owing to a murder committed yesterday morning near the city, on a French gardener. They robbed him first, then murdered him. I believe they have caught the murderer, who is, I am glad to say, not a soldier or a sailor, but a follower of the army, and no doubt justice will be done to him. This evening Gen. Worth's division appeared on dress parade with an excellent band of music. Col. Harney's expedition arrived in camp this evening and reported that they had broken up the guerillas' quarters, and brought in some eight or ten prisoners and about thirty horses.
To-night there is a gentle breeze wafting in from the Gulf of Mexico, which makes everything look happy and agreeable among the boys.
Sunday, April 4, 1847.—This morning our squad had the privilege of going to the city. After arriving we concluded to go to church, which we found nearly full of soldiers, who, like us, went for curiosity to see what could be seen. Among the audience was Maj.-Gen. Winfield Scott. The priest gave him a lighted candle, which he held while the ceremony was going on. After church we strolled around the streets and visited the wharves, where a number of vessels were laying to unload ammunition, ordnance, provisions, etc. Returned to camp.
It is rumored this evening that the man that killed the French gardener will be hung to-morrow; it is also rumored that the vice-president, of Mexico, Faris, has resigned or has been expelled from his seat, etc.
Monday, April 5, 1847.—This morning the man that murdered and robbed the Frenchman will be hung.
At noon a man named Isaac Kirk, a colored man, and, I believe, a free citizen of the United States, yet who has lived here for a number of years, was arrested for committing, or attempting to commit a rape on the person of Mrs. Maria Antonia Gallegas, a Mexican woman, yesterday on the road between the ruins of Malilran and Vera Cruz; also for stealing ten dollars and a silver comb. He should have been shot on the spot. He will be tried by court-martial, which is now sitting in Vera Cruz, and no doubt will be speedily convicted and hung as high as Haman.
Tuesday, April 6, 1847.—This morning Mr. Beasly, of Co. D, First Pennsylvania Volunteers, died of brain fever. There are several of our company laid up with the same complaint. At noon Gen. Quitman's expedition arrived in camp from Alvarado. The expedition was what was expected—a full success.
The Mexican soldiers, having previously heard of the surrender of Vera Cruz and the castle, abandoned the town of Alvarado before our troops arrived. They bring with them some four or five hundred high-spirited horses—something much needed at this time for our dismounted dragoons. They say that the country from Vera Cruz to Alvarado is very fertile, with luxuriant tropical vegetation, such as grain, oranges, figs, dates, bananas and cocoanuts.
This evening Mr. Beasly was buried in the Catholic cemetery close by our present quarters. His corpse was followed and accompanied by Brig. Gen. Pillow and his staff. While the funeral ceremony was going on in the cemetery a cart brought out of Vera Cruz two dead bodies (Mexicans), dug out from the ruins in the city. They were in a deplorable condition, turned all black, as coal itself
This evening is unusually hot and close, making everything very unpleasant for the soldiers, and particularly the weary and sick. But, thank God! the arrangements for our start on the march for the interior of Mexico are nearly completed, when we will leave this miserable and sickly section of country for a healthier climate.
Wednesday, April 7 1847-—This morning another member of Co. D, First Pennsylvania Volunteers, died. His name is George Gun. He died with the same disease as Mr. Beasly did. He was only sick two days.
At noon I again visited the city, probably for the last time, that is, for some time to come. I was pleased to see it look so lively; it begins to show a different appearance. What a wonderful change! When we first entered this city we could get nothing to drink or eat, and found nobody to talk to. Now the streets are lined with eatables and drinkables; they are thronged with Mexicans and Americans alike. Streets that were then filled up with fragments of stone and mortar are now cleared of the rubbish, and nothing is now left to tell of the destruction the city sustained during the bombardment. The harbor is crowded with American vessels, filled with American goods, busy unloading stores, ammunition of war, etc. The citizens, with a sprinkling of Americans, are opening their stores with the products of American commerce and industry, and in a few weeks this city of Vera Cruz will be a place, and its inhabitants, who have suffered so much of late, will be in the enjoyment of all the comforts of life. The Mexicans themselves seem to have undergone a change, for being free from the presence of their own army, which daily levied contributions from them, they have a protection in our army, and a General who suffers no wrong to be committed without awarding severe punishment to the offender. This city is like every other town or city—it is full of rumors, chiefly about the Mexican Government at the capital. Some tell you that Gen. Santa Anna has been defeated in all his plans of operation, and that he is a prisoner; another that opposition against Gen. Santa Anna has all been put down, and that quiet reigns in the capital. No doubt Gen. Santa Anna will establish himself in power. Then we shall look for results of great moment, and the sooner that event comes the better will we, the Yankees, be satisfied.
In the afternoon I returned to camp with as much alacrity as if I had been enjoying a long siesta after the heat of the day.
To-day nine members of our Co. C, First Pennsylvania Volunteers, including Lieut. Casper M. Berry, were discharged, and will sail on the 10th inst. on the steamship "Virginia" for home, sweet home, promising to never return to Mexico again as soldiers. This evening Mr. George Gun was buried in the cemetery with all the honors of war.
Thursday, April 8, 1847.—This morning on parade orders were read for us to pack up and leave camp at 10 o'clock, a.m. Every soldier was busy in packing his knapsack and striking tents, and all were soon ready for a long march. All seemed to be much rejoiced in getting away from this awful sickly climate. When 10 o'clock came around the orders for marching were countermanded, that is, our division, but that of Gen. Twiggs, Second Division, left. He goes by the National Road leading toward the city of Jalapa, where he is to halt, provided he is not stopped by the enemy before he gets that far. Our division is to follow to-morrow. To-day I learn that Lieut. George Moore of Co. D, First Pennsylvania Volunteers, who was reported as having resigned his position in the army at New Orleans, reported himself to his company last evening for duty, and promises to stay with his company during the war with Mexico. He says that he never resigned his position in the company; that he got leave of absence from Col. Wynkoop to go home to attend to some very important business.
This evening we again had orders read, stating that we will positively leave to-morrow morning; also, that Brevet-Col. Henry Wilson, of the First Infantry United States Army, is assigned to the governorship of Vera Cruz, and that Gen. Worth is to take command of his division and follow us. Also, that the court-martial has found Isaac Kirk guilty of theft and attempting to commit a rape upon Mrs. Maria A. Gallegas, and sentenced him to be hanged April 10, at 5 o'clock, p.m.; also, Joseph Grussenmyer and Francis Crystol, both of Co. D, First Pennsylvania Volunteers, were found guilty of theft, and sentenced to a fine of one month's pay and one month's imprisonment in the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa.
The sentence of Isaac Kirk for rape committed on a native woman, will no doubt convince the Mexican people that we are not a set of barbarians, murdering fiends, pillagers and ravishers. The sentence passed to be hung to death, on a citizen of the United States for an offense committed against an enemy. What a lesson it ought to be, too, to those to whom we have been painted as savages, outlaws, respecting neither religion nor law, and committing all over the country we have occupied, the crimes for which the poor wretch is about to suffer death. We hope the sagacity of our able commander will succeed in giving the lie, and the establishment of a military commission is the first step toward it. Friday April 9, 1847.—This morning at 6 o'clock we took up our line of march for the interior of Mexico. We passed the city on the western side, passed Brig.-Gen. Twigg's old camp, Vergara. Nothing was left but a few old camp-kettles, pots, clothing, etc. We kept along the sea beach for several miles, after which we passed over a very sandy road, called the National Road to the city of Mexico. Talk about the sandy roads in New Jersey! Why they are no comparison to this one. We came to a halt at a small place called Santa Fe. Here we were allowed one-half hour to refresh ourselves, after which we again fell in and marched on until we came to a stream called San Juan, about eighteen miles from Vera Cruz. Here we halted and encamped for the night, and, as a fellow said, we were devilish glad of it, for we had to carry our own baggage and grub. Our officers were compelled to leave their baggage at Vera Cruz, there being no wagons to transport it.
We noticed the road, all along, was strewn with knapsacks, clothing, and other articles belonging to Gen. Twiggs' division, which is in our advance.
There was not much variety in the scenery on our march to-day—no luxuriant tropical vegetation, orange-groves and picturesque scenery, which, it was said, we would meet at every step we took toward the capital. Perhaps we have not come to them yet. The country we passed over to-day is rough and barren, wild with forest trees and numerous chaparrals.
On our march many of our soldiers kept lagging back, could not keep up with the army, and no doubt some will fall into the hands of the guerillas, who are numerous in this section of the country, and who are mostly "laying" for our straggling soldiers to murder them whenever they can get a chance.
To-day was extremely hot, and, as I stated before, the road very sandy, dusty and hot, and with no good water on the whole route. The ranches and huts along the National Road are all deserted, and not a Mexican could be seen all day. Saturday, April 10th, 1847.—This morning at daylight we started, and did not march fast, partly on account of not having far to go, and also, on account of some of our men having the diarrhoea, sore and blistered feet and being much fatigued. I noticed to-day, the further we are advancing, the more beautiful and picturesque the country is getting. The road is well shaded with fine palm and cocoanut trees. At 2 o'clock, p.m., we arrived at a bridge called Puenta de Las Vegas; here we bivouacked for the balance of the day and night. A party was detailed to go after some carne, (beef), and it was not long before they brought in fresh beef. On our march to-day, we saw several Mexicans who seemed friendly and wanted to talk with us, but not knowing their language, we did not know what they wanted; I did not want to trust myself alone with them five minutes for I think they are treacherous. To-night nearly all the men went into the river bathing, after which they all felt more comfortable.
Sunday, April 11th, 1847.—This morning we again took up our line of march, and passed through a wild, barren, tract of country; water was scarcely to be had. It looked as if nobody had ever lived here, for no houses or shanties could be seen. We saw plenty of fine large cattle along the road, and our men would shoot and kill a fine ox just for his tongue, heart or liver. Some of our men say that they must be wild cattle, as no one seems to make any claim for them.
About 3 o'clock, p.m., we came in sight of the Puenta Nacional. This is, in fact, the first splendid scenery we have seen since we landed on the shores of Mexico. The Puenta Nacional, or National Bridge, is a fine, substantial, well-constructed bridge, built with solid stone arches, through which rushes a beautiful stream of water, called Rio Antiqua, or Old River. It puts me in mind of the arched stone bridge over the Conestoga Creek east of Lancaster City, Pa., except that this is considerably higher than the Conestoga bridge. At the end of this bridge, and on a hill, is a fort, built of stone, in 1804; it is to protect the National Road. It is the work of ancient days, built by the Spaniards in Cortez's time. It commands the bridge and the winding road, and is considered by the Mexicans to be one of the strongest positions between this and the city of Puebla. It is 35 miles from Vera Cruz and 230 miles from the city of Mexico.
Brig.-Gen. Pillow, took quarters in the summer residence of Maj.-Gen. Lopez de Santa Anna. It is a splendid, neat, low building, with a fine fountain. Our regiment encamped on this side of the bridge, on a large open field, without tents.
On to-day's march many of our men were compelled to throw off everything except their blankets, for they could not carry them any longer and keep up with the main army. They were so much exhausted and fatigued from unaccustomed toilsome and hard marching that they were hardly able to carry themselves.
In the evening our mess had chicken soup for supper. The pollo (chicken) we got on the way, and promised to pay the Mexican when we come again this road on our way home. The Mexican agreed to trust that long. At dark I noticed nearly all the soldiers were taking a bath in the rapid stream of Old River, washing off the dust and sweat.
Our soldiers who have been lagging in the rear are now coming in slowly, with bitter complaints of the cruel and inhuman treatment they received from the rear guard, through the orders from Gen. Pillow. Many of our men are weak and exhausted from the effects of bad water and diarrhoea, which makes them unable to keep up with the army. They drop off on the side of the road under some tree, and there rest themselves, and some probably may go to sleep without much coaxing. It is reported that Gen. Pillow has instructed the rear guard to pick up every soldier lagging on the wayside; that they must keep up with the main army; and if not, to put the bayonet in their rear, or tie them to the tail end of the wagons and drag them along. Oh, chivalrous Brig.-Gen. Gideon Johnson Pillow—for such is your name in full—how can you be so hard-hearted, so harassing, so cruel, on these poor unfortunate sick, delicate and much exhausted soldiers? Remember, these men are not your slaves on your plantation. Nay, they are your equals and your peers in all and every society in the whole United States of America. I at this moment hear determined threats and warnings from these unfortunate soldiers to Gen. Pillow to beware of his bad and tyrannic treatment towards them, and I even hear some of the Pennsylvania and Tennessee volunteers threatening to shoot Gen. Pillow the first opportunity offered.
We marched hard all this weary day,
And camped at night by this little stream,
Where all night long on our arms we lay,
To watch and rest, to sleep and dream.
Monday, April 12, 1847.—This morning after breakfast, myself and a small party started ahead of our division for the purpose of taking our time, and marching along slowly until our regiment comes up; but we were soon overtaken by the advance-guard, headed by Brig.-Gen, Pillow, who rode up to us with his strong body-guard, and commanded us to go to the rear and join our regiment.
Lieut. Wm. H. Gray, of Co. F, First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, who, at the time, happened to be with us, was asked by Gen. Pillow what regiment he belonged to. "To the First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, sir," was the reply. "Go back immediately, join your regiment, and consider yourself under arrest." "Aye! Aye! sir," was the answer.
We went back a little piece, sat and lay on the soft grass under a big tree, cursing and swearing vengeance against Gen. Pillow. As soon as the regiment came up we fell into line, and marched on until we came to a few deserted huts, or ranches, as we call them. Here we halted and refreshed ourselves with a good fresh supply of water, which, I am glad to mention, is the best we had since we left the United States.
After a little rest we again started, and passed over a partly hilly and partly fine level country, with shade trees and mixed chaparrals on both sides of the National Road. After we had marched about five miles we heard the report of artillery, in our advance, which raised the cry throughout the whole division, "A fight ahead! A fight ahead! Huzza! Huzza! Huzza!" In fact, we were so much aroused with admiration and confidence of soon having another fight with the enemy, that we had almost forgotten our fatigue and our tiresome marching.
Being thus encouraged, we hurried along a little faster, when we met with a courier, or express-rider, who stated that Brig.-Gen. Twiggs, who is in our advance, had fallen in with the enemy, and had a little brush with him, after which he (Twiggs) fell back to the watering-place, and was now awaiting re-enforcements, and for the arrival of Gen. Scott.
We arrived in camp about 4 o'clock, p.m., and encamped at the lively stream called Plan del Rio (River of the Plain), over which is a splendid stone bridge, built in 1804, of cement, and very substantial.
This evening it is rumored that Gen. Twiggs is making a reconnoisance, and that he is determined to attack the Mexicans as soon as possible, and before the arrival of the general-in-chief, if convenient.
There is a village here composed of miserable shanties and huts, and, like most of those we passed along the National Road, were nearly all deserted by their owners and tenants.
At dark Maj.-Gen. Robert Patterson and his staff arrived and took up quarters in an old church or convent.
Late this evening nearly the whole regiment took a bath in the noble River of the Plain, after which we lay down on the bare ground to take a good rest and much-wanted sleep.
"When our earthly cares are over,
And we enter into our rest,
May we join that seraphic choir
That dwells in the land of the blest!"
I have heard and read a good deal about the richness and sunny skies of Mexico, but if this is a sample of the country and balmy breeze, I don't care about going much further. Tuesday April 13, 1847.—This morning at reveille we were all up and down at the stream, some bathing, others washing their only shirts, the rest having; all been thrown away on our march.
All day the stragglers kept coming in to camp, those that could not keep up with the division. They say that they shut the rear-guard's and Gen. Pillow's eyes up by going in off the main road, so that they could not be seen or found.
At noon to-day Gen. Twiggs issued orders to prepare to storm the pass of Cerro Gordo at midnight, but, fortunately, Maj.-Gen. Patterson arrived last evening, and reported himself for duty this morning, and delayed the attack until the arrival of Gen. Scott. Several scouting parties.started out to-day, and brought in a few prisoners, who reported that Gen. Antonio Lopez De.Santa Anna is at the Cerro Gordo Pass with thirteen or fourteen thousand soldiers, strongly entrenched, with batteries well planted and fortified.
This evening some of the dragoons came into camp and reported having found three of our soldiers dead on the road. Two of them belonged to the New York regiment, and the other to the Second Dragoons.
Late this evening a train of some eighty-wagons started back to Vera Cruz for provisions and ammunition for the attack on Cerro Gordo. Capt. Wall's field battery, attached to our division, is encamped close by our regiment; they are brightening up their pieces and getting them ready for action.
This is a lovely night, making it very pleasant to sleep in the tierres calientes (warm country) and particularly without tents. All quiet yet.
Wednesday, April 14, 1847.—This morning, after reveille, some soldiers enjoyed themselves in fishing and swimming, while others went out after beef. In the afternoon our Commander-in-Chief, Maj.-Gen. Winfield Scott, arrived at our camp and took up his quarters in an old ranch beside the National Road. As the General came riding by, our soldiers took off their caps and hats, and those that had nothing on their heads tapped their heads with their right hand and saluted him. The General responded to the salute by raising-his old straw hat.
This evening Col. Wynkoop ordered a dress parade, and it was a dress parade. Some with straw hats, some with caps, and others with Mexican hats; some with one boot or shoe on, and others with no hats or boots or shoes; some had Mexican coats on, and some had hardly anything on except shirt and pants; in fact, it looked more like a fantastic parade than a military one. After this we went into the River of the Plains and took a good bath, and then laid down for the night.
Thursday, April 15, 1847.—This morning; the reveille aroused us from our good night's slumber, and about 10 o'clock Gen. Scott started out with his engineer corps to make a new reconnoisance, and found that an attack in front on the National Road batteries would cause the sacrifice of thousands of men, and in all probability defeat to our army. He disapproved of General Twiggs' plan of attack, and ordered a new road to be cut back of the hills of Cerro Gordo.
At noon we were detailed to accompany Gen. Pillow and his engineers to make a reconnoissance up to the left of Cerro Gordo hill or pass. We marched about three miles on the main road, when we took in through the chaparral, and marched about a mile more to the left. We went quietly and cautiously along, when we were ordered to halt and rest. We were then ordered to lie down, which we were very glad to do, being much fatigued and tired. During this time Gen. Pillow and his engineer corps were reconnoitering to find out the real position of the Mexican batteries. They went on until they were discovered by the Mexican pickets. The shrill trumpet sounded the alarm, and never was a set of men sooner on their feet than us. It put me in mind of the first night after we landed below Vera Cruz, when we were aroused by the firing of pickets. Gen. Pillow and his engineers soon returned, saying that he had found out all he wanted to know, and ordered us to march back to our camp. Much fatigued and parched with thirst, we arrived in camp about supper time, which was being prepared for us. While others were preparing their muskets and ammunition to be ready for action, to-night we went into the River of the Plains and washed the dust and dirt off us, after which we went quietly to sleep.
Friday, April 16, 1847.—This morning there is a gentle breeze which seems to waft across the hills from the blue Gulf of Mexico.
At 10 o'clock, a.m., Gen. Scott ordered Glen. Twggs' division to take possession of a level hill opposite Cerro Gordo, and station his twenty four pounder and several howitzers on it.
To-day almost every soldier seems to be in good humor, and making great preparations for the approaching battle. Some are fixing their fire arms, others are writing letters, and probably their wills, others are thinking of nothing but walking through camp whistling, singing songs; and some can be seen playing a game of cards.
This afternoon Gen. William J. Worth and his division arrived in camp, and reported having a skirmish with some of the guerrillas who attacked his rear guard and also his beef party who went after some cattle off the road; none of our men were killed or wounded. This evening the provision and siege trains arrived from Vera Cruz, the teamsters report the road in a bad condition. It is rumored that the attack upon the heights of Cerro Gordo will soon be made. The ammunition, provisions and siege guns are all that kept us waiting here.
It seems the Mexicans have not discovered Gen. Twiggs' pioneers cutting the new road around the foot of the hill, at least we have heard no firing from that direction. To-night is a beautiful night; the stars are shining brightly over the heads of the United States Army encamped on the plain near Plan del Rio, Mexico.
Ten o'clock, p.m., no news from Gen. Twiggs or his operations on the heights of Cerro Gordo, nor can we hear' anything, on account of all around here being thicket, with large forest trees. Saturday, April 17, 1847.—This morning the balance of Gen. Twiggs' division left for the field of action. This division is composed mostly of riflemen, regulars and dragoons. They are to take a position for the purpose of planting Gen. Twiggs' artillery. About 10 o'clock, a.m., we heard the roaring of artillery, and in between we could hear the rattling and the sharp crack of the rifles. Our advance at first was partly repulsed. At this Gen. Twiggs instantly formed his men in different position, placing them under the command of Col. William S. Harney, and charged on the heights, which was done with a yell, driving the enemy from their position and holding it. The Mexicans rallied and made a desperate attempt to retake their lost position. They charged upon our men with great bravery, but were just as bravely repulsed, with heavy loss. Our riflemen made every ball tell. Not satisfied with this, they (the enemy) made several attempts to retake their much regretted lost position, but with still less success and with heavy losses. The ground all around the hill was strewn with dead and wounded Mexicans.
In the evening Gen. Twiggs sent word that he had carried his intended position, and is now safely on the hill, throwing up breastworks and planting his battery, and that he (Gen. Twiggs) will be ready for action to-morrow morning. Maj. Sumner and ten others were reported killed, and twenty wounded in to-day's fight. Late this evening, some of Gen. Twiggs' wounded soldiers arrived in camp with sorrowful and painful looks. They are part of Gen. Twiggs' division, and were wounded while driving the Mexicans from a hill.
The heights of Cerro Gordo—and, in fact, all around here—are covered with large forest trees, and in some places with stunted mesquit and thickets of prickly chaparral, cactus plants, etc., which makes it difficult for soldiers to pass through or gain positions.This evening, on dress parade, orders from Gen. Scott were read to us by Col. Wynkoop, stating that we should be ready to storm the batteries assigned to Gen. Pillow at 6 o'clock
to-morrow morning, and to have two days' provisions with us. The orders which have just been read to us are as follows:—
GEN. SCOTT'S ORDERS FOR THE ATTACK ON THE HEIGHTS
AND DIFFERENT POSITIONS OF CERRO GORDO.
General Order No. 111.
The Second (Gen. Twiggs') Division of Regulars is already advanced within easy turning distance towards the enemy's left. That division has orders to move forward before daylight to-morrow and take up a position across the Main or National Road to the enemy's rear, so as to cut off a retreat towards Jalapa City.
It may be re-enforced to-day, if unexpectedly attacked in force, by regiments one or two taken from Brig.-Gen. James Shields' brigade of volunteers. If not, the two volunteer regiments will march for that purpose at daylight to-morrow morning, under Brig.-Gen. Shields, who will report to Brig.-Gen. David E. Twiggs on getting up with him, or the General-in-Chief if he be in advance.
"The remaining regiments of that volunteer brigade will receive instructions in the course of this day.
"The first division of regulars (Worth's) will follow the movement against the enemy's left at sunrise to-morrow morning.
"As already arranged, Brig.-Gen. Pillow's brigade will march at 6 o'clock to-morrow morning along the route he has carefully reconnoitered, and stand ready as soon as he hears the report of arms on our right—sooner, if circumstances should favor him to pierce the enemy's line of battle at such point—the nearer the river the better—as he may select. Once in the rear of that line, he will turn to the right or left, and attack the batteries in reserve, or if abandoned, he will pursue the enemy with vigor until further orders.
Wall's field battery and the cavalry will be held in reserve on the National Road a little out of way or view and range of the enemy's batteries. They will take up that position at 9 o'clock in the morning.The enemy's batteries being carried or abandoned, all our divisions and corps will pursue with vigor. This pursuit may be continued many miles, until stopped by darkness or fortified position toward Jalapa City; consequently, the body of the army will not return to their encampment, but be followed to-morrow afternoon, or early the next morning by the baggage-trains for the several corps. For this purpose the feebler officers and men of each corps will be left to guard its camp and effects, and to load up the latter in the wagons of the corps.
As soon as it shall be known that the enemy's works have been carried, or that the general pursuit has been commenced, one wagon for each regiment and one for the cavalry will follow the movements to receive, under the directions of medical officers, the wounded, who will be brought back to this place for treatment in the general hospital.
The surgeon-general will organize this important service, and designate that hospital, as well as the medical officers, to be left at that place.Every man who marches out to attack or pursue the enemy, will take the usual allowance of ammunition and subsistence for, at least, two days.
Thus reads Gen. Scott's General Orders, No. 111, which shows and points out every General's position, and the duty which they are expected to perform, and which it is expected they will carry out to the fullest extent.
To-night most of our soldiers went into the river swimming and washing. Some were fixing up their firearms and their accoutrements; some were, like myself, writing letters home to their parents, wives and friends.
LETTER TO MY BROTHER FREDERICK.
Camp Plan del Rio, Mexico, April 17, 1847.
When I last saw you at Hollidaysburg, Pa., I promised you faithfully that I would write to you whenever an opportunity offered, but I am sorry to say that I have neglected it until the present time. I hope you will excuse me this time, and I will try to do better hereafter.Our regiment embarked at New Orleans in three different sailing ships, being divided into three divisions, after which we set sail, and arrived at Brazos Santiago, January 28, 1847. After four days' delay we again weighed anchor and sailed for the Island of Lobos, about one hundred and twenty miles from Vera Cruz. Here we arrived February 16, 1847. We here disembarked, and encamped on the island until nearly the whole army of Gen. Scott's arrived; after which we again embarked, March 3, 1847, and the whole army, on shipboard set sail for Vera Cruz, and arrived at a little island called Anton Lizardo, March 6th. Here the whole fleet, say about two hundred vessels, including the men-of-war, was anchored. After several days of preparation and reconnoitering to select a suitable place for landing our troops, we landed on the 9th of the same month, without any opposition, after surrounding the city of Vera Cruz. The siege commenced on the second day after our landing, and lasted till the day when the agreement to surrender the city was signed, the 29th, making the siege last for seventeen days, in which tremendous and vigorous firing was carried on, both day and night.
According to Gen. Scott's report, our army and navy had fired over three thousand ten-inch shells, two hundred howitzer shells, over one thousand Paixhan shot, and twenty-five hundred round shot, weighing in all about half a million of pounds. Nearly every house in the city was more or less damaged from our cannon. Some houses were totally ruined; a part of the Mexican batteries were dismounted; and several heavy breaches made in the walls surrounding the city. This was the result of seventeen days of war.
At 10 o'clock, a.m., March 29th, the Mexicans surrendered the city of Vera Cruz and the strong Castle of San Juan de Ulloa, with all their stores, artillery, ammunition, and other munitions of war, and left for their respective homes on parole of honor. After which the flag of the United States was soon hoisted over the walls of Vera Cruz and the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa, and is now waving triumphantly in the breeze. We captured over four hundred cannons, over three thousand round shot and shells, and six thousand muskets.
After the surrender, Gen. Scott made immediate preparations to march his main army farther into the interior of Mexico, on account of the unhealthiness of Vera Cruz and its vicinity, there being already a great number of our soldiers sick in the hospital, unfit for any duty. On the 8th of April Gen. David E. Twiggs' division, composed of about three thousand regular soldiers, with a light field battery and part of Col. Harney's dragoons, started on their march towards the halls or capital of Mexico. Our division (Gen. Robert Patterson's) followed the next day, and for four days marched over a sandy and clayey but well shaded road, but through a poor, miserable, desolated and deserted country, producing nothing but prickly pear, long stretches of plate cactus, which grows from eight to twelve feet high, and chaparral in abundance. In fact, it looks as if the country was too poor to raise any kind of grain or vegetables.
The Mexican rancheros and padrones, fellows who live in miserable jacals or mud-plastered hovels, by their appearance live in a condition of filth and poverty. Many have no abrigam (sheltering place). They are mostly the descendants of the old Mexicans or Chichimeca. Their houses, or mud-plastered jacals (as we call them) were mostly deserted, in fear of us Yankees.We arrived at our present encampment, Plan del Rio (or River of the Plain), on the 12th inst., much exhausted and fatigued from marching and heat from the hot sun. Here we find our distinguished and bosom friend, Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, with about 15,000 troops, strongly fortified and entrenched, with heavy batteries, contesting and disputing our march toward the capital of Mexico.
The orders which have been read to us this evening state that we should not only defeat the Mexican Army, but follow them up, and stop not until the spires of Jalapa City appear in sight. So you see by these orders that Gen. Scott is confident of our gallant little army being successful and victorious in this battle. Thus I need cast no fretting or lingering looks behind, but march onward and fight until the battle is fought and victory is won.
I believe I have given you all the details that I know of.
One word more, then I will be done. Read this letter to my parents and friends, and tell them that my health and strength have been remarkably good ever since I joined the army; also, that there is another day of danger before us, and that the whole army is inspired with confidence of a grand and glorious victory. So good-bye.
Your brother, J. J. O.
Three Locks above Lewistown, Pa.
- Cortez commenced to build the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa in 1582.