The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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undismayed, and defended their position with a gallantry worthy of the highest praise. Several times I observed the Mexican lines, galled by the American musketry, and shattered by the fearful discharges from O'Brien's battery, break and fall back, but their successive formations beyond the ridge enabled them to force the men back to their position, and quickly replace those who were slain."

        Thus commenced the battle on the plain of Buena Vista on the morning of the 23d, and continued to rage with unabated fury and varying success to that close of that memorable and eventful day. In proportion to the violence and impetuosity of the assaults of the Mexicans on the American lines, was the steady and unshaken firmness with which those assaults were received. If at any time a regiment, overcome by superior numbers, was compelled to give way, another quickly advanced to the rescue, drove back the enemy, and enabled it to regain its former position. In this way the Mexican General was kept at bay, his strength defied, his most skillful combinations and manĉuvers baffled and defeated by his vigilant and active foe. Late in the afternoon, finding stratagem and force alike unavailing, the day drawing to a close and no chasm yet opened for his legions in the ranks of the enemy, Santa Anna determined, by assailing the weakest part of the American line with an overwhelming force, to make a last desperate effort to win the day. Collecting all his infantry, he ordered them to charge the Illinois and Kentucky regiments. These brave troops made a gallant resistance against the fearful odds opposed to them; but, seeing their leaders fall, and overpowered by vastly superior numbers, they gave way and began to fall back. Gen. Lane, at this critical moment, hastened forward with his brigade, and opening a destructive fire upon the Mexicans, checked their advance, and enabled the retreating regiments to form and return to the contest. This was Santa Anna's last struggle on that hotly-contested and bloody field. Night spread her mantle over the scene of conflict. The weary Americans sank to repose on a gory bed, expecting a renewal of the strife on the following day. Morning came--but no enemy appeared. Silently during the night, Santa Anna, with his shattered legions, had retired, leaving the victorious Americans masters of the field.

        Gen. Lane, having been transferred in the summer of 1847 to the line of Gen. Scott's operations, reached Vera Cruz in the early part of September. On the 20th of that month he set out toward the City of Mexico with a force of about two thousand five hundred men, consisting of one regiment of Indiana and one of Ohio volunteers, two battalions of recruits, five small companies of volunteer horse, and two pieces of artillery. This force was subsequently augmented at Jalapa by a junction with Major Lally's column of one thousand men, and at Perote its strength was further increased by a company of mounted riflemen and two of volunteer infantry, besides two pieces of artillery. Several small guerrilla parties appeared at different times on the route and attacked the advance and rear guards, but were quickly repulsed; and the column continued its advance unmolested along the great road leading through Puebla to the City of Mexico.

        At this time Col. Childs of the regular army, with a garrison of five hundred effective troops and one thousand eight hundred invalids, was besieged in Puebla by a large force of Mexicans commanded by Santa Anna in person. This general, notwithstanding his many defeats, with a spirit unbroken by misfortune, and an energy that deserves our highest admiration, however much we may reprobate the cause in which he was engaged, had collected the remnant of his beaten army, determined, if possible, to wrest Puebla from the grasp of the American general, Scott, and thus cut off his communications with the sea coast. The gallant Childs well understood that the maintenance of his post was of the utmost importance to the success of the campaign. Every officer and soldier under his command seemed also to comprehend the immensity of the stake; and both officers and soldiers exhibited the loftiest heroism, and the most unyielding fortitude, in meeting the dangers and enduring the fatigues and privations of a protracted siege. Aware that a strong column, under Gen. Lane, was marching from Vera Cruz to their relief, the great object to be gained by the garrison was time. Santa Anna, also aware of Gen. Lane's approach, redoubled his exertions to carry the place by storm, superintending the operations of the corps in person, directing the guns to such parts of the defenses as appeared most vulnerable, and watching with intense anxiety the effect of every shot. Convinced at length by the obstinate resistance of the besieged, and the lessening distance between him and his advancing and dreaded foe, that he must abandon his position and encounter the "Marion of the war" in an open field, he silently and cautiously withdrew, and with the main body of his troops moved in the direction
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