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Scott commander-in-chief of the army in Mexico, extensive preparatione were inade for a new campaign, to be conducted in accordance with the views of that veteran chief. It was proposed to seize on Vera Cruz, and thence to march direct for the capital. In collecting the forces necessary for so important an enterprise, great numbers of General Taylor's best troops were drawn off from the conquered district on the Rio Grande, leaving the army of occupation in a condition little capable of resisting so formidable a force as that concentrated at San Luis, were there no disparity between the respective armies other than that of numbers.
By the interception of a dispatch, the Mexican commander-in-chief, in the month of December, 1846, obtained information respecting the intended descent upon Vera Cruz, and it was soon known that he was busily engaged in preparations for an attack upon the reduced division on the Rio Grande. Knowing that he must prepare to encounter an army more than quadruple the troops under his command, General Taylor concentrated his scattered regiments at the Pass of Angostura, a point in which either flank was protected by mountains, ravines and gullies impassable for cavalry, and scarcely to be traversed by foot soldiers. An advanced guard was stationed at Agua Nueva, thirteen miles from the pass, under General Wool, to gain intelligence of the expected approach of the enemy.
Taylor's entire force is set down at about four thousand seven hundred. The little army was, however, disposed with such military skill, and in so favourable a position, that for two days Santa Anna in vain endeavoured to force a passage. He came upon the American encampment on the afternoon of February 22d, 1847, and until night-fall and throughout the following day, kept the Americans constantly engaged. The astonishing result of this hard-fought battle was chiefly owing to the admirable management of the few pieces of artillery possessed by the defenders of the pass. On the night of the 23d, Santa Anna commenced a retreat to San Luis Potosi, having sustained an immense loss, and having witnessed the total failure of his attempt against the weakened army of occupation. The name of the neighbouring hacienda of Buena Vista has always since been applied to distinguish this memorable and important engagement.
At this period a fierce contention was going on in the Mexican capital between the supporters of the vice-president Farias, and the partisans of the church, some of whose privileges and emoluments had recently been curtailed. Civil war was added anew to the dan.
ger and anxieties attendant upon foreign invasion. At the close of the ensuing month, the friends of the church carried their points in congress: the office of the vice-president was annulled; the president himself was formally put in command of the armies—his place to be supplied by a substitute during his employment in the field; and a new president was to be elected on the 15th of the ensuing month of May, according to the provisions of the constitution of 1824. Don Pedro Anaya was chosen as the temporary executive. .
Meanwhile, important operations were in progress on the coast. The main body of the American army, under General Scott, sailed from the rendezvous at the island of Lobos, for Vera Cruz, on the 7th of March, 1847. Notwithstanding the overwhelming force brought to bear upon the place, the authorities refused to surrender, trusting perhaps to the strength of their renowned fortress, or willing to see their town battered to pieces, rather than permit the hated foreigners to pursue their career of conquest unmolested. A cannonade was commenced on the 18th, from the ships lying off the harbour and from the batteries planted on the land, which continued, with little intermission, until the 26th, when the garrison capitulated. The town was terribly shattered, and the needless destruction of nearly one thousand of the inhabitants, of every age and sex, was the result of the obstinacy or infatuation of the commanding officers. During the continuance of the bombardment "it is estimated that our army and navy threw into the town about six thousand shot and shells, weighing upwards of 463,000 pounds."
The castle of San Juan de Ulloa was at the same time surrendered; and a great amount of arms and artillery was taken possession of by the victors: some five thousand prisoners of war were set at liberty upon parole. The command of Vera Cruz was assigned to General Worth, and the commander-in-chief, with between eight and nine thousand troops, took up his line of march for the interior.
President Santa Anna, having now hastened to the future scene of action, commenced a reconnoissance of the road for the selection of a suitable spot for a stand to be made against the invaders. He decided upon taking a position at Cerro Gordo, where the highway enters the mountain country. The locality is thus described by Mr. Mayer: “About seven leagues from Jalapa the edge of one of the table lands of the Cordillera sweeps down from the west abruptly into this pass of the river Plan. On both sides of this precipitous olevation the mountains tower majestically. The road winds slowly and roughly along the scant sides which have been notched to receive it. When the summit of the pass is attained, one side of the road is found to be overlooked by the Hill of the Telegraph, while on the other side the streamlet runs in an immensely deep and rugged ravine, several hundred feet below the level of the table-land. Between the road and the river many ridges of the neighbouring hills unite and plunge downwards into the impassable abyss. At the foot of the Hill of the Telegraph rises another eminence, known as that of Atalaya, which is hemmed in by other wooded heights rising from below, and forming, in front of the position, a boundary of rocks and forests beyond which the sight cannot penetrate."
In this strong position, defended by fifty-two pieces of artillery advantageously posted, and an army of between three and four thousand men, exclusive of his reserved forces, Santa Anna awaited an attack. The famous battle of Cerro Gordo, commencing on the 17th of April, after a two days' conflict, resulted in the annihilation of the Mexican army. On the 18th a simultaneous assault upon the centre and either flank, in the face of a terrible fire from the numerous batteries, and conducted under every disadvantage in position, gave the assailants a complete victory. About three thousand prisoners were taken, among whom were five generals, and nearly three hundred minor officers. Jalapa and Peroté immediately afterwards submitted without resistance. At the latter place was a fortified castle, which, with all its artillery-numbering fifty-four pieces of ordnance—and great stores of munitions of war, fell into the hands of the Americans.
Santa Anna, with such forces as he could collect, made an unavailing attempt to arrest the progress of the advanced division, under General Worth, and on the 22d of the ensuing month, Puebla was occupied by the American advance. No further serious obstacle was opposed to the progress of General Scott towards the capital. Santa Anna, in the midst of utter political confusion, the details of which would entirely surpass our limits, was still looked upon as the most reliable leader. He was obliged to confine himself to the col. lection of troops for the preservation of the capital, to the increasing of its defences, and to the arousal by every means in his power of the national hatred against the invaders. A bloody guerilla warfare, in which savage cruelty on the part of the lawless bands engaged in its prosecution too often provoked retaliation equally unsparing, attended the onward march of the army, and the maintenance of the garrisons and military lines of communication throughout the con. quered districts.
While General Scott was stationed at Puebla, a negotiation was opened, by the assistance of the British minister, between the Amercan commissioner, Mr. Trist, and the Mexican president. Certain violent denunciations in a recent decree of congress against any who should propose or entertain any plans for the conclusion of a treaty with the United States, rendered both the president and the legislative members exceedingly cautious respecting their movements in this emergency
The negotiation proved entirely fruitless, but it lea to a singular secret correspondence between Santa Anna and the American commanding officers. The former made propositions for the appointment of commissioners to negotiate a peace, conditionally upon the placing at his own disposal of a considerable sum of money, and the promise of a much larger payment upon the satisfactory conclusion of a treaty. General Scott, in accordance with the opinions of a majority of his principal military associates, consented to this first payment-amounting to ten thousand dollars-out of a "secret service” fund at his disposal, continuing meanwhile his preparations against the capital. As nothing of importance resulted from this correspondence, it remains merely a matter of curious inquiry whether the Mexican dictator was really influenced by any other motives, in his conduct relating to this affair, than by the hope of private emolument.
General Scott's army, recruited to about the number of ten thou. sand men, by the middle of August lay encamped at Ayotla, Chalco, and in the vicinity, within the valley of Mexico, and upon the bor. ders of the marshy lake of Chalco. Santa Anna, who had collected three times this number of troops, had not been idle in preparing for the defence of every available route to the city. The extent to which arms and ammunition had been manufactured in the country to meet the exigency of the occasion, and the strength and scientific structure of the fortifications, aroused the admiration of those unacquainted with the resources of the nation.
After a thorough reconnoissance of the Mexican defences, the American commander-in-chief decided upon pursuing his march around the southern border of the lake to Tlalpam, or San Agustin. where the road joins the great southern highway leading to the capital. This position was accordingly occupied, little opposition having been experienced upon the route, on the 17th and 18th of the month. The Mexican commander laboured under the disadvantaye of being compelled to distribute his forces among the various fortifications on either of the four routes by which General Scott might make a descent upon the city, and these posts were at such a distance from each other that several days must elapse before the main body of the army could be concentrated at any threatened point.
CHI A P I ER X X I 7.
NOVEMENTS OF SANTA ANNA. —HIS PLANS THWARTED BI
SANTA ANNA, upon learning the movement of the Americas, hastened to collect the detached divisions of his army in time to intercept the passage of the southern route to the city. He took his own position at the hacienda of San Antonio upon the main road, and dispatched General Valencia to the defence of the only other practicable route, that by San Angel and Cayacan, leading by a mule path, across the rugged plain of lava called the Pedregal, and along the base of the western mountain range.
According to the arrangements of the Mexican commander-in-chief, a vastly superior force could be brought into action at either point where the invaders might attempt to force a passage; but his plans were disconcerted by the disobedience and obstinacy of his subordi
Valencia, in defiance of orders, moved southward with his forces, and erected works of defence at Contreras, or Padierna, between the Pedregal and the mountains; thus cutting off communication with the army at San Antonio, and rendering his command nearly useless by the occupation of ground said to have been pronounced indefensible by competent engineers.
The result proved the folly of his conduct. On the 19th of August, one division of the American army, unaided by cavalry or