« EdellinenJatka »
Exploit of May and Walker.
brisk fire upon the fort. It was returned, and shortly silenced. They then fired shells and shot from the lower fort and a mortar battery, which was continued with a short intermission till midnight. During all this time a part of the troops laboured to complete the fortifications, although exposed to the full range of the enemy's guns. By the fifteen hundred shot fired during this first day, but one man was killed. The Americans stopped firing about ten o'clock in the forenoon, as they were wasting ammunition and doing no injury, except to the town. This silence was mistaken by the enemy as a symptom of fear or despair, they momentarily expected a surrender.
The noise of this cannonading having reached Point Isabel, General Taylor despatched Captain May with Captain Walker and a hundred men, to learn something of the garrison, and reconnoiter the country. They avoided the enemy, and penetrated to within a few miles of the fort. Captain May there concealed his party in the chaparral, and Captain Walker with six rangers proceeded to the fort. Walker not having returned to the detachment, May feared that he had fallen a victim to the enemy,
and as the Mexican scouts had discovered his own position, he decided to return. He reached the camp in safety, having on the way put to flight and pursued for three miles, a very superior body of the enemy's cavalry. The supposed loss of Captain Walker, who was a general favourite, cast a gloom over the whole army, which, however, was speedily dispelled by the appearance of that gallant officer, bearing the gratifying intelligence that Major Brown was able to maintain his position. Captain Walker had returned to the place
where he had left Captain May, and finding him gone, returned to the fort, stating that the Mexicans had blocked the game on him this time, but that he would give them another turn when it was dark. Starting from the fort at night with his party, his superior knowledge of the country only enabling him to avoid the numerous parties of the enemy who were aware of his mission, and on the alert to capture him.
At the fort, during the 4th, the fire of the enemy was not renewed, and the soldiers laboured with energy to complete the works. On the following day, large parties of the enemy, both horse and foot, were discovered in the rear of the fort. These thousands were supported by a battery that had been erected in the night, and which the garrison named for the sake of distinction, “the Battery in the country.” This battery, with those in Mata
Signal guns fired at Fort Brown.
moras, opened with shot and shell in the afternoon, and kept up a galling cross fire. At nine o'clock, Lieutenant Hanson, after a gallant reconnoisance, reported the erection of a new battery at the cross roads. On Wednesday morning, the 6th, a spirited fire was kept up against the fort, the shot and shells being well directed. The balls falling into the fortress afforded considerable merriment to the soldiers, who were sitting idly about, reserving their ammunition in case of need under an assault. An old soldier, who prided himself on his culinary skill, had made some coffee, and was stooping to pour it into the cups of his mess, when a ball flying over the parapet, struck in the ashes near him and overturned the beverage into the fire. The disciple of Careme and votary of Mars, shocked at the disrespect, gave the ball a kick, while in a dolorous voice he cursed the rascally Mexicans for knocking over his coffee. · In compliance with the directions given by General Taylor to be pursued in case the fort was surrounded, the eighteen-pounders were fired at stated intervals. The enemy, as if conscious that this was a call for relief, reopened their fire upon the fort. The officers of the garrison, however, reserved their ammunition for the expected assault. The bomb proofs were built at points convenient for the soldiers to retreat into, and the sentinel on the look out could name the battery from which a ball or shell was fired, as soon as he saw the smoke of the discharge, and the soldiers would have time to get under cover before the balls reached them. Shells were frequently allowed to explode harmlessly in the air, by the soldiers falling flat on their faces, when one was fired, a measure which a Mexican, elevated to a
Fall of Major Brown,
considerable height in a tall tree, with a glass in his hand, reported to his comrades as being what it seemed to him, a mark of the destruction produced by their fire.
The lamented death of Major Brown occurred at this time, May 6th.* We give the following graphic account of it, taken from “Our Army on the Rio Grande," by T. B. Thorpe, Esq. He says, “ After the cross firing, called forth with so much energy by our signal eighteen pounders, had continued for three hours and a half, the noble-minded Major Brown, commander of the fort, with his adjutant-lieutenant by his side, took his usual round to see that officers and men were at their posts. He stopped for a moment to give directions to some of the soldiers who were busily employed at one of the bomb proofs. Every instant the men were engaged in dodging to avoid the ball and bursting shell. One of the latter, from the battery in the country,” struck in the parapet, burying itself in the sand without exploding; a cloud of dust rose into the air, amid which the gallant commander was seen to fall, mortally wounded, He was immediately taken to the hospital tent, and,
The death of Major J. Brown was a severe loss to the army. He was a native of Vermont, and at the age of twenty-four years entered the army as a common soldier, in the 7th infantry, at the commencement of the war of 1812. His merit soon raised him to the rank of ensign, lieutenant, and finally major. He did good service in the Florida war; and was selected by General Taylor to command at the fort where he fell, in consequence of the general's high opinion of his courage and ability. General Taylor says cf him: “ The pleasure of victory) is alloyed with profound regret at the loss of the heroic and indomitable Major Brown. His loss would be a severe one to the service at any time, but to the army under my orders, it is indeed irreparable.”
In the case of Major Brown we see the importance of occasional promotions of common soldiers to the rank of officers.
Summons to Surrender.
while being borne in the arms of two of his men, he exhorted those about him never to give up the fort. His right leg had been shot off, exhibiting the torn muscles, and jagged crushed bones to the pained sight of his command. Although suffering the most excruciating tortures, he remained perfectly calm, and said to those who were sympathizingly standing about him, “Men, go to your duties, stand by your posts; I am but one among you.” While suffering under the operation of having his leg amputated above the knee, which was most skilfully done, he congratulated his country that the misfortune had befallen him, and not been meted out to a younger man.
Attempts were next made by the enemy to bring musketry into play upon the garrison, but those who approached for the purpose were scattered with some loss by a few rounds of canister. The bombardment then grew still more severe, and continued till noon. In the afternoon, a few shells were thrown. At four P.M., two Mexican officers approached with a white flag, bearing a communication from General Arista, which proved to be a summons to surrender, the humanity of the Mexicans being given as a reason for the demand, although he is asserted to have had a band of men organized and instructed to slaughter the garrison as soon as the surrender was made. Captain Hawkins, who had succeeded Major Brown in the command, summoned a council of the commissioned officers, and stated the purport of the message, (the want of a good Spanish interpreter making it difficult to be fully understood,) adding that though he knew there was but one sentiment upon the point, he thought it proper that all the officers should