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seem most suitable as a base of operations, it was resolved to seize Vera Cruz, and thence to march directly upon the capital. General Scott was,-therefore, once more summoned to the councils of the government, and towards the close of November, was invested with the office of "commander-in-chief of the American army in Mexico," for the purpose of carrying out this new programme of attack.
Scott devoted himself energetically to the needful preparations before leaving the United States, and among other measures, wrote immediately to General Taylor, that he should be under the painful necessity of depriving him of the best and most efficient troops under his command. Nearly all the regulars under Worth, Patterson, Twiggs, and Quitman, were ordered to Vera Cruz; and Taylor was left to maintain himself as best he could, against the threatened attack of Santa Anna and the most effective army which Mexico could boast. The entire force which Taylor could bring into the field was four hundred and seventy-six regulars, (consisting exclusively of artillery and cavalry,) and four thousand two hundred and fifteen volunteers. The enemy, according to Santa Anna's "summons," were twenty thousand strong, at the time of the battle of Buena Vista; although, it appears, some three or four thousand had been lost, before the engagement, by death, sickness and desertion; yet, admitting this diminution, the Mexican army was more than three times as numerous as that of General Taylor, and it contained the best soldiers and ablest general the country could furnish.
General Taylor had advanced beyond Saltillo, on the road to San Luis, as far as Agua Nueva; but, when the strength of the enemy was known, he resolved to fall back about thirteen miles, to a pass near the hacienda of Buena Vista, called La Angostura, or the Straits. The road here passed through a gorge in the mountains, and was defended on the west by a complete network of deep gullies, cut by the torrents from the heights on that side, and almost every where impassable, whilst on the east a narrow shelf of table-land be- lg4n, tween it and the mountains was much intersected by ravines, through which, at certain seasons, rapid streams rushed into the rivulet that meandered through the pass. General Wool had been struck by the capabilities of the spot for such a defence as the American army seemed likely to be called upon to make, when he advanced to Agua Nueva, and Taylor confirmed his opinion by selecting it as the place to make a stand against Santa Anna.
The Mexican army was found to be near at hand, on the 21st of February, which led to immediate arrangements on the part of our countrymen to meet the enemy. Santa Anna had dispatched two thousand cavalry, under General Minon, in a very circuitous route, to get into the rear of the Americans, threaten Saltillo, and cut off their retreat; at the same time, also, General Urrea had been sent in a circuit to the west of the road held by our troops, with about a thousand rancheros, to cooperate with Minon. General Taylor, on his part, placed a battery of eight guns under Captain Washington, and properly supported, so as to command the road through the gorge; on the right of the stream, behind the gullies, he planted two guns under Captain Bragg, with supports of infantry and horse; to the left, on the narrow plateau with its steep ravines, were posted two regiments of infantry, with two gans; and on the skirts of the mountains were riflemen and cavalry. Two guns under Captain Sherman were in reserve, and the principal part of the cavalry still further in the rear. Warren's and Webster's commands were intrusted with the defence of Saltillo and a redoubt near; and one gun, with two companies of riflemen, was left to defend the train and head-quarters. Thus Taylor's small force was reduced still smaller in the numbers that could be employed directly against the enemy, from the wide intervals between the points he had to hold, against the enemy's troops in front, on both flanks, and in his rear,
The Mexican commander divided his army into three columns; one of which was to carry Washington's battery and force the pass; the other two were to combine and turn Taylor's left; and, beside these, he had an excellent force in reserve. He had twenty guns, three of them twenty-four-pounders, three sixteens, and five twelve-pounders, with one seven-inch howitzer. Before commencing the attack, Santa Anna sent a flag of truce to General Taylor, assuring him that he would be crushed if he offered any resistance, and summoning him to an immediate surrender. This, of course, the heroic Taylor peremptorily declined.
The battle began on the afternoon of the 22d of February, in honor of which day the word was, "the memory of Washington," and a desultory fight was kept up till nightfall, when General Taylor departed for Saltillo, fearing for its safety, and Santa Anna endeavored to incite the ardor of his men by martial music. The attack was renewed at daybreak on the 23d of February, and though pressed with zeal and courage, was bravely me"t and sustained by our countrymen. The details we need not here enter into; we must refer to the historians of the Mexican war for particulars, from which it will be evident, that nothing short of the most determined bravery, and the most unflinching hardihood, could have enabled our troops to make head against, and defeat, an army of the size and capability of that under General Santa Anna. At one time, when the Mexican cavalry had succeeded in turning the left of the American lines, it seemed impossible to retrieve the fortune of the day; but, at this juncture, Taylor returned from Saltillo; his presence infused fresh vigor into the army; the impetuous riflemen of Mississippi drove back the enemy; the tide of victory was turned; and despite disasters of various kinds with the infantry, the artillery was so admirably worked and so effective, that, in fact, by it the Mexican advance was effectually stopped and the battle won. When night came, the field was covered with dead, and many an anxious hour was passed by Taylor and his men, waiting for the morrow, and preparing for a renewal of the fight. But, at dawn of day, on