J. G. (John Gideon) Millingen.

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Mai. Gen. commanding iheTexan volunteers.

Colonel Mississippi riflemen.

Maj. Gen. U. S. A. commanding.

Done at Monterey, Sep. 24, 1846.


Battle of BUENi VISTA,

Headquarters, Army of Occupation,
Agua Nueva, March 5, 1847.

Sir: I have the honor to submit a detailed report
of liic opcralion'i of the forces uiKlcr my command,
■which resulted in the engagement of Buena Vista,
the repulse of the Mexican army, and the re-occu-
pation of this position.

The information which reached me of the advance
nnd concentration of a heavy Mexican force in my
front, had assumed such a probable form, as to in-
duce a special examniation far beyond the reach of
our pickets, to ascertain its correctness. A small

party of Texan spies, under Major McCulloch, de-
spatched to the Hacienda of Encarnacion, 30 miles
from this, on the route to San Luis Potosi, had re-
ported a cavalry force of unknown strength at that
place. On the 20lh of February a strong recon-
noisance, under Lieut. Col. May, was despatched to
the Hacienda of Heclionda, while Major McCulloch
made another examination of Encarnacion. The re-
sults of these expeditions left no doubt that the enemy
was in large force at Encarnacion, under the orders
of General Santa Anna, and that he meditated a for-
ward movement and attack upon our position.

As the Camp of Agua Nueva could be turned on
either flank, and as the enemy's force was greatly
superior to our own, particularly in the arm of caval-
ry, 1 determined, after much consideration, to take
up a position about eleven miles in rear, and there
avvait the attack. The army broke up its camp and
marched at imon, on the 21st, encamping at the new
position a little in front of the Hacienda of Buena
Vista. With a small force I proceeded to Saltiilo,
to make some necessary arrangements for the de-
fence of the town, leaving Brig. Gen. Wool in the
immediate commind of the troops.

Before those arrangements were completed on the
morning of the 22d, I was advised that the enemy
was in sight, advancing. Upon reaching the ground
it was found liiat his cavalry advance was m our
front, having marched from Encarnacion, as we have
since learned, at 11 o'clock on the day previous, and
driving in a mounted force left at Agua Nueva to
cover the removal of public stores. Our troops were
in position, occupying a line of remarkable strength.
The road at this point becomes a narrow defile, the
valley on its right being rendered quite impracticable
for artillery by a system of deep and impassable gul-
lies, while on the left a succession of rugged ridges
and precipitous ravines, extends far back towards
the mountain which bounds the valley. The features
of the ground were such as nearly to paralyze the
artillery and cavalry of the enemy, while his infantry
could not derive all the advantage of its numerical
superiority. In this position we prepared to receive
hun. Captain Washington's battery (4th artillery)
was posted to command the road, while the Ist and
2d Illinois regiments, under Colonels Hardin and
Bissell, each eight companies, (to the latter of which
was attached Captain Conner's company of Texas
volunteers,) and the 2d Kentucky, under Colonel
McKee, occupied the crests of the ridges on the left
and in rear. The Arkansas and Kentucky regiments
of cavalry, commanded by Cols. Yell and H. Mar-
shall, occupied the extreme left near the base of the
mountain, while the Indiana brigade, under Brigadier
General Lane, (composed of the 2d and 3d regi-
ments, under Cols. Bowles and Lane,) the Missis-
sippi riflemen under Col. Davis, the squadrons of the
Isl and 2d dragoons under Capt. Sieen and Lieut.
Col. May, and the light batteries of Capts. Sherman
and Bragg, 3d artillery, were held in reserve. At
11 o'clock I received from General Santa Anna a
summons to surrender at discretion, which, with a
copy of my reply, 1 have already transmitted. The
enemy still forebore his attack, evidently wailing for
the arrival of his rear columns, which could be dis-
tinctly seen by our look-outs as they approached the
field. A demonstration made on his left caused me
to detach the 2d Kentucky regiment and a section of
artillery to our right, in which position they bivou-
acked for the night. In the mean time the J\lexican
light troops had engaged ours on the extreme left,
(composed of parts of the Kentucky and Arkansas



■cavalry dismounted, and a rifle battation from the

Indiana brigade, under Major Gorman, llie whole
commanded by Col. Marshall,) and kt;[)t up a sharp
fire, climbing the niounlain side, and apparently cn-
deavorins to gain our flank. Three pieces of Capt.
Washington's battery had been detached to the left,
;uid were supported by the 2d Indiana rcgiraeril. An
occasional shell was thrown by the enemy into this
part of our line, but without efi'ect. The skirmish-
ing of the light troops was kept up with trifling loss
on cur part until dark, when I became convinced
that no serious attack would bo made before the
morning, and returned with the Mississippi regiment
and sqiadron of 2d dragoons to Saltillo. The troops
bivouacked without fires, and laid upon their arms.
A body of cavalry, some 1,500 strong, had been visi-
ble all day in rear of the town, having entered the
valley through a narrow pass east of the city. This
cavalry, commanded by Gen. Minon, had evidently
been thrown in our rear to break up and harrassour
retreat, and perhaps make some attempt against the
town if practicable. The city was occupied by four
excellent companies of Illinois volunteers, under
Major Warren of tlie 1st regiment. A field-work,
which commanded most of the approaches, was gar-
risoned by Capt. Webster's comjiany, 1st artillery,
and armed with two 24-pound howitzers, while the
train and lieadquarter camp was guarded by two
companies Mississippi riflemen, under Capt. Rogers,
and a field-piece commanded by Capt. Shover, 2d
artillery. Having made these dispositions for the
protection of rhe rear, I proceedeil, on the morning
of the 23d, to Buena Vista, ordering forward all the
other available troops. The action had commenced
before ray arrival on the field.

During the evening and night of the 22d, the ene-
my had thrown a body of light troops on the moun-
tain side, with the purpose of outflanking our left;
and it was here that the action of the 23d com-
menced at an early hour. Our riflemen under Col.
Marshall, who had been reinforced by three compa-
nies under Major Trail, 2d Illinois volunteers, main-
tained their ground handsomely against a greatly su-
perior force, holding themselves under cover, and
using their weapons with deadly eftect. About 8
o'clock a strong demonstration was made against
the centre of our position, a heavy column moving
along the road. This force was soon dispersed by a
lew rapid and well-directed shots from Captain
Washington's battery. In the meantime the enemy
was concentrating a large force of infantry and
cavalry, under cover of the ridges, with the obvious
intention of forcing our left, which was posted on an
extensive plateau. The 2d Indi ina and Illinois regi-
ments formed this part of our line, the former cover-
ing three pieces of light artillery, under the orders
of Captain O'Urien — Brigadier General Lane being
in the immediate command. In order to bring his
men within effective range. General Lane ordered
the artillery and 2d In liana re^jimcnt forward. The
artillery advanced within musket range of a heavy
body of Mexican infantry, and was served against it
with great ettect, but without being able to check its
advance. The infantry ordered to its support had
fallen back in disorder, being exposed, as well as
the battery, not only to a severe fire of small arms
from the front, but also to a murderous cross fire of
grape and canister from a Mexican battery on the
left. Captain O'Brien found it impossible to retain
his position without support, but was only able to
withdraw two of his pieces, all the horses and can-
Honiers of the third piece being killed or disabled.

The 2d Indiana regiment, which had fallen hack as

stated, could not be rallied, and took no further part
in the action, except a handful of men, who, iindei
its gallant Colonel, Bowies, joined the Mississippi
regiment, and did good service, and those fugitives
who, at a later period in the day, assisted in defend-
ing the train and depot at Buena Vista. This por-
tion of our line having given way, and the enemy
appearing in overwhelming force against our lelt
flank, the light troops which had rendered such good
service on the mountain, were compelled to with-
draw, which they did, for the most part, in good or-
der. Many, however, were not rallied until they
reached the depot at Buena Vista, to the defence of
which they afterwards contributed.

Capt. Bissell's regiment, (2d Illinois,) which hod
been joined by a section of Captain Siierman's batte-
ry, had become completely outflanked, and was com-
pelled to fall back, being entirely unsupported. The
enemy was now pouring masses of infantry and ca-
valry along the base of the mountain on our left, and
was gaining our rear in gi'eat force. At this mo-
meiit, I arrived upon the field. The Mississippi re-
giment had been directed to the left before reaching
the position, and immediately came into action
against the Mexican infantry which had turned our
flank. The 2d Kentucky regiment and a section of
the artillery under Captain Bragg, had previously
been ordered from the right to reinforce our left, and
arrived at a most opportune moment. That regi-
ment, and a portion of the Isl Illinois, under Colonel
Hardin, gallantly drove the enemy, and recovered a
portion of the ground we had lost. The batteries
of Captains Sherman and Bragg were in position on
the plateau, and did much execution, not only in
front, but particularly upon the masses which had
gained our rear. Discovering that the enemy was
heavily pressing upon the Mississippi regiment, the
3d Indiana regiment, under Col. Lane, was despatch-
ed to strengthen that part of our line, which formed
a crotchet perpendicular to the first line of battle.
At the same time Lieut. Kilburn, with a piece of
Captain Bragg's battery, was directed to suppoitihe
infantry there engaged. The action was for a long
time warmly sustained at that point — the enemy
makmg several efTorts both with infantry and caval-
ry against our line, and being always repulsed with
heavy loss. I had placed all the regular cavalry
and Captain Pike's squadron of Arkansas horse un-
der the orders of Brevet Lieiilenanl Colonel May,
with directions to hold in check the enemy's column,
still advancing to the rear along the base of the
mountain, which was done in conjunction with the
Kentucky and Arkansas cavalry under Colonels Mar-
shall and Yell. In the meantimeour left, which was
still strongly threatened by a superior force, was fur-
ther strengthened by thedetachment of Capl.Brasg's
and a portion of Captain Sherman's batteries, to that
quarter. The concentration of artillery fire u|)on
the masses of the enemy along the base of the moun-
tain, and the determined resistance offered by the
two regiments opposed to them, had created confu-
sion in their ranks, and some of the corps attempted
to efi'ect a retreat upon their main line of battle.
The squadron of the 1st dragoons, under Lieutenant
Rncker, was now ordered up the deep ravine which
these retreating corps were endeavoring to cross, in
order to charge and disperse them. The squadron
proceeded to the point indicated, but could not ac-
complish the object, being exposed to a heavy fire
from a battery established to cover the retreat of
those corps. While the squadron was detached on



this service, a large body of the enemy was observed
to concentrate on our extreme left, apparently with
the view of making a descent upon the hacienda of
Buena Vista, where our train and baggage were de-
posited. Lieutenant Colonel May was ordered to the
support of that point, with two pieces of Capt Sher-
man's battery under Lieut. Reynolds. In the mean-
time the scattered forces near the hacienda, com-
posed in part of Majors Trail and Gorman's com-
mands, had been to some extent organized under tlie
advice of Major Muntroe, chief of artillery, with the
assistance of Major Morrison, volunteer staff, and
were posted to defend the position. Before our ca-
valry had reached the hacienda, that of the enemy
had make its attack, having been hand^omely met by
the Kentucky and Arkansas cavalry under Colonels
Marshall and Yell. The Mexican column immedi-
ately divided, one portion sweeping by the depot,
where it received a destructive fire from the force
which had collected there, and then gaining the
mountain opposite, under a fire from Lieut. Rey-
nold's section, the remaining portion regaining the
base of the mountain on our left. In the charge at
Buena Vista, Colonel Yell fell gallantly at the head
of his regiment ; we also lost Adjutant Vaughan, of
the Kentucky cavalry — a young officer of much
promise. Lieut. Col. May, who had been rejoined
by the squadron of the 1st dragoons and by portions
«f the Arkansas and Indiana troops under Lieut.
Col. Roane and Major Gorman, now approached the
base o( the mountam, holding in check the right
flank of the enemy, upon whose masses, crowded in
the narrow gorges and ravines, our artillery was do-
ing fearful execution.

The position of that portion of the Mexican army
which had gained our rear was now very critical,
and it seemed doubtful whether it could regain the
main body. At this moment I received from Gen.
Santa Anna a message by a staff officer, desiring to
know what I wanted.' I immediately despatched
Brigadier General Wool to the Mexican general-in-
chief, and sent orders to cease firing. Upon reach-
ing the Mexican lines, General Wool could not
cause the enemy to cease their fire, and accordingly
returned without having an interview. The extreme
right of the e:iemy contitmed its retreat along the
base of the mountain, and finally, in spite of all our
efforts, effected a junction with the remainder of the

During the day, the calvary of Gen. Minon had
ascended the elevated plain above Saltillo, and occu-
pied the road from the city to the field of battle,
where they intercepted several of our men. Ap-
proaching the town, they were fired upon by Capt.
Webster from the redoubt occupied by his company,
and then moved off towards the eastern side of the
valley, and obliquely towards Buena Vista. At this
time, Captain Siiover moved rapidly forward with
his piece, supported by a miscellaneous command of
mounted volunteers, and fired several shots at the
cavalry with great effect. They were driven into
the ravines which lead to the lower valley, closely
pursued by Captain Shover, who was further sup-
ported by a piece of Captain Webster's battery, un-
der Lieut. Donaldson, which had advanced from the
redoubt, supported by Captain Wheeler's company
Illinois volunteers. The enemy made one or two
efforts to charge the artillery, but was finally driven
back in a confused mass, and did not again appear
upon the plain.

In tlie meantime, the firing had partially ceased
upon the principal field. The enemy seemed to con-

fine his efforts to the protection of his artillery, and
I had left the plateau for a moment, when I was re-
called thither by a very heavy masketry fire. On
regaining that position, 1 discovered that our infantry
(Illinois and 2d Kentucky) had engaged a greatly
superior force of the enemy — evidently his reserves
— and that they had been overwhelmed by numbers.
The moment was most critical. Captain O'Brien,
with two pieces, had sustained this heavy charge to
the last, and was finally obliged to leave his guns on
the field — his infantry support being entirely routed.
Captain Bragg, who had just arrived from the left,
was ordered at once into battery. Without any in-
fantry to support liim, and at the imminent risk of
losing his guns, this officer came rapidly into action,
the Mexican line being but a few yards from the
muzzle of his pieces. The first discharge of canis-
ter caused the enemy to hesitate, the second and
third drove him bacU in disorder, and saved the day.
The 2d Kentucky regiment, which had advanced
beyond supporting distance m this affair, was driven
back and closely pressed by the enemy's cavalry.
Taking a ravine which led in the direction of Capt.
Washington's battery, their pursuers became ex-
posed to his fire, which soon checked and drove them
back with loss. In the meantime the rest of our ar-
tillery had taken position on the plateau, covered by
the Mississippi and 3d Indiana regiments, the former
of which had reached the ground in time to pour a
fire into the right flank of the enemy, and thus con-
tribute to his repulse. In this last conflict we had
the misfortune to sustain a very heavy loss. Colonel
Hardin, 1st Illinois, and Colonel McKee, and Lieut.
Colonel Clay, 2d Kentucky regiments, fell at this
time while gallantly heading their commands.

No further attempt was made by the enemy to
force our position^ and the approach of night gave
an opportunity to pay proper attention to the
wounded, and also to refresh the soldiers, who
had been exhausted by incessant watchfulness
and combat. Though the night was severely
cold, the troops were compeliexl for the most to
bivouack without fires, expecting that morning
would renew the conflict. During the night the
wounded were removed to Saltillo, and every pre-
paration made to receive the enemy should he
again attack our position. Seven fresh compa-
nies were drawn from the town, and Brig. Gen.
Marshall, who had made a forced march from the
Rinconado, with a reinforcement of Kentucky-
cavalry and four heavy guns, under Capt. Pren-
tiss, 1st artillery, was near at hand, when it was
discovered that the enemy had abandoned his po-
sition during the night. Our scouts soon ascer-
tained that he had fallen back upon Augua Nue-
va. The great disparity of numbers, and the ex-
haustion of our troops, redered it inexpedient and
hazardous to attempt pursuit. A staff officer was
despatched to Gen. Santa Anna to negotiate an
exchange of prisoners, Avhich was satisfactorily
completed on the following day. Our own dead
were collected and buried, and the Mexican
Avounded, of which a large number had been left
upon the field, were removed to Saltillo, and ren-
dered as comfortable as circumstances would per-

On the evening of the 2Gth, a close reconnois-
sance was made of the enemy's position, which
was fouad to be occnpied only by a small body of



cavalry, the infantry and artillery having retreated
in the direction of San Luis Potosi. On the 27th,
our troops resumed their former camp at Agua
Nueva, the enemy's rear guard evacuating the
place as we approached, leaving a considerable
number of wounded. It was my purpose to beat
up his quarters at Encarnacion early the next
morning, but upon examination, tlie weak condi-
tion of the cavalry horses rendered it unadvisable
to attempt so long a march without water. A
command was finally despatched to Encarnacion,
on the 1st of March, under Col. Belknap. Some
two hundred wounded, and about sixty Mexican
soldiers were found there, the army having passed
on in the direction of Matehuala, with greatly re-
duced numbers, and suflering nmch from hun-
ger. The dead and dying were strewed upon
the road and crowdetl the buildings of the ha-

The American force engaged in the action of
Buena Vista is shown by the accompanying field
report, to have been 334 officers, and 4,425 men,
exclusive of the small command left in and near
Saltillo. Of this number, two squadrons of ca-
valry, and three batteries of light artdlery, making
not more than 453 men, composed the only force
of regular troops. The strength of the Mexican
army is stated by Gen. Santa Anna, in his sum-
mons, to be 20,000 ; and that estimate is confirm-
ed by all the information since obtained. Our loss
is 267 killed, 456 wounded, and 23 missing. Of
the numerous wounded, many did not require
removal to the hospital, and it is hoped that a
■comparatively small number will be permanently
disabled. The Mexican loss in killed and wound-
ed may be fairly estimated at 1500, and will pro-
bably reach 2000. At least 500 of their killed
were left upon the field of battle. We have no
means of ascertaining the number of deserters and
dispersed men from their ranks, but it is known to
be very great.

Our loss has been especially severe in officers,
twenty-eight having been killed upon the field.
We have to lament the death of Capt. George
Lincoln, assisting adjutant general, serving on the
staff of Gen. Wool — a young officer of high bear-
ing and approved gallantry, wlio fell early in the
action. No loss falls more heavily upon the army
in the field than that of Cols. Hardin and McKee,
and Lieut. Col. Clay. Possessing in a remarkable
degree the confidence of their commands, and the
last two having enjoyed the advantage of a milita-
ry education, I had looked particularly to them for
support in case we met the enemy. I need not
say that their zeal in engaging the enemy, and
the cool and steadfast courage with which they
maintained their positions during the day fully
realized my hopes, and caused me to feel yet more
sensibly their untimely loss.

I perform a grateful duty in bringing to the no-
tice of the government the general good conduct
of the troops. Exposed for successive nights
without fires to the severity of the weather, they
were ever prompt and cheerful in the discharge of
every duty, and finally displayed conspicuous
steadiness and gallantry in repulsing at great odds

a disciplined foe. While the brilliant sucec-s
achieved by their arms releases me from the pain-
ful necessity of specifying many cases of bad con-
duct before the enemy, I feel an increased obliga-
tion to mention particular corps and officers,
whose skill, coolness, and gallantry in trying
situations and under a continued and heavy fire,
seem to merit particular notice.

To Brig. Gen. Wool my obligations are espe-
cially due. The high state of discipline and in-
struction of several of the volunteer regiments was
attained under his command, and to his vigilance
and arduous services before the action, and his
gallantry and activity on the field, a large share of
our success may justly be attributed. During
most of the engagement he was in immediate
command of the troops thrown back on our left
flank. I beg leave to recommend him to the fa-
vorable notice of the government. Brig. Gen.
Lane (slighdy wounded) was active and zealous
throughout the day, and displayed great coolness
and gallantry before the enemy.

The services of the light artillery, always con-
spicuous, were more than usually distinguished.
Moving rapidly over the roughest ground, it was
always in action at the right place and the right
time, and its well directed fire dealt destruction in
the masses of the enemy. While I recommend
to particular favor the gallant conduct and valua-
ble services of Major Monroe, chief of artillery,
and Capts. Washington, 4th artillery, and Sher-
man and Bragg, 3d artillery, commanding batte-
ries, I deem it no more than just to mention all the
subaltern officers. They were nearly all detach
ed at different times, and in every situation exhi-
bited conspicuous skill and gallantry. Captaia
O'Brien, Lieuts. Brent, Whiting and Couch, 4th
artillery, and Bryan, topographical engineers,
(slightly wounded,) were attached to Captain
Washington's battery. Lieuts. Thomas, Rey-
nolds and French, 3d artillery, (severely wound-
ed,) to that of Captain Sherman; and Capt. Sho-
ver and Lieut. Kilburn, 3d artillery, to that of
Capt. Bragg. Capt. Shover, in conjunction with
Lieut. Donaldson, 1st artillery, rendered gallant
and important service in repulsing the cavalry of
General Minon. The regular cavalry, under Lt.
Col. May, with which was associated Capt. Pike's
squadron of Arkansas horse, rendered useful ser-
vice in holding the enemy in check and in cover-
ing the batteries at several points. Captain Steen,
1st dragoons, was severely wounded early in the
day, while gallantly endeavoring, with my autho-
rity, to rally the troops which were falling to the

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Online LibraryJ. G. (John Gideon) MillingenThe Taylor text-book, or Rough and ready reckoner → online text (page 10 of 16)