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Doc. 55.-battle of Fort Craig, N. M: fought February 21, 1862.

In our issue of the twenty-second ult., we mentioned that the Texans had probably commenced a retreat South on the nineteenth, and that it was supposed they would not make battle in the vicinity of Fort Craig. This, however, has proved to be a mistake. Instead of making a general retreat, they only retired down the river six miles to a ford by which they could conveniently cross their forces to the east bank.

The crossing was effected on the nineteenth, and at an early hour of the twentieth they were observed to be marching up the east bank toward the Fort, but sufficiently distant from it to be outside of the range of the largest guns on the intrenchments. The distance which was observed by them apparently threw them among the sandhills through which the scouts had informed Col. Canby it was impossible for them to pass with their batteries, trains, etc. A closer inspection of the ground brought about the conviction that the scouts were much mistaken, and that the route which had been chosen by the Texans was practicable, and that unless they were intercepted they would gain the water above the Fort, obtain the advantage of position, and at the same time cut off communication from above. On the afternoon of the nineteenth, Col. Canby had ordered the Fifth, Seventh, and Tenth infantry under Capts. Selden and Wingate, and Cols. Carson's and Pino's regiments of volunteers to cross the river and occupy a position on an elevation opposite the Fort, which it was thought the enemy would attempt to obtain from which to shell the Fort. These forces remained on the east side of the river all night.

In the afternoon of the twentieth, the cavalry under Major Duncan, and Capt. McRae's battery were ordered across, and after some unavoidable delays, were brought into position on the Pedregal between the river and the enemy, and the volunteers were then ordered up to assume line of battle. At that time the Texans opened a heavy cannonade upon the battery and cavalry, under which the volunteers were attempted to be placed in order of battle, but which occasioned confusion in Col. Pino's regiment, and rendered it impossible to restore them to order, although Major Donaldson, Col. Pino, and other officers, did all it was in the power of men to do to quiet them. Col. Kit Carson's regiment observed good order during the cannonade. The whole force was so well protected by the elevations which intervened between it and the enemy, that the firing was harmless, no loss of life having been occasioned by it, and but one wounded slightly, by a splinter from a ball which struck a rock and broke.

In consequence of the unmanageable condition of Col. Pino's regiment, Col. Canby ordered a countermarch to the Fort, and all safely returned before night.

The Texans had now been from water a whole day, and their animals were suffering extremely from thirst. So exhausted had they become, that it was found necessary for some time to double teams in order to draw the wagons up the hills; finally they broke down completely, and toward night the wagons could not be moved. During the night and next morning our scouts captured over two hundred of the animals which broken away from the inefficient guard which had been placed over them, and were wandering in search of water. One wagon-master was taken prisoner during the morning of the twenty-first, who gave the above information in reference to the bad condition of the teams.

The loss of so many horses and mules made it necessary for the enemy to abandon a large number of their wagons in the morning, a large proportion of which was burned by our scouts. Some of the wagons contained provisions, but the wagons themselves, as we understand, were more loss to the Texans than the provisions and teams. Had the sequel been different from what it proved to be in the engagement on the twenty-first, a retreat on the part of the enemy would have been impossible, because of the absence of transportation. Without entering into the minutiae, the above is a general statement of the incidents of the nineteenth and twentieth, and which has its chief interest when taken in connection with what was to follow.

About eight o'clock in the morning of the twenty-first, Col. Canby ordered Col. Roberts with his cavalry, Col. Valdez's cavalry, Col. Carson's volunteers, and the Fifth, Seventh, and Tenth infantry, and Capt. McRae's and Lieut. Hall's batteries, to proceed up the west bank of the Rio Grande and prevent the Texans from reaching the water at the only point the river was accessible by the sloping bank. This position was about seven miles north of the Fort, and when Col. Roberts's command reached it, he found the enemy had anticipated his march and had gained the water first. Col. Roberts immediately opened the batteries upon them, at which they retreated with a loss of twenty-five or thirty killed and one cannon. The gun was dismounted by Capt. McRae, and was spiked and rendered useless before it was abandoned. When the enemy retired Col. Roberts's force crossed the river and took position on the east bank, where the fighting was kept up with varied success until Capt. McRae's battery was charged and taken.

After one, Col. Canby came on the field with his guard and staff, followed by Col. Pino's regiment of volunteers, and assumed command in person. Up to this hour the fighting had been done principally with the batteries; Capt. McRae with his battery occupying a position on the extreme left, and Lieut. Hall with two twenty-four pounders toward the right of the line. On the left flank there was a thick wood which skirted to within one hundred and fifty yards of the position [198] held by Capt. McRae's battery. In this wood numerous bodies of the enemy had been seen collecting for the space of an hour or an hour and a half, rather outside the range of the guns. The object of this not being known, and it being impossible to discover it from scouts, Col. Canby resolved to dislodge them from the shelter, and ordered the battery to be brought up to the edge of the wood for that purpose. Capt. McRae's battery, thus stationed, was to be supported by two companies of regulars and two companies of volunteers, which were arranged in a horizontal position to the left and behind the battery. Lieut. Hall's guns were to be supported by the cavalry and Col. Carson's regiment.

These arrangements having been completed, it was designed by Col. Canby to make an advance movement toward the enemy. Suddenly an exceedingly brisk rattle of musketry and other small arms was heard toward the right of the field; so loud and unexpected was it, that it attracted the general attention to that quarter, no one being able to comprehend why an occurrence of that character should take place there, and at that time. The object, however, was soon discovered to be a ruse on the part of the Texans to divert attention from the movements they were putting on foot for the batteries. About that time they began the charges, and such charges as they made are without a parallel in the history of ancient or modern warfare. The one against Lieut. Hall's battery was made by cavalry, and was successfully repulsed in the midst of great carnage. But the one upon Capt. McRae's cannot be described with language. The enemy advanced steadily on foot, armed principally with Colt's six-shooters. The iron hail through which they passed cut through their ranks, making in them frightful vacancies, but it had no other effect.

Volley after volley did the faithful and brave McRae discharge upon the advancing column, until it seemed that demons themselves could not withstand the effects of the death-messengers they sent forth. On, on, rolled the enemy in death's face, as it was belched from the cannon's mouth, until they had sent to their last long homes every one that manned the guns except one or two. They gone, the battery fell easily into the hands of the Texans, who had dared all to obtain it. We say that when the gunners were gone the battery fell into the hands of the enemy, because the support which was intended for it entirely failed. The regulars and volunteers to which we have referred, as having been detailed for that duty, could not be made to comply with it. In their flat position they remained until it was no longer safe, and then made a precipitate retreat for the river, into which they plunged, in spite of the urgent remonstrances and orders of Col. Canby and others, like so many scared cattle would have done. Capt. Lord's dragoons, too, failed to charge the enemy when commanded. We are told they were equally obstinate against command or entreaty from Major Donaldson; and no effort to rescue the battery from the peril into which they saw it falling was made.

Bravery and cowardice are seldom placed in such striking contrast as they were during this charge. With their dead companions in arms in heaps around them, and over which they had to climb to serve their pieces, the gallant McRae and his men stood at the post of duty and performed acts of heroism worthy Sparta's best days, until none of them were left to do more, while those who should have come to their rescue ingloriously fled, and many of them fell dead, pierced with balls of the enemy, received in the back.

When the battery was lost, the fate of the day was sealed in favor of the enemy, and our forces retired to Fort Craig in good order, always excepting the companies above referred to.

Col. Canby had in the engagement about one thousand five hundred men, consisting of regulars and volunteers. The force of the enemy under Col. Steele was from one thousand five hundred to two thousand. Our loss was, according to the best information, fifty or sixty killed, and about one hundred and forty wounded. The loss of the enemy is variously estimated at from one hundred to five hundred killed and wounded. The latter is, of course, based entirely upon surmise, and the correct number will not be known to us. We have heard nothing in regard to prisoners taken, except that Capt. Rossel, of the regulars, was taken by the Texans. His horse swamped while crossing the river, and he thus fell into their hands.

Throughout the engagement, Col. Canby acted with the greatest coolness and bravery, and was often seen in positions of the most imminent danger, encouraging the men to the performance of their duties, and giving necessary commands. At no time did he avoid the exposure of his person to the bullets of the enemy, when his presence among them was necessary. In all the trying scenes he proved himself a true soldier, and by his acts showed his devotion to the cause in which he is engaged.

Col. Roberts and Maj. Donaldson, too, have a good report to make for themselves. The deliberation and courage with which they conducted themselves on the field was generally observed and greatly admired.

The efficiency with which Major Duncan and Col. Carson supported Lieut. Hall's battery in the charge which was made upon it, attest the value of the services rendered by them. Lieut. Hall receives high commendation from those who witnessed his management of his battery, as do also those who assisted him.

Capt. McRae having passed from this stage of action, his name having been recorded among those of the world's heroes, and his memory enshrined in the hearts of his countrymen, we will not here attempt to add even a spark to the lustre of a fame early won and to be worn throughout time. His lieutenants, Michler and Bell, stood by the brave captain until all was lost beyond redemption.

The former was killed — the latter escaped with a very slight wound.

Lieutenants Anderson and Nicodemus are said [199] to have acted with great gallantry. The former had his horse shot under him by a cannon-ball, but fortunately escaped without personal injury.

There may be some officers who were engaged in the action, the omission of whose names here would be an act of injustice, and if such should be the case, it arises from the fact that they have not been reported to us, and not from any design on our part.

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