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[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

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John J. McRae (5)
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