Chapter 1:

  • Birth and parentage
  • -- early education -- West Point -- enters the army -- services in the Mexican War

The name of McClellan, common in many parts of the United States, is borne by the descendants of a Scotch family, the head of which was Lord Kirkcudbright. The last nobleman of this name died April 19, 1832, when the title became extinct. Three brothers of the name emigrated to America about the middle of the last century. One went to Maine, one to Pennsylvania, and one to Connecticut: from the last of these the subject of this memoir is descended.

George Brinton McClellan was born in Philadelphia, December 3, 1826. He was the third child and second son of Dr. George McClellan, a distinguished physician, a graduate of Yale College, and the founder of Jefferson College, who died in May, 1846. His mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Brinton, is still living. The eldest son, Dr. J. H. B. McClellan, is a physician in Philadelphia; [10] and the youngest, Arthur, is a captain in the army, attached to the staff of General Wright.

The first school to which George was sent was kept by Mr. Sears Cook Walker, a graduate of Harvard College in 1825, and a man of distinguished scientific merit, who died in January, 1853. He remained four years under Mr. Walker's charge, and from him was transferred to a German teacher, named Schipper, under whom he began the study of Greek and Latin. He next went to the preparatory school of the University of Pennsylvania, which was kept by Dr. Crawford, and in 1840 entered the University itself, where he remained two years. He was a good scholar, and held a high rank in his class, both at school and in college; but he was not a brilliant or precocious lad. His taste was for solid studies: he made steady but not very rapid progress in every thing he undertook, but he had not the qualities of mind that make the show-boy of a school.

In June, 1842, he entered the Military Academy at West Point, being then fifteen years and six months old. He went there in obedience to his general inclination for a military life. He had no particular fondness for mathematical studies, and was not aware that they formed so large a part of the course of instruction at the Academy. Having a modest estimate of his own powers and attainments, it was a source of surprise as well as pleasure to him to find, at the examination in January, 1843, that he was coming out one of the best scholars in the class. [11]

The Academy was at that time under the charge of Colonel De Russey. Among his classmates were several persons who have served with distinction in the army of the United States, as well as some whose mistaken sense of duty led them at the breaking out of the civil war into the ranks of the Confederates. Among these latter was that remarkable man, Thomas Jonathan Jackson, better known by his far-renowned name of Stonewall Jackson, who in his brief military career seems to have combined all the dash and brilliancy of one of Prince Rupert's Cavaliers, with the religious enthusiasm of one of Cromwell's Ironsides.

Young McClellan was a little under the prescribed age when he entered the Academy; but his manly character and sound moral instincts were a sufficient protection against the dangers incident to all places of education away from the pupil's own home, and from which the vigilant care and absolute power of the Government cannot entirely guard the young men committed to its charge at West Point. He showed at the start a more careful intellectual training than most of the youths admitted to the Academy. His conduct and bearing throughout his whole course were unexceptionable. His deportment then, as always, was singularly free from that self-assertion which is frequently seen, but not always pardoned, in men of superior powers. He showed perseverance, a strong will, and resolute habits of application. His acquisitions were not made without hard work, but, when made, they were securely held. At the close of [12] the course at West Point, he stood second in general rank in the largest class which had ever left the Academy. In Engineering and Geology he was first. The highest scholar in the class was Charles G. Stewart, now a major of engineers. He came out first because he was more uniformly strict in complying with the rules and regulations of the Academy, as well as more attentive to its regular studies.

McClellan was graduated in the summer of 1846, before he had completed his twentieth year. Few young men have ever left West Point better fitted by mental discipline and solid attainments for the profession of arms than he. He had also a precious gift of nature itself, in that sound health and robust constitution which are large elements of success in every department of life, but without which distinction in a military career is almost hopeless. He was of middle height, and his frame was well proportioned, with broad shoulders and deep chest. His muscular strength and activity were very great, and all manly exercises came easy to him. He was patient of heat and cold, capable of severe and long-continued application, and able to sustain fatigues and exposures under which most men would have broken down. Such he was at the age of twenty, and such he is now. Aided by strictly temperate habits, his body has always been the active and docile servant of his mind. In all the toils and exposures of his military life, in sickly climes and at sickly seasons, he has preserved uninterrupted good health. He [13] could to-day discharge with ease the duties of a common soldier in any arm of the service; and in the shock of encountering steel, few men would be more formidable, whether on horseback or on foot.

At the close of his student-life, a new impulse had been given to the military spirit of the country, and of the army especially, by the breaking out, a few weeks previously, of the Mexican War. The brilliant victories of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma (May 8 and 9, 1846), gained against immense odds, had shed new lustre upon American arms, and opened to the officers of the army the prospect of a more congenial and animating employment than the dreary monotony of a frontier post or a harbor fort. McClellan went at once into active service as brevet second lieutenant of engineers, and was assigned to duty as junior lieutenant of a company of sappers and miners1 [14] then in the course of organization at West Point, under charge of Captain A. J. Swift. The first lieutenant was G. W. Smith, now a general in the service of the Confederate States. Captain Swift had studied the subject in Europe; and he instructed his lieutenants, and the latter drilled and exercised the men. The summer was spent in training the company, and in preparing their equipments and implements. It was a branch of service till that time unknown in our country, as since the peace of 1815 our army had had no practical taste of war, except in an occasional brush with the Indians, where the resources of scientific warfare were not called into play.

The duties in which Lieutenant McClellan now found himself engaged were very congenial to him, and he devoted himself to them with characteristic ardor and perseverance. In a letter written in the course of the summer to his brother, Dr. McClellan, with whom his relations have always been of the most affectionate and confidential nature, he says, “I am kept busy from eight in the morning till dinner-time. After dinner, I have to study sapping and mining until the afternoon drill, after which I go to parade. After tea, we (Captains Swift, Smith, and myself) generally have a consultation. Then I go to tattoo. The amount of it is that we have to organize by the 1st of September the first corps of engineer troops that have [15] ever been in the country. The men are perfectly raw, so that we have to drill them; and we are now (to-day) commencing the practical operations to prepare us for the field. Smith and I have been in the woods nearly all the morning, with the men, cutting wood for fascines, gabions, &c. We have now fifty men, and fine men they are too. I am perfectly delighted with my duties.”

Lieutenant McClellan sailed with his company, seventy-one strong, from New York, early in September, 1846, for Brazos Santiago, and arrived there immediately after the battle of Monterey. They then moved to Camargo, where they remained for some time. Thence they were transferred to Matamoras in November, and from this point started on their march to Victoria, under the orders of General Patterson. Before leaving Matamoras, Captain Swift was taken ill, and the company was left under command of Lieutenant Smith.

At Victoria the company joined the forces under General Taylor, and were assigned to the division of regulars under command of General Twiggs, with whom, in January, 1847, they marched to Tampico. The distance from Matamoras to Tampico is about two hundred miles. The intervening country is unfavorable for the march of an army; and every thing necessary for the support of the troops had to be carried with them. The sappers and miners found frequent occasion for the exercise of their skill in making and repairing roads and bridges. They did excellent service, and were assisted [16] by men detailed from other corps, for that purpose, from time to time.

The company arrived at Tampico in the latter part of January, and remained there about a month, and then sailed for Vera Cruz. They landed, March 9, with the first troops which were disembarked, and immediately began to take an active part in all the operations of the siege. The officers and men did a large part of the reconnoitring necessary to determine the plan of the siege, the officers reporting immediately to Colonel Totten, the chief of engineers, and executing in detail the works subsequently prescribed by orders from Headquarters. The corps of engineers, including the company of sappers and miners, encountered great difficulties in drawing the lines of investment and in constructing batteries, arising from the nature of the ground, which was broken into innumerable hills of loose sand, with dense forests of chapparal between. In common with all the troops, they suffered from scarcity of water and the excessive heat of the weather. But nothing could exceed the zeal of the officers or the cheerful obedience of the men. Their valuable services were duly recognized by the able and accomplished chief of the department of the service to which they were attached, as appears by a letter addressed to the commander-in-chief, as follows:--

camp Washington, before Vera Cruz, March 28, 1847.
Sir:--Before leaving camp with the despatches in which you inform the President of the United States of [17] the brilliant success which has attended your attack upon this city and the Castle of San Juan d'ulloa, I seize a moment to solicit your attention to the merits and services of the officers of engineers who have been engaged in that attack.

If there be any thing in the position, form, and arrangement of the trenches and batteries, or in the manner of their execution, worthy of commendation, it is due to the ability, devotion, and unremitting zeal of these officers. By extraordinary and unsparing efforts, they were enabled, few as they were, to accomplish the work of many; and, so far as the success of your operations before this city depended on labors peculiar to their corps, no words of mine can overrate their services.

The officers thus engaged are Major John L. Smith, Captains R. E. Lee and John Sanders, First Lieutenants J. L. Mason, P. G. T. Beauregard, and I. I. Stevens, Second Lieutenants Z. B. Tower and G. W. Smith, Brevet Second Lieutenants G. B. McClellan and J. G. Foster.

The obligation lies upon me also to speak of the highly meritorious deportment and valuable services of the sappers and miners attached to the expedition. Strenuous as were their exertions, their number proved to be too few, in comparison with our need of such aid. Had their number been fourfold greater, there is no doubt the labors of the army would have been materially lessened and the result expedited.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Jos. G. Totten, Colonel and Chief Engineers. Major-General W. Scott, Commanding the Army of the United States, Mexico,

The city of Vera Cruz and Castle of San Juan d'ulloa were surrendered to the American forces [18] on the 29th day of March, 1847, the articles of capitulation having been signed two days before. On the 8th of April, the army, with the exception of a regiment of infantry left behind to serve as a garrison, began its march into the interior, numbering in all about eight thousand five hundred men. They were soon made to feel that their path of progress was not without difficulties and dangers. At Cerro Gordo, sixty miles from Vera Cruz, a Mexican army, thirty-five thousand strong, under the command of General Santa Anna, was found posted in a mountain-pass, a position of great natural strength, fortified and defended by powerful batteries, bristling with cannon. But, in spite of superior numbers and of almost impregnable defences, the enemy's position was assaulted and carried, and his forces utterly routed, on the 18th of April, by the American army, in one of the most brilliant battles on record, in which the skilful plans of the commander-in-chief were carried out and crowned with success by the zeal and energy of all the subordinate officers and the splendid courage of the men. The company of sappers and miners had reached the place on the day before the battle, and shared in the dangers and honors of the field. Lieutenant McClellan, with ten of his men, was with General Pillow's brigade on the left, with directions to clear away the obstacles in front of the assaulting columns. This was a service of no common danger, as the heavy and well-served Mexican batteries in front swept the space before them with a most destructive [19] fire, under which Pillow's command, mostly composed of volunteers, reeled and fell into confusion. General Pillow, in his official report to the commander-in-chief, says, “Lieutenants Tower and McClellan, of the Corps of Engineers, displayed great zeal and activity in the discharge of their duties in connection with my command.”

After the battle of Cerro Gordo, Lieutenant McClellan accompanied the advance corps under General Worth on the march to Puebla, passing through Jalapa and Perote, and arriving at Amozoque, a small town twelve miles from Puebla, on the 13th of May. Our officers did not dream of finding any portion of the enemy here, and the usual precautions adopted to guard against surprise were somewhat relaxed. On the morning of the 14th, the soldiers were busily occupied in cleaning their arms and accoutrements, in order that they might enter Puebla in good trim, when a drummer-boy, who had strayed in advance of the pickets, ran in and gave the alarm that the enemy was approaching in force. The staff-officers mounted and galloped to the front, and discovered the advance of a body of Mexican lancers from twenty-five hundred to three thousand in number. The long roll at once called the troops to arms, and the different regiments were quickly paraded. Lieutenant McClellan, who was in a house on the side of the town nearest the enemy, at once sprang upon his horse and rode out to observe them. After riding a few hundred yards, at the turn of a street he came upon a Mexican captain of cavalry [20] riding into the town to reconnoitre. Each was alone, and both were armed with sabres and pistols. The Mexican officer turned; but his opponent, being better mounted, pursued, overtook him, and compelled him to surrender. The two went back together, and, while on their way, the Mexican officer suddenly put spurs to his horse and attempted to draw his pistol; but Lieutenant McClellan caught him again, and gave him to understand that if he renewed the attempt to escape, he should be obliged to put a bullet through him. After this the two rode together quietly, and Lieutenant McClellan surrendered his prisoner to his commanding officer. The Mexican cavalry were checked by the well-served guns of our artillery, and retired without doing us any damage.

At Puebla a pause of several weeks was made in the progress of the army, in order that its numbers might be increased by reinforcements and that due preparations might be made for a march upon the city of Mexico. And here seems a fitting place to introduce that portion of the official annual report of Colonel Totten to the Secretary of War in which he speaks of the services of the company of sappers and miners and their officers, though it was not drawn up until a somewhat later period:--

The law adding the company of sappers, miners, and pontonniers (otherwise called engineer soldiers) to the Corps of Engineers, was passed on the 15th of May, 1846. On the 11th of October following, this company, seventy-two strong, landed at Brazos [21] Santiago; having in the interim been enlisted by great exertions on the part of several engineer officers, and been organized and drilled by Captain A. J. Swift and Lieutenants G. W. Smith and McClellan, of the Corps of Engineers. The captain being disabled by sickness at Matamoras, Lieutenant Smith led the company, as part of Major-General Patterson's division, in the march from that place to Tampico,--a march in which the services of the company, constantly in advance and engaged in removing impediments and making the road practicable, were of great value. The company landed with the first line on the beach at Vera Cruz, being then again under the command of Captain Swift; who, in his desire to lead in its dangers and toils, strove nobly, but vainly, against an inexorable disease. A too ardent sun prostrated him at once, depriving the country of his services at a moment when his high and peculiar attainments would have been of the greatest value. During the siege of Vera Cruz, I was a witness to the great exertions and services of this company, animated by, and emulating, the zeal and devotion of its excellent officers, Lieutenants Smith, McClellan, and Foster. Since the surrender of that place, we have no official accounts giving the particular employments or engagements of the company. We know only that it has been on the march with General Scott's army to the city of Mexico. I will venture to say, however, that the opportunities of that service have been profited of, by the sergeants and rank and file, as well as by the [22] commissioned officers, to display the highest qualities as soldiers, demonstrating, at the same time, the great advantage to armies, however engaged in the field, of possessing troops well grounded in the peculiar exercises of engineer soldiers.

On the 7th of August the American army, numbering not quite eleven thousand men, began their march from Puebla, starting upon an enterprise which would have been pronounced extremely rash had it not been crowned with success, but which, having been successful, ranks among the most daring and brilliant in the annals of war. A mere handful of men, volunteers and regulars, undertook to capture a city of nearly two hundred thousand inhabitants, strong in its natural defences, and protected by numerous works, constructed by able engineers, in conformity with the most approved rules of military science. Around it was distributed an army of thirty-five thousand men, composed of regular troops and volunteers, and comprising artillery, cavalry, and infantry. These were by no means despicable soldiers, and they often fought with a courage which extorted the respect of their enemies. Their artillery in particular was well served and effective, as our troops often learned to their cost. The weak points in the Mexican army were the want of courage and want of capacity in its officers, just as the weak point in the civil history of that unhappy country has been the want of rulers who were at once honest and able. Had the Mexican officers been men and soldiers like our own, history might have [23] had a different record to make upon the event of the Mexican War.

Lieutenant McClellan's company of sappers and miners was attached to the second division of regulars, under command of General Twiggs, which formed the advance of the army. Soon after leaving Puebla, they were joined by General Scott, the commander-in-chief. Our troops entered the Valley of Mexico on the 10th, and General Scott fixed his Headquarters for the time at Ayotla, a village on the northeastern edge of the Lake of Chalco, about nine miles east of the fortified position of El Peñon, which was carefully reconnoitred on the 12th and its great strength fully discovered. On the next day, another reconnoissance was pushed upon the route by Mexicalcingo. This was pronounced by General Scott, the most daring reconnoissance of the whole war, as the small corps of observation was obliged to pass close by the strong position of El Peñon and to leave it for a considerable space in the rear. In both of these reconnoissances Lieutenant McClellan took part; and in one of them he was saved from probable death or captivity at the hands of about a dozen Mexican lancers by Lieutenant Beauregard and three dragoons.

When, in consequence of the great strength of the defences at El Peñon, the project of advancing upon Mexico by the great road from Puebla, and assaulting it upon the eastern side, was abandoned, and it was determined to march round the southern shore of Lake Chalco and attack the city on [24] the south and west, the company of sappers and miners was transferred to General Worth's division, which now took the lead, and the company moved at its head to San Augustin, occasionally repairing the roads as far as was practicable. As soon as General Santa Anna learned this movement of the American forces, he withdrew the greater portion of his troops, with several pieces of artillery, from El Peñon and Mexicalcingo, where he had been expecting the first shock of battle, and, establishing his Headquarters at the hacienda (hamlet) of San Antonio, began to labor upon the lines of defence in that vicinity.

On the morning of the 18th, General Worth's division was moved forward a couple of miles on the causeway leading from San Augustin to San Antonio, and took up its position in front of the latter place, the men encamping on both sides of the road. Here a careful reconnoissance was made of the defences of San Antonio, in which Lieutenant McClellan took part. His company was then transferred to General Twiggs's division, and moved at its head, across the Pedregal, to Contreras. During the first day of the battle of Contreras (August 19), Lieutenant McClellan, while reconnoitring, ran into a Mexican regiment, and had his horse shot under him by a musket-ball. On the same day, while posting Magruder's battery, he had another horse killed under him by a round shot. Still later, while in temporary command of a section of the same battery whose officer had been mortally wounded, he was knocked down [25] by a grape-shot which struck plump upon the hilt of his sword. “StonewallJackson, who belonged to Magruder's battery, relieved Lieutenant McClellan from command of the section, and the latter then took charge for some time of a battery of mountain-howitzers whose officer had been wounded, and, after a day of severe toil and great exposure, rejoined his company, which was at San Geronimo, a small village on the western edge of the Pedregal,2 a little north of Contreras.

At a very early hour the next morning (August 20) the intrenched camp of General Valencia at Padierna was stormed and carried at the point of the bayonet by the left wing of the American army, under the command of General P. F. Smith. This was the battle of Contreras, of which General Scott says, in his official report, “I doubt whether a more brilliant or decisive victory — taking into view ground, artificial defences, batteries, and the extreme disparity of numbers, without cavalry or artillery on our side — is to be found on record.” In this battle Lieutenant McClellan's company of sappers and miners led General Smith's brigade of regulars in its attack on the flank of the enemy, and is thus mentioned in the report already quoted from:--“In the mean time, [26] Smith's own brigade, under the temporary command of Major Dimmick, following the movements of Riley and Cadwallader, discovered opposite to and outside of the works a long line of Mexican cavalry, drawn up as a support. Dimmick, having at the head of the brigade the company of sappers and miners under Lieutenant Smith, engineer, who had conducted the march, was ordered by Brigadier-General Smith to form line faced to the enemy, and, in a charge against a flank, routed the cavalry.”

In the reports of the officers immediately commanding, honorable mention is made of Lieutenant McClellan and his corps. General Twiggs says, “Lieutenant G. B. McClellan, after Lieutenant Callender was wounded, took charge of and managed the howitzer battery (Lieutenant Reno being detached with the rockets) with judgment and success, until it became so disabled as to require shelter. For Lieutenant McClellan's efficiency and gallantry in this affair, I present his name for the favorable consideration of the general-in-chief.” And again, “To Lieutenant G. W. Smith, of the engineers, who commanded the company of sappers and miners, I am under many obligations for his services on this and many other occasions. Whenever his legitimate duties with the pick and spade were performed, he always solicited permission to join in the advance of the storming-party with his muskets, in which position his gallantry, and that of his officers and men, was conspicuously displayed at Contreras as well as Cerro Gordo.” [27]

General P. F. Smith, in his report, says, “Lieutenant G. W. Smith, in command of the engineer company, and Lieutenant McClellan, his subaltern, distinguished themselves throughout the whole of the three actions. Nothing seemed to them too bold to be undertaken, or too difficult to be executed; and their services as engineers were as valuable as those they rendered in battle at the head of their gallant men.”

General Smith, it will be noticed, speaks of “three actions” in which the officers of the company of sappers and miners distinguished themselves. These include the battle of Churubusco, which was fought on the same day (August 20) with the battle of Contreras, and in which the company took part, both in the preliminary reconnoissances and in the conflict itself.

After the battles of Contreras and Churubusco, hostilities were suspended by an armistice which lasted till September 7. On the 8th the severe and bloody battle of Molino del Rey was fought, at which Lieutenant McClellan was not present. On the 13th the Castle of Chapultepec was taken by assault, in which also he did not take part, but during the night of the 11th, and on the 12th, he built and armed, mostly in open daylight and under a heavy fire, one of the batteries whose well-directed and shattering fire contributed essentially to the success of the day.

Immediately after the fall of Chapultepec, and on the same day, the company of sappers and miners was ordered to the front, and took the lead [28] of General Worth's division in one of the most difficult and dangerous movements of the assault upon the city of Mexico,--the attack of the San Cosme garita, or gate. Of the nature of the important services performed by the company and its officers at this point, and also after the capture of the city, a correct notion may be formed from the statement contained in the report of Major J. L. Smith, of the Engineer Corps:--

Lieutenant G. W. Smith, commanding the sappers, arrived on the ground some time after this, while our troops were in front of the battery at the garita,--the other batteries on the road up to that point having been carried. Being the senior engineer present, he was ordered to reconnoitre in front and ascertain the state of the enemy's forces, and particularly whether it would be necessary to move our heavy artillery forward. lie reported his opinion that the advancing of the heavy pieces should be suspended, and that the sappers should advance under cover of the houses, by openings made in the walls of contiguous houses; and, this being approved, he proceeded, in the manner proposed, until he reached a three-story house about forty yards from the battery, and was enabled from the roof to open a fire upon the battery which drove away the enemy's troops, who in their retreat succeeded in carrying away one of the guns. Part of his force then descended to the road to secure the battery, but was anticipated by a body of our troops, which entered on the right as the sappers were about entering on the loft. The sappers [29] were then moved forward until they reached strong positions on both sides of the rear, capable of affording shelter to our troops, although the enemy occupied in force a large convent, one hundred and fifty yards in advance, and had batteries on the next cross-street. These facts being reported, a brigade was sent to occupy the strong positions referred to, and at ten P. M. further operations were suspended for the night.

At three o'clock next morning, a party of the sappers moved to the large convent in advance, and found it unoccupied. Lieutenant McClellan advanced with a party into the Alameda, and reported at daylight that no enemy was to be seen. The sappers then moved forward, and had reached two squares beyond the Alameda, when they were recalled. The company during the day, until three P. M., were engaged in street-fighting, and particularly in breaking into houses with crowbars and axes. In this service they killed a number, and made prisoners of many suspicious persons.

Lieutenant McClellan had command of the company for a time in the afternoon, while Lieutenant Smith was searching for powder to be used in blowing up houses from which our troops had been hired upon, contrary to the usages of war. During this time, while advancing the company, he reached a strong position, but found himself opposed to a <*>arge force of the enemy. He had a conflict with <*>his force, which lasted some time; but the advantage afforded by his position enabled him at [30] length to drive it off, after having killed more than twenty of its number.

A few words may here be added, to explain a little more in detail the proceedings of the sappers and miners in making their way through the houses to which Major Smith refers. At the gate of the city a powerful and well-served battery swept the street with continued discharges of grape-shot, so that it was impossible to move down directly in front of it. The problem was to take the battery or to drive the Mexicans from their guns. The houses on both sides were built mostly in continuous blocks, with an occasional interval or vacant lot. The walls of the houses were of adobe, or light volcanic stone. The operation of breaking through them was thus conducted. A detachment of the sappers and miners, led by an officer, entered a house at the outer end of the street, with the proper tools and implements, and made a breach in the party or division wall large enough for a man to go through to the next house, and so on successively. Lieutenant McClellan led the party on one side of the street. It was a highly dangerous service, as. every house had Mexican soldiers in it, and there was continuous fighting until the Americans drove out the occupants. It was Lieutenant McClellan's duty — or at least he considered it to be so — to pass first into the opening. In one instance, where it was necessary to cross a vacant space between two houses which did not join, he nearly lost his life by falling into a ditch of stagnant water. The party at length forced their way through the houses till they [31] reached those which overlooked the battery, and where they could fire upon the Mexicans who manned the guns. These having been shot or driven away, the Americans descended from the houses, took the guns, and turned them on the gate, which was forced, and the city entered.

On the 14th day of September, 1847, General Scott, with six thousand five hundred men, the whole of his effective army remaining in the field, entered and took possession of the city of Mexico. With the exception of a few slight skirmishes, this was the close of the war in that part of the country.

1 Sappers and miners form a part of the Corps of Engineers. They are employed in building and repairing permanent fortifications, in raising field redoubts and batteries, in making gabions and fascines, in digging trenches and excavating galleries of mines during sieges, and also in forming bridges of rafts, boats, and pontoons. Their duties require higher qualities, mental and physical, than those of the common soldier. A sapper and miner must have a strong frame, a correct eye, steady nerves, and a certain amount of education. It may be well to add, for the benefit of civilians, that gabions are baskets made of twigs, which are filled with earth and used as screens against an enemy's fire; that fascines are bundles of twigs, fagots, and branches of trees which are used to fill up ditches, form parapets, &c.; and that pontoons are a kind of flat-bottomed boat carried along with an army for the purpose of making temporary bridges.

2 The Pedregal is a field of broken lava, about nine miles south of Mexico, nearly circular in form, and about two miles in diameter, entirely impracticable for cavalry or artillery except by a single mule-path, and only practicable for infantry at a few points.

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