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Chapter 25: the storming of Monterey-report of Mr. Davis.

Professor William Preston Johnston, the son of the distinguished General Albert Sidney Johnston, in the life of his father, furnishes another account of the storming of Monterey, written by Mr. Davis in a private letter.

The Professor thus quotes:

The first attack was made on Fort Taneria, a stone building covered by a low and hastily constructed redoubt. Twigg's brigade, led by Colonel Garland, was in advance, and, after a brief attempt, was moved out to the right in a cornfield. Then the Tennesseeans and Mississippians moved up. The former were brought into line to the left of the redoubts, the Mississippians on their right, and in front of the work. The firing commenced on our side, and was continued on that of the enemy. In the redoubts musketeers lined the breastworks between the pieces of artillery, and, on the flat roof of the Taneria, musketeers in large numbers fired over the heads of men in [298] the redoubt. After firing a few minutes it was perceptibly our best policy to storm the covering work, and I ordered my men to advance. Lieutenant--Colonel McClung had been the captain of the company raised in the Tombigbee Valley, and which was on the left of the centre. He sprang up before it and called out, ‘ Tombigbee boys, follow me! ’ The whole regiment moved forward-that company most rapidly-and Lieutenant-Colonel McClung and Lieutenant Patterson first sprang upon the breastwork. The Mexicans ran hastily out of the redoubt to the stone building in the rear; and we pursued them so closely that I reached the gate as they were closing it, and, jumping against it, forced it open. The cry immediately went up of surrender, and the officer supposed to be in command advanced and delivered his sword.

After the capture of the redoubts and the Fort Taneria, I followed the flying Mexicans with a large part of my regiment to attack the Fort El Diablo, and when near to it was ordered back by General Quitman, the brigade commander and director of our division. It was behind a long wall and under cross-fire of the artillery of the enemy's salients on our left. I approached General Johnston and told him I had been recalled when about to take the salient on our left; that we were uselessly [299] exposed where we were, and said, ‘ If not to the left, then let the right salient be attacked.’ He answered with his usual calm manner and quick perception: ‘ We cannot give any orders; but if you will move your regiment to the right place, the rest may follow you.’ I moved off, across a small stream, and through a field, to the front of the tete de point, which covered the front of the Purissima Bridge, where I met Captain Field, of the United States Infantry, with his company, and Colonel Mansfield, of the United States Engineers. Under their advice a plan was formed for immediate attack; and while we were making the needful dispositions, General Hamer, who had, in the meantime, succeeded to the command of the division-General Butler having been wounded-came up with his command, and ordered me to retire. Both Colonel Mansfield and I remonstrated with him, and endeavored to show him the importance of our position. He was not convinced, but persisted in his own view. My men were withdrawn from the several points assigned to them, but before this could be done the division had gone a considerable distance. Captain Field withdrew with me, and was killed, while crossing the open field, by fire from the main fort. The field was inclosed by a high fence made of chaparral bushes, [300] beaten down between upright posts. My regiment (the First Mississippi) was following the movement of the division, and some distance in the rear, when the Mexican lancers, seeing the movement from off the field of battle, came from the direction of the Black Fort, and, passing behind the column to a place where the fence was old and low, leaped into the cornfield and commenced slaughtering stragglers and wounded men. I halted my regiment, formed line to the rear, and advanced on the enemy, firing. The effect of this attack was the sudden flight of the lancers, leaving a number of killed and wounded, their leader being of the killed. General Johnston afterward spoke of it as a remarkable event in war.

During the passage through the cornfield General Hamer moved on until he reached a point where the fence was too high to be crossed by horsemen. A deep irrigating ditch was before them, and the lancers in their rear. Your father told me that the signs were such as precedes a rout, and he felt that his hour was near. His only weapon was a sword I had received from the commanding officer when we burst open the gate of Fort Taneria and received the surrender of the garrison, which I subsequently handed to him. Other reliance had he none. Just then, he said, he [301] heard some one giving orders in tones welcome and familiar to his ears, and saw the Mississippi Riflemen formed and advancing on the enemy. 1

On the third day after the attack commenced the enemy announced a willingness to surrender on terms, and General Taylor appointed three commissioners, viz., Governor Henderson, of Texas, General Worth, of the United States Army, and Colonel Davis, Mississippi Rifles, to meet a like number who should be appointed by the Mexican General, Ampudia, to arrange the terms of capitulation, which were as follows:

Terms of the capitulation of the City of Monterey, the capital of Nueva Leon, agreed upon by the Undersigned commissioners, to wit: General Worth, of the United States army, General Henderson, of the Texan Volunteers, and Colonel Davis, of the Mississippi Riflemen, on the part of Major-General Taylor, commander-in-chief of the United States forces; and General Requena and General Ortego, of the army of Mexico, and senior Manuel M. Llano, Governor of Nueva Leon, on the part of Sefior-General Don Pedro Ampudia, commander-in-chief of the army of the North of Mexico.

[302] Article 1. As the legitimate result of the operations before this place, and the present position of the contending armies, it is agreed that the city, the fortifications, the cannon, the munitions of war, and all other public property, with the undermentioned exceptions, be surrendered to the commanding general of the United States forces now at Monterey.

Article 2. That the Mexican forces be allowed to retain the following arms, to wit: The commissioned officers, their side-arms, the infantry, their arms and accoutrements; the cavalry, their arms and accoutrements; the artillery, one field battery, not to exceed six pieces, with twenty-one rounds of ammunition.

Article 3. That the Mexican armed forces retire within seven days from this date beyond the line formed by the pass of the Riconda, the city of Linares, and San Fernando de Pusos.

Article 4. That the citadel of Monterey be evacuated by the Mexican, and occupied by the American forces to-morrow at ten o'clock.

Article 5. To avoid collisions, and for mutual convenience, that the troops of the United States will not occupy the city until the Mexican forces have withdrawn, except for hospital and storage purposes. [303]

Article 6. That the forces of the United States will not advance beyond the line specified in Article 3, before the expiration of eight weeks, or until the orders of the respective Governments can be received.

Article 7. That the public property to be delivered shall be turned over and received by officers appointed by the commanding generals of the two armies.

Article 8. That all doubts as to the meaning of any of the preceding articles shall be solved by an equitable construction, and on principles of liberality to the retiring army.

Article 9. That the Mexican flag, when struck at the citadel, may be saluted by its own battery.

W. J. Worth, Brig.-Gen. U. S.A. J. Pinkney Henderson, Maj. Gen. comdg. Texan Volunteers. Jefferson Davis, Colonel Mississippi Riflemen. Jose M. Ortega, T. Requena, Manl. M. Llano. Approved: Pedro Ampudia, Z. Taylor, Maj.-Gen. U. S. A., Comdg. Dated at Monterey, September 24, 1846.


Of this capitulation Mr. Davis wrote: “As to the wisdom of the course adopted in this capitulation men did, and probably will, differ. For myself, I approved it when it was done, and now, viewing it after the fact, I can see much to convince me in the view I originally took. We gained possession of a fort, large and well constructed. We had neither a battering train nor intrenching tools to reduce it; to carry the work by storm must have cost us many men, when we had not one to spare. We gained a large amount of powder and fixed ammunition. Much of this was stored in the main cathedral, and the fire of our mortars directed against that building must have produced an explosion which would have destroyed the ammunition, a great number of houses which have been useful to us, and with the enemy's troops in the plaza, must have destroyed many of the advance of our own forces.”

Colonel Davis told me many anecdotes of the battle, but out of them I have retained but two in such continuity as will enable me to repeat them. He said that after the Black Fort had been taken his men forced the doors of the dwellings to reach the flat roofs and fire from them. He found a number of women in one room, and one of them held up a little blue-eyed baby, and told him, “This [305] is like you-do not kill it, but take it for your own.” He had not time to explain, and left her wild with terror.

While the regiment was firing at the roof of the opposite house, which was in like manner occupied by Mexican soldiers, he noticed a little trim officer blazing with embroidery, in full uniform, standing in front of his men and urging them on, but they did not seem ardent for the fight. One of the Mississippi regiment raised his rifle to shoot him, but he looked so young and gallant the Colonel said, “Cover him, but do not shoot.” However, the officer was so much in earnest that he jumped on the edge of the roof and was followed by some of his men. The dread of their shooting our soldiers caused the order to “fire” to be given, and the rifleman, as he saw the poor fellow drop in the street a gleaming, shapeless mass, remarked, “Colonel, I saved him.”

A cannon at the plaza was trained on this street, and fired every few minutes, raking the centre of the street. As the regiment had done all the execution they could from the house-tops, and the street must be crossed, Colonel Davis ordered them to follow him and cross between the discharges of the cannon. He took the lead. The regiment followed by twos and threes under [306] cover of the smoke, and all turned into another street safely, and continued the fight.

Perhaps contemporary letters give a more vivid idea of the conduct of the war and of persons, and I have made quotations from some written at that time.

>Letter from Joseph Davis Howell to his mother.

. . . I now give you the camp news. General Wool has arrived near Monterey, with the intention of joining his forces with those of General Taylor, when they will march to Victoria. General Taylor has already started for the place of rendezvous. General Worth is in Saltillo with his brigade, which place he intends to garrison. I do not know what troops will be left in Monterey. I suspect, however, the Louisville Legion. . . . Report says that General Santa Anna is on the march to Victoria with 15,000 men at the least calculation. Of course he will be joined by those who were under Ampudia, about 10,000; so I think our boys have a fair chance for another “ fandango” at Victoria. We are in hourly expectation of an attack here; there is an alarm every night. We have fortified the town strongly, however, and if they do attack us, God have mercy [307] upon them, for they would meet but little from us.

From Colonel Davis to Mrs. Davis.

Monterey, October 5, 1846.
. . . My health is very good and my ignorance of our future movements as entire as your own. The Mexican General assured us, before the terms of capitulation were agreed upon, that commissioners from the United States had been received at Mexico. If this was half true a portion of the forces here must be soon disbanded. Your brother is well.

Joseph Davis Howell to his mother.

Camp Allen, Near Monterey, October 13, 1846.
. . . I am very much afraid that the hope expressed in my former letter, that we would shortly return home, was ill founded. I see no prospects of it at present; in fact everything that I can see or learn has a warlike tendency. There is a proclamation now in the camp, by Santa Anna, or at least it is attributed to him, which is anything but peaceful. It declares his intentions to prosecute the war to the utmost extremity; to use his own words, “he will gather the laurels for the Mexican Government by planting his flag upon the banks of the Sabine.” Now, [308] so far as his boast is concerned it is worthy of very little consideration, except as an evidence of the warlike animosity still existing in the minds of the Mexican people against the United States. . . . If the time of our regiment expires, and our Colonel even then thinks that we could be useful, there is not a man in his regiment who would not sacrifice his life to obey him, so much has his gallant conduct raised him in their estimation. The degree of power his coolness, courage, and discretion have acquired for him in the army generally would hardly be believed at home. Everything difficult of decision is left to him, and I verily believe that if he should tell his men to jump into a cannon's mouth they would think it all right, and would all say, “ Colonel Jeff,” as they call him, “knows best, so hurrah, boys, let's go ahead.” He is always in front of his men, and ready to be the first to expose himself; and moreover, he has taken them into so many tight places, and got them out safely, that they begin to think if they follow him they will be sure to succeed, and they think so, too, with some reason, for during the conflict we attacked, and several times took, places and fortifications from which regular troops, greatly outnumbering us, had been three times repulsed by the Mexicans with considerable loss of life. [309] I never wish to be commanded by a truer soldier than Colonel Davis.

A short extract is subjoined from the report of General Taylor on the battle of Monterey:

I desire also to notice Generals Hamer and Quitman, commanding brigades in General Butler's division; Lieutenant-Colonel Garland and Wilson, commanding brigades in General Twigg's division; Colonels Mitchell, Campbell, Davis, and Wood, commanding the Ohio, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Second Texas Regiments respectively; and Senior Majors Allen and Abercrombie, commanding Third, Fourth, and First Regiments of infantry, all of whom served under my eye and conducted their commands with coolness and gallantry against the enemy.

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