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Buena Vista, battle of.

General Taylor received such instructions from the War Department that he declared (Nov. 13. 1846) the armistice granted at Monterey was at an end. General Worth marched, with 900 men, for Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila, and was followed the next day by Taylor, who left Gen. W. O. Butler. with some troops, to hold the conquered city of Monterey. Saltillo was taken possession of on Nov. 15. After several minor movements, and having been deprived of a large number of his troops by an order of General Scott to send them to reinforce an American army that was to attack Vera Cruz, Taylor was forced to act on the defensive with about 5,000 men. Informed that General Santa Ana (who had entered Mexico from his exile in Cuba. and had been elected President of Mexico in December) was gathering an army of 20,000 men at San Luis Potosi, Taylor resolved to form a junction with General Wool (who had entered Mexico with about 3.000 troops, crossing the Rio Grande at Presidio), and fight the Mexicans. He reached Saltillo with his little army on Feb. 2, 1847, joining Wool's forces there, and encamped at Aqua Nueva, 20 niles south of that place, on the San Luis road. On hearing of the approach of Santa Ana with his host, Taylor and Wool fell back to Angostura, a narrow defile in the mountains facing the fine estate of Buena Vista, and there encamped, in battle order, to await the coming of their foe. Santa Ana and his army were within two miles of Taylor's camp on the morning of Feb. 22, when the Mexican chief sent a note to Taylor telling him he was surrounded by 20,000 men, and could not, in all probability, avoid being cut to pieces; but as he held the American commander in special esteem, and wished to save him such a catastrophe, he gave him this notice, that he might surrender at discretion. He granted Taylor an hour to make a decision. It was soon made; for the commander immediately declined the polite invitation to surrender, and both armies prepared to fight. The Americans waited for the Mexicans to take the initiative. There was slight skirmishing all day, and that night the American troops bivouacked without fire and slept on their arms: the Mexicans, in the mountains, meanwhile trying to form a cordon of soldiers around the little army of Taylor and Wool, then less than 5.000 in number. The battle began early on the morning of the 23d, and continued all day. The struggle was terribly severe; the slaughter was fearful; and until near sunset it was doubtful who would triumph. Then the Mexican leader, performing the pitiful trick of displaying a flag of truce to throw Taylor off his guard, made a desperate assault on the American centre, where that officer was in command in person. The batteries of Bragg, Washington, and Sherman resisted the assault, and before long the Mexican line began to waver. Taylor, standing near one of the batteries, seeing this sign of weakness, said, quietly, “Give 'em a little more grape, Captain Bragg” (see Bragg, Braxton). It was done, and just at twilight the Mexicans gave way and fled in considerable confusion. Night closed the battle. Expecting it would be resumed in the morning, the Americans again slept on their arms, but when the day dawned no enemy was to be [438] seen. Santa Ana had fallen back, and in a few days his utterly dispirited army was almost dissolved. In their flight the Mexicans had left about 500 of their comrades, dead or dying, on the field. With these and wounded and prisoners, their loss amounted to almost 2,000 men; that of the Americans, in killed, wounded, and missing, was 746. Among the slain was a son of Henry Clay. On the day of the battle Captain Webster, with a small party of Americans, drove General Minon and 800 Mexicans from Saltillo. Taylor returned to Walnut Springs, where he remained several months, and in the autumn of 1847 he returned home.

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