Obrazy na stronie

quite so accurately outlined--as those of the the wild cry of Waterloo, sauve qui peut, Apollo Belvidere. The swallow-tail skirts was tame compared with that which at of his coat were carefully “tucked up; ” that moment filled the breast of the hero no fancy ornament was suffered to come of the Nueces. And as the great achievewithin reach of the treacherous element; ment was completed, a shout burst forth and thus "accoutred as he

was, he plunged from the admiring crowd; the laughter in." His trusty sword he grasps with a that had hitherto been oozing out in broken nervous clutch in his right hand, and with doses and half-suppressed spasms could his left, like a performer on the rope, he no longer be restrained, and both banks strives to preserve the centre of gravity gave forth a tempest of acclamations. in such position as will enable him to We crossed the river, and entered upon maintain a stable equilibrium. As he the disputed territory about six o'clock. creeps over the stones, the hand flies up There was about thirty inches of water and down, right and left, and by its rapid at the deepest point of the ford, and a and irregular gyrations, you are almost hard, gravelly bottom. On leaving the able to take the soundings of the ford, to river, the road passes at once into an trace its tortuous course, and discover its extremely barren prairie, poor in soil, but ups and downs. With tremulous motions rich in the diversity of stunted and noxious he thrusts the sword into the stream, and specimens of mezquit and chaparral. The follows on with tottering and unsteady growth is very dense, and where the step. He falters, his pace slackens, he ground is not cumbered with these excreshalts, and looks wildly and anxiously cences, the prickly pear rears its horrid around. The shores are lined with spec front, to the annoyance and terror of man tators watching his precarious progress.

and beast. He turns his eyes from one side to the The Mina, or as it is sometimes called, other; he meets no sympathy, and the the Espantosa, of which the Mina is prowaters roll fiercely and pitilessly on: he perly a tributary, is about nine miles from looks forward, and the ripples are rising

the Nueces. The banks at the ford were higher before him, yet there is no retreat. steep and rugged, and the labors of the Again he nerves himself to renew his task, pioneers were again in requisition. The still stealthily advancing like a man grop

General remained here to observe the pasing his way in the dark. The march of sage of the train, while the advance troops those in the rear is suspended to mark his pushed on. The same barren and desoprogress. Again ho pauses; and shouts late waste presented itself, through which from front and rear assail his ears. “For we threaded our weary way as we best ward !” says one ; "right face !” shrieks could. The guide had reported water another; go it while you're young!” nine miles from the Mina, and we were says a third ; " to the rear open order !" on the visual stretch to discover it. At exclaims a fourth; "halt!” roars a fifth; length a line of darker green rose before “mark time !” shouts a sixth. The poor us, and we fancied the end attained ; but man is in agony. Big drops of perspira on our arrival, it proved to be nothing tion start from his brow, and trickle down but foliage whichowed its growth to his face. Unconscious of any distinct the water that once flowed through the direction, his actions indicate a desire to bed below. Now there was not a drop obey them all. He trembles; he waves remaining, to wet the parched lips of to and fro; he is not so much a bubble hundreds almost famished. This was the on the stream, as something between a channel of the Esquipula-a name cersnag and a sawyer. He makes another tainly pretentious enough to belong to a effort, as if to concentrate his energies for river—but alas! the “pitcher was broken a final struggle.

But the waters are at the fountain, and the bowl broken at around him, and he reels like a drunken the cistern." Our hearts well-nigh sank The stones appear to glide from

within us -after a march of so many under him as easily as the ripples float miles beneath a burning sun-at the before him ; he sinks, he groans, he strug grievous disappointment; but there was gles; he throws out his right arm in fran no alternative, and the word was still on. tic strokes, and with his left he brandishes Every blade of grass, every drooping twig, -a grasp of vapor. Once more he heaves was parched to crisp. Mile after mile of himself like Samson among the columns the thorny chaparral we traversed, and of the Philistines, and with headlong des at length again emerged upon an open, peration plants his foot upon dry land. sandy prairie. The dragoons were in adThe joy of Columbus when he beheld for vance of us, but were nowhere visible. We the first time the shores of the New quickened our pace: a group of towering World, or of Wellington when he heard and aged oaks crowned the summit of an


eminence we were approaching, and the to a penitentiary or nunnery. It is worthy sight restored our hopes. We reached the alone of the country which has emblazoned topmost point, not doubting that the pro it upon its coat of arms, as the national mised stream would be in full view before plant. To caltivate such a monster, with us. Nothing was to be seen except the too hot-house delicacy and attention, is worse familiar burning expanse of barrenness. even than fondling a lap-dog, or making Still advancing, we swept the horizon with a pet of a snarling grimalkin. All who our eyes, and far ahead we could once participate in the preservation or propagamore distinctly trace the winding outline tion of such a species, ought to be conof a greener foliage, in broad contrast with sidered as voluntary accessories to a crime the parched vegetation of the prairie. of the first magnitude, against the laws Our last hope was now before us, and we of taste and propriety, and ought to be continued our march. A few miles further condemned to a three days' march, barebrought us to the trees, but we found no foot, between the Nueces and Rio Grande. water. After beating about among the At eight o'clock we reached the Salidito. bushes for a while, we discovered the camp This stream, as its name indicates, was of the 1st Dragoons, and continued search represented as brackish; but travellers ing revealed a few ponds of water green have libelled it, as the water is as good and slimy upon the surface; but,

as any on the route. The engineers were

called upon here to make such an applica“As springs in deserts found scem sweet, all brackish

tion of "the more elevated branches,” to though they be,"

wit, spades and pick-axes, as would enit was yet potable, after so long and able the wagons to cross with facility. so hot à march. Its foulness, however, We then passed on through the dust, was relieved somewhat by a brilliant bound, as we supposed, to a halting-place display of lilies, resting on its bosom, ten miles distant, which, we understood, like the iris athwart the clouds. It the topographical party ahead had reported was now late in the afternoon. Steeds

as abounding in wood, water, and grazing. were unsaddled, and turned loose upon We had not gone many miles, however, the prairie, knapsacks tumbled to the before an irregular clatter or hollow rumground, with no great regard to their con bling was heard behind us, which was tents, and each man strove to get into a soon explained by the appearance of comfortable place, with as little delay as

mounted upon a black charger very practicable, as a compensation for a day's much addicted to falling upon his knees march of twenty-two miles.

at inopportune moments, and hence pretty It was determined late at night to pro generally known throughout camp as the ceed with the troops then in camp to the “camel,” or “hoofs.” From him (the Picoso, distant about fifteen miles. The rider, not the horse) we learned that the bugles of the dragoons sounded to horse order of march had been changed. that at half-past six o'clock the next morning, new information had been communicated and the squadron filed out of camp in to the commanding general, the effect of rear of the infantry. We left the banks which was to prolong the march several of the bitter Chaparrosa without regret, miles. This was of course gratifying inhoping to find an improvement in the telligence to those already wearied with fluids at our next stopping-place. The the day's labors, and whose imaginations General remained behind to await the had been prematurely excited by visions arrival of Colonel Harney's command, of a not far distant cup of coffee and a while we pushed along, at first over a blanket. The night's work, however, of very bad specimen of the “hog-wallow" Lieutenants Franklin and Bryan, was efspecies, and then through the thorny fectually extinguished, not unlike the snufpath to which we had been so long accus fing out of a candle; and we passed the Pitomed, over a flat, sandy prairie, productive coso, then, like so many other streams in of nothing but noxious plants, the prickly the country, a broken chain, of which a few pear being pre-eminent. This plant ha stagnant pools were separated links. now become such a nuisance, that it may The sun's rays came down with the with safety be affirmed, that no member of power of a steam engine, as we halted this army-however amiable or sentimental about three o'clock. Not a tree nor shrub his temperament-can hereafter bestow a was visible, as large as a rose-bush, beneath thought of admiration upon any woman, which one could crawl for protection. who to his knowledge shall cultivate a single With the exception of a successful effort variety of the cactus. The prickly pear on the part of a topographical messenger has sins enough to answer for, to damn to the commanding general, to make night the whole family and consign its patrons hideous by rudely severing a nap ap



proaching to maturity, the interval of ment in camp during the morning, from a darkness passed quietly into the wallet of report that we were already realizing our oblivion. The column passed out of camp proximity to the enemy, as the Mexicans at half-past seven o'clock. The aspect of had driven off our beef cattle during the nature was any thing but cheerful. There night, thus leaving us to the uninterrupted was a dull, heavy, ague-and-feverish sort mercy of pork and bacon.

This was a of fog hanging over us, and when the sun matter appealing directly to the stomlifted this curtain, in which for a few ach, in and through which every emotion miles we were enveloped, we were able to of chivalry has its origin, and was thereperceive only a vast waste, presenting, at fore of the most absorbing interest for the distant intervals, slight and irregular ele time. vations and depressions. A barren, desert, Barren, sterile, desolate, and destitute sterile prairie was again before and around as this position was, in reference to every

The prickly pear and the dwarf sun species of vegetation, the noxious qualities flower, worthy of their distinction, held of the soil vindicated themselves in the almost unaccompanied possession of the sustenance afforded to the venomous repsoil, a single new and insignificant plant tiles, which are there indigenous. A being assigned to the intervals, the name black, bloated, hairy tarantula, of gigantic of which I could not learn. Like its pre dimensions, was discovered near one of decessors and associates, it possessed a the tents, almost realizing the description thorn wherever there was room, and the in the Apocalypse of the monster with process of laceration lost nothing in its seven heads and ten horns." This vicinity.

poisonous and disgusting object had a It having been determined to unite the small head, lighted up with two fiery troops of Colonel Harney's command little eyes, and from the mouth a pair of with those under General Wool, before forked fangs projected, more deadly in reaching the Rio Grande, the encampment their assault than the bite of the rattlesurvived the rising of the sun on the 7th snake. Ten legs radiated from an odious of October.

and revolting body, covered with long The flag of the United States, or a very black hair, the entire creature as unsightly uncertain number of stars and stripes on and loathsome in all its parts, as any a cotton ground, was, for the first time on combination of animal life well can be. the march, given to the breeze this morn But this was not the only specimen of ing, from a staff erected in front of the native society to which we were introduced. tent of the commanding general. Not a The centipedes were scattering their footsingle cheer greeted it as it rose, not a prints wherever flesh and blood would let gun was fired; and the only remark them ; rattlesnakes were making their which the incident appeared to call forth music in the grass; and the scorpions was from one of the soldiers, who—prob- playing antics with their tails, and probably glad that tho job was over---very ing every surface on which they could patriotically, and with an enthusiasm cor fasten themselves. responding to the sentiment, exclaimed, The day was one of uncompromising There

goes the star-spangled blanket !” do-nothingness. At five o'clock P. M., the This, though not strictly true, was re camp might have been thus daguerreoceived with a due measure of applause, typed: Most of the men are engaged in which in some sort atoned for the absence idle and doubtless agreeable relaxation. of a volley from the battery. The fact is, The notes of a violin, not very tastefully there was not a government flag in the extracted, are gushing forth from several entire command. The one just hoisted tents, round which divers groups are was the property of a volunteer company gathered, eagerly absorbing the exhala-whose members appeared not to think tions of catgut. Songs—or rather their that our national flag ought not to be fragments—are being emitted in parenprostituted to such an expedition-and, thetical snatches from a hundred sources, though resembling a “blanket” in size the intervals supplied with the hearty if not in material, was quite as far from joke, the “rough and ready” repartes, “bunting.” It bore the emblems never and boisterous laughter. The anvil of theless, and though they were apportioned the artillery battery is ringing with the according to the taste of the maker, rather heavy strokes of some military Cyclops, than in reference to the statute, and put who has doubtless taken a day of resttogether on very primitive principles, it not for him—to repair the wear and tear was “a good enough” flag for our present of the march. Tents are flapping softly purposes.

in the wind; officers are in groups in There was also a pleasant little excite search of, or fancying they have found,

[ocr errors]

positions which combine the two proper in a breath. Aides-de-camp, extra and ties of breeze and shade, smoke rises fit real, were riding in all directions but the fully from the camp fires, and an odor right ones, and as fast as they followed is occasionally wafted, strongly suggestive each other, perhaps undoing what each of bean soup, and the approach of the one's predecessor had effected. The Geneating hour.

eral wondered why the Colonel did not At sunset a most amusing farce was move on, and the Colonel in his turn could performed,

;-an experiment, for the first not for the life of him perceive what time on the march, of a general guard detained somebody else. However, the mounting. Regular and volunteer in confusion of tongues at Babel terminated fantry ; dragoons mounted and on foot; with the dispersion of the talkers throughvolunteer cavalry in full costume; and, in out the land of Shinar, and in spite of short, a representation from each variety darkness and misapprehension, the great of the force, were assembled upon the snake-to which the column might be parade ground, where most of the parties compared-finally uncoiled itself, and bemade their début, in the operations of gan its winding course along the road at opening ranks, inspection of arms, salut seven o'clock. ing, passing in review, &c., under the The country becomes more broken as direction of an experienced officer. Of the “Great River of the North” is apcourse the adjutant-general had as much proached;

the road winds around numerupon his hands, as, being a modest man, ous hills and traverses many deep ravines. he could desire; having not only to give The vegetable growth near the Cuevas, as every command with detailed instructions has been already observed, is very slight: as to the method of execution, but, in the prickly pear—that unmatched bane many instances, to go through the move to prairie life and physical comfort-almost ment himself, before reaching the compre creeps along the ground at that point, but hension of his pupils. At the command before reaching the river it again becomes “march,” some would move to the right a monster, and rears its hideous arms to and left, and at the word “halt,” perhaps the height of six or eight feet. A small half would just commence moving, Fast

bush called by the Mexicans chaparra where they should be slow, and in 5 rear” ceniza, was seen for the first time to-day. when they should be at' the “front;" It bears a beautiful violet-colored little facing to the “right" when the order was flower, and deserves honorable mention, given to the “left," and wheeling one way as growing in Texas or Mexico, and free when the command was another: these from the deformity of thorns. and a host of other operations of like cha To enable the troops to keep in compact racter, gave to the ceremony the appear order, the column was frequently halted, ance of a satire on soldiering, and stripped and during one of these intervals, an incithe military to its cuticle, of all dignity or dent occurred which excited deep interest grandeur.

throughout the entire command. At no Great commotion ruled in the camp at great distance from the head of the line, a an early hour the next morning. An young fawn was bounding over the prairie, order of march had been prescribed for the pursued by a mean, sneaking: vicious, whole command, with a view to the pro ravenous-looking wolf. With eye

dilated duction of the maximum effect upon the and swelling nostril, the deer glided along Mexicans, whom we might perchance en with almost the speed of the wind, while counter in the vicinity of the Rio Grande. her ferocious enemy kept on the path Hence, as much labor had been bestowed with a determination which seemed to in perfecting the arrangements for the eyince no fears of the loss of his intended day, the mules appeared a little more ob prey. Now the fawn sweeps along like a stinate and contrary than usual, and the bird, and now she bounds over the cactus horrid profanity of the teamsters of course and chaparral, as if she were an element increased in a similar proportion. There of the air: forward she goes, leaping obwas hurry among the dragoons and delay stacles and threading mazes which would with the artillery; the infantry was in appear to defy her powers, yet as she this position which was wrong, and the touches the earth, it seems to our fancy Arkansas cavalry in that which was far and our fears, that she gains nothing in from being right. Wagons were just advance of her voracious foe. Her flight where they ought not to have been, and is directed towards a group of mezquit clerks, waiting boys, and supernumeraries, trees in the distance, as if there was the had usurped the position of the general last citadel of her hopes. Her speed now staff. Orders and counter-orders in all becomes phantom-like. Terrified with quarters were given and countermanded the doom which she seems with human

instinct to apprehend as inevitable, she son. The messenger then returned, and we flies over bush and brier and from peak began pitching our tents. to peak, with an energy wrung from A few minutes before sunset, the Chief despair. But without some foreign aid of the Presidio municipality made his apall her agile powers must fail before the pearance accompanied by a single indivicool, calm and persevering efforts of her dual, who was probably another official enemy. Ile wastes no strength in flying functionary, though his position was not leaps; but with steady strides, his eye very clearly defined.

The Alcalde surfixed on his victim, his scent sharpened prised us with the first intelligence of the and appetite quickened by the race, he fall of Monterey, having a Mexican copy pursues with untiring pace his object. of the articles of capitulation.

The news The chase continued until the dust from of the event spread rapidly over camp, the rear of the column had almost hidden and created great exultation. the pursuer and pursued from view, when, The Alcalde returned some time after in spite of orders, the rifle could no longer dark, and a dragoon who assisted in rebe restrained, and a whizzing bullet from conveying him across the river, disappeared a sympathizing volunteer, suddenly re on his return, between ten and eleven lieved the wolf and his intended victim. o'clock, and it was feared might bo This incident, the starting of a hare, and drowned. the death of a rattlesnake, were the most For the first time since we left San marked features of the day's march. Antonio, there was a slight shower on the

As we approached within a few miles 9th, with indication of prolonged wet of the river, all were on the qui vive ; weather. every eye was strained to catch the first The 2d Dragoons under Colonel Harglimpse, but many a distant hill and jut ney were the first to cross the river. The ting bluff disappeared before the object water was about four feet and three was attained.

The road runs nearly par inches deep, and quite as high as is safe allel with the river for several miles, the or convenient for fording. Many of us heights on the opposite shore being a long contrived to elude official vigilance and time visible, without any apparent dimi steal off under cover of the cavalry, and nution of distance. A mile or two from entered the enemy's country with the the ford we caught a glimpse of a house, troops. To accomplish the crossing with from which appeared to be streaming a dry feet, it was necessary to take a most white flag. This of course was far from constrained and painful position on the being gratifying to those who wished the horse, and one that would have been fatal passage to be disputed, as it was death to to the deportment of Mr. Turveydrop. immediate glory if not to the Mexicans, As we did not consult attitudes however, and those maiden swords must yet remain so much as prospective comfort, this was unfleshed. We came upon a full view of the not considered an insuperable objection to river at eleven o'clock, and as we reached the movement. the bank, a man appeared on the Mexican The village or city of the Presidio, is side waving the emblem of peace. A short about five miles from the river, in a direction colloquy ensued between him and our from the ford, a little west of south. About interpreter. To an invitation to come three hundred yards north of the town, over, he seemed at first to object, on ac stand the ruins of an old “mission”-ancount of “mucha agua," but soon con other monument to the ubiquitous efforts sented, and, naked as the horse on which of the Jesuits. Originally a mongrel he rode, he entered the river, still bearing mixture of stone and mortar, time has his pacific credential before him, which added nothing to its beauty or its symmeproved on his arrival to be a shirt—which try, though it has curtailed somewhat its had probably been washed for the occa first proportions. The body of the edifice sion. He bore a letter from the Alcalde is, as usual, connected with a series of of the Presidio, to the commanding gen arched ways, cells, chambers, &c., for eral, couched in very humble terms, pro purposes doubtless well known to the octesting that the people of that region bore cupants, but which at this time forbid no arms against the United States, were speculation. The swelling notes of the peacefully pursuing their usual occupa organ are no longer heard within its tions, and begging that General Wool stately walls, but the wind howls a would treat them with as much consider mournful requiem through its falling ation as Colonel Harney had previously arches, over the grandeur that has passed done, &c., &c. The General made an ap away. The imposing ceremonial — the propriate verbal reply, and desired that pomp and circumstance of prayer; the the Alcalde would present himself in per morning and evening chimos; the whis

« PoprzedniaDalej »