including A Sketch of the Life and Character of Col. Alexander W. Doniphan by D. C. Allen
A horse soldier’s war
Doniphan’s Expedition was an interesting sideshow of the American-Mexican War. His force, composed of men raised in Missouri, moved down the Santa Fe trail eventually meeting in battle and defeating a Mexican Army many times its own size at the Battle of Sacramento. What makes this book fascinating is that it is a narrative of these remarkable men and this noteworthy achievement from within the ranks and by the pen of a very ordinary private soldier. The march, the camp and the battlefield are brought graphically to life within its pages. Essential reading for those fascinated by the Mexican War, the history of the West and the experiences of ordinary Americans in war time. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket.
When we had arrived near their entrenchments, our columns suddenly diverged to the right, so as to gain the elevation, which the enemy endeavoured to prevent by moving forward with four pieces of cannon and 1000 cavalry. But our movements were so rapid, that we not only gained the eminence, but were formed in order for their reception. Our company (Capt. Hudson’s) now dismounted, and every eighth man was detailed, to hold horses and mules. It fell to my lot to hold eight mules. The action now commenced by a brisk fire from our cannons, doing considerable execution at the distance of twelve hundred yards, killing fifteen of the enemy, and disabling one of their guns.<br>
Our fire was briskly returned from fourteen pieces of artillery, sending ragged balls, and heavy copper ore. But being badly aimed they stuck in the ground about forty or fifty yards before us, and rebounding passed over our heads without harm, except slightly wounding two men, and killing several horses and mules in the rear. Our guns were so well aimed as to compel the enemy to fall behind the breastworks. We resumed our march in our former order, diverging as much as possible to the right, to avoid a heavy battery, and their strongest redoubts, which were on our left, near the common road.<br>
After marching as far as we thought it prudent, without coming in range of their heavy battery, Capt. Weightman of the artillery, was ordered to charge it with two 12 lb. howitzers, to be supported by the cavalry, under Captains Reid, Parsons and Hudson. We then remounted and charged the battery from right to left, with a brisk and deadly fire from our rifles. We then advanced to the very brink of their redoubts, and drove them out with our sabres.<br>
The enemy now fell back on their centre battery, where they made a desperate rally, and gave us a shower of balls and copper ore, which whizzed over our heads without doing us any injury except wounding several men and killing a few mules and horses. Major Clarke was ordered to commence a heavy fire upon this battery which being well directed, together with the rapid advance of our columns, put them to flight over the mountains in utter confusion, leaving all their cannons, and the ground strewed with their dead and wounded.<br>
Thus ended the battle of Sacramento, which commenced about three o’clock, and ended about sunset The enemy numbered 4220 rank and file, and lost 300 killed 600 wounded, besides forty prisoners The American force consisted of 924 effective men, 1 killed, 11 wounded. Our success is to be attributed entirely to the superior skill of our commander. Had he not taken advantage of position, in keeping out of range of redoubts and batteries we should all have shared a common fate, as the back piratical flag was captured, together with a wagon load of that formidable weapon, the lariat, which was intended to tie us all to our saddles in case of a defeat.<br>
The Mexicans lost ten pieces of artillery, varying from five to ten lbs. and seven one lb. culverines One of the cannon is very valuable, being composed of silver and brass melted together They also lost all their baggage, ammunition, &c., and provisions enough to last us three months were found in their wagons, together with $4000 in specie. It was gratifying to see the soldiers shaking hands with their officers after the engagement, and tendering their congratulations to their commander for his skill and bravery displayed on this memorable occasion.<br>
The surgeons are now busily engaged in administering relief to the wounded Mexicans, and it is a sight to see the pile of legs and arms that have been amputated. The cries and groans of the poor fellows, are distressing in the extreme. It is a fact worthy of note, that the atmosphere here in this mountainous region is so perfectly pure and clear that a cannon shot can be seen coming, When it is a considerable distance off, by leaving a blue streak in the air. Many a soldier saved his life in the battle by dodging the balls as they came forward. When a flash would be seen from the enemy’s battery, you could hear the soldiers cry out—“watch the ball boys!—here comes a ball boys,” and they invariably avoided them, or the slaughter must have been very great.<br>
I saw a ball coming in the direction where I was, when immediately falling off my mule, it passed just over my saddle without injury. Our rapid movements seemed to astonish the enemy. Our four pieces of flying artillery, discharging five times in a minute, volleys of grape and canister, with chain shots, would rake the enemy’s redoubts and cut roads through their lines, while our 12lb. howitzers throwing a constant shower of bombs into the middle of their entrenchments, and the unerring aim of our Mississippi rifles, acting in concert, cast terror and dismay among the cowardly and unprincipled foe.<br>
Our men acted nobly, and in the hand to hand fight in the redoubts they fought to desperation. Lieutenant Sprawl, our 2nd lieutenant, a man over six feet high, with bared arms, and without his hat, his long hair, and beard streaming in the wind, with sword in hand, was charging the enemy at every point, when a ball struck his splendid charger, and he fell. But seizing his carbine he kept up with us on foot.<br>
Another of our men, being unhorsed, and fighting near me, was attacked by a Mexican, who was about to lance him, and the poor fellow’s gun being discharged, he picked up a rock, and throwing it, struck his enemy on the head, which felled him to the earth, when he knocked his brains out with the butt of his gun. These were but common occurrences in that hard contested fight, where we had to contend with nearly five to one.