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Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History
by Major A. J. Roof. 1913
The annexation of Texas was the alleged cause of the dec laration of war by Mexico against the United States in April, 1846, but the more immediate cause was the occupation by the American army of the disputed territory lying between the rivers Nueces and Rio Grande. May 13, 1846, a counter-declaration by the American Congress was made, that "a state of war exists between the United States and Mexico."
President Polk called on Governor Edwards of this state for a regiment of volunteers to join General Kearney's "Army of the West," and by the 18th of June the full complement of companies designated had rendezvoused at Fort Leavenworth, and chosen Alex. W. Doniphan, then of Clay county, the colonel. This regiment numbered about eight companies and was denominated the First Missouri Mounted Volunteers. It soon set out with other troops, amounting to a considerable force, for Santa Fe, New Mexico, then a part of Old Mexico, and the scene of the hostilities.
Early in the summer of 1846, Hon. Sterling Price, then a member of Congress from Missouri, resigned his seat and was appointed by President Polk to command another regiment of Missouri volunteers to re-enforce the Army of the West. This regiment consisted of companies from the counties of Boone, Benton, Carroll, Chariton, Linn, Livingston, Monroe, Randolph, Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis.
In the latter part of July or the first of August the Livingston county company was organized at Chillicothe. Wm. Y. Slack, then a young lawyer of the town, thirty years of age, was chosen captain; John W. Tucker, first lieutenant; Zadoc Holcomb, second lieutenant; and John Mansfield, third lieutenant. Following is a complete roster of the company, which was known as Company L., Second Missouri Mounted Riflemen:
Wm. Y. Slack, captain.
John W. Tucker, first lieutenant.
Zadoc Holcombe, second lieutenant.
John Mansfield, second lieutenant.
Robert Patton, second lieutenant.
J. H. B. Manning, first sergeant.
John H. Clark, first sergeant.
Wm. G. Stone, second sergeant.
Austin Sisk, third sergeant.
Joseph H. Bigelow, third sergeant.
Robert Patton, third sergeant.
James Boucher, fourth sergeant.
J. H. Bigelow, fourth sergeant.
Thos. Cooper, fourth sergeant.
James Anderson, first corporal.
David Benson, second corporal.
Hugh L. White, third corporal.
John H. Clarke, third corporal.
Elias H. Brown, third corporal.
Porter Mansur, fourth corporal.
Alex. T. Williams, bugler.
Geo. M. Starr, bugler.
Samuel Thompson, farrier.
Brannock Curtis, farrier.
Isaac Anderson, James R. Bell, Thos. Boulware, Joshua Boucher, Daniel Bigelow, Wm. L. Brown, Gideon Brown, Saml. J. Brown, Wm. F. Brown, Elias H. Brown, James C. Brown, Oliver Bain, Ira Benson, Joseph H. Bigelow, David Benson, Brannock Curtis, John H. Clark, Edward D. Carter, David Carter, Thos. Cooper, Isaac D. Campbell, Archibald Campbell, Elisha J. Edwards, Wm. B. Graves, Nathan H. Gregory, Spencer H. Gregory, Wm. E. Gibbons, Thos. Gray, Renna J. Howard, John Hood, Jonathan Harvey, Jonathan Hubbell, Bennett Heskett, John Hollingsworth, George Jesse, Wm, Y. Just, Thos. J. Kirk, James D. Kirk, Danl. H. Kirk, Thos. D, Kirk, Wm. H. Keister, Noland Lackey, Thos. J. Latham, Harding R. Manning, Claiborne Maupin, James L. Marlow, John J. Mansfield, Jacob Moore, Martin Noland, Francis P. Peniston, John Patton, Ganom Patton, Robert Patton, John W. Rosebrough, Wm. Ratliff, Henry Richards, John W. Sheets, Tbos. Sparks, John N. Stone, Ganom Smith, A. J. Stark, Wm. T. Todd, Wm. B. Tbompson, Chas. C. Thompson, Danl. D. Vancliff, Wm. W. Welch, John Woodward.
The company was mustered in at Fort Leavenworth by Lieut. A. B. Lincoln, August 10 and 11, 1846. Sterling Price was elected colonel and D. D. Mitchell lieutenant-colonel, and B. G. Edmonson, major of the regiment. Colonel Price had already been commissioned by President Polk, but many of the volunteers thought if he commanded the regiment at all he ought to be chosen by their suffrages. Accordingly he deferred to their wishes and was elected, practically without opposition,
About the 15th of August, Price's regiment took up the line of march from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe, following the same road taken by Kearney and Doniphan. The men stood the march well, and met with many adventures of interest. No Indians were met with on the route, although a sharp lookout was kept for them, and there were no alarms of any onsequence. The men were well mounted, but for the most part were very indifferently armed, their weapons being old-fashioned, flint-lock, smooth-bore, "Harper's Ferry" muskets," with bayonets. They had no sabers, no pistols. In fact, they were mounted infantrymen.
At last, on the 28th day of September, the Second Missouri arrived and was quartered at the quaint old adobe-built city of Santa Fe, then a place of 5,000 or 6,000 inhabitants, comprising a population cosmopolitan in character, although mostly Mexicans, Spaniards and half-breed Indians. A few days before, Gen. Stephen Kearney had left the city for California, and Colonel Doniphan, with the First Missouri, had departed for Mexico. A detail of 100 men from Price's regiment, consisting of ten men from each company, was immediately dispatched to join Doniphan. This detail was commanded by Lieut.-Col. Mitchell, of the Second Missouri. Following were from company L: Wm. B. Graves, Alex. T. Williams, Ira Benson, Bennett Heskett, James R. Bell and Oliver Bain.
The Second Missouri went into quarters in various public buildings in Santa Fe, and the men enjoyed the situation immensely. Life in the city in that day was gay and frolicsome, after the most approved Mexican and Spanish fashion, and the soldiers soon adapted themselves to it and partook bountifully of it.
About two weeks after their arrival at Santa Fe, Captain Slack's company and the company from Carroll county, commanded by Captain Williams, were sent up to the little village of Abique on the Rio Chaima, a tributary of the Rioill Grande. Abique was a small place, whose population was composed of Mexicans and Pueblo Indians. The town was exposed to the raids of the fierce and merciless Navajo Indians, and, as the American authority had been established in New Mexico, Colonel Price sent up these two companies to protect the town and its people. Captain Williams took command of the post.
The inhabitants of Abique were very friendly and peaceably disposed towards the soldiers, and the most amicable relations were established between the people and the garrison. Here the Livingston county men remained until about the 20th of December. During their stay, many of the soldiers were attacked with measles, and when the companies were ordered away these men were left behind. Some of them died of disease.
About the 24th of January Colonel Price called in all his companies. The companies at Abique made a hurried march to Santa Fe, where they were joined by their comrades from the other outposts. As before stated, the sick were left behind. In a short time, the regiment, with Fischer's St. Louis Battery and a company of dragoons, marched to meet the Mexicans who were threatening Santa Fe. Fischer's battery consisted of four howitzers, and was manned almost exclusively by Germ
The first evening out the Mexicans were encountered, 2,000 strong, at a little hamlet called Canada. Price's forces, all told, numbered not more than five or six hundred men. The Mexicans, under Tofoya, Chavez, and Montaya, were posted on a high ridge, commanding well the country in front and running directly across the American line of march. They were well armed with muskets and other infantry and cavalry arms, but were without artillery
Colonel Price marched his command up within striking distance, along the road, which, as has been indicated, struck the ridge at right angles, and then deployed his forces in front of the enemy, forming his line in an arroyo, or dry bed of a stream. running parallel with and at the base of the mountain range, on the crest of which the enemy were posted.
Fischer's battery unlimbered and opened on the Mexicans with shell. The effect was insignificant, and Colonel Price ordered the Missourians to "charge." Away they went up the steep hillside, receiving the fire of the Mexicans at short range without halting or quailing, and pressed gallantly on to the crest of the hill, and to victory. The Mexicans not relishing a bayonet encounter, nor a hand-to-hand fight, retreated with great precipitation, and in confusion. Two thousand men had been put to flight by five hundred.
At sunrise on the morning of February 3, 1847, Colonel Price drew up his forces in front of the Mexican position at Taos. The Mexicans were well protected and in admirable position to withstand and repel an assault from the enemy ten times the number of which then confronted them. Taos is situated on a plain, and the town was surrounded by a high and strong wall built of adobe, or sun dried bricks. On the side where Colonel Price made his attack stood a large Catholic church, the outer wall of which formed a part of the fortification which enclosed the town. This church was well filled with soldiers, the walls being pierced with loopholes for musketry. Fischer's battery opened fight by a well-directed fire against the walls, which it was desirous to shatter and dismantle, in order that an entrance into the town might be effected. The cannonade was kept up until about noon, the balls at every discharge striking the wall fairly and truly in what seemed its most vulnerable parts, but without the desired effect. The walls would not fall.
Colonel Price became weary of this ineffective mode of attack, and determined, by the advice of his officers, and the consent of his own mind, on an assault. Early in the afternoon a storming party was formed, a part of the men being provided with axes, and at the word, the Missourians dashed gallantly forward, receiving the Mexican fire for hundreds of yards. The axes were plied vigorously, and holes were soon made in the church sufficiently large to admit of hand grenades being thrown through them upon the Mexicans. A brisk musketry fire was kept up on top of the walls, and seldom did a Mexican show his head that it was not hit. At, last, breaches were made that admitted the brave Missourians, and through them they went cheering and shooting, and firing and bayoneting.
As the Americans entered Taos on one side, the Mexicans began leaving on the other. A body of horsemen were sent around the walls and fell upon the fugitives, cutting down many of them, and making prisoners of many more. Firing was kept up in the streets of the town and behind the buildings for some time, but at last the Mexicans were vanquished, their tri-colored flag was torn down, and the Stars and Stripes floated in its stead.
In this engagement the Livingston county company had but a few men wounded, none killed. Lieutenant Mansfield was struck by a musket ball; Jacob Moore was wounded in the shoulder by an arrow, and W. E. Gibbons was shot through the thumb by an arrow from the bow of a Pueblo Indian, whom a comrade of Gibbons instantly dispatched.
The loss of the Mexicans in the three engagements of Canada, El Embudo and Taos, in killed was 250; the wounded and prisoners were never counted. Colonel Price's loss was 15 killed and 47 wounded. The only officer killed on the American side, of any distinction, was Maj. Burgwine, a North Carolinan, an officer of dragoons, but who served with Fischer's artillery on the expedition at Taos, and was killed at the battle at that place. His remains were afterwards exhumed, taken to Fort Leavenworth and reburied in the following September.