CONFRONTATION AT LIPANTITLAN 1842
Most. Excel. Sir:
From the outset, grave inconveniences presented themselves, caused by lack of resources, shortage of water, and because the local ranchers were just then busy harvesting their own corn-stands before the swelling Rio Bravo would flood their fields, making them lose the fruits of all their labors, which were the sustenance of their families. But permitting the Texans to get so close was, to my way to thinking, an incomparably worse evil; and to wait until Y.E., as Commander in Chief, could supply us with the stores you might have at your disposal, meant to lose time that should have been taken advantage of by all means. For this reason, I covered their eyes, as the saying goes, and on the spur of the moment dictated orders of assembly for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Squadrons of my Regiment, which were those of Camargo, Mier, Reynosa and Guerrero respectively. The local authorities of these heroic towns lent their decided support to my project and not only equipped their respective Squadrons, but in addition rounded up every mounted inhabitant they could, even accompanied by some of the men who constituted the town government. From Reynosa alone, 160 townsmen rode out, together with their Aldermen, Mr. Antonio Graza and Mr. Macreno Cavazos of that town, while the Mayor, Mr. Cayetano Lopez and the rest of them would have taken to the field with me, had I not expressly prohibited it. This conduct is truly praiseworthy, as much for the activity these authorities had displayed, as for the secrecy with which the surrounded my orders, so that any spies the enemy might have had among us, could not betray to him any of our movements. The Section of regulars under Col. Cayetano Montero, without any other resource for this expedition than their patriotism, reported at once in readiness to march and assist us in battle.
On the 23rd, we camped on the left bank of the Rio Bravo, together with the Rio Bravo Squadron, and on the 29th, review was held at Agua Nueva of the 462 men of my Regiment, and 185 of the regular Army. Of this total force, it became necessary to dismiss to their homes 108 of the townspeople, their horses being totally unfit for the task. The rest, 539 men, started on their way the next day. A 10-man scouting party under Capt. Blas Cavazos rode ahead the same day to survey the enemy camp and its surroundings, in effect cutting off all roads and paths that led to it. Their reports were to be sent to me by way of Trinidad, where we could be approaching the Nueces without being observed. At Concepcion creek, I received the news by two messengers from this advance party, that the enemy was at Lipantitlan, 13 leagues - about 52 miles - this way from the Kenny ranch, but that they had abandoned their artillery piece in the vicinity of the Laguna Madre. This as important as pleasing news aroused our camp, and half an hour later all of us were on the march. Since no cattle can be found anywhere from this point onward, it was necessary to advance 30 leagues - 120 miles - without meat which was our only food; however, the enemy could have some, and with this thought in mind nobody paid any attention to necessity; but all us, exerting the most strenuous effort we could muster, hurried forward to come to grips with the Texans, defeat them, and there to provision ourselves with what was lacking.
The enthusiasm was general, and all wished they could fly. At Presenos, 8 leagues or 32 miles before reaching Lipantitlan, Col. Montero and myself agreed on a method of surprising the enemy, considering the ground they were occupying, which was well known to me. Three assault and one reserve column seemed sufficient to cut him off from the woods, the only place where these vainglorious ones could stand up to us. The Texans are like tricky ladino cattle; in the forests they are brave and light, but on the open plains they cripple up and become frightened. With this in view, our force was divided in the following manner; 130 men of the 2nd Battalion 4th regular Infantry, and 70 dismounted auxiliaries from the Reynosa and Guerrero Squadrons, led by Brevet Colonel, Mr. Ponciano Eguren would form the first column; the Mier Squadron with 105 mounted men and a light cannon, under Lt. Col. Mr. Cristobal Ramirez would be the second; and the third would consist of the Camargo Squadron of 80 men under its Commandant Mr. Matias Ramirez. The reserve column was to be formed by 42 men of the 7th regular Cavalry, and 40 from Camargo and Reynosa; the remainder being left in Agua Dulce with the train and the tired horses, where our base camp was located. Actually, when all this was carried out and the commanding officers were instructed in everything they had to execute, the march was continued about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, calculated to carry us up right against the enemy who, as previously mentioned, was 8 leagues - about 32 miles - away from us to the Northeast.
The position occupied by the enemy was on a hill of low elevation on the right bank of the Nueces River, the wooded borders of which surrounded the promontory along less than 500 years on the Northeast, North and Northwest, forming an imperfect half-circle. Our columns were to occupy the entire wooded bank and to cut off all avenues of retreat for the enemy, leaving him only the open plain where all our fire ought to have been directed. During the night, we approached the enemy camp from the West. The First and Third columns left from there to occupy the positions that were assigned to them, namely the North and Northeast. But their guides lost their way in the dark and instead of walking toward the above directions, they struck out due South, bypassing the enemy's left side, very close to him but without noticing him nor being noticed. Colonel Montero and I, leading the Second column and the reserve, took up positions at less than musket-shot from the camp, waiting there for more than an hour to hear our Infantry open fire, as they had been instructed, so that we could charge him at the same moment. But our infantry was by then very far away, and daylight was advancing at great speed, so much so that the enemy commenced to wake up, and one of them who walked out with a torch, discovered us and roused the others. Just at this moment, when we had no other way left to us but to charge, the Infantry showed up at our right, when it should have been to our left, and passing through its point in the line, was likewise spotted by the enemy who now started to prepare himself in battle formation. Without waiting any longer, we opened fire against him, the Mier Cavalry and the Reserve charging at the same time. The Camargo Squadron was still wandering around somewhere, lost, but the sound of firing brought them into action at a full run, although they barely managed to reach the rear guard of those who were fleeing toward the woods. The enemy did not stay in camp for any length of time; at the first sound of firing, they broke into a run, and when we reached the top of the hill, they were already arriving at the Northeast wood where this Camargo Squadron was supposed to have taken up its post. The Infantry and the Cavalry pursued them as far as they could enter. When the enemy was inside their burrow, these invincibles revived a little and commenced firing, but our Infantry received them with admirable courage and skill; its lively musketry extinguished the fire of the enemy and forced him to turn to flight again into the densest part of the forest.
From the first cannon shot on, our artillery piece broke its trunnion cap-square, the trusses, gun carriage brackets and axles, so that it ceased to be of any use to us, even after we had tied it up with ropes the best we could. Col. Montero wanted the Infantry to penetrate still deeper into the forest and keep pursuing the enemy; however, since the forest, after becoming very dense, was also full of brushwood and tangled vines where our soldiers would ensnare themselves and expose their bodies as targets to the bullets of those who were already well hidden behind the trees, it appeared to me preferable for them not to penetrate farther, or we were going to lose men without a hope of gaining any more advantages. For this reason, the intended charge was called off, and all our columns took up battle formation without any enemy in sight. Having been left in possession of the camp, we then reconnoitered it and carried off all that was left in it. The enclosed inventory will inform Y.E. of the quantity, not withstanding the fact that much of it had been hidden by the soldiers who thought that on dividing the booty equally, they would have to return some things.
In their flight, these invincibles had abandoned their flags: the one belonging to a Regiment with the inscription "Galveston Invincibles - Our Independence". It was picked up by the Captain of the Rifle Company, Brevet Lt. Col. Antonio Gonzalez Davila. The Texas banner was recovered and presented by the Corporal of the Mier Squadron, Mr. Domingo Ramirez, and the standard by Sgt. Nestor Padilla of the Guerrero Squadron. What this diminutive part of the Army has performed in this action, and what it had suffered previously, exceeds all exaggeration. Without anything to eat, without footwear and, as said at the beginning, without any other resources but its deep patriotism, and without waiting for Y.E. to provide for them, they traversed more than 50 leagues - 200 miles - of desert with unexampled heroism. Their sights were on the enemy and the idea of the necessities that surrounded them on all sides, seemed to have been fused in all these men into the satisfaction of overcoming them. The Staff and Company Officers revealed this time that they were more than worthy of their commissions. Their zeal to distinguish themselves in danger, and the determination with which they supported all hunger suffered on the march, are facts that recommend them amply and that ought to be always remembered, to be imitated. A handsome lesson to those who refuse to go to war when they don't see the necessary provisions prepared and at hand. The Sons of Mars ought not seek more satisfaction than the one derived from overcoming difficulties and privations, and the more there are of these, the greater will their glories and satisfactions be later. How advisable it would be it the names of those who went forth into this action, should be published in the official newspaper of the Supreme National Government. Such an honorable satisfaction would stimulate many more, and the Republic would reap immense advantages from it.
Let me not forget to mention the Chaplain of the 4th Infantry, Father Jose Maria Rua, whose courage aroused my very special attention. In the midst of our columns, he attended to all and was present, without my calling on him, not only where the need of his ministry required it, but also imparting his skill as a surgeon to our wounded. In this combat, the following died in the service of our Fatherland: Corporal Severino Narvaez and private Juan Jose Maya of the Grenadier Company; private Matilde Martine of the 2nd Company, all three of the 2nd Battalion, 4th regular Infantry, as well as Corporal Alejandro Anzaldua of the Reynosa Squadron. The wounded were the Sergeants of the 2nd Battalion, Laureano Cazares and Jose Ma. Villegas, the former so badly that he died on the following day. The enemy losses were already reported to Y.E. His survivors fled all through the woods in the direction of Mezquital de Brazada, which is at the entrance to Rincon de la Cera, where it was said that another 200 men had disembarked.
The four Squadrons of my Regiment fulfilled their duty completely; their men have accredited themselves to my full satisfaction and it was not in vain that they had been named Defenders of the Frontier and of the integrity of Mexican territory. For their sacrifices and their disinterested patriotism, they deserve the fraternal consideration of the Supreme Government, and the appreciation of our fellow citizens. Our most complete and appreciated recompense would be, if all the others would rise to serve in the same way. This justifiable event has rendered to the Republic all of the following results:
1) The destruction of the force that had been organized in full sight of us under the name of Vanguard of the Texas Army.
2) Putting an end to all this most pernicious and clandestine traffic formerly tolerated with the enemy that had desolated the Commerce of these Departments.
3) Bringing to the attention of our fellow citizens, in a practical demonstration, how little are worth these masses of men, as much braggards as they are insubordinate, whose strength in their cause is of inverse ratio to their numbers, and whose courage depends exclusively on the localities.
4) Emphasizing the absolute urgency of increasing, the regular garrisons of these towns; they are the nearest points where the enemy can assemble, and whence he obtains his supplies; the Texans must be rooted out of the coastlines like crabs.
5) Demonstrating the urgent necessity that my Regiment be perfectly armed, equipped and munitioned, to enable it to render aid at all times when occasion arises, in operations of the Army against the Texans, or to undertake such operations independently if this be more advisable.
6) Making it tangibly clear that if all the citizens would exert themselves in an ever so slight effort to aid the Supreme Government, the way these our townships are doing, the Texas War would be a military promenade of very short duration, without fear of losing any action whatever, and in whatever numbers they might present themselves, because an enemy whose method of fighting is so obvious, can be beaten for this reason alone.
All this I have the honor of communicating to Y.E. for your superior information, at the same time repeating the assurances of my distinguished appreciation, consideration and respect. God and Liberty. Camargo, 17 July 1842. Attorney Antonio Canales. To His Excellency, the Commander in Chief, General Isidro Reyes.
[From Lamego, Gen. Miguel A. Sanchez. The Second Mexican-Texas War 1841-1843. Hill Junior College Monograph 7, Texian Press, Waco, TX, 1972.]
Lamar Texas July 18th 1842
On the 6th [xxx] Mexican Thompson one of [xxx] arived in Camp Liplantitlan on the Neuces to which [we had] been stationed at since the 14th of June, from [xxx] bringing inteligence that a Mexican force from Twelve to fifteen hundred were on the march to attack us and from the best information he expected they would be there about the same time he would. Gen Davis [xxx] [and] gave orders to [move and] encamp for the night on the bank of a Ravine about half a mile from our then present position and at the same time dispatched an express to meet 275 volunteers we had expected for several days and hurry them on with all expedition to join us. A double guard was posted and the strictest vigilance was observed for the night, of which many of us passed with unclosed eyelids, but a greater number sleeping soundly disbelieving Thompson's report as we had been fooled and humbuged with the cry of wolf so often wearing they did not believe there was a Mexican this side of hell let a lone the R Grande.
In fact about this time disaffection disorder and disorganization was not only the order of the day but had been the order of weeks. We had been laying so long in camp doing nothing [heard] falce alarms and listen to the lies told from time to time by our officers about an offensive war & that many had become dissatisfied and had disserted. Only 150 remained out of an army numbering 400 and those were half starved and half naked having worn out their shoes and other clothes [x]ling about camp. The government had not furnished us with a picaunes worth of provisions subsisting entirely on the bounty of the western sitizens as they would furnish with cattle and they came seldom an in small numbers on the morning of the 7th we were roused early by the voice of Gen Davis in lieu of Revilee having no drummer in camp with an order to go back to our old camp there cook breakfast then cross the river and gently fall back to meet the troops from [Live Oak] point and provisions which we had expected for several days from Corpus Christi.
We had shouldered our guns & knapsacks and without order were scatered from the the ravine to the old encammpment as we heared the boom of the Mexican cannon opening upon us accompained by a storm of Musketry. All was confusion and disorder for some time the men crowed back towards the Ravine and several and several inafectual attempts were made by the officers to form their several companies and restore order. I mean only a part and I could name who wore the Gold laced caps and giltted sword was as bad scared as anybody. At length order was established, the first panic of Battle was passed, and we formed in good order in single file on the bunk of the ravine the Mexicans all the time kept up an insesent fire but to our gereat astonishemnt inafectual fire at the same time steadly advancing upon us. As yet we had not fired a shot. We were ordered to hide ourselves behind the bank of the ravine and silently await the nearer approach of the [enemy (or army)] an order I very much liked and not do as they had been doing but shoot with some affect, on they came. We assended the bank and clang went rifle carbine & musket. This checked the gintlement and they broke back (further?) Musquiett timber but continued to blaze away all the time their balls scored the prickly pears cut twigs from the Live Oak but did us no harm.
They now hauled their cannon up to the head of the ravine about three hundred yards distant where we had a full view and could see a long line of cavalry streched out on the prarie From that position they fired some seven or eight shots with a six pounder but without execution The shots firing harmlesly over [head. They then] went to an old encampment set the tents on fire [xxx] round sometime and when we expected them to make the grand charge upon us they were off taking our knapsacks which we had scatered on the first alarm together with the last remnant of provisions which consisted of dried beef. Number Mexicans killed 7 dead on the field 2 wound. They roped a great many and draged them away as soon as they were shot, put them on horses and took them off. On our side there was no body killed not even a wounded man. From the wounded Mexicans we learnt that they numbered 300 cavalry & from 500? infantry commanded by Conales. We stayed three days in the ravine wating for reinforcements and provision neither arived we then fell back on the cliffside in a small creek. Stayed there and received loaves before the citizens of Victoria after starving five days [xxx xxx] to keep life in motion and had drove up some horses to kill as the loaves arived. Our suffering coming from Liplantitlan to this place Marchin barefoot over thorns and prickly pears suffering for watter will do to tell you about of a wintery evening when i came home The volunteers will be broken up entirely. We are all going into the settlements as we heard the president has vetoed the war bill & all that can will return to their homes in the states. All hopes of an offensive war are at an end.
Your friend L.S[xxx] Texas Army
The following letter is from an unidentified soldier found in the effects of a classmate, James Curry of Ohio. It is in possession of and was provided by Mr. & Ms. Robert R. Newsham (Crestline, CA). Ms. Newsham is a descendant of James Curry. [Bracketed areas were unreadable]. Update 2008: According to Mr. Gary Newsham the author of the letter has been identified as Pvt. Lot Lee of the Mississippi Guard Co. E. Mr. Newsham donated the letter to the DRT in his fathers name.