Lt. William Helmsley Emory's Journal of General Stephen Watts Kearney's March to Santa Fe
Published in the Niles's National Register
Vol. 71, October 31, 1846, pp. 138-140
November 7, 1846, pp. 157-159
November 14, 1846, pp. 174-175Transcribed by Michael J. Kalish
GENERAL KEARNEY AND THE ARMY OF THE WEST
We have been favored with the following extract of an unofficial journal of 1st Lieut. Emory, of the corps of Topographical Engineers. Lieut. Emory is Chief of the Engineer staff of General Kearney’s command. We are pleased with the opportunity of laying before our readers such scenes as are here described, with so much novelty and freshness around them. The author of the journal, Lieutenant Emory, is distinguished for his superior intelligence as an officer and a man.
EXTRACTS FROM THE JOURNAL.
August 2d, 1846. I looked in the direction of Bent’s Fort, and saw a large United States flag flowing to the breeze, and straining every fiber of an ash pole that was planted over the center of the gateway, with no very mathematical regard to centering or perpendicularity. The reason of this display was soon explained by a column of dust to the east, advancing with the velocity of a fast-walking horse. It was the "Army of the West." I ordered my horse hitched up, and as the column passed, took my place with the staff."The river was forded without difficulty, opposite the fort, being paved with well-rounded pebbles of primitive rock.
We advanced five miles along the river, where its bed slides over a black carbonaceous shale, which has been mistaken for coal, and induced the Bents to dig for it.
Here we turn to the left and pursue our course over an arid and elevated plain for twenty miles, without water, and when we reach the Timpas, find the water in puddles, and the grass bad.
Colonial Doniphan was ordered to pursue the Arkansas to near the mouth of the Timpas, and join the army, following the bead of that stream.
Near where we left the Arkansas, found on the side of the slope several singular demi-spheriods protruded from the ground, about the size of an umbrella, coated with a singular substance, (specimen 22) in pyramidal crystals.
The growth along this part of the Arkansas consists of mean grass and few cottonwoods; on the plains very short grass, burned to a cinder; artemesia in abundance. The only animals seen were one black-tail rabbit, and one antelope-both killed.
Our march 26, that of the army 37 miles. The last twenty miles without water. The artillery did not get up until 11 P.M.; horses and men parched with thirst. The teamsters, who had to encounter the dust suffered extensively; when water was near, they sprang from their seats, and ran for it like madmen. Two horses sunk under the march.
August 3d.—Ascended the Timpas 6 miles, and halted for the day, near running water; the grass was all burned dry, not a green sprig to be seen; passed three buttes of singular appearance, composed of limestone, and (specimens 23 and 24) evidently of ingenious origin: saw more of the nodules described yesterday; passed the dry bed of a river, with bottom paved with argillaceous limestone, containing now and then the impression of shells, very distinct. The valley in which we are now encamped presents the appearance of a crater being surrounded with buttes capped with stunted cedar. The stratification, however, appears regular.
Growth-an evergreen (see specimen) which Fitzpatrick says is the Fremont. A beautiful cactus three feet high, with round limbs, shaped like a rope, three and a half inches in diameter. It is said the Mexicans make hedges out of it.
Doniphan’s regiment passed our camp about four P.M. Water saltish. Went to the top of one of the adjacent hills. Formation distinct. Limestone 10 feet; hard sandstone with impression of shells; and then blue marl. Gendes, with crystallized limestone on top, and the interior of serpentine. The ground covered with a great many detached pieces of ferruginous sandstone.
Growth-cedar, very stunted Missouri flax, some wild gooseberries, a very stunted growth of plums; moss, cactus in great variety, one or two new plants.
Our march only 6 2/3 miles.
August 4th.- Road runs along the valley of the Timpas, and the dust was overpowering; soil impregnated with lime which makes the dust distressing. Stunted cedar on each side; strata on each side of the valley the same as that described yesterday. Iron nodules very frequent. March 13 miles, to the crossing of Timpas: The only water hole 40 feet in diameter, into which the volunteers rushed, pell-mell, and soon destroyed it. March 9 miles further, to the ‘Hole in the Rock;" a large hole, with plenty of pretty good stagnant water. Saw antelopes, rabbits, wild horses, two jackdaws, ( magpies,) larks, king birds, and robins. The grass is so bad the Col. Kearney thinks of marching 16 miles further, to the "Hole in the Prairie," where there is no water, but some little dry grass. We passed a dead horse black with crows, a wolf in the midst, quietly feeding on the carcass.
March at 5 P.M., with the staff, to the "Hole in the Prairie," and reach there at 10; distance 14½ miles. Find grass, as we expected, and were agreeably surprised to find water also. All slept in the open air, the colonel setting the example. Found infantry encamped here. Total distance to-day 36 miles. What we call good grass, is grass burned as dry as cinder. Horses falling away in alarming manner. Mules seem to require the stimulus of distention, and nothing else; this the dry grass affords. The people of the country to whom we apply for information, he without mercy; when they tell you there is fine grass for an army of 2,000, your may find grass for a small party of 10-15.
On the march, Nattah-Yah, (twin hills,) rose suddenly to view, about 75N.; and soon Pike’s Peak, 20 or 30 further to the north. The dim outline of the great western parallel of the Astek chain began to show itself. We were now crossing the divide between the waters of the Timpas and those of the Purgatory, or Rio de los Animos, of the Spaniards.
August 5th-Descended 11½ miles and reached the valley of the Purgatory; a swift running stream, a few yards in width. No grass of any amount at the crossing. Large trees, for many miles along its course, all dead, cause is not apparent. Growth of the bottom, which is very narrow, locust, the everlasting cottonwood, red willow (kinikinck) wild gooseberry, plum, and grape. No fruit on the bushes. March 5 ½ miles farther, and encamped on the bed of a stream tributary to the Purgatory which comes down from the north side of the Raton, or Mouse, which is the name given to a chain of low ragged looking mountains, that strikes the course of the Purgatory nearly at right angles, and separates the waters of the Arkansas from those of the Canadian. The banks of the Purgatory now begin to assume something of a mountainous aspect; different from scenery in the states. The hills are bare of vegetation, except a few stunted cedars, and look less the work of God than the hills at home. In this valley, ‘tis said, we have the grisly bear, turkeys, and antelope.
Passed the rear wagons of the infantry-the horses almost done. Trotting in the wake were 3 wolves. Many a horse of the army of the west, must this night, I think, give up the ghost.
Captain Cook, sent ahead day before yesterday to Armijo. The day before, Lieffendorfer, a trader, married to a Santa Fe woman, sent in the direction of Taos, with two Puebla Indians, to feel the pulse of the Pueblos and the Mexican people, and probably to but wheat, if any, and distribute the proclamation of the colonel commanding. Yesterday Wm. Bent and six others, forming a spy guard, sent forward to reconnoiter the mountain passes.
August 6th.-Col. Kearney left Col. Doniphan’s regiment and Clark’s artillery at our old camp ground of last night, and scattered Sumner’s dragoons three or four-miles up the creek. This done, we commenced the ascent of Raton, and, after marching seventeen miles, halted, with the infantry and general staff, within a half mile of the summit of the pass. Strong parties were sent forward to repair the road, which winds through a picturesque valley, with the Raton towering to the left. Pine trees, which here attain a respectable size, lined the valley through the whole’s day’s march; a few oaks, big enough for axles, were found near the halting place of to-night. When we first left the camp this morning, we saw a few clumps of the pines which much resemble the common pine, stunted. It bears a resinous nut, eaten by Mexicans and Indian. We found, also, the samita in great abundance. It resembles the wild gooseberry. It grows to the height of several feet, and bears a red berry, which is gathered, dried, pounded and then mixed with sugar and water, making a delicious drink, resembling our current shrub.
Neither this plant, nor the pinon, nor plum, nor any of the grapevines, had any food on them, which is attributable to the excessive drought. The stream, whish last year was a dashing torrent, is this year dry and in pools. Several beautiful flowers. Turned over the charge of botany to Lt. Peck, this day. Spanish bayonets, soap plant, in great abundance.
The view from our camp transcendently beautiful and singular, reminding me of the pictures I have seen of some parts of Palestine. Rocks chiefly a light colored sandstone. A great deal of stone of (specimen 24) volcanic appearance; color purplish brown, porous, and melts over a slow fire. The road is well located, and the general appearance of the scenery something like the summit of Boston and Albany railroad, but the scenery bolder, and more oriental in appearance.
Express arrived from the spy guard, reporting all clear in front; Cook and Lieffendorfer have only reached the Canadian.
At Captain Sumner’s camp, about seven miles above our camp of last night, and twelve from the summit, there is an immense seam of coal cropping out, thirty feet deep. Grass and water good at camp 35.
August 7th camp 36 – Commenced the ascent of the Raton, which we reach with ease with our wagons; in about two miles observed the barometer, and determined the elevation to be about 7,000 feet above the sea. From the summit we had a beautiful view of Pike’s Peak, the Nattah-Yah, and the chain of mountains running south. Saw several large white masses near the summit, which we at first look for snow, but which, on examination with the telescope, I determined was the [?] limestone of which we see so much in this country.
The near view was no less imposing. To the east rose the Raton, which appeared still as high as from the camp 1,500 feet below. There is singular formation on the top of the Raton giving the appearance of a succession of castles. [?] would be required to visit it, I was obliged to forego that [?] sure, and examine it with the glass. The mountain appeared to be formed chiefly, of sandstones disposed in horizontal strata, dipping gently to the east, until you reach near the summit, when the castle, like appearance commences—the ides become perpendicular, the seams vertical. The valley is strewed with pebbles and fragment of trap rock and the fusible stone described yesterday.
There is said to be a lake about 10 miles to the east of the summit, where immense hordes of deer, antelope, and buffalo congregate; but of this I have my doubts. I would certainly test the matter if I could dispose of my own time.
The descent is much more rapid then the ascent; and for the first few miles, through a valley of good burned grass and stagnant water, containing many beautiful flowers, specimens of which were collected. But presently you come, to a place where a stream, a branch of the Canadian, has worked its way through the mountains, and the road has to ascend and then descend a rugged spur. Here is where the real difficulties commence, and the road, for three or four miles, is just passable for a wagon. Many of the train were broken in the passage. A few thousand dollars, judiciously expended here, would be an immense saving to the government, if the Santa Fe country is to be permanently occupied.
After 10 miles from the summit, we reached a wide valley, where the mountains open out, and the rugged and inhospitable looking hills recede to a respectable distance to the right and left. Sixteen from camp 36, brought us to the main branch of the Canadian, a slow running stream, discharging a volume of water to the thickness of a mans waist; found here Bent’s camp. Dismounted under the shade of cottonwood, near an anthill and saw something black, which had been thrown out by these busy little insects; and, on examination, found it to be bituminous coal. I crossed the river, and proceeded about 1½ miles, and found the colonel, from whom I had become separated, encamped on the river, with a plentiful supply of grass, wood, and water. After crossing the river, found the plain strewn with lumps of bituminous coal.
Growth on to-day’s march-pinion, in small quantities, scrub oak, scrub pine, a few samita bushes, and, on the Canadian, a few cotton wood trees.—Grass, except at the camp little or [?] rain this evening , but the clouds passed away, and I had a good night for observing. No rain since we left our creeks twenty-seven days ago. And yet this a country that some men talk of one day being settled-this sun-burnt country, that produces no vegetation except on the very edges of the few and far between streams.
We are now in the Paradise of that part between Bent’s Fort and San Miguel and yet he who leaves the edge of the Canadian must make a good day’s march to find wood, water, or grass.
There may be mineral wealth in these mountains, but that must be left to some explorer not tied to the staff of an army, marching for life into an enemy’s country. I say for life, for we are from day to-day, on half rations bread, and, although we have meat enough to prevent anything like immediate starvation, we are sufficiently hard pressed to make it expedient to pounce on Santa Fe, - and its stock of provisions, as soon as possible.
August 8th.- Remained in camp all day to allow Doniphan’s regiment and the artillery to come up.- Observed at night for the latitude and time, and found our chronometers preserving their rates admirably. Light hurricanes of wind, and clouds discharging rain to the west. Captain Sumner drilled his three squadrons of dragoons, and made quite an imposing show.
August 9th.- At 2 broke up camp, and marched with the colonel’s staff and the 1st dragoons 10½ miles, encamped under the mountains on the western side of the Canadian river, on the banks of a small stream, a tributary of the Canadian. Grass, short but good; water-in small quantities and in puddles. Here found a trap dyke, course N. 3. W. which shows itself also on the Canadian, about four miles distant, in the same course. Six miles from last nights camp the road forks: one running near the mountains to the west, but nearly parallel with the old road, and never distant from it more than four miles, and almost all of the time in sight of it:-The army is here divided: the artillery, infantry, and wagon train ordered to take the lower road, Missouri volunteers and 1st dragoons the upper.—The valley here opens out into an extensive plain, slightly rolling flanked on each side by ranges of perpendicular hills covered with stunted cedar and the pinion. In this extensive valley or plains me be traced, from any of the neighboring heights, the valleys of the Canadian and its tributaries- the Vermijo, the Poinel, the Cimarron, the Rajado, and the Ocate. Saw great quantities of antelope, deer, &c. cactus in great abundance, and a plant which my friend Dr. DeCamp. Pointed out as being highly balsamic: he collected quantities of it in his campaign to the Rocky Mountains, and tested its efficacy with entire success as a substitute for balsamic coparva.
Observed a great many insects at the camp to night, the first of any number since leaving the Arkansas. Scarcely a bird, however, to be seen, the cow bird always excepted, which has been in great numbers on the whole route and very tame, often lighting by your horse. The horned frog is also numerous and has been the whole distance from here to beyond Bent’s Fort.
August 10th.- Col. Kearney, dissatisfied with the upper road, determined to strike for the old, which we did. After reaching the Vermijo, 9½, miles in a diagonal line, and reaching the road at the Cimarron, where we found the infantry encamped; total distance 20 ½ miles; grass good, and water plenty, though not flowing. Another trap dyke parallel nearly to the last, and 3 miles distant from the last; both strewed with fragments of ferruginous sandstone, and crystallized carbonate of lime. A Mexican came into camp from Bent’s Fort; reported Lieut. Albert much better. Colonel Kearney, allowed him to pass to Taos; for which place, 60 miles distant, by a brittle path, he set out to reach to-night. The Colonel sent by him copies of his proclamation, letters to the alcalde, padre, &c.
Five Mexicans were captured by Bent’s spy company; who had been sent out to reconnoiter us, with orders to retain all persons passing out of New Mexico. They were mounted on diminutive asses, and cut a ridiculous figure, along side the thumping big men and horses of the 1st dragoons. Fitzpatrick, our guide, who seldom laughs, became almost convulsed when he turned his well practiced eye upon them.
Tonne, an American citizen, came to headquarters, when at the Vermijo, and reported himself just escaped from Taos: He reports that the proclamation of Governor Armijo reached there calling the citizens to arms, and placing the whole country under martial law. He stated that Armijo had assembled all the Puebla Indians, above 2,000; all the citizens capable of bearing arms; that 300 Mexican dragoons arrived in Santa Fe the day Armijo’s proclamation was issued; and that 1,200 more are hourly expected. That the Spanish Mexicans to a man, are anxious for a fight, but that about half the Puebla Indians are indifferent on this subject, but will be made to fight.
A succession of thunderstorms passed yesterday to the north and west of us, but nothing reached us. The ground showed recent rain and so does the grass which looks as it does in the spring, just sprouting.
The hills of the left are, as near as I can judge, the same as in the Raton, of different colored sandstone, regularly stratified, and dipping gently to the east.
The growth, on the mountains, pinion and cedar; on the plain, scarcely a tree can be seen, and those along the edges of the streams. Observed at night for latitude and time.
August 11th.- Made a long march to-day, with the advanced guard-the 1st dragoons, to the Ocate, 31 miles. The road approaches the Ocate at the foot of a high bluff, to the north, and runs through a canon, making it accessible to horses. We followed it four or five miles. Where the road crosses the river from the road, and found good grass and running water.
The scenery to-day was very pretty, sometimes approaching to the grand. The road passes through a succession of valleys and crossed numerous divides of the Rayado and Ocate. The Rayado is a limpid running stream, 10 miles from the Cimarron, and although we have been in the midst of mountains for some days past, this is the first stream that has any thing the look of a mountain stream. The grass, however, is not good. Two and a half miles further on, at the foot of the mountain, there are springs. At the last place they halted. About five miles before reaching the Ocate, the road descends into a valley over lined by confused and rugged cliffs, which give promise of grass and water; but ongoing down, we found it had no outlet, and that this beautiful valley, terminated in a salt lake, which is now dry, and the bed encrusted with a thin coat of a white substance, (see specimen.)
Here the road is indistinct, and takes a sudden turn to the left, at this moment we discovered, coming towards us, at full speed, Bent’s spy guard. All though they had met the enemy, I rode forward to meet him, followed by Fitzpatrick and two dragoons. It turned out to be a false alarm. Like a set of silly fellows-or as Fitz called them, d----d fools—they got off the road, which we were not aware of, and were now galloping back to it in full speed.
The hills are composed of what I take to be trap and a porous volcanic stone, very hard, with a metallic fracture and luster. It is underlayed by sandstone. From the uniform height of those hills, one would think they originally formed the table land, and that the valleys had been washed, and their limits determined by the existence or non-existence of the hard crust.
Things are now becoming very interesting. Five or six Mexicans were captured last night, and on their persons were found the proclamation of the protect of Taos, based on that of Armijo, calling the citizens to arms to repeal the Americans, who were coming to invade their soil, and destroy their property and liberties; ordering an enrollment of all citizens over 15 and under 45, and list of arms and ammunitions. It is decidedly less [?] than any Mexican paper which I have yet seen. Colonel Kearney assembled three prisoners together, some ten or a dozen; made an admirable speech to them, and ordered, that when the rear guard of the army have passed, that they be released. In his speech he informed them that he considered New Mexico a part of the United States; that he intended to extend our laws over it, and substitute laws for the arbitrary will of one man; that he came as the friend of the people, that he would protect them in the exercise of their religion, and of their property, that he would defend the weak against the strong, and the poor against the rich. This brightened their faces, as far as such poor, down cast, unmeaning faces could be brightened. They were mounted on little donkeys, or jennies, and guided by clubs instead of bridles; the whole turn out contrasting in a way with our large, well mounted dragoons that was very ludicrous.—The colonel said to me, "Emory, if I have to fire a round of grape into such men, I shall think of it with remorse all of my life."
To-night two more Mexicans were captured; or rather came into our camp, who were severely cross-questioned by the colonel. Their story was, that they came out by order of the alcalde of the More-town to look for their standing enemies the Eataws, who were reported in the neighborhood; that they had heard of our coming some time since. They believed us at the Rayado, twenty two miles back, but seeing our wagons, and having faith in the Americans, they rode with out hesitation to our camp.—When they said they had faith in us, the Colonel, with great quickness, ordered them to shake hands with him. He then told them pretty much the same that he told the Mexicans this morning. These men appeared to be of a higher class, and listened with profound attention. The Colonel had told them, in conclusion, that he must keep them for a day or two; for it was quite evident to all of us that they were spies, who had come too suddenly into the ravine into which we were camped.
They appeared well satisfied. One of them, with the guard, turned back, and presented the colonel with a fresh cream cheese.
Collected a great variety of new and beautiful flowers. The hills sparsely covered with cedar and pinon. Antelope and horned frogs in abundance; no other animals seen.
August 12th.- The Colonel discharged the oldest Mexican, giving him two proclamations-one for the alcalde, another for the people of the town. He sent a message to the alcalde to meet him at the crossing of the Moro with several of his head men.-The other Mexican was detained as a guide. About 12 o’clock, the advance was sounded, and the Colonel, with Sumner’s command marched twenty miles, and halted in a beautiful valley of fine grass and good pools of cool water. The stream, when flowing, is a tributary of the Moro. From the drift wood, &c., found in its wide, well grassed bed, I infer it is subject to great freshets. In crossing the Ocate to the valley of the Moro, the mountains became more rolling, and as we approach the Moro the valley opens out, and the whole country becomes more tame in appearance. Ten miles up the Moro is the Moro town, containing, as the Mexican informed me last night, 200 houses. It is off the lower road, but a tolerable wagon road leads to it from our camp of last night.
The plans were strewed with a red porous lava-like substance (See specimen 30.) The plains are almost destitute of vegetation-the hills covered with a stunted growth of pinon and red cedar. Rains have fallen here recently, and the grass in the bottom is good. The gamma now constantly appears, but very thinly scattered over the ground. Saw, to-day, some prairie dogs, with stripes on their sides, resembling the common prairie dog in every thing else. A flight of birds to the south, but too far to distinguish them. Antelope and horned frogs as usual. Attracted to the left by an object supposed to be an Indian; on reaching found it a sandstone block, three feet long, standing on end, and topped by another, shorter. A mountain man, who was along, said it was in commemoration of a talk and friendly smoke between some two bands of Indians.
August 13th.-At 12 o’clock, as the rear column came in sight, the call of "boots and saddles" were sounded, and in twenty minutes we were off. We had not advanced more than one mile when Bent, of the spy guard, came up with four prisoners. They represented themselves to be an ensign and three privates of the Mexican army, sent forward to reconnoiter and ascertain our forces. They said 600 men were at the Vegas to receive us, and give us battle, or treat us as friends, according to our intentions towards them. They told a great many different stories, and finally delivered up a paper being an order from Captain Gonsales, to the ensign, to go forward on the Bent road, and ascertain our position and numbers. They were severally cross questioned by the Colonel, and told very much the same the all the rest have told. They were retained for the present as prisoners.
As soon as we commenced descending into the valley of the Moro creek, Col. Kearney’s orderly, who carried his telescope, reported a company of Mexicans at the crossing. Col. K. ordered me to go forward with 12 dragoons, and reconnoiter the party, and if they attempted to fly, to pursue and capture as many as we could. As we approached this company, it seemed wondrous and still motionless; but a few steps dispelled the illusion, and showed the pine stakes of a corral. The dragoons were sadly disappointed, they evidently expected a fight or chase. A few minutes brought us to the first settlement we had yet seen in 775 miles. The first object I saw, was a pretty Mexican woman, with clean white stockings, who came to me, very cordially shook hands, and asked for tobacco. Fitzpatrick said I was singled out for my large red whiskers; but I was at the head of the party, and that was the reason of honor done me.
The next house, and out popped a live American, and soon after, his wife. This was Mr. Bonny, who has lived here for some time, owns a large number of cattle and horses, which he keeps in defiance of wolves, Indians, and Mexicans. He is a perfect specimen of a generous, open-hearted adventurer, and is in appearance what I have supposed Daniel Boon to have been. He drove his herd of cattle into camp, and picked out the largest and fattest, which he presented to the army.
Below, about 2 miles, at the junction of the Moro and Sapilla, is another American-Mr. Yells, of North Carolina. He has been here but six months, and from his gay dress may have been taken for a sergeant of dragoons, with his blue pantaloons with broad gold stripes on the sides, and his jacket trimmed with lace. I bought butter of him at 4 bits the pound.
We halted at Sapilla, distance 9 ½ , miles from our last night’s encampment, in a tremendous shower.—Grass indifferent, having been eaten up by the cattle from the ranchos. Wood and water plenty. At this place an American came into camp from Santa Fe, on foot, with scarcely anything on his back; escaped from there night before last at Mr. Houston’s request; to inform Col. Kearney that Armijo’s forces were assembling to the number of 8,000 or 12,000, and that he might expect vigorous resistance; and that a place called the Canon, 15 miles from Santa Fe, where I had before predicted the battle would be fought, was being fortified, and advising the colonel to go around it.
The canon is a narrow defile, easily defended, and of which we have heard a great deal. A conflict now "is inevitable," and the advantages of ground and numbers will, no doubt, enable the Mexicans to make a stiff fight.
Miserable grass, and the camp ground inundated by the shower of to-day, which was quite a rarity with us, although we understood the rainy season had commenced ten days before, farther in the mountains.
August 13th.-The order of march to-day was the order of battle. After proceeding a few miles, we met a queer cavalcade, which at first we thought was the looked for cavalcade from Moro town; but it turned out a messenger from Armijo. A lieutenant, one sergeant, and two privates, of Mexican lancers. The men were good looking enough, and evidently dressed in their best bib and tucker. The creases in their pantaloons were quite distinct. Their horses were mean in the extreme, and the contempt with which our dragoons were filled was evident.
The messenger was the bearer of a letter from a Armijo, in answer to the colonel’s. The army was on tip-toe to know the contents of the letter. The colonel communicated it to but a few, myself amongst the number. It was a sensible, straightforward letter, and written by an American, or by an Englishman, would have meant this: "You have notified me that you intend to take possession of the country I govern. The people of the country have risen in mass to my defense. If you get the country, it will be because you prove the strongest in battle. I suggest you stop at the Sapilla, and I will march to the Vegas. We will meet, and negotiate on the plains between them."
The artillery were detained a great while in passing the Sapilla. This kept us stewing in the plains for four hours, but it gave the colonel time to reflect on the message with which he should dismiss the lancers. There were apprehensions that Cook was detained, and this made their discharge a matter of reflection. Sixteen miles brought us in sight of the Vegas, a village on the stream of that name. A halt was made at this place, and the colonel called the lieutenant and lancers, and said to them: "The road to Santa Fe is now as free to you as it is to myself; say to my friend General Armijo, I shall soon meet him, and I hope it will be as friends. I come here as the friend of the whole Mexican people, and not as their enemy. My Government considers New Mexico a part of the United States, and I intend to extend her laws over it. All who obey me, and do not resist, I will respect, and make secure in their property, their persons, and their religion. All who take up arms against me, I will treat as enemies."
A great deal more was said, but the conversations which followed with other people were so much more significant, that I will not repeat what passed. At parting, the lieutenant embraced the colonel, Captain Turner, and myself; this was the first man hug that I ever encountered, and if God spares me, it shall be the last.
The country to-day was a rolling, almost mountainous prairie; the grass on the hills beginning to show a little. The soil was good enough, apparently, but vegetation was little or nothing, from the want of rain. As we emerged from the hills into the valley of the Vegas, our eyes saluted, for the first time, with waving corn. The stream was full, and the little drains, by which the fields were irrigated, full to the brim. The dry soil seemed to drink it with the avidity of our thirsty horses.
The village, at a short distance, looked like an extensive brick-kiln; On approaching it, its outline presented a square, with some arrangements for defense. Into this square they are sometimes compelled to retreat with all their stock, to avoid the attacks of the Eutaws and Navajos, who pounce upon them, and carry off their women, children and cattle. But a few days since, they made a descent upon the town, and carried off 120 sheep, and other stock. As Captain Cook passed through the town some ten days since, a murder had just been committed on these helpless people. Our camp extended for a mile down the valley. On one side was the stream, and on the other the corn-fields, with no fence or hedge interposing. What a tantalizing prospect for our hungry and jaded nags.
The water was free, but the colonel posted a chain of sentinels to protect the corn, and gave strict orders that it should not be disturbed. Captain Turner was sent to the village to inform the alcalde that the colonel wished to see him and the head men of the town. In a short time, down came the Alcalde, two captains of militia, with numerous servants, prancing and careering their little nags into camp.—The colonel stated to them that he was ordered by his government to take possession of the country, and annex it to the United States – to extend over it the protection of her troops. He hoped to effect this object peaceably; but if need be, he had the power, and would do it forcibly. That he had no doubt of his ability to do it peaceably, if the people of the country could be bought within the sound of his voice, and made to understand the advantages they would derive, in the protection of their lives and property from the savages, and in the just administration of the laws. That he desired the alcalde to assemble all his people in the plaza, where he would address them at 8 o’clock the next morning.
All went smoothly, except with one of the captains of the militia, who was very surly, and said he always understood the Arkansas was the boundary of the United States, and soon after rode off abruptly, leaving the party. The old alcalde was very confidential, begged the colonel, in a whisper, to allow no trespass on the corn. The colonel pointed to him his chain of sentinels. The old man hen pulled out a bottle of vile Taos whiskey, and requested us to drink with him. The dose was bitter, but taken with passable grace.
Niles' National Register, 7 November 1846, vol. 71, pp. 157-159
August 15th.- Twelve o’clock last night the colonel (General Kearney) was awakened up, and informed that six hundred men had collected at the posts of the Vegas, two miles distant, and were to oppose his march. In the morning, ordered were given to prepare to meet the enemy. At seven the army moved and just as we made the road leading through the town, Major Swords, of the 3d, Mr. Dupat joined us from Fort Leavenworth, and presented Colonel Kearney with is commission as brigadier general in the army of the United States. At eight o’clock precisely, the general was in the public square, where he was met by the alcalde and people, many of whom were on horseback, (for these people live on horseback.) The General pointed to the top of one of their houses, which are all of one story high, and flat roofed; and suggested to the alcalde, that if he would go to that place he and his staff would follow, and from that point, where all could hear and see him, he would say to them what he had to say.
This was a wise precaution. He was thus enabled to speak so that all could hear and see, and we were placed out of reach of difficulty, of which there might have been some danger, as we were pressed closely in a dense mass of people, the disposition of none of which we then knew.
The colonel (now Brig. Gen’l Kearney) then addressed the multitude, nearly as follows:
"Mr. Alcalde and the people of New Mexico: I have come amongst you by the orders of my government, to take possession of your country, and extend over it the laws of the United States. We come among you as friends, not as enemies; we come to you as protectors, not conquerors; we come among you for your benefit, not for your injury.
Henceforth I absolve you of all allegiance to the Mexican government, and from all obedience to Gen. Armijo. He is no longer your governor, [great sensation,] I am your governor.
I shall not expect you to take up arms and follow me, to fight your own people, who may be in arms against me; but I tell you that those who remain peaceably at home, attending their crops and herds, shall be protected by me in their property, their persons, and their religion; and not a pepper or an onion shall be disturbed or taken by my troops, without pay, or without the consent of the owner.-But listen! He who is found in arms against me, I will hang.
From the Mexican government you have never received any protection. The Apaches and the Navajo come down from the mountains and carry off your sheep and your women whenever they please.—My government will correct al this. They will keep off the Indians, protect you in your persons and property, and I repeat again, will protect you in your religion. I know you are all good Catholics, and that some of your priests have told you all sorts of stories; that we would pollute your women, and brand them upon the cheek as you do your mules upon the hip. It is false. My government respects your religion as much as the protestant religion, and allows each man to worship his Creator as his heart tells him best. Her laws protect the Catholic as well as the Protestant, the weak as well as the strong, the poor as well as the rich. I am not a Catholic myself; I was not brought up in that faith; but at least one-third of my army are Catholics. And I respect a good Catholic as much as a good Protestant.—There goes my army! You see but a small part of it. There are many more behind. Resistance is useless.
Mr. Alcalde, and you two captains of militia, the laws of my country require that all men who hold office under it, shall take the oath of allegiance. I do not wish for the present, until things get settled, to disturb your mode of government. If you are prepared to take the oath of allegiance, I shall continue you in office and support your authority."
This was a bitter pill, but swallowed, the discontented captain looking close down to his toes. The general remarked to him, in hearing all of the people: "Captain look me in the face, while you repeat the oath of office." The hint was understood; the oath administered, the general pronounced the alcalde and two captains still in office, and I called upon all the citizens to obey the alcalde, &c. The people grinned, and exchanged looks of satisfaction; but seemed not to have the boldness to express what they evidently felt, that their burdens if not relieved, were at least shifted to some ungalled part of the body.
We descended by the same rickety ladder by which we climbed to the top of the houses, mounted our horses, and rode briskly forward to encounter our 600 Mexicans in the gorge of the mountains, two miles distant. The sun shone with dazzling brightness, the guidons and colors of each squadron, regiment, and battalion were, for the first time, unfurled.
The drooping horses seemed to take pluck from the gay array, the trumpeters sounded "to horse" with unusual spirit, and the hills multiplied and reechoed the call. All looked like a gala day; and as we approached the gorge where the fun was expected, the general broke into a brisk trot, then into a full gallop, preceded by a squadron of horse. He kept close to their heels. The gorge was passed, but no 600 Mexicans were there! One by one the guidons were furled, the men looked disappointed, and a few minutes found us dragging our "slow length along" with the usual indifference to envoy subject except that of overcoming space.
Two miles farther brought us to another pass as formidable as the first; and the entire intermediate country was broken, and covered with a dense growth of pine, pinon, and cedar. The mountains now begin to rise to the height of a thousand feet above the road.
Nine miles brought us to Selcolate, where we met the alcalde and people in the cool and spacious apartments of the forum, where a repetition of the drama was again enacted. This was graced by the presence of women, with their bare ankles and slippered feet. –Marched ten miles further to Vernal springs; halted at the upper spring, and observed for time and latitude bout 500 feet south of the upper spring.
August 16th-Marhced to San Miguel, where the general assembled the people, and gave them much the same harangue as at the Egos; but in swearing the old alcalde there was great difficulty. His honor hesitated, faltered, looked at the priest, who held down his head and refused to respond to his enquiring looks. But it had to go down:the general was pertinacious.
As we were ascending the ladder, the priest-a famous man in this country; famous for his love of cards, women and wine-stopped the general to engage him in a discussion on the merits of the question of invasion. He said a great deal that was exceedingly silly and out of place. The general told him so very sharply before all his people, Sinner as he is his hold upon his flock is firm and unyielding.
The repartee of the general floored him completely, and made some of his poor deluded flock look aghast. He had previously invited the general to his quarters. Being in our route we halted. The general told him that he and all his brotherhood were laboring under a great mistake with regard to the intentions of the American government in respect to his religion; that there was not the least intention of disturbing it, or any of its rights and privileges; but if he found any of them stirring up the people to rebellion, he would not let the priests robe stand between the offender and the rope. This, by the way, he mentioned in his speech to the people, while the priest was made to stand by him in full view of the mass below.
His reverence saw the sort of person he had to deal with, and disclaimed any mischievous intentions. This through, he displayed his Taos brandy, which we drank. The general cracked several jokes with him, and finally took leave, by a cordial embrace and a mutual assurance of friendship.
Reports now meet us at every step, that the people were rising, and that Armijo was collecting a formidable force to oppose our march, at the celebrated pass of the canon, fifteen miles from Santa Fe. About the middle of the day’s march, two Puebla Indians, previously sent to sound the chief men of that formidable tribe, were seen in the distance, at full speed, with arms and legs both thumping into the side of their mules, at every stride.—Something was now in the wind for certain.
The smartest and foremost of the two, dashed up to the general, his face radiant with joy, and exclaimed:--"They are in the canon, my brave! Pluck up your courage, and push them out." His extravagant delight at seeing the prospect of a fight, and the pleasure of communicating it, by and by subsided, and he then gave the general a pretty accurate idea of Armijo’s force and his position. He further told him that the Pueblos were with the army there, by Armijo’s orders; that they came voluntarily, and he might rely on their assurance that at first fire, every Puebla would throw down his rifle, his bow, arrows, and sling, and come over to him, (General Kearney).
The general told him that that was all very well; but that he should like to see, that night, some of the head chiefs, and he wished him to go back and bring them out. The brave little fellow at once assented, but his comrade refused, from fear that Armijo would catch and hang him.
The road passed over to-day was good, but the face of the country exceedingly rugged and broken; covered with pinon and cedar. To the left, at one or two miles distant, towers a wall nearly perpendicular, 20 feet high, apparently level on the top, and showing, as near as I could judge, from the road, an immense stratum of red sandstone, capped by puddingstone and limestone. The road was red with disintegrated sandstone. We turned from the road to the creek where there were a few ranchos to encamp, at which place we passed an uncomfortable night; the water being hard to reach and the grazing very bad.
August 17th.—The picket-guard, stationed on the road, captured the son of Salazar, who, it is said, is to play the part in this country that Zraalacaraguay[?] did in Spain. The son was at San Miguel yesterday, and heard from a concealed place, the general’s bar rangue. It is supposed, at this time, he was explaining the position, strength &c. of our army, to report it to his father.
A rumor has reached camp that 4,000 Mexicans assembled in the canon, have quarreled among themselves; that Armijo, taking advantage of the dissensions, fled with is dragoons and artillery to the south. He was long suspected of wishing an excuse to fly. It was known he was averse to a battle, but some of his people threatened his life if he failed to fight. He has been-for some days- more in fear of his own people than the American army. He sees what they have failed to see, -the hopelessness of resistance. Every assurance has been given him by the general, if he quietly surrendered, he would protect him in his person and property; but it is quite evident he fears the penalty of his long misgovernment.
As we approached the ruins of the ancient town of Pecos, a large fat fellow came towards us at full swing, and exceeding his hand to the general, congratulated him on the arrival of himself and army. He said, with a roar of laughter:-"Armijo and his troops have all gone to hell, and the canon is all clear!" –This was the alcalde of the settlement, two miles up the Pecos from the ruins, where we encamped—15 ¾ miles from our last camp, and 2 miles from the road.
Pecos, once a fortified town, is built on a promontory of rock, something in the shape of a fort. Here burned, until within the last seven years, the eternal fire of Montezuma; and the remains of the architecture exhibit, in a pointed manner, the engraftment of the Catholic Church upon the crest religion of the country. At the end of the short spire forming the [?] of the promontory, are the remains of the stuffa, with all its parts distinct; at the other, are the remains of the Catholic church. Both showing the distinctive marks and emblems particular to the two religions. The tires from the stuffa burned and sent and incense through the same alters from which was preached the religion of Christ. Two religions so utterly different in theory, were here, as in all Mexico, blended in harmonious practice, until, about a century since, the town was sacked by the Nava-hoe band of Indians.
Amidst all the havoc of plundering the city the faithful Aztek managed to keep his fire going in the stuffa, and it was continued until a few years since, the band became almost extinct. Their devotions rapidly diminished their numbers, until they became so few as to be unable to keep going their immense stuffa, forty feet in diameter, when they abandoned the place, and joined a tribe of the original Montezuma race, over the mountains, about sixty miles south. There to this day; it is said, they keep their fire; which has never yet been extinguished.
The labor and watchfulness, and the exposure to heat required, is fast diminishing this regiment of the Montezuma race; and a few years will see the end of this interesting people.
The sketches will give a much more accurate description than can be written of the remains of the modern church, with its crosses, its cells, in dark mysterious corners and niches, where many a maid signed out her confessions. The architecture of the present day in New Mexico; that of the Aztek part of the ruins presents many peculiarities worthy of notice.
Both are constructed of the same materials: the walls of sun dried brick, the rafters of well hewn timber, which could never have been hewn by the miserable axes now used by the Mexicans, which resemble, in shape, and size, the wedges used by our farmers for splitting rails. The corners and drops of the architecture, in the modern church, are elaborately carved with a knife.
To-night we found excellent grass on the Rio Pecos, abreast of the ruins. Here is situated the modern village of Pecos, with a very inconsiderable population. To-night there is a fandango, a mile and a half from camp; but as anxious as I am to see this dance, the threatening appearance of rain deterred me from going.
August 18.—We are this morning 29 miles from Santa Fe. Reliable information from four or five different sources, reached camp yesterday, and the day before that dissensions had arisen in Armijo’s camp, and that his army was dispersed, and himself fled to the south, carrying with him his artillery and 100 dragoons. Not a hostile rifle or arrow was now between the army and Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico; and the general determined to make the march in one day, and raise the United States flag over the place before sun down.
New horses and mules were ordered for the artillery, and everything was braced up for a forced march. The distance was not great, but the road was bad, and the horses on their last legs.
A small detachment was sent ahead at day break, and at six the army followed. Four or five miles from old Pecos from old Pecos the road leads into a canon, with hills on each side, from 1,000 – 2,000 feet above the road, and in all cases within cannon, and in many cases, point blank musket shot, which continues until within 12 or 15 miles of Santa Fe.
The scenery is wild, but the geological formation is much the same as before described, until you begin to fall towards the Del Norte, when the primitive rocks, granite, &c., are densely crowded wherever the rock affords a crevice. Fifteen miles from Santa Fe, we came upon the position deserted by Armijo. The topographical sketch will give a much more accurate idea of it then a written description. It is a gate way, which, in the hands of a skilled enemy and 100 resolute men, would be perfectly impregnable.
Had the position been defended with any decency, the general would have turned it by a road which branches to the south, six miles from Pecos, by the way of Gulisteo.
Armijo’s arrangements for defense were very defective. His abattis was placed behind the gorge, some 100 yards, by which it is evident he intended that the gorge should be passed before his fires were opened. This done, his batteries would have been carried without difficulty.
Before we reached the canon, the noon halt was made, in a valley covered with the native potato. It was in full bloom. The fruit was not quite so large as a wren’s egg. As we approached the town, a few straggling Mexicans came out, all opening their eyes wide, in search for the general, who, with his staff, was clad so plainly, that they passed us. Another officer and myself were sent down to explore the by road, for a short distance, by which, Armijo fled.—On our return to the main road we saw two Mexicans, one the acting Secretary of State, in search of the general. They had allowed him to pass unobserved. When we pointed the way they broke off in full run, their hands and feet keeping time to the pace of their nags. We followed, in a sharp trot, and, as we though, at a respectable distance. Our astonishment was great, to find as they wound through the ravine, and through the open well-grown pine tree forest, that they did not leave us perceptibly. "Certainly they are in full run, and as certainly, we are only in a trot, " we both exclaimed. I supposed we were under some delusion, and turned to my servant to see the pace at which he was going-and, said he, "them Mexican horses make a mighty great doing to no purpose." That was the fact. With their large cruel bitts, they harass their horses into a gait which enables them to gallop very long without losing sight of the starting place.
The acting secretary brought a letter from the lieutenant governor, informing the general of Armijo’s flight, and of his readiness to receive him in Santa Fe, and extend to him the hospitalities of the city. He was quite a youth, and dressed in the fashion of the Americans.
Here, all persons from the United States are called Americanos, and the name is extended to no other race on the continent.
To-day’s march was very tedious and vexatious.—Wishing to enter Santa Fe in an imposing form, frequent halts were made to allow the artillery to come up. Their horses were on their last legs; and during the day, mule after mule was placed before the guns, until scarcely a horse was left.
The head of the column arrived in sight of the town about three:-it was six before the van came up. Vigil, the lieutenant governor, and twenty or thirty of the people of the town, received us at the Palace. The general addressed them in a speech little different in substance, but much in manner, which was conversational, as at the Vegas and San Miguel. We were then asked to partake of wine and brandy, of domestic manufacture. It was from the Passo del Norte. We were too thirsty to judge of its merits. Anything liquid and cool was palatable. During the repast, and as the sun was setting, the United States flag was hoisted on the palace, and a salute of thirteen guns fired from the artillery that was left on an eminence overlooking the town.
The ceremony ended; the general and his staff were invited to supper at Capt. Hortises, a Mexican gentleman, once in the army. The supper was served very much after the manner of a French dinner, one dish succeeding another, in endless succession. A bottle of good wine from the Passo del Norte, and a loaf of bread were placed near each plate. We had been from five in the morning without eating, and endless as were the dishes, more endless still were our appetites.
We returned to the palace, where we found Mr. Thurston, an American with an invitation to another supper, at the celebrated Madame Tula’s. This is a lady who has amassed a large fortune here and at Chihuahua, by gambling and other accomplishments. A few of us went down. We found the lady a little passee, but by far the most vivacious and intelligent Mexican we had yet seen. I wished to make observations; and, after gratifying my curiosity by a survey of her spacious and well furnished halls, I returned to my quarters where I found my people all so much fagged, that I determined to follow their example and go to bed. The room assigned to me was very close and disagreeable, and I had my blankets moved to the plaza, where I slept till the sun was high in the heavens, and the horses, mules, and men, had been trampling around about me some hours.
August 19th.—Received an order to make a reconnaissance of the town , and select a site for a fort, assisted by Lieut. Gilmer of the engineers. This occupied me diligently on the 19th and 20th, and on the 21st the general was furnished with the map, a copy of which is sent to the adjutant general, and another to the topographical bureau.
The site selected, and marked on the maps, is within 600 yards of the heart of the town, and is 60 to one hundred feet above it. The contour of the ground is unfavorable for the trace of a regular work; but being the only point which commands the entire town, and which is itself commanded by no other, we did not hesitate to recommend it. The recommendation was approved by the general, who viewed it in person. On the 22d we submitted a complete plan of the work, which was also approved, and a copy of which will hereafter be forwarded to the department. It is computed for a garrison of 280 men. It’s regular shape is the natural consequence of the ground; and, estimating its merits, due considerations must be given to the objects in erecting it. It is to be a magazine of ammunition, and a citadel in case of extremities, into which a few troops can retreat, and hold at bay, until help arrives, a large number of opposing force.
But the chief which is imposing position will doubtless achieve is the moral effect over a feeble and distracted race, who are now, since our capture of their artillery, without a single gun. Their own guns will be chiefly used to garrison the fort; and with them every house in Santa Fe could be leveled on the least appearance of revolt. On the 23d the work was commenced with a small force, and on the 27th, the requisition being complied with, 1 set to work 100 laborers, detailed from the soldiers of the army, and on the 31st thirty one Mexican brick masons were added, which will form the permanent force until the work is completed.
It is being determined to send an express to the states, on the 25th instant, I recommended to project and place my maps of the route of the army of the west, that the government might have at once the benefit of my labors. This was a bold undertaking—to compass in a few days the work of months. My astronomical observations were brought up from day to day as we progressed on the march, without which the undertaking would have been impracticable. We all worked day and night, and with the assistance of several gentlemen of the volunteers I succeeded in accomplishing the undertaking, not, however, in a very satisfactory way, as the accompanying letter to General Kearney, forwarded by him with the express, will show. Should this journal ever appear, that letter will form part of it, and explain what I have stated here more fully. I am now preparing, at more ease and with more care, another trave of my maps, which, together with my additional observations for the position of Santa Fe, the lunar observations at Bent’s Fort, which confirm, in the most satisfactory manner, my chronometric determinations, and the latitude of each camp and place of note, will be forwarded direct to the bureau by an express which leaved here on the 5th or 6th of September.
Events at the same place now begin to crowd upon each other in quick succession; but my duties keep me so constantly occupied in my office and in the field, they will not be chronicled in regular order, or in much detail.
On the morning of the 19th the general assembled all the people at the palace, and addressed them in about the same language as at Vegas; the principal difference being, that he notified all those who were dissatisfied with the new order of things, they had full liberty to quit the country without molestation. The next morning the chiefs and head men of the Puebla Indians in to give their adhesion, and to express their great satisfaction of his arrival. This large and formidable band are amongst the best and most peaceable citizens of New Mexico. They, early after the conquest, embraced the forms of religion and like manners and customs of their then more civilized masters- the Spaniards. Their interview was long and interesting. They expressed what was a tradition with them that the white man would come from the far east, and release them from the bonds and shackles which the Spaniards have imposed, not in the name, but in a worse form than slavery.
They, and the numerous half-breeds, in whose veins flow their blood, are our fast friends now and forever. Three hundred years of oppression and injustice have failed to extinguish in this race the recollection that they were once the peaceable and inoffensive masters of the country. The day of retribution has now come, and they have their revenge.
The same afternoon, just as twilight had closed, the vicar of the department, a huge lump of fat, who had fled with Armijo, came puffing into town, and soon presented himself to the general. The interview was amusing. His holiness was accompanied by two young priests; one of whom showed the highest state of alarm and agitation. The vicar assured the general he had been persuaded to run off by the women of his family. The general told him, sharply, he thought it would have been much more in keeping with his holy office to stand by his flock, and not desert them in the hour of trouble, than listen to the unreasonable fears of two women. He then told the general that at another time he would give him the real reason for running away on the approach of the American army.]
A message was received the same night from Armijo, asking on what terms he would be received by the general, but this turned out only to be a ruse, on his part, to gain time in his flight to the south. It is now quite certain he had in the canon with him 4,000 men, tolerably armed, and six pieces of artillery. Had he been any sort of a general, he would have been able to give us infinite trouble. A priest arrived last night (the 29th) and gave the certain intelligence, that at the moment of Armijo’s flight, Ogarte, a colonel of the regular service, was on his march this side of the Passo del Norte, with 500 men to support him; that he would have been enabled to rouse the whole southern district, which is by far the most wealthiest and most populous.
Mr. McGriffin, an American, says that the night Armijo’s messenger returned from Gen. Kearney with the news that the latter had refused to stop, but was still advancing, he (Armijo) was thrown into the greatest trepidation; that he sent for him, (Mr. McGriffin,) embraced him, and asked him for God’s sake to go out and use his influence with General Kearney, to stop him. When Mr. McGriffin told him that was impossible, he gave away to the most uncontrollable despair.
In the course of the week, various deputations have come in from Taos, giving their allegiances, and asking for protection from the Indians. That portion is the best disposed to war is the United States. You can tell a Taos man at once by the cordiality of his salutation.
A band of Navahoes, naked, thin, and devilish looking, dropped in on the general while I was present. He told them to tell their chiefs and people that he was aware that they had, for a long time, subsisted by plundering the Mexicans, that hereafter, if they committed these acts he would hang the offenders by the neck until they were dead.—He also sent a message, that he had some presents to give them, which he would distribute in a few days.
Various rumors reached us from the south that troops are marching on Santa Fe, and that the people are rising, &c. To quiet them, the general has determined on an expedition down the river, 150 miles, to start on Wednesday, 1st of September.—The order is already out to prepare to march for California no time to lose.
September 30th – To-day we went to church, in great state. The governor’s seat, a large well stuffed chair, covered with crimson, was occupied by the general. The house was crowded with an attentive audience, of men and women; but not a word was uttered from the pulpit by the priest, who kept his back to the audience, the whole time uttering prayers. The band-the identical one used at the fandango-played the same tunes as at the dance, without intermission. Except the governor’s, and one row of benches, there were no seats in the church. Each woman dropped on her knees, on the bare floor, as she entered; and only changed this position for that on her seat, at long intervals, announced by the tinkle of a small bell.
The interior of the church is decorated with some fifty crosses, a great number of the most miserable paintings, and wax figures and looking glasses, trimmed with pieces of tinsel. The priest who was a very grave, respectable looking person, of fair complexion, commenced the services by sprinkling holy water over the congregation. When abreast of the general, he extended his silver waterspout, and gave him a handful.
Though not a word was uttered, the whole service was grave and impressive; and I thought it was the very religion for the people present; and much more decent and worthy of God’s temple, than many of the ranting, howling discourses we have at home.
All appeared to have just left work to come to church. There was no fine dressing or personal display, that will not be seen on weekdays. Indeed, on returning from church we found all the stores open, and the market women selling their melon and plums, as usual.
The fruit of this place-muskmelons, apples, and plums-is very indifferent, and would scarcely be eaten in the states. To this I must except the apricot, which grows in perfection.
Leaving the narrow valley of the Santa Fe, which various from a thousand feet to a mile or two in width, you reach barren hills, utterly incapable, from soil and climate, of producing anything.
The valley is entirely cultivated by irrigation, and is, as you will see on the sketch, now covered with corn.
The population of Santa Fe if from 2,000 to 4,000; and they are, it is said, the poorest people of any town in the province.
The houses are of mud bricks, in the Spanish style, generally of one story and built on a square. The interior of the square is an open court, and the principal rooms open into it. They are forbidding in appearance, from the outside, but once in, and nothing can exceed their comfort and convenience. The thick walls make them cool in the summer, and they say, warm in the winter.
The better class of people are all provided with excellent beds, and have furniture, and have furniture; but the lower class, who are in fact but serfs, are very destitute, and sleep chiefly on skins untanned.
The women here, as in all other parts of the world, appear to be much before the men in refinement, intelligence, and knowledge of useful arts. The better class dress like American women, except they wear, instead of a bonnet, a scarf over the head. This they wear asleep or awake, in the house, or out.
He dress of the lower class of women, is a simple petticoat, with arms and shoulders bare, except what might be covered by the reboso.
The men who have means to do so, dress after our fashion; but by far the greater number, when they dress at all wear leather breeches, tight round the hips, and open from the knee down; and shirt and blanket takes the place of our coat and vest.
The city is dependant on the distant hills for wood, and at all hours of the day may be seen jackasses coming laden with wood, which is sold at 2 bits, or 25 cents per load. They are the most diminutive little creatures, and generally mounted from behind, after the fashion of a leap frog. It is the only animal that can subsist in this barren region with out the greatest expense. Our horses are all sent to distance, 12, 15, and 20 miles to grass.
Grain was very high when we first entered the town, selling freely at $5 and $6 the fanega (140 pounds.) As our wagons draw near, and the crops of wheat are being gathered, it is generally falling to four dollars the fanega.
Milk sells at six cents the quart. Eggs, too, for the same sum; sugar 35 cents per pound, and coffee 75 cents. The Sugar made in the country is principally made from the cornstalk.
A great reduction must now take place in the price of dry goods and groceries—20 per cent, at least, for this was about the rate of duty charged by Armijo, which is now, of course, taken off. He collected annually some 50,000 or 60,000 dollars, principally, indeed entirely, on goods imported over land from the wagon load, without regard to the contents of the wagon.
Mr. Alvarez, our respectable consul here, informed me, that the impression form the Unites States, through New Mexico, varied vary much; but that he thought they would average about a half million nearly, and no more. Many of the wagons go on to Chihuahua without breaking their loads.
New Mexico contains, according to the last census made a few years ago, 100,000 inhabitants. It is divided into three departments-the northern, the middle, and the southeastern. These are again subdivided into counties, and the counties into towns.—The lower, or southern, is comparably the richest, containing 48,000 inhabitants, many of whom are rich, in the possession of farms, stocks, and gold dust.
The statistics and resources of this whole country I will differ entering into until my return from the south.
This country, although poor and barren, unless the gold mines should be more extensively developed, is of great interest to the United States, and all important for her to possess. The road from here to Fort Leavenworth presents no obstacle for a railway, and if it continues as good to the Pacific, will be the route over which the U. States will pass immense quantities of merchandise into what will, at one day become the rich and populous state of Sonora, Durango, and Southern California.
As a military possession, it is important and necessary. Its mountain fortresses have long been the retreating place of the warlike parties of the Indians and robbers that sally out to intercept our caravans, moving on the different line of travel to the Pacific.
Another event of the day I must not omit to mention—the ball given at the palace by the general on Thursday night. It was well attended by all the principal people in town, Madam Tula included, and kept up to a late hour. The American cotillion was danced once or twice, but soon gave way to the rocha, the boleso, and the Italian. Every variety of figure was introduced in the dance; but the waltz was the basis of all, except the boleso which, as danced here resembles our Negro jig. My friend Lieut. Cribbon, of the artillery, has noted some of the music, which may be that of the time of the conquest. I send a few of the airs, some of which are pretty, and when I get back to Washington, hope to find them in vogue.
August 31st—Lieutenant Warner arrived to-day, with the wagon train of ordinance stores; but the general cannot yet relieve him from the duty. To-morrow a small expedition goes to Taos; but Lieutenant Peck being sick, I have not an officer to send with it.
To-day, pretty well authenticated accounts have arrived that Armijo, having met Ugarte advancing up the Del Norte with 500 regulars and several pieces of artillery, returned with, and is now rallying his forces in the lower country to the amount of four or five thousand; and it is said that numbers are joining him from the upper towns. In consequence, the general has strengthened the army with which is to meet him, with all his disposable force.
We march day after to-morrow; and I shall turn over the construction of the fort to Lieutenant Gilmer, and leave Lieut. Peck to assist him, as he is still unable to ride.
Niles' National Register, 14 November 1846, vol. 71, pp. 174-175
The last mail from General Kearney’s command brought a continuation of Lt. Emory’s journal, from Santa Fe, which we have now the opportunity of laying before our readers:
September 1.—The day passed away in preparing for tomorrow’s march, and listening to the thousand rumors about the force we are to encounter, not a word of which do I believe.
September 2.—Marched at 9 o’clock out of Santa Fe, taking no one of my party but Mr. Bestor. We descended the valley of the Santa Fe river nearly west for five miles, when we left the river, which is here dry, and struck across a plain intersected by arroyas, (creeks,) in a southwesterly course. Twenty-three miles brought us to Galistea creek, which at the time was barely running. The bed is sand and pebbles of primitive rock, and lies between steep cliffs of clay and limestone, traversed occasionally by trap dykes, which in one place are so regular as to resemble walls pierced with windows. From this place to its mouth there is scarcely a sign of vegetation. At its dry mouth, and directly, on the Rio del Norte, is the town of Santo Domingo.
September4.—This was a great day. The general received some days since an invitation from the Pueblos to visit their town of Santa Fe. From height to height as we advanced we could see horsemen disappearing at full speed. As we arrived abreast of the town, the general was told by a guide posted there for the purpose, that this was the road for Santo Domingo.He sent the chief part of his command and the wagon train along the highway, and with his staff and Capt. Bargwin’s squadron of dragoons, wended his way along the middle path nearly due west to the town. We had not proceeded far before we met ten or fifteen sachemy looking old Indians, well mounted, two of them carrying gold headed canes with tassels, the emblem of the office of New Mexico, that no dandy, nor even an alcalde, or other magistrate, dare sport.Salutations through, we jogged along, and in the course of conversation, the alcalde, a grave and majestic looking old Indian, said casually, we shall soon meet some Indians mounted. They are young men of my town, friends, come to receive you, and I wish you to caution your men not to fire upon them when they ride towards them.Sure enough, within a few miles of the town, we saw a cloud of dust rapidly advancing, and soon a terrible yell; the real Florida war whoop over again.The first thing that caught my eye through the column of dust, was a fierce pair of Buffalo horns overlapped with long shaggy hair. As they approached, the sturdy form of a naked Indian revealed itself beneath the horns, with shield and lance, dashing at full speed on a white horse, which, like his own naked body, was painted all the colors of the rainbow, and then, one by one, his followers came on painted to the eyes, their heads and their horses covered with all the hideous looking things that the brute creation could afford, in the way of horns, sculls, feathers, and claws.As they passed us one rank on each side, they fired a volley under our horse bellies from the right and from the left. My horse, a fresh one, had never before smelt gunpowder, and long will my friend, Dr. Decamp. Recollect that fact, for he jumped against him, and the end of my pistol struck his knee, right on what the children call the singing bone. A pure American "God d---n," came, perhaps for the first time from the doctors lips. I muttered some apology, but it was lost in the house that was made to the right and to the left of the passing Indians.Our well trained dragoons sat motionless on their horses, who went along without pricking an ear or showing any signs of excitement.Arrived in the rear, the Indian circled round and dropped into a walk o our flanks, until their horses recovered breath, when off they went at full speed, passing to our front, and when there, the opposite ranks met, and each man selected his adversary, and kept up a running fight with masked lances, and bows and arrows. Sometimes a fellow would stoop almost to the earth to shoot under his horse’s belly at full speed, or shield himself from an impending blow. So they continued to pass and repass, all the way to the steep cliffs which overhang the town. Here they filed out on each side of the road, which at this place descended through a deep canon, and halted on the peaks of the cliff. Their motionless figures projected against the clear blue sky above, formed studies for an artist. In the canon we were joined by a priest, a hearty looking old white man, with the idea of the locality, occasioned several of us to say, well, this is really a canonical meeting. We were taken first to the padre’s of course, for here, as everywhere in New Mexico, the padre’s are most intelligent, and the best to do in the world; and when the good people wish to put the best foot foremost, the padre’s wines, beds, and meats have to suffer. The entrance to the portal was lined with the women of the place, all dressed alike, and ranged in simple flies. They looked rather fat and uninteresting. We were shown into his reverence’s parlor, tapestried with curtains stamped with the likenesses of all the Presidents of the United States up to this time. The cushions were of spotless damask, and the couch of the luxuriant old saint, covered with a white Navahoe blanket worked in richly colored flowers.The air was redolent with the perfume of grapes and melons, and every crack of door and window was glistening with the bright eyes of the women of the casilla. The old priest was busily talking to the general in a corner, and little did he know of the game of sighs and signs the young fellows were carrying on with the fair people of his house. We had our gayest array of young men out to-day, and the women seemed to me to drop the usual subdued look and timid motion of the eyelash for good hearty twinkles and signs of unaffected and cordial welcome. Signs in this group was the only conversation, as neither party could speak the language of the other.This little exchange of artillery of the eyes amused me a good deal; but I was very glad to see the padre put a stop to it, by advancing towards the grapes, melons, and wines. We were as thirsty as dust and heat could make us, and whatever was the quality of the wine, we relished it highly. The sponge cake was irreproachable, and would have done honor to Mrs. Bonlkendorff, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Indeed whenever we have been feasted, we found the sponge cake in profusion and of this best quality.The general now went forward on the portal, and delivered a speech to the assembled people of the town, which was interpreted into Spanish, and then into Puebla. He was very happy to-day in what he said, and almost every sentence was responded to by grunts of satisfaction. I will not report the speech, as I am not sure that it would be proper, or expected of me to do so.The population of the town was impossible to arrive, but I should judge it to be 1,000; and the quantity of ground under tillage, for their support, about 500 acres.The valley of the "Del Notre" is here quite narrow, and the soil sandy. The river itself was viewed, by me for the first time, with strange interest.—The hardships, trials, and perseverance of the gallant Pike, and the adventures of the pious and brave soldiers of the cross-the monks and early adventurers-came to my mind; and as I kneeled down to drink its waters, my thoughts were of them.—The little episode, too, in my own dog-trot life, in relation to this river, was not forgotten. Being stationed at Washington when the annexation of Texas was determined on, I was ordered to compile a map of that country. Instead of going to the hasty compilers, and romantic voyagers of the day, I went back to the original explorers themselves. I pleased neither party, and was roundly scolded in both houses of congress, until Colonel Benton, that able statesmen who is the best informed man in congress in history and geography took the matter in hand, and justified all I had written and done.Leaving Santo Domingo, we struck the highway in about four miles, and two miles more brought us to the pretty village of San Filippe, overhung by a sleep craggy precipice; upon the summit of which are the ruins of a Roman Catholic church, presenting in the landscape the appearance of the pictures we see of the castles of the Rhine.Between San Felippe and the Augusturas, 6 miles below, the valley of the river is very narrow, affording no interval for agriculture. On the west side the banks are steep basaltic walls, crowned by table lands the west are rolling sand hills, covered with large round pebbles, terminating at the base of high mountains, running north and south.The little town of Angosturas, the valley of the river opens into a plain, varying from two to six miles in width, generally low and level to admit the water of the river to be carried over it for purposes of irrigation; but the soil is very sandy, and better adapted to Indian corn than wheat. Of this last, we saw but few stubbles, the ground being chiefly in corn.News now began to arrive which left but little doubt that the reports which caused our movements down the river, were exaggerated, if not without foundation. People had passed down the river, as was reported to the general, but in no great numbers. A messenger came in, too, from the alcalde of Topie, with an official note, stating that Armijo had left with him 100 mules, pressed into service by him, to meet us at the canon, and that Armijo had also notified him that 100 more would be left at the Passo del Norte. These belonged to citizens of New Mexico, and had been taken from them without their consent. It was his practice, in peace or in war, to seize the person or property of any who fell under his displeasure.The town of Bernallillo is small, but one of the best built in the territory. We were here invited to the house of a very wealthy man, named Pasilla, to take some refreshment. We were led into an oblong room, furnished like that of every Mexican who is well to do in this world. A banquet runs entirely around the room, except where the "couch" goes. It is covered with cushions, carpets, and pillows, upon which the visitor sits or reclines. The dirt floor is usually covered a third or half with a common looking carpet. On the uncovered part is the table, freighted with grapes, sponge cake, and the wine o f the country. The walls are hung with miserable pictures of the saints, crosses innumerable, and common Yankee mirrors without number. These last are hung entirely out of reach, and if one wishes to shave, or adjust his shirt, he must do it with out a mirror, be there ever so many in the chamber.Mr. Pasilla was hospitable, but very uncommunicative. He evidently had not yet the news from below, of the retreat of Ugarte and Armijo. We passed on to the house of his wealthy son, where we were invited to dine. Here we found another table of refreshments, and, after waiting some hours, dinner was announced. It was a queer jumble of refinement and barbarism, the first predominating in everything, except in the mode of serving, which was chiefly done by the master, his Mexican guests, and a few female serfs.The plates, forks, and spoons, were of solid silver clumsily worked in the country. The middle of the table was strewed with the finest white bread, cut into pieces and within the reach of every plate.—At close intervals were glass decanters, of Pittsburg manufacture, filled with wine made on the plantation. The dishes came of separately: the first was soup meager, then followed roast chicken, stuffed with onions, then mutton boiled with onions, and various others, all stuffed with the everlasting onion, and the whole terminated by chile- the glory of New Mexico. This dish, which the Mexicans consider the chef d’oeupre of the cuisine, they seem really to revel in; but the first mouthful brought the tears trickling down my cheeks, very much to the amusement of the leather throated spectators. It was red pepper stuffed with mince meat.From Bernallillo the valley opens but narrows again at Sandina, an Indian town, on a sandbank, at the base of a high mountain of the same name, said to contain the precious metals. Here they were treading wheat, which is done by making a circular enclosure, on level ground, of clay. Upon this floor they scatter the wheat, turn in a dozen or so of mules, and one or two Indians, who, with whoops, yells and blows, keep the affrighted brutes constantly in motion. To separate the wheat from the chaff, both Indians and Mexicans use a simple hand barrow, with bottom of raw bull’s hide, pierced with holes. I should think it took an hour to winnow one bushel.After dining sumptuously at Sandiral’s, we went to our camp in the Allabovo. Here the valley is wide, and well cultivated. The people of the surrounding country flocked in with grapes, melons, and eggs. Several very pretty women were clustered around the general’s tent; and, as night approached, he asked them if they were not afraid to venture amongst the strangers at that dangerous hour. "No," said one, "what have we to fear when our general is here?"Swarms of wild geese and sand cranes passed over camp. They frequent the river; and are undisturbed, save when some American levels his rifle.
September 5.—Encamped last night on very indifferent grass. Breakfasted with Don Jose Chavis, at Pardilla. When sitting, the table was as high as our chins. There were five or six courses, ending with coffee. Before breakfast we were summoned to mass in a private chapel of Don Jose, where officiated the eccentric dandy we met yesterday at dinner. Priest and dandy were curiously combined in this person. Proud of his pure white hands, he flourished them incessantly, sometimes running his fingers through his hair, to give an air of elegant intelligence; and ever and anon, looking into one of the many looking glasses with which they decorate their churches. After mass, to our surprise, he delivered a course-eulogizing the grandeur, magnanimity, power and justice of the United States. When we visited his chapel at the town of Isoletta, near by, some of the gentlemen of the staff stumbled into the refreshment room before it was intended and surprised two or three pretty women aiding in the arrangements.Mass was anything but an appetizer before breakfast. The church was crowded with women of all conditions; and the horrid reboso, which the poor use for shawls, bonnet, handkerchief, and spit-box, sent out an odor which the incense from the alter failed to stifle.One thing struck me as singular-in all the houses of the better class, that we visited, the ladies never made their appearance; but here we caught, in the act of running across the court, the very pretty and gay widow of Mr. Chavis, who was killed for his gold, near the western borders of Missouri, a year or two since. At Isoletta I became tired of the show, and seeing my servant talking, at the door of one of his acquaintances, I took the liberty of asking an introduction, with the intention of taking a quiet siesta, but this was out of the question. The good woman overwhelmed me with a thousand questions about the United States. I could only stop her by asking questions myself. She denounced Armijo as a coward, and said, with a true Castillian flash of the eye. "I do not see how any man, wearing those things," (pointing to my shoulder straps,) "could run away." "he had a good army to back him, and could have driven you all back to the United States."The valley suddenly contracts below Perdilla.—Between Isoletta and Peralta, on the east side of the river, there is deep sand, and the country perfectly barren.
September 7.—Last night was the most beautiful, light, and scene; the air of the natural temperature of the body, occasionally varied by a gentle breeze from the mountains, wafting along the perfumes of the vineyards.Observed for time and latitude; the last unsatisfactorily, in consequence of the brightness of the moon dimming the southern stars. About 11 o’clock the whole character of the night was changed by an east wind, that came rustling down from the mountains, and driving the sand before it. Nearly the whole distanced traveled to-day and yesterday, and indeed the day before, was over deep sand, with only occasional patches of deep soil. Although up late, I rose early; and after dispatching ( by order) a note to Colonel Ruff, requiring him to move at 9 o’clock, I walked over the town of Paralta, which is dotted with cotton wood trees, growing in nearly the regular order of an apple orchard. Having seen all, I repaired to headquarters, at the Palace of Mr. Hortera, a spacious edifice, nearly five hundred feet front. I found the general up, and waiting for the slow coming breakfast.—This was announced about ten; and as I had already breakfasted, I stretched myself on the luxurious ottoman that surrounded the whole room, and napped away, well knowing the length of a Mexican dejune. This over, we waited till the rear of the army passed, and escorted the general to Mr. Hortera, senior. Here ends all my journal that could be copied in time to go to the mail. I wish I could go on, and describe our visit to Tome, the fete, the religious jubilee in honor of the conception, the fandango at night, and the dramatic performance of David and Absaloin. But this must be left for another opportunity.We ascertained that the reports were all unfounded in reference to Armijo’s rallying the people in the south to resistance; that when near Col. Ugarte, who was marching towards us with a regular force he sent word to him that Kearney was in possession of Santa Fe. Upon this Ugarte left 12 dragoons for Armijo, turned short round, and trotted towards Chihuahua with his whole force. We returned here on the 12th, and immediately retrieved orders to march for California on the 25th. 1,000 miles, a great portion of which is desert. I am constantly employed in examining guides, trappers, &c., in reference to it.I studiously avoid giving any general notions of this country. I reserve that till I see all that is to be seen.Peck and Abert are still too weak to accompany me to California, but both are fast recovering.I will close this, as we are directed to hand in our official papers at 9 o’clock, and I intend it to go through the bureau. I will write further by this same mail, directed to you in person.
The more I think of the matter, the more I think of this journal, the preceding part of which as already been sent—the more I am satisfied it is unfit for official use in its present state. Therefore let it be considered as an unofficial record of passing, and often even trivial events.[MJK]