Don Fernando De Taos, N. Mex., February 16, 1847.
Colonel: I have the honor herewith to transmit the monthly return of the late Capt. J. H. K. Burgwin’s company (G, First Dragoons) for the month of January, 1847.
I have signed the return myself, and in order to explain it beg leave to submit the following statement:
On January 23 Captain Burgwin marched with his company from Albuquerque, a town on the Rio Grande, 70 miles distant from Santa Fe, to join Colonel Price. He reached the latter place on January 26. On 28th he joined Colonel Price with his company at a town on the Rio Arriba, 35 miles from Santa Fe in the direction of Taos.
On the 29th he was sent forward in command of a detachment, made up of his own company and about 100 volunteers, to drive the enemy from a stronghold in a mountain pass near a town called Embudo. Early in the day Captain Burgwin found the enemy posted on the heights, in the ravines, and behind all trees and rocks where shelter could be found. The enemy numbered about 500, consisting of Mexicans and Pueblo Indians. Captain Burgwin at once engaged the enemy by ordering Captain St. Train’s company of citizens and mountain men to dismount and skirmish on the left of the road.
At the same time I was ordered to throw out the dragoons on the right and left. The action lasted about two and one-half hours. The enemy was put to flight with considerable loss and was pursued more than 2 miles from hill to hill through the ravines, and was completely routed and driven beyond the town of Embudo, of which Captain Burgwin took possession and in which his command camped on the night of 29th. In this engagement Captain Burgwin lost 1 man killed and 1 wounded. The enemy lost, so far as could be ascertained, about 20 killed and 60 wounded.
On January 30 Captain Burgwin joined Colonel Price at a town called Trampas, 15 miles from Embudo. On 31st the march was continued toward Taos Valley, which Colonel Price reached on the evening of February 2 with his command. On the evening of 3d a march of 6 miles was made to the Pueblo de Taos.
After an attempt to reduce the place by a bombardment it was found impracticable, and Colonel Price returned to Don Fernando de Taos for the night. Early on the morning of 4th the town of Pueblo de Taos, in which the enemy to the number of 1,000 was fortified, was attacked at different points by the artillery and musketeers.
At about 11 o’clock a. m. Captain Burgwin, in command of his own company and a part of Captain McMillins’s company, Missouri Volunteers, charged the town from the front and carried by storm all the outward defenses up to the walls of the church. A simultaneous charge was to have been made on the left flank by a portion of the large force of volunteers stationed there beyond effective rifle range, but from some mistake the dragoons were first in the charging, and for some time were exposed to the galling fire of the enemy through loopholes in the church and main buildings. It was during this period that Captain Burgwin received a mortal wound. The main force, however, coming up soon, carried the church and put many of the enemy to flight. The town was carried and the battle closed near night, having killed about 150 of the enemy.
I assumed command of the dragoons, being the next officer in rank and having served with them in all the engagements.
Capt. J. H. K. Burgwin died on the morning of February 7. In the action of the 4th Company G, First Dragoons, lost 7 killed and 16 wounded, exclusive of the captain. I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Rufus Ingalls, Second Lieutenant, First Dragoons
Headquarters, Fort Leavenworth,
April 1, 1847. Sir: It is with more than ordinary grief that I herewith inclose an official report of the death of Capt. J. H. K. Burgwin, of the First Regiment Dragoons, who was mortally wounded in the battle of Pueblo de Taos on the 4th of February last.
Having known long and intimately the late captain, I can not forbear observing that for personal worth and professional excellence in his particular arm of service the deceased has left no superior behind him. The announcement of his death—”this morning learned—”has cast a gloom over the hearts of all at this post who ever knew him professionally or personally.
I transmit also a copy of a letter this morning received from Lieutenant Ingalls, now in command of the late Captain Burgwin’s company, which furnishes a brief account of the affair of the 29th of January near Embudo and of that of the 4th of February at Pueblo de Taos.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. Wharton, Lieutenant-Colonel First Dragoons, Commanding. Brig. Gen. R. Jones,
Adjutant-General, Washington, D. C.
P. S.—”I have just obtained and send you a printed sheet from the Government printing office at Santa Fe, giving details of the several affairs between our forces and the Mexicans up to the 15th of February last.
Missouri Republican, April 9, 1847
Tim Kimball’s extract of letter from a member of the late Capt. J. H. K. Burgwin, company (G) 1st U.S. Dragoons, to a member of the same company [Pvt. John J. O’Meally is the only G Company man so shown, left sick June 7, 1846, in April assigned to Daily duty in the commissary department], at Fort Leavenworth, Mo., the letter was dated at San Fernado de Taos, N. M., 13th February, 1847: In consequence of the massacre that had taken place at Taos, we received orders to repair to Santa Fe immediately, and next morning the 23rd January, we commenced our march on foot, every member in the company being in the best spirits. We arrived in Santa Fe the 26th; next day we pushed on and overtook. Col. Price—™s command, he having marched out of Santa Fe some time before our arrival. On the 29th our company, with our once favorite Captain at its head, and two companies of Col. Price—™s volunteers, had a skirmish with the enemy near El Emboda [Embudo], killing eight, and wounding upwards of twenty of them. But one on our side (a volunteer) was killed, none wounded. But the cause of this expedition I must more full explain.
The Indians near Taos, and some Spaniards in that valley, numbering some 2000, headed by a fellow named Pablo Montoya, who called himself the —œSanta Anna of the North, rose in revolt, and murdered Gov. Bent and ten other Americans who lived in Taos. They then marched for Santa Fe. They were met by Col. Price at Canada, where he obliged them to retreat. Col. Price—™s command was but two hundred men. The second meeting, I have mentioned above. Capt. Burgwin was in command. On the road, we heard that they were fortifying themselves in a village beyond San Fernando, about three miles.
On the 3rd of February we arrived at this place, and after resting less than an hour, resumed our march to El pueblo, a large Indian village, in which the enemy were fortified. About 2 P. M. the command was drawn up in front of the village; Capt. Burgwin and his dragoons on the right extended as skirmishers. The battalion of Missouri volunteer infantry in the centre, and the mounted company of volunteers from Santa Fe—”storekeepers, trader, &c., and dismounted companies of Col. Price’s regiment, on the left—”in all about four hundred men. The village consists of two large edifices, or piles, of houses, built one over the other, and so formed as to make each an almost impregnable fortress in itself. Each occupied an area of at least one acre of ground, and in the centre was nearly sixty feet in height. Almost immediately in front of these stood the church, and few scattering houses and fodder stacks. In front of the church ran a wall six feet high, and fifty or sixty yards long; this was their breastwork. All the buildings were pierced with loopholes, for the convenience of their marksmen.
Our artillery, consisting of four 12 pound howitzers, and one 6-pounder field piece, was placed at the distance of six hundred yards from the church, and commenced a fire in the direction of an opening between the church and the building on the right and rear of it. In this direction the Indians slowed themselves in great numbers, yelling defiance at us. The ammunition was soon expended as the wagons containing supplies for the guns had been left in the mountains, having broken down. But I must go back a little in my tale. When we arrived in front of the village, were still in a lose order, the Indians opened fire upon us with rifles from a breastwork. All their balls went over us except one, which struck Serg’t Vanroe’s left pocket of his pantaloons, cutting through it, and lodging in a piece of tobacco which he had that morning providently put there. The tobacco saved his life sirus doute [intended as,—without a doubt—?].
At 4 P. M. we formed in close order and marched back to this place, when we got quarters. As we marched off the Indians set up a yell of defiance (thinking that we were alarmed at their hostile appearance and the strength of the village,) jumped over their breastwork and danced in their peculiar manner, while the Spaniards who were leagued with them, halloed in Spanish, —Venaci, tu tiene miedo de nosotros. (Come here, you are afraid of us.) On the following morning, our ammunition wagons having arrived, we marched fully determined to take the village. On our arrival there the command was placed as follows: Capt. Burgwin’s Dragoons extended to the right and front of the church, the remainder opposite the left of the village, two of the howitzers on the right and front, 500 yards distant; the other two and the field piece, on the left and front, 600 yards from the church. The fire of the artillery commenced about 8 and continued until 11 a. m., doing but little damage besides knocking off the corners of the houses.
Col. Price then saw that the only way to obtain possession of the place would be by a desperate charge up the breast work and church and the endeavor to take the latter. He gave orders to Capt. Burgwin to that effect, who was to lead the charge with his dragoons as soon as a company of infantry would join us. The other dismounted troops were to charge at the same time from the left.
The companies joined us and Capt. Burgwin moved forward at the signal he had sounded by our bugler. At the very word”Charge,” every one ran for the breastwork. I was the first to reach it and saw the Indians compressed into the church. I shot one between the shoulders and killed him dead; the enemy fled but kept up the incessant fire from the houses and [log palisade?] near the side of the church. The outer work gained, a shout of success arose from every man, but it was soon slightly damped by the news of the death of our first sergeant, Geo. R. Ross, and three privates of dragoons under him. The check was however only momentarily felt by the others; the axes were used to cut holes in the wall of the church, the body of which was supposed to contain 80 or 100 of the enemy, who kept up a continual fire of rifles and arrows from the ledge near the roof. At this time Capt. Burgwin took a part of his dragoons, and ran around the left wall of the church and gained the door, which they intended to break open, but it was soon found to be a dangerous position, as they were still more exposed to the fire of the enemy from the house.
Capt Burgwin and four men were dangerously wounded and but two or three of the party escaped unharmed. The Capt. and wounded men were taken off to the surgeons as quick as possible, as those who carried them were exposed to a deadly fire from the largest of the two houses. The fire on our side was kept up with spirit; as soon as an Indian or Mexican was seen crossing the street, two dozen carbines were fired and always with effect.
The enemy were constantly on the watch, as soon as one of our men showed himself, he was fired at by a dozen rifles, but mostly without effect. The greatest execution on the side of the enemy was done by a rifle, said to have been done by a white man [most often reported to be the Delaware, “Big Nigger,” who did survive], who was subsequently shot. He killed five of our men and wounded ten others. Private Stewart of our company (a Scotchman), with the boldness of his countrymen, climbed to the roof of the church, set fire to the projecting timbers, and descended to the ground in safety, notwithstanding the manner in which he was exposed.
The infantry on the left, covered by the large wall of the church, did at this time but little service, and although they tried to effect an entrance into the church by means of axes, their progress was slow and after we had kept our dangerous position for more than three hours, they had not been able to accomplish their object. The field piece was then brought to bear upon the church, at the distance of 100 yards, and about twenty shots fired from it which made a breach in the wall large enough to admit two men abreast. A lighted bomb was then thrown in by Lieut. Wilson and his example was soon followed by others. Sergeant Koch of our company, privates [Joseph L.] Nixon*, and Holcomb entered the breach, but were by a few minutes forced to retreat by the smoke, the result of the bursting of the bombs and the fire in the roof, which had accumulated. They, however, remained long enough to discover that the place was deserted by all but the dead, of which a goodly number were lying on the floor. The artillery meantime had been playing upon the building to the left and soon after we obtained possession of the church it was discovered that few, if any, Indians remained in it.
The building was taken by the troops and a good shelter achieved. At the same time a number of the enemy made a sortie to gain the mountain. Capt. St. Vrain—™s company (mounted), which had hitherto done nothing, now charged upon the, killing fifty-two; the remnant, owing to the lateness of the day, escaped in the bushes and it was supposed, crawled back to the village. About that time a white flag was raised upon the houses on the right, but had scarcely appeared before a dozen muskets [that is, voluteers—”Dragoons carrying carbines]were levelled[sic] at the bearer and he and his flag were literally shot to pieces. This was a shameful act but an excuse can be offered as the men were exasperated by the death of their comrades and had no thought but that of revenge. The firing on our side was then ordered to cease, as the enemy had not fired a gun for twenty minutes. At dark the men proposed to seek repose after their hard day—™s work; a guard of 100 men was set around the town.
At day light the following morning, a flag of truce was sent to the Colonel which was accepted on condition that the survivors should conduct themselves peaceably, and also surrender the goods which they had stolen from the traders and others in the valley of Taos. The day was spent by the troops in searching for the stolen goods and about 4 P. M. we left the village to its owners and quartered in this town. For the detail of the storming of that village you are partly indebted to Sergeant Koch, as of the occurrences had not been noticed by me.
This action should be reckoned as among the most severe that has occurred in modern days. The buildings in which the enemy were, are built of mud one house over the other, a score of them forming the basement and the wall of each being at least four feet thick. Numerous loop holes were cut to these walls from which a fire was kept up on our exposed company, and would have proved most destructive had the marksmen been good —“our possession of the church disheartened the. They thought that their saint (St. Jerome), and image of whom stood in the church had deserted them and their efforts after that were feeble and fruitless. To their superstition we chiefly owe the victory. A Victory, indeed, dearly purchased by the single death of our brave, our dauntless and our ever good Captain. But his own Co. G proved itself and has won laurels and as far as was in our power, revenged his death, and our other comrades and fellow soldiers who fell with him. Had two hundred American possession of those buildings ten time their number could not have dislodged them. Heavy artillery could do it—”but nothing else. It was said that at one time it was besieged by 2,500 Spaniards for ten day, and at another by 3,000 Comanche and Apache Indians for three months; in both cases the besiegers were obliged to withdraw with the loss of two-thirds of their number, and without doing any injury to the besieged. But it did not prove invincible to American soldiers. In one day we gained possession of it.
The loss of the enemy is supposed to have been 200. We lost on the 4th Sergeant [George B.] Ross, privates [Eldridge] Brooks, [Nelson] Beebe, and [Michael] Seviey; next morning [Jacob] Hunsaker died of wounds, and on the 7th, Capt [John H. K.] Burgwin and private [Isaac] Truax died of wounds; and on the 10th, private [Frederick] Schneider. Those of the dragoons wounded and now in hospital of our company are: Sert. Vanroe, Corporals Engleman and Linneman, privates Anderson, Blodget, Crain, [Zenas] Beach*, Deetz, Hagenback, [William] Hillerman*, [John] Mear*, Sinkenberg, Shay, and [William?] Walker, 1st—”the two last are only slightly wounded, none are dangerous. On the 6th, Montoya, the leader of the Spanish rebels was hung in the presence of the troops in this town. The command with the exception of our company (that it, all that is left of it.) and the battalion of infantry, under Capt. Angney, have gone to Santa Fe. The loss of the volunteers was one officer, one sergeant, and five privates killed, and ten wounded. Sergeant [Eldridge G.] Towle, Corporal [John J.] Price, and four privates, of company I, first dragoons, volunteered and came with us, attached to our company from Santa Fe. They were all in the action.
[*indicates men redistributed from or still held on rolls of Co. B.]
SANTA FE, Feb. 17, 1847
P.S.—”We arrived here yesterday. As soon as our men recover, we will again march to our former station at Albuquerque. It is rumored here that the lower Pueblo Indians with the Navajos will rise against the Mexicans and as we are bound to protect the latter, we shall have plenty to do-—”so look out for more victories. If we should have any more engagements and my skull not cracked, I shall give you minute details on everything that occurs. In all probability we shall be ordered to California.
Captain Burgwin, Governor Bent and District Attorney Leal were buried at the fort on the hill on the 13th instant with the honors of war and a salute of fifteen cannon. The funeral procession was joined by all the Spaniards of note for fifty miles around Santa Fe.