ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.
On April 12, 1846, General Arista notified Taylor to break camp and march to the east bank of the Nueces River. Since this demand was not complied with, the Mexicans planned to cross the Rio Grande above and below the Americans, move to Point Isabel, and cut off their base of supplies. Through his spies General Taylor penetrated the design of Arista and on April 24 sent a squadron out under Captain Ker, Companies D and E, down the river and one under Captain Thornton, Companies C and F, up the river, to investigate. Captain Ker returned the next morning without having contacted the enemy.
Captain Thornton’s squadron met a superior force of Mexicans and is given credit for starting the war with Mexico. Preceded by an advance guard about one quarter of a mile, this squadron reached a point about three miles from La Rosia. Captain Thornton rode forward to question some Mexicans, who fled before him into a field. The rest of the squadron continued to advance when the Mexicans were seen to flee. The whole force pursued them into the field. After entering here, it was found that it was surrounded by a high hedge. The enemy now appeared in large numbers and Captain Thornton ordered a charge. This was unsuccessful and he started to retreat. As the entrance was also barred by the enemy, many of the men tried to hurtle the hedge, led by Captain Thornton. Soon after jumping this obstacle, the captain’s horse was mortally wounded and fell, pinning him beneath. After a short engagement in which it was realized the squadron could not escape through the hedge, the whole force surrendered. In this affair Lieutenant George T. Mason and eight enlisted men were killed and two wounded. Captains Thornton and Hardee, Lieutenant Kane, and forty-six enlisted men were captured. Captain Thornton was tried for the surrender of his force and acquitted.
General Taylor now announced that hostilities had commenced, and called for 5,000 volunteers from Texas and Louisiana. On May 1, 1846, he left the fort with all his command except one regiment of infantry and two batteries which were to guard it. As the Mexicans were reported threatening his base at Point Isabel, he marched to that place. Soon after arriving there word came that the enemy was bombarding the fort on the river.
Captain May and his squadron, with the few Texas Rangers under Captain Walker, were sent back to the fort to investigate. They found the main Mexican army between them and the river, but by traveling at night managed to reach a point near the fort. Captain Walker was sent in to find out the situation. When he had not returned by daylight, Captain May was forced to start back without him. The squadron soon came upon about 150 Mexican lancers whom they charged, driving them about three miles. After the return of the squadron to Point Isabel, Captain Walker came in the following night with the news that the fort was holding out.