Battle of El Brazito
|Battle of El Brazito|
|Part of the Mexican-American War|
Las Cruces and surrounding terrain from space.
|Commanders and leaders|
|General Antonio Ponce de Léon||Alexander W. Doniphan|
1 artillery piece
|Casualties and losses|
In October 1846, Colonel Alexander W. Doniphan of the First Regiment Mounted Missouri Volunteers was ordered by United States Army General Stephen W. Kearney to rendezvous with General John E. Wool inside Mexico at the city of Chihuahua.
En route to Chihuahua, Doniphan's regiment was attacked by a Mexican army from El Paso del Norte about 9 miles south of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Since it was Christmas, Doniphan had given his men the day off. However, they spotted a Mexican scouting party and observed them. Colonel Doniphan then promptly ordered his 850 men to prepare for battle.
Before long, the main Mexican force arrived. It was composed of infantry, cavalry, lancers, and artillery and totalled about 1,100 men. Doniphan ordered his troops to hold their fire until the Mexicans came within easy range. At 50 yards the Americans opened fire with their rifles. Their fire was devastatingly accurate and the Mexican regulars broke and fled. Mexican cavalry next attacked Doniphan's wagon train, but was driven off by the teamsters. The Mexican force retreated, abandoning their howitzer, which Doniphan's men recovered.
Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, a member of the Army of the West, relates the battle thus:
“On Christmas day, at a spot called Bracito, when the regiment after its usual march, had picketed their horses, and were gathering fuel, the advance guard reported the rapid approach of the enemy in large force. Line was formed on foot, when a black flag was received with an insolent demand. Colonel Doniphan restrained his men from shooting the bearer down. The enemy’s line, nearly half cavalry, and including a howitzer, opened fire at four hundred yards, and still advanced, and had fired three rounds, before fire was returned within effective range. Victory seems to have been decided by a charge of Captain Reid with twenty cavalry which he had managed to mount, and another charge by a dismounted company which captured the howitzer. The enemy fled, with loss of forty-three killed and one hundred and fifty wounded; our loss seven wounded, who all recovered.
The enemy were about twelve hundred strong; five hundred cavalry, the rest infantry, including several hundred El Paso militia; our force was five hundred – Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson with a part of the regiment arriving on the ground after the action. Colonel Doniphan gave credit ‘for the most essential service in forming the line and during the engagement’ to Captain Thompson, First dragoons, ‘acting his aid and adviser.’”
As the Mexican forces fell back, they were harassed by Apache natives who had been watching the battle. Casualties are unknown for either side.
- Interpreted from http://www.co.el-paso.tx.us/mural/ipix/detail19_colonel.html
- Cooke, Philip St. George (1964). The Conquest of New Mexico and California, an Historical and Personal Narrative. Albuquerque, NM: Horn and Wallace. pp. 87–88.
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