HEADQUARTERS COLUMN FROM CALIFORNIA,
Tucson, Ariz., July 22 1862.
MAJOR: In my letter to you, dated June 18, I informed you that I had sent Expressman John Jones, Sergeant Wheeling, of Company F, First California Volunteer Infantry, and a Mexican guide named Chavez, with communications for General Canby.
These men started from Tucson on the evening of June 15. On the 18th they were attacked by a party of Apaches, and Sergeant Wheeling and the guide (Chavez) were killed, and Jones, almost by a miracle, succeeded in getting through the Indians, and after a hot pursuit on their part made out to reach the Rio Grande at a point known as Picacho, 6 miles above Mesilla. He was taken prisoner by the secessionists, who brought him before Colonel Steele (William Steele, late Second Dragoons), who examined him, took his dispatches, and threw him into jail. He managed, however, to get word to General Canby that he was there and that the Column from California was really coming- an achievement that was considered absolutely impracticable. However, as soon as Steele ascertained this matter as a fact, hurried preparations were made to abandon the country. Meantime General Canby had sent a large force to Fort Craig to move on Mesilla as soon as transportation could be provided. A strong reconnoitering force under Lieutenant -Colonel Eyre, left Tucson on June 21, and after a hard march arrived on the Rio Grande near Fort Thorn on July 4.
On the 5th this force occupied that work, it having been abandoned by the enemy. Here the colors were run up by the California troops. Lieutenant-Colonel Eyre was then re-enforced by a squadron of the Third U. S. Cavalry, and having constructed a raft and built a boat, was at the last advices about to cross the river to march on Fillmore and Fort Bliss, in Texas. Steele, meanwhile, had abandoned Mesilla and was making his way to Texas. The Mexican population was rising on every hand and were killing off his stock. It is said that Teel's battery, C. S. Army, the one taken from Canby at Valverde, had been attacked some 30 miles below Fort Bliss and taken by the people, who had hovered, around it to the number of 1,500. It was believed that neither Steele nor Teel would ever reach Texas. Sibley and Colonel Reily had fallen back on Texas in May, leaving Steele with what was considered force enough to hold Arizona.
All this news came last night. It was brought by Captain McCleave, who had been exchanged for two lieutenants, one of whom was Steele's adjutant, who had been taken by Captain Fritz, First California, Volunteer Cavalry. Captain Fritz went after Colonel Steele with a flag of truce to effect the exchange. He overtook Colonel Steele 20 miles below Fort Fillmore in full retreat.
As you have been informed, the uncommon drought of this summer had so dried up the country that it was impracticable to move a large force in the direction of the Rio Grande until the rains commenced falling. Usually this occurs by June 24, but this year there has been but little fall even yet. The column, however, has been taking the road by installments, commencing with Roberts' company of infantry and Cremony's cavalry, which was sent with 25,000 of corn and thirty days' rations for Eyre in case obliged to fall back to the Rio de Sauz, 128 miles from Tucson, starting on July 9. (See letter to Colonel West, marked A, * herewith inclosed.) I also inclose Colonel Eyre's report, + dated at Fort Thorn, July 6, 1862. This officer deserves great credit for his enterprise. I trust the Governor will notice the conduct
* Not found. + See report Numbers 2, p. 585.