Accordingly, on the 13th ultimo, I sen Wagon-master Black, with a party, to the crossing, to ascertain if it was yet practicable to get the train of thirteen wagons to that point. On his return the same day he reported favorably, and on the 15th ultimo, I left with my command and arrived at the crossing on the 16th ultimo, a distance of 18 miles.
On the 17th ultimo I had succeeded in crossing successfully my command in a small boat, which I caused to be made for that purpose before leaving Fort Thorn.
On the 19th ultimo I received from Lieutenant F. Van. Vliet, acting assistant adjutant-General, the following communication:
I am instructed by the colonel commanding the district to inform you that your troops will not cross the river until further orders.
This was from Colonel Howe's acting assistant adjutant-general, he then being in command of the Southern Military District of New Mexico; but having crossed the river before its receipt, and having received supplies from Fort Craig, I determined to push on to Robledo or Dona Ana and there await his further orders, and so wrote him. But on my arrival at the latter place I found neither forage nor grazing for the animals, and pushed on to Las Cruses, where quarters were found for the command in unoccupied houses belonging to notorious secessionists.
On my arrival at Las Cruces I at once made inquiry as to the where abouts of the Texans, and learned from reliable authority that a portion of them were yet at Franklin, Tex.; that they were collecting at that point a large amount of Government property which had been by them secreted at different places on their march up the river, and that they designed selling it to a citizen of El Paso, Tex. This property I could undoubtedly have taken, and in all probability have captured the Texans then at Franklin, had I at once pushed on to that point; but the strong intimation not to leave Fort Thorn which I received from Colonel Chivington, and the positive order not to cross the river which I received from Colonel Howe, and my letter to him than I would await his further orders at Las Cruces, compelled me to remain at the latter place. Indeed, by moving farther down the river I would have run counter to the expressed wishes of the district commanders of the Southern Military District of New Mexico, if not against their positive orders.
On the 28th ultimo I received a positive order from Colonel Howe not to leave Las Cruces until further orders.
Subsequently, while accompanying the general commanding on his march to Fort Quitman, I learned that Colonel Steele greatly feared he would be overtaken by the California troops, and in his hurried retreat burned a number of his wagons and destroyed a large amount of ammunition. I also learned that so much were his men disheartened and so thoroughly disorganized, that had they been attacked by even a small force they would have at once surrendered. Certainly it is an opportunity would have been given them to do so had it not been for the orders received from Fort Craig, for I should certainly have followed and as certainly overtaken them before they left the river at Fort Quitman.
I am, lieutenant, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. E. EYRE,
Lieutenant-Colonel, First California Volunteer Cavalry.
38 R R-VOL IX