Page:Boissonnas, Un Vaincu, English, 1875.djvu/29

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Captain Lee had to lay out, then build, the roads capable of bearing his powerful artillery. Already there, he revealed his sharp military judgement that was to place him among the greatest military men of our time.

After the battle of Cerro Gordo, the army entered the mountainous region where the Mexican General Valentia had taken refuge. His positions were not known, and it was important to get information about them. Captain Lee, with a few of his officers and a group of his best soldiers, went off to get the lay of the land . They climbed the hills, reached a desolate plateau which they crossed with innumerable obstacles and difficulties, until they were confronted with a wall of blocks of lava. The party managed to climb those rocks and discovered with stupefaction that as far as their view could reach, those rocks crisscrossed over a land destitute of any vegetation. They could not discover the slightest sign of a trail. On the whole surface of the plateau, there was nothing but sharp needle points or cutting ridges, and it was impossible, even with field glasses, to discover the end of this jumble.

They realized they were in a volcanic desert, called Pedrigale, mentioned on a few maps. Captain Lee and a handful of resolute men couldn’t reconcile themselves to return to their camp without having pushed their exploration further.

Sliding down a block of lava, climbing on one another’s backs to ascend another, they advanced at the cost of