to Mr. Fish.
Madrid , April 19, 1874. (Received: May 7)
Sir: I have not ventured to review the political situation in the Peninsula for some time past, as we have continually seemed to be on the brink of stirring changes which have not come about, and as the>countless prophecies and predictions born of the dearth of trustworthy news are generally contradicted by the events of the succeeding day. During the six weeks that have passed since my No. 182 was sent, only two prominent facts seem worthy of record—the inability of General Serrano to force a passage through the Carlist lines at San Pedro de Abanto, and the continued leaning of the government of the 2d of January toward reaction, as shown in its measures and public appointments.
Nearly the whole of March was suffered to pass by before Marshal [Page 884] Serrano began his anxiously-expected movement against the forces of the pretender. The weather having become settled and all available re enforcements having arrived, hostilities were opened afresh on the morning of the 25th ultimo, and a strong force was thrown over the narrow stream called El Bio de Somorrostro. The outlying picket stations of the Garlists were soon carried, and the fight began in earnest. For three days the republican troops were hurled unavailingly against the almost impregnable works that defended San Pedro de Abanto, the key to the position. The soldiers fought bravely, and the few instances of demoralization that occurred were promptly checked by their general officers rallying the men and leading the attack in person. It was in a crisis like this that Generals Primo de Rivera (a brother of the late governor of Porto Rico) and Loma were wounded at the head of their columns. On the evening of the 27th, after a long and bloody day, the unequal contest was suspended, ostensibly for the purpose of burying the dead, and has not yet been resumed.
Marshal Serrano has occupied and fortified the positions taken in the first day’s fight on the east side of the brook of Somorrostro, and has limited his offensive operations to long-range practice on the buildings presumed to be occupied by the Garlists. The supply of telegrams from the front, which began with much exuberance on the morning of the 25th, soon slackened and then ceased, and we now have only the stereotyped formula, no news from headquarters.”
A violent storm has raged on the coast for some ten days past, and communications by sea and land have been so effectually interrupted that we have been for eight consecutive days without a mail from the north. One has at last arrived to-day, but as its distribution is a somewhat slow and elaborate process we probably shall have to wait till tomorrow or next day before it is completed.
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It is said, and probably with foundation, that the nomination of Marshal Concha to the command of a corps, as yet but partially organized, responded to the desire of Marshal Serrano to have a chief officer at hand to assume superior command in the north and direct the coming attack, in case events should compel the return to the capital of the President and commander-in-chief at a critical moment.
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I am, &c.,