Mr. Scruggs to Mr. Bayard .
Bogota , July 21, 1885. (Received September 15.)
Sir: There have been no important changes in the military situation since the abandonment of the siege of Carthagena. It is believed here that the insurgents are still fortified in Barranquilla. They certainly have possession of the Magdalena River from the Delta to Naré, a distance of nearly 600 miles.
It is true the Government forces hold the canal between Carthagena [Page 217] and Calamar, and that they have entrenched themselves at the last-named place. Calamar is a town of some 5,000 inhabitants, situated at the junction of the Carthagena Canal and the Magdalena River, 62 miles above Barranquilla. But the river at that point is very wide, and its banks flat and marshy; so that without gunboats or other floating batteries, the national forces, however numerous and well armed, cannot prevent the passage of the rebel steamers.
The Government has infantry forces stationed at different points on the river between Calamar and Naré; and on the 17th ult. a general engagement took place near Humareda, some 16 leagues below Naré. The loss on both sides was considerable, and one of the rebel gunboats was blown up. But it was essentially a drawn battle, without decisive results.
The entire rebel force probably numbers only about 3,500 men, but generally well armed and equipped. All the river steamers except one have been in their possession since December last. The exception referred to is the Emelia Duran, a light-draught vessel of less than 150 tons, designed for navigating the Upper Magcjalena, between Handa and Ambalema. Some weeks ago she was brought down below the Rapids and armed by the Government for defensive operations on the lower river.
The Government claims to have 12,000 men under arms. Its efficient armed force is about 8,000. These are distributed over different parts of the Republic, its efficient force on the line of the river being about 6,000 men. They are generally well armed and disciplined and commanded by able and experienced officers.
In the interior, off the line of the river, all seems to be quiet. Occasional raiding parties penetrate within a few leagues of the capital and render telegraphic and mail communication with the Pacific coast uncertain. But aside from these predatory excursions the authority of the General Government is not contested.
However, with the great fluvial highway in the possession of the insurgents, Bogota is practically under siege, as it has been since the 25th December last. There is also a factious and insurrectionary spirit among the people in nearly all the interior states. The Government troops have not been paid for nearly two months past, and there is said to be dissatisfaction in consequence. One of the Government generals, Aldana, has retired from the service, and is known to be disaffected. He is at the present time governor of the State of Cundinamarca, and very popular with the masses. So that, unless the insurgents should be dislodged from their stronghold in the Magdalena Valley before the fever season fairly sets in, there may be a second outbreak in the interior and northern States, the end whereof no man can tell.
I have, &c.,