Pictures and Illustrations.
Of the twelve illustrations accompanying this work, which include all the principal battles fought between the United States and Mexico, during the war between the two countries, the greater number were drawn on the spot by the artist. So far as regards the general configuration of the ground, fidelity of the landscape, and correctness of the works and buildings introduced, they may be strictly relied upon. Every reader must be aware of the impossibility, in painting a battle scene, of giving more than one feature or principal incident of the strife. The artist has ever chosen what he deemed the more interesting as well as exciting points of each combat, and trusts that the public may excuse any errors which may be discovered. Something the painter is always compelled to sacrifice for effect, but in the present series of illustrations the greatest care has been taken to avoid inaccuracies.
The author of the descriptions of the different battles, which accompany the drawings, has only desired to present the reader with such an account as may enable him to understand the different operations and combinations which resulted in a brilliant succession of victories to the American arms. Although he has extended his sketches to a much greater length than originally contemplated, and has introduced the names of many officers, he still feels that he has done but poor justice to hundreds of brave and chivalrous subordinates, through whose courage and devotion the successes were in a great measure obtained. In a more enlarged work he will endeavor to repair errors of omission. The active and untiring services of the surgical department, and the important duties performed by quartermasters and commissaries, have been hardly alluded to for want of space.
The information of the author has been drawn mainly from the official reports of the different commanders and their subordinates. Such advantages, however, as may be derived from having been present at many of the battles, and of having personally examined the ground on which all save that of Buena Vista were fought, he has brought to his aid. His indebtedness to Captain Carleton, for supplying many particulars in relation to that long and severe conflict, he has acknowledged in the body of the work. He fears that many inaccuracies in the placing of troops may have occurred, and that many errors may have crept into his descriptions, but he can assert that every departure from the truth has been unintentional. The accounts of every battle, as the reader cannot but be aware, must necessarily be partial. Each witness sees but a part, and often but a small part, of the strife around him, while all who participate, being actively engaged and strongly excited, are more or less incapacitated for the cool and steady observation requisite to the acquirement of just impressions of what is passing. Hence diversities of statement must ever arise, not only as regards time, distance, and many other minor points, but as to the position of different regiments at the commencement of an action, and more particularly in relation to their movements during the progress of the conflict. It is owing to these circumstances that the frequent discrepancies, noticed in official and other reports, occur, and every writer should claim the full benefit of them in atoning for his own mistakes.
The author would at the outset attempt to disarm the criticism of military men, by frankly avowing that he knows little of the military art as a science. He has never made it a study — is unacquainted with its technicalities — and has rather written his sketches to be understood by the mass of his countrymen. It will be a source of high gratification to know that he has succeeded, even if but indifferently, in his attempt.
With the unfortunate disputes and rivalries between many of the principal leaders, raised after the campaigns in Mexico had terminated, the author has not meddled. Some of the officers are now dead who were drawn into these difficulties, and those still living doubtless regret their occurrence. In his hasty criticisms upon some of the battles, as well as in his strictures upon the political events of the war, he has been actuated by no other sentiments than those which should be felt by every writer who has neither friendships, prejudices nor animosities to warp his judgment, and who sits down to his task with the full determination of being just and impartial to all — the living and the dead.
In the course of his descriptions many common Mexican words are used; but in the main they have been explained, or else explain themselves. The term garita, which occurs frequently in the accounts of the battles in the valley of Mexico, refers to the small buildings erected at the heads of the different causeways leading into the capital, which are the
ivpoints where the customs or duties upon all articles entering the city are levied. During the war these garitas were all more or less strongly fortified.
At the commencement of hostilities the four artillery regiments, belonging to the small regular army of the United States, were acting as infantry, with the exception of the companies detailed for the light and other batteries. Well drilled to the use of the musket, they acted in the same capacity throughout the war — a fact which should have been mentioned in the body of the descriptions.
The map which accompanies the work, and which has been drawn from the best authorities and from personal knowledge of the ground, includes the city of Mexico and the principal and more interesting portions of the valley immediately around it. The lakes of Chalco and Jochimilco, with the route of the Americans on the southern and western banks, are seen, together with a part of the waters of Lake Tezcoco. The country as far north as Guadalupe is also introduced, and a thorough examination of the map will materially assist the reader in forming a correct understanding of the movements of General Scott's army.
As regards the style of the lithography, the coloring, the spirit thrown into the figures, and the general effect produced, the illustrations must speak for themselves. Every attention has certainly been paid to costume. The soldiers of the United States have been painted in their ordinary fatigue caps and dresses — such as they always wore during the war. More effect might have been produced by arraying them in their full uniforms, but this would have been deviating from the truth and was avoided.
In conclusion, it may be stated that the object of both artist and author, in securing the services of the best lithographers, colorists and printers, has been to produce a work which, so far at least as appearance may be taken into account, will be creditable to the United States, and in this they trust they have succeeded. They have certainly bestowed much time and money on the undertaking, and can boldly assert that no country can claim that its battles have been illustrated in a richer, more faithful, or more costly style of lithography.
The Battle of Palo Alto.
Without attempting to enter upon the causes which first produced the war between the United States and Mexico, it still may not be uninteresting hastily to run over the events which immediately preceded the battle of Palo Alto, an affair which involved the two countries in direct hostilities.
From the time that General Taylor reached the Little Colorado, on his march from Corpus Christi to take up a position on the Rio Grande, the Mexicans evinced a most belligerent determination, if threats and blustering proclamations had any significance. This was in the latter part of March, 1846; but the American commander was permitted to reach the Rio Grande, and to encamp with his little army directly opposite the city of Matamoros, without a hostile gun being fired. At this time the entire force at Matamoros, then under the command of General Mejia, was not far from five thousand regular troops. General Taylor had less than three thousand; but they were for the most part old soldiers, well drilled and equipped, and reliable men in any emergency.
On the 28th of March an interview took place between General Worth and General La Vega, the latter second in command of the Mexican forces. At this interview the arrival of the Americans upon the Rio Grande was spoken of by La Vega as a regular act of invasion, and in that light he said that his Government would most certainly look upon it. The conference had no result. On the 3d of April, the Mexicans meanwhile strengthening their forts and defences, a small work was commenced by Mansfield, of the American engineer corps, on the bank of the river opposite Matamoros, and by the 6th four 18-pounders had been brought up from Point Isabel and placed in battery within range of the Grand Plaza.
The Mexican General Ampudia arrived on the 11th of April and took command of the troops at Matamoros, while reports were constantly recieved that General Arista, with heavy reinforcements, was on the march from Monterey. Frequent interchanges of communications now took place between the commanders on either side, the tone of the Mexican general being both hostile and insolent. In his first note Ampudia told General Taylor that he must withdraw his forces within twenty-four hours, or that hostilities would commence. In reply, the American commander stated that he had been ordered by his Government to take up his position, and there he should remain, at the same time throwing the responsibility of firing the first gun upon the Mexicans. On the 22d of April Ampudia sent over another note, in relation particularly to the blockade of the mouth of the Rio Grande by some of the vessels of Commodore Conner's Gulf squadron. The general tone of this communication was more haughty and insulting than that of any which had preceded it; the blockade must be raised, or serious consequences would follow; while in the next sentence Ampudia spoke of the arrival of the Americans opposite Matamoros as an act of itself marked with the seal of universal reprobation. These were nearly his words. In his reply, in which he hastily reviewed the acts of his own Government, with better temper and far more dignity General Taylor remarked that the blockade of the Rio Grande should be kept in force. At the same time, he said that he was prepared for any consequences that might ensue; and in conclusion, after alluding to the offensive tone of Ampudia's communication, that officer was told that, while the American commander would continue to observe all courtesy in his correspondence, he should expect the same in return.
In the meantime, small bands of rancheros, or irregular Mexican cavalry, were continually hovering about, the American encampment, committing many acts of violence by which lives were lost; but it was not until the 24th of April, when Captain Thornton was attacked and carried prisoner to Matamoros, that the first positive blow was struck by the Mexicans. Thornton had been sent out, with a command of sixty-eight mounted men of the 2d dragoons, to reconnoitre the country above Matamoros, a report having reached General Taylor that Arista, who had arrived and taken command, had sent a large force across the Rio Grande and upon American soil. The dragoons reached a point some twenty-five miles above the camp without meeting opposition; but while resting their horses for a few moments in the yard of a rancho they were suddenly surrounded by over one thousand five hundred regular troops, cavalry and infantry, under General Torrejon, and after a sharp encounter, in which they endeavoured to cut their way through this imposing force, were finally captured, and the survivors carried into Matamoros as prisoners. Lieutenant Mason and nine men were killed out of the small command, and many others were wounded.
The intentions of the Mexicans were now evident. Colonel Cross and Lieutenant Porter, gallant and accomplished officers, had previously been killed on the American side of the Rio Grande, and near the encampment; yet their death could be laid to the charge of the ladrones and cut-throats, under Romano Falcon and other robber chiefs, who infested the frontiers. But the attack upon Thornton was made by regular troops, under a regular officer, and showed conclusively that Arista and Ampudia, acting under positive orders from their Government, were bent upon war. At the same time the conduct of the Mexican population in Matamoros, when Thornton, Hardee and Kane with their men were brought in prisoners, proved that the feeling of hostility was deep-seated. The greatest rejoicing followed this event, and in the excess of their vain-glorious pride the citizens as well as soldiers seemed to think that to defeat the "Barbarians of the North," as Ampudia had always styled the Americans in his grandiloquent manifestoes, it was only necessary to attack them. And all this because Torrejon, with fifteen hundred horse and foot, had succeeded in capturing the sixty-eight dragoons of Thornton, or all that were left of them after a gallant effort to cut their way through twenty times their number.
But although active hostilities were now looked upon as inevitable, little in an offensive way was done on either side from the 24th of April until the 1st of May. Arista, an officer of more bravery, talent and character than any in the Mexican army, had meanwhile been reinforced until his command numbered near ten thousand men, while his engineers were rapidly strengthening old works and throwing up new batteries on the Matamoros side of the Rio Grande. Nor was General Taylor idle; for under the skillful direction of Mansfield a regular work went rapidly up on the American side, looking directly into the city opposite and within easy range. Despatches were also hurried off, to the governors of both Texas and Louisiana, calling for volunteers — the American commander had taken his stand, and critical as was his position he determined upon maintaining it.
At Point Isabel, a roadstead sheltered by Brazos Island and not an hour's ride from the mouth of the Rio Grande, a small work had already been thrown up, by Sanders of the engineers, the defence of which had been entrusted to Munroe of the artillery. It was twenty-six miles from Matamoros by the direct road, was a place which could be easily reached by steamers and sailing vessels of light draught from New Orleans and from any part of the Texas coast, and had early been selected by General Taylor as a depot for his provisions and military stores. During the 27th and 28th of April Arista had thrown a large body of men across the river below Matamoros, and this force falling suddenly upon Walker, a Texas partisan officer in command of a small scouting party of rangers, cut up his little band with severe loss, and drove the survivors under the shelter of Munroe's guns at Point Isabel. That Arista's object was to fall upon this place was now considered more than probable. Once in his possession, with the ammunition and more particularly the supplies there collected, the fate of Fort Brown, as the new work opposite Matamoros was called, was almost certain — the command of Point Isabel would completely cut off the American army from its provisions and stores, and General Taylor must either be hemmed in and starved into a surrender, or else forced to retreat precipitately upon the road to Corpus Christi, harassed at every step by swarms of rancheros and other light troops.
Walker had fortunately escaped when his little party was surprised and cut to pieces. On the night of the 29th of April, taking advantage of the darkness, he with great danger succeeded in running the gauntlet of Mexicans lying between Point Isabel and Fort Brown, and on reaching General Taylor at once informed him of the dangers which beset the former place. To relieve Munroe, as well as to procure supplies and ammunition for Fort Brown, were now considered measures of paramount importance; wherefore the American commander, on the morning of the 1st of May, marched with his main force towards Point Isabel, anticipating that he would be compelled to cut his way through. For the defence of Fort Brown the 7th infantry, together with the artillery companies of Lowd and Bragg — all under Major Brown, a most trusty officer — were left; and that this command would hold out to the last every one felt confident. As General Taylor marched out of the fort the bells in Matamoros opposite rang joyous peals, the Mexicans thinking the place was to be regularly evacuated.
The little army continued its march towards Point Isabel on the 1st of May without opposition, and by the middle of the following day reached its destination without encountering the enemy. The collecting of munitions and supplies, as well as the organizing a wagon train, was now commenced with the greatest activity. On the morning of the 3d of
2May the booming of cannon in the direction of Matamoros was plainly heard at the Point, announcing that the attack upon Fort Brown had commenced in earnest. The excitement among the Americans now increased, and the exertions in collecting supplies, and in getting the transportation train in readiness, redoubled. As soon as it was dark the indefatigable Walker was despatched in the direction of Fort Brown by General Taylor, with orders to pick his way through the lines of the enemy, to ascertain how all went at the fort, and to inform Major Brown that he might anticipate speedy succor. Walker succeeded in all this, and on the 5th of May returned to General Taylor with the welcome intelligence that the Mexican batteries had caused but little damage to the fort, and that its defenders were sanguine in their ability to hold out.
By the middle of the 7th of May, every obstacle in the way of organizing a transport train and in collecting supplies and munitions having been overcome, General Taylor was in readiness to leave Point Isabel for the relief of Fort Brown. At intervals the report of the 18-pounders, which the commander of the fort had been ordered to fire as often as his limited supply of ammunition would justify, continued to be heard at the Point, giving token that the gallant little band left for its defence were keeping good their word. Before marching, the American commander issued a short but stirring order to his troops, in which, after stating that the enemy occupied the road between them and their friends, without a word of flourish said that if opposed he should give them battle. The order wound up with enjoining upon the infantry, an arm in which the general had all confidence, that their main reliance must be on the bayonet. This order read to the troops, the march was commenced.
The army bivouacked that night in the open prairie, six miles from Point Isabel, and early on the morning of the 8th of May the march was continued, a train of nearly three hundred wagons bringing up the rear. The sound of cannon at daylight, now more plainly heard, proved that the defenders of Fort Brown still held firm to their position, and created a new desire to hurry on to their relief. As the day wore the heat became excessive, the road leading through flat prairies without a bush to throw out shelter. A small party of mounted Texans under Walker were in the advance, ready to bring back word of the first appearance of the Mexicans, yet no fresh sign of the enemy was discovered until near 1 o'clock in the afternoon. At this hour the entire army of Arista was descried in line of battle, the line nearly a mile and a half in length, and stretching directly across the main road with the evident design of disputing the farther advance of the Americans. From his own reports Arista had over six thousand men on the ground, with twelve pieces of artillery; to force the passage the American commander had two thousand two hundred and eighty-one men all told, with ten guns. Two of these were 18-pounders, drawn on this occasion by oxen for want of horses, while to hamper his movements he had the long baggage train already noticed; yet to fall boldly upon the enemy General Taylor at once determined, and great as was the disparity of force, there were few in the ranks of the Americans who for a moment doubted of success.
The same feeling must have animated Arista, who, as though fully assured of victory, had chosen a smooth piece of open prairie on which to form his line of battle, not a bush intervening to impede the advance of any arm that might attack him. A little in his rear the rough chaparral or thorny brushwood commenced. On his extreme left, flanked by damp and boggy ground, he had stationed a formidable body of lancers under Torrejon. Then came a field battery, next masses of infantry, then another battery, and in this order his force was extended until a body of cavalry under Montero, stationed near a bushy rise in the prairie, formed the extreme right of his line.
No sooner had the Americans debouched from the scraggy mesquit thicket, and entered the open prairie, than their commander formed his line of battle. The right wing, commanded by Twiggs, consisted of the 3d, 4th, and 5th regiments of infantry, Ringgold's light battery, and the 18-pounders under Churchill, a young officer of the artillery. The 3d and 4th infantry, commanded by L. N. Morris and Allen, formed a brigade under the immediate orders of Garland. The left wing, commanded by Belknap, was composed of a battalion of artillery, now acting as infantry, under Childs, Duncan's light battery, and the 8th infantry under Montgomery. Two squadrons of the 2d dragoons, under May and Ker — the only cavalry force General Taylor had — were at first attached to the right wing, in front of the enemy's heavy force of lancers; but before the conflict commenced, or soon after, they were detailed for any and every service where they were most needed.
Before advancing, the American commander, with great foresight, as the heat was excessive, ordered his men to repair to a pond of fresh water hard by, there to drink their fill and to replenish their exhausted canteens. This done, the heads of the columns again took up the line of march across the open prairie, here near a mile in width, and continued to move forward until within seven hundred yards of the Mexicans. At this point a battery on the enemy's right opened a fire with both grape and round shot — the first battle in the war between the United States and Mexico had now commenced.
General Taylor immediately halted and deployed his columns in line, the two 18-pounders, from which the oxen had been hurriedly detached, at once opening from their position in the road. Ringgold's battery on the right and Duncan's on the left, with great celerity were pushed forward into the prairie and soon took up the fire, the Mexicans had now brought all their guns into active play, and along the lines on either side the combat had opened with fury. The fire from Ringgold's guns, as well as that of the 18-pounders, was mainly directed at Torrejon's lancers on the Mexican left, and with an effect that was evident. Convinced that they would be cut to pieces, and without being of the least service, the Mexican commander now sent an order for his lancers to make a flank movement on the American right, plainly with the hope of turning this wing and falling upon the heavy wagon train parked in the rear. To aid this movement Arista also detached two of his lighter pieces of artillery, and his men came down in beautiful order at the onset; but their pace abated as a pelting shower of musket balls met them from the 3d and 5th infantry, and the active Ridgely opening a biting fire upon the Mexican guns from one of Ringgold's sections, they were soon borne back out of reach. Yet the lancers still continued to advance, at least one thousand strong, and on ground most favorable; but coming within musket range of the 5th infantry, thrown into square by McIntosh to receive them, the first volley from the front emptied many saddles and threw the survivors into some little confusion, and Ridgely now adding a fire of grape and shrapnell from one of his pieces, Torrejon was soon driven back in disorder. He again reformed his command when out of range, and came down to the work once more with the same object — that of gaining the American rear and falling upon the baggage train. But Twiggs throwing the 3d infantry around a little pond on the extreme right, the Mexican lancers were again met, checked, and finally forced back even beyond their original position; for Ridgely's pieces, which seemed ever to be found at the right point and at the right time, followed them up with such a harassing fire that they could not be rallied until completely out of range.
While Arista's attempts upon General Taylor's right were thus foiled, the 18-pounders were keeping up an incessant fire upon his masses in front. Nor was the other section of Ringgold's battery idle; for thrown in advance of the heavy guns, its rapid discharges were constantly crashing through the Mexican ranks. The 4th infantry, in support at this point, was compelled to remain exposed to the fire of the enemy's guns, its ranks torn at every moment without the possibility of returning a shot. Meanwhile Duncan, on the left and in advance, was steadily operating upon the Mexican right with all his guns, causing such havoc that at times he received the fire of all the opposing batteries. Ker's dragoons and the 8th infantry, detailed for Duncan's support, were at the same time compelled to sustain the concentrated fire from the Mexican guns. With the 4th infantry already alluded to, they were in that most trying position to all soldiers — their ranks continually exposed without the possibility of returning a shot. The Mexican fire, it is true, lacked accuracy at first; but still the air was filled with missiles, the flat prairie was ploughed by the round shot which came bounding along, and at each moment it was evident the artillerists of the enemy were improving in their gunnery.
The cannonade on either side had now continued for more than an hour without intermission, the losses of the enemy already severe owing to the more rapid firing and greater precision of Ringgold's and Duncan's guns. Yet the Mexicans stood bravely to their work, and every gap in their ranks was promptly closed. The heat of the day was most oppressive, and at this stage of the combat the grass in front of Duncan's pieces, dried by the sun and by his rapid and continuous discharges, caught fire and soon blazed up and spread rapidly across the plain. A heavy cloud of smoke rising at the same time, darkening the clear sky, concealed the combatants on this part of the line from each other; and improving the opportunity thus offered, Duncan withdrew his pieces for the moment to repair injuries and replenish his ammunition. As the smoke grew more dense, and in heavy clouds spread and gathered along the plain between the contending parties, the fire on the entire line completely ceased.
An interval of nearly an hour now occurred in the combat, the time being employed by the Americans in bringing the wounded to the rear, replenishing the caissons with cartridges, repairing such of the guns as had received injuries, and replacing, with fresh horses, those which had been killed or wounded in the batteries. As the curtain of smoke along the American left and centre at length slowly lifted, it was ascertained that Arista had fallen back and taken up a new position, the left of his line having swung round to a point nearer the chaparral. The 18-pounders and Ringgold's battery, with the 4th and 8th infantry and Childs's artillery battalion in support, were promptly ordered to advance and continue the strife by General Taylor, the 5th infantry being meanwhile thrown more to the right to watch any flank movement the Mexican commander might attempt. The action now commenced with greater intensity than ever, the enemy responding vigorously to the active play of Ringgold's and Churchill's guns. May was ordered with his dragoons, supported by the 4th infantry, to make a dash upon Arista's left, and to turn this flank if possible; but meeting with a beating shower of grape and cannister from the Mexican batteries, and ascertaining that the cavalry at that point outnumbered his own force materially, in compliance with previous directions he fell back to his original position.
The entire American right was now pressed by the heavy and concentrated fire of the enemy's batteries. At this time the Mexicans had double the number of guns playing upon their opponents the latter could bring to bear in return; yet the more rapid evolutions of Ringgold's pieces, and the murderous accuracy of his fire, to an extent made up for this deficiency. It was a combat almost entirely of field artillery, an arm on which the American officers had bestowed great care and attention, and which now more than answered the most sanguine expectations of those who had brought it to the highest possible state of perfection. But still the heavy numerical superiority of the enemy, and the steadiness with which they certainly behaved, rendered the issue doubtful. Arista handled his men with skill, encouraged them with the hope of victory and more especially with the plunder of the rich baggage train, and kept them so boldly up to the work that every opening in their ranks was speedily closed. His artillery had in the meantime suffered less than that of the Americans, for while his gunners were ordered to aim particularly at the batteries of the latter, the men who handled Ringgold's guns were directing their missiles more at the masses of their opponents, and the manner in which the clouds of lancers under Torrejon had already frequently recoiled proved the telling accuracy of their fire. Ringgold himself, who had up to this time directed every movement, was now struck by a round shot and carried from the field, living only long enough to ascertain, with a proud and soldierly satisfaction, that his favorite arm had almost alone won the battle. About the same time Page, a gallant and meritorious officer of the 4th infantry, was mortally wounded, and the conflict was now raging with greater fierceness than ever. Arista made still another attempt to turn the American right by advancing Torrejon's cavalry; but they were met by such a withering discharge of grape from the 18-pounders, and by so close a fire of musketry from Childs's battalion, which had been ordered up and thrown into square to receive them, that again they were beaten back towards the chaparral and under shelter of their own batteries.
In the meantime Duncan, who had repaired the injuries his battery had previously sustained and replenished his ammunition, was dashing towards the right to take a part in the close conflict. While coming down the line at a gallop, and, as was supposed, at a most critical moment, a lifting of the smoke, which still hung between the combatants on the left, disclosed to his quick and well-trained eye a new and daring movement of the Mexican general. Profiting by the smoke, Arista had concentrated a heavy column of cavalry and infantry on his extreme right, and headed by Montero, this body was now moving round upon the American left and rear, and where the greater part of the baggage train was at this time stationed with but a small force to protect it. Duncan at once communicated this new danger to General Taylor, who promptly ordered him to check it at all hazards. And nobly was this order carried out. Favored by the same cloud of smoke, Duncan wheeled and ran his pieces rapidly towards the left, Ker's dragoons and the 8th infantry hastening after him in support. Scarcely had he cleared the burning prairie, and unlimbered two of his guns, before the Mexicans were close upon him, a crashing storm of cannister and shrapnell, directly in their faces and which carried away the entire head of their formation, being almost the first evidence they had of his vicinity. At first the Mexicans were bewildered: but a few moments before they had seen these guns flying in an opposite direction, and now, with a celerity which to them seemed incredible, they were there in their front, and dealing destruction and death at every discharge. Yet recovering from their first surprise, both cavalry and infantry again advanced, closing their broken ranks and pressing forward as if determined to carry the point at any loss. At every step wide gaps were cut through the column, and so sweeping at length became the carnage, that the infantry and portions of the irregular cavalry were forced back into the chaparral for shelter. But still the contest was not given up at this part of the field. Montero's lancers, on the extreme right, notwithstanding the infantry and rancheros had been obliged to give ground, remained firm, although they had suffered severely from the fire of one of Duncan's pieces. Nor when their comrades were driven into the chaparral would they relinquish an inch; and the infantry and irregular mounted men, emboldened by this firmness and by the desire still to snatch the victory from the Americans and fall upon their baggage train, once more formed on the edge of the bushy ground and came up for another charge. But the vigilant Duncan was ready to receive them. His battery was now all up, and while one section was in full play upon Montero's lancers on the right, the other was in readiness to meet the new formation coming up to the attack. To render his fire more effective he even advanced towards the enemy, and when within less than half range re-opened upon them a new fire — sharp, rapid, continuous — carrying away entire front ranks as they advanced. For a few moments the Mexicans stood up to this pelting storm of iron hail; but as its severity increased they were thrown into disarray, irresolution followed, the heads of formations not swept away reeled and staggered, and finally all were again forced back into the chaparral in wild disorder. Almost at the same time Montero's lancers gave ground. They had shown a species of bravery — passive rather than active, for the possession of the latter quality would have induced a charge up to the very muzzles of the obnoxious guns — but in the end they were also compelled to give way, and the entire right wing of Arista was thus thrown back under cover of the close-matted chaparral in the rear. Night was now setting in, yet Duncan continued to advance and ply the enemy as long as they could be seen, and until pursuit beyond the open prairie was rendered impossible by the rough and bushy nature of the ground. Meanwhile, during these gallant operations on the American left, the fire of Arista's batteries had almost entirely ceased; his left wing had been gradually forced back; and when darkness finally fell, every portion of the field was in quiet possession of General Taylor's victorious troops.
Thus ended the conflict of Palo Alto, an engagement fought almost entirely with artillery, and in which the immense superiority of the American light batteries was fully proved. The first struggle with the soldiers of a nation whose vauntings, on paper, had made them appear invincible, had resulted in their defeat, and this on ground of their own choosing, and with the advantages of numerical superiority all on their side. The heavy loss sustained by Arista showed the effect of the fire from Ringgold's and Duncan's batteries; for over two hundred were left dead on the field, or so severely wounded they could not be moved, while nearly three hundred were carried off the ground and sent towards Matamoros during the night, more or less wounded. On the American side the loss was comparatively trifling, mainly owing to the wide firing of the enemy's artillery, and to the fact that not one of the charges ordered by Arista was well pushed. In killed and wounded together the casualties amounted to but fifty-six; but two of the best officers in the service, Ringgold and Page, may be numbered among the former. It is true they were not killed upon the field, yet neither of them long survived the terrible injuries they sustained, both being struck by round shot. Two young lieutenants, Wallen and Luther, were also wounded, but not severely.
General Taylor and his troops encamped upon the ground, while much of the night was spent in bringing in the wounded of both sides and caring for their hurts. At daylight on the following morning, the 9th of May, it was ascertained from the scouts that Arista had fallen back upon the road towards Fort Brown and Matamoros. At intervals the booming of heavy guns, in the direction of the former point, could be plainly heard in camp, giving the gratifying assurance that Major Brown still held out.
During the forenoon scouts were thrown out by Gen. Taylor in advance, and by 2 o'clock in the afternoon, the batteries all repaired and replenished with ammunition from the train, the main body resumed its march to the relief of the fort, the cannon of which could now be heard plainer than ever. The road, for more than a mile, was strewn not only with dead and wounded soldiers and horses, but with superfluous baggage and even arms which Arista's men had thrown away in their retreat. On nearing the forest of low and scraggy mesquit and brushwood, which, a short distance beyond Palo Alto, stretches off towards the Rio Grande, a command of two hundred and fifty men, under McCall, was thrown in advance to beat up the cover on either side, while a small party of Texans, under Walker, were despatched immediately up the road. McCall soon divided his command, sending C. F. Smith into the chaparral on the right, while he himself scoured on the left of the road in search of the enemy. They had not proceeded far before some of Arista's out-lying pickets were encountered and driven in, and the Americans continued to break their way through the tangled brush until a masked battery, situated in the road near the ravine known as the Resaca de la Palma, opened upon them with grape. It being now evident that the Mexicans were here determined upon disputing the farther advance of the Americans, McCall halted his men and sent back the intelligence to General Taylor.
As soon as the American commander reached the point where McCall had halted, confident that Arista was resolved upon giving battle at the ravine and might be strengthening a naturally good position, he promptly ordered an attack. McCall was again deployed to the left of the road, with his skirmishers, to bring on the action, C. F. Smith was sent into the thick cover on the right, while Ridgely, now in command of Ringgold's battery, was despatched up the road to feel the position of the Mexican guns. This officer had advanced but a short distance before a heavy fire was opened upon him; yet without halting he kept on until he had gained a position from which he could see and answer the enemy. At the same time the 5th infantry and one wing of the 4th were ordered into the chaparral on the left to the aid of McCall, who was already hotly engaged with swarms of Mexicans, while the 3rd infantry, and remaining wing of the 4th, were sent in on the right, with C. F. Smith's skirmishers. Ridgely plied his guns with telling effect, and against double the number of pieces; yet the Mexican artillerymen, aiming high and wide as on the previous day, did comparatively little execution — shower after shower of copper shot, with which their guns were charged, being lost in the air.
The combat had now fairly commenced, and determined to cut his way through, General Taylor ordered up Duncan's battery and the 8th infantry to the work in front. The latter dashed into the tangled brush after their comrades, directed by the sound of the strife for they could not see, and were soon warmly engaged, but Duncan was entirely unable to obtain a position in the narrow road from which to open. Even Ridgely had not room to work all his pieces; and every moment the fire from the Mexican batteries was growing closer as the gunners gained the proper range. On either flank, in the dense chaparral, the infantry were gradually breaking
4their way up to the ravine, the men shouting as they toiled through the thick cover, and slowly, but surely, beating back the enemy. No order could be preserved in such ground: officers became separated from their men, men from their officers, for the eye could hardly penetrate the length of a musket through the tangled and close-matted brush. Each soldier acted for himself, and recollecting the hours spent the day before, exposed to a severe cannonade without being able to return a shot, the desire of every man now seemed to be to break through and buckle at once upon the foe. The ravine was in the shape of a horse-shoe, the concave towards the Americans; and so close were the Mexicans that their balls whistled by the ears of the assailants in that sharp key which tells the soldier that the work is of the warmest. Scattered through the brush, the sharp-shooters of the enemy in masses appeared to occupy every part — the Americans were fairly feeling about for them with their bayonets. Above the crackling of the brush and the rattling of the musketry arose the loud shouts of the assailants as, with settled determination, they forced back their enemies to the ravine. But here, under cover of batteries which raked in every direction, they took shelter, and that these batteries must be carried now became evident.
Ridgely had driven two guns, which were in advance, across the ravine, and under the shelter of the other batteries; but against the combined weight of metal now brought to bear upon him he could make little impression. At this crisis, confident in his men, General Taylor ordered May to dash with his squadron directly down the road and over the ravine, to charge the batteries, and to capture the guns at all hazards. The spirited dragoon officer formed his men in column of fours, and even for this narrow front there was barely room, and with shouts the squadron dashed onward. The infantry on either side the road, as they saw the bright sabres of the horsemen flashing above the thicket in which they were battling, added a hearty shout in their excitement — a shout which nerved the arms of the dragoons anew.
On reaching Ridgely, where a slight turn in the road would bring the dragoons directly within view and close range of the enemy's guns, that gallant officer told May to halt a moment until he could draw their fire. This was done, and the next instant May was again fairly flying upon the foe. His way, as the batteries were neared, led through an avenue of death, for the narrow road was completely swept; yet the dragoons spurred their now excited horses onward. Into the ravine they dashed with a louder shout of defiance, and up the opposite bank, and now the slashing work of the sabre commenced. The Mexican artillerists had seen the advance and had heard the shouts; still, so sudden was the onslaught, their arms now seemed for the moment paralysed. The batteries were posted on the upper banks of the ravine, and on both sides the road. The guns on the right were immediately in possession of May, with his leading men, while L. P. Graham and the rear platoons, riding down the cannoniers on the left, almost at the same time captured the pieces on that side. General La Vega himself, the commander of the Mexican artillery, surrendered his sword to May and was sent to the rear with other prisoners. The dragoon charge, although Lieutenant Inge and many brave spirits had fallen, had been in every way successful.
The enemy's centre was now cut, yet on either wing of the ravine they still held out resolutely. Nor did they entirely relinquish the guns from which they had been borne by the impetuosity of the dragoons; for rallying around them they were soon battling for their recovery. In the meantime, while May was still contending, in company with a small party of infantry, to hold possession of the batteries, McCall was sorely pressing the enemy on the left of the road. Followed by the 5th and part of the 4th infantry, and in turn backed up by the 8th, in this quarter the leading men had fought their way to the edge of the ravine, and, although exposed to direct and enfilading fires, with but comparatively small loss. But the hard tug was yet to come; for the opposite banks were lined with the enemy, the thick brush in the rear was alive with skirmishers, and they clung to their ground with a pertinacity which showed they were determined not to yield. Their continuous fire still ravaged every approach, and their shrill cries, contrasting strangely with the more lusty shouts of the Anglo-Saxons, were heard coming up from every part of the dense cover in which they were contending. Yet the assailants still pressed them vigorously, the men using their bayonets and the officers laying about with their swords as they advanced. In a regular pell-mell, for all order had previously been lost, the Americans crossed the ravine, in many places waist deep in mud and water. Officers found themselves leading strange men — the men were following leaders unknown to them — yet one desire, to close with the Mexicans, still animated all alike, and up the opposite bank in the face of a sharper shower than ever, and into the cover still full of men, they plunged with a spirit that never flagged. Several younger officers were killed; the veteran McIntosh was shot down and bayoneted; Payne, the acting inspector-general, was also badly wounded in the midst of the melee, while the men fell thick and fast. So firmly did the Mexicans hold to their ground, that the bayonet only could loosen them; and this was freely used. As they finally retired they still continued the fight; but Belknap having brought the entire 8th infantry into the struggle, and uniting his efforts with those of Garland and other officers, the men were at length launched upon the Mexicans with such a shock that every part of the line was carried. Leaving their artillery and all their baggage, some broke and scattered in disorder into the thick chaparral; others fled directly by the more open roads. A few of the more brave and energetic officers attempted to rally the fugitives in their flight, and small parties turned at bay upon their pursuers at many strong and advantageous points; but Duncan coming up the main road at a gallop, with squads of dragoons and such men of the infantry as could extricate themselves from the brush, every formation was speedily borne down and crushed. On towards Matamoros, but little more than four miles from the Resaca, as well as to the crossings of the river above and below, the stricken army of Arista pressed, the cavalry riding over the infantry in their attempt to shake off their pursuers. As in wild confusion they emerged into the open ground near Fort Brown, and in all the disarray of a complete defeat, the gallant defenders of that position for the first time knew that their friends were victorious. Sending up one hearty shout of triumph, which was heard in the farthest parts of the city opposite, they opened with their heavy guns upon every mass of the fugitives — they could now afford ammunition. Meanwhile, upon their rear came Duncan, the dragoons, and parties of infantry, plying them at every step. Headlong hundreds of them plunged into the Rio Grande, and scores were drowned while attempting to swim its turbid current. The overcrowded ferry-boats sank with their affrighted burthens, and those who reached Matamoros had cast away their arms, knapsacks, and even their superfluous clothing — the rout was complete. And as the pu rsuers of General Taylor's little army came out of the chaparral and gained a sight of Fort Brown, with the "stars and stripes" still bravely flying, another wild shout of victory went up, in which the garrison joined, inspiring new terror in the hearts of the panic-stricken inhabitants of Matamoros. They now knew that all was Lost.
Seldom has a general sustained a more disastrous defeat than did Arista at the Resaca de la Palma. All his cannon save two light pieces, two thousand stand of muskets, an immense amount of ammunition, provisions, pack mules, military stores — in fact, all the baggage of his army, with three standards, fell into the hands of the Americans. Even Arista's tent, camp-equipage, and public and private correspondence were taken; and among his papers was a regular order from the Mexican Government, so confident were all of victory, to send General Taylor and his men as prisoners to the city of Mexico. No less than seven officers and near three hundred soldiers were left dead on the field; and with the wounded and prisoners Arista's loss was over two thousand men in all — a number fully equal to that of the entire American force at the Resaca. The loss of the latter, although much exceeding that of the previous day, was again incredibly small in comparison. Three officers only were killed: Lieutenants Inge, Chadbourne, and Cochrane; of the wounded may be numbered, in addition to Colonels McIntosh and Payne, already noticed, Captains Hooe and Montgomery, and Lieutenants Selden, Gates, S. H. Fowler, Maclay, C. F. Morris, Burbank, Jordan, and Dobbins. The greatest loss the army sustained was that of Major Brown, the gallant defender of the fort, who was struck by a shell during the almost continuous bombardment that work sustained for six days. The entire number of men killed at the Resaca, on the American side, was only thirty-seven; the number of wounded short of one hundred. To account for this great disparity, it is only necessary to repeat that, as at Palo Alto, the Mexicans fired high and wide, and that when the contest came down to the sabre and the bayonet, the enemy had neither the strength nor the nerve to stand before their stouter and more enduring assailants.
In giving the reader a sketch of the artillery combat at Palo Alto, which may serve as a key to the print of that affair, the author has deemed it necessary to add a short account of the succeeding action at the Resaca, which was but a sequel or supplement. No drawing of the latter could possibly be taken, owing to the broken nature of the ground and the dense cover in which the battle was fought. The two conflicts, taken together, with the obstinate holding out of the defenders of Fort Brown, and all against much superior odds, proved the steadfast courage of the officers and men of the American regular army, and the indomitable bravery and confidence of the distinguished chief who led them to victory. Nor can it be said that, in the two combats, the Mexicans did not stand well up to the battle front, for their heavy losses would prove the contrary. But the quick and masterly handling of the American light batteries at Palo Alto, their close and rapid firing, more than matched the slower operations and wider aim of their adversaries; while the gallant charge of the dragoons at the Resaca, followed up by the lusty use of the bayonet, fell with such irresistible weight upon the lighter troops of a more southern clime, that they could not oppose the shock. And every after combat but proved that the descendants of the early Spaniards, their blood intermixed with that of the more effeminate natives, with whatever endurance and courage they might defend hilltops and breastworks when danger was not immediate, could not withstand the onslaught of the more vigorous northmen when the space between the combatants could be measured by the length of a musket.
The Capture of Monterey.
The Americans under General Taylor crossed the Rio Grande and entered Matamoros on the 18th of May, Arista having evacuated it, with the remnant of his stricken army, the day previous. From this time up to the latter part of August, and mainly for want of transportation, the army of invasion could make no direct movement into the interior of Mexico. Volunteers came flocking in, not only from Texas and Louisiana, but from Mississippi and Alabama, and in numbers sufficient to overrun the entire country as far west as Monterey and Saltillo; but at this time General Taylor had not the means to move a single regiment, and Garland, after pursuing Arista some fifty or sixty miles in the direction of Linares, was forced to return to Matamoros to feed his soldiers. Small steamers adapted to the navigation of the Rio Grande, with forage, provisions, and military stores of every kind, were sent for by the American commander, and all haste was urged upon those who carried the requisitions to New Orleans. But it was not until the latter part of June that a single steamer arrived at Matamoros, and even August found many of those ordered still on the way.
Meanwhile the towns of Reynoso, Camargo and Mier, places of some little importance on the Rio Grande, were entered and occupied by detachments of Americans, and parties of Texan rangers, under Hays, McCulloch and Gillespie, scoured the country completely as far as San Fernando, Linares and China. Camargo was fixed upon as a depot for military stores and provisions, as it was found to be at the head of navigation. An attempt was made in a small steamer to reach Mier, a town higher up and in a more healthy section; but owing to a shoal or fall in the stream, a few miles above the confluence of the San Juan, it was impossible to navigate the Rio Grande with certainty to a point higher than Camargo.
At the latter place General Taylor himself arrived, with his staff, on the 9th of August, when all was immediately bustle and preparation. The information derived from spies, scouts and secret agents, in relation to the movements and intentions of the enemy, had in the meantime been meagre and unreliable. Rumors were constantly received that the Mexicans were fortifying Monterey, a city naturally of great strength and lying almost in the mouth of the only practicable gap in the mountains through which the army could reach Saltillo and San Luis Potosi, in case it should be deemed advisable to carry the war of invasion towards the latter city. The subjection of Monterey, and at any cost, was absolutely necessary, as well to ensure the safety of the Rio Grande valley, as to carry out the immediate purposes of the war. Had General Taylor been in possession of a pontoon train after the battle of the Resaca, with five hundred well-mounted dragoons, transportation for that small number, and a battery of light artillery, the disorganised force of Arista might have been entirely annihilated and Monterey captured without loss; but three months had now elapsed, the Mexicans had recovered from their panic, time had been given them to bring up cannon and fresh troops from San Luis and the south, and in ease they were determined upon defending so important a stronghold as Monterey, and the probabilities were in favor, no other than a regularly appointed army could hope to capture and hold it. Such an army General Taylor, owing to a succession of annoying delays, was not able to organise at Camargo before the middle of August; nor was he then fully prepared to move upon a campaign so critical and important. Perhaps the greatest delay of all was occasioned by the want of draught horses and wagons, which seemed never to be forthcoming. Forage was also scarce, and fresh beef at first difficult to obtain. The policy of the American commander, and perhaps it was the only one he could follow, was to pay the Mexicans liberally for every thing they brought in; and in this way operating upon their cupidity, and at the same time aided by the active exertions of Kinney and other army agents, a considerable quantity of corn and beef was finally obtained that would otherwise have been secreted or driven off; while in the same way, offering the highest prices, a sufficient number of the pack mules of the country were engaged to justify an onward movement.
On the 18th of August an order was issued at Camargo, by the American commander, dividing his regular force into two divisions. The first, under Twiggs, consisted of the 1st, 3d, and 4th regiments of infantry, the batteries of Bragg, Ridgely and Webster, and four companies of the 2d dragoons under May. To this division was also attached Watson's Baltimore battalion and a company of volunteers under Shivers; and in the aggregate Twiggs had nearly two thousand effective men. The second division, under Worth, was composed of the 5th, 7th and 8th regiments of infantry, Childs's artillery battalion, C. F. Smith's light troops, and Duncan's and Mackall's batteries, while acting under his orders were Blanchard's company of Louisiana volunteers and McCulloch's mounted rangers. In all his strength amounted to one thousand eight hundred good men. This organisation showed a regular force of a little over three thousand six hundred; but the greater part of the men had been under fire at Palo Alto and the Resaca, and were reliable to the last. The third division, composed entirely of volunteers, under W. O. Butler, consisted of the Mississippi rifles and the 1st Kentucky, 1st Tennessee and 1st Ohio regiments of infantry, numbering but little over two thousand men in all. To this should be added Henderson's brigade of Texan mounted rangers, comprising the regiments of Hays and Woods, and hardly one thousand strong when combined. Such was the composition of the entire force, numbering short of seven thousand men, with which General Taylor marched for the reduction of Monterey. And even up to this time, so straitened was he for transportation, that he only had the means of taking along a single 10-inch mortar, with one hundred shells in all — and this to set down before a strong town, which proved to he fortified at every point. An attempt was made to move with two 18-pounders, suitable for battering or breaching purposes, but it utterly failed for the want of proper horses to drag them.
But previous to this, Duncan had pushed a hasty reconnoisance as far as Cerralvo, a large town some seventy-five miles distant from Camargo, and about midway between the latter and Monterey. The result proved that the road thus far was practicable for artillery and baggage-wagons, that water abounded, and, taking this route, Worth led off with his division on the 20th of August. In nine days, and without opposition, he reached Cerralvo, and at once set to work gaining information. Scouting parties of Texans were sent out in the direction of Monterey, while spies and secret agents were despatched even to the city itself and within its walls. All the information thus gained showed that the Mexicans were actively engaged in fortifying their stronghold, and that they were determined upon a vigorous and obstinate defence.
On the 9th of September General Taylor himself arrived at Cerralvo, having left Patterson in command at Camargo with about two thousand volunteers. On the 12th, preceded by a pioneer party under Craig, of the 3d infantry, Twiggs took up the line of march for Monterey, now about eighty miles distant. A strong stone building, which had been intended for a granary, in the edge of Cerralvo, was selected as a depot for surplus munitions and provisions; and here the sick and those who had been crippled by the previous marches were left, the whole in charge of a small volunteer garrison. With but little over six thousand men, ten days' provisions, and each soldier carrying forty rounds of ammunition, the march upon Monterey was resumed, Worth and Butler following Twiggs on successive days.
On the 14th of September McCulloch's rangers had a brush with a party of lancers under Torrejon, between Papagaya and Ramos, the Mexicans falling back after losing three or four men in killed and wounded. On the 15th McCulloch again came up with Torrejon's cavalry, posted in the large town of Marin; but as the Americans advanced the Mexican commander evacuated the place without firing a shot, Twiggs immediately marching in with his division. In a plain outside General Taylor halted until the 16th to allow Worth and Butler to come up, thus concentrating his entire force. It was now ascertained that Ampudia, who was in command at Monterey, had ten thousand men and nearly forty pieces of cannon, and that the city was fortified at every approach. Through his spies and secret agents the Mexican commander was successful in strewing the road near the American camp with proclamations, inviting the soldiers, in the most pressing terms, to desert. Lands and homes were offered, and outstretched arms were ready to receive them, if they would come over to the banner of the magnanimous Mexican nation. These seductive messages had been translated into English; yet were so execrably rendered as to excite only the mirth and ridicule of the American soldiers. They knew Ampudia, too — well knew his character for cowardice and treachery — and not a man accepted his glowing offers.
In compact order, and ready to fall at once into line of battle, the entire force of General Taylor moved from Marin on the morning of the 18th of September, and at night bivouacked at San Francisco, a hacienda of some importance within twelve miles of Monterey. On the following morning, and still in order of battle, the army was in motion. After passing the springs and beautiful grove of San Domingo, and ascending the swelling roll a mile beyond, the strong city, so soon to be attacked,
6burst suddenly upon the eager eyes of the invaders. The commander-in-chief was himself in front, and continued steadily to advance until within some fifteen hundred yards of the Ciudadela, or Black Fort, when a cannonade was opened upon him from some of its heaviest guns. After a hasty personal examination of the work and the city before him, during which time the firing was still kept up, General Taylor moved back to the grove of San Domingo, and there encamped. This position, which was but three miles from Monterey, possessed excellent water and wood in abundance, and besides these advantages could be easily defended.
No time was lost. Mansfield, and some of the younger engineer officers, were at once sent out to reconnoitre the city and its approaches, and, although met by frequent discharges of grape and cannister from the Black Fort, continued to push their examinations. Immediately in the rear of Monterey, as it is approached by the road from Maria and the north, runs the small river San Juan, its course nearly east and west. South and back of the river rise a succession of hills, swelling into steep and rugged mountains as they recede. Through these mountains no other than a narrow mule path has been cut leading to the plains beyond Saltillo. West of the city, its course running between ranges of hills and mountains, comes the San Juan, the main road to Saltillo, and the only one through the Sierra Madre, winding along its banks. On the right of this road, immediately on emerging from Monterey, rises the Loma de Independencia, or Hill of Independence, the old Bishop's Palace, now strongly fortified and garnished with artillery, occupying a lower point of the slope, while a sand-bag work had been constructed upon the crest of the hill farther west. On the opposite side of the Saltillo road, and across the San Juan, rose the Loma de Federacion, or Hill of Federation. On this hill, nearly abreast of the Bishop's Palace and within easy 12-pounder range, was a regular stone work called La Soldada, intended for artillery as well as for a strong infantry defence, while the western and higher point of the hill had been selected by the Mexican engineers as a position for a battery. These different works, combined with the strength and difficulties of the ground, Ampudia had deemed sufficient to protect the western approaches to the city, even in case the Americans succeeded in gaining a position on the main Saltillo thoroughfare by a movement to the right.
At the eastern extremity of Monterey, where the San Juan makes a slight bend to the north rendering the approach more difficult, the Mexican engineers had constructed a succession of strong forts and redoubts, the greater part of them so well masked that no reconnoisance could determine their exact position. The citadel immediately in front of the city — the work which first opened on General Taylor — had originally been intended for a cathedral; but its construction having been discontinued after the first Mexican outbreak against the Spanish authorities, the base of heavy stone masonry had been converted into a regular fortification, with a ditch and infantry breastworks, besides embrasures for no less than thirty-two pieces of cannon. From its position, as may be seen by consulting the drawing, it completely swept and commanded the plain by which Monterey is approached and entered from the north. In rear of this, and within the edge of the city, rises a large spring, forming a deep and bold stream almost from the fountain head, and which joins the San Juan near the redoubts on the east. The banks of this stream were fringed with orange and other trees, which, with the houses scattered along, afforded dense cover to conceal batteries, while a massive stone bridge — La Puente de la Purisima — and the only one by which it could be crossed with artillery, was defended by a strong work at the head. Such may be set down as the exterior defences of Monterey; and when it is repeated that the different forts, redoubts and batteries were garnished with nearly forty pieces of artillery, and defended by six thousand regular troops and some four thousand rancheros and armed citizens, its reduction by a much smaller force, unprovided with a battering train, was an undertaking which might deter the boldest. And it will be understood that the difficulties of the Americans materially increased when it is farther stated that the streets of the city were ditched and barricaded, that the roofs of all the houses were flat, with parapets strengthened by sand-bags and loop-holed for musketry, and that every commanding wall, where every thing was built of stone, had been converted into an infantry defence. Nothing had been neglected by the Mexican engineers to increase the natural obstacles to be overcome by the invaders.
The reconnoisances in the immediate front were pushed by Mansfield, Scarritt, and other engineer officers, until dark on the evening of the 19th of September, and after nightfall Sanders and Meade, with a supporting party of Texan rangers under Gillespie, picked their way in the darkness to a point west of the hill on which stands the Bishop's Palace, and near the main road to Saltillo. Early on the morning of the 20th the engineers were again out in front, the sharp rattling of musketry at the very edge of the city showing how close and daring they were in their observations.
The result of all these reconnoisances, laid before a meeting of the principal officers, proved that the best point of approach, in the absence of a battering train, was on the west. Worth's division, reinforced by the greater portion of Hays's Texans, was therefore ordered to make a detour to the right, and passing through a narrow valley, west of the Loma de Independencia to gain possession of the main Saltillo road at any loss. This would cut off the Mexicans from all retreat with their artillery, and would at the same time prevent Ampudia from receiving either reinforcements or supplies, reports being current that Santa Anna was advancing from San Luis with both. The limited supply of provisions in the American camp admonished General Taylor that not a moment could be lost, and Worth's soldiers, taking scanty provisions in their havresacks for four days, were in motion by 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Before sundown they had gained a position just out of range of a couple of pieces on the crest above the Bishop's Palace, and after the advanced guard of Texans had encountered and driven back a force of the enemy's lancers, sent out to watch and molest the invaders, Worth bivouacked with his division for the night. He sent back word, however, to the commander-in-chief, that he had gained a position within a mile of the Saltillo road, and expressing his determination to commence active operations early on the following day, requested that a diversion in his favor might be made in front of the city.
At daylight on the 21st, exposed to a continuous but ineffectual fire from the battery on the hill on his left, Worth was in motion, the Texans in advance. On reaching a point within three hundred yards of the Saltillo road, a sudden turn brought in plain view a large body of the enemy, both cavalry and infantry, occupying the road ahead and their line stretching towards the city. Marching in as compact order of battle as the ground would admit, the Americans continued to advance, but when within a hundred and fifty yards of the enemy the latter loosened a party of lancers from the main body and sent them directly at the head of Worth's columns in a dashing charge. But they were received by such a slaughtering fire of rifles from McCulloch's men, as also from parties of Texans who had taken to the cover of a fence on the left, that the weight of the charge was broken midway. The survivors, however, came gallantly on, and mixing with the rangers were at once engaged in a hand-to-hand conflict. The latter used their Colt's repeaters and other pistols with a murderous effect that soon told, and C. F. Smith with his light troops dashing up, and Hays of the artillery unlimbering one of Duncan's guns, a fire was opened that sent the few who still lived back into the Saltillo road. Here, crowding upon their own infantry, and Worth's light troops rapidly springing across the intervening fields to attack them in flank, the entire mass fell back under shelter of the Bishop's Palace, which could now be seen. This charge of the lancers was one of the most brilliant made by the Mexicans during the war. Of the squadron of one hundred and eighty men commanded by Colonel Nagera, who was himself killed, no less than forty fell, while nearly one hundred were wounded. Barely fifty men escaped unhurt.
Worth was now in possession of the Saltillo road, a most important point and gained with little loss. But a fresh and unforeseen obstacle was now in his way, for the Mexicans had established a battery upon the crest of the Loma de Federaeion, on the opposite side of the San Juan, and opened a plunging fire upon him at effective range. At the same time a heavy cannonade heard on the eastern side of Monterey, with the rattling of small arms, showed that the diversion in his favor in that quarter had grown into a regular attack. In this crisis he resolved upon storming the hill on the opposite side of the river at once; wherefore moving the main column out of range of the shot from the obnoxious battery, the party for its capture was immediately detailed. It consisted of two hundred regulars and one hundred and forty dismounted rangers, the whole under C. F. Smith, and striking directly into a dense corn-field they soon reached the San Juan which they were obliged to ford. The movement was discovered from the crest above as soon as the command reached the stream, and while crossing it the men were exposed to a shower of grape and cannister. At the same time the appearance of a body of infantry upon the summit, who had been sent up from the rear, showed that the Mexicans were bent upon defending the steep and scraggy hill, for the front of it was in many places almost precipitous and the surface covered with jagged rocks and thorny bushes.
Seeing the arrival of the enemy's infantry, Worth now despatched Miles, with the 7th regiment, to the support of Smith. Both detachments reached the base of the hill nearly at the same time, Miles a little in advance as he had found a shorter route and better fording-place. Once at the foot of the hill they were safe from the artillery of the enemy, as the guns could not be depressed; but the sharp-shooters came swarming in clouds down the sides and poured in a constant fire as the Americans, with as great rapidity as possible, commenced the difficult ascent. The moment now seemed critical. The fire of the Mexican skirmishers was incessant, and could plainly be seen by Worth, while his own men, concealed by the heavier brush at the lower points of the height, were not returning a shot. To render success certain the 5th infantry under Martin Scott, with Blanchard's Louisiana volunteers — the latter as good and trusty soldiers as ever shouldered a musket — were sent up to the work, the whole under Persifor F. Smith. The latter was charged with the entire movement on reaching the ground, and bearing more to the right he found a still better crossing-place of the river, and was soon mounting the steep. But by this time C. F. Smith's advanced parties had clambered up until they had got within killing range, when the sharp crack of the Texan rifles, followed by the heavier reports of the muskets of the regulars, denoted that the strife for possession of the height had commenced. The struggle was short;
7the balls of the Mexicans for the most part went over, while not a shot of their adversaries, so close and deadly was their aim, was lost. Before the steady advance of the Americans the enemy recoiled, until a last well-sent volley, followed by a determined rush of the assailants, finally drove them from the crest and sent them in full flight down the opposite descent towards La Soldada. The victors instantly turned one of their own guns upon them, and Persifor F. Smith, seeing the position of the other work and that it could be carried by a vigorous charge, launched the whole command down the slope. The Americans were met in the face by a severe fire of grape and cannister as well as musketry; but the blood of the men was up, and at a run, and firing as they ran, regulars and rangers swept down the gradual descent. The work gained, a mixed crowd of the strongest went over the walls and into the interior pell-mell, the affrighted Mexicans escaping by the opposite side unable to stay the current. And as they fled their own guns were again turned upon them, nor did the victors, while sending up loud shouts of triumph, cease to harass the fugitives until they had crossed the San Juan and gained the strongly fortified walls of the Bishop's Palace on the opposite hill.
Such were Worth's operations on the 21st of September, every way successful and achieved with loss trifling in comparison with the results. One officer only was killed during the day, M'Kavett, a meritorious captain in the 8th infantry, who was completely cut in two by a 12-pound shot. Until dark the firing between the Bishop's Palace and La Soldada continued, the reports of the guns on either side finding a thousand echoes in the narrow valley and amid the surrounding mountain gorges.
In the meantime the fighting had been absolutely murderous at the eastern extremity of Monterey, although no decisive results had been gained. Partly to distract the enemy and favor Worth's operations, and at the same time with the intention of attacking if occasion offered, early in the morning General Taylor had moved out with the greater part of the commands of Twiggs and Butler. The division of the former was composed of two brigades under Wilson and Garland, and the latter officer, with the 3d infantry alone, led the advance upon the city. His orders were to report to Mansfield, who was at this time closely reconnoitering the enemy's works, and who had been directed to make an attack should circumstances warrant it. Under a fire from the Black Fort Garland briskly moved down, followed by the 1st infantry, and Baltimore battalion which Twiggs had meanwhile put in motion. On coming up with Mansfield, the 3d was ordered to advance upon a strong redoubt. When within range a ravaging fire was opened upon the Americans, yet boldly advancing across the intervening space a lodgment within the scattered houses at the edge of the city was effected. But here previously unseen works opened upon the column — a fire from every quarter smote the advance, and officers and men went down by scores. Not only were the invaders exposed to the raking discharges from masked batteries, but every housetop, every wall, and the cover of every grove of orange trees seemed alive with sharp-shooters. The 3d infantry, which led, suffered most. Yet still the unequal strife continued. The 1st and Baltimore battalion were soon in the thickest of it, while Bragg's battery, brought down under a sweeping cannonade from the Black Fort and redoubts, took up a position in one of the streets, and opened a brisk yet ineffectual fire; for so well were the enemy covered by walls and houses, and such a succession of strong positions did they occupy, that the assailants were unable to oppose the storm of metal with which the air was filled. Garland's men beat into the narrow streets right and left, endeavouring to gain some position from whence they could see and annoy the hidden enemy, but every movement involved them in a new whirlpool of destruction. The loss of officers had already been frightful, they were still falling at every moment, and the exasperated men were vainly attempting to gain a position from which they could wreak their vengeance. A single company of the 1st infantry, under Backus, was, able to get possession of the top of a large building, looking into the rear of the Teneria as the exterior redoubt was called, and from this commanding position, which he gained only after a severe struggle with the Mexicans who had first occupied it, he was enabled to open a destructive fire upon the gorge of the work.
But so severe had been the losses of the Americans, in men as well as officers, and so little could be effected by continuing the attack in this quarter, that Garland, at the suggestion of Mansfield himself, ordered his men to fall back to a less exposed position, there to reorganize for another attempt. Mansfield had been severely wounded, yet kept his feet. Watson of the Baltimoreans had been killed, with Barbour of the 3d infantry, Williams of the topographical engineers, and other officers, and the list of wounded was fearful. In the meantime, General Taylor, knowing that Garland was hotly engaged, and that as the attack had been commenced it must be sustained, ordered the Mississippi and Tennessee regiments under Quitman, with three companies of the 4th infantry to lead, down upon the Teneria. Quitman bore to the left, so as to fall more directly upon the work in front, a movement which brought a heavy storm of grape and cannister upon his men. The detachment of the 4th infantry, in advance, was severely cut by this withering fire, the officers in command, Hoskins, Graham and Woods, being at once struck down dead or mortally wounded; yet the survivors continued to press hotly forward, and Quitman, reaching a point where he could form his command, organized his plan for storming the Teneria directly under its fire. With the Mississippians on the right and the Tennesseeans on the left the final assault was ordered, the fire from the front of the work seeming to redouble as its walls were neared. But Backus, who had not retired from his position, continuing to pour a galling fire into the rear, while Quitman advanced vigorously upon the face of the work, the defenders at length slackened in their efforts and began to give way; and at the same time the Mississippians and Tennesseeans leaping over the walls, the work was carried at a dash. Five pieces of cannon, all the ammunition, and a number of prisoners were secured. McClung, the second in command of the Mississippians, was severely wounded while entering sword in hand, and Allen and Putnam, two younger officers of the Tennesseeans, were killed in the onslaught.
While this gallant operation was in progress, General Taylor had ordered Butler,, with the Ohio troops, to move into the city on the right of the Teneria, and to a point where he could aid in the general attack. This command had hardly got clear of the quarries and fields in front of the town, and entered the streets, before it was met by a smashing tempest of grape, cannister and musket balls. Butler was soon severely wounded, with Mitchell and other officers of the Ohio regiment, leaving the command to Hamer. So badly was it cut, and without the chance of emptying a musket or reaching a point where the bayonet could be brought into play, that an order was sent for the regiment to retire; but at this juncture General Taylor seeing that the Teneria had been carried, countermanded the order, and the men were once more despatched to the fearful work. Garland was meanwhile ordered to gather the fragments of his torn command and to make another attempt to force his way up to the intricate network of redoubts, batteries and breastworks. Beyond the Teneria and nearer the river was a strong work called El Diabolo, mounting three guns, and which had kept up a spiteful fire from the first. Against this redoubt one of the captured pieces in the Teneria was turned, while Webster, who had been up to this time plying the Black Fort from his mortar and howitzer battery, ran down one of his 24-pound howitzers and added its fire upon El Diabolo.
Garland had collected the remnant of the 3d infantry, with detachments of the 1st and 4th; but scarcely had he left his temporary shelter before he was met by the same terrible storm of missiles — the enemy seemed to have gained new accessions of strength during the short respite. The narrow stream in front of the Mexicans was still deep and impossible to ford, the only point at which it could be crossed by artillery being at the bridge of the Purisima. At the head of this bridge, as has already been stated, was a regular work containing three guns, which opened a sweeping fire; while heavy vollies of musketry from the parapet roofs of the adjoining houses, from the cover of the orange trees which lined the stream on either flank, and from loop-holed garden walls, added to the carnage. The assailants were stricken down at every step; yet clearing the houses on the northern bank of the creek those still alive eagerly responded to the fire of the enemy on the opposite side, while Ridgely, who had run down one of his sections, opened briskly upon the tÄte-de-pont. But so well sheltered were the enemy, and in such clouds did they hang upon this point, that the fire of the Americans proved utterly ineffectual. Maddened by their losses, and thirsting for revenge, attempt after attempt was made by Garland's men to gain a foothold within the enemy's line. Yet every formation was carried away before it could reach holding ground, and the survivors in many instances were too few in number to assist their own wounded. To show how fearfully the gallant 3d had suffered up to this time, it may be stated that the commander, Lear, had been mortally wounded, that the three officers next in rank, Barbour, L. N. Morris, and Field, had been killed, and that another senior, Bainbridge, had been obliged to retire inconsequence of an injury received. The command of the regiment was thus thrown upon Henry, who had gone into action sixth in rank, and who had so far miraculously remained unhurt. Nor had the 1st and 4th regiments escaped a heavy loss, both in officers and men; wherefore, seeing that it would be madness to attempt forcing the strong lines of the enemy with a command thus reduced, the order was given to fall back under cover of the Teneria. Here the remnant of the 3d infantry remained for the night, exposed to a cold rain, the jaded soldiers of the other regular regiments bivouacking close at hand. Nearly four hundred men had fallen, which, considering the small number engaged, shows that the conflict was obstinate to the last. At one time towards the close of the contest a large body of the enemy's lancers, coming out from the rear of the Black Fort, advanced with the evident intention of falling upon the Ohio and a detachment of the Mississippi troops, then occupying the fields outside the city; but this command taking cover behind the fences and commencing a fire, and Bragg at the same time opening upon them from an advantageous position with his battery, the cavalry were thrown back in haste under the walls of the citadel.
Such is but an imperfect sketch of the operations at the eastern extremity of Monterey on the 21st of September — operations certainly barren of full results when the heavy outlay of life is considered, yet which could not well have been avoided. The obstinate attack in this quarter, continued so many hours, had the effect of materially relieving Worth's advance on the
8west. Had General Taylor's movement of the morning been but a simple feint, the Mexicans must soon have discovered it, and would have hurried off additional men and guns to the defence of the western heights. But attacking as the Americans did with such vigor, Ampudia was compelled to keep a heavy force on the east; and even the loss of the Teneria, with five of his best guns, loosened his hold in this strong quarter. Nor with his knowledge of the ground and immense superiority of number did he attempt to retake the work, a circumstance denoting that the stubborn bravery of the invaders had exercised a great moral effect on the Mexicans.
While Worth's successful troops were exposed upon the bleak heights they had captured during the afternoon of the 21st, or else in the muddy road which skirts the banks of the San Juan, their active commander had planned new and even more difficult work for them on the morrow. To storm the crest overlooking the Bishop's Palace was now determined upon, cost what it might; for which purpose a party, the command of which was entrusted to Childs, was organized during the night. It consisted of one company of the 1st and two of the 4th artillery, three companies of the 8th infantry under Screven, and two hundred picked Texans under Hays and Walker. Although the larger portion of them had been without food or blankets, and in the midst of a cold, drizzling rain, at 3 o'clock in the morning they started willingly to the enterprise before them. The command was guided by Sanders and Meado, and without a whisper the men set out on their perilous undertaking. A heavy fog added to the darkness of a cloudy night; yet picking their way in the midst of a gloom so impenetrable that no man could see his fellow, a good portion of the western side of the hill was surmounted without the watchful sentinels within hail above being apprised of the movement. The face of the frowning height was in many places almost perpendicular, rough, and overspread with broken rocks, while a thick coat of scraggy but stunted thorns — the universal chaparral of the country — covered every spot where the hardy brush could, find root. The rattling of the tin canteens of the regulars, as they toiled up the steep, first gave the enemy notice of the approach, when a broad sheet of bright flame burst suddenly from the entire front of the sand-bag work on the summit. The cannon of the Mexicans were withdrawn down the opposite slope, in the direction of the Bishop's Palace, for the hill was so steep that the pieces could not be depressed, but the infantry kept up a rolling fire, discharging their pieces into the deep darkness below them. Not a shot was at first returned by the assailants. They could see the grim faces of their adversaries lit up by every flash, yet the distance was still too great for them to open with that close effect which tells. Clinging to the brush and to the jagged rocks, and feeling their way as they clambered up the precipice, regulars and rangers, again mingled together as no order could be preserved, still continued the rugged ascent.
The sharp crack of the Texan rifles, as some of the stronger of that corps reached a point from whence their fire was certain, first announced that the final struggle had commenced. In an instant the face of the precipice was illumined with the bright flashes from the weapons of the assailants, and guided by the fire still kept up from the crest above them scarcely a shot was lost. Some hastily reloaded their pieces; but others, moved by the cries of the officers to press upward, placing their reliance on the bayonet continued the difficult ascent. The Mexicans clung doggedly to their stronghold, but as the foremost of the stormers leaped with shouts over the breastworks they gave way, and the next moment were in full flight down the slope towards the shelter of the Bishop's Palace — the work had been triumphantly carried. In this daring operation the loss of Childs was trifling as regards the number slain, one officer only, the brave and chivalrous Gillespie of the Texans, having been killed.
The distance from the captured work to the Bishop's Palace was about four hundred yards, the descent gradual and the ground comparatively smooth. Worth had ordered Childs, after carrying the crest, to make no positive demonstration on the Bishop's Palace until reinforcements could be despatched. As soon as it was daylight, word was sent to the 5th infantry and the Louisianians, on the opposite hills, to march hastily over to the support of Childs, while at the same time one of Duncan's howitzers under Roland, and accompanied by a strong fatigue party, was despatched in the direction of the crest. After great labor this piece was fairly lifted to the summit of the hill, and sheltered by the epaulment of the captured work was soon throwing a flight of shells directly into the strongly fortified Palace. In the meantime Childs had ordered Vinton, with two companies of light troops, to advance down the slope to some point that would afford partial shelter, there to hold the enemy in check in case a regular sortie, which had been repeatedly threatened, was attempted in earnest. A force of Texans was at the same time sent down, and taking advantage of the natural cover both parties gained a good position with little loss. Meanwhile the cannonade from the Palace had been incessant from the moment when the last of the panic-stricken stragglers, driven from the crest in disorder, had entered it. Nor were the infantry within its walls idle, for from every loop-hole and window a steady fire was sweeping every portion of the hill. But Childs, keeping his men close under such cover as could be found, quietly awaited the signal to storm this last stronghold on the western heights.
The effect of Roland's plunging fire, for the range was close and his shells thrown with great accuracy, was growing more and more evident as the forenoon wore. The Mexican artillerymen swept the slope by their repeated discharges; but the Americans, hugging the cover while awaiting the assault, suffered but little loss. This ineffectual strife had continued nearly five hours, when the Mexican trumpets announced a sortie. From the rear and northern flank of the Palace a stream of light troops was seen pouring and forming, cavalry and infantry, the artillerymen plying their guns with renewed vigor to draw attention from the charge now to be attempted. In good order the enemy came up, and in numbers apparently sufficient to sweep the slope; but the regulars and rangers in advance, waiting until they had arrived within pistol-shot, met them with such a close and biting volley of musket and rifle balls, that the front was thrown into confusion, and before they could rally the fire became so hot that they were forced back in disorder. The Americans now rising from their cover with shouts, and pressing down upon the enemy with determination, the latter were unable to turn and make head against the current. A portion of the fugitives pressed down the hill towards the city in their fright, others rushed into the Palace for shelter; but close upon their heels came their vigorous assailants, and a short struggle inside the walls showed their inability to oppose when the bayonet was called into play. Those of the Mexicans who attempted resistance were stricken to the earth; others surrendered; while a portion of the defenders jumped over the walls on the eastern side and fled precipitately towards the city. The captured guns were turned immediately upon them in their flight, and Duncan and Mackall, bringing their batteries up the main road at a gallop, added their deadly fire to that of the enemy's pieces. The victory was complete, and as the Mexican flag was torn down by Ayres, a young and daring officer of artillery, loud shouts of triumph went up. The stirring operations had been closely watched by the divisions of Twiggs and Butler, lying on the eastern side of Monterey; and when they saw the American flag run up in place of that of the enemy, and knew that their friends were conquerors, their exultation found vent in shouts which reached every part of the city.
Every spot of vantage ground on the western side of Monterey, the full possession of the road to Saltillo, and the control of every line of retreat in this direction, were now in the hands of Worth's victorious troops. The result of these brilliant operations had also given him seven additional guns, with which he promptly opened upon the city, while the moral effect upon the spirits of the enemy, when they found themselves hemmed in and with little hope of escape, was immense. Meanwhile the operations on the eastern side of the city had been of little moment. Possession of the Teneria had been retained by General Taylor, and the troops had been more or less exposed to the missiles sent from the Black Fort, from El Diabolo, and other works. But no attempt was made during the day to attack in any quarter. The regulars belonging to the division of Twiggs were relieved from their duties by Quitman's brigade of Butler's, the batteries of Bragg and Ridgely being meanwhile held in readiness to repel any attempt made by the enemy to regain their captured work. Such were the operations of the 22d of September.
At daylight on the 23d General Taylor ascertained that during the night the enemy had evacuated El Diabolo, the redoubts in its immediate vicinity, and all their strong positions in the eastern corner of the city, carrying off their cannon in the direction of the grand plaza. A cold and dismal rain had been falling, adding much to the discomfort of the jaded soldiers on every quarter of the beleaguered city. Many of them had no food, hundreds were without blankets or protection of any kind, yet with the same unbroken spirit they were now ready to renew the work. Quitman led off the attack, with portions of the Tennessee and Mississippi regiments, the American commander-in-chief having given him discretionary orders to advance and feel his way into the city. Leaving a strong party in the captured works, he proceeded cautiously in the direction of the grand plaza. A brisk fire was soon opened upon him from parapet roofs, as well as from barricades thrown across the principal streets; yet sheltering his men, and returning the enemy's fire from every advantageous cover, he slowly gained ground. General Taylor, seeing that the contest had again been renewed, sent Henderson into the city to the support of Quitman, with the 2d regiment of Texans now dismounted. Ridgely was in the meantime firing upon the cathedral, which was known to be garrisoned and full of ammunition, from a captured gun in one of the eastern redoubts, while Martin Scott was throwing a plunging fire from the opposite side of the town, having run a piece taken in La Soldada along the ridge in the rear until he had gained a point from whence he could reach the grand plaza. Bragg was at the same time ordered to open upon the cathedral, the barricades, or any assailable position occupied by the enemy, and soon after he was despatched into the city with one of his sections, the 3d infantry supporting. The strange combat within the town now became brisk and general. Finding that Bragg's guns could be of little service, and that his men were rapidly falling, they were withdrawn, yet the conflict was continued by the Mississippians, Tennesseeans and Texans, the latter engaged in a strife they well understood. The roofs of all the higher and more commanding houses were alive with Mexican sharp-shooters, who, concealed behind parapets which had been strengthened by sand-bags,
9kept up a constant fire. To dislodge them the assailants picked their way through the walls of the adjoining houses, and coming out upon the roofs in crowds soon drove the enemy by the superior accuracy of their aim. By the middle of the day the Americans had thus worked their way, and with comparatively little loss, until they had reached a point within two squares of the cathedral, where Ampudia had now concentrated his entire force with the exception of the strong garrison in the Black Fort outside the town. The men, however, now being out of ammunition, as well as exhausted by their long efforts, and General Taylor having ascertained that the last stronghold of the enemy could be successfully assailed with a force newly organized and fresh, gave orders for Quitman to fall back. This movement was executed in good order and without loss, and while Hamer was sent out to occupy the redoubts and batteries, the tired Mississippians and Tennesseeans marched back to the camp at San Domingo, there to rest and refresh themselves after their incessant fatigues.
But in the meantime Worth, who from the heavy firing had supposed that a regular attack upon the cathedral and grand plaza was in progress, was organizing his forces rapidly to fall upon Ampudia from the western side of the city. The distance from the Bishop's Palace, where Worth had now established his head-quarters, was but little more than a mile in a straight line from the Teneria and El Diabolo; but to avoid the Black Fort, and the lancers ever ready to sally out from its cover, he could only communicate with the commander-in-chief by a circuitous route of some five or six miles, and hence the difficulty of combining their operations. The day previous, seeing that he had gained a position from whence he could easily reach the cathedral with heavy shells, Worth had despatched an aid to General Taylor requesting that the 10-inch mortar might be sent him. This had now arrived, but deeming it possible that some message informing him of the attack from the east had miscarried, or that the bearer had been cut off, the commander of the 2d division determined upon advancing at once into the city.
The attack from this quarter was organized in two columns, to proceed directly towards the grand plaza by the two principal streets leading from the base of the hill below the Palace. A detachment of Texans for the light skirmishing work preceded the regulars, the batteries of Duncan and Mackall bringing up the rear. In order to effect lodgments within the houses, and thus render the advance more safe as well as certain, heavy pieces of plank or timber were carried to burst in gates and doors, scaling ladders were hastily collected, while all the crow-bars, picks and axes which could be found were taken along to cut and dig the way through walls and partitions.
As the heads of the columns entered the streets the affrighted women and children, their minds distorted by the idle tales Ampudia had industriously circulated of the cruelty of the Americans, came running out with oranges and other fruits, thus endeavouring to propitiate the good-will of the invaders. On reaching a point within three hundred yards of the grand plaza, on one side of which stood the towering cathedral, a warm fire was opened upon the leading companies. The roofs of the houses swarmed with the infantry of the enemy, while from behind regular barricades, constructed with embrasures for cannon, came showers of grape and cannister. Worth's orders had been to mask the movement as much as possible, and for the men to shelter themselves against any sweeping discharges from the heavy guns. To carry out these instructions the commands took cover within the cross streets, or behind the first barricade, which had been carried with little opposition, and using the crow and the pick a lodgment, was soon effected within some of the higher and more controlling houses. The Texans, whenever the head of a Mexican appeared above the parapets, paid him for his temerity with his life, while the regulars of the 7th and 8th infantry, who were close upon them on either column of attack, spread themselves over the flat house-tops and added a brisk fire upon every point occupied by the enemy. Duncan and Mackall at almost the same time brought their batteries into play. Although embarrassed for room, they still found space where they could unlimber and add the weight of their rapid discharges to the general attack.
A detachment of Texans, with a party of the 8th infantry, had dashed up one of the streets leading to the left, and towards a small market-place known as the Plazuela. This they crossed under a heavy fire, and being soon joined by a company of the 7th, a species of battering-ram was hastily formed of heavy planks or timber, by means of which the strong door or gate of a commanding building was carried from its hinges. Through the opening the men poured, and gaining the roof of the building a new and closer fire was opened upon the enemy. At the same time another detachment of the 7th, with a party of Texans, taking a range of buildings skirting the San Juan, had worked their way up to an important point on the right, and at every moment were gradually but surely nearing the grand plaza. The firing was now rapid and continuous on either side, while above the din of the conflict arose the loud shouts of the Americans, the fierce yells of the Mexicans, or the shrill cries of the affrighted women and children, anxious to fly but uncertain on which side to look for safety. And added to all came the heavy stroke of the plank used in staving the doors or gates, or the dull yet distinct strokes of the pick-axes as the assailants burrowed through the houses. In many of the rooms whole families were found upon their knees, vehemently praying that their lives might be spared them; for all had been told that the Americans were barbarians, coming to destroy alike the weak and the strong.
The conflict continued with little intermission till nightfall, the 7th infantry having suffered more severely than any other corps. But with the darkness the work of the assailants did not cease, for the pick and the crow-bar were still vigorously used in digging the way to more advanced and controlling positions. In weighing their means of defence the Mexicans had never bethought themselves that their adversaries would thus burrow their way through the houses. In the streets they were prepared for defence at every point, and with good show of confidence were ready to resist any open advance; but for the secret and hidden underground approach of the Americans they had never calculated; the sudden and mysterious appearance of clouds of hated Texans, upon house-tops where they were least looked for, unnerved them, and their fears increased with every foot of vantage ground thus gained. In the early part of the day, while Quitman was thus progressing towards the cathedral from the north-east, Ampudia had sent in a flag of truce to General Taylor, requesting a cessation of hostilities until the women and children might have time to retire — a request so unreasonable that it was not for a moment listened to.
Under the direction of Munroe the 10-inch mortar, which had been brought round to Worth's division, was placed in a cemetery within the city during the afternoon, and as soon as it was dark a fire of shells was opened upon the cathedral. A part of the force in advance was at the same time withdrawn; a sufficient number was however left in front to continue, the work of digging through the houses, and in this manner, before daylight on the following morning, a party of Texans had worked their way as far as the post-office, and almost within rifle-shot of the cathedral itself. With great exertion a 6-pounder and two 12-pound howitzers were also lifted to the roof of a commanding building in the Plazuela, scarcely out of musket range of the grand plaza. While these operations were in progress in front, Munroe continued to ply the cathedral with his mortar. At first he had drawn a flight of shells from the Black Fort outside the town; but uncertain as to his exact position, for the Mexican artillerymen could only direct their pieces from the flash, this fire caused no damage.
It was perhaps unfortunate that General Taylor did not receive notice of Worth's advance until after he had sent the order withdrawing Quitman and Henderson from the attack on the east. The commander of the 2d division had early despatched word that, induced to believe that an attack upon the grand plaza had commenced from the heavy firing, he was marching to support it from the west with a well organized force. But this intelligence did not reach the commander-in-chief until it was too late to renew the conflict on the east, and sending back word to Worth to suspend farther operations until the plan of a combined attack was settled upon, the scattered detachments rested upon their arms until the morning Frequent signals were interchanged during the night, by means of colored rockets, between the garrison in the Black Fort and the main body of the Mexicans hemmed within the grand plaza, and at this time Ampudia had doubtless resolved in his own mind to surrender, whatever might be the opinions of Requena, Ortega and his other principal officers.
With the first dawn of day on the morning of the 24th of September the report of the Texan rifles was heard as they opened upon the enemy from the roof of the post-office. This fire had continued but a few moments before a white flag was seen coming from the grand plaza — Ampudia was now sending a request that an armistice might be granted. This message was despatched to Worth, and almost at the same time an aid-de-camp of Ampudia, Colonel Moreno, with another flag of truce, was on his way to General Taylor's head-quarters with a note stating that he was ready to evacuate Monterey in case he would be allowed to take with him, in addition to his artillery, ammunition and baggage, all the public property in the city, with the assurance that no harm should fall upon such of the inhabitants as had taken part in the defence. This note was dated late on the previous night. The American commander declined acceding to its terms, insisting upon a complete surrender of the town and garrison; but at the same time, in his answer to Ampudia, he suggested that in consideration of the gallant defence which had been made he would make the conditions as liberal as possible. The Mexican commander was given until 12 o'clock to make up his mind, and in the meantime General Taylor proceeded to Worth's head-quarters. But the latter officer had previous to this received a note from Ampudia requesting a personal interview with the American commander-in-chief. To this the latter acceded; and during the afternoon, at a house midway between the advance posts of either army, the meeting was held. No definitive terms were settled at this interview. A commission, however, was appointed, composed of three officers on either side, to adjust the conditions of a surrender.
The officers on the American side were Generals Worth and Henderson and Colonel Jefferson Davis; on the part of the Mexicans, Generals Requena and Ortega and Don Manuel M. Llano, the governor of the State of Nueva Leon, of which Monterey was the capital. After a lengthy conference, the Mexican commissioners as usual resorting to every species of prevarication to gain more favourable terms, the conditions of the surrender were finally agreed upon and signed by the respective parties. The city, the fortifications, cannon, munitions of war, and all public property were surrendered to the Americans; yet the Mexican commissioned officers were allowed to retain their swords, the cavalry and infantry their arms and accoutrements, and the artillery a field battery of six pieces with twenty-one rounds of ammunition. On striking their flag at the Black Fort the Mexicans were furthermore permitted to salute it with their own battery, and seven days were allowed them to retire beyond the line formed by the pass of the Rinconada, the city of Linares, and San Fernando de Presas. An armistice of eight weeks was also settled upon, during which the soldiers on either side were not to be permitted to cross the above line.
Such were the main features of the capitulation of Monterey. Twenty-six pieces of cannon, an immense amount of ammunition, military stores, provisions, tobacco, and other public property, fell into the hands of the Americans, together with the city and fortifications of Monterey and the strong pass of the Rinconada on the Saltillo road; but the terms granted to Ampudia were much less rigorous than had been at first insisted upon, and more favorable than perhaps he deserved. In the grand plaza, where he was stationed with the greater portion of his army, he was completely hemmed in on all sides save one — the side immediately on the river. By this, throwing away his arms and leaving all his cannon, he might have escaped, and gained Saltillo by means of the mule path through the mountains. The Black Fort might have held out, and under Requena, a resolute officer of artillery, probably would have held out, for a few days; but had the combat been renewed in the vicinity of the cathedral on the morning of the 24th of September, in two hours half of Ampudia's force would have been slaughtered, with many women, children, and non-combatants; for in such a strife as would have ensued, with howitzers mounted in the upper stories and crowds of sharp-shooters' occupying every commanding housetop, no discrimination could have been made. The Texans certainly could not have been restrained. Their hatred of Ampudia, for his many acts of treachery, broken faith, and savage cruelty during their war of independence, was so deep-rooted, that the innocent must have suffered in their attempts to wreak vengeance upon him.
Ampudia's duplicity induced him, the better to gain favorable conditions for himself and army, to have reports busily circulated at the conference to the effect that Santa Anna was in full power at the city of Mexico, and was moreover using all his energies to bring about a peace. The story was even raised that commissioners to settle the terms of a treaty were already on their way from Mexico to Washington. Of course these reports were utterly destitute of foundation, although told with every apparent evidence of plausibility; but they may have had their weight in softening the terms of the capitulation. At all events, it is certain that at the time General Taylor entertained strong hopes that a peace between the two countries might soon be brought about, and acting upon this hope, and to spare the farther effusion of blood as well as destruction of property, he consented to less rigorous terms than he might otherwise have exacted of his cunning yet cowardly adversary. The same hope of the speedy restoration of amicable relations with Mexico in part induced the American commander to consent to the armistice of two months. General Taylor knew that Santa Anna had been permitted to pass freely through the blockading squadron and enter Vera Cruz in the previous month of August, but he did not know that on the 14th of September, ten days prior to the conference in relation to the surrender of Monterey, this same Santa Anna had issued a proclamation at the city of Mexico, breathing nothing but war to the death against the infamous Americans, as they were styled, and full of high-sounding but meaningless threats that he himself was hurrying to the seat of war, to chastise and humble the invaders or perish in the front ranks of his insulted countrymen.
But there was another reason for granting the temporary suspension of hostilities — General Taylor was unable to move farther into the interior for the want of transportation and supplies. The enemy were in a situation to collect new means of resistance and take the field in force, had not the terms of the armistice paralysed their efforts, while even when the two months were ended the Americans were not prepared to recommence active offensive operations. Had the combat been renewed on the morning of the 24th of September, the result is easy to predict: the Mexicans would have been defeated and driven across the river, where escape was open through the mountain paths well known to them, destroying all their cannon and munitions previous to their retreat. In case they had held out in the grand plaza with obstinacy, the cathedral, containing an immense amount of powder, must inevitably have been blown up; and as in this quarter were huddled all the non-combatants, the destruction of innocent lives would have been frightful. Nor would it have been confined to the inhabitants; for so close were the assailants on every side that they, too, must have suffered from the explosion. The author would frankly confess that on the day of the surrender, partaking somewhat of the antipathy and deep-seated hostility towards the Mexicans possessed by the Texans with whom he had served, that he deemed the conditions too liberal and the armistice as impolitic; but with equal frankness he would observe, that he was soon compelled to admit the justice of the reasons advanced by the American commander, as well as by the members of the conference, in granting terms which at first seemed to bear the evidence of more generosity than the enemy was entitled to ask for or receive.
The loss of the Mexicans in killed and wounded, during the three days the contest lasted, could never be fully ascertained. The heaviest portion perhaps fell on the west, where Worth was operating, for so well protected were they on the east, by batteries, breastworks and barricades, that the number was comparatively small. In this quarter the enemy immediately buried their dead, with the exception of those left in the Teneria and some of the fortified houses which were carried; but as the hospital was afterwards found crowded with wounded soldiers and officers, and as many of the latter had been taken to private houses, their casualties even here must have been considerable. The loss of the Americans fell but little short of five hundred men in the aggregate, with thirty-eight officers. Colonel Watson, Majors Lear and Barbour, Captains L. N. Morris, Williams, G. P. Field, M'Kavett, R. A. Gillespie and Allen, Lieutenants R. H. Graham, Terrett, Dilworth, C. Hoskins, J. S. Wood, D. S. Irwin, Hazlitt, Putnam and Hett, were among the slain, or did not long survive their injuries. General Butler, Colonels Mitchell, Mansfield and McClung, Majors Abercrombie and Alexander, Captains Gatlin, Lamotte, George, Bainbridge and Downing, and Lieutenants Wainwright, Rossell, Armstrong, Cook, Arthur, Miles, Scudder, Nixon, Morter, McCarty and Howard were among the wounded. Nearly three-fourths of the loss on the American side occurred in the daring and obstinate attack at the eastern extremity of Monterey, on the first day of the contest.
In giving a drawing of the capture it was found impossible to offer other than a general view of Monterey, taken from the north, and showing its approaches and exterior defences. In the foreground of the picture may be seen General Taylor himself, with the column of attack marching down to the eastern edge of the city; the smoke from the Black Fort, as well as from the town itself, showing that the invaders were under fire from the first. In the middle ground, a little to the right of the Black Fort which looms up prominently in advance of the city, may be seen the Hills of Independence and Federation, the San Juan running between. On the lower points of these hills are the Bishop's Palace and the work of La Soldada, while the smoke upon the crests to the right indicates the position of the batteries which opened upon Worth's division on the morning of the 21st of September, his troops at the time concealed in the valley on the west. The towering mountains of the Sierra Madre form the background of the picture, the opening directly beyond the Bishop's Palace being the gap through which the road runs towards the Rinconada and Saltillo. The artist could not well select any one incident of the contest as the subject of his drawing: no effort of the pencil could give effect to the hard fighting within the streets, and to take up the storming of one of the western heights would shut out the city from view. He therefore preferred giving the reader an outline of Monterey, with its defences and approaches, and in this, although the position of some of the hills may have been slightly changed, he has been successful. The capture of this stronghold, with an inferior force and without a siege or battering train, will ever be considered one of the brightest achievements of the American arms. To convey an idea of some of the difficulties overcome by General Taylor, by other means than simple words, has been the aim and object of the artist.
The Battle of Buena Vista.
The battle of Buena Vista, or La Angostura as it is called by the Mexicans, was fought on the 22d and 23d of February, 1847, the weight of the conflict falling on the latter day. It was a hard and fierce struggle from the outset — at many stages the result was doubtful: but the obstinate and enduring courage of the Americans, the admirable manoeuvering of their light batteries at the most critical moments, and the stern determination of General Taylor supported by the zealous devotion of subordinate officers, finally won the victory, and sent Santa Anna and his numerous army back upon San Luis Potosi, broken and discomfited.
The preparations for the descent upon Vera Cruz had as early as December, 1846, shorn General Taylor of all his regular infantry — the veterans of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma and Monterey. But three well appointed and well officered batteries of the regular army, commanded by Bragg, Washington and Sherman, he still retained, and these, with a small dragoon force under May, completed his strength in men of the old line. It should be stated, however that the Mississippi rifles had seen hard service at Monterey, and that the regiments immediately under Wool, composed almost entirely of volunteers from the Western States, were in the main commanded by brave and skillful officers who had received a thorough military education at West Point, while their long campaign from Texas to Monclova, their after march and constant drill at Parras and other points, had hardened and disciplined them into effective and reliable soldiers. The entire strength of the American commander in all arms, according to the muster roll made out before the battle, was four thousand seven hundred and fifty-nine men, and with this force he was compelled to meet Santa Anna with over twenty thousand in front, and four thousand more operating at advantageous points on his flanks and rear. Yet he did meet and overthrow this immense numerical superiority, and by his skill and obstinate bravery achieved results which relieved the entire country from a painful state of suspense, and told with wonderful effect upon the war.
As early as November Santa Anna, who had again come into full power in Mexico, commenced concentrating and organizing the available strength of his country at San Luis Potosi. The position of this city was central, the climate temperate, the quarters for his men abundant and comfortable, and the ground in the vicinity every way suitable for drilling; and moreover, from this point he could strike the blow he himself intended to give, either at Vera Cruz, Tampico, or Monterey. The capture of the despatches sent out by the unfortunate Ritchie, with the reports constantly brought in by his trusty spies, gave him early information not only that Vera Cruz was to be attacked, but that all the regular infantry was to be withdrawn from General Taylor to render the success of the enterprise certain. A man of Santa Anna's sagacity in planning a campaign — however little courage or skill he might evince in carrying it out — could not but at once see that the strategic point upon which to throw his heavy army was Saltillo and Monterey. These cities in his possession, the entire valley of the Rio Grande, with its numerous depots rich in provisions, military stores, and all the munitions of war, must fall into his hands. He could not believe that the invaders, although he well knew their obstinacy and unflinching courage, would be able to withstand the weight of the blow it was in his power to give. With any thing like equal numbers Santa Anna had too much craft and prudence to venture upon an expedition: yet that five thousand men would be able to hold out against twenty-five thousand, and in round numbers he knew that this disparity must exist between General Taylor's force and his own, he would not believe, and hence the campaign in the direction ef Monterey was determined upon. Vera Cruz was to be left to take care of itself. If it fell, the vomito would soon sweep off its captors; or even if they attempted to advance into the interior, he felt that he would have time, after defeating General Taylor, to throw a sufficient force upon the Puente Nacional, or the heights above Plan del Rio, to confine General Scott within the tierra caliente until the sickly season had well set in. Such were the plans of Santa Anna, and it must be admitted they were conceived with great sagacity. For the defeats the Mexicans had already sustained he was not responsible. One important victory; whether gained in the north or south, would place him at the highest pinnacle of power, would restore confidence to the country, would bring thousands to his standard, would enable him to draw out all the resources of Mexico — such were the stakes for which Santa Anna was now playing. And with such energy did he work, and with such skill did he overcome all obstacles, that by the middle of January he had concentrated the large and well-organized army at San Luis already mentioned — this in the face of an exhausted treasury, and with a people dispirited by previous defeats and broken by internal dissensions. If his resources and energy in collecting men and materiel, and his skill and celerity in moving them, had been followed up by an equal amount of courage and dexterity in the handling them when in presence of his enemy, then might the fate of the "Liberating Army of the North," as the powerful force with which he marched upon General Taylor was called, have been different.
In the early part of February the capture of Majors Gaines and Borland, at Encarnacion, was known. This place is about fifty miles from Saltillo, on the road to San Luis, and the surprise and surrender of the command at this advanced post showed conclusively that a large Mexican force was in the neighborhood. From scouts sent out in the same direction farther corroboration of the reports that a large army was advancing was received in the American camp. At this time General Taylor was at Saltillo, while General Wool, with some four thousand volunteers, was at Agua Nueva, about twenty miles in advance on the road to Encarnacion; but when it was well ascertained that the Mexicans were coming up in force, the former joined the main body, and there busily occupied himself in preparing for an obstinate resistance.
On the 20th of February, through McCulloch and other daring scouts, the fact was ascertained beyond doubt that Santa Anna himself had reached Encarnacion by forced marches, with the whole of his numerous army. On the following day, leaving a small outpost at Agua Nueva, General Taylor fell back upon Buena Vista — the Angosturas or Narrows of the Mexicans — determined at that point to give his enemy battle. This position had been thoroughly examined by the able topographical engineers of the army, as well as by Generals Taylor and Wool, with an eye to its advantages as a battleground. The pass in the mountains was here so narrow that with his inferior force the American commander could present a strong front, while the space was so cut up by barrancas or deep gullies, worn by the torrents in the rainy season, that an abundance of cover for his new and untried men was offered against either a heavy fire of artillery or a sweeping charge of cavalry. And in addition to the ravines, a succession of rough and broken spurs, shooting out from the mountains on either side, protected the flanks from turning movements, while the middle ground was in many places covered with the thorny chaparral. Here and there smooth and level tongues or patches were found; but the field presented but one plateau of commanding size, a little more than a mile in advance of the rancho of Buena Vista, and on this the hardest of the strife was to be maintained. Four or five miles in the rear was the city of Saltillo, the main depot of the provisions and munitions of the Americans. This place was threatened by General MiÅon, with a large cavalry force, rendering it impossible for General Taylor to bring up all his strength to the defence of Buena Vista; yet confident in his men and confident in his position, and confident, too, in himself, he calmly awaited the advance of his powerful adversary.
By a forced march Santa Anna moved from Encarnacion to Agua Nueva, certain, of surprising his enemy at that point and of gaining an easy victory. His spies and scouts had reported the American army as lying quiet at that place on the morning of the 21st, nor did the Mexican commander discover that his opponent had fallen back until the heads of his columns had reached Agua Nueva. But when on the morning of the 22d it was found that the position was deserted save by a small guard, Santa Anna incited his jaded battalions to continue the march with the report that the Americans were in full retreat. And that he himself indulged in this belief there can be but little doubt, and that he further believed that MiÅon, from his advantageous position, would be enabled to hold his opponent in check until he could come up with his main army, is almost certain. The march was therefore continued, and at a brisk pace the Mexicans came up until one of the American batteries, advantageously posted at the Angosturas and supported by bristling lines of bayonets, disclosed the fact that his further advance was to be disputed.
The engineers on either side were at once engaged in making hurried observations, endeavouring to gain the positions and strength of their adversaries. At the same time Santa Anna despatched a flag of truce to General Taylor, accompanied by a note requesting him to surrender at discretion. With an assumed feeling of humanity he told the American commander that he was surrounded by twenty thousand men, and could not, in all human probability, avoid being routed and cut to pieces. But as General Taylor deserved his consideration and particular esteem — such were
12his own words — he would give him one hour to make up his mind in relation to the surrender of his little army, at the same time assuring him that he would be treated with the consideration belonging to the Mexican character.
To this General Taylor, without waiting a moment to make up his mind, sent for answer to Santa Anna that he declined acceding to his request. The different columns on either side were now put in motion for the commencement of the strife. By 2 o'clock in the afternoon Santa Anna had his army well up, and in less than an hour afterwards, assisted by Generals Mora y Villamil and Corona, his principal engineer and artillery officers, his heavy batteries were placed in position for opening the attack. Directly in the road, which at La Angostura is but a narrow defile, Washington's well trained battery had been posted by the American commander, a most important point as being the key of his position. On the left of the battery, towards the slopes and spurs of the mountains, the 1st and 2d Illinois regiments under Hardin and Bissell, the 2d Kentucky under McKee, with a company of Texan rangers under Conner, were posted, occupying the ridges and banks of the ravines. Farther to the left, along the base of the mountains and taking cover behind the spurs, the Kentucky and Arkansas mounted regiments of Humphrey Marshall and Yell, now operating on foot, were thrown, ready to resist any flanking movement Santa Anna might make with his powerful right wing. The 2d and 3d Indiana regiments under Bowles and J. H. Lane, the Mississippi rifles under Jefferson Davis, the squadrons of the 1st and 2d dragoons under Steen and May, with the light batteries of Bragg and Sherman, were stationed at advantageous positions in the rear of Washington's battery, ready to act at any point where their services might be most needed. The two Indiana regiments formed a brigade under General J. Lane, the only officer above the rank of colonel with the exception of the commander-in-chief and General Wool.
At 3 o'clock in the afternoon a shell from one of the Mexican heavy howitzers, bursting near the centre of the American line, announced that the battle had commenced. Soon after a numerous column of Santa Anna's light troops, under the notorious Ampudia, opened a heavy fire of musketry upon the Arkansas and Kentucky regiments on the extreme left. The force of the Mexicans increasing on this point, with the evident intention of outflanking the Americans by stretching their line up the mountains, a battalion of rifles from the Indiana brigade, under Gorman, was sent up the spurs in support, and soon the action in this quarter became warm and spirited. The Mexican regulars, armed with English muskets, fired by vollies and wide the mark; the Americans, with rifles the use of which the most of them well knew, returned a close and telling fire. Well protected by the broken ground, and lying where every expert marksman could take deliberate aim, the enemy suffered severely in this contest upon the mountain spurs. Nor could they outflank their active and watchful enemies; for as they stretched their line up the ridges they were ever met by the same galling fire. Lower down the line, and near the centre, scarcely a musket was fired. The Mexican artillerymen, to gain the range, threw a few shells upon different parts of the field; but night finally set in without any general action.
The soldiers of either army bivouacked upon the field, confident, as they rested upon their arms, that the morrow would usher in murderous work. Well aware that Santa Anna would reserve his main attack for the coming day, General Taylor moved back to Saltillo early in the evening of the 22d, with the Mississippians and a squadron of the 2d dragoons. His depot in the hands of the enemy, with all its stores and munitions, the situation of the American commander would be critical almost beyond the hope of extrication, and his object now was to place it in the strongest possible state of defence his limited means would permit. For this purpose Webster's company of the 1st artillery, with two 24-pound howitzers, was stationed in a field work commanding the main approaches, while four companies of the 1st Illinois volunteers, under Warren, two companies of Mississippi rifles, under Rogers, and a field piece commanded by Shover of the 3d artillery, were posted either in the city, or else at advantageous positions outside. These dispositions made, General Taylor started back for Buena Vista early on the morning of the 23d with every available man who could be spared.
The battle had however commenced before he reached the ground. The night had been cold and blustering, with occasional falls of rain; and while Santa Anna had made no direct hostile demonstration, he had still improved the darkness by silently throwing fresh bodies of light troops up the mountains on his right, his intention being evidently to outflank the Americans. The Kentucky and Arkansas men had suffered severely in this quarter, benumbed with cold while exposed upon the bleak ridges; yet when the enemy opened upon them, at the first dawn of day, they sprang briskly up to oppose their advance. With full daylight it was discovered that Ampudia had completely enveloped this point of the field with his light troops, threatening both flank and rear with overwhelming numbers. One of the enemy's batteries had also been brought into play, and was harassing the invaders with grape and cannister. Marshall sturdily held his ground, the riflemen keeping up a continuous fire upon the clouds of Mexicans approaching; yet the situation of the extreme left was now so critical that Wool despatched Conner's Texans, with a battalion of Illinois rifles under Trail, to strengthen those already so hotly engaged, O'Brien at the same time moving up towards the heights with his battery.
The contest was now warm and general on the sides of the rugged mountains. The Americans, although exposed to a fire from six times their number, clung resolutely to the spur on which they were battling, easily reaching the foremost of the enemy with their short but heavy rifles. For a full hour Ampudia was kept at bay upon the opposite spur, but being reinforced by still greater numbers he threw a body of his sharp-shooters still higher up the mountain and at the same time launched a heavy column down into the intervening gorge with orders to charge and drive the riflemen from the ridges. O'Brien opened upon the latter with spherical case shot from his howitzers, unable to reach them from his lighter pieces, and at first checked their advance. But moving to the right they were soon beyond his reach; nor could the fire of the Arkansas and Kentucky men above them fully check their advance.
In the meantime a formidable body of cavalry and infantry, under Pacheco, was put in motion by Santa Anna, with the design of forcing that part of the American line defended by the 2d Illinois and 2d Indiana regiments, with O'Brien's battery. This latter force, under the immediate command of J. Lane, occupied the left and upper portion of the great plateau, and reached nearly to the base of the steep where the riflemen were still contending against the host of light troops under Ampudia. To give additional weight to Pacheco's onslaught an 8-pounder battery was opened upon Lane, while in compact yet beautiful order the masses came up steadily, and in numbers so overpowering as to threaten the utter annihilation of the little force awaiting their approach.
To meet this attack promptly O'Brien was ordered to move to the front, with the 2d Indianians in support. When within close range, but not until then, he opened with all his pieces, the Indianians promptly joining in with a brisk fire of musketry. The front of the enemy at first wavered before this severe storm; but the rearmost men pressing steadily up, the same unbroken wall of infantry was ever presented. Meanwhile a ravaging shower of musket balls came sweeping from the advancing column, smiting O'Brien and the Indianians directly in the face, their position at the same time enfiladed with grape and cannister from the Mexican 8-pounder battery on the left. To gain shelter from the latter Lane ordered O'Brien to move his pieces to the right and front, where they would be less exposed to the cross fire and could be more effectual against the advancing column, the Indianians at the same time being directed to make a corresponding movement in support. The former dashed gallantly up to his new position, unlimbered, and again recommenced his fire within musket range of Pacheco's masses; nor did his infantry support lag at the outset. But being soon overwhelmed by a terrible storm of bullets, the Indianians gave way, leaving O'Brien alone to continue the desperate struggle. Lane and his officers endeavored to restore confidence among the retiring volunteers; but they had received a most ill-timed order from their colonel to cease firing and fall back, and every attempt to rally them proved abortive. A few brave spirits only were brought up to the front — the greater portion fled in disorder. Up to the giving the unfortunate and fatal order to retreat they had behaved well: it was this that threw them into a panic from which, although the material was as good as that of any regiment in the army, they had not the discipline or the confidence to recover.
O'Brien was now left entirely unsupported, the fire of the enemy concentrated upon his battery and more vigorous than ever. At every discharge he was sending double cannisters into the masses bearing down upon him, causing frightful havoc in their ranks; but the Mexicans, fully aware that his infantry support had deserted him, still pressed forward, and it was impossible for three light pieces, however busily and skillfully worked, to check such an avalanche. His men and horses were falling fast, while every gap made in the enemy's ranks was promptly closed; and finally convinced that no support was coming up to his relief, and that to continue the unequal struggle longer would endanger all his guns, O'Brien limbered up two of his best pieces and sullenly gave ground. A single 4-pounder, every man attached to it being killed or wounded, he was reluctantly compelled to leave in the hands of the Mexicans.
It was now between 9 and 10 o'clock in the morning, and the battle was going against the Americans. A powerful demonstration, against the right had been made by Mora y Villamil, with a heavy column, which was forced back in confusion by a well-directed fire from Washington's guns; yet Pacheco, strengthened by Lombardini's division which had emerged from the ravines and broken ground, was pushing on in pursuit of Lane, while Ampudia was every moment gaining ground farther up the mountains. To oppose Pacheco a spirited fire from two of Sherman's pieces, under Thomas and French, was opened, with a brisk play of small arms from the 2d Illinois regiment. The Mexican columns came on however in such overwhelming numbers, and pressed forward with such steadfast courage, that their advance could not be stayed. Steen's squadron of the 1st dragoons, with McCulloch's small party of Texan rangers, were anxious to charge into the dark masses; but the folly of this was too apparent, and without discharging a single carbine they were forced to fall back.
The fortunes of the day were now more than ever in the favour of Mexicans, for Sherman's pieces and Bissell's Illinoians were compelled to retire before Pacheco's victorious columns. Up to this time Bragg's battery, with the 2d Kentuckians under McKee, had taken no part in the contest, their position on the right not having been menaced; nor had that portion of the 1st Illinoians under the immediate eye of Hardin, in support of Washington's battery, fired a musket. But all were now to be called up to change the issue of the strife. Mansfield of the engineers directed Bragg to an advantageous position on the plateau, from whence he opened a rapid and destructive fire; Sherman's guns were soon warmly at work again; the 2d Kentuckians and four companies of the 1st Illinoians threw themselves gallantly into the fight, while Bissell's men, momentarily pressed back, under the animating presence of Churchill of the regular army and their own commander now came up again with spirit. Undismayed by the powerful force of the enemy, or the terrible fire which continued to ravage their position, the Americans tenaciously held to this portion of the plateau. Their well-handled artillery poured a constant storm of metal into the Mexican front, while the infantry steadily plied their muskets, and at a range so close that every shot told. So fearful at length became the carnage on the side of the enemy, increased as the columns came under the more close and fatal aim of their stubborn opponents, that the current was stayed before complete possession of the plateau was gained; but still the Mexicans would not retire, for standing at bay the contest was continued.
Yet if at this point they were momentarily checked, farther to the left they were gradually mastering every foot of vantage ground. A body of lancers, impeded by no other obstruction than the ravines, were in hot pursuit of the broken Indianians, thus cutting off and threatening to isolate completely the riflemen still struggling against Ampudia's overwhelming numbers on the mountain spurs. Seeing his imminent danger, their commander now slowly commenced his retreat, yet battling at every spot offering cover to his men. He had been reinforced by Trail's command and Conner's Texans, and had for hours withstood a severe fire from five times his number: it was only to avoid being surrounded and entirely annihilated that he now fell back. A part of the Arkansas and Kentucky troops in this quarter, operating on horseback at the base of the heights, offered some resistance to the heavy torrent sweeping onward, while the riflemen turned upon their adversaries at every point affording shelter; but hardly could they offer a front before it would be carried away, and the little command of Texans under Conner was almost entirely cut to pieces in endeavouring to check Ampudia's resistless advance.
The prospects of the Americans were now more gloomy than ever. It is true that Washington still held firmly the key of the position, while Pacheco was kept in check by the destructive fire of Bragg's and Sherman's guns, and the gallant support rendered by the infantry under McKee, Hardin and Bissell; yet the left had been forced, and Santa Anna was conqueror of all the strong positions on that, quarter of the field. At the same time, in some of the volunteer companies which had little of that telling advantage which discipline gives, a species of panic had taken hold. At the most trying and critical moment it was found that the officers had little confidence in their men, or the men in their officers; and lacking confidence, every effort to bring them back to their duty was in admeasure paralyzed.
While a portion of his little army was thus falling back, when his left had been forced and driven, and while his centre was sorely pressed and only sustained by the sturdy efforts of Bragg and Sherman with the mixed support of Kentuckians and Illinoians, General Taylor himself arrived upon the ground from Saltillo, bringing up Davis's Mississippians and May's dragoons. The moment was most critical, yet his presence, seemed at once to change the fortunes of the day. Before reaching the rancho or little hacienda of Buena Vista he had discovered that his first line of battle, by the forcing of his left wing, had swung round completely and was now facing the mountains, while Ampudia's victorious troops, uniting with the cavalry from Lombardini's division, were sweeping down in great force, and unless checked must gain possession of the rancho and a strong position in the rear. To meet this advance, the Mississipians were at once ordered to move forward, and better troops could not have been selected. As Davis dashed through the scattered houses of Buena Vista, halting only long enough for his men to obtain water, he met with many of the stragglers who had fled. To these he made stirring appeals to re-form and join in the attempt to check the enemy, yet few responded to his call. To the credit of the commander of the 2d Indianians it should however be stated that, seizing a rifle and joined by a number of his men, he fell into the ranks of the Mississippians, and continued gallantly to share their dangers during the rest of the day.
Davis was promised the support of J. H. Lane's 3d Indianians, a body up to this time occupying a position unmolested on the extreme right. While this regiment was hurrying up, the impetuosity of the Mississippians had carried them nearly up to the level stretch down which Ampudia was pouring his light troops. Flanked by cavalry, and with a reserve of heavy infantry well up, the body now moving down seemed numerically strong enough to annihilate the forlorn hope dashing forward to meet it. But the Mississippians thought not of odds. They had been launched upon the enemy by General Taylor himself, and anxious to retrieve the fortunes of the day they were carried onward by a zeal blind to any thing in the shape of danger. The leading men of Ampudia's column opened a brisk fire when within the limits of musket range, but this was not returned. The vollies became heavier, and the bullets whizzed by in a sharper key, as the Mississippians continued to advance; yet still not a rifle was discharged. They could not afford to waste a shot — they were determined, as they pressed forward, to husband their lead until they had reached a point from whence their first volley would carry destruction into the front ranks of the enemy. Not until they were within close rifle range did they open, and then with such murderous accuracy of aim that the entire heads of the Mexican formations seemed to reel and go down. A barricade of dead was piled up before the enemy, yet animated by their previous success, and seeing the vast numerical inferiority of the force opposed to them, Ampudia's troops continued to advance. Nor did the Mississippians for a moment slacken in their onward pace, although rushing upon apparent death. A deep barranca or gully intervened between them and the narrow plain down which the enemy was pouring. Into this they dashed, and, waiting only long enough to reload their rifles, clambered up the opposite bank, where they were upon the same tongue of level ground with their adversaries. Spreading out as they gained the plain, and uttering wild shouts of defiance, they poured a slaughtering fire into the enemy. Every shot told, and before Ampudia's men could recover from their surprise, another close volley interrupted their farther advance with killed and wounded. A third discharge from the rifles, the distance so short that the clumsiest marksman could claim his victim, caused the survivors to halt; indecision took hold of the mass; and the next moment they wheeled and fell back under cover of the ravines towards the mountains, there to re-form for another attack.
While the Mississippians were pausing to take breath after this gallant feat, and were collecting their wounded, J. H. Lane's 3d Indianians, with a 6-pounder under Kilburn, came up to take a part in the struggle which was soon to be renewed. Davis himself was badly wounded and bleeding, yet would not relinquish the command, while his regiment had suffered severely. In the meantime the combat had continued on the lower part of the main plateau, where General Taylor, exposed at every moment, was directing the operations against Pacheco. During the last unsuccessful onslaught of Ampudia, and while he was re-forming for another advance, a heavy cavalry force under Torrejon was collecting under the base of the mountains on the left, was pressing upon the Kentucky and Arkansas cavalry, and was evidently contemplating a descent by which the little rancho of Buena Vista in the rear might be carried. To check this movement, May was ordered with his squadron of the 2d dragoons, together with a squadron of the 1st now under Rucker, and Pike's command of Arkansas mounted men, to move rapidly to the left; and farther to annoy the enemy, or distract his attention, several pieces from the batteries of Bragg and Sherman were temporarily withdrawn from the great plateau, and moved to a point from which they could reach the spurs which jutted out from the steep and overhanging heights.
May had no sooner reached the quarter so immediately threatened, and joined his forces with those of Yell and Marshall, than the enemy halted, and soon after wheeled and fell back under cover of the mountains where the difficulty of the ground prevented pursuit. May now dispatched Evans, a young officer of dragoons, with a request to General Taylor that artillery might be sent him, as with this arm only the enemy under the heights could be reached. In the mean time the battle continued to rage on the main plateau. Santa Anna had ordered the celebrated battalion of San Patricio, commanded by the notorious Riley and composed for the most part of Irish and German deserters from the American ranks, to move up a battery of 18 and 24-pounders to a position which would command and rake the plateau, and after great labor the fire of these heavy pieces was added to that of the lighter guns which had continued to harass this quarter of the field. The responses of the American batteries, the pieces aimed directly at the heavy masses of infantry in front, were
14however rapid and galling, and at the same time the Kentucky and Illinois troops pressing up, the enemy began to give way. The contest at this point had lasted with little intermission for hours, and Santa Anna, after adding the fire of the heavy battery upon the invaders, had confidently hoped to gain complete possession of the plateau; but he now found his overwhelming force gradually giving ground. And so vigorously did the Americans follow up their advantage that the enemy's column was cut in two, one part forced over to the left in the direction of Ampudia, while the other portion was beat back until it had gained its original strong position in the rear. Santa Anna, whose horse had previously been killed by a grape-shot, was himself with this latter disorganized force, and he now had the mortification of being driven by a mere handful of men. The daring spirits under McKee, Hardin and Bissell continued to press forward; nor did they cease in their pursuit until they found themselves threatened by heavy masses of cavalry attached to the column of Mora y Villamil. Satisfied with beating back the infantry under cover, the Kentuckians and Illinoians returned to their old position in the rear of the main plateau.
In this part of the field the tide of battle had now turned in favor of the Americans, Bragg improving it by taking up a new position for his battery in advance. O'Brien had also procured a couple of 6-pounders from Washington, in exchange for those which had been partially disabled early in the conflict, and came out upon the great plateau with the remnant of his first command strengthened by fresh men. At the same time Garnett, one of General Taylor's aids, took the place of French, who had been wounded while in command of one of Sherman's guns, and thus was an effective line of artillery, the caissons replenished with ammunition, in readiness to resist any onslaught which might again be attempted on the centre.
That portion of the Mexican column which had been cut on the plateau, and which was pressed to the left, was now moving in the direction of Ampudia's and Torrejon's forces, the latter officers still concentrating and re-forming with the evident intention of striking a severe blow for the possession of Buena Vista and the command of the road. The Mississippians, 3d Indianians, and such of the 2d as had been rallied, with two or three light guns to aid them, were now holding a portion of this force in check, while the mounted volunteers offered a front against the enemy's cavalry. It was evident, however, that on the left of the rancho, and occupying all the strong ground, under the mountains, the Mexicans were concentrating in numbers sufficient to sweep away such opposition as could be arrayed against them, and a reinforcement from the main plateau was therefore drawn off to strengthen this important point. This reinforcement consisted of two sections from the batteries of Bragg and Sherman, under the immediate personal command of these officers, leaving four pieces only to operate against any force Santa Anna might launch upon the plateau. Yet at this point General Taylor remained in person, and as long as the Mexicans did not charge down upon his position with their heavy masses, a movement Santa Anna should certainly have made at this juncture, the American commander felt confident he could hold the centre until his left was relieved.
At this time the scattered mud houses forming the rancho of Buena Vista were occupied by the small commands of Gorman and Trail, by a portion of the 2d Indianians who had been arrested in their flight, and by a few stragglers from nearly all the volunteer regiments. This miscellaneous force, through the active exertions of Munroe and Morrison, had been advantageously disposed to resist an attack. Previous to this, responding to the unceasing efforts of J. Lane, Churchill, Belknap, Lincoln, Dix, Steen, and other officers, a considerable number of the fugitives had been rallied, and were now either battling with Davis and J. H. Lane, or else had moved back to the main plateau more than a mile in advance. A little in front of Buena Vista, to the left and in the direction of the mountains, was a spring, where the Arkansas and Kentucky mounted men, under Yell and Marshall, were formed in line to resist the attack of cavalry now plainly threatened. Some distance on their right, and in advance of the rancho, the Mississippians and 3d Indianians, with one of Sherman's howitzers, were keeping the enemy in check. The conflict on the main plateau — the only point of the American line, with the exception of the position held by Washington, which had not been forced — was still going on. Such was the state of the combat at 12 o'clock.
While Marshall and Yell were at the spring, in readiness to receive the threatened onset of Torrejon's lancers, General Taylor despatched May again to their support, with a squadron of the 2d dragoons, Pike's and Preston's companies of Arkansas mounted men, and two light pieces under Reynolds. The squadron of the 1st dragoons under Rucker, which had just been severely torn by one of the heavy Mexican batteries while attempting to cut off an infantry force under the mountains, was also sent to join May. But before the latter could reach the rancho the charge of the enemy's lancers, although at first successful, had been completely repulsed.
Torrejon had formed his men, outnumbering his immediate opponents more than two to one, in column of squadrons, and with good show of daring charged well up and among the Kentucky and Arkansas cavalry. The latter, with no other weapons than sabres and short carbines, opened upon the enemy when within fifty steps, and without stopping to reload at once drew their swords. By this time the Mexicans were upon them, and with so rude a shock that they were forced to give ground. Yell was killed instantly, with one of his best captains, Porter, and the gallant adjutant of the Kentuckians, Vaughan. Many of the best men were also slain, while mixed up and in confusion, and at the same time blinded with dust, a pell-mell combat was kept up as the Americans continued to fall back. Mingled together they entered the narrow lane which divided the two ranges of mud houses forming the rancho. As they came clattering up, a confused mass, the infantry occupying the houses and walls were unable to open without endangering friends and foes alike; nor after they had entered the lane, still enveloped in a dense cloud of dust, could the combatants be distinguished from each other. But upon the rear of Torrejon's men a fire was opened by the infantry, while so sharp and galling were the discharges, and at the same time so close the range, that the column was cut in two, and the hindmost squadrons were compelled to wheel suddenly and retreat out of reach. Meanwhile, those who had entered the rancho were forced onward, still mingled with the Americans; but on clearing the range of houses they hastily loosened themselves from their opponents. Finding that they could riot wheel and join their comrades without passing the withering fire of the infantry, they now kept directly on towards the mountains which bounded the narrow valley on the American right. May had arrived too late, as has already been stated, to take a part in this short but desperate combat; Reynolds was however up in season to open with his pieces not only upon those who were retreating to the right, but upon that portion of the column which was falling back towards the mountains on the left. The loss of the Mexicans in this charge was not known; but Torrejon was himself wounded, and it was evident that his command had suffered severely.
In the meantime the Mexicans had organized another column of attack, and while May, strengthened by a small number of Arkansas and Indiana men under Roane and Gorman, was in pursuit of Torrejon's lancers towards the mountains, the new body of the enemy came sweeping down from the cover where it had been concentrated, among the ravines and gorges in the direction of the tipper part of the great plateau. It was composed of some four thousand infantry and cavalry, the latter picked men and moving in advance. The ground at this point, a tongue of comparatively smooth land dipping gently towards the road, was every way most favorable to the enemy, whose evident intention was to crush and ride over the inferior force of Davis and J. H. Lane, and gain possession of the road between the rancho and the lower part of the main plateau on which the strife continued with little intermission. To oppose this powerful attack the Americans had barely one thousand rifles and muskets and a single howitzer at the outset, although Bragg was hurrying up as fast as his now jaded horses would permit.
The loud blasts of the Mexican trumpets had hardly announced the charge before a body of fifteen hundred lancers, in close column of squadrons and in beautiful order, came bearing down to the attack at a gallop, the heavy infantry supports at the same time advancing at a rapid pace. The Mississippians and Indianians were thrown hastily into a species of crotchet or re-entering angle to receive them, with orders that no man should fire until sure of his aim. The enemy still came dashing down the slope, with penons flying and in admirable order; but as they neared the open fork displayed by their adversaries they slackened their pace into a trot. Their object was evidently to draw the fire of the Americans, and then to rush upon and ride over them before they could reload their pieces. But the singular formation stood silent. As the enemy approached still nearer, and when they should have spurred their horses to top speed, they pulled up into a walk; yet still they continued to advance, and still not a trigger was touched. The leading squadrons at length entered the angle, thus bringing them within seventy yards of a thousand marksmen who, to an iron firmness of nerve, united an accuracy of aim from which there was no escape. At this juncture, as though bent upon their own destruction, the enemy halted, when in an instant a crashing volley from both sides the angle smote them with an effect so murderous that the entire heads of the column went down as with an unseen yet resistless blow. The next moment Sherman added a slaughtering fire of grape and cannister, followed in turn by galling peals from the rifles or muskets on either side the angle. Bewildered by the frightful havoc, both officers and men seemed to have lost their presence of mind. A bold charge would still have enabled the enemy to cut through either fork of the opposing formation, to gain the road between the rancho and the lower part of the main plateau, and by thus establishing themselves in the rear of General Taylor the fortunes of the day would have again been changed. The Americans saw the indecision and confusion of their enemy, and raising loud shouts of exultation and defiance continued to ply their trusty rifles and muskets. Staggering and irresolute, the torn and disordered cavalry remained for a few moments inactive — the power either to fight or fly seemed to have left them. But Bragg gaining an advantageous position from which to assail them, while Sherman's howitzer and the smaller arms continuing to ply them with the same unceasing vigor, the entire body was finally borne back, in wild disarray, towards the heads of the ravines and other shelter under the mountains.
15But here they were not allowed time to re-form. May had been pursuing Torrejon's broken squadrons, with his cavalry and the two light guns under Reynolds, until they had been forced back upon the disorganized force just routed by Davis and J. H. Lane. In this way a confused mass, of both infantry and cavalry, was collected under the mountains, all pressing back over the ground they had conquered in the morning. The situation of Santa Anna's right wing was thus extremely critical; for Reynolds was ravaging the rear, Bragg and Sherman were cutting them up in front, the Mississippians and Indianians were rapidly advancing, while O'Brien, turning his attention for the moment from the enemy in front of the great plateau, added a galling fire directly into the flanks of the fugitives. In vain, taking advantage of the ravines, the Mexican infantry endeavoured to turn and make a stand — their formations were speedily crushed and scattered by their vigorous assailants. The Americans were now plying their opponents with nine pieces of artillery, while with cavalry and infantry they were beating up the cover and driving them as it were into a pen under the heights. Santa Anna at this juncture ordered all his batteries, of light as well as heavy guns which could be brought to bear, to open upon the victorious Americans, hoping thus to extricate his broken right wing and cover its retreat; yet this attempt was unavailing. Horse and foot, huddled together and unable to turn and make a stand, were falling rapidly before the tornado which beat upon them from three different sides. At this crisis, and when the utter destruction of the Mexican right seemed inevitable, a white flag was seen approaching the American batteries, the fire from which was immediately ordered to cease. The bearer of the flag was conducted to General Taylor, with a message from Santa Anna, the purport of which was to know what he wanted? Wool was at once despatched with an answer to the Mexican commander-in-chief; but on reaching the front, finding the heavy batteries of the enemy still continued their fire and that all his efforts could not cause a suspension, he declared the parley at an end and retired without communicating with Santa Anna. By this ruse, if so it may be termed, the heavy Mexican force choked under the mountains, stricken with a panic and unable to make a stand so long as the American artillery continued its destructive play, crept stealthily off during the temporary cessation, the greatest part finally gaining the shelter of their own batteries.
It was now between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The Americans were in possession of nearly all the ground they had occupied in the morning, from Washington's position at La Angostura up to the heights on the extreme left. On parts of the field the strife had been almost incessant for more than eight hours, but the hardest of the struggle was yet to come. Both sides had suffered severely, the heaviest loss however falling to the Mexicans; but Santa Anna still had a force outnumbering his stubborn opponents as four to one, many of his troops were fresh, while at the same time they occupied a position affording every facility for concentrating, and from whence they could be thrown almost in a single mass upon any part of the weak curtain of defence the Americans could interpose. Feeling that the next contest would be for the possession of the main plateau, as it could hardly be possible that Santa Anna would hazard another attack upon the left, General Taylor ordered all the artillery to be brought up to the centre, an operation necessarily slow as the pieces were scattered far and wide over the broken ground. Word was at the same time despatched to the dragoons, the Kentucky and Arkansas mounted men, and the 3d Indianians, Mississippians, and fragments of other commands in the rear, to concentrate and hasten to the front. Meanwhile, to be prepared for an attack, the Kentuckians and Illinoians, who had borne the brunt in this quarter, were thrown forward in the direction of the ravines and hollows which now concealed the greater portion of the Mexican army. This movement, which was followed up by O'Brien and Thomas with three light pieces, left Washington, who still guarded the key of the American position with jealous care, on the right and a little in the rear. While the Kentucky and Illinois troops were advancing they came suddenly upon a hollow where Santa Anna had already organized his last great column of attack. No less than twelve thousand men, mostly infantry but well supported by cavalry, were here concentrated in a single body, under General Perez, the front made of old and veteran foot regiments. A short but spirited contest ensued, which ended in the Americans, less than one thousand strong, being driven back to a branch ravine in their rear and on the right. Unable to stand before such an overwhelming force they dashed into the ravine for refuge, and here the combat continued. O'Brien in the meantime was plying all his guns at the advancing column, throwing shower after shower, of cannister against its front; but here the men were the choice of the entire Mexican army, every opening in their ranks being immediately closed. Meanwhile from their front came a rolling fire, thinning at every moment the little band attempting to arrest their advance. The main portion of the heavy column kept directly across the plateau in the direction of O'Brien and the position occupied by General Taylor; yet a sufficient number of infantry detached themselves to line either bank of the ravine in which the Kentuckians and Illinoians had sought shelter, while clouds of lancers poured at the same time into the head of the gully. The struggle at this point was sanguinary to a degree. The unfortunate Americans, harassed on either flank by swarms, of infantry, pressed down the ravine towards the road, battling bravely at every step. In their rear came the cavalry of the enemy, finishing with their lances the work which the bullets of the musketry had commenced. Hardin, the commander of the 1st Illinois regiment, was soon killed, with Zabriskie and Houghton, two of his best company leaders, Bissell's regiment, although he himself was unhurt, did not suffer less, while McKee and Henry Clay, junior, the colonel and lieutenant-colonel of the Kentuckians, with Willis and other officers of distinction, were also soon numbered among the slain. No quarter was given — the savage enemy, now that they had the advantage over their dreaded opponents, seemed bent upon their extermination. Retreating over ground so rough they could with d ifficulty load their pieces, the Americans were cut and slaughtered at every step. Their only safety was to get out upon the road near Washington's position, for while imprisoned in the ravine his guns could be of little service to them. Nor could O'Brien and Thomas, with an overpowering host marching down in their front, render them any assistance. So fearfully were they beset on either bank of the ravine, and so impossible was it to make a stand, that their utter destruction seemed inevitable; but as the shattered remnant finally came out in the road, and their enemies appeared within sight and range of Washington's battery, the latter opened upon them with such a galling fire that they were at once compelled to cease in their pursuit and retire. Between two and three hundred men were left in that terrible ravine — some of the best blood in America was there poured out. As fast as the survivors emerged the fragments of the broken regiments were collected and re-formed, Fry taking command of the Kentuckians and Weatherford of the 1st Illinoians.
During this murderous conflict the main portion of the heavy Mexican column continued to bear down the great plateau, with no other opposition than the fire from the three light pieces of O'Brien and Thomas. These, it is true, sent a steady stream of iron into the heads of the advancing host; but composed, as already stated, of veteran troops, and exulting in the success which had attended them in dispersing the infantry support, they still continued to advance. The position of General Taylor was now more critical than at any period of the battle, and his eye was anxiously turned to the left and rear for the succoring force hurrying up as fast as the broken ground would permit. O'Brien, exposed to a tempest of musket balls as well as heavier shot, was doing all that man could do — more than many would have dared — to stay the wide wave which was beating onward: but his, men were fast falling, and he could not be expected much longer to hold out. A crisis had arrived when every second counted. In the distance the Mississippians and Indianians could be seen, struggling through the ravines and broken ground in the rear, and spreading over the level tongues at a run; but they might be too late. At the same time the cavalry force and much needed light batteries, compelled to take a more circuitous route to avoid the deeper gullies, were obliged to move slowly. They, too, might not be up in season. All the Mexican batteries were in full and active play, the vollies from thousands of infantry swept the plateau, and with every moment the position of the Americans grew still more critical. Their determined commander, all the while under the heaviest of the fire, hurried off aid after aid with messages for Bragg and Sherman to hasten up, those officers using even their swords to incite their jaded horses to greater speed.
The Mexican column had by this time advanced within musket range, although O'Brien continued to embarrass its front with dead and dying. This officer had still men enough standing to limber up and drag off his pieces, yet this he did not think of. His object was to check the advance of the enemy until succor could arrive, even at the sacrifice of his guns, while every moment his eager eye was turned to the rear watching the distance still intervening between his battery and the friends hastening up. He had already had two horses killed under him; his battery horses were all down, killed or floundering in their harness; he was himself wounded and bleeding, and of his men barely a sufficient number were left to work the guns. At the same time the fire of the enemy grew heavier at every moment, and more concentrated; yet still he remained firm, encouraging the few survivors at his pieces to new efforts. He saw the leading sections of Bragg and Sherman coming up to his relief, while the Mississippians and Indianians were almost within striking distance, and his own utter annihilation might save the day. General Taylor was but a short distance in his rear, with Bliss, Eaton, and other officers of his staff, watching with intense anxiety. A few steps from O'Brien, on the left, Thomas was busily plying his single field piece, the same dreadful storm of bullets every moment carrying down his men. The Mexicans were now close upon them — almost within bayonet reach — literally trampling upon their own killed and wounded as they pressed upon the obnoxious guns. At this trying crisis Bragg was nearly up, Sherman was close upon him, while on their left Davis and J. H. Lane were struggling through the last ravine which divided them from the great plateau. O'Brien could do no more. The enemy were upon him, and discharging his pieces directly in their faces, with the few survivors of his daring men he fell back towards the rear.
While the nearest Mexicans, exulting for a moment over their trophies, were cutting the dead and dying horses from the harness and wheeling the
16captured pieces to the rear, the mass continued to press across the plateau. At this juncture Bragg reported to General Taylor, requesting at the same time an infantry support for his guns. There was not a musket to detail, and the gallant artillery officer was told that he must sustain himself and maintain the ground to the death. At close range he immediately brought his battery into play, and scarcely had he opened before Sherman was by his side, adding the fire of his pieces. The leading companies of the enemy, although rent by the missiles now crashing among them, would not give ground. Nor when the Mississippi and Indiana regiments, shaking off the last ravine and spreading out upon the table ground, had opened a galling fire of small arms upon their flank, would they at first recoil. It is true their rapid and steady advance was checked, but in immensely superior numbers they continued to pour a succession of sweeping vollies into the ranks of their opponents. In the meantime the roar of the heavy guns was incessant. All the Mexican batteries were in full play, Washington had found a position from which he could open a flank fire, while the rattling of thousands of muskets, the loud blasts of the trumpets, and the defiant shouts of the combatants, added to the din. The enemy stood four to one, the very flower of Santa Anna's army; yet their stubborn adversaries, obedient to one discipline, animated by one spirit, and battling under the immediate eye of a commander whom they all venerated, their excellent composition more than compensated for the inferiority of numbers. In this last trying contest Santa Anna and his leading officers were in the rear: in front, where the battle was raging fiercest, was General Taylor himself, while Wool and his other principal officers, riding among the men, gave them the encouragement of their presence as well as words. With boiling courage the assailants continued to press up and close upon the heavy mass. The Mexicans still clung obstinately to their ground — if foiled in this last attempt the battle was irretrievably lost to them. Assailed in front by Bragg and Sherman, exposed to a cross fire from Washington's battery, while at the same time the Mississippians and Indianians were gnawing their flanks by biting vollies from their rifles and muskets, the heavy column at length recoiled. The front ranks, torn by the slaughtering fire of their assailants, began to assume that broken and jagged outline which precedes a stricken field: the rear faltered, and commenced to give way, instead of pressing manfully up to mend the gaps every moment made in the head formations. The Americans now seeing their advantage, and crowding up with fresh vehemence, the entire mass began to roll heavily back until it was forced into the hollows and ravines in which it had at first been formed — broken and discomfited, and without the spirit again to renew the combat.
Such was the closing struggle in the bloody battle of Buena Vista. It is true that the artillery on either side kept up a straggling, fire until darkness set in; but the strife had ended, and the Americans had won the day when the last great column of attack had been beaten back in confusion and wild disorder. Under cover of the night Santa Anna withdrew in silence; and when the morning of the 24th of February broke, a few wounded men, too badly crippled to be able to follow the retreat, were found the only occupants of ground which the day before had felt the tramp of an armed host.
So far, in keeping up with the current of the fight at Buena Vista, no allusion has been made to the operations of MiÅon, with his heavy cavalry force, in the rear. This officer had been ordered by Santa Anna to occupy the best positions in the vicinity of Saltillo, for the double purpose of watching that important point and of cutting up General Taylor when the retreat, which he deemed inevitable, should commence. At the time the American left was forced, during the forenoon of the 23d, MiÅon appeared in the valley near Saltillo with two thousand cavalry, picking up some of the stragglers who had fled, and threatening the main depot at the city. During the entire day he was hovering in sight, either in the plain below Saltillo or else under the base of the mountains on the left, evidently watching for the final defeat of the Americans and in readiness to commence the work of falling upon them in retreat. But he was not permitted to escape entirely free of loss; for on one occasion, approaching within range of the redoubt defended by Webster, a flight of shells sent him scampering in full flight out of reach at the expense of a number of his troopers, while at another time he was forced back into the mountain fastnesses by Shover, who, with a single piece, had advanced out into the plain to meet him. This gun, with a howitzer afterwards sent out under Donaldson by Webster, caused much execution in MiÅon's ranks, and effectually restrained him from making any attack upon the main depot at Saltillo. Santa Anna, always on the lookout for scape-graces to conceal his own lack of skill and success, blamed MiÅon for not falling upon the American rear during the last contest on the great plateau in the afternoon of the 23d. A determined charge at this time, by such a force, might have produced results disastrous to the invaders; yet MiÅon could not be everywhere, and his movements were too closely watched by the mixed command at Saltillo for him to venture too much. In case of General Taylor's defeat, he would probably have acted as well as any general in the Mexican army — better than many of them, for the American officers he captured at different times during the campaign ever spoke of him, so far as the author can learn, in commendable terms as well for his bravery as his humanity. Santa Anna's censure of MiÅon certainly loses much of its weight when it is known that he himself retreated from one-fourth his number, the greater part of them volunteers who had never before been in battle.
The loss of the Americans at Buena Vista, out of the four thousand men engaged, was seven hundred and forty-six, the Mississippi regiment suffering more severely than any other. Colonels Hardin, McKee, Yell and Clay were killed on the field, as was Captain Lincoln, a brave and meritorious officer of the regular army acting as assistant adjutant-general. A long list of deserving company officers were also slain, among them Captains Willis, Porter, Zabriskie, Woodward, Kinder, Taggart and Walker, and Lieutenants Vaughan, Houghton, Rountree, Bartleson, Atherton, Fletcher, Ferguson, Bobbins, Kelley, J. C. Steele, Campbell, Leonard, Parr, McNulty and Moore. Many of these officers were butchered after they had been wounded and had surrendered their swords, either by Ampudia's troops under the mountains, or else in the ravine where the Kentuckians and Illinoians were borne down by overwhelming numbers. Among the wounded on the side of the Americans were General Lane, Colonels Davis and May, Major Gorman, Captains O'Brien, Steen, Sharp, Stockaw, Coffee, Baker, Conner, Sanderson, Osborne, Sleep and Conover, and Lieutenants Benham, S. G. French, F. T. Bryan, Corwine, Posey, Pickett, Engleman, West, Whiteside, Cayce, Pennington, J. Moore, J. Davis, Epperson, Barber, Napier and Reader.
The loss of the Mexicans was far more severe, although not as great in proportion to the numbers engaged. More than five hundred dead were left on the field; the number of wounded was at least twelve hundred, many of whom were conveyed back to the hospital at Saltillo, and their hurts carefully attended to by the American surgeons. Santa Anna himself, in his report of the battle, acknowledged a loss of fifteen hundred men, and among the killed gave the names of Colonels Berra and Anonos, the commanders of battalions and squadrons Luyanda Rios and PeÅa, besides many officers of inferior grade. Among the wounded were Generals Lombardini, Torrejon and Angel Guzman, Colonels Brito, Rocha, Gallozo, Montesdeoja, Andrade, Jicotercal Quijano, Basave and Onate, with a long list of officers of minor note.
When it was ascertained, on the morning of the 24th of February, that the Mexicans had retreated, it was found impossible to pursue them. For thirty-six hours, the weather much of the time severely cold, the American infantry had been engaged, battling by day and moving the killed and wounded by night, and were now completely exhausted. From incessant exercise the cavalry and artillery horses were also broken down, unable to follow up the stricken enemy. Nor perhaps was this necessary; for upon every march between Buena Vista and San Luis Santa Anna's men deserted by hundreds, and of the entire number with which he started a short month previous, so confident of success, full six thousand did not return. And those who did eventually reach San Luis were disorganized and dispirited — a rabble unfit for further duty.
While the writer of the foregoing feeble description would acknowledge himself greatly indebted to Carleton's spirited and admirable account of the battle of Buena Vista, he would also, in behalf of the artist, return thanks to that author for furnishing him with the subject of his picture. After reading attentively the varied incidents of the conflict, as told with stirring interest and graphic power by a dragoon officer who participated, the artist chose that point when O'Brien was so gallantly striving to hold the Mexicans in check during their last attack upon the great plateau. In painting a battle scene some particular feature of the conflict must be taken up as the subject for the pencil, and the obstinate holding out of O'Brien was deemed the most important of all the varied struggles which made up the battle of Buena Vista.
The Capture of Vera Cruz.
As early as November, 1846, or soon after the news of the capture of Monterey had reached the Government at Washington, the reduction of Vera Cruz, with the strong castle of San Juan de Ulua, was determined upon. The command of this formidable undertaking was entrusted, by President Polk, to General Scott, the senior officer and commander-in-chief of the army of the United States, and every exertion was made to render the success of the expedition certain.
After hurriedly making all the necessary requisitions for heavy ordnance, military stores, transport ships, surf boats, and every thing deemed indispensable for the descent upon the Mexican coast and after operations, General Scott sailed from New York and arrived at New Orleans in December. At the latter city, then the head quarters of General Jesup the chief of the quartermaster's department, the American commander made such farther requisitions as the nature of the enterprize called for. He then sailed for Brazos Santiago, where he arrived in the early part of January, 1847.
In the meantime the island of Lobos, a small patch of sand and chaparral on the Mexican coast, had been selected as the point of rendezvous for the expedition. This island is about one hundred and twenty miles northwest of Vera Cruz, seven from the main land, with sufficient water inside to afford shelter for a large fleet, and thither all the transports were ordered to sail as fast as they could be got ready. General Scott meanwhile passed the greater part of the month of January in visiting the posts on the lower Rio Grande, from Matamoros to Camargo, inspecting the troops and detailing such as he deemed necessary for carrying out his plans; but believing from the first the number to be inadequate and the composition unequal to the work, he had as early as November called upon General Taylor for all his regular infantry — the veteran commands of Twiggs and Worth — and these troops were immediately put in motion for the coast. By the latter part of February, great as was the distance many of them were compelled to march, and annoying as were the delays in providing transport vessels, the greater part of both regulars and volunteers had reached the place of rendezvous under Lobos. The number of craft here by the 1st of March, the most of them square-rigged vessels, was over one hundred, and by the 3d nearly all were under sail for Anton Lizardo, a good and safe anchorage twelve miles to the southward of Vera Cruz.
On the 6th of March, General Scott having in the meantime visited Tampico and afterwards arrived at Anton Lizardo, a thorough reconnoisance was made of the coast from the latter place to a point north of Vera Cruz and the castle of San Juan de Ulua, the object being to select the best position on the beach at which to land the troops. This reconnoisance was made on board the small steamer Petrita, and General Scott was accompanied not only by Worth, Patterson, Pillow and all his principal field and staff officers, but by Commodore Conner, then in command of the large squadron on the station. When within range of the heavy guns of San Juan de Ulua the steamer was repeatedly fired upon, yet fortunately without being struck, although many of the shot passed close. The landing place finally selected was the beach opposite the Island of Sacrificios, a point about three miles south of Vera Cruz. In calm weather the shore was here always accessible for the large surfboats expressly built for the landing of troops and heavy guns, and although within range of the 13-inch mortars in the castle was still deemed the best place at which to effect the debarkation.
The fleet at Anton Lizardo, by the 8th of March, numbered over one hundred and fifty sail, including men-of-war and steamers. On the morning of the 9th, the different vessels of the squadron crowded with soldiers, while many of the transports and steamers also were filled, advantage was taken of a light but favorable breeze from the southeast to move up under Sacrificios. From the anchorage at this island the disembarkation was to take place, and the most unwonted excitement now prevailed throughout the fleet.
Favored by the wind, which gradually freshened as the morning wore, the vessels came up in beautiful order. General Scott was on board the steam-ship Massachusetts, receiving repeated cheers as his tall and commanding form was descried by his eager and excited soldiers. The larger frigates had nearly three thousand men crowded upon their decks, their bright muskets flashing in the sun, while the smaller vessels were literally alive with troops. Over twelve thousand soldiers were suddenly to be thrown upon a hostile coast, within sight and range of one of the strongest castles in the world, and each man anticipating that an enemy would confront him on the beach and oppose his landing. By 2 o'clock in the afternoon every vessel had arrived under Sacrificios in safety, and casting anchor without an accident the work of transferring the troops to the surf boats commenced immediately. At the same time the Musquito fleet under Tatnall, consisting of the small men-of-war steamers Spitfire and Vixen and four or five schooner-rigged gun-boats, stood in as close to the shore as the water would permit, where, forming in a line parallel with the beach, they were in readiness to cover the landing. Some half dozen foreign men-of-war, English as well as French and Spanish, were lying at the anchorage of Sacrificios at the time, their tops crowded with anxious spectators.
By 3 o'clock Worth's entire division, numbering four thousand five hundred regulars, were safely transferred to the surf boats. These boats were under charge of the younger officers and manned by the sailors of the squadron, and at the given signal, the men bending vigorously upon their oars, the long line pulled away for the shore, but a mile distant from the point of disembarkation. There were sixty-five boats in all, the average number of troops in each being seventy; and the eyes of the soldiers still on board the vessels, as well as of the thousands of sailors attached to the men-of-war and transports, followed them with intense anxiety as in unbroken order they moved towards the point of landing. As they passed Tatnall's flotilla, anchored in line within easy range of the beach, loud and exciting cheers rose upon the water, and these cheers, taken up by the larger vessels, were echoed and sent back with hearty vigor. Immediately in rear of the landing-place rose a ridge of sand hills, scarcely pistol shot distant, behind which it was supposed a force of the enemy was lying concealed. A masked battery of even 6-pounders, well served, might sink half the boats before the beach was gained, and the excitement now increased to an intensity which caused every man to hold his breath. But the fleet of barges kept steadily on in the same admirable order, the soldiers standing up, musket in hand, ready for instant battle although on an element to which they were unaccustomed.
Close in to the shore the breakers, for in the calmest weather there is always a slight ground swell opposite Sacrificios, were now tossing with not a little violence; but taking advantage of the roll of the surf, and the sailors bending with renewed energy upon their oars, the boats were sent in line to a point within twenty yards of dry land. At this instant the entire force, jumping into the water as one man and holding high their muskets and cartridge boxes, dashed to the shore, and the different regiments, forming with wonderful alacrity, were sent over the first ridge of sand hills at a run. Yet not an enemy was within range. On the more distant ridges clouds of cavalry and light foot troops were descried, watching the landing of the invaders; but not a musket was discharged at Worth, either while approaching the shore or after the beach was gained.
A louder shout than ever now went up, as the landing was effected, a shout which was again taken up and sent back across the waters by the thousands on board the vessels. Between four and five thousand men had gained a foothold upon the enemy's soil, without even a single soldier receiving a scratch from the ordinary casualties which attend such operations, and the exultation of all could not be restrained. The surfboats returning immediately to the fleet, Patterson's volunteer division was next landed in the same order, and still without an accident. Accompanying this division was Jesup, who had volunteered his services. By 10 o'clock at night the reserve division of regulars under Twiggs was also landed, with several light pieces of artillery and Talcott's mountain howitzer and rocket corps; while with such skill was the entire disembarkation conducted, and so promptly did the officers and sailors of the gallant navy respond to the call made upon their services, that over twelve thousand soldiers were set on shore in a space of time incredibly short considering the labor performed, and without the slightest casualty of any kind to either branch of the service. Why the Mexicans did not at least open upon the crowded surf boats as they approached the shore, with the advantages of retreat so much in their favor, is certainly strange. During the night a brisk rattling of musketry, opening upon one of the American pickets, showed that they were in the vicinity; but with all their superior knowledge of the ground, and with so many roads open for escape, no other hostile demonstration was made.
On the morning of the 10th of March, the weather still continuing pleasant, the work of landing heavy guns, ammunition and provisions commenced, while at the same time active preparations were made to form the line of investment — a task of incredible labor, owing to the difficulties of the ground. Vera Cruz is a walled city, fronting upon the water. Directly
18opposite, half a mile distant and built upon a reef at immense labor and expense, rises the strong castle of San Juan de Ulua, materially improved and strengthened prior to the American descent, and completely commanding every approach by water. At the southern extremity of the city, near the beach, is Fort Santiago; on the northern extremity, and also near the beach, is Fort Conception, both strong and commanding works. Between these, nestled within the walls which completely enclose the city in rear, are the smaller forts or bastion works of San José, San Fernando, Santa Barbara, Santa Gertrudes, San Javier, San Mateo and San Juan, all garnished with heavy artillery so disposed as to rake every approach. The armament in the castle and in the different forts, much of it new, amounted to over four hundred guns. The garrison consisted of five thousand regular troops, and the command was vested in General Morales, an officer who, whatever other military qualifications he might lack, possessed at least unquestionable obstinacy and bravery.
To reduce the formidable castle and city General Scott had but little over twelve thousand men in all, divided into three divisions. The 1st, under Worth, was composed of the 2d and 3d artillery, and the 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th infantry, all regulars. To this force should be added Blanchard's Louisiana and Williams's Kentucky volunteers, two strong companies of well drilled and effective men. The 2d division, under Twiggs, was composed of the 1st and 4th artillery, the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 7th infantry, and the mounted rifles now acting on foot — all regulars, and, as was the case with Worth's troops, under excellent discipline. The 3d division, under Patterson, consisting entirely of volunteers, was composed of the 1st and 2d Tennessee regiments, the 1st and 2d Pennsylvania, part of the 3d and 4th Illinois, and the New York, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama troops. To all should be added the marines from the squadron under Captain Edson, with Harney's dragoons and a body of Tennessee volunteer cavalry, although neither of the latter corps had arrived at the time the landing took place. As the oldest artillery officer present, Bankhead had immediate command of that arm, while the highly talented engineer corps was under the control of Totten, the chief of that important branch of the service.
The original requisitions, made out by the American commander in November, had called for no less than fifty 10-inch mortars, with a proportionate number of 24-pounders and other breaching guns; but owing to vexatious delays in getting this heavy but necessary siege train on board the transports, and the adverse weather and long voyage many of them encountered, but one-fifth had reached Sacrificios by the 10th of March. The work of landing such as had arrived went on however with energy, while active preparations were immediately made to commence and carry out the work of investing the city.
The right of the line, looking upon the southern approaches to Vera Cruz, was entrusted to Worth, General Scott also establishing his headquarters at this point from its close proximity to the fleet. Patterson's volunteers were to occupy the centre, looking directly into the heart of the city, while Twiggs was to take up his station on the northern beach, but prolonging his line so as to connect with that of Patterson. The entire line of investment, cutting off the inhabitants and garrison from all communication with the interior, was thus to be extended over a space of five miles, the vallies between the rolling sand hills, although many of them were within range of the enemy's heavy guns, being selected for the encampments of the troops. Immediately outside the walls of the city, and running back some eight hundred yards, the ground was comparatively flat, sandy, and covered in some places with chaparral, while a collection of thatched huts or small houses, the residences of the poorer classes, were scattered about without any regard to order. In rear of these, on the southwest, was a cemetery, enclosed by a light wall and having a small church in the centre. Farther back commenced the undulating sand hills, many of them rising over two hundred feet in height, the space between them being frequently covered with a dense undergrowth of thorny brush, while in some places trees of larger size were found. Such was the ground on which the line of investment was to be formed. During the prevalence of the northers — and at this season they were of frequent occurrence — the air was filled with clouds of flying sand, excessively annoying to the men and from which even the vallies afforded but little shelter. Previous to the landing of the troops, several daring and important reconnoisances had been made, by Surgeon Wright, Midshipman Rogers, and others attached to the squadron blockading Vera Cruz, with the view of ascertaining the locality of a powder magazine supposed to be in the rear of the city and to gain an accurate knowledge of the ground. In one of these reconnoisances Rogers had been taken prisoner; but Wright, who was fortunate in escaping, was now on shore with the army under General Scott, imparting such information as he had gained during his observations.
After Worth had carried a redoubt in his front on the morning of the 10th, and had taken up his position, Patterson was despatched to his left and in the direction of a pond of water called the Laguna Malibran. Beyond this was a dense growth of chaparral, interspersed with trees of large size, and still farther, in a northwest direction, rose some of the higher sand hills. A fire of heavy shells had been opened upon Worth at an early hour in the morning, both from the city and castle, several of which burst directly within his lines, but fortunately without causing injury. As Patterson approached an old but strong ruin near the laguna, occupied as a magazine, a sharp fire of musketry was opened upon Pillow's brigade of Tennesseeans and Pennsylvanians by a body of infantry. But bringing up a 6-pounder from Taylor's battery, under William H. French, and ordering that officer to open upon the building, the enemy were speedily dislodged and forced back into the chaparral. Pillow at once took possession of the magazine, containing a quantity of ammunition, and pushing on towards the intersection of an unfinished railway with the Medelin road, again came upon a force of both cavalry and infantry. A brisk skirmish resulted in beating the Mexicans back towards the higher sand hills, behind the crests of which they once more rallied; but the 1st Pennsylvania and 2d Tennessee regiments, moving steadily up, they were again driven with loss, and sent in full flight under the guns of the city. This affair closed the operations on the 10th of March. At intervals during the day, partly with the intention of gaining the range, flights of shells were sent by the besieged in the direction of the American lines. They however either fell short, or those which reached did but little execution.
Early on the morning of the 11th Patterson was again in motion, Quitman being in advance with the Georgians, Alabamians and South Carolinians. In his front the enemy appeared in considerable force, both cavalry and infantry, with the evident intention of checking his movement; but after a series of sharp skirmishes, in which a company of Georgia rifles under Davis were thrown in advance, the Mexicans were forced back under the walls of the city. In these affairs the Georgians and South Carolinians, taking an active part, sustained some loss, Dickinson, the lieutenant-colonel of the latter, being seriously wounded. A steady fire was meanwhile kept up from the forts and castle. The shells from the former were continually bursting on some part of the American lines, while clouds of sand, thrown high in air as by some invisible agency, marked the passage of the heavy round shot as they struck among the hills. Twiggs had put his division in motion at an early hour, with orders to pass the volunteers and take up his position on the northern beach. This movement brought his men under the fire from the city, by which Alburtis, a deserving officer of the 2d infantry was killed, with a sergeant of the 4th artillery and a private of the rifles. Frequent skirmishes also took place in front, with small parties sent out to check the advance. Knowing every foot of ground, the Mexicans had chosen the strongest positions from which to assail the invaders; but Twiggs sending out the rifles, and at the same time pressing forward with the infantry, the front was speedily cleared. The greatest difficulty was experienced in moving the field batteries, for although the guns were light, the horses were utterly unable to draw them through the ponds and heavy sand which met them at every step. The soldiers however attaching drag ropes, and bending to the work with energy, the pieces were fairly lifted across the low grounds and over the ridges, and on reaching the northern beach were placed in positions where they could rake every approach in case the enemy either made a sortie from the city, or attempted an attack upon the rear with the intention of throwing in supplies or reinforcements to the garrison. With the arrival of Twiggs on the shore north of Vera Cruz the line of investment had been drawn entirely around the city, and with loss trifling when the great advantages possessed by the enemy are considered. But Morales appeared to rely almost solely upon his strong forts and heavy guns; for many of the small parties, encountered in the vallies and behind the sand hills, were partisan bands, unconnected with the regular garrison and operating at their own risk. One of these was commanded by a young Spanish priest, Padre Jarauta, a man without principle yet of great activity and bravery. His after operations as a guerilla chief rendered him somewhat famous.
A violent norther, springing up on the 12th of March, cut off all communication between the shore and the transports under Sacrificios. The day previous a detachment of New Yorkers, under Shields, had engaged with an equal number of the enemy in the rear, driving them after a short skirmish. A small party of the same regiment had another brush on the 12th with a body of lancers sent out to watch the movements of the invaders. The horsemen were driven back under the walls with loss, and no other attempt was made in that direction. It is true that during the afternoon Morales sent a flight of shells upon the American lines, but the heavy wind carried them wide the mark. On the 13th the gale abated, when the work of landing heavy guns and ammunition was renewed. Worth had meanwhile taken possession of a strong ruin near
19an old lime-kiln, a commanding point by the water's edge within eight hundred yards of Fort Santiago, and less than a mile from the castle itself. Under cover of night a small but trusty force, under Vinton, was thrown into this ruin, and although at daylight it was exposed to a heavy fire, the position was gallantly held. A series of daring reconnoisances were in the meantime made, by night as well as by day, for the purpose of ascertaining the most advantageous points at which to commence the work of opening trenches and establishing batteries. Every approach to the city was thus thoroughly examined, the indefatigable engineers even pushing their observations up to the very walls of the city.
On the 14th of March the norther again set in with fury, and lasting until the night of the 16th, prevented the landing of ordnance and military stores from the fleet. Meanwhile, with incredible labor, the weaker points in the curtain of investment had all been strengthened. Twiggs had thrown his left upon the little hamlet of Vergara, a point on the beach commanding completely the main road to Jalapa, and had so disposed his division that every attempt of the Mexicans to pass his line failed. A daring courier, attempting to break through with important despatches from Morales, was shot from his horse, and although the man escaped in the darkness, his papers were taken and sent to head-quarters. The greatest difficulty was experienced in sending out provisions and ammunition to the northern beach. A small number only of the mules and horses intended for transportation had been landed, and of these many were so badly bruised or stiffened, from rough weather and long confinement on shipboard, that they were for the time useless. The heavy labor of transporting ammunition, camp equipage and supplies across the dreary waste was thus thrown upon the men, while to add to their discomfort the air was constantly filled with clouds of sand, coming with such force that the faces and eyes of the soldiers were stung and blinded to a degree almost insupportable. During the prevalence of the norther a number of vessels, endeavouring to work their way into the anchorage at Anton Lizardo, had been cast ashore, and a heavy ship, with a large number of dragoon horses on board, was completely wrecked and the animals drowned. Other vessels, with cavalry horses on board, were so tossed about in the gales that great numbers were killed or rendered unfit for service, and Harney was thus unable to mount more than a single full company of his men when the storm abated. To add to the annoyances of the soldiers of the besieging army they were at intervals receiving a fire from both city and castle — a fire doubly molesting, although it did but little injury, from the fact that it could not be returned. But on the 15th the spirits of all were cheered by the welcome intelligence, received by a small schooner sent express from Brazos Santiago, of General Taylor's great victory over Santa Anna at Buena Vista, while on the following day the troops, were farther inspirited as Commodore Conner's heavy guns belched forth a salute in honor of the achievement, directly within hearing of the garrison of Vera Cruz.
The Spanish consul within the city, under a white flag, had sent a note out to the American commander on the second day after the landing had been effected, asking that in any operations that might ensue the persons and property of his countrymen residing at Vera Cruz might be respected. On the 14th General Scott returned an answer to this note, to the effect that as far as practicable the Spanish subjects and their property would be respected. At the same time the consul was told that, in carrying the city — whether by bombardment and cannonade, or assault, or by all — it would be difficult for the Americans, and particularly in the night time, to distinguish the consular flags, or to discriminate between the persons and property of friends and enemies. A safeguard was however sent him for his protection, to be used only by his countrymen, while a similar paper for the British consul was also enclosed. A note of the same tenor, containing safeguards for the French and Prussian consuls, was sent to the former. These safeguards, it was expressly stated, were to cover no other property than that belonging to the subjects of the different consuls. Any soldier who should force these safeguards, by the rules and articles of war of the United States rendered himself amenable to the punishment of death, and they were therefore to be shown, in case the city should be carried, to all officers and privates of the American army who might approach the residences of the foreign consuls.
The heavy gale having abated its violence on the 17th, advantage was taken to land the heavy guns, ammunition, and such necessaries as were required for the sustenance of the army. By the 18th all the mortars which had reached Sacrificios were safely on shore, together with a number of draught mules and wagons the services of which were much needed. The firing from the city continued upon the lines at intervals, while some of the 13-inch shells from the castle were thrown even beyond the head-quarters of the commander-in-chief. One of the bombs, bursting near a party of prisoners guarded in the extreme rear, caused not a little alarm, yet fortunately no one was injured. Scarcely a night passed without skirmishes either in front or rear, the Mexicans being invariably driven after firing one or two fruitless vollies.
Under cover of the darkness, ground was broken for the trenches on the night of the 18th of March, and before morning, with such energy did the men work, they were to a degree sheltered from the heavy fire which at daylight was opened upon them. During the 19th and 20th the labor of landing shells and heavy shot was carried on by the navy with untiring zeal, the work in the trenches, although the men were exposed to an almost constant fire from the city and castle, at the same time progressing with rapidity. On the night of the 20th another norther set in, driving many vessels upon the beach. The effects of the gale were also seriously felt on shore; for while the eyes of the soldiers were blinded by the clouds of sand continually beating in their faces, the open trenches were filled almost as fast as all the efforts of the men could clear them. By the afternoon of the following day the storm had however spent its fury, and the morning of the 22d of March came in with calm weather.
The platforms for seven of the 10-inch mortars which had arrived had by this time been laid, the pieces mounted, and a battery for two 8-inch Paixhans and four 24-pounders nearly completed. Forty of the heavy mortars, ordered in November by General Scott and which should have been upon the coast weeks previous to this, were still behind, but in some degree to make up for the want of these pieces an offer made by the navy, now under Commodore Perry as Commodore Conner had been relieved, was promptly responded to by a call for a heavy battery of Paixhans and 32-pounders. Being now in a situation to open upon the city, the American commander, under a white flag, sent in a summons to General Morales to surrender, the bearer of the flag being limited to two hours to return with an answer.
In his summons, after stating that the place was so closely invested by sea and land as to render it impossible for its garrison to receive succor or reinforcements from without, and that batteries had been established competent to its speedy reduction, General Scott next assumed it as due to the courtesies of war and the rights of humanity to summon the commander-in-chief of Vera Cruz to surrender. His anxiety to spare the beautiful city from the imminent hazard of demolition, its gallant defenders from a useless effusion of blood, and its peaceful inhabitants, including women and children, from the inevitable horrors of a triumphant assault, were among the reasons which actuated the American commander, as set forth in his note, to address the intelligence, gallantry and patriotism, no less than, the humanity of the governor and commander-in-chief of Vera Cruz. Without being accurately informed whether the city and castle were included in the command of General Morales, or whether each had its own independent commander, General Scott at the same time stated that he might be willing to stipulate that, if the city should, by capitulation, be garrisoned by a part of his troops, no missile should be fired from within the city, or from its bastions or walls, upon the castle, unless the castle should previously fire upon the city.
Such was the substance of the summons. In his reply, which was returned within the two hours specified, Morales, evidently misunderstanding the terms, began by saying that he had informed himself of the contents of the note addressed to him by the American commander, demanding the surrender of Vera Cruz and the castle of Ulua, and in answer stated that the castle, as well as the city, depended upon his authority; and it being his principal duty, in order to prove himself worthy of the confidence placed in him by his Government, to defend both points at all cost, to effect which he counted upon the necessary elements, and would make it good to the last. His adversary could therefore commence his operations of war in the manner he might consider most advantageous.
The sense and almost the language, of both the summons and response, is given above. Nothing could be plainer than the former, where General Scott avoids making a demand for the surrender of the castle. He was not in a situation, with only one-fifth of his heavy ordnance at hand, to make such a demand; but the Mexican general, with more haste and bravery than reflection or sagacity, assumed complete command of both city and castle, and thus, while giving his cool and wily adversary the advantage from the first, with great hardihood in the next breath told him he might commence the bombardment at once.
The Americans opened with seven 10-inch mortars, and soon adding the fire of a number of light cohorns, the play upon the devoted city was incessant. Nor were the Mexicans idle; for every piece that could be brought to bear upon the trenches, from the castle, from Santiago, and from the bastion works within range, were instantly belching forth a storm of missiles. With the firing of the first gun from the American batteries the Musquito fleet under Tatnall, by previous concert with Commodore Perry, was ordered to weigh anchor; and standing in to a point in rear of the lime-kiln, where the vessels were covered from the direct fire of the castle, a heavy cannonade upon the town was soon added. This little fleet consisted of the steamer Spitfire, under Porter, the Vixen, under Sands, with the schooners Bonita, Reefer, Petrel, Falcon and Tampico, commanded in order by Benham, Sterrett, Shaw, Glasson and Griffin, the latter officer bringing his vessel first into action. By elevating their heavy guns over the point of land in front they were enabled to reach Fort Santiago, and the southern quarters of the city, with ease, while at the same time they were only exposed to the flight of shells continually sent upon them from the castle. But even these, although many burst directly over the fleet, caused little injury, and Tatnall was enabled to keep up his fire until dark. The play of the Mexican forts upon the land
20batteries had meanwhile been incessant — at every moment the trenches were harassed by the round shot and shell from Santiago and the other works. In point of numbers the loss to the Americans at this quarter was trifling; but Vinton, a gallant and most estimable officer of the 3d artillery, was slain, and several men were killed or wounded at the mortars before the fire of the enemy slackened.
At dark Tatnall hauled off with his little flotilla, taking up his old ground under Sacrificios. The mortar batteries however continued their fire upon the city, and while the shells were seen to fall directly inside the walls, the after explosions, sending up lurid bodies of flame, told with what terrible effect they were carrying out the work of demolition and death. At daylight on the morning of the 23d of March Tatnall again weighed anchor, and the steamers taking the schooners in tow he stood in, with great audacity, until he had reached a point within effective range of Santiago and the southern parts of the city. Here anchoring with springs upon his cables, he re-opened a severe fire upon the town, which was returned with vigor both by the castle and nearest fort. After keeping up a steady cannonade for more than an hour, his heavy shell and round shot crashing into the city at every discharge, Commodore Perry hoisted a signal for Tatnall to return to his old anchorage. He kept up his fire however as he hauled off, and although the enemy was rapidly gaining the range of the fleet, and burst many shells directly among the vessels, the injury sustained was unimportant.
Meanwhile the land batteries were plied with vehemence, the counter fire being maintained briskly during the forenoon by the enemy. By the middle of the day three additional mortars had been planted, and the arrival of a vessel the evening previous, with thirteen of these heavy pieces, inspired the besiegers with new hopes of the speedy reduction of the place. Two of these mortars, with the navy battery of three long 32-pounders and the same number of Paixhans, were promptly landed. But another norther springing up on the afternoon of the 23d, all farther communication with the transports was for the time suspended. The fire from such of the mortars as were in position was continued at intervals, yet not with the same vigor as at first for the want of ammunition.
The communication between the foreign men-of-war, save under the sanction of a flag of truce, had been in the meantime prohibited. Commodore Perry had early suggested this measure to General Scott and the latter deeming that the uninterrupted intercourse previously maintained would give the beleaguered city moral aid and comfort, at once approved the suggestion. The commander of the American naval forces therefore despatched a note to Matson, De la Puente and Dubut, the respective ranking officers of the British, Spanish and French men-of-war present, notifying them that the intercourse between their vessels and that part of the coast encompassed by the forces of the United States must cease. This communication was dated the 22d of March, and the measure was most rigorously enforced.
While the gale, which re-commenced on the afternoon of the 23d, broke up the communication between the shore and the transports, greater activity than ever prevailed on land. New trenches were dug, the old ones required constant labor to keep them clear of the clouds of sand continually in motion during the norther, while large parties of sailors from the fleet, uniting with heavy details made by Worth and Patterson, were toiling at the work of dragging the heavy guns out to the sand-bag battery which had been constructed to receive them. There was not sufficient ammunition in the trenches, to keep the mortars in full play; but the officers in command still had enough to ply the city at intervals, and the burning of a number of houses near the walls, the flames carried to an immense height by the violence of the gale, and lighting up the neighboring domes and turrets, increased the grandeur of the terrible bombardment.
The work of moving out the heavy guns selected from the navy was incredible. The pieces were all mounted on ordinary ship-carriages, their immense weight sinking them deep in the loose sand. The distance to the battery was nearly two miles, every inch of the way leading through sand hills, brushwood, or across the Malibran pond, the mud and water in which was waist deep. Yet during the night all these difficulties were overcome. The low and clumsy wheels of the carriages, however serviceable on the hard and smooth decks of the men-of-war, were almost useless on shore. Long drag ropes were however attached, and soldiers and sailors bending lustily upon them by hundreds, and the latter adding their heaving shouts, the pieces were fairly dragged or ploughed through the sand. To add to the annoyance and labor, the fierce norther was continually beating directly in the faces of the men, blinding them by its violence; yet cheered by their officers, and excited by the hope of adding a powerful agency in the work of reducing the city, the guns were all in battery by the morning of the 24th, and as soon as they could be mounted on the platforms their fire opened. The officer in command was Aulick, who ordering the play of all the pieces to be concentrated upon a strong work near the centre of the city, the effect was at once apparent. The enemy returned the fire with salvos from four or five different forts, demolishing the front of the navy battery, with such skill were their pieces directed. But the Americans, speedily repairing minor damages, continued to send their missiles smashing into the bastion work in front, and with an aim so close that in two hours' time a breach was made and the fire of the enemy at this point silenced. By 1 o'clock Aulick's cannonade, which up to this time had been incessant, somewhat slackened for the want of ammunition, and in another hour, every shot having been expended, it entirely ceased. At the suggestion of Lee of the engineers, who had remained in the work from the first, the embrasures were now closed with sand-bags, every attempt being promptly made to repair the injuries sustained by the breastworks and traverses. Four men had been slain at the guns, and Lieutenant Baldwin, besides a number of sailors, were more or less severely wounded.
The mortar batteries, although indifferently supplied with bombs, had meantime continued their fire upon the city at intervals, and as the navy battery had drawn the weight of the counter fire of the enemy the loss and damage was comparatively unimportant. A 10-inch mortar, however, struck in the muzzle by a shell from the castle, had been dismounted, while one man had been killed and three or four wounded. In the afternoon Aulick was relieved by Mayo, with a fresh detachment of sailors from the squadron; an additional supply of ammunition was also taken out to the navy battery; and at dark fatigue parties were diligently employed in repairing the injuries the work had sustained.
A sharp skirmish had taken place during the afternoon in the rear of Twiggs's encampment at Vergara. A party of Mexicans having been discovered near the Puente del Medio, a bridge three miles distant on the road to Jalapa, a company of rifles under Roberts was sent out to watch their movements. The enemy were now found to be two or three hundred strong, occupying not only the head of the bridge but a commanding ridge immediately in the rear. This intelligence was sent back; whereupon Twiggs, determined that the Mexicans should be speedily dislodged, despatched Persifor F. Smith, with a large detachment, to the support. On reaching the ground, that officer sent Roberts into the chaparral on the right, while Pope, with two companies, was ordered into the brush on the left, Smith moving directly up the road to the attack. The enemy opened a brisk fire of musketry; but Roberts, having gained a point within good rifle range, sent back such a biting shower of balls that they speedily retired in disorder. The pursuit was continued until dark, the Mexican loss being considerable. On the American side two sergeants and two privates were dangerously wounded.
During the evening of the 24th, a memorial was sent in to General Scott from the city, signed by the English, French, Spanish and Prussian consuls, in which, after drawing attention to the frightful results the bombardment had already caused, they prayed that a truce might be granted of sufficient duration to allow their countrymen, as well as the Mexican women and children, to leave Vera Cruz. The reply of the American commander was prompt, and of a nature redounding to his honor. After regretting the lateness of their application, the consuls were told that the communication between them and the foreign vessels at Sacrificios had been left open up to the 23d of March in order to allow neutrals an opportunity of escaping from the horrors of a siege of which they had received every admonition. A truce could not be granted, except accompanied by a distinct proposition from the Mexican commander to surrender Vera Cruz: in the meantime, the siege would go on with increased means and vigor. To convince the consuls that the unavoidable distresses of the women and children had deeply engaged his sympathies, before a shot or shell had been fired in the direction of the city, General Scott next referred them to his summons of the 22d, directed to his excellency the governor and commander-in-chief of Vera Cruz. Thus ended this correspondence. The foreign consuls had at first underrated the ability of the American commander and had neglected his warning; and now, when they found themselves driven to perilous straits, they also found that he reserved the weight of his humanity for his own men.
During the night of the 24th of March the same ceaseless activity reigned in the American lines. The injuries sustained by the batteries and trenches were repaired; the pieces to garnish the new battery near the cemetery, four 24-pounders and two 8-inch Paixhans, were dragged out and planted; while an increased transportation train, organized through the active exertions of Cross, Irwin, and other officers of the quartermaster's department, was continually employed in carrying out an abundance of round shot and shells to the different works. The mortar batteries were meanwhile kept in play upon the city; and as the fuses had been lengthened every quarter was searched by the heavy bombs. Dense volumes of brilliant flames, lighting up the heavens at times, marked the position of combustible houses or stores which had been reached, and added new terror to a bombardment which was already frightful. And still farther to increase the alarm of the beleaguered inhabitants, the rocket battery under Talcott, run up in the darkness to a point close under Fort Santiago, a flight of these missiles was sent hissing through the air. Hundreds of the non-combatants, taking every small boat which could be procured, launched out upon the water for refuge. Some endeavoured to gain the neutral men-of-war lying off Sacrificios; but the line of guard boats established by Commodore Perry forced them back under the guns of the city and castle, thus farther increasing the terror of those who would not take warning in season.
By daylight on the 25th of March, all the batteries repaired and well replenished with ammunition, the bombardment was renewed with increased energy. The responses from the line of Mexican forts, as well as from the castle, were at the same time more vehement than ever, enveloping the navy battery, and the new 24-pounder work near the cemetery, with a deluge of shot and shell. The roar of the heavy ordnance was tremendous, and uniting with the loud bursting of the shells as they exploded on either side, the cannonade seemed incessant. The weight of the enemy's fire from the front of the town, which was less than eight hundred yards distant, was still concentrated on the navy battery; yet two of their works being battered down and silenced as the morning wore, the responses gradually grew fainter from the other forts, and by the middle of the day had almost entirely slackened. But these advantages had not been achieved without loss. Midshipman Shubrick, a promising young officer of the navy, had been killed at his gun, while the casualties among the men in the different works were numerous.
While the bombardment was raging with fury, intelligence had come in that a large mounted force of Mexicans had appeared near Medelin, nine miles in the rear. Harney was sent out to watch them, with a single troop of dragoons and a small force of his men dismounted; and on finding that they were strongly posted at a bridge some distance in advance of the town, and had erected a barricade to strengthen their position, he despatched word to Patterson asking for reinforcements. That officer hurried out with detachments of Tennesseeans under Haskell and Campbell, and a section of Taylor's light battery under Judd, and arriving in front of the bridge the plan of attack was at once adopted. Parties of skirmishers were sent into the brush on either flank by Harney, to annoy the enemy and draw their fire, while Judd was ordered up the main road to a position where he could open with advantage. The Mexicans were in considerable force, and occupying ground of great strength, yet the most complete success attended the Americans. After half a dozen well directed shots from Judd's pieces, the final charge was ordered, and dragoons and volunteers rushing boldly up, firing as they ran, the bridge was carried. In an instant the enemy were in full flight towards Medelin; but Harney and Sumner, speedily collecting every mounted trooper, dashed after them in hot haste, cutting down the rearmost of the panic-stricken fugitives at every step. The pursuit continued until darkness came to the aid of the enemy, when Harney recalled his victorious men. In this affair, the most severe of any which took place in the rear of the line of investment, the loss of the Americans was trifling in comparison to that of their opponents, the latter having over fifty slain. Harney had but two men killed out of his mixed command, and nine wounded. Among the latter was Neill, a gallant young officer of the 2d dragoons, who was severely lanced in two places. The warmest encomiums were passed at the time upon Haskell, Cheatham and the Tennesseeans, for their impetuosity in charging upon the bridge, and also upon Judd for the daring manner in which he brought his pieces into action.
The cannonade upon the city was continued at intervals during the afternoon, the enemy stammering more and more in their answers. At night the bombardment was still kept up with the same unceasing vigor, while additional mortars were carried out and planted, and every exertion made to increase the fire upon the besieged on the following day. Mayo had been relieved of the command of the navy battery by Breeze, with new men and a fresh supply of ammunition, every injury the sand-bag breastworks had sustained being in the meantime thoroughly repaired. The determination of General Scott was to continue the bombardment and cannonade, with additional means and increased vehemence, for twelve hours longer, when, if no proposals to surrender were received, an assault was to be organized.
A little before daylight on the morning of the 26th of March a norther, more violent than any which had preceded it, sprang up, driving those who had sought the shelter of the water back upon the mole of Vera Cruz. The gale soon increased to such a fury that all operations were suspended. With the full light of day a white flag was descried, coming out from Fort Santiago and approaching the American lines: General Landero, who had superseded Morales in the command, had been driven to send out proposals to General Scott inviting an honorable accommodation with the garrison.
Meanwhile all active operations continued suspended on either side, the men in the trenches however laboring incessantly to keep them clear of the drifts of sand which were ever in motion. Over thirty sail of merchant vessels were driven ashore and wrecked, so violent was the gale, while even the stronger men-of-war dragged their anchors and were only saved by the greatest exertions. During the night of the 26th the gale continued to rage with the same fury, the communication with Sacrifices still completely cut off.
On the morning of the 27th of March the American commissioners again proceeded to the lime-kiln, the only point between the belligerents where a conference could be held. The officers selected on the Mexican side were Colonels Villanueva, Gutierrez and Robles, the latter a distinguished member of the engineer corps. With great difficulty, during the morning, Captain Aulick was landed from the fleet, and that the navy might take a part in the deliberations in relation to the surrender, after the arduous and gallant share it had taken in the siege, that officer was added to the commissioner's on the American side.
After a lengthy conference, in which the Mexican commissioners endeavored to obtain the most favorable conditions, the terms originally offered by General Scott, with some slight modifications, were accepted. By these the city of Vera Cruz and castle of San Juan de Ulua, together with their garrisons, were to be surrendered to the army of the United States, the entire Mexican force to march out and lay down its arms on the 29th of March with all the honors of war. The officers were permitted to retain their side arms and private effects, while all grades, as well as the rank and file, were allowed their parole on condition of not serving again until duly exchanged. The flags of the different Mexican forts and stations, when struck, were to be saluted by their own batteries, and immediately after the castle of San Juan, with the forts of Santiago and Conception, were to be occupied by the Americans. All the materiel of war, with all the public property of every description in the city, castle and their dependencies, were to belong to the United States, but a clause was admitted by which the armament, not injured in the farther prosecution of the war, might be considered as liable to be restored to the Mexicans by a definitive treaty of peace. Absolute protection was at the same time guarantied to persons in the city, and to their property, as well as the entire freedom of religious worship and ceremonies of the inhabitants.
Such is the substance of the terms of surrender as ratified by the commissioners on either side, and afterwards approved by the respective commanders. On the 29th of March, in compliance with the terms, the garrison, five thousand strong, marched out and laid down its arms in silence, not a single note of exultation rising from the conquerors. At the same time, after the customary salute, the Mexican flags were struck, when the Americans marching in, possession was taken of both the city and castle. The loud booming of heavy cannon, announcing the raising of new and strange banners upon San Juan de Ulua and the different forts on shore, was now heard coming up both from the squadron and the batteries on land, and thus ended the siege and capture of Vera Cruz.
In his general orders, issued the day after the entrance into the city, General Scott pays the following just tribute to the land forces engaged in the siege
"The general-in-chief congratulates the army, he has the honor personally to command upon this brilliant opening of anew campaign, and tenders, on the part of the United States, immediate thanks to all the corps — regular and volunteers including a detachment of marines, under Captain Edson — which formed the line of investment and prosecuted the siege to its happy conclusion. The troops have borne the heaviest labors in camp and in trenches without failure or murmur, amidst sand-storms of distressing frequency and violence, skirmishes by day and night, and under the incessant fire of the enemy's heavy batteries of the city and castle. The steadiness and cheerfulness of officers and men, under the circumstances, are worthy of all praise."
General Scott next returns thanks to the division and brigade commanders, and to the chiefs of the engineer, artillery and cavalry corps, who have already been mentioned; to Huger of the ordnance, McRee of the quartermaster's, and Grayson of the commissary's department; to Hitchcock and Munroe, the acting and assistant acting inspectors-general; to Turnbull, the chief of the topographical corps, Lawson, the surgeon-general, and to the members of his personal staff, H. L. Scott, Williams, Scammon and Lay. In conclusion he pays the following high and well-deserved compliment to the navy
"Thanks higher than those of the general-in-chief have also been earned by the entire home squadron, under the successive orders of Commodores Conner and Perry, for prompt, cheerful, and able assistance from the arrival of the army off this coast. Besides landing troops and supplies and the strict blockade of this port, the smaller vessels, detached by Commodore Perry, under the immediate command of Captain Tatnall, joined for a time in the attack upon the city, at the imminent risk of being sunk by the fire of the castle; and the land battery, number 5 — called the naval — which followed numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4, served by the army — at the end of two days was exclusively, after being prepared by the engineers and troops of the army, armed, manned and commanded out of the squadron. This battery, in the successive tours of the gallant Captains Aulick and Mayo, proved itself highly effective."
The houses of the city showed evidences on every side of the devastation caused by the American mortar batteries. The streets were blocked up
22and encumbered with the ruins of fallen walls, every building containing combustible materials had been consumed, while the churches and palaces, the dwellings of the foreign consuls, as well as the different public edifices, had all shared alike the horrors of the bombardment. The loss of the Mexicans could never be fully ascertained, but unfortunately it fell heaviest on the non-combatants, for numbers of both women and children were known to be slain. The garrison, better protected by bomb-proofs and casemates, sustained but little loss. Few of the soldiers, save those immediately working the guns in front of the city, were exposed to the continuous bombardment the place sustained. The loss of the Americans, with such admirable caution as well as skill did the engineers perform their duties, fell a little short of one hundred in all, killed and wounded. The names of the officers slain, as well as those wounded in the siege, have already been given. To account for the small list of casualties the fact that the Mexicans did not make a single vigorous sortie should be taken into account. Morales undoubtedly anticipated an early assault, for which he was well prepared. But to sally out at night and attempt the destruction of the trenches, or to harass the parties at work in any other way than by a heavy yet comparatively ineffectual fire in the day time from his forts, he either did not think of, or else had not sufficient confidence in his men to attempt.
No estimate can be made of the number and weight of the round shot and shell sent into the American works and intrenchments by the enemy during the siege, but the aggregate must have been immense. From the opening to the close of the bombardment, according to statements made by the ordnance officers, the besiegers threw into the city, from the land batteries, three thousand 10-inch shells, five hundred 24-pound round shot, and two hundred 8-inch howitzer shells, the aggregate weight of which was over three hundred and eighty-five thousand pounds. In the navy battery one thousand 8-inch Paixhan shells and eight hundred 32-pound round shot were expended, while Tatnall's flotilla, during the time it was plying the town, threw in no less than twelve hundred round shot and shell. The entire weight of all the missiles expended during the siege was upwards of four hundred and sixty-three thousand pounds.
Many of the foreign merchants and property holders in the city, annoyed by the losses they had sustained, were at the same time loud in expressing their indignation at the mode of reducing the place. Valuing the safety of their goods, houses and furniture at a higher rate than they did the lives of the besiegers, they would have had the latter attempt the capture by a direct assault, instead of by regular approaches and bombardment. This shows how difficult it is, in conducting warlike operations against cities, to suit the wishes of aliens domiciled among the enemy, and who at least partially partake of the feelings of hostility against the besiegers entertained by those among whom they dwell. After the surrender of Monterey many foreigners, in criticising General Taylor's operations, spoke of his heavy losses as having arisen from the fact that he made a direct assault upon walls and batteries, instead of bringing up heavy ordnance. At both Vera Cruz and Monterey the American commanders made use of such means and appliances as they had at hand for carrying out the work before them, but neither found favor with strangers. The former city might doubtless have been carried by assault; but as this would have involved the lives of hundreds if not thousands of men and as General Scott had the means to avoid this outlay of blood, he chose to consult the safety of his own soldiers. After the timely admonition given, it certainly was not his fault if the lives of many women, children and non-combatants, or the more valuable moveable property at least of neutrals, should have been jeopardized.
The point of view chosen by the artist for his sketch or picture of the bombardment of Vera Cruz is from the navy battery, while that work is in active play. In front lies the city, enclosed by walls, with its numerous domes and towers in plain sight. The castle of San Juan de Ulua, lying on the opposite side, is concealed from view; but the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, with some of the vessels of the blockading squadron at anchor out of the range of its heavy guns, are visible. The line of trenches and batteries of the land forces, engaged in the work of reducing the city, were on the right of the navy battery, and could not be introduced into the sketch. The view of Vera Cruz, with its different churches and commanding buildings, gives the reader as correct an idea as could be conveyed by a simple drawing. The reasons which induced the artist to select the navy battery as the point from which to sketch his picture were numerous — among the most important its high and commanding position, the full view of the city obtained, the importance it had in its reduction and to pay a compliment, well-merited if poor, to the spirited officers and sailors of the American squadron. During the war with Mexico they had few opportunities of signalizing themselves. The enemy had no navy deserving the name at the commencement of hostilities, and the principal duties of the United States squadron — on an exposed coast, subject to frightful hurricanes, and abounding with treacherous shoals and currents — were to blockade the different ports and harbors. But the alacrity and energy with which they came to the assistance of the more fortunate land forces at Vera Cruz, and the gallant support they rendered during the siege, showed that the will to serve their country was not wanting.
The Battle of Cerro Gordo.
The appearance of large parties of the enemy in rear of the lines towards the close of the siege of Vera Cruz, both in the direction of Jalapa and Medelin, early gave rise to the belief that a heavy force was concentrating with the object of checking any movement of the Americans into the interior. It was not however until the city was captured, and scouts were thrown out on the great roads leading to the Mexican capital, that General Scott fully ascertained a determined resistance would be offered to his advance towards the healthy districts above Plan del Rio.
It was known that within the tierra caliente, or hot and unhealthy country lying below the higher lands which commence at Plan del Rio, no point except the Puente Nacional could be fortified with any hope of a long resistance. On the left of this strong bridge rises a bold and precipitous cliff, surmounted at the time by an old and ruined fortification, and which completely commands the direct approach from the coast; on the right, and across the river, other steep and rugged heights offer strong points if well defended. Yet the position could be turned without much labor, the heights were moreover difficult to supply with water in the face of a resolute enemy, and, besides all this, the location was known to be unhealthy during the hot season, as well for the Mexicans coming from the higher and more salubrious regions as for the invaders. These causes induced the enemy, although they at first determined upon making a stand at the bridge, to fall back and fortify the frowning heights above Plan del Rio.
The distance from Vera Cruz to the Puente Nacional is but little over forty miles, much of the way the road running through deep and heavy sand. Fifteen miles farther on is Plan del Rio, another strong stone bridge crossing the stream which has here worn its way through an immense caÅon, or deep cut in the hills. Immediately beyond the bridge rise a succession of bold and steep heights, leading up into the tierra templada or temperate and healthy climate of Upper Mexico. These heights, the highest of which is Cerro Gordo or El Telegrafo, were deemed capable of a strong defence, could not be turned as the Mexican engineers supposed, afforded healthy encampments for the troops at the time hurrying down from the interior, and here Santa Anna determined upon opposing the advance of the Americans. By the aid of false or highly-colored reports and manifestoes, and by ostentatiously displaying the three small pieces he had captured at Buena Vista, the Mexican general had so far deceived his countrymen as to induce many of them to believe he had really gained a victory in the north over General Taylor; he was now, but little more than a month after his defeat, hurrying to the east to meet and chastise General Scott, if flaming proclamations and appeals may be taken into account; and with such energy did he labor that he soon had a numerous and well-appointed army in the field. The fall of Vera Cruz was known in the capital, nearly three hundred miles distant, on the 29th of March, the day on which the garrison marched out and laid down its arms. On the 30th a brigade of two thousand men, with a heavy train of artillery, left the city on the way to the coast. On the 1st of April Santa Anna himself followed with two thousand more, while at Puebla, Peroté, Jalapa and other points on the road, collecting every available man he met, his army steadily augmented. By the 10th, with such untiring zeal did he labor, he had ten thousand men at work on the fortifications in the neighborhood of Cerro Gordo, and every hour added to his strength.
Well aware that the vomito, or yellow fever, would soon break out in Vera Cruz, and anxious to gain the healthy region of Jalapa, with the main body of his men, before its dreaded advent, General Scott commenced the most strenuous exertions for an onward movement before the American flag had been flying twenty-four hours over San Juan de Ulua. He had a sufficient number of troops for an immediate march, but there was still a most annoying deficiency of mules, draught horses, wagons, and every species of transportation. On the 3d of April, four days after the army entered Vera Cruz, a general order was issued calling upon the quartermasters to procure every available means for the conveyance of army stores and munitions, it being at the same time enjoined upon the officers to cut down their own baggage, and that of their men, to the smallest possible compass. Three tents only, to shelter the arms and the sick, were allowed to each company, while not only the general but field and staff officers were restricted to a degree that deprived them of many of the absolute essentials of a campaign.
On the 6th of April another general order was issued, detailing the plan of the march, and on the 8th Twiggs was in motion with his division. So straitened was the army still for transportation, notwithstanding every available horse and mule had been turned in to the quartermasters, that the men were compelled to carry four days' provision in their havresacks, besides their knapsacks, clothing, and forty rounds of ammunition, and this under a hot tropical sun, and over a road deep with burning sand. On the 9th Patterson took up the march, with the volunteer brigades of Shields and Pillow. At points on the road small parties of Mexicans were seen, made up either of guerillas hanging upon the flanks with the hope of falling upon the stragglers, or else of regular scouts sent out in advance to watch the movements of the invaders. But Twiggs reached and passed the Puente Nacional without opposition, and on the 11th of April, after an advance guard of dragoons had driven off a party of lancers, possession was taken of the little hamlet of Plan del Rio. Twiggs even pushed on to a point among the heights beyond, two miles distant by the windings of the road. Here he found every commanding elevation in front strongly fortified and swarming with the enemy; wherefore leaving a numerous picket, with orders to hold the position, he fell back with his main body to Plan del Rio, and despatched word to General Scott at Vera Cruz. His communications were sent off by two different parties of dragoons, one of which, falling into an ambuscade, was destroyed. The other was fortunate enough to reach head-quarters in safety. This was on the 13th of April, whereupon Worth's division, with a portion of Huger's heavy siege train, was at once put in motion, Quitman at the same time receiving orders to follow with his volunteer brigade on the following day. The commander-in-chief, with a small dragoon escort, hurrying on by forced marches, reached Plan del Rio on the 15th.
In the meantime Twiggs, well knowing that Santa Anna was every moment increasing the difficulties of a naturally strong position by artificial defences, had pushed a series of daring reconnoisances with the determination of making an immediate attack. On leaving Plan del Rio the main and only road branches off directly to the right the distance of a mile, in order to gain, by a more gentle ascent, the first of the precipitous heights in front. It then turns abruptly to the left, and after running a little more than another mile, still ascending, the first of the Mexican works was discovered. This was a regular fortification, with an advanced breastwork, built upon the crest of a higher and more commanding ridge, and with the guns so disposed that they completely swept the direct approaches. The engineers, entering the chaparral and low forest on the left, discovered other works, extending to the brink of the precipitous cliffs overhanging the river, all of which were garnished with cannon. The right of the Mexicans rested immediately upon the river, in which direction it was ascertained, through the examination of the engineers, that it was impossible to turn the position. In one of the reconnoisances made on the 12th of April Johnstone, a deserving officer of the topographical corps, was seriously wounded.
On the right of the road, opposite the work first discovered, rise a succession of rough and steep hills, covered with low trees and thick and matted brush. The highest of these eminences is Cerro Gordo, which was also strongly fortified; and such was the position of this hill that, even if the works on the left of the thoroughfare were carried, it would still completely command a narrow gorge through which the invaders must pass by the direct road. The river, making an abrupt turn at the point where the Mexican right rested, swept round in rear of the line, until it reached the base of Cerro Gordo. Here, immediately upon the banks, which were perpendicular and hundreds of feet high, another work of strength had been thrown up. Such were the defences the Mexican commander had erected, on a line three miles in length, and which he was every moment strengthening. Beyond Cerro Gordo the road opens out into a plain, where the main body of the enemy was encamped. This position was also fortified, a work having been thrown up for five pieces of artillery on a little rise a mile beyond Cerro Gordo.
To attack the Mexican line by a direct advance up the road, or to attempt turning the right by a movement up the river cliffs, would involve a heavy loss if not the utter destruction of the Americans, while at the same time it was supposed that the difficulties of the ground on the right of the main road, in which direction only could the left and rear of the enemy be gained, would prevent a turning movement in that quarter. But in the meantime Brooks, a young and enterprising officer acting on the staff of Twiggs as assistant adjutant-general, discovered a route through the rough and broken ground on the right, by which the works in front could be turned and the rear of Cerro Gordo reached. Farther reconnoisances, made by the regular engineers, proved the practicability of this passage,
24although it presented many difficulties, and Twiggs, well knowing, as has been before stated, that every hour would increase Santa Anna's strength, resolved upon an immediate attack. His plan was fully matured in the night of the 12th; yet Shields and Pillow coming in with their men broken down by the long and tiresome marches, and wishing to participate in the coming action, it was deferred from the 13th to the 14th of April. Patterson was the ranking officer at the time, but was too unwell to take the active command. On the night of the 13th he sent orders to Twiggs suspending his contemplated attack until the arrival of General Scott, who came up on the 15th as already mentioned.
During the 16th of April the examinations in front were still farther pushed by Smith, Lee, Beauregard, and other engineer officers, and the practicability of the turning movement to the right, by the route discovered by Brooks, was fully ascertained. Strong fatigue parties, were sent out to cut away the trees and tangled undergrowth, and remove the heavy stones which in many places covered the ground, detachments at the same time being thrown in front of the main lines of the enemy to distract attention. By the morning of the 17th, after incredible labor, a passage was opened to a ridge of unoccupied hills on the flank and partly in the rear of Cerro Gordo itself, and this with such silence that the movements of the Americans were unknown to the enemy. Twiggs, who had received verbal orders to move out and take possession of this new cut passage and the heights beyond, had reached a strong position before midday, and still undiscovered by the enemy; but sending a detachment of the 7th infantry, under F. Gardner, to gain possession of one of the heights on his left, the Mexicans were astonished on seeing the Americans topping the ridge — they now for the first were made aware that their strong position had been turned by their indefatigable enemies.
Santa Anna promptly despatched a strong force of infantry to dislodge Gardner's little party, but the latter, opening a brisk fire, held them in check until Harney, now in command of Twiggs's first brigade, sent the rifles and 1st artillery up to his support. A sharp action ensued, the Mexicans battling with determined resolution for the possession of the impprtant height, while the Americans as doggedly clung to their ground. Reno, with a portion of Talcott's mountain howitzer and rocket battery, was next sent up to the defence of the ridge, and on gaining an advantageous position sent a flight of shells and rockets into the advancing Mexicans. The rifles at the same, time keeping up an incessant fire, and advancing after every discharge, the enemy were gradually driven back under the shelter of their guns on Cerro Gordo. Again Santa Anna launched a heavy column down the hill, his trumpets sounding a vigorous charge; but Harney met the infantry with such a bold and determined front, that they were a second time forced back under the shelter of their intrenchments. In these different affairs of the 17th the Americans lost nearly one hundred men in killed and wounded. Among the latter was Sumner, in immediate command of the rifles, with Maury, Gibbs and Gordon, three younger officers of the same regiment. The heaviest portion of the loss fell to the 1st artillery; for at the opening of the action, judging from the heavy firing on his left that Cerro Gordo itself was to be attacked, Childs had moved down into the ravine which separated the two hills, and had even commenced the ascent towards the Mexican stronghold under a most galling fire. With sixty men only he continued to advance, and this in the face of a shower of balls that soon reduced his command one half, until he had gained a point within one hundred and fifty yards of Santa Anna's intrenchments. But now finding himself unsupported, and that the works were not to be stormed, he retired with barely men enough standing to bring off his wounded. Magruder and Nauman were also exposed to the same heavy fire in hurrying down to his relief, suffering severely.
A position had now been gained within grape and cannister range of Cerro Gordo, Santa Anna's main and strongest work, and to retain it against any attack Twiggs reinforced Harney with the 3d and 7th infantry. The masterly movement of the day had also completely turned the strong line of forts commanding the road nearer Plan del Rio, and the most energetic preparations were now made by General Scott to carry out the main attack on the following morning. During the afternoon Shields was despatched to the support of Twiggs, and later in the evening a 24-pounder breaching gun, with two 24-pound howitzers, commanded by Hagner and Steptoe, were dragged and lifted through the new cut road with great difficulty. With increased labor and exertion, in which the regulars were ably seconded by the volunteers under Shields, these pieces were carried up to the summit of the height during the night, and placed within easy range of the batteries on Cerro Gordo.
The general plan of attack was settled on the night of the 17th. Harney, with the rifles, 7th infantry and 1st artillery, and reinforced by the 3d infantry and a company of sappers and miners, was to storm the strong height of Cerro Gordo, while Riley, with the 2d infantry and 4th artillery, was to advance on the right of the hill, in order to hold in check any reinforcements and to gain the Jalapa road in rear. Shields was at the same time to be in readiness to sustain the assault, or to advance by a route through the thick brush on the right and attack the battery in the road beyond the Cerro. While these operations were in progress on the enemy's left, Pillow was to advance upon the right, and threaten or attack the strong works commanding the main road. At the same time Ripley was ordered to drag an 8-inch howitzer to the top of the cliffs opposite the Mexican right, on the other side of the river, to be ready to open in the morning. The labor was incredible; yet aided by four companies of New Yorkers, under Burnham, the piece was in position by the time the attack commenced. Wall's field battery and the dragoons were to be stationed just out of range of the enemy's works on the main road, ready to act as their services might be required, and Worth's division, marching at sunrise by the new cut road, was to follow the movement of Twiggs against Cerro Gordo. Such were the plans adopted for the attack upon a line which Santa Anna had deemed impregnable.
On the morning of the 18th of April Steptoe and Hagner, opening upon the intrenchments of Cerro Gordo from their pieces on the opposite height, were answered by vigorous salvos from the heavy guns of the Mexicans. General Scott himself shortly after arrived upon the hill, and the cannonade was kept up with spirit until Harney had organized his force for the storming of the enemy's stronghold. The severe illness of Persifor F. Smith, confining him to the camp, had thrown the command of this perilous enterprise upon the dragoon officer, and gallantly was he to carry out the work entrusted to him. Between the heights was a deep ravine. Into this Harney ordered the rifles, now under Loring, to throw themselves, and moving to the left keep any force which might be approaching from the opposite side of the Cerro in check. At the same time, with the 7th infantry, under Plympton, on his right, the 3d infantry, under E. B. Alexander, on his left, and the 1st artillery and sappers and miners, under Childs and Gus. W. Smith, in the centre and rear, the direct assault upon the enemy's works was to be made. The hillside was steep, covered with broken rocks, tangled chaparral and a few stunted trees; and the latter having been levelled with the axe, with their scraggy tops turned down the hill, a new species of chevaux-de-frise was added to the other obstacles in the way of the assailants. In front of the main fortification on the summit, advanced some sixty yards, was a strong breastwork formed of brush and stone, sheltering swarms of infantry. This carried, the principal work, commanded by Vasquez and known to be a brave officer, remained to be stormed. It will thus be seen that the Americans had no easy task before them.
Harney was to advance as soon as the rifles had shaken off the ravine and had become engaged with the enemy on the left; but seeing, a large force of Mexicans coming up the Jalapa road from the rear, with the evident intention of reinforcing Vasquez, the assaulting column was launched down the slope from its cover before the rifles had opened. This brought them at once under a galling fire of grape and cannister, which seemed to increase as they neared the ravine; but without for a moment faltering they dashed through the hollow, and eagerly commenced the difficult and dangerous ascent. The rifles at the same time, spreading out upon the hill side on their left, were exposed to a severe fire from the heavy guns above them; yet they, too, continued steadily to advance upward, and soon became warmly engaged with a succoring force approaching from the left. Riley was now advancing along the right of the Cerro, with the 4th artillery, under J. L. Gardner, and the 2d infantry, under T. Morris, two companies of the latter being soon under a fire from the works on the crest.
With loud cheers, yet without discharging a musket, Harney's men continued the rugged ascent, the front ranks torn by the storm of missiles beating from the batteries and breastworks above. When within easy range of the advanced lines of the enemy, who were partially sheltered by the work thrown up as an exterior defence, the column opened its fire, and then, many of the men not halting to reload, a rush was made for the breastwork. The resistance was here short but desperate; the Mexicans, well commanded by resolute officers, clung to their defences with good show of determination; but the ever ready bayonet of the assailants, after a severe struggle and great loss, finally drove them back into the interior work. But here they were allowed no respite; for their opponents, barely taking time to recover breath, followed up their success by a steady advance upon the, last stronghold. A shower of bullets met them as they pressed forward, striking down the leading men at every step; but the survivors, cheered by the shouts of Harney and his subordinates, continued to move up. In the face of a pelting storm the interior breastworks were gained, and here, halting but for another moment again to recover breath, the last struggle commenced. The Mexicans at this point fought with uncommon bravery, many of them relinquishing the contest only with death; but the 7th infantry scaling the work on the right while the 3d poured in on the left, and the 1st artillery and sappers and miners at the same time pressing up boldly in front, every portion was at length successfully entered. The strife inside was short, but even more desperate, as the bolder spirits of the enemy would neither fly nor relinquish their ground. The assailants enveloped them on every side save that leading directly down into the Jalapa road; for a detachment of the 2d infantry, bearing up the hill, had taken the work in reverse, while two companies of the rifles, pressing up from the opposite angle, had reached the last breastwork in season to be in at the final struggle. Borne down by the superior strength of their adversaries
25confusion. Yet still they were harassed at every step; for Richardson and Magruder, turning the captured guns upon the fugitives, continued to ply them until they were out of reach. Thus was Santa Anna's strong position on Cerro Gordo, the key to his line of defence, stormed and carried. That the defenders struggled with determination it would be idle to deny, for their commander, General Vasquez, with Colonel Palacios and many other officers, were left dead in the works, besides a large number of men. The loss of the assailants was also severe. Captain Mason, a distinguished officer of the rifles, was mortally wounded; Ewell and Davis, two young and promising lieutenants of the same regiment, were slain in the assault, the former while scaling the last breastwork; of the wounded officers were Captain Patten and Lieutenants Derby, Dana, G. McLane, Jarvis, Bee and Ward, the three first named severely.
Twiggs had in the meantime ordered Shields to move with his brigade to the right of Cerro Gordo, through ground covered with broken rocks and thick chaparral, and attack the extreme left of Santa Anna's line resting upon the main road beyond, while Riley received orders to move down the slope and fall upon any force which might interpose. Shields led his volunteers, consisting of the New Yorkers, under Burnett, and the 3d and 4th Illinoians, under Forman and Baker, through the jungle which intervened between him and the Mexican reserve, and reached a point within musket range of the battery on the left without being molested. But now a heavy fire of grape and cannister was opened upon him, followed by vollies of musketry, causing fearful havoc. Shields was immediately struck down, grievously, and, as was supposed at the time, mortally wounded, a grape shot passing directly through his breast. A number of his officers and men were at the same time killed or wounded, so close and rapid were the discharges; but Baker, on whom the command devolved, pressing forward with ardor, and Riley coming out in the main road at this critical juncture, the last of Santa Anna's works were carried and his heavy reserves sent back in disorder. Canalizo and Ampudia, taking the open road towards El Encero and Jalapa, retreated in disarray with the cavalry and infantry, closely pursued by Twiggs with a mixed command of regulars and volunteers. Santa Anna himself, cutting the saddle mule from his travelling coach, fled through the chaparral and escaped. The victory in this quarter of the field was complete. All the artillery of the Mexicans, an immense amount of ammunition, military stores and provisions, fell into the hands of the Americans, with several wagon loads of specie. Even Santa Anna's tent, private papers and all his camp equipage were among the spoils. The possession of Cerro Gordo, with the road and main camp in the rear, also completely isolated and cut off the different strong works on the Mexican right, the garrisons of which had no possible means of escape. Among the slain on the side of the enemy near the road were found two officers of rank, Colonels Cosio and Calatayud; the vicinity was strewn with the killed and wounded. Two officers in the volunteer brigade of Shields were killed on the ground, Lieutenants Cowardin and Murphy; Captain Pearson and Lieutenants Scott, Johnson, Maltby and Forman were more or less severely wounded.
During this series of successful operations on the Mexican left an unfortunate attack was made on the right, and near the river. Simultaneous with Harney's gallant assault, Pillow had been ordered to move, with his volunteer brigade of Tennesseeans and Pennsylvanians, over ground he had previously examined, and threaten or assail the batteries on the left of the main road. To carry this out he formed his men in two columns, the first, under Haskell, consisting of the 2d Tennesseeans, Taylor's company of the 2d Pennsylvanians and Williams's company of Kentuckians, while the other was composed of Wynkoop's regiment from Pennsylvania. Ripley, from his heavy howitzer on the cliffs across the river, had already opened upon the Mexican works, and the continuous din in the direction of Cerro Gordo announced that Harney was hotly engaged, when Pillow ordered Haskell to advance through the broken and brushy ground on the left of the road, and carry the battery in his front at the point of the bayonet. With great spirit the column advanced to the attack, fully confident of complete success; nor did a destructive fire of grape and cannister, carrying down his leading men and officers as they broke through the chaparral, cause Haskell to falter. The survivors persevered in moving forward, and in as good order as the ground would permit, until they had emerged into an open space almost within pistol shot of the enemy's works. But here being met by a severe fire of musketry from the breastworks in front, united with continuous showers of grape and cannister from the different batteries, the command was compelled to give way and fall back with great loss. Pillow had in the meantime been wounded, throwing the command for the moment upon Campbell. While this officer was organizing the volunteers for another attack, word was received that the enemy's left had been turned and beaten, and that the right was about to surrender, whereupon Pillow withdrew with his brigade to the main road and returned to Plan del Rio. In Haskell's Nelson, Gill and W. P. Haile; of the wounded were Colonel Cumming, Major Farquharson, Captains Murray and Maulding, and Lieutenants Forrest, Sutherland and Yearwood, the latter reported mortally.
After the works on Cerro Gordo were carried, Harney despatched Plympton, with the 7th infantry, directly down into the road on the opposite side, so as completely to prevent the retreat of the enemy still occupying the fortifications attacked by Pillow on the right. Seeing themselves thus hemmed in and surrounded, with no possibility of escape, no less than three thousand Mexicans in this quarter surrendered. A large number, however, improving their knowledge of the ground, escaped through the hollows and chaparral after throwing away their arms. Five generals — Pinzon, La Vega, Noriega, Jarero and Obando — were captured, besides a host of colonels and minor officers. Over four thousand stand of muskets, all their cannon, with an immense amount of ammunition and military stores, fell into the hands of the victors, the spoils within the different works on the enemy's right. So complete was the general defeat, that Santa Anna did not save even a single piece of his numerous artillery, while thousands of the infantry who escaped left muskets, cartridge-boxes, knapsacks, and every thing which would in the least obstruct their flight.
While Twiggs was in close pursuit towards Jalapa, the surrender of the works on the right, in front of which the light batteries and dragoons had been held in reserve, opened the main road for the latter to join in following up Santa Anna's broken army. Had the dragoons been ordered through the new cut road early in the morning, and held in readiness to dash forward the moment the Mexicans were driven from their last work in that quarter, the rout would have been even more disastrous. But Patterson, who took command of the light batteries of Wall and Taylor and the cavalry of Beall and Kearny, was compelled to take the more circuitous route around Cerro Gordo, the road in many places cut by trenches, barricaded, or filled with cannon or captured ammunition, thus rendering his pursuit too slow to be of signal service. He however followed up until the hacienda of El Encero was reached, a leading squadron of dragoons, under Blake, taking several prisoners even beyond that point; but finding the horses of both the cavalry and artillery broken down, and that the main bodies of the enemy were scattered or beyond reach, a halt was ordered, the victorious but wearied soldiers now having a respite from their toils.
The entire loss of the Americans, during the two days, was less than five hundred men, including thirty-three officers. No time was wasted after the battle. Possession was taken of Jalapa on the 19th of April, and Worth, pushing on with his division, after securing a number of cannon which had been left by the enemy at the strong position of La Olla, reached Peroté on the 22d. The important castle at this place, with all its armament, at once fell into his hands, the Mexicans retiring in such haste as not to carry off a single gun. On the 6th of May Worth marched upon Puebla, and after a brush with a cavalry force under Santa Anna, near Amozoque, entered the former city on the 15th in company with Quitman's volunteers. Thus in less than a month the victory of Cerro Gordo had been gained, the castle of Peroté and other strong points had been taken and occupied, and the invaders found themselves in possession of a large and healthy city within less than one hundred miles of the Mexican capital, and in a valley rich in provisions and supplies of every kind.
In the drawing of the assault upon Cerro Gordo the artist has chosen that period when Harney is advancing directly upon the works on the crest, Riley's men being seen moving to the right. The American guns on the height on the left, which had been plied with great spirit by Hagner and Steptoe, assisted by Seymour and Brown, have just ceased their fire, fearing that the safety of friends might be endangered. At the foot of the hills, in the foreground, may be seen a portion of Worth's division, in readiness to assist Harney if necessary, or hold in check any force that might move out from the Jalapa road. The point attacked by Shields, with the Illinoians and New Yorkers, lies on the right of the picture and could not be brought in.
The Battle of Contreras.
Before attempting a brief account of the different conflicts in the valley of Mexico, it may not be deemed more than duty or justice demands to give the composition of the little army under General Scott which accomplished the second reduction of the old capital of the Montezumas, and shed new and brighter lustre upon the American arms.
After long and annoying delays at Puebla, the time occupied however in drilling the troops and placing them in the best possible condition for carrying out the perilous campaign, a council of war was held at which it was determined upon to advance. This was on the 5th of August, 1847, and two days afterwards one of the four divisions took up the line of march towards the city of Mexico.
The entire force, every man counted, with which General Scott moved, was ten thousand seven hundred and thirty-eight, of which barely three-fourths were old and tried regulars. The first division, commanded by General Worth, consisted of the 2d and 3d artillery, the 4th infantry, and Duncan's light battery, forming a brigade under Garland; the 5th, 6th and 8th infantry, composing another brigade, was under the orders of Clarke. The second division, commanded by General Twiggs, was also composed of two brigades, the first, under Persifor F. Smith, consisting of the 1st artillery, 3d infantry, the rifles, and Frank Taylor's field battery; the second, under Riley, made up of the 1st and 7th infantry and 4th artillery. These divisions numbered not far from six thousand, and although many of the men were new in the service, by far the largest part were old veterans — soldiers who had fought in all the harder conflicts of the war — and who were to be depended upon in any emergency. The third division, commanded by General Pillow, was made up almost entirely of fresh men, comparatively undrilled, and with little experience save that furnished by the skirmishing with the guerillas under Padre Jarauta and other partisan chiefs, who, during the summer, had continued to pester the road between Vera Cruz and Puebla. It was composed of two brigades, the first, under Cadwalader, consisting of the 11th and 14th infantry and voltigeurs; the second, under F. Pierce, was made up of the 9th, 12th and 15th infantry, Magruder's battery of field artillery was also attached to this division, with the mountain howitzer and rocket battery of Callender. The fourth division, commanded by General Quitman, was made up of the New York and South Carolina regiments of volunteers, forming a brigade under Shields, with the 2d Pennsylvanians and Watson's marines. Steptoe's field battery was attached to this division, and it may be necessary to state that the South Carolinians and New Yorkers had been some time in service, were under good discipline, and had been present either at Vera Cruz or Cerro Gordo. A cavalry brigade under Harney, made up for the most part of the 2d dragoons, although Kearny's troop of the 1st and two companies of the 3d, under T. P. Moore, were present, was also attached to the army. When to all is added the siege train under Huger, consisting of two 24-pounders, two 68-pound howitzers, and a single 10-inch mortar, supplied with a limited amount of ammunition owing to the great scarcity of transportation, and the reader has the entire force with which General Scott marched for the subjection of a city numbering nearly two hundred thousand inhabitants, an army of over thirty thousand troops, every regular approach defended by strong works, and the road leading to it, a distance of more than eighty miles, passing over high mountains offering innumerable points where resistance might be made, and where it was certainly anticipated.
Leaving the defence of the main depot at Puebla to Childs, with all the invalids and a small number of effective troops, the division of Twiggs marched on the 7th of August. The other divisions moved on the three following days, and by the 14th the entire army was concentrated at Ayotla, at Chalco, and at other small towns or villages on the southeastern side of the basin of Mexico. No resistance whatever had been so far offered; the strong mountain pass near Rio Frio, which Santa Anna had commenced fortifying, was deserted without a shot being fired. Small parties of light cavalry were seen upon the mountain sides, or upon the higher grounds after the valley was entered, but they all fled when approached by Harney's men.
Eight miles in advance of the village of Ayotla, where the commander-in-chief at once took up his head-quarters with the division of Twiggs, rose the frowning hill known as El PeÅon, commanding the direct road completely. This position, which Santa Anna must have deemed impregnable, if carried would leave the invaders still eight or nine miles from the city of Mexico, the approach for the most part over a narrow causeway flanked on either side by ditches and wet marshes, and fortified up to the very garita of San Lazaro, or gate through which the capital is entered from the east. Daring examinations, made by the American engineers, soon enabled them to ascertain that the PeÅon, surrounded on nearly every side by water, was defended by twenty different batteries, having embrasures for fifty-one guns, besides an infinity of infantry breastworks. Confident that at this point the attack would be made, the Mexican engineers had certainly bestowed all their science and energy to render the defeat of their adversaries certain. During the rainy season, when the water in the lakes and marshes was up, the position could not be turned on the right save by making a detour of many miles, and even this would bring the Americans upon works of nearly equal strength at Guadalupe, and at the causeways and garitas leading into the city from the northeast and north.
Before leaving Puebla General Scott had learned, from his spies and secret agents, that both the PeÅon and Mexicalcingo might possibly be turned by a route leading to the left and south of the lakes of Chalco and Jochimilco, the way perhaps practicable for infantry, while it was considered as almost certain that the heavy artillery and baggage train could not be transported over the rough, broken and winding route. But on the 14th of August Worth, from his position at the village of Chalco, despatched Duncan, with a section of his artillery and a strong infantry support under Martin Scott, to push an examination towards San Augustin, and ascertain fully the practicability of moving with the siege guns and baggage wagons over the only ground the Mexicans, in their knowledge of the country and fancied security, had utterly neglected to fortify.
The result of this reconnoisance was highly favorable. Duncan returned, after an absence of five or six hours, with the important intelligence that, although the route had never been used, there were no obstacles which could not be overcome. He had proceeded far enough to ascertain that, by hugging the hills which engirt the valley on the southwest, tearing away stone fences, removing rocks, and constructing a temporary road at certain points, the entire army, with all its artillery and baggage, could be thrown upon the high, healthy and commanding village of San Augustin. Once at this place, the most populous in the valley after the capital, the American commander would find an excellent position for a depot and base of after operations, ample buildings for hospitals and other uses, and with no obstacles between that and the city, lying ten miles to the north, that were much stronger than those which would be met after the PeÅon or Mexicalcingo had fallen. Had not this new route been found practicable it is probable that the plan of advance would have been, masking the PeÅon, for the divisions of Twiggs, Pillow and Quitman to move directly upon Mexicalcingo, while Worth would have endeavored to effect a junction, either by boats, of which he had secured a large number, down the Chalco canal, or else by a detour with his infantry to the left. But the feasibility of moving to the southward and westward of the lakes being demonstrated, all the other plans which may have been agitated were changed.
In the meantime all the cattle and cprn in the vicinity of Chalco, not previously driven off or secreted, had been secured by the indefatigable army contractor, Hargous, the best prices being invariably offered and paid. A reconnoisance, pushed into the mountains southeast, beyond Miraflores and in the direction of the iron founderies of San Rafael, had been beaten back by an irregular ranchero force operating in that quarter, Schuyler Hamilton, a gallant young officer, having been severely lanced in endeavoring to stay the onset of overpowering numbers. Heavy clouds of cavalry, both regular and irregular, were also at times seen hovering under the mountains. With the exception, however, of the brush just mentioned, and the cutting off a small detachment of Kearny's troopers, the army
28suffered no annoyance. In front of Ayotla strong demonstrations, as though an attack upon the PeÅon was intended, were meanwhile made, all to cover the new movement to the left, and for which active preparations were commenced on the night of the 14th of August.
During the afternoon of the 15th Worth moved with his division eight miles, encamping at a small village without discovering a sign of the enemy. Twiggs in the meantime remained at Ayotla, threatening the PeÅon, Quitman at the hacienda of Buena Vista three miles in his rear, while Pillow bivouacked for the night on the plain outside of Chalco. At daylight on the 16th Worth was again in motion, the other divisions following in regular order. Quitman had just passed through Chalco, when Twiggs, near Buena Vista, discovered a large Mexican force, under Alvarez, drawn up as if to offer him battle. A few well directed shots from Taylor's guns sent the Pintos of that southern general scampering across the fields in flight, and Twiggs continued his march without farther molestation. Meanwhile Worth, after passing the olive groves which border the valley of Mexico on the southwestern side, reached the scattering hamlet of San Gregorio, and there encamped for the night. A handful of determined men, operating on such ground as he was compelled to pass, might easily have disputed his advance; yet still no enemy was seen. Even up to this time Santa Anna must have been ignorant of the real objects of the movement.
On the 17th Worth continued his march, his route lying through cornfields, rocky lanes, or along the rough skirts of the overhanging hills on his left. During the night the Mexicans had dug several ditches, and rolled the larger rocks down the precipices, with the intention of obstructing and delaying the advance, now for the first time suspecting the intentions of the invaders. On reaching a point near the little hacienda of Santa Cruz, a straggling fire was opened upon the advance from the hills on the left. Santa Anna, now fully aware of the unlocked for attempt to turn all his strong positions, had thrown out a force of light troops to harass the Americans; but all his parties were easily brushed away, and Worth continuing his march, skirmishing at many points, before nightfall had entered and taken possession of the important town of San Augustin with trifling loss. The place was held by a Mexican force of both infantry and cavalry. They were easily dislodged, however, falling back upon San Antonio which Santa Anna was now busily engaged in fortifying. During the afternoon the watchful American engineers, as the distant hill of El PeÅon came out in view across the lakes and marshes, had discovered the Mexicans actively employed in moving their cannon and ammunition towards the city.
Worth's division rested the night of the 17th at San Augustin, the commander-in-chief arriving at the same point early on the morning of the 18th. It may be necessary to repeat that the city of Mexico was now ten miles distant, in a course nearly north, the regular road leading directly up to the village of San Antonio. This was an important position but little more than two miles from San Augustin, and it was soon discovered that during the night the enemy had been occupied throwing up defences in front, as well as strengthening the azoteas or roofs of the church and other commanding buildings by sand-bag parapets. The only regular approach to San Antonio was up the causeway, an elevated road flanked on either side by ditches. On the right the ground was low and marshy, utterly impassable for cavalry or artillery, and at the same time could be completely swept by the guns of the place. On the left, a rough field of pedregal, or pointed and broken rocks of volcanic origin, prevented the passage of any arm save infantry, and even foot soldiers could only move over the scraggy surface with great difficulty.
General Scott had no sooner arrived at San Augustin than he promptly ordered Worth to move upon San Antonio — to attack it at once if deemed practicable, or at least to mask and threaten the position. The engineers, with a cavalry support under Blake and Thornton, proceeded up the road until they were met by a fire of artillery from the Mexican works, Thornton himself being killed at the first discharge. Seeing that the direct approaches were commanded by the batteries, Worth now threw Garland's brigade into the hacienda of Coapa on the right, Clarke's brigade at the same time occupying the road out of range, in this order to await farther examinations of the works in front. The hacienda occupied by Garland was within cannon range of San Antonio, a fire of round shot and shell being immediately opened upon it. But protecting his men in the rear of the buildings the cannonade occasioned but little loss to Worth, who held the position without attempting to return the fire.
Meanwhile a reconnoitering party was sent over the high grounds west of San Augustin, in the direction of Contreras and a point known as the Magdalena, with the object of ascertaining whether the strong position of San Antonio could not be turned, and possession gained of another road leading into the city through San Angel. The party sent out to cover the engineers, under W. M. Graham and Kearny, had a skirmish with a Mexican force in a wide field of pedregal, which ended in driving the latter back with loss. But this reconnoisance had a far more important result, as it demonstrated the practicability of making a road for heavy artillery through the broken pedregal, and of gaining a foothold on the Contreras and San Angel road. That the former was fortified by an intrenched camp, and held by a large Mexican force under Valencia, was also well ascertained, not only by the personal observations of the engineers but from some of the prisoners taken by Kearny in the skirmish; yet it was deemed practicable to cross the pedregal and rout this force, and this plan was adopted by the American commander.
Leaving the wagon train parked at San Augustin and the division of Quitman for its defence, while Worth was ordered to remain before San Antonio to mask and threaten that stronghold, Pillow was despatched, on the morning of the 19th of August, to open a road through the pedregal, and to gain possession of Contreras at all hazards. To cover and sustain this important movement Twiggs was also ordered out with his division, and by 3 o'clock in the afternoon the heights between San Augustin and Contreras were overcome. The field of broken lava, a thorny growth of bushes springing up among the fissures of the rocks, was now spread out before the invaders, a good mile in width and stretching up to the foot of the mound which Valencia had strengthened by a succession of rough field works. Large parties of Mexican sharp-shooters occupied the stronger points of the pedregal in front of Contreras, and opened a fire upon the American advance. But Twiggs sending the rifles into the rough cover as skirmishers, and Pillow ordering Callender's mountain howitzer and rocket battery, which could make headway over any ground, up to the front, the outposts of the enemy were speedily forced back into the deep barrancas or gullies in front of Valencia's position.
The American infantry had now effected a lodgment within the pedregal, and Magruder was slowly picking his way forward to a point from which he could open, when the Mexicans commenced a fire from no less than twenty-two pieces of artillery, many of them of the heaviest calibre. Valencia's shells were every moment bursting within the ranks of the invaders, and his round shot, as they came crashing through the jagged lava, threw fragments in every direction. Every approach was ravaged by this incessant fire; yet still the Americans moved forward. As soon as Magruder could gain a level position for his guns he opened upon the enemy's works, Callender taking up the fire from his mountain howitzer and rocket battery. The heavier metal arrayed against them however rendered their position difficult to maintain, and although they held their ground it was only with disastrous loss; for Callender was soon grievously wounded, J. Preston Johnstone, a young and high-spirited officer attached to Magruder's battery, was killed, with many of the men and several of the pieces were dismounted or rendered unfit for use. Yet the fire of the light guns was perhaps of some service, for General Parrodi was wounded on the Mexican side, numbers of the enemy were known to be slain, and one of their pieces dismounted. The battery also drew the weight of the fire from Valencia's heavy guns, which would otherwise have been turned upon the infantry struggling through the rocks.
Meanwhile the American infantry continued to struggle forward. An attack directly upon the front of Contreras had been ordered; but Persifor F. Smith, in command of Twiggs's leading brigade, finding it impossible to advance in the face of such a slaughtering fire, moved down to the right. He had also seen heavy reinforcements pouring along the ridge from the direction of San Angel, and hoped to reach the flank of Valencia's position in season to prevent a junction. By Pillow's orders Riley's brigade, entering the pedregal later, bore still farther to the right, with the hope of gaining the small hamlet of San Geronimo, near Contreras and in the direction of San Angel, a point which would enable him to turn the enemy's left and open his rear to an attack. The fire from the batteries at Contreras meanwhile searched every portion of the broken ground. No one had anticipated such a weight of opposition; yet at the same time no one thought of retiring. Cadwalader's brigade was ordered by Pillow to follow in support of Riley, while Pierce's regiments were despatched to the front in aid of Smith's brigade. Officers and all were on foot, their horses being unable to move over such an uneven surface, and as fresh men entered and spread themselves through the field of lava the fire from Valencia's batteries seemed to increase.
At this juncture General Scott himself, alarmed at the heavy and unexpected cannonade, came upon the ground, hastening up Shields's brigade to sustain the movement. From an elevated position the American commander could plainly see the heavy reinforcements, streaming up from San Angel under Santa Anna, and fearing that Riley and Cadwalader might be overpowered, Morgan's regiment was detached from Pierce and ordered to hasten to their support. The South Carolinians and New Yorkers were next launched into the pedregal, with orders to hurry through and take a part in the strife. The men of the different regiments, as they scattered in the difficult cover, were soon lost to sight; but their bright muskets and bayonets, gleaming in the sun above the rocks and bushes, showed they were pressing forward. In the distance the city of Mexico was plainly visible, as the glass was turned in that direction, the domes and towers, as well as the higher housetops, alive with anxious spectators.
Riley was the first to shake off the wide lake of pedregal and the deep gullies which skirted it on the side next the enemy. Taking instant possession of San Geronimo, the little hamlet some three quarters of a mile to the right of Contreras, he next pushed onward, with a portion of his brigade to gain the slope beyond, a movement which would enable him to cut off the enemy's communications, or attack his intrenched camp in flank or rear.
29While moving up, a column of lancers, under General Frontera, coming out from the higher grounds in the rear of Contreras, charged down with hardihood upon the Americans; but Riley standing firm, and ordering his men to open upon the horsemen when within close range, the charge was broken by the weight of the fire alone. Frontera himself, with some of his leading men, went down slain, and the rearmost sections, who had not followed the charge of their commander with alacrity, now wheeled their horses and fled out of range. Soon halting and re-forming, they came down a second time with the intention of riding over their stubborn adversaries , yet being again met by the same close and biting shower of musket balls, they were once more broken and forced back with loss.
Cadwalader had now passed the pedregal and last ravine, and had entered the orchards and cultivated grounds on the right of Riley, when he found himself suddenly assailed by Santa Anna's advance, and at the same time threatened by his main body. But hastily disposing his men behind the cover of walls and fences, and forming the 15th infantry, a heavy regiment, at a commanding point, the Mexican skirmishers were speedily driven back. Nor did Santa Anna, on seeing the dispositions made to receive him, deem it prudent to attack, although he had double the number of men, besides light artillery, with which to fall upon Cadwalader. Riley was meanwhile upon the slopes in rear of the little village, sheltering his men from a cannonade which Valencia had opened and beating back every party of lancers which threatened his position, when P. F. Smith reached the church of San Geronimo with the greater portion of his brigade.
But notwithstanding this opportune arrival of support, the position of the Americans was deemed extremely critical. On their left, and within easy Cannon range, was Valencia, with over twenty heavy guns and nearly six thousand men; on their right, busily engaged in planting batteries, was Santa Anna, just out of musket shot on commanding ground, and with a force even greater than that of Valencia. Smith, who was now the ranking officer, was however equal to the emergency. He could barely muster three thousand tired infantry, and had not even a mountain howitzer, yet with great resolution he determined at once to fall upon Santa Anna. His plan was to attack in two columns, Riley on the left and Cadwalader on the right, and to put the result of the onslaught upon the bayonet. This, if successful, would isolate Valencia, and cut him off from all retreat, at least with his numerous cannon. Word was promptly sent to Riley to collect and form his men for the attack; but owing to the intricate nature of the ground, and the fact that the staff officers were obliged to move on foot, delays occurred in the transmission of the orders; and a heavy cloud rising at this time in the west, and spreading over the heavens with a rapidity known only in the tropics, a curtain of darkness seemed suddenly to drop upon the earth, accompanied by a deluge of rain, completely shutting out the hostile forces from the sight. With half an hour more of daylight it cannot be doubted that Smith, even with his inferior numbers, would have routed Santa Anna and sent him back in disarray. As it was, the latter, who should have fallen upon Cadwalader with vigor on first coming up, contented himself with throwing a few ineffectual shot into San Geronimo, and after dark retired with his entire command to San Angel.
Smith now bestirred himself to meet the critical emergency in which he was placed. It was true that Santa Anna had fallen back; yet he might return with daylight, and even if he did not, Valencia was still strongly intrenched, with double his number of men, within easy cannon shot, and thoroughly acquainted with every foot of ground on every side. Shields arrived at San Geronimo after dark, with the South Carolinians and New Yorkers, and waiving priority of rank placed himself at the disposition of Smith. The latter, although fearing for the safety of his rear, had determined upon storming the intrenched camp of the enemy at daylight on the following morning: the opportune arrival of Shields, giving him a force at least sufficient to offer a front on the side next San Angel, now quickened his determination. Pillow and Twiggs, on foot, had before nightfall endeavored to pick their way through the field of pointed rocks and join their commands, but in the obscurity of the sudden rain and darkness they became lost in the pedregal, and with great difficulty only were enabled to retrace their steps back to San Augustin. Meanwhile the little church of San Geronimo afforded shelter to but few of the Americans, the greater part of them being compelled to bivouack, without blankets or fires, in the open fields and enclosures, a cold and steady rain following the heavy shower which had fallen at sundown. So terrible was this rain, that Santa Anna, in afterwards attempting to excuse himself for falling back and deserting Valencia, said it would have been equal to a defeat to have kept his soldiers out in such a night. The Americans were however out in the whole of it, and without being defeated in the morning.
If the situation of the detachments which had crossed the pedregal had been deemed critical during the afternoon, it was considered even more gloomy and hopeless, to the main body in rear, during the night of the 19th of August. General Scott did not leave his position, on the hill overlooking Contreras, until it was dark and the rain was pouring in torrents. At that time the command at San Geronimo, less than thirty-five hundred strong, while exposed to the fire of batteries on either flank, was apparently surrounded by at least thirteen thousand men, occupying strong and commanding ground and with thirty pieces of artillery. Santa Anna also had an open road upon which to march up with his entire army, while the American commander could not move even a mountain howitzer through the lake of lava to the support of Smith. Yet the latter, great as were the odds against him, did not for a moment despair. Dense as was the darkness, early in the night the indefatigable engineers who were with him examined the ravine leading to the rear of Valencia's intrenchments, and feeling their way in the gloom were not long in ascertaining they could lead a command to a position from which the Mexicans could be surprised. The latter, deeming they had already achieved a victory, spent the greater part of the night in drinking, singing and rejoicing, and so boisterous were they in their revels that they were plainly heard by the Americans who were striving to keep their muskets and ammunition dry within the open enclosures of San Geronimo.
Although Smith, with full confidence in his men, had previously resolved upon storming Valencia's camp at daylight, the practicability of moving by the ravine leading to the rear of the intrenchments added new assurance of success. At the same time, to allay any fears that might be felt for his safety by the commander-in-chief, and to request that a diversion might be made in his favor by a feigned attack in front of Contreras, Lee of the engineers, an officer of tireless industry and iron endurance, volunteered, difficult as was the task, to pick his way back to head-quarters at San Augustin. In this he succeeded, laying before General Scott a full account of the dispositions made, and immediately returning, was equally successful in reaching Pierce's brigade still in front of Valencia, and organizing a regular diversion. Before his arrival the Mexican commander had sent a strong party across the barranca in front of his position, with the intention of retaking the little rancho of Padierna, in advance of Magruder's guns, which had been occupied during the afternoon by a detachment of Pierce's command. Valencia had previously ascertained that the Americans, who had gained the barranca before sundown, had evacuated it after darkness had fairly set in, and he now deemed it an easy matter to regain possession of the houses forming the rancho. But a small party of the 12th infantry held the position resolutely until Craig, who had been left in support of Magruder, could come up with portions of the 3d infantry and rifles, when after a short brush the Mexicans were driven back over the ravine.
During the night Tower and Beauregard of the engineers, and Brooks of Twiggs's staff, who were to conduct the command in the morning, made another examination of the dark, muddy and rocky ravine they were to traverse. On their return, Smith's plan of attack was fully organized. Leaving Shields, with the South Carolinians and New Yorkers, to occupy the village, ready to beat off, Santa Anna should he make an attack from the direction of San Angel, or to cut off Valencia's retreat, the brigades of Riley and Cadwalader, starting at 3 o'clock in the morning up the ravine, would be enabled to reach a point by daylight from which they could pour down in rear. Smith's own brigade, now under Dimmick, with the sappers and miners of Gus. W. Smith, were at the same time to follow up the ravine as a reserve, and to distract the attention of the enemy Shields's men were ordered, when the movement commenced, to build numerous fires in the village. Such was the plan of the general in immediate command of the Americans, and boldly and most successfully was it carried out.
At the appointed hour, and in deep silence, Riley's brigade, conducted by Tower, filed into the ravine, the rain still falling and the night so dark that the men were obliged to cling hold of each other as they groped along. Cadwalader's brigade, accompanied by General Smith himself and led by Beauregard and Brooks, followed close upon Riley, while the rear was closed up by Dimmick and the sappers and miners. The movement being by a flank, and the ravine full of rocks or slippery with mud, the command was stretched out to twice its ordinary length, thus occasioning delays which brought full daylight before the entire force was in motion. Yet with such silence had it been conducted, and so deceived were the Mexicans by the numerous fires kindled by the men under Shields at the village, that Riley was enabled to reach a point in rear of Contreras, and where he could form for the final assault without being discovered. Halting a few moments to take breath, and to allow such of his men as had wet loads in their guns to draw them, he next formed his brigade, in two columns by divisions, behind a gentle roll which protected him from a fire from the intrenchments, and there waited the signal for attack.
In the meantime Lee, notwithstanding the pitchy darkness and great difficulties of the route, had felt his way, accompanied by Twiggs, until he had reached Pierce's command in the immediate front of Contreras. Here, ably seconded by Ransom, a force was organized to make a diversion as soon as it was daylight, or a direct attack should circumstances warrant it, and even before Riley appeared in the rear the Mexicans had opened a fire in this direction. The signal for the main attack was now given by Smith, when Riley, throwing out a cloud of skirmishers, pressed down the slope with his main body under a tremendous fire. Cadwalader followed in close support, the men shouting vigorously as they bore down upon the astonished enemy, while Dimmick, emerging from the ravine, poured in a fire as he moved upon the flank. At the same time the force organized by Lee in front advanced across the ravine and opened in that quarter, and thus was Valencia surrounded on nearly every side by a foe he had but a few hours before derided in drunken and ribald songs. His batteries however
30belched forth a storm of metal upon the assailants, his infantry kept up a rattling accompaniment, and his cavalry was hastily formed for a charge; but all could not resist the terrible force of the onslaught. Into the rear of the intrenchments the intrepid Riley poured his willing soldiers; the other commands closed in on the flank and front of the works; and the ever-ready bayonet of the Americans, now coming into play, soon completed the discomfiture of the enemy. In less than twenty minutes from the first opening of the strife every point of the intrenchments was carried, and those who were not killed, wounded or captured were throwing away their arms and flying in every direction. Many attempted to escape over the narrow bridge of the Magdalena, and through the village, but here Shields was ready to receive them; others broke into the pedregal, where they were met by the men of Pierce's command. A large portion of the cavalry under Torrejon, stricken with a panic at the opening of the conflict, fled precipitately over the hills in the rear, accompanied by Valencia who was among the first to leave the ground. This force, and it was numerous, got well off; but had Smith held even a single squadron of Harney's dragoons in hand, ready to follow up the fugitives, none save the better mounted would have escaped. In the midst of the strife Santa Anna, coming out of San Angel, appeared on the ridges beyond San Geronimo with a heavy force, watching the operations at Contreras. Shields was however ready to oppose his advance, and after a series of movements, all indicating indecision, he hastily fell back on seeing that Valencia had been routed, nor did he halt until he had reached his strong second line of defence at Churubusco.
Few of the defeats sustained by the Mexicans during the war were more disastrous and crushing, considering the numbers engaged, than was this of Contreras. No less than twenty-two pieces of brass artillery, many of them of heavy calibre, a great number of muskets and other small arms, an immense amount of ammunition and military stores, besides nearly one thousand pack mules and horses, fell into the hands of the Americans. Generals Salas, Mendoza, Blanco and Garcia, the two latter wounded, were taken prisoners, with a long list of colonels and officers of inferior grade, and more than eight hundred private soldiers. Upwards of five hundred officers and men were left dead on the field, the ravine of the Magdalena was choked with the dying and the wounded who had attempted to escape over the bridge, in every other direction, the slain were found, while of the infantry who escaped few carried off their arms.
Such were the immediate consequences of this victory; but it had other and greater results than the capture of a heavy train of artillery with its ammunition, the killing or taking of half a dozen generals prisoners, and the destruction of one of the most powerful divisions of the enemy. It raised the spirits of the entire army under General Scott not immediately engaged, so desponding when the darkness and rain set in the night previous, while in a corresponding degree it dispirited the Mexicans in the stand they were yet to make for the defence of their capital. Within the city all had been excitement and gratulation during the preceding evening, for Valencia had sent in a flaming bulletin announcing a triumph over the invaders. All certainly counted upon a victory in perspective, if it had not already been attained; but when the fugitives from Contreras, breathless and in disorder, were seen rushing down towards Churubusco, with all the evidence of utter defeat in their worn and haggard faces, and when those who had not been engaged heard from the vanquished that all was carried, they lost that heart which of itself wins battles.
To the Americans this victory had been obtained at a loss absolutely trifling when compared with the important results. The entire list of killed and wounded, both in crossing the pedregal on the afternoon of the 19th and in the final assault on the morning of the 20th of August, fell short of one hundred, although many were severely bruised by falling among the rough and jagged rocks, or else were thrown upon the sick list in consequence of excessive fatigue and exposure on a night remarkable for its inclemency. Among the killed were Hanson, a deserving officer of the 7th infantry, and Johnstone of the artillery, already mentioned. Of the wounded, the names of Hathaway, Ross, Wessells, D. T. Chandler, Callender, Humber, Collins and Tilden stand conspicuous. General Pierce was severely bruised by a fall in the pedregal, and many other officers were more or less injured in the same way: but it may be repeated that all these casualties were of little moment compared with the important results gained — the dispersion of the Division of the North, as Valencia's corps was called, and the capture of all his artillery, ammunition, military stores and baggage.
One little incident, which occurred at the storming of the intrenchments at Contreras, the author must mention. By an accident it happened that in that part of the works entered by the 4th artillery the two 6-pounders, taken from O'Brien at Buena Vista, were posted. As the banners of Riley's brigade were raised in triumph, and before the smoke of the conflict had risen, the men of Drum's company, of the same regiment to which the guns originally belonged, recognized the pieces which they had now re-captured. Beside themselves with joy, they fairly fell upon and hugged the unconscious guns, and with tears in their eyes shouted forth their delight. General Scott was himself a witness of this touching scene, and promptly gave the pieces over to the keeping of Drum and his brave men, who had previously been acting as infantry. They were almost the only cannon captured by the Mexicans during the war, and the entire army rejoiced that they had been retaken by the same regiment to which they belonged before the breaking out of hostilities.
It may be fairly presumed that Santa Anna, caring little for the welfare or honor of his country unless his own selfish ends could be furthered at the same time, really feared that Valencia would gain a victory at Contreras, and hence held aloof when he might have afforded him powerful succor. There was neither unanimity nor good feeling between the two men. Valencia, naturally ignorant, obstinate and brutal, and with his head stupified by liquor, was at the same time to an extent held in high favor by his soldiers. He was moreover afflicted with a low ambition, common to weak and incompetent minds, and was ready to sacrifice every thing for the sake of supplanting Santa Anna, to a degree unpopular on account of his past reverses, and placing himself at the head of the army. The possession of supreme power would next fall into his hands as a matter of course. The previous defeats of his countrymen he attributed to Santa Anna's bad generalship — he was himself too ignorant to harbor a thought of his own incapacity. On the other hand Santa Anna, wanting his men, was in the present instance compelled to put up with the insubordination of his lieutenant. He had doubtless, as he asserted in a manifesto published three days after the battle, peremptorily ordered Valencia, on the morning of the 18th of August, to fall back from San Angel to Coyoacan; but instead of obeying, he advanced to Contreras and undertook the task of fortifying and holding that point. Deeming, on the night of the 19th, that he had achieved a victory, he persisted, in disobedience of Santa Anna's reiterated orders, in remaining upon the ground, instead of retiring by the rear and gaining the main army at San Angel, a movement he might have made after spiking his heavy cannon. Had he succeeded in defeating Smith on the morning of the 20th, Valencia would have been for the time the leading man in Mexico — the fickle inhabitants would have kicked Santa Anna at once from place and power, and would have hailed and crowned him as their deliverer. He had the presumption to meet a portion of the invading army of General Scott with his single division, but had neither the courage nor the capacity to maintain his ground when it came to the crisis of close conflict. Salas, the second in command at Contreras, appears to have acted with coolness, even after his chief had lost the little sense vouchsafed to him. In his report of the battle, written while a prisoner, that officer thus speaks of his commander: "His Excellency, General Don Gabriel Valencia, disappeared from among us at the commencement of the engagement, and I am ignorant of his whereabouts." This language is plain enough, but in alluding to the conduct of Torrejon, the commander of the cavalry, Salas is less equivocal. Nothing could be more pointed than the following: "As soon as I observed the dispersion of our forces I endeavored to check it. Crying ‘Victory for Mexico,’ and sounding the signal of attack, I succeeded for a moment in rallying our troops, and ordered General Don Anastasio Torrejon to make a charge with his cavalry; but this chief, far from obeying my orders, fled like a coward, and the cavalry following his example, trampled down the infantry in their flight, and completed our defeat." The probability is that Torrejon, who certainly behaved better at Buena Vista and other points, did not leave the ground until Valencia had given him the example.
The time chosen by the artist, to give his drawing of the assault upon Contreras, is when Smith, Riley and Gadwalader, pouring like a torrent upon both flank and rear, have reached the intrenchments and baggage of Valencia, and are storming the mound upon which all his cannon were posted. The dip of the ground beyond, on the right of the picture and towards San Augustin, conceals the demonstration organized as a feint or false attack, and which is drawing a heavy fire from the front of the enemy's lines. In the distance, also on the right, are the lower range of mountains girding the basin of Mexico on the east. In the middle ground, and near the centre, may be seen the villages of San Angel, Coyoacan and Churubusco, with Mexicalcingo and the black mound of the Penon beyond: in the distance are the waters of Lake, Tezcoco, the same on which Cortes, three centuries before, launched his fleet of brigantines for the subjection of the great Aztec capital. Occupying the left of the picture, also in the distance, may be seen the outlines of the present city of Mexico, soon to be entered by new conquerors, the castle of Chapultepec looming up in solitary grandeur still farther to the left. The commencement of the mountains, skirting the valley on the north, form the background of the picture in this quarter. The snow-clad peaks of Iztacehuatl and Popocatepetl, lying on the right and beyond San Augustin, the artist could not introduce, preferring to take his drawing from a point which would enable him to bring in the northern and more important sections of the great valley of Mexico.
The Battle of Churubusco.
In order to assure success to the attack of General Smith upon Contreras, the commander-in-chief, early on the morning of the 20th of August, had detached one of Worth's brigades with orders for it to march rapidly across the pedregal, while the other brigade was left in front of San Antonio to mask and threaten that position. At the same time Quitman's remaining brigade, leaving the defence of San Augustin to Harney's dragoons and Steptoe's battery, was despatched in the direction of Contreras; but intelligence coming in while on the way that Valencia had been routed, these reinforcements were ordered back to their former positions.
While the divisions of Pillow and Twiggs were following the fugitives through San Angel and towards Coyoacan, on the direct route from Contreras to the strongly fortified position of Churubusco, Worth was ordered to fall upon and force San Antonio, the defence of which had been entrusted to General Bravo with nearly three thousand men. The possession of this important point would open the main road to Churubusco and the capital, and the only one over which the heavy siege train could be sent forward without great delay and difficulty. A thorough examination of the field of lava on the left, made by Mason and Hardcastle, had furnished proof that San Antonio could be turned in that direction; wherefore, throwing the guidance of Clarke's brigade upon those officers, Worth advanced directly upon the front of the works with Garland's men and Duncan's battery. This movement proved every way successful. The Mexican garrison, which so soon as the defeat of Valencia had become known was ordered to evacuate the place, was now driven from San Antonio, and in such haste and disorder that two of the heavy guns, with much of the ammunition, were abandoned, while pressing through the pedregal Clarke was upon the retreating column in season to cut it in the centre, driving one portion over by a cross road towards Mexicalcingo. Leaving this command unmolested, Worth's united brigades followed on after that part of the garrison flying in the direction of Churubusco, capturing General Perdigon Garay and other prisoners of note, besides a 32-pounder they had attempted to save.
Santa Anna had hoped, on first giving the order to evacuate San Antonio, that Bravo would have sufficient time to bring off all his cannon and ammunition. He well knew that after the defeat of Valencia, and the occupation of San Angel and Coyoacan, the position was untenable, and he farther knew that the Americans would soon fall upon it, both in front and rear, with their accustomed vehemence. Had the order been given to Bravo even half an hour earlier, that officer might have fallen back upon Churubusco, with all his guns and ammunition, and with his men in good order; but Worth's operations were of a nature so impetuous that all his efforts were paralysed. The battalion of the 6th infantry, in advance upon the main road, was so close upon the rear of the flying Mexicans that several ammunition wagons were deserted as they were upon the point of entering the works at Churubusco, nor did the pursuers halt until a fire was opened upon both their front and flank. Bonneville, in command of the battalion, soon received a severe contusion, and so withering was the fire that the men were forced across the ditch on the right, seeking momentary shelter within the field of tall corn which skirted the road.
Previous to this General Scott had reached the village of Coyoacan, and had despatched Cadwalader across in the direction of San Antonio to support Worth's attack. But the troops of the latter, already in pursuit of the retreating garrison, rendering this movement unnecessary, Cadwalader returned. In the meantime Twiggs was thrown directly forward towards Churubusco, with one of his brigades and Taylor's light battery, to sustain a reconnoisance which Stevens and Gus. W. Smith had been ordered to make of the strong lines in front.
No regular examination of Santa Anna's works was made previously to the conflict, with such haste did the different divisions press up to the attack, and therefore the difficulties and obstacles to be overcome were but imperfectly known. The Mexican left rested upon the strongly fortified bridge thrown across the river Churubusco, and behind embankments which lined the margin of the stream. The direct approach to this quarter was up the road on which Worth followed the retreating garrison of San Antonio, the main thoroughfare leading into the city of Mexico from the south. Some three hundred yards on the left as Worth approached, and in advance of the tÄte-de-pont, was the church and convent of San Pablo, a massive building fortified with great care. Beyond the church, at a large hacienda on the opposite side of a wet marsh, rested a heavy force of the enemy. In front of the entire line the ground was either swampy and cut up by ditches, or else covered with a growth of Indian corn so tall and luxuriant as completely to conceal the real strength of the position. At the tÄte-de-pont, within the fortified church and convent of San Pablo, and at the hacienda in rear, Santa Anna, who commanded in person, had sixteen thousand men by the lowest estimates, artillery and infantry, with fifteen pieces of cannon; farther in rear, well posted in the vicinity of the hacienda of Portales, his cavalry and infantry reserves brought his force up to over twenty thousand men, the greater portion regulars, while the different battalions of the national guard, mostly composed of the young men of the city, were under good discipline. To attack this force, thus strongly intrenched and fortified and battling in plain view of their proud capital, General Scott had scarcely eight thousand men in all, and fully one half of this inferior number were jaded by the fatigues and exposure of the afternoon and night previous, and the severe combat of the morning. Yet flushed with recent victory, and confident of achieving another triumph, all were anxious to be led directly against the walls and intrenchments before them.
The attack upon San Pablo was commenced by Twiggs, with a portion of Persifor F. Smith's brigade, the sappers and miners, and Taylor's battery, the latter pushed forward into a corn-field within less than half range of the batteries before their strength was ascertained. The rifles in advance, after driving in the Mexican pickets, were brought under a heavy fire from the church, every portion of which, even to the upper windows, roof and belfry, was occupied by infantry. With the hope of brushing them away Taylor opened with grape and cannister, the Mexicans at once returning his fire from all their guns. Riley at this juncture advanced with his brigade farther to the left, being ordered to attack the work in flank if a favorable opportunity offered, and in the meantime Worth was rapidly bringing up and concentrating his entire division on the main road for a vigorous assault upon the tÄte-de-pont.
From the imperfect examination made of San Pablo it had been supposed that a single gun only could be brought to bear upon Taylor's battery; yet he soon found himself under the concentrated fire of no less than seven pieces, all protected by regular works. Two of his subaltern officers, Martin and Boynton, were immediately struck down severely wounded, and his men and horses were fast falling; nevertheless Taylor continued to ply his guns with vigor, causing great havoc among the infantry within the fortifications. Riley and Smith, at the same time partially sheltering their men under the mud houses in front of the church, or behind the banks of the draining ditches, many of the men not more than eighty yards distant, opened a sharp fire upon the face of the works, and at this central point of Santa Anna's line the conflict now raged with fury.
Worth had already arrived in front and was organizing his force for assaulting the strong tÄte-de-pont, Pillow was hurrying from Coyoacan, with Cadwalader's brigade, to his support, while the 12th and 15th infantry and South Carolinians and New Yorkers, under Pierce and Shields, were moving through the difficult ground on the left to attack the hacienda beyond San Pablo. On coming within range of the guns at the bridge, Worth a second time sent the battalion of the 6th, which had been forced across the ditch and which had afterwards fallen back, up the causeway to the direct attack. With good show of courage the men, now under W. Hoffman, advanced again towards the tÄte-de-pont, nor did a tempest of metal, which came from the rear of San Pablo as well as from the bridge, at first stagger the command. But before reaching the ammunition wagons, which still blocked the way, the fire upon the battalion became so withering that the survivors were once more forced over the ditch and into the corn-field on the right, the utmost exertions of Hoffman, Walker, T. L. Alexander and other officers failing to induce the men to advance in the face of almost certain death. Meanwhile Worth had thrown Garland's brigade, the remainder of Clarke's, with C. F. Smith's light battalion, into the marshes and dense corn-fields on the right, so as to attack the formidable tÄte-de-pont on the left and at a point from which the men would be sheltered from the fire of the convent. Here the 6th, at once joining with the other regiments, again moved forward with spirit. Duncan in the meantime, finding his pieces entirely too light to counter-batter the heavier guns at the bridge, drew them behind the cover of a collection of mud houses by the road side, there to await a more favorable opportunity to open. Pillow had now reached the ground, with the voltigeurs and 11th and 14th infantry forming Cadwalader's brigade, and deeming that the ground was favorable between the convent and the tÄte-de-pont he advanced the latter regiments a short distance in that direction. Yet
32soon admonished, by the weight of the fire which smote the leading formations, that an attack in that quarter could not be sustained, the regiments were withdrawn, Pillow at once throwing them into the fields on the right to support Worth's assault upon the left of the bridge. Every portion of this quarter of the field was now ravaged by the fire from the enemy's works. More than five thousand muskets, besides all the guns in the tÄte-de-pont, were searching the difficult ground through which the Americans were struggling, officers and men were rapidly falling, and the carnage increased with every step gained; yet in the face of all the columns of assailants did not for a moment falter. It is true that at many points the dense corn concealed them from view; but as the Mexicans knew that their opponents had entered the fields, and as the stalks of the grain afforded no protection from the showers of bullets continually sent into the cover, the casualties were perhaps more numerous than they would have been had the men advanced over smooth and open ground. With nothing to impede the invaders they would have dashed forward and carried the works, after pouring in two or three close and effective vollies; as it was, they were obliged to feel or break their way through, offering but a straggling and feeble fire from the front to the slaughtering discharges which swept upon them from the enemy.
In the meantime Twiggs was hotly and closely engaged with the enemy within the church and convent, his men behaving with the greatest steadiness while suffering from a fire which came from above and below. Shields had also commenced his attack on the enemy's rear, his command being severely cut at the onset, and so hard pressed, by overwhelming numbers that General Scott was compelled to despatch the rifles, now temporarily under the orders of Sumner, to his support. This left the commander-in-chief without a single company as a reserve; his entire force was in front, advancing upon a line of fortified works, with thousands of muskets and fifteen pieces of cannon, all within close range, sending a continuous tempest of lead and iron into his ranks. Against this, and without even a sergeant's guard to patch or strengthen any weak point in the line of attack, it seemed impossible for the handful of invaders to make head; but they still broke through the tangled corn, crossed the ditches, waded the marshy grounds, and gradually closed the narrow space between them and the enemy, ever presenting the same unyielding front, while their rear was marked by a wide margin of the dead and dying.
The first decided impression upon the enemy's line was effected by Worth and Pillow at the tÄte-de-pont, the fire from which began to slacken as the foremost of the assailants reached a point within close musket range. Clarke's brigade, followed by the 11th and 14th regiments, had advanced steadily through the corn to the direct attack of the work, while Garland's brigade and C. F. Smith's light troops, moving more to the right, were briskly pressing the Mexican infantry at the embankment they had thrown up on their left. In front of the works at the bridge was a ditch, difficult to cross, and with high walls to scale after the passage was effected. These obstacles however did not stagger the impetuous assailants; for across the ditch and over the walls, the 5th and 8th infantry leading, the men went in a stream, and pouring inside the bayonet at once settled the contest. The 6th infantry at the same time crowding boldly up, with a detachment of the 2d artillery under Horace Brooks, and Garland's main body advancing with equal energy farther to the right, the embankment which projected as a wing was also carried, those of the defenders not killed or captured hurriedly retreating back upon the road leading towards the capital. In their haste to escape from the bayonets of the assailants the enemy left four pieces of cannon in the tÄte-de-pont, one of which was immediately turned upon the flying masses, while another, brought to bear upon the church and convent still assailed by Twiggs's weakened yet resolute division, was at the same time opened. Almost in the same breath Duncan brought two of his light pieces into play from the road, throwing a flight of shells, at half range, into the rear, thus enveloping San Pablo, which had held out more than two hours, on nearly every side. The buildings immediately belonging to the church formed a large square, the front, towards the assailants under P. F. Smith and Riley, being protected by a wall scaffolded for infantry. In rear of this wall was a building crowded with sharp-shooters; still farther in rear rose the church, its windows, roof, and even belfry, as has been before stated, filled with men. And in addition to all, in works constructed with great science and care, were the seven pieces of artillery already mentioned, so posted that they raked every approach. The garrison, under General Rincon, numbered over two thousand, the greater part of the battalion of San Patricio, composed of deserters from the American ranks, at the same time adding their effective strength. For these renegades there was no other alternative than victory or death, and they therefore held out and fought with desperation.
To gain possession of San Pablo, thus defended, the second division was still manfully contending. The command of Twiggs was now shorn of much of its strength, for the 4th artillery had been left as a guard at Contreras, the rifles had been detached to support Shields in his attack, and Taylor had withdrawn his light battery after sustaining a terrible loss; nevertheless, with those who remained under the walls of the church and convent, there was no thought of giving up the contest. A succession of sallies, made by the infantry of the garrison, were checked, the 2d, 3d and 7th infantry, and 1st artillery, the only force operating in front, holding fast the partial shelter they had gained behind the mud houses and banks of the ditches, and pouring murderous vollies into every formation that appeared. At length finding that Rincon's fire had somewhat slackened, and that the fall of the tÄte-de-pont had weakened his defences, E. B. Alexander, with the 3d infantry, was directed to storm the position directly in front. With vigor this oft-tried regiment, supported by a detachment of the 1st atillery, advanced to the assault, and while a portion went over the bastion in the face of a close and sharp shower of balls, others entered at the curtain of the works. A lodgment being thus effected inside of San Pablo, the entire fortification soon surrendered. The boldest in holding out were the deserters, who fought to the last, tearing down, with their own hands, several of the white flags hoisted by the Mexicans in token of surrender. Many attempted to escape towards the main road, or in the direction of the hacienda in rear; but headed off either by Worth or Shields, were taken or driven back — the capture of San Pablo, with all its garrison, artillery, ammunition and military stores, was complete.
Meanwhile the brigades of Shields and Pierce had been contending against the immensely superior force which, under Quijano and other officers, occupied the hacienda, and lined the banks of the causeway and other sheltered points beyond the convent and tÄte-de-pont, The movement in this direction, the object of which was to gain the main road between Churubusco and the city and thus cut off the retreat of the enemy operating in front, had been conducted by Lee, and the 12th and 15th infantry were soon brought under a severe fire. As the other regiments came up they were also compelled to confront the showers of bullets sent from the masses of the enemy. The distance across the meadows was beyond ordinary effective musket range, but the Mexicans, invariably using heavy cartridges, could still reach and harass their opponents, and many of the latter were for the moment thrown into confusion. The ground upon which the Americans were compelled to operate offered little shelter. A granary in the edge of the meadow, with a stone wall enclosing a floor upon which the wheat grown in the vicinity was threshed, afforded slight protection to portions of some of the companies; yet the greater number of the men were exposed to the rolling vollies of Santa Anna's heavy reserves. The colonel of the 15th infantry was badly wounded, the men were rapidly falling, and many in the act of retreating, while the Mexicans, emboldened by the check they had given the advance, began to gather in throngs upon the left flank of their opponents, as if determined upon gaining the rear. At this crisis the final plan of attack was organized. With the South Carolinians, a most reliable regiment, as his centre, Shields formed the New Yorkers and 12th and 15th infantry on his right, the 9th infantry, and Reno's mountain howitzer and rocket battery, being at the same time posted on the left. In this order the advance was sounded, the men springing forward with good show of determination at the onset. As they struggled through the soft and boggy ground the fire from the enemy increased in severity. On the right of the Mexican line a body of three thousand cavalry was posted, and many of the troopers being ordered to dismount, a brisk shower of escopet balls was added to the heavy and continuous vollies of the infantry. So withering was this storm of metal that some of the regiments were again thrown into confusion. The colonel and lieutenant-colonel of the South Carolinians were soon struck down killed or mortally wounded, the commander of the New Yorkers was grievously hurt and carried from the field, and great numbers of subordinate officers and men were falling at every step. But cheered by the animating appeals of such of the leaders as still remained unhurt, confidence was soon restored to the mass, the more resolute continuing to advance with unflinching courage. The 9th infantry and Reno's howitzers, warmly engaged with the enemy's right, caused the cavalry in that quarter to give ground, and the infantry in the centre being seen to hesitate and waver, under the close and biting vollies poured in by the other regiments which Shields was leading up, a final vigorous charge at length carried every point of Santa Anna's line in this quarter of the field. Back upon the main road the broken mass fled in terror, and joining the forces retreating from the tÄte-de-pont, the disorganized body continued its flight along the causeway towards the city, now but little more than three miles distant and its magnificent domes and towers, as well as higher housetops, crowded with anxious lookers-out. No attempt was made to turn and check the pursuers: the cavalry rode over the infantry, the strong trod under foot the weak, and the desire of all seemed to centre on gaining a place of safety. Had Sumner, who was hastening up to support the attack, arrived on the left of Shields five minutes sooner, hundreds if not thousands would have been cut off and captured who now succeeded in making their escape.
Before the rout was yet general, Harney had collected a dragoon force, consisting of Kearny's troop and parts of the companies of Ker, Duperu and McReynolds, and falling upon the rear of the retreating columns was soon cutting them up. With such audacious courage was this pursuit continued that Kearny, not hearing or not heeding the recall which had been sounded, followed up the fugitives, in the face of showers of grape which smote all alike, until they were safe behind their batteries at the garita of San Antonio Abad. Even at this point Kearny did not check, for dismounting, with
33Ewell, Steele, and the leading men, they were about to attack the strong work with their sabres. But Kearny being wounded severely, and it being evident that they were to receive no support, the handful of troopers drew off with great loss. In this gallant charge Mills, of the 15th infantry, who had volunteered, was killed, and besides Kearny two other officers, McReynolds and Lorimer Graham, were severely wounded. A single regiment of infantry could have easily carried the garita and entered the city, and complete possession might have been taken of the capital at once. The commander-in-chief however, deeming this measure would endanger the chances of entering into an amicable settlement of the terms of peace, withdrew his main body to Churubusco and Coyoacan, leaving Worth's division occupying the advanced post of the Ladrillera.
In achieving the victory of Churubusco, dearly bought as it was to the Americans, the loss of the Mexicans was overwhelming. Including those captured in the morning, the entire number of prisoners taken was two thousand six hundred and thirty-seven, of whom eight were general officers, sixteen were colonels or lieutenant-colonels, and one hundred and eighty-one officers of minor grades. Generals Rincon, Anaya and Avellano were secured by Twiggs within the works of San Pablo. In killed and wounded, during the day, the losses of the Mexicans were estimated at nearly four thousand men, while entire regiments were dispersed or completely dissolved. In the two conflicts of Contreras and Churubusco thirty-seven pieces of ordnance were captured, thus trebling the siege train and field batteries of the invaders.
The loss of the Americans, including the killed and wounded at Contreras, was one thousand and fifty-three. Among the officers killed at Churubusco, or so badly wounded they did not long, survive, were Colonels Butler and Dickinson, Major Mills, Captains J. W. Anderson, Capron, M. J. Burke and Quarles, and Lieutenants Irons, Easley, S. Hoffman, Bacon, Goodman, Chandler, D. Adams and W. R. Williams. Among the wounded were Colonels Morgan, Burnett and Clarke, Majors Wade, Bonneville and Dykeman, Captains Kearny, L. S. Craig, McReynolds, W. Chapman, J. R. Smith, L. Johnson, Holden, W. Hoffman, Fairchild, Blanding, Moffatt and De Saussure, and Lieutenants Buell, Holloway, Arnold, Herman Thorn, Hendrickson, J. G. Martin, Boynton, Lorimer Graham, J. Canty, Gopdloe, Farrelly, Lugenbeel, Bee, C. S. Lovell, Van Buren, Hayden, Newman, Gardner, C. J. Sprague, Palmer, Buckner, Cram, Simpkins, Peternell, Bennett, Sweeny, Jenniss, Cooper, McCabe, Potter, Griffin, Malkowsky, Sumter, Billings, Abney, J. R. Clarke, J. W. Steen and J. R. Davis. General Scott was himself struck below the knee by a spent grape shot, although fortunately not disabled.
The battle of Churubusco, commenced with little knowledge of the ground and less information as regards the strength of the enemy's works, was gained, as were many of the conflicts during the Mexican war, by hard blows — through the indomitable valor of the officers and men of the invading army. Tested by strict military rules, perhaps it should not have been fought at all. After San Antonio had fallen, Worth's division might have formed a junction with the main body at Coyoacan or San Angel, Quitman might have come up with the siege train and baggage from San Augustin, and the entire army, thus concentrated, moving to the left of Churubusco by an open road, that strong position could have been turned. Tacubaya might have been reached from San Angel without encountering any fortifications whatever, while the slight works thrown up at the garita of the NiÅo Perdido, had the Americans moved directly upon the city of Mexico by that open causeway, could have offered but a slight resistance. Had General Scott adopted this plan of advance, Santa Anna must either have fallen back and fought the Americans within the city, or else have offered them battle in the open field, both which alternatives he was anxious to avoid. The Mexican fixed artillery was universally well served, but their so-called light batteries, drawn by mules and moving sluggishly, could not stand for a moment against the rapid manoeuvering and active handling of the pieces under Duncan, Taylor, Magruder and Steptoe. Santa Anna was not unacquainted with the part taken by the flying artillery of the Americans at Palo Alto; he had moreover, in person, seen their efficiency tested at Buena Vista; and in the present exigency he knew that a battle in the open plains would end in the utter rout of his army. Hence, after the PeÅon and Mexicalcingo had been turned, his greatest desire was to meet his adversaries at the strong point of Churubusco, and in this his wish was gratified.
But unfortunately for the Mexican commander, after the defeat of Valencia in the morning he could not develop his full strength at Churubusco. He wanted time — an hour would have served his purpose — yet this was denied him. Could Bravo, in falling back from San Antonio, have taken with him his heavy guns and ammunition, and could he have reached Churubusco with his men in any thing like order, the Americans would have had a far more strenuous opposition to encounter. The impetuosity, however, of Worth's advance divided Bravo's command; that portion of it which reached the tÄte-de-pont rushed in breathless, and under the full terror of defeat; the rout of Valencia had previously served to dispirit the Mexicans; and although Rincon was to a degree prepared for resistance within the works of San Pablo, throughout the ranks of the enemy there was a distrust which prevented them from making the most of their position. The ammunition wagons which encumbered the causeway in front of the bridge, and which could not be secured by those in retreat, so forcibly reminded the defenders of the tÄte-de-pont of recent reverse, that the enfilading fire opened upon the battalion of the 6th infantry, pressing up in pursuit, was nervous and wide the mark in comparison to what it would have been had the Mexicans been allowed even half an hour's time to recover their firmness.
Under the circumstances there was an excuse and an advantage in the sudden and hap-hazard attack of the Americans upon Churubusco — the excuse lying in the fact that the leading divisions, in good humor for battle, were following up stricken detachments of the enemy by different roads, the advantage growing out of the circumstance that the onslaught was made while Santa Anna's troops were trembling under the influence of recent discomfiture. Intent only upon following up the fugitives, taking prisoners, and capturing cannon, and eager at the same time to have a full share of fighting when there was really more than enough for all, the divisions of Worth and Twiggs were precipitated upon the lines of Churubusco without being aware of their strength or locality, and perhaps many of the officers and men were ignorant of their existence. The level nature of the country, with the fields of tall corn and the.rows of magueys or trees fringing the ditches in every direction, prevented the Americans, in their heated zeal, from seeing the work in advance, or at least of forming any just estimate of their strength. After the attack had commenced, although faulty in several respects, no other alternative than to continue it with vigor could have been adopted. The falling back out of range of the guns of San Pablo and the tÄte-de-pont, even with the view of examining the works for the purpose of selecting the best point for following up the attack immediately, would have served to elate the Mexicans beyond measure; and as Santa Anna had still three times the number of men General Scott could bring up, and would have had time to concentrate and inspirit them, any additional knowledge gained by the American engineers would not have compensated for the advantages thus given the enemy. The greatest error committed at the outset was that of sending Taylor, with four light pieces, into an open field, and to a point where he was compelled to receive the fire of nearly double the number of heavier guns, all in secure position. An officer of sterling sense and excellent military judgment, he must have at once seen the folly of attempting to counter-batter heavier metal, safely posted behind embrasures, while his own guns had no other protection than the stalks of growing corn; at the same time he had too much bravery to think of retiring. Yet even this movement, accompanied as it was with disastrous loss, had its uses. It determined the position and strength of Rincon's batteries, drew their fire from P. F. Smith and Riley, and enabled the latter officers to secure positions in front of the church with far less loss than they would otherwise have received. Another unfortunate movement was the advance of the battalion of the 6th infantry directly up the causeway, bringing upon it the murderous flank fire from San Pablo in addition to the sweeping discharges from the front. But this, too, was of service in regulating the after management of the battle in that quarter. As was the case with Taylor's movement, it led to a better knowledge of the more vulnerable points to be assailed — was an examination or reconnoisance which in the end led to a saving of men.
The order for Shields to move to the left and attack the enemy in rear, with his own brigade and that of Pierce, while it was almost the only one emanating directly from the commander-in-chief, was happy in its conception and evinced rare strategic ability. That the command was not large enough, to send upon so important and so hazardous an enterprise, was not General Scott's fault — he despatched every man he had, and no general could have done more. The effect of the movement was to occupy Santa Anna's attention, and prevent him from throwing fresh men into the tÄte-de-pont and convent, and more especially the former, while Worth and Pillow were advancing, thus materially lessening the weight of the opposition they encountered. To weaken the defence in this quarter was a great point gained; yet in closing these remarks it may be repeated, that the victory was gained mainly through the unflinching bravery of the officers and men of the American army, from General Scott down, and the coolness, judgment, and stern determination more particularly of the regimental and company commanders, who led and encouraged their soldiers, improving every advantage of ground, up to the very walls and breastworks of the enemy, and who entered with them sword in hand.
It being found impossible to take in a general view of the battle of Churubusco, the artist chose, as the principal subject for his drawing, Worth's attack upon the tÄte-de-pont. In the centre of the picture may be seen the rear of the church and convent of San Pablo, Twiggs being at the time warmly engaged in front. On the right, beyond the taller trees, is the position attacked by Shields. The low range of mountains in the background are those which rise to the southward of Contreras.
The Battle of El Molino Del Rey. (Attack upon the Molino.)
The darkness of night had hardly fallen on the 20th of August, and the smoke of Churubusco was still hanging lazily over the low and marshy grounds, when a coach containing a deputation from the English Embassy came out of the city and approached Worth's pickets at the Ladrillera. This deputation was composed of Thornton, the Secretary of Legation, and Mackintosh, the Consul General, accompanied by Rafael Beraza, the celebrated English courier, and as their mission was to General Scott they were permitted to pass the outposts. It was now evident that Santa Anna, unable further to continue the defence with his army broken and dispirited, was disposed to open negotiations for an armistice. This would give him time, and with time he knew that he could rally his discomfited troops, and adopt new plans of resistance, even if all negotiations failed in settling the terms of a peace between Mexico and the United States.
On the morning of the 21st of August the Mexican General Mora y Villamil, accompanied by SeÅor F. Arrangoiz, came out from the city and proceeded to the American head-quarters, at Coyoacan, with propositions from Santa Anna for a truce. The terms proposed were rejected; but General Scott, anxious if possible to secure the peace then so ardently desired by the Government at Washington as well as by a large number of the people, offered terms of his own so liberal that they were accepted. That night the American commander established his head-quarters, with Worth's division, at the large and healthy village of Tacubaya, three miles from the city itself and within less than a mile of the strong castle of Chapultepec.
On the 22d the terms of an armistice were agreed upon at Tacubaya by a commission composed of officers appointed by either commander. On the American side the members of this commission were Generals Quitman, P. F. Smith and Pierce; on the Mexican, Generals Mora y Villamil and Benito Quijano. The terms were ratified on the 23d, and on the following day, under one of the articles, a train of wagons was sent into the city to bring out such necessaries as the American army absolutely required. This train was under charge of Wayne, of the quartermaster's department; but the leperos of the city, a raggamuffin crowd, collecting in thousands, the American wagoners were stoned and hooted out of the gates of the capital, and returned to Tacubaya without effecting their object. To this cowardly course the leperos were partly instigated by their own hatred of the invaders, and partly, doubtless, by the agents of Santa Anna himself, anxious in every way to cripple his adversary, and utterly regardless of the means by which his ends could be accomplished.
Meanwhile negotiations, having for their object the settlement of a peace, had been opened at a small village equally distant from Tacubaya and the city of Mexico, Mr. Trist, who had accompanied the American army as a commissioner fully empowered to treat and negotiate, meeting SeÅores Herrera, Bernardo Couto, Mora y Villamil and Atristain, the commission selected on the Mexican side. On the 2d of September Mr. Trist, the time up to this date having been spent in discussing the different questions in dispute between the two countries, and especially the establishment of boundaries, sent in his ultimatum, the Mexicans being allowed four days to accept or decline. Confident from the first that the ultimatum would be declined, there is no doubt that Santa Anna, in violation of the armistice, had been all along busily engaged in preparing for farther resistance. Even from the 24th of August the Mexicans were acting in bad faith, stealthily if not openly laboring to strengthen and prepare themselves to oppose the invaders. By the terms of the armistice the latter could receive no reinforcements; and as the exertions of Hargous, the army contractor, were foiled by repeated acts of contemptible trifling, all intended to thwart him in bringing out supplies, it is evident the enemy were impressed with the hope of farther weakening the effective strength of the Americans, already reduced one-fourth in number by the casualties of battle, and by sickness brought on by exposure and incessant fatigue.
General Scott in the meantime scrupulously fulfilled every article of the armistice, winking at numerous infractions on the part of Santa Anna so openly committed that they could not escape detection. Matters thus proceeded until the 6th of September, when ascertaining that the ultimatum of Mr. Trist would not be accepted, and further evidence coming in that the Mexicans were hourly adding to their defences, the American commander despatched a sharp note to Santa Anna, accusing him of bad faith and of having openly violated several articles of the armistice. But to allow the Mexican general time to make explanation, apology and reparation, he was given until noon on the following day: if by that hour full satisfaction was not offered, the armistice was to end and hostilities to be renewed. That evening Santa Anna, finding he could no longer impose upon his magnanimous adversary, sent back an answer so full of tergiversation and falsehood, that General Scott, without responding to it, immediately commenced preparations for the reduction of the city. Santa Anna, true to his past history, had gained, by his unscrupulous conduct, the time he so much needed: the man who had never kept faith unblushingly employed the fortnight which elapsed, after his utter defeat at Churubusco, in restoring confidence among his men and in forming a new line of battle, which cost the Americans, before it could be broken, some of the best blood of the country.
The 7th of September passed in making new preparations to renew hostilities, and in pushing examinations in the direction of the enemy's lines. From the Archbishop's Palace at Tacubaya, at the time the headquarters of General Scott, the distance to the castle of Chapultepec was not far from an English mile, the direction nearly north. East of the castle, a little more than two miles distant, was the city of Mexico, approached by the Tacubaya causeway in nearly a direct line; on the west, about one thousand yards distant and the intervening space composed of low grounds and a grove of large trees, was a range of massive stone buildings known as El Molino del Rey, or the King's Mill. Within this range it was reported the Mexican foundery was established, with all the machinery for casting the heavy ordnance of which they stood so much in need — it was even busily rumored that Santa Anna was sending out all the church and convent bells from the city, with the object of having them converted into cannon. From Tacubaya to the Molino, the course west of north, the distance was a little more than a mile, the approach leading down a gentle slope of smooth ground some six hundred yards in width. This slope stretched off half a mile or more to the west, and until it rested on a deep and broken barranca or ravine. A little more than midway between the Molino and the ravine, at the foot of the slope, was a strong stone building known as the Casa Mata, and which afterwards proved to be surrounded by an old Spanish fortification. Intervening rows of magueys, with slight embankments thrown up in front of old ditches, occupied the space between the Molino and the Casa Mata, serving as well to conceal an enemy as to afford protection from a direct assault. Such is a hasty sketch of the configuration of the ground on which one of the most bloody combats of the Mexican war was to be fought.
During the forenoon of the 7th of September long lines of bayonets were seen glistening on the causeway of Tacubaya, as Santa Anna was pouring his troops out of the city towards Chapultepec, and by the middle of the day clouds of the enemy were discovered hovering about the Molino, or in the grove at the foot of the frowning castle. These positions were examined by Generals Scott and Worth, while two daring reconnoisances, pushed by Mason of the engineers and Duncan of the artillery, rendered it evident that the Mexicans were determined upon holding the Molino, and were bringing out cannon for its defence. The result of all the examinations proved, as was then thought, that the weaker part of the enemy's line was the centre, where a battery of four guns was established. This carried, the flanks must soon fall, notwithstanding they were protected by the strong buildings at the mills and by the Casa Mata at the other extremity.
To attack and carry the Molino, to break up the supposed cannon foundery, as well as to destroy any munitions of war collected in the vicinity, being deemed necessary by General Scott before any final movement towards the subjection of the capital was attempted, Worth's division, reinforced by Cadwalader's brigade, was detailed for the enterprise. This force numbered but little more than twenty-eight hundred men; yet as three squadrons of dragoons and Ruff's company of mounted rifles, under Sumner, were ordered to support the attack, with Drum's battery of the re-captured Buena Vista guns and Huger's 24-pounders, the entire command
36was swelled to over three thousand. It was at first intended that the assault should be made at midnight, or a little after. But it being feared, by those who had best examined the position, that the ground might be imperfectly understood, the time was changed to daylight on the morning of the 8th of September.
By three o'clock Worth had his columns in motion, and before it was light enough to distinguish ah object at half cannon range Huger had placed his heavy guns at a point in rear of the slope, six hundred yards distant from the walls of the Molino. On the left of the 24-pounders an assaulting party of five hundred picked men, under Wright, was stationed, Worth taking his position immediately in the rear. On his left was Cadwalader's brigade, still farther to the left was that of Clarke, now under McIntosh, while Duncan and Sumner, moving to this quarter of the field, were in readiness to operate wherever their services might be needed. In the meantime Garland's brigade, with Drum's guns, taking the narrow path leading out of Tacubaya more directly towards the Molino, the former officer was at the proper hour in a position where he could watch that point, threaten Chapultepec, and at the same time be within supporting distance of Huger's guns and Wright's storming party. All these movements were conducted in silence, and as no sound came up from the Mexican lines, lying at the foot of the slope, it was vainly hoped by the Americans that the enemy were unconscious at least of the full weight of the meditated attack.
At the first grey of morning, or as soon as the outlines of the Molino were visible, Huger opened upon the massive buildings with his 24-pounders, the heavy shot cutting through the still air with a frightful roar, and striking into the solid masonry with a crash even more terrific. No response came up from the enemy, and again the guns were discharged. Still all was silence within the Mexican lines, and many thought they had quietly retired during the night; but a sudden belching forth of flame from all their guns, followed by the rush of heavy shot as they swept by the position occupied by Worth and Huger, showed that they were on the ground and bent upon resistance. The first flight of missiles was followed by another, closer in their aim, and feeling that no time was to be lost Worth launched Wright's storming column at once down the slope to the onslaught. Advancing in line, this officer was soon met by a severe fire of grape and cannister, and pressing forward at double quick time a succession of slaughtering vollies of musketry was added to the carnage caused by the heavy guns. Wright himself soon fell severely wounded, with more than half his officers and men: every shot from the enemy seemed to find a victim. With every step gained the fire from the battery, from the embankments on either side, from the rows of magueys, and from the walls of the Molino, increased in intensity; the way of the stormers was strewed with the dead, dying, or badly wounded. But they were old and chosen men, led by officers who thought not of halting this side of death, and the survivors continued to advance. A volley from the muskets of the few who remained upon their feet beat hack the enemy from their guns, and the next moment the battery was in possession of the Americans. Yet to hold it was impossible; for as the smoke disappeared, and disclosed the remnant of the storming party endeavoring to turn the guns, the Mexicans rallied and retook them by the weight of numbers, basely murdering such of their opponents as were too badly disabled to crawl off. But three companies of the light battalion under E. K. Smith, held to sustain Huger's guns, being now sent down to the support of the stormers, and a portion of Cadwalader's brigade being at the same time thrown forward, the battery was again taken after a struggle, and this time firmly held. Of the officers attached to Wright's storming column, fourteen in number including Mason and Foster of the engineers, no less than eleven were struck down killed or wounded in this daring assault, and the men had suffered almost in equal proportion.
Meanwhile Garland had become suddenly engaged with the enemy at the Molino, who in great numbers appeared to occupy every window and every portion of the roof. In front of the range of buildings the Mexicans also had two guns, with which Drum soon became engaged; and the remnant of Wright's storming party now joining in with the light battalion, and the 4th infantry also falling at the same time upon the front, a combined attack upon the strong position was made. The 2d and 3d artillery, which had advanced resolutely to the assault at the end of the range of buildings nearest Tacubaya, were now forcing open the heavy doors, battling from room to room, or engaged in hand-to-hand conflicts for possession of the roof, for the Mexicans would hot relinquish an inch without a desperate struggle. Driven from a strong quarter they would rally, and manfully attempt to regain it; at many points the contest could be settled by the bayonet alone. While encouraging their men two of the best generals in the Mexican service, Balderas and Leon, were killed or mortally wounded, but at their fall the strife in no way abated in its fury. The Americans, compelled to assail at every disadvantage, were at every moment losing their best officers and men. Wm. M. Graham, Merrill, Ayres and E. K. Smith were slain, many other officers were more or less severely wounded, and every approach was covered with the rank and file killed or crippled in the assault. No one had anticipated the strength of the position, the number of the enemy, or the tenacity with which they would hold out — at the same time no one thought of giving up the combat. Every point the assailants could reach with the bayonet was speedily carried, but the taking of one foot of vantage ground seemed only to bring them upon another of greater strength — the Molino and the adjoining buildings, from the ground floors to the azoteas, were alive with the enemy. So heavy and uninterrupted was the firing that General Scott, fearing for the result, hurried off orders from Tacubaya for the brigades of Riley and Pierce, then at or near La Piedad and which Pillow had already put in motion, to hasten up to the scene of conflict. Victorious at this point, even to the extent of maintaining their position, the morale to the Mexicans would inspirit them to a degree that must render the situation of the little American army critical in the extreme: but the prestige of even the semblance of a victory was to be denied them.
The battle in the neighborhood of the Molino, close and murderous, had now lasted for more than an hour, and without a moment's intermission. It had been thought that a determined dash, with the loss of a score or two of men, would leave the range of buildings, with the battery close by, in the hands of the Americans. This effected, Worth, after destroying the foundery for casting, cannon and any munitions of war discovered, was immediately to fall back to his quarters at Tacubaya. As has already been staled, however, the attack had hardly been made before it was evident that the position was much stronger than had been anticipated, the force for its defence four times greater than at first supposed, and that every approach was ravaged by direct and cross fires, coming from previously unseen covers.
Two of Cadwalader's regiments, the 11th and 14th infantry, had early been despatched to support the attack upon the mill and the adjoining buildings, while the services of his remaining regiment, the voltigeurs, were required in another quarter. Across the deep barranca which bounded the slope on the west, occupying a position near the hacienda of Morales, and out of reach of Duncan's guns, a heavy Mexican force under Alvarez, both of cavalry and infantry, had early been discovered. This body, which outnumbered Worth's entire strength on the field, advanced with much apparent boldness, after the attack upon the Molino had commenced, with the evident intention of crossing the ravine and falling upon the American left. But the vigorous play of Duncan's light pieces, his shell and spherical case shot lodging directly in the heads of the oncoming formations, scattered and sent them back out of reach. Feeling, however, that with his single battery, even assisted as he was by the threatening attitude assumed by Sumner and his dragoons, he could not stay the immense reserve across the ravine if it pushed another advance well home, Duncan requested the support of one of Cadwalader's regiments. This request was followed by the movement of the voltigeurs to the brink of the ravine. The brigade under McIntosh, drawn up at a point looking more directly at the Casa Mata, was now the only portion of Worth's command held in reserve, and this was about to be launched upon the enemy.
The drawing of the attack upon the Molino takes in the entire range of buildings, the roofs crowded with the enemy. Garland is just commencing the attack upon the upper point of the row, or that next Tacubaya, while the combat in front is raging with violence. On the left of the picture, above the grove of lofty trees, rises the castle of Chapultepec, the mound and growth of timber shutting out the city of Mexico from the view. In the middle ground the first swell of the mountains skirting the valley on the east commences, while rising high above, in the distance, may be seen the towering, snow-capped summits of Popocatepetl and Iztacehuatl, two of the highest and most magnificent peaks in Central Mexico.
The Battle of El Molino del Rey. (Attack upon the Casa Mata.)
While the struggle at the Molino was still raging, an incessant rattling of small arms denoting its intensity, an order was sent for McIntosh to advance with his brigade. The Mexican commander, in rear of the wall running on the northern side of Chapultepec, was in a position from whence he could send reinforcements to continue the contest in the vicinity of the mill, while he had doubtless given orders for Alvarez to cross the ravine on the west with his heavy reserves, and attack the Americans in flank when the battle had fairly commenced. So far, however, this latter force had been held in check by the active Duncan, and over two thousand regular troops, under Perez, had meanwhile remained sheltered behind the banks of the ditch in front of the Casa Mata, or completely hidden within its ramparts, without firing a gun. The full strength of this position was unknown. Treacherous rows of magueys, overtopping the banks in front, concealed a heavy line of infantry within the ditch in rear, while after examination proved that without removing the rank vegetation which had taken growth upon the ramparts, the interior of the fortification had been materially repaired and strengthened.
Against this formidable and strongly garrisoned work McIntosh advanced with, alacrity, his command numbering but little over one thousand men. The ground, while it was destitute of shelter or cover of any kind, was at the same time descending, thus rendering every shot the enemy might fire effective; for the bullets which went over the front ranks of the assailants must inevitably find victims in the rear. A short distance on the right of McIntosh, and within plain sight, the contest still raged with fury, causing so great a desire among his men to hasten to the relief of their friends that they moved down the slope almost at a run. Not an enemy was to be seen in front of the Casa Mata, or behind its ramparts, so well were they still concealed. At an increased pace Duncan's light battery was passed, the movement masking his guns, and although the column was now within two hundred yards of the intrenchments not a musket had been emptied on either side. But on reaching a point one hundred yards distant a wide sheet of smoke suddenly poured forth from the entire face of the work, a crashing flight of bullets beating upon the front of the assailants with frightful execution. For a moment the shattered column staggered. The ground was literally encumbered with the dead and wounded, struck down by the first close and terrible discharge from the enemy; but immediately recovering, the brigade advanced with new ardor to the attack, throwing in its first volley as it moved down the slope. McIntosh, the only officer mounted and offering a fair mark, was soon struck down desperately wounded, and while lying upon the ground was hit by another bullet. The entire front of the column seemed to crumble away before the dreadful fire it was compelled to sustain, and even Duncan's artillerymen, Sumner's dragoons, with those assisting the wounded in rear, suffered from the balls which bounded over the smooth turf. Not a foot of ground on the slope, back to the ravine in the rear, that was not searched by the musketry from the Casa Mata, and at each moment the fire seemed to increase in weight.
Nevertheless, the survivors of the brigade continued steadily to move down, Martin Scott, upon whom the command devolved after the fall of McIntosh, cheering on his men with characteristic gallantry. A line of the enemy's sharp-shooters, lying behind the row of magueys twenty-five yards in front of the Casa Mata, were borne back into the main work, and the assailants, taking immediate possession of the partial shelter thus gained, commenced a biting fire upon the face of the stronghold. The 5th infantry, advancing on the right of the brigade, was thrown more immediately upon the front of the enemy; the 6th and 8th, on the left, were however exposed to a galling discharge from the flanks, and Perez having covered the upper parts of the work with his most expert marksmen, opened a plunging fire, within close pistol shot, upon every point occupied by the assailants. Seeing his command thus beset, and confident that every moment would farther reduce his effective strength, Martin Scott now determined upon storming the Casa Mata; but before the order was given he was struck dead by a musket ball in the breast, several younger officers falling at the same time. The third in command, Waite, was also severely wounded; yet notwithstanding these losses of officers, and although the carnage among the men was fearful, the survivors kept up a steady shower of balls upon the work in front. Nor did they slacken in their fire until their cartridges were expended, or their muskets were too foul to be of further use, when an irresponsible order to fall back being heard above the din, coming as was supposed from one of the men, the shattered brigade retired sullenly until it had reached the shelter of Duncan's battery.
In this attack upon the Casa Mala one half of the officers and one third of the men, in the short space of twenty-five minutes, were either killed or wounded. McIntosh, who had been a third time struck, was brought off the ground by Edward Johnson, an officer of the 6th, although he did not long survive his wounds.
While the survivors of McIntosh's brigade were replenishing their cartridge-boxes, and preparing for another assault, Duncan opened a sharp fire, at close range, upon the Casa Mata, his round shot ploughing through the earthern ramparts and his shell and spherical case doing great execution in the interior of the work. The battle, from the first opening of Huger's guns, had now lasted an hour and a half. Although, the Molino itself was in possession of Garland's troops, and a part of the enemy's guns in that quarter had been taken, the contest was still maintained from the low grounds in the vicinity, and the abundant cover which the walls and adjoining buildings afforded. The behavior of the Mexicans had here been daring and obstinate from the first, and even after their assailants had gained the occupancy of every building, and of every foot of ground down to the road leading past Chapultepec on the north, they rallied, and under General PeÅa y Barragan again came up from the rear with the evident determination of regaining their position. But Drum's guns, together with a captured piece in charge of Peck, being ordered by Belton to open upon the approaching masses, and one of Huger's 24-pounders being hastily run down the slope by Stone, a fire was opened which sent them back under the San Cosmé aqueduct, and in rear of Chapultepec itself. Other bodies, emerging from the dense grove at the base of the hill, were also beat back with loss — every attempt to recover possession of the Molino failed.
After the left and centre of the strong line of the enemy had been completely carried, the only point that held out was the Casa Mata. Against this Duncan was however busily plying all the guns in his battery, the range so accurately judged that every shot and shell did fearful execution. For a short time the Mexicans kept up a straggling fire of musketry; but a body of infantry pressing up to attack the position in flank, and the defenders seeing that the Molino had fallen and that no support was coming to them from across the ravine, began to slacken in their efforts and give way, and were soon flying in confusion. Deserting the Casa Mata in rear, their retreat was not discovered until the fugitives began to spread over the low and broken ground stretching to the north. But as soon as they were seen by Duncan his guns were turned upon the disordered mass, and Hagner hastily moving down the 24-pounder still in rear, and opening upon the flying enemy, they were harassed and cut up until completely out of reach of heavy shot. The other 24-pounder, in the hands of Stone, with some of the larger captured pieces, were at the same time turned upon the castle of Chapultepec, in order to silence the fire which had been continued from that commanding position upon the Americans on the slope, who were now engaged in securing prisoners and bringing in their numerous wounded. At this juncture General Scott came upon the ground, and not intending from the first to include the castle in the attack, the firing was ordered to cease. After the machinery in the cannon foundery had been destroyed, and a quantity of useless ammunition in the Casa Mata blown up, Worth returned to his old quarters at Tacubaya, carrying off, besides his own killed and wounded, all the cannon and prisoners he had captured.
Such was the battle of El Molino del Rey, one of the most sanguinary ever fought on the American continent. In less than two hours Worth's regular division had been shorn of nearly one-third its number, including some of the best officers in the service, while the commands of Cadwalader and Sumner had also suffered severely. It was a combat in which all who took part, even the reserves, were under fire from the first, the farthest parts of the ground, as before mentioned, being reached by the Mexican muskets. The brigades of Riley and Pierce, with Magruder's battery, ordered to move up while the result of the strife was still doubtful, arrived on the ground, with General Pillow, just as the conflict had terminated, and consequently took no active part. Had they been despatched at once to the storming of Chapultepec, while the consternation of defeat was still upon the flying enemy, that strong castle would doubtless have fallen with little additional loss. Worth and Cadwalader were both in favor of an immediate assault, but General Scott would not depart from his original plan, that of simply destroying the foundery and then falling back. The defence at the Molino had been obstinate to a degree so much greater than had been anticipated, and the best point from whence to assail Chapultepec was so little understood, that to attack it was at the time not deemed prudent by the commander-in-chief.
Dear as had been the victory to the Americans, the consequences of the defeat the Mexicans sustained were most disastrous. It taught them that no position, however strong and numerously defended, could resist the obstinate and enduring valor and high prowess of their adversaries. Two of Santa Anna's bravest generals, Balderas and Leon, already mentioned, were killed, with Gelaty, Huerta, Mateos, and other distinguished officers; but more than this, one of his best regiments, the 11th infantry of the old line, and a battalion of the national guard, were annihilated — killed, wounded, prisoners in the hands of Worth, or dispersed. The entire number of prisoners taken during the conflict, the most of them surrendering in the Molino when surrounded and threatened with the bayonet, was seven hundred and thirteen, among whom were Colonel Tenorio and fifty-two other officers. AH the enemy's artillery was captured, hundreds of those who had attempted to defend the pieces were left dead on the field, and of those who escaped many threw away their muskets at the commencement of the rout.
The strength of the Americans in this battle has already been given. By the lowest estimate made, Santa Anna had ten thousand men present — some accounts, which were even corroborated by the statements of prisoners, gave his entire force on the ground as exceeding twelve thousand. It is certain that the reserve under Alvarez, operating across the ravine on the American left, and which was kept in check by Duncan, Sumner, and the voltigeurs under Andrews, numbered over three thousand. The Mexican loss, including killed, wounded and prisoners, amounted to over two thousand, without enumerating an equal if not greater number who threw away their arms and deserted entirely during the retreat — men never recovered to the army which was still to defend the capital. In the very face, however, of his palpable defeat and rout at the Molino, Santa Anna ordered all the bells in the capital to be rung during the afternoon in celebration of a victory, the crafty Mexican endeavoring to impress upon the minds of his countrymen that General Scott had marched out in the morning to the attack of Chapultepec, and had been forced to retire without carrying out his design.
Worth's entire loss, in killed and wounded, was a little more than eight hundred, including sixty-one officers. Of the latter, among the slain or mortally wounded, were Colonels McIntosh, Martin Scott and Wm. M. Graham, Captains M. E. Merrill, E Kirby Smith and Ayres, Lieutenants Burwell, Strong, Farry, W. Armstrong, R. H. L. Johnston, Shackelford, Daniels, Burbank, C. F. Morris and Ernst, and Surgeon Roberts. Of the above Armstrong, a deserving officer of the quartermaster's department, was unfortunately killed by the blowing up of the ammunition in the Casa Mata after the battle was over. Among the wounded officers were Majors Wright, Waite, Talcott, W. R. Montgomery and Savage, Captains Cady, Larkin Smith, W. H. T. Walker, Robert Anderson, J. L. Mason, Glenn, Ker, Guthrie and Irwin, Lieutenants C. S. Hamilton, Sidney Smith, J. D. Clark, Beardsley, Wainwright, W. D. Smith, Dent, J. G. S. Snelling, H. J. Hunt, J. G. Foster, Tree, J. G. Walker, W. Hays, H. F. Clarke, J. C. D. Williams, Herman Thorn, Kintzing, Thos. Shields, S. B. Davis, Swan, J. C. C. Hays, Terrett, W. J. Martin, D. S. Lee, G. P. Andrews, Prince and Lincoln, and Surgeon J. Simons. The assaulting column suffered most severely. It was led by fourteen officers, of whom all save three were killed or wounded. Those who fortunately escaped were Captain Bomford, and Lieutenants Haller and Maloney, The casualties among the officers and men of the 5th infantry, attacking the Casa Mata immediately in front, were perhaps greater than in any other regiment, although the 6th, 8th, and in fact every other corps, came out terribly reduced. Nothing but the daring and impetuosity of the Americans in advancing upon the strong line of works occupied by the enemy, and their prowess in the close conflict which ensued, won the victory. Had the attack been made under the darkness of night, as was at first contemplated, Worth would either have been defeated, or else would have gained the battle at a loss greater even than that he sustained with the full light of day to direct his movements. His men would have become so mingled and confused within the range of buildings, or so scattered in the broken ground in the vicinity, that in the hurry and excitement they would have fallen upon each other.
So far as the real object of the battle of the Molino may be taken into consideration — the destruction of a cannon foundery in active operation — no results which would justify the exposure or loss of even a sergeant's guard were attained. A number of old moulds, with perhaps other apparatus of little service, were found within the building and destroyed; nothing was however discovered to show that any of the machinery was in use, although General Scott had been told, by persons hanging about Tacubaya, that Santa Anna was sending bells out of the city to be cast into cannon. This information, derived from false friends or idle tale-bearers, caused him to order an attack, and the main features of his plan, with the number and composition of the force detailed, were known in the city almost as soon as within the American lines. The fact that Santa Anna sent out such an overwhelming force to occupy the mill proves this.
Had the weight of the Mexican opposition been anticipated, the battle of the Molino would either not have been fought at all, or fought differently. Heavy cannon, of which the victories of Contreras and Churubusco had given the Americans an abundance, could have been employed advantageously in reducing the position, and General Scott was not so hard pressed for time but that he might have devoted a day to this object. Yet the fact of a night assault being at first ordered showed that he did not look for serious resistance; and when Worth, at the instigation of the officers who had well examined the position, had the time of attack changed to daylight, it was still considered by the commander-in-chief that a bold dash, with the loss of but few men, would achieve the object of the enterprise. There was nothing in the nature of the orders given to show that General Scott deemed the free use of artillery as necessary, although Worth, after the battle, was censured for not employing it to a greater extent. It is certainly matter of regret that those who blamed his manner of attack had not hinted, in their wisdom, at the paramount use of artillery before the conflict commenced.
After he became involved, the operations of Worth, against such an enemy as he had to deal with, were characterised by good generalship and great courage. He well knew the moral effect a single reverse to the invaders, however trifling, would give the Mexicans, and hence he fell upon them with a vigor which showed that he was determined they should not achieve even the shadow of success. Nor did they, so far as he was concerned; for the withdrawal of his command was a movement made under the reiterated orders of the commander-in-chief, and the after occupation of the Molino by the enemy, although made in idle bravado and with no thought of holding it, Worth could not prevent with his troops more than a mile distant in Tacubaya.
The drawing of the attack upon the Casa Mata is taken from a point on the left, the time chosen being that when McIntosh is advancing, and when he has nearly reached the embankment some twenty-five yards in front. On the right of the picture is Chapultepec, the rear of the castle being seen; on the left, and exposed to the fire from the flank of the Casa Mata, are Sumner's dragoons, moving to a point where the ravine on the west could be crossed. The main force under Alvarez, with the hacienda of Morales, could not be introduced, the position lying too far to the left. In the middle ground, beyond the Casa Mata, may be seen the city of Mexico; in the distance rise the mountains on the eastern side of the valley.
The Storming of Chapultepec. (General Pillow's Attack.)
The position of the American army after the battle of El Molino del Rey, although so far ever victorious, was still to a degree perilous — was one demanding the greatest skill, promptitude and energy on the part of the commanding general. A single failure, cut off as they were from all hope of reinforcements, would bring the Mexicans upon the invaders in such overwhelming numbers, that even the most obstinate and enduring valor would not be able to withstand them. The losses at Contreras, Churubusco and the Molino, added to the sickness brought on by exposure and fatigue, had reduced General Scott's effective strength to seven thousand men, and what with those required to minister to the wants of the sick and wounded, to guard the prisoners, and attend to the many duties of hospitals and depots, not more than six thousand could be called out at a sudden emergency, however critical. Yet there was no shrinking at the work before them — no despondency or misgiving as to the final result. A strongly fortified city, still defended by over twenty thousand men and containing nearly two hundred thousand inhabitants, was there in front, in plain sight. The approaches were only over narrow causeways, completely raked by heavy guns, and these passed, strong fortifications were still to be stormed and carried. But it is doubtful whether there was a single soldier in the American ranks who did not feel confident that all these obstacles would be finally overcome.
Even before the killed and wounded in front of the Molino were brought in, daring examinations were being pushed in every direction. The chief of the engineer corps, J. L. Smith, was from illness incapacitated from taking an active part, and Mason and Foster, younger officers, were wounded. Nevertheless Lee, Beauregard, Stevens and Tower were on their feet, and working night and day to ascertain the full strength of the enemy's line of defences, as well as the most vulnerable point at which to attack. From the castle of Chapultepec, which was at once materially strengthened by Santa Anna, across to the, Paseo de la Viga, a distance of nearly four miles, every causeway and every approach was found to be fortified, and each hour added to the strength of the defences. Men, women, and even children, high and low; were laboring night and day at the different garitas, batteries, and lines of intrenchments — the Mexicans seemed determined not to give up their proud and beautiful capital without another severe struggle.
During the night of the 8th of September, Riley took possession of the church and village of La Piedad without opposition, an important position commanding, by throwing a strong picket and a 12-pounder battery at a small building in advance called La Hermita, the causeways both of the Nino Perdido, and the Piedad. Early on the following morning a heavy force of the enemy, cavalry and infantry, came out of the city, evidently with the intention of occupying La Piedad, buf this body was speedily driven back behind the intrenchments. Pillow's division next moved down from Mixcoac to La Piedad or in the immediate neighborhood, Pierce's brigade occupying the village in conjunction with Riley's, while Cadwalader's took up its quarters at the hacienda of Nalvarte close by. Orders were sent to Quitman to break up the depot at San Augustin and move down to Coyoacan, every thing thus denoting that the American commander was concentrating for the purpose of striking a final blow for the possession of the capital.
To satisfy himself as to the best point of attack, General Scott, accompanied by Lee and other officers, made a close personal inspection of the enemy's works at the garita of San Antonio Abad — the same charged so gallantly by Kearny on the 20th of August — and also of the fortifications at the garitas of the NiÅo Perdido and Piedad, with the line of intrenchments connecting and supporting all these points. This was during the forenoon of the 9th of September. The whole of the 10th was occupied in making farther and closer reconnoisances in the same quarter, the southern garitas being again carefully examined, and the daring and indefatigable engineers even pushing their observations as far as La Candelaria and the Paseo de la Viga, anxious to ascertain the practicability of turning or attacking the positions in that direction with the view of gaining a foothold within the city. All resulted in proving that the only advance that could be made must be by some one of the narrow causeways, which were flanked on either side by wet ditches and boggy marshes; and as the nature of the ground rendered it difficult to move by any other route than directly up the causeways, the assailing columns must necessarily be brought not only under the direct and cross fires of the heavy guns at the garitas, but to murderous vollies of musketry from the lines of intrenchments. It should be repeated that it was utterly impracticable to advance, even with infantry, across many of the meadows or marshes, for at this time they were covered with water which had been turned on by the enemy.
Meanwhile the large village of Mixcoac was selected as the main depot for the hospitals and military stores, Tacubaya being almost immediately under the guns of Chapultepec. The position of Mixcoac was a little more than two miles south of Tacubaya, and thither the sick and wounded were all conveyed during the 10th and 11th of September. At La Piedad, on the latter day, a council of the principal officers was held, the commander-in-chief present, at which, after weighing the reports of all the engineers, it was decided that the castle of Chapultepec should be the grand point of attack. For two or three days preceding this determination, from all the commanding house-tops in Tacubaya, the Mexicans had been plainly seen strengthening every part of the works on the frowning crest, and at the same time, from secret agents, it had been well ascertained that the only side by which the walls could be reached was mined. To turn the position, however, which could only be effected by a difficult and circuitous march to the left, was impossible with the limited force at the command of General Scott, and even if the invaders could have reached a point north of the city, the approaches on that side were over causeways leading up to garitas in every respect as strongly fortified as those on the south.
No sooner had the resolution to storm Chapultepec been taken, than a series of strategic movements, intended to deceive the enemy, were commenced. For this purpose, Quitman was ordered to move his division, during the afternoon of the 11th of September, from Coyoacan to La Piedad, as the point from whence an attack upon the southern garitas was to be organized, while heavy detachments were at the same time put in motion, from Mixcoac and Tacubaya, their common point of rendezvous being also at La Piedad. All these movements were in plain sight of Santa Anna and his principal officers, occupying the higher roofs within the city. In the meantime Twiggs, with P. F. Smith's brigade, remained in rear at San Angel, while Worth's head-quarters were still at Tacubaya. A series of skirmishes, taking place at the outposts, had resulted with loss to the Mexicans. During the afternoon of the 11th, a powerful cavalry force, accompanied by Santa Anna himself and many of his principal officers, emerged from the lines near San Antonio Abad and moved out on the causeway to a point nearly abreast of La Piedad; the enemy's object being to ascertain the exact position and strength of the Americans. But a close and rapid fire from Magruder's guns, well concealed behind a hedge of magueys near the Hermita, sent this force back in disorder behind the batteries and intrenchments of San Antonio Abad, the heavy pieces in the latter returning a brisk fire of shells but without causing much injury. Another large body of cavalry, approaching in rear of the battleground of the Molino on the same afternoon, was also speedily dispersed by half a dozen shots from Duncan's battery and a bold charge of dragoons.
As soon as it was dark on the night of the 11th all was stir and activity within the American lines. The divisions of Pillow and Quitman, after the men had replenished their cartridge-boxes and filled their havresacks with cooked provisions, were put in motion, and the strictest silence being enjoined, marched into Tacubaya. Before daylight on the following morning they were all in the positions designated on the edge of the village looking upon Chapultepec, and so noiselessly was the movement conducted that it is doubtful whether the Mexicans, although their opponents were at times within hail of the sentinels, were apprised of its nature or of the full strength of the columns in motion. During the night the positions for three batteries had been traced by Huger and Lee, and by daylight, with such energy did the sappers and miners and different fatigue parties labor, two of them were so far advanced as to afford partial shelter. The previous battles having thrown a number of heavy battering guns into the hands of the Americans, with a large amount of ammunition, the former, with the regular siege train transported from the coast, were now to be brought into play for the purpose of crippling the defences of Chapultepec.
Riley had been left at La Piedad, with the batteries of Steptoe and Taylor. During the afternoon or night, being joined by Smith's brigade from San Angel, Twiggs had his entire division in front of the southern garitas, where he could threaten an attack and thus divert the attention of the enemy from the real point to be assailed. To carry out this object, before daylight dawned on the morning of the 12th a temporary work had been thrown up, near the Hermita, behind which Steptoe's 12-pounders were placed, and an ostentatious display of infantry, made by occupying various points just out of range of the batteries of San Antonio Abad and the other garitas, was intended farther to blind the Mexican generals.
Notwithstanding the exertions of the engineers, and the energy with which the men bent to their labor, it was full daylight before the first battery intended to open upon Chapultepec was completed. It was a sandbag work, erected in the road as it emerged from Tacubaya, was about eight hundred yards from the castle and looking directly upon its imposing front, and was constructed with platforms for two 16-pounders and a 68-pound howitzer, all captured pieces. This battery was placed in charge of Drum, and immediately after sunrise was opened upon Chapultepec with spirit, drawing an almost instantaneous answer from every gun which could be brought to bear upon it. The loud booming of Steptoe's pieces, coming up from across the marshes, was at the same time heard, with the heavy responses from the Mexican batteries at San Antonio Abad, the NiÅo Perdido, and other points, showing that the threatening movement in front of the southern garitas was well carried out and sustained. The roofs of every church and convent, the higher domes and towers, with all the commanding house-tops of the city, were now seen crowded with the excited population, all anxious to ascertain on which point the invaders were to attack. Heavy masses of infantry, at the same time streaming out of the southern and western quarters of the capital, denoted that Santa Anna was everywhere prepared for resistance.
Meanwhile another sand-bag work, intended to receive two American 24-pounders and a 68-pound howitzer, had been constructed at an advantageous point on the slope running down towards the Molino del Rey, and about half a mile west of Drum's battery in the road. This work was served by Hagner, of the ordnance corps, and its effective fire was soon added to the bombardment, the distance to the southwestern angle of the castle being about twelve hundred yards. Farther down the slope in the direction of the Molino, and partially protected by an old but massive stone wall, still another battery was completed during the forenoon and brought into play. The guns in this work — an American 68-pound howitzer and a captured 16-pounder — were served by Horace Brooks, of the 2d artillery. As the day wore an American 10-inch mortar, planted in rear of the wall near the Molino, under the charge of Stone, of the ordnance corps, was adding a flight of shells to the other missiles every moment crashing into the castle. The Mexicans had at first returned a vigorous counter fire, and more especially upon Drum's position and upon Brooks while he was bringing up and placing his guns in battery; yet their responses gradually became more feeble, and even while their fire was most vehement it caused but comparatively little injury. It was evident, however, that the Americans had measured the distance with great accuracy, their missiles causing much damage more especially to the body of the castle, while a 32-pounder, struck directly in the muzzle by one of Hagner's heavy round shot, was dismounted and rendered perfectly useless. With darkness the bombardment entirely ceased, both sides industriously applying to the work of repairing injuries sustained. Twiggs, by his operations in front of the southern garitas, had meanwhile kept a heavy force of the enemy massed on that side, his manoeuvres being of a nature to induce the belief that a powerful assault was to be made either upon San Antonio Abad, or upon the garita of the NiÅo Perdido.
Pillow during the forenoon had ordered Hebert, with a force regularly organized, to take possession of the Molino. This was effected with little loss, although a heavy fire from Chapultupec was poured into the column as it moved briskly down the slope. A noisy skirmishing was also kept up during the day, between parties of the enemy in the grove at the foot of the mound and the occupants of the mill, but with little injury to either side. After nightfall Pillow moved his entire division into the range of buildings, or the immediate vicinity, there to await the assault determined upon for the following morning. Quitman had during the day remained at and near Drum's battery, his men sheltered within the neighboring houses or in the ditches on either side of the road. An important reconnoisance, made by himself under a hot fire, had well established the position and strength of the defences at the southeastern base of Chapultepec, the point at which he was to attack. During the night he was reinforced by Persifor F. Smith's brigade, which left Twiggs with Riley's men only to support Steptoe's and Taylor's batteries, and to threaten the southern garitas.
The plan of the assault upon Chapultepec was well matured, and settled in all its minutia, during the night of the 12th of September. The attack was to be made at a preconcerted signal, after the batteries had by a hot fire farther crippled the exterior defences, the divisions of Pillow and Quitman to dash simultaneously at the hazardous work. To strengthen the weight of the onslaught, and insure success, storming parties, of two hundred and fifty picked men each, were drawn from the old and oft-tried divisions of Twiggs and Worth, Mackenzie, of the 2d artillery, to lead the latter, while Casey, of the 2d infantry, was charged with the command of the former. Worth was meanwhile ordered to be in readiness, with what was left of his shattered division, to support Pillow in his assault upon the western side of the rocky height, Smith at the same time to sustain Quitman in his attack upon the strong works at the foot of the hill on the south and southeast. On this side it was impossible for infantry to clamber up the precipitous mound and the Mexicans had therefore fortified the base.
The different corps making up the little army of invaders laid upon their arms during the night of the 12th. The men now knew that Chapultepec was to be stormed in the morning — that many of them were to be sent up its steep and rocky sides, and over ground which concealed at every step treacherous mines — yet they had full reliance that success would in the end crown their efforts, and the hour and the signal were waited with impatience. They were nerved to the work still before them by a series of emotions and incentives, different in their nature but all tending to increase the common wish again to meet the enemy. The death of comrades at Contreras and Churubusco, the result of the perfidious armistice, the frightful slaughter at the Molino, the continual toil and hard and damp bivouacks of the previous month — all these incited and kept warm the general desire once more to grapple with the foe. But to these should be added an anxiety deep-seated and all-pervading — that was felt alike by officers and men — a wish to march through the streets of the proud capital of Mexico as conquerors. The history of Cortes and the first conquest was known by heart in the ranks of the second army of invaders, and to out-do the deeds of the great Spanish captain and his hardy followers nerved anew the weakest hearts among the Anglo-Saxons. To "Revel in the halls of the Montezumas," a rallying call which had certainly drawn thousands from their far-off homes to endure the faligues, the trials, and the perils of the campaign, now seemed to want nothing to bring about its full realization save one more determined blow, and stout arms grew stronger as the hour for the final struggle approached.
With the first light of day on the morning of the 13th of September, the different American batteries all repaired and well replenished with ammunition, the play upon Chapultepec was renewed, the brisk responses from the castle showing that the enemy had not been idle in restoring their works. At the same time Steptoe, whose fire had completely silenced several of the Mexican guns the previous day, reopened upon the southern garitas, while Twiggs, throwing forward detachments of infantry to points where they could be seen looking up the different causeways, kept a heavy force of the enemy massed at a quarter where no attack was intended.
From half-past 5 until nearly 8 o'clock in the morning the cannonade against Chapultepec was incessant, the Mexicans still replying with vigor. In the meantime the preparations for the assault were in active progress, the storming parties, with their immediate supports, being busily engaged in collecting scaling-ladders, crow-bars, pick-axes and other necessary implements. Worth, under a fire of round shot and shell from the castle, led his division down to the Molino, where he was at once ready to co-operate with Pillow, and P. F. Smith, forming his brigade on the right of Quitman, was thus in a position from which he could promptly aid in the attack on that side. Magruder's entire battery, one section of Duncan's under Hays, and the mountain howitzers now under Reno, were with Pillow; the remaining section of Duncan's battery under H. J. Hunt, and a captured 8-pounder which Drum had placed in readiness to run forward, were with Quitman.
The play of the heavy batteries being ordered to cease, and the signal for the assault given, Pillow commenced the attack upon the western side of Chapultepec by directing Reno to send a flight of shells into the temporary field works the enemy had constructed in the marshy ground on the right of the grove and near the wall, Magruder at the same time throwing a shower of grape and cannister into the darker cover afforded by the heavy timber. The voltigeurs, in two columns, were next sent forward as skirmishers, this new regiment advancing across the meadows with a will. The right, consisting of four companies, under J. E. Johnstone, moved out of the Molino by a flank, and on the outer side of the wall running south of the mound. On nearing a lunette, constructed at an opening in the wall through which he was to enter the grove, Johnstone was met by a sharp fire of musketry; but deploying his men at a run, and each company opening its fire as soon as deployed, the work was carried, the victors pouring through the wall upon the heels of the Mexicans. Pushing this advantage with vigor, Johnstone was soon in possession of all the ground in this quarter up to the base of the precipitous mound; and in the meantime Andrews, with the other companies of the voltigeurs and followed closely by the 9th and 15th infantry, swept the enemy from the front of the grove by a more direct movement. While this work was in progress, one section of Magruder's battery, under Jackson, with the 11th and 14th infantry in support, had taken a position below the Molino, and on the outer side of the wall running north of Chapultepec. Here, although much exposed to a plunging fire from the castle and the more direct play of a battery in advance on the road, they held their ground, ready to resist any attack that might come from the east for the relief of those defending the mound.
The voltigeurs, and other regiments engaged in the direct attack on the west, halted a few moments, after gaining the shelter of the grove, to allow the stormers under Mackenzie to come up. Some neglect, in forwarding the scaling-ladders, pick-axes and other implements for the assault, occasioned a short delay, but as soon as they arrived the advance was again sounded, the old cypress grove resounding louder than ever with the din of the conflict. Reno had brought two of his light mountain pieces up, and as the advance cleared the lower redoubts of the enemy's skirmishers he took up a position from whence he seriously annoyed the garrison within the ramparts of the castle above. With not a little resolution the Mexicans had clung to their works at the base and along the foot of the mound, and to a redan a short distance up the ascent; but so steady was the advance of the Americans, and so close their fire, that they were finally forced back with loss either within the main work, or else under the shelter of the rocky ledges.
While leading his men through the grove at a brisk pace Pillow was wounded, and being unable to move, the command devolved upon Cadwalader. The storming party now well up, and every thing in readiness for the final assault, the hazardous ascent was commenced. Among the foremost were the battalion of voltigeurs under Andrews and Caldwell, who, spreading as they clambered up the rocky precipice, kept up a rattling fire with their rifles. Immediately upon their rear were the 9th and 15th infantry, in close support of Mackenzie's stormers, with such portions of the 5th, 6th and 8th regiments, under Clarke, as had been detailed for the enterprise, Pillow having previously sent a request to Worth to move one of his brigades to sustain or support the attack. No order could be preserved on such steep, rocky and broken ground: the more strong and resolute of the different detachments forced their way to the front and poured in their fire, the enemy returning it with spirit from the works constructed at the base of the castle, as well as from the windows and azotea, which had been prepared for musketry. The assailants well knew that the hill side was mined, and many seemed eager to throw themselves at once into the ditches or upon the ramparts, and among the bayonets of the Mexicans, as though deeming the danger of being blown in the air as the greatest to be encountered. Hidden behind the rocks, and by the cover which the rough ground in front of the walls afforded, were bodies of sharp-shooters, their fire at first annoying to the assailants as they mounted the height. The Mexicans could not however withstand the close and searching aim of their opponents, and were pressed back over the ditches and walls, there to continue the contest. So incessant was the fire of the enemy at this time, and so close the range, that the Americans were every moment falling. Colonel Ransom of the 9th infantry, one of the most able and gallant officers of Pillow's division, was struck in the head while cheering on his command, and expired instantly. At the commencement of the ascent Huger had ordered the heavy batteries to re-open upon Chapultepec, his shot and shell passing over the heads of the assailants. Rut as they now appeared above the trees, and were rapidly crowning the crest of the mound, this fire was ordered to cease.
Rearing to the left, and towards the northwestern angle of the castle, Mackenzie led his stormers, a continuous stream of missiles pouring from the outer works, windows and azotea. For a moment his men hesitated. The percussion caps had been taken from their muskets, or the priming from such as had flint locks, and the fire they could not return was so destructive that the boldest wavered. Two promising young officers, A. P. Rodgers of the 4th and J. P. Smith of the 5th infantry, were struck dead, with two of the best sergeants of the command, Longstreet and other officers were wounded, and the uneven ground was strewn with the men who were every moment falling. But the unsparing exertions of Mackenzie, and such of his officers as were still on their feet, soon restored confidence, and again the stormers moved upward, the high and wide aim of the infantry lining the walls alone seeming to save the party from utter annihilation. The counterscarp reached, Armistead of the 6th infantry jumped boldly into the ditch, followed by Selden of the 8th, as well as the more brave and resolute among the men. In the midst of a deluge of hand-grenades and musket balls the ladders were hoisted to the walls; yet so strenuously did the Mexicans combat at this point that they were pushed back, and Selden and others who attempted to mount were struck down severely wounded. But renewing their attempts, and aided by the close and galling fire poured upon the front by the detachments of voltigeurs and other regiments, the stormers at length effected a lodgment, and spreading over the terreplein and entering the interior works, the bayonet soon settled the contest at this angle of the castle. The main train or saucisse, leading to the mines, had previously been found and cut by the voltigeurs; and a party of New Yorkers, under Reid, having meanwhile gained the summit of the mound, with the Pennsylvanians and New Yorkers from Quitman's division, who had poured through the lunette at the southern wall, a general rush was made for the ramparts. The enemy now gave way in this quarter, and in the midst of a confusion, increased by the eager impatience of the assailants, the entire western face of the work was entered and taken. A pestering fire had meanwhile been kept up from the walls on the southern front, as well as from the eastern terrace of the castle. To silence the Mexicans at these points Reno had continued, until severely wounded, to ply them with two of his mountain howitzers, and even after he was disabled Beauregard worked his pieces without cessation. Johnstone now bearing to the right of the crest, with his battalion of voltigeurs, soon reached and entered the southern gate, and here, joining the stormers who had scaled the walls on the west, in a resistless throng the Americans poured into the main body of the imposing building. Amid loud shouts one after another of the regimental flags, belonging to the different detachments, were now sent floating from the ramparts. Barnard, of the voltigeurs, although wounded, was among the first to plant the banners of his regiment upon the walls, while the Mexican flag, flying from the top of the castle, was torn down by Seymour, who had taken command of the 9th infantry after the fall of Ransom.
The Mexicans, after having been driven from the walls and ramparts, entered the immense castle. In their eagerness to escape from the American soldiers, who, mindful of the massacre of their friends at the Molino, and other wrongs, were pressing them from room to room and giving little quarter, they huddled near the northeastern angle. Here the greater part surrendered; yet there were many who were either forced over the precipice, or who dashed down voluntarily in the extremity of their fright, and were thus either killed or horribly maimed in their attempts to escape the bayonets of the assailants, who could with difficulty be restrained by their officers.
In the meantime, outside the wall which runs along the northern base of the mound, a brisk action had resulted in favor of the Americans. The 11th and 14th infantry, under the immediate command of Trousdale, had early, as already stated, taken a position in the road, while Garland's brigade of Worth's division occupied the vicinity of the Molino as a reserve. By Trousdale's orders a section of Magruder's battery, under Jackson, was thrown forward towards the San Cosmé causeway, a movement bringing it under a severe fire from the Mexican battery in front. But Trousdale, although twice wounded, held his ground, and a heavy cavalry and infantry force of the enemy, which at one time threatened to sweep round so as to gain the rear of the Molino, was held in check and finally driven by a combined movement of Garland's men and the 11th and 14th regiments. The Mexican battery in the road was also carried, the guns turned upon the retreating foe, and Magruder, coming up at a gallop, added the destructive play of his light pieces upon the fugitives. Some fled in the direction of San Cosmé by the causeway, others broke and dispersed across the fields and meadows stretching towards the north. The victory on this side was complete in every respect, for not only was the strong castle in the hands of the Americans, with all its heavy armament, but the possession of the batteries on the north, and all the ground up to the San Cosmé road, was also gained.
The artist has chosen as the subject for his sketch the moment when Mackenzie, after bearing to the left of the crest, has reached the ditch and is applying his ladders to the walls, and when the last of the Mexican skirmishers are being driven from the cover of the rocks to the shelter of the ramparts. No drawing could picture the conflict in the dense grove at the foot of the mound, or the sharp work on the northern side. The heavy guns of the castle are playing, not upon the stormers but upon portions of the brigades of Garland and Pierce, near the northern corner of the wall below the Molino.
The Storming of Chapultepec. (General Quitman's Attack.)
The assault upon the strong succession of works at the southeastern base of Chapultepec, where the mound was so precipitous it could not be scaled, was made by Quitman at the same time Pillow commenced the attack on the west. Under the shelter of Drum's battery, and the houses in the northern part of the village of Tacubaya, Quitman had formed his men for the desperate work, and at the given signal they advanced steadily. A heavy cannonade smote the front at the outset, carrying down some of the bravest men. This fire came not only from the guns in the southeastern angle of the castle, but from a battery advantageously posted in the road near the intersection of the Tacubaya aqueduct; yet to a slight degree protected from the latter by a collection of old buildings, and advancing at a rapid pace, the men moved up until within two hundred yards of the enemy's lines. Here, under the partial shelter of the houses, a short halt was called, to allow the detachments a moment of breathing time and to concentrate for the final struggle, and all in readiness they again advanced in the face of a more terrible storm of death than ever. Shields, with the South Carolinians and New Yorkers, moved obliquely across the low and marshy grounds on the left, followed by the 2d Pennsylvanians, while the storming party of picked men under Casey, with a strong support of Watson's marines, advanced, so soon as Shields's leading regiment had become closely engaged, more directly up the main road. In the meantime P. F. Smith led his brigade on the right of the road, the rifles in advance, this movement enabling him not only to brush away the skirmishers on the enemy's left, but to gain the Tacubaya causeway, and thus be in a position where he could prevent the arrival of reinforcements or cut off the main avenue of retreat, towards the city by the Belen garita. Hunt's section of Duncan's battery, run forward to a position where it could open with effect over the heads of the assailing columns, was soon in active play, while the captured 8-pounder, pushed up the road by Drum, added its fire to that of the main battery and other pieces.
In crossing the low grounds on the left, where not even a row of magueys offered shelter, the South Carolinians, New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians were met by a storm of musket balls so severe, as well as crashing showers of grape and cannister, that they went down by scores. Baxter, now in command of the New Yorkers, was mortally wounded Vanolinda, a distinguished officer of the same regiment, was killed, Geary, of the Pennsylvanians, was disabled, and Shields himself was badly wounded, while the carnage among the men was frightful; yet the boiling courage of the survivors carried them onward, the South Carolinians being the first to reach the exterior lines. While this regiment was making a breach through the wall, the stormers under Casey, with the marines, advancing directly up the road, were exposed to a fire of great severity; for not only were they compelled to move up in the face of galling showers of grape and cannister, but a succession of close vollies of musket bullets, coming from the infantry sheltered behind breastworks and rows of rank magueys, increased the havoc. Major Twiggs, a brave officer and brother of the general, was instantly killed, and Casey was badly wounded; but Miller, of the Pennsylvanians, taking the place of the former, and Paul, of the 7th infantry, the command the latter was compelled to relinquish, the stormers and their support continued boldly to move up. A party of rifles from Smith's brigade, at this juncture coming in from the right, joined the assaulting column, and with a last determined dash together they went into the advanced battery. The struggle was now short but murderous, for the Mexicans, clinging obstinately to their guns, could only be forced to relinquish possession by the lusty use of the bayonet and the clubbed weapons of the rifles. Giving a loud shout of triumph the victors, pressing onward, captured another battery. Scaling the walls at some points with ladders, and at others the men hoisting each other over, breastwork after breastwork now fell into the hands of the assailants, while P. F. Smith, closing in with his brigade on the right, was soon in possession of the causeway and aqueduct, thus completely cutting off the retreat of those who had not already fled towards the garita of Belen and the city.
The oblique movement across the low meadow on the left, led by Shields, had meanwhile been every way successful. The South Carolinians, under Gladden, had moved steadily up to a point of the southern wall they were compelled to breach, and without firing a gun. Forcing their way through with picks and crow-bars, and falling upon the enemy with the bayonet, the latter were sent back into the grove; and at the same time the New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians, pouring through the wall at the point where Johnstone had previously passed with his voltigeurs, commenced the ascent of the hill on the southwest to assist in Pillow's attack. Other portions of Quitman's command were, speedily employed in securing prisoners, heavy guns, ammunition, and the many spoils of victory, while detachments for pursuing the affrighted fugitives, by the causeway leading into the city, were immediately formed. Among the prisoners secured within the castle of Chapultepec and its exterior defences, in addition to the veteran commander, Bravo, were Generals Monterde, Luis Noriega, Juan Dosamantes and SaldaÅa, with a long list of colonels and officers of minor grade. General Juan Nepomuceno Perez, Colonel Cano, a young but gallant and distinguished officer of engineers, the commander of the San Blas regiment, Colonel Santiago Xicoténcal, and Bravo's principal adjutant, F. L. Estrada, were among the killed.
The city of Mexico is approached by two roads from Chapultepec, the shorter and more direct being by the Tacubaya causeway, which leads up to the strongly fortified garita of Belen some two miles distant. In the centre of this causeway runs the aqueduct, a high and massive stone structure supported by open arches and heavy pillars, a carriage way running On either side. These carriage ways, flanked at all times by wide and deep ditches, were now cut up by trenches, and defended by barricades and breastworks, with embrasures for artillery, at different points. The other road, which enters the city by a circuitous route through the suburb and garita of San Cosmé, was similarly constructed in every respect — an aqueduct for carrying water into the capital, flanked on either side by carriage ways and these in turn by ditches, being met in this direction. In the eagerness of pursuit Quitman's troops were at once following up the fugitives who had escaped by the former route, while with the same ardor Worth advanced towards San Cosmé, in furious haste after the enemy retreating by the causeway of that name. By the previous plan, Quitman was only to move up to a point where he could threaten the Belen garita, and the strong Ciudadela within close range at the edge of the Paseo Nuevo beyond; but his own ardent courage finding a ready response from his men, the pursuit on this line was continued until a heavy fire was opened upon the advance from the different works ahead. Nor was it now given up; for P. F. Smith with the rifles, followed closely by the South Carolinians and other regiments, still continued to advance. Shields, although wounded, persevered in leading on his men, Drum moved rapidly up with a captured piece, and Duncan at this time being ordered to run his battery out from the San Cosmé road and open a flank fire, the first of the enemy's defences on the Tacubaya causeway was soon carried. The position of this work, which was flanked by a field redan, was a little more than a mile from Chapultepec: a thousand yards farther in advance was the Belen garita, which immediately opened its fire, and as Quitman's men continued to move up, the galling discharges from a battery on the Piedad causeway, which intersects at the Belen garita, were added. The open arches of the aqueduct afforded some shelter from the direct fire of the garita, but against the cross showers of iron there was no protection, and the rifles and South Carolinians suffered severely. A few discharges of cannister, well directed by Drum, however dispersed the enemy from the Piedad road, and Quitman now forming his men for the last assault, a determined charge was made upon the Belen garita. Within the arches of the aqueduct, now that the fire from the Piedad causeway had been silenced, the assailants could pause to take breath and collect; yet so murderous was the fire on emerging from this temporary shelter that the men fell rapidly. Loring, in command of the rifles, was severely wounded, with Gladden of the South Carolinians; Moragne and J. W. Canty, young
44officers of the latter regiment, were killed; and at every step gained the fire from the garita increased. Nothing could however check the ardor of the survivors, who, dashing up at a run, went over the breastworks and into the garita with a shock so resistless that the defenders, or those not killed or captured, sought safety in flight. Numbers of the enemy entered the nearest houses on the right and front, and there commenced a new fire; others pressed across the Paseo to the Ciudadela, scarcely three hundred yards distant, which now opened with all its guns upon the captured garita. At this crisis, with more courage than discretion, Drum advanced into the open ground in front to counter-batter, with a single light piece, the heavy armament of the Ciudadela. Soon this brave and indefatigable officer was struck down mortally wounded, and the next moment, while his second in command, Benjamin, was assisting the first sergeant to remove him, both were killed by another round shot. Thus were two of the best officers in the service lost.
Meanwhile detachments of the rifles and South Carolinians had dashed forward, and occupying the arches of the aqueduct and other cover, opened upon the citadel and every point in the vicinity. But seeing the weight of the counter-fire they were soon recalled under cover of the garita, where the 1st artillery, 3d infantry and Pennsylvanians, with a detachment of the 6th infantry which had joined in the pursuit on this road, had already arrived. The enemy kept up a fire upon Quitman until night, not only from the Ciudadela and a battery in the Paseo on the left, but from the houses immediately in front of the garita and on the right. From the latter, and also from the citadel, the Mexicans also attempted several sorties during the afternoon, but were invariably driven back with loss.
While these operations were in progress on the Tacubaya causeway, Worth had moved up, carrying all before him, until he had reached the English cemetery in the edge of San Cosmé. To support his attack on this side, which had originally been intended as the main movement upon the city, General Scott, from Chapultepec, despatched Cadwalader's brigade, and designating the 15th infantry, under Howard, to garrison the castle, the remaining regiments of Pierce's command were sent forward on the Tacubaya road to sustain Quitman. These dispositions made, the American commander-in-chief proceeded to join Worth; but before his arrival at San Cosmé the strong works at the cemetery, and at the head of the roads entering the suburb, had been carried after a sharp brush, and the command was closely engaged with the enemy in the main street leading up to the garita.
At the latter position Santa Anna, who was himself in command at this quarter, had two heavy pieces, posted so as completely to sweep the street, while a number of rampart guns, intended to throw showers of musket balls short distances, added to his strength. The azoteas of the commanding houses on either flank, and in advance, were also occupied by sharpshooters, well protected by strong parapets, who kept up an incessant fire. But in the face of all Worth promptly formed his plans for the last attack. The distance from the works at the cemetery to the garita, an intermediate battery being established in the street, was not far from five hundred yards. Hagner was sent forward, with a 24-pounder, to open upon the enemy in case he was not too much exposed; yet finding, on reaching a slight turn in the aqueduct which traverses the street, that his men could not live a moment in face of the destructive fire beating down from the works in advance, he was ordered to move back out of reach. Garland was next sent forward on the right of the aqueduct, which, with the buildings on that side, partially sheltered his men, while Clarke's brigade, taking the houses on the left of the street, was ordered to burrow through until a position could be gained within close musket range of the garita. While the sappers and miners, under Gus. W. Smith, were picking a way through the partitions, a number of mountain howitzers were lifted to the azoteas of some of the higher houses, and under Hagner, Edwards, and other officers, opened a plunging fire upon the garita. One of these howitzers was even lifted to the roof of the church of San Cosmé, a high building on the right of the street, where the effect of its fire was most destructive. One of Duncan's pieces, under H. J. Hunt, was next run directly up the street to the cover of the intermediate work, which had meanwhile been deserted; and although the officer in charge had only four out of the nine men standing with which he had started, so severe had been the gauntlet of missiles he was compelled to run, he at once commenced a sharp fire in return.
While the garita was thus assailed in front, and from the commanding houses occupied by the howitzers on either side of the street, the infantry on both flanks had gradually worked their way, although not without loss, to points within close range. The enemy occupying the roofs had previously been forced to retire, taking refuge behind the works at the garita; but even here they were to be allowed but short respite. For Garland's men dashing boldly out from the cover they had attained on the right, while Clarke's sprang as nimbly to the tops of the houses overlooking the enemy's last work, a fire was opened so sudden and so destructive that the defenders immediately relinquished their guns in consternation and fled. Santa Anna escaped over a garden wall, leaving one of his aids a prisoner in the hands of Worth's victorious soldiers, while all his cannon save one, together with the ammunition, were captured.
This was the last regular blow struck for the possession of the city of Mexico, a lodgment within the streets of which had now been effected. Huger immediately coming up, with a 24-pounder and 10-inch mortar, and being ordered by Worth to open upon the Grand Plaza and palace, so soon as a platform for the latter could be laid a flight of shell and round shot was sent into the heart of the city. The hissing fuzes of the bombs, as they went circling through the air, added to the consternation of the affrighted inhabitants, and the after crash of the explosions, some of the missiles falling within the richest and most thickly populated quarters of the capital, farther increased the terror. Santa Anna, with all his regular troops and a confused crowd of stragglers, now left the northern garitas and retreated towards Guadalupe, after opening all the prison doors and turning loose the hordes of criminals, and by a little, after midnight a deputation from the ayuntamiento, or municipal council of the city, arrived at Worth's head-quarters with the intelligence that the, army had evacuated, and that they were deputed to confer with the American commander-in-chief to settle the terms of capitulation. This commission, under an escort and accompanied by Mackall, one of Worth's staff officers, was despatched to Tacubaya, whither General Scott had returned, the firing upon the heart of the capital being meanwhile ordered to cease.
Such were the operations of the 13th of September, operations brilliant in their conception and carrying out, and which threw the proud capital of Mexico at the mercy of the invaders. The losses of the enemy in killed and wounded, although heavy, were no so great in proportion as those of their adversaries, they being protected at almost every point by breastworks, barricades, or thick walls. The entire list of casualties in the ranks of General Scott's army, during the assault upon Chapultepec and the after advance upon the city, numbered nearly nine hundred, including over eighty officers. Among the killed were Colonels Ransom and Baxter, Major Twiggs, Captains Drum, Vanolinda and Pearson, and Lieutenants Benjamin, A. P. Rodgers, Moragne, J. W. Canty, J. P. Smith, Gantt and J. W. Steen. Of the wounded more or less severely were Generals Pillow and Shields, Colonels Trousdale, J. E. Johnstone and Geary, Majors Loring and Gladden, Captains Gates, Casey, Danley, Robert E. Lee, Hagner, Backenstoss, Barclay, Beauregard, Magruder, McPhail, Mackall, E. C. Williams, Simonson, Scantland, J. Miller, Fairchild, Page, Marshall, J. H. Williams, King, Barnard, Beale, Nauman, Tucker and J. Caldwell, and Lieutenants Van Dorn, Brannan, Lyon, Tower, Longstreet, Tilton, Sprague, M. Clark, Henderson, Bell, Reno, Keefe, W. J. Martin, Maloney, Lovell, Selden, Stevens, J. W. Green, Towison, Armistead, Mayne Reid, Selleck, Russell, Haskin, D. D. Baker, Devlin, Bannon, Robertson, Kirkland, J. B. Davis, Longneeker, R. Steele, J. N. Palmer and Bedford.
In the drawing which represents Quitman's attack upon Chapultepec, the artist has introduced the works for its defence constructed at the base of the mound. On the right of the picture is the battery which swept the direct road leading from Tacubaya; a little beyond may be seen some of the arches of the aqueduct carrying water into the city through the Belen garita. In the centre, amid the smoke, are the walls and lines of breastworks occupied by the Mexican infantry; on the left the South Carolinians are pouring through the breach they had effected under a heavy fire. Above rises the castle, the southern and eastern fronts, with the ramp leading up to the main and only entrance, being visible. The western side, assailed by Pillow's command, is concealed. The castle was built for the residence of one of the old Spanish viceroys, and although irregular in its architecture, is still an imposing pile.
Entrance Into the City of Mexico.
The deputation from the ayuntamiento of the city of Mexico, which, as has been previously stated, arrived at General Worth's head-quarters, inside the garita of San Cosmé, at 1 o'clock on the morning of the 14th of September, brought the intelligence that Santa Anna, with the remnant of his beaten army and the members of the Government, had commenced evacuating the capital immediately after Huger's heavy guns and mortar had opened. As the members of the deputation had been despatched, by the municipal authorities, to confer with the American commander-in-chief, they were sent under an escort to Tacubaya, and arrived at General Scott's head-quarters at 4 o'clock in the morning.
An interview was immediately held, at which the deputation spoke of terms of a surrender or capitulation in favor of the church, the citizens, and the civil or municipal authorities. But General Scott refused to listen to any propositions, and the members of the ayuntamiento were told that no capitulation would be signed, as the city had been virtually in possession of the American army from the time that Worth and Quitman had entered the garitas on the preceding afternoon. After expressing his regret that the Mexican army had silently escaped, General Scott next informed the deputation that he should levy upon the capital a moderate contribution, for special purposes, and in conclusion said that his army should come under no terms not self-imposed — such as its own honor, the dignity of the United States, and the spirit of the age should, in his opinion, imperiously demand and require. After this declaration the conference ended, the members of the deputation being allowed to return to the city.
Meanwhile, during the night, Quitman had thrown up two batteries inside of the garita of Belen. Before daylight on the 14th they were in readiness to receive their guns, and three heavy pieces, one a 68-pound howitzer, were brought up and placed in position, the command of the work being given to Steptoe. An infantry defence was also constructed, possession was taken of every point in the vicinity of the garita affording shelter, and full preparations were made for continuing the attack upon the Ciudadela with the first light of morning. Worth had in the meantime thrown forward light detachments to hold the higher and more important buildings in advance of the San Cosmé garita, and on all sides the greatest precautions were taken to guard against a surprise.
After the termination of the interview with the deputation from the ayuntamiento, from the members of which General Scott gained the information that the Mexican army had evacuated the city, he despatched orders to Worth and Quitman to advance, slowly and cautiously as he now feared treachery, and occupy the stronger and more commanding points as they moved through the streets. Worth, whose force had been strengthened by the arrival of Riley's brigade, the evening previous, advanced as far as the Alameda, within three or four squares of the Grand Plaza, where, in compliance with express orders, he halted. But Quitman, receiving a white flag at daylight with word that the citadel had been evaluated and that the main army had fled, moved forward and occupied that strong position, and, after detailing a force to hold it, next advanced towards the Grand Plaza and took immediate possession of the national palace. He had been informed that Santa Anna, before leaving the city during the night, had turned loose all the prisoners inihe Accordada and other carcels, and that these criminals, mingling, with the more worthless of the leperos, were already engaged in the work of plundering the palace. Such was really the case; but on his arrival the marauders were driven out, and falling back they soon joined the rabble congregating in the neighborhood of the Grand Plaza.
Within the citadel Quitman had found and secured no less than fifteen pieces of cannon. Santa Anna had retreated to this point after Worth carried the garita of San Cosmé, and when the latter opened the bombardment upon the centre of the city, the former was holding a council, with Lombardini and all his principal officers, upon the propriety of farther continuing the defence. Some of the council were in favor of opposing the Americans from street to street, of contesting every inch to the last; but the effect of Huger's heavy round shot and shell quickened the determination, which had already seized the majority, of abandoning the capital. Within the citadel, and its immediate vicinity, Santa Anna then had nearly six thousand infantry and four thousand cavalry. The latter were ordered to evacuate the city at once, and the former, moving in the direction of Guadalupe by the northern causeway, before 2 o'clock the last of the stragglers were on the road in retreat. In such trepidation was the flight conducted that the officers of the artillery left the fifteen pieces of cannon, already mentioned, in the citadel, fearing that the noise of removing them might be heard by Quitman, and cause him at once to fall upon their rear. A number of light as well as heavy guns, stationed at other points, were carried off by, the retreating army.
At 8 o'clock in the morning General Scott, accompanied by his staff, by General Twiggs, and other officers, came in from Tacubaya and entered the Grand Plaza. The American flag had previously been raised, amid acclamations, upon the palace, occupying one entire side of the great square, by Roberts of the rifle regiment: the cheers were louder and heartier as the commander-in-chief rode into the plaza. Taking up his quarters temporarily in the palace, his first act was to appoint General Quitman governor of the city. His next care was to provide quarters for his troops, as well as to place them in the best attitude for defence by occupying all the stronger points of the capital. An immense throng of blanketed leperos, their faces full of hatred and treachery, crowded upon the dragoons and infantry in the plaza, and could with difficulty be forced back. Among them were hundreds of liberated convicts, many of whom had arms concealed under their ragged vestments, besides a number of the national guard, who, changing their uniforms, and throwing the universal blanket of the country over their shoulders, now mingled with the throng of the more worthless. They had left their arms, either at their own houses or at points designated, and were ready to open upon the invaders at the first signal.
Although the bearing of the crowds evinced much hostility from the first, and the bad feeling of the lowest of the scum of a city which has twenty thousand idle yet able-bodied vagrants within its limits was ill concealed, yet no regular outbreak occurred until nearly an hour after General Scott had entered the plaza. At this time a fire commenced upon some of Worth's men, from a house near the convent of San Francisco, within three squares of the main or grand plaza, which was soon after taken up from the hospital of San Andres and other points in the vicinity. In an hour this dastardly warfare had spread until it reached the Aduana, and as the day wore it extended to nearly every portion of the city. A musket had previously been discharged at General Worth, from a building near the Alameda, yet although the distance was but a few steps the cowardly assassin missed his aim. The ball however struck Colonel Garland, who was riding by Worth's side, inflicting a serious wound, besides endangering Dr. Satterlee, the head surgeon of the division, and other officers.
Exasperated at this hidden and treacherous mode of attack, after the city had regularly capitulated and the army had fled, Worth ordered up Huger's heavy guns from the Alameda, and Hagner opening upon the houses near the convent of San Francisco, a flight of 68-pound shells, crashing through the walls and bursting inside, soon drove the miscreants from that quarter. But at other points the warfare continued, and by the middle of the day the divisions of both Twiggs and Worth were warmly engaged. At the time when the inhabitants had vauntingly threatened to make a second Saragosa of their beautiful city, and that they would bury themselves beneath its ruins, the azoteas of many of the houses had been covered with billets of wood, broken bottles, paving-stones, and other missiles, and these were now showered upon straggling parties of soldiers by unseen hands. The system of the leaders of the, outbreak lacked organization. It had been adopted too hastily to be effective at any point, yet the assassin-like fire was still annoying, and at every moment seemed to increase. Lieutenant Sidney Smith, an officer of the 4th infantry, was killed, many of the men were also struck down, and so irritated at length became the officers that an order was given to enter every house whence a musket was fired, and to give no quarter to the inmates. Worth also despatched an aid-de-camp to bring up powder, having determined to blow up every building from which his men were annoyed, and nothing but an unavoidable delay which occurred, in the transmission of the order, saved many of the buildings from destruction. A party of soldiers entering the hospital of San Andres, and spreading rapidly through the apartments, caught an old priest in the act of opening a box of cartridges. His age alone saved his life, while those to whom he was supplying ammunition escaped over the neighboring roofs, or effectually concealed themselves behind the parapets. But in many buildings which were broken into and entered by the exasperated Americans the dastardly inhabitants were less fortunate, paying the penalty of their cowardly acts with their lives.
The number of Mexicans actually engaged in this warfare was never accurately known. Some two or three thousand of the national guard — fellows who had fled at Churubusco and from the defence of the garitas and other points — were still known to have arms in their possession, and
46joining with the liberated convicts and leperos, many of whom had old muskets, they were enabled to keep up a noisy demonstration until nightfall. The principal streets, wherever a knot of the inhabitants were seen collected, were swept by the light batteries of the Americans, the innocent frequently falling with the guilty. The chief leaders had probably been promised assistance from the army without, so soon as the fighting had fairly commenced. One condition, upon which the convicts were liberated the previous night, was that they should stir up resistance against the invaders, and the ladrones and many of the lower orders of the national guard had a double object in view in keeping up hostilities — an opportunity to gratify their deep hatred of the foreigners by a system of assassination they were led to believe justifiable, and to plunder the more wealthy of their own countrymen at the same time. With hardly an exception the families of the better classes were opposed to offering any resistance, and by barring and locking their doors, and hanging white flags from their windows, attempted as well to propitiate the good will of the conquerors as to keep their own countrymen from entering their dwellings. But the lawless and irrestrainable mob, with arms in their hands, forced their way in every quarter, spreading terror as they went.
At dark on the 14th of September the fighting within the city ceased, but on the morning of the 15th it recommenced, and with more method on the part of the populace. Near the barriers of San Lazaro and San Pablo, as well as at El Carmen and other points in the suburbs, the leaders of the attempt seemed to act upon a definite plan and move in concert, while the appearance of parties of regular dragoons, upon the causeway leading in from Guadalupe, gave the whole affair more the aspect of an organized resistance. On the previous afternoon the members of the ayuntamiento, frightened by the threats of the Americans and the fears that the city would be given up to sack and destroyed, had used their utmost exertions to quell the insurrection, if it may be so termed; yet without effect. These efforts at restoring quiet were renewed on the 15th by the civil functionaries, while the clergy, and the better classes of the citizens, now added their influence. But it was mainly through the prompt and daring attacks of the different detachments of invaders, which, spreading over the city, fell upon the malcontents wherever found, that order was finally brought about. The American officers, now better acquainted with the streets and localities, could assail the different quarters from which resistance came with more advantage, and by the middle of the day the firing had almost ceased. It is true that some of the more bold and reckless spirits of the mob, occupying the distant houses and from whence escape was easy, continued a straggling fire during the afternoon. Their balls were however thrown at random, and caused little injury.
The loss of life to the Mexicans, during the period these dastardly hostilities continued, although great, was never fully known. For this the mob had not looked. During the days and weeks of fighting within the city, which had frequently followed their own pronunciamentos, few of the lives of the combatants had ever been taken. After ten hours of incessant firing it would frequently happen that no one, save perhaps some unfortunate child or market woman, would be hurt. So far as regarded their own personal safety, the leperos and others who had taken a part anticipated the same results; but when the rabble saw that they were to be charged upon with vigor, and that no very scrupulous regard for the lives of those caught with arms in their hands was to be manifested, they dispersed and gave up the contest. Throughout the strife the American soldiers acted with the greatest forbearance, frequently sparing miscreants who had forfeited their lives by every law of war. Nor was the property molested in any houses save those from which the men had been fired upon. It is doubtful whether the troops of any other nation would have exercised so much forbearance, would have stopped at retaliation so slight for such cowardly atrocities as were carried out by the inhabitants of a city which had capitulated in regular form. Had such an outbreak commenced in any European city, and been continued under similar circumstances, it would certainly have been given up to sack. From the 15th of September, until the evacuation of the Mexican capital in the following summer, no attempt was made to renew hostilities of the same nature. The more cowardly spirits among the natives contented themselves with simple acts of stealthy assassination, but in other respects the American troops were unmolested.
In the sketch of General Scott's entrance into the city of Mexico, the artist gives the reader a view of two sides of the Grand Plaza. On the right is the national palace, with the American flag floating in triumph; in the centre is the celebrated cathedral, a rich and costly pile; on the left is the house immediately on the corner of the Plateros, one of the principal streets, a knot of armed leperos partially concealed behind the parapet of the azotea. In the foreground is the commander-in-chief, just entering with a small dragoon escort, while infantry and cavalry as well as artillery are disposed at different points. The strict fidelity of the picture, as regards the architecture of the palace, cathedral and other buildings introduced, may be implicitly relied upon.
Santa Anna, on evacuating the, city with his army, took the road towards Guadalupe, as has already been stated, his men deserting by scores in the darkness. By daylight on the morning of the 14th, the greater part were moving, and in much disorder, in the direction of Tlalnepantla, a large town some eight miles northwest of Guadalupe. But receiving intelligence that the fighting in the city had commenced, with exaggerated accounts of the success of the ladrones, the Mexican commander returned to Guadalupe with a portion of his troops, that being a point from which he could more easily move to the assistance of his friends in case they were enabled to make sufficient headway against the invaders.
During the 14th and 15th of September Santa Anna lingered in the vicinity of Guadalupe, undetermined how to act. At times he could hear the firing within the city, but instead of sending a powerful body of regulars, which he might have done, to the support of the ladrones, his conduct seems now more than ever to have been characterized by indecision. On the 16th, finding that the insurrection had been quelled and that all hopes of recovering the capital had faded, he took the sudden resolution of resigning the Presidency of the Mexican republic, assigning, as one of his principal reasons, his ardent desire to place himself in front against the invaders of the country, and stating, at the same time, that the chief magistrate of the nation should not be exposed to the hazards of war. His real reasons for resigning of course were, that he could no longer hold the office with profit and credit to himself.
Meanwhile intelligence had reached him that General Rea, with a mixed command of guerillas and the citizens of Puebla, had attacked Childs, who had been left in command of the American depot at that city, and had driven him into the cuartel of San José and the works of Loreto and Guadalupe overlooking the town. Here was at least an opportunity for him to snatch a victory, and Santa Anna resolved immediately upon improving it. Ordering Herrera, with the infantry and heavy artillery he had saved, to march to Querétaro, as the best point where the broken Government could assemble, he moved at once in the direction of Puebla with some two thousand of the better mounted cavalry still in hand, and several light pieces. With such celerity was this march conducted that he reached Puebla on the 22d of September, and moving into the city on the opposite side from the quarter occupied by Childs, established himself in the Carmen.
The attack upon the Americans had commenced upon the 13th of September, the same day on which Chapultepec and the western garitas of Mexico had fallen, and had been continued with little intermission, until Santa Anna's arrival. The positions of Loreto and Guadalupe, on the heights overlooking the town, had not been seriously molested, Rea confining his operations to a continued fire upon San José, in the edge of the city, and to cutting off all supplies for the besieged garrison with his numerous cavalry. An attempt had also been made to turn the water which supplied the Americans. This had failed, but greater success had attended the efforts to prevent provisions from being introduced, and the command of Childs was reduced to half rations before the arrival of Santa Anna. The besieged had however been able to beat off every assault with loss, and felt sanguine of holding their positions to the last.
On the 25th of September Santa Anna sent in a summons for Childs to surrender, granting him the permission to march, with all the honors of war, either to the city of Mexico or Vera Cruz. In his summons he stated that he had eight thousand men, and intimated that the feeble garrison — for Childs had but little over two thousand in all and the greater number were invalids — could not withstand the attack he meditated. The response of the American commander was prompt and manly. After positively denying certain charges made by Santa Anna, to the effect that the citizens of Puebla had been maltreated by the United States troops, Childs closed his answer by stating that he had been honored with the duty of guarding his positions, and that he felt confident of making the defence good.
No hostile demonstrations were made by the Mexicans, notwithstanding Santa Anna's threats, until two days after the summons to surrender, when the attacks upon San José were renewed. But the garrison, composed mainly of the 1st Pennsylvania volunteers under Black, with great gallantry repulsed every assault. On the night of the 29th Santa Anna ordered two light cannon to be placed in position where they could reach San José, and on the following morning the fire of these pieces was opened. A single 12-pounder, however, brought to bear upon them by Laidley, of the ordnance corps, was alone sufficient to keep them in check.
On the 1st of October Santa Anna hastily marched out of Puebla, with four thousand men and all his artillery, taking the direction of Peroté. He had learned that General Lane Was advancing, with a heavy train of wagons and an inconsiderable force, and evidently hoped to meet and check him at the narrow and difficult pass of the Pinal. Rea was in the meantime left at Puebla to continue the attacks upon Childs. The day after Santa Anna left, a sortie, made by Small with a single company of Pennsylvanians, was every way successful. A barricade, formed of cotton bales, behind which the enemy were lying in numbers, was carried and destroyed, the defenders losing nearly twenty men in killed alone. A high and commanding house within long musket range of San José, from which the Mexicans had pestered the garrison, was also entered and blown up. At different times during the siege, and especially when the ringing of bells announced the arrival of Santa Anna on the 22d, flights of round shot and shell were sent by Kendrick, from his batteries at Loreto, directly into the heart of the city, frightening the enemy and distracting their efforts.
On the 6th of October a sortie was ordered by Morehead, in command of Guadalupe, which resulted in complete success. The enemy nestled about the Tivoli garden, who had occasioned the besieged no inconsiderable annoyance, were driven off. Lieutenants Edwards and Lewis, who led the attack, were wounded. On the 8th another party, sent out under Johnson, was equally successful in dislodging the enemy from several houses where they had sought shelter. By the 10th the constant fire which had been kept up by the Mexicans began to abate, and on the 12th, foiled in all his efforts against the sturdy garrison, Rea commenced leaving his positions. Childs now promptly ordered Black to sally out and harass or cut off the retreat. Advancing directly towards the main plaza with a portion of his command, this officer was unmolested, but a company of Pennsylvanians, under Herron, moving by a street on the right, was suddenly surrounded by no less than five hundred lancers, who charged with great fury. Herron's men defended themselves with much courage, and Black, hearing the firing and hastening up, was in season to take a part in the affair and assist in driving off the lancers. No less than thirteen of Herron's small company were killed, the enemy also suffering severely. This brush ended the siege of Puebla, which, close and annoying, had lasted more than a month. No estimate can be made of the losses of the Mexicans, but they must have been heavy. The entire number of casualties on the American side amounted to but seventy-two, of whom nineteen were killed.
Meanwhile Santa Anna, who had marched from Puebla on the 1st of October with the intention of meeting Lane at the pass of El Final, reached Napolucan on the 3d. His entire force numbered not far from four thousand men, all regulars although dispirited by past reverses, with six pieces of light artillery, while that of Lane scarcely exceeded two thousand, made up mostly of raw recruits, who had never been under fire, and hampered besides with a large baggage train. Santa Anna's plans were promptly formed. Instead of opposing Lane in the pass, as had been anticipated, he moved with his entire command to Huamantla, a large town off the main road, intending from thence to move up, when the American wagons had all entered the narrow defile of the Pinal, and attack the escort at every advantage. But Lane, suspecting his object, parked his wagons at San Antonio Tamaris, a hacienda on the opposite side of the pass, and leaving a strong command for their protection, marched with his main force directly upon Huamantla.
For this sudden and resolute movement Santa Anna was unprepared. The leading men of Lane's command, made up of Walker's company of mounted rifles and a detachment of Louisiana volunteer cavalry under Besancon, came up with such celerity that the Mexicans were surprised, many commencing an immediate retreat. A party of some four hundred lancers, however, with two pieces of artillery, stood their ground in the principal plaza; but Walker dashed upon them in a charge so rough that they were beaten back with the loss of their guns. With great courage Walker followed up his success, his men, armed with Colt's repeaters, inflicting serious loss upon the enemy with this terrible weapon. But in the midst of the pursuit a heavy reinforcement of the Mexicans came up, and opening a close and brisk fire, the advance of the Americans was momentarily checked. Walker, with thirteen of his men, went down killed or mortally wounded, many others were disabled, and the enemy, emboldened at the check they had given their adversaries, pressed up to the front in considerable force; but Lane at this crisis reaching the ground, took immediate measures to meet his opponents. Gorman, with his Indianians, was ordered to move into the town and attack the Mexicans in front, while Wynkoop's Pennsylvanians, and a body of recruits under Heintzelman, were despatched to the right to sustain the movement. Gorman's men were the first to engage, and the enemy, seeing themselves thus beset and threatened, gave way and fled. The two pieces of cannon, from which the lancers had been driven at the first dash of Walker's men, were now secured, and Lane, bringing up his wagons, moved upon Puebla without being molested. In this affair two of Santa Anna's aids, Colonel La Vega and Major Augustin Iturbide, were taken prisoners. The loss of the enemy, in killed and wounded, was estimated at one hundred and fifty men.
Lane reached Puebla on the 12th of October, and at the moment when the Mexicans, unsuccessful in all their attempts against Childs, were evacuating the city. On the 19th, learning that Rea was in force at Atlixco, a city twenty-seven miles distant, Lane organized an expedition, the different detachments of which were under Lally, Brough, Gorman, Heintzelman, Ford and other officers, and moving with celerity, reached the place in a single march. Rea had his force drawn up on a rough hill outside the city; but a determined charge beat him back with loss. During the night, after a short bombardment, the ayuntamiento surrendered the city.
Meanwhile Santa Anna had returned to Huamantla, his command reduced to but little over one thousand men. Here, on the 15th of October, he received an order from the then Minister of Foreign Relations, Don Luis de la Rosa, calling upon him to deliver up the command of the army to General Rincon, or, in his absence, to General Alvarez, and at the same time to establish himself at some point to await the organization of a council of war, which was to investigate his conduct as commander-in-chief, during the principal actions of the war, and more particularly for the loss of the capital of the republic. Had Santa Anna been in command of a regular force at the time of receiving this despatch, with the most remote hope of sustaining himself, he would not have obeyed it any sooner than an order from one of his trumpeters; but without men and without means, and with no prospect of recruiting the former or raising the latter, he made a virtue of necessity, and threw up his last hold upon place and power. Yet true to himself and his past character, in one sense Santa Anna died with a lie on his tongue. In a farewell address to his soldiers, dated at Huamantla on the 16th of October and which was intended as an answer to Rosa, he commences with the following piece of idle fanfaronade: "When we anticipated gaining a triumph for the country over our invaders, according to the combinations of which you are no strangers, and while I was exclusively occupied in carrying on hostilities against the enemy, as you well know, which object alone brought us in this direction, I received the surprising communication of Don Luis de la Rosa," etc., etc. The impudence of this magniloquent swaggering, when Santa Anna knew that all his combinations had been defeated, and that a single squadron of American dragoons, had it been at hand, could have dispersed and scattered his entire command, is but of a piece with every act of his life. After a sharp cut at PeÅa y PeÅa, who at the time was acting President of Mexico by virtue of his holding the office of Judge of the Supreme Court, Santa Anna winds up his address to his forlorn squad of adherents in the following strain: "I depart from you and the theatre of war, perhaps to sacrifice myself to the vengeance of my enemies, or to effect an inglorious peace, which I did not wish to grant, because it was repugnant to my conscience." After thus relieving his conscience, and turning over the command to General Reyes as neither of the chiefs specified in the order of Rosa was present, Santa Anna started for the state of Oajaca with a score of followers. Taking up his residence in Tehuacan, he employed himself, until the month of January following, in writing manifestoes to his countrymen, all intended to pave the way towards his future assumption of power. In his new retreat he remained quiet until the indefatigable Lane, hearing of his whereabouts, organized a force for his capture. This was in the latter part of January, 1848, and came near being successful. With a mixed command of regular cavalry and mounted Texans, the former under W. H. Polk and the latter under Hays, Tehuacan was entered; but a friend of Santa Anna's having given him word of the advance, he was enabled to make his escape. After this he wandered about the country without followers, until he was finally permitted by the Americans to leave his native land. Taking up his residence at the English island of Jamaica, he has remained there, up to the present time, forming plans to regain the ascendancy he once had over his countrymen; and if he does not succeed it will be because his life and energy are not spared him long enough.
Although foreign to his original intention, the author has seen fit to follow up events, after General Scott's triumphant entrance into the city of Mexico, down to the time when Santa Anna was utterly prostrated and disgraced. Other than the siege of Puebla, and the affairs, at Huamantla and Atlixco — if a series of skirmishes with different guerilla bands, in which the Americans were always victorious, are excepted — the invading army remained inactive during the fall of 1847 and winter of 1848. In March of the latter year, a treaty of peace, negotiated at Guadalupe Hidalgo, was ratified by the Senate of the United States at Washington, with some modifications of the original draft. On the 24th of May following, after no inconsiderable discussion, the treaty was also ratified by the Mexican Congress, then in session at Querétaro, and within a week afterwards the signatures of Messrs. Clifford and Sevier, the commissioners on the part of the United States, were affixed, with those of the proper Mexican functionaries. Peace being thus brought about, the American troops commenced
48evacuating the territory, and before the summer was ended the tri-colored flag of Mexico was again flying save over those rich portions ceded to its victorious rival by the stipulations of the treaty.
In reviewing the operations of the American army in the valley of Mexico, from the time the different divisions were concentrated in front of the PeÅon, on the 13th of August, up to the lodgment within the city on the 13th of September, the brilliant series of victories achieved, in the face of obstacles innumerable and without a single reverse, seem almost incredible. Neither the chronicles of ancient wars, nor the histories of modern achievements, furnish a parallel to the second reduction of Mexico. Even the lustre which attaches to the feats of Cortes and his hardy followers, burnished by the glowing descriptions of Prescott and other writers, becomes dimmed by the deeds of these latter days. The brave and adventurous Spaniard, surrounded by his hosts of Tlascalan allies, brought agencies then thought supernatural to the work of conquest, had all the engines of modern war at his disposal, and fought against an enemy superstitious and awe-stricken, and provided only with the ruder weapons of battle. It is true that the followers of the Aztec monarchs, of Montezuma and Guatemozin, were brave, and the mass, when all hopes of victory had left them, still continued the fight; but of what avail were their fierce onslaughts upon the iron ranks of the Spaniards? It is farther true that a soldier of the cross occasionally fell, borne down by some avalanche of Pagan warriors; yet for every drop of Christian blood a river would flow, and well did Cortes know that in the end he must conquer. His calculations were based upon mathematics, and in the problem of life and death he foresaw that the result must be in his favor. Science, severe discipline, strange animals bestrode by powerful men, invulnerable armor, artillery — all the appliances which make war terrible — these, with love of gold and blind religious zeal, were arrayed against undisciplined, unmailed, and comparatively unarmed masses, and the results of such encounters were known before the eyes of the crafty Castilian rested upon the rich vallies of Anahuac.
But widely different was it when the second conquerors came within sight of the domes and towers of Mexico. In one particular the cases may have been analagous — the Anglo-Saxons, like the early Spaniards, were cut off from all succor and support from home, and had naught but their own stout hearts and strong arms to depend upon — but here the parallel ends. The Americans had no coats of mail to oppose against shirts of feathers and other flimsy stuff; and fire-arms, in the days of the first invaders so terrible, had other than bows and arrows and slings to overcome. A proud and implacable enemy was to be met by the new conquerors — an enemy provided with the same means of attack and defence, strongly fortified, immensely superior in numbers, pretending to the highest advancement of civilization, chivalry, and valor, and insolent in his fancied strength and security. Breastworks and barricades were to be assailed from causeways and open fields, and auxiliaries the Americans had none. At every avenue they found heavy cannon in position to oppose their advance, and at disadvantageous points only could they plant their guns for the attack. They found the valley bristling with bayonets, against which bayonets were to be opposed. They had an enemy of more than three times their numerical force with whom to contend, with a densely populated city the inhabitants of which were incited against them by a thousand calumnies — by idle stories of the brutalities and excesses they had already committed, and which they were advancing to repeat. Yet this population and this army, fighting for home and fire-side and protected by all the subtleties of modern engineering, were finally subdued — overcome by the patient endurance, iron nerve, and steadfast valor of their adversaries.
In order to come to a full understanding of the difficulties and obstacles encountered by General Scott's army, it may be necessary to sum up the strength of the batteries, breastworks and other defences completed prior to the 13th of September. From a statement made by Lee, of the engineers, it will be seen that the Mexicans had at
|Batteries||Intended for Guns.||Infantry Breastworks.|
These were the outer or exterior works, all admirably well situated for defence, and strongly and scientifically constructed. Immediately around the city, independent of the innumerable draining ditches, — these ditches at this time filled with water, many of them twenty-five feet wide and five feet deep, and with banks forming natural parapets — there were at the garitas, at the Ciudadela, the English cemetery at San Cosmé, and at other points, no less than forty-seven additional batteries, prepared, like the others, for one hundred and seventy-seven guns, and with seventeen infantry breastworks. Adding these to the exterior works, and it will be seen that on all the lines defending the different approaches there were ninety-two batteries, intended to mount three hundred and forty-six guns, with fifty-two infantry breastworks. It is true the Mexicans had not a sufficient number of cannon to garnish all the batteries at the same time, but they had over one hundred pieces, and, operating upon a centre, could easily move the requisite guns for the defence of any point attacked. But even yet the full strength of the enemy has not been enumerated, for the city, after a lodgment had been effected, was capable of a long and serious defence. The houses were all of heavy and solid masonry, with flat roofs and strong parapets; the churches, convents, hospitals and other public buildings were but so many fortifications; in some quarters canals were to be crossed, while at every point a succession of obstacles was to be met. Yet the fall of Chapultepec and the garitas of San Cosmé and Belen, with the bombardment commenced by Worth, so completely demoralized the remnant of Santa Anna's great army, that the advantages still in his possession were given up, or entrusted to a band of convicts and leperos acting without concert and without leaders.
While it would be absurd to argue that the Mexicans made the most of their strong positions, it would be equally idle to contend that they relinquished many of the principal points, in their different lines of defence, without hard and determined struggles. The obstinacy with which they held out at the Molino and at Chapultepec, and the giving up of other works only with great loss, proves that at times they contended with stubborn resolution. Many of their officers, although as much cannot be said for the majority, afforded good examples of heroism — they were killed in the front of battle, and more could not be expected. The piles of dead among the rank and file, found behind many of the ramparts they had unsuccessfully defended, gave evidence that they had also resisted to the last. But although in the aggregate the soldiers displayed great fortitude in bearing fatigue, and endured hunger and other privations without murmuring, in the main their courage was negative rather than positive, passive rather than active, and this at junctures when actual and substantial valor was imperatively called for. The bayonet, which tries the stuff that soldiers are made of, found them wanting in an essential which their more sturdy opponents were always ready to take advantage of, for with this weapon many of the victories in Mexico were gained.
Many writers in the old European nations, jealous of the rising strength and importance of the United States, have since the successful termination of the war adopted the plan, in order to detract from the deeds of the Americans, of stigmatizing the Mexicans as lacking in courage. At the outset of hostilities between the two countries many of the foreign journalists openly predicted the defeat of the inferior invading columns, as they pierced the interior of Mexico; but when they found that their prophecies were not verified by the facts, and that a succession of victories marked the different routes pursued by the Americans, they took shelter under the argument that their adversaries were deficient in bravery, and had made but a feeble resistance. This course was unfair to the belligerents on either side, as it gave credit to neither; and could those who adopted it have seen the number of dead the Mexicans left upon the different fields, and the outlay of American blood before an advantage could be gained, they would have fallen upon some other argument. These remarks are applicable to the Resaca, to Buena Vista, and to Cerro Gordo, as well as to the different conflicts in the valley of Mexico. The histories of the most sanguinary battles on the European continent do not furnish more frightful lists of casualties in proportion to the numbers engaged.
To account for the different defeats sustained by the Mexicans there are other reasons to be offered than the constitutional lack of active or positive courage on the part of the rank and file. A large majority of the officers, save perhaps in the artillery and engineer corps, were notoriously ignorant of their profession, and this even in the regiments of the regular army. Receiving their appointments through favoritism or through bribery, and entering upon their duties without instruction, it could not be expected that in the hour of trial they would have confidence in themselves.
49them put the bayonet to its work, their resistance was over. In their civil broils, and these had been innumerable, their system of fighting had been different from that adopted by the Americans — the opposing armies, collected by rival political or military chiefs, had always been chary in the shedding of blood. Their so-called battles had either been fought with artillery, or else with muskets at a range so great that little harm befell the prudent combatants on either side. During the civil commotion in the spring of 1847, while the American army was before Vera Cruz, which Santa Anna put down on his return from Buena Vista, it is notorious that the rival factions battled for many successive days, within the city of Mexico, without causing other loss than what occurred to innocent persons passing between the hostile lines. Unused to any other species of warfare, the Mexicans were ill-prepared for the rude onslaughts of the Americans, and the rough hand-to-hand work in which the latter proved their ascendancy in every conflict.
At the commencement of hostilities, the Mexicans formed high anticipations of the important part to be taken by their cavalry. Upon this arm, in which they knew their adversaries to be numerically weak, they had ever bestowed great attention and expense. The horses of the country, although small, are spirited and active, hardy and capable of great fatigue, and easily recover after marches which would break down the larger American animals — at least unless the latter were constantly supplied with full forage, which was seldom the case. The Mexicans, as a race, are probably the best horsemen in the world. The principal roads of the country are but little used by carriages, transportation is mainly in the hands of the arrieros or muleteers, and the greater portion of the travelling is on horseback. Hence the natives are bold and dexterous riders, requiring little training, and the numerous cavalry of the country, at the breaking out of the war, were confident that they would bear a conspicuous part in the struggle against their opponents. But from the outset they fell far short of realizing the high hopes entertained of their skill and prowess. In almost all their attacks they were met either by the rapid and murderous play of the light or flying artillery of the Americans, or by the close and cutting vollies of their musketry; and so slaughtering was the effect that scarcely a charge was pushed home. The material of the Mexican cavalry, so far as regards the men, was decidedly better than that of the infantry, although as a body it performed few deeds worthy of note. The majority of the lancers, both regular and irregular, went into service voluntarily — the foot soldiers, on the contrary, were forced into the army by any and every means, the prisons being frequently emptied of every class of offenders to swell the ranks of the different regiments. In nine cases out often, the men had never had a musket in their hands until thrust there by compulsion, and could never be taught its skillful use. In no other way can the wide and ineffective aim of the Mexicans, in many combats where the weight of the musketry firing alone seemed sufficient to annihilate the assailing columns of invaders, be accounted for.
But the material of the small American army, as well of the old and well drilled regiments as the new, was entirely different. While all had entered the service voluntarily, and many from the purest motives of patriotism, a great number were well acquainted with the use of fire-arms before a regulation musket or rifle had been placed in their hands. In a country abounding with game as does the United States, and where no person is so poor as not to be the owner of either a rifle or double-barrelled gun, the majority must ever be experienced shots and skillful in the general use of arms. The effect of this told conspicuously in many of the conflicts with the brave and disciplined troops of England, both in the revolutionary struggle and in the last war with that great power; and in the contest with Mexico the consequences of the superior marksmanship of the Americans, the soldiers never levelling their pieces without an object, were terrible to a degree. The volunteers who formed the greater portion of General Taylor's army at Buena Vista, mostly from the western and southwestern States of the Union and almost to a man excellent shots, owed their success, over Santa Anna's overpowering numbers, in a measure to this circumstance.
While the soldiers of the armies of the United States enjoyed these advantages over their adversaries — advantages of discipline, and of skill in the use of their weapons, besides those of a moral and physical nature — they had another superiority in being better officered. The older commanders in the American service were men of experience and of tried valor. Not only had they seen hard and active service in the last war with Great Britain, but the different campaigns which most of them had made against the hostile Indians of the frontiers had skilled them in the handling of men. Of the younger officers of the regular army, from regimental and company commanders down to the lowest subalterns, nine out of ten had passed through West Point, one of the best military schools in the world and in some respects superior to ill. Many of the officers of the new and volunteer regiments also possessed the advantages acquired by an education at this institution, and the knowledge and ascendancy thus gained told with effect upon the men they were called upon to command. Full of confidence in themselves, they were of course enabled to exercise a discipline and moral influence over their soldiers which begat an equal degree of confidence on the part of the latter. The men of every branch of the service well knew, however difficult and dangerous the service upon which they might be despatched, that their officers would lead them — the officers at the same time knew that their men would follow to the last — and where this mutual confidence exists a command may be annihilated but not conquered.
From the first breaking out of the war there was a manifest lack of ranking officers in the American army. Hence captains of companies were frequently in command of regiments, colonels of regiments were called to lead brigades, and lieutenants were performing the regular duties of captains and majors. It is doubtful, however, whether this want of officers was hurtful to the service, as it secured young, active and ambitious men to commands which might otherwise have been held by older and less aspiring leaders. In the Mexican army, on the contrary, there was a redundancy of officers of the higher grades, and a list of subalterns almost equal in number to the entire rank and file of their opponents. Hundreds if not thousands of these officers, obtaining their commissions, as before stated, through every species of bribery, corruption and favoritism, were worse than useless on the battle field. Ignorant of their profession, incapable of imparting instruction or discipline to their men, and entirely wanting in confidence, it was undoubtedly unfortunate for Santa Anna that his armies were encumbered with such a worthless horde of officials. Some of his subordinates were unquestionably scientific men. They had studied the profession of arms in the best European schools, and were besides brave and chivalrous in the discharge of their duties. But the most of this class were either killed or captured in the different conflicts, the number was too small at the commencement of the war to give tone and discipline to the entire army, and many of them were kept down by old and ignorant officers, who, jealous of their talents, were at the same time fearful of their advancement over their own worthless heads.
The author has attempted, in the foregoing remarks, to describe the composition and character of the opposing forces engaged during the war. The advantages of numbers and of position were invariably on the side of the Mexicans, yet the moral and physical superiority of the Americans more than compensated in every struggle. In much that pertains to military strategy, Santa Anna certainly proved himself an able general. His energy was inexhaustible, his combinations skillfully formed, his movements characterized by great celerity, and few of his plans were faulty in their conception. No other man in Mexico, after the fall of Monterey, could have effected a tithe of what he performed in the way of calling out men and resources, uniting the people, and rousing popular enthusiasm; yet he lacked judgment and decision when it came to the test of battle, wanted better officers in front of his soldiers, was himself deficient in nerve at the most trying crises, and the weight of his overpowering numbers and excellent combinations was broken by the assaults of the Americans.
The campaigns of the inferior invading armies of the United States, in the main, were as well planned and conducted as they could have been under the trying circumstances in which their commanders were ever placed. On either line by which the territory of Mexico was pierced the American generals had few greater opportunities, for the enactment of brilliant strokes of military skill, than has the officer leading a forlorn hope when ordered to move directly up to the storming of a breach. In fact, each column sent into the enemy's country was a species of forlorn hope. From the first not one of the commanding generals had a sufficient number of men, or adequate transportation for even his inferior forces. In the campaign against the city of Mexico, General Scott should have marched from Puebla with thirty thousand men, and provisions for six weeks. The real necessities of the work before him, to say nothing of its strategic requirements, demanded the number of troops just specified, for Santa Anna had even a larger force, was fortified at all points, and was operating on a centre. Had the American commander-in-chief held even two-thirds the number of men his adversary had at his disposal, the former could have left a force sufficient to threaten the PeÅon while making his turning movement to the southward of Lake Chalco. Santa Anna, in this case, could not have abandoned his strongest point, as he would have been compelled to leave many of his guns and a heavy division at the PeÅon. It is
50true that in this contingency the important victory at Contreras might not have been gained; yet Churubusco would have fallen with less loss on the part of the assailants, or could have been turned, and cheaper triumphs might have been achieved on ground farther to the left. The victories won by the Americans would have been shorn of much of their brilliance, had General Scott been in command of even twenty thousand men and an ample supply of provisions, for he could have chosen his time and points of attack, and could have defeated the enemy with far less loss; but glory enough had already been purchased during the war at a costly outlay of blood, and the people of the United States wanted other intelligence from their armies than accounts of triumphs, accompanied by frightful lists of killed and wounded.
A celebrated English military writer has said that "it can never be too often repeated that war, however adorned by splendid strokes of skill, is commonly a series of errors and accidents." This remark may certainly be applied to the campaigns of the American commanders in Mexico, and especially to that which ended in the reduction of the enemy's capital; for the brilliant military qualities of General Scott were certainly little taxed from his arrival at San Augustin until after the battle of the Molino, and accident at least did much towards winning the early victories. At Contreras and Churubusco bodies of men were thrown forward in the direction of an enemy, whose strength and positions were imperfectly known. These bodies became engaged — not at points well studied and previously indicated, but hap-hazard and accidentally — and the splendid results produced were gained through the noble and gallant leading of the subordinate officers and the close and intrepid following of the men. But after turning the PeÅon, and thus avoiding the most serious obstacle in the advance upon the Mexican capital, General Scott could not well adopt any other system than that of falling upon the enemy wherever met, and placing his reliance upon the superior prowess of his under officers and soldiers. Any delay after reaching San Augustin, while it would have strengthened his adversary, would have weakened his own resources. The possession of San Augustin gave the American commander a good base, and with a sufficient number of men and an adequate supply of provisions he might have better improved it. But having neither, his movements were necessarily hurried, and the battles of Contreras and Churubusco followed.
To pass the armistice for the present, it may be said that the battle of the Molino was a mistake — was fought without an object — and, had it not been for the obstinacy and courage of those engaged, might have been fatal to the invading army. It has been before remarked that General Scott, in ordering the attack, acted upon false information: it makes little difference to the argument whether this information came from pretended friends hanging about head-quarters at Tacubaya, and who were really spies, or was derived from, well-disposed persons who were in error. Worth was enabled to gain the victory only at a frightful loss of life. Had Alvarez crossed the ravine on the west, as he was ordered to do, and had the Americans been compelled to retire under a vigorous charge made upon their flanks while engaged in an unequal contest in front, they would have been forced through Tacubaya in disorder, leaving their cannon, in all likelihood, and great store of ammunition. The entire city of Mexico might then have risen in arms, the invaders would have been driven out of the valley by the weight of numbers, and as the line of retreat, and especially near Rio Frio, had been obstructed by felling the huge mountain pines across the road, few if any could have reached Puebla. But the steel-hardened resolution of Worth and his soldiers, and the hearty support given by Gadwalader, assisted by the bad conduct of Alvarez, prevented a catastrophe which might have been fatal, and which it is fair to believe that Santa Anna confidently anticipated. He was at least fully prepared, with the flower of his army, at the Molino, and if he did not expect a victory at that point he could hardly look for it at any other. He did go so far as to claim a triumph, even with the loss of his cannon, the destruction of some of his best battalions, and the disordered flight of his entire force from the ground staring him in the face. Even his reckless impudence would not have carried him to this length had he not known that the victory of the Americans was gained without an adequate result.
In the operations following the battle of the 8th of September — the concentration of the troops, the strategic movements, the bombardment of Chapultepec, and the final assault upon the castle — the great military talents of the American commander were fully displayed. Every available man was brought up, and assigned his proper place — not a sergeant's guard was out of the way. The demonstration against the southern garitas, on the 12th and morning of the 13th of September, was well planned and successfully carried out — the movements of Twiggs in that quarter confused the enemy, and baffled their commander as to the true point to be attacked until it was too late. The final assault upon the castle was delivered at the right time, and the right points were chosen. With his limited number of men, no better dispositions and combinations could have been made than were those of General Scott. Every quarter occupied by the enemy had been well studied, and was well understood — nothing was left to chance. The object was to weaken the defence of Chapultepec, by massing the troops of Santa Anna at other points, and in every particular did it succeed. General Bravo, according to his official report made while a prisoner, was confident that the castle was to be assailed: if the commanders at San Antonio Abad, the NiÅo Perdido, and other points on the side where the southern demonstration was made had been called upon for their real sentiments, they would doubtless have asserted that they looked for an assault directly upon themselves. Santa Anna is known to have passed from Chapultepec to the southern garitas, backwards and forwards, several times during the bombardment, his movements all indicating uncertainty as to the true point of final attack; and when Bravo called again and again for reinforcements, his urgent appeals were unheeded. When the final assault upon Chapultepec was given, the Mexican commander-in-chief had at least twelve thousand men lying inactive at positions where no attack was intended. The force within the castle, and the strong works at the base, was large, but it might have been trebled without endangering any other point. No other than masterly combinations on the part of the American general could have produced such a result.
After Chapultepec had fallen, the immediate measures of General Scott were promptly but wisely taken. Worth was ordered to move upon the city by the San Cosmé route, as the approaches in that direction were supposed to present fewer difficulties, while Quitman was sent up the Tacubaya causeway to threaten the enemy occupying the strong positions in that quarter. No real attack upon the garita of Belen was intended by the commander-in-chief. A powerful demonstration or feint in that direction would however favor Worth's advance upon San Cosmé, diverting, as it must, the Mexicans, and keeping large numbers massed in the vicinity of the Ciudadela, and the pushing a column up the Tacubaya aqueduct had this object. But Quitman's impetuosity, seconded by the zeal of P. F. Smith and Shields and the boiling courage of the men, led to the direct attack of the intermediate works; the fire of Duncan's guns upon the flank of the redan assailed, coming from across the meadows, showed that the advance on the San Cosmé causeway was vigorously progressing; and the rattling of Worth's musketry, as he neared the English cemetery and gained a suburb of the capital, gave farther evidence that the last assault for the possession of the city of Mexico had commenced. To be first within its streets stimulated all alike, and it cannot be thought strange that an officer of Quitman's ardent temperament, in the common excitement and with an enemy immediately before him, should have gone so far beyond what prudence and the real necessities of the case demanded as to turn what had been intended as a false into a real attack. That the vigorous assault upon and capture of the garita of Belen, followed by the immediate fire which was opened upon the Ciudadela, materially favored Worth's movements, cannot be doubted. But the latter officer, reinforced as he was by Cadwalader's brigade and afterwards by Riley's, could have burrowed and worked his way through the city in any direction, could have reached the rear of the citadel, and could have effected all the results gained with a lighter list of casualties. The loss of Drum, Benjamin, Canty, and other officers, so much deplored by the army, might have been spared, with the lives of some of the best sergeants and privates in the army. In the exultation, however, which followed the fall of the Mexican capital, and with the full realization that the combined attacks of the 13th of September had produced full and glorious results, all else was forgotten.
In the foregoing observations the author has attempted to show that the brilliant successes at Contreras and Churubusco, and at the latter particularly, were gained mainly through the intelligence, coolness, determination, and great courage of the subordinate commanders, the younger officers, and the soldiers of the American army; that the battle of the Molino was fought without a legitimate object, yet won through the obstinate valor of Worth and his men; that at Chapultepec the acknowledged military abilities of the commander-in-chief were fully brought out; and that at the garitas, although he was in no way accountable for some of the blood shed through an excess of bravery, his orders evinced true generalship.
The greatest error of the campaign in the valley of Mexico was purely of a political nature — was in granting the ill-advised armistice at Tacubaya. Viewed in whatever light it may be, it was a mistake. After Churubusco had fallen, and the capital was completely at the mercy of the invading army, this great advantage, purchased with the blood of over one thousand men, was relinquished under the vain or delusive hope that such an unbounded stretch of magnanimity would obtain the important desideratum of peace. That General Scott was performing an act, which he deemed would meet with the approval of the Government and people at home, is certain; that both himself and Mr. Trist thought they were carrying out the wishes of the Cabinet at Washington, nervously anxious to secure a peace, the author has no right to question. It had been the policy of the American Government, from the day when General Taylor crossed the Rio Grande at Matamoros, to exercise all magnanimity towards the Mexicans — to follow up hard blows by soft words — to raise olive branches above the smoke of stricken fields — in short, to endeavor to coax a proud enemy, while smarting under the disgrace of defeat, to agree to terms of peace, and this while the very terms offered ever looked towards what they contended was an unjust dismemberment of domain and a loss of national honor. Farther than this, entirely mistaking the character of the Mexican people, the policy had obtained of addressing them proclamations from time to time — well written, it is true, affluent in
51truth, and abounding with wholesome advice — yet at the same time exasperating in their nature, and always entirely failing in their object. One of these proclamations generally followed every victory gained by the Americans, and reached the enemy while yet sore under the effects of recent discomfiture. More unbefitting seasons could not have been chosen thus to address one of the most haughty and arrogant races of the earth, and it is more a matter of surprise that such appeals were made than that the Mexicans would neither hear nor heed offers so mortifying to their self-pride. The hope was of course entertained that there was a large party in Mexico anxious to make peace with the United States, but even this was never proved. That there were a few wealthy men in the country opposed to the war is doubtless true; their opposition, however, was of a nature so purely selfish, that they did not dare avow themselves openly, and one great effect of the peace manifestoes and proclamations was to procrastinate the war up to a moment when the enemy were really unable longer to continue the struggle.
The policy of the home Government, so long and so zealously persisted in, may have had its effect upon General Scott's action after the battle of Churubusco. The victories of the morning of the 20th of August, achieved over such superior numbers, and opening, as they did, the gates of the Mexican capital to his soldiers, would, he doubtless thought, be highly gratifying to the American people at large, and the news of these brilliant successes, followed by a treaty of peace, would be hailed by the entire nation with joy and acclamation. Such a consummation was worth something to effect — the thanks of a grateful people to one ambitious of political distinction, mingled with the proud satisfaction of having earned them, General Scott, or any other man in his position, would hazard much to obtain — and hence the excuse for the halt of his victorious army outside the city when it was virtually taken, the after armistice, and unsuccessful attempts to procure the settlement of peace.
The author has passed over certain informal negotiations, carried on secretly at Puebla prior to the march of the army, at which the subject of peace was the leading topic. In these negotiations the English Embassy at the capital acted as the mediator, and Santa Anna probably made offers which, if sincere, were in no way flattering to his honesty or his patriotism. In consideration of a sum of money, partly in hand, he was to attempt bringing his countrymen over to agree to certain terms of peace; but the history of these transactions is too long for insertion here. A little farther space may however be devoted to the armistice at Tacubaya, which renewed negotiations, at least in a more open and legitimate manner, for the adjustment of the difficulties between the two countries.
Had not General Scott considered the chances of obtaining peace as highly favorable, he would not have relinquished the immense military advantage the immediate possession of the capital would have given him — would not have allowed his enemy to retain a position where he could so easily organize new resistance. He would not have gone even farther than the giving up the city to Santa Anna — would not have abandoned such a position as Chapultepec to his adversary, when its occupancy by his own troops was all important in case of after hostilities. Worth, Pillow, and perhaps other principal officers, impressed with the necessity of holding the castle, strenuously urged, before the terms of the armistice were settled, that it should be occupied while the result of the conference was pending; yet the commander-in-chief would not insist. He had been told, by some of the persons attached to the British Embassy, and perhaps by influential yet untrustworthy Mexicans at Tacubaya, that if he persisted in throwing a detachment of troops into the castle it would so far humble and mortify the pride of the populace as to endanger the chances of making peace, and their advice was listened to.
General Scott must have known something of the character of Santa Anna — of his inconsistency, his unscrupulous disregard for truth, and utter want of principle — but he could not have fathomed the full depth of his duplicity. He must have known that the Mexican leader was avaricious and ambitious — that he would sacrifice every thing for pelf and power — but at the same time he might have thought that there were bounds to his baseness and his turpitude, and could not believe that he would be guilty of such gross acts of bad faith as those which accumulated prior to the 6th of September and the final rupture of the armistice. Yet in thus mistaking the character of his adversary General Scott does not, or did not, stand alone, for Santa Anna may certainly claim that he has always enjoyed immunities seldom granted individuals moving in humble station. In ordinary life, among ordinary men, a course of treachery and duplicity, long persisted in and without redeeming trait, is wont to beget a lack of confidence on the part of those who may be called upon to have dealings with them. With the great Mexican leader, however, the reverse always seemed to be the case; for although every act of his life had been a certificate of bad character, there were ever found those ready to trust him. His specious promises and protestations were as implicitly believed as though his whole career had been without stain, and his character for truth without blemish.
There is perhaps no evidence that Santa Anna promised the Cabinet at Washington, when allowed freely to pass the blockading squadron at Vera Cruz in the summer of 1846, that he would use his influence to bring about a peace on reaching his native shores, yet it may be surmised that the American Government hoped, he would exert himself in this behalf when the order of the then Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Bancroft, was given. The first use he made, however, of the liberty granted him, was in collecting and organizing one of the largest armies Mexico ever had in the field, and how near he succeeded in crushing the inferior force of General Taylor is known. But defeated at Buena Vista, and forced back upon San Luis with terrible loss, neither his spirit, his energy, nor his hostility to the United States was in any way subdued; for within six weeks after his rout by General Taylor, besides putting down a revolution in the city of Mexico, he appeared in front of General Scott at Cerro Gordo, nearly one thousand miles distant, with another large and well organized army. Defeated again, and with the loss of all his cannon; driven towards Orizaba with a few followers and stigmatized as a coward if not a traitor at the capital; utterly prostrated, in fact, in every quarter, and with little apparent hope of recruiting another army or recovering his lost standing among his countrymen, it might have been supposed that hi such a crisis, if the thought of making a peace had ever entered his head, he would have made some advance towards an accommodation. Yet he did nothing of the kind, but on the contrary, by the exercise of his indomitable energy and never failing tact, soon reinstated himself in favor with the people, and in two months time was at the city of Mexico in command of still another large and constantly augmenting army. Such was the man who had been allowed freely to enter his native country — such the man who, after another serious reverse, was supposed to be favorable to the amicable settlement of the difficulties between the two countries, and this when he must have been well acquainted with the terms the American commissioner would offer, and knew that they could not and would not be accepted.
Santa Anna's great love of money went hand in hand with his love of power and place — they were inseparable. The wealth of the world could not therefore induce him to subscribe to a peace, if it involved a loss of ascendancy over his countrymen. Little has ever come to light in relation to the secret negotiations at Puebla, yet it is probable that he promised, through his agents, to use his influence to put a stop to the war, after trying his fortune in another battle. In case of defeat he might possibly have been in favor of peace, provided he could retain power and fill his private coffers at the same time; but might he not have anticipated a victory all the while, knowing, as he did, his own great strength in men, cannon and position, and the numerical weakness at least of the Americans? For any contingency, however, the astute yet unprincipled Mexican was fully prepared. He hoped to win a battle, or else his preparations and combinations belie him, while in case of defeat outside the capital his opponent was not to push his advantages. In proof of this, it has been asserted by the intimate friends of General Scott that he gave out, before leaving Puebla, that after achieving an important victory before the city he should halt his army, and either offer terms or listen to any which might come from the enemy. In his official report of the battle of Churubusco the American commander says that "Mr. Trist and himself had been admonished by the best friends of peace — intelligent neutrals and some American residents — against precipitation; lest, by wantonly driving away the Government and others, dishonored, the elements of peace might be scattered, a spirit of national desperation be excited, and the hope of accommodation thus indefinitely postponed." These were the reasons given by General Scott for not entering the city at once, and they certainly prove that he had previously resolved not to push any advantage which might be hurtful to the pride of the enemy. Whoever the intelligent neutrals and American residents were who gave him the advice, they were either grossly deceived themselves, or else intended wilfully to mislead the commander-in-chief.
Not only the Government of the United States, but the greater number of its leading generals, were ever mistaken in the character of the masses of the enemy, and their military and political rulers. Among others General Scott,
52judging according to the American standard, must have considered Mexican nature as ordinary human nature, proud to a degree, yet still sensible of its own deficiencies, mindful of its own interests, and not utterly blind to its own weaknesses. This was an error; for the Mexicans obey few of the instincts which govern other races, follow few of the laws which control the actions of other nations. While they invariably over-estimated themselves, their strength and powers of resistance, they at the same time underrated their enemy in a corresponding ratio. Nor could defeat admonish them of their inferiority, or afford them useful teaching. Every thing connected with the Government, its power and resources, had always been hollow and unreal. Too ignorant to judge for themselves, the inhabitants of a country naturally one of the richest on the globe had always been deceived by the high-sounding yet meaningless manifestoes and proclamations emanating from their demagogical and worthless rulers; for in reality it cannot be denied that the masses have been under the domination of a class of tyrants — civil, ecclesiastical and military — of men who have made no use of the authority given them save to oppress the lower classes, keep them in ignorance, impose upon them by inflated reports of their greatness, and this while living and fattening upon the spoils unjustly wrung from them.
From the first General Scott formed a correct estimate of the Mexicans in one respect — he knew their inability to contend against his own brave and vigorous soldiers. But when he deemed that they must be as well aware of this as himself, and predicated his hope of their making peace upon the fact that it would be advantageous to them and that farther resistance was useless, he was in error. Acting upon this misconception he gave them opportunities to come to terms characterized by a liberality seldom before granted to an enemy, and was loth to believe they would be so blind as not to embrace the chances offered when their own interests, if not their honor, would be so materially subserved.
It is impossible, in a sketch of this nature, to enter into a history of the negotiations following the armistice, nor is a full account necessary. The conferences commenced on the 27th of August, Mr. Trist representing the United States and SeÅores Herrera, Couto, Mora and Atristain appearing in behalf of Mexico. On the 6th of September the negotiations ended. The intervening time had been passed, by the Mexican commissioners, in canvassing the propositions of Mr. Trist, in long discussions as to boundaries, and in drawing up a projet of their own, while during the entire period Santa Anna was busily engaged in restoring confidence among his countrymen, adopting new measures of defence, creating new means of resistance, and making every preparation for another struggle. That he had the least expectation a peace would be ratified there is no evidence, unless the word of his friends engaged in bringing about the armistice is taken, nor is there proof that at heart he desired such a consummation. Admitting that at first he entertained such a hope, and if he did it was purely to further his own selfish ends, it must have soon been dissipated by the refusal of the Mexican members of Congress to assemble at the call he had made, by the open hostility of leading men at Toluca, Querétaro, and other cities near the capital, and by the unmistakeable tone of the common people, who were as averse to peace as ever. Meanwhile, through his spies and secret agents, he kept himself well informed of every thing transpiring within the American lines. He knew that General Scott was strictly and honorably abiding by every article of the armistice, and he farther knew that his sick list, owing to the unhealthy positions occupied by some of his troops, was increasing, while his offensive means must daily decrease. This knowledge was important, and when in the end the Mexican commissioners gave an answer to Mr. Trist's ultimatum, and by their rejection forced General Scott to resume hostilities, the latter was weaker at all points than at the termination of the battle of Churubusco, while his opponent, out of broken and disorganized materials, had created a new and powerful defence. Such was the immediate consequence of the armistice signed at Tacubaya: the ultimate result was the loss of nearly seventeen hundred men in regaining an end which had already been accomplished — the occupation of the Mexican capital.
Although out of place, the writer of the foregoing descriptions cannot close without hastily referring to the conduct of many persons, not directly attached to the American army, but who took an active part in the operations of the war. Conspicuous on the list of those who served, in the campaign in the valley of Mexico, was Major Gaines. This officer had been captured at Encarnacion, by MiÅon, before the battle of Buena Vista, and although afterwards exchanged or released by express stipulations, was retained a prisoner at the city of Mexico. But escaping before the march of the army from Puebla, and reaching the latter city in safety, he at once volunteered on the staff of General Scott, and afterwards served with great courage in all the principal conflicts. Midshipman Rodgers, taken at Vera Cruz and retained a prisoner at the capital, was also successful in escaping, and on reaching Puebla joined the staff of General Pillow as a volunteer aid. In all the battles, in which the division of that officer was engaged, his services were of a most gallant nature. Major Borland and Captain Danley, captured with Major Gaines, were secreted at San Angel as the victors of Contreras were pressing down after the fugitives. The latter was indisposed at the time, and unable to move; but the former, procuring a musket, joined in and took an active share in the battle of Churubusco. He afterwards served with bravery as a volunteer aid on the staff of General Worth, while Captain Danley, attaching himself to General Quitman in the same capacity, was severely wounded in the attack upon Chapultepec.
Among the officers of the navy present, in addition to Midshipman Rodgers, were Lieutenants Semmes and Shubrick. The former served on the staff of General Worth, as a volunteer aid, in all the trying struggles, his brave and zealous deportment winning high encomiums. The latter, acting more immediately with the South Carolina regiment, was also spoken of in meritorious terms for his conduct at Churubusco. The worthy chaplain who followed the fortunes of General Scott's army, Parson McCarthy as he was called by many of the men, particularly signalized himself by his courage on many occasions. At most of the battles he was seen moving about where the balls were flying thickest, and, regardless of personal danger, was ever alike ready to assist and encourage the living and unhurt, or to offer aid and spiritual consolation to the wounded and dying.
In some of the battles fought on the northern line, by General Taylor, many individuals not immediately connected with either the regular or volunteer forces distinguished themselves by their gallantry and devotion. At Monterey the services of Balie Peyton, of Louisiana, were warmly applauded by General Worth; while those of A. S. Johnston, of Texas, acting with the volunteer division, were acknowledged by General Butler. At Buena Vista many civilians signalized themselves. General Taylor, in his official report, mentions with credit the services of T. L. Crittenden, of Kentucky, acting on his staff as a volunteer aid, and General Wool draws attention to the brave conduct of several individuals, who, although following the army in civil capacities, incurred many dangers in transmitting orders. Many instances might be cited of wealthy individuals, who, proceeding to the different lines at their own expense, were anxious in every way to manifest their zeal in behalf of their country. Nor should the fact be omitted that, although in many quarters the war was to an extent unpopular, the quotas of men demanded of the different States were filled with alacrity, proving as well the patriotism as the power of the Union. If such was the case when hostilities were offensive, it is needless to dwell upon what might be expected of the people should defensive operations again call them to the field. The old monarchies of Europe had always cherished the belief that the new republic would be shaken, if not broken into fragments, by the first war of an offensive nature in which it might engage. How idle these hopes were has been abundantly proved by the unify and spirit with which the different campaigns in Mexico were prosecuted to a successful termination.