The object of this expedition was to conciliate the inhabitants, and for the purchase of horses, mules, and cattle. Commodore Perry landed there on the 1st of April, followed by the arrival of General Quitman very soon afterward. Many citizens fled on the approach of the troops, and the town was surrendered to the American forces. Twenty-two cannon and some ammunition were captured, and five hundred horses secured by purchase. The troops returned to Vera Cruz, April 6th. A similar expedition for like purposes was undertaken by General Harvey, April 2d, for Antigua. A lieutenant and eight soldiers were captured, and some horses and cattle purchased. On April 3d, Brevet Colonel Henry Wilson, with the First United States Infantry and two companies of volunteers, was assigned to the command of Vera Cruz and the castle of San Juan de Ulloa.
Orders were now issued for an advance of the army on Jalapa, General David E. Twiggs, with the Second Division of regulars, to lead the movement on the 8th, two brigades of volunteers to follow. On the 9th Patterson's division moved, but, for want of transportation, Quitman's brigade, Colonel James H. Thomas, Tennessee mounted regiment, Worth's division, and the siege train were left at Vera Cruz. General Twiggs was notified by General Scott that he had information that General Santa Anna had arrived at Jalapa with six thousand troops, though he [General Scott] regarded the numbers as exaggerated. General Twiggs, on receipt of General Scott's notice, replied that the Mexicans would doubtless endeavor to hold the pass of Cerro Gordo between the National Bridge and Jalapa. Through Mexican sources he had information rating Santa Anna's force at from two thousand to thirteen thousand, and that he expected to arrive on the evening of the 11th at Plan del Rio, the point where the Mexican advance was posted.
General Scott had received information that Generals Patterson and Twiggs had met a strong force of the enemy at Plan del Rio. Worth's division was ordered forward, and Quitman directed to follow in twenty-four hours. General Scott himself now moved out under a cavalry escort.
General Santa Anna arrives at Cerro Gordo—Engagement at Atalay—General Orders No. 111—Reports from Jalapa—Report of engagement at Cerro Gordo—Occupation of Perote—Account of a Mexican historian—General Santa Anna's letter to General Arroya—Delay of the Government in sending re-enforcements—Danger of communications with Vera Cruz—Troops intended for Scott ordered to General Taylor—Colonel Childs appointed governor of Jalapa—Occupation of Puebla—Arrival of re-enforcements—Number of Scott's force.
General Santa Anna had arrived at Cerro Gordo on April 9th. General Scott, on his arrival, ordered (on the morning of the 11th) reconnoissances to be made on the Mexican left by Captain Robert E. Lee, which were resumed on the 16th. These reconnoissances determined the order of attack, which was to make a demonstration with the commands of Generals Pillow and Shields on the Mexican right, and press the mass of the army on their right. This movement being successful, the enemy's communications would be cut off. In the meantime the Mexicans were busily engaged in greatly strengthening their positions.
General Scott had not intended to attack the enemy in the absence of Worth's division, which had not yet arrived. A movement of Lieutenant Franklin Gardner, re-enforced later by the mounted rifles under Major Edwin Vose Sumner and a battalion of the First Artillery under Lieutenant-Colonel Childs, to occupy a position near the base of the Atalaya, provoked a sharp conflict. General Santa Anna, being at the front, ordered re-enforcements. Colonel Thomas Childs withdrew, having advanced under a misapprehension. The American loss was ninety-seven, killed and wounded. General Scott returned to Plan del Rio and issued the following order:
"HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
"PLAN DEL RIO, April 17, 1847.
"GENERAL ORDERS NO. 111.
"The enemy's whole line of intrenchments and batteries will be attacked in front, and at the same time turned, early in the day to-morrow, probably before ten o'clock A.M. The second (Twiggs's) division of regulars is already advanced within easy turning distance toward the enemy's line. That division has instructions to move forward before daylight to-morrow and take up position across the national road, in the enemy's rear, so as to cut off a retreat toward Jalapa. It may be re-enforced to-day, if unexpectedly attacked in force, by regiments—one or two—taken from Shields's brigade of volunteers. If not, the two volunteer regiments will march for that purpose at daylight to-morrow morning under Brigadier-General Shields, who will report to Brigadier-General Twiggs in getting up with him, or to the general in chief if he be in advance. The remaining regiments of that volunteer brigade will receive instructions in the course of this day. The first division of regulars (Worth's) will follow the movement against the enemy's left at sunrise to-morrow morning. As already arranged, Brigadier-General Pillow's brigade will march at six o'clock to-morrow morning along the route he has carefully reconnoitered, and stand ready, as soon as he hears the report of arms on our right, or sooner, if circumstances should favor him, to pierce the enemy's line of batteries at such point—the nearer the river the better—as he may select. Once in the rear of that line, he will turn to the right or left, or both, and attack the batteries in reverse; or, if abandoned, he will pursue the enemy with vigor until further orders. Wall's field battery and cavalry will be held in reserve on the national road, a little out of view and range of the enemy's batteries. They will take up that position at nine o'clock in the morning. The enemy's batteries being carried or abandoned, all our divisions and corps will pursue with vigor. This pursuit may be continued many miles toward Jalapa until stopped by darkness or fortified positions; consequently the body of the army will not return to this encampment, but be followed to-morrow afternoon, or early the next morning, by the baggage trains of the several corps. For this purpose the feeble men of each corps will be left to guard its camp and effects, and to load up the latter in the wagons of the corps. A commander of the present encampment will be designated in the course of this day.
"As soon as it shall be known that the enemy's works have been carried, or that the general pursuit has been commenced, one wagon for each regiment and battery and one for the cavalry will follow the movement, to receive, under the direction of medical officers, the wounded and disabled, who will be brought back to this place for treatment in general hospital. The surgeon general will organize this important service, and designate that hospital, as well as the medical officers to be left at it.
"Every man who marches out to attack or pursue the enemy will take the usual allowance of ammunition and subsistence for at least two days.
"By command of Major-General Scott.
"H.L. SCOTT, Acting Adjutant General".
The engineer train and troops under Lieutenant George Brinton McClellan having arrived, additional batteries were placed in position. General Santa Anna, believing that the Americans would attack his right, made his dispositions accordingly. Following are General Scott's reports of the battle made to the Secretary of War:
"HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, PLAN DEL RIO,
"FIFTY MILES FROM VERA CRUZ, April 19, 1847.
"SIR: The plan of the attack, sketched in General Orders No. 111 herewith, was finely executed by this gallant army before two o'clock P.M. yesterday. We are quite embarrassed with the results of victory—prisoners of war, heavy ordnance, field batteries, small arms, and accouterments. About three thousand men laid down their arms, with the usual proportion of field and company officers, besides five generals, several of them of great distinction—Pinson Jarrero, La Vega, Noryuga, and Obando. A sixth general, Vasque, was killed in defending the battery (tower) in the rear of the line of defense, the capture of which gave us those glorious results.
"Our loss, though comparatively small in number, has been serious. Brigadier-General Shields, a commander of activity, zeal, and talent, is, I fear, if not dead, mortally wounded. He is some five miles from me at this moment. The field of operations covers many miles, broken by mountains and deep chasms, and I have not a report as yet from any division or brigade. Twiggs's division, followed by Shields's (now Colonel Baker's) brigade, are now near Jalapa, and Worth's division is en route thither, all pursuing with good results, as I learn, that part of the Mexican army—perhaps six or seven thousand men—that fled before our right had carried the tower, and gained the Jalapa road. Pillow's brigade alone is near me at this depot of wounded, sick, and prisoners, and I have time only to give from him the names of First-Lieutenant F.B. Nelson and Second-Lieutenant C.G. Gill, both of the Second Tennessee Foot (Haskell's regiment), among the killed, and in the brigade one hundred and six of all ranks killed or wounded. Among the latter the gallant brigadier general himself has a smart wound in his arm, but not disabled; and Major R. Farqueson, Second Tennessee, H.F. Murray, second lieutenant, G.T. Southerland, first lieutenant, W.P. Hale, adjutant, all of the same regiment, severely, and First-Lieutenant W. Yearwood mortally wounded. And I know, from personal observation on the ground, that First-Lieutenant Ewell, of the Rifles, if not now dead, was mortally wounded in entering, sword in hand, the intrenchments around the captured tower. Second-Lieutenant Derby, Topographical Engineers, I saw also at the same place, severely wounded, and Captain Patten, Second United States Infantry, lost his right hand. Major Sumner, Second United States Dragoons, was slightly wounded the day before, and Captain Johnson, Topographical Engineers (now lieutenant colonel of infantry), was very severely wounded in reconnoitering some days earlier. I must not omit to add that Captain Mason and Second-Lieutenant Davis, both of the Rifles, were among the very severely wounded in storming the same tower. I estimate our total loss in killed and wounded may be about two hundred and fifty, and that of the enemy three hundred and fifty. In the pursuit toward Jalapa (twenty-five miles hence) I learn we have added much to the enemy's loss in prisoners, killed, and wounded. In fact, I suppose this retreating army to be nearly disorganized, and hence my haste to follow in an hour or two to profit by events. In this hurried and imperfect report I must not omit to say that Brigadier-General Twiggs, in passing the mountain range beyond Cerro Gordo crowned with the tower, detached from his division, as I suggested the day before, a strong force to carry that height which commanded the Jalapa road at the foot, and could not fail, if carried, to cut off the whole or any part of the enemy's forces from a retreat in any direction. A portion of the First Artillery under the often-distinguished Brevet-Colonel Childs, the Third Infantry under Captain Alexander, the Seventh Infantry under Lieutenant-Colonel Plympton, and the Rifles under Major Loring, all under the temporary command of Colonel Harvey, Second Dragoons, during the confinement to his bed of Brevet Brigadier-General P.F. Smith, composed that detachment. The style of execution, which I had the pleasure to witness, was most brilliant and decisive. The brigade ascended the long and difficult slope of Cerro Gordo, without shelter and under the tremendous fire of artillery and musketry, with the utmost steadiness, reached the breastworks, drove the enemy from them, planted the colors of the First Artillery, Third and Seventh Infantry, the enemy's flag still flying, and after some minutes of sharp firing finished the conquest with the bayonet. It is a most pleasing duty to say that the highest praise is due to Harvey, Childs, Plympton, Loring, Alexander, their gallant officers and men, for this brilliant service, independent of the great results which soon followed.
"Worth's division of regulars coming up at this time, he detached Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel C.F. Smith with his light battalion to support the assault, but not in time. The general, reaching the tower a few minutes before me and observing a white flag displayed from the nearest portion of the enemy's lines toward the batteries below, sent out Colonels Harvey and Childs to hold a parley. The surrender followed in an hour or two.
"Major-General Patterson left a sick-bed to share in the dangers and fatigues of the day, and after the surrender went forward to command the advanced forces toward Jalapa. Brigadier-General Pillow and his brigade twice assaulted with great daring the enemy's lines of batteries on our left; and, though without success, they contributed much to distract and dismay their immediate opponents.
"President Santa Anna, with Generals Canalizo and Ampudia, and some six or eight thousand men, escaped toward Jalapa just before Cerro Gordo was carried and before Twiggs's division could reach the national road above. I have determined to parole the prisoners—officers and men—as I have not the means of feeding them here beyond to-day, and can not afford to detach a heavy body of horse and foot, with wagons, to accompany them to Vera Cruz. Our baggage train, though increasing, is not yet half large enough to give an assured progress to this army. Besides, a greater number of prisoners would probably escape from the escort in the long and deep sandy road, with subsistence, ten to one, than we shall find again out of the same body of men in ranks opposed to us. Not one of the Vera Cruz prisoners is believed to have been in the lines at Cerro Gordo. Some six of the officers highest in rank refused to give their paroles, except to go to Vera Cruz, and hence, perhaps, to the United States.
"The small arms and their accouterments being of no value to our army here or at home, I have ordered them to be destroyed, for we have not the means of transporting them. I am also somewhat embarrassed with the many pieces of artillery—all bronze—which we have captured. It would take a brigade and half the mules of this army to transport them fifty miles. A field battery I shall take for service for the army, but the heavy metal must be collected and left here for the present. We have our own siege train and the proper carriages with us.
"Being occupied with the prisoners and all the details of a forward movement, besides looking to the supplies which are to follow from Vera Cruz, I have time to add no more, intending to be at Jalapa early to-morrow. We shall not probably meet with serious opposition this side of Perote, certainly not unless delayed by the want of the means of transportation.
"I have the honor to remain, sir, with high respect, your most obedient servant,
"P.S.—I invite attention to the accompanying letters to President Santa Anna, taken in his carriage yesterday; also to his proclamation issued on hearing that we had captured Vera Cruz, etc., in which he says: 'If the enemy advance one step more, the national independence will be buried in the abyss of the past.' We have taken that step.
"I make a second postscript, to say that there is some hope, I am happy to learn, that General Shields may survive his wounds. One of the principal motives for paroling the prisoners of war is to diminish the resistance of other garrisons in our march.
"HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, JALAPA, April 23, 1847.
"SIR: In forwarding the reports of commanders which detail the operations of their several corps against the Mexican lines at Cerro Gordo, I shall present, in continuation of my former report, but an outline of the affair; and while adopting heartily their commendations of the ardor and efficiency of individuals, I shall mention by name only those who figure prominently, or, from position, could not be included in those subreports. The field sketch herewith indicates the position of the two armies. The tierra caliente, or low level, terminates at Plan del Rio, the site of the American camp, from which the road ascends immediately in a long circle among the lofty hills, whose commanding points had all been fortified and garrisoned by the enemy. His right, intrenched, rested on a precipice overhanging an impassable ravine that forms the bed of the stream; and his intrenchments extended continuously to the road, in which was placed a formidable battery. On the other side the lofty and difficult heights of Cerro Gordo commanded the approaches in all directions. The main body of the Mexican army was encamped on level ground, with a battery of five pieces, half a mile in rear of that height toward Jalapa. Resolving, if possible, to turn the enemy's left and attack in rear while menacing or engaging his front, I caused daily reconnoissances to be pushed, with the view of finding a route for a force to debouch on the Jalapa road and cut off retreat. The reconnoissance, begun by Lieutenant Beauregard, was continued by Captain Lee, engineers, and a road made along difficult slopes and over chasms out of the enemy's view; though reached by his fire when discovered, until, arriving at the Mexican lines, further reconnoissance became impossible without action. The desired point of debouchure, the Jalapa road, was not therefore reached, though believed to be within easy distance; and to gain that point it now became necessary to carry the heights of Cerro Gordo. The disposition in my plan of battle—General Orders No. 111, heretofore inclosed—were accordingly made. Twiggs's division, re-enforced by Shields's brigade of volunteers, was thrown into position on the 17th, and was of necessity drawn into action in taking up the ground for its bivouac, and the opposing height for our heavy battery. It will be seen that many of our officers and men were killed or wounded in this sharp combat, handsomely commenced by a company of the Seventh Infantry under Brevet First-Lieutenant Gardner, who is highly praised by all his commanders for signal services. Colonel Harvey, coming up with the Rifle Regiment and First Artillery (also parts of his brigade), brushed away the enemy and occupied the height, on which, in the night, was placed a battery of one twenty-four pounder and two twenty-four-pound howitzers, under the supervision of Captain Lee, engineers, and Lieutenant Hagner, ordnance. These guns opened next morning, and were served with effect by Captain Steptoe and Lieutenant Brown, Third Artillery, Lieutenant Hagner (ordnance), and Lieutenant Seymore, First Artillery. The same night, with extreme toil and difficulty, under the superintendence of Lieutenant Tower, engineer, and Lieutenant Laidley, ordnance, an eight-inch howitzer was put in position across the river and opposite to the enemy's right battery. A detachment of four companies under Major Burnham, New York volunteers, performed this creditable service, which enabled Lieutenant Ripley, Second Artillery, in charge of the piece, to open a timely fire in that quarter.
"Early on the 18th the columns moved to the general attack, and our success was speedy and decisive. Pillow's brigade assaulting the right of the intrenchments, although compelled to retire, had the effect I have heretofore stated. Twiggs's division, storming the strong and vital point of Cerro Gordo, pierced the center, gained command of all the intrenchments, and cut them off from support. As our infantry (Colonel Riley's brigade) pushed on against the main body of the enemy, the guns of their own fort were rapidly turned to play on that force (under the immediate command of General Santa Anna), who fled in confusion. Shields's brigade, bravely assaulting the left, carried the rear battery (five guns) on the Jalapa road and aided materially in completing the rout of the enemy. The part taken by the remainder of our forces held in reserve to support and pursue has already been noticed. The moment the fate of the day was decided, the cavalry and Taylor's and Wall's field batteries were pushed on toward Jalapa in advance of the pursuing columns of infantry. Twiggs's division and the brigade of Shields (now under Colonel Baker) and Major-General Patterson were sent to take command of them. In the hot pursuit many Mexicans were captured or slain before our men and horses were exhausted by the heat and distance.
"The rout proved to have been complete, the retreating army, except a small body of cavalry, being dispersed and utterly disorganized. The immediate consequences have been our possession of this important city, the abandonment of the works and artillery at La Hoya, the next formidable pass between Vera Cruz and the capital, and the prompt occupation by Worth's division of the fortress of Perote (second only to San Juan de Ulloa), with its extensive armament of sixty-six guns and mortars and its large supply of material. To General Worth's report, annexed, I refer for details.
"I have heretofore endeavored to do justice to the skill and courage with which the heights of Cerro Gordo were attacked, naming the regiments most distinguished, and their-commanders, under the lead of Colonel Harney. Lieutenant G.W. Smith led the engineer company as part of the storming force, and is noticed with distinction. The reports of this assault make favorable mention of many in which I can well concur, having, witnessed the daring advance and perfect steadiness of the whole. Besides those already named, Lieutenant Brooks, Third Infantry, Lieutenant Macdonald, Second Dragoons, Lieutenant Vandorn, Seventh Infantry (all acting staff officers), Captain Magruder, First Artillery, and Lieutenant Gardner, Seventh Infantry, seem to have won special praise. Colonel Riley's brigade and Talcott's rocket and howitzer battery were engaged in and about the heights and bore an active part. The brigade so gallantly led by General Shields, and after his fall by Colonel Baker, deserves high commendation for its fine behavior and success. Colonels Foreman, Burnett, and Major Harris commanded the regiments. Lieutenant Hammond, Third Artillery, and Lieutenant Davis, Illinois volunteers, constituted the brigade staff. These operations, hid from my view by intervening hills, were not fully known when my first report was hastily written. Brigadier-General Twiggs, who was in immediate command of all advanced forces, has earned high credit by his judgment, skill, and energy. The conduct of Colonels Campbell, Haskell, and Wynkoop, commanding the regiments of Pillow's brigade, is reported in terms of strong approbation by Major-General Patterson. I recommend for a commission Quartermaster-Sergeant Henry, of the Seventh Infantry (already known to the army for intrepidity on former occasions), who hauled down the national standard of the Mexican fort. In expressing my indebtedness for able assistance—to Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock, acting inspector general; to Majors Smith and Turnbull, and respective chiefs of engineers and topographical engineers; to their assistant lieutenants, Lieutenants Mason, Beauregard, Stevens, Tower, G.W. Smith, McClellan, engineers, and Lieutenants Derby and Hardcastle, topographical engineers; to Captain Allen, chief quartermaster, and Lieutenant Blair, chief commissary, and to Lieutenants Hagner and Laidley, ordnance, all actively employed—I am compelled to make special mention of the services of Captain R.E. Lee, engineers. This officer greatly distinguished himself at the siege of Vera Cruz, was again indefatigable during these operations, in reconnoissance as daring as laborious, and of the utmost value. Nor was he less conspicuous in planting batteries and in conducting columns to their stations under the heavy fire of the enemy. My personal staff—Lieutenants Scott, Williams, and Lay, and Major Van Buren, who volunteered for the occasion—gave me zealous and efficient assistance. Our whole force present in action and in reserve was eight thousand five hundred. The enemy is estimated at twelve thousand or more. About three thousand prisoners, four or five thousand stands of arms, and forty-three pieces of artillery are taken. By the accompanying return I regret to find our loss more severe than at first supposed, amounting in the two days to thirty-three officers and three hundred and ninety-eight men—in all, four hundred and thirty-one, of whom sixty-three were killed. The enemy's loss is computed to be from one thousand to one thousand two hundred. I am happy in communicating strong hopes of the recovery of the gallant General Shields, who is so much improved as to have been brought to this place.
"Appended to this report are the following papers:
"(A) General return by name of killed and wounded.
"(B) Copies of report of Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock, acting inspector general (of prisoners taken), and accompanying papers.
"(C) Report of Brigadier-General Twiggs, and subreports.
"(D) Report of Major-General Patterson and report of brigade commanders.
"(E) Copy of report of Brigadier-General Worth announcing the occupation by his division of the castle and town of Perote without opposition, with an inventory of ordnance there found.
"I have the honor to remain, sir, with high respect, your most obedient servant,
A Mexican historian gives the following account of the close of the battle: "General Santa Anna, accompanied by some of his adjutants, was passing along the road to the left of the battery, when the enemy's column, now out of the woods, appeared on his line of retreat and fired upon him, forcing him back. The carriage in which he had left Jalapa was riddled with shot, the mules killed and taken by the enemy, as well as a wagon containing sixteen thousand dollars received the day before for the pay of the soldiers. Every tie of command and obedience now being broken among our troops, safety alone being the object, and all being involved in a frightful whirl, they rushed desperately to the narrow pass of the defile that descended to the Plan del Rio, where the general in chief had preceded, with the chiefs and officers accompanying him. Horrid indeed was the descent by that narrow and rocky path, where thousands rushed, disputing the passage, with desperation, and leaving a track of blood upon the road. All classes being confounded, military distinction and respect were lost; and badges of rank became marks of sarcasm that were only meted out according to their grade and humiliation. The enemy, now masters of our camp, turned their guns upon the fugitives, thus augmenting the terror of the multitude that crowded through the defile and pressed forward every instant by a new impulse, which increased the confusion and disgrace of the ill-fated day."
General Scott reports the strength of his army at Cerro Gordo at eight thousand five hundred, the killed and wounded four hundred and thirty-one, of which thirty-three were officers and three hundred and ninety-eight enlisted men. His estimate of the Mexican force was twelve thousand. The prisoners captured were about three thousand, and the killed and wounded between one thousand and twelve hundred. Forty-three cannon and three thousand five hundred small arms were captured. On the morning of the 22d the army moved to and occupied the town and castle of Perote without resistance.
General Santa Anna now retired to Orizaba, where he was met by many distinguished citizens. He addressed a letter to the ad interim President, General Arroya, as follows:
"ORIZABA, April 22, 1847.
"MY ESTEEMED FRIEND: The dispatch which I have forwarded to the Minister of War will already have informed you of the events which occurred on the 18th inst. The enemy made an extraordinary effort to force the pass, and, exasperated by the repulse he had experienced the day before, and because he knew his ruin was inevitable unless he succeeded, attacked me with his entire army, which was not less than twelve thousand men. He put everything on the hazard of the die, and the cast was favorable to him. I do not regard the cause of the nation as hopeless, if it will defend its honor and independence as circumstances may require. I presume you have taken all proper measures for the public safety, and first of all for that of the capital. I shall be able to aid it very soon if it will defend itself. At present I have with me five hundred men and four guns, and there is no doubt but I shall collect in a few days a force equal to that I rallied at Cerro Gordo. I only require that you send me some money through the medium of bills of exchange, as I find it impossible to raise a dollar. We must, my friend, not give up ourselves as lost, and, before God, you shall see that I will make no treaty with the enemy which will dishonor us or put us in worse condition. Write to me when convenient, and reckon always on the poor services of your most affectionate friend, who wishes you every happiness. A.L. DE SANTA ANNA."
The prisoners were all paroled, and the sick and wounded sent to Jalapa, where they were comfortably provided for.
General Scott was impatient at the delay of the Government in sending him re-enforcements. He feared that his communications with Vera Cruz might be cut off. The time of enlistment of the twelve months' volunteers would soon expire, and he desired to discharge them in time to leave the coast before the prevalence of the yellow fever.
He received information on April 27th that some one to two thousand recruits of the ten regiments recently provided for by Congress had been ordered to Brazos, and that every effort would be made to re-enforce General Taylor. The Secretary of War had ordered troops originally designed for General Scott to the relief of General Taylor, without notice to General Scott.
On May 4, 1847, he issued an order to the volunteer troops whose term of enlistment was about to expire, complimenting them for their services, but announcing his intention to discharge them. He then addressed the Secretary of War, saying: "To part with so large and so respectable a portion of the army in the middle of a country which, though broken in its power, is not yet disposed to sue for peace; to provide for the return home of seven regiments from this interior position at a time when I find it difficult to provide transportation and supplies for the operating forces which remain, and all this without any prospect of succor or re-enforcements in perhaps the next seven months, beyond some three hundred army recruits, presents novelties utterly unknown to an invading army before. With the addition of ten or twelve thousand new levies in April and May, asked for, and until very recently expected, or even with the addition of two or three thousand new troops destined for this army, but suddenly, by the orders of the War Department, directed to the Rio Grande frontier, I might, notwithstanding the unavoidable discharge of the old volunteers—seven regiments and two independent companies—advance with confidence upon the enemy's capital. I shall nevertheless advance, but whether beyond Puebla will depend upon intervening information and reflection."
The army, having received supplies of medicines, ammunition, clothing, salt, etc., made preparations to move. Colonel Childs was appointed governor of Jalapa, and a sufficient garrison left with him. General Twiggs was ordered to march to Perote. General Worth had occupied Perote on April 22d. The army then occupied Puebla, where during their prolonged stay the troops were daily drilled, but were given permission to visit the ancient city of Cholula and the adjacent country. This city in the time of Cortez had a population of one hundred and fifty thousand, but was now a hamlet containing a small population and the ruins of its ancient glory. General Scott relates that while in this region, "coming up with a brigade marching at ease, all intoxicated with the fine air and scenery, he was, as usual, received with hearty and protracted cheers. The group of officers who surrounded him differed widely in the objects of their admiration, some preferring this or that snow-capped mountain, others the city, and several the pyramid of Cholula that was now opening upon the view. An appeal from all was made to the general in chief. He promptly and emphatically replied, 'I differ from you all. My greatest delight is in this fine body of troops, without whom we can never sleep in the halls of the Montezumas, or in our own homes.'"
The first re-enforcements to arrive were eight hundred men, under Lieutenant-Colonel James Simmons McIntosh, escorting a train. They were delayed by an attack of the enemy near Jalapa, but, being joined by Brigadier-General George Cadwallader with a portion of his brigade and a field battery, the enemy was soon driven. Major-General Gideon J. Pillow arrived next with a thousand men, and on August 6th Brigadier-General Franklin Pierce joined with two thousand five hundred men.
General Scott felt compelled, on account of his reduced numbers, to order the garrison, under Colonel Childs at Jalapa, to join him. His force now was (including late re-enforcements) about fourteen thousand men, including two thousand five hundred sick in hospitals, and six hundred convalescents too feeble for duty. These convalescents and the same number of effective troops were left as a garrison under Colonel Childs, who was appointed commandant of the city of Puebla. This necessitated the almost total abandonment of the protection of his lines to his base at Vera Cruz, and communications to his Government. As Scott expressed it, "we had to throw away the scabbard and to advance with the naked blade in hand."
Movement toward the City of Mexico—The Duke of Wellington's comments—Movements of Santa Anna—A commission meets General Worth to treat for terms—Worth enters Puebla—Civil administration of the city not interfered with—Scott arrives at Puebla—Scott's address to the Mexicans after the battle of Cerro Gordo—Contreras—Reconnoissance of the pedregal—Defeat of the Mexicans at Contreras—Battle of Churubusco—Arrival of Nicholas P. Trist, commissioner—General Scott meets a deputation proposing an armistice—He addresses a communication to the head of the Mexican Government—Appointment of a commission to meet Mr. Trist—Major Lally—Meeting of Mr. Trist with the Mexican commissioners—Failure to agree—Armistice violated by the Mexicans and notice from General Scott—Santa Anna's insolent note—The latter calls a meeting of his principal officers—Molino del Rey—Chapultepecec—Losses on both sides.
The army began its movement from Puebla toward the City of Mexico on August 6, 1847. Twiggs's division was in the advance, General William Selby Harney's cavalry leading and the siege train bringing up the rear. The other three divisions followed successively on the 8th, 9th, and 10th. No division was at any time more than seven or eight miles from support. It was expected that the army of Santa Anna would be met at Rio Frio, and hence General Scott's great caution in his movement to keep his divisions in supporting distance.
The Duke of Wellington was so interested in this march of the army from Vera Cruz to the Mexican capital that he caused its movements to be marked on a map daily, as information was received. Admiring its triumphs up to the basin of Mexico, he now said: "Scott is lost. He has been carried away by successes. He can't take the city, and he can't fall back upon his base."
General Santa Anna, finding himself without money and with but a small following of troops at Orizaba, marched by way of Aculcingo and Amasoque to Puebla. In the meantime he was using all efforts to gather re-enforcements for his army. There was but one day's interval between the troops of General Worth and the Mexican brigades of Leonard Perez and the cavalry under General Alcorta, the whole of which was commanded by General Santa Anna when he passed Amasoque. Finding that he could not successfully defend Puebla, the Mexican general withdrew to San Martin and Amasoque. Soon afterward he moved on the road toward the City of Mexico.
Two or three miles from Puebla a commission met General Worth to treat for terms. A halt of a few hours was made, when the march was resumed, and the American forces without opposition marched into the Grand Plaza between the palace of the Governor and the cathedral.
A Mexican historian thus describes the first appearance and occupation of Puebla by the American troops: "The singular appearance of some of the soldiers, their trains, their artillery, their large horses, all attracted the curiosity of the multitude, and at the corners and squares an immense crowd surrounded the new conquerors. The latter—extremely fatigued, confiding in the mutual guarantees stipulated by the Ayuntamientimo and General Worth, or perhaps despising a people who easily permitted the occupation of their territory—stacked arms in the plaza while waiting for quarters, while some wandered into neighboring streets to drink pulque and embrace the leperos, with whom they seemed old acquaintances. [The leperos were the vagabonds of the city and country.] There is no doubt that more than ten thousand persons occupied the plazas and corners. One cry, one effort, the spirit of one determined man would have sufficed; and if once this multitude had pressed in on the enemy, they would have inevitably perished. Nothing was done. General Worth took quarters in the Governor's palace, east of the Grand Plaza, and upon its flagstaff hoisted the Stars and Stripes."
General Worth took possession of Puebla on May 15th, and, acting under orders of General Scott, he issued orders which gave assurance to the inhabitants that they would not be disturbed either in person or property, and that they could continue without molestation their ordinary business. The markets were kept open, and no officer or soldier was permitted to take anything without paying the regular market price.
The civil administration of the city was not interfered with. The police of the city was continued under the regulations of the city government. The churches, of which there were a large number, were opened, and continued their usual functions, and the attendance was largely augmented by the American officers and men. In fact, the city, except for the presence of the United States troops, was in all other respects governed and conducted as before its occupation.
General Scott left Jalapa on May 23d for Puebla. He arrived there on the 28th, and was met and escorted into the city by a number of officers. Along the streets of the city through which he passed the balconies were filled with Mexican ladies and the avenues crowded with men. The populace cheered him heartily and escorted him to the palace. The soldiers, volunteers and regulars, gave him the heartiest welcome, showing that he had the respect and confidence of the army, and the demonstrations of the Mexicans evidenced that they regarded him as a humane and Christian conqueror.
In this connection it is well to produce the address of General Scott to the Mexican people after the battle of Cerro Gordo:
"MEXICANS! The late events of the war and the measures adopted in consequence by our Government make it my duty to address you, in order to lay before you truths of which you are ignorant, because they have been criminally concealed from you. I do not ask you to believe me simply on my word—though he who has not been found false has a claim to be believed—but to judge for yourselves of these truths from facts within the view and scrutiny of you all. Whatever may have been the origin of this war, which the United States was forced to undertake by insurmountable causes, we regard it as an evil. War is ever such to both belligerents, and the reason and justice of the case, if not known on both sides, are in dispute and claimed by each. You have proof of this truth as well as we, for in Mexico, as in the United States, there have existed and do exist two opposite parties, one desiring peace and the other war. Governments have, however, sacred duties to perform from which they can not swerve; and these duties frequently impose, from national considerations, a silence and reserve that displeases at all times the majority of those who, from views purely personal or private, are formed in opposition, to which Governments can pay little attention, expecting the nation to repose in them the confidence due to a magistracy of its own selection—considerations of high policy and of continental American interests precipitated even in spite of circumspection of the Cabinet at Washington. This Cabinet, ardently desiring to terminate all differences with Mexico, spared no effort compatible with honor and dignity. It cherished the most flattering hopes of attaining this end by frank explanations and reasonings addressed to the judgment and prudence of the virtuous and patriotic government of General Herrera. An unexpected misfortune dispelled these hopes and closed every avenue of an honorable adjustment. Your new Government disregarded your national interests, as well as those of continental America, and yielded, moreover, to foreign influences the most opposed to these interests, the most fatal to the future of Mexican liberty and of that republican system which the United States holds it a duty to preserve and protect. Duty, honor, and dignity placed us under the necessity of not losing a season of which the monarchical party was fast taking advantage. As not a moment was to be lost, we acted with a promptness and decision suited to the urgency of the case, in order to avoid a complication of interests which might render our relations more difficult and involved. Again, in the course of civil war, the Government of General Paredes was overthrown. We could not but look upon this as a fortunate event, believing that any other administration representing Mexico would be less deluded, more patriotic, and more prudent, looking to the common good, weighing probabilities, strength, resources, and, above all, the general opinion as to the inevitable results of a national war. We were deceived, and perhaps you Mexicans were also deceived, in judging of the real intentions of General Santa Anna when you recalled and when your Government permitted him to return. Under this state of things the Mexican nation has seen the results lamented by all, and by us most sincerely, for we appreciate as is due the valor and noble decision of those unfortunate men who go to battle ill-conducted, worse cared for, and almost always enforced by violence, deceit, or perfidy. We are witnesses, and we shall not be taxed with partiality as a party interested when we lament with surprise that the heroic behavior of the garrison at Vera Cruz in its valiant defense has been aspersed by the general who has just been routed and put to shameful flight at Buena Vista by a force far inferior to his own. The same general rewarded the insurgents of the capital, promoters of civil war, and heaped outrage upon those who had just acquired for themselves singular distinction by a resistance beyond expectation and of admirable decision. Finally, the bloody events of Cerro Gordo have plainly shown the Mexican nation what it may reasonably expect if it is no longer blind to its real situation—a situation to which it has been brought by some of its generals whom it has most distinguished and in whom it has most confidence. The hardest heart would have been moved to grief in contemplating any battlefield in Mexico a moment after the last struggle. Those generals whom the nation has paid without service rendered for so many years, have, in the day of need, with some honorable exceptions, but served to injure her by their bad example or unskillfulness. The dead and wounded on those battlefields received no marks of military distinction, sharing alike the sad fate which has been the same from Palo Alto to Cerro Gordo; the dead remained unburied and the wounded abandoned to the clemency and charity of the victor. Soldiers who go to battle knowing they have such reward to look for deserve to be classed with the most heroic, for they are stimulated by no hope of glory, nor remembrance, nor a sigh, nor even a grave! Again, contemplate, honorable Mexicans, the lot of peaceful and industrious citizens in all classes of your country. The possessions of the Church menaced and presented as an allurement to revolution and anarchy; the fortunes of rich proprietors pointed out for plunder of armed ruffians; and merchants and the mechanic, the husbandman and the manufacturer, burdened with contributions, excises, monopolies, duties on consumption, surrounded by officers and collectors of these odious internal customs; the man of letters and the legislator, the freeman of knowledge who dares to speak, persecuted without trial by some faction or by the very rulers who abuse their power; and criminals unpunished are set at liberty, as were those of Perote. What, then, Mexicans, is the liberty of which you boast? I do not believe that Mexicans at the present day want the courage to confess errors which do not dishonor them, or to adopt a system of true liberty—one of peace and union with their brethren and neighbors of the North. Neither can I believe the Mexicans ignorant of the infamy of the calumnies put forth by the press in order to excite hostility against us. No, public spirit can not be created or animated by falsehood. We have not profaned your temples, nor abused your women, nor seized your property, as they could have you believe. We say it with pride, and we confirm it by an appeal to your bishops and the curates of Tampico, Tuzpan, Matamoros, Monterey, Vera Cruz, and Jalapa; to all clergy, civil authorities, and inhabitants of all places we have occupied. We adore the same God, and a large portion of our army, as well as of the people of the United States, are Catholics, like yourselves. We punish crime wherever we find it, and reward merit and virtue. The army of the United States respects, and will ever respect, private property of every class, and the property of the Mexican Church. Woe to him who does not where we are! Mexicans, the past is beyond remedy, but the future may yet be controlled. I have repeatedly declared to you that the Government and the people of the United States desire peace, desire your sincere friendship. Abandon, then, state prejudices; cease to be the sport of private ambition, and conduct yourselves like a great American nation. Abandon at once these old colonial habits, and learn to be truly free, truly republican. You may then soon attain prosperity and happiness, of which you possess all the elements; but remember that you are Americans, and that your happiness is not to come from Europe. I desire, in conclusion, to say to you with equal frankness that, were it necessary, an army of one hundred thousand Americans would soon be among you, and that the United States, if forced to terminate by arms their differences with you, would not do it in an uncertain or precarious, or, still less, in a dishonorable manner. It would be an insult to the intelligent people of their country to doubt their knowledge of your power. The system of forming guerrilla parties to annoy us will, I assure you, produce only evil to this country and none to our army, which knows how to protect itself and how to proceed against such cut-throats; and if, so far from calming resentments and passion, you try to irritate, you will but force upon us the hard necessity of retaliation. In that event, you can not blame us for the consequences which will fall upon yourselves. I shall march with this army upon Puebla and Mexico. I do not conceal this from you. From those capitals I may again address you. We desire peace, friendship, and union; it is for you to choose whether you prefer continued hostilities. In either case, be assured, I will keep my word. WINFIELD SCOTT."
Worth's division, now preceded by Harney's cavalry, moved from San Augustin on the main road toward the City of Mexico. These were followed by the other divisions of the army. On this route was situated the pedregal, which is a field of volcanic rock of very uneven surface. It is between the roads leading to the capital from San Augustin and Padierna. A reconnoissance of the pedregal was made by Lieutenants Robert E. Lee and Pierre G.T. Beauregard, who reported that there was a passage for wagons of only a mile, and the remainder might be crossed by infantry, carefully picking the way. The enemy were in position beyond the pedregal with considerable artillery.
General Scott, on the night of the 18th, ordered a movement in the direction of Padierna. Worth was ordered to cover San Antonio, Quitman to hold San Augustin, and Pillow to march over the pedregal, while Twiggs was to cover and support Pillow's movement. On the morning of this movement the Mexican General Blanco was ordered to construct batteries, and General Mejia to take position on the Pelon Cuauhtitlan to command the expected movements of the American army. General Santa Anna wrote from San Antonio through the Minister of War to General Valencia, at San Angel: "The general in chief directs me to say to your Excellency that the enemy having now [August 18th, 3 P.M.] taken up a position on our left in front of San Antonio with a part of his forces, it is clear that to-morrow at the latest he will undertake the attack of this fortification, although it appears there is a movement going on at the same time on our right. His Excellency therefore directs you at daylight to-morrow morning to fall back with your forces to Coyoacan, and send forward your artillery to the fort and the tete-de-pont at Churubusco."
General Valencia declined to obey this order, giving his reason as follows: "I should like much to be able to obey this order, but, in view of present circumstances, my conscience as a military man and my patriotism will not permit me. I believe the national cause will be lost if I should abandon these positions and the road leading from San Augustin through Padierna to these points. To me it is as clear as the light of day that the enemy will undertake his attack, if not to-morrow, the day after, and that he desires to make two attacks at the same time, the one true and the other false, and that, should he find at the commencement of his movements one of the points of attack abandoned, as this, for instance, he will pass by this route with all his forces, and thus be enabled to assail our flank and turn our rear; or, if he prefer it, he may pass on without obstruction to the City of Mexico."
General Valencia, however, ordered a thorough reconnoissance by General Mendoza, an engineer officer, who reported "that Padierna was absolutely indefensible, and that it was believed best to retire for reasons expressed in his note." General Valencia ordered Colonel Barreiro to Zacatepetl to watch and report the movements of the enemy. He further ordered Colonel Mendoza to occupy with his regiment the edge of the pedregal, having in his front a detachment of infantry under Captain Solos, and beyond him a detachment of cavalry. To the left of Padierna was posted the corps of San Luis Potosi, to the right the brigade of Lieutenant-Colonel Cabrera, and on the ridge were the batteries and brigade of General Mejia. The supporting line were three battalions. The reserve at Anzaldo, a mixed company of infantry and cavalry, was the command of General Solos, supported on the right by two regiments of infantry.
Pillow's and Twiggs's divisions were observed by Colonel Barreiro to be moving over the mountain of Zacatepetl and the pedregal. On an open ridge commanding the pedregal General Valencia had planted guns which commanded the pedregal in the direction of San Augustin. On the morning of August 19th General Santa Anna ordered two battalions to move from Churubusco to San Antonio, Pillow's division of the American army having moved out from San Augustin on the road to Padierna, which was to be covered by Twiggs's division. Twiggs moved, following Quitman, and passed beyond San Augustin. General Alvarez closed on his rear. A working party of five hundred men under engineer officers was detailed from Pillow's division to make the road to Padierna practicable for artillery. While work was progressing on this road General Scott notified General Pillow that Valencia was placing heavy guns in position, and ordered that the work be pushed forward as rapidly as possible. Before the road was finished half the distance Twiggs's division passed Pillow's command, and its advance was fired upon by the Mexicans. General Persifor F. Smith ordered the mounted rifle regiment under Major William Wing Loring, aided by a section of Magruder's battery, to drive in the Mexican pickets. Lieutenant George B. McClellan placed the artillery in position, but before it was ready for action it received a fire from the guns on the elevated ridge beyond Padierna. The remainder of Smith's brigade and the other section of Lieutenant John Bankhead Magruder's battery were ordered forward, and the Mexicans were driven back. General Bennet Riley's brigade was ordered to the right, and to pass over the pedregal and take possession in the enemy's rear. General Cadwallader's brigade was ordered to support Riley's movement. General Scott, perceiving that re-enforcements were approaching Valencia from the City of Mexico, ordered a regiment of General Franklin Pierce's brigade to move forward and occupy San Geronimo, and General James Shields with two regiments (New York, and Palmetto, South Carolina) was ordered forward as a support. General Persifor F. Smith now moved to the front across the pedregal, having left detachments as supports to the artillery of Magruder and Callender, which were ordered to open fire on the beginning of General Smith's movement. This movement of General Persifor F. Smith was led and conducted by Lieutenant Gustavus W. Smith. When this force reached the village or town of San Geronimo a large force of the enemy came in sight. Pierce's brigade was at once ordered to the front, and was met by a heavy fire. General Pierce having been disabled, Colonel Robert Ransom, of the Ninth Infantry, was in command of the forces, which were conducted by Lieutenant Isaac Ingles Stevens, and moved to the right and front of Magruder's battery. Ransom, uniting with the detachment left by General Smith, took possession of Padierna, driving the Mexican General Mendoza. Riley's command was the first to pass the pedregal, when it occupied the road on the opposite side with Captain Simon Henry Drum's company of the Fourth Artillery. A detachment of Mexican lancers escorting a train was encountered and captured.
Riley's command continued its advance, when a company of Mexican lancers was met and repulsed by Captain Silas Casey's company. A mounted force, under the Mexican General Frontera, consisting of two regiments, was met and repulsed by the Second Infantry under Captain Charles T. Morris and the Seventh Infantry under Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Plympton. General Frontera was killed while leading a charge. Riley now withdrew to San Geronimo, which he found occupied by Cadwallader's and Smith's brigades, and a regiment of Pierce's brigade under command of Colonel George Washington Morgan. When General Valencia's advanced forces were driven in by Twiggs's division on the pedregal, Valencia announced (August 19th, 2 P.M.) to General Santa Anna at San Antonio that the enemy were approaching Padierna, the artillery had opened fire, and the battle had begun. General Santa Anna at once, on receipt of this information, sent an officer to Coyoacan with orders to General Perez to move at once to Padierna, and himself with two regiments and five pieces of artillery proceeded to join him. He arrived at Coyoacan just at the time when the command of Perez was moving, and he ordered it to move rapidly.
On the evening of August 19th General P.F. Smith was in San Geronimo with three brigades of infantry, but without cavalry or artillery. His communications with the main army were cut off except through the pedregal. He determined to attack, however, the next morning at daylight, carry the enemy's works, and establish his communications with the main army. His disposition of troops was as follows for the night: Cadwallader's command in the outer edge of the village of San Geronimo, Riley's brigade parallel to it, the Rifles on the right, and the Third Infantry in the churchyard. In the night Captain R.E. Lee arrived, bearing a letter from General Scott asking to be informed of affairs beyond the pedregal. The information sought for was given, and Captain Lee was requested to inform General Scott of General Smith's intention to attack Valencia next morning, and asking that a diversion be made on Valencia's front. General Shields arrived at midnight, and was left to hold the village and cut off the enemy's retreat. In the meantime Colonel Ransom abandoned Padierna, which was soon afterward occupied by General Valencia's forces, but not without stout resistance by the small detachment left there.
At nightfall General Santa Anna fell back to San Angel, but failed to give notice of the movement to General Valencia. Mexican history states that at 9 P.M. Ramero and Del Rio arrived at Valencia's headquarters and delivered an order from Santa Anna to Valencia to retire. General Solos, however, who was present, denies this, saying that the order was qualified by one to spike the guns, destroy the ammunition, and saving only what could be safely transported. General Valencia declined to obey the order. At 2.30 P.M. of August 20th Smith's troops moved to reach Valencia's rear. Riley's brigade and Cadwallader's followed this movement. General Shields with the New York regiment of Colonel Ward B. Burnett and the South Carolina regiment under Colonel Pierce M. Butler remained at the village, to intercept and cut off the enemy's retreat and to prevent re-enforcements from reaching the Mexicans.
The night was intensely dark, and the streets of the village were very narrow, cut into gullies and very muddy. A heavy rain was pouring down, and the march was made under difficulties and necessarily slow. General Smith's position was on an eminence about one thousand yards from the enemy's works, from which point he made the attack. Riley moved up the ravine to a slope leading to a high point of the ridge and attacked the enemy some eight hundred yards distant. Cadwallader followed Riley, and the Mounted Rifles and Engineer Company moved to a position in rear of the force confronting Riley. The Third Infantry and First Artillery were held in reserve. The attack was made as ordered by General Smith, and the enemy fled, pursued by Riley, the Mounted Rifles, and Engineers.
The Third Infantry and First Artillery, held in reserve, were attacked by a force of cavalry, which was driven off, and Valencia was completely routed. General Shields, who held the village, seized the main road and cut off retreat in that direction. The enemy fled in the greatest confusion. The battle of Contreras was one of the most brilliant victories of the war. It opened the road to the City of Mexico. Seven hundred of the enemy were killed, eight hundred and thirteen prisoners were captured, including eighty-eight officers, of whom four were generals; many standards, twenty-two pieces of brass cannon, a large number of stands of small arms, seven hundred pack mules, many horses, and large quantities of ordnance stores were added to the outfit of the American army.
General Scott had planned to open up the way for the march of his army to the City of Mexico by the way of Padierna. Knowing or believing that a stubborn defense would be made by the Mexicans, he had ordered General Worth to march from San Antonio on the morning of August 20th, with Garland's brigade, by way of San Augustin to Padierna, to be followed by General Quitman, who was ordered to leave a cavalry force to hold San Antonio. But General Persifor F. Smith had won the battle before these troops arrived.
A sufficient guard having been left with the prisoners, General Persifor F. Smith was ordered with his brigade, the Mounted Rifles and Engineers, in pursuit of the fleeing enemy. They were attacked at San Angel, but the attacking party were soon driven off. General Pillow joined these forces at San Angel, and General Scott came up with them at Coyoacan, where he had ordered the army to halt.
From this point in the direction of the capital, Churubusco was one mile; two miles to the southeast was San Antonio. Churubusco is about six miles south of the City of Mexico, on a river of the same name, and on the road from San Angel and San Antonio from San Augustin. General Scott on his arrival ordered Captain Lee, with Captain Phil Kearney's company of the First Dragoons and a company of the Mounted Rifles, to make a reconnoissance. In the meantime Pillow and Cadwallader were to attack San Antonio in the rear, General Worth assailing it in front. A reconnoissance having been made of the convent of San Pablo, in the town of Churubusco, a brigade from Twiggs's division, a part of Smith's brigade, Riley's brigade, and Taylor's battery were ordered to attack. After the defeat of General Valencia at Contreras, General Worth returned with Garland's brigade in front of San Antonio. His orders were to attack as soon as Pillow and Twiggs, moving from Contreras, approached in the rear. Worth ordered Clarke's brigade to move over the pedregal and turn the right flank of the fortifications at San Antonio and cut the enemy's line of communication. Henry Francis Clarke's brigade was attacked on its march, but dispersed the attacking force, and soon encountered the rear of the Mexicans from San Antonio and engaged them. Pillow with Cadwallader's brigade, joined Worth in pursuit of the fleeing Mexican troops and both attacked the tete-de-pont in their front. Riley's brigade having been ordered forward, General Scott ordered Pierce's brigade to move by the road leading north from Coyoacan across the Churubusco River by a bridge, turn to the right, and seize the causeway in the rear of the tete-de-pont. General Scott, learning that General Shields, in the rear of the Mexican lines, was in danger of being cut off and captured, ordered Major E.V. Sumner with the Mounted Rifles under Major W.W. Loring, and the Second Dragoons under Captain Henry Hastings Sibley, to his support. The attack of the Americans being persistently pressed on all sides, the Mexicans gave way and made a precipitous retreat, pursued by the victorious Americans.
There remained yet to be captured the convent of San Pablo. This building, having very thick walls, was impervious to the attack of field pieces. It was defended by a well-constructed bastion, with flooded ditches, and guns placed in the embrasure. The attack was made by the First Artillery, followed by the Third Infantry. During the attack the enemy made several sallies from the convent, which were repulsed. The troops in the convent consisted of the Independencia and Bravo battalions, about six hundred and fifty each, with the necessary cannoneers for six guns, and in the tete-de-pont cannoneers for five guns, the San Patricio companies, and the battalion of Tlapa. Along the Rio Churubusco, on the north side, was the brigade of General Perez, some twenty-five hundred strong. The Mexicans made a brave and gallant defense, but were compelled to succumb. The battles of Contreras and Churubusco were fought on the same day, and were really one battle. In both actions the American loss was one hundred and thirty-nine killed and nine hundred and twenty-six wounded. The Mexican loss was near four thousand killed and wounded, with the loss of three hundred prisoners, thirty-seven cannon, and a large number of small arms with ammunition.
General Scott could easily have occupied the Mexican capital on the same day, but meanwhile Mr. Nicholas P. Trist had arrived from Washington with instructions from the President to endeavor to make a treaty of peace, and both he and General Scott thought it best to await the turn of events looking to that end. On the next morning, August 27, 1847, General Scott set out on the San Antonio road, and was met near Churubusco by a deputation bearing a white flag from the Mexican Government, proposing an armistice of thirty hours for burying the dead and collecting the wounded, which he at once rejected. The deputation accompanying the flag consisted of Senores Basadre, Mora y Villamil and Aranjos, who had been sent by Pacheco, Minister of Foreign Affairs. General Santa Anna expressed great dissatisfaction at the action of the Minister, on which he resigned. General Scott addressed a communication to the head of the Mexican Government and general in chief, in which he said that too much blood had already been spilled, and suggested that it was time the differences between the two republics should be settled. He mentioned (what was known to the Mexican authorities) that a commissioner on the part of the United States, clothed with full power to that end, was with his army. He expressed his willingness on reasonable terms to agree to a short armistice. While he proposed to wait until the next morning for a reply, he announced his intention "in the meantime to seize and occupy such positions outside of the capital as I may deem necessary to the shelter and comfort of this army."
The Mexican authorities, through Alcorta, Secretary of War and of the Navy, named two brigadier generals of the Mexican army, Mora y Villamil and Benito Quijano, to act as commissioners.
General Scott appointed as commissioners Major General John A. Quitman, Brigadier-General Franklin Pierce, and Brevet Brigadier-General Persifor F. Smith. The convention concluded its work on the 24th of August. It was agreed that hostilities should cease at once within thirty leagues of the Mexican capital. No work of a military character was to be done, and any re-enforcements or munitions of war except that now on its way to either army was to be stopped at a distance of twenty-eight leagues from the capital. The American army was not to obstruct the passage from the surrounding country into the capital of the ordinary supplies of food necessary for the subsistence of the Mexican army and the inhabitants within the city, nor were the Mexican authorities to obstruct the passage of supplies of subsistence from the city or country necessary for the supply of the American army. The armistice was to continue pending negotiations or until the commander of either army should give notice to the other of its cessation; and forty-eight hours after such notice General Worth, on the night of the 21st, moved his division to Tacubaya, where he was preceded by General Scott, and established his headquarters in the Bishop's Palace. General Quitman remained at San Augustin, to which point General Shields returned with his command. General Twiggs was at San Angel, and General Pillow at Mexcoac.
Previous to the occurrences just narrated, Major Folliot Thornton Lally had on August 6th marched with a force of about one thousand men from Vera Cruz. He was joined en route by a company of mounted Georgia volunteers, one of Louisiana mounted men, and two six-pounders, under command of Lieutenant Henry B. Sears, of the Second Artillery. General Don Juan Soto, Governor of the State of Vera Cruz, organized a force between one thousand and two thousand strong, a part of which were paroled prisoners, with the purpose of attacking Major Lally and capturing his wagon train, which was supposed to carry a large amount of silver coin. An attack was made by this force on Major Lally at the pass of Ovejas, the engagement lasting an hour and a half. Captains James Nelson Caldwell, of the Voltigeurs, and Arthur C. Cummings, Eleventh Infantry, were severely wounded. Nine enlisted men were wounded, one mortally. The Mexican loss is not known. On August 12th the command reached Puente Nacional and found the Mexicans in considerable force, strongly barricaded. An artillery fire was opened on them and they were driven back. The American loss in this affair was sixty killed and wounded. On approaching the battlefield of Cerro Gordo they were again attacked, and sustained a loss of one killed and eight wounded. Several other attacks of a similar character were made, but without success. Major Lally, with his troops and wagon train, arrived at Jalapa thirteen days out from Vera Cruz, when without interruption five days would have been sufficient for the march. Mr. Trist notified the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, August 25th, of the object of his mission, and requested a meeting. He was advised that commissioners would meet him on the 27th at Azapotzalco, which was between the two armies. General Santa Anna, after appointing several persons who declined, named General Herrera, Senor Conto, General Mora y Villamil, Senor Atristain, and Secretary Miguel Arroyo. On the morning of the 27th, before the meeting of the commissioners, a train of wagons sent into the city to obtain supplies for the American army was met by a mob, stoned and driven away. Subsequently an apology was offered for this gross infraction of the armistice, and the wagons returned and secured their stores.
On meeting the commissioners, Mr. Trist exhibited his powers, which were ample, but that of the Mexicans was simply confined to hearing propositions from Mr. Trist. Mr. Trist objected to this limitation, but was assured that when it became necessary to sign the treaty they would exhibit full powers. The American commissioners presented the project of a treaty the leading feature of which related to the boundary line between the two countries. It was also a part of the project that Mexico was to concede to the United States the right of transport across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec free from tolls. These and all else asked by Mr. Trist were refused. The Mexican commissioners asked for further instructions from their Government, which were given—that they should neither exceed nor modify the former instructions given them. They asked to be relieved, as these instructions placed them in an embarrassing position. A council of ministers was called, and their former instructions were changed so as to authorize them "to approximate to them as much as possible, agreeing to some modifications which the circumstances of the country may exact, as well as to things of minor importance which may arise during the discussion."
On September 1st, when the third meeting was held, the Mexican commissioners exhibited plenary powers. No agreement being reached, it was proposed to extend the armistice for forty-five days. But on September 5th the Mexican commissioners were informed that the Government would not consent to the extension or to the cession of New Mexico, which Mr. Trist had insisted on. The Mexican commissioners then submitted a counter project on the 6th, which in effect refused all of the more important concessions asked by the United States. With this the diplomatic conferences terminated. General Scott at once called a conference with his general officers. He stated to them the bad faith of the enemy, who commenced the work of repair on their fortifications. He recited the incident of the mobbing of teamsters. He closed by saying: "I have therefore called you to headquarters to advise upon the propriety of dissolving the armistice, or [after a pause] to inform you that I have dissolved it, and to read to you my letter to General Santa Anna notifying him of the fact." Looking for the letter, he said, "I have torn it up." He at once wrote a note and dispatched it to General Santa Anna, as follows:
"HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
"TACUBAYA, September 6, 1847.
"To his Excellency the President and General in Chief of the Mexican Republic.
"SIR: The seventh article, as also the twelfth, that stipulates that trade shall remain unmolested—of the armistice or military convention which I had the honor to ratify and to exchange with your Excellency the 24th ultimo—has been repeatedly violated, beginning soon after date, on the part of Mexico; and I now have good reasons to believe that within the last forty-eight hours, if not earlier, the third article of that convention has been equally violated by the same party. These direct breaches of faith give to this army the most perfect right to resume hostilities against Mexico, without any notice whatever; but, to allow time for possible apology or reparation, I now give formal notice that, unless full satisfaction on these allegations should be received by me by 12 o'clock meridian to-morrow, I shall consider the said armistice at an end from and after that hour.
"I have the honor to be your Excellency's most obedient servant,
General Santa Anna replied in an insolent note, denying General Scott's charges and making counter charges.
Many newspapers throughout the United States criticised General Scott in the severest terms for being duped by General Santa Anna into an armistice which the latter only desired to recruit his army. There is the strongest evidence—that of Mr. Trist and the Mexican commissioners—that Santa Anna was really desirous to make peace. The manifesto which he issued to the nation is itself sufficient proof on this score; and certainly it reflects the highest credit on General Scott, that when he was at the very gates of the capital, which he could have entered in a few hours, he was willing to spare not only the lives of his own gallant army, but those of the enemy. Santa Anna now called a meeting of the principal officers and governmental civilians to meet him in the palace, and it was agreed to continue resistance.
A force was at once sent out under cover of the guns of Chapultepec to strengthen the position and resist the advance of the Americans. At this point was a number of very large buildings known as Molino del Rey, which had formerly been used for the manufacture of ordnance stores. Chapultepec was a strong, well-fortified and well-armed fort. Molino del Rey was occupied by a brigade of the National Guards, under General Leon. These were re-enforced on the morning of the 7th by a brigade under General Rangel. The Casta Mata, a large storehouse surrounded by a wide ditch and inclosed by a bastioned fort, was occupied by the brigade of General Perez, and between these two positions was posted General Ramirez's brigade with six pieces of artillery. In the rear occupying some woods were the reserves.
The Mexican cavalry, about two thousand strong, under command of General Alvarez, was two miles west from Chapultepec on the right of the line. After a thorough reconnoissance by the American engineer, General Scott on the afternoon of the 7th issued the necessary orders for massing and disposing his army. The general depot was established at Mexcoac. One brigade of Twiggs's division under Colonel Plympton was ordered to move and threaten the city by way of the Nino Perdido road, moving at 6 P.M. Quitman marched from San Augustin on the 8th to Coyoacan. Pillow was to advance with one brigade and take command of the advanced position which was held by Twiggs's division and a part of his own, while Cadwallader was to join Worth. At Molino del Rey was supposed to be a cannon foundry, and it was thought by General Scott that a large quantity of powder was stored there. General Worth was ordered to make the attack, carry the enemy's lines, and destroy the ordnance works and return to his former position. To carry out this order General Worth directed General John Garland's brigade to be posted on the right with two pieces of Simon H. Drum's battery, so as to prevent re-enforcements from Chapultepec, and to be in position to support, if necessary, the assaulting forces; the guns of Captain Benjamin Huger to be placed on the eminence to Garland's right and rear; a storming party of some five hundred picked men under Brevet Major George Wright, Eighth Infantry, to take post near and to the right of Huger's battering guns, to attack the battery in the center of the enemy's lines; Clarke's brigade under Colonel James S. McIntosh and Captain James Duncan's battery opposite the enemy's right to support the assaulting column; Cadwallader to be held in reserve; and Major Edwin V. Sumner with his cavalry to be posted on the extreme left. Some changes were made in the disposition of the Mexican forces. Early on the morning of the 8th Huger with two 24-pounders opened fire, and the assaulting column under Major Wright advanced under a heavy fire of grapeshot from the Mexican center and left. Undismayed, they pushed forward now under fire of musketry, captured a battery, and turned it upon the enemy, who fled in confusion. They were soon re-enforced, and rallied and reopened fire not only from their lines but from the housetops and walls. The storming party was driven back, but Duncan's battery opening fire at this time checked the Mexican advance. The light battalion of Colonel Charles F. Smith, now under command of Captain Edmund Kirby Smith, Fifth Infantry, moved forward, supported by a part of Cadwallader's brigade, and this was followed by a forward movement of Garland's brigade and Drum's battery. This movement was irresistible, and the Mexicans fell back, bravely contesting every inch of ground. Pending the fire of Duncan's battery, one section of the battery, under Lieutenant Henry J. Hunt, opened fire on the enemy's lines between the Casta Mata and Molino del Rey. McIntosh fought in close quarters, and charged and drove the enemy in his front, but received three wounds, one of which proved mortal. General Alvarez, commanding the Mexican cavalry, was held in check by the voltigeur regiment under command of Major E.V. Sumner, and Duncan's battery. The fight was continued obstinately and bravely by the Mexicans from the roofs of houses. The main force of the enemy, having been driven toward Chapultepec, were rallied by General Pena Y. Barragan, and made an advance. Captain Drum was ordered forward, and with a captured six-pounder cleared the road. The battle lasted for more than two hours and was hotly contested by the Mexicans. Those who escaped death or capture retreated to Chapultepec, leaving General Worth in full possession of their lines. Worth's loss was one hundred and sixteen killed and six hundred and seventy-one wounded, a total of seven hundred and eighty-seven. His estimate of the Mexican strength was fourteen thousand.
General Quitman's movements to San Antonio and Coyoacan—Movements of General Pillow—General reconnoissance by Scott—Chapultepec—Scott announces his line of attack—Surrender of the Mexican General Bravo—Preparations to move on the capital—Entry of General Scott into the City of Mexico—General Quitman made Military Governor—General Scott's orders—Movements of Santa Anna—General Lane—American and Mexican deserters—Orders as to collection of duties and civil government.
General Quitman, who, it will be remembered, was to march from San Augustin to Coyoacan on the 8th, having heard firing in the direction of Tacubaya, moved, early on September 8th, to San Antonio, and from thence on to Coyoacan. A reconnoissance was made in the afternoon by General Pillow as far as the town of Piedad and the Nino Perdido roads, one of which leads to the Belen gate of the city and the other through a gate of the same name. These roads run parallel to each other, about three fourths of a mile apart. On the 9th, General Scott, accompanied by Captain R.E. Lee, made an examination of the works near the San Antonio gate, where they discovered Mexican soldiers busily at work. On the 9th Riley took position to the right of Piedad, and was joined on the 11th by Smith's brigade and Francis Taylor's and Edward James Steptoe's batteries.
An advanced post of the enemy was evacuated on the approach of the Americans on the night of the 9th and occupied; this force was strengthened by both infantry and artillery, and a bridge was thrown over a ditch in front of it for the passage of cannon. Colonel Harvey, on the night of the 10th, occupied Mexcoac with the Second Dragoons for the purpose of protecting the hospitals and stores there. General Scott called a meeting of his general officers and informed them of his plan of attack. He had determined to attack either the San Antonio Garita or Chapultepec and the western gates. After hearing the opinions of his officers, who differed on the place of attack, General Scott determined to make the movement on Chapultepec and the western gate, and he so announced.
A reconnoissance was made on the morning of the 11th, with a view to the location of the batteries. The locations selected by Captain Huger, who was sent for the purpose, were adopted. The division of Quitman was ordered to unite with Pillow near Piedad in the evening, and after nightfall both divisions were to move to Tacubaya. Twiggs was ordered to remain in front of the southern gates and divert the enemy's attention.
Major Sumner with seven companies was to march at daylight and join Pillow. Chapultepec is a natural fortification, rising one hundred and fifty feet above the valley. A large building, the Military School, is on its summit, and it is bounded on the west by the Molino del Rey. The grounds are surrounded by a thick wall some fifteen feet in height. It is situated two miles from the Belen gate, and was regarded as the key to the city. The officer in command was General D. Nicholas Bravo, an officer of skill, distinction, and courage. Second in command was General D. Mariano Monterde. The chief of engineers was D. Juan Cano, and D. Manuel Gamboa commandant of artillery. Generals Noriega and Perez were afterward attached to the command. The orders of the 11th to Quitman and Pillow were to march to Tacubaya, where they awaited further orders.
The attack was begun by the batteries of Drum and Peter Valentine Hagner, and the fire proved to be well directed. The guns at the castle answered promptly and kept up a vigorous cannonade. When there was some cessation of firing from the castle, Captain Lee, under direction of General Scott, using the wall of the aqueduct as a parapet, placed two pieces of artillery under Captain Horace Brooks, which opened fire. Steptoe's battery kept up a continuous firing. Santa Anna, who was deceived at the point of attack, on hearing the guns of Steptoe, moved at once to Candelaria and San Antonio Garita, where he expected the attack. At noon he repaired to Chapultepec, and, taking charge of a battalion, moved to re-enforce a work which was being attacked. The Americans opened fire on this force and compelled it to withdraw. General Bravo, expecting an assault, asked for re-enforcements, which General Santa Anna promised should be furnished in time. In the meantime the Governor of the State of Mexico had arrived with seven hundred men, having reached a point near Tacubaya on the 11th, and his arrival greatly increased the Mexicans' hopes. Not being joined by cavalry as he expected, the Governor remained inactive on the 11th, 12th, and 13th. Quitman's division, with United States Marines and a company of New York volunteers, remained in the rear near the Tacubaya road during the 12th.
It was now determined by General Scott to resume the bombardment early next morning, and to attack with the columns under Quitman and Pillow. In aid of this a storming party was detailed from Worth's division of ten officers and two hundred and sixty men, under command of Captain Samuel McKenzie, Second Artillery, and a like detail from Twiggs's division under Captain Silas Casey, Second Infantry, in support of Pillow's movement, and General P.F. Smith's brigade of Twiggs's division was ordered to the support of Quitman. The bombardment was renewed early on the morning of the 13th. Four companies of the voltigeur regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph E. Johnston, were instructed, on the cessation of firing, to move rapidly under cover of the wall and enter the inclosure at its opening. Four companies under Colonel Timothy P. Andrews were ordered to unite with Johnston, deploy as skirmishers, and drive the enemy from his shelter. McKenzie was ordered to move in the rear of Johnston, with orders to follow the latter through the breach and advance rapidly and carry the main work by assault. A force of men carrying scaling ladders were placed with Johnston. Colonel William Trousdale, with the Eleventh and Fourteenth Regiments, and one section of Magruder's battery, under command of Lieutenant Thomas Jonathan Jackson, was placed in position in the road leading on the left of Chapultepec to the city, and ordered to advance and prevent an advance of the enemy in that direction. General Cadwallader was directed by General Pillow to execute the orders. General Smith's brigade had orders to move on the right of the column of attack and cut off the retreat of the enemy in that direction. General Scott now notified the commanding officers of the attacking forces to be ready to move when the signal was given. The troops moved forward promptly at the signal, and after a brave and desperate struggle its gallant defender, General Bravo, surrendered. With the exception of Riley's brigade, Steptoe's battery, and the garrison at Mexcoac, all of the American army were engaged. General Scott's forces engaged amounted to about seven thousand five hundred men. The Mexican authorities state that eight hundred men were in Chapultepec. The brigades of Rangel and Pena were stationed near. The Mexicans engaged did not probably exceed four thousand men.
Among the prisoners captured were Generals Monterde, Saldana, and Norriega, the former superintendent of the military school, and forty of his pupils. On the commencement of the engagement these youths deserted their schoolrooms, and, arming themselves, joined in the defense of Chapultepec and fought with great bravery.
Preparations were now made for an advance and the capture of the capital. The pursuit of the retreating enemy was followed on two roads leading to the city, and there was considerable desultory fighting. At 1 o'clock A.M. on the 14th a deputation of citizens arrived at General Worth's headquarters, who were sent by him, under charge of Major William W. Mackall, to General Scott's headquarters. They reported that General Santa Anna had fled from the city, leaving it with the civil authorities, and they came to ask favorable terms of surrender. General Scott declined to make any terms with them, telling them that the city had practically been in his possession from the day before; that he would levy a moderate tax, and would be governed by no terms except his own and such only as the honor and dignity of the United States would require. Early on the morning of the 14th a white flag was displayed at the Garita de Belen, and General Quitman was requested to take possession, as the city had been evacuated by the Mexican army. Leaving a guard at the Belen gate, General Quitman marched his command and took possession of the citadel. Leaving the Second Pennsylvania Regiment at the citadel, he marched to the Grand Plaza, followed by Steptoe's battery. The Marine Battalion was placed in the National Palace, and the American flag was hoisted from its summit. Lieutenant G.T. Beauregard was dispatched to notify General Scott. About eight o'clock the general in chief, accompanied by his staff, with an escort of cavalry, all in full dress, passed through the northwestern angle into the Grand Plaza. The line of soldiers presented arms, lowered colors, and gave the drum beat. General Scott uncovered in acknowledgment of the salute, dismounted, and passed into the porte-cochere of the palace, followed by Generals Quitman and Smith and officers of the staff. He said, "Gentlemen, we must not be too elated with our success." Then turning, he said: "Let me present to you the Civil and Military Governor of the City of Mexico, Major-General John A. Quitman. I appoint him at this instant. He has earned the distinction, and he shall have it." The general then ascended the stairway and at once wrote General Order No. 284, as follows:
"HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
"MEXICO, September 14, 1847.
"1. Under the favor of God, the valor of this army, after many glorious victories, has hoisted the colors of our country in the capital of Mexico and on the palace of its Government.