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eral Scott assigned the capture of Chapultepec to General Pillow, but did not leave the details to his judgment. Two assaulting columns, two hundred and fifty men each, composed of volunteers for the occasion, were formed. They were commanded by Captains McKinzie and Casey respectively. The assault was successful, but bloody. . . .
Worth's command gradually advanced to the front. . . . Later in the day in reconnoitring I found a church off to the south of the road, which looked to me as if the belfry would command the ground back of the garita San Cosme. I got an officer of the voltigeurs, with a mountain howitzer and men to work it, to go with me. The road being in possession of the enemy, we had to take the field to the south to reach the church. This took us over several ditches breast deep in water and grown up with water plants. These ditches, however, were not over eight or ten feet in width. The howitzer was taken to pieces and carried by the men to its destination. When I knocked for admission a priest came to the door, who, while extremely polite, declined to admit us. With the little Spanish then at my command, I explained to him that he might save property by opening the door, and he certainly would save himself from becoming a prisoner, for a time at least; and besides, I intended to go in whether he consented or not. He began to see his duty in the same light that I did, and opened the door, though he did not look as if it gave him special pleasure to do so. The gun was carried to the belfry and put together. We were not more than two or three hundred yards from San Cosme. The shots from our little gun dropped in upon the enemy and created great confusion. Why they did not send out a small party and capture us, I do not know. We had no infantry or other defences besides our one gun.
The effect of this gun upon the troops about the gate of the city was so marked that General Worth saw it from his position. He was so pleased that he sent a staff officer, Lieutenant Pemberton . . . to bring me to him. He expressed his gratification at the services the howitzer in the church steeple was doing, saying that every shot was effective, and ordered a captain of voltigeurs to report to me with another howitzer to be placed along with the one already rendering so much service. I could not tell the General that there was not room enough in the steeple for another gun, because he probably would have looked upon such a statement as a contradiction from a second lieutenant. I took the captain with me, but did not use his gun.
U. S. Grant, Personal Memoirs (New York, 1885), I, 152–159 passim.
13. Capture of Mexico (1847)
BY GENERAL WINFIELD SCOTT
Scott served with honor in the War of 1812, and in 1841 became commander-in
chief of the army. Like Taylor, he was a Whig. The Democratic administration with reluctance consented that he should command in person the expedition against Mexico, which he brought to the brilliant close described in the report given below. Scott was punctilious and brave and loyal, and in the Mexican War he showed himself a leader among soldiers. For Scott, see M. J. Wright, General Scott, passim, especially Preface. - Bibliography as in No. 12 above.
HEAD-QUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
National Palace of Mexico, Sept. 18, 1847.
T the end of another series of arduous and brilliant opera
glorious army hoisted, on the morning of the 14th, the colors of the United States on the walls of this palace. ..
This city stands upon a slight swell of ground, near the centre of an irregular basin, and is girdled with a ditch in its greater extent – navigable canal of great breadth and depth - very difficult to bridge in the presence of an enemy, and serving at once for drainage, customhouse purposes, and military defence; leaving eight entrances or gates over arches, each of which we found defended by a system of strong works, that seemed to require nothing but some men and guns to be impregnable.
Outside, and within the cross-fires of those gates, we found to the south other obstacles but little less formidable. All the approaches near the city, are over elevated causeways, cut in many places (to oppose us) and flanked on both sides by ditches, also, of unusual dimensions. The numerous cross-roads are flanked in like manner, having bridges at the intersections, recently broken. The meadows thus chequered, are, moreover, in many spots, under water, or marshy; for, it will be remembered, we were in the midst of the wet season, though with less rain than usual, and we could not wait for the fall of the neighboring lakes and the consequent drainage of the wet grounds at the edge of the city
the lowest in the whole basin.
After a close personal survey of the southern gates, covered by Pillow's division and Riley's brigade of Twigg's, with four times our numbers concentrated in our immediate front, I determined, on the
11th, to avoid that net-work of obstacles, and to seek, by a sudden inversion to the southwest and west, less unfavorable approaches. . . .
The first step in the new movement was to carry Chapultepec, a natural and isolated mound, of great elevation, strongly fortified at its base, on its acclivities and heights. Besides a numerous garrison, here was the military college of the republic, with a large number of sublieutenants and other students. Those works were within direct gunshot of the village of Tacubaya, and, until carried, we could not approach the city on the west without making a circuit too wide and too hazardous. . . .
The signal I had appointed for the attack was the momentary cessation of fire on the part of our heavy batteries. About eight o'clock in the morning of the 13th, judging that the time had arrived, by the effect of the missiles we had thrown, I sent an aid-de-camp to Pillow, and another to Quitman, with notice that the concerted signal was about to be given. Both columns now advanced with an alacrity that gave assurance of prompt success. The batteries, seizing opportunities, threw shots and shells upon the enemy over the heads of our men, with good effect, particularly at every attempt to reinforce the works from without to meet our assault.
Major General Pillow's approach, on the west side, lay through an open grove, filled with sharp shooters, who were speedily dislodged; when, being up with the front of the attack, and emerging into open space, at the foot of a rocky acclivity, that gallant leader was struck down by an agonizing wound. The immediate command devolved on Brigadier General Cadwalader, in the absence of the senior brigadier (Pierce) of the same division—an invalid since the events of August 19. On a previous call of Pillow, Worth had just sent him a reinforcement Colonel Clark's brigade.
The broken acclivity was still to be ascended, and a strong redoubt, midway, to be carried, before reaching the castle on the heights. The advance of our brave men, led by brave officers, though necessarily slow, was unwavering, over rocks, chasms, and mines, and under the hottest fire of cannon and musketry. The redoubt now yielded to resistless valor, and the shouts that followed announced to the castle the fate that impended. The enemy were steadily driven from shelter to shelter. The retreat allowed not time to fire a single mine, without the certainty of blowing up friend and foe. Those who at a distance attempted to apply matches to the long trains were shot down by our
men. There was death below, as well as above ground. At length the ditch and wall of the main work were reached; the scaling-ladders were brought up and planted by the storming parties; some of the daring spirits first in the assault were cast down-killed or wounded; but a lodgment was soon made; streams of heroes followed; all opposition was overcome, and several of the regimental colors flung out from the upper walls, amidst long-continued shouts and cheers, which sent dismay into the capital. No scene could have been more animating or glorious.
Major General Quitman, nobly supported by Brigadier Generals Shields and Smith (P. F.,) his other officers and men, was up with the part assigned him. . The New York and South Carolina volunteers (Shields' brigade) and the 2d Pennsylvania volunteers, all on the left of Quitman's line, together with portions of the storming parties, crossed the meadows in front, under a heavy fire, and entered the outer enclosure of Chapultepec just in time to join in the final assault from the west. . .
At this junction of roads, we first passed one of those formidable systems of city defences, spoken of above, and it had not a gun! — a strong proof-1. That the enemy had expected us to fall in the attack upon Chapultepec, even if we meant anything more than a feint; 2. That, in either case, we designed, in his belief, to return and double our forces against the southern gates, a delusion kept up by the active demonstrations of Twiggs and the forces posted on that side; and 3. That advancing rapidly from the reduction of Chapultepec, the enemy had not time to shift guns - our previous captures had left him, comparatively, but few-from the southern gates.
Within those disgarnished works, I found our troops engaged in a street fight against the enemy posted in gardens, at windows and on house-tops — all flat, with parapets. Worth ordered forward the mountain howitzers of Cadwalader's brigade, preceded by skirmishers and pioneers, with pickaxes and crowbars, to force windows and doors, or to burrow through walls. The assailants were soon in an equality of position fatal to the enemy. By 8 o'clock in the evening, Worth had carried two batteries in this suburb. According to my instructions, he here posted guards and sentinels, and placed his troops under shelter for the night. There was but one more obstacle the San Cosme gate (custom-house) between him and the great square in front of the cathedral and palace- the heart of the city; and that barrier, it was known, could not, by daylight, resist our siege guns thirty minutes. .
I had intended that Quitman should only manœuvre and threaten the Belén or southwestern gate, in order to favor the main attack . . .
Those views I repeatedly, in the course of the day, communicated to Major General Quitman; but being in hot pursuit-gallant himself, and ably supported by Brigadier Generals Shields and Smith - Shields badly wounded before Chapultepec and refusing to retire as well as by all the officers and men of the column-Quitman continued to press forward, under flank and direct fires; carried an intermediate battery of two guns, and then the gate, before two o'clock in the afternoon, but not without proportionate loss, increased by his steady maintenance of that position. . .
Quitman, within the city-adding several new defences to the position he had won, and sheltering his corps as well as practicable — now awaited the return of daylight under the guns of the formidable citadel, yet to be subdued.
At about 4 o'clock next morning, (September 14,) a deputation of the ayuntamiento (city council) waited upon me to report that the federal government and the army of Mexico had fled from the capital some three hours before, and to demand terms of capitulation in favor of the church, the citizens, and the municipal authorities. I promptly replied, that I would sign no capitulation; that the city had been virtually in our possession from the time of the lodgments effected by Worth and Quitman the day before; that I regretted the silent escape of the Mexican army; that I should levy upon the city a moderate contribution, for special purposes; and that the American army should come under no terms, not self-imposed - such only as its own honor, the dignity of the United States, and the spirit of the age should, in my opinion, imperiously demand and impose. . . .
At the termination of the interview with the city deputation, I communicated, about daylight, orders to Worth and Quitman to advance slowly and cautiously (to guard against treachery) towards the heart of the city, and to occupy its stronger and more commanding points. Quitman proceeded to the great plaza or square, planted guards, and hoisted the colors of the United States on the national palace — containing the halls of Congress and executive apartments of federal Mexico. . . .
House Executive Documents, 30 Cong., 1 sess. (Washington, 1848), II, No. 8, pp. 375-383 passim.