Into Mexico with General Scott - Edwin Sabin

Ready for Action Again

This afternoon the camp of the First Division and Cadwalader Brigade was proud but saddened: proud, when the men learned that with their thirty-one hundred they had defeated fourteen thousand concealed within ditches and behind walls or massed for support, with General Santa Anna himself looking on; saddened, when they learned what the victory had cost.

"The bloodiest fight, ag'in fortifications, in American hist'ry," old Sergeant Mulligan pronounced.

General Worth had acted rather blue. Out of his thirty-one hundred he had lost one hundred and sixteen killed, six hundred and fifty-seven wounded, and eighteen missing—probably dead or wounded; total, seven hundred and thirty-one, almost a fourth of his whole number. And the list of officers was appalling: fifty-one of the one hundred and seventy had fallen.

Of the First Brigade, Lieutenant Thorn, Colonel Garland's aide-de-camp, was severely wounded; so were First Lieutenant and Captain Prince and Second Lieutenant A. B. Lincoln and Assistant Surgeon Simons, Fourth Infantry; Lieutenants Shackleford and Daniels, of the Second Artillery, were dying, Lieutenant Armstrong had been killed outright; Captain George Ayers and Lieutenant Ferry, of the Third Artillery, had been killed; Captain Anderson wounded.

In the Second Brigade brave Colonel McIntosh, who commanded, was wounded mortally; his aide, Lieutenant Burwell, was dead. Lieutenant-Colonel Martin Scott, leading the Fifth Infantry, had been killed. Major Waite, commanding the Eighth Infantry, was wounded. And so on, down through the captains and lieutenants.

In the storming column Major Wright, commanding, and the two engineers, Captain Mason and Lieutenant Foster, had been wounded. One volley from the Mexican breastworks had felled eleven out of the fourteen officers!

The Eleventh Infantry had lost its commander also—Lieutenant-Colonel Graham—Milled. Major Savage, of the Fourteenth, and Major Talcott, of the Voltigeurs, had been wounded. Four officers of the Sumner squadrons had been struck down.

Lieutenant Grant had escaped again; but Lieutenant Frederick Dent, of the Fifth Infantry, whose sister was said to be Lieutenant Grant's sweetheart, had been wounded, and the lieutenant was much concerned.

Jerry, too, was on tenterhooks until he found out that Hannibal Moss, drummer boy, was not among the casualties. He and Hannibal met while looking for one another. A number of comrades were looking for one another this evening. They, too, shook hands thankfully, and sank for a talk.

"Well," said Hannibal, "the First Division did it again, but it was awful. Did you fellows have a hard time?"

"Did we! Not a one of us expected to get away alive. Expect you other fellowg had it worse, though."

"The poor old Eighth Regiment Foot," Hannibal murmured soberly. "That hurt General Worth, I guess, to see us cut up so. We've lost ten out of twenty officers. The storming column didn't hear a sound from those breastworks—didn't see a sign of life, hardly, beyond the cactus. It was the same with the Second Brigade at the Casa-Mats. Then when we were right at the trenches, the Mexicans opened on us, just mowed us down. Eleven officers of the fourteen! Think of that! I got two bullets through my uniform and a handful through my drum. See those holes? Talk about 'brushing away the enemy! 'My eye! Old Fuss and Feathers was fooled for once. We didn't gain much."

"We showed what we could do again."

"You can't show those Mexicans anything. Listen to that music?" For the bells of the City of Mexico were ringing madly. "The bells weren't in the mill at all. Now they're being rung for victory, because we didn't take Chapultepec. The Mexicans think we stopped short, and they're celebrating." Hannibal shook his grimy fist at the city. "You wait till we get breath," he warned.

"Suppose we'll take Chapultepec next."

"I dunno." And Hannibal wagged his head. "This division ought to be given a rest. We're reduced almost to fourteen hundred. Since we started in at San Antonio we've lost eleven hundred men, some sick, but mainly killed and wounded. The whole army's lost only nineteen hundred. I guess the First has done its share of fighting."

"That leaves General Scott with about eight thousand."

"Nearer seven thousand in the field. And Santa Anna has twenty-five thousand still, I'll bet a cooky."

"We've licked that number before. Odds don't make any difference to Scott men."

"Not much they don't," Hannibal agreed. "One more of these little 'brushes' and we'll be in the Halls of Montezuma."

All the able-bodied troops were paraded at nine o'clock the next morning, September 9, to witness burial. A long trench had been dug just outside the village of Tacubaya. The wagons, covered with United States flags and bearing the bodies of the killed in the battle of the eighth, were escorted by funeral squads from each of the regiments. The fifes and drums and a band, playing the funeral march, accompanied; the troops followed with muskets at a support. The tattered battle flags had been draped with crape. The cannon fired minute guns in solemn fashion.

General Scott and staff, and all the general and field officers, stood with heads, bared; the troops, in a half square, presented arms, while the Episcopal church burial service was read by Chaplain "Holy Joe" Morrison. Then the sappers and miners filled in the trench:

It was a bright day. The high parapets of Chapultepec, to the north, were thronged with Mexican soldiers looking down upon the ceremony.

"B' gorry, you'd better be attindin' your own funerals," old Sergeant Mulligan growled at them, when the parade had been dismissed.

Following the battle of Molino del Rey, General Scott seemed to be in no hurry to take Chapultepec. Rather, he acted as though he might side-step Chapultepec. The First Division and the Cadwalader brigade rested at Tacubaya. The other Third Division brigade—that of General Pierce, who was still in the hospital with his crippled knee—under General Pillow himself had been moved about two miles east, where with the Riley brigade of the Twiggs Second Division it was covering the city's southern gates.

The engineers of Captain Lee were down there, also reconnoitring.

"Dar's gwine to be anodder big battle," Pompey kept insisting. "Gin'ral Scott, he got somepin' up his sleeve."

Before daylight of September 12, Jerry, in the camp of the First Brigade, was half-awakened by the tread of marching feet in the dusky outskirts of Tacubaya. At reveille they all might see that there were two camps between Tacubaya and the city. The Pillow camp had been transferred nearer and was established down toward the King's Mill in front of the town; while a second bivouac appeared not far on the east or right of it under Chapultepec.

The General Quitman Fourth Division had arrived at last from San Augustine: Brigadier-General Shields' New Yorkers and South Carolinans, and Lieutenant-Colonel Watson's Marines and Second Pennsylvanians! Now the only troops left in the rear were General Persifor Smith's brigade of the Second Division, being the First Artillery, the Third Infantry, and the dismounted Rifles. But Taylor's light battery of the First had come up, it was said, and so had General Twiggs.

There was another suspicious sight. During the night batteries had been emplaced down in, front of Tacubaya and facing Chapultepec. They seemed to be four sections, in pairs. One pair, about to open up, was located on the right of the hill slope, near the Quitman division and the road leading from Tacubaya to the eastern foot of Chapultepec. The other pair, not yet quite ready, was located near the King's Mill and the Pillow brigade. The engineers and the artillerymen had worked all night planting the batteries.

It was Sunday morning, but—

"Boom! Boom-m-m!" The heavy reports jarred the breakfast cups and platters, and rolled back from the castle and the city walls and the mountains. Everybody sprang up to see the shots land.

"Boom! Boom! Boom-m-m!"They were two eighteen-pounders and an eight-inch howitzer of Captain Huger's ordnance—a twenty-four-pounder. Dust from the pulverized stone and mortar floated above the castle of Chapultepec—dirt and rock spurted from the breastworks of the hillside—the Mexican soldiers were ducking and scampering. The men cheered.

"Now let 'em tend to their own funerals, and we'll play 'em Yankee Doodle."

The other battery joined. The bombardment of Chapultepec continued steadily. The Riley brigade of General Twiggs remained in the east upon the first main road from the south there, which entered the gate in the southwest corner of the city wall—the Belen gate. Old Davy's two batteries, Taylor's, and Steptoe's Third Artillery detached from the Fourth Division, were peppering the gate and also firing upon the Mexican batteries protecting the Contreras and Churubusco roads, still eastward. The ringing of musketry faintly chimed in with the loud booming of the cannon.

And this was Sunday!

Just what General Scott had "up his sleeve" nobody among the rank and file knew. The officers refused to talk. Matters looked as though Chapultepec was to be shaken first, and when it had been well battered, then of course there would be an assault. But where? Perhaps upon the southern gates, in defiance of the weakened Chapultepec.

From the hill of Tacubaya the bombardment was pretty to witness. The American guns poured in their shot and shell with perfect aim, so that after every discharge the stones and dust and dirt were lifted in showers. From half a mile the citadel replied lustily, at first with ten pieces, but the firing was wild. Gradually the guns were being silenced; the garrison was drifting out for safety, and a large body of reinforcements from the city had halted part way to the hill, waiting for a chance to enter.

The First Division men off duty began to sift down nearer to the batteries to get, as Corporal Finerty remarked, "a smgll o' powder." Jerry, Fifer O'Toole and Hannibal caught up with the corporal on the Tacubaya road. They four stood behind battery Number i, which was the two eighteen-pounders and the twenty-four-pounder howitzer, commanded by Captain Drum, of the Fourth Artillery.

A group of the Palmettos was here. It was good to see the Mohawks again. Palmettos, New Yorkers, and Keystoners—they had a fighting reputation.

"Howdy?" the South Carolinans greeted easily. They were a set of men who usually said little.

"Same to you," Corporal Finerty answered. "An' faith, you've been a long time comin'. For why do yez trail through by night, wakin' up a camp that's tired wid hard fightin'?"

"Well, pardner, you talk like you want to hawg all the fun," they replied. "To-morrow well see who's first up that hill—the Volunteers or you Regulars. Even start, my bucko."

"If you know annything, out wid it," Corporal Finerty demanded. "Do we storm Chapultepec, you say?"

"Would we make a forced march by night for less, Mister Regular?"

"Sure, now, what's the use o' foolin' wid Chapultepec?" retorted the corporal. "Let the ar-r-tillery tind to that, an' wait a bit an' we'll open thim southern gates for yez, so yez can come in at 'ase."

"Never you mind those south gates. It's Chapultepec or nothing, for the army's going in by the west. The engineers decided that long ago. We heard the talk at the battery before you fellows were up. Those roads from the south are no good, Mister. Every one leads through marshes and is flanked by ditches and cut by batteries and other ditches, and there's a thundering big canal running 'round the city walls. And the marshes and the ditches and the canal are full o' water. So 'tis this way, Mister: we-all and the Pillow men scouted about yesterday, backing up Twiggs, for a showing ag'in the south. But we were ordered to trapse hyar in front o' Chapultepec by night, leaving only Old Davy and his Riley brigade for a feint. And to-morrow we-all are going to see the elephant on top o' yonder hill."

"B'gorry, you could fetch no better news, lads," spoke the corporal. "There be fourteen hundred o' the First Division lift, to turn their backs on the rist o' the army an' their faces on the enemy."

"Nary, corporal," they answered. "The Palmettos have something to say to that. It's been powerful slow, pardner, sitting in the south whilst you fellows in the north have been burning powder. The Fourth Division will be first up that hill or bust."

An aide from Captain Huger, who directed the general bombardment, rode along the line of batteries waving the spectators back.

"You can't stay here, men. By orders of Captain Huger the field must be dared. You're furnishing the enemy with too large a mark."

So they all had to leave.

The bombardment, increased by the batteries on the mill side, continued all day and closed only with darkness. The citadel of Chapultepec appeared to have been pretty well "shaken."

"'Tis cruel hard on thim young cadets," said old Sergeant Mulligan at supper mess. "I hear tell that some of 'em are mere lads scarce able to showlder a musket. Now I wonder if they aren't bein' sint down to the city to their mothers, where they belong. I'm hopin' so. We don't want to be after killin' boys."

Lieutenant Grant passed along the line of company fires.

"Parade the men for inspection at eight o'clock, sergeant," he instructed, "in light marching order, with cartridge boxes filled and two days' rations."

"For the love o' Hiven, left'nant," the sergeant pleaded at salute, "tell me: Do we be takin' Chapultepec?"

"The First Division has orders to support the Pillow assaulting column on the west. The Quitman division, supported by the General Smith brigade of the Second, will assault on the south."

"Support, ye say, left'nant? But we get into it, don't we, sorr? They won't leave out the ould First Division?"

"We haven't been left out of anything lately, as I notice," Lieutenant Grant grimly replied.

The sergeant reseated himself.

"To-morrow, lads," he said. "We've wan or two good fights raymainin' in our packs, I guiss. Enough to shame those daysarters wid, I'm thinkin'. You've heard they've been put through—a part o' thim—already?"


"Two days since, back at San Angel in the Second Division camp. Sixteen of 'em hanged, an' nine dishonorably dismissed by order o' Gin'ral Scott, wid a big 'D' branded on their cheeks. The rist'll be attinded to soon, now. But sure, boys, I'd rather be amongst those who be hanged than amongst the traitorous livin', condemned to hear the sound o' the guns o' Chapultepec firm' on brave men bearin' the flag o' my country."