Into Mexico with General Scott - Edwin Sabin

Forcing the City Gates

General Bravo, commanding the castle, had surrendered his sword. A young New Yorker, Lieutenant Charles Brower, was conducting him to General Quitman, who had just arrived. General Pillow was here, pale and breathing hard and unable to stand. He had been carried right along with the column.

All was confusion, of shouting soldiers, waving their caps and capering And shaking hands; of wounded, both Americans and Mexicans—the bravest among them being the little Mexican cadets; of officers trying to rally their companies, and so forth and so forth. Eight hundred prisoners were assembled under guard.

Jerry heard excited talk. The Voltigeurs of Lieutenant-Colonel Joe Johnston claimed to have been the first to plant a flag; the New York company, of Lieutenant Mayne Reid, disputed. The Volunteers were singing their "Green grow the rushes, O!" The Palmettos had charged up the hill without firing a shot; the bayonet was their weapon. News flashed thick and fast. Colonel Ransom, of the Ninth Infantry, had been killed. So had Major Twiggs, of the Marines—brother to Old Davy—while leading a detachment of Volunteers in the Quitman two storming columns. The Quitman stormers had lost both their commanding officers, for Captain Casey, of the Second Infantry, had fallen also.

In the Pillow storming column Lieutenant Rogers, of the Fourth Infantry, was dying; so said Sergeant Mulligan; Lieutenant J. P. Smith, of the Fifth Infantry, was dead; Lieutenant Armistead, of the Sixth, who had placed the first ladder, was badly wounded.

But here was Hannibal.

"How'd you get on top?" he demanded.

"Guess I ran off."

"And you'll get a jolly good wigging for it. You'll get the guard-house No, maybe you won't—not after a victory. But wasn't that a fight?"

"I should rather say!"

"The old Eighth is cut up again. Lieutenant Selden was first on the castle, though. They don't think he'll die. Lieutenants Longstreet and Pickett and Merchant are wounded. Longstreet was carrying the regimental colors."

"Where's my brigade?"

"Down below. Worth had to keep somebody, didn't he? We aren't into the city yet. Hurray! There's Old Fuss and Feathers!"

General Scott had arrived. What a scene that was! The soldiers acted more crazed than ever; they thronged about his horse as they had thronged at Churubusco; they cheered and waved and cried. He tried to speak—he tried to grasp their hands—he was almost dragged from the saddle. His cheeks were wet, his eyes brimming.

"Fellow soldiers!" he shouted. "You have this day been baptized in blood and fire, and you have come out steel."

He made his way to the castle stairs, and dismounting went inside through the portico.

"Come on," Hannibal bade. "Let's go on up."

They followed in with the cheering men. The roof of the castle was flat. General Scott had taken position here, and was examining the country below with his glass. It was a stirring view to all. To the right or east there was a broad smooth road, divided through the middle by a many-arched aqueduct or stone conduit for water, connecting the east foot of the hill with the city wall; to the left there was another broad road, with aqueduct, diverging northeast for the city wall farther in the north. This was the longer road, say a mile. And both roads were jammed with the Mexican troops retreating—from Chapultepec in two red and blue and yellow and green currents; with the darker blue of the American reserve swirling on, after an interval, in pursuit.

The roads were dotted with smoke bursts of gun-fire from batteries in action. The angle between the two roads likewise was dotted with islands of smoke, where other Mexican batteries essayed to stay the American columns by flank fire.

"Those are our fellows on that north road," Hannibal asserted. "There's your First Brigade, I'll bet; 'Leventh and Fourteenth of the Third Division, too. They're making for the San Cosme gate. Some of Quitman's troops are following up on that Belen gate road. Must be the Smith brigade of the Second."

"I'm going down to my regiment," Jerry exclaimed. "That's where my place is, with the Fourth."

General Scott had turned to an aide and was speaking rapidly. His great form had swelled, his keen gray eyes shone bright with pride and hope.

"Direct General Clarke to march his brigade at once and unite with the other troops under General Worth. The Worth column is to push on as fast as possible and clear the road to the San Cosme gate. Heavy artillery will be sent to him from the siege batteries." And to another aide: "Direct General Cadwalader to detach his Ninth Infantry, of the Pierce brigade, to the support of General Quitman on the Belen road. The Fifteenth Infantry will occupy Chapultepec. With his own brigade he will be prepared to support General Worth."

The two aides hastened away. Hannibal was as quick.

"Come on," he cried to Jerry. "We'll all be there. You can fan in with the Eighth."

"No, I'm not afraid. I'll go back with the storming column."

They rushed down together into the yard.

The recall for the Second Brigade regiments was being sounded by the drums. The soldiers hustled. Jerry found the Captain McKenzie stormers and joined the ranks. The captain glanced sharply at him and half smiled.

"You're liable to arrest, you young rascal, for deserting your company," he uttered. "Report to your proper command as soon as we get down. What's your regiment?"

"The Fourth Infantry, sir."

"Very good."

In a few minutes they all were descending from the hill top. The storming column took the route of a long flight of white stone steps leading down to the San Cosme road on the north. Several soldiers from the First Brigade had come up to see the battlefield. Jerry recognized Sergeant Reeves, of Company B, of the Fourth.

"Hello, sergeant."

"Hello, yourself. What you doing here? Absent without leave, eh?"

"I came with Captain McKenzie in the charge. How'd you get up?"

"Oh, I just wanted to look around. The brigade halted below for orders; and after a scrimmage I ran up the steps."

"Will we take the city, now, you think?"

"It's the time," said Sergeant Reeves, who was a quiet man, enlisted from Ohio. "You'll see the First Division go in by the San Cosme gate before sundown."

"Have you had much fighting, sergeant?"

"Considerable with what force was left us. We managed to get along after you quit us. One drummer more or less—what does that amount to? I hear that a general court-martial is going to sit on you." And Sergeant Reeves laughed. "Well, we were ordered to turn Chapultepec by the north and cut off the enemy in that quarter. Magruder's battery section got in a tight place in the advance. Lieutenant Jackson lost all his horses and half his men by grape. The Fourteenth Infantry supported, and Trousdale, its colonel, was shot twice. But the road's open to the next turn for the city."

The reinforcements from the hill of Chapultepec caught up with the main column. The stogy rejoined their companies. Drum Major Brown scowled at Jerry as he fell in with the field music of the Fourth, but had rio time to say anything, for there were orders.

With the First Brigade leading, and the Fourth Infantry as honor regiment at its head, the column marched by platoons on up the wide San Cosine road, divided through the middle by the stone arches of the aqueduct. Six companies of Second Dragoons under Major Sumner, closed the rear, behind Duncan's battery.

Mexican breastworks had been erected across the road before. They reached from ditch to ditch. The Fourth Infantry was deployed on right and left as skirmishers, and stealing from arch to arch the men advanced.

But the battery had been abandoned. In the final rush there were only a few scattered shots from skulkers. The Fourth deployed again, Company B first, and presently was fronted by a second battery, located where the San Cosine road and aqueduct entered a road from the west and turned with it straight east for the city.

The battery parapet had a single embrasure for one gun. But at the juncture of the two roads houses began, facing the south and then soon extending thicker and thicker on both sides of the road clear to the San Cosme gateway, five hundred yards. The fiat roofs were protected by sandbags and fringed with the red caps of Mexican sharp-shooters. The battery and the fortified roofs looked like an ugly obstacle, especially as the Fourth Regiment skirmishers were working along swiftly and leaving the column behind.

Captain Gore and Lieutenant Grant, of Company B, were well ahead of the skirmishers. Bullets droned in, glancing among the arches. On the west side of the San Cosme road, where it met the road from the west, there stood a house in a large yard enclosed by a wall. The wall skirted both roads. Now Lieutenant Grant had daringly darted across to the south end of the yard, scurried along the wall to the southwest corner, and turning it, disappeared.

He came running back to the road must have called for volunteers. The skirmishers of the Fourth fired briskly at the red caps upon the nearest roof-tops. Under cover of the firing a dozen men bolted to the lieutenant; at a trail arms they all followed along the wall again and turned the outside corner. A company of the Second Artillery sprang out of a ditch there and joined them.

In about ten minutes there was a volley from the road beyond the one house and the battery. The Mexicans upon the roofs overlooking leaped off and scampered for positions eastward. The battery was evacuated in a jiffy. The Lieutenant Grant squad and the Second Artillery company appeared in the rear of the battery; by rushes among the arches of the aqueduct they pursued the Mexicans.

With a yell the Fourth charged to the support. Huzzah! More roofs were being emptied. The road east to the city gate opened. On, men! On! Third Sergeant Bloss forged to the fore with the regimental colors. The men tore after, Jerry and nimble little Tommy Jones footing with the fastest. It was a go-as-you-please, for the field music and all. Look out! Look out! Another battery—and ready for action, too. A blast of grape whistled down the road, rattled against the arches in which the men sought cover. Steady, men! Watch sharp. He's up to mischief this time.

"Bang!" A cry arose. Bloss was flat! The grape had met him when, bearing the colors, with the color guard he had made a dash for shelter of a vacant house across the road. The tattered blue and gold banner of the Fourth was in the dust. Out charged the Mexican infantry, yelling like Indians, to capture the flag. That would be a trophy indeed. In charged the nearest men of the Fourth to rescue it. Bullets flew, hissing and spattering.

Jerry thought of nothing but the flag. Somehow, there he was, clutching at it in the hurly-burly—helped by Tommy Jones, was dragging it aside, while bullets sang in his ears and bayonets clashed over him. And entirely out of breath he was safely behind an arch, and delivering the flag to Captain Gore!

"You'll get mention for this, sir," the captain panted. "The regiment would have been eternally disgraced." He ran for the melee again.

"Are you hurt, Tommy?" Jerry gasped. With a word and a slap on the shoulder Corporal Finerty had taken the flag to carry it.

"No," said Tommy. "And you saved the honor of the regiment. You were there first."

"You helped."

"Bet you'll never be hauled on the carpet for skipping off this morning," said Tommy.

And Jerry rather thought the same. Whew! If the Mexicans had got that Fourth Infantry flag, which had been pierced with twenty-six balls at Monterey and as many more at Churubusco and the King's Mill!

The regiment and the Second Artillery company had taken the breastworks, but the drummers before were beating the recall. The Fourth numbered only two hundred and fifty men, the Second Artillery company only forty. The scant three hundred of them were here alone, fronting the garita or gate of San Cosme, not more than two hundred and fifty yards down the road.

Between the breastworks and the garita the road was lined on both sides with the stone, flat-roofed houses, defended by sandbag parapets and the Mexican infantry. Another battery at the gate commenced to pepper the road. Grape and canister whizzed by.

"Fall back, men! Fall back! We can't hold this now."

Running and dodging and pausing to fire, the Fourth and Captain Horace Brooks' artillery company withdrew by way of the arches and the last houses. Laughing and puffing, they reached the head of the main column.

General Worth had halted the column at the juncture of the road from the south and the road from the west, beside a large cemetery called the Campo Santo. The cemetery was the one used by the English residents of the city for burying their dead. General Scott and his staff had come up. He and General Worth were sitting their horses at the head of the column and surveying the road, which from here stretched eastward five hundred yards through the suburbs to the San Cosine gate.

"You will press right on, general," Old Fuss and Feathers abruptly said. "Carry the gateway in the shortest time possible and penetrate as far as the Alameda, three squares from the grand plaza. General Cadwalader is on his way and will act as reserve while holding his brigade here in the Campo Santo. Siege guns have been ordered up for you."

That was all. General Scott galloped back toward Chapultepec. The Cadwalader Voltigeurs and the Eleventh and Fourteenth Infantry were double-quicking in, bringing the Reno howitzers. The Eleventh and Fourteenth proceeded to take position in the Campo Santo. The Voltigeurs were directed to support the howitzers and attack with the First Division. The dragoons had been ordered to guard Tacubaya headquarters, it was said.

Jerry felt hungry. The sun marked mid-afternoon already. There was very heavy gunfire in the southeast around the Belen gate. Clouds of smoke enveloped the gate. The Quitman column had stormed—officers with glasses were insisting that the gate had been forced and that the Mexicans were trying to drive the Quitman column out. But the First Division had its own work now.

"Colonel Garland!" Lieutenant and Aide-de-Camp Pemberton, from General Worth, was delivering orders. "By direction of the division commander you will kindly equip a sufficient detachment of your brigade with pickaxes and crowbars, advance your column by the right of the road to the first occupied building, and using your sappers hew a way straight through the line to the gate. The same methods as at Monterey, colonel. When you reach, your objective break through the roof and open fire from above the gate. The Second Brigade will be doing likewise on your left."

The First Brigade, which had been hugging the aqueduct arches, cheered the orders. The detachment of sappers was told off, and supporting the pick-and-crow men the Fourth Infantry, followed by the Second and Third Artillery, rushed for the first house. The skirmishers deployed, seeking cover behind walls and sheds while they busily popped at the Mexican red caps upon the roofs.

The sappers hacked holes through the side of the house; by squads the men dived in. Jerry stayed out with the rest of Company B, his eye again glued to Lieutenant Grant.

Through the houses, and behind walls and around corners, the First Brigade slowly traveled on. The houses stood more and more closely, so that the burrowers darted safely across the narrow spaces. The enemy atop was helpless to stop them—and had no time to attend to them anyway. Jerry soon overtook Lieutenant Grant, who had halted at one side and was gazing before from the angle of a garden wall.

He saw Jerry at his elbow.

"You're here, are you, young bodyguard?"

"Yes, sir."

"That's all right I can use you. Supposing some of us mounted a light gun in the belfry of that church yonder. We ought to do execution. What do you think?"

"Yes, sir. That would be a fine place," Jerry agreed.

The church was located one hundred yards toward the ctiy wall and off at the south side of the road. It had a flat roof and a belfry; but the Mexican sharpshooters favored the houses that commanded the road and had let the church alone.

Lieutenant Grant acted at once.

"Very well, we'll try it if we can get the gun. You run back, sir, to the howitzer battery, and ask for a gun and gun crew. Tell them I'll be responsible for the report to General Worth."

Jerry ran, ducking, and wondering whether he would have to cross that fearful road up which iron and lead were streaming from the San Cosine gate battery. He was lucky; met, first, a lieutenant of Voltigeurs—

"Here! Where you going, bub?"

"I want a howitzer, sir. I'm under orders from Lieutenant Grant, of the Fourth."

"You are? What's the trouble?"

"He's going to put it in the belfry of that church, sir. Then we'll be above the roofs and the gate."

The lieutenant took a look. He was as smart as a whip.

"By thunder, a good idea! I'll get the howitzer. You wait here."

"And a squad to serve it, sir," Jerry anxiously called after.

"Oh, we'll serve it, you bet!"

The lieutenant returned at full speed with the gun dismantled and a squad carrying the pieces. Lieutenant Grant's face lighted as he saw them hustling in to him.

"Now for it, then! You're Lieutenant—?"

"Lieutenant Fry, of the Voltigeurs."

"I'm Grant, of the Fourth Infantry. Shall you take command, or I, sir?"

"You, of course, lieutenant."

"Follow me with the gun, men."

They all made a wide detour to the south to avoid bullets. The ground was a marshy meadowland, knee-deep with ooze, and cut by the usual ditches, some of them breast deep. But nobody stopped for these. When they arrived at the church they were a slimy party. The rear door was locked. Lieutenant Grant rapped with the hilt of his sword. A priest opened, for barely a crack.

"You speak Spanish?" the lieutenant asked of Jerry.

"Yes, sir."

"Good! Tell the father that we wish to get inside."

"He says that he's sorry, but it's impossible at this hour," Jerry interpreted after the priest's answer.

"Tell him that nothing is impossible to Americans. Tell him we regret to trouble him and we do not wish to damage property needlessly, but if he doesn't open the door we'll break it down and he may find himself a prisoner."

The priest opened and stood aside. He did not look especially friendly as they trooped by him. Up into the belfry they climbed, led still by Lieutenant Grant. The men had hard work to hoist the pieces of the howitzer up the ladder, but they did it. They put the barrel upon the carriage and the carriage upon the wheels, and proceeded to pass up the powder cartridges and shells.

When the gun had been assembled and the gun squad was pthe belfry had little spare space in it.

The gun was loaded, pointed—Lieutenant Grant himself squinted over the barrel. He stood back. "Give it to 'em!" he barked. "Fire!"

"Bang!" The lock string had been jerked. The shell flew true; exploded in the very midst of the gateway battery.

It created a little panic. The Mexicans seemed to think that it had dropped from the sky. The belfry squad cheered and reloaded.


The lieutenant occasionally changed to the roof-tops and sprinkled them with canister. He was enjoying himself immensely. So was Lieutenant Fry. Jerry likewise was glad that he had come. Below the belfry the whole battlefield was outspread. The church was almost directly south of the breast-works that had been taken and left again. The gateway—arched over between towers, was too hundred and fifty yards at the rear of the breast-works. It had mounted a heavy gun and a howitzer, emplaced behind sandbags and stone abutments and scoured the road with shell and canister and grape. The square towers and the parapets of the wall on either side of the gate were volleying with musketry; the roofs of the houses along the road gushed smoke. The figures of the Mexican defenders, lying flat or crouching, or stealing from, point to point, could be plainly seen amidst smoke spume.

Up the street there were the Voltigeurs, supporting the howitzers and springing from arch to arch. Duncan's battery, posted farther back but gradually coming nearer, was responding hotly to the Mexican battery. In the yards of the houses the skirmishers of the Fourth, and of the Second and Third Artillery, darted hither thither, picking off the Mexican sharp-shooters before them; every now and then the burrowing squads burst out in a new spot.

Across the street the Clarke brigade was doing the same work. A second howitzer had been mounted upon a high roof over there, in rivalry with Lieutenant Grant's howitzer. It, too, was dropping shells into the enemy.

And yonder, a mile and a half or two miles in the southeast at the Belen gate, the other battle was being waged, where the General Quitman column appeared to have gained a foothold.

The sun was touching the western horizon. The ammunition for the little howitzer was almost spent. But a great cheer arose from below. They gazed quickly. Drawn by galloping horses, the gunners astride and lashing, or sitting upon the caisson, a six-pounder from Duncan's battery was charging down the road for the abandoned breastwork&

The city gate spouted flame and smoke afresh. Every Mexican musket, as seemed, was brought to bear upon the bounding, thundering gun. Would the gun make it—would it—would it? The two lead horses were fairly lifted from their feet by the canister; the other two horses dragged them, a mass of mangled flesh. The gunners astride had been hurled from their seats; the caisson showed gaps, as the gunners sitting upon it wilted. Down sprawled the horse of the young officer who commanded. He staggered to his feet and ran on. An instant more and the gun was safely within the shelter of the battery parapet—was being unlimbered and turned muzzle to muzzle with the gateway guns.

Of the nine artillerists, five were out of action.

"That," said Lieutenant Grant, breathing fast, "is Lieutenant Harry Hunt, of the Second. I never saw a braver deed."

The roofs of the houses had been cleared wellnigh to the city wall. Lieutenant Hunt's gun opened point blank upon the gateway battery. And listen! See! There was another great cheer—suddenly the roofs right against the wall on either side of the gate had upheaved, a torrent of blue caps and blue jackets spurted out like bursts of water, and broke white with a terrific fire into the gateway battery and even over the wall itself.

The battery was silenced in a moment as the gunners fell or frantically scuttled back through the arched passage. Lieutenant Hunt's gun again belched grape. And here came the stormers, out from among the houses and down the road, yelling, firing, pouring through between the gate towers.

"The gate's taken, and so is the city," Lieutenant Grant rapped. "Come on, Fry. We'd better join our commands. Disassemble the piece, men, and report with it to Lieutenant Reno."

He and Lieutenant Fry and Jerry tumbled below; ran for the road. The Fourth Infantry was well inside the gate; the men, breathless, laughing, peering, asking what next. Save for a few shots the place was singularly silent General Worth arrived in haste.

"What regiment is this?"

"Fourth Infantry, sir."

"God bless the Fourth Infantry. Where's Major Lee? Hold your position, major; you will be supported."

"B' gorry, first in, an' here we stay," cried old Sergeant Mulligan. "Hooray for the Fourth!"

The enemy was rallying. His bugles pealed, his officers were shouting and urging, a column boiled into the street before. As quick as thought the two guns of the gateway battery had been reversed—"Clear the way, there!"—and a shower of grape scattered the column.

The bugles sounded again, with the Mexican signal for recall.

The other regiments thronged in: the Second Artillery, the Sixth Infantry, the Eighth (with Hannibal rolling his drum and cheering lustily), the

Third Artillery, the Fifth Infantry, the Voltigeurs; all the Worth foot. Then, after the troops had been assigned to position, Captain Huger, of the ordnance, and two heavy guns, a twenty-four pounder and a ten-inch mortar came on; were planted in the gateway, General Worth overseeing.

Save for the tolling of bells, the distant cries of frightened people, and the muffled notes of Mexican drums and bugles, the city was quiet Now what?'

"Get your raw by the map, captain," spoke General Worth to Captain Huger. "Then throw a few shell in the direction of the plaza and capital buildings. I don't particularly care where they land, as long as they notify the authorities that we are here and have the city at our mercy."

"Cut your fuses for sixteen hundred yards," Captain Huger ordered. "With shell, load!"

"Number One, ready! Fire!"

"Boom!" The twenty-four-pounder had spoken. "Crash!"

"Number Two, ready! Fire!"

"Boom-m!" And—"Crash!"

That was the big mortar bomb. Darkness had gathered. The flames from the two guns redly illuminated the gateway littered with spoil—shone upon the bodies of the Mexican gunners who had fallen, rarnmers in hands; the explosions of the shells lighted the roofs and towers in the center of the city, almost a mile eastward. The distant cries of alarm echoed anew. Three shells were thrown from the twenty-four-pounder, five from the mortar.

"That will do," General Worth bade.

An aide from General Scott raced in.

"General Worth! The general commanding sends his compliments, and the information that General Quitman is in possession of the Belen gate-way. You are directed to entrench yourself here before the San Cosine gate, and await further orders in preparation for a final assault in the morning, if necessary."

General Worth smiled.

"My compliments to General Scott. As you see, we have entered the city and have a clear road to the plaza. My instructions were to penetrate as far as the Alameda; but owing to the darkness we will establish ourselves where we are, and march on by daylight."

The aide delayed a moment

"General Quitman forced the Belen gate shortly after one o'clock, general," he said. "But he has been held fast ever since, unable to advance by reason of batteries opposing him. My congratulations to you, sir."

"He was simply to threaten the gate, I understood."

"I had the honor of bearing him those very instructions," laughed the aide; "with the connmander-in-chief's compliments. But before I had delivered the message he snapped: 'Tell General Scott I have no time to listen to compliments,' and on he went."

"Well, sir," General Worth responded, "you will please inform Major-General Scott that there is nothing to obstruct my command in a forward movement to the plaza at daybreak."

The Colonel Riley brigade, of the Fourth Artillery, Second and Seventh Infantry, and Taylor's battery, from 'he Second Division, marched in. This night the Fourth Infantry was quartered in a large house on the main street from the gateway. The men reveled in the luxury of soft beds, thick carpets, and rich food. They searched the rooms for money but found none; and they did nothing worse than pillage a pantry of sweet preserves.

Major Lee and invited officers fell heirs to a supper waiting for one of the Mexican generals.

Jerry met Pompey wandering about, his black face smeared.

"Am dis one ob the Halls ob Montyzumy?" Pompey asked.

"I don't think so, Pompey. But we'll be there in the morning."

"Not dis chile. No, suh! You-all can have the rest ob dose Halls; I gwine to stay hyar as long as dar's any platters to lick."