Into Mexico with General Scott - Edwin Sabin

Second Lieutenant Grant

The Volunteer section of the trenches, extending right and left back of the naval battery, had not escaped the fire of the Mexican guns. It was filled with the blue-coats and blue-caps, as before; but shot and shell had ripped it, squads were repairing it, under fire, by throwing up fresh sand and stowing the sandbags more securely. The other men crouched nervously, their muskets grasped, as if they were awaiting the word to charge. Some of them grinned at Jerry, when he paused to look in; they leveled jokes at him.

"Did you get blown up, bub?"

"How's the weather, where you've been?"

"Does your maw know you're out?"

But Jerry pressed on again, "following his nose," and trying to dodge shell fragments; tried a short cut among the dunes, rounded one of the numerous lagoons or marshes, where soldiers off duty were washing their socks; and sooner than he had expected he had entered the camp of the Regulars, once more.

He could tell it by the looks of it. The men were better "set up" than average, seemed well cared for, acted business like; their older officers were brusque, the younger were stiff-backed and slim-waisted, and as a rule they all sat or stood apart from the soldiers.

The hour was after noon; he knew this by the sun, dimly shining through the drifting smoke cloud, and by his empty stomach—amazingly empty now that he thought about it. But he had not laid eyes upon Hannibal, yet, nor anybody else that he ever had seen before.

He happened to stop for a moment near a young officer. The officer was composedly standing by himself, his hands in his pockets as if he were not at all concerned about the racket at the front. He had a smooth-shaven, rather square face, dark brown hair and blue-grey eyes, and was stocky but not large. In fact, was scarcely medium. He had a thoughtful, resolute look, however—a quiet way, that is, which might make anyone hesitate to tackle him for trouble.

He gave Jerry a slow, quizzical smile.

"Well, my lad, what do you want here?"

"Will you please tell me if this is the Eighth United States Infantry?" Jerry asked.

"No. That's in the Second Brigade. This is the Fourth Infantry, First Brigade."

"Then where is the Eighth Infantry?" asked Jerry.

"The Eighth is posted with the Second Brigade, farther on. You'll see the regimental flag. What do you want with the Eighth Regiment?"

"I know a boy there. He promised to get me a job."

"What kind of a job?"

"He didn't say, but he's a drummer boy."

"You reckon on being a drummer boy? Better not. There's one with his arm shot off, already."

"Not Hannibal!" Jerry exclaimed.

"Hannibal who?"

"Hannibal Moss. He's the boy I mean."

"Oh, no; not that young rascal of the Eighth. Another boy by the name of Rome, over in the Twiggs division. Now he'll be a cripple for life."

"Will he have to go home?" Yom„

"Well," said Jerry, "I'd hate to have my arm shot off, but I'd hate worse to have to go home and miss all the rest of the fighting. Could I get his job, do you think?"

The officer laughed. When he laughed, his face lighted up.

"I don't believe that this army can wait until you learn to drum. We're liable to be busy from now on. Where did you come from? Where are your folks?"

"Haven't any. I've been in the naval battery."

"You have! Belong to the navy, do you?"

"No, sir. I don't seem to belong anywhere. I ran away from Vera Cruz last night. I'm an American."

"So I see. Well, how do you like the naval battery?"

"It's pretty lively," said Jerry, shaking his head. "They didn't want me, there, so I came back to the army."

"You'd better go on to the rear; go down to the beach, and some of those camp followers will take care of you."

"Are they a part of the army?"

"Not exactly," the officer grimly answered. "Their duty seems to lie in raking in the army's money as fast as they can bamboozle us. Still, the laundresses are rather necessary. I'll speak to some laundress about you, when I have opportunity. Are you willing to scrub clothes in a tub?"

"No," Jerry declared honestly. "I think I'd rather join the army and help fight. Are you a general?"

"I?" The young officer acted astonished. "Not yet. I'm only Second Lieutenant Grant. I'm about as far from being a general as you are."

"But you're fighting, anyway."

"Not very fiercely, at present. The artillery is doing the fighting. After the artillery has opened the way, then the infantry will have a chance."

"Well," said Jerry, "I guess I'd better be going on."

"Look here," spoke Lieutenant Grant. "I'll wager you're hungry. Aren't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"You see that tent at the end of the row?" And Lieutenant Grant pointed. "That's my quarters—mine and Lieutenant Sidney Smith's. You go there and you'll find a darky; or you'll find him if he isn't somewhere else. He's Smith's servant. You tell Pompey that Lieutenant Grant sent you to get something to eat. Then you can tidy up my things. I reckon," added Lieutenant Grant, stubbornly, as if to himself, "that I'll show Smith I can have a body-guard as well as he can."

"And shall I stay there?" Jerry asked eagerly.

"You say you want to join the army. So if you're willing to play understudy to a mere second lieutenant instead of to a drum major, maybe we can come to some agreement. At any rate, go get a meal."

Jerry hustled for the tent. The flaps were open, nobody was within, but on the sunny side, without, he discovered a young darky asleep, on his back, with a bandanna handkerchief over his face to keep off the flies.

The darky was dressed in a torn whitish cotton shirt, a pair of old army trousers, sky-blue, tied about his waist with a rope, and gaping shoes from which his toes peeped out.

He was snoring. But Jerry had to get something to eat, according to orders.

"Hello," he said, gazing down:

The bandanna rose and fell; the snores continued. Shot and shell and big guns made no difference to this darky.

Jerry considered. He broke a twig from a scrap of bush and tickled the toes. They twitched, the snores changed to grunts, the bandanna wriggled, and on a sudden with a prodigious "Oof! G'way from dar!" the darky blew off his bandanna and sort of burst into sitting up, staring wildly, his eyes rolling.

"Who you?" he accused. "Wha' fo' you do dat, ticklin' me like one o' dem t'ousand-leggers? I'se gwine to lambast you fo' dat, you white limb o' Satan!"

"Lieutenant Grant said you'd find me something to eat," Jerry explained. "I didn't mean to scare you."

"Scyare me? Oof! I shuah felt one o' dem t'ousand-legger centipeders crawlin' right inside my shoes. Huh! I don't give house room to no t'ousandleggers. What you say you want? Who-all sent you?"

"Lieutenant Grant. He said you were to find me something to eat."

"Where am dat Lieutenant Grant?"

"Over there. He was there, but he's gone now." For Lieutenant Grant had disappeared.

"Done issued me ohders, did he? I don't belong to no second lieutenant. I belong to Lieutenant Smith. He fust lieutenant. If he say to feed white trash, I got to feed 'em, but I ain't takin' ohders from no second lieutenant."

"I'll go back and tell him," Jerry proffered. "There he is." Lieutenant Grant was in sight, talking with another officer. Once he glanced toward the tent; and his glance could be felt.

The darky hastily sprang up.

"Reckon I'll find you sumpin. Yes, suh; when anybody's jined the ahmy he's got to 'bey his s'perior offercers. Come along, white boy. Where you from, anyhow?"

"Vera Cruz."

"You from Very Cruz? What you do dar?"

"Worked for my keep. Last night I ran away."

"You an American boy?"

"Yes, of course."

"Hi yi!" Pompey chuckled "'Spec' Very Cruz ain't a place to lib in, dese days. Hi yi! Guess when dose big bombs come a-sailin' dey say: 'Where dose Mexicans? Where dose Mexicans? Here dey be, here dey be—Boom! Now where dey be? Yes, suh, white folks better get out. Bombs cain't take time to 'stinguish color. Gin'ral Scott, he in berry big hurry to march on to City ob Mexico. Gwine to spend Fo'th ob Jooly in Halls ob Montyzoomy, eatin' off'n golden platters. Come along, white boy. Ain't got nuffin' but cold cohn pone an' salt hoss, but I'll feed you. You gwine to fine the ahmy?"

"Hope to," said Jerry.

"What's yo' name?"

"Jerry Cameron."

"Any kin to the No'th Car'liny Camerons?"

"I don't know. I haven't any folks."

"Sho', now! Dem No'th Car'liny Camerons are mighty uppity people. Dat Lieutenant Grant, he a fine man, too. But I'm 'cached to Fust Lieutenant Smith, Fo'th United States Infantry. If you get 'tached to Lieutenant Grant, I'm uppitier than you are, remember. When you work 'round with me you got to 'bey my ohders. I'm yo' s'perior offercer."

"All right, Pompey," Jerry agreed.

He munched the cornbread and salt beef, and Pompey chattered on.

"Listen to dem guns talk! Oof! Talkin' a way right through dem walls, laike the horn ob Jericho. Mebbe to-morrow Gin'ral Scott wave his sword, an' Lieutenant Smith an' me an' all the rest de ahmy, we fix bagonets an' go rampagin' crost dat patch ob lebbel ground an' capture all dem Mexicans. What you gwine to do den?"

"Go, too, I guess," said Jerry.

"We don't 'low no nuncumbatants along when we-all charge," Pompey asserted. "Ob co'se I got to stay with Massa Smith. I'se part the ahmy. But when dose cannon balls come a-sayin' 'Hum-m-m, where dat little white boy?', what you gwine to do den?"

"I'd dodge 'em," said Jerry.

"Wha' dat? You dodge 'em? Now you talk foolish. Guess you nebber fit a battle yet. We-all am vet'rans. We-all belong to the Fo'th Infantry. We-all fit under Gin'ral Taylor. The Fo'th Infantry done licked dem Mexicans out o' Texas an' clyar into Mexico till dar warn't any more to lick; den Gin'ral Scott, he said: 'I got to have dat Fo'th Infantry to whup Santy Annie an' capture the City ob Mexico.' If you gwine to jine the Fo'th Infantry, boy, you meet up with a heap o' trouble. We don't dodge cannon balls. We hain't time. We jest let 'em zoop an' we keep argoin'."

"All those cannon balls don't hit somebody," said Jerry.

"Um-m-m. How you know? You talk laike you'd been sojerin'. Where you hide yo'self, after you leave Very Cruz? 'Way back on the beach?"

"No. I've been in the naval battery."

"Wha' dat?" Pompey's eyes stuck out. "Out dar, with dose big guns? You lie, boy. How you get dar?"

"I tumbled into it, last night."

"Befo' the shootin'?"

"Yes; but I went back this morning. I stayed as long as they'd let me. Then a big shell burst right inside and an officer made me get out."

"Sho'!" Pompey exclaimed. "You been under fiah? 'Pears laike you don't talk more'n Lieutenant Grant. He's the least talkin'est man I ebber did see. He shuah don't take any back seat in fightin', though. Um-m-m, no indeedy! Dar at Monterey he rode so fast Mexican bullets couldn't ketch hint Powerful man on a hose, dat Lieutenant Grant. But you 'member, now, if you stay 'round hyar, waitin' on him, I don't take ohders from you. You take 'em from me. I'm sarvent to a fust lieutenant; yo' man's only a second lieutenant. He may be good plan; but dat's ahmy way. I'm yo' s'perior in the ahmy."

"All right," Jerry agreed again.

"Now I'm gwine back to sleep, an' don't you tickle my toes. No, suh i I ain't 'feared ob bombs, but I'se drefful scyared ob t'ousand-leggers. Dar's yo' side the tent, where Lieutenant Grant sleeps. You kin tidy it up, if you gwine to stay."

Pompey went to sleep, as before. Jerry found little to do. Lieutenant Grant's side of the tent was in apple-pie order, not a thing misplaced. The whole interior of the tent was as neat as a pin. There were only a couple of cots, two canvas stools, a folding table, two blue painted chests, with canteens, overcoats, and a few small articles hanging up.

After fiddling about, Jerry strolled out. Pompey was snoring, the guns of batteries and city and castle were thundering, soldiers were drilling or sitting in groups Lieutenant Grant came walking hastily.

"Did that darky treat you well?"

"Yes, sir. I had something to eat."

"That's good."

"But I didn't find much to do in the tent."

"I suppose not. Well, I'm on quartermaster detail, and I may not be back to-night. You'll have to look out for yourself."

"Can I stay?"


"With you and the Fourth Infantry."

"I shouldn't wonder," Lieutenant Grant smiled.

"How are you at foraging?"

"I don't know. I'll try."

"Pompey'll teach you. He'll take eggs from a setting hen. If Lieutenant Smith turns up and asks who you are, you tell him you're attached to the Fourth Infantry as chief forager for Lieutenant U. S. Grant."

"Sha'n't you need me any more to-day?" Jerry asked.

"No. You can report in the morning. You may sleep in my bunk to-night unless I'm there first. That will keep the fleas from getting too hungry."

"I'd like to find the Eighth Infantry and tell Hannibal Moss I'm in the army."

"Go ahead."

Lieutenant Grant hurried on. He mounted a horse and, galloped for the beach. Jerry went seeking the Eighth Infantry.

The sun was much lower in the west. The bombardment had dwindled. It was said that ammunition for the mortars and other guns had run short until more could be landed through the heavy surf from the ships. The firing of the naval battery guns had ceased entirely

By the time that Jerry had found the Eighth Infantry the sun was setting and throughout the camp the company cooks were preparing supper. A detachment of sailors marched up from the beach, at their rolling gait, to relieve the crews in the battery. They were given a cheer.

"Hello, there!"

It was Hannibal, again. He stood up and beckoned. Jerry gladly went over to him.

"Where you going?"

"Looking for you, is all."

"Good. Wait a minute, till after retreat. I've got to beat retreat."

"Do you have to retreat?" Jerry blurted, aghast.

"Naw; not that kind. Not for Old Fuss and Feathers. Cracky, but you're green! It's evening roll-call and parade."

Through the camp drums were tapping, fifes squeaking, horns blaring. Officers were striding, buttoning their jackets and buckling on their swords. Soldiers were seizing muskets from the stacks and forming lines under their gruff sergeants. Hannibal himself ran and grabbed his drum from a stack of muskets, and disappeared around a tent. Sergeants were calling the company rolls. And in a few moments here came the regiment's band, and the fifers and drummers, in a broad, short column, playing a lively march tune; led by a whopping big drum major, in a long scarlet coat, gay with gilt braid and cord, on his head a shako which with nodding plume looked to be three feet high, in his hand a tasseled staff

The music formed on a level space, the band to the fore, then a rank of fifers, then a rank of drummers—with all the little drummer boys bursting through their tightly fitting uniforms of red-braided snug jackets and sky-blue long trousers flaring at the bottoms, their swords by their sides, their drums slung from their white cross-belts, their caps tilted saucily. Hannibal was there, rolling his drumsticks as lustily as the others.

Route from Veracruz to Mexico City


The regiment followed, marching by companies, the stars and stripes and the regimental flag of blue and gold at the head. The companies changed direction into line three ranks deep, on the left of the music.

"Eyes—right! Right—dress!"

It was funny to see those eyes.


The eyes gazed straight before.

A man on horseback, who must have been the colonel, sat out in front.


"Carry arms!"

"Right shoulder—shift!"



The band and field music marched up and down, playing bravely. The two ranks stood motionless, the soldiers as stiff as ramrods, their muskets held perpendicularly in front of them. Why, compared with these Regulars the Mexican Regulars, even the famous Eleventh Infantry of the Line, were only slouchers.

The music resumed position; the drums rolled, a bugler lilted a kind of call.

Pretty soon the colonel turned his horse and left; the company officers barked snappy orders, and the companies were marched back to stack arms again and be dismissed. Hannibal came rollicking without his drum.

"I'm off till tattoo at half-past nine," he announced, to Jerry. "No guard duty. Our company's to rest. If I wasn't a drummer I wouldn't have anything to do till to-morrow. But a drummer never gets much rest. He has to be Johnny-on-the-Spot all the time. Just wait till you're a drummer. What you want to do? Where've you been since morning?"

"I was up in the naval battery."

"Under fire, you mean?"

"Guess so. A big shell burst right in front of me, inside the battery; in the middle of us alL Didn't kill anybody, though. Then an officer made me get. But I've joined the army."

"You have? How? Already?"

"You bet. I'm in the Fourth Regiment"

"What do you do there? A drummer? Who's teaching you? Old Brown?"

"No, I'm not a drummer. I'm with the officers. I'm attached to Lieutenant Grant."

"Aw—!" and Hannibal stared. "What you mean now? How 'attached?"

"That's what he said. I take can of his tent and I go along with him and the Fourth Regiment"

"You do? That's not soldiering; that's only being a follower. But what did you join the Fourth for? Maybe I could have got you into the Eighth. You ought to be a drummer. A drummer gets nine dollars a month and he's some pumpkins, too. He's no private. He wears a sword like an officer, and has his own drill. I could have taught you the taps and Hams and drags and rolls. They're easy. Then maybe you'd be a drum major some day. That's what I intend to be."

"Well, I can learn to be an officer. Lieutenant Grant will teach me," Jerry answered.

"You've got to be a soldier first, before you learn to be an officer. You ought to enlist or go to school. Nearly all the company officers in the Regulars went to school at West Point. The old fellows were appointed or rose from the ranks, but most of them fought in the War of 1812 or in Florida. Some of the fresh civilians are jolly green when they join. My eye! I know more than they do. But anyhow," Hannibal continued, as if not to be disagreeable, "the Fourth is a good regiment, next to the Eighth. You'll learn, I guess. I know Lieutenant Grant. I know all the officers. He's got a funny name. Ever hear it? Ulysses! That's it. He's not very big, but you ought to see him stick on a horse. Come along. Let's go up on top of one of the hills and watch the shells."

Then, as they trudged:

"Here come the sailors from the battery. Jiminy, but they're black! It's no sport, serving those big guns. I'd rather be in the artillery than in the infantry, though, if I wasn't a drummer."

The tars from the naval battery trooped wearily by, for the beach and their ships. Black they were, with powder, and coated with sand, so that their eyes peered out whitely.

"Did you give 'em Davy Jones, Jack?" Hannibal called smartly.

They grinned and growled; and one of them answered back:

"Aye, aye, young hearty. Blowed their bloomin' bul'arks all to smash, that's wot. Hooray for the navy!"

"Hooray!" Hannibal and Jerry cheered.

The sand hills were being occupied by officers and men, gathered to watch the show. The best point seemed to be awarded to a special little group—

"Say! We'll have to take another," Hannibal exclaimed. "There's General Scott, again—and his engineers, too. We'll get as close as we can. Wait. They're coming down. You mind your eye and I'll show you a fine officer." The group, with the commanding figure of General Scott to the fore, gazing through glasses, seemed about to leave. "You see that officer who's just turned our way? Talking to another officer? He's Captain Robert E. Lee, of the engineers, on Scott's staff. He laid out these trenches and batteries—he's the smartest engineer in the army. The officer he's talking to is Lieutenant George B. McClellan, graduated from West Point only last summer. I know him—I knew him when we all were under Old Zach, in the north of Mexico, before we came here with Fuss and Feathers. He's smart, too, but he gets funny sometimes. Captain Lee is the smartest of all."

Upon leaving their hill the group passed nearer. Jerry might see that Captain Lee was a slender, dark-eyed, handsome young officer; Lieutenant McClellan was not so good-looking—had a long nose and a pinched face, and a careless, happy-go-lucky manner; was slight of build. General Scott towered over them all. What a giant of a man he was—and with what a voice when he spoke in measured sentences!

They mounted horses held by orderlies, and cantered away, probably for headquarters where General Scott's large tent stood, back of the First Division camp.

Jerry and Hannibal climbed to the crest of the sand hill. The evening had fallen; the west was pink, and the tops of the sand hills and the towers of the city glowed, but the dusk was gathering on the plain and over the gulf. Down in the plain the mortars were firing slowly, as before, one after another, as if timed by a clock; and the city and the castle were replying in same fashion. As the dusk deepened the bombs could be seen. They rose high, sailed on, leaving a streak of red from their burning fuses, and dropped swiftly—and all the city was lighted luridly by the burst of flame.

The Mexican shells crossed their tracks with other streaks of red; and they, also, burst with great lurid explosions, illuminating the sand hills and the dark lines of trenches below. Sometimes there were four and five bombs in the air at the same time, going and coming.

It was a grand sight, from the outside. Jerry was glad that he was not in Vera Cruz; and he was glad that he was not one of the soldiers in those little detachments that now and again hustled silently through the hills, to enter the trenches, and do outpost duty and repair the works, under fire.

"Guess to-morrow the army heavies will be helping the navy thirty-twos and sixty-eights," Hannibal remarked. "Then we'll have the walls breached, and we'll all go in and capture the whole shebang. General Scott won't sit around here, waiting. He'll storm the walls and have the business over with before the yellow fever starts up. We've got to get away from this low country."

"What are we fighting about, anyway, Hannibal?"

"Fighting about, boy! To whip Mexico, of course. Got to fetch her to time, haven't we? 'Conquer a peace '—that's what General Scott says. The Republic of Texas has come into the United States, and as long as Mexico says she sha'n't, and keeps pestering Americans and won't pay for damages, the only way to get a peace is to conquer it. Besides, Mexico fired first, at the Rio Grande—killed some of the dragoons and captured Lieutenant Thornton and a lot more. Guess we had to fight, after that, didn't we?"

"Mexico says we invaded her."

"Aw, shucks!" Hannibal scoffed. "So do some of the home papers. That's politics. When once the army gets to shooting then talk isn't much use till one side or the other is licked. They all ought to have arranged matters before the fighting started."

Until long after dark they two crouched here, together with other soldiers, watching the bombs. The night was clear and still, except for the smoke and the guns. And when the castle spoke with a thirteen-incher, and that landed, then—Boom!

"Well, I've got to go for tattoo," said Hannibal, with a yawn. "You'd better skip, too, or you won't be let in if you don't have the countersign. After tattoo everybody's supposed to be bunked for the night."

"Maybe I'll see you to-morrow."

"See you in Vera Cruz, boy," Hannibal promised. "Bet you the Eighth will beat the Fourth, if we storm. Sorry you aren't one of us, in the Eighth. That's General Worth's regiment. He was our colonel before I joined."

"I'll stay with the Fourth," Jerry retorted. "I'll go sharpen Lieutenant Grant's sword."

Hannibal laughed.

"Those toad-stickers aren't meant to be sharp. They're just for looks. But I keep mine sharp, all right. To-morrow I'll capture a Mexican with it."

Jerry found the tent. Everything here was quiet, except Pompey, and he was snoring. So Jerry snuggled down upon Lieutenant Grant's cot, under a blanket, intending to stay awake to make certain that it was all right; but while listening to Pompey, and to the steady cannonade, dulled by distance, he drowsed off—dreamed of charging and throwing shells while he ran, with Hannibal beating a drum and the Mexican army lying flat and shooting bullets that burst like little bombs.

In the morning he was aroused by drums and fifes. He was still in the cot. Pompey was about to shake him, and a tall officer in undress was laughing.

"Hi, you white boy! Wha' fo' you sleepin' in an offercer's bed?" Pompey accused. "Hain't you manners? Heah dat reveille—an' me cookie' all the breakf us! Turn out. When Lieutenant Grant come, what he gwine to do fo' a place to sleep?"

"You're Grant's boy, are you?" the tall officer asked. "I'm Lieutenant Smith. And in absence of your superior officer I politely request that you help Pompey with the breakfast. Lieutenant Grant will be here at any moment. He'll appreciate a warm bed, but he'll want it for himself."