Into Mexico with General Scott - Edwin Sabin

Inspecting the Wild "Mohawks"

After the surrender the army camp was moved out of the sand hills and to the beach. That was a great relief—to be away from the swamps and thickets and dust and the thousands of small flies and millions of fleas. Some of the clever *officers had been greasing themselves all over with pork rind and sleeping in canvas bags drawn tightly around their necks; but even this did not work.

General Worth was appointed military governor of Vera Cruz; another honor for the First Division. General Quitman's brigade of Mohawks was put in as garrison.

The men were granted leave, in squads, to go into Vera Cruz. And Vera Cruz was a sad sight, as Jerry found out when he and Hannibal strolled through. The bombs from the mortars had crashed through the tiled roofs of the buildings, burst the walls apart, and had made large holes in the paved streets. It was dangerous to walk because of the loosened cornices of the roofs. The beautiful cathedral had been struck; it now was a hospital, containing hundreds of wounded soldiers and civilians.

But the most interesting thing to "military men" was the wall on the side of the city toward the naval battery. The sixty-eights and thirty-twos had hewed two openings—had simply pulverized the coral rock laid twelve feet thick; and a wagon and team might be driven through either gap. The bastions, also, and the outlying batteries, had been knocked to smithereens.

Yet it was astonishing how quickly American rule was bringing order. The streets were being rapidly cleaned up by squads of soldiers and by the Mexicans who were hired. Shops were doing a big business—the soldiers, especially the Volunteers, were gorging themselves with fruits and vegetables and cakes'The harbor was again crowded with masts, of American transports and merchantmen flying many flags. The sea-wall was a regular market, piled with bales and boxes and crates for the army, and thronged with people white, yellow and black, who set up stalls, or crowded around the huge naval guns hauled there to be placed back upon the ships of Commodore Perry's squadron. A new wharf was being built, extending out clear to the coaling depot that had been erected upon the reef near the castle, at the entrance to the harbor.

Assuredly old Vera Cruz was being Americanized. But although everything was under strict martial law, and one negro camp follower who had frightened a Mexican woman had been promptly tried and hanged, Jerry never caught a glimpse of the two Manuels among all the Mexicans who stayed in safety..

He was not now afraid of the two Manuels. They had cuffed him and had sneered at the "gringos"—but here the gringos were, unbeaten! And Vera Cruz belonged to the Mexicans no longer.

In a short time the camp was moved again, to the plain between the city and the sand hills. The men had been rested; they were set at work drilling. As soon as horses and mules and wagons arrived from the United States, the march for the City of Mexico would be begun.

"Let's go over to the Volunteer camp and watch the foot Mustangs drill," Hannibal proposed, one afternoon. "That's great fun."

So they went to the Third Division camp. A number of companies were being put through their drill, according to the tactics of General Scott. The Kentuckians (a regiment newly arrived) were exercising in the manual of acrrms.











"Right shoulder—shift!"




"Load in twelve times—load!"





In Scott's Tactics "shoulder arms" was the same as "carry arms."

Every soldier tore the end of the paper cartridge open with his teeth.


A little of the powder was emptied into the pans of the guns.



At that, the soldiers dropped their guns upright, and prepared to pour the powder in from the cartridge.


The powder was dumped into the muzzles, and the ball and cartridge paper for a wad, were forced in after.





Or perhaps—



And while one held one's breath, expecting a volley—


This left them at a "ready," again.

"That load in twelve times is only for discipline," Hannibal scoffed. "To teach 'em to work together. Load in four times is the Regulars' way, by count—one, two, three, four. But mostly it's 'Load at will—load!' I'd hate to be a Volunteer. They can fight, though. Yes, siree; they can fight. They're not much on discipline, and they yell and sing and straggle while marching; but when they see the enemy—my eye!"

These Volunteers were indeed a lively and good-natured if rather rough set. When drill was over they raced for their messes and proceeded to loll about and cook and eat and sing, as if they had no thought in the world except to picnic. The rust on their guns and the length of their beards never bothered them at all.

Here's a health to all them that we love.

Here's a health to all them that love us,

Here's a health to all them that love those that love them

That love those that love them that love us!

This was the song of one group, who were drinking from tin cups.

Molly is the gal for me—

sang another group. And—

Upon the hill he turned,

To take a last fond look

Of the valley and the village church,

And the cottage by the brook.

He listened to the sounds,

So familiar to his ear,

And the soldier leant upon his sword

And wiped away a tear.

A tall bearded Tennesseean was singing that, while his companions listened soberly.

But a chorus welled and spread until all the groups were joining in.

Green grow the rushes, O!

Green grow the rushes, O!

The sweetest hours that e'er I spend

Are spent among the lasses, O!

"They sang that stuff all through Texas and North Mexico," said Hannibal. "It's the Mohawk war cry. And the Mexicans think it's a sort of national song, like some of theirs. You ought to hear 'em try to sing it themselves. 'Gringo, gringo,' they say, instead of 'Green grow,' and they call the Americans 'gringos'!".

"That's right; they do," Jerry agreed, remembering the two Manuels and other Vera Cruzans. "They called me a 'gringo' whenever they were mean, but it wasn't Spanish and they didn't seem to know where it came from. 'Gringo! 'Huh!"

Now he understood at last.

"Well, I've got to go back for that blamed 'retreat,'" Hannibal grumbled. "Thunder! I never did see the use in all this parading every day." Which was an odd remark for a Regular and a veteran.

Grant, Mexican War


They were just leaving the mess fires of the Mohawks, when there was a great shout of laughter, and out of the brush here came a big Illinoisan, a dead turkey in one hand and his long musket in the other, driving before him two ragged Mexicans.

"What you got there, Bill?"

"Part the Mexican army, boys. 'Peared like they were going to ambush me and take this turkey; but I said 'Nary, Mary Ann,' and fetched 'em along with help of old Sal." And he flourished his gun.

"We meant no harm, good Americanos," the Mexicans whined. "We are only poor countrymen."

"Pass your turkey over to us," the soldiers cried, to Bill. "Tell your paisanos  to git and come back with the rest of their army."

"I know them!" Jerry exclaimed. "They aren't in the army. They're brush cutters." He ran aside. "Hello, Manuel."

The two Manuels had been cringing and smiling and repeating: "Good Americans! Valient soldiers! Do not harm us, and God will reward you." They saw Jerry, and recognized him. "Gringo puppy," they hissed. "Where have you been?"

"Yes, I'm a gringo," Jerry answered. "And I'm in the army of the Americans. You said they couldn't take Vera Cruz. What do you say now?"

"They took Vera Cruz by standing off and killing all the people," old Manuel snarled, in Spanish. "But wait, till they try to march on. Our Santa Anna and fifty thousand brave men are coming to meet them. Hear that, gringito? You'll wish you'd stayed in the brush with old Manuel."

Jerry laughed. He told Hannibal what had been said, and Hannibal laughed. As they went on they looked back. The two Manuels were scuttling out of the camp, unharmed, for the soldiers were more interested in the turkey.

Teams and cavalry mounts, and wagons and supplies were very slow in arriving, so that the army stayed in camp at Vera. Cruz for over a week with out a move. The yellow fever increased—only the fresh lively air blown in by the northers had held it down; and as soon as the northers ceased then the vomito would rage as usual. A large number of the men, especially the Volunteers, were ill with disease caused by drinking bad water and by over-eating. General Scott reorganized the army for the march inland. The general orders changed the assignment of the regiments very little, and left them as follows:

First Regular Division, Brevet Major-General William J. Worth commanding: Light Battery A, Second Artillery; Second Artillery, eight companies, as infantry; Third Artillery, four companies, as infantry; Fourth Infantry, six companies; Fifth Infantry, six companies; Sixth Infantry, five companies; Eighth Infantry, seven companies.

Second Regular Division, Brigadier-General David E. Twiggs commanding: Light Battery K, First Artillery; howitzer and rocket company; Mounted Rifles, nine companies; First Artillery as infantry; Fourth Artillery, six companies, as infantry; Second Infantry, nine companies; Third Infantry, six companies; Seventh Infantry, six companies.

Third or Volunteer Division, Major-General Robert Patterson commanding: Third Illinois, Fourth Illinois; Second New York, ten companies; First Tennessee, Second Tennessee; First Pennsylvania, ten companies; Second Pennsylvania, ten companies; South Carolina, eleven companies; Kentucky, and a detachment of Tennessee cavalry.

The enlistment term of the Georgians and Alabamans had almost expired, so they were not included.

The company of engineers, which contained Captain Lee and Lieutenant McClellan and Lieutenant Beauregard and other smart young officers, was independent; and so were the ordnance or heavy artillery company and the dragoons.

Each division had been broken into brigades as before; and although Jerry's Fourth Infantry and Hannibal's Eighth Infantry were still in separate brigades they were in the First Division, anyway.

Subtracting the General Quitman brigade of South Carolinans (the Palmettos), Alabamans and Georgia Crackers, and the Tennessee cavalry, who were to garrison Vera Cruz, the army numbered between eight and nine thousand officers and men—not many for a march into Mexico and a fight with General Santa Anna's thirty or fifty thousand.

Jerry proceeded to learn the drum, with Hannibal as instructor. The drumsticks proved tricky—there seemed to be a lot of rigmarole and Hannibal was a hard drillmaster; but who might tell what would happen in the coming battles? Young Rome, drummer boy in the Twiggs division, had been disabled already. So it behooved a fellow to be prepared to fill a vacancy.

For the army there were drills and evolutions, "in masse," as they were styled, with General Scott himself commanding. And a grand spectacle that was, when the infantry wheeled, and the artillery galloped, and the dragoons spurred, all upon the plain under the walls of Vera Cruz crowded with townspeople, gathered to view the sight.

On the evening of April 7 there was a last parade by the troops together, and a speech by General Scott, in which he promised that if the men would follow him he would take them through.

In his gold-buttoned blue frock coat, and his gold-braided blue trousers, with gold epaulets on his broad shoulders and a gold sash around his waist and a plumed cockaded chapeau upon his grizzled head, his tasseled sword in its engraved scabbard hanging at his side, he sat his horse and thundered his words so that almost every ear could hear. He called the troops "My brave boys"—and at the close of the speech they roundly cheered their "Old Fuss and Feathers," the "Hero of Chippewa"—that battle in the War of 1812 where he showed the enemy that the American infantry was equal to the best.

The march onward was supposed to commence the next day, April 8; but—

"'Peahs laike we Gin'ral Worth men ain't gwine," Pompey complained. "I heap Lieutenant Smith sayin' we ain't gwine yet. We-all got to stay. Wha' fo' we-all called Fust Division, when we ain't fust?"

Jerry had seen little of Lieutenant Grant lately; the lieutenant had been acting as quartermaster of the Fourth and was kept busy. Now when asked about the march, he replied shortly:

"Yes. The Second Division leads. General Worth is required here; but you can depend upon it we'll be on hand for the fighting."