Into Mexico with General Scott - Edwin Sabin

Jerry Joins the Ranks

El Telegrapho Hill —Cerro Gordo, the Big Hill—had been taken. When Jerry, lugging his precious drum, joined the Fourth Infantry the blue coats were swarming over the flat top, taking prisoners, and the Mexican rout was tearing down in the south making for the Jalapa road.

From the northwest edge of the hill another storming column had entered. This was the Second Infantry and Fourth Artillery, under Colonel Bennet Riley, of the Second Brigade, who had been ordered to make a half circuit. But they had arrived too late. Colonel Harney, the dragoon, and his Third and Seventh Infantry and First Artillery had captured the hill themselves. Those were the flags of the Third, the Seventh and the First. The flag of the Seventh had been raised first. Quartermaster-Sergeant Henry, of the Seventh, had been the man who had hauled down the Mexican flag from the flagpole on the stone tower, and the Seventh's color-bearers had instantly raised their own standards.

The battle was won, but not all over. Colonel Riley at once launched his column in pursuit of the fleeing Mexicans. General Shields' Volunteers—the Third and Fourth Illinois and the New Yorkers—were attacking in the west, to seize the batteries there and cut in to the Jalapa road. Cannon were booming in the south, where General Pillow's Tennesseeans and Pennsylvanians and a company of Fourth Ken tuckians were being held at bay still. But the hill of Cerro Gordo commanded all the country; it was the key, and in the Mexican batteries around white flags were being hoisted. Detachments were sent by General Worth, who was senior officer here, to take possession. The firing died away.

On the top of the hill all was excitement. The dead and wounded were thick. The Rifles came up from the ravine where they had checked a charge of the Mexicans to turn Colonel Harney's left; their band was bringing a lot of prisoners, to the tune of Yankee Doodle. The men of the storming columns were loud in their praises of Colonel Harney. It was he who had led, bare-headed and sword in hand. The fifteen hundred of them had taken the hill, defended by breastworks and the stone tower and six thousand Mexican soldiers. Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

And now here was General Scott, on his horse. The men ran for him, the wounded crawled nearer or feebly cheered; tears were flooding his grizzled cheeks; he removed his hat, and his voice trembled.

"Brother soldiers! I am proud to call you brothers, and your country will be proud to hear of your conduct this day. Our victory has cost u9 the lives of a number of brave men, but they died fighting for their country. Soldiers, you have a claim on my gratitude for your conduct this day which I will never forget."

He beckoned to Colonel Harney, and held out his hand to him.

"Colonel Harney, I cannot now fully express my admiration of your gallant achievement, but at the proper time I shall take great pleasure in thanking you in proper terms."

He put his chapeau back upon his grey head and slowly rode on. Every few paces he halted to bend and speak with the wounded.

Lieutenant Grant was untouched; so were Captain Gore and Lieutenant Smith; the Fourth Infantry, and in fact, the whole of the First Division had escaped all accident save by a few spent balls. It was said that General Shields of the Volunteers had been mortally wounded by a bullet through the chest—had a hole in him the size of one's fist! Major Sumner of the Second Dragoons had been wounded. Lieutenant Thomas Ewell of the Rifles, but serving in the charge, had been the first officer to spring upon the breastworks at the tower and had been shot down. He and Colonel Harney and Quartermaster-Sergeant Henry (who had hauled down the Mexican flag there) werd the heroes of the hour.

Santa Anna had fled, when he saw the hill being taken. General Vasquez, of his infantry, was lying dead here (a fine looking man, who had fallen shot through the head, but his face to the foe); other generals were surrendering—General Vega, who had been fighting off the Pillow Volunteers, near the river, had surrendered all his force. How many Mexicans had been captured and what the losses were on both sides nobody yet knew.

Hugging his drum and roaming over the battle-field, Jerry met Hannibal. They shook hands and danced.

"What you got there, boy?"

"A drum. Found it on the way up."

"Mexican drum, huh? Going to keep it?"

"Guess so. Can't I?"

"Sure you can. You may get a chance to be a drummer. We can fix it over. But hurrah! Didn't we do the business, though? Took the works just as Fuss and Feathers said.. Never a hitch. Pillow was licked, at first, but that made no difference; nobody expected him to do more than hold the enemy's attention. Twiggs and Riley's brigade are cleaning up the country west, and the dragoons are right on Santa Anna's heels. Now we won't stop again till we're in the Halls of Montezuma. There's the long roll for the First. Good-by. We're moving. Hang on to that drum."

The First Division had been directed to march for the road and support the Riley brigade in pursuit of the Mexicans. It was now mid-afternoon. Reports came back that the dragoons were pressing hard down the road, and that the Mexicans were too long-legged for the infantry. Camp was ordered for the night, just beyond the little village of Cerro Gordo, in the pass.

General Santa Anna's headquarters camp had been here also. It and the village had been seized by the Shields Volunteers and they were highly excited. They had found Santa Anna's carriage—a large, patterned after the State coach of Napoleon Bonaparte. But General Santa Anna was not in it. He had cut the team loose and had fled upon one of the mules.

The Volunteers were passing a wooden leg around; said that it was Santa Anna's leg—

"No! His leg is cork."

"Well, this may be his reserve leg, mayn't it? Next time we'll capture the cork leg and then he can't run so fast."

And a group of other Volunteers were having a rough and tumble over something upon the ground.

It was a chest, burst open; a chest of Mexican money for the expenses of Santa Anna's army. The military chest, that is. The soldiers were grabbing at the money; officers were trying to separate them. Suddenly all stood aside and saluted, for General Scott was towering above, upon his horse.

"Let the boys have what is on the ground, officers," he said. "They've fought and worked all day and deserve what they get. The remainder will be placed in charge of the chief quartermaster."

Pompey (Jerry had forgotten Pompey) arose from the bottom of the heap, his black fists crammed with bills. He certainly had arrived here very quickly; no doubt had come in one of the wagons sent forward to receive wounded.

"Yes, suh. Sojerin' is powerful hand work fo' mighty little pay," he pronounced. "We-all near captured Santy Annie. We done made him pore; he's gwine to beg his victuals, that's shuah." Pompey saw Jerry and grinned. "Howdy, boy. Where you been?"

"Climbing Telegraph Hill with the troops."

"Huh!" Pompey grunted. "Wha' fo' you go to all dat work? I come 'round by the road an' ketch Santy Annie hyar. He run so fast he forgit his laig an' all his money. Jest slashed his mules from dat coach an' skadoodled. Where you find dat drum?"

"In some breastworks."

"What you gwine to do with it?"

"Keep it."

"'Spec' you set big sto' on bein' a drummer."

"Shouldn't wonder, Pompey."

"Dis chile's so rich now he can be a gin'ral," Pompey chuckled. "He don't have to sojer common. Yes, suh; Gin'ral Scott am a great strateegis'."

The baggage train had not come in yet from Plan del Rio, and the camp was only a plain bivouac of blankets and haversack rations. Having little to do, Jerry was cautiously trying out his drum, when Lieutenant Grant spoke to him.

"You've won a drum, I see."

"Yes, sir."

"Can you play it?"

"A little, is all; but I'm learning."

"You want to be a drummer boy, I suppose."

"Yes, sir."

"Well, you have a chance. One of the drummers of the Fourth broke his leg on the way up the hill. He got in front of a spent solid shot. You might report to Drum Major Brown and see if he can do anything for you. I hope," the lieutenant added, with a smile, "you can drum better than you can cook or make a bed."

"Hope so, too, lieutenant," Jerry answered. "Thank you, sir. Hooray!"

Tall Drum Major Brown of the Fourth looked him over. "Lieutenant Grant sent you, eh? What can you do?"

"I don't know," Jerry acknowledged. "I can't cook."

"Looks like he's found that out. Whenever a man's good at nothing he tries to join the band or the field music. Humph! Where'd you get that drum?"

"On the way up the hill."

"What were you doing there?"

"Just following along, sir, to keep with the lieutenant and the company."

"You're the same young fellow who was in the naval battery, aren't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Can you drum?"

"Not much yet, but I'll learn."

"Let's hear you. Sound a roll."

Jerry did, after a fashion.

"Tap common time."

Jerry did.

"Now quick time."

Jerry did.

"You've got a pretty good ear," the drum major approved. "I'm a drummer short. I'll see what I can do for you, but of course I'll have to ask the adjutant. Anyway, you can fall in with the field music in the morning for the march. Are those your best clothes?"

"Yes, sir."

"Maybe we can rustle a uniform for you, and have a tailor fit it."

"Could I stay in Company B?"


"That's my company, sir."

"Oh! Is it! Well, as happens, the vacancy is in Company C, and there you go unless Sykes of Company B will exchange with you, and the company officers don't object."

"Thank you, Mr. Brown." Jerry sped away to find Hannibal and practice a few wrinkles. The two worked a long time, shortening the cross-belts and adapting the drum so that it would hang properly.