Into Mexico with General Scott - Edwin Sabin

Storming Chapultepec

The First Division spent the night at the King's Mill. The Cadwalader brigade joined its comrade brigade of the Third Division, and General Pillow moved down, to the mill also, in readiness for the assault by the west slope of Chapultepec rock.

Before the First Division companies had been dismissed for the night, by orders of General Worth two hundred and fifty men and ten officers had been told off as a storming party to serve with the Third Division in attacking Chapultepec. Captain McKenzie, of the Second Artillery, was to be the commander.

Old Sergeant Mulligan figured among the happy ones accepted.

"Hooray! Thirty years I've worn the uniform, an' to-morrow 'll be the best day o' my life. Ah, boys! I'd climb that hill by meself wid only a shilaly, rather 'n stay below."

"You have the luck of the mess, sergeant," they admitted. "Now, couldn't you sneak a few of us along with you,?"

"Faith, mebbe there'll be work for you the same. Not into the city we are yet. But I'll have a grand view of it from atop the big buildin' high on yon rock."

Except for the two hundred and sixty as storming column, the First Division was to remain below in reserve. That was a disappointment. Jerry heard himself growling about it with the others. Hannibal had not got in on the attack either—but Hannibal had been with the storming column of September 8, when the mill and Casa-Mata had yielded, and he ought to be willing to give place to somebody else. Captain Gore, and Lieutenant Smith, and Lieutenant Grant had missed out also. The Fourth Regiment had supplied Lieutenants Rogers and Maloney; and Company B had supplied Sergeant Mulligan, the "top" sergeant of the whole division.

Jerry cogitated. The column had been made up—was under orders to report to General Pillow be—fore the engagement in the morning. There seemed no hope for the rest of them.

The night was rather noisy, with considerable skirmishing by outposts, and a constant movement upon the hill, as though the enemy was getting ready, too, for the morrow.

In the pink of the morning the bombardment by the heavy batteries reopened. General Twiggs' guns, on the roads from the south to the city gates, likewise went into action. The Mexicans were trying to reinforce Chapultepec again, and they had occupied a long trench behind the wall at the foot of the cypress grove just east of the mill.

The two heavy batteries here, one in the mill and one south of it, were firing away upon Chapultepec, but General Pillow made other preparations. He stationed two pieces from Magruder's First Artillery battery, under Second Lieutenant Thomas J. Jackson, to watch the same cavalry column that had threatened in the northwest at the battle of September 8 and now seemed inclined to come ins. And he directed that two of Lieutenant Reno's mountain howitzers (of the Callender battery which had won fame at Contreras) be placed to shell the Mexican long trench.

The storming column of the First Division stood formed, carrying scaling ladders, fascines or bunches of fagots for filling ditches, pickaxes and crowbars. The Voltigeurs and the Ninth and Fifteenth Infantry under General Cadwalader were to support the storming column. The Eleventh and the Fourteenth were to support Lieutenant Jackson's battery section and head off the cavalry gathered in the northwest. The other regiment of the Third Division, the Twelfth Infantry, and the Third Dragoons had been left to guard Tacubaya and one of the supply bases south.

Soon after breakfast another American column appeared, marching in for the south side of Chapultepec. It Was the General Persifor Smith brigade of General Twiggs' Second Division: the First Artillery, the Third Infantry, and the Mounted Rifles afoot. The Quitman Fourth Division of Volunteers and Marines and the Smith brigade were to assault the rock of Chapultepec from the south and the southeast, while the Pillow men assaulted it from the west. The Colonel Riley brigade of the Second Division—the Fourth Artillery, the Second Infantry and the Seventh Infantry, with Taylor's First Artillery battery and Steptoe's battery of the Fourth

Second Lieutenant Thomas J. Jackson became the celebrated "Stonewall" Jackson, Confederate general in the Civil War. Artillery—were to hammer the south gates as a blind.

The army for action numbered about seven thousand. The Mexicans were supposed to be defending Chapultepec with seven batteries and seven breast-works, manned by two thousand to six thousand troops. And Santa Anna had fifteen or twenty thousand troops in reserve.

The wait proved very long. The heavy batteries thundered, sprinkling the castle of Chapultepec and the entrenchments with solid shot and shell. The Lieutenant Reno howitzers paid especial attention to the wall at the foot of the hill and the ditch behind it. The roof-tops of Tacubaya and of all the buildings extending along the Tacubaya road to Chapultepec were black with spectators; the walls and roofs of the City of Mexico were crowded like the seats of an amphitheater.

The sun was high when, at a quarter to eight o'clock on this morning of September 13, two aides galloped out from General Scott's headquarters in Tacubaya. Down they came, the one straight for the Quitman column, the other for the mill. They paused an instant to say something to the heavy batteries, and continued at full speed.

"General Pillow! The commander-in-chief's compliments, and he directs that when the batteries cease firing, in a few minutes, you will at once proceed with your column to the attack."

General Pillow faced his troops.

"Attention! We are about to storm the hill, my lads. We shall take it with the bayonet in thirty minutes, remember."


Suddenly every battery was quiet. The silence fell like a blanket.

"Voltigeurs, forward! Run!"

In two detachments, led by Colonel Andrews and Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph E. Johnston, the eight companies of Voltigeurs or Light Riflemen sprang out, rifles at a trail.

"Ready, Captain McKenzie. Ready, General Cadwalader."

Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston's detachment had charged on the right for a break made by the howitzers in the wall. The Colonel Andrews detachment charged straight ahead. So quick they all were that they had received only one volley from the ditch at the edge of the cypresses before the Johnston men were through the break and inside the defenses, and the Andrews men were scrambling over the wall itself. The ditch had been enfiladed in a twinkling; the Mexican infantry dived out and scampered into the trees.

The howitzers changed fire to the trees; one gun limbered up to advance by rushes

"Stormers and infantry, forward! Double tune!"

General Pillow dashed on with them upon his horse. The storming column, bearing their fascines or fagot bundles and ladders—two men to a ladder—passed close to the Fourth Infantry. Without a word Jerry darted from place (he simply could stand still no longer) and beating his drum ran to the head of the platoons.

He thought that he heard shouts-angry shouts; but he did not care. His heart was thumping and the heavy batteries had opened again, deluging Chapultepec; so he may not have heard.

Captain McKenzie espied him.

"What's this? What are you doing here?"

"You'll need a drummer, sir."

"Who sent you in?"

"Nobody, sir."

"Then go back immediately. Fall out!"

Jerry stepped aside; the column hurried by. He beard another voice. It was that of Sergeant Mulligan.

"Sure," said the sergeant, with a wink, "we've no time to waste argufyin'. Wance in the trees, an' nobody'll see ye."

Captain McKenzie was before and busy; probably had forgotten all about the matter. The other officers also had eyes and ears mainly for the front. The Cadwalader regiments were close behind. In the scramble over the wall there was a mixup. Jerry stuck. Worming on again he made for the storming column once more.

Rifles and muskets were cracking ahead. The Voltigeurs, searching the trees, yelled and fired; the enemy replied. The storming column, outstripped in the race, pressed faster. Assuredly in this hubbub no one would bother about a drummer boy.

General Pillow on his horse pushed to the fore. The Mexican skirmishers and the infantry from the ditch could be glimpsed, scurrying out of the timber for shelter higher up. The howitzers were coming—they tore through, horses tugging, cannoneers shoving, and from above the Mexican guns were throwing grape and shell down the hill into the wood. The boughs of the trees cracked and slithered; the twigs flew.

The storming column, laden with the ladders and fascines and tools, did not move as rapidly as the light riflemen. Jerry, excited to his finger tips, scarcely knew what he was doing, but he wished to get out of that awful mess of falling trees and blinding smoke. Soon he found himself up with the Voltigeurs, as they emerged into the rock-strewn open at the farther edge of the wood.

Now there was a redoubt or system of fortified entrenchments halfway on to the castle. That it was which was pouring out the canister and shell to sweep the slope below it. General Pillow's horse reared and turned, while the general tried to control it and shout his orders. The Voltigeurs, leaping from boulder to boulder, taking what shelter they could get, left a wake of dead and disabled. This fire from above was fearful—a constant stream of lead and iron. Was the attack to be stopped? Where were the stormers and the two regiments of infantry? Toiling up as fast as they could.

General Pillow toppled free from his horse, which bolted. Jerry reached him where he had half set up bleeding from a grape shot through his chest, and supported by an aide.

"The reserve, quick!" he gasped. "Where's Worth's aide? Tell him to have Worth bring up his whole division and make great haste or he'll be too late."

The group scattered. Jerry, legging recklessly, as luck would have it met Lieutenant Wood, General Worth's aide, galloping in.

"Lieutenant Wood! Here, sir. General Pillow asks help. The whole division, sir. Quick!"

"Did he say so?" demanded, Lieutenant Wood, reining short.

"Yes, sir. He's wounded."

"Who are you?"

"Jerry Cameron, sir; drummer, Company B, Fourth Infantry."

Lieutenant Wood whirled his horse and sped down for the mill. Jerry panted back for General Pillow, but the general had not waited. The Voltigeurs were acting as if crazy. They were shouting "Vengeance! Vengeance!" and were charging the redoubt, a squad of them carrying General Pillow on a stretcher of rifles and a blanket. He had refused to be taken rearward.

The rocky slope below the redoubt was alive with the riflemen, yelling, firing, stooping and rushing. But they slowed up—they took to cover—they could not outface the blast of musketry and grape. What next? Huzzah! Here was the support at last: the storming column and the Fifteenth Infantry. With a cheer and a volley the Fifteenth charged, bayonets leveled, straight for the redoubt, while the two howitzers, hauled by their cannoneers, unlimbered against the north angle, and the Voltigeurs rallied to storm from the right.

On went Jerry behind the gallant Fifteenth. The Fifteenth piled in, the Mexicans broke in flight to the north and the city. Jerry piled in. A Mexican officer had stooped to touch a slaw-match to the fuse of a mine, but the musket balls hurled him aside, wounded.

The redoubt had been seized. What now? The ranks looked small, the castle wall was far above. The charge had advanced only half distance to it. The storming column had dropped their ladders in their mad race to join the fighting. Here cane General Cadwalader to take command, his horse of oa m. While waiting for the ladders with which to scale the castle wails, the men distributed themselves as best they could for shelter from the plunging fire of the castle. They and the howitzers replied briskly. But here came the panting, cheering Ninth, bringing the ladders.

The heavy batteries in the valley were still bombarding the castle.

"The enemy's weakening, men! Forward!" General Cadwalader shouted. He may not have been heard; the men knew, anyway. The Voltigeurs, led on their left by Colonel Andrews, on their right by Lieutenant-Colonel Joe Johnston, plunged into the open, to fight up the steep slope to the castle.

The storming column was hot after; deploying, the Ninth and the Fifteenth followed hard. Jerry, shouting and beating his drum regardless of tune, ran with the rest. They were not going to wait for the reinforcements from the First Division. Off to the south another battle raged, where the Quitman men were busy.

The front line worked its way clear to the outer wall of the castle. There the Colonel Andrews Voltigeurs crouched in holes and behind rocks and picked off the gunners and sharpshooters upon the parapets. The detachment under Lieutenant-Colonel Joe Johnston filed rapidly to the right for the southern face of the wall. Cheers drifted up from below. The reinforcements were nearing.

But the stormers and the Ninth and Fifteenth, with the ladders, arrived first. The Voltigeurs had been halted by a wide deep ditch at the foot of the wall. The bundles of f ascines were passed forward and tossed into the ditch by the stormers for path-ways; squads of men rushed with the ladders; fell; rushed again—Look! Lieutenant Armistead, of the volunteer stormers from the Sixth Regiment, had planted his ladder! Down he sank, wounded—his men swarmed up neveetheless—other ladders were in place—some lurched aside or were hurled back—the Mexicans upon the walls threw hand grenades, stabbed with swords and bayonets and fired downward, but men were climbing to them hand over hand like monkeys, paused for an instant to shoot and stab and club, then disappeared. By tens and twenties the files mounted and leaped over, faster and faster; and the next thing that Jerry knew he was inside, himself.

Huzzah! The reinforcements had joined. They were the Clarke Second Brigade—they bore the colors of the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Infantry. Jerry dimly saw Hannibal in the ranks of the Eighth. There was a company of the Quitman New Yorkers, also—and of Marines, who somehow had got mixed in with the right of the brigade on the way up.

The space within the walls on the west and southwest of the castle formed a large yard. All the yard fumed with smoke from the belching castle and from the return fire.

The Reno howitzers had been dragged in, the captured guns of the outer wall were being reversed. The storming squads with the ladders ran, heads down, across the yard for the castle walls; the Voltigeurs and the infantry regiments (the New York company and the Marines, too) fired furiously from cover or in the open, helping the cannon drive the castle defenders from parapets and windows. The clangor was prodigious.

Jerry seemed to see everything at once: the struggling flags, the waving swords of the officers, the figures, rising, falling, rising and charging on; the red caps of the Mexican soldiery and the pompons of the boy cadets fringing the parapets and the windows; the cannon and the muskets smoking, and the bodies now and then sprawling in a lax heap.

Huzzah! Somebody was up—an officer in blue, his head bare, the flag of the Eighth Infantry at his back. He was Second Lieutenant Joseph Selden, of Hannibal's company. A moment he stood, but for only a moment. Down he fell, sweeping his party from the ladder. The wall had been saved. Not for long, though! Huzzah! The great embroidered flag of the castle had drooped; a grape shot had severed its staff. No—it was hoisted again; a slender little fellow—a Mexican military cadet—had wriggled up the staff and refastened the banner. Brave boy! The troops cheered him.

Now there was another, louder cheer. The parapets were being occupied by fighting blue coats. Two flags had been planted: a Voltigeur flag and a New York flag, upon a terrace, by two officers. The Voltigeur officer was Captain Barnard; the New Yorker was said to be Lieutenant Mayne Reid. The men were battling their way through, everywhere—into the doors and windows and over the portico and the cornices. Another officer—Major Seymour, of the. Ninth—springing high, tore down the Mexican colors from the broken $tall; the Stars and Stripes rose in their place.

The Mexican soldiers were crying "Quarter!" or fleeing. Among them were many of the cadets. There was another hearty cheer; the banners of New York, South Carolina and Pennsylvania were tossing over a mass of blue jostling through a breach in the out-walls on the south and southeast, and charging into the yard. General Shields was here, his left arm reddened.

The castle of Chapultepec had been taken, but heavy firing continued in the east. The Marines and the General Persifor Smith brigade, of the Second Division, were being held by batteries down toward the road on that side. The cannon of the castle were turned in that direction; they and muskets and rifles volleyed into the backs of the enemy. Now the Marines were fighting hand to hand with the nearest battery. The Mexicans burst from the breast-works, went streaming for the northeast and the city. The Marines came on.

"Cease firing! Cease firing, men!" Officers were running around, striking up the musket barrels with the flats of their swords. "It's all over. Don't fight; cheer. Leave those poor wretches alone."