Into Mexico with General Scott - Edwin Sabin

An Interrupted Toilet

The orders were to clean up, as if for inspection and parade. General Worth was sending word forward to the city council of Puebla, giving notice that he intended to occupy the city at once. Evidently he wished to march in in style to make a showing, for Puebla was the second largest city in Mexico.

Jerry played in luck. He had kept his new uniform in the best of shape. It would get shabby soon enough, like the other uniforms. His drum shone. So he was done with his prinking early. The men generally were taking their time, to rest and munch fruit. When he asked permission to go for a stroll, Drum Major Brown said, having eyed him and seen nothing wrong:

"All right. Report in thirty minutes."

Tommy Jones, another smart drummer boy, from Company I, joined him.

"What you lugging your drum for, Jerry?"

"So nobody'll spatter mud on it, of course."

"You're a greenie yet," Tom asserted. "When you've carried a drum as long as I have you'll be mighty glad to drop it."

"Well, I sha'n't leave it, just the same. Some of those fellows would put up a job on me to see how much I'll stand."

Jerry continued, with his precious drum. The mud-fenced corral was an odd sight as he and Tom hastened through to the gate. The men finally had settled to work. They were in all stages of undress: some of them were washing their faces and handkerchiefs and shirts at the watering troughs, some were shaving, some were sitting and polishing their jacket buttons with their "buff sticks," which held each button in a slot while rag and powder were used; some were shining their buckles, or whitening their cross-belts with soap-stone, or cleaning their shoes; and a number had their muskets apart and were scouring the rust and dirt from locks, barrels and bayonets.

Pompey was hard at it on the outfits of Lieutenant Smith and Lieutenant Grant.

"Where you gwine, stripes?" he demanded. "'Peahs hike you drummers ain't got nothin' to do. I shuah'd laike to jine the music. Jest tootle an' thumpity-thump while we-all work. Where you gwine now, so importinent? Mebbe Santy Anne done sent fo' you to s'render."

"Mind you shine those buttons or you'll get a whaling," Jerry answered. "I'll be back to inspect."

"You go 'long, stripes," growled Pompey. "I ain't no so jer. I'se with the offercers. Who you, to be so uppity? All stripes an' no rank; that you!"

With Tom, Jerry hurried out.

"Pobrecitos! Aqui, pobrecitos—here, poor little boys," the kind-hearted women greeted, inviting them to eat. But they had no time for that if they wished to see the town.

Somehow, the people of Amozoc were overcordial to an enemy. The North Americans were invading their country—at Cerro Gordo probably had killed Volunteers from this very place; and vet the citizens smiled and bowed as if to friends. It struck Jerry as a game; he couldn't put much stock in all that palaver. He remembered the two Manuels.

The town was not anything great to look at. It manufactured saddles and fine inlaid spurs, and the best building was the principal church. The church sat inside a fenced yard shaded by immense yew trees covered with crimson-flowering vines—very curious. Two or three officers were gazing about and talking with the priests. The doors were open. Taking off his cap Jerry sidled in; Tom followed.

"Dare you to climb that," Tom challenged.

It was a ladder, seen through the doorway of a closet in one corner, and extending almost straight up into the belfry.

"Never take a dare You watch me," said Jerry. "I'll hold your drum."

"No, you won't!"

Lugging the drum slung behind him, Jerry was out of breath when he emerged into the dusty belfry, beside the great copper bell. But he was glad that he had come. What a view! He could see the road, in the east, connecting with the plateau that they had crossed from El Phial; he could see the top of Pizarro Peak at Perote; and he didn't know but that he could see the dust of the Second Brigade and the Quitman Mohawks coming on one day's march late.

He crept around the bell, and could see the brigade camp below. The men, like specks, were washing up and mending clothes and whitening belts in the corral and in the plaza where the artillery companies had been quartered. He could see the specks of pickets, posted at the edge of town. There in the west were snowy Popocatepetl and Iztaccihautl, sentinels over the Halls of Montezuma. And there, on this side of them, was the city of Puebla of the Angels, sparkling in the afternoon sun.

Then, as his eyes traveled, they lighted upon a real dust cloud, slightly in the north, between Amozoc and Puebla.

The cloud was advancing; yes, and rapidly. Whew! Cavalry, sure as shooting. Mexican lancers! No other horsemen could be expected from that direction, not in such a mass. The outpost guards had not seen them yet.

Like lightning Jerry twitched his drumsticks from his belt, jerked his drum to the fore, and beat the long roll. R-r-r-r-r-r-r! R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! And R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! The stunning noise in the hollow belfry deafened him. It must have fallen like a thunder clap upon the ears of the camp. As he plied the drumsticks with his two hands he saw that the grouped specks had frozen stone still, as if staring about to locate the alarm.

He didn't delay. Down he slid, down the ladder, never caring how he landed—and he landed plump into somebody's arms. They were Lieutenant McClellan's.

"You young rascal! What's the meaning of this racket? Who authorized you?"

"The enemy, sir!" Jerry panted, not waiting. "They're coming."

"How do you know?"

"I saw their dust—"


"Between here and Puebla,—about five miles out—lancers, sir."

Away ran Lieutenant McClellan.

McClellan, Mexican War


"Golly.!" blurted Tom, who had been listening with his mouth open. He, too, ran, and Jerry after. They got to the corral just in time. All the town had seemed to be excited, the pickets were firing alarm shots, the long rolls were beating for artillery and infantry, officers and men were hustling, and in the corral the Fourth Infantry was falling in, helter skelter, the soldiers wrestling into their trousers and jackets and shoes, buckling on their belts and cartridge boxes, seizing their muskets.

An aide spurred through the corral gate.

"Colonel Garland! Oh, Colonel Garland! The general directs that you take, four companies of the Fourth, unite with the Second Artillery, and commanding in person, march out upon the Puebla road until in touch with the enemy or he has been dispersed."

Captain Nichols, the adjutant, rapidly called the companies: A, B, E. I. Company B was into it! Jerry sprang to his place. Drummer and fifer stuck to their company on detached duty like this.

"Company B, by the right flank! Right face! Company, forward—march!" Captain Gore bawled.

In double file (two ranks formation) Company A marched out through the corral gate.

"By platoon, into line! Quick—march! Guide right."

The other companies were close before and behind. The Second Artillery, serving as infantry, was double-quicking from the plaza, under Major Galt. Two guns of Colonel Duncan's battery issued at a gallop. In the plaza the remaining two cannon were being hauled at top speed to opposite corners to face the streets.

At quick step the Colonel Garland detachment, with the guns trundling at the rear, headed for the Puebla road. And a funny spectacle the detachment made: loose shoes flopping, jackets askew and half buttoned, belts dangling, caps wrong side before, muskets not all put together yet, and many of the men only partly washed and shaved.

The cloud of dust was plain and much nearer. The Mexicans appeared to be swinging around, northward, as if bent upon cutting the road east of Amozoc. They could be seen easily: a great column of lancers—looked to be two or three thousand, all at a trot, their yellow cloaks streaming, their red jackets glimmering, their lance points, muskatoons and trappings flashing.

"Form company! First platoon, right oblique!"


"Company, right turn—double quick—march!"

The detachment was marching straight for the lancers; down came the lancers, massing for a charge.

"Column—halt!" Adjutant Nichols shouted.

"Form square—right and left into line—quick march—wheel!"

With rumble and thud and cheer the two guns of Flying Battery A dashed to the fore. They were unlimbered and turned in a jiffy. The gunners waved their slow matches, or linstocks, to brighten the spark. The cannon were lined and pointed—an instant more and with a gush and a boom a solid shot had whistled toward the gay lancers. Another—and another. Whish! That was grape, and the lancers scattered. One more dose of the murderous grape and they had whirled, every man—they were scouring like mad back for Puebla, a general (by his epaulets) striving in vain to rally them. He was carried along with the rest.

"Santa Anna! There goes Santa Anna!"

It was only a guess, but it proved true. Later news said that General Santa Anna himself had gathered cavalry, infantry and artillery at Puebla, in order to stop the American advance; he had left the infantry and artillery there, while with the lancers he rode to cut off General Worth's Second Brigade from the First Brigade. In El Pinal Pass, for instance, he might have done the job nicely. But he had chosen the wrong time. A "rascal" of a drummer boy had seen him from the church steeple.

After all it was not much of a brush. Colonel Garland took his column into Amozoc again and arms were stacked; but the day was drawing to a close and there was no more prinking. The camp had to keep on the alert, with strong guards out, for the Mexicans might be up to more tricks.

In consequence of being half dirty and half clean the men really looked worse than ever.

General Worth waited for the Colonel Clarke brigade and the Quitman Volunteers to join him. They arrived the next morning. General Quitman brought only two regiments, the New Yorkers and Second Pennsylvanians. The First Pennsylvania (Colonel Wynkoop's "Dutch" regiment) had been left at Perote. As for the other Mohawks

"Did you know that Old Fuss and Feathers hasn't more than six thousand men all told?" Hannibal demanded, after first greetings.


"That's right. We've lost five thousand Mohawks since you left Perote. Got only the First and Second Pennsylvania, the Palmettos and the New Yorkers. The others were twelve-months men and their time is out soon. The Alabaman and Georgians are still at Vera Cruz; and at Jalapa General Scott let the Third and Fourth Illinois and the Tennesseeans and Kentuckians go. They said they'd stay till the last day, but then they wouldn't re-enlist; they wanted to get home. So he thought they'd better start right away, before the yellow fever got bad at Vera Cruz. We're garrisoning Jalapa and Perote, and that's all. Have a big sick list and a lot of desertions, too, but not as many as in Texas and northeast Mexico. Up there the Mexicans kept tolling the men over by promising high pay and officers' jobs'Some of 'em are fighting under Santa Anna now, I bet, because they're afraid to come back. If they're captured they'll be shot or hanged."

"Where's General Scott?"

"He's coming from Jalapa with the Second Division. General Pillow's gone to Vera Cruz to look after reinforcements, and General Patterson has gone home because he hasn't men enough for a division. I suppose Quitman or Pillow will command the Mohawks now. So you fellows didn't have much of brush with those lancers, you say?"

"No. They ran off."

"Well, you did your best, boy. You gave the alarm. I guess those smart officers will quit calling us 'fly drummer boys.' Anyhow, hope we beat the Second Division into Puebla. There's no use in this whole division sitting here, only ten miles out. We don't need the Second."

The restles's General Worth decided the same thing. The scouts who reconnoitred reported that all Santa Anna's forces in Puebla had vanished on the road to the City of Mexico; the mayor of Puebla sent the same word. Before noon the First Division and the Quitman two regiments of Mohawks marched for Puebla. The day was May i 5.

A short distance out of Puebla the mayor and city council met General Worth to escort him in. There was to be no fight. The road changed to a magnificent paved highway leading between pillars of shining stone like colored marble.

"Close order—march!"

Those were the company orders. The ranks closed up and the men took to the cadenced step, all feet moving to the taps of the drums.

"Column, close in mass—quick—march!"

Each company closed in upon the company before, so that there was a solid column of platoons, every musket at a right shoulder shift, every foot planted in unison with the other feet


This did not prevent the men from glancing aside, as they marched shoulder to shoulder. The tune for the fifes and drums was Yankee Doodle but the regimental bands played Washington's March.

The paved road led through a broad gateway in the city wall. The top of the wall had been crowded with Pueblans, and now the streets were lined with more, and the balconies of the buildings were fringed with men and women gaily dressed, peering over to see the North Americans. The women waved their handkerchiefs and fans, the men flashed white teeth while they puffed their cigarettes and made remarks.

It was a pity that the toilet at Amozoc had been interrupted. Many of the muskets were still stained from the battle of Cerro Gordo and the rains; some of the rank and file had not had time to shave. Uniforms were dingy, belts half whitened or whitened not at all, the buttons and buckles and the band instruments were tarnished. Yes, and faces were not especially clean, for the grime of the marches through dust and mud was deep. Besides, a number of the soldiers had been ill.

It was evident that the Pueblans were disappointed. They had expected to see glitter and show as in their own troops, instead of this collection of thin, long-haired, shabbily dad troops marching under rain-stained, wind-torn flags.

But no troops in the world could have marched with better discipline. This was a veteran division, even the Mohawks. Those holes in the flags were bullet holes, the stains were powder stains. Cerro Gordo was behind, so was Perote, here was Puebla, and the next entry would be that into the City of Mexico.

Halt was made in the large plaza, in the very center of the city, bordered on one side by the great palace or governor's house, six hundred feet long, and on another by the cathedral, coveting a block. The Pueblans surrounded the plaza in dense ranks, staring and commenting. General Worth showed not the slightest hesitation. The division stacked arms here, cannon were placed at the corners, guards were posted, and the companies dismissed. It was a pleasant spot. The men comfortably stretched out. They were only three thousand Americans in the midst of sixty thousand Mexicans, with the whole Mexican army somewhere about; but in a few minutes two-thirds of them were sound asleep.