Into Mexico with General Scott - Edwin Sabin

Jerry Makes a Tour

The norther certainly was slackening off, as if it had blown itself out. The wind died to a fitful breeze, and this itself finally ceased. There was a dead calm. Overhead the stars sparkled again. It seemed to be a great relief to everything—this calm, after the lashing and the howling and the general strain. Only the gulf surf roared dully in the distance.

Now voices sounded, right and left and behind, as if the American camp had aroused and the men, were issuing from their coverts. They had weathered the storm. Jerry carefully raised, to look. He could see the occasional flash of a lantern. Then he lay down. In the calm he was more exhausted than ever. That had been a tough trail through the brush, fighting the wind at every step. Before he knew, he was asleep, beside the snoring sailor; and the next that he knew, he was awakened into gray dawn by a bustle around him.

Where was he? Oh, yes; he was safe with the Americans. So he got up, shook himself, and took stock.

He was still out in the plain, instead of at the edge of the dunes; the trench which sheltered him was six feet wide and the same in depth, and was screened by brush outside the dirt thrown out. It ran right and left, as if connecting with other trenches. Figures of sailors and their officers bur tied back and forth, scarcely noticing him. There were gruff orders. He had to see what was going on; so he fell in with the busy files, and in a moment he had arrived at the breech of an enormous cannon, surrounded by sailors stripped to the waist and tugging and heaving to move the cannon into place.

Beyond it there was another cannon, already in place, its muzzle pointing out through sandbags, its squatty solid iron frame resting upon little wheels which fitted a pair of iron rails bolted to a plank turn-table upon a platform. Beyond that was still another great gun. And to the rear there was the sand-bagged roof of a low hut, sunk deeply almost on the level with the surface of the ground. This was a battery, then; and that probably was the powder house—the magazine. And all had been dug out, and erected, here, between the dunes and Vera Cruz, in point-blank range of the walls I

By the hurry and bustle something was going to happen very soon. A smart naval officer in blue and gold, with sword drawn, was overseeing the work of setting the first gun into position. A boatswain, his shirt open upon his hairy chest and a whistle dangling at the end of a cord, was bossing. Everybody was a sailor, so it must be the naval battery.

The boatswain saw Jerry staring; and he stared likewise.

"Hi! What you doin' here, young 'un?"

"Just watching," said Jerry.

"Where you from?"

"Vera Cruz. But I'm an American."

"Shiver my tops'ls!" uttered the boatswain; and the other sailors briefly paused to wipe their brows and grin. "A bloomin' American from Very Cruz." He saluted the officer. "Recruit for the navy, sir. What shall I do with him?"

"Send him to the rear. This is no place for boys," rapped the officer. "What's your name, lad?"

"Jerry Cameron."

"How did you get in here?"

"I ran away from Vera Cruz last night. I don't belong there."

"Too much Yankee music in that city, eh?"

"Yes, sir. It's awful."

"Well, it will be worse. If you've come to join the band you'll have to go to the rear. We can't take care of you here. Things will open lively in a short time, now."

And as if to prove his words the air shook, a dull boom sounded, a louder boom rolled from the dunes. Vera Cruz had awakened to action again.

"You follow that trench and keep going," the officer ordered. "March, before your head's blown off."

"Boom—Bang!" A great mass of sand and brush spouted up not fifty yards to the front, and the shock sent everyone staggering. A shell from Vera Cruz had landed near indeed. "Boom—Bang!" That was another. The Mexican batteries were trying.

"Handspikes, there! Put a block under that transom, bo's'n," barked the officer, never noticing.

"Aye, aye, sir!" The men jumped to their work. Jerry turned and headed back through the trench. He was glad that he was not to be in Vera Cruz this day. Those guns looked mean.

The trench, higher than his crown and wider than he was tall, led obliquely toward the dunes. To have cut such a trench must have been a prodigious job—and the queer part was, that from Vera Cruz the work had not been seen.

Judging by deep wheel tracks the cannon had been dragged through the trench, to the front.

For a little way he met nobody. Now the shells from the city and castle were bursting all around him, wellnigh deafening him; and from a distance the American guns were replying. Next, he came to a squad of sailors, sitting in a side gallery and eating breakfast. They hailed him.

"Ahoy! Where bound, young 'un?"

"Nowhere," Jerry answered.

"Heave to, then, and come aboard with your papers. Where you from?"

"Vera Cruz."

"Lay alongside." So Jerry turned in. "What's your colors? Speak sharp. Report to the admiral."

"Red, white and blue," asserted Jerry.

"Blow me, but he is American, by the cut of his jib," one of them exclaimed. "Where's your convoy, young sloop-o'-war?"

"Nowhere. I ran away last night."

"Homeward bound in ballast. Can't you see he's floating clean above loading mark?" said another. "He's empty, to his keel. Fall to, my hearty. Line your lockers."

They were a jovial party, grimy with sand and sweat, their blue sailor shirts open, their faces red and their big hands tarry and scarred. They passed him hard biscuit and meat and a cup of coffee—and every now and again the earth shook to the explosion of a shell. While they were asking him questions about himself, and Vera Cruz, and the Mexicans ( for whom they appeared to feel much scorn) there was a fresh hullaballoo, somewhere in the main trench. Up they sprang, to crowd and gaze.

"Another pill-tosser to feed the Wallin' dons," they cried. "Hooray!"

And here, through the trench, there came one of the great naval guns: first, rounding an elbow, a long double file of sailors, stripped to the waist, leaning low to a rope and tugging like horses; then the breech of the gun, then high wheels upon which it had been mounted, with other sailors wrestling at them; then the immensely long barrel, with still other sailors pushing at this clear to the muzzle.

A bo's'n trudged beside, urging the work. When the gun stuck for a moment crowbars were thrust under the wheels

"Heave-ho! Together, now! Heave-ho!"

"Aye, aye! Heave-ho!"

"Heave, my bullies!"

And they panted a song:

"'Way down Rio, Rio, Rio!

'Way down Rio, Oh!"

The gun went surging by.

"We'll be needed up for'd, maties," said one of the sailor squad. "Young 'un, you set your course the direction you were steering."

They mopped their mouths with the backs of their tarry fists and lurched on after the cannon.

Jerry proceeded. Next, but not much farther, the trench was cut by another trench, crossing it at right angle and extending without end on either hand. This trench on right and left was lined with blue-capped, blue-coated soldiers, crouching low, or daringly peering through openings they had made in the ridge of sand thrown out in front of the trench, their long-barreled muskets leaning against the wall, beside them. Jerry kept on, following the wheel tracks.

His trench grew shallow; and the wheel tracks wound through low places amidst the dunes. He left the trench behind him. Next, he began to see soldiers in squads—messing, shaking their blankets free of sand, clearing out small trenches that had almost filled during the storm; and so forth and so forth. And tents, some blown flat and being hoisted again; and the United States flags, and regimental flags; and stacks of muskets in rows.

The soldiers appeared to be of the rough-and-ready order; many of them bearded or stubbly, their uniforms worn carelessly, their caps set at an angle; some were barefoot, as if easing their feet; some had on shoes, and some had one trouser-leg tucked into a boot-top; and several who seemed ill were sitting enveloped in Mexican blankets.

They were singing—these soldiers—in groups, as they lolled or worked at various tasks; singing not very musically, but gaily:

"Green grow the rushes, O!

Green grow the rushes, O!

The sweetest hours that e'er I spend

Are spent among the lasses, O!"

That was the chorus of one group nearest to Jerry, as he sidled through the camp. It was not much of a song, although as good as most of the Mexican songs. He saw a flag, of blue and gold, which said "First Tennessee Volunteers." A soldier was shaking it out from its folds.

"Well, I'm in the army, anyway," Jerry thought, to himself. "But I guess I'll go on, to the beach, and see what's there."

So although the men hailed him, as the sailors had, only in different language, he shook his head and did not stop.

Pretty soon he came to a cleaner camp, within easy sight of the surf beyond the dunes, and of the ships at anchor off Sacrificios. There were many soldiers, here, too, but more orderly and better clothed. The camp appeared to stretch clear to the beach; and while he was wandering and gazing, somebody challenged him

It was another boy, in uniform—a red-headed boy, spick and span and as smart as a new whip. "Hey, you! What you doing?"

He wore a tight blue jacket and lighter blue trousers; the front of the jacket was crossed by a lot of red braid, a high collar held his chin up, upon his head was perched a jaunty blue, red-decorated round cap with leather visor, and a short sword hung at his right thigh.

"Nothing special," Jerry answered back.

"Come over till I investigate. We don't allow camp followers in the lines."

Jerry went over.

"I'm not a camp follower," he retorted. The soldiers who heard, laughed.

"Then what's your regiment?"

"Haven't any, yet. I left Vera Cruz only last night."

"You did! Huh! That's a likely yarn: How'd you get into the lines, then?"

"Just walked. I skipped out, over the wall, and crossed the plain in the storm."

"What'd you skip out for?"

"Because I'm an American. I don't like it in Vera Cruz."

"Guess you didn't. Guess nobody does—and they'll all like it less, to-day. We're to give 'em a jolly good shaking up. Got any folks?"


"Anybody come with you?"


"Well, what's your name?"

"Jerry Cameron."

"That sounds all right. What did you do in Vera Cruz?"

"Lived there with my father until he died from yellow fever. Then I worked for two Mexicans, until I had a chance to run away."

"Mind you don't lie."

"I'm not lying. Should, think you could see I'm American."

"Guess you are. Guess you're O.K. Jerry. I'm Hannibal Moss, drummer boy, Company A, Eighth United States Infantry," said the boy, with a little swagger of importance. "That's what. Best company in the best fighting regiment of the whole army. What you intend to do? Join us?"

"I'd like to, mighty well."

"Where've you been since you got in?"

"Out there with the sailors and the big guns. That's where I landed. But they sent me back."

"Oh, that's the navy battery. What'd you think ofit?"

"They're the biggest guns I ever saw."

"Guess they are. Guess they'll fix those dons—blow their walls tq pieces. They're sixty-eight-pounder shell guns and thirty-two-pounder solid shot fellows. You bet! The army's got some just as big, but they haven't come yet, so the navy's going to help us out. We've a battery of twenty-four-pounders out there, though. Only seven hundred yards from the walls. Wait till you hear the music."

"The walls haven't been hurt yet; or they hadn't been, when I left," said Jerry.

"That's because we weren't ready. We've had to use mortars; but throwing bombs into houses isn't what we're here for. Old Fuss and Feathers—he knows what he's about. That's why he called on the navy, when his own siege guns didn't arrive. He wants to finish things here and march on into the mountains before the yellow fever starts up. Say, it's been pretty hot in Vera Cruz, hasn't it, with all those bombs bursting?"

"It certainly has," Jerry answered soberly. "They've killed people who weren't fighting, and knocked down a lot of houses."

"Well, that's war. The Mexicans ought to have surrendered when they had a chance. They can surrender any time. All they need do is to hang out a white flag. Fuss and Feathers is going to take their city. He doesn't want their houses, though, and I guess he's sorry to hurt non-combatants. The civilians ought to have moved their families out. After we've breached the walls proper and forced terms, we'll have Vera Cruz as a base and we'll march straight to the Halls of Montezuma."

"Who's Fuss and Feathers?"

Hannibal stared.

"You don't know anything about the army, that's sure. Fuss and Feathers is Major-General Winfield Scott, commander-in-chief of the United States army. We call him Fuss and Feathers, for fun. Not when he's around, though. M-m-m! You bet not! He's a stickler for discipline. But he'll take us to the Halls of Montezuma."

"Where are they, Hannibal!"

"My eye, you're green! The Halls of Montezuma are the capitol in the City of Mexico, of course. Guess you've a lot to learn. Want me to show you about? Maybe I can find you a job if you're an American. Looks like you need a suit of clothes—but you aren't much worse than some of those Mohawks are already. Come on; let's walk."

"You see, I'm off duty," Hannibal explained, as he strolled with Jerry in tow. "We had to work half the night, digging trenches. We just got back. Golly, but that was a storm, wasn't it! Filled us up as fast as we could dig out. But no storms are going to stop this army. Say; do you know where you are?"

"In the American army."

"Yes, siree, and in the First Division, too. This is Brigadier-General William J. Worth's division of Regulars: Fourth Infantry, Fifth Infantry, Sixth Infantry, Eighth Infantry, Second and Third Artillery. The Eighth Infantry—that's my regiment—is in the Second Brigade. Colonel Clarke's our commander. Garland's commander of the First Brigade. They're both good men—and so's General Worth. My eye! Isn't he, though! You're lucky to have struck the Regulars. If you'd stayed with the Mohawks—my eye!"

"Who are they, Hannibal?"

"The Volunteers. We call 'em 'Mohawks' because they're so wild. They're General Patterson's division, the Third: the Palmettos—those are the South Carolinans; the First and Second Tennessee Mountaineers; the First and Second Pennsylvania Keystoners; the Second New Yorkers; the Third and Fourth Illinois Suckers; the Georgia Crackers, and the Alabamans. Guess they can fight, but they're awful on discipline. Won't even salute their officers. Expect you passed through them on your way from the naval battery."

The sun had risen, flooding all the chaparral and glinting on the gulf surges beyond the fringing beach. The uproar of the cannon in castle and city had welled to a deep, angry chorus; the American guns were answering; the morning air quivered to the quick explosions; and over city and strip of plain a cloud of black smoke floated higher and higher, veiling the sun itself. Now and then a piece of shell drooned in, skimming the sand hills and kicking up puffs of dust. A round-shot of solid iron actually came rolling down a slope and landed at their very feet. Jerry stooped to feel of it. Ouch! It was still hot.

"Shucks!" Hannibal laughed. "Put it in your pocket." He cocked his cap defiantly. "It's a dead one. When you're in your first battle you think every gun is aimed at you; and after that you don't care."

"You've been in other battles, Hannibal?"

"I should rather say! We're all veterans, in this division. We were with Old Zach—he's General Zachary Taylor—when he licked the dons at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma in Texas last May, and we helped take Monterey in September. We'd have been licking 'em again if we hadn't been sent here with Old Fuss and Feathers."

"But General Taylor's been licked since, hasn't he? At Buena Vista?"

"He? Old Zach? Do you believe that story? It's just a Mexican lie. I wasn't there, but the New Orleans papers say he wasn't licked at all. There can't anybody lick Old Zach. He just wears his old clothes and sits his horse sideways, and tells the men: 'The bayonet, my hardy cocks!' When we joined Old Fuss and Feathers we knew he was all right, too, but we expected to have to dress up and shave. I tell you, there was hustling. Regulations say that officers' and men's hair has got to be cropped—cut short, you know; whiskers can't grow lower than the ears and nobody except the cavalry can wear moustaches. Old Davy—that's General David Twiggs of the Second Division of Regulars—he had a white beard reaching nearly to his waist, and he shaved it all off and cut his hair. Looked funny, too. But the regulations aren't being enforced, after all. We're in Mexico to fight. Wait till you see General Worth's side-whiskers. But let's climb a hill, farther front, and lie down, and I'll show you things. No! Wait a minute. Listen to that cheering. I guess there's news. Come on."

They ran back, toward the camp. Cheers could be heard—beginning at the beach edge of the dunes and traveling inward. The soldiers were running, and gathering. An officer on horseback attended by other mounted officers was riding slowly on, among the dunes and occasionally stopping. Whenever he had paused, fresh cheers arose.

"That's General Worth, and Captain Mackall, division adjutant," Hannibal informed. "Golly! Wonder what's up. Something special."

They hastened until they had joined a crowd of the men, all waiting expectant, for General Worth and party were coming on.

"Mind your eye, now," Hannibal whispered. "If you know how to salute you'd better do it. You're with the Regulars."

The soldiers stiffened' to attention—Hannibal like the rest, and Jerry trying to imitate. Every hand went to a salute. General Worth was as fine a looking man as one might ever see—tall and straight in the saddle, with handsome face, dark complexion, flashing black eyes, and side-whiskers of graying black. Rode perfectly.

He halted again, returning the salute.

"By direction of General Scott you will listen to good news, men," he said.

Whereupon another officer, who evidently was the division adjutant, unfolded a paper, and read:

"The commanding general of the Army of Invasion takes prompt occasion to announce to his fellow soldiers that by battle of February Twenty-second and Twenty-third, at Buena Vista, northeastern Mexico, Major-General Zachary Taylor, with a force of less than forty-five hundred, decisively defeated the Mexican general Santa Anna and twenty-three thousand of the best troops of Mexico. The commanding general desires to congratulate his army upon this great victory of the successful General Taylor.

"By command of Major-General Scott.
"Assistant Adjutant-General."

"Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!" cheered the men. General Worth and staff rode on, leaving excitement in their wake.

"I told you so," Hannibal cried. "Old Zach had mostly Volunteers, too. But that made no difference. And now you've seen Worth. Just like him to publish those orders this way, instead of waiting for parade. And fight? Oh, my! I guess so I"

"I've seen him before," Jerry exclaimed, remembering. "He jumped ashore first when you all landed on the beach."

"He did that. The First Division led and his boat beat and he was first out. But did you see us land? Where were you?"

"Here in these sand hills, cutting brush."

"Wasn't that a landing, though! We set a record. General Scott and Commodore Conner of the navy put twelve thousand men ashore in ten hours, and all we got was wet. Never lost a life. That's discipline for you. Whoo-ee! Listen to those guns talk! The dons are right angry to-day. Guess they've discovered those batteries out in front. Come on, now, if you want to see the fun."

They left the camp; trudged fast until they approached the edge of the dunes, toward the city, crossed a shallow trench or road; that wound along, and climbing to the top of a sand hill were in view of the plain and the Mexican batteries. A number of soldiers were here, watching. They had dug little hollows, as a protection from shell fragments.

The firing had increased. The city and the castle of San Ulloa were shrouded in the dense smoke; the plain was spouting earth and brush, but it was spouting smoke and shot and shell also, for American batteries were replying. And the entrenched line of blue-coats, supporting the artillery, might be glimpsed.

"Those dons are trying to find our guns," asserted Hannibal. "That plain is full of trenches. Golly, but it was a job to dig them. We Regulars, and the Mohawks, too, had to work by night, in shifts; and we got jolly well peppered, you bet. We didn't dare use lanterns; worked by the feel, in the cactus and brush, and the northers near smothered us, besides. We were marched out after dark, and every man grabbed a spade and his orders were to dig a hole eight feet long and five feet wide and six feet deep. When the holes were connected they made a ditch all 'round the city, five miles not counting the sand-bags and parapets and battery emplacements and caves for magazines. Then we and the sailors dragged the guns clear from the beach, three miles and more, through the sand and swamps. We haven't guns enough yet. Only sixteen out of about sixty that the general expected. The most of 'em are ten-inch mortars, and they're no good for breaching walls. The castle's firing thirteen-inch shells at usr—sockdologers! But the navy's helping the army with three six-inch solid-shot guns and three eight-inch Paixhan shell guns, for direct fire into the walls. Wait till that Battery Five opens. It's point-blank range of the walls on this side."

"Is the army all 'round the city?"

"Yes, siree, boy. The First Division has the right of line, starting at the beach. That's ours. Patterson's Third Division Mohawks have the center. They're the Voluntarios. Twigg's Regulars of the Second Division have the left, reaching to the beach on the other side of the city. We've got the Mexicanos cooped up. They can't sneak out."

It was a great sight—those bursting shells and those bounding solid shot, some of which ricochetted to the dunes and rolled hither thither. Now and then shell fragments flew past, and an occasional long-range shell burst behind. The soldiers appeared to enjoy the view. They seemed to know what was coming; they all had been under fire before, and every few moments a shot or shell might be seen sailing above the smoke.

"Look out, boys! There's a bomb—a thirteen-inch, from the castle!"

"Here comes a solid shot. Lie low."

"There's an eight-inch, again."

Suddenly a lull occurred in the shouts and jokes. The men stiffened as they lay poking their heads up. A brilliant group of officers were riding along the shallow trench or road at the inside base of the sand hill parapets. The foremost was a very large man, broad shouldered and erect and towering high upon his horse. He had a square, stern, wrinkled face, smooth shaven except for grey side-whiskers of regulation trim; wore a plumed chapeau upon his grey hair, full uniform of dark blue, with gold buttons in a double row down the front, heavy gold epaulets on the shoulders, and broad gold braid following his trousers seams. A sword in engraved scabbard hung at his left side; his left arm was curiously crooked. A splendid horse bore him proudly.

All the other officers were in full uniform, too, and kept behind him.

"That's Scott! That's General Scott! Old Fuss and Feathers himself!" Hannibal whispered. "Now mind your eye. No foolishness, boy."

General Scott turned his horse and rode boldly right up the sand hill, until he sat looking at the plain and the enemy through his spy-glass. The men promptly stood up, at salute.

"Keep down, keep down, men," he gruffly ordered. "You shouldn't expose yourselves this way."

A solid shot whistled by him, and he never stirred. A shell burst in front, and he never stirred. He sat, gazing.

"Sure, sir, you're exposin' yourself, ain't you?" somebody called.

General Scott snapped his glass together, and smiled grimly. Jerry could see his grey eyes, as he glanced at the man. They were of a keen grey, but kindly. There was something fatherly as well as severe about him.

"Oh, as for that," General Scott answered, "generals, nowadays, can be made of anybody, but men, my lad, are hard to get."

He leisurely rode back to his staff; and how the soldiers cheered!