At 8 A.M. the firing from the former ceased, and the attack commenced.
Continuing Scott Captures Mexico City,
our selection from a special article to volume 17 of the book Great Events by Famous Historians by John Bonner. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Scott Captures Mexico City.
Time: September, 1847
At the head of four thousand cavalry, Alvarez now menaced our left. Duncan watched them come, driving a cloud of dust before them, till they were within close range; then opening with his wonderful rapidity, he shattered whole platoons at a discharge. Worth sent him word to be sure to keep the lancers in check. “Tell General Worth,” was his reply, “to make himself perfectly easy; I can whip twenty thousand of them.” So far as Alvarez was concerned, he kept his word.
On the American right the fight had reached a crisis. Mixed confusedly together, men of all arms furiously attacked the Molino, firing into every aperture, climbing to the roof, and striving to batter in the doors and gates with their muskets. The garrison never slackened their terrible fire for an instant. At length Major Buchanan, of the Fourth, succeeded in bursting open the southern gate; and almost at the same moment Anderson and Ayres, of the artillery, forced their way into the buildings at the northwestern angle. Ayres leaped down alone into a crowd of Mexicans — he had done the same at Monterey — and fell covered with wounds. Our men rushed in on both sides, stabbing, firing, and felling the Mexicans with their muskets. From room to room and house to house a hand-to-hand encounter was kept up. Here a stalwart Mexican hurled down man after man as they advanced; there Buchanan and the Fourth levelled all before them. But the Mexicans never withstood the cold steel. One by one the defenders escaped by the rear toward Chapultepec, and those who remained hung out a white flag. Under Duncan’s fire the Casa Mata had been evacuated, and the enemy was everywhere in full retreat. Twice he rallied and charged the Molino; but each time the artillery drove him back toward Chapultepec, and parties of the light infantry pursued him down the road. Before ten in the morning the whole field was won; and, having blown up the Casa Mata, Worth, by Scott’s order, fell back to Tacubaya.
With gloomy face and averted eye the gallant soldier received the thanks of his chief for the exploits of the morning. His heart was with the brave men he had lost — nearly eight hundred out of less than thirty-five hundred and among them fifty-eight officers, many of whom were his dearest friends. All had fallen in advance of their men, with sword in hand and noble words on their lips. ‘Twas a poor price for these to have stormed Molino del Rey, and cut down nearly a fifth of Santa Anna’s fourteen thousand men. Sadly the General returned to his quarters.
The end was now close at hand. Reconnoissances were carefully made, and, the enemy’s strength being gathered on the southern front of the city, General Scott determined to assail Chapultepec on the west. By the morning of the 12th the batteries were completed, and opened a brisk fire on the castle, without, however, doing any more serious damage than annoying the garrison and killing a few men. The fire was kept up all day; and at night preparations were made for the assault, which was ordered to be made next morning.
At daybreak on the 13th the cannonade began again, as well from the batteries planted against Chapultepec as from Steptoe’s guns, which were served against the southern defenses of the city in order to divert the attention of the enemy. At 8 A.M. the firing from the former ceased, and the attack commenced. Quitman advanced along the Tacubaya road, Pillow from the Molino del Rey, which he had occupied on the evening before. Between the Molino and the castle lay first an open space, then a grove thickly planted with trees; in the latter, Mexican sharpshooters had been posted, protected by an intrenchment on the border of the grove. Pillow sent Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston with a party of voltigeurs to turn this work by a flank movement; it was handsomely accomplished; and just as the voltigeurs broke through the redan, Pillow, with the main body, charged it in front and drove back the Mexicans. The grove gained, Pillow pressed forward to the front of the rock; for the Mexican shot from the castle batteries, crashing through the trees, seemed even more terrible than it really was, and the troops were becoming restless.
The Mexicans had retreated to a redoubt half way up the hill; the voltigeurs sprang up from rock to rock, firing as they advanced, and followed by Hooker, Chase, and others, with parties of infantry. In a very few minutes the redoubt was gained, the garrison driven up the hill, and the voltigeurs, Ninth, and Fifteenth were in hot pursuit after them. The firing from the castle was very severe. Colonel Ransom, of the Ninth, was killed, and Pillow himself was wounded. Still the troops pressed on till the crest of the hill was gained. There some moments were lost owing to the delay in the arrival of scaling-ladders, during which two of Quitman’s regiments and Clarke’s brigade reinforced the storming party. When the ladders came, numbers of men rushed forward with them, leaped into the ditch, and planted them for the assault.
Lieutenant Selden was the first man to mount. But the Mexicans collected all their energies for this last moment. A tremendous fire dashed the foremost of the stormers into the ditch, killing Lieutenants Rogers and Smith and clearing the ladders. Fresh men instantly manned them, and, after a brief struggle, Captain Howard, of the voltigeurs, gained a foothold on the parapet. M’Kenzie, of the forlorn hope, followed; and a crowd of voltigeurs and infantry, shouting and cheering, pressed after him, and swept down upon the garrison with the bayonet. Almost at the same moment, Johnston, of the voltigeurs, who had led a small party round to the gate of the castle, broke it open and effected an entrance in spite of a fierce fire from the southern walls. The two parties uniting, a deadly conflict ensued within the building.
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