It would have been easy for Scott to march on the city that night, or next morning, and seize it before the Mexicans recovered from the shock of their defeat.
Continuing Scott Captures Mexico City,
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Previously in Scott Captures Mexico City.
Meantime, however, a conflict as deadly as either of these was raging behind the Mexican fortifications. Soon after the battle commenced, Scott sent Pierce’s and Shields’s brigades by the left, through the fields, to attack the enemy in the rear. On the causeway, opposed to them, were planted Santa Anna’s reserves — four thousand foot and three thousand horse — in a measure protected by a dense growth of maguey. Shields advanced intrepidly with his force of sixteen hundred. The ground was marshy, and for a long distance — having vainly endeavored to outflank the enemy — his advance was exposed to their whole fire. Morgan, of the Fifteenth, fell wounded. The New York regiment suffered fearfully, and their leader, Colonel Burnett, was disabled. The Palmettos of South Carolina, and the Ninth under Ransom, were as severely cut up; and after a while all sought shelter in and about a large barn near the causeway. Shields, in an agony at the failure of his movement, cried imploringly for volunteers to follow him.
The appeal was instantly answered by Colonel Butler, of the Palmettos: “Every South Carolinian will follow you to the death!” The cry was contagious, and most of the New Yorkers took it up. Forming at angles to the causeway, Shields led these brave men, under an incessant hail of shot, against the village of Portales, where the Mexican reserves were posted. Not a trigger was pulled till they stood at a hundred fifty yards from the enemy. Then the little band poured in their volley, fatally answered by the Mexican host. Butler, already wounded, was shot through the head and died instantly. Calling to the Palmettos to avenge his death, Shields gives the word to charge. They charge — not four hundred in all — over the plain and down upon four thousand Mexicans securely posted under cover. At every step their ranks are thinned. Dickenson, who succeeded Butler in command of the Palmettos, seizes the colors as the bearer falls dead; the next moment he is down himself, mortally wounded, and Major Gladden snatches them from his hand.
Adams, Moragne, and nearly half the gallant band are prostrate. A very few minutes more and there will be no one left to bear the glorious flag.
But at this very moment a deafening roar is heard in the direction of the tête de pont. Round shot and grape, rifle-balls and canister, come crashing down the causeway into the Mexican ranks from their own battery. Worth is there, the gallant fellow, just in time. Down the road and over the ditch, through the field and hedge and swamp, in tumult and panic the Mexicans are flying from the bayonets of the Sixth and Garland’s brigade. A shout, louder than the cannon’s peal; Worth is on their heels with his men. Before Shields reaches the causeway he is by his side driving the Mexican horse into their infantry, and Ayres is galloping up with a captured Mexican gun. Captain Kearny, with a few dragoons, dashes past, rides straight into the flying host, scatters them right and left, sabers all he can reach, and halts before the gate of Mexico. Not till then does he perceive that he is alone with his little party, nearly all of whom are wounded; but, despite the hundreds of escopetas that are levelled at him, he gallops back in safety to headquarters.
The sun, which rose that morning on a proud army and a defiant metropolis, set at even on a shattered, haggard band, and a city full of woe-stricken wretches who did nothing all night but quake with terror, and cry, at every noise, “Aqui viene los Yanquies!” (“Here come the Yankees!”) All along the causeway, and in the fields and swamps on either side, heaps of dead men and cattle intermingled with broken ammunition-carts, marked where the American shot had told. A gory track leading to the tête de pont, groups of dead in the fields on the west of Churubusco, over whose pale faces some stalks of tattered corn still waved; red blotches in the marsh next the causeway, where the rich blood of Carolina and New York soaked the earth, showed where the fire of the heavy Mexican guns and the countless escopetas of the infantry had been most murderous. Scott had lost, in that day’s work, more than a thousand men in killed and wounded, seventy-nine of whom were officers. The Mexican loss, according to Santa Anna, was one-third of his army, equal probably to ten thousand men, one-fourth of whom were prisoners, the rest killed and wounded. As the sun went down the troops were recalled to headquarters; but all night long the battlefield swarmed with straggling parties seeking some lost comrade in the cold and rain, and surgeons hurrying from place to place and offering succor to the wounded.
It would have been easy for Scott to march on the city that night, or next morning, and seize it before the Mexicans recovered from the shock of their defeat. Anxious to shorten the war and assured that Santa Anna was desirous of negotiating; warned, moreover, by neutrals and others, that the hostile occupation of the capital would destroy the last chance of peaceable accommodation and rouse the Mexican spirit to resistance all over the country, the American general consented, too generously perhaps, to offer an armistice to his vanquished foe. It was eagerly accepted, and negotiations were commenced which lasted over a fortnight. In the meantime General Scott had the satisfaction of hanging several of the Irishmen who had deserted to the Mexicans, and, serving as the battalion of San Patricio, had shot down so many of their old comrades at Buena Vista and Churubusco. This act of justice was approved by the army and the nation. Early in September the treachery of the Mexicans became apparent. No progress had been made in the negotiations; and, in defiance of the armistice, an American wagon, proceeding to the city for provisions, had been attacked by the mob and one man killed and others wounded. Scott wrote to Santa Anna, demanding an apology, and threatening to terminate the armistice on the 7th if it were not tendered. The reply was insulting in the extreme; Santa Anna had repaired his losses and was ready for another fight.
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