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horses shot under him, and Major Mills, 15th infantry, a volunteer on the occasion, was killed at the garita.
The rifles, whom Scott had sent (together with a body of horse under Major Sumner) to strengthen Shields, on the latter's requisition, arrived on the field too late to render any service. They had marched and counter-marched, in search of a conflict; first, towards Worth ; next, back to Twiggs, and lastly, on to Shields, and without success. Their timely presence with Shields would have enhanced their reputation, while rescuing that of some others from the slight shade that rests upon it; and, in all probability, the great events of the day would have been brought to an earlier decision.
The battle was now ended; the victory was accomplished; the enemy were utterly routed and dispersed, reduced in numbers, and crushed in spirit; and the Aztec Capital, defenceless, and its people in consternation, lay entirely at the mercy of the conqueror. A light battery, and a single regiment, would have sufficed to enforce the surrender of its keys; and the sun of the 20th of August might have shed his parting rays over a subjugated city, and seen the American army in tranquil occupancy of all its strongholds. But such was not contemplated by the General-in-Chief. Even at Puebla, he had marked for himself a different course. Perhaps, too, the five splendid achievements within the same ten hours were thought to constitute a complete day of victory, and that the halo of glory around our little army was of ample brilliancy. The series was thus rounded to a happy conclusion ; the plot was satisfactorily resolved; a sixth act, however original and striking, would have conflicted with the rules of the drama, and the thought was not entertained for a moment, of repeating, within the captured walls of the capital, the
noblest offspring is the last," The conquerors reluctantly and sadly retraced their way, their enthusiasm quenched--their steps faltering with the weariness, resulting from disappointed hope and dampened ardour. Their consolation lay in anticipating that, in after days, their names would be indissolubly linked with the bright deeds which had been achieved. They returned, too, to the melancholy offices, of nursing and
101 supporting their wounded friends, and of consigning to a remote and hostile soil the remains of their fallen comrades. If the din and strife of battle inflame the passions, and, for a time, harden the heart, in the necessary work of human slaughter, the after scene will compensate, in displaying the most touching traits of human fellowship. The desolation of the hurricane is followed by a hushed and sad repose. The reaction of the elements in man, presents a similar contrast. The soldier may utter no boisterous grief, when gazing on the face of a slain companion ; nay, he may outwardly jest at the general uncertainty of life, and the especially frail thread by which his own is held, but his sorrow is none the less poignant and profound. His messmate and company associate—the sharer of his tent, or his bivouac fire-the participant of his sports and his frolics, and, eminently, of his privations, and toils, and dangers, is linked with the deepest affections of his nature. The ties of brotherhood cannot unite more firmly. When the last kind duty of friendship is performed, his heart may not pour out in tear drops, or in speech, but it swells up to his throat, and is often buried,* for a season, in the same grave. His feelings, if silent, are intense and lasting. And,—-which is not so common to other classes--the virtues of the departed—his courage and goodness-are cherished and emulated.
But the pathetic and the sentimental are not now in place, and we proceed to the results of the battle and to our comments upon it.
The number of prisoners taken was 1,831, including 104 officers, of whom eight were generals, and two of these Ex-Presidents. Twiggs' division captured 1,259 ; Worth's, according to Scott's report, 192 ; and Shields' 350, among whom were 42 deserters, with their chief, Riley. These last were mostly fugitives from the works, who were intercepted in their efforts to escape, and were seized either by the men at the barn, or after Shields' return from the pursuit. Sixteen guns, a large number of small arms,
· Bear with me;
Shakspeare.—(Speech of Antony over the body of Cæsar.)
some ammunition and several flags, were the trophies of the several combats.
The Mexican loss has been variously estimated, from 1,500, by Mansfield, to 7,000, by Ripley. Santa Anna reported (19th Nov., 1847) that ** more than one-third of his army" was destroyed, there and at Contreras together, and half of his artillery captured.
The American loss numbered 137 killed,* including 14 officers; and 879 wounded, including 65 officers, (many of the wounded dying subsequently,) and 40 missing. Gen. Scott† was struck below the knee by a spent grape shot, but not being disabled, the fact did not find its way into any of the reports.
It has been argued, by nearly all the writers on the Mexican war, that the battle of Churubusco was a military blunder ; and the modes by which it could have been evaded, have been designated with all the accuracy, and all the confidence, of a professional surveyor. When an event has transpired, and all the circumstances attending it are familiar to the mind, it is not difficult, for the most ordinary intellect, to form a correct judgment of the preliminary processes for controlling it at will. And wisdom would appear to be deduced from expressing the afterthought objections, and detailing the measures which should have been adopted. But, really, it is not so in practice, nor always in theory. Tistory is crowded with examples, where men repeat, under various phases, the identical course of conduct that has been exploded, or supposed to be erroneous. A single prominent instance may be mentioned, which is susceptible of being applied to the present case. When Napoleon marched his army of reserve over the Alps, and the plains of Italy were in view, with every prospect of cutting the enemy's line of operations, and ultimately destroying their army, he was checked in mid career by the little Fort of Bard, and his grand scheme of the campaign on the verge of being frustrated.
* This loss includes the casualties at Contreras. There is no separate report of Contreras and Churubusco. Hitchcock, acting Inspector General, gives the number of prisoners taken during the day, as 2,637. Ex. Doc. No. 1,
+ Scott had sent on duty all his troops from Coyacan, and for safety moved to Twiggs' position adjacent to the convent. He was there when the shot
His anxiety was intense. With all his foresight, on many occasions almost superhuman, he had not calculated on this obstacle, nor provided for it. He was taken entirely by surprise. If not ignorant of its existence, he was certainly unacquainted with its strength of position. By secrecy and caution, yet not without great exertions and some loss, he finally passed the dangerous point, and Marengo was the result. * Experience is not always infallible against the recurrence of an action. General principles may be well announced for human guidance, but, disregarding minutiæ, even these cannot often be practically followed, without some deviation. Ambition, courage, hope, impetuosity, ever-changing circumstances, serve as moulding contingencies. And the truly sensible critic will place himself, in thought, in the precise situation of the actor, and thence, surveying the field, with still some allowance for the vehement ardour, which he cannot affect, he may approximate a rational conclusion. The vulgar scribblers, in the ad cuptundum strictures to which they are addicted, view affairs with the eye only of subsequent enlightenment, and, in their crude efforts to teach profound and original knowledge, promulgate at last, just what every body knows. They mistake the principal stand-point for philosophic and useful analysis, and whence flows, in a genial current, all honest and charitable criticism.
If Gen. Scott had known, beyond doubt, the character of the works at Churubusco, and that the enemy had concentrated all his forces there for a decisive battle; that San Antoniot would yield to Worth, without firing a gun; and that the trains under Quitman could safely pass by the latter place to Coyacan, he might very properly have paused there for the junction of his forces, and the same day have marched to the town of Tacubaya. Thus far
*“ Nous poussâmes jusqu'au fort de Bard, qui, situé dans une position inexpugnable, nous barrait le passage. La garnison, composée de 400 hommes, résista à toutes nos sommations et aux escalades, que je fis tenter. Il était désespérant de se voir ainsi arrêter court par une poignée d’enemis. Ce ne fut qu' à force de travaux et d'audace que nous parvinmes à nous tirer de ce mauvais pas,” &c. Life of Napoleon, Racontée par lui
même. Vol. i. p. 169.–Jomini.
+ The skirmishers were sent to oppose our progress over the Pedrigal, to secure the retreat from San Antonio, and for no other reason. The fort fired no gun, and if we had allowed them one hour more, no skirmishers even would have appeared. All would have been snugly posted in the position of Churubusco. See Santa Anna's reports.
we would consent to concur with the hypercritics. But, with the existing facts, to have advanced his 8,000 men to Tacubaya, although flanking Churubusco, yet separated from his supplies, with 32,000 or more men intervening, would have been a gross violation of common sense and common prudence, to say nothing of the most imperative maxims of war.' His flank exposed-his communication severed-his army divided in presence of quadruple their numbers—his trains overwhelmed and capturedhis ammunition soon to be exhausted--his situation would have been desperate and despicable, and have been arrived at through a sea of folly!
When Scott reached Coyacan, Quitman, at San Augustin, was five miles off ; Worth was about to assail a fort, which was so much dreaded, that Contreras was fought to turn it, and Pillow was despatched to strengthen his hand by attacking the rear. At the same time, Twiggs was directed to press the enemy in front, and intercept the fugitives from San Antonio, expected with certainty from our combined attack. Reconnaissance on level ground is comparatively useless ; even the positions of batteries are not always ascertained, much less their strength, since they may be masked until the moment of opening them; they must be tested by actual experiment, as Worth designed, by his leading company, at San Antonio Here, the intervening corn added to the difficulty of acquiring any certain knowledge of the enemy's defences. The attempt was made, yet Twiggs supposed that the stand at Churubusco was taken to secure the retreat from San Antonio. Who knows that Scott did not entertain the same opinion ?--And that the immediate order to Shields, to threaten the rear, by repulsing the reserves, was not to compel the speedy retreat of the Mexicans, and thus insure Worth's success, and the capture of the main body of his opponents?
When Engineer Stevens* saw from the church-top at Coyacan, that San Antonio had fallen, and that Worth was in active pursuit, all our detachments had marched. They
* Report of Major J. L. Smith, Corps of Engineers, Ex. Doc. No. 1, p. 352. Stevens (the author of the Campaigns, &c.) reported what he saw to Scott, and was directed to reconnoitre the retreat of the enemy (towards Churubusco) and inform Twiggs, who had received his orders, and had advanced to execute them.