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could not have been recalled, nor should they have been, because it was too late to check Worth, and he would have been endangered. Worth pushed on to the bridgehead ; support was necessary to him, and had he been remanded thence, great loss must have been sustained in his retreat to the branching road at San Antonio, while his division and the army would not have been cheered, by subjecting his back to the blows of the enemy! Twiggs's combat soon commenced. He moved into it with the design of sustaining, as he believed, the rifle regiment, but in reality Worth. The work was considered trifling, differing from ordinary dangers with which darkness magnifies; its strength could only be learned by an attack. This very soon became general, and it was impracticable, and the attempt would have been unwise, to withdraw him. It was the same with Shields. As the battle warmed, it was perceived that the enemy were in force, and could resist with power; but there was no doubt in any mind of eventual success.
The enthusiasm of the troops was at its maximumtheir morale was exalted by the victory of Contreras,(and, says Napoleon, “moral power is to physical as 3 to 1.") They were pursuing a dispirited foe-(and, “no breathing spell must be given a flying enemy,") --and hav. ing apparently every advantage save numbers, which counted little, it was scarcely consistent with the maxims of improving victory, and entirely repugnant to the general ardour, to halt in view of their antagonists, and calculate the resistance they might offer. Such estimate may be made in the closet, at periods of calm and collected reason; but, when the blood is up, it accords with human nature to cast off doubt and hesitation--to rush upon your enemy, and drive or destroy him. A check at such a moment, by cautious circumspection, would dampen the animation of an army, and impair its vigour in future efforts. Scott met with a greater surprise at Niagara, against a hardier and a stronger foe, yet he did not hesitate an instant, but made the attack without thought of consequences. The achievement is known.
But the maxim has been repeatedly cited, “never attack a position in front which you can gain by turning.” The principle, of which this is the deduction, “avoid a field of buttle which your enemy has studied and reconnoitered, and
double care should be taken where he has had time to fortify and entrench," possesses equal or greater force. To this we oppose another,--“ never make a flunk march before an army in position.” If inapplicable to Scott's advance (his rear would then have been exposed also) on Tacubaya, how does it affect Quitman's semi-division, and the army supplies? How were they to reach head-quarters without moving through San Antonio to Coyacan? And how was it, at that time, known that this road was accessible for the heavy siege train? To the principle, we say, that Scott was not aware of such a field until the conflict was raging, and then he might well have adopted the device, on the standard of John Ilampden, Nulla vestigia retrorsum! But we add from Montecuculli, a buttle is to be sought when there is reasoj) to hope for victory"--and “uhen war (battle too ?) hus been once decided on, the moment is past for doubts and scruples ;"--and from Napoleon, "uhen once the offensive hus been assuined, it must be sustained to the LAST EXTREMITY.” With regard to the opening of the combat, Marshal Saxe said, “ follow up the enemy with spirit (on their defeat, as at Contreras,) and he is destroyed.” “And, respecting Worth's retreat from the têtede-pont, Napoleon has said, “ a retreat always weakens the morale of an army ;
it ccsis more men than the most bloody engagement ;
besides the honour of the urmy, the loss of life is often greater than in two bottles.” But the battle of Churubusco may be justified, if it has not already been, independently of the force of maxims. Yet, if space permitied a closer analysis, other arguments might be added, to fortify the position that has been assumed.
The battle has been denounced, not only as unnecessary, but because of its alleged deficiency in ulterior results. This criticism appears to be even less tenable than the other. It is true that the surrender of the city did not promptly follow it, nor were there signatures to a treaty of peace; but the fruits, nevertheless, were important and valuable. It forced the enemy to an armistice, after seriously weakening his power in trophies--in killed, and wounded, and frightened-in prisoners, and in individual and national spirit. It penetrated and subdued their exterior defensive line, excepting Chapultepec, and gave us Tacubaya, contiguous to it and the city, by which Scott
was enabled clearly to determine his plan of attack upon the interior line. It accomplished identically what Scott had resolved on at Puebla, to conquer a strong position, exhibit his superior power, and threaten the city, with the view to permit its rescue from capitulation by negotiations, and, if possible, the conclusion of peace. His design, so far, was perfected: every result that he had anticipated, was attained: all that he had promised himself was done, and done to his satisfaction. Our losses, grievous as they were, must also have been counted on, since battles, waged between determined men with loaded guns, are never bloodless. And it has yet to be proved that Tacubaya could have been gained, and the outer defences of the enemy dismantled, by any less sacrifice than was incurred at Churubusco.
With the knowledge possessed, the only manner of carrying the convent and the tête-de-pont, was by coup-dlemain. Our batteries were too light to make an impression on the works. They required a severe hand to hand conflict, and it was bravely fought-long, arduous, bloody, but never doubtful, and in the end triumphant. Tlie points of attack were not left much to our option. The enemy fled-his forts received him; we followed-encountered the strongholds, stormed and took them. There was no great opportunity for generalship-yet all that the occasion permitted was probably displayed. Scott reinforced Worth-sent Shields on the prominent mission of the day, and, with all the troops at his disposal, reinforced him promptly, when aid was known to be required. Twiggs directed Riley against the right and rear of the convent, least guarded by works, and supposed most vulnerable. Worth's dispositions were eminently judicious. For the subordinate, there were golden chances of distinction. Breaches, field-works, bridges, are the paths that lead to military glory. The ambitious* and the fearless are never prouder than when heading the forlorn hope of a storming column. Death may end his career, but if he survive, and hope is never so buoyant and bright as then, an hour's bazard, and a moment's strife, win for him rank and renown. These are the spurs to emulation, and energy, and
* Bacon says: "Take ambition from a soldier, and you had as well cut off his spurs.”
daring, conducting to the highest kinds of military heroism. The chances at Churubusco did not pass unimproved. But where so many met and overcame their foe, with enduring fortitude and dauntless courage, it might be deemed invidious, even could we comprise all the most gallant, whom opportunity favoured, to distinguish individual names. Collectively, the designation may be made with propriety; indeed, it may be demanded by justice. Of Twiggs' division,* the 2d infantry wears the palm ; of Worth’s, the 6th infantry; of Shields', the Palmettos,who merit, each, the wreath of the Roman laurus, (bay,) or the knighthood of feudal times.
If Scott had been acquainted with the Mexican position, he would probably have occupied the enemy in front of their works, and have detached a very strong force to dislodge the reserves, and move against the rear. The combat would have been briefer, and the effect more certain, than, at one time, it appeared to be, under Shields. Even as matters were, we are of the opinion that a veteran division should have been directed against the key point, instead of portions of two inexperienced divisions.
* The 21 infantry, of Riley's brigade, lost 90 killed and wounded. It was not supported, and fought against immense odds. The 7th, in reserve, was sent for by Riley, but Twiggs had halted it on the road, and it was not in the position that Riley expected. When it was found and brought up, the convent had yielded. The 24 artillery lost 58, out of five companies. With the 6th, a part of them first crossed the river and assailed the rear. The 6th infantry made two daring charges along the causeway, and, moving to the river, to turn the left, drew a heavy fire, which facilitated the escalade of the work by the 8th infantry and other regiments. The 6th infantry lost 97 men. Hoffınan's report, Doc. No. 1, p. 63. The Palmeitos carried into action 328, aggregate -273 rank and file—and lost 137. Lieut. Shubrick, of the Navy, and from South-Carolina, joined the regiment, and fought in the ranks. Capt. Marshall, detached at Contreras to guard the prisoners, sent out a party to procure green corn—their provisions being exhausted—and they captured 43 of the enemy, similarly engaged.
It may surprise many, particularly those who admire Piliow's turgid report of this battle, in which he says “ these engagements constituting one continued battle,” and “which lasted nearly two days,” (see report, Doc. No. 1, pp. 333-341,) that we have omitted him as one of the commanders of the day. And it may be well at once to give the reasons. Pillow led but one of his brigades, and with it he acted in subordination to Worth. Although ranked, Worth made all the arrangements and directed the combat. Pillow put in the 11th and 14th infantry rather as volunteers, and they behaved handsomelyone led by Trousdale, the other by Wm. M. Graham, formerly Brevet Major 4th infantry. Pierce had the other brigade, which came under the command of Shields. Pillow was, in fact, in a false position. His proper place was occupied by Shields.
It would not have faltered a moment, but, under the play of a light battery, have marched steadily forward, and the time required to traverse the ground was all that would have been demanded, to repel and disperse the enemy. Shields's command was too small, as to numbers, and their practice with the enemy too limited, to accomplish promptly the object of the movement. The wonder is that they succeeded at all, for the Palmetto regiment, as a body, was the only one that, from first to last, stood bravely up to their work. And they counted buť hundreds, against more than twice as many thousands ! A greater wonder may be, that they did not shrink, likewise, from the hazardous encounter, when example was so numerous, when panic, at such a period, is almost irresistibly contagions, and when their force appeared hopelessly inadequate to cope with such odds. The reasons have been offered already, and they must be the true and only ones, since higher courage could not be claimed for them, ordinarily, than pertains in general to American citizens of the same class. When some of the other troops became familiarized to the whistle of bullets, and were incited by the glorious example set them, or goaded by comparison to emulate it, they conducted themselves with equal firmness and resolution.
The tête-de-pont has been termed by some writers (Semmes among them) the “key” of the position; and the convent has also been thus designated, in Stevens's pamphlet, and in some of the reports of the battle. Scott calls the latter the “citadel," and Worth calls it the "key of this portion of the enemy's defences.” In fact, each division had its key; but the grand one of the entire field, which united and combined in itself the requisites to induce upon it an overwhelming force, was the point that Shields assailed. It was the topographical, because it was the most accessible, from the nature of the ground. It was the tactical, because it was the weakest : the enemy, comparatively, were in open field, and manauvres could be performed. It was the strategic, because, of vital importance, its possession would insure the abandonment of the works, and decide the combat.
Between the two works it may be less easy to determine. At 400 yards distance, each bore upon the other, and even with muskets, since some of the charges of