decimated at the tête-de-pont in Monterey, and had rushed up the ascent of Cerro Gordo, and charged at Contreras, —they plied the Mexicans with their muskets, and shortly clearing the rampart by a general discharge, broke at a run upon the bastion, and carried it at the point of the bayonet. At the same instant, the 1st artillery, who had so long and so fearlessly disputed their position in front, dashed over the curtain; and both were bringing the conflict to the bloodiest issue, when several white flags, suspended from various points, terminated the battle in the submission of the garrison. Capt. J. M. Smith, 3d infantry, the first officer in the work, received the surrender, and the colours of his regiment soon floated* victoriously from the steeple of the church.

Worth, on reaching the hamlet, quickly determined his order of attack. The daring 6th infantry, whose recent boldness might have exempted them from its repetition on the same ground, were formed in column, and launched upon the tête-de-pont, directly along the causeway. Clarke's brigade-less the 6th infantry—were sent by flank to skirt the right of the road, and make its assault rather under cover of the 6th regiment; and Garland, in column, was directed further to the right, over the fields, to charge upon the enemy's left flank. Duncan could have assisted the latter very essentially with his battery, but the ditches and the soft soil rendered it impracticable, and he was held under cover for a favourable moment to strike a blow. Worth’s plan was admirably adapted to compass his designs. The 6th infantry would draw and engage the guns in embrasure-Garland, those in barbette while attacking the enemy along the dykes-Clarke would carry the work. The 6th infantry advanced in its usual style, and for some time breasted the enfilading fire, but it became irresistible, overpowering—and, obeying a call from Worth, they hurried once more into the field to their right. But, partially sheltered by the corn, and the slight inequalities of the ground-corn hills and ditches—they continued to move forward in the vicinity of Clarke. Clarke and Garland soon became occupied at their respective posts; and, at this time, the triple battle furiously raged

* Gen. Smith's report. Ex. Doc. No. 1, p. 331. Also Capt. Dinimick's report.

on its several fields. For near two hours there was no intermission. The destruction of life was enormous.

One hundred dead bodies of our own brave fellows,” says Semmes, who was with Worth, “ were found on a single acre of ground.” But fortitude endured it, and persevering energy conquered at length. Clarke's brigade gradually advancing, finally reached the fortification. Lieut. Longstreet, bearing the colours of the 8th infantry, followed by Capts. Bomford and Smith, of the same* regiment, and a number of men, plunged into the wet ditch, scaled the parapet, and captured the work. The Mexicans fled, leaving only 25 or 30 prisoners in our hands. The 5th infantry were mingled with the 8th. Some of the 4th, “the old stone wall,” were likewise early in the work, having strayed from their brigade (Garland's.) The 6th infantry and 2d artillery crossed the river to the right, came in at the rear, and were the first in the pursuit. Some of the 11th and 14th infantry (Pillow's division) were up at the escalade, and joined in the onslaught. A gun was turned upon the convent, not yet subdued, and another upon the enemy along the causeway. Garland, about the same period, had reached the dyke of the river, and driven the enemy headlong in retreat. All fled before our arms, and this portion of the extended field was entirely in our possession.

Pillow, who shared in a part of Worth's combat, had been directed to assail the rear of San Antonio, and when it had fallen he wast instructed by Scott to move to his left on Churubusco. He crossed the bogs and ditches for

* Gen. Worth’s report.

+ Scott asserts that Pillow moved, and turned to the left, by his instructions. Pillow acknowledges it in his report. Yet Ripley and Semmes de clare that Scott gave no orders on that field, save those to Pierce and Shields perhaps. It has been seen what were given. It is true that the modes of assailing the two works were not directed. This was impracticable. Worth was remote—the works had not been reconnoitered originally—the battle was not at first contemplated, and was brought on suddenly. Besides, there was but one method for each division,—that of storming—the exact order for which was within the discretion and competency of the generals of divisions.

Pillow says, in report, that the voltigeurs were advanced to attack the left of the convent. Ripley says, the 11th and 14th regiments. Here is a wide discrepancy between the two concocters of the history. Ripley's statement looks like an after thought; and as neither Andrews (voltigeurs lost one man) nor Graham, of two of the three regiments, (we have not seen Trousdale's report at all,) mentions the fact, we are in some doubt whether the movement was ever more than contemplated.

more than half a mile, and came upon the causeway early in the battle. Two of his regiments, (11th and 14th,) as stated, followed Clarke's movement, and rendered service in taking the tête-de-pont--the latter capturing a flag in the work. At Mason's* suggestion, it is said, he supposed that a force could penetrate between the church and the iête-de-pont, and assail the left flank of the former, and the effort was made with the voltigeurs. But the slightest advance proved its utter impracticability. That space, like the plain encountered by Marlborough at Malplaquet, was une trouée d'enfer.” The regiment was sheltered by Duncan's battery, and a church near the deboucl emeni of the Coyacan road. Cadwallader, Talcott, (veltigeurs) and others, ascended to the roof of this building from which all the conflicts were distinctly visible. When the tête-de-pont was captured, it was hence that Duncan perceived an opportunity for the effective employment of his guns. They were accordingly planted with promptness, to enfilade the curtain of the conventwork, and the fire was delivered with extraordinary rapidity. From one of the pieces twenty-sevent rounds were given in fifteen or twenty minutes. Semmes says the number was so great, that the statement, which he declines to offer, would scarcely be believed. Duncan certainly exerted an influence, but Twiggs' division enclosing upon three sides, did infinitely more, and in a few minutes the convent also surrendered. The enemy attempted escape by the east rear, but our troops at the tête-de-pont drove back numbers, and many were captured. The Saint Pa1 * Capt. (now Brevet Lieut. Col.) J. L. Mason greatly distinguished himself on the 20th of August. Worth thus alludes to him in his report : “ The subordinate reports will be found to speak but one sentiment of Capt. Mason, engineers ; but these are not to debar my testimony and warm acknowledgments of the intelligent and gallant services of this accomplished officer-in the estimation of all he has won high reputation, and established his unequivocal claims to higher rank.”

+ Duncan's letter to the American Star newspaper, city of Mexico, 17th November, 1847, says one guo fired twenty-seven rounds. The time not named. But the convent fell between ten and fifieen minutes after the other work. Scoti says twenty minutes. Others have said less. And at one time there was some dispute as to which yielded first. An officer, a spectator, thinks that Riley's fire from the rear and Duncan's enfilading, together expelled the foe from the curtain, which facilitated the advance of Dimmick and Alexander. At the critical moment, Talcott, from the church alluded to, shouted to the lit artillery to chargem-whether hearing or not, in the fierce struggle, they did sc successfully.

trick battalion, who manned three guns at the church, and perhaps one or two in the other work,* were in part taken, and the halter and the gibbet repaid sixteen of them for their treachery. They fought with desperation, knowing the doom that awaited them, if captured, and several times pulled down the white flag which had been hoisted in token of surrender. Capt. Anderson, 2d infantry, one of the noblest spirits in the army, among others, was slain by their fire.

While the strife was raging at the fortified works, there was yet another field, and a severe conflict, to which we will now revert. The results of the others have been given, but perhaps this wielded a potent influence towards achieving their success. It is the last to be mention d, but before we conclude, the reader will probably concur, that it was not the least important in its effects, nor the least eventful in its vicissitudes, while it exhibited full as much heroism as any of that memorable day. Pierce had been ordered with parts of three regiments and Reno's battery, (Callender wounded at Contreras.) to attack the flank of the Mexican reserves. Shields soon followed with his brigade, to assume command, and add to the operation at least the efficiency of numbers. This, on the part of Scott, was the great strategic feat of the day. It was one of those flashes of inspiration which denote the able commander, while they are often, almost always, decisive of a field. It was a blow at, tactically, the weak

* Letter from an officer, quoted in Mansfield, p. 266. He says furthermore that these base men in desperation tore down the white flag of surrender three times from the convent. We are not aware of the number taken here, but probably few, since they would aim to escape. Shields captured 42 of them. Worth says 27 were taken in the tête-de-pont. An error–because Col. Waite, commanding the 8th regiment, the first inside, says (see report) that 4 officers and 20 men are all who were taken. Col. Belton (report) says that a column approached the tête-de-pont from the convent, after the former fell, and surrendered. Thus Worth procured his prisoners. Ripley, 2d vol., p. 273, says that 27 officers and privates were taken in the work, but does not designate them the deserters. Pillow, in his report, says the 14th regiment (his division) took a large number of prisoners in the fort, among whom was the body of deserters.” Doc No. 1, p. 338. A palpable error.

It must have been amusing to witness the repugnance shown by the prisoners in the convent, un the appearance of Dominguez, at the head of a corps of Mexican renegades. Scott had employed them as a spy company. The enemy abuse us fiercely for hanging our deserters. It may be wondervu what treatment they would have shown these men, who were not deserters, but robber traitors. They would perhaps have roasted them alive! See “ The Other Side.”

est, and yet the most vital part, of the enemy's position. It was directed to the key point of the entire field, where a decided impression being made, resistance at all other points would be inevitably controlled and paralyzed. Sufficient prominence has not been given to the affair which ensued. Probably no close investigation has been instituted; or it may be that prejudice has withheld the truth from public view, or the want of interest, or a becoming delicacy on the part of others, who are familiar with it, has prevented its disclosure. Let us trace the action and its effects-discussion should follow, rather than precede them.

The village of Portales is situated on the San Antonio causeway, scarcely a mile in rear of the tète-de-pont. Some four hundred yards from the village, in the direction of this fort, and over two hundred yards to the west of the causeway, stood a large oblong one-storied building--the barn—with a yard attached in front, that was paved and used as a threshing floor, and was enclosed by a wall three or four feet high. Between these places stretched a marshy meadow, and to the left or westward of the village was a corn field, in which, at a period of the com: bat, were stationed the enemy's cavalry. Portales was occupied by the Mexican, and the causeway in front of the barn was blocked with dense masses of his troops. The cavalry numbered about 3,000—the infantry near* 4,000. To assail them, Shields commanded 600 men of his own brigade, (300 New-Yorkers and as many Palmettos,) and including Reno's howitzer battery of two pieces, about 1,000+ men of Pierce's brigade-altogether some 1,600 troops—and these, mostly raw soldiers. At the moment, these were all that Scott could control for the movement, and Shields was the last man to shrink from attempting the execution of any order ; nay, the more desperate the hazards attending, the more solicitous he

* Reports of Generals Scott and Shields.

+ Col. Burnett, N. Y. regiment, says 300 in his regiment. One company detached, and about 50 men had not come up from Contreras. Dickinson says the Palmettos numbered 273 rank and file; officers, &c., increased them to over 300. One company detached also to guard prisoners. Pillow says his “ force” was about 1,800 ; and to prove that he included Pierce's brigade, he states the loss at 211 officers and men. The three regiments under his eye at the bridgehead lost but 15. It is probable that Pillow had the larger part of his division. If so, Pierce's brigade under Shields counted less than 900.

« ElőzőTovább »