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Battle of Chapultepec

Battle of Chapultepec

Overview
The Battle of Chapultepec, in September 1847, was a United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 victory over Mexican forces holding Chapultepec Castle west of Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

 during the Mexican-American War.

On September 13, 1847, in the costly Battle of Molino del Rey
Battle of Molino del Rey
The Battle of Molino del Rey was one of the bloodiest engagements of the Mexican-American War. It was fought in September 1847 between Mexican forces under General Antonio Léon against an American force under General Winfield Scott at a hill called El Molino del Rey near Mexico City.-Background:On...

, U.S. forces had managed to drive the Mexicans from their positions near the base of Chapultepec Castle guarding Mexico City from the west. However, Army engineers
United States Army Corps of Engineers
The United States Army Corps of Engineers is a federal agency and a major Army command made up of some 38,000 civilian and military personnel, making it the world's largest public engineering, design and construction management agency...

 were still interested in the southern approaches to the city.
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Encyclopedia
The Battle of Chapultepec, in September 1847, was a United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 victory over Mexican forces holding Chapultepec Castle west of Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

 during the Mexican-American War.

Background


On September 13, 1847, in the costly Battle of Molino del Rey
Battle of Molino del Rey
The Battle of Molino del Rey was one of the bloodiest engagements of the Mexican-American War. It was fought in September 1847 between Mexican forces under General Antonio Léon against an American force under General Winfield Scott at a hill called El Molino del Rey near Mexico City.-Background:On...

, U.S. forces had managed to drive the Mexicans from their positions near the base of Chapultepec Castle guarding Mexico City from the west. However, Army engineers
United States Army Corps of Engineers
The United States Army Corps of Engineers is a federal agency and a major Army command made up of some 38,000 civilian and military personnel, making it the world's largest public engineering, design and construction management agency...

 were still interested in the southern approaches to the city. General Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

 held a council of war
Council of war
A council of war is a term in military science that describes a meeting held to decide on a course of action, usually in the midst of a battle. Under normal circumstances, decisions are made by a commanding officer, optionally communicated and coordinated by staff officers, and then implemented by...

 with his generals and engineers on September 11. Scott was in favor of attacking Chapultepec and only General David E. Twiggs
David E. Twiggs
David Emanuel Twiggs was a United States soldier during the War of 1812 and Mexican-American War and a general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

 agreed. Most of Scott's officers favored the attack from the south including Captain Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

. A young lieutenant, Pierre Beauregard, gave a text book speech that persuaded General Pierce
Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce was the 14th President of the United States and is the only President from New Hampshire. Pierce was a Democrat and a "doughface" who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Pierce took part in the Mexican-American War and became a brigadier general in the Army...

 to change his vote in favor of the western attack.

Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón , often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, known as "the Napoleon of the West," was a Mexican political leader, general, and president who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government...

 was in command of the army at Mexico City. He understood that Chapultepec Castle was an important position for the defense of the city. The castle sat atop a 200-foot (60 m) tall hill which in recent years was being used as the Mexican Military Academy. General Nicolás Bravo
Nicolás Bravo
Nicolás Bravo was a Mexican politician and soldier. He distinguished himself in both offices during the 1846–1848 U.S. invasion of Mexico....

, however, had fewer than 1,000 men (832 Total including 250 10th Infantry, 115 Queretaro Battalion, 277 Mina Battalion, 211 Union Battalion, 27 Toluca Battalion and 42 la Patria Battalion with seven guns) to hold the hill, including 200 cadets, some as young as 13 years old. A gradual slope from the castle down to the Molino del Rey made an inviting attack point.

According to military records at the General National Archives in Mexico City, Chapultepec Castle was only defended by 400 men, 300 from de Batallón de San Blas
Batallón de San Blas
The San Blas Battalion was a Mexican infantry unit founded in 1823 in San Blas, Nayarit. Under the name Batallón Activo Guardacostas de San Blas , it saw action on several occasions culminating in the Mexican-American War. The battalion participated in the Battle of Chapultepec, where commanded by Lt...

 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Xicoténcatl
Felipe Santiago Xicoténcatl
Felipe Santiago Xicoténcatl was a General in the Mexican Army under president Antonio López de Santa Anna....

, and the castle's garrison of 100 men, including the cadets. The additional Mexican troops were used in external walled redoubts of the castle to protect a large rectangular piece of ground in front of the castle itself. This area was protected by high walls and was about three-quarters of a mile long by one-quarter mile deep. This area was critical to the defense of the castle because the slope of the hill from the west was so gentle, it also encompassed the southern slopes which were moderate compared to the steep escarpments on the east and north. Also the source of water for the castle was located within this area.

Scott organized two storming parties numbering 250 hand-picked men. The first party under Captain Samuel Mackenzie would lead Gideon Pillow's division from the Molino east up the hill. The second storming party was to be commanded by Captain Silas Casey
Silas Casey
Silas Casey was a career United States Army officer who rose to the rank of Major General during the American Civil War.-Early life and military career:...

 to lead John A. Quitman
John A. Quitman
John Anthony Quitman was an American politician and soldier. He served as Governor of Mississippi from 1835 to 1836 as a Whig and again from 1850 to 1851 as a Democrat and one of the leading Fire-Eaters.-Early life:John A. Quitman studied Classics at Hartwick Seminary, graduating in 1816...

's division against the southeast of the castle, but Casey was replaced by Major Levi Twiggs
Levi Twiggs
Levi Twiggs was an officer in the United States Marine Corps during the War of 1812, the Seminole Wars and the Mexican-American War.-Biography:...

.

Battle


The Americans began an artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 barrage
Barrage (artillery)
A barrage is a line or barrier of exploding artillery shells, created by the co-ordinated aiming of a large number of guns firing continuously. Its purpose is to deny or hamper enemy passage through the line of the barrage, to attack a linear position such as a line of trenches or to neutralize...

 against Chapultepec at dawn on September 12. It was halted at dark and resumed at first light on September 13. At 08:00, the bombardment was halted and Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

 ordered the charge. Following Captain Mackenzie's storming party were three assault columns from George Cadwalader
George Cadwalader
George Cadwalader was a general in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War and American Civil War.-Biography:He was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, studied law, and was admitted to the bar...

's brigade of Pillow's division. On the left were the 11th and 14th regiments under Colonel William Trousdale
William Trousdale
William Trousdale was Governor of Tennessee from 1849 to 1851.Trousdale was a protege of Andrew Jackson, having served under him in the Creek War and acquiring the nickname, "The War Horse of Sumner County" in that conflict. He was a Democrat...

, in the center were four companies of the Voltigeur regiment under Colonel Timothy Patrick Andrews, and on the right were the remaining four Voltigeur companies under Lieutenant Colonel Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph Eggleston Johnston was a career U.S. Army officer, serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War and Seminole Wars, and was also one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

. Pillow was quickly hit in the foot but ordered the attack forward. Andrews's column followed Mackenzie out of the Molino and cleared a cypress
Taxodium mucronatum
Taxodium mucronatum, also known as Montezuma Cypress, Sabino, or Ahuehuete is a species of Taxodium native to much of Mexico , and also the Rio Grande Valley in southernmost Texas, USA as well as Huehuetenango Department in Guatemala...

 grove to the front of Mexican troops as Trousdale and Johnston moved up on the flanks
Flanking maneuver
In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, also called a flank attack, is an attack on the sides of an opposing force. If a flanking maneuver succeeds, the opposing force would be surrounded from two or more directions, which significantly reduces the maneuverability of the outflanked force and its...

. The attack stalled when Mackenzie's men had to wait for storming ladders to arrive, and there was a lull in the battle.



To the southwest, 40 Marines led Captain Casey's storming party followed by James Shields
James Shields
James Shields was an American politician and United States Army officer who was born in Altmore, County Tyrone, Ireland. Shields, a Democrat, is the only person in United States history to serve as a U.S. Senator for three different states...

' brigade of volunteers north towards Chapultepec. Again the storming party stalled while waiting for ladders, and the rest of Shields' men halted in the face of Mexican artillery. The scaling ladders arrived, and the first wave ascended
Escalade
Escalade is the act of scaling defensive walls or ramparts with the aid of ladders, and was a prominent feature of siege warfare in medieval times...

 the walls. In fact so many ladders arrived that 50 men could climb side by side. George Pickett
George Pickett
George Edward Pickett was a career United States Army officer who became a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

 (later famous for "Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Its futility was predicted by the charge's commander,...

" and the Battle of Five Forks
Battle of Five Forks
The Battle of Five Forks was fought on April 1, 1865, southwest of Petersburg, Virginia, in Dinwiddie County, during the Appomattox Campaign of the American Civil War. The battle, sometimes referred to as the "Waterloo of the Confederacy," pitted Union Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan against...

 during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

) was the first American to top the wall of the fort, and the Voltigeurs
Voltigeurs
The Voltigeurs were French military skirmish units created in 1804 by Emperor Napoleon I.-Etymology:Voltigeurs hold their name from their originally conceived role of cavalry-transported skirmishers: the voltigeurs were intended to jump onto the croup of cavalry horses in order to advance more...

 soon planted their flag on the parapet. Colonel Trousdale's column supported by Lieutenant Thomas J. Jackson's artillery faced superior numbers of Mexicans in a spirited defense. Newman S. Clarke
Newman S. Clarke
Newman S. Clarke was a career military officer in the United States army who served with distinction during the Mexican-American War.Clarke was born in Connecticut and served in the United States Army during the War of 1812. At the outbreak of the Mexican-American War in 1846, he was appointed...

's brigade brought new momentum to the fight on Pillow's front. General Shields was severely wounded when his men poured over the walls, but his troops managed to raise the U.S. Flag
Flag of the United States
The national flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars alternating with rows...

 over the castle. Caught between two fronts, General Bravo ordered a retreat back to the city. Before he could withdraw, Bravo was taken prisoner by Shields' New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 volunteers. The Mexicans retreated at night down the causeways leading into the city. Santa Anna watched the Americans take Chapultepec while an aide exclaimed "let the Mexican flag never be touched by a foreign enemy".

Los Niños Héroes


During the battle, six Mexican military cadets
Niños Héroes
The Niños Héroes , also known as the Heroic Cadets or Boy Soldiers, were six Mexican teenage military cadets. These cadets died defending Mexico at Mexico City's Chapultepec Castle from invading U.S. forces in the 13 September 1847 Battle of Chapultepec, during the Mexican–American War...

 refused to fall back when General Bravo finally ordered retreat and fought to the death. These were teniente (lieutenant) Juan de la Barrera and cadets Agustín Melgar, Juan Escutia, Vicente Suárez, Francisco Márquez and Fernando Montes de Oca, all between the ages of 13 and 19. According to legend, the last of the six, Juan Escutia, grabbed the Mexican flag
Flag of Mexico
The flag of Mexico is a vertical tricolor of green, white, and red with the national coat of arms charged in the center of the white stripe. While the meaning of the colors has changed over time, these three colors were adopted by Mexico following independence from Spain during the country's War...

, wrapped it around himself and jumped off the castle point to prevent the flag from falling into enemy hands. In 1967, Gabriel Flores
Gabriel Flores
Gabriel Flores was a prominent Mexican painter and muralist born in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Between 1956 and 1993, his murals focused on historical and universal themes, as well as the ability of art functioning as social commentary...

 painted a mural depicting "Los Niños Héroes".
A mural decorates the ceiling of the palace, showing Juan Escutia wrapped in the flag, apparently falling from above. A monument stands in Chapultepec Park commemorating their courage. The cadets are eulogized in Mexican history
History of Mexico
The history of Mexico, a country located in the southern portion of North America, covers a period of more than two millennia. First populated more than 13,000 years ago, the country produced complex indigenous civilizations before being conquered by the Spanish in the 16th Century.Since the...

 as Los Niños Héroes
Niños Héroes
The Niños Héroes , also known as the Heroic Cadets or Boy Soldiers, were six Mexican teenage military cadets. These cadets died defending Mexico at Mexico City's Chapultepec Castle from invading U.S. forces in the 13 September 1847 Battle of Chapultepec, during the Mexican–American War...

, the "Child Heroes" or Heroic Cadets.

Saint Patrick's Battalion


Thirty men from the Saint Patrick's Battalion
Saint Patrick's Battalion
The Saint Patrick's Battalion , formed and led by Jon Riley, was a unit of 175 to several hundred immigrants and expatriates of European descent who fought as part of the Mexican Army against the United States in the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848. Most of the battalion's members had...

, a group of former United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 soldiers who joined the Mexican side, were executed en masse during the battle. They had been previously captured at the Battle of Churubusco
Battle of Churubusco
The Battle of Churubusco took place on August 20, 1847, in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Contreras during the Mexican-American War. After defeating the Mexican army at Churubusco, the U.S. Army was only 5 miles away from Mexico City, the capital of the nation...

. Colonel William S. Harney
William S. Harney
William Selby Harney was a cavalry officer in the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War and the Indian Wars. He was born in what is today part of Nashville, Tennessee but at the time was known as Haysborough....

 specified that they were to be hanged with Chapultepec in view and that the precise moment of their death was to occur when the U.S. flag replaced the Mexican tricolor atop the citadel.

Belén and San Cosmé Gates



General Scott arrived at the castle and was mobbed by cheerful soldiers. He detached a regiment to garrison Chapultepec and the prisoners there. Scott then planned for the attack on the city. He ordered a secondary attack against the Belén Gate and brought up the rest of William J. Worth
William J. Worth
William Jenkins Worth was a United States general during the Mexican-American War.-Early life:Worth was born in 1794 in Hudson, New York, to Thomas Worth and Abigail Jenkins. Both of his parents were Quakers, but he rejected the pacifism of their faith...

's division to support Trousdale's men on La Verónica Causeway (now Avenida Melchor Ocampo) for the main attack against the San Cosme Gate. Defended by Gen. Rangel Granaderos Battalion, part Matamoros, Morelia & Santa Anna Battalions (Col. Gonzalez), part 3d Light (Lt. Col. Echeagaray), & 1st Light (Comdt Marquez)

Trousdale, followed by John Garland's
John Garland (general)
John Garland was a career United States soldier in the Regular Army who had a long and distinguished career spanning fifty years of service during the War of 1812, Seminole Wars, Mexican-American War, Utah War and very briefly into the American Civil War.-Early life and career:Garland was born in...

, Newman Clarke's
Newman S. Clarke
Newman S. Clarke was a career military officer in the United States army who served with distinction during the Mexican-American War.Clarke was born in Connecticut and served in the United States Army during the War of 1812. At the outbreak of the Mexican-American War in 1846, he was appointed...

 and George Cadwalader's brigades, began advancing up the causeway. However, General Quitman quickly gathered the troops in Chapultepec and Persifor F. Smith's brigade turned east and immediately headed down the Belén Causeway. Intended only to be a feint, Quitman's attack soon became the center of the attack as he chased Chapultepec's retreating defenders back into the city. His troops were met by strong resistance in front of the gate, which was supported by a battery of artillery. Using the stone arches of the aqueduct running down the center of the causeway, Quitman's men crept forward. General Andrés Terrés' troops (three guns and 200 men : 2d Mexico Activos) began to desert and flee back to the citadel. Led by the Mounted Rifles (fighting on foot), Quitman breached the Belén Gate at 1:20 p.m. General Scott later commented "Brave Rifle, Veterans, you have been baptized in fire and blood and come out steel".

To the north, Robert E. Lee led Worth's attackers down the La Verónica Causeway. It was 4 p.m. by the time Worth reached the junction of the La Verónica and San Cosme causeways, where he beat back a counter attack of 1,500 cavalry before turning east down the San Cosme causeway. Progress was slow, and casualties were mounting. Finding the buildings alongside the roadway filled with enemy troops, Colonels Garland and Clarke were sent with the 1st and 2nd brigades to approach the defenses under cover by burrowing through the buildings on both sides with crowbars and pickaxes. Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 discovered the bell tower of San Cosme Church south of the causeway, where he mounted the howitzer
Howitzer
A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

 and began firing shots down onto the defenders from his lofty position. On the north side of the road, naval officer Raphael Semmes
Raphael Semmes
For other uses, see Semmes .Raphael Semmes was an officer in the United States Navy from 1826 - 1860 and the Confederate States Navy from 1860 - 1865. During the American Civil War he was captain of the famous commerce raider CSS Alabama, taking a record sixty-nine prizes...

 repeated Grant's successful maneuver. Lieutenant George Terrett then led a group of Marines behind the Mexican defenders and, climbing to the roof, unleashed a deadly volley on the artillery gunners. By 6 p.m., Worth had broken through the gate, and the defenders scattered. Many retreated to the ciudadela, sweeping Santa Anna along with them. As night fell, Worth lobbed five mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

s into the city which fell near the National Palace.

Aftermath



The battle had been a significant victory for the U.S. Lasting throughout most of the day, the fighting had been severe and costly. Generals Twiggs, Pillow, and Shields had all been wounded as well as Colonel Trousdale. The heaviest losses occurred during Quitman's attack on the Belén Gate. Every member of Quitman's staff lost his life in the close fighting on the causeway.

Santa Anna lost General Bravo as a prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

, and General Juan N. Pérez was killed. In a fit of rage Santa Anna slapped General Terrés and relieved him of command for losing the Belén Gate. In his memoirs Santa Anna branded Terrés as a traitor and made him the scapegoat for the defeat at Mexico City.

Legacy



The efforts of the U.S. Marines
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 in this battle and subsequent occupation of Mexico City
Battle for Mexico City
The Battle for Mexico City refers to the series of engagements from September 8 to September 15, 1847, in the general vicinity of Mexico City during the Mexican-American War...

 are memorialized by the opening lines of the Marines' Hymn
Marines' Hymn
The "Marines' Hymn" is the official hymn of the United States Marine Corps. It is the oldest official song in the United States military. The "Marines' Hymn" is typically sung at the position of attention as a gesture of respect...

, "From the Halls of Montezuma..." .

Marine tradition maintains that the red stripe worn on the trousers of the Blue Dress uniform, commonly known as the blood stripe
Blood stripe
A blood stripe refers to a scarlet stripe worn down the outside leg seams of trousers on the dress uniform of the United States Marine Corps. This red stripe is for general officers, for other officers, and for enlisted Staff Noncommissioned Officers and Noncommissioned Officers...

, commemorates those Marine NCOs that died storming the castle of Chapultepec in 1847, though iterations of the stripe predate the war. In 1849, the stripes were changed to a solid red from dark blue stripes edged in red, which dated from 1839.

In 1947, President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 laid a wreath on the Cadets Monument as a gesture of goodwill after Mexico aided the U.S. in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.