The Campaign of 1847


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Chapter VII Pages: 84-89

Meanwhile General Taylor (57) had reached Victoria where, much to his astonishment, he received a dispatch on January 14th notifying him that he was to be stripped of nearly all his regulars and the best of his volunteers, who were to be sent to Brazos San Iago to participate in the expedition which General Scott was about to undertake against the City of Mexico. (58) These troops (59) were forthwith set en route for Tampico, but with much reluctance on the part of Taylor, who very rightly complained that he was left "with less than a thousand regulars and a volunteer force, partly new levies, to hold a defensive line" in the face of 20,000 Mexicans. (60) Nevertheless he advanced on February 5th to Agua Nueva. (61) where he effected his junction with General Wool and secured possession of the important passes and the road to San Luis Potosi. Sixteen days later, realizing that he was on the verge of being attacked by the entire Mexican army under General Santa Anna, (62) he fell back 12 miles to Buena Vista, a position of great defensive strength. (63) On February 22nd was fought the celebrated battle, * the most desperate of the war, in which Taylor's troops, (64) regulars and volunteers alike, (65) covered themselves with glory. Santa Anna was compelled to beat a hasty retreat, his command so thoroughly demoralized by its defeat and losses (66) that he was obliged to raise a new force, and the time thus gained proved invaluable to the other American army, which was additionally freed of all danger from the north by General Taylor's complete conquest of those provinces.

During the month of February transports had arrived at Brazos San Iago, and by the 27th the last of General Scott's troops had been embarked and had sailed for Lobos, an island 60 miles south of Tampico, which had been indicated as the rendezvous. On March 2nd the fleet and its convoys started for Anton Lizardo and, after a reconnaissance of Vera Cruz made by Scott and Commodore Conner on the 7th, the troops landed on the 9th and in three days had completed the investment of the city. On the 10th began the bombardment, which continued until the 26th when General Landero (67) made overtures for a capitulation, (68) and three days later the garrison marched out with the honors of war and surrendered their arms, colors and equipments. (69)

The fall of Vera Cruz spread consternation throughout Mexico, but Santa Anna, having gathered a new army, (70) sought to check the advance of the invaders (71) who had begun their march toward the capital on April 8th. Ten days later the opposing forces met at Cerro Gordo, (72) where Scott gained such a decisive victory (73) that, as he expressed it, "Mexico has no longer an army,. " (74) On the 19th Jalapa was captured, and three days after the town and castle of Perote on the summit of the eastern Cordilleras, reputed the strongest fortress in Mexico except Vera Cruz, capitulated without resistance on the part of the enemy. With the goal in sight, Scott's progress came to a sudden halt at Puebla on May 15th, through no fault of his own; and once again was demonstrated one of the fundamental defects in our military policy, at a time and in a manner which might readily have proved disastrous to American arms.

Allusion has already been made to the blunder of Congress in failing to specify absolutely the length of enlistment for the 50,000 volunteers authorized on May 15, 1846, and the neglect of the President to fix the term "to the end of the war," as he was given latitude to do. (76) The result of these mistakes now became apparent. Months of training had consumed most of the year for which the majority of the volunteers had bound themselves, and General Scott found himself in the unenviable predicament of discovering that nearly every man intended to exercise the alternative offered him upon enlistment and to terminate his service at the end of twelve months. (77) As many of the enlistments were on the eve of expiration, General Scott did not wish to expose these men needlessly to the deadly climate, and on May 4th he was forced to part with seven out of his eleven volunteer regiments, amounting to 4,000 men, who were dispatched to Vera Cruz, whence they were to be conveyed to New Orleans and discharged. As a result of this loss, coupled with the detachments necessary to guard the line of communications and a large number of sick, his army was reduced to 5,820 effective troops. (78) In the midst of a hostile country and only three days' march from the capital, with virtually no enemy to oppose him, Scott found himself unable to budge for more than three months. Had Santa Anna at that juncture possessed any army worthy of the name and had he fallen in force either upon Scott or Taylor, the American Government would have had abundant cause to regret both its defective legislation and a most faulty plan of campaign (79) blunders which could not have been retrieved by many thousand new but raw troops. It was only incredible good fortune which averted a calamity and spared the American people the mortification of seeing their formidable preparations collapse like a house of cards, all because Congress and the President had been oblivious to the lessons of past wars and had been too shortsighted to take advantage of the enthusiasm which invariably marks the outbreak of hostilities, and under its stimulus to obtain enlistments "FOR THE WAR," (80)

Although Santa Anna was precluded by circumstances beyond his control from crushing Scott's slender force out of existence, the Mexican guerillas harassed the Americans unceasingly, and prevented detachments from Vera Cruz from joining the army in considerable strength. It was not until July 8th that the first re-enforcement was received in the shape of 4,500 men, (81) followed nearly a month later by 2,249, (82) which brought the total of Scott's command up to about 13,500 troops, of whom 3,000 were on the sick list. (83) On August 7th, after three months of enforced inactivity, the American commander was at last able to resume his advance with 10,738 troops, (84) "nearly one-half of whom were new and untried soldiers, fresh from he pursuits of civil life, except for the discipline to which they had for a few months been subjected at Pueblo." (85) The Mexicans in the meanwhile had gained sufficient time to raise a new army which, according to their own estimates, numbered at least 36,000 men and 100 guns, and, having strongly fortified the capital, had every reason to be confident of the outcome. (86)

On August 10th the leading troops descended from the mountains into the basin where the City of Mexico is situated at the end of long causeways guarded by strong fortifications. After several reconnaissance's, General Scott determined to approach the place from the south and accordingly concentrated his divisions near San Augustine on the 18th. (87) The resumption of his advance was marked by a series of sanguinary encounters. On the afternoon of the 19th and the following morning was fought the battle of Contreras. (88) The 20th also was memorable for the capture of the important fortification of San Antonio and for another victory gained at Churubusco. (89) In a single day 8,500 Americans (90) had overwhelmed 32,000 Mexicans. (91) The enemy's army was completely demoralized and rendered incapable of further resistance, while the inhabitants of the capital were in consternation over the enemy's presence at their very gates. Just at the moment when nothing remained to be done but to crown his brilliant campaign by the immediate occupation of the city, Scott suddenly forgot his military training, (92) became timid and permitted himself to be wheedled into a truce pending negotiations for peace. (93) On August 23rd hostilities ceased ad interim, but within a fortnight the American commander awoke to the fact that Santa Anna had made a catspaw of him in order to gain time. (94) On September 7th the armistice was declared at an end, and on the following day the American troops attacked the enemy at Molino del Rey. A desperate fight ensued, (95) with no results commensurate with the loss suffered, (96) and Scott was obliged to transfer his operations to the western side of the city. On September 12th the formidable heights of Chapultepee were subjected to a vigorous bombardment and on the following morning they were stormed, but the Mexicans fought like fiends and it was not until noon that success crowned the American efforts (97) after heavy losses. (98) The troops, now thoroughly aroused, determined to capture the city in spite of General Scott, who sought to restrain them, (99) and by 2 P.M. General Quitman's division had effected a lodgment within the walls, hoisted the American colors over the national palace and sturdily held its ground until nightfall put an end to the fighting.

On the morning of September 14th a deputation announced the evacuation of the city by Santa Anna and the American Army made its triumphal entry, but twenty-four hours of desperate house-to-house fighting were still necessary before General Scott was left in undisputed possession of the place. (100)

The resourceful Santa Anna made determined efforts to cut the American line of communications with Vera Cruz and to arouse further resistance to the invaders, (101) but the re-enforcements sent to Scott, (102) small and tardy as they were, (103) rendered his attempts abortive. On February 2, 1848, was concluded the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, (10) and on June 12th the last of the American troops evacuated the City of Mexico. (105)

FOOTNOTES (57-105) ON CHAPTER VII Page: 84-89

57. See page 84.

58. General Scott sailed from New York on November 30thm touched at New Orleans, from which he sent Taylor the order alluded to, dated December 20th, and reached Brazos San Iago on January 12th, 1847.

59. 1,465 regular officers and men, and 3,268 volunteers, a total of 4,733. __Return accompanying General Taylor's first report to General Scott, January 15, 1847. H.R., Ex. Doc., No. 60, Thirtieth Congress, first session, p. 862, footnote.

60. Taylor's second report of January 15th.__ibid., P.863.

61. In conformity with Scott's suggestion.

62. An intercepted dispatch from Scott to Taylor had apprized the Mexican commander of the detachment of troops to Scott.__McMaster, VII, p. 455.

63. Taylor's reports of February 4th, 7th, and 24th.__H.R. Ex. Doc., No. 60, pp. 1100-1111, and Senate Ex. Doc., No. 1, Thirtieth Congress, first session, p. 97.

64. Numbering 4,759, of whom only 517 were regulars. Taylor's Report of March 6, 1847. Senate Ex. Doc., No. 1, p. 142.

The Mexican army amounted to 20,000.__Ibid, p. 138.

65. The volunteers had then had a field training of eight months, "a period twice as long as the time considered necessary to transform a recruit into a regular soldier."__Upton, p. 209.

66. 500 killed and from 1,000 to 1,500 wounded, in addition to a large number of desertions estimated at more than 3,000.

The American losses were 267 killed, 456 wounded and 23 missing, a total of only 746.__Tayhlor's Report of March 6th. Senate Ex. Doc., No. 1, pp. 138, 142 and 143; Ripley, I, pp. 424 and 427.

67. General Morales, to whom the idea of surrender was repugnant, had feigned illness and turned the command of the place over to Landero.

68. Which was agreed upon at 9 p.m. on March 27th. The Mexican officers were permitted to retain their swords, horses and equipment, and the entire army liberated on parole not to "serve again until duly exchanged."

69. 5,000 strong, with 400 guns, small arms, stores, etc.__General Orders, No. 80, dated March 30, 1847; Senate Ex. Doc., No. 1, pp. 239-240.

70. 13,000 and 42 guns.__Ladd, p. 219.

71. Numbering about 12,000.__General Scott's Autobiography, II, p. 240; Ripley, II, pp. 17-18; Mansfield, Life of General Winfield Scott, p. 367.

72. 60 miles from Vera Cruz.

73. According to General Scott's report of April 23, 1847, the Mexicans numbered "12,000 or more," and lost 3,000 prisoners, 4 or 5,000 stands of arms and 43 pieces of artillery, in addition to "1,000 to 1,200 casualties. The American "force present, in action and in reserve, was 8,500," the losses being 63 killed and 367 wounded. _Senate Ex. Doc., No. 1, pp. 264-274.

74. Scott to General Taylor, Jalapa, April 24, 1847. H.R., Ex. Doc., No. 60, p. 948.

75. "Fifty-four guns and mortars, iron and bronze, of various calibers in good service condition, eleven thousand and sixty-five cannon balls, fourteen thousand three hundred bombs and hand grenades, and five hundred muskets."__General Scott's Report of April 22, 1847. Senate Ex. Doc., No. 1, p. 300.

76. See page 82.

77. "The general-in-chief regrets to learn, through a great number of undoubted channels, that, in all probability, not one man in ten of those regiments will be inclined to volunteer for the war."__General Orders, No. 135, dated Jalapa, May 4, 1847.

78. General Scott's reports to the Secretary of War, April 28th, May 6th, and June 4th.

79. "There must be only one army, for unity of command is the first necessity in war."__Napoleon, Notes sur l'Art de la Guerre, Corresp., XXXI, P. 418.

80. Upton, pp. 211-212.

81. Six companies of infantry and 3 of dragoons, nearly all recruits left Vera Cruz on June 4th under Colonel McIntosh, but were attacked and had to await General Cadwalader and 500 men who joined them two days later, and rallied to the garrison at Jalapa. Reaching Perote on the 21st, the combined force was further delayed until they were joined by General Pillow, but on July 1st they resumed their march, reaching Puebla on the 8th. With this reinforcement the Army then numbered 8,061 present and 2,302 sick. Scott's Report of July 25, 1847.

82. All that remained of General Franklin Pierce's command of 3,000 composed of new regiments and recruits for the old army which left Vera Cruz on July 19th, and arrived at Puebla on August 6th.

83. Upton, p. 213. Scott's Autobiography, II, p. 420.

84. General Scott's report of September 18, 1847. Senate Ex. Doc., No. 1, p. 384.

85. Ladd, p. 229.

86. Ripley, II, pp. 161, 169-184.

87. Ibid., II, pp. 187 and 210.

88. Scott's force "did not number over 4,500 "; his losses were confined to 60 killed and wounded. The Mexicans "had actually engaged on the spot 7,000 men, with at least 12,000 more hovering within sight, and striking distance." They lost 700 killed, 813 prisoners__including 4 generals and 88 officers and an immense amount of materiel. General Scott's report of August 28, 1847. Senate Ex. Doc., No. 1, p. 308.

89. As a result of these three battles which in reality consisted of five distinct successes, the Mexican army lost 4,000 in killed and wounded, 3,000 captured, including 8 generals and 205 other officers, 37 pieces of artillery and a large amount of small arms, stores, etc. General Scott's report of August 28, 1847.

The American losses on August 19th and 20th were: "Killed, 137, including 14 officers. Wounded, 665, including 49 officers. Missing (probably killed), 38 rank and file. Total, 1,052." Scott's report of September 18, 1847. Senate Ex. Doc., No. 1, pp. 313-314 and 384.

90. On the morning of the 20th the American army numbered all told, 11,052, but owing to the sick, detachments for garrisons, etc., there were "but 8,497 men engaged." Scott's reports of September 18th.

91. Scott's report of August 28, 1847.

92. "In war nothing has been done when anything still remains to be done." Marshal Berthier to Marshal Soult, transmitting Napoleon's orders the day after Austerlitz.

93. In which one Nicholas P. Trist, President Polk's special emissary with Scott's headquarters, concurred.

94. Report of the Secretary of War, December 2, 1847.

95. Scott' report of September 11, 1847.

96. The entire American force engaged was only 3,251, while its casualties amounted to no less than 789. Scott's report of September 18, 1847.

97. Ibid.

98. The entire American force available for these operations was only 8,180, whereas the Mexicans opposed them with "thirty-odd thousand men."__Scott's report of September 18th.

99. "General Worth's division had been turning some minor works north of Chapultepec and was now advancing along the San Cosme causeway. This formed a double roadway on each side of a massive aqueduct of masonry with open arches and pillars. Quitman was pursuing the enemy along the similar causeway of Belen.

"As Shields was charging along this causeway with his volunteers, who, flushed with victory, could not be satisfied with any less honor than the capture of the city, he was overtaken by an aide sent by General Scott to detain him until Worth had forced an entrance through the San Cosme gate. Riding up, the aide saluted the impetuous general__'General Scott presents his compliments' Shields comprehended at once his message, and interrupted him:

"'I have no time for compliments just now,' and spurred on out of reach of the orders of the commander-in-chief."_ Ladd, pp. 252-253.

100. General Scott's report of September 18th in which he gives his losses for September 12th, 13th and 14th as 862 killed, wounded and missing. For the operations ending in the capture of the city, his total losses were "2,703, including 383 officers."

On the other hand, the Americans killed or wounded "more than 7,000 officers and men" of the Mexican army, captured 3,730 prisoners, "including 13 generals, of whom 3 had been presidents" of Mexico, "more than 20 colors and standards, 75 pieces of ordnance, besides 57 wall-pieces, 20,000 small arms, an immense quantity of shots, shells, powder, &c., &c."

101. On September 18th the Mexican General Rea besieged the American garrison left at Puebla, 500 strong with 1,800 sick. On October 22nd he was joined by Santa Anna, thus bringing the Mexican forces up to 8,000. On October 1st Santa Anna with 4,000 sought to crush General Lane, who was coming up from Vera Cruz with 3,300 men, but was defeated at Huamantla, and on the 12th Rea retreated from Puebla, pursued by Lane who captured his entire force at Atlixco on the 19th._ General Lane's report of October 22, 1847.

102. On December 4th General Scott had only 6,000 fit for duty, while his sick numbered 2,041, according to his report of that date.

103. On October 18th Lane with 3,300 reached Puebla, and on December 14th was joined by General Patterson with 2,600, the combined forces reaching Mexico City on the 17th. These, together with other reinforcements, brought the army in the capital up to "9,000 men, or 8,000" fit for duty.__Scott's report of December 14, 1847.

104. This treaty stipulated that Mexico was to be evacuated within three months; that the United States was to pay $3,000,000 in hand and $12,000,000 divided into four annual installments, for the provinces of New Mexico and California which had become American territory by right of conquest. The United States was also to assume certain Mexican debts to American citizens, amounting to $3,500,000. The Rio-Grande was fixed as the boundary, Mexico relinquished all claim to Texas, and the United States gained territory aggregating 522,955 square miles.

105. Ripley, II. p. 640.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Campaign of 1847
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of Books: The Military Unpreparedness of the United States- A History of American Land Forces from Colonial Times until June 1, 1915. By Frederic Louis Huidekoper; Publisher: The Macmillan Company-New York 1916
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