Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

While this was going on at the east, General Worth, with a small
division of troops, was advancing towards the plaza from the
opposite end of the city. He resorted to a better expedient for
getting to the plaza–the citadel–than we did on the east.
Instead of moving by the open streets, he advanced through the
houses, cutting passageways from one to another. Without much
loss of life, he got so near the plaza during the night that
before morning, Ampudia, the Mexican commander, made overtures
for the surrender of the city and garrison. This stopped all
further hostilities. The terms of surrender were soon agreed
upon. The prisoners were paroled and permitted to take their
horses and personal property with them.

My pity was aroused by the sight of the Mexican garrison of
Monterey marching out of town as prisoners, and no doubt the
same feeling was experienced by most of our army who witnessed
it. Many of the prisoners were cavalry, armed with lances, and
mounted on miserable little half-starved horses that did not
look as if they could carry their riders out of town. The men
looked in but little better condition. I thought how little
interest the men before me had in the results of the war, and
how little knowledge they had of “what it was all about.”

After the surrender of the garrison of Monterey a quiet camp
life was led until midwinter. As had been the case on the Rio
Grande, the people who remained at their homes fraternized with
the “Yankees” in the pleasantest manner. In fact, under the
humane policy of our commander, I question whether the great
majority of the Mexican people did not regret our departure as
much as they had regretted our coming. Property and person were
thoroughly protected, and a market was afforded for all the
products of the country such as the people had never enjoyed
before. The educated and wealthy portion of the population
here, as elsewhere, abandoned their homes and remained away from
them as long as they were in the possession of the invaders; but
this class formed a very small percentage of the whole



The Mexican war was a political war, and the administration
conducting it desired to make party capital out of it. General
Scott was at the head of the army, and, being a soldier of
acknowledged professional capacity, his claim to the command of
the forces in the field was almost indisputable and does not
seem to have been denied by President Polk, or Marcy, his
Secretary of War. Scott was a Whig and the administration was
democratic. General Scott was also known to have political
aspirations, and nothing so popularizes a candidate for high
civil positions as military victories. It would not do
therefore to give him command of the “army of conquest.” The
plans submitted by Scott for a campaign in Mexico were
disapproved by the administration, and he replied, in a tone
possibly a little disrespectful, to the effect that, if a
soldier’s plans were not to be supported by the administration,
success could not be expected. This was on the 27th of May,
1846. Four days later General Scott was notified that he need
not go to Mexico. General Gaines was next in rank, but he was
too old and feeble to take the field. Colonel Zachary Taylor–a
brigadier-general by brevet–was therefore left in command. He,
too, was a Whig, but was not supposed to entertain any political
ambitions; nor did he; but after the fall of Monterey, his third
battle and third complete victory, the Whig papers at home began
to speak of him as the candidate of their party for the
Presidency. Something had to be done to neutralize his growing
popularity. He could not be relieved from duty in the field
where all his battles had been victories: the design would have
been too transparent. It was finally decided to send General
Scott to Mexico in chief command, and to authorize him to carry
out his own original plan: that is, capture Vera Cruz and march
upon the capital of the country. It was no doubt supposed that
Scott’s ambition would lead him to slaughter Taylor or destroy
his chances for the Presidency, and yet it was hoped that he
would not make sufficient capital himself to secure the prize.

The administration had indeed a most embarrassing problem to
solve. It was engaged in a war of conquest which must be
carried to a successful issue, or the political object would be
unattained. Yet all the capable officers of the requisite rank
belonged to the opposition, and the man selected for his lack of
political ambition had himself become a prominent candidate for
the Presidency. It was necessary to destroy his chances
promptly. The problem was to do this without the loss of
conquest and without permitting another general of the same
political party to acquire like popularity. The fact is, the
administration of Mr. Polk made every preparation to disgrace
Scott, or, to speak more correctly, to drive him to such
desperation that he would disgrace himself.

General Scott had opposed conquest by the way of the Rio Grande,
Matamoras and Saltillo from the first. Now that he was in
command of all the forces in Mexico, he withdrew from Taylor
most of his regular troops and left him only enough volunteers,
as he thought, to hold the line then in possession of the
invading army. Indeed Scott did not deem it important to hold
anything beyond the Rio Grande, and authorized Taylor to fall
back to that line if he chose. General Taylor protested against
the depletion of his army, and his subsequent movement upon Buena
Vista would indicate that he did not share the views of his chief
in regard to the unimportance of conquest beyond the Rio Grande.

Scott had estimated the men and material that would be required
to capture Vera Cruz and to march on the capital of the country,
two hundred and sixty miles in the interior. He was promised all
he asked and seemed to have not only the confidence of the
President, but his sincere good wishes. The promises were all
broken. Only about half the troops were furnished that had been
pledged, other war material was withheld and Scott had scarcely
started for Mexico before the President undertook to supersede
him by the appointment of Senator Thomas H. Benton as
lieutenant-general. This being refused by Congress, the
President asked legislative authority to place a junior over a
senior of the same grade, with the view of appointing Benton to
the rank of major-general and then placing him in command of the
army, but Congress failed to accede to this proposition as well,
and Scott remained in command: but every general appointed to
serve under him was politically opposed to the chief, and
several were personally hostile.

General Scott reached Brazos Santiago or Point Isabel, at the
mouth of the Rio Grande, late in December, 1846, and proceeded
at once up the river to Camargo, where he had written General
Taylor to meet him. Taylor, however, had gone to, or towards
Tampico, for the purpose of establishing a post there. He had
started on this march before he was aware of General Scott being
in the country. Under these circumstances Scott had to issue his
orders designating the troops to be withdrawn from Taylor,
without the personal consultation he had expected to hold with
his subordinate.

General Taylor’s victory at Buena Vista, February 22d, 23d, and
24th, 1847, with an army composed almost entirely of volunteers
who had not been in battle before, and over a vastly superior
force numerically, made his nomination for the Presidency by the
Whigs a foregone conclusion. He was nominated and elected in
1848. I believe that he sincerely regretted this turn in his
fortunes, preferring the peace afforded by a quiet life free
from abuse to the honor of filling the highest office in the
gift of any people, the Presidency of the United States.

When General Scott assumed command of the army of invasion, I
was in the division of General David Twiggs, in Taylor’s
command; but under the new orders my regiment was transferred to
the division of General William Worth, in which I served to the
close of the war. The troops withdrawn from Taylor to form part
of the forces to operate against Vera Cruz, were assembled at the
mouth of the Rio Grande preparatory to embarkation for their
destination. I found General Worth a different man from any I
had before served directly under. He was nervous, impatient and
restless on the march, or when important or responsible duty
confronted him. There was not the least reason for haste on the
march, for it was known that it would take weeks to assemble
shipping enough at the point of our embarkation to carry the
army, but General Worth moved his division with a rapidity that
would have been commendable had he been going to the relief of a
beleaguered garrison. The length of the marches was regulated by
the distances between places affording a supply of water for the
troops, and these distances were sometimes long and sometimes
short. General Worth on one occasion at least, after having
made the full distance intended for the day, and after the
troops were in camp and preparing their food, ordered tents
struck and made the march that night which had been intended for
the next day. Some commanders can move troops so as to get the
maximum distance out of them without fatigue, while others can
wear them out in a few days without accomplishing so much.
General Worth belonged to this latter class. He enjoyed,
however, a fine reputation for his fighting qualities, and thus
attached his officers and men to him.

The army lay in camp upon the sand-beach in the neighborhood of
the mouth of the Rio Grande for several weeks, awaiting the
arrival of transports to carry it to its new field of
operations. The transports were all sailing vessels. The
passage was a tedious one, and many of the troops were on
shipboard over thirty days from the embarkation at the mouth of
the Rio Grande to the time of debarkation south of Vera Cruz.
The trip was a comfortless one for officers and men. The
transports used were built for carrying freight and possessed
but limited accommodations for passengers, and the climate added
to the discomfort of all.

The transports with troops were assembled in the harbor of Anton
Lizardo, some sixteen miles south of Vera Cruz, as they arrived,
and there awaited the remainder of the fleet, bringing
artillery, ammunition and supplies of all kinds from the
North. With the fleet there was a little steam propeller
dispatch-boat–the first vessel of the kind I had ever seen, and
probably the first of its kind ever seen by any one then with the
army. At that day ocean steamers were rare, and what there were
were sidewheelers. This little vessel, going through the fleet
so fast, so noiselessly and with its propeller under water out
of view, attracted a great deal of attention. I recollect that
Lieutenant Sidney Smith, of the 4th infantry, by whom I happened
to be standing on the deck of a vessel when this propeller was
passing, exclaimed, “Why, the thing looks as if it was propelled
by the force of circumstances.”

Finally on the 7th of March, 1847, the little army of ten or
twelve thousand men, given Scott to invade a country with a
population of seven or eight millions, a mountainous country
affording the greatest possible natural advantages for defence,
was all assembled and ready to commence the perilous task of
landing from vessels lying in the open sea.

The debarkation took place inside of the little island of
Sacrificios, some three miles south of Vera Cruz. The vessels
could not get anywhere near shore, so that everything had to be
landed in lighters or surf-boats; General Scott had provided
these before leaving the North. The breakers were sometimes
high, so that the landing was tedious. The men were got ashore
rapidly, because they could wade when they came to shallow
water; but the camp and garrison equipage, provisions,
ammunition and all stores had to be protected from the salt
water, and therefore their landing took several days. The
Mexicans were very kind to us, however, and threw no obstacles
in the way of our landing except an occasional shot from their
nearest fort. During the debarkation one shot took off the head
of Major Albertis. No other, I believe, reached anywhere near
the same distance. On the 9th of March the troops were landed
and the investment of Vera Cruz, from the Gulf of Mexico south
of the city to the Gulf again on the north, was soon and easily
effected. The landing of stores was continued until everything
was got ashore.

Vera Cruz, at the time of which I write and up to 1880, was a
walled city. The wall extended from the water’s edge south of
the town to the water again on the north. There were
fortifications at intervals along the line and at the angles. In
front of the city, and on an island half a mile out in the Gulf,
stands San Juan de Ulloa, an enclosed fortification of large
dimensions and great strength for that period. Against
artillery of the present day the land forts and walls would
prove elements of weakness rather than strength. After the
invading army had established their camps out of range of the
fire from the city, batteries were established, under cover of
night, far to the front of the line where the troops lay. These
batteries were intrenched and the approaches sufficiently
protected. If a sortie had been made at any time by the
Mexicans, the men serving the batteries could have been quickly
reinforced without great exposure to the fire from the enemy’s
main line. No serious attempt was made to capture the batteries
or to drive our troops away.

The siege continued with brisk firing on our side till the 27th
of March, by which time a considerable breach had been made in
the wall surrounding the city. Upon this General Morales, who
was Governor of both the city and of San Juan de Ulloa,
commenced a correspondence with General Scott looking to the
surrender of the town, forts and garrison. On the 29th Vera
Cruz and San Juan de Ulloa were occupied by Scott’s army. About
five thousand prisoners and four hundred pieces of artillery,
besides large amounts of small arms and ammunition, fell into
the hands of the victorious force. The casualties on our side
during the siege amounted to sixty-four officers and men, killed
and wounded.



General Scott had less than twelve thousand men at Vera Cruz. He
had been promised by the administration a very much larger force,
or claimed that he had, and he was a man of veracity. Twelve
thousand was a very small army with which to penetrate two
hundred and sixty miles into an enemy’s country, and to besiege
the capital; a city, at that time, of largely over one hundred
thousand inhabitants. Then, too, any line of march that could
be selected led through mountain passes easily defended. In
fact, there were at that time but two roads from Vera Cruz to
the City of Mexico that could be taken by an army; one by Jalapa
and Perote, the other by Cordova and Orizaba, the two coming
together on the great plain which extends to the City of Mexico
after the range of mountains is passed.

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 | View All | Next -»