Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

It has always seemed to me that this northern route to the City
of Mexico, would have been the better one to have taken. But my
later experience has taught me two lessons: first, that things
are seen plainer after the events have occurred; second, that
the most confident critics are generally those who know the
least about the matter criticised. I know just enough about the
Mexican war to approve heartily of most of the generalship, but
to differ with a little of it. It is natural that an important
city like Puebla should not have been passed with contempt; it
may be natural that the direct road to it should have been
taken; but it could have been passed, its evacuation insured and
possession acquired without danger of encountering the enemy in
intricate mountain defiles. In this same way the City of Mexico
could have been approached without any danger of opposition,
except in the open field.

But General Scott’s successes are an answer to all criticism. He
invaded a populous country, penetrating two hundred and sixty
miles into the interior, with a force at no time equal to
one-half of that opposed to him; he was without a base; the
enemy was always intrenched, always on the defensive; yet he won
every battle, he captured the capital, and conquered the
government. Credit is due to the troops engaged, it is true,
but the plans and the strategy were the general’s.

I had now made marches and been in battle under both General
Scott and General Taylor. The former divided his force of
10,500 men into four columns, starting a day apart, in moving
from Puebla to the capital of the nation, when it was known that
an army more than twice as large as his own stood ready to resist
his coming. The road was broad and the country open except in
crossing the Rio Frio mountain. General Taylor pursued the same
course in marching toward an enemy. He moved even in smaller
bodies. I never thought at the time to doubt the infallibility
of these two generals in all matters pertaining to their
profession. I supposed they moved in small bodies because more
men could not be passed over a single road on the same day with
their artillery and necessary trains. Later I found the fallacy
of this belief. The rebellion, which followed as a sequence to
the Mexican war, never could have been suppressed if larger
bodies of men could not have been moved at the same time than
was the custom under Scott and Taylor.

The victories in Mexico were, in every instance, over vastly
superior numbers. There were two reasons for this. Both
General Scott and General Taylor had such armies as are not
often got together. At the battles of Palo Alto and
Resaca-de-la-Palma, General Taylor had a small army, but it was
composed exclusively of regular troops, under the best of drill
and discipline. Every officer, from the highest to the lowest,
was educated in his profession, not at West Point necessarily,
but in the camp, in garrison, and many of them in Indian wars.
The rank and file were probably inferior, as material out of
which to make an army, to the volunteers that participated in
all the later battles of the war; but they were brave men, and
then drill and discipline brought out all there was in them. A
better army, man for man, probably never faced an enemy than the
one commanded by General Taylor in the earliest two engagements
of the Mexican war. The volunteers who followed were of better
material, but without drill or discipline at the start. They
were associated with so many disciplined men and professionally
educated officers, that when they went into engagements it was
with a confidence they would not have felt otherwise. They
became soldiers themselves almost at once. All these conditions
we would enjoy again in case of war.

The Mexican army of that day was hardly an organization. The
private soldier was picked up from the lower class of the
inhabitants when wanted; his consent was not asked; he was
poorly clothed, worse fed, and seldom paid. He was turned
adrift when no longer wanted. The officers of the lower grades
were but little superior to the men. With all this I have seen
as brave stands made by some of these men as I have ever seen
made by soldiers. Now Mexico has a standing army larger than
that of the United States. They have a military school modelled
after West Point. Their officers are educated and, no doubt,
generally brave. The Mexican war of 1846-8 would be an
impossibility in this generation.

The Mexicans have shown a patriotism which it would be well if
we would imitate in part, but with more regard to truth. They
celebrate the anniversaries of Chapultepec and Molino del Rey as
of very great victories. The anniversaries are recognized as
national holidays. At these two battles, while the United
States troops were victorious, it was at very great sacrifice of
life compared with what the Mexicans suffered. The Mexicans, as
on many other occasions, stood up as well as any troops ever
did. The trouble seemed to be the lack of experience among the
officers, which led them after a certain time to simply quit,
without being particularly whipped, but because they had fought
enough. Their authorities of the present day grow enthusiastic
over their theme when telling of these victories, and speak with
pride of the large sum of money they forced us to pay in the
end. With us, now twenty years after the close of the most
stupendous war ever known, we have writers–who profess devotion
to the nation–engaged in trying to prove that the Union forces
were not victorious; practically, they say, we were slashed
around from Donelson to Vicksburg and to Chattanooga; and in the
East from Gettysburg to Appomattox, when the physical rebellion
gave out from sheer exhaustion. There is no difference in the
amount of romance in the two stories.

I would not have the anniversaries of our victories celebrated,
nor those of our defeats made fast days and spent in humiliation
and prayer; but I would like to see truthful history written.
Such history will do full credit to the courage, endurance and
soldierly ability of the American citizen, no matter what
section of the country he hailed from, or in what ranks he
fought. The justice of the cause which in the end prevailed,
will, I doubt not, come to be acknowledged by every citizen of
the land, in time. For the present, and so long as there are
living witnesses of the great war of sections, there will be
people who will not be consoled for the loss of a cause which
they believed to be holy. As time passes, people, even of the
South, will begin to wonder how it was possible that their
ancestors ever fought for or justified institutions which
acknowledged the right of property in man.

After the fall of the capital and the dispersal of the
government of Mexico, it looked very much as if military
occupation of the country for a long time might be necessary.
General Scott at once began the preparation of orders,
regulations and laws in view of this contingency. He
contemplated making the country pay all the expenses of the
occupation, without the army becoming a perceptible burden upon
the people. His plan was to levy a direct tax upon the separate
states, and collect, at the ports left open to trade, a duty on
all imports. From the beginning of the war private property had
not been taken, either for the use of the army or of individuals,
without full compensation. This policy was to be pursued. There
were not troops enough in the valley of Mexico to occupy many
points, but now that there was no organized army of the enemy of
any size, reinforcements could be got from the Rio Grande, and
there were also new volunteers arriving from time to time, all
by way of Vera Cruz. Military possession was taken of
Cuernavaca, fifty miles south of the City of Mexico; of Toluca,
nearly as far west, and of Pachuca, a mining town of great
importance, some sixty miles to the north-east. Vera Cruz,
Jalapa, Orizaba, and Puebla were already in our possession.

Meanwhile the Mexican government had departed in the person of
Santa Anna, and it looked doubtful for a time whether the United
States commissioner, Mr. Trist, would find anybody to negotiate
with. A temporary government, however, was soon established at
Queretaro, and Trist began negotiations for a conclusion of the
war. Before terms were finally agreed upon he was ordered back
to Washington, but General Scott prevailed upon him to remain,
as an arrangement had been so nearly reached, and the
administration must approve his acts if he succeeded in making
such a treaty as had been contemplated in his instructions. The
treaty was finally signed the 2d of February, 1848, and accepted
by the government at Washington. It is that known as the
“Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo,” and secured to the United States
the Rio Grande as the boundary of Texas, and the whole territory
then included in New Mexico and Upper California, for the sum of

Soon after entering the city of Mexico, the opposition of
Generals Pillow, Worth and Colonel Duncan to General Scott
became very marked. Scott claimed that they had demanded of the
President his removal. I do not know whether this is so or not,
but I do know of their unconcealed hostility to their chief. At
last he placed them in arrest, and preferred charges against them
of insubordination and disrespect. This act brought on a crisis
in the career of the general commanding. He had asserted from
the beginning that the administration was hostile to him; that
it had failed in its promises of men and war material; that the
President himself had shown duplicity if not treachery in the
endeavor to procure the appointment of Benton: and the
administration now gave open evidence of its enmity. About the
middle of February orders came convening a court of inquiry,
composed of Brevet Brigadier-General Towson, the
paymaster-general of the army, Brigadier-General Cushing and
Colonel Belknap, to inquire into the conduct of the accused and
the accuser, and shortly afterwards orders were received from
Washington, relieving Scott of the command of the army in the
field and assigning Major-General William O. Butler of Kentucky
to the place. This order also released Pillow, Worth and Duncan
from arrest.

If a change was to be made the selection of General Butler was
agreeable to every one concerned, so far as I remember to have
heard expressions on the subject. There were many who regarded
the treatment of General Scott as harsh and unjust. It is quite
possible that the vanity of the General had led him to say and do
things that afforded a plausible pretext to the administration
for doing just what it did and what it had wanted to do from the
start. The court tried the accuser quite as much as the
accused. It was adjourned before completing its labors, to meet
in Frederick, Maryland. General Scott left the country, and
never after had more than the nominal command of the army until
early in 1861. He certainly was not sustained in his efforts to
maintain discipline in high places.

The efforts to kill off politically the two successful generals,
made them both candidates for the Presidency. General Taylor was
nominated in 1848, and was elected. Four years later General
Scott received the nomination but was badly beaten, and the
party nominating him died with his defeat.(*5)



The treaty of peace between the two countries was signed by the
commissioners of each side early in February, 1848. It took a
considerable time for it to reach Washington, receive the
approval of the administration, and be finally ratified by the
Senate. It was naturally supposed by the army that there would
be no more fighting, and officers and men were of course anxious
to get home, but knowing there must be delay they contented
themselves as best they could. Every Sunday there was a bull
fight for the amusement of those who would pay their fifty
cents. I attended one of them–just one–not wishing to leave
the country without having witnessed the national sport. The
sight to me was sickening. I could not see how human beings
could enjoy the sufferings of beasts, and often of men, as they
seemed to do on these occasions.

At these sports there are usually from four to six bulls
sacrificed. The audience occupies seats around the ring in
which the exhibition is given, each seat but the foremost rising
higher than the one in front, so that every one can get a full
view of the sport. When all is ready a bull is turned into the
ring. Three or four men come in, mounted on the merest
skeletons of horses blind or blind-folded and so weak that they
could not make a sudden turn with their riders without danger of
falling down. The men are armed with spears having a point as
sharp as a needle. Other men enter the arena on foot, armed
with red flags and explosives about the size of a musket
cartridge. To each of these explosives is fastened a barbed
needle which serves the purpose of attaching them to the bull by
running the needle into the skin. Before the animal is turned
loose a lot of these explosives are attached to him. The pain
from the pricking of the skin by the needles is exasperating;
but when the explosions of the cartridges commence the animal
becomes frantic. As he makes a lunge towards one horseman,
another runs a spear into him. He turns towards his last
tormentor when a man on foot holds out a red flag; the bull
rushes for this and is allowed to take it on his horns. The
flag drops and covers the eyes of the animal so that he is at a
loss what to do; it is jerked from him and the torment is
renewed. When the animal is worked into an uncontrollable
frenzy, the horsemen withdraw, and the matadores–literally
murderers–enter, armed with knives having blades twelve or
eighteen inches long, and sharp. The trick is to dodge an
attack from the animal and stab him to the heart as he passes.
If these efforts fail the bull is finally lassoed, held fast and
killed by driving a knife blade into the spinal column just back
of the horns. He is then dragged out by horses or mules,
another is let into the ring, and the same performance is

On the occasion when I was present one of the bulls was not
turned aside by the attacks in the rear, the presentations of
the red flag, etc., etc., but kept right on, and placing his
horns under the flanks of a horse threw him and his rider to the
ground with great force. The horse was killed and the rider lay
prostrate as if dead. The bull was then lassoed and killed in
the manner above described. Men came in and carried the dead
man off in a litter. When the slaughtered bull and horse were
dragged out, a fresh bull was turned into the ring. Conspicuous
among the spectators was the man who had been carried out on a
litter but a few minutes before. He was only dead so far as
that performance went; but the corpse was so lively that it
could not forego the chance of witnessing the discomfiture of
some of his brethren who might not be so fortunate. There was a
feeling of disgust manifested by the audience to find that he had
come to life again. I confess that I felt sorry to see the
cruelty to the bull and the horse. I did not stay for the
conclusion of the performance; but while I did stay, there was
not a bull killed in the prescribed way.

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