Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

Reinforcements having arrived, in the month of August the
movement commenced from Matamoras to Camargo, the head of
navigation on the Rio Grande. The line of the Rio Grande was
all that was necessary to hold, unless it was intended to invade
Mexico from the North. In that case the most natural route to
take was the one which General Taylor selected. It entered a
pass in the Sierra Madre Mountains, at Monterey, through which
the main road runs to the City of Mexico. Monterey itself was a
good point to hold, even if the line of the Rio Grande covered
all the territory we desired to occupy at that time. It is
built on a plain two thousand feet above tide water, where the
air is bracing and the situation healthy.

On the 19th of August the army started for Monterey, leaving a
small garrison at Matamoras. The troops, with the exception of
the artillery, cavalry, and the brigade to which I belonged,
were moved up the river to Camargo on steamers. As there were
but two or three of these, the boats had to make a number of
trips before the last of the troops were up. Those who marched
did so by the south side of the river. Lieutenant-Colonel
Garland, of the 4th infantry, was the brigade commander, and on
this occasion commanded the entire marching force. One day out
convinced him that marching by day in that latitude, in the
month of August, was not a beneficial sanitary measure,
particularly for Northern men. The order of marching was
changed and night marches were substituted with the best results.

When Camargo was reached, we found a city of tents outside the
Mexican hamlet. I was detailed to act as quartermaster and
commissary to the regiment. The teams that had proven
abundantly sufficient to transport all supplies from Corpus
Christi to the Rio Grande over the level prairies of Texas, were
entirely inadequate to the needs of the reinforced army in a
mountainous country. To obviate the deficiency, pack mules were
hired, with Mexicans to pack and drive them. I had charge of the
few wagons allotted to the 4th infantry and of the pack train to
supplement them. There were not men enough in the army to
manage that train without the help of Mexicans who had learned
how. As it was the difficulty was great enough. The troops
would take up their march at an early hour each day. After they
had started, the tents and cooking utensils had to be made into
packages, so that they could be lashed to the backs of the
mules. Sheet-iron kettles, tent-poles and mess chests were
inconvenient articles to transport in that way. It took several
hours to get ready to start each morning, and by the time we were
ready some of the mules first loaded would be tired of standing
so long with their loads on their backs. Sometimes one would
start to run, bowing his back and kicking up until he scattered
his load; others would lie down and try to disarrange their
loads by attempting to get on the top of them by rolling on
them; others with tent-poles for part of their loads would
manage to run a tent-pole on one side of a sapling while they
would take the other. I am not aware of ever having used a
profane expletive in my life; but I would have the charity to
excuse those who may have done so, if they were in charge of a
train of Mexican pack mules at the time.



The advance from Camargo was commenced on the 5th of September.
The army was divided into four columns, separated from each
other by one day’s march. The advance reached Cerralvo in four
days and halted for the remainder of the troops to come up. By
the 13th the rear-guard had arrived, and the same day the
advance resumed its march, followed as before, a day separating
the divisions. The forward division halted again at Marin,
twenty-four miles from Monterey. Both this place and Cerralvo
were nearly deserted, and men, women and children were seen
running and scattered over the hills as we approached; but when
the people returned they found all their abandoned property
safe, which must have given them a favorable opinion of Los
Grengos–“the Yankees.” From Marin the movement was in mass.
On the 19th General Taylor, with is army, was encamped at Walnut
Springs, within three miles of Monterey.

The town is on a small stream coming out of the mountain-pass,
and is backed by a range of hills of moderate elevation. To the
north, between the city and Walnut Springs, stretches an
extensive plain. On this plain, and entirely outside of the
last houses of the city, stood a strong fort, enclosed on all
sides, to which our army gave the name of “Black Fort.” Its
guns commanded the approaches to the city to the full extent of
their range. There were two detached spurs of hills or
mountains to the north and northwest of the city, which were
also fortified. On one of these stood the Bishop’s Palace. The
road to Saltillo leaves the upper or western end of the city
under the fire of the guns from these heights. The lower or
eastern end was defended by two or three small detached works,
armed with artillery and infantry. To the south was the
mountain stream before mentioned, and back of that the range of
foot-hills. The plaza in the centre of the city was the
citadel, properly speaking. All the streets leading from it
were swept by artillery, cannon being intrenched behind
temporary parapets. The house-tops near the plaza were converted
into infantry fortifications by the use of sand-bags for
parapets. Such were the defences of Monterey in September,
1847. General Ampudia, with a force of certainly ten thousand
men, was in command.

General Taylor’s force was about six thousand five hundred
strong, in three divisions, under Generals Butler, Twiggs and
Worth. The troops went into camp at Walnut Springs, while the
engineer officers, under Major Mansfield–a General in the late
war–commenced their reconnoissance. Major Mansfield found that
it would be practicable to get troops around, out of range of the
Black Fort and the works on the detached hills to the north-west
of the city, to the Saltillo road. With this road in our
possession, the enemy would be cut off from receiving further
supplies, if not from all communication with the interior.
General Worth, with his division somewhat reinforced, was given
the task of gaining possession of the Saltillo road, and of
carrying the detached works outside the city, in that quarter.
He started on his march early in the afternoon of the 20th. The
divisions under Generals Butler and Twiggs were drawn up to
threaten the east and north sides of the city and the works on
those fronts, in support of the movement under General Worth.
Worth’s was regarded as the main attack on Monterey, and all
other operations were in support of it. His march this day was
uninterrupted; but the enemy was seen to reinforce heavily about
the Bishop’s Palace and the other outside fortifications on their
left. General Worth reached a defensible position just out of
range of the enemy’s guns on the heights north-west of the city,
and bivouacked for the night. The engineer officers with
him–Captain Sanders and Lieutenant George G. Meade, afterwards
the commander of the victorious National army at the battle of
Gettysburg–made a reconnoissance to the Saltillo road under
cover of night.

During the night of the 20th General Taylor had established a
battery, consisting of two twenty-four-pounder howitzers and a
ten inch mortar, at a point from which they could play upon
Black Fort. A natural depression in the plain, sufficiently
deep to protect men standing in it from the fire from the fort,
was selected and the battery established on the crest nearest
the enemy. The 4th infantry, then consisting of but six reduced
companies, was ordered to support the artillerists while they
were intrenching themselves and their guns. I was regimental
quartermaster at the time and was ordered to remain in charge of
camp and the public property at Walnut Springs. It was supposed
that the regiment would return to its camp in the morning.

The point for establishing the siege battery was reached and the
work performed without attracting the attention of the enemy. At
daylight the next morning fire was opened on both sides and
continued with, what seemed to me at that day, great fury. My
curiosity got the better of my judgment, and I mounted a horse
and rode to the front to see what was going on. I had been
there but a short time when an order to charge was given, and
lacking the moral courage to return to camp–where I had been
ordered to stay–I charged with the regiment As soon as the
troops were out of the depression they came under the fire of
Black Fort. As they advanced they got under fire from batteries
guarding the cast, or lower, end of the city, and of musketry.
About one-third of the men engaged in the charge were killed or
wounded in the space of a few minutes. We retreated to get out
of fire, not backward, but eastward and perpendicular to the
direct road running into the city from Walnut Springs. I was, I
believe, the only person in the 4th infantry in the charge who
was on horseback. When we got to a lace of safety the regiment
halted and drew itself together–what was left of it. The
adjutant of the regiment, Lieutenant Hoskins, who was not in
robust health, found himself very much fatigued from running on
foot in the charge and retreat, and, seeing me on horseback,
expressed a wish that he could be mounted also. I offered him
my horse and he accepted the offer. A few minutes later I saw a
soldier, a quartermaster’s man, mounted, not far away. I ran to
him, took his horse and was back with the regiment in a few
minutes. In a short time we were off again; and the next place
of safety from the shots of the enemy that I recollect of being
in, was a field of cane or corn to the north-east of the lower
batteries. The adjutant to whom I had loaned my horse was
killed, and I was designated to act in his place.

This charge was ill-conceived, or badly executed. We belonged
to the brigade commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Garland, and he
had received orders to charge the lower batteries of the city,
and carry them if he could without too much loss, for the
purpose of creating a diversion in favor of Worth, who was
conducting the movement which it was intended should be
decisive. By a movement by the left flank Garland could have
led his men beyond the range of the fire from Black Fort and
advanced towards the northeast angle of the city, as well
covered from fire as could be expected. There was no undue loss
of life in reaching the lower end of Monterey, except that
sustained by Garland’s command.

Meanwhile Quitman’s brigade, conducted by an officer of
engineers, had reached the eastern end of the city, and was
placed under cover of the houses without much loss. Colonel
Garland’s brigade also arrived at the suburbs, and, by the
assistance of some of our troops that had reached house-tops
from which they could fire into a little battery covering the
approaches to the lower end of the city, the battery was
speedily captured and its guns were turned upon another work of
the enemy. An entrance into the cast end of the city was now
secured, and the houses protected our troops so long as they
were inactive. On the west General Worth had reached the
Saltillo road after some fighting but without heavy loss. He
turned from his new position and captured the forts on both
heights in that quarter. This gave him possession of the upper
or west end of Monterey. Troops from both Twiggs’s and Butler’s
divisions were in possession of the east end of the town, but the
Black Fort to the north of the town and the plaza in the centre
were still in the possession of the enemy. Our camps at Walnut
Springs, three miles away, were guarded by a company from each
regiment. A regiment of Kentucky volunteers guarded the mortars
and howitzers engaged against Black Fort. Practically Monterey
was invested.

There was nothing done on the 22d by the United States troops;
but the enemy kept up a harmless fire upon us from Black Fort
and the batteries still in their possession at the east end of
the city. During the night they evacuated these; so that on the
morning of the 23d we held undisputed possession of the east end
of Monterey.

Twiggs’s division was at the lower end of the city, and well
covered from the fire of the enemy. But the streets leading to
the plaza–all Spanish or Spanish-American towns have near their
centres a square called a plaza–were commanded from all
directions by artillery. The houses were flat-roofed and but
one or two stories high, and about the plaza the roofs were
manned with infantry, the troops being protected from our fire
by parapets made of sand-bags. All advances into the city were
thus attended with much danger. While moving along streets
which did not lead to the plaza, our men were protected from the
fire, and from the view, of the enemy except at the crossings;
but at these a volley of musketry and a discharge of grape-shot
were invariably encountered. The 3d and 4th regiments of
infantry made an advance nearly to the plaza in this way and
with heavy loss. The loss of the 3d infantry in commissioned
officers was especially severe. There were only five companies
of the regiment and not over twelve officers present, and five
of these officers were killed. When within a square of the
plaza this small command, ten companies in all, was brought to a
halt. Placing themselves under cover from the shots of the
enemy, the men would watch to detect a head above the sand-bags
on the neighboring houses. The exposure of a single head would
bring a volley from our soldiers.

We had not occupied this position long when it was discovered
that our ammunition was growing low. I volunteered to go back
(*2) to the point we had started from, report our position to
General Twiggs, and ask for ammunition to be forwarded. We were
at this time occupying ground off from the street, in rear of the
houses. My ride back was an exposed one. Before starting I
adjusted myself on the side of my horse furthest from the enemy,
and with only one foot holding to the cantle of the saddle, and
an arm over the neck of the horse exposed, I started at full
run. It was only at street crossings that my horse was under
fire, but these I crossed at such a flying rate that generally I
was past and under cover of the next block of houses before the
enemy fired. I got out safely without a scratch.

At one place on my ride, I saw a sentry walking in front of a
house, and stopped to inquire what he was doing there. Finding
that the house was full of wounded American officers and
soldiers, I dismounted and went in. I found there Captain
Williams, of the Engineer Corps, wounded in the head, probably
fatally, and Lieutenant Territt, also badly wounded his bowels
protruding from his wound. There were quite a number of
soldiers also. Promising them to report their situation, I
left, readjusted myself to my horse, recommenced the run, and
was soon with the troops at the east end. Before ammunition
could be collected, the two regiments I had been with were seen
returning, running the same gauntlet in getting out that they
had passed in going in, but with comparatively little loss. The
movement was countermanded and the troops were withdrawn. The
poor wounded officers and men I had found, fell into the hands
of the enemy during the night, and died.

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