Edwin L. (Edwin Legrand) Sabin.

Into Mexico with General Scott .. online

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crest a huge round-topped hill four miles distant
in the midst of the other hills along the road, was
Cerro Gordo itself : Big Mountain, or Telegraph Hill.
The officers said that with their glasses they could see
the Mexican flags floating from its very summit, over
batteries, and over a stone tower.

11 Gin'ral Scott, he got to shed his coat an' get
to work, I reckon/' declared Pompey, who had ap-
peared at each night's camp. " How we-all gwine to
trabbel on with dose Mexicans rollin' rocks down on
us ? An* dar ain't no road 't all odder side the ribber.
'Spec* we mought have to make wings an' fly ober
dose mountings. Don't see no odder way."

Ahal The troops below were already in motion.
At any rate, one column was moving out, and filing
into the hills on the north of the road. Marched
like Regulars; must be the Second Division! Was
the battle about to begin, before the First Division
received orders? But when, after a hasty breakfast,


the division hurried down and camped near the
Third Division, soldier talk explained matters.

The Second and Third Divisions had been here
two or three days, lying low and wondering how to
get past Cerro Gordo. When the Third had joined
the Second, General Twiggs had decided to storm
Cerro Gordo, anyhow, and had given instructions to
General Pillow. He was a fighting man, this General
Twiggs. But General Patterson had heard and had
galloped forward from his bed to take command
and veto the orders. Being a major-general, he out-
ranked Old Davy, who was only a brigadier. The
men had been rather glum at the idea of storming
Cerro Gordo from the road Jhat looked like a sure-
death job; and when they learned that nothing would
be done until General Scott came in, they felt
mightily relieved.

General Scott had arrived on the fourteenth. He
immediately sent Captain Lee of the engineers out to
examine the country. Captain Lee reported that by
following a deep brushy ravine around to the north-
west, if the guns and men could be got through then
Cerro Gordo might be flanked and attacked from the
rear. Santa Anna faced the road, of course, think-
ing that the principal attack would be made from
that. The Americans were not goats or rabbits;
they would have to march by the road. And Cerro
Gordo and the other batteries (quite a number) com-
manded all the zigzags and switchbacks by entrench-
ments and breastworks two miles in length. His
artillery and his muskets, manned by twelve or thir-
teen thousand soldiers, would simply pulverize
that road.



\ It had looked like a problem to General Twiggs

and Generals Pillow and Patterson ; but Captain Lee
seemed to have solved the problem. General Scott
approved the plan. Pioneers were dispatched at once
to open a trail around to the north that cannon might
be hauled; the Second Division had marched this
morning, to take position and seize, as was said, a hill
that the Mexicans had neglected to fortify.

The day, April 17, was a fine one, with just
a little sea breeze wafting in from the gulf and Vera
Cruz, fifty miles east. The stars and stripes flut-
tered over the camps of the First and Third Divi-
sions; but the Second Division apparently did not
intend to come back. Upon the mountain crests three
and four miles west the Mexican flags fluttered. All
was quiet there. General Santa Anna seemed to
haverno suspicion that anything especial was happen-
ing. He waited for the Americans to advance.
General Scott knew exactly what was happening and
what was going to happen. He issued his orders
for battle.

First they were given to the division comman-
ders. The division adjutants furnished copies of
them to the brigade commanders ; the brigade adju-
tants transmitted them to the regimental com-
manders; and soon the company officers who were
keen knew them also.

" Now we gwine to see what kind ob stratee-
gis' Gin'ral Scott am," Pompey pronounced. For
Lieutenant Grant had made a copy of the orders
where posted, and he and Lieutenant Smith dis-
cussed them.

" The enemy's whole line of entrenchments and
batteries will be attacked in front, and at the same


time turned, early in the day to-morrow probably
before ten o'clock A.M./' said the first paragraph of
these General Orders No. in.

" Hi golly ! " Pompey chuckled. " We gwine
to slam him in the face an' in the back, same time.
Dat's proper."

" The Second Division of Regulars is already ad-
vanced within easy turning distance toward the
enemy's left. That division has instructions to move
forward before daylight to-morrow, and take up
position across the National Road in the enemy's
rear, so as to cut off a retreat toward Jalapa."

" We got dose Mexicans retreatin' already,"
chuckled Pompey, while Jerry listened with all
his ears.

The Second Division was to be reinforced by
General Shields' brigade of Volunteers.

" The First Division of Regulars will follow the
movement against the enemy's left at sunrise to-
morrow morning."

"Hi! Dat's us," Pompey announced. "We
gwine to be dar fo' the leavin's."

General Pillow's brigade of Volunteers was to
attack from the front, or the river side, as soon as
he heard the sounds of battle in the north.

" The enemy's batteries being carried or aban-
doned, all our divisions and corps will pursue with
vigor. The pursuit may be continued many miles,
until stopped by darkness or fortified positions, to-
ward Jalapa. Consequently, the body of the army
will not return to this encampment, but be followed
to-morrow afternoon or early the next morning, by
the baggage trains of the several corps."


General Scott therefore was confident. He had
no notion of being beaten; he made no mention of
what to do in case that his troops were driven back.
All his order read : " Go ahead. 5 *

" Twiggs has the honors this time," Lieutenant
Smith remarked. " Why, that old fire-eater will cap-
ture the whole bag before the rest of us ever catch up
with him ! "

The Second had a good head start, at least. Then,
shortly after noon, a wave of heavy gunfire rolled in
from the northwest the direction taken by the
Twiggs division. Great clouds of smoke welled up,
three miles distant ; the heights of Cerro Gordo were
veiled, and the smoke extended down and rose again.

The Second Division was in battle! General
Scott evidently had expected this. In about an hour
the long roll beat for General Shields' brigade, in
the Volunteer camp ; out they went, at quick time
the Second New York and the Third and Fourth
Illinois, and three twenty- four-pounders.

General Scott himself might be seen, sitting his
horse, upon a little rise of the valley bottom, gazing
steadily at the smoke through his glass. Very calm
and collected he appeared. His aides galloped for-
ward as if to get the news.

All that afternoon the booming of cannon and
the drumming of musketry continued. No bad news
came back. At sunset the firing died away. An aide
from General Twiggs raced in and reported to Gen-
eral Scott. Speedily there were cheers.

Captain Gore of the company hastened forward
to learn what he might. He returned.

" The movement by General Twiggs has been


entirely successful, men. The American flag is now
f established upon a hill directly opposite Telegraph
Hill, within easy range of the rear of the enemy's
defenses. Colonel Harney's Mounted Rifles and the
First Artillery, supported by the Seventh Infantry,
carried it in gallant style, and General Shields' bri-
gade is reinforcing with men and guns. The first
stage of the battle has been won."

" An* will we get into the foight, cap'n, plaze,
sorr ? " old Sergeant Mulligan asked.

" We'll do our level best, sergeant. All we want
is the chance."

This was an uneasy night. The men persisted in
talking among themselves until late. The veterans
who had fought in other battles cracked jokes and
told stories, and the few new men were nervous.
The sergeants and corporals in vain cautioned :
"Silence! Go to sleep."

Lieutenant Grant lay under his blanket in the
open, for the tents were far behind. The night was
sultry; showers of rain fell, wetting the blankets.
Pompey himself chattered less than usual and Jerry
felt serious. To-morrow there was going to be a
great battle of eight thousand American soldiers
against twelve thousand Mexican soldiers, strongly
fortified on the hills.

" Cerro Gordo hill is the key to the field," Lieu-
tenant Grant had said " That of course must be
taken, and all the operations will concentrate upon it."

The First Division did not know till later, but
all this night the Illinois and New York Volunteers
were working like Trojans, dragging the three
twenty- four-pounders, under direction of Captain


Lee and Lieutenant Hagner of the Ordnance, through
the brush and over the rocks and tree trunks, and
up the hill. The men were divided into two detach-
ments. One detachment rested while the other de-
tachment hauled and shoved; then the working
detachment blocked the wheels and lay panting while
the first detachment buckled to. It was not until
three o'clock in the morning, that amidst the darkness
and the rain the three guns were placed in position
to open fire upon Telegraph Hill.

Down in the camp at Plan del Rio reveille was
sounded before daylight. Breakfast was eaten in the
pink of dawn. And listen! The day's battle had
commenced ! Cannon were bellowing from the Sec-
ond Division's hill sending grape and solid shot into
the Mexican entrenchments upon Telegraph Hill.
The Mexicans were replying.

Huzzah ! The long roll sounded, signaling to the
men to be alert.

" Fall in! Fall in! " the sergeants shouted; and
the assembly was not needed. Company B was ready
in a jiffy, the men with muskets in hand, their car-
tridge boxes and bayonet scabbards in place, their
knapsacks and their haversacks with two days' rations
hanging from their shoulders. They formed a
single rank facing to the right
"Front face!"

They faced together, in company front.
" In three ranks, form company ! By the left
flank! Left face! March!" barked First Ser-
geant Mulligan.

That done, Company B was three. me.a (or files)


deep ; and Sergeant Mulligan turned it over to Cap-
tain Gore.

" Number off ! " the captain ordered.

The men numbered.

" Shoulder arms ! To the rear, open order
march ! Front ! "

Now the company was in opened ranks. The
lieutenants and the first sergeant quickly passed be-
hind, examining the cartridge boxes to see that all
were filled.

" Fix bayonets! "

" Close order march ! "

To the color had been sounded.

" By the right flank right face forward
march ! " And Company B marched to its position
at the head of the Fourth Regiment, for it was
the color company.

Jerry followed. He had no idea of being left
behind ; he determined to keep his eyes upon Lieu-
tenant Grant, and he paid no attention to the where-
abouts of Pompey.

General Worth, stately and handsome, his black
eyes flashing, was sitting his horse. Colonel Garland,
of the First Brigade, issued sharp orders, which were
repeated by the galloping brigade adjutant to the
regimental commanders, and by them to the company
officers. The gunfire among the hills had waxed
tremendous. The General Pillow brigade of Volun-
teers was about to move.

General Worth lifted his sword his orders had
meant " Forward ! " The companies broke into pla-
toons and away they tramped, at quick step, in long
column again, the fifes and drums playing merrily*


The Pillow brigade was coming. Those Pennsyl-
vanians and Tennesseeans had been directed to storm
Telegraph Hill from in front, if possible; they had
several batteries to carry, first. No pleasant job,
that ; and all as a feint to hold the Mexicans occupied
on the roadside.

The First Division branched to the right, and into
the brush through which the pioneers had hacked a
rough trail. The faces of the soldiers were stern;
some white, some red, with excitement. The battle
clamor arose so loud that the drums and fifes could
scarcely be heard. A dense cloud of smoke covered
the hills before. Were those cheers, mingled with
the bellowing of cannon and the roll of muskets?
From whom the Mexicans or the blue-coats ? Jerry
stumbled as he half ran, trying to stay close to
Lieutenant Grant.

The trail was cumbered with tree trunks and rocks
and cactus. After a time the Fourth Regiment
rounded the base of a hill, and emerged at a ravine
running crosswise, at the very foot of Telegraph
Hill itself. Upon the top of the first hill cannon were
thundering. And look! The hither slope of the
other hill was alive with men, toiling up in ragged
lines, following the colors. They were blue-coats
Regulars! The standard of the Mounted Rifles
waved on the left, in the ravine. The Mexican bat-
teries and entrenchments were shooting down upon
the storming columns, the Rifles were deploying and
facing a charge upon the stormers' flank ; and from
the top of the first hill the twenty- four-pounders
were pouring grape and ball across, into the higher
hill, El Telegrapho.



"Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!" The First Di-
vision quickened pace, so eager the men were to get
into the fight.

" Form company ! First platoon right oblique
quick march ! " And " Left into line, wheel ! "
the adjutant shouted.

" To the left, into line quick march ! " shouted
Captain Gore to Company B.

The men obeyed at a run. The division was
forming line of battle.

" Forward center guide quick time march ! "

The drums tapped briskly. They had crossed the
head of the ravine, they began to scramble up the
slope, at last, in the wake of the Second Division
stormers. The brush and rocks were reddened,
strewn with knapsacks, and dotted with dead and
wounded ; the climb was very steep. A perfect pan-
demonium raged above. Bullets and grape-shot were
whistling overhead. The men gripped their muskets
and peered and panted. Huzzah! But what's the
cheering for? For General Scott! Here he stood,
as large as life, in his full uniform, gazing through
his glass up the hill, marking the progress of the
charge. He looked as cool and confident as if
watching a parade.

" Huzzah for Old Fuss and Feathers! Huzzah !

Company B passed close to him. He waved

" On, my brave boys ! " he said.

Next there were breastworks, bloodied and tram-
pled. The Mexicans had already been driven out of
these. Scrambling inside, Jerry almost stepped upon


a drum a drum, drumsticks, cross-belt harness and
all. It was a Mexican drum, but differing little from
a United States outfit except the Mexican eagle in-
stead of the American eagle upon the brass plates.
So he grabbed it up quick, and lugging it on, trying
to sling it, he pursued the line.

The slope continued. A breeze was wafting away
the smoke ; the stars and stripes and the regimental
flags of the stormers had advanced far ; and the blue
ragged line, rushing, resting, and rushing again,
pressing after the streaming folds and after a single
figure, who, sword flashing, kept in the lead.

The drum bothered Jerry. When he had slipped
into the cross-belts they were so long that the drum
struck his shins, and the best that he could do was
to carry it in his arms. His own battle line had
forged well ahead of him ; and when, dipping into a
hollow, and clambering up out, still following Com-
pany B, he might glimpse the stormers again, he
heard a hearty burst of cheers and yells.

Huzzah ! Huzzah ! The hurrying First Division
was cheering echoing the cheers from the top of the
hill. From the stone tower above a blue regimental
flag was flying and the stars and stripes ; the Mexi-
can flag had come down. The American soldiers
were springing upon the breastworks just beyond,
wielding their bayonets as they disappeared other
American flags had been planted the red caps of
the Mexican defenders surged backward, and eddy-
ing and tossing broke into numerous rivulets flowing
tumultuously across the hill, to the south, for the
road below.




EL TELEGRAPHO HILL Cerro Gordo, the Big
Hill had been taken. When Jerry, lugging his
precious drum, joined the Fourth Infantry the blue
coats were swarming over the flat top, taking pris-
oners, and the Mexican rout was tearing down in the
south making for the Jalapa road.

From the northwest edge of the hill another

storming column had entered. This was the Second

Infantry and Fourth Artillery, under Colonel Bennet

Riley, of the Second Brigade, who had been ordered

I to make a half circuit. But they had arrived too

I late. Colonel Harney, the dragoon, and his Third and

j Seventh Infantry and First Artillery had captured

the hill themselves. Those were the flags of the

Third, the Seventh and the First. The flag of the

t Seventh had been raised first. Quartermaster-Ser-

\ geant Henry, of the Seventh, had been the man who

had hauled down the Mexican flag from the flagpole

on the stone tower, and the Seventh's color-bearers

had instantly raised their own standards.

The battle was won, but not all over. Colonel
Riley at once launched his column in pursuit of the
fleeing Mexicans. General Shields' Volunteers the
Third and Fourth Illinois and the New Yorkers
were attacking in the west, to seize the batteries there
and cut in to the Jalapa road. Cannon were booming
in the south, where General Pillow's Tennesseeans
and Pennsylvanians and a company of Fourth Ken-


tuckians were being held at bay still. But the hill
of Cerro Gordo commanded all the country ; it was
the key, and in the Mexican batteries around white
flags were being hoisted. Detachments were sent by
General Worth, who was senior officer here, to take
possession. The firing died away.

On the top of the hill all was. excitement. The
dead and wounded were thick. The Rifles came up
from the ravine where they had checked a charge of
the Mexicans to turn Colonel Harney's left; their
band was bringing a lot of prisoners, to the tune of
Yankee Doodle. The men of the storming columns
were loud in their praises of Colonel Harney. It
was he who had led, bare-headed and sword in hand.
The fifteen hundred of them had taken the hill, de-
fended by breastworks and the stone tower and
six thousand Mexican soldiers. Huzzah! Huz-
zah ! Huzzah !

And now here was General Scott, on his horse.
The men ran for him, the wounded crawled nearer
or feebly cheered ; tears, were flooding his grizzled
cheeks ; he removed his hat, and his voice trembled.

" Brother soldiers ! I am proud to call you
brothers, and your country will be proud to hear of
your conduct this day. Our victory has cost us the
lives of a number of brave men, but they died fight-
ing for their country. Soldiers, you have a claim on
my gratitude for your conduct this day which I will
never forget."

He beckoned to Colonel Harney, and held out
his hand to him.

" Colonel Harney, I cannot now fully express my



admiration of your gallant achievement, but at the
proper time I shall take great pleasure in thanking
you in proper terms."

He put his chapeau back upon his grey head and
slowly rode on. Every few paces he halted to bend
and speak with the wounded.

Lieutenant Grant was untouched ; so were Cap-
tain Gore and Lieutenant Smith; the Fourth Infan-
try, and in fact, the whole of the First Division had
escaped all accident save by a few spent balls. It was
said that General Shields of the Volunteers had been
mortally wounded by a bullet through the chest
had a hole in him the size of one's fist! Major
Sumner of the Second Dragoons had been wounded.
Lieutenant Thomas Ewell of the Rifles, but serving
in the charge, had been the first officer to spring upon
the breastworks at the tower and had been shot down.
He and Colonel Harney and Quartermaster-Ser-
geant Henry (who had hauled down the Mexican
flag there) were! the heroes of the hour.

Santa Anna had fled, when he saw the hill being
taken. General Vasquez, of his infantry, was lying
dead here (a fine looking man, who had fallen shot
through the head, but his face to the foe) ; other
generals were surrendering General Vega, who had
been fighting off the Pillow Volunteers, near the
river, had surrendered all his force. How many
Mexicans had been captured and what the losses
were on both sides nobody yet knew.

Hugging his drum and roaming over the battle-
field, Jerry met Hannibal. They shook hands
and danced.



" What you got there, boy ? "

" A drum. Found it on the way up."

" Mexican drum, huh? Going to keep it? "

"Guess so. Can't I?"

" Sure you can. You may get a chance to be a
drummer. We can fix it over. But hurrah! Didn't
we do the business, though? Took the works just as
Fuss and Feathers said. Never a hitch. Pillow was
licked, at first, but that made no difference ; nobody
expected him to do more than hold the enemy's
attention. Twiggs and Riley's brigade are cleaning
up the country west, and the dragoons are right on
Santa Anna's heels. Now we won't stop again till
we're in the Halls of Montezuma. There's the long
roll for the First. Good-by. We're moving. Hang
on to that drum."

The First Division had been directed to march for
the road and support the Riley brigade in pursuit of
the Mexicans. It was now mid-afternoon. Reports
came back that the dragoons were pressing hard
down the road, and that the Mexicans were too long-
legged for the infantry. Camp was ordered for the
night, just beyond the little village of Cerro Gordo,
in the pass.

General Santa Anna's headquarters camp had
been here also. It and the village had been seized
by the Shields Volunteers and they were highly ex-
cited. They had found Santa Anna's carriage a
large gilded coach, patterned after the State coach of
Napoleon Bonaparte. But General Santa Anna was
not in it. He had cut the team loose and had fled
upon one of the mules.



The Volunteers were passing a wooden leg
around ; said that it was Santa Anna's leg

"No! His leg is cork."

"Well, this may be his reserve leg, mayn't it?
Next time we'll capture the cork leg and then he can't
run so fast."

And a group of other Volunteers were having
a rough and tumble over something upon the ground.

It was a chest, burst open; a chest of Mexican
money for the expenses of Santa Anna's army. The
military chest, that is. The soldiers were grabbing
at the money ; officers were trying to separate them.
Suddenly all stood aside and saluted, for General
Scott was towering above, upon his horse.

" Let the boys have what is on the ground, offi-
cers," he said. " They've fought and worked all
day and deserve what they get. The remainder will
be placed in charge of the chief quartermaster."

Pompey (Jerry had forgotten Pompey) arose
from the bottom of the heap, his black fists crammed
with bills. He certainly had arrived here very
quickly; no doubt had come in one of the wagons
sent forward to receive wounded.

" Yes, suh. Sojerin' is powerful hahd work fo'
mighty little pay," he pronounced. " We-all near
captured Santy Annie. We done made him pore;
he's gwine to beg his victuals, that's shuah." Pom-
pey saw Jerry and grinned. " Howdy, boy. Where
you been? "

" Climbing Telegraph Hill with the troops."

" Huh ! " Pompey grunted. " Wha' fo' you go to
all dat work ? I come 'round by the road an' ketch


Santy Annie hyar. He run so fast he forgit his laig
an' all his money. Jest slashed his mules from dat
coach an' skadoodled Where you find dat drum? "

" In some breastworks."

" What you gwine to do with it? "

" Keep it."

" 'Spec' you set big sto' on bein' a drummer."

" Shouldn't wonder, Pompey."

" Dis chile's so rich now he can be a gin'ral,"
Pompey chuckled. " He don't have to sojer com-
mon. Yes, suh ; Gin'ral Scott am a great strateegis'."

The baggage train had not come in yet from Plan
del Rio, and the camp was only a plain bivouac of
blankets and haversack rations. Having little to do,
Jerry was cautiously trying out his drum, when
Lieutenant Grant spoke to him.

" You've won a drum, I see."

" Yes, sir."

" Can you play it? "

" A little, is all ; but I'm learning."

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Online LibraryEdwin L. (Edwin Legrand) SabinInto Mexico with General Scott .. → online text (page 9 of 19)