Mexican-American War 170th: Leaving Puebla and on to Mexico City

Mexican War-header

After a 10-week hiatus in the city of Puebla, General Winfield Scott was ready to resume his advance against Mexico City. “We had to throw away the scabbard and to advance with the naked blade in hand,” the American commander wrote later. And so, on Aug. 7, 1847, Scott’s vanguard left the city and began their advance against Mexico’s capital.[1]

The halt had proven beneficial to Scott; his hiatus allowed reinforcements to arrive from Vera Cruz and gradually raise his troop strength to about 10,700 men. With this force, Scott planned to take Mexico City and defeat, once for all, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.[2]

The task certainly presented Scott a challenge, but it was a challenge that Scott was ready for. It is arguable that Scott was the finest American soldier to come out of the 19th century, a fact sometimes discarded because of his appearance, physical and otherwise, at the outbreak of the Civil War. But in the late 1840s, the Dinwiddie County, Virginia native was in his prime, and ready to go. Thus, even as the Duke of Wellington, victor of Waterloo, reportedly said, “Scott is lost, he has been carried away by success,” the Americans continued their advance.[3]

The soldiers in Scott’s command were certainly ready to face their Mexican opponents again. As artillery officer Daniel Frost wrote he and his comrades “got very tired of the uneventful sameness of our existence and longed for the order to move towards the ‘Halls of Montezuma’.”[4]

As Scott’s vanguard left Puebla, the change in scenery impressed his soldiers. D.H. Hill wrote, “We were marching all day in the lovely valley of Puebla, thickly dotted with beautiful villages and haciendas, above which rise the spires of numerous well built churches. I have seldom seen a more fertile region.”[5]

With the passing days, another of Scott’s divisions left Puebla, each of the commands staying in close contact with the others in case, as Scott wrote, “of a formidable attack upon an interior division.”[6] By August 10, all of Scott’s divisions were on the march, leaving behind just the sick and a small garrison.

Besides the chance to rest his men and get reinforcements to move against Mexico City, Scott also used the hiatus to patch together his relationship with the chief diplomat sent to deal with Santa Anna, Nicholas Trist. Trist and Scott’s partnership had a rocky start, with grumblings back and forth. But by August, the two were working well together, the result of Scott sending Trist some marmalade when he was sick. By working together, Scott and Trist could begin to see preparations for the end of the war; Scott would win it, and Trist would smooth out the details.

Trist had spent the time Scott stayed in Puebla to try and find ways to end the war with Santa Anna. But the Mexican ruler had pocketed bribes and refused to come to terms. So, Scott’s advance could have to continue, and 147 years later, the page turned to the last chapter of his great campaign. From Puebla, it was about 80 miles to Mexico City. The Halls of Montezuma, that Daniel Frost and his comrades yearned to get to, awaited.

_____________________________________________________________

[1] Winfield Scott, Memoirs of Lieut.-General Scott (New York: Sheldon & Company Publishers, 1864), 460.

[2] Timothy D. Johnson, A Gallant Little ArmyThe Mexico City Campaign (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007), 149.

[3] Ibid.,  140.

[4] Daniel Frost quoted in James I. Robertson Jr., Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1997), 60.

[5] Daniel Harvey Hill, A Fighter from Way Back: The Mexican War Diary of Lt. Daniel Harvey Hill, 4th Artillery, USA, ed. Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes Jr. and Timothy D. Johnson (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2002), 105.

[6] Scott, 465.

[7] See John S.D. Eisenhower, Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott (New York: The Free Press, 1997), 267 for Scott and Trist patching their working relationship up.

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3 Responses to Mexican-American War 170th: Leaving Puebla and on to Mexico City

  1. BillF says:

    I’ve been enjoying this series. Good work.

  2. Pingback: ECW Week in Review August 7-13 | Emerging Civil War

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