The Battle for Mexico City refers to the series of engagements from September 8 to September 15, 1847, in the general vicinity of Mexico City during the Mexican-American War. Included are major actions at the battles of Molino del Rey and Chapultepec, culminating with the fall of Mexico City.
The major objective of
operations in central Mexico
had been the capture of Mexico City. After capturing the port
in March, Winfield Scott
was able to secure a base and move inland and defeat a large Mexican force at the Battle of Cerro Gordo
. After routing the Mexicans at the Battle of Churubusco
, Scott's army was only 5 miles (8 km) away from its objective of Mexico City.
Although defeated at Cerro Gordo and Churubusco, Santa Anna's army remained intact and outnumbered Scott.
Order of battle
Army of Invasion Winfield Scott
7 August 1847
—20,210 men acs
Mexican Army General Antonio López de Santa Anna
Chief of Artillery: General Carrera
Chief of Engineers: General Mora y Villamil
- Army of the East General Manuel Lombardini
- 1st Brigade General Terres (1st Activos, Lakes and 2nd Light Battalions)
- 2nd Brigade General Martinez (Morelia Activos, Invalids Corps)
- 3rd Brigade General Rangel (Mixto Sta Anna, Morelia National Guards)
- 4th Brigade General Perez (1st, 3rd & 4th Light, 11th Infantry)
- 5th Brigade General Leon (Oajaca & Queretaro Activos, 10th Infantry, Queretaro & Mina National Guards)
- 6th Brigade General Pedro María de Anaya (Independencia, Bravos, Victoria & Hidalgo National Guards)
- 7th Brigade Col. Zerecero (Acapulco, parts Tlapa & Libertad pickets)
- Army of the North General Gabriel Valencia 3,000 Infantry, 100 Cavalry 500 Artillery
- Vanguard Brigade General Mejia (Fijo de Mexico, Potosi Activos, 7th Cavalry)
- Centre Brigade General Parrodi (10th and 11th Infantry, Tampico Coast Guards, Queretaro, Celaya and Guanajuato Activos, Celaya Auxiliary)
- Reserve Brigade General Salas (Engineers, Mixto Santa Anna, Aguascalientes Activos, 2nd, 3rd & 8th Cavalry, Guanajuato Cavalry)
- Army of the South General Juan Álvarez 2,762 Cavalry
Alcaraz, Ramon "Apuntes para la historia de la guerra entre Mexico...†
Molino del Rey
On September 8, the fight for Mexico City began. Scott believed that a cannon foundry was located at the Molino del Rey, the King's Mill, located just over 2 miles (3 km) outside the city. Scott sent the 1st Division under William J. Worth to seize and destroy the foundry. Worth wished to include Chapultepec Castle in his attack, and when Scott refused, a bitter rivalry began between Scott and Worth. In the ensuing battle, both sides suffered heavy casualties, and Worth drove the Mexicans from the mill, separating them from the forces at Chapultepec. The battle produced no significant military gains for the U.S.
The main assault on the city came a few days later on September 12. Mexico City was guarded in part by Chapultepec Castle, which was being used as a military academy. Scott preceded infantry assault with an all day artillery barrage on September 12. The next day, September 13, the 4th Division, under John A. Quitman, spearheaded the attack against Chapultepec and carried the castle. Future Confederate generals George E. Pickett and James Longstreet participated in the attack. Serving in the Mexican defense were the cadets later immortalized as Los Niños Héroes (the "Boy Heroes"). The Mexican forces fell back from Chapultepec and retreated within the city.
Attacks on the San Cosme and Belén Gates
Quitman's Division made its way down the Belén Causeway towards the Belén Gate
, defended by General Terres & Colonel Garay with 3 guns, while Worth's Division further to the north made its way up La Verónica Causeway towards the San Cosme Gate
, defended by General Rangel's Infantry Brigade (Granaderos Battalion, 1st Light, part 3d Light (Lt.Col. Echeagaray))with 3 guns & howitzers
. Quitman was merely supposed to make a feint towards the city, but he pushed forward his whole division and broke through the defenses. Santa Anna arrived at the Belén Gate in a fury and relieved the front commander. Worth's Division in the meantime had a slow start against the Mexicans after beating off a Mexican cavalry attack. When he reached San Cosme, he found its defenses ill prepared, but the Mexicans defending it put up a good fight before falling back. Ulysses S. Grant
found his way into the action along the causeway on Worth's front and helped in hoisting a cannon into the belltower of a nearby church. From this spot Grant fired into the defenders below. When the fighting subsided on all fronts, both gates had fallen and the Mexicans had withdrawn into the city. Other gates defended were: San Antonio by General M. Martinez with 10 guns; Nino Perdido by the National Guards and 2 guns; and San Lazaro, Guadeloupe and Villejo, which were defended by small infantry detachments.
Fall of Mexico City
The Junta (Gens. Alcorta, Carrera, Lombardini & Fran. Perez) had withdrawn their army : 14 Guns, 4,000 Cavalry (Quijano & Andrade Brigades), and 5,000 Infantry (Gov. Olaguibel :Toluca National Grds, Cmdte. Arroyo : Lagos, Iturbide, & Tula Battalions, Gen. Martinez : various pickets, & Gen. Perez : 11th Infantry & remnants of Light Regts.)from the city during the night, and the U.S. forces, expecting another assault, found the city undefended. Worth and Quitman advanced cautiously. Quitmant sent Lieutenant Pierre Beauregard
to arrange the surrender of the ciudadela. Beauregard and Mansfield Lovell
were met by a Mexican officer who asked for a receipt for the captured ciudadela.(15 Guns) Beauregard exclaimed that "we give receipts at the point of their swords". Scott gave the honor of formally entering the city to Quitman's Division. The conquering army was less than impressing, the troops wore ragged and bloodstained uniforms and Quitman only had on one shoe when he marched into the city. Worth personally took down the flag flying over the National Palace, and a U.S. Marine hoisted the U.S. flag
in its place. Quitman marched into the Zócalo
plaza in the center of the city in front of the National Palace
where the formal surrender took place. As Worth's division entered the city the leading unit was John Garland's
Stragglers from the Mexican army left in the city after Santa Anna's withdrawal climbed to the roofs of houses and began shooting at the American soldiers. General Garland was hit in the chest with the first shot and fell severely wounded. Before he evacuated, Santa Anna released 30,000 prisoners into the streets of the city, and these rooftop shots provoked the prisoners into similar acts. Worth did manage to get the sniping under control. William S. Harney's dragoons escorted General Scott into the city wearing his immaculate dress uniform and was greeted by patriotic music. Scott appointed the politically savvy Quitman as military governor, becoming the only American to ever rule from the National Palace.
- U.S. 116 killed, 665 wounded, 18 missing, 789 total
- Mexican 2,700 total
- U.S. 130 killed, 703 wounded, 29 missing, 862 total
- Mexican 1,800 killed and wounded, 823 captured, 2,623 total
Lieutenant Colonel James S. McIntosh
temporarily commanded Clarke's brigade at Molino del Rey; Clarke returned to command after McIntosh was killed during the fighting
- Nevin, David; editor, The Mexican War (1978)
- Bauer, K. Jack, "The Mexican-American War 1846-48"
- Brooks, N. C., "A Complete History Of The Mexican War: Its Causes, Conduct And Consequences"(1849)