Report of the Survey of the
Valley of Mexico
WASHINGTON, November 30, 1848.
SIR: In submitting to your consideration the map of the valley of Mexico, made on such a scale as will, I trust, delineate clearly its great natural features as well as peculiar form, I find myself obliged, to a proper understanding of the same, to give some account of the movement of our troops from their descent into the valley at Cordova until the capture of the city. Not having found, among the numerous maps and charts taken with the city, any one of the valley deserving confidence, I am inclined to believe that this is the first survey of it, by triangulation, ever made. Baron Humboldt's map of the same is, perhaps, as correct as any yet published; but it will be seen, by a comparison of the accompanying map with his, that the southern part of the valley is entirely changed in form. Lakes Chalco and Xochimilco, being given in position and extent, are also very different, together with a corresponding change in the position of places and distances between them. There are various other corrections which it may not be necessary to indicate more particularly than by the map itself.
This remarkable interior basin, as is generally known, is absolutely closed on every side by a mountain barrier varying in height at different points from two hundred to over ten thousand feet above its bottom. Its appearance in descending into it is remarkable, presenting almost every variety of scenery, and that, too, of unsurpassed beauty and interest. First to attract notice are the six lakes- Chalco, Xochimilco, Tezcuco, San Christobal, Xaltocan and Zumpango- stretching across the valley in an almost continuous line from south to north, their shores bordered by extensive fields spread out on a nearly perfect level, reaching back to the mountains, and under the highest state of cultivation. These lakes are fresh, or may be called so, with the exception of Tezcuco, (which, by distinction, is called the salt lake,) and are respectively spread over a surface of about 39, 29, 96, 6, 21 and 8 square miles, occupying about one-fifth of
the valley proper. Nine populous towns, independent of the city of Mexico, are located in different parts, each surrounded by neat and smiling villages, whose inhabitants, although poor, are nevertheless temperate, laborious and industrious. Ten old, extinct volcanoes, distinctly presenting their craters, rear their conical shapes in the southern part of the valley; and it needs but a casual observation to impress the opinion that the entire basin was at one time in a state of the most intense ignition.
Now their sides are seen covered with luxuriant crops- the volcanoes resembling huge artificial mounds, whose slopes are smoothed and cultivated with the utmost precision and care. In a particular instance, after ascending to the jagged circular crest of one whose top had fallen in, on looking down into it you perceive, some one hundred feet below, two beautiful fields of twelve or fifteen acres each, and separated by a low wall of lava, the existence of which could not have been suspected. Glancing over the range of mountains which limit the valley, to the south is seen Ajusco, its scarred and blackened peak elevated more than 11,000 feet above the sea, speaking plainly to every beholder of the internal heat to which it was once a vent; to the east and southeast are seen Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, the latter even now silently emitting a column of smoke, both with a perpetual covering of snow, towering in impressive grandeur far above the plains below, glittering in the rays of the sun, their outlines and inequalities so distinctly and sharply defined as to make them seem almost within reach, yet looking so cold, while everything else seems scorching under that tropical sun, that one turns towards them involuntarily, again and again, to see if he is not laboring under some optical illusion. The basin is of a general circular form, the diameter of the edge or crust of the rim being about fifty miles.
The quantity of arable land in the valley may be estimated at about 830 square miles, and most of this is under a very high state of cultivation. The principal productions are corn, barley, and wheat, although almost any known vegetable is grown there. The soil is unusually rich, and where the inhabitants can resort to artificial irrigation, extremely productive. Horses, cattle, and sheep are numerous.
The lakes of the valley seem to have remained very nearly of the same extent as at the time of the conquest, with the exception of Tezcuco, which has receded some two miles; the land formerly covered gradually becoming fertile, under the freshening influences of rains.
The recession is doubtless due to two causes, first, that one of the largest rivers of the valley, the Guatitlan, has been turned from its course, and made to flow along an artificial cut through the mountains bordering the basin to the northwest, into the Tula river, which empties into the Gulf of Tampico; secondly, to the actual decrease of the various streams emptying into it, caused by the clearing up of the mountain sides.
Chalco is the deepest of these lakes, averaging from four to five feet; Tezcuco, the largest and lowest, is extremely shallow, in no place being more than from six to eight feet deep, and generally not more than one or two. This lake would probably yearly disappear were it not that lake Chalco, by means of the Royal canal connecting them, is emptying into it more than 130 cubic feet of water per second.
But the object of greatest interest and attraction is the city of Mexico itself, whose origin is so remarkable, and whose singular beauty and wealth have been so much spoken of. Originally surrounded by Lake Tezcuco, the lands have now become somewhat dry, so that seen from a distance it has the appearance of standing in the midst of a beautiful and fertile plain, easy of access from any quarter. This is by no means the case; the ground, low on all sides, is intersected in every direction by ditches both wide and deep, which, from the superior elevation of lakes Chalco and Xochimilco, are always filled with water, and the city now stands as dependent upon its causeways for communication with the surrounding country, and as strong by position as when the Spaniards first arrived there.
It was on the 11th of August, 1847, that General Scott descended into this basin from Cordova, and in the following order: General Twiggs, with his division, led and encamped at Ayotla; next followed General Quittnan, and took up a position a short distance in his area; General Worth came third, occupying the town of Chalco, and last came General Pillow, bringing up the rear, and encamped near General Worth. From this position of the army there are four routes leading to the capital, either in themselves practicable for the movement of troops, but differing in distance, and in their capabilities for defence. The shortest and most direct is the main road which passes Pinon Viego, and enters the city by the San Lazera garita. General Santa Anna, with a large part of his force, had taken up a position on this road, the formidable character of which will probably be understood from what follows. On leaving Ayotla, the road bends around the base of an old volcano for five miles, then leads over a causeway built across an arm of Tezcuco for two miles more, passes Pinon Viego, and is causewayed for seven miles more on to the city. At the termination of this first causeway rises Pinon, a mount of an oblong shape, shooting up abruptly four hundred and fifty feet above the level of the lake, its summit accessible from the sides of Ayotla only at one point, and is surrounded on all sides by water, except that nearest the city. To render this naturally strong position still stronger, there were three lines of works thrown up, the first at the base, the next at the brow, the third at the extreme summit of the hill. The works at the base ran entirely round Pinon, and consisted of a ditch fifteen feet wide, four and a half feet deep, and of a parapet fifteen feet thick, the superior slope of it being about eight and a half feet above the bottom of the ditch. The causeway was also cut, and
defended by a battery of two guns. The various works of this position mounted about sixty pieces of artillery, nearly one half of which could be brought to bear upon this narrow causeway, sweeping its entire length. The second and third lines consisted of strong breastworks only. Here the Mexican leader made his first stand after the battle of Cerro Gordo, and the position was undoubtedly well selected.
The next most direct route is by Mexicalzingo, which, leaving the lake and Pinon on the right, was unobstructed until within range of the batteries at the town just mentioned. This route, just before reaching Mexicalzingo, also leads over a causeway three-quarters of a mile long, bordered on one side by an extensive marsh formed by Lake Xochimilco, and on the other by very low grounds partially flooded, and intersected in every direction by ditches filled with water, and impassable from their width and depth. Extensive field works also guarded this approach to the city, rendering it about as formidable to an attacking force as the one first described. The third route which presents itself is by the populous town of Tezcuco, and leads through the richest part of the valley. Branching off the right from the main road, just below the hacienda Buena Vista, its general direction is north, running nearly midway between lake Tezcuco and the mountains, until it has passed the town of Tezcuco, when turning to the west it crosses the celebrated stone dike of San Christobal, then skirts the back of Guadaloupe, and enters the capital by the beautiful causeway connecting this last town with the city. The road is remarkably fine the entire distance, the country on either hand thickly populated, level and under the finest state of cultivation, and there are no obstacles to be encountered either natural or artificial, until within two miles of Guadaloupe. At the time General Scott entered the basin, General Valencia, with the troops afterwards conquered at Contreras, occupied the town of Tezcuco, fulfilling the triple object of a corps of observation, a decoy to induce pursuit by the American army, until entangled among the works defending the city from that side, or in case of defeat before Pinon or Mexicalzingo, to come in the rear of our troops and intercept their retreat. It is evident from an examination of the Mexican works, that failing to take either of the two first mentioned routes, General Scott was confidently expected to approach Mexico by this. The formidable works thrown up at Santiago Sacualco, guarding the entire space between the lake and the mountains, as well as the road which turns it to the north, also the works thrown up on the Queretaro road, at the mountain pass, north of Tenepantlas, and the strong line of defence near the city, demonstrate the determined resistance they expected to make there. The fourth route is to the south of Lake Chalco, and winding along the base of the mountains which bound the valley to the south, strikes the main road leading south from Mexico into the terra caliente at San Augustine. The presence of the
enemy on the three first mentioned approaches only showed the fourth to be unguarded, and although in itself the least favorable for the passage of troops and trains, and most easily defended, proved to be the one most favorable under existing circumstances. It has been supposed by many, and stated by some, that the Mexican commander, considering this last route wholly impracticable, had failed in taking measures for its defence. This does not clearly seem to have been the case.
From an examination of the accompanying map, it will be seen, that when an enemy is in front of Pinon the communication between it and troops on the other routes is only by way of the city of Mexico itself; in other words, our troops being at Ayotla, General Santa Anna's forces at Pinon were one day's march distant from those at Mexicalzingo, three from those under General Valencia, and would have been about four days' march distant from troops thrown forward on the Chalco route. Fords on these different routes were by no means within supporting distances of each other. Holding the position that General Scott did then, it would have required, of an equal enemy, four times his own force to have opposed successfully his further advance. The Mexican forces were not numerically equal to this, and they were accordingly concentrated at the threatened point.
It is evident that as long as the American troops were in front of Pinon, the enemy necessarily held to their position. In moving off, the former could gain one day the start. This brought the only difficult parts of the Chalco route actually nearer General Scott than the Mexican chief. If to this we add the delay necessary in moving heavy artillery, and breaking up from a fortified position, it would seem that instead of oversight it was rather impossible for General Santa Anna to meet our forces sooner than he did.
This view seems confirmed by observing the works thrown up at San Antonio and vicinity, which could have had reference only to the route in question.
The United States troops being situated, as before mentioned, at the point commanding the four approaches to the capital, reconnaissances made during the 12th, 13th and 14th of August determined, first, that Penon was too strong to be attacked, unless absolutely necessary; next, that the route around the lakes was practicable for our trains and artillery, and preferable to attacking by Mexicalzingo. This movement was finally determined upon and commenced the 15th of August, the order of march being the reverse of that by which the army had entered the valley, with this exception. General Worth's division passing that of General Pillow was in the advance, General Twiggs's division now bringing up the rear. The movement was completed, comparatively speaking, without opposition, as the few Mexican troops that showed themselves upon our flanks near Santa Cruz fled at the first approach of our light troops and the third day, after breaking up from before Pinon, the advance of the army entered San Augustine, and the next day the rear division came up. The army was not
on the great southern road, leading to Cuernavaca, and if the enemy were taken by surprise, they could advance along it unmolested towards the city, as far at least as where the Mexicalzingo road unites with it.
A strong party sent forward to ascertain what was in front, at a sudden turn of the road, were met by a discharge of grape, which killed Captain Thornton of the dragoons, and caused the reconnoitring officers to recoil in surprise from before the strong position of San Antonio and the line of works which stretch off to the left into the marshy ground of Lake Xochimilco.
From these works, it would seem that the enemy had anticipated the possibility of this movement of the army. Certain it is, they were prepared, as before, to resist a nearer approach to the capital. The entire Mexican force had left the positions first occupied, the eastern approach being no longer threatened, and were ready to make that obstinate defence that shortly ensued. The army having reached this point, it was for the commander-in-chief now to decide whether, after having avoided Pinon to spare life, he would rush his forces against San Antonio, or, threading his way across the Pedrigal to the San Angel road, avoid this strong position, and, at the same time, gain the high grounds, where his movements would for a time be unimpeded by marshes and ditches.
The latter course was decided upon, and, on the 19th, General Pillow's division advanced to open the road. As the movement commenced, it was ascertained that General Valencia, with the troops which had been at Tezcuco, was in front, ready to dispute the possession of the San Angel road. After advancing about three miles the progress of the division was arrested, it having come within reach of Valencia's guns.
The only route across the Pedrigal is a rocky path, considered practicable for mules and persons on foot only, although a horseman can pick his way along it. It was at the point where this path struck the road, just referred to, that General Valencia had chosen his position, fortified it with breastworks, within which there were above 20 pieces of artillery sweeping the path and main road. Avoiding the enemy's artillery, by deviating from this path to the right, our light troops succeeded in making the way over the field of rock without much loss, and gained the road in question at a point between Valencia's position and that of Santa Anna, at San Angel. The successful attack on the rear of the entrenched camp by our troops, under General Persifor F. Smith, and the brilliant victory of Padierna or Contreras, on the 20th, are well known.
Immediately after this success, and during the same morning, General Worth, whose position had been in front of San Antonio, succeeded in turning this strong work, and at the same time that General Pillow's and Twiggs's divisions were pursuing the Mexicans through San Angel and onward, he was pressing their retreat along the San Antonio road towards the city, capturing men and artillery. This double pursuit brought the three di-
visions about the same time to the river Churubusco, and, very unexpectedly to all, upon the formidable works defending its passage.
These works consisted, first, of a church and adjoining building, with a high stone wall enclosure, all strongly fortified, defended by about 2,000 men, and mounting 7 guns; second, of a tete du pont, mounting three heavy pieces, and swarming with troops, as well as the river banks to the right and left; also, the road to the rear leading to the city. It will be seen from the accompanying map, that the fortified church naturally fell to General Twiggs's and Pillow's divisions to take, commanding the road leading from San Angel to this point, by which they were advancing, and that the tete du pont effectually arrested the progress of General Worth until carried. Almost simultaneously with the attack on these two works, carried after a prolonged and most obstinate defence, a movement was ordered under General Shields to turn the enemy's right flank. This command found the enemy in overpowering force: the number of wounded and slain, however, attest the bravery and determination with which they struggled on to accomplish the object; but it was not until General Worth, having carried the tete du pont, came dashing along the road, that the Mexican force was driven from its position, and precipitated headlong towards the city.
After gaining the battle of Churubusco, General Scott was in possession of every thing except the last line of works encircling the city; and for the first time since his entrance into the basin, could, in reality, select his point of attack, and fight on something like an equality.
The armistice following immediately after this battle, the army, during its continuance, occupied the towns of San Augustine, San Angel, Coyacan, Miscoac and Tacubaya.
From this disposition of the forces, they threatened at once both the southern and western approaches to the city, and could, with almost equal facility, attack along either. In looking at the capability for defence of the roads leading from these two directions, it can scarcely be doubted but that the army entered the city from its strongest side. This fact affords but another proof of the foresight and skill of the general commanding, who could so deceive his enemy in reference to the real point of danger, as to make him dismantle his works on the side at last attacked, and leave them in a measure defenceless.
After the armistice was broken, the battle of Molino del Rey, the storming of Chapultepec, and taking the city followed in rapid succession. Of these I shall only remark in reference to the battle of Molino del Rey.
It has been frequently asserted that this battle was fought unnecessarily, that the American loss was great without any corresponding advantages, and that it had little or no bearing upon the subsequent capture of Chapultepec.
That our loss was greater than it would have been could the force and position of the enemy have been more accurately known, is doubtless
true. True also that greater advantages than those resulting from that battle were gained in the course of the war, and with far less loss; but this by no means shows that the results of the battle of Molino were not of the greatest importance in the after successes. The Molino del Rey, or Mill of the King, from its position stands in the relation of a very strong outwork to the castle of Chapultepec, which is situated on a small rocky isolated mount 150 feet high, and a half mile nearer the city. As the mill is commanded and defended by the castle, so it reciprocally commands and defends the only good approach to the latter.
The consequences of the battle to the enemy were, that in addition to the loss of an important outwork and the weakening the main work necessarily resulting from it, also, the usual results in killed, wounded, dispersed, and taking prisoners, they were driven from a commanding position into the low grounds at the base of Chapultepec, these grounds being completely commanded from the Molino, and were powerless in preventing the siege pieces from taking up the most favorable position for battering the castle. In the final attack upon the castle, one of the two assaulting columns (General Pillow's) started from this very mill, and from what has been remarked should have been the successful one, as was the case, for it started from within the enemy's work and found itself on an equality with him up to the very moment of scaling his walls at the crest of the mount, whereas the other assaulting column (General Quitman's) taking the only remaining approach to the castle, a causewayed road leading from Tacubaya, was successfully held at bay by the outworks defending this road at the base of the hill, until after the castle was taken; and the opposing force was taken in rear by troops passing through and around Chapultepec.
The victory of Molino also had, as it could not well fail to have, the effect of completely demoralizing the enemy, destroying his confidence to hold any position.
In glancing over the operations in the valley, one cannot but be astonished at the uninterrupted success which attended every movement; neither can one fail to admire the unshaken resolution and steady confidence in himself and troops exhibited by the commander-in-chief, under circumstances when one reverse would probably have been followed by utter annihilation.
It would have been fortunate, in view of the number of lives lost, had the force led into the valley been greater. Could General Scott, at the time of moving around Lake Chalco, have left a strong force at Ayotla, Mexico would have fallen, comparatively speaking, an easy prey; for had Valencia left his position and gone to defend the southern part of the city, the northern would have been left defenceless. Had General Santa Anna left his position at the Perron and Mexicalzingo for those of Churubusco and San An-
tonio, the eastern approach to the city would have been unprotected, or he would have been taken in rear by the Mexicalzingo road; or had both generals remained as at first, the troops moving round the lakes would have met with no opposition in entering Mexico by the south; again, had their troops been so distributed as to guard every approach, their line of defence would have been weak at all points from its great extent.
For more particular information respecting the route around Lake Chalco, and the connected movement of the troops thereon, I have the honor to refer the colonel of the corps to the accompanying memoir of Lieutenant (now brevet Captain) Hardcastle.
I remark, in conclusion, that all the main points on the map are determined by triangulation, the remainder being filled in from compass surveys.
That part of the map south of the city is taken from surveys made under Lieutenant Colonel Turnbull of the corps.
Having no instruments with me of sufficient delicacy and accuracy to determine the longitude and latitude as well even as they had previously been determined, no observations for that purpose were attempted. Having met in the national college with the instrument for determining the declination of the needle, used by Baron Humboldt in 1804, and afterwards presented to that institution by him, I take occasion to state that the declination recorded on the map was determined by it.
To Lieutenant (now brevet Captain) Hardcastle of the corps is due a full proportion of whatever merit the map may possess, having been with me from the commencement of the work to its completion.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
M. L. SMITH,
Lieutenant Topographical Engineers.
To Colonel J. J. ABERT,
Colonel Corps Topographical Engineers,
WASHINGTON, D. C., January 15, 1849.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following memoir, as an accompaniment to the map of the valley of Mexico, explanatory of the route of the United States army marked upon it. It may be proper to remark that the substance of, this memoir is taken from my journal of the march of the army, written out from day to day, as the events occurred.
The advance of the United States army, known as "the army of the south," under the command of Major General Winfield Scott, made its descent into the valley of Mexico on the afternoon of the 10th of August, 1847. This advance corps, composed of the second division of regulars, commanded by Brigadier General Twiggs, and the cavalry brigade, under Colonel Harney, was accompanied by the general-in-chief. For the night, position was taken at the Venta de Cordova, the Venta Nueva, and the hacienda of Buena Vista.
On moving from Puebla, the American army was divided into four divisions, which followed each other on successive days. The advance moved slowly and with ease, never exceeding twelve or fifteen miles in a day's march, so that none of these divisions were at any time separated by a greater distance from each other.
On the morning of the 11th, (August,) being within twenty miles of the enemy's capital, and having on the day previous discovered in our front a large body of their cavalry, both of which indicated our proximity to the enemy in large force, the forward movement of this advance corps was delayed until the next division, under Major General Quitman, was close at hand. By eleven o'clock, this command was seen coming down the mountain slope, and the advance moved forward to the town of Ayotla. The division composed of artillery and infantry occupied the town, and the brigade of cavalry advanced a mile and a half beyond, and took possession of the hacienda of San Isidro.
The town of Ayotla, situate upon the northern border of Lake Chalco, is, by the most direct route, fifteen miles distant from the city of Mexico. This place was selected by the general-in-chief as the point where he should await the arrival of the rear divisions of the army, and from which he could reconnoitre the enemy, and best deceive him as to the route by which he could approach the Mexican capital; for, by reference to the map, it will be seen that from near this point four different roads commence, by which the city of Mexico may be reached.
The first day (August 12) at this position was occupied in making examinations upon the national road, which was the most direct one leading to the city. Seven miles beyond Ayotla, at the Penon, the enemy were found to be strongly fortified and in large force. (At this point, already described, the road passes by the base of a high solitary hill, overlooking the plain for several miles in every direction. Entirely surrounded by water or impassable marshes, it was approachable only by the long narrow causeway of the high road. A position strong by nature, it was bristling with fifty pieces of cannon, arranged in batteries, well placed so as to sweep down the columns of an approaching foe. A long and double line of breastworks for infantry surrounded the base of the hill; and, in fact, every contrivance that art could lend to make this position impregnable seemed to have
been bestowed upon it. The auxiliary means of fortification were so complete that this was evidently the stronghold of our enemy, and the spot where they were best prepared and most anxious to receive us.) On this day the first division of regulars, under the command of Brevet Major General Worth, came up, and took position at the town of Chalco.
During the second day (August 13) the examination of the route passing through Mexicalzingo was made; here, also, the enemy were found to be well fortified. (The approach to the town was a straight, narrow causeway, with a wet marsh on each side of it. One battery across the road and enfilading it, as well as a long line of works towards the north, completed the fortifications at this point. Between Mexicalzingo and Penon there extended a continuous marsh, intersected by deep ditches filled with flowing water, which rendered it impassable. The works at this point served, therefore, as a continuation of the same line at Penon.) During this day, the rear division, composed of the new regiments, under Major General Pillow, arrived, and took position near the town of Chalco.
August 14th-Our entire force, numbering about ten thousand rank and file, was now assembled in the valley of Mexico, and there remained to be examined two of the four routes leading to the capitol. It was known to us that General Valencia, with a large Mexican force at Tezcuco, was prepared to dispute our passage over the northern route. Of the southern route, along the margins of lakes Chalco and Xochimilco, very unsatisfactory reports had been brought back by the Mexican guides that had been secretly despatched to explore it. But on this day it was examined as far as Tuliagualco, a distance of 12 miles beyond Chalco, and found to be practicable for our operations. From information gathered from the unoffending and much frightened population, it was believed there were neither fortifications nor natural obstacles sufficient to prevent our passage over this route. The road was narrow, passing between the base of the mountains and the edge of the lakes, and, to all appearances, had never before been travelled by wheel carriages; but it was firm and practicable, and seemed to possess the great advantage over all the others that the enemy had not anticipated, and therefore not prepared for our approach by this route. The road being one seldom travelled, it was little known, and generally believed to be subject to overflow from the adjacent lakes.
On the 15th of August it was made known to the American army that the approach upon the Mexican capital would be by this route, along the southern border of the lakes. To this effect the orders of the general-in-chief were announced, and immediately carried into execution by the advance of Worth's division upon this line. The movement had now commenced by which the plan of operations of the American general was developed to the enemy, for up to this time they had been completely de-
ceived by the demonstration made upon the national road by occupying the town of Ayotla.
It was on the afternoon of the 17th of August that the advance under General Worth arrived at the town of Tlalpan, or San Augustin, where the lake route first intersects the great southern road, leading from the city of Mexico to Cuernavaca and Acapulco. The time occupied in accomplishing this distance might be considered great, as celerity in our movements was now of the first importance, without a strict examination of the operating causes. The route being untravelled and rough, was of itself difficult to pass over, and for a greater portion of the way contracted, on the one side by mountains, and on the other by the lakes; it was a long and narrow defile, where resistance might be expected at any point. To be prepared to resist an attack, either upon the centre, the front, or the rear, and to afford protection to the baggage train of our army, it was necessary to move with circumspection, and to keep our forces close together. From the town of San Gregorio, the enemy's light troops were continually in our front, harassing and retarding the advance by cutting ditches across the road, and rolling down rocks from the adjacent mountains, which, in many places, completely blocked up the way. All these things combined, necessarily delayed the passage over this route beyond the ordinary time for accomplishing such distance. But if a little more time were consumed by adopting due precaution, the wisdom and prudence of such a course is best illustrated by the fact of the successful accomplishment of the movement, for, with the loss of, perhaps, only a single man, the American army was now upon one of the high roads to the Mexican capitol, and but nine miles distant from it.
On the morning of the 18th, (August,) the division in advance moved up the main road and took position in front of the hacienda of San Antonio, where the enemy had thrown up fortifications. While the examination of this position was going on and the rear divisions were concentrating upon San Augustin, a reconnoissance was being made to the west of this town, to ascertain the practicability of reaching another road to the capital passing through the town of San Angel, and nearly parallel to the one we had already reached. For this road through San Angel was believed not to be so well prepared for defence as the great southern highway, along which the enemy would be likely to expect an invasive foe coming to besiege their capital.
On the 19th, (August,) the examination of the enemy's position at San Antonio was continued, and the reconnoissance towards the San Angel road, which yesterday had been interrupted by the presence of the enemy, was resumed. For the purpose of ensuring the latter, first Pillow's and afterwards Twiggs's division, were sent out in this direction. These were intended to force a passage, and, at the same time, to afford protec-
tion to the working parties in the construction of a road over the rugged and broken country that was here presented. After proceeding about three (3) miles in this westerly direction, the enemy's light troops were met, and a skirmish commenced about noon, which, before night, became a general action. Thus began the battle of Contreras, which terminated so gloriously for American arms on the following morning. The general route of our troops in turning the enemy's position at Padierna, by passing through the village of San Jeronimo, (improperly called Contreras,) is marked in red upon the map.
The Mexican forces, routed from their entrenched position at Padierna, early on the morning of August 20, were pursued by our victorious troops along the road through San Angel and Coyacan. While this pursuit was going on, a movement was made upon San Antonio, causing the enemy to abandon that position, and this second retreating force was hotly pursued by Worth's division down the road to Churubusco. At this point the American troops pursuing from Padierno and those from San Antonio met near about the same time; the former were arrested by the fortifications thrown up around a large convent, the latter by the tete du pont defending the bridge across the Churubusco river. The concentration of our forces under such circumstances, at this point, brought on the battle of Churubusco, which terminated late in the day to our complete success, adding another victory to the deeds of American arms on this day.
After the battles of August 20th, and as an immediate consequence of them, the armistice was entered into, by which active and hostile operations on our part ceased for a time. During this period our army was distributed at the towns of Tacubaya, Mixcoac, Coyacan, San Angel, and San Augustin, and each corps was quietly occupied in maintaining the discipline and providing for the comfort of its soldiers, besides giving attention to a large proportion of sick and wounded.
It was at 12 o'clock, meridian, on the 17th of September, that the armistice was mutually dissolved by the commanders of the two antagonistic armies. Reconnoissances of the enemy's lines were immediately commenced, and to the credit of the American general be it said, that he positively forbid any observations of this sort being made by our engineers during the armistice.
Early on the morning of September 8th was fought the battle of Molino del Rey, where the enemy were completely routed, and the preparations he had made for casting cannon, & c., at the Molino, were destroyed.
Strict examinations of the entire line of works from Chapultepec to the gate of San Antonio were carried on from day to day, until the point of attack was decided upon, by the general-in-chief, on the 11th of September. A large proportion of our forces had been concentrated at Piedad and the hacienda of Nalverte, and while, on the morning of September 12th, our
batteries opened a fire upon the castle of Chapultepec, (which was the real point of attack,) an active demonstration was made upon the enemy's line, near the gate of San Antonio. To carry out this plan successfully, troops were silently moved from Piedad to Tacubaya on the night of September 12th, and on the next morning the castle of Chapultepec was stormed. After the fall of this commanding work, our troops, under the command of Generals Worth and Quitman, advanced by the two roads leading from this point to the city; the former general approaching by the longer route through the gate of San Cosme; the latter by the shorter one, through the gate of Belen. Upon the map is marked the advance of these two corps, up to the time of the capitulation of the city of Mexico, on the night of September 13th, after the Mexican army had fled.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
ED. L. F. HARDCASTLE,
Brevet Captain U. S. Topographical Engineers.
Lieut. M. L. SMITH,
U. S. Topographical Engineers.
page created 16 September 2002
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