• This hand-colored lithograph entitled Cerro Gordo was based on an original drawing by artist Carl Nebel. The print was part of series of battle scenes from The War between the United States and Mexico, Illustrated, by George Wilkins Kendall, published by Appleton and Company, New York and Philadelphia in 1851. Kendall was the founder and editor of the New Orleans Picayune and accompanied the U.S. Army in Mexico as a correspondent. In Nebel's drawing of the assault on Cerro Gordo, he has chosen the period when William S. Harney's troops are advancing directly on the works on the crest; Bennet Riley's men of David Twiggs's division are seen moving to the right. The American guns on the heights to the left have just ceased their fire. At the foot of the hills, in the foreground, may be seen a portion of William J. Worth's division in reserve. Army Heritage Museum Collection, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.

    Battle of Cerro Gordo

    This hand-colored lithograph entitled Cerro Gordo was based on an original drawing by artist Carl Nebel. The print was part of series of battle scenes from The War between the United States and Mexico, Illustrated, by George Wilkins Kendall, published...

  • The printed, photographic, and paper sources are among 400,000 books, 1.7 million photos and 12.5 million manuscripts available for study through the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI). Visit our online research catalog at "www.ahco.army.mil" for further research. The artifacts are among 50,000 such items in the Army Heritage Museum (AHM).  Both MHI and AHM are directorates of the Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC), 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle Barracks, PA, 17013-5021. Visiting our website at  www.carlisle.army.mil/ahec" provides more insight into the resources of the AHEC.

    U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center

    The printed, photographic, and paper sources are among 400,000 books, 1.7 million photos and 12.5 million manuscripts available for study through the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI). Visit our online research catalog at "www.ahco.army.mil"...

  • This scene depicts the triumphant completion of major combat operations against Mexico. Very early in the morning on the 14th of September, 1847, immediately after Chief of Ordnance Captain Benjamin Huger's heavy guns and mortars opened fire on Mexico City, word was received that Santa Anna and the remnants of his beaten army had evacuated the capital.  At 8:00 that morning General Winfield Scott accompanied by his staff and by General David Twiggs and other officers, came in from Tacubaya and entered the Grand Plaza. In artist Carl Nebel's sketch we see a view of two sides of the Grand Plaza. On the right is the national palace with the American flag floating in triumph and in the center is the celebrated cathedral. In the foreground is the General-in-Chief, General Winfield Scott, just entering with a small dragoon escort, while cavalry as well as artillery are disposed at different points.

    General Scott's Entrance into Mexico City

    This scene depicts the triumphant completion of major combat operations against Mexico. Very early in the morning on the 14th of September, 1847, immediately after Chief of Ordnance Captain Benjamin Huger's heavy guns and mortars opened fire on Mexico...

  • Photo taken late in life of Brevet Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), the greatest American soldier of the first half of the 19th Century.  He entered the Army in 1808, became a brigadier-general in 1814, and served as General-in-Chief of the U.S. Army from June 25, 1841, to November 1, 1861.  His campaign from the capture of Vera Cruz to the capture of Mexico City, March-September, 1847, remains one of the most brilliant operations in American military history.

    General Winfield Scott

    Photo taken late in life of Brevet Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), the greatest American soldier of the first half of the 19th Century. He entered the Army in 1808, became a brigadier-general in 1814, and served as General-in-Chief of...

In April 1847, the war with Mexico was entering its second year. European observers and Mexican leaders had expected the fledgling American Army to be easily overwhelmed, but it had performed superbly. In the war's first twelve months, the Army had overrun New Mexico, secured the Rio Grande frontier, and carried the war into northern Mexico itself. Continuing farther south by that overland route, however, would prove difficult, if not impossible, logistically.

Major General Winfield Scott, Commanding General of the United States Army, then launched a bold stroke across the Gulf of Mexico to capture the main enemy port and then strike westward for the Mexican capital itself. In one of the Army's earliest amphibious operations, he landed just below Vera Cruz and then captured that crucial port in March, 1847.

Now, a month later, General Scott faced a serious dilemma. To advance toward Mexico City would require overcoming a more numerous enemy force, arrayed across his line of march in a strong defensive position in the rocky defile at Cerro Gordo. Delaying the assault, however, would keep the Americans in the coastal lowlands as yellow fever season was beginning. To make matters worse, he also faced the impending expiration of many of the enlistments of his volunteers.

But half of Scott's small army of less than 10,000 were hardened regulars, and many of his junior officers were young West Point graduates destined for greatness on future battlefields. One of them, an engineer Captain named Robert E. Lee whom Scott relied upon for reconnaissance, found a route around the Mexican left flank, building upon the initial scouting of First Lieutenants Joseph E. Johnston and Pierre G. T. Beauregard, also future Confederate generals. The Mexican leader, General Santa Anna, had set up a strong defense in depth with his more than 12,000 troops, but considered any route around his position to be impassable. On April 17, Scott sent a strong column under the command of Brigadier General David Twiggs along Lee's route to be prepared to assault the vulnerable flank, and on the 18th they attacked. With the rest of Scott's force storming the front of the Mexican position, Santa Anna's men soon broke and ran. The Mexican army was shattered, and the road to Mexico City, and out of the disease-ridden lowlands, was open.

By September Scott had taken the Mexican capital. He conducted a masterful campaign featuring heroic fighting by his Army and an enlightened pacification campaign that kept guerrilla harassment to a minimum. Seeing the American flag over his capital, and reflecting upon all the lost artillery that now arrays Trophy Point at West Point, Santa Anna remarked, "if we were to plant our batteries in Hell the damned Yankees would take them from us." The famous Duke of Wellington proclaimed Scott "the greatest living soldier," and urged English officers to study a campaign that was "unsurpassed in military annals." The United States Army had demonstrated its mettle and arrived on the world stage.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16