Major-General Winfield Scott, at Plan del Rio, Mexico, to William L. Marcy, Secretary of War, at Washington, D.C. Dispatch communicating Scott's official report of the Battle of Cerro Gordo.
Headquarters of the Army,
Sir: - The plan of attack, sketched in General Orders, No. 111, forwarded herewith, was finely executed by this gallant army, before two o'clock P.M. yesterday. We are quite embarrassed with the results of victory - prisoners of war, heavy ordnance, field batteries, small arms, and accoutrements.
About 3,000 men laid down their arms, with the usual proportion of field and company officers, besides five generals, several of them of great distinction - Pinson, Jarrero, La Vega, Noriega, and Obando. A sixth general, Vasquez, was killed in defending the battery (tower) in the rear of the whole Mexican army, the capture of which gave us those glorious results.
Our loss, though comparatively small in numbers, has been serious. Brigadier-general Shields, a commander of activity, zeal, and talent, is, I fear, if not dead, mortally wounded. He is some five miles from me at the moment. The field of operations covered many miles, broken by mountains and deep chasms, and I have not a report, as yet, from any division or brigade.
Twiggs' division, followed by Shields' (now Colonel Baker's) brigade, are now at or near Xalapa, and Worth's division is in route thither, all pursuing, with good results, as I learn, that part of the Mexican army - perhaps six or seven thousand men - who had fled before our right had carried the tower, and gained the Xalapa road.
Pillow's brigade alone, is near me at this depot of wounded, sick, and prisoners; and I have time only to give from him the names of 1st Lieut. F. B. Nelson, and 2d C. G. Hill, both of the 2d Tennessee foot, (Haskell's regiment,) among the killed, and in the brigade 106, of all ranks, killed or wounded.
Among the latter, the gallant Brigadier-general himself has a smart wound in the arm, but not disabled; and Major R. Farqueson, 2d Tennessee, Captain H. F. Murray, 2d Lieut. G. T. Sutherland, 1st Lieut. W. P. Hale, Adjutant, all of the same regiment, severely, and 1st Lieut. W. Yearwood, mortally wounded. And I know, from personal observation on the ground, that 1st Lieut. Ewell, of the rifles, if not now dead, was mortally wounded in entering, sword in hand, the intrenchments around the captured tower.
2d Lieut. Derby, topographical engineers, I also saw, at the same place, severely wounded, and Captain Patton, 2d United States Infantry, lost his right hand. Major Summer, 2d United States dragoons, was slightly wounded the day before, and Capt. Johnston, topographical engineers, (now Lieut.-colonel of infantry,) was very severely wounded some days earlier while reconnoitring. I must not omit to add that Capt. Mason, and 2d Lieut. Davis, both of the rifles, were among the very severely wounded in storming the same tower.
I estimate our total loss, in killed and wounded, may be about 250, and that of the enemy at 350. In the pursuit towards Xalapa (25 miles hence) I learn we have added much to the enemy's loss in prisoners, killed, and wounded. In fact, I suppose his retreating army to be nearly disorganized, and hence my haste to follow, in an hour or two, to profit by events.
In this hurried and imperfect report I must not omit to say that Brigadier-general Twiggs, in passing the mountain-range beyond Cerro Gordo, crowned with the tower, detached from his division, as I suggested the day before, a strong force to carry that height, which commanded the Xalapa road at the foot, and could not fail, if carried, to cut off the whole, or any part of the enemy's forces, from a retreat in any direction.
A portion of the 1st artillery, under the often-distinguished Brevet Colonel Childs, the 3d infantry, under Captain Alexander, the 7th infantry, under Lieut.-colonel Plymton, and the rifles, under Major Loring, all under the temporary command of Colonel Harney, 2d dragoons, during the confinement to his bed of Brevet Brig.-general P. F. Smith, composed that detachment. The style of execution, which I had the pleasure to witness, was most brilliant and decisive.
The brigade ascended the long and difficult slope of Cerro Gordo, without shelter, and under the tremendous fire of artillery and musketry with the utmost steadiness, reached the breastworks, drove the enemy from them, planted the colors of the 1st artillery, 3d and 7th infantry - the enemy's flag still flying - and, after some minutes' sharp firing, finished the conquest with the bayonet.
It is a most pleasing duty to say that the highest praise is due to Harney, Childs, Plymton, Loring, Alexander, their gallant officers and men, for this brilliant service, independent of the great results which soon followed.
Worth's division of regulars coming up at this time, he detached Brevet Lieutenant-colonel C. F. Smith, with his light battalion, to support the assault, but not in time. The general, reaching the tower a few minutes before me, and observing a white flag displayed from the nearest portion of the enemy towards the batteries below, sent out Colonels Harney and Childs to hold a parley. The surrender followed in an hour or two.
Major-general Patterson left a sick-bed to share in the dangers and fatigues of the day; and after the surrender went forward to command the advanced forces towards Xalapa.
Brig.-general Pillow and his brigade twice assaulted with great daring the enemy's line of batteries on our left; and though without success, they contributed much to distract and dismay their immediate opponents.
President Santa Anna, with Generals Canalizo and Almonte, and some six or eight thousand men, escaped towards Xalapa just before Cerro Gordo was carried, and before Twiggs' division reached the National road above.
I have determined to parole the prisoners - officers and men - as I have not the means of feeding them here, beyond to-day, and cannot afford to detach a body of horse and foot, with wagons, to accompany them to Vera Cruz. Our baggage train, though increasing, is not half large enough to give an assured progress to this army.
Besides, a greater number of prisoners would, probably, escape from the escort in the long and deep sandy road, without subsistence - ten to one - than we shall find again, out of the same body of men, in the ranks opposed to us. Not one of the Vera Cruz prisoners is believed to have been in the lines of Cerro Gordo. Some six of the officers, highest in rank, refuse to give their paroles, except to go to Vera Cruz, and thence, perhaps, to the United States.
The small-arms and accoutrements, being of no value to our army here or at home, I have ordered them to be destroyed; for we have not the means of transporting them. I am, also, somewhat embarrassed with the - pieces of artillery, all bronze, which we have captured. It would take a brigade, and half the mules of our army, to transport them fifty miles.
A field battery I shall take for service with the army; but the heavy metal must be collected, and left here for the present. We have our own siege-train and the proper carriages with us.
Being much occupied with the prisoners, and all the details of a forward movement, besides looking to the supplies which are to follow from Vera Cruz, I have time to add no more - intending to be at Xalapa early to-morrow. We shall not, probably, again meet with serious opposition this side of Perote - certainly not, unless delayed by the want of the means of transportation.
I have the honor to remain, sir, with high respect, your most obedient servant,
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Citation: Steven R. Butler, ed. A Documentary History of the Mexican War (Richardson, Texas: Descendants of Mexican War Veterans, 1995), pp. 207-208.