The History of New York State
Book XI, Chapter IV
Part II

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

Next morning a municipal deputation waited on General Scott, and offered to capitulate, inasmuch as Santa Anna's army had evacuated the city during the night. The escape of the Mexican dictator was bitter disappointment to Scott. He refused to parley with the civil authorities, and Worth's division led the way into the conquered capital. There was some street fighting, but order was soon restored, and on September 15, 1847, one of the most spectacular events of American history occurred; the Star and Stripes floated proudly over the palace of the Montezumas, over which a foreign flag had not been unfurled for 300 years. All the spirit had gone out of the opposition. A proud people had succumbed in humiliation to "the second Cortes." "The Grand Plaza, which the invading Spaniard had himself laid out in the sixteenth century saw the strange spectacle of American troops marching to the music of their national airs during the imposing entry of their majestic commander."

New York Volunteers Commissioned--the only regiment that was commissioned in New York State and sent direct to the seat of war was the 1st Regiment of New York Volunteers, under the command of Colonel Ward B. Burnett. The officers received their commissions and, together with the men, were mustered into service January, 1847, and during the same month embarked as follows: Companies C, D, and E in the ship "Catherine," under the command of Major James C. Burnham; companies A and G, in the barque "Isabel," under Cpt. Charles H. Shaw; companies H, F, and part of K, in the brig "Empire," under Colonel Ward B. Burnett, companies I and the balance of K, in the barque "Jubilee," under Cpt. Morton Fairchild, and company B, under Lieutenant colonel Baxter.

The "Empire" was soon enabled to cast anchor off the Brazos, when Colonel Burnett, with others officers, went on shore, and having received orders from General Scott they immediately set sail for "Lobos," where, with other detachments, they disembarked of the regiment at "Lobos," Island, the "colors" presented by the corporation and citizens of New York were formally delivered to the proper officers.

On the presentation of the colors the regiment was on parade within fifty yards of the rolling surf of Mexico. Advancing to the front the officers ranged themselves around their standard, and repeated after colonel Bennett an oath, solemnly promising to sustain the honor of their flag with their lives, and never to surrender it or allow its glory to be tarnished, while life remained. The appearance of that emblem of the Empire State increased the ardor of the officers and soldiers. On the battlefield they remembered their vow and the result was that many were killed with the color-staff in hand.

Battles of Churubusco and Chapultepec--with reference to the battle of Churubusco, at which the regiment was conspicuous, Colonel Burnett write: "the field was gloriously won; and to both officers and men I tender my heartfelt thanks. Their fame will soon reach the State, whose banner they so nobly sustained, and the highest reward that a soldier can desire will be theirs; the grateful acknowledgments of their fellow citizens. It is a sad truth however, that this honor had been purchased by the sacrifices of many brave and gallant spirits. The gallantry displayed at the colors, which were always in advance, and where so many were shot down, deserves particular notice. It was here that the gallant Chandler fell. The national colors first fell from the hands of Romaine, into Corporal Lake's hands, who was immediately wounded; then into the hands of Private Tweedy, who shared the same fate."

The report gives a thrilling account of the different engagements in which the New York Volunteers took part. Facts developed that in the siege of Vera Cruz, in the battle of Cerro Gordo, in the pursuit of Santa Anna, in advance of the whole army, in the desperate engagements of Contreras, Churubusco, and in the siege and capture of the city of Mexico, the 1st Regiment of New York Volunteers displayed the greatest bravery.

General Quitman in his official report remarks, in reference to the taking of Chapultepec: "At the base of the hill, constituting a part of the works of Chapultepec, and directly across our line of advances, were the strong batteries before described, flanked on the right by some strong buildings and by a heavy stone wall about fifteen feet high, which extended around the base of the hill towards the west. Within two hundred yards of those batteries were some dilapidated buildings, which afforded a partial cover to our advance.

"Between these and the wall extended a low meadow, the long grass of which concealed a number of wet ditches by which it was intersected. To this point the command, partially screened, advanced by a flank, the storming parties in front, under a heavy fire from the fortress, the batteries, and the breastworks of the enemy. The advance was here halted under the partial cover of the ruins, and upon the arrival of the heads of the South Carolina and New York regiments, respectively, General Shields was directed to move them obliquely to the left, across the low ground, to the wall at the base of the Hill. Encouraged by the gallant general who led then to victory at Churubusco, and in spite of the obstacles which they had to encounter in wading through several deep ditches, exposed to a severe and galling fire from the enemy, these tried regiments promptly executed the movement and effected a lodgment.

In directing the advance, Brigadier General Shields was severely wounded in the arm. No persuasions however could induce that officer to leave his command or quit the field. The brave Cpt. Van Olinda of the New York Regiment was killed at the head of his company. Lieutenant Colonel Baxter, of the same regiment, a valuable and esteemed officer, while gallantly leading his command, feel, mortally wounded, near the wall. The gallant New York regiment claimed for their standard the honor of being the first waved from the battlements of Chapultepec. The veteran Mexican general, Bravo, with a number of officers and men, were taken prisoners in the castle. They fell into the hands of Lieutenant Charles Bower, of the New York Regiment, who reported them to me."

The whole number that departed originally for the seat of war was 805. Of these there died in Mexico or were killed in battle, 227; discharged from disabilities, wounds, sickness, etc., 226; missing the deserted, 35; died shortly following return, 56; living in 1850, 106; leaving wholly unaccounted for, 155.

Burnett's Picture of Battle--A closer view of the part performed by the 1st Regiment of New York Volunteers in the investment and capture of the City of Mexico, an at the battles of Contreras and Churubusco, is given in the official report of the colonel commanding, Ward B. Burnett:

The volunteer brigade, commanded by Brig-Gen. Shields, to which the regiment under my command belongs [ says Colonel Burnett], left the city of Puebla on the 8th, and encamped at Buena Vista on the 11th, in full view of the country surrounding the city of Mexico, and arrived at San Augustin in position for the investment, on the 19th day of August, 1847. Gens. Pillow and Twiggs, with the 3d and 2d divisions of regulars, left San Augustin on the morning of the 19th, and at 3 o'clock P. M., the New York and South Carolina regiments were ordered to their support, under Brig-Gen. Shields. The regiment marched immediately, leaving Major Burnham with a force of about 100 men, consisting of Company C, under the command of Capt. Barclay, Lieuts. Sherwood and Boyle, a detachment of thirty-five men of different companies and twelve sick.

The regiment pursued its way across the Pena, a series of ledges of rocks and chasms, with great difficulty, and at the deep ravine through which a torrent falls, some eight or ten lost their way, and returned to San Augustin. At midnight the rest of the forces reached the village of San Geronimo, in a drenching rain. Every hut was occupied, and the troops, wet and weary, were obliged to stand under arms in the road until daylight, when the enemy's works in the immediate vicinity of the village were to be stormed by the 2d division of regulars. They then repaired to the church and other shelter in its neighborhood, by order of General Shields, to prepare arms for action. As the sun rose the cheers of the storming party were heard, and Burnett's men assembled to meet the enemy who were retreating on their fortifications nearer to the city of Mexico. They captured 336 prisoners, and amongst them was on general, two colonels, and many subaltern officers; with at least 200 stand of arms, lances, horses, etc.

the regiment was then ordered to return to its former position at the church, from which small commands were sent to overtake straggling parties of the enemy, in which they are particularly successful under the command of Cpt. J. P. Taylor and his 1st Lt., A. W. Taylor. About 9 o'clock in the morning, Burnett's men received order to advance on the city of Mexico, leaving Company D, and about fifty men of other companies, that had not yet returned from scouting, in charge of the prisoners. They marched from the village of San Geronimo with about 300 officers and men. After passing through San Angel and halting for a short time, the 2d division of regulars engaged the enemy in front of Churubusco.

They were ordered to countermarch and directed with other troops to turn the enemy's right and reach the rear of that formidable position. The New York regiment, after some traveling, reached the enemy's right and rear at Los Portales. During this time it was discovered that the enemy's works were flanked by an embankment with a deep ditch, extending parallel to a roadway for more than a mile to the rear, and to the hacienda of Los Portales. This formidable breastwork and hacienda were occupied by at least 3,000 infantry, besides large bodies of cavalry. The order to charge was received with cheers, and the regiment advanced under a terrific fire, in which Colonel Burnett was wounded in the left leg by an escopette ball, compelling him to turn over the command to Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Baxter.

General Shields ordered the New York and South Carolina regiments to charge the enemy's line, which they did, breaking the line, crossing the ditch and reaching the roadway. But the advantage was gained a great loss- 105 officers and men being killed or wounded. The remnant of the two regiments were then ordered to advance upon the city of Mexico. A piece of artillery captured from the enemy drove the enemy cavalry back in disorder. The New York and Carolina regiments were then halted and order back to Los Portales.

New Yorkers First at Chapultepec--the report of Major J. c. Burnham extends the account given by Colonel Burnett, concerning the part take by the New York Volunteers in the affairs of the 12th and 13th of September. The regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Baxter commanding, Colonel Burnett being confined at the Hacienda Miscoac, reduced, after finishing the details for the storming party, arrived at Tacubaya on the 12th, and were posted till the morning of the 13th on the right of the road from Tacubaya to the city. At 8 a.m. colonel Baxter received orders to advance to storm the castle. After proceeding about a mile he was ordered by the general to file to the left, by a rancho through a cornfield, where they were received by showers of grape, cannister, and musket balls, when Colonel Baxter fell severely wounded, gallantly leading the charge.

Lieutenant-Colonel Burnham assumed command and in ascending the hill was struck by a spent ball which disabled him for a few moments, during which time he directed Cpt. Taylor to command the battalion. The New York Regiment was the first in the ditch, and in the enemy's works, and the first to place the national flag on the conquered castle. The castle having surrendered, Colonel Burnham was ordered by the General to proceed wit his command on the Tacubaya Road, and was halted at the aqueduct, where the men refilled their cartridge boxes. After a short rest they advanced towards the Garita de Belen, where two skirmishing parties, under command of Cpt.s Hungerford and Taylor were detailed by order of General Quitman, and rendered essential service in driving the enemy from the batteries at the Garita. A working party was also detailed to carry sand bags, fill ditches, and make a road under direction of Lieutenant Pinto, of company D; Cpt. Barclay was then ordered to superintend the building of a breastwork, and rendered efficient aid as the second in command. At dusk a large working party was detailed from the New York and Pennsylvania regiments and placed under command of Cpt. Fairchild, to erect a battery in front of the Garita. At daylight all marched into the capital.

 

The killed and wounded of the 1st Regiment of New York Volunteers, at the battles of Contreras and Churubusco, on August 20th, 1847, totaled :

Killed

16

Wounded

88

Total

104

 

The killed and wounded in the action of September 12th and 13th totaled:

Killed

14

Wounded

61

Total

75

 

New York Officers' Records--the following is a list of the commissioned officers of the 1st Regiment of the United States Volunteers of New York, showing the actions in which each was engaged from the siege of Vera Cruz to the conquest of the city of Mexico.
Col. Ward B. Burnett  was engaged in the siege of Vera Cruz, the affair at the tower near Nueva Ranche, and the battles of Cerro Gordo, Contreras and Churubsco, where he was severely wounded, and during subsequent actions was disabled.
Lt.-Colonel Charles Baxter  was engaged in the siege of Vera Cruz, and at Cerro Gordo, Contreras and Churubusco, and the storming of the castle at Chapultepec, where he was mortally wounded.
Maj. James C. Burnham, engaged at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco; commanded regiment after fall of Baxter at Chapultepec, Garita de Belen, and entering of Mexico City.
1st Lt. and Adj. Robert A. Carter engaged at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco.
Cpt. Charles H. Shaw engaged at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras.
Cpt. Gustave de Bongars engaged at Vera Cruz, and Neuva Ranche.
Cpt. James Barclay engaged at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen, entering Mexico City.
Cpt. Jerry P. Taylor engaged Vera Cruz, Neuva Ranche, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.
Cpt. Daniel E. Hungerford,  engaged at Vera Cruz, Nueva Ranche, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.
Cpt. Charles H. Pearson engaged at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, wounded at Contreras and Churubusco, mortally wounded at Chapultepec.
Cpt. Samuel S. Gallagher engaged at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, contraries, Churubusco, Garita San Cosme.
Cpt. Abram Van Olinda engaged at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, Chapultepec.
Cpt. Morton Fairchild engaged at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, slightly wounded at Contreras and Churubusco, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.,
Cpt. Garrett Dyckman Vera Cruz, Nueva Ranche, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, where severely wounded.
1st Lt. Augustus Jacobus Vera Cruz.
1st Lt. Gustave Reichardt Vera Cruz.
1st Lt. Charles H. Sherwood Vera Cruz, Chapultepec.
1st Lt. Alfred W. Taylor Vera Cruz, Neuva Ranche, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Chapultepec.
1st Lt. William Torrey Vera Cruz.
1st Lt. Charles H. Innes Vera Cruz, Neuva Ranche, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen, where wounded.
1st Lt. Charles F. Gallagher Vera Cruz.
1st Lt. George B. Hall Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, and Churubusco.
1st Lt. William Taylor Vera Cruz.
2nd Lt. Israel Miller Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.
2nd Lt. Thomas G. Sweeney Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco.
2nd Lt. Marion N. Croft Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo.
2nd Lt. James G. Hillis Vera Cruz, Nueva Ranche, Cerro Gordo.
2nd Lt. Francis G. Boyle Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras. Churubusco.
2nd Lt. David Scannel Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.
2nd Lt. Francis J. Pinto Vera Cruz, Nueva Ranche, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.
2nd Lt. Robert M. Floyd Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo.
2nd Lt. James W. Henry Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.
2nd Lt. Edgar Chandler Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, where mortally wounded.
2nd Lt. Reid Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, Chapultepec, where wounded.
2nd Lt. Charles B. Brower Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.
2nd Lt. William Browne Vera Cruz, Nueva Ranche, Cerro Gordo, Moline del Rey, Chapultepec, Garita de San Cosme, where wounded.
2nd Lt. Henry Gaines Vera Cruz, Nueva Ranche.
2nd Lt. Jacob Griffin Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, where wounded, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.
2nd Lt. James W. Greene Vera Cruz, Contreras, Churubusco, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.
2nd Lt. James D. Potter Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, where wounded.
2nd Lt. James S. McCabe Vera Cruz. Nueva Ranche, Cerro Gordo, where wounded; Contreras, Churubusco, where wounded; Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.
2nd Lt. John Rafferty Vera Cruz, Nueva Ranche, Contreras, Churubusco, Chapultepec, Garita de San Cosme.
Acting 2nd Lt. Francis Durning Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras. Churubusco, Chapultepec, Garita de Belen.
Acting 2nd Lt. Charles D. Cooper Vera Cruz. Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, where wounded.

 

Nomenclature of Regiments--At the outbreak of the war am attempt was made to organized six regiments in the State of New York, and while they were in the course of completion the War Department issued authority to Colonel Jonathan d. Stevenson to organize a regiment in New York for service in California, and naturally this later regiment took the designation of "Seventh Regiment New York Volunteers," under which title it was mustered into the service, and took its departure for the field of duty. The effort to organize the six regiments, above referred to, was subsequent to the sailing of the regiment under Colonel Stevenson for California, abandoned, owing to the fact that the War Department declined to accept more than other regiment from the State of New York for duty in Mexico. Out of these partly organized regiments, owing to a compromise made between several of the would-be colonels, was formed the regiment which served in Mexico under the command of Colonel Ward B. Burnett, which as the second and last New York regiment organized and mustered into the service of the United States during the Mexican War. Colonel Stevenson's regiment having been mustered into the service as the 7th, and having sailed fro California, the State authorities designated the regiment under colonel Burnett as the 1st.

The War Department subsequently corrected this erroneous designation of New York regiments by an order direction Colonel Stevenson to thereafter designate and muster his regiment as the "First Regiment," Colonel Burnett's regiment being required to take the name of the "Second Regiment."

Gains in Mexican War--The conquest of Mexico by the United States was even more decisive than that by Cortes. Mexico was a conquered nation, and the United States might have remained in possession. But she was satisfied in being able to dictate terms. The war had cost the United States 25,000 lives and $25,000,000, but, undoubtedly, it was the most successful war ever waged by English-speaking people in America. Indeed, history hardly ever shows a war in which victory lay so consistently with the invader. Every major battle, and almost every minor engagement, was won by the United States, and although she gave the country back to the people, the latter agreed that the Rio Grande, from its mouth to El Paso, should be the international boundary. Further, she agreed to sell Upper California and New Mexico to the Untied State for $15,000,000. Some time later, for a further $10,000,000 Mexico relinquished right to a further vast territory; and by these two land transactions, the Untied States gained title to the vast domain out of which the States of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona had been formed. A month or so before the treaty of peace was concluded, but before news of it reached either Mexico City or Washington, an American settler discovered gold in California on Cpt. Sutter's land. during the next two years American swarmed into California--to the number of 100,000. The United States was therefore so quickly established in the new land that there was never afterwards any fear that she could be dislodge from this rich territory.

Representative men from New York took prominent parts in the conduct of the war, apart from the military record of its regiments. In the political field, a New York statesman, Marcy, was the dominating spirit; the scheme of territorial expansion appears to have originated in his mind. Men of New York were prominent on all fronts; in almost off the major battles New York generals were conspicuous. New York commanders were with Taylor; a New York general made the great victory at Buena Vista possible; a New York general conquered New Mexico; a New York commander too the capital of California; a New York general, Worth, bore the brunt of the Vera Cruz campaign; a New York soldier, Philip Kearny, nephew of General Kearny, was the first American soldier to enter Mexico City, General Scott declaring Kearny to be the "bravest man" he has ever seen, and "the most perfect soldier." Scions of New York's best families--Schuylers, Hamiltons, Morrises, and others--were in the van of the invading armies, and some never returned. When the passions of war had subsided, and it was necessary to atone for America's somewhat besmirched political record, New York again strove to lead the nation to a better political state. It was a New York congressman, Preston King, who led the fight in Congress for the "Wilmot Proviso," which sought to make slavery impossible in the new territories. And it was mainly by the efforts of another great New Yorker--Martin Van Buren--who split the Democrats in the pivotal State, New York statesman--Millard Fillmore, as Vice-President. Certainly New York had a leading, and generally noble, part in the great events of this most profitable period of American history.

AUTHORITIES.

Thornton, "War With Mexico," contained in the "annual Report of the Adjutant-General Of New York," unpublished MS. In State Historian's Office, Albany.
Bancroft, H. H., "The Mexico War.'
Wilson, J. G., "Memorial History of the City of New York, N. Y."
Ripley, "History of the War with Mexico."
Alexander, D. S., "Political; History of the State of New York, N. Y."
Garrison, G. P., "Westward Extension" (American Nation Series).
Schouler, J., "History of the United States," Vol. V.
"President Polk's Administration," ("Atlantic Monthly," Vol. LXXVI).
Grant, U. S., "Personal Memoirs," Vol. 1.
Owen, C. H., "The Justice of the Mexican War."
Bourne, E. G., "The United States and Mexico, 1847-1848" (American Historical Series,
Vol. V).
Reeves, J. S., "The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo" (American Historical Review, Vol. X)

 

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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