Battle of Chapultepec

September 12–13, 1847

The Battle of Chapultepec was fought from September 12–13, 1847, between the United States and Mexico, during the Mexican-American War. The outcome of the battle was an American victory, culminating with the capture of Mexico City.

Battle of Chapultepec, 1847, Pillow's Attack

This illustration depicts the division of Gideon Pillow storming Chapultepec Castle in 1847. Image Source: Yale University Library.

Battle of Chapultepec Facts

  • Date — September 12–13, 1847.
  • Location — 2 miles south of Mexico City.
  • Opponents — United States of America and Mexico.
  • American CommanderWinfield Scott.
  • Mexican Commander — Nicolás Bravo
  • Winner — The United States won the Battle of Chapultepec.
Winfield Scott, General, Mexican-American War
General Winfield Scott (USA). Image Source: Yale University Library.

Key Moments

  • U.S. forces encamped near Chapultapec Castle after the Battle of Molino del Rey.
  • On September 12, American forces bombarded Chapultepec Castle.
  • The next morning, the Americans assaulted Chapultepec Castle and fought their way to the top of the hill.
  • After taking the castle, the Americans pushed the Mexicans into Mexico City.
  • The Americans attacked Belén Gate and San Cosme Gate, forcing their way into the city.
  • Hostilities ended at dark, and the Mexicans withdrew from the city overnight.
  • General Winfield Scott entered Mexico City on September 14.
  • Inhabitants of the city rioted and attacked American forces, which was stopped with the help of the town council.
  • U.S. forces occupied Mexico City until the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848.

Battle of Chapultepec Significance

The Battle of Chapultepec was important to the outcome of the Mexican-American War because the American victory allowed General Winfield Scott to immediately attack and capture Mexico City. The capture of Mexico City led to the end of the Mexican-American War.

Battle of Chapultepec, 1847, Quitman's Attack
This painting depicts forces from the division of General John A. Quitman attacking Chapultepec. Image Source: Yale University Library.

Battle of Chapultepec History

The Battle of Chapultepec took place over 24 hours, from September 12–13, 1847. U.S. forces won a crucial victory against Mexican troops under the command of Nicolás Bravo at Chapultepec Castle, just outside of Mexico City. After American forces captured the castle, they pushed Mexican forces back into Mexico City. After more intense fighting, U.S. forces captured Mexico City, leading to the end of the war.

Scott on the Doorstep of Mexico City

Following the Battle of Molino del Rey (September 8, 1947), General Winfield Scott made preparations to attack Mexico City. However, he decided to bombard Mexican forces at Chapultepec Castle first. Scott and his army of around 7,000 men encamped near the castle, which was on top of a hill that was 200 feet tall. The castle contained a military college and from its position, it controlled the main roads into Mexico City.

The Battle of Chapultepec Begins

Despite objections from some of the senior officers and engineers, Scott decided to assault Chapultepec Castle on September 12. 

At dawn, U.S. artillery batteries started bombarding the castle. Meanwhile, in order to confuse Mexican forces in Mexico City, which were 15,000 strong, Scott moved some of his troops south and southeast of the city.

Scott bombarded the castle throughout the day, which was defended by approximately 1,000 soldiers, including 100 cadets from the military college, under the command of General Nicolás Rueda Bravo. Outside of the castle were another 4,000 Mexican troops.

The bombardment ended at dark.

Battle of Chapultepec, 1847, Military College
This illustration depicts the Military College. Image Source: Yale University Library.

September 13

The next morning, the bombardment resumed and lasted until around 8:00 a.m., when Scott instructed the division of Brigadier General John A. Quitman to advance to the castle near the southern and eastern walls.

Quitman’s division included a “storming party,” which included men from the division of Brigadier General David E. Twigg. Captain Silas Casey was in command of the storming party. At the head of Casey’s men were 40 Marines. They were followed by volunteers from the brigade of Brigadier General James Shields.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow and his division, along with another storming party under Captain Samuel Mackenzie, moved forward from the west. 

They were assisted by three assault columns from the division of Brigadier General George Cadwalader, along with the forces led by Brigadier General William J. Worth.

American Forces Capture Chapultepec Castle

Both storming parties came under heavy artillery fire and strong opposition from the Mexican defenders. 

There was a brief pause in the assault while American forces awaited the arrival of scaling ladders, but once the ladders reached the walls and were raised, the Americans started ascending with pickaxes. 

As they moved up the hill, they engaged in intense hand-to-hand combat, before finally reaching the summit. 

After two hours of fighting, the Mexicans surrendered the castle. 

Santa Anna watched the battle from Mexico City and saw the American flag raised above it. 

Executions of the San Patricio Battalion

At the moment the flag was raised, U.S. forces executed members of the San Patricio Battalion, who had been captured at the Battle of Churubusco. The executions were carried out under orders issued by Colonel Wiliam S. Harney.

Los Niños Héroes

After General Bravo ordered his men to retreat to Mexico City, five cadets and one officer from the military academy refused to give up the fight — Lieutenant Juan de la Barrera and cadets Agustín Melgar, Juan Escutia, Vicente Suárez, Francisco Márquez, and Fernando Montes de Oca. All of them were between the ages of 13 and 19, and they fought to their death. According to legend, Escutia took the Mexican Flat from the castle, wrapped himself in it, and leaped to his death to prevent the flag from falling into American hands.

U.S. Forces Capture Mexico City

After securing the castle, Scott moved to capture Mexico City. He directed General Worth to advance his division along La Verónica Causeway to assault the San Cosme Gate. 

Meanwhile, Quitman’s troops went eastward along the Belén Causeway and attacked the Belén Gate, which became the focal point of the U.S. attack. The Americans pushed the defenders from Chapultepec Castel into the city. By early afternoon, the Americans breached the gate and moved into the city.

On the north side of Mexico City, Brevet Major Robert E. Lee led men from Worth’s division as they advanced towards the San Cosme Gate. The Mexicans counterattacked, but Worth’s men pushed them back. 

Robert E. Lee, 1838, Portrait
Robert E. Lee, circa 1838. Image Source: Wikimedia.

Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant and his artillery unit placed a howitzer on top of the bell tower of San Cosme Church and started firing at the Mexican defenders. At the same time, Lieutenant George Terrett led a contingent of marines around the Mexican defenders and unleashed heavy fire on them. 

By evening, Worth’s men had breached the gate and penetrated the outskirts of the city. As night fell, hostilities ended. 

Mexican leaders decided not to resist the capture of Mexico City. Santa Anna withdrew his troops under the cover of darkness, and the following day, General Scott triumphantly entered Mexico City.

Within a month, the Mexican-American War ended.

Battle of Chapultepec, 1847, Storming the Walls
This illustration depicts U.S. forces storming the Mexican defenses. Image Source: Yale University Library.

American Casualties

During the battle, three American generals — Twiggs, Pillow, and Shields — were injured. The most significant American casualties took place during the assault on Belén Gate, where General Quitman’s entire staff was killed during the battle on the Belén Causeway. In total, American casualties and losses amounted to 862, including 130 fatalities and 703 wounded.

Mexican Casualties

Five Mexican generals, including Bravo, were taken as prisoners, and one, Juan N. Pérez, was killed. The overall Mexican losses numbered 2,623, with around 655 fatalities and 1,145 wounded. 

Legacy of the Battle of Chapultepec

There were a number of U.S. Army officers who fought at Chapultepec and went on to lead U.S. and Confederate forces as generals during the Civil War

U.S. Generals

C.S.A. Generals

Ulysses S. Grant. Image Source: National Park Service.

Winfield Scott’s Official Report for the Battle of Molino del Rey

The following is General Winfield Scott’s official report of the Battle of Chapultepec.

It was written to William L. Marcy, Secretary of War, on September 18, 1847, and sent to Washington, D.C. 

Note: Section headings and additional spacing have been added to improve the readability of the report.

September 18, 1847

Headquarters of the Army,

National Palace of Mexico, September 18, 1847.

Sir: — At the end of another series of arduous and brilliant operations of more than forty-eight hours’ continuance, this glorious army hoisted, on the morning of the 14th, the colours of the United States on the walls of this palace.

Scouting Chapultepec and Mexico City

The victory of the 8th, at the Molino del Rey, was followed by daring reconnoissances on the part of our distinguished engineers — Captain Lee, Lieutenants Beauregard, Stevens, and Tower — Major Smith, senior, being sick, and Captain Mason, third in rank, wounded. Their operations were directed principally to the south — towards the gates of the Piedad, San Angel (Niño Perdido), San Antonio, and the Paseo de la Viga.

Description of Mexico City

This city stands on a slight swell of ground, near the centre of an irregular basin, and is girdled with a ditch in its greater extent — a navigable canal of great breadth and depth — very difficult to bridge in the presence of an enemy, and serving at once for drainage, custom-house purposes, and military defence; leaving eight entrances or gates, over arches — each of which we found defended by a system of strong works, that seemed to require nothing but some men and guns to be impregnable.

More Obstacles to Mexico City

Outside and within the cross-fires of those gates, we found to the south other obstacles but little less formidable. All the approaches near the city are over elevated causeways, cut in many places (to oppose us), and flanked on both sides by ditches, also of unusual dimensions. The numerous cross-roads are flanked in like manner, having bridges at the intersections, recently broken. 

The meadows thus checkered are, moreover, in many spots, under water or marshy; for, it will be remembered, we were in the midst of the wet season, though with less rain than usual, and we could not wait for the fall of the neighbouring lakes and the consequent drainage of the wet grounds at the edge of the city – the lowest in the whole basin.

Scott Plans a Diversion

After a close personal survey of the southern gates, covered by Pillow’s division and Riley’s brigade of Twiggs’ — with four times our numbers concentrated in our immediate front – I determined on the 11th to avoid that net-work of obstacles, and to seek, by a sudden diversion to the south-west and west, less unfavourable approaches.

To economize the lives of our gallant officers and men, as well as to insure success, it became indispensable that this resolution should be long masked from the enemy; and again, that the new movement, when discovered, should be mistaken for a feint, and the old as indicating our true and ultimate point of attack.

Scott Orders Quitman and Pillow to Meet Him at Tacubaya

Accordingly, on the spot, the 11th, I ordered Quitman’s division from Cuyoacan, to join Pillow, by daylight, before the southern gates, and then that the two major-generals, with their divisions, should, by night, proceed (two miles) to join me at Tacubaya, where I was quartered with Worth’s division. 

American Forces Placed Near Mexico City

Twiggs, with Riley’s brigade and Captains Taylor’s and Steptoe’s field batteries — the latter of 12-pounders — was left in front of those gates, to maneuver, to threaten, or to make false attacks, in order to occupy and deceive the enemy. 

Success of the Southern Distraction

Twiggs’ other brigade (Smith’s) was left at supporting distance, in the rear, at San Angel, till the morning of the 13th, and also to support our general depot at Mixcoac. The stratagem against the south was admirably executed throughout the 12th and down to the afternoon of the 13th, when it was too late for the enemy to recover from the effects of his delusion.

Mexican Defenses at Chapultepec

The first step in the new movement was to carry Chapultepec, a natural and isolated mound, of great elevation, strongly fortified at its base, on its acclivities, and heights. Besides a numerous garrison, here was the military college of the republic, with a large number of sub-lieutenants and other students. Those works were within direct gun-shot of the village of Tacubaya, and until carried, we could not approach the city on the west, without marking a circuit too wide and too hazardous.

September 11 — Artillery Batteries Placed to Bombard Chapultepec

In the course of the same night (that of the 11th) heavy batteries, within easy ranges, were established. No. 1, on our right, under the command of Captain Drum, 4th artillery (relieved late next day, for some hours, by Lieutenant Andrews of the 3d), and No. 2, commanded by Lieutenant Hagner, Ordnance — both supported by Quitman’s division. Nos. 3 and 4 on the opposite side, supported by Pillow’s division, were commanded, the former by Captain Brooks and Lieutenant S. S. Anderson, 2d artillery, alternately, and the latter by Lieutenant Stone, Ordnance. The batteries were traced by Captain Huger and Captain Lee, Engineer, and constructed by them with the able assistance of the young officers of those corps and artillery.

To prepare for an assault, it was foreseen that the play of the batteries might run into the second day; but recent captures had not only trebled our siege-pieces, but also our ammunition; and we knew that we should greatly augment both by carrying the place. I was, therefore, in no haste in ordering an assault before the works were well crippled by our missiles.

September 12 — The Bombardment of Chapultepec

The bombardment and cannonade, under the direction of Captain Huger, were commenced early in the morning of the 12th. Before nightfall, which necessarily stopped our batteries, we had perceived that a good impression had been made on the castle and its outworks, and that a large body of the enemy had remained outside, towards the city, from an early hour to avoid our fire, and to be at hand on its cessation, in order to reinforce the garrison against an assault. 

The same outside force was discovered the next morning, after our batteries had reopened upon the castle, by which we again reduced its garrison to the minimum needed for the guns.

Preparations for the Assault

Pillow and Quitman had been in position since early in the night of the 11th. Major-General Worth was now ordered to hold his division in reserve, near the foundry, to support Pillow; and Brigadier-General Smith, of Twigg’s division, had just arrived with his brigade from Piedad (two miles), to support Quitman. 

Twiggs’s guns, before the southern gates, again reminded us, as the day before, that he, with Riley’s brigade and Taylor’s and Steptoe’s batteries, was in activity, threatening the southern gates, and there holding a great part of the Mexican army on the defensive.

The Storming Parties

Worth’s division furnished Pillow’s attack with an assaulting party of some two hundred and fifty volunteer officers and men, under Captain McKenzie, of the 2d artillery; and Twiggs’s division supplied a similar one, commanded by Captain Casey, 2d infantry, to Quitman. Each of those little columns was furnished with scaling ladders.

The Assault on Chapultepec Castle Begins

The signal I had appointed for the attack was the momentary cessation of fire on the part of our heavy batteries. About eight o’clock in the morning of the 13th, judging that the time had arrived by the effect of the missiles we had thrown, I sent an aid-de-camp to Pillow, and another to Quitman, with notice that the concerted signal was about to be given. 

Both columns now advanced with an alacrity that gave assurance of prompt success. The batteries, seizing opportunities, threw shots and shells upon the enemy over the heads of our men, with good effect, particularly at every attempt to reinforce the works from without to meet our assault.

Pillow Attacks from the West

Major-General Pillow’s approach, on the west side, lay through an open grove, filled with sharp-shooters, who were speedily dislodged; when being up with the front of the attack, and emerging into open space, at the foot of a rocky acclivity, that gallant leader was struck down by an agonizing wound. The immediate command devolved on Brigadier-General Cadwallader, in the absence of the senior Brigadier (Pierce), of the same division — an invalid since the events of August 19. On a previous call of Pillow, Worth had just sent him a reinforcement — Colonel Clarke’s brigade.

The broken acclivity was still to be ascended, and a strong redoubt, midway, to be carried, before reaching the castle on the heights. The advance of our brave men, led by brave officers, though necessarily slow, was unwavering, over rocks, chasms, and mines, and under the hottest fire of cannon and musketry. 

The redoubt now yielded to resistless valour, and the shouts that followed announced to the castle the fate that impended. The enemy were steadily driven from shelter to shelter. The retreat allowed not time to fire a single mine, without the certainty of blowing up friend and foe. Those who at a distance attempted to apply matches to the long trains, were shot down by our men. There was death below, as well as above ground. 

The Scaling Ladders Arrive

At length the ditch and wall of the main work were reached; the scaling-ladders were brought up and planted by the storming parties; some of the daring spirits first in the assault were cast down — killed or wounded; but a lodgement was soon made; streams of heroes followed; all opposition was overcome, and several of our regimental colors flung out from the upper walls, amidst long-continued shouts and cheers, which sent dismay into the capital. No scene could have been more animating or glorious.

Quitman Attacks from the Southeast

Major-General Quitman, nobly supported by Brigadier-General Shields and Smith (P. F.), his other officers and men, was up with the part assigned him. Simultaneously with the movement on the west, he had gallantly approached the south-east of the same works, over a causeway with cuts and batteries, and defended by an army strongly posted outside, to the east of the works. 

Those formidable obstacles Quitman had to face, with but little shelter for his troops or space for maneuvering. Deep ditches flanking the causeway, made it difficult to cross on either side into the adjoining meadows, and these again were intersected by other ditches. 

Smith and his brigade had been early thrown out to make a sweep to the right, in order to present a front against the enemy’s line (outside), and to turn two intervening batteries near the foot of Chapultepec. This movement was also intended to support Quitman’s storming-parties, both on the causeway. 

Changing Command of the Storming Party

The first of these, furnished by Twiggs’s division, was commanded in succession by Captain Casey, 2d infantry, and Captain Paul, 7th infantry, after Casey had been severely wounded; and the second, originally under the gallant Major Twiggs, marine corps, killed, and then Captain Miller, 2d Pennsylvania volunteers. 

The storming-party, now commanded by Captain Paul seconded by Captain Roberts, of the Rifles, Lieutenant Stewart, and others of the same regiment, Smith’s brigade, carried the two batteries in the road, took some guns, with many prisoners, and drove the enemy posted behind in support. 

The New York and South Carolina volunteers (Shield’s brigade) and the 2d Pennsylvania volunteers, all on the left of Quitman’s line, together with portions of his storming-parties, crossed the meadows in front, under a heavy fire, and entered the outer enclosure of Chapultepec just in time to join in the final assault from the west.

Commendations for Chapultepec

Besides Major-Generals Pillow and Quitman, Brigadier-Generals Shields, Smith, and Cadwallader, the following are the officers and corps most distinguished in those brilliant operations: 

  • The voltigeur regiment in two detachments, commanded respectively by Colonel Andrews and Lieutenant-Colonel Johnstone — the latter mostly in the lead, accompanied by Major Caldwell; Captains Barnard and Biddle, of the same regiment — the former the first to plant a regimental colour, and the latter among the first in the assault; 
  • the storming party of Worth’s division, under Captain McKenzie, 2d artillery, with Lieutenant Seldon, 8th infantry, early on the ladder and badly wounded; 
  • Lieutenant Armistead, 6th infantry, the first to leap into the ditch to plant a ladder; 
  • Lieutenants Rodgers of the 4th, and J. P. Smith of the 5th infantry — both mortally wounded; 
  • the 9th infantry, under Colonel Ransom, who was killed while gallantly leading that gallant regiment; 
  • the 15th infantry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Howard and Major Woods, with Captain Chase, whose company gallantly carried the redoubt, midway up the acclivity; 
  • Colonel Clarke’s brigade (Worth’s division), consisting of the 5th, 8th, and part of the 6th regiments of infantry, commanded respectively by Captain Chapman, Major Montgomery, and Lieutenant Edward Johnson — the latter specially noticed, with Lieutenants Longstreet (badly wounded, advancing, colours in hand), Pickett, and Merchant, the last three of the 8th infantry; 
  • portions of the United States Marines, New York, South Carolina, and 2d Pennsylvania volunteers, which, delayed with their division (Quitman’s), by the hot engagement below, arrived just in time to participate under Lieutenant Reid, New York volunteers, consisting of a company of the same, with one of marines; 
  • and another detachment, a portion of the storming-party (Twiggs’ division, serving with Quitman), under Lieutenant Steele, 2d infantry, after the fall of Lieutenant Gantt, 7th infantry.

Praise for the Artillery Batteries

In this connexion, it is but just to recall the decisive effect of the heavy batteries, Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4, commanded by those excellent officers, Captain Drum, 4th artillery, assisted by Lieutenants Benjamin and Porter of his own company; Captain Brooks and Lieutenant Anderson, 2d artillery, assisted by Lieutenant Russell, 4th infantry, a volunteer; Lieutenants Hagner and Stone of the Ordnance, and Lieutenant Andrews, 3d artillery; the whole superintended by Captain Huger, chief of Ordnance with this army — an officer distinguished by every kind of merit. 

The mountain-howitzer battery, under Lieutenant Reno of the Ordnance, deserves, also, to be particularly mentioned. Attached to the voltigeurs, it followed the movements of that regiment and again won applause.

More Commendations

In adding to the list of individuals of conspicuous merit, I must limit myself to a few of the many names which might be enumerated: 

  • Captain Hooker, Assistant Adjutant-General, who won special applause, successively, in the staff of Pillow and Cadwalader; 
  • Lieutenant Lovell, 4th artillery (wounded), chief of Quitman’s staff; 
  • Captain Page, Assistant Adjutant-General, (wounded), 
  • and Lieutenant Hammond, 3d artillery, both of Shields’s 
  • staff, and Lieutenant Van Dorn (7th infantry), aid-de-camp to Brigadier-General Smith.

The Battle to the North of Chapultepec

Those operations all occurred on the west, south-east, and heights of Chapultepec. To the north, and at the base of the mound, inaccessible on that side, the 11th infantry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hebert; the 14th, under Colonel Trousdale, and Captain Magruder’s field battery, 1st artillery — one section advanced under Lieutenant Jackson — all of Pillow’s division — had, at the same time, some spirited affairs against superior numbers, driving the enemy from a battery in the road, and capturing a gun. In these, the officers and corps named gained merited praise. Colonel Trousdale, the commander, though twice wounded, continued on duty until the heights were carried.

September 13 — Scott Responds to Mexican Reinforcements

Early in the morning of the 13th, I repeated the orders of the night before to Major-General Worth, to be, with his division, at hand, to support the movement of Major-General Pillow from our left. The latter seems soon to have called for that entire division, standing momentarily in reserve, and Worth sent him Colonel Clarke’s brigade. The call, if not unnecessary, was at least, from the circumstances, unknown to me at the time; for, soon observing that the very large body of the enemy, in the road in front of Major-General Quitman’s right, was receiving reinforcements from the city — less than a mile and a half to the east — I sent instructions to Worth, on our opposite flank, to turn Chapultepec with his division, and to proceed cautiously, by the road at its northern base, in order, if not met by very superior numbers, to threaten or to attack, in rear, that body of the enemy. The movement, it was also believed, could not fail to distract and to intimidate the enemy generally.

Worth promptly advanced with his remaining brigade — Colonel Garland’s — Lieutenant-Colonel C. F. Smith’s light battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Duncan’s field battery — all of his division — and three squadrons of dragoons, under Major Sumner, which I had just ordered up to join in the movement.

Having turned the forest on the west, and arriving opposite to the north centre of Chapultepec, Worth came up with troops in the road, under Colonel Trousdale, and aided, by a flank movement of a part of Garland’s brigade, in taking the one-gun breastwork, then under the fire of Lieutenant Jackson’s section of Captain Magruder’s field battery. 

Continuing to advance, this division passed Chapultepec, attacking the right of the enemy’s line, resting on that road, about the moment of the general retreat consequent upon the capture of the formidable castle and its outworks.

Arriving some minutes later, and mounting to the top of the castle, the whole field to the east lay plainly under my view.

The Roads to Mexico City

There are two routes from Chapultepec to the capital — the one on the right entering the same gate, Belen, with the road from the south, via Piedad; and the other obliquing to the left, to intersect the great western, or San Cosmé road, in a suburb outside of the gate of San Cosmé.

Each of these routes (an elevated causeway) presents a double roadway on the sides of an aqueduct of strong masonry and great height, resting on open arches and massive pillars, which together afford fine points both for attack and defence. The sideways of both aqueducts are, moreover, defended by many strong breastworks at the gates, and before reaching them. As we had expected, we found the four tracks unusually dry and solid for the season.

Worth and Quitman Pursue the Mexicans to the City

Worth and Quitman were prompt in pursuing the retreating enemy — the former by the San Cosmé aqueduct, and the latter along that of Belen. Each had now advanced some hundred yards.

Scott Sends Reinforcements

Deeming it all-important to profit by our successes, and the consequent dismay of the enemy, which could not be otherwise than general, I hastened to despatch from Chapultepec — first Clarke’s brigade, and then Cadwalader’s, to the support of Worth, and gave orders that the necessary heavy guns should follow. 

Pierce’s brigade was, at the same time, sent to Quitman, and, in the course of the afternoon, I caused some additional siege-pieces to be added to his train. Then, after designating the 15th infantry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Howard — Morgan, the colonel, had been disabled by a wound at Churubusco — as the garrison of Chapultepec, and giving directions for the care of prisoners of war, the captured ordnance and ordnance stores, I proceeded to join the advance of Worth, within the suburb, and beyond the turn at the junction of the aqueduct with the great highway from the west to the gate of San Cosmé.

Scott’s Impression of the Defenses at Mexico City

At this junction of roads, we first passed one of those formidable systems of city defences, spoken of above, and it had not a gun! — a strong proof, 

  1. That the enemy had expected us to fail in the attack upon Chapultepec, even if we meant anything more than a feint; 
  2. That, in either case, we designed, in his belief, to return and double our forces against the southern gates – a delusion kept up by the active demonstrations of Twiggs and the forces posted on that side; and, 
  3. That advancing rapidly from the reduction of Chapultepec, the enemy had not time to shift guns — our previous captures had left him, comparatively, but few — from the southern gates.

Within those disgarnished works, I found our troops engaged in a street-fight against the enemy posted in gardens, at windows, and on house-tops — all flat, with parapets. Worth ordered forward the mountain-howitzers of Cadwalader’s brigade, preceded by skirmishers and pioneers, with pickaxes and crowbars, to force windows and doors, or to burrow through walls. 

American Forces Inside the City

The assailants were soon in an equality of position fatal to the enemy. By eight o’clock in the evening, Worth had carried two batteries in this suburb. According to my instructions, he here posted guards and sentinels, and placed his troops under shelter for the night. There was but one more obstacle — the San Cosmé gate (custom-house), between him and the great square in front of the cathedral and palace, the heart of the city; and that barrier it was known could not, by daylight, resist our siege-guns thirty minutes.

Scott Returns to Chapultepec

I had gone back to Chapultepec, the point from which the two aqueducts begin to diverge, some hours earlier, in order to be near that new depot, and in easy communication with Quitman and Twiggs, as well as with Worth.

From this point I ordered all detachments and stragglers to their respective corps, then in advance; sent to Quitman additional siege-guns, ammunition, intrenching tools; directed Twiggs’s remaining brigade (Riley’s) from Piedad, to support Worth, and Captain Steptoe’s field-battery, also at Piedad, to rejoin Quitman’s division.

I had been, from the first, well aware that the western, or San Cosmé, was the less difficult route to the centre, and conquest of the capital, and therefore intended that Quitman should only manoeuvre and threaten the Belen or south-western gate, in order to favour the main attack by 

Worth, knowing that the strong defences at the Belen were directly under the guns of the much stronger fortress, called the Citadel, just within. Both of these defences of the enemy were also within easy supporting distance from the San Angel (or Niño Perdido) and San Antonio gates. Hence the greater support, in numbers, given to Worth’s movement as the main attack.

These views I repeatedly, in the course of the day, communicated to Major-General Quitman; but being in hot pursuit — gallant himself, and ably supported by Brigadier-General Shields and Smith, Shields badly wounded before Chapultepec, and refusing to retire, as well as by all the officers and men of the column — Quitman continued to press forward, under flank and direct fires, carried an intermediate battery of two guns, and then the gate, before two o’clock in the afternoon, but not without proportionate loss, increased by his steady maintenance of that position.

Key American Casualties

Here, of the heavy battery (4th artillery), Captain Drum and Lieutenant Benjamin were mortally wounded, and Lieutenant Porter, its third in rank, slightly. The loss of those two most distinguished officers the army will long mourn. Lieutenants J. B. Morange and William Canty, of the South Carolina volunteers, also of high merit, fell on the same occasion, besides many of our bravest non-commissioned officers and men, particularly in Captain Drum’s veteran company. I cannot, in this place, give names or numbers; but full returns of the killed and wounded of all corps, in their recent operations, will accompany this report.

Quitman Prepares to Fight on September 14

Quitman within the city — adding several new defences to the position he had won, and sheltering his corps as well as practicable — now awaited the return of daylight under the guns of the formidable citadel, yet to be subdued.

September 14 — Mexican Officials Meet With Scott

About four o’clock next morning (Sept. 14), a deputation of the Ayuntamiento (city council) waited upon me to report that the federal government and the army of Mexico had fled from the capital some three hours before; and to demand terms of capitulation in favour of the church, the citizens, and the municipal authorities. 

I promptly replied, that I would sign no capitulation; that the city had been virtually in our possession from the time of the lodgements effected by Worth and Quitman the day before; that I regretted the silent escape of the Mexican army; that I should levy upon the city a moderate contribution, for special purposes; and that the American army should come under no terms not self-imposed: such only as its own honour, the dignity of the United States, and the spirit of the age, should, in my opinion, imperiously demand and impose.

For the terms so imposed, I refer the department to subsequent General Orders, Nos. 287 and 289 (paragraphs 7, 8, and 9 of the latter), copies of which are herewith enclosed.

September 14 — American Forces Take Control of Mexico City

At the termination of the interview with the city deputation, I communicated, about daylight, orders to Worth and Quitman to advance slowly and cautiously (to guard against treachery) towards the heart of the city, and to occupy its stronger and more commanding points. 

Quitman proceeded to the great plaza or square, planted guards, and hoisted the colours of the United States on the National Palace, containing the halls of Congress and executive departments of federal Mexico. I

n this grateful service, Quitman might have been anticipated by Worth, but for my express orders, halting the latter at the head of the Alameda (a green park), within three squares of that goal of general ambition. The capital, however, was not taken by any one or two corps, but by the talent, the science, the gallantry, the prowess of this entire army. In the glorious conquest, all had contributed early and powerfully, the killed, the wounded, and the fit for duty, at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, San Antonio, Churubusco (three battles), the Molino del Rey, and Chapultepec, as much as those who fought at the gates of Belen and San Cosmé.


Soon after we had entered, and were in the act of occupying the city, a fire was opened upon us from the flat roofs of the houses, from windows and corners of streets, by some two thousand convicts, liberated the night before by the flying government, joined by, perhaps, as many Mexican soldiers, who had disbanded themselves, and thrown off their uniforms. 

This unlawful war lasted more than twenty-four hours, in spite of the exertions of the municipal authorities, and was not put down till we had lost many men, including several officers, killed or wounded, and had punished the miscreants. 

Their objects were to gratify national hatred, and, in the general alarm and confusion, to plunder the wealthy inhabitants, particularly the deserted houses. 

Daily Life Resumes in Mexico City

But families are now generally returning; business of every kind has been resumed, and the city is already tranquil and cheerful, under the admirable conduct (with exceptions very few and trifling) of our gallant troops.

State of Scott’s Army

This army has been more disgusted than surprised, that by some sinister process on the part of certain individuals at home, its numbers have been, generally, almost trebled in our public papers, beginning at Washington.

Leaving, as we all feared, inadequate garrisons at Vera Cruz, Perote, and Puebla, with much larger hospitals; and being obliged, most reluctantly, from the same cause (general paucity of numbers) to abandon Jalapa, we marched (August 7–10) from Puebla with only 10,738 rank and file. This number includes the garrison of Jalapa, and the 2,429 men brought up by Brigadier-General Pierce, August 6.

At Contreras, Churubusco, &c. (August 20), we had but 8,497 men engaged – after deducting the garrison at San Augustin (our general depot), the intermediate sick and the dead; at the Molino del Rey (September 8) but three brigades, with some cavalry and artillery — making in all 3,251 men — were in the battle; in the two days — September 12th and 13th — our whole operating force, after deducting, again, the recent killed, wounded, and sick, together with the garrison of Mixcoac (the then general depot), and that of Tacubaya, was but 7,180; and finally, after deducting the new garrison of Chapultepec, with the killed and wounded of the two days, we took possession (September 14th) of this great capital with less than six thousand men. And I reassert, upon accumulated and unquestionable evidence, that, in not one of those conflicts was this army opposed by fewer than three-and-a-half times its numbers — in several of them, by a yet greater excess.

I recapitulate our losses since we arrived in the basin of Mexico: —

  • August 19, 20. — Killed, 137, including 14 officers. Wounded, 877, including 62 officers. Missing (probably killed), 38 rank and file. Total, 1,052.
  • September 8. — Killed, 116, including 9 officers. Wounded, 665, including 49 officers. Missing, 18 rank and file. Total, 789.
  • September 12, 13, 14. — Killed, 130, including 10 officers. Wounded, 703, including 68 officers. Missing, 29 rank and file. Total, 862.

Grand total of losses, 2,703, including 383 officers.

Mexican Casualties

On the other hand, this small force has beaten on the same occasions in view of their capital, the whole Mexican army, of (at the beginning) thirty-odd thousand men — posted, always, in chosen positions, behind intrenchments, or more formidable defences of nature and art; killed or wounded, of that number, more than seven thousand officers and men; taken 3,730 prisoners, one-seventh officers, including thirteen generals, of whom three have been presidents of this republic; captured more than twenty colours and standards, seventy-five pieces of ordnance, besides fifty-seven wall-pieces, twenty-thousand small-arms, an immense quantity of shot, shells, powder, &c. &c.

Of that enemy, once so formidable in numbers, appointments, artillery, &c., twenty-odd thousand have disbanded themselves in despair, leaving, as is known, not more than three fragments – the largest about 2,500 – now wandering in different directions, without magazines or a military chest, and living at free quarters upon their own people.

Santa Anna’s Escape

General Santa Anna, himself a fugitive, is believed to be on the point of resigning the chief-magistracy, and escaping to neutral Guatemala. 

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Portrait, Illustration
Antonio López de Santa Anna. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

A new President, no doubt, will soon be declared, and the federal Congress is expected to reassemble at Queretaro, a hundred and twenty-five miles north of this, on the Zacatecas road, some time in October. I have seen and given safe-conduct through this city, to several of its members. 

The government will find itself without resources; no army, no arsenals, no magazines, and but little revenue, internal or external. Still, such is the obstinacy, or rather infatuation, of this people, that it is very doubtful whether the new authorities will dare to sue for peace on the terms which, in the recent negotiations, were made known by our minister.

Additional Commendations for the Mexico City Campaign

In conclusion, I beg to enumerate, once more, with due commendation and thanks, the distinguished staff officers, general and personal, who, in our last operations in front of the enemy, accompanied me, and communicated orders to every point and through every danger. Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock, acting Inspector-General; Major Turnbull and Lieutenant Hardcastle, topographical engineers; Major Kirby, chief paymaster; Captain Irwin, chief quartermaster; Captain Grayson, chief commissary; Captain H. L. Scott, chief in the Adjutant-General’s department; Lieutenant Williams, aid-de-camp; Lieutenant Lay, military secretary; and Major J. P. Gaines, Kentucky cavalry, volunteer aid-de-camp; Captain Lee, engineer, so constantly distinguished, also bore important orders from me (September 13) until he fainted from a wound and the loss of two nights’ sleep at the batteries. Lieutenants Beauregard, Stevens, and Tower, all wounded, were employed with the divisions, and Lieutenants G. W. Smith and G. B. McClellan, with the company of sappers and miners. Those five lieutenants of engineers, like their captains, won the admiration of all about them. The ordnance officers, Captain Huger, Lieutenants Hagner, Stone, and Reno, were highly effective, and distinguished at the several batteries; and I must add that Captain McKinstry, assistant quartermaster, at the close of the operations, executed several important commissions for me as a special volunteer.

Surgeon-General Lawson, and the medical staff generally, were skilful and untiring, in and out of fire, in ministering to the numerous wounded.

To illustrate the operations in this basin, I enclose two beautiful drawings, prepared under the directions of Major Turnbull, mostly from actual survey.

I have the honour to be, sir, with high respect, your most obedient servant,


Battle of Chapultepec APUSH

The Battle of Chapultepec and the Mexican-American War are part of Unit 5: 1844–1877 of the AP US History curriculum.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Battle of Chapultepec
  • Date September 12–13, 1847
  • Author
  • Keywords Battle of Chapultepec, Mexican-American War, Winfield Scott, John A. Quitman, David E. Twigg. Silas Casey, Gideon J. Pillow, George Cadwalader, William J. Worth, Los Ninos Heroes, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 13, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 2, 2024