Mexico City, Mexico (1847 AD)
The Battle of Chapultepec was the last major engagement of the American campaign to capture Mexico City during the Mexican-American War. It was followed by the storming of the city, which crippled the Mexican war effort and effectively ended the imperial government of Santa Ana. Although an American victory, the battle is commemorated for the heroism on both sides. One of Mexico’s greatest war monuments is here, commemorating young cadets who fought valiantly at the battle to the death. Chapultepec is also the battle which inspired the lyric “From the Halls of Montezuma” in the United States Marine Corps Hymn.
The Mexican-American war was the largest conflict between two sovereign, non-European nations in the Americas. Although many European military observers expected a decisive Mexican victory, the Americans were victorious from the get-go, when they annexed the Texas territory in 1845. Over the next two years, the Mexican army under the fables military dictator Santa Ana suffered a series of humiliating defeats on their home soil.
By the second half of 1847, the Americans had already penetrated deep into central Mexico, threatening the capital city. Following engagements at Contreras, Churubusco and Molino del Rey, the Mexican army was driven back into Mexico City. Its last surviving forward outpost was Chapultepec Castle which was garrisoned by a large force of Mexican regulars as well as detachment of about two hundred cadets, some little more than children.
For two days the American army, led by famous military commanders Winfield Scott and George Pickett, bombarded the fortress. On the second day the Americans assaulted Chapultepec with scaling ladders, with Pickett personally leading the charge (as he would again at the more famous Battle of Gettysburg 16 years later). The assault was a success, the attackers quickly taking the outside wall.
The Mexican commander of the garrison then ordered a withdrawal back to Mexico City, yielding the fortifications. However, six cadets, all teenagers, famously refused the order, and proceeded to fight to the death. The fortress fell soon after, which subsequently opened the way into the capital and effectively ended the war in central Mexico. The battle inspired two famous literary works: one which later became the Marine Corps Hymn, and Los Ninos Heroes, a popular Mexican poem honoring the six cadets.
Chapultepec is one of Mexico’s best and most interesting battlefield sites. The castle was rebuilt after the war, and in 1864 it was briefly made the residence and court of the Mexican imperial family. Outside the castle, in the general area where the American assault took place, is the Monument to the Boy Heroes which commerates the young cadets who died in defense of the capital.
Both the castle and battlefield are preserved in Chapultepec Park, one of the largest public urban parks in the world. It is located on the west side of Mexico City. The castle, now run as the National History Museum, is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. The cost of admission is 57 pesos. There is no cost of admission to the rest of the battlefield site. Web: http://mnh.inah.gob.mx (official website).