Stonewall Jackson and Mexican War

 

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Stonewall Jackson in the Civil War

Stonewall Jackson Free Online Books | Stonewall Jackson in Civil War | Stonewall Jackson Biography | Stonewall Jackson Obituary | Stonewall Jackson's Last Words | Stonewall Jackson Birthday | Stonewall Jackson Quotes

STONEWALL JACKSON
Chapter II
MEXICO1

Stonewall Jackson Index | Stonewall Jackson at West Point | Stonewall Jackson and Mexican War | Stonewall Jackson Lexington | Stonewall Jackson and Secession | Stonewall Jackson and Harper's Ferry | Stonewall Jackson at Battle of Bull Run | Stonewall Jackson at Romney | Stonewall Jackson at Kernstown | Battle of McDowell | Battle of Winchester | Battle of Cross Keys and Port Republic | Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign | The Seven Days Battle | Battle of Frayser's Farm and Malvern Hill | Battle of Cedar Run | Second Battle of Bull Run | Battle of Second Bull Run Conclusion | Battle of Harper's Ferry | Battle of Sharpsburg | Battle of Fredericksburg | The Army of Northern Virginia | Stonewall Jackson's Winter Quarters | Battle of Chancellorsville | Battle of Chancellorsville Conclusion

1846  On June 30, 1846, Jackson received the brevet rank of second lieutenant of artillery. He was fortunate from the very outset of his military career. The officers of the United States army, thanks to the thorough education and Spartan discipline of West Point, were fine soldiers; but their scope was limited. On the western frontier, far beyond the confines of civilisation, stood a long line of forts, often hundreds of miles apart, garrisoned by a few troops of cavalry or companies of infantry. It is true that there was little chance of soldierly capacity rusting in these solitary posts. From the borders of Canada to the banks of the Rio Grande swarmed thousands of savage warriors, ever watchful for an opportunity to pay back with bloody interest the aggression of the whites. Murder, robbery, and massacre followed each other in rapid succession, and the troops were allowed few intervals of rest. But the warfare was inglorious—a mere series of petty incidents, the punishment of a raid, or the crushing of an isolated revolt. The scanty butcher’s bills of the so-called battles made small appeal to the popular imagination, and the deeds of the soldiers in the western wilderness, gallant as they might be, aroused less interest in the States than the conflicts of the police with the New York mob. But although pursuits which carried the adversaries half across the continent, forays which were of longer duration than a European war, and fights against overwhelming odds, where no quarter was asked or given, kept the American officers constantly employed, their

1  Copyright 1897 by Longmans, Green, & Co.

FRONTIER WARFARE  25

training was hardly sufficient for the needs of a great campaign. In the running fights against Apache or Blackfoot the rules of strategy and tactics were of small account. The soldier was constrained to acknowledge the brave and the trapper as his teachers; and Moltke himself, with all his lore, would have been utterly baffled by the cunning of the Indian. Before the war of 1845–6 the strength of the regular army was not more than 8,500 men; and the whole of this force, with the exception of a few batteries, was scattered in small detachments along the frontier. The troops were never brought together in considerable bodies; and although they were well drilled and under the strictest discipline, neither the commanders nor the staff had the least experience of handling men in masses. Many of the infantry officers had never drilled with a whole battalion since they left West Point. A brigade of cavalry—that is, two or three regiments working together as a single unit—had never been assembled; and scarcely a single general had ever commanded a force composed of the three arms, either on service or on parade. “During my twenty years of service on the frontier,” said one of the most famous of the Confederate leaders,1 “I learned all about commanding fifty United States dragoons and forgot everything else.”

Nevertheless, this life of enterprise and hard work, the constant struggle against nature, for the illimitable space of the inhospitable wilderness was a more formidable antagonist than the stealthy savage, benefited the American soldier in more ways than one. He grew accustomed to danger and privation. He learned to use his wits; to adapt his means to his end; to depend on his intelligence rather than on rule. Above all, even the most junior had experience of independent command before the enemy. A ready assumption of responsibility and a prompt initiative distinguished the regular officers from the very outset of the Civil War; and these characteristics had been acquired on the western prairies.

But the warfare of the frontier had none of the glamour

1  General R. S. Ewell.

FRONTIER WARFARE  26

of the warfare which is waged with equal arms against an equal enemy, of the conflict of nation against nation. To bring the foe to bay was a matter of the utmost difficulty. A fight at close quarters was of rare occurrence, and the most successful campaign ended in the destruction of a cluster of dirty wigwams, or the surrender of a handful of starving savages. In such unsatisfactory service Jackson was not called upon to take a part. It is doubtful if he ever crossed the Mississippi. His first experience of campaigning was to be on a field where gleams of glory were not wanting. The ink on his commission was scarcely dry when the artillery subaltern was ordered to join his regiment, the First Artillery, in Mexico. The war with the Southern Republic had blazed out on the Texan border in 1845, and the American Government had now decided to carry it into the heart of the hostile territory. With the cause of quarrel we have no concern. General Grant has condemned the war as “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”1 Be this as it may, it is doubtful whether any of Grant’s brother officers troubled themselves at all with the equity of invasion. It was enough for them that the expedition meant a struggle with a numerous enemy, armed and organised on the European model, and with much experience of war; that it promised a campaign in a country which was the very region of romance, possessing a lovely climate, historic cities, and magnificent scenery. The genius of Prescott had just disentombed from dusty archives the marvellous story of the Spanish conquest, and the imagination of many a youthful soldier had been already kindled by his glowing pages. To follow the path of Cortez, to traverse the golden realms of Montezuma, to look upon the lakes and palaces of Mexico, the most ancient city of America, to encamp among the temples of a vanished race, and to hear, while the fireflies flitted through the perfumed night, the music of the black-eyed maidens of New Spain—was ever more fascinating prospect offered to a subaltern of two-and-twenty?

The companies of the First Artillery which had been

1  Grant’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 53.

ACTIVE SERVICE  27

detailed for foreign service were first transferred to Point Isabel, at the mouth of the Rio Grande. Several engagements had already taken place. Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Monterey were brilliant American victories, won by hard fighting over superior numbers; and a vast extent of territory had been overrun. But the Mexicans were still unconquered. The provinces they had lost were but the fringe of the national domains; the heart of the Republic had not yet felt the pressure of war, and more than six hundred miles of difficult country intervened between the invaders and the capital. The American proposals for peace had been summarily rejected. A new President, General Santa Anna, had been raised to power, and under his vigorous administration the war threatened to assume a phase sufficiently embarrassing to the United States.

Jackson had been attached to a heavy battery, and his first duty was to transport guns and mortars to the forts which protected Point Isabel. The prospect of immediate employment before the enemy was small. Operations had come to a standstill. It was already apparent that a direct advance upon the capital, through the northern provinces, was an enterprise which would demand an army much larger than the Government was disposed to furnish. It seemed as if the First Artillery had come too late. Jackson was fearful that the war might come to an end before his regiment should be sent to the front. The shy cadet had a decided taste for fighting. “I envy you men,” he said to a comrade more fortunate than himself,1 “who have been in battle. How I should like to be in one battle!” His longing for action was soon gratified. Mexico had no navy and a long sea-board. The fleet of the United States was strong, their maritime resources ample, and to land an army on a shorter route to the distant capital was no difficult undertaking.

General Winfield Scott, who had been sent out as commander-in-chief, was permitted, early in 1847, to organise a combined naval and military expedition for the reduction of Vera Cruz, the principal port of the Republic,

1  Lieutenant D. H. Hill, afterwards his brother-in-law.

ACTIVE SERVICE  28

whence a good road leads to Mexico. The line of advance would be thus reduced to two hundred and sixty miles; and the natural obstacles, though numerous enough, were far less serious than the deserts which barred invasion from the north.

1847  For this enterprise most of the regular regiments were withdrawn from the Rio Grande; and General Taylor, the hero of Palo Alto and Monterey, was left with a small army, composed principally of volunteers, to hold the conquered provinces. Scott’s troops assembled in the first instance at Tampico. The transports, eighty in number, having embarked their freight, were directed to rendezvous in the road stead of Lobos, one hundred and twenty miles north of Vera Cruz; and when the whole had assembled, the fleet set sail for Los Sacrificios, the island where Cortez had landed in 1520, three miles south of the city. The army of invasion, in which the First Regiment of Artillery was included, consisted of 13,000 men.

March 9  On the morning of March 9 the sun shone propitiously on the expedition. The surf-boats, each holding from seventy to eighty men, were quickly arrayed in line. Then, dashing forward simultaneously, with the strains of martial music sweeping over the smooth waters of the bay, they neared the shore. The landing was covered by seven armed vessels, and as the boats touched the beach the foremost men leaped into the water and ran up the sandy shore. In one hour General Worth’s division, numbering 4,500 men, was disembarked; and by the same precise arrangements the whole army was landed in six hours without accident or confusion. To the astonishment of the Americans the enemy offered no resistance, and the troops bivouacked in line of battle on the beach.

Little more than a mile north, across a waste of sand-hills, rose the white walls of Vera Cruz. The city was held by 4,000 men, and its armament was formidable. The troops, however, but partially organised, were incapable of operations in the open field. The garrison had not been reinforced. Santa Anna, on learning that the American army on the Rio Grande had been reduced, had acted with

FALL OF VERA CRUZ  29

commendable promptitude. Collecting all the troops that were available he had marched northwards, expecting, doubtless, to overwhelm Taylor and still to be in time to prevent Scott from seizing a good harbour. But distance was against him, and his precautions were inadequate. Even if he defeated Taylor, he would have to march more than a thousand miles to encounter Scott, and Vera Cruz was ill provided for a siege. It was difficult, it is true, for the Mexican general to anticipate the point at which the Americans would disembark. An army that moves by sea possesses the advantage that its movements are completely veiled. But Vera Cruz was decidedly the most probable objective of the invaders, and, had it been made secure, the venture of the Americans would have been rendered hazardous. As it was, with Santa Anna’s army far away, the reduction of the fortress presented little difficulty. An immediate assault would in all likelihood have proved successful. Scott, however, decided on a regular siege. His army was small, and a march on the capital was in prospect. The Government grudged both men and money, and an assault would have cost more lives than could well be spared. On March 18 the trenches were completed. Four days later, sufficient heavy ordnance having been landed, the bombardment was begun.

March 27   On the 27th the town surrendered; the garrison laid down their arms, and 400 cannon, many of large calibre, fell into the hands of the Americans.

The fall of Vera Cruz was brought about by the heavy artillery, aided by the sailors, and the First Regiment was continuously engaged. The Mexican fire, notwithstanding their array of guns, was comparatively harmless. The garrison attempted no sortie; and only 64 of the investing force were killed or wounded. Nevertheless, Jackson's behaviour under fire attracted notice, and a few months later he was promoted to first lieutenant “for gallant and meritorious conduct at the siege of Vera Cruz.”1

1  He had been promoted second lieutenant on March 3. Records of the First Regiment of Artillery.

BATTLE OF CERRO GORDO  30

Scott had now secured an admirable line of operations; but the projected march upon the city of Mexico was a far more arduous undertaking than the capture of the port. The ancient capital of Montezuma stands high above the sea. The famous valley which surrounds it is embosomed in the heart of a vast plateau, and the roads which lead to this lofty region wind by steep gradients over successive ranges of rugged and precipitous mountains. Between Vera Cruz and the upland lies a level plain, sixty miles broad, and covered with tropical forest. Had it been possible to follow up the initial victory by a rapid advance, Cerro Gordo, the first, and the most difficult, of the mountain passes, might have been occupied without a blow. Santa Anna, defeated by Taylor at Buena Vista, but returning hot foot to block Scott’s path, was still distant, and Cerro Gordo was undefended. But the progress of the Americans was arrested by the difficulties inherent in all maritime expeditions.

An army landing on a hostile coast has to endure a certain period of inactivity. Under ordinary circumstances, as at Vera Cruz, the process of disembarking men is rapidly accomplished. The field-guns follow with but little delay, and a certain proportion of cavalry becomes early available. But the disembarkation of the impedimenta—the stores, waggons, hospitals, ammunition, and transport animals—even where ample facilities exist, demands far more time than the disembarkation of the fighting force. In the present case, as all the animals had to be requisitioned in the country, it was not till the middle of April that supplies and transport sufficient to warrant further movement had been accumulated; and meanwhile General Santa Anna, halting in the mountains, had occupied the pass of Cerro Gordo with 13,000 men and 42 pieces of artillery. The Mexican position was exceedingly strong. The right rested on a deep ravine, with precipitous cliffs; the left, on the hill of Cerro Gordo, covered with batteries, and towering to the height of several hundred feet above the surrounding ridges; while the front, strongly intrenched, and commanding the

BATTLE OF CERRO GORDO  31

road which wound zigzag fashion up the steep ascent, followed the crest of a lofty ridge.

The Americans reached the foot of the pass without difficulty. The enemy had made no attempt to check their passage through the forest. Confident in the inaccessibility of his mountain crags, in his numerous guns and massive breastworks, Santa Anna reserved his strength for battle on ground of his own selection.

Several days were consumed in reconnaissance. The engineers, to whom this duty was generally assigned in the American army, pushed their explorations to either flank. At length the quick eye of a young officer, Captain Robert Lee, already noted for his services at Vera Cruz, discovered a line of approach, hidden from the enemy, by which the position might be turned. In three days a rough road was constructed by which guns could be brought to bear on the hill of Cerro Gordo, and infantry marched round to strike the Mexicans in rear.

April 18   The attack, delivered at daylight on April 18, was brilliantly successful. The enemy was completely surprised. Cerro Gordo was stormed with the bayonet, and Santa Anna’s right, assaulted from a direction whence he confessed that he had not believed a goat could approach his lines, was rolled back in confusion on his centre. 1,200 Mexicans were killed and wounded, and 3,000 captured, together with the whole of their artillery.1 The next day the pursuit was pushed with uncompromising resolution. Amidst pathless mountains, 6,000 feet above the sea, where every spur formed a strong position, the defeated army was permitted neither halt nor respite. The American dragoons, undeterred by numbers, pressed forward along the road, making hundreds of prisoners, and spreading panic in the broken ranks.

May 15   The infantry followed, sturdily breasting the long ascent; a second intrenched position, barring the La Hoya pass, was abandoned on their approach; the strong castle of Perote, with an armament of 60 guns and mortars, opened its gates without firing a shot,

1  The Americans had about 8,500 men upon the field, and their loss was 431, including two generals. Memoirs of Lieut.-General Scott.

MAGRUDER'S BATTERY  32

and on May 15 the great city of Puebla, surrounded by glens of astonishing fertility, and only eighty miles from Mexico, was occupied without resistance.

At Cerro Gordo the First Artillery were employed as infantry. Their colours were amongst the first to be planted on the enemy’s breastworks. But in none of the reports does Jackson’s name occur.1 The battle, however, brought him good luck. Captain Magruder, an officer of his own regiment, who was to win distinction on wider fields, had captured a Mexican field battery, which Scott presented to him as a reward for his gallantry. Indian wars had done but little towards teaching American soldiers the true use of artillery. Against a rapidly moving enemy, who systematically forebore exposing himself in mass, and in a country where no roads existed, only the fire-arm was effective. But already, at Palo Alto and Resaca, against the serried lines and thronging cavalry of the Mexicans, light field-guns had done extraordinary execution. The heavy artillery, hitherto the more favoured service, saw itself eclipsed. The First Regiment, however, had already been prominent on the fighting line. It had won reputation with the bayonet at Cerro Gordo, and before Mexico was reached there were other battles to be fought, and other positions to be stormed. A youth with a predilection for hard knocks might have been content with the chances offered to the foot-soldier. But Jackson’s partiality for his own arm was as marked as was Napoleon’s, and the decisive effect of a well-placed battery appealed to his instincts with greater force than the wild rush of a charge of infantry. Skilful manœuvring was more to his taste than the mere bludgeon work of fighting at close quarters.

Two subalterns were required for the new battery. The position meant much hard work, and possibly much discomfort. Magruder was restless and hot-tempered, and the young officers of artillery showed no eagerness to go through the campaign as his subordinates. Not so Jackson. He foresaw that service with a light battery, under

1  According to the Regimental Records his company (K) was not engaged in the battle, but only in the pursuit.

MAGRUDER'S BATTERY  33

a bold and energetic leader, was likely to present peculiar opportunities; and with his thorough devotion to duty, his habits of industry, and his strong sense of self-reliance, he had little fear of disappointing the expectations of the most exacting superior. “I wanted to see active service,” he said in after years, “to be near the enemy in the fight; and when I heard that John Magruder had got his battery I bent all my energies to be with him, for I knew if any fighting was to be done, Magruder would be ‘on hand.’ ” His soldierly ambition won its due reward. The favours of fortune fall to the men who woo more often than to those who wait. The barrack-room proverb which declares that ill-luck follows the volunteer must assuredly have germinated in a commonplace brain. It is characteristic of men who have cut their way to fame that they have never allowed the opportunity to escape them. The successful man pushes to the front and seeks his chance; those of a temper less ardent wait till duty calls and the call may never come. Once before, when, despite his manifold disadvantages, he secured his nomination to West Point, Jackson had shown how readily he recognised an opening; now, when his comrades held back, he eagerly stepped forward, to prove anew the truth of the vigorous adage, “Providence helps those who help themselves.”

The American army was delayed long at Puebla. Several regiments of volunteers, who had engaged only for a short term of service, demanded their discharge, and reinforcements were slow in arriving.

August 7   It was not until the first week in August that Scott was able to move upon the capital. The army now numbered 14,000 men. Several hundred were sick in hospital, and 600 convalescents, together with 600 effectives, were left to garrison Puebla. The field force was organised in four divisions: the first, under Major-General Worth; the second, under Major-General Twiggs; the third, to which Magruder’s battery was attached, under Major-General Pillow; the fourth (volunteers and marines), under Major-General Pierce. Four field batteries, a small brigade of dragoons, and a still

THE VALLEY OF MEXICO  34

smaller siege train1 made up a total of 11,500 officers and men. During the three months that his enemy was idle at Puebla, Santa Anna had reorganised his army; and 30,000 Mexicans, including a formidable body of cavalry, fine horsemen and well trained,2 and a large number of heavy batteries, were now ready to oppose the advance of the invaders.

On August 10 the American army crossed the Rio Frio Mountains, 10,000 feet above the sea, the highest point between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and as the troops descended the western slopes the valley of Mexico first broke upon their view. There, beneath the shadow of her mighty mountains, capped with eternal snows, stood

The Imperial city, her far circling walls,
Her garden groves, and stately palaces.

There lay the broad plain of Tenochtitlan, with all its wealth of light and colour, the verdure of the forest, the warmer hues of the great corn-fields, ripening to the harvest, and the sheen and sparkle of the distant lakes. There it lay, as it burst upon the awe-struck vision of Cortez and his companions, “bathed in the golden sunshine, stretched out as it were in slumber, in the arms of the giant hills.”

On every hand were the signs of a teeming population. White villages and substantial haciendas glistened in the woodlands; roads broad and well-travelled crossed the level; and in the clear atmosphere of those lofty altitudes the vast size of the city was plainly visible. The whole army of Mexico formed the garrison; hills crowned with batteries commanded the approaches, while a network of canals on either flank and a broad area of deep water enhanced the difficulties of manœuvre. The line of communication, far too long to be maintained by the small force at Scott’s disposal, had already been abandoned. The army depended for subsistence on what it could purchase in the country; the sick and wounded were carried with the troops, and

1  Two 24-pounders, two 8-inch howitzers, and two light pieces. Ripley’s History of the Mexican War.
2  It is said, however, that their horses were little more than ponies, and far too light for a charge. Semmes’ Campaign of General Scott.

THE VALLEY OF MEXICO  35

there was no further reserve of ammunition than that which was packed in the regimental waggons. Cortez and his four hundred when they essayed the same enterprise were not more completely isolated, for, while the Spaniard had staunch allies in the hereditary foes of the Aztecs, Scott’s nearest supports were at Puebla, eighty miles from Mexico, and these numbered only 1,200 effective soldiers. The most adventurous of leaders might well have hesitated ere he plunged into the great valley, swarming with enemies, and defended by all the resources of a civilised State. But there was no misgiving in the ranks of the Americans. With that wholesome contempt for a foreign foe which has wrought more good than evil for the Anglo-Saxon race, the army moved forward without a halt. “Recovering,” says Scott, “from the trance into which the magnificent spectacle had thrown them, probably not a man in the column failed to say to his neighbour or himself, ‘That splendid city shall soon be ours!’ ”

The fortifications which protected Mexico on the east were found to be impregnable. The high ridge of El Penon, manned by nearly the whole of Santa Anna’s army, blocked the passage between the lakes, and deep morasses added to the difficulties of approach. To the south, however, on the far side of Lake Chalco, lay a more level tract, but accessible only by roads which the Mexicans deemed impracticable. Despite the difficulties of the route, the manœuvre of Cerro Gordo was repeated on a grander scale.

August 16–18   After a toilsome march of seven-and-twenty miles from Ayotla, over the spurs of the sierras, the troops reached the great road which leads to the capital from the south. Across this road was more than one line of fortifications, to which the Mexican army had been hurriedly transferred. The hacienda of San Antonio, six miles from the city, strengthened by field-works and defended by heavy guns, commanded the highway. To the east was a morass, and beyond the morass were the blue waters of Lake Chalco; while to the west the Pedregal, a barren tract of volcanic scoriæ, over whose sharp rocks and deep fissures neither horse nor vehicle could move, flanked the American

CAPTAIN Robert E. LEE  36

line of march. The morass was absolutely impassable. The gloomy solitude of the Pedregal, extending to the mountains, five miles distant, seemed equally forbidding; but the engineer officers came once more to the rescue. A road across the Pedregal, little better than a mule track, was discovered by Captain Lee.

August 19   Under cover of a strong escort it was rapidly improved, and Pillow’s and Worth’s divisions, accompanied by Magruder’s battery, were directed to cross the waste of rocks. Beyond the Pedregal was a good road, approaching the city from the south-west; and by this road the post of San Antonio might be assailed in rear.

Overlooking the road, however, as well as the issues from the Pedregal, was a high ridge, backed by the mountains, and held by 6,000 Mexicans. Opposite this ridge the Americans came out on cultivated ground, but all further progress was completely checked. Shortly after midday the leading brigade, with Magruder’s battery on hand, reached the summit of a hill within a thousand yards of the enemy’s breastworks. Magruder came at once into action, and the infantry attempted to push forward. But the Mexican artillery was far superior, both in number of pieces and weight of metal, and the ground was eminently unfavourable for attack. Two-and-twenty heavy cannon swept the front; the right of the position was secured by a deep ravine; masses of infantry were observed in rear of the intrenchments, and several regiments of lancers were in close support. For three hours the battle raged fiercely. On the right the Americans pushed forward, crossing with extreme difficulty an outlying angle of the Pedregal, covered with dense scrub, and occupied the village of Contreras. But elsewhere they made no impression. They were without cavalry, and Magruder’s guns were far too few and feeble to keep down the fire of the hostile batteries. “The infantry,” says Scott, “could not advance in column without being mowed down by grape and canister, nor advance in line without being ridden down by the enemy’s numerous horsemen.” Nor were the Mexicans content on this occasion to remain passively in their works. Both infantry and

CAPTAIN Robert E. LEE  37

cavalry attempted to drive the assailants back upon the Pedregal; and, although these counterstrokes were successfully repulsed, when darkness fell the situation of the troops was by no means favourable. Heavy columns of Mexicans were approaching from the city; the remainder of the American army was opposite San Antonio, five miles distant, on the far side of the Pedregal, and no support could be expected. To add to their discomfort, it rained heavily; the thunder crashed in the mountains, and torrents of water choked the streams. The men stood in the darkness drenched and dispirited, and an attack made by a Mexican battalion induced General Pillow to withdraw Magruder’s battery from the ridge. The senior subaltern had been killed. 15 gunners and as many horses had fallen. The slopes were covered with huge boulders, and it was only by dint of the most strenuous exertions that the guns were brought down in safety to the lower ground.

A council of war was then held in Contreras Church, and, contrary to the traditionary conduct of such conventions, a most desperate expedient was adopted. The Mexican reinforcements, 12,000 strong, had halted on the main road, their advanced guard within a few hundred yards of the village. Leaving two regiments to hold this imposing force in check, it was determined to make a night march and turn the rear of the intrenchments on the ridge. The Commander-in-Chief was beyond the Pedregal, opposite San Antonio, and it was necessary that he should be informed of the projected movement.

“I have always understood,” says an officer present in this quarter of the field, “that what was devised and determined on was suggested by Captain Lee; at all events the council was closed by his saying that he desired to return to General Scott with the decision, and that, as it was late, the decision must be given as soon as possible, since General Scott wished him to return in time to give directions for co-operation. During the council, and for hours after, the rain fell in torrents, whilst the darkness was so intense that one could move only by groping.”

The Pedregal was infested by straggling bands of

CAPTAIN Robert E. LEE  38

Mexicans; and yet, over those five miles of desolation, with no guide but the wind, or an occasional flash of lightning, Lee, unaccompanied by a single orderly, made his way to Scott’s headquarters. This perilous adventure was characterised by the Commander-in-Chief as “the greatest feat of physical and moral courage performed by any individual during the entire campaign.”

The night march, although it entailed the passage of a deep ravine, and was so slow that one company in two hours made no more than four hundred yards, was completely successful. The Mexicans, trusting to the strength of their position, and to the presence of the reinforcements, had neglected to guard their left. The lesson of Cerro Gordo had been forgotten. The storming parties, guided by the engineers, Lee, Beauregard, and Gustavus Smith, established themselves, under cover of the darkness, within five hundred paces of the intrenchments, and as the day broke the works were carried at the first rush.

August 20   Seventeen minutes after the signal had been given, the garrison, attacked in front and rear simultaneously, was completely dispersed. 800 Mexicans were captured, and nearly as many killed.1 The reinforcements, unable to intervene, and probably demoralised by this unlooked-for defeat, fell back to the village of Churubusco, and San Antonio was evacuated. The pursuit was hotly pressed. Churubusco was heavily bombarded. For two hours the American batteries played upon the church and hacienda, both strongly fortified, and after a counterstroke had been beaten back a vigorous onslaught, made by the whole line of battle, compelled the enemy to give way. A brilliant charge of General Shields’ brigade dispersed their last reserves, and the whole of the hostile army fled in confusion to the city. The American cavalry followed at speed, using their sabres freely on the panic-stricken masses, and one squadron, not hearing the recall, dashed up to the very gates of the city. Scott’s losses amounted to 1,053, including 76 officers. The Mexican casualties

1  4,500 Americans (rank and file) were engaged, and the losses did not exceed 50. Scott’s Memoirs.

BATTLE OF MOLINO DEL REY  39

were 3,000 prisoners, and 3,250 killed and wounded. 37 field-guns were abandoned, and, a still more valuable capture, a large supply of ammunition fell into the hands of the victors.

Magruder’s battery, it appears, was retained in reserve throughout the battle of Churubusco, and Jackson’s share in the victory was confined to the engagement of the previous day. But his small charge of three guns had been handled with skill and daring. Magruder was more than satisfied. “In a few moments,” ran his official report, “Lieutenant Jackson, commanding the second section of the battery, who had opened fire upon the enemy’s works from a position on the right, hearing our fire still further in front, advanced in handsome style, and kept up the fire with equal briskness and effect. His conduct was equally conspicuous during the whole day, and I cannot too highly commend him to the Major-General’s favourable consideration.”

The extreme vigour with which the Americans had prosecuted their operations now came to an untimely pause. After his double victory at Contreras and Churubusco, General Scott proposed an armistice. The whole of the Mexican army had been encountered. It had been decisively defeated. Its losses, in men and matériel, had been very heavy. The troops were utterly demoralised. The people were filled with consternation, and a rapid advance would probably have been followed by an immediate peace. But Scott was unwilling to drive his foes to desperation, and he appears to have believed that if they were spared all further humiliation they would accede without further resistance to his demands.

The Mexicans, however, were only playing for time. During the negotiations, in direct defiance of the terms of the armistice, Santa Anna strengthened his fortifications, rallied his scattered army, and prepared once more to confront the invader. Scott’s ultimatum was rejected, and on September 5 hostilities were renewed.

September 8   Three days later the position of Molino del Rey, garrisoned by the choicest of the Mexican troops, was

BATTLE OF MOLINO DEL REY  40

stormed at dawn. But the enemy had benefited by his respite. The fighting was desperate. 800 Americans were killed and wounded before the intrenchments and strong buildings were finally carried; and although the Mexicans again lost 3,000 men, including two generals, their spirit of resistance was not yet wholly crushed.

Driven from their outworks, they had fallen back on a still more formidable line. Behind the Molino del Rey rose the hill of Chapultepec, crowned by the great castle which had been the palace of Montezuma and of the Spanish viceroys, now the military college of the Republic and the strongest of her fortresses. Three miles from the city walls, the stronghold completely barred the line of advance on the San Cosme Gate. Heavy guns mounted on the lofty bastions which encircled the citadel, commanded every road, and the outflanking movements which had hitherto set at nought the walls and parapets of the Mexicans were here impracticable. Still, careful reconnaissance had shown that, with all its difficulties, this was the most favourable approach for the invading army. The gates of Belen and San Antonio were beset by obstacles even more impracticable. The ground over which the troops would advance to storm the fortress was far firmer than elsewhere, there was ample space for the American batteries, and if the hill were taken, the Mexicans, retreating along two narrow causeways, with deep marshes on either hand, might easily be deprived of all opportunity of rallying.

On the night of the 11th four batteries of heavy guns were established within easy range. On the 12th they opened fire; and the next morning the American army, covered by the fire of the artillery, advanced to the assault.

September 13   In the victory of Molino del Rey, Magruder’s battery had taken little part. Jackson, posted with his section on the extreme flank of the line, had dispersed a column of cavalry which threatened a charge; but, with this brief interlude of action, he had been merely a spectator. At Chapultepec he was more fortunate. Pillow’s division, to which the battery was attached, attacked the Mexicans in front, while Worth’s division assailed them from the

BATTLE OF CHAPULTEPEC  41

north. The 14th Infantry, connecting the two attacks, moved along a road which skirts the base of the hill, and Magruder was ordered to detach a section of his battery in support. Jackson was selected for the duty, and as he approached the enemy’s position dangers multiplied at every step. The ground alongside was so marshy that the guns were unable to leave the road. A Mexican fieldpiece, covered by a breastwork, raked the causeway from end to end, while from the heights of Chapultepec cannon of large calibre poured down a destructive fire. The infantry suffered terribly. It was impossible to advance along the narrow track; and when the guns were ordered up the situation was in no way bettered. Nearly every horse was killed or wounded. A deep ditch, cut across the road, hindered effective action, and the only position where reply to the enemy’s fire was possible lay beyond this obstacle. Despite the losses of his command Jackson managed to lift one gun across by hand. But his men became demoralised. They left their posts. The example of their lieutenant, walking up and down on the shot-swept road and exclaiming calmly, “There is no danger: see! I am not hit,” failed to inspire them with confidence. Many had already fallen. The infantry, with the exception of a small escort, which held its ground with difficulty, had disappeared; and General Worth, observing Jackson’s perilous situation, sent him orders to retire. He replied it was more dangerous to withdraw than to stand fast, and if they would give him fifty veterans he would rather attempt the capture of the breastwork. At this juncture Magruder, losing his horse as he galloped forward, reached the road.

The ditch was crowded with soldiers; many wounded; many already dead; many whose hearts had failed them. Beyond, on the narrow causeway, the one gun which Jackson had brought across the ditch was still in action.

Deserted by his gunners, and abandoned by the escort which had been ordered to support him, the young subaltern still held his ground. With the sole assistance of a sergeant,

THE CASTLE STORMED  42

of stauncher mettle than the rest, he was loading and firing his solitary field-piece, rejoicing, as became the son of a warrior race, in the hot breath of battle, and still more in the isolation of his perilous position. To stand alone, in the forefront of the fight, defying the terrors from which others shrank, was the situation which of all others he most coveted; and under the walls of Chapultepec, answering shot for shot, and plying sponge and handspike with desperate energy, the fierce instincts of the soldier were fully gratified. Nor was Magruder the man to proffer prudent counsels. A second gun was hoisted across the ditch; the men rallied; the Mexican artillery was gradually overpowered, and the breastwork stormed. The crisis of the struggle was already past. Pillow’s troops had driven the enemy from their intrenchments at the base of the hill, and beneath the shadows of the majestic cypresses, which still bear the name of the Grove of Montezuma, and up the rugged slopes which tower above them, pressed the assaulting columns. A redoubt which stood midway up the height was carried. The Mexicans fell back from shelter to shelter; but amid smoke and flame the scaling ladders were borne across the castle ditch, and reared against the lofty walls were soon covered with streams of men. The leaders, hurled from the battlements on to the crowd below, failed to make good their footing, but there were others to take their places. The supports came thronging up; the enemy, assailed in front and flank, drew back disheartened, and after a short struggle the American colours, displayed upon the keep, announced to the citizens of Mexico that Chapultepec had been captured. Yet the victory was not complete. The greater part of the garrison had fled from their intrenchments before the castle had been stormed; and infantry, cavalry, and artillery, in wild confusion, were crowding in panic on the causeways. But their numbers were formidable, and the city, should the army be rallied, was capable of a protracted defence. Not a moment was to be lost if the battle was to be decisive of the war. The disorder on Chapultepec was hardly less than that which existed in the ranks of the defeated

THE CASTLE STORMED  43

Mexicans. Many of the stormers had dispersed in search of plunder, and regiments and brigades had become hopelessly intermingled in the assault of the rocky hill. Still the pursuit was prompt. Towards the San Cosme Gate several of the younger officers, a lieutenant by name Ulysses Grant amongst the foremost, followed the enemy with such men as they could collect, and Jackson’s guns were soon abreast of the fighting line. His teams had been destroyed by the fire of the Mexican batteries. Those of his waggons, posted further to the rear, had partially escaped. To disengage the dead animals from the limbers and to replace them by others would have wasted many minutes, and he had eagerly suggested to Magruder that the guns should be attached to the waggon-limbers instead of to their own. Permission was given, and in a few moments his section was thundering past the cliffs of Chapultepec. Coming into action within close range of the flying Mexicans, every shot told on their demoralised masses; but before the San Cosme Gate the enemy made a last effort to avert defeat. Fresh troops were brought up to man the outworks; the houses and gardens which lined the road were filled with skirmishers; from the high parapets of the flat house-tops a hail of bullets struck the head of the pursuing column; and again and again the American infantry, without cover and with little space for movement, recoiled from the attack.

The situation of the invading army, despite the brilliant victory of Chapultepec, was not yet free from peril. The greater part of the Mexican forces was still intact. The city contained 180,000 inhabitants, and General Scott’s battalions had dwindled to the strength of a small division. In the various battles before the capital nearly 3,000 officers and men had fallen, and the soldiers who encompassed the walls of the great metropolis were spent with fighting.1 One spark of the stubborn courage which bore Cortez and his paladins through the hosts of Montezuma might have made of that stately city a second Saragossa. It was eminently defensible. The churches, the convents,

1  862 officers and men fell at Chapultepec. Scott’s Memoirs.

THE CASTLE STORMED  44

the public buildings, constructed with that solidity which is peculiarly Spanish, formed each of them a fortress. The broad streets, crossing each other at right angles, rendered concentration at any threatened point an easy matter, and beyond the walls were broad ditches and a deep canal.

Nor was the strength of the city the greatest of Scott’s difficulties. Vera Cruz, his base of operations, was two hundred and sixty miles distant; Puebla, his nearest supply-depot, eighty miles. He had abandoned his communications. His army was dependent for food on a hostile population. In moving round Lake Chalco, and attacking the city from the south, he had burned his boats. A siege or an investment were alike impossible. A short march would place the enemy’s army across his line of retreat, and nothing would have been easier for the Mexicans than to block the road where it passes between the sierras and the lake. Guerillas were already hovering in the hills; one single repulse before the gates of the capital would have raised the country in rear; and hemmed in by superior numbers, and harassed by a cavalry which was at least equal to the task of cutting off supplies, the handful of Americans must have cut their way through to Puebla or have succumbed to starvation.

Such considerations had doubtless been at the root of the temporising policy which had been pursued after Churubusco. But the uselessness of half-measures had then been proved. The conviction had become general that a desperate enterprise could only be pushed to a successful issue by desperate tactics, and every available battalion was hurried forward to the assault. Before the San Cosme Gate the pioneers were ordered up, and within the suburb pick and crowbar forced a passage from house to house. The guns, moving slowly forward, battered the crumbling masonry at closest range. The Mexicans were driven back from breastwork to breastwork; and a mountain howitzer, which Lieutenant Grant had posted on the tower of a neighbouring church, played with terrible effect, at a range of two or three hundred yards, on the defenders of the Gate.

THE CITY OF MEXICO SURRENDERS  45

By eight o'clock in the evening the suburb had been cleared, and the Americans were firmly established within the walls. To the south-east, before the Belen Gate, another column had been equally successful. During the night Santa Anna withdrew his troops, and when day dawned the white flag was seen flying from the citadel. After a sharp fight with 2,000 convicts whom the fugitive President had released, the invaders occupied the city, and the war was virtually at an end. From Cerro Gordo to Chapultepec the power of discipline had triumphed. An army of 30,000 men, fighting in their own country, and supported by a numerous artillery, had been defeated by an invading force of one-third the strength. Yet the Mexicans had shown no lack of courage. “At Chapultepec and Molino del Rey, as on many other occasions,” says Grant, “they stood up as well as any troops ever did.”1 But their officers were inexperienced; the men were ill-instructed; and against an army of regular soldiers, well led and obedient, their untutored valour, notwithstanding their superior numbers, had proved of no avail. They had early become demoralised. Their strongest positions had been rendered useless by the able manœuvres of their adversaries. Everywhere they had been out-generalled. They had never been permitted to fight on the ground which they had prepared, and in almost every single engagement they had been surprised. Nor had the Government escaped the infection which had turned the hearts of the troops to water.

September 14   The energy of the pursuit after the fall of Chapultepec had wrought its full effect, and on September 14 the city of Mexico was surrendered, without further parley, to a force which, all told, amounted to less than 7,000 men.2

With such portion of his force as had not disbanded Santa Anna undertook the siege of Puebla; and the guerillas, largely reinforced from the army, waged a desultory warfare in the mountains. But these despairing

1  Grant’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 169.
2  The total loss in the battles before the capital was 2,703, including 383 officers. Scott’s Memoirs.

HIS SERVICES REWARDED  46

efforts were without effect upon the occupation of the capital. The Puebla garrison beat back every attack; and the bands of irregular horse men were easily dispersed. During these operations Magruder’s battery remained with headquarters near the capital, and so far as Jackson was concerned all opportunities for distinction were past.

February 1848   The peace negotiations were protracted from September to the following February, and in their camps beyond the walls the American soldiers were fain to content themselves with their ordinary duties.

It cannot be said that Jackson had failed to take advantage of the opportunities which fortune had thrown in his way. As eagerly as he had snatched at the chance of employment in the field artillery he had welcomed the tactical emergency which had given him sole command of his section at Chapultepec. It was a small charge; but he had utilised it to the utmost, and it had filled the cup of his ambition to the brim. Ambitious he certainly was. “He confessed,” says Dabney, “to an intimate friend that the order of General Pillow, separating his section on the day of Chapultepec from his captain, had excited his abiding gratitude; so much so that while the regular officers were rather inclined to depreciate the general as an unprofessional soldier, he loved him because he gave him an opportunity to win distinction.” His friends asked him, long after the war, if he felt no trepidation when so many were falling round him. He replied: “No; the only anxiety of which I was conscious during the engagements was a fear lest I should not meet danger enough to make my conduct conspicuous.”


Map of the City of Mexico and environs.

His share of the glory was more than ample. Contreras gave him the brevet rank of captain. For his conduct at Chapultepec he was mentioned in the Commander-in-Chief’s dispatches, and publicly complimented on his courage. Shortly after the capture of the city, General Scott held a levée, and amongst others presented to him was Lieutenant Jackson. When he heard the name, the general drew himself up to his full height, and, placing his hands behind him, said with affected sternness, “I don't

Stonewall Jackson SERVICES REWARDED  47

know that I shall shake hands with Mr. Jackson.” Jackson, blushing like a girl, was overwhelmed with confusion. General Scott, seeing that he had called the attention of every one in the room, said, “If you can forgive yourself for the way in which you slaughtered those poor Mexicans with your guns, I am not sure that I can,” and then held out his hand. “No greater compliment,” says General Gibbon, “could have been paid a young officer, and Jackson apparently did not know he had done anything remarkable till his general told him so.”1 Magruder could find no praise high enough for his industry, his capacity, and his gallantry, and within eighteen months of his first joining his regiment he was breveted major. Such promotion was phenomenal even in the Mexican war, and none of his West Point comrades made so great a stride in rank. His future in his profession was assured. He had acquired something more than the spurs of a field officer in his seven months of service. A subaltern, it has been said, learns but little of the higher art of war in the course of a campaign. His daily work so engrosses his attention that he has little leisure to reflect on the lessons in strategy and tactics which unfold themselves before him. Without maps, and without that information of the enemy’s numbers and dispositions which alone renders the manœuvres intelligible, it is difficult, even where the inclination exists, to discuss or criticise the problems, tactical and strategical, with which the general has to deal. But siege and battle, long marches and rough roads, gave the young American officers an insight into the practical difficulties of war. It is something to have seen how human nature shows itself under fire; how easily panics may be generated; how positions that seem impregnable may be rendered weak; to have witnessed the effect of surprise, and to have realised the strength of a vigorous attack. It is something, too, if a man learns his own worth in situations of doubt and danger; and if he finds, as did Jackson, that battle sharpens his faculties, and makes his self-control more perfect, his judgment

1  Letter to the author.

THE VOLUNTEERS IN MEXICO  48

clearer and more prompt, the gain in self-confidence is of the utmost value.

Moreover, whether a young soldier learns much or little from his first campaign depends on his intellectual powers and his previous training. Jackson’s brain, as his steady progress at West Point proves, was of a capacity beyond the average. He was naturally reflective. If, at the Military Academy, he had heard little of war; if, during his service in Mexico, his knowledge was insufficient to enable him to compare General Scott’s operations with those of the great captains, he had at least been trained to think. It is difficult to suppose that his experience was cast away. He was no thoughtless subaltern, but already an earnest soldier; and in after times, when he came to study for himself the campaigns of Washington and Napoleon, we may be certain that the teaching he found there was made doubly impressive when read by the light of what he had seen himself. Nor is it mere conjecture to assert that in his first campaign his experience was of peculiar value to a future general of the Southern Confederacy. Some of the regiments who fought under Scott and Taylor were volunteers, civilians, like their successors in the great Civil War, in all but name, enlisted for the war only, or even for a shorter term, and serving under their own officers. Several of these regiments had fought well; others had behaved indifferently; and the problem of how discipline was to be maintained in battle amongst these unprofessional soldiers obtruded itself as unpleasantly in Mexico as it had in the wars with England. Amongst the regular officers, accustomed to the absolute subordination of the army, the question provoked perplexity and discussion.

So small was the military establishment of the States that in case of any future war, the army, as in Mexico, would be largely composed of volunteers; and, despite the high intelligence and warlike enthusiasm of the citizen battalions, it was evident that they were far less reliable than the regulars. Even General Grant, partial as he was to the volunteers, admitted the superiority conferred by drill, discipline, and highly trained officers. “A better army,” he

THE VOLUNTEERS IN MEXICO  49

wrote, “man for man, probably never faced an enemy than the one commanded by General Taylor in the earlier engagements of the Mexican war.”1 These troops were all regulars, and they were those who carried Scott in triumph from the shores of the Gulf to the palace of Santa Anna. The volunteers had proved themselves exceedingly liable to panic. Their superior intelligence had not enabled them to master the instincts of human nature, and, although they had behaved well in camp and on the march, in battle their discipline had fallen to pieces.2 It could hardly be otherwise. Men without ingrained habits of obedience, who have not been trained to subordinate their will to another’s, cannot be expected to render implicit obedience in moments of danger and excitement; nor can they be expected, under such circumstances, to follow officers in whom they can have but little confidence. The ideal of battle is a combined effort, directed by a trained leader. Unless troops are thoroughly well disciplined such effort is impossible; the leaders are ignored, and the spasmodic action of the individual is substituted for the concentrated pressure of the mass. The cavalry which dissolves into a mob before it strikes the enemy but seldom attains success; and infantry out of hand is hardly more effective. In the Mexican campaign the volunteers, although on many occasions they behaved with admirable courage, continually broke loose from control under the fire of the enemy. As individuals they fought well; as organised bodies, capable of manœuvring under fire and of combined effort, they proved to be comparatively worthless.

So Jackson, observant as he was, gained on Mexican battle-fields some knowledge of the shortcomings inherent in half-trained troops. And this was not all. The expedition had demanded the services of nearly every officer in the army of the United States, and in the toils of the march, in the close companionship of the camp, in the excitement of battle, the shrewder spirits probed the characters of their comrades to the quick. In the history of the Civil War

1  Grant’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 168.
2  Ripley's History of the Mexican War, vol. ii, p. 73 &c.)

THE VOLUNTEERS IN MEXICO  50

there are few things more remarkable than the use which was made of the knowledge thus acquired. The clue to many an enterprise, daring even to foolhardiness, is to be found in this. A leader so intimately acquainted with the character of his opponent as to be able to predict with certainty what he will do under any given circumstances may set aside with impunity every established rule of war. “All the older officers, who became conspicuous in the rebellion,” says Grant, “I had also served with and known in Mexico. The acquaintance thus formed was of immense service to me in the War of the Rebellion—I mean what I learned of the characters of those to whom I was afterwards opposed. I do not pretend to say that all my movements, or even many of them, were made with special reference to the characteristics of the commander against whom they were directed. But my appreciation of my enemies was certainly affected by this knowledge.”1

Many of the generals with whom Jackson became intimately connected, either as friends or enemies, are named in Scott’s dispatches. Magruder, Hooker, McDowell, and Ambrose Hill belonged to his own regiment. McClellan, Beauregard, and Gustavus Smith served on the same staff as Lee. Joseph E. Johnston, twice severely wounded, was everywhere conspicuous for dashing gallantry. Shields commanded a brigade with marked ability. Pope was a staff officer. Lieutenant D. H. Hill received two brevets. Lieutenant Longstreet, struck down whilst carrying the colours at Chapultepec, was bracketed for conspicuous conduct with Lieutenant Pickett. Lieutenant Edward Johnson is mentioned as having specially distinguished himself in the same battle. Captain Huger, together with Lieutenants Porter and Reno, did good service with the artillery, and Lieutenant Ewell had two horses killed under him at Churubusco.

So having proved his mettle and “drunk delight of battle with his peers,” Jackson spent nine pleasant months in the conquered city. The peace negotiations were protracted. The United States coveted the auriferous provinces

1  Grant’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 192.

LIFE IN MEXICO  51

of California and New Mexico, a tract as large as a European kingdom, and far more wealthy. Loth to lose their birthright, yet powerless to resist, the Mexicans could only haggle for a price. The States were not disposed to be ungenerous, but the transfer of so vast a territory could not be accomplished in a moment, and the victorious army remained in occupation of the capital.

Beneath the shadow of the Stars and Stripes conqueror and conquered lived in harmony. Mexico was tired of war. Since the downfall of Spanish rule revolution had followed revolution with startling rapidity. The beneficent despotism of the great viceroys had been succeeded by the cruel exactions of petty tyrants, and for many a long year the country had been ravaged by their armies. The capital itself had enjoyed but a few brief intervals of peace, and now, although the bayonets of an alien race were the pledge of their repose, the citizens revelled in the unaccustomed luxury. Nor were they ungrateful to those who brought them a respite from alarms and anarchy. Under the mild administration of the American generals the streets resumed their wonted aspect. The great markets teemed with busy crowds. Across the long causeways rolled the creaking waggons, laden with the produce of far-distant haciendas. Trade was restored, and even the most patriotic merchants were not proof against the influence of the American dollar. Between the soldiers and the people was much friendly intercourse. Even the religious orders did not disdain to offer their hospitality to the heretics. The uniforms of the victorious army were to be seen at every festive gathering, and the graceful Mexicañas were by no means insensible to the admiration of the stalwart Northerners. Those blue-eyed and fair-haired invaders were not so very terrible after all; and the beauties of the capital, accustomed to be wooed in liquid accents and flowery phrases, listened without reluctance to harsher tones and less polished compliments. Travellers of many races have borne willing witness to the charms and virtues of the women of Mexico. “True daughters of Spain,” it has been said, “they unite the grace of Castile to the vivacity of Andalusia; and more sterling

LIFE IN MEXICO  52

qualities are by no means wanting. Gentle and refined, unaffectedly pleasing in manners and conversation, they evince a warmth of heart which wins for them the respect and esteem of all strangers.” To the homes made bright by the presence of these fair specimens of womanhood Scott’s officers were always welcome; and Jackson, for the first time in his life, found himself within the sphere of feminine attractions. The effect on the stripling soldier, who, stark fighter as he was, had seen no more of life than was to be found in a country village or within the precincts of West Point, may be easily imagined. Who the magnet was he never confessed; but that he went near losing his heart to some charming señorita of sangre azul he more than once acknowledged, and he took much trouble to appear to advantage in her eyes. The deficiencies in his education which prevented his full enjoyment of social pleasures were soon made up. He not only learned to dance, an accomplishment which must have taxed his perseverance to the utmost, but he spent some months in learning Spanish; and it is significant that to the end of his life he retained a copious vocabulary of those tender diminutives which fall so gracefully from Spanish lips.

But during his stay in Mexico other and more lasting influences were at work. Despite the delights of her delicious climate, where the roses bloom the whole year round, the charms of her romantic scenery, and the fascinations of her laughter-loving daughters, Jackson’s serious nature soon asserted itself. The constant round of light amusements and simple duties grew distasteful. The impress of his mother’s teachings and example was there to guide him; and his native reverence for all that was good and true received an unexpected impulse. There were not wanting in the American army men who had a higher ideal of duty than mere devotion to the business of their profession. The officer commanding the First Artillery, Colonel Frank Taylor, possessed that earnest faith which is not content with solitude. “This good man,” says Dabney, “was accustomed to labour as a father for the religious welfare of his young officers, and during the summer

A NEW STANDARD OF LIFE  53

campaign his instructions and prayers had produced so much effect as to awake an abiding anxiety and spirit of inquiry in Jackson’s mind.” The latter had little prejudice in favour of any particular sect or church. There was no State Establishment in the United States. His youth had been passed in a household where Christianity was practically unknown, and with characteristic independence he determined to discover for himself the rule that he should follow. His researches took a course which his Presbyterian ancestors would assuredly have condemned. But Jackson’s mind was singularly open, and he was the last man in the world to yield to prejudice. Soon after peace was declared, he had made the acquaintance of a number of priests belonging to one of the great religious orders of the Catholic Church. They had invited him to take up his quarters with them, and when he determined to examine for himself into the doctrine of the ancient faith, he applied through them for an introduction to the Archbishop of Mexico. Several interviews took place between the aged ecclesiastic and the young soldier. Jackson departed unsatisfied. He acknowledged that the prelate was a sincere and devout Christian, and he was impressed as much with his kindness as his learning. But he left Mexico without any settled convictions on the subject which now absorbed his thoughts.

June 12   On June 12, peace having been signed at the end of May, the last of the American troops marched out of the conquered capital. Jackson’s battery was sent to Fort Hamilton, on Long Island, seven miles below New York, and there, with his honours thick upon him, he settled down to the quiet life of a small garrison. He had gone out to Mexico a second lieutenant; he had come back a field-officer. He had won a name in the army, and his native State had enrolled him amongst her heroes. He had gone out an unformed youth; he had come back a man and a proved leader of men. He had been known merely as an indefatigable student and a somewhat unsociable companion. He had come back with a reputation for daring courage, not only the courage which glories in swift action and the excitement of the charge, but courage

A NEW STANDARD OF LIFE  54

of an enduring quality. And in that distant country he had won more than fame. He had already learned something of the vanity of temporal success. He had gone out with a vague notion of ruling his life in accordance with moral precepts and philosophic maxims; but he was to be guided henceforward by loftier principles than even devotion to duty and regard for honour, and from the path he had marked out for himself in Mexico he never deviated.

 

 

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