The Battle of Chapultepec: Capturing the Mexican Capital in 1847

While this clip is from the United States Marine Corps perspective, I have included it since it provides a connection to Alfred Gibbs and me and my fellow Marines, a history known to many.

Alfred Gibbs, a young officer, was at the Battle of Chapultepec, a battle between American forces and Mexican forces holding the strategically located Chapultepec Castle just outside Mexico City. The battle was fought on 13 September 1847 when soldiers attacked the building; sitting atop a 200-foot hill was an important position for the city’s defense.

The battle and campaign to take Mexico City by U.S. Army and Marines totaled approximately 7,200 men. General Antonio López de Santa Anna, known for vicious attacks against Native Mexican American tribes, had formed an army of roughly 25,000 men. Mexican forces, including military cadets of the Military Academy, defended the position at Chapultepec against 2,000 U.S. forces. The Mexicans’ loss opened the way for the Americans to take the center of Mexico City.


The Mexican capital was built in an ancient lake bed and could only be approached on raised causeways that passed through sizable gateways into the walled city. Just southwest of the city, on a 200‐foot‐high hill, the castle of Chapultepec commanded key causeways and was the site of a military college. Scott decided to storm Chapultepec first. On 12 September, to keep Mexican commander Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna and his 15,000 troops unsure of his ultimate plans, Scott ordered part of his force to demonstrate south and southeast of the capital while his artillery began to hammer at Chapultepec. U.S. infantry attacked, scaling the rocky summit with ladders and pickaxes early the following day. Within two hours, Scott’s troops had overrun the castle. Among the 1,000 defenders were 100 boy cadets who died defending their college and Mexican honor. “Los Niños” became Mexican national heroes.

From Chapultepec, some of the victorious U.S. soldiers swarmed onto the causeway leading to the gates at the southwest corner of Mexico City, and others attacked the gateway near the northwest corner. The soldiers and a battalion of U.S. Marines broke through the walls. Mexican resistance was fierce. When nightfall stopped the fighting for the day, U.S. troops were inside Mexico City, but only barely. Luckily, Mexican authorities decided not to contest further the U.S. attempt to capture the city, and Santa Anna withdrew his army during the night. The next day, General Scott triumphantly entered the city. U.S. troops suffered over 860 casualties; Mexican losses are estimated to be at least twice that many.

The capture of Mexico City did not immediately end the war. Santa Anna led his army eastward and helped lay siege to the U.S. garrison at Puebla, but within a month, U.S. reinforcements had lifted the siege, and the fighting was over.


View of Chapultepec Castle from the Northeast
If you are interested in a good read that centers around this battle, then read Chapultepec: A Novel: by Norman Zollinger. The story in one of love and personal conflict. I found it fun to have this book written about this battle and time period.

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