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Battles of the War

The Storming of Chapultepec (Quitmans’s Attack)

When U.S. General Winfield Scott ordered the capture of the Mexican citadel of Chapultepec, he envisioned coordinated assaults by two divisions. General Gideon Pillow would attack east from Molino del Rey, and General John Quitman would head north up the Tacubaya causeway to isolate the Mexican garrison from reinforcements. While Pillow would carry the brunt of the attack on the Mexican fort, Quitman would have the important task of pinning down two nearby Mexican brigades to the east.

U.S. guns pummeled the Mexican positions for more than a day before Pillow launched his assault up the slopes to the west of Chapultepec on September 13. His advance signaled a similar movement by Quitman’s command, which pushed up the causeway a half-mile from Tacubaya. A dug-in brigade under General Joaquin Rangel stalled Quitman’s advance a few hundred yards short of the intersection leading to the gates of Mexico City. Quitman ordered General Persifor Smith to shuttle his brigade to the east, while General James Shields veered to the west to join the attack on Chapultepec. Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Watson and his battalion of marines held the causeway and attempted to fulfill Quitman’s original mission.

Shields’s command breached the southern wall of the Mexican stronghold and linked up with Pillow’s men pushing in from the left. Together, these co-mingled commands pushed to the walls of the castle itself, raised scaling ladders, and completed the capture. By mid-morning, Chapultepec had fallen. While Shields and his men were attacking, General Smith, Lieutenant Colonel Watson, and their supporting batteries at last drove Rangel from his position, and the fall of Chapultepec caused the entire Mexican line to give way and fall back to the gates of Mexico City. The combat resulted in 2,000 Mexican and 450 American casualties.