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Battles of the War

The Battle of El Molino del Rey (Attack upon the Molino)

In August 1847, after the twin defeats of Contreras and Churubusco, the Mexican army fell back to defensive position just two miles from the gates of Mexico City, and the last line before the city itself. Key to this position was the castle at Chapultepec, the earthwork fort at Casa Mata 2,000 yards to the west, and the fortified stone buildings and of Molino del Rey half way between. On September 8, U.S. General William J. Worth tried to take these last two strong points by frontal assault.

The Battle of El Molina del Rey (Attack Upon the Molino) by Carl Nebel
The Battle of El Molina del Rey (Attack Upon the Molino) by Carl Nebel
Special Collections Division, The University of Texas at Arlington

Worth’s 3,400-man division advanced in two column advance against this position, with Brevet Brigadier General John Garland leading his brigade on the right against the Molino del Rey, Lieutenant Colonel James S. McIntosh leading his brigade on the left toward the Casa Mata, and Brigadier General George Cadwalader commanding the reserves. 

The spearhead of Garland’s column was an ad hoc, 500-man storming party composed largely of soldiers from the 8th infantry, and backed by the Battalion of Voltigeurs, or light infantry. The advance that Worth had intended as a reconnaissance in force soon became a bloody nightmare. Brigadier General Antonio León unleashed a storm of artillery and small arms that bucked the Americans and sent them back in disorder. The heavy guns of Chapultepec 1,000 yards to the right added a heavy enfilading fire that caused the U.S. attack to falter. 

The U.S. troops, reinforced by the Voltigeurs and some of Cadwalader’s men, made another run at the position and managed a breakthrough. Eventually the steady success of the regulars on their right carried the Mexican position, but only after Worth had lost nearly one-in-four of his attacking soldiers.