ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.
On the night of September 13 the Mexican authorities sent word to the Americans that their army had withdrawn beyond the city. At eight o’clock in the morning of the 14th, General Scott and his staff entered the city escorted by the Second Dragoons. These men, proud of the honor and the occasion, worked most of the night cleaning their uniforms and equipment. As the general reached the plaza the mounted band of the gallant Second played Hail Columbia and Yankee Doodle.
But the day was marred by street fighting which soon broke out. First, the apparent curiosity of the natives was so great that they crowded upon the troops. The Second was ordered to clear the plaza. More than 2,000 convicts had been released by the Mexican army before withdrawing from the city. Also, a number of deserters from our army were desperately trying to evade capture. These malcontents soon began firing at our troops from the buildings. In the street fight which followed the regiment lost one sergeant killed and five men wounded.
CITY OF MEXICO – MAJOR SUMNER’S REPORT
CITY OF MEXICO – September 15, 1847.
SIR: On the night of the 11th instant I was ordered by the General-in-Chief at Tacubaya to take command of all the dragoons then at that place, and to hold them in readiness for immediate action. This order added F Company, First Dragoons, to my command of six companies of the Second Dragoons and one company of Mounted Rifles. In the course of that night I received an order to march at daybreak to cover the left of General Pillow’s line, who was to make a demonstration on the plain at Molino del Rey during the bombardment of Chapultepec. I took my position accordingly, and remained stationary for most of the day. The enemy appeared in force on our left, both horse and foot, but made no forward movement.
On the night of the 12th I was ordered to report at general headquarters at seven o’clock on the next morning, and at that time I was ordered to support General Quitman’s attack on the right. After reporting to him, and while awaiting his orders, I received an order from the General-in-Chief to move to the left of Chapultepec and report to Major-General Worth, who was operating in that quarter. General Worth ordered me to watch closely the movements of a large Mexican force known to be in the rear of our left.
While moving to the left, in compliance with this order, my command was exposed to a shower of shells thrown from Chapultepec, which unhorsed several men and wounded a few men and horses, but most fortunately did no serious mischief. I found the enemy drawn up in large force, and I immediately formed my small command facing them, and remained there until the castle of Chapultepec was carried. I was then ordered by General Worth to join him in pursuit of the fugitives, and I continued with him until ordered by the General-in-Chief to return and protect Tacubaya from any attempt that might be made upon it by the enemy while our army was engaged at the gates of the city.
On the morning of the 14th I was ordered to march into the city with the General-in-Chief, and during the street-fight on that day four of my companies were more or less engaged, and I lost several horses and had one man (Sergeant Kaminski) killed and several slightly wounded.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
E. V. SUMNER, Major Second Dragoons, Com’g.
Lieut. WILLIAM STEELE, A. A. G., Cavalry Brigade.
The troops with Scott in Mexico were now given a well-earned rest after a most brilliant campaign. But there was not much relaxation for the Second Dragoons, as they were used almost continuously on escort duty from the capital to Vera Cruz and back until they left Mexico the following year.
Meantime, Companies D, E, and H which remained with Taylor in Northern Mexico, were occupied mostly in conducting trains back and forth to the Rio Grande and on an occasional scout. A party of Second Dragoons from Companies D, E, and H, under Lieutenant Reuben P. Campbell, about twenty-two strong, was attacked November 2, 1847, near Agua Fria, on the road between Monterey and Camargo. The attacker was a notorious chief named Martinez with a band of about 150 men. The bandits fired from the rear upon the dragoons, who promptly charged, breaking up the attack. After chasing the Mexicans into the chaparral, our troops dismounted in order to attack the enemy to better advantage in the thick brush. Although nearly surrounded Lieutenant Campbell kept up the defense for nearly an hour when the bandits withdrew. The enemy lost six of their number killed, including their leader, while the Americans lost three privates killed and Lieutenant Clark and eight privates wounded.