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.
It had been impossible for General Scott to advance upon Mexico City with his depleted force early in the summer when the Mexican army was disorganized. Now that he had obtained enough troops to proceed, Santa Anna had been busy reorganizing his army also until the defenses around the capital contained about 35,000 men. When the American army left Puebla August 7, the Second Dragoons were well represented by the advance. The division of General Twiggs, the former regimental commander, and the cavalry brigade of Colonel Harney, the regimental commander, led the way. The regiment was commanded by Major Sumner and formed a part of the cavalry brigade. The column reached Ayotla August 10, within a few miles of the Mexican outer defenses, and remained here several days doing reconnaissance duty.
The Second acted as escort for the officers making some of these reconnaissances. One of the officers on this duty on August 12 was Captain Robert E. Lee, escorted by Companies F and I. They moved so close to the mountain, El Penon, that conversation was carried on with the defenders. It was found the mountain was defended by 7,000 men and could be captured with a probable loss of 3,000 men. Two companies of the regiment also escorted General Smith, who made a daring reconnaissance of the next important enemy position six miles to the left of El Penon. It was finally decided to attack the city from the south by the Chalco route.
The regiment led the advance by this route south of the two lakes and entered San Augustin August 17. Company A, under Blake, was advance guard and took possession of the town after a brief skirmish. The next day Company F led off as advance guard with Captain Thornton commanding. As they approached San Antonio, Captain Thornton was struck by a cannon ball from the outer defenses and instantly killed. It was he who was captured with most of his squadron opposite Matamoras in the first encounter with the Mexicans and actually brought on the war.