Links to affiliated Websites
Links to other Forts

Molino del Rey

 

Painting by Carl Nebel. © Fort Martin Scott Museum Association

Fort Martin Scott is named in honor of Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel  Scott who was killed in the battle of Molino del Rey.

By September 6, 1847, General Winfield Scott had noticed that Mexican troops had been strengthening their defenses and preparing for attack in violation of the armistice agreement. General Santa Anna responded on September 7 by denying any violation. General Scott describes what happened next:

"The same afternoon a large body of the enemy was discovered hovering about the Molinos del Rey within a mile and a third of this village, where I am quartered with the general staff and Worth’s division.

It might have been supposed that an attack upon us was intended; but knowing the great value to the enemy of those mills (Molinos del Rey) containing a cannon foundry, with a large deposit of powder in Casa Mata near them; and having heard, two days before, that many church bells had been sent out to be cast into guns – the enemy’s movement was easily understood, and I resolved at once to drive him early the next morning; to seize the powder and to destroy the foundry. 

Another motive for this decision – leaving the general plan of attack upon the city for full reconnaissance – was, that we knew our recent captures had left the enemy not a fourth of the guns necessary to arm, all at the same time, the strong works at each of the eight city gates, and we could not cut the communication between the foundry and the capitol without first taking the formidable castle on the heights of Chapultepec which overlooked both and stood between. For this difficult operation we were not entirely ready, and moreover, we might altogether neglect the castle, if, as we then hoped, our reconnaissance should prove that the distant southern approaches to the city were more eligible than this south-western approach.

Hence the decision promptly taken, the execution of which was assigned to Brevet Major-General Worth, whose division was reinforced with Cadvalader’s brigade, of Pillow’s division, three squadrons of dragoons, under Major Sumner, and some heavy guns of the siege train under Captain Huger, of the ordnance, and Captain Drum of the fourth artillery – two officers of the highest merit."

For the particulars of this decisive and brilliant result, General Scott refers to General Worth’s dispatch. 

For an account of the taking of Molina del Rey and Chapultepec, we have drawn largely upon the official report of General Worth himself.

“On a reconnaissance of the formidable dispositions of the enemy, near and around the castle of Chapultepec, they were found to exhibit an extended line of cavalry and infantry, sustained by a field battery of four guns – occupying directly or sustaining, a system of defenses collateral to the castle and summit. This examination gave fair observation of the configuration of the grounds, and the extent of the enemy’s lines, but, as appeared in the sequel, an inadequate idea of the nature of his defenses - they being skillfully masked.

The general-in-chief ordered that General Worth should attack and carry those lines and defenses, capture the enemy’s artillery, destroy the machinery and material supposed to be in the foundry, (El Molino del Rey) but limiting the operations to that extent. After which his command was to be immediately withdrawn to its position in the village of Tucubaya.

A close and daring reconnaissance, by Captain Mason, of the engineers, made on the morning of the seventh, represented the enemy’s lines collateral to Chapultepec, to be as follows; His left occupied and rested upon a group of strong stone buildings, called Molino del Rey, adjoining the grove at the foot of the hill of Chapultepec, and directly under the guns of the castle which crowns the summit. The right of his line rested upon another stone building, called Casa Mata, situated at the foot of a ridge that slopes gradually from the heights above the village of Tucubaya to the plain below. Midway between these two buildings was the enemy’s field battery, and his infantry’s field battery, and his infantry forces were disposed on either side to support it. This reconnaissance was verified by Captain Mason and Colonel Duncan, on the afternoon of the same day. The result indicated that the center was the weak point of the enemy’s position; and that his flanks were the strong points, his left flank being the stronger. 

Having made the necessary directions, at three o’clock in the morning of the 8th, the several columns were put in motion, on as many different routes; and, when the grey of the morning enabled them to be seen, they were as accurately in position as if posted in midday for review. The early dawn was the moment appointed for the attack, which was announced to our troops by the opening of Huger’s guns on El Molino del Rey, upon which they continued to play actively until this point of the enemy’s line became sensibly shaken, when the assaulting party, commanded by Captain Wright, and guided by that accomplished officer, Captain Mason of the engineers, assisted by Lieutenant Foster, dashed gallantly forward to the assault. Unshaken by the galling fire of musketry and canister that was showered upon them, on they rushed, driving infantry and artillerymen at the point of the bayonet. The enemy’s field battery was taken, and his own guns were trailed upon his retreating masses; before, however, they could be discharged, perceiving that he had been disposed of this strong position by comparatively a handful of men, he made a desperate effort to regain it. Accordingly, his retiring forces rallied and formed with this object. Aided by the infantry, which covered the house-tops, (within reach of which the battery had been moved during the night) the enemy’s whole line opened upon the assaulting party a terrific fire of musketry which struck down eleven out of the fourteen officers that composed the command, and non-commissioned officers and enlisted men in proportion. This severe shock staggered, for a moment that gallant band. The light battalion held to cover Huger’s battery, under Captain E. Kirby Smith, (Lieutenant-Colonel Smith being sick,) and the right wing of Captain Cadvalader’s brigade were promptly ordered forward to support, which order was executed in the most gallant style; the enemy was again routed, and this point of his line carried, and fully possessed by our troops. In the mean time Garland’s (1st) brigade, ably sustained by Captain Drum’s artillery, assaulted the enemy’s left, and, after an obstinate and very sever contest, drove him from this apparently impregnable position, immediately under the guns of the castle of Chapultepec. Drum’s section and the battering guns under Captain Huger, advanced to the enemy’s position, and the captured guns of the enemy were now opened on his retreating forces on which they continued to fire until beyond their reach. While this work was in progress of accomplishment, by our center and right, our troops on the left were not idle. Duncan’s battery opened on the right of the enemy’s line, up to this time engaged; and the 2nd Brigade under Colonel McIntosh, was now ordered to assault the extreme right of the enemy’s line. The direction of this brigade soon caused it to mask Duncan’s battery – the fire of which, for the moment, was discontinued – and the brigade moved steadily on to the assault of Casa Mata, which, instead of an ordinary field entrenchment, as was supposed, proved to be a strong stone citadel, surrounded with bastioned entrenchments and impassable trenches – an old Spanish work, recently repaired and enlarged. When within musket range, the enemy opened a most deadly fire upon our advancing troops, which was kept up, without intermission, until our gallant men reached the very slope of the parapet of the work that surrounded the citadel. By this time, a large proportion of the command was either killed our wounded, amongst whom were the three senior officers present – Brevet- Colonel McIntosh, Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel Scott, of the 5th Infantry, and Major Waite, 8th Infantry; the second killed, and the first and last desperately wounded. Still, the fire from the citadel was unabated. In this crises of the attack, the command was thrown momentarily into disorder, and fell back on the left of Duncan’s battery, where they rallied. As the 2nd brigade moved to the assault, a very large calvary and infantry was discovered approaching rapidly upon our left flank, to reinforce the enemy’s right. As soon as Duncan’s battery was masked, as before mentioned, supported by Andrew’s voltigeurs, of Cadwalader’s brigade, it moved promptly to the extreme left of our line, to check the threatened assault on this point. The enemy’s cavalry came rapidly within canister range, when the whole battery opened a most affective fire, which soon broke the squadrons and drove them back in disorder. During this fire upon the enemy’s cavalry, Major Sumner’s command moved to the front, and changed direction in admirable order, under a most appalling fire from Casa Mata. This movement enabled his command to cross the ravine immediately on the left of Duncan’s battery where it remained, doing noble service until the close of the action. At the very moment the cavalry were driven beyond reach, our own troops drew back from before the Casa Mata, and enabled the guns of Duncan’s battery to reopen upon this position; which after a short and well directed fire, the enemy abandoned. The guns of the battery were now turned upon his retreating columns and continued to play upon them until out of reach.

He was now driven from every point of the field and his strong lines, which had certainly been defended well, were in our possession. In fulfillment of the instructions of the commander-in-chief, the Casa Mata was blown up, and such of the captured ammunition as was useless to us, as well as the cannon molds found in Molino del Rey, were destroyed. After which my command, under the reiterated orders of the commander-in-chief, returned to quarters in Tacubaya, with three of the enemy’s four guns; the fourth was spiked and rendered unserviceable, as also a large quantity of small arms with gun and musket ammunition, and exceeding eight hundred prisoners, including fifty-two commissioned officers."

The Mexican War and its Warriors, by J. Frost, L.L.D., 1848

 

 An excerpt from Strubberg’s In Mexico (1865) describing the battle of Molino del Rey:

 

In this novel the separation of the plot and its background is particularly noticeable. About half the work is taken up with narrative dealing with the Mexican War and the Americans in Mexico. The figure of Santa Anna stands out prominently.  His ambitions, his diplomacies, his maneuvers in battle are all related in a most attractive way, yet all this is very meagerly connected with the story itself. The historical setting, into which are introduced General Scott, Taylor and Worth, and many other officers apparently fictitious, serves but as a background for a rather bizarre romance in which the leading characters are chosen from among the Spanish aristocracy. The historical background gives the work a dignity and value rather out of harmony with the gaudy story itself. Perhaps the author's greatest achievement in the work lies in his gorgeous descriptions of natural scenery. Strubberg's abilities are never shown to better advantage than in his descriptions in which he catches up, with the eye of the artist and the words of the poet, the very odor and atmosphere of the forests, mountains and prairies of Western America.

The Life and Works of Friedrich Armand Strubberg, Preston Albert Barba, PH. D., 1913.

 

"On September 6, Santa Anna received a completely unexpected letter from General Scott which accused him of violating the terms of the cease fire agreement and proclaiming that the battle would continue from his side. 

At he same time, Santa Anna found out that the enemy intended to take possession of the cannon foundry and powder mills of Molino del Rey and Casa Mata because he believed that significant supplies and ordnance had been stocked piled there. Santa Anna couldn’t have chosen a better battlefield himself because the cannons of the castle Chapultepec covered the entire area. His troops were protected behind walls and entrenchments along the flat plain where the Americans would have to approach and nothing would obstruct his large cavalry from taking the advantage.

Mexico was suddenly awoken from its trance, shaken from its death bed. The sound of trumpets and drums were heard once again in the streets and the crackling hooves of the cavalry racing down them in all directions. The moaning of the cannons rolling in shook them again down to their foundations while the bells in every church sounded the alarm. The holy men fired up the masses from the pulpit and out in the streets to take bloody revenge on the wild thieving hoard that had come to stomp on their holiest rights. The excitement exceeded all boundaries. Furious, the masses marched through the streets arming themselves in every way imaginable. They gathered in the plazas where the women would offer all of their enchanting grace and charm to their knights, sending them off to be heroes. Under the clanging alarm of the church bells and wild war cries, the troops marched out beyond the old fortress of Chapultepec to Molino del Rey; to victory or death. 

During these loud, boisterous proclamations of ferocity and bravery, General Scott stood quietly in his headquarters at Tacubaya. It was not until September 8, at 3 a. m. that the Brigades of General Worth, strengthened by that of General Cadwalader, moved together toward Molino del Rey. 

By the first light of day, the battery of Captain Huger opened fire with their 24 pounders against the fortifications Molino and in reply the artillery of Chapultepec sent thunder rolling down to the enemy. The Americans formed an attack column followed by the light battalion of Colonel Smith and moved toward Molino in a fast pace. The Mexicans let the enemy come within musket range and then opened such a murderous fire on them that entire lines were shot down, and in the disorder they had to retreat. A regiment under Colonel D. Miquel Echagaray charged out of Molino, threw themselves at the Americans and inflicted a horrible bloodbath on them. They left more than 800 men dead or wounded lying on the field. Three new attack columns rushed to the aid of their comrades and drove the Mexicans back to their trenches. Three times they were driven back, but then they attacked again with double the ferocity penetrating the entrenchments. All fell under the bayonet that could not make a quick escape.

At the same time, Major Sumner’s 270 dragoons attacked the more than 4000 man strong Mexican cavalry, which fled without a blow from a sword, and sought protection under the cannons of the fortress. Now there was no stopping the angry American troops. All of the strong buildings of Molina del Rey and Casa Mata fell into their hands and the rest of the twenty thousand man strong Mexican army left the battlefield in a wild retreat and saved themselves under the artillery of Chapultepec."

In Mexico by Friedrich Armand Strubberg, 1865, translated by Randy Rupley, Copyright ©2010