Gateway to the Classics: Historic Poems and Ballads by Rupert S. Holland
 
Historic Poems and Ballads by  Rupert S. Holland

Monterey

T HE annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845 was regarded by Mexico as an act of war. That country immediately collected an army along the Rio Grande River, and General Zachary Taylor was sent into Texas with an army of occupation. Taylor found the Mexicans stationed at Matamoras. He threw up a line of entrenchments and built a fort opposite the Mexican batteries. While he was engaged elsewhere the Mexicans attacked this fort, and as soon as the news reached the American general he started back to relieve the small force at the fort. On his march he came upon the Mexican army, with six thousand men, drawn up before his army of twenty-one hundred soldiers, at Palo Alto. In spite of the difference in numbers Taylor attacked the enemy on May 8, 1846, and drove them back by the skilful firing of his artillery, and the repeated charges of his infantry.

The Mexican troops retreated to Resaca de la Palma. Taylor followed, attacked them again on the next day, routed them, and marched to the relief of the men in the fort.

The United States government now sent large reinforcements into Texas, and by the end of the summer General Taylor had a well-equipped army in the field. The Mexican General Arista had brought ten thousand troops into the city of Monterey, which was supposed to be impregnable. Zachary Taylor marched on the city, and reached it September 19th. He found Monterey situated in a valley of the Sierra Madre Mountains, protected by the San Juan River and by a citadel whose guns commanded all the roads leading to the city.

The American army was deployed on all sides of the city, and began its attack on September 21st. For three days desperate fighting followed. The troops were cut to pieces by the cannon on the citadel, outlying heights were captured, only to be lost again when the Americans found they had no shelter from the Mexicans in the city. But finally the Americans gained a footing within the walls of Monterey. They had to fight across the barricades in the streets and through the houses and gardens. Gradually the Mexicans were dislodged and driven back and back, until on the evening of September 23d, Taylor's army succeeded in planting mortars in such a position that they could drop shells into any part of the city, and no shelter was left the defenders. Early in the morning of the 24th the Mexican general surrendered Monterey, having made terms of peace by which his army was allowed to evacuate the city with all the honors of war. The capture of Monterey cost the Americans five hundred men in killed and wounded, and the Mexicans fully twice as many.

The Mexican war finally ended in victory for the United States in February, 1848, after General Taylor had won the great victory of Buena Vista, and General Winfield Scott had carried the formidable fortress of Chapultepec and entered the City of Mexico, the capital of that country.

Monterey

by Charles Fenno Hoffman

We were not many—we who stood

Before the iron sleet that day;

Yet many a gallant spirit would

Give half his years if but he could

Have with us been at Monterey.


Now here, now there, the shot it hailed

In deadly drifts of fiery spray,

Yet not a single soldier quailed

When wounded comrades round them wailed

Their dying shout at Monterey.


And on—still on our column kept,

Through walls of flame, its withering way;

Where fell the dead, the living stept,

Still charging on the guns which swept

The slippery streets of Monterey.


The foe himself recoiled aghast,

When, striking where he strongest lay,

We swooped his flanking batteries past,

And, braving full their murderous blast,

Stormed home the towers of Monterey.


Our banners on those turrets wave,

And there our evening bugles play;

Where orange-boughs above their grave

Keep green the memory of the brave

Who fought and fell at Monterey.


We are not many—we who pressed

Beside the brave who fell that day;

But who of us has not confessed

He'd rather share their warrior rest

Than not have been at Monterey?


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