Siege of Veracruz
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|Siege of Veracruz|
|Part of the Mexican-American War|
Scott's siege guns were in place on ground outside the city
|Commanders and leaders|
| Winfield Scott
Matthew C. Perry
|Juan Esteban Morales (POW)|
|Casualties and losses|
|Civilian Casualties: ~400 killed|
- For other battles at Veracruz see Battle of Veracruz (disambiguation)
The Battle of Veracruz was a 20-day siege of the key Mexican beachhead seaport of Veracruz, during the Mexican-American War. Lasting from 9–29 March 1847, it began with the first large-scale amphibious assault conducted by United States military forces, and ended with the surrender and occupation of the city. U.S. forces then marched inland to Mexico City.
After the battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista, fighting in northern Mexico subsided. Much of Zachary Taylor's Army of Occupation was transferred to the command of Major General Winfield Scott after the battle of Monterrey. After deliberating on the next course of action, Scott and other Washington officials came to the agreement that a landing would be made at Veracruz, which would provide the Americans a point for a further advance inland. Mexican military intelligence knew in advance of U.S. plans to attack Veracruz, but internal government turmoil left them powerless to send crucial reinforcements before the American assault commenced.
Order of battle
U.S. Expeditionary Force — Major General Winfield Scott
- 1st Division of Regulars — William J. Worth
- 2nd Division of Regulars — David E. Twiggs
- 3rd Division of Volunteers – Robert Patterson
- Dragoons — Colonel William S. Harney
Scott requested special landing craft for his expedition, which were constructed in Philadelphia by George M. Totten.
Veracruz was considered to be the strongest fortress in the Western hemisphere at the time. Brigadier General Juan Esteban Morales commanded a garrison of 4,390 men which manned three major forts guarding Veracruz:
- Fort Santiago — south end of town
- Fort Concepción — north end of town
- These two forts included 3,360 men and 89 guns: Artillery, 2d and 8th Infantry Regiments, 3d Light Regiment, a picket of 11th Regt., Puebla Libres, Orizaba, Veracruz, Oaxaca and Tehuantepec National Grds. Battalions, Sappers and Enlisted Marines.
- Fort San Juan de Ulúa — offshore on the Gallega Reef. Gen. Jose Durán with 1,030 men and 135 guns: Artillery, Puebla and Jamiltepec Activo Battalions, Companies of Tuxpan, Tampico and Alvardo Activo Battalions.
The American Army/Navy force arrived off Veracruz in early March. Scott surveyed the defenses and concluded that the city would not fall to an artillery bombardment alone. He selected the landings to take place at Collado Beach 3 mi (4.8 km) south of Veracruz. The 1st Regular Division under Worth was chosen to make the landing. Conner's ships moved to within 90 yd (82 m) of the beach to supply covering fire if necessary. At 03:30 on 9 March, the 1st Division in the specialized landing craft was rowed ashore. Just before the main force touched the beach, a gig dashed ahead, and General Worth jumped out into shoulder deep water and waded ashore to be the first man on the beach. Worth's whole division landed without firing or receiving a single shot. By 23:00 on that first day, Scott's entire army had been brought ashore without a single man lost: the first large scale amphibious landing conducted by the U.S. military was a success.
Once ashore Patterson's division began marching northward to effect a complete envelopment of the city. One of Patterson's brigades under Gideon Pillow drove off a Mexican cavalry at Malibrán, cutting off the city's water supply. Quitman and Shields managed to drive off cavalry attempting to prevent the investment. Three days later, the U.S. had completed a 7 mi (11 km) siege line from Collado in the south to Playa Vergara in the north.
A storm blew in and prevented Scott from landing his siege guns for a time. In the meantime, the besiegers were plagued by sorties from the city and guerrilla attacks. Colonel Juan Aguayo used the cover of the storm to slip the Alvarado garrison into Veracruz. General Patterson expressed his opinion that the city should be taken by storm. Scott declined such a notion, stating he wished to lose no more than 100 men. On 18 March, the artillery arrived, and Scott concluded he could reduce the city with what he had, but not Fort Ulúa. On 21 March, Commodore Matthew C. Perry, Conner's second-in-command, returned from Norfolk, Virginia, after making repairs on the USS Mississippi, with orders to replace Conner in command of the squadron. Perry and Conner met with Scott regarding the Navy's role in the siege, and Perry offered six guns that were to be manned by sailors from the ships. Back on shore under the direction of Captain Robert E. Lee, a battery emplacement was constructed 700 yd (640 m) from the city walls with the army and naval siege guns put in place. On 22 March, Morales declined a surrender demand from Scott, and the American batteries opened fire. The Mexican batteries responded with accuracy, although there were few American casualties. Congreve rockets were fired into the defenses and started a fire in Fort Santiago which drove the Mexican gunners from their post. Mexican morale began to drop.
On 24 March, Persifor F. Smith's brigade captured a Mexican soldier with reports that Antonio López de Santa Anna was marching an army from Mexico City to the relief of Veracruz. Scott dispatched Colonel William S. Harney with 100 dragoons to inspect any approaches that Santa Anna might make. Harney reported about 2,000 Mexicans and a battery not far away, and he called for reinforcements. General Patterson led a mixed group of volunteers and dragoons to Harney's aid and cleared the force from their positions.
With reports such as these, Scott grew impatient with the siege and began planning for an assault on the city. On 25 March, the Mexicans called for a cease-fire to discuss surrender terms. Mexican officials pleaded that the women and children be let out of the city. Scott refused, believing this to be a delaying tactic and kept up the artillery fire. On 25 March, Morales' second-in-command General José Juan Landero y Coss stepped in to save his commander the disgrace of surrender and called for a truce with the invaders. A three-day negotiation followed. On 29 March, the Mexicans officially surrendered their garrisons in Veracruz and Fort Ulúa. That day, the U.S. flag flew over San Juan de Ulúa.
Three days and nights of bombardment resulting in the surrender of Veracruz opened the east coast of Mexico to U.S. forces. Scott had kept his promise of minimal casualties: 13 killed. Another factor Scott had less control over was the yellow fever that had begun to settle in on his army. However, Scott still began immediate plans to leave a small garrison at Veracruz and march inland, his first objective being Jalapa. Along the way, Scott would in fact encounter a sizable Mexican army under Santa Anna at the Battle of Cerro Gordo.
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- Johnson p.49
- Johnson p.49