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From Santa Fé as a centre General Kearney sent out expeditions to put down all reported risings through the province, one of the most important of these being to the country of the warlike Navajo Indians, who had just made a raid on New Mexico, driving off ten thousand cattle and taking many captives. The answer of one of the Navajo chiefs to the officers of the expedition is interesting.
“Americans, you have a strange cause of war against the Navajos,” he said. “We have waged war against the New Mexicans for several years. You now turn upon us for attempting to do what you have done yourselves. We cannot see why you have cause of quarrel with us for fighting the New Mexicans in the West, while you do the same thing in the East. We have no more right to complain of you for interfering in our war than you have to quarrel with us for continuing a war we had begun long before you got here. If you will act justly, you will allow us to settle our own differences.''
The Indians, however, in the end agreed to let the New Mexicans alone, as American citizens, and the matter was amicably settled. We may briefly conclude the story of Kearney's expedition, which was but half done when Santa Fé was reached. He was to continue his march to California, and set out for this purpose on the 25th of September, on a journey as long and difficult as that he had already made. He reached the Californian soil only to find that Colonel Fremont had nearly finished
the work set for him, and a little more fighting added the great province of California to the Amer. ican conquests. Thus had a small body of men occupied and conquered a vast section of northern Mexico and added some of its richest possessions to the United States.
THE SECOND CONQUEST OF THE
CAPITAL OF MEXICO.
The ancient city of Mexico, the capital of the Aztecs and their Spanish successors, has been the scene of two great military events, its siege and capture by Cortez the conqueror in 1521, and its capture by the American army under General Scott in 1847, three and a quarter centuries later. Of the remarkable career of Cortez we have given the most striking incident, the story of the thrilling Noche triste and the victory of Otumba. A series of interesting tales might have been told of the siege that followed, but we prefer to leave that period of mediæval cruelty and injustice and come down to the events of a more civilized age.
One of the most striking scenes in the campaign of 1847 was the taking of the fortified hill of Chapultepec, but before describing this we may briefly outline the events of which it formed the dramatic culmination. Vera Cruz, “the city of the True Cross,” founded by Cortez in 1520, was the scene of the American landing, and was captured by the army under General Scott in March, 1847. Then, marching inland as Cortez had done more than three centuries before, the American army, about twelve thousand strong, soon began to ascend the
mountain-slope leading from the torrid sea-level plain to the high table-land of the old Aztec realm.
Sixty miles from Vera Cruz the American forces came to the mountain-pass of Cerro Gordo, where Santa Anna, the president of Mexico, awaited the invaders with an army of thirteen thousand men. The heights overhanging the road bristled with guns, and the lofty hill of Cerro Gordo was strongly fortified, rendering the place almost impregnable to an attack from the direction of Vera Cruz. Scott was too able a soldier to waste the lives of his men in such a perilous assault, and took the wiser plan of cutting a new road along the mountain-slopes and through ravines out of sight of the enemy, to the Jalapa road in the Mexican rear. An uphill charge from this point gave the Americans command of all the minor hills, leaving to the Mexicans only the height of Cerro Gordo, with its intrenchments and the strong fortress on its summit.
On the 18th of April this hill, several hundred feet in rugged height, was assailed in front and rear, the Americans gallantly climbing the steep rocks in the face of a deadly fire, carrying one barricade after another, and at length sweeping over the ramparts of the summit fortress and driving the defenders from their stronghold down the mountain-side. Santa Anna took with him only eight thousand men in his hasty retreat, leaving three thousand as prisoners in the American hands, with forty-three pieces of bronze artillery