April, 1847: Battle of Cerro Gordo Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Moving up from Veracruz along the National Road, Major General Winfield Scott’s 8,500-man army encountered Mexican forces at the Rio de Plan on April 11. Over the next six days, U.S. engineers scouted the Mexican positions. General Antonio López de Santa Anna, commanding more than 12,000 men, had established a strong defense on his right, which controlled a defile through which the National Road ran. He relied on rough terrain and two hills, El Atalaya and the larger El Telégrafo, to protect his left. Scott’s chief engineer, Captain Robert E. Lee, found a route around Santa Anna’s left, however, and U.S. troops began to move into position on April 17. Mexican sentries on El Atalaya discovered the movement, forcing a successful American assault on the hill. Now aware of what he thought was Scott’s plan, Santa Anna reinforced his left and the summit of El Telégrafo.

Moving up from Veracruz along the National Road, Major General Winfield Scott’s 8,500-man army encountered Mexican forces at the Rio de Plan on April 11. Over the next six days, U.S. engineers scouted the Mexican positions. General Antonio López de Santa Anna, commanding more than 12,000 men, had established a strong defense on his right, which controlled a defile through which the National Road ran. He relied on rough terrain and two hills, El Atalaya and the larger El Telégrafo, to protect his left. Scott’s chief engineer, Captain Robert E. Lee, found a route around Santa Anna’s left, however, and U.S. troops began to move into position on April 17. Mexican sentries on El Atalaya discovered the movement, forcing a successful American assault on the hill. Now aware of what he thought was Scott’s plan, Santa Anna reinforced his left and the summit of El Telégrafo.

The next morning Brigadier General Gideon Pillow launched a badly managed assault on the Mexican right. Scott’s main attack, however, swept around the Mexican left, while another force stormed El Telégrafo. Realizing Americans now commanded the National Road to his rear, Santa Anna abandoned his army, and the Mexican defense collapsed.

U.S. forces under General Winfield Scott at the Battle of Cerro Gordo. (Library of Congress)

Scott lost 65 killed and 353 wounded. The Mexicans lost an estimated 1,000 killed and wounded and 3,000 captured. Scott’s men also captured forty-three heavy guns and Santa Anna’s personal baggage. The victory allowed Scott to establish himself in the Mexican highlands, escape the potentially disastrous effects of being caught on the coast during yellow-fever season, and reorganize his army for its descent on Mexico City.

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