The Charge of the Palmettos at Churubusco (In Harper's Weekly, 1855)
The Mexican War (1846-1848) was one of the major outcomes of United States beliefs of Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny’s major tenet was the belief that the United States should encompass the whole of North America from east to west. Winning the war with Mexico led to the Mexicans surrendering vast new territories to the United States. These lands would one day be the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and portions of the states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. The war was a pivotal event that contributed to the United States spreading its system of government and culture from the Atlantic to the Pacific shores. Men from South Carolina would volunteer for this war, as would thousands of other Americans, and they would all become a part of the story of American Westward Expansion.
The Battle of Chalpultepec, Carl Nebel
Many from the regiment suffered death from diseases rather than from combat. In fact, as many as 13,000 U.S. soldiers died in the war but only about 2,000 from combat. In the Palmetto Regiment 1027 served. 292 died but 236 died from disease and only 56 died in combat or wounds received in combat. The exception was the relatively large number of Palmettos lost in the Battle of Churubusco. Most deaths during the war came from yellow fever, malaria, measles, and dysentery that swept through whole regiments as they served along the humid, tropical coasts near Vera Cruz as well as in the rugged, plateaus of the Valley of Mexico near Mexico City. The Palmetto Regiment had the highest death rate in General Scott’s army. The Highest Ranking Officer from South Carolina, Colonel Pierce Butler (a former governor of the state) was killed by enemy fire during the Battle of Churubusco. His body was later laid to rest near his hometown in Edgefield, South Carolina.
After Scott’s successful siege and taking of the port of Vera Cruz in March 1847, the U.S. Army, now supplied through this port with supplies and manpower slowly fought its way toward Mexico City. Although outmanned in every battle, superior training and equipment helped the United States to slowly push the Mexicans back toward their capital. Here General Scott halted before the gates of Mexico City in August, 1847. The capital itself was defended by over 30,000 men as well as several citadels and forts. One of these forts sat on top of a hill and was known as Chapultepec Castle. After asking for surrender and once more being refused, Scott then led his troops on a charge up the hill of Chapultepec. The Palmetto Regiment fought bravely here and in the end planted their flag along side the regiment of New York’s flag atop Chapultepec Castle, the citadel that guarded one of the approaches to Mexico City. Scott then continued to advance the fight to the center of the Mexico City. On September 13, 1847, U.S. troops raised the Stars and Stripes over the Palace of Montezuma. Soon, afterwards the Mexicans sued for peace.
1) See South Carolinians in the War with Mexico at http://sciway3.net/proctor/state/sc_mexicanwar.html
2) South Carolina Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum’s Exhibit on the Mexican War at http://crr.sc.gov/exhibitions/tour/mexicanwar/