Battle of Cerro Gordo

The Battle of Cerro Gordo, or Battle of Sierra Gordo,[2] was an engagement in the Mexican–American War on April 18, 1847. The battle saw Winfield Scott's United States troops outflank Antonio López de Santa Anna's larger Mexican army, driving it from a strong defensive position.

Battle of Cerro Gordo
Part of the Mexican–American War

The Battle of Cerro Gordo by Carl Nebel.
DateApril 18, 1847
19.429°N 96.688°W / 19.429; -96.688
Result American victory
 United States  Mexico
Commanders and leaders
Winfield Scott Antonio López de Santa Anna
12,000[1] 8,700[1]
Casualties and losses
263 killed
368 wounded
1,000+ killed
3,036 captured


After United States forces captured the port of Veracruz on March 29, 1847, General Winfield Scott advanced towards Mexico City on April 2 by crossing the Rio Antigua.[1]:261 General Antonio López de Santa Anna, commanding Mexican forces in the area, had prepared fortifications at Cerro Gordo, near Xalapa, with more than 8,700 soldiers in a fortified defile, dominated by El Telegrafo.[1]:264 These included several batteries under the command of brigadier generals Luis Pinzon, Jose Maria Jararo, and Romulo Diaz de la Vega.[1]:264 Scott's leading division, commanded by David E. Twiggs, reached the Cerro Gordo Pass on April 12.[1]:263


On April 12, Lieutenant Pierre G. T. Beauregard, of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, determined that possession of Atalaya Hill would enable the Mexican position to be turned. The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant observe that, in order to determine whether a flanking movement was possible, "reconnaissances were sent out to find, or to make, a road by which the rear of the enemy's works might be reached without a front attack." These reconnaissances were made under the supervision of Captain Robert E. Lee and other officers, "all of whom attained rank and fame." Grant continues that it was the roadways constructed by the engineers which achieved victory:

Under the supervision of the engineers, roadways had been opened over chasms to the right where the walls were so steep that men could barely climb them. Animals could not. These had been opened under cover of night, without attracting the notice of the enemy. The engineers, who had directed the opening, led the way and the troops followed. Artillery was let down the steep slopes by hand, the men engaged attaching a strong rope to the rear axle and letting the guns down, a piece at a time, while the men at the ropes kept their ground on top, paying out gradually, while a few at the front directed the course of the piece. In like manner the guns were drawn by hand up the opposite slope.[3]

Twiggs' division took the hill on April 17, advancing up the slopes to El Telegrafo.[1]:264 Santa Anna reinforced El Telegrafo with Brigadier General Ciriaco Vasquez's 2d Light, 4th, and 11th Infantry.[1]:265 Captain Edward J. Steptoe set up his battery on Atalaya Hill and Major James C. Burnham set up a howitzer across the river.[1]:265

At 7:00 am on April 18, Twiggs directed William S. Harney's brigade to move against the front of El Telegrafo while Bennett C. Riley attacked from the rear.[1]:267 The combination easily took the hill, killing General Vasquez, and Captain John B. Magruder turned the Mexican guns on the retreating Mexicans.[1]:267 Simultaneously, James Shields' brigade attacked the Mexican camp and took possession of the Jalapa road.[1]:267 Once they realized they were surrounded, the Mexican commanders on the three hills surrendered and by 10:00 am, the remaining Mexican forces fled.[1]:267


Santa Anna, caught off guard by the Fourth Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry, was compelled to ride off without his artificial leg, which was captured by U.S. forces and is still on display at the Illinois State Military Museum[1]:268[4] in Springfield, Illinois.[5]

Scott moved on to Jalapa, and William J. Worth's division took San Carlos Fortress on April 22.[1]:268 Scott then occupied Puebla on 15 May,[1]:271 before departing for Mexico City on August 7.[1]:274


Cerro Gordo County, Iowa,[6] Cerro Gordo, North Carolina,[7] and Cerro Gordo, Illinois,[8] take their names from the battle.

Order of battle

Mexico was represented by the remnants of the Division of the North, totaling 5,650 personnel: 150 artillery, 4,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry: including the Ampudia Brigade (the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 11th line infantry regiments), the Vasquez Brigade (the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th light infantry regiments) and the Juvera Cavalry Brigade (5th, 9th Morelia and the Coraceros cavalry regiments); plus reinforcements from the Capitol: the Rangel Brigade (the 6th Infantry Regiment, Grenadiers of the Guard, Libertad and Galeana battalions, two cavalry squadrons and eight guns), the Pinzon Brigade, and the Canalizo Special Cavalry Division. The 1,000-strong Artega Brigade, consisting of the Pueblo Activos and National Guard battalions, arrived at the end of the battle.

See also



  1. Bauer, K.J., 1974, The Mexican War, 1846–1848, New York: Macmillan, ISBN 0803261071
  2. John Frost (1853). "Battle of Sierra Gordo". Pictorial History of America. pp. 753–764.
  3. Page 90.
  4. Illinois State Military Museum Archived February 14, 2004, at the Wayback Machine
  5. Shaw, Karl (2005) [2004]. Power Mad! [Šílenství mocných] (in Czech). Praha: Metafora. p. 75. ISBN 80-7359-002-6.
  6. "History of Cerro Gordo County". Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  7. Little, Ken (November 28, 2012). "Where do some of the strange town names in Columbus County come from?". Star-News. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  8. "About Cerro Gordo". Cerro Gordo, Illinois. Retrieved April 16, 2018.


  • The Encyclopedia of Military History, Dupuy and Dupuy. Harper & Row, Publishers.
  • Santa Anna's Leg.
  • "Apuntes para la historia de la guerra entre México y los Estados Unidos". Alcaraz, Ramón. Mexico City.
  • The Other Side: Or, Notes for the History of the War between Mexico and the United States, translated and edited in the United States by Albert C. Ramsey, New York: John Wiley, 1850.
  • Annual Reports, 1894 War Department lists trophy guns as: 1–8 pounder bronze, 2–6 pounders and 3–4 pounders.
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