Lee returned to the commanding General’s HQ to find Scott was in a rage at not knowing the effect of the artillery on the defenses of the fortress. Scott was determined to attack that evening and had ordered one division to the west through the dense cypress grove at the foot of Chapultepec, and another to attack from the south, directly up the steep road cut into the cliff face.
Volunteers had been formed into two “storming parties” equipped with scaling ladders to lead the assault. It fell to Lee to as the senior engineer officer present and the one who had been closest to the objective ,to brief the commanders who would carry out the attack. During the night the troops moved into their positions west and south of Chapultepec, while others made an ostentatious demonstration in view of the southern gate, hoping to fix Santa Anna’s attention in the wrong direction.
Lee spent the nigh inspecting and double checking the artillery batters and making sure that damaged caused by the Mexican return fire was quickly repaired. By this point Lee had gone 48 hours without sleep, but his orders were to guide General Pillow’s division in its attack on the western face of Chapultepec. He set out with the lead parties as soon as the artillery ceased a 80 on the morning on September 13, exposed to artillery fire, musket fire and the rare use of land mines at the time.
Lee watched while the scaling ladders were brought forward and as the storming parties were pushed back with heavy casualties. He regrouped the troops and hit success with the second attempt. Lee then himself climbed the steep slope to the terraces at the top, accompanied by Lt. James Longstreet, who would go on to be one of his corps commanders in the CSA.
At some point in the attack Lee was wounded, but managed to help the wounded division commander Pillow back to safety, then climbed the summit in time to see the American flag raised. The fortress turned out to not be much of a fortress at all. Having been built as a palace, it didn’t offer much protection to the Mexican defenders inside. The huge building was then taken room by room by the US troops while American troops ran “wild looting and hunting down the now defenseless Mexicans in retaliation for the atrocities of Molino del Rey.” Lee being one of the officers restoring order to the troops.
Part 3 Next week.