The Halls of Montezuma…
Today is the 165th anniversary of the Battle of Chapultepec. The U.S. victory over the 832 men and boys (some as young as 13) defending the Castle under the command of independence leader and former President Nicolas Bravo cleared the way for the U.S. occupation of Mexico City, and the subsequent treaty by which Mexico was forced to cede the northern third of the country to the United States.
In Mexico, the battle is remembered for the Boy Heroes (Los Niños Heroes), the military cadets who took an active part in the defense (General Bravo was the rector of the military academy, at the time located in the Castle) said to have chosen death over surrender when the castle was overrun by U.S. troops. The youngest, Francisco Márquez, was thirteen, the oldest, Juan de la Barrera, nineteen. By tradition, it is said that one of the boys, Juan Escutia, leaped to his death wrapped in the Bandera Nacional to keep it from falling into enemy hands.
More recently, a new appreciation has come to another set of martyrs to la patria, the former U.S. soldiers, mostly recent immigrants and mostly Irish, who recognized that the war was — as then Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant would later characterize it — “the worst injustice one nation has ever done to another” — and chose to fight for Mexico. They knew full well that to be captured was to be hanged. Thirty captured San Patricios were hanged in San Angel as the Stars and Stripes were raised over the castle.
While in the United States, the War Against Mexico is little remembered nor much noted, the United States Marines do honor the memory of their Mexican enemies in a small way. In honor of their fallen comrades, and in appreciation — if that’s the right word — of their Mexican foes determined defense, the blue stripe on the leg of the formal uniform was changed to a red stripe, to recognize the amount of blood they were forced to shed taking the gateway to “The Halls of Montezuma”.