Some of you may know my daughter. Of you lucky few, some of you may know about her affinity for the art of inquisition. Is it any wonder that her father has been known to throw down with a Q or two in his day?
All of this leads us to a few weeks ago. I was walking the hallowed halls of state government, and a conversation ensued with a fellow civil servant who was known among his kind to be a veteran of the Marine Corps. On the fly, a question popped into my mind, begging an answer.
“Where are the Halls of Montezuma?”
He thought it might be in Mexico; but if thoughts and suspicions were enought to quell my sudden burst of inquisitiveness, I wouldn’t have asked the question (for I had already suspected as much). All the same, my need to know did not carry over to my office (by the time I returned to by information portal I had forgotten the question).
My fellow conversant had not, for he recently sent me this reply. I thought it was at least as interesting as my normal drivel – so I thought I’d post it. (Note: I’m using the lesser known application of “conversant” as a noun – as in: the principle participants in a conversation. In fact, this use is so rare you will not find it in the dictionary ;)
In response to your inquiry:
Following the war with the Barbary Pirates in 1805, when Lieutenant Presely N. O’Bannon and his small force of Marines participated in the capture of Derne and hoisted the American flag for the first time over a fortress of the Old World, the Colors of the Corps was inscribed with the words: “To the Shores of Tripoli.” After the Marines participated in the capture and occupation of Mexico City and the Castle of Chapultepec, otherwise known as the “Halls of Montezuma,” the words on the Colors were changed to read: “From the Shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma.” Following the close of the Mexican War came the first verse of the Marines’ Hymn, written, according to tradition, by a Marine on duty in Mexico. For the sake of euphony, the unknown author transposed the phrases in the motto on the Colors so that the first two lines of the Hymn would read: “From the Halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli.”
The Battle for Mexico City refers to the series of engagements from September 8 to September 15, 1847, in the general vicinity of Mexico City during the Mexican-American War. These were the major actions at the battles of Molino del Rey and Chapultepec, culminating with the fall of Mexico City.
On September 8, the fight for Mexico City began. Commanding General Winifred Scott believed that a cannon foundry was located at the Molino del Rey, the King’s Mill, located just over 2 miles (3 km) outside the city. Scott sent the 1st Division under William J. Worth to seize and destroy the foundry. Worth wished to include Chapultepec Castle in his attack, and when Scott refused, a bitter rivalry began between Scott and Worth. In the ensuing battle, both sides suffered heavy casualties, and Worth drove the Mexicans from the mill, separating them from the forces at Chapultepec. The battle produced no significant military gains for the U.S.
The main assault on the city came a few days later on September 12. Mexico City was guarded in part by Chapultepec Castle, which was being used as a military academy. Scott preceded infantry assault with an all day artillery barrage on Septemeber 12. The next day, September 13, the 4th Division, under John A. Quitman, spearheaded the attack against Chapultepec and carried the castle. The Marines suffered heavy casualties in hand-to-hand fighting. The Mexican forces fell back from Chapultepec and retreated within the city. The U.S force led by U.S. Marines then attacked the city. History records that a U.S. Marine raised the U.S. flag over the Mexican government center in Mexico City.
You are still young enough to join.