Small Wars Journal

Monterrey, 1846: Still Offering Urban Combat Lessons after all these Years

Mon, 03/06/2023 - 10:01pm

Monterrey, 1846: Still Offering Urban Combat Lessons after all these Years

Russell W. Glenn

             Suddenly the walls of Jericho crumbled and fell before them, and the people of Israel poured in to the city from every side and captured it! They destroyed everything in it, men and women, young and old; oxen; sheep; donkeys—everything….Then the Israelis burned the city and everything in it.[1]

Joshua 7: 20-23


             When quite all of them had reached the walls of Troy…they found the whole citadel full of battle and corpses….The wailing roused from sleep the children, whose tender spirit had never yet known cares. One after another they breathed their last. Some lay there who had seen their doom simultaneously with their dreams…The Trojans were being destroyed just as sheep are killed by jackals or by wolves….The Greeks did not escape unwounded…Many a man doubtless hit a comrade with a stone in the confusion and mixed his skull with his brain.[2]

                                                                                            Quintus of Smyrna


             After the fall of Tyre Alexander set out along the coastal road for Egypt. A march of some 150 miles brought him to Gaza…situated at the edge of the Egyptian desert and about one mile from the sea….The Gazans fought on until all their fighting men were slain, which can only mean that no quarter was given. Thus the road to Egypt was opened and Alexander’s line of communications rendered secure.[3]

                                                                                           J. F. C. Fuller

                                                                                          The Generalship of Alexander the Great


A 177-year look over our shoulders confirms both the consistency of urban warfare’s challenges and the availability of still-relevant lessons for those willing to take advantage of what history has to offer. Our focus is the Mexican-American War, that year of 1846 in particular. The urban area is Monterrey, Mexico. The personalities include several familiar, among them future President of the United States Zachary Taylor, George H. Thomas (later “the Rock of Chickamauga”), and Confederate President-to-be Jefferson Davis.

The Battle of Monterrey

             After a two-week march the invaders saw the cathedral spires of Monterrey. A huge fortress called the Citadel, together with fortifications of stone and adobe, protected the city. Closer in they heard church bells. Puffs of smoke came from the Citadel, and cannonballs bounced across the ground. Sharpshooters hunkered on the rooftops. As the Mexicans intended to defend their city from within, the Americans would have to dig them out.

                                                                                             Thomas B. Buell

The Warrior Generals[5]

September 19, 1846. General Zachary Taylor stands north of Monterrey as his army seeks to continue its advance. The city is one of Mexico’s largest, capital of the state of Nuevo Leon, and home to some 10,000−12,000 citizens. Taylor has already lost many of his original 15,000 soldiers to dysentery, measles, fever, and the country’s brutal late summer heat in coming this far. Now this new threat presents itself. Monterrey’s defenders have prepared forts, created defensive works, and reinforced existing structures in expectation of the Americans’ arrival. (See Map 1 with select locations identified; others mentioned herein are off the map.)[6] One such reconditioned edifice stands about a kilometer north of the city, an unfinished cathedral enclosed within bastioned walls some 200 meters on a side. This Citadel, or “Black Fort” as the American soldiers at times refer to it, houses twelve artillery pieces that cover roads entering Monterrey from the north and east. On the outskirts of the town’s northeastern corner is the four-gun redoubt La Teneria. A further series of small fortifications lie along the eastern and southeastern sides of the city.[7] Despite these imposing defenses, contemporary observer Joseph Reese Fry observed that the city’s “chief security is the stone wall of the houses…. Each dwelling is thus a separate castle, and the whole city one grand fortification.”[8] The daunting nature of the task notwithstanding, General Taylor has decided Monterrey must be taken. The commanding general’s objective: “Throw the Mexican army back more than three hundred miles [and] open the country to us as far as we choose to penetrate it up to the same point.”[9] Defeat will deny Mexican defenders the freedom to operate against American lines of communications while the city itself offers promise as a supply depot.

Map 1

Map 1: Plan of the city of Monterrey, State of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, 1846 (Annotated).

The Mexican commander, General Pedro de Ampudia, has had his approximately 7,000 men working to prepare the city for battle.[10] Houses within Monterrey have been loop-holed for musket-bearing infantry to fire on the Americans from behind cover. The streets provided defenders with innumerable locations for barricades.[11] Over forty guns, to include new British 9- and 12-pounders, back the infantry.[12] Taylor knows he can field less than 7,000 soldiers against his adversary. Regulars number 3,080 who, with some accompanying volunteers, are organized into the First and Second Divisions. The remainder of the 3,150 volunteers are assigned to a Field Division. Two mounted Texas regiments are separately known as the Texas Division.[13] The commanding general has underestimated the value of combined arms in taking an urban objective; he sees the fight as one for the musket and bayonet. He in any case has limited artillery. Likely recognizing the vulnerability and limited utility of cavalry in a built-up area, Taylor relegates that arm, over a quarter of his force, to operations outside the built-up area. Despite their leader’s lack of appreciation for the benefits of combined arms, the infantrymen are about to find out how much they appreciate support from other than bullet and blade alone.

Taylor plans to seize Monterrey by sending a division under General William J. Worth around the northern side of the city to block the sole Mexican withdrawal route and attack the city from the west. Taylor will lead simultaneous actions in the east to secure American supply lines, reinforce Worth’s movement as necessary, and conduct a demonstration to preclude the enemy’s reinforcing western positions resisting Worth.[14]

Worth sets out in the early afternoon of September 20th with a force numbering roughly 2,000 men. Remaining units under Taylor march toward Monterrey to demonstrate against its eastern and northeastern defenders. General Worth finds movement more difficult than envisioned; he orders his men into bivouac northwest of the city as darkness, rain, and cold envelops his Americans.[15] Renewing movement the following morning, his soldiers are in position by noon. They secure the western end of Loma Federacion, one of two hills overlooking the city from the west. They prepare artillery positions and turn the guns on enemy located on a neighboring high ground (La Independencia). The shelter of Monterrey’s distant buildings must look particularly attractive to the Americans as darkness brings with it another storm sufficiently severe to halt fighting until the next day.

As Worth’s soldiers advance farther toward Monterrey from the west on September 21st, Taylor commits his soldiers against the city from the opposite direction. Men break into its streets and secure a foothold despite stiff resistance. The enemy does not yield, firing muskets through mouseholes and from rooftop parapets, blunting American attempts to move through eastern neighborhoods.[16] Women and children flee the area as combat roars about them. Two artillerymen who will later gain fame fighting each other, George Thomas and Braxton Bragg, support their infantry, horses pulling guns and caissons into the streets. Lieutenant Thomas’s animals fall “screaming in a thrashing, bloody heap,” ravaged by the defenders’ fire. His men manhandle the cannon into position, engaging with canister to support their beleaguered comrades. Progress is slight. Casualties mount. Taylor orders a withdrawal. Bragg’s artillery suffers no less than that led by Thomas. Loss of animals and tight streets mean infantrymen returning the favor of support are the only way Bragg’s artillery pieces are not lost to the foe. Lifting and turning the gun carriages by hand, foot soldiers drag the weapons to safety before fresh horses are brought forward to haul them farther to the rear.[17] Taylor orders a second attack. No less than the first, it finds “every street blockaded, every house a fortification.” It too fails. American casualties number nearly 400 and include a wounded division commander.[18] Many of those remain in the open throughout the night, exposed to the same rain and cold suffered by their comrades to the west.

Americans attacking from the east take no further action on 22 September. Taylor’s men are exhausted after the intimate combat of the day before; “the previous hard fighting, the extraordinary excitement under alternate success and repulse...had so much weakened the men—that is, those left after the dreadful loss of life—that General Taylor concluded, cost what it might, to let [his men in the east] rest during the whole of the 22nd.”[19] Not so to the west. Having yet to assault the city proper, Worth’s force successfully attacks defenders on the remaining high ground outside Monterrey, taking the positions by late afternoon. The Americans have secured the western approaches to the city, cutting the Mexican force’s withdrawal route.

Perhaps due to the limited success of Taylor’s urban combat in the east, Ampudia orders the withdrawal of his men from that portion of the city’s outer defenses during the night of September 22−23. He concentrates these forces in the dense residential blocks around Monterrey’s cathedral and Great Plaza. The Mexican commander contacts Taylor to request evacuation of the city’s entire civilian population on the morning of the 23rd. The American refuses, perhaps recognizing the logistical burden his force would assume in providing for their care.[20] Perhaps instead, he recognizes how much his refusal continues to burden his adversary.

Morning, September 23rd: Taylor renews his attack against the eastern portions of the city. Colonel Jefferson Davis, Taylor’s son-in-law prior to the death of the latter’s daughter, leads Mississippi and Tennessee volunteers forward. In his biography of Zachary Taylor, future Civil War General Otis Howard would later write,

opposition from the barricades and housetops [quickly] became so terrific that [Davis’s] detachment was re-enforced. General Taylor sent him Bragg’s battery and other supports, including the Third Regular Infantry. The troops slowly made their way, now by breaking through the yard house-walls, now by clearing the flat roofs and using them like forts. The resistance was strong and dogged.[21]

Worth’s forces, attacking into the city from the west the same day, find the enemy has “erected across the streets solid masonry walls with embrasures for guns to fire grape, sweeping the street, [and] all the houses in the neighborhood [are] occupied by their infantry, mouse holes being made to enable them to fire in any direction.” The attackers apply a lesson learned at no little cost during the battle’s earlier fighting. Instead

of attempting to advance through fire-swept streets, as had been done on the first day, the attackers were more cautious and more practical. Their artillery...was used to fire through the streets while the infantry...began to burrow their way through the interior walls of the blocks of houses, thus providing for themselves, with pick and crowbar, covered ways toward the Plaza.[22]

Those breaking holes in walls “were followed by good marksmen who kept their foes too busy to hinder the work, and the marksmen were followed by cannon....These troops, before the night of the 23d, had, like so many moles, tunneled their way along till they had come to a street but one remove from the great plaza.”[23] With Worth threatening from the west and Taylor closing from the east, General Ampudia proposed surrender at 3:00 AM on September 24th. Taylor granted the request. He had lost 488 men killed or wounded in action; it was to be one of the Americans’ most costly actions in the war.[24]

Taylor agreed to an eight-week armistice, an action for which he later came under much criticism. Writing to the Secretary of War, Taylor justified his decision, stating that had he

insisted on more rigorous terms than those granted, the [cost] would have been...valuable lives and much damage to the city. The consideration of humanity was present to my mind during the conference which led to the convention....It was discovered that [the enemy’s] principal magazine, containing an immense amount of powder, was in the cathedral, completely exposed to our shells from two directions. The explosion of this mass of powder, which must have ultimately resulted from a continuance of the bombardment, would have been infinitely disastrous, involving the destruction not only of Mexican troops, but of non-combatants and even our own people, had we pressed the attack.[25]

General Winfield Scott would a half-year later likewise be concerned with the casualties assaulting a city could precipitate. Officers questioned his decision to besiege rather than assault the port of Veracruz containing 3,000 enemy and 15,000 civilian inhabitants. Scott “argued that an assault would be ‘an immense slaughter to both sides, including noncombatants Mexican men, women, and children.’”[26] Looking beyond the immediate tactical problem to the operational implications of such an attack, he also expressed concern that “such an assault could mean the loss of 2,000 to 3,000 of ‘our best men...and I have received but half the numbers promised me.’”[27] With the losses an assault was likely to precipitate, how, Scott contended, “could we hope to penetrate the interior?”[28] Veracruz fell after a short siege; the Americans moved with force intact toward the capture of Mexico City and victory.

History's advice

             Today you see us in the forest, but tomorrow you will see us in the cities.

                                                                                              A Vietcong leader, 1973[29]

The US Army’s 1914 “Memorandum in Reference to the Methods to be Employed in the Capture and Occupation of Latin-American Cities” likely drew its lessons primarily from the early 1914 attack on Veracruz, the same city that fell to Scott some seventy years before. It identified a number of valuable insights despite its cultural generalizations. Lending evidence to our observation that urban combat has retained many historical consistencies, its authors observed,

           In any warfare instituted against Latin-Americans, our troops will encounter a mode of defense rather foreign to modern tactical teachings and more in accordance with medieval times. These people pursue a style of warfare which consists primarily in the attack and defense of cities…. The mode of fighting inherited from his forefathers, i.e., ‘sniping’ from roof tops, cellars, etc. This method is used especially after the organized forces have been dislodged and the victorious troops are spread out to occupying the town.[30]

Its description of urban infrastructure and its influence on combat likewise seem prescient in terms of effective tactics as readers contemplate on what US and partner nation soldiers confronted during operations in early 21st century Afghanistan and Iraq:

The characteristics of Latin-American cities [include] a system of building construction characterized by rather narrow streets; thick masonry or adobe building walls set close to the sidewalks and without intervals between buildings; flat roofs usually intercommunicating in the same block and frequently having copings which afford cover from fire; large windows and doors, frequently barred; patios or interior courtyards through which all or nearly all houses in a block may be entered from the rear; and means for reaching roofs by trapdoors. Cellars with apertures opening the street are also found.[31]

The memorandum offers additional lessons pertinent for anyone planning or managing urban operations today. Regarding “lines of the sections [unit boundaries],” for example, “main streets should not be selected for section lines as a division of authority at such points is undesirable…. No method of division should be used which would divide the authority on any particular street.”[32] This guidance joins other insights from our overview of Monterrey’s 1846 capture and the 1914 memorandum to provide several points worth keeping in mind given ongoing fighting in Ukraine and the inevitable instances of urban warfare to come.

  • Designating unit boundaries during urban operations is a dynamic task demanding reevaluation after any change in task or mission. Unit boundaries: the seemingly simple is anything but. The above guidance from 1914—“Main streets should not be selected for section lines…. No method of division should be used which would divide the authority on any particular street”—inherently recognizes a basic operational tenet: Boundaries during combat operations, urban or otherwise, have to be easily distinguishable in daylight, limited visibility, or complete darkness. Soldiers must be able to identify a boundary regardless of conditions for they must not cross it without coordinating with the adjacent organization. Nor is an individual or unit to fire across the boundary without such coordination. To do otherwise puts neighboring friendly forces at unnecessary risk. Thus the need not to “divide the authority on any particular street” or other boundary, be it a waterway, rooftop, park, or another. (In other words, never draw a boundary down the center of a road or river, for example.) By designating the boundary as the edge of any such feature, only one unit “owns” it. Anyone moving along the street, river, path, or otherwise should therefore be one of three things: (1) a member of the owning organization or another whose leaders have coordinated with the owners for its use, (2) noncombatants, or (3) enemy. As the leaders of the owning unit should ensure their soldiers know when friendly forces are expected, any other forms coming toward soldiers in the dark can safely be assumed to be either noncombatants or enemy. Hopefully the former’s movements are restricted by curfews or commonsense, especially during poor visibility periods (not always the case, unfortunately). Chances are, therefore, that those unknowns approaching are foes. That is notably true if they are armed.

But an urban boundary well-designed for today’s mission might not effectively serve tomorrow’s mission. A wise designation when the mission involves combat can prove otherwise once fighting ends. At that point the importance of a clearly distinguishable physical feature lessens in importance. It might be wiser to follow administrative borders between civil authorities (prefectures, wards, counties, smaller cities that are part of a larger urban area, or police precincts, for example). That way an organization—perhaps an occupying force or one rendering aid post-disaster—will have to coordinate with fewer—perhaps far fewer—civil authorities than were “traditional” physical-feature boundaries that cut across such civil demarcations maintained. Obviously, this preference for aligning military with civil boundaries also applies if the assisting organization is an other-than-military one, e.g., nongovernmental, intergovernmental, or national aid entity such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

  • Despite the well-advised guidance that defeat of the enemy’s force rather than capture of its cities wins wars, urban areas remain vital objectives, arguably increasingly so. Defeat of the enemy force is thought to be the default precursor to military victory. Oft true in history, many are the recent and ongoing conflicts—that in Ukraine among them…at least at the time of this writing—the resolution of which is consequent of other than decisive military defeat. Ukraine’s just-passed first year of war repeatedly demonstrated the importance of the country’s cities as transportation nodes, foci of international attention, and symbolic representations of Ukrainian resolve. Kiev’s successful defense was key to Ukraine’s demonstrating commitment to continued resistance and surprising (to some) capabilities of its military. It was no less an embarrassment to Russia’s government. Vengeful missile attacks on it and other prominent Ukrainian urban areas reflect that their symbolism and infrastructure significance have not diminished in the eyes of the intruders.
  • Streets are no safer for infantry in combat today than they were 2,000 years ago. Roman soldiers fighting to put down the Jewish Revolt in what is now northern Israel attacked into the town of Japha in 67 CE. While male residents fought them mano a mano in the streets, “from the house-tops the women pelted them with anything they could lay their hands on.”[33] Dangers from above still exist during urban confrontations though the missiles are more likely Molotov cocktails or anti-tank projectiles than roof debris. Fighting often is still up close and personal in the streets, this even if the confrontations tend to be measured in meters or tens of meters rather than arms’ length. One lesson that seems less often forgotten (and certainly one relearned on occasions when it is): survival much favors those who go through buildings during urban combat rather than by them on adjacent streets. Mouse-holing by Zachary Taylor’s soldiers has historical company in similar tactics employed by American infantrymen in 1945 Manila, men and women in the Israel Defense Forces during the past two decades, Philippine soldiers in 2017 Marawi, and virtually any other force conducting extended street fighting today or in centuries past. Streets are an infantryman’s least desirable means of advancing during urban combat. Shovels are fundamental survival equipment in rural terrain; breaching tools are their urban counterparts.
  • Romans fighting on Judaean streets in 66−73 CE would have loved artillery support. British, French, German, and American tanks and other armored or mechanized vehicles are on the way to Ukraine as I put the finishing touches on this essay. Most individuals might envision those vehicles engaging the Russian foe across open ground over distances of thousands of meters. That is sure to happen. Hopefully no less surely, those training and being trained appreciate the importance of these weapons systems as infantry’s partners in urban fighting. In doing so, they recognize that a combined arms force, not an infantry-pure one, is fundamental to success during operations in built-up areas. Canadian engineers blew mouseholes in walls during fighting to take the Italian town of Ortona in 1943, later using the abundance of captured German demolitions to wire entire buildings and drop them on enemy defenders.[34] American soldiers in 1945 Manila benefited from direct fire artillery support against targets such as the Intramuros. (See Map 2. The appreciation was less for US personnel ducking long rounds that went over rather than into its walls.)[35] Foot soldiers combating attackers in 1968 Hue relied on tanks and six-barreled 106mm Ontos anti-armor vehicles to suppress Viet Cong and North Vietnamese adversaries. Lieutenant Colonel John Brooks believed combined arms were central to his 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment’s success during Operation Just Cause in late 1989-early 1990 Panama. As in Monterrey, vehicles (rather than horses) towed 105mm howitzers as far forward as was feasible before soldiers’ muscles finalized positioning.[36] His men also effectively employed Vulcan antiaircraft systems in a ground support role during the fighting.[37]

Map 2: Closing Days in Battle of Manila, 23 February − 3 March 1945

But let’s return to those tanks en route to Ukraine. Yes, training Ukrainian soldiers on their vehicles certainly should include tactics for armored and mechanized operations on city streets, but that alone will be insufficient. American tankers deployed to Mogadishu after the early October 1993 Black Hawk Down incident. They found their 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) counterparts already in-country inexperienced in infantry-armor tactics. Proficiency in one’s own branch is no guarantee of combined arms effectiveness. Such operations are not the sum of tactics employed by the parts involved. Properly applied, the whole is far greater than the sum of the components taking the fight to the adversary. The soldiers involved are safer for their combined proficiency as well. Suitably trained infantrymen know how to protect their brethren encased in steel from adversary infantry employing anti-tank weapons or stealthily placing mines on urban streets. Well-trained infantrymen and their armored and mechanized counterparts likewise understand that some rounds fired by those vehicles propel potentially deadly sabots to a gun’s front in expanding arcs.[38] Other dangers include overpressure when artillery or tank main guns fire from semi-enclosed areas such as walled gardens. Resulting damage to internal organs can be fatal.

The mix of tank ammunition main gun rounds should differ from that in other environments when the vehicles operate in built-up areas. Tanks can breach walls from afar so that infantrymen can dash from the protection of one building through the newly made hole in another, but there is something of an artform involved. Training (inert) or unfused rounds are better for holing than those exploding on impact as all of the projectile’s energy is directed forward rather than dissipated with a blast. Sabot anti-tank rounds are less effective yet. In addition to being purveyors of those potentially lethal sabots, the thin metal penetrators so encased punch only small holes in masonry. As with drawing unit boundaries, the nuances inherent in combined arms urban warfare are numerous. They influence every aspect of training, supplying, leading, and employing those several parts that together compose potentially hyper-effective combined arms teams.

  • The infantryman maneuvering with a rifle and his combined arms comrades finds urban combat as exhausting as did his forebears wielding swords. Digging through walls and repeatedly dealing with the stress of clearing rooms and buildings tasks both body and mind. Urban warriors suffer extraordinary physical and mental fatigue during urban military operations. Exhausting for all, attackers arguably find this to be the case more so than defenders. The defender frequently has the advantage of knowing the ground; their mouseholes and other preparations can be made before fighting starts. Movement is essential if attackers are to retain the initiative and outflank their foes; digging those holes is more stressful yet when an ambush might await on the opposite side of the wall.[39] Regardless of whether the task is attack or defend, the fit soldier is one better prepared to combat exhaustion as well as his or her foe. Such exhaustion is not a function of physical and mental exertion alone. Leadership and logistics play vital roles. The well-led, well-fed, and well-rested soldier is less likely to suffer the worst of fatigue’s punishment.

Coming months and years will bring more urban combat to today’s and tomorrow’s soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors. (Yes, sailors; US Navy personnel, for example, played an essential role in the 1968 recapture of Hue via their resupply operations conducted from the Perfume River. This is in addition to the presence of navy corpsmen as medics during any US Marine ground force action.) We noted that cities are focal points of power and nodes of influence no less today than previously, perhaps to a greater extent than ever before now that more of the world’s population resides and works in urban areas. Concentrations of media, infrastructure, political influence, and economic sway increasingly make urban areas essential foci during military undertakings.

While much remains the same, change has not entirely overlooked urban combat. That change, however, is sometimes unkind to those whose duties require their contesting control of cities. Increased urbanization means cities have far larger noncombatant populations than in the past; Seoul, for example, had a population of roughly one million when United Nations forces recaptured it in 1950. Today the urban area reaches well beyond its mid-last century bounds with a population exceeding 23 million, growth that fails to fully reflect the magnitude of the increase in the numbers of buildings, vehicles, streets, and vast area it covers, all working to complicate combatants’ operations (and those of public officials in peacetime). Also greater than in the past: Civilized governments’ efforts to restrain loss of innocent lives and damage to urban infrastructure. Significant constraints, if not proscriptions, on use of artillery or aerial bombardment have increased dramatically in recent decades. History has shown cities to be unkind to warrior and noncombatant alike even in the face of such initiatives. The future promises little relief, but past lessons such as those from fighting in 1846 Monterrey can lessen future suffering.


[1] Josh. 7: 20-23, The Living Bible, Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1973.

[2] Quintus of Smyrna, The War at Troy: What Homer Didn’t Tell, NY: Barnes & Noble, 1996, pp. 236−8

[3] J. F. C. Fuller. The Generalship of Alexander the Great. New York: Da Capo, 1960, pp. 216−8.

[4] This resource is available in a number of translations, to include Josephus, The Jewish War, trans. G.A. Williamson, New York: Penguin, 1981; Josephus, The New Complete Works of Josephus, trans. William Whiston, Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1999; and Josephus, The Works of Flavius Josephus: The Excelsior Edition, trans. William Whiston, London: William P. Nimmo, undated.

[5] Thomas B. Buell, The Warrior Generals: Combat Leadership in the Civil War, New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998, p. 19.

[6] Ackerman lithograph, “Plan of the city of Monterey State of New Leon [Mexico],1846,” University of North Texas Libraries crediting University of Texas at Arlington Library, (accessed 4 March 2023). A virtually identical map can be found in Oliver Otis Howard, General Taylor, New York: Appleton and Company, 1892, p. 173.

[7] Robert Selph Henry, The Story of the Mexican War, New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1950, p. 145.

[8] Howard, General Taylor, pp. 152-3. Fry, an author of The Life of Zachary Taylor (Joseph Reese Fry and Robert Taylor Conrad, Philadelphia: Grigg, Elliot, & Co., 1847), was either present during events at Monterrey or reconstructed them “from the narrative of an able observer” (Howard, p. 152). As a point of interest, General Oliver Otis Howard was a Union general in the American Civil War and later head of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

[9] Edward D. Mansfield, The Mexican War: History of its Origin, Indianapolis: A. S. Barnes, 1849, p. 68. The quotation is taken from Taylor’s correspondence written after the battle.

[10] Henry, The Story of the Mexican War, p. 142.

[11] Henry, The Story of the Mexican War, p. 145. “Loopholes” are small holes hacked through walls to provide a means of engaging an enemy with little exposure to return fire.

[12] Henry, The Story of the Mexican War, 146; and American Military History, Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 1989, p. 169. Howard reported the Mexican strength at “between 7,000 and 8,000 regular Mexican troops, and, according to estimate, probably 3,000 militia....His artillery numbered forty-two cannon.” Howard, General Taylor, p. 153.

[13] American Military History, pp. 168−9.

[14] Howard, General Taylor, 154-5; and Henry, The Story of the Mexican War, p. 146.

[15] Henry, The Story of the Mexican War, p. 146.

[16] “Mouseholes” are passageways hewn through walls, ceilings, or other building features to allow personnel to move within or between structures while minimizing their exposure to enemy fire as would be the case were they to advance on streets.

[17] Henry, The Story of the Mexican War, 148; Howard, General Taylor, pp. 164−9; “George Henry Thomas” In Webster’s American Military Biographies, Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam, 1978, p. 435. Thomas was breveted captain as a result of his actions at Monterrey. He would later be breveted major after Buena Vista in later February 1847. Another artilleryman, Thomas J. (later “Stonewall”) Jackson, arrived in Monterrey too late for the fighting under Taylor, but would achieve the unmatched recognition of three brevets for actions under the command of General Winfield Scott during later actions.

[18] Henry, The Story of the Mexican War, p. 151.

[19] Howard, General Taylor, p. 170.

[20] Howard, General Taylor, 1p. 74; and Edward D. Mansfield, The Mexican War: History of its Origin, Indianapolis: A. S. Barnes, 1849, p. 72.

[21] Howard, General Taylor, p. 175.

[22] Henry, The Story of the Mexican War, pp. 151–2. There is evidence that the lessons learned in Monterrey may have served the Americans well the following year. Writing of the battle for Mexico City, Lieutenant Ralph W. Kirkham describes two occasions during which Winfield Scott’s soldiers avoided enemy fire by using pickaxes to create passages through building walls. See Ralph W. Kirkham, The Mexican War Journal & Letters of Ralph W. Kirkham, Robert Ryal Miller, Ed. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1993, pp. 63−5.

[23] Howard, General Taylor, 175−6.

[24] Mansfield, The Mexican War, pp. 64 & 359.

[25] Mansfield, The Mexican War, pp. 65−6.

[26] Paul C. Clark, Jr., and Edward H. Moseley, “Veracruz, 1847-A Grand Design,” Joint Forces Quarterly, Winter 1995-96: p. 110. Interestingly, Scott, like Taylor, refused to allow civilians to leave Veracruz despite requests from foreign consuls for the safe passage of women, children, and themselves. Scott’s concerns regarding noncombatant casualties would be validated a during the 1914 operations in the port city. As would be repeatedly the case in later decades and into the 21st century, it was the innocent who suffered most. American infantry in 1914 Veracruz would find “Mexican resistance was particularly difficult to cope with since some of the fire came from snipers concealed in the hotels and in the buildings lining Morelos and the other principal streets of the city.” The attackers returned “the fire of the enemy—both real and imaginary. They fired at windows, at rooftops, into church steeples, and along the streets and the colonnades of hotels…. It is not surprising that there were far more casualties among the bystanders than among the combatants.”  From Robert E. Quirk, An Affair of Honor: Woodrow Wilson and the Occupation of Veracruz, New York: W.W. Norton, 1967, p. 96. Readers interested in further reading on Winfield Scott’s spring 1847 operations against Veracruz can find additional information in the following: Robert Selph Henry, The Story of the Mexican War, NY: Da Capo, 1989; Douglas Southall Freeman, R.E. Lee, vol. I. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934; J. Overton, “Vera Cruz, 1847,” in On Contested Shores: The Evolving Role of Amphibious Operations in the History of Warfare, Timothy Heck and B.A. Friedman, Eds., Quantico: Marine Corps University Press, 2020, pp. 73−82; John S.D. Eisenhower, So Far From God: The U.S. War with Mexico, 1846-1848, New York: Anchor, 1990; John S.D. Eisenhower, Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott, New York: Free Press, 1997; K. Jack Bauer, The Mexican War, 1946-1848, New York: Macmillan, 1974.

[27] Clark and Moseley. “Veracruz, 1847,” p. 110.

[28] Clark and Moseley. “Veracruz, 1847,” pp. 110−11.

[29] H. D. S. Greenway. “A Night With the Vietcong: ‘Today the Forest, Tomorrow the Cities.’” Washington Post, 15 March 1973,  p. A16+.

[30] “Memorandum in Reference to The Methods to be Employed in the Capture and Occupation of Latin-American Cities,” Veracruz, Mexico: Headquarters, US Expeditionary Forces, 10 August 1914, p. 1.

[31] “Memorandum,” pp. 3−4.

[32] “Memorandum,” pp. 5−6.

[33] Josephus, The Jewish War, London: Penguin, 1981, p. 213.

[34] Jayson Geroux interview with John Spencer, “Case Study #5-Ortona,” Urban Warfare Project Case Study Series, West Point: Modern Warfare Institute,

[35] Map by Dale Andrade, US Army Center of Military History Luzon Campaign Brochure, “Luzon - The Capture of Manila, 23 February - 3 March, 1945,” accessible from University of Texas at Austin, Perry-Castaneda Library World War II Map Collection, undated.

[36] Author interview with Colonel Johnny Brooks, Commander, 4-17 Infantry Battalion, 7th Infantry Division during Operation Just Cause in Panama. Interview at Fort Monroe, VA, 23 March 1994.

[37] Johnny Brooks email to author, 29 January 1999.

[38] Sabot: “A device that allows a projectile of a smaller caliber to be fired from a weapon of a larger caliber by filling the weapon's boreand keeping the projectile centered. The sabot normally separates and falls away from the projectile a short distance from the muzzle,” The Free Dictionary by Farlex, undated,

[39] USASOC Information Paper, Subject: Notes from Conversation with COL Wilson, British Special Operations Liaison, 26 April 1993.

About the Author(s)

Dr. Russell Glenn served as Director, Plans and Policy; Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2; U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. He is author of Rethinking Western Approaches to Counterinsurgency and author/editor of Trust and Leadership: The Australian Army Approach to Mission Command as part of the Association of the United States Army book program.



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