Cerro Gordo
Our Mexican-American 1847 game

The Jackson Gamers played this 1847 Mexican-American game at Hobbytown in North Jackson on July 3, 2004. Ed Sansing was the game-master, took the photos, and wrote most of this text.

The photo to the left shows the San Blas Battalion lined up on a ridge in the north part of the field. Along with the artillery battery in the background, they held this ridge for the whole game

The players

Robert Whitfield - 1st Division, 2nd Brigade & divisional artillery
Fred Diamond - 2nd Division
Jim Pitts - 1st Division, 1st Brigade & Cavalry Brigade

Jody MacDonald - 1st Division
Jim Woodrick - 2nd Division
Bill Estes - 3rd Division
Sean Pitts - Cavalry Division

The scenario that was read to the players

The war between Mexico and the United States, begun in early 1846, is headed toward its second year. Gen. Zachary Taylorís campaign in the north, beginning at the Battle of Palo Alto and culminating at the Battle of Buena Vista, ended any further Mexican threat against the lower Rio Grande.

On the evening of March 9, in four hours more than 10,000 men went ashore in landing craft, consisting of 65 heavy surf boats that had been towed to the spot by steamers. The troops proceeded inland over the sand hills with little opposition from the Mexican force of 4,300 behind the city's walls. The landing of artillery, stores, and horses, the last thrown overboard and forced to swim for shore, was slowed by a norther that sprang up on March 12 and blew violently for four days. On March 27, 1847, Vera Cruz capitulated.

Because on the coast the yellow fever season was approaching, Scott was anxious to move forward to the uplands at once, but not until April 8 was he able to collect enough pack mules and wagons for the advance. The first elements, under Bvt. Maj. Gen. David E. Twiggs, set out. He advanced confidently, though warned by Scott that a substantial army commanded by Santa Ana lay somewhere ahead. On April 11, after Twiggs had gone about 30 miles, his scouts brought word that Mexican guns commanded a pass near the hamlet of Cerro Gordo.

Fortunately for Twiggs, advancing on the morning of April 12, the Mexican gunners opened fire before he was within range and he was able to pull his forces back. Two days later Scott arrived with reinforcements, bringing his army up to 8,500. A reconnaissance by Capt. Robert E. Lee showed that the rough country to the right of El Telegrafo, which Santa Ana had considered impassable, could be traversed, enabling the Americans to cut in on the Mexican rear. Early on the morning of April 18 1847 the battle began.

A view of the Mexican lines, looking from north to south. In the foreground is the Mexican 1st division (commanded by Jody McDonald). One brigade is on the hill and the other is massed behind it. To the south is the 2nd division (Jim Woodrick). Behind his lines is the 2nd cavalry brigade (Sean Pitts).

The Americans assemble on the east edge of the board. These hardy veterans are - from left: Fred Diamond, Robert Whitfield and Jim Pitts. Fred's 2nd division will be screening the flank. The 1st division is set to drive down the road. Jim's cavalry brigade will be on the other flank.

A closer view of the 2nd cavalry brigade (2nd and 7th cav. regiments). The village of Cerro Gordo can also be seen.

The Mexicans set up with their 1st Division to the north and their 2nd Division in line to the south. Only the 2nd cavalry brigade was on the board. It was near the village behind the 2nd infantry.

Fred's artillery (Co. K, 1st artillery) goes into action at the eastern edge of the center hill. They stayed here most of the battle and repulsed several attacks.

The American Commanderís Instructions

You are Maj. General Winfield Scott and have at your command approximately 8,500 fighting men, almost all of them regulars, of the US Army of the West. Standing between you and Mexico City is Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Your mission is to defeat General Santa Anna and open the road to Mexico City.

The American Forces

U.S. Commander Ė Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott

First Division Ė Maj. Gen. Worth
First Brigade - Brig. Gen. Garland
2nd Artillery (as infantry) (regulars) (elite)
3rd Artillery (as infantry) (regulars) (elite)
4th Infantry (regulars) (veteran)
Second Brigade - Brig. Gen. Clark
5th Infantry (regulars) (veteran)
6th Infantry (regulars) (veteran)
8th Infantry (regulars) (veteran)
11th Infantry (regulars) (trained)
Divisional ArtilleryDuncanís battery, Co. A, 2nd Arty
(as played by Ringgold's flying battery) (regulars) (elite)

Second DivisionĖ Maj. Gen. Twiggs
Third Brigade - Brig. Gen. Smith
3rd Infantry (regulars) (veteran)
7th Infantry (regulars) (veteran)
U.S. Mounted Rifles (dismounted) (regulars) (veteran)
Fourth Brigade - Brig. Gen. Riley
2nd Indiana (volunteers) (green)
3rd Indiana (volunteers) (green)
1st Illinois (volunteers) (trained)
Washington & Baltimore battalion (volunteers) (trained)
Divisional ArtilleryTaylorís battery, Co. K, 1st Arty, (regulars) (elite)

Troops not in any division

Cavalry Brigade Ė Col. Harney
2nd U.S. Dragoons (regulars) (elite)
1st Tennessee Mounted Rifles (volunteers) (green)

Baggage Train (green)

The American Victory Conditions

You will receive victory points (a number of D6 rolls) for the following: (the players didn't know the value of each condition)

The Americans move forward in mass. Elements of Jim Woodrick's Mexicans, the 2nd Division, move to meet them.

The Americans elected to enter the battlefield concentrated on the southern half of the table (south of the stream). The 1st U.S. Divison would push down the road and toward the village. The 2nd U.S. Division would assist them and screen the flank.

The Mexican Commanderís Instructions

You are General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and have at your command approximately 12,000 men of the Army of Mexico. Coming at you is Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott with the bulk of the American forces and supplies he has off-loaded from ships at Vera Cruz. Your mission is to keep the American force from reaching Mexico City.

The Mexican Forces

Mexican Commander - Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

First Division - Gen. Pinzona
First Brigade
1st Line Infantry (regulars) (trained)
2nd Line Infantry (regulars) (trained)
4th Line Infantry (regulars) (trained)
Second Brigade
9th Line Infantry (regulars) (trained)
10th Line Infantry (regulars) (trained)
Veteran Militia of San Blas (militia) (trained)
Division Artillery - One Battery with two guns
and eight gunners (regulars) (trained)

Second Division - Gen. de la Vega
Third Brigade
3rd Line Infantry (regulars) (trained)
11th Line Infantry (regulars) (veteran)
12th Line Infantry (regulars) (trained)
Fourth Brigade
Regular Standing Bn of Mexico (regulars) (trained)
Active Militia of Lagos (militia) (green)
Active Militia of Celaya (militia) (green)
Active Militia of Puebla (militia) (green)
Division Artillery - One Battery of 2 guns
and 8 gunners in red coats, (militia) (green)

Third Division - Gen. Garcia
Fifth Brigade
1st Light Infantry (regulars) (veteran)
2nd Light Infantry (regulars) (veteran)
3rd Light Infantry (regulars) (veteran)
4th Light Infantry (regulars) (veteran)
Sixth Brigade
Grenadier Guards of the Supreme Powers (regulars) (veteran)
1st Active Militia of Mexico City (regulars) (trained)
2nd Active Militia of Mexico City (regulars) (trained)
Marine Battalion (regulars) (veteran)
Division Artillery - One Battery with two guns
and eight gunners (regulars) (trained)

Cavalry Division - Gen. Torrejon
First Cavalry Brigade
Tulancingo Cuirassiers (regulars) (veteran)
1st Cavalry (regulars) (veteran)
Second Cavalry Brigade
2nd Cavalry (regulars) (trained)
7th Cavalry (regulars) (trained)
Third Cavalry Brigade
1st group of Presidial companies (militia) (green)
2nd group of Presidial companies (militia) (green)
Militia Cavalry of Sonora (militia) (green)

The Mexican Victory Conditions

You will receive victory points (a number of D6 rolls) for the following: (the players didn't know the value of each condition)

The American Volunteer Brigade (2nd & 3rd Indiana, 1st Illinois and Washington & Baltimore Bn) make contact. In the background you can see the Mexican 1st Brigade (white pants) moving from their position behind the ridge to try and flank the Americans.

The first American attack has been repulsed. The Mexican infantry fled but the artillery battery held their position. The battery eventually reduces 2-3 infantry regiments before it is totally destroyed by rifle fire but it never routs.

Additional game rules/restrictions

  1. Since, historically, the Americans had made a good reconnaissance of the area, the Mexicans would set up first and then the Americans would set up after veiwing the Mexican deployment.
  2. The Mexicans could hide a number of units behind hills and in the village. They also were allowed to (and did) hold 1 division and 2 cavalry brigades off the board. They were allowed to bring them on following the reserve entry procedures in the Brom Standard rules.
  3. The Americans had to bring their supply train onto the board but did not have to get them across it.
  4. All American artillery moved as horse artillery and fired as field artillery.
  5. All Mexican artillery, once unlimbered, could only move if in the command radius of the Division Commander or higher and roll a 5 or 6.

The units that the Mexicans held off the board begin to arrive. Here Bill Estes' 5th Brigade, made up of the four Mexican Light Regiments arrives. In the background you can see several infantry and cavalry regiments in disorder.

The Mexican 1st brigade falls on the American flank.The American artillery held their positions and the infantry slowed the Mexicans until reinforcements (seen in the background) could arrive.


At the end of the game we totaled the number of dice each side would get:

The Americans were declared the victors.

The Americans have almost cleared the central hill. The last surviving gunners of the Mexican battery would die at their posts next turn. In the background you can see the last of the Mexican cavalry has arrived.

Their problem was that once on the board, they kept failing their command response and never moved forward to engage the Americans. In the very back corner the last Mexican brigade has also arrived but due to the Brom rules of delayed entry they came on the board 24 inches south of their intended entry point. This put them behind the village an in the middle of the routed troops. Only one regiment got into the action.

The Mexican view of the final positions. Two of their light regiments try to re-take the hill as the American line pushes forward. At this point we evaluated the objectives that each side had achieved and rolled the dice. The Americans won 75 to 68.

In the BROM STANDARD RULES, with the Mexican War Data Charts, which we used for this game, the Mexican army has penalties, compared to the Norteamericanos in Firing, Command response (the ability to move), Morale, and Close Combat (fighting hand to hand). They must compensate for this by numbers, and emphasizing their mounted arm, which is superior to the other parts of their army. Their artillery is equal to the American artillery when engaging targets in the open, but is unable to move and fire in the same turn, unlike the Gringos' cannons.

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