Written and submitted by Dick Martin
“From the Halls of Montezuma.” The opening line of the Marine Corps hymn is familiar to all Marines and probably brings a tear to the eye of many of them when they hear it. But where are the Halls of Montezuma? For emoting so much emotion, why don’t most people, including Marines, know where the Halls Montezuma are and where the opening lines to the hymn come from? As it turns out, the words come from a revision of an 1867 Jacques Offenbach French operetta. An operetta!! Just what grizzly marines did not want to hear. The Halls of Montezuma were part of the 1847 Battle of Chapultepec, which was part of the Mexican-American War, and which the Marines only played a very small part of. Most of America’s contribution to the battle came from the US Army. Probably the most significant part of the battle were the officers who played a big part in it. The commanding general was Winfield Scott, the most famous and highly thought of general at the time, despite his over 300 pound frame. Scott counted on his hand-picked future Confederate generals, Engineer Captain Robert E. Lee, Engineer Lieutenant PTG Beuregard, and future Union General Lt. Ulysses S Grant. They did not disappoint.
The Halls of Montezuma was the name of the original site of the National Palace in Mexico City, where General Scott established his headquarters after defeating the Mexican Army under the command of General Santa Anna, the victorious Mexican general at the Alamo. All of the original Aztec structures were long gone, not that it mattered to the Marines. The few Marines in the battle liked it and the rest is history.
Taken as a summary of part of an article in the September issue of Army magazine written by retired Lt. Gen Daniel P Bolger.