Note: I put a lot of research into this story, so I hope that it is for the most part historically accurate. At the end, there isn't much detail that I could find about what went on with the six cadets, so most of that is my own take on what could have happened.
The Battle of Chapultepec: September 13, 1847
((From the point of view of Second Lieutenant Lewis "Lo" Armistead.))
Above us, the flag flutters in the air, the brilliant colors of the stars and stripes. At our feet are the cypress knees, the cypresses that they are from stretching over us. After an artillery barrage from dawn yesterday, until dusk, and more firing upon the dawn of this day, General Scott has finally decided to send us in, towards the stone walls of Chapultepec Castle.
As we walk, for a moment my mind drifts towards what I've heard people saying about the war. While I don't agree with it, I've heard one of the other young officers, Ulysses Grant, believes that the war is injustice. But that isn't the case. There isn't anything wrong with this war, Texas wanted to join us, and it is more land to help our country to grow. If anything, this war isn't injustice, this war is allowing us to expand our nation. And that makes it worth it.
There is a grunt beside me, as one of the soldiers trips over a cypress knees and falls forward, catching himself by throwing up his hands in front of him. He isn't the first one to trip over the things that we aren't used to having to step over back in our own country and I hold out a hand towards him, to help him back to his feet.
"Thank you Lieutenant Armistead." I nod and smile faintly, quickening my step for a moment to fall back in beside George Pickett, who is also a Lieutenant. Although he is a West Pointer, he graduated dead last in his class there, something that we like to tease him for. I can't really talk though, seeing as I never graduated, thanks to a mess hall plate, which just happened to be in my hand, being cracked over the head of Jubal Early. But we are both in the same place now, fighting for our country.
Side by side, we clear the cypress grove, the men in a neat formation behind us, the higher ranking officers in front of us. But then they stop and Pickett and I exchanged looks. Now that we have left the groove, we stand more in the open, surely time is important. The expression is written plainly on his face, so that I can tell that he is thinking the very same thing. Why are we stopping?
"Where are the damn ladders?" My question is soon answered by the grumbling of the one of the officers in front of me and as I look up at the castle walls, I wonder why I didn't realize it right away. There was no way we could scale the walls without the ladders which should have been waiting here for us.
The wait seems to last forever, the battle seeming to have reached a standstill, although none of us say a word, just wait. We wait until at last the ladders are brought to us and a whop travels down the lines.
I go to one of the men bringing the ladders to us, push it up aside the wall of the castle and step back to allow the men access to it when I suddenly find myself falling, a blinding flash of pain in my shoulder. The next thing I know, I am lying on my side on the ground, and hear Pickett's voice from a short distance away. "Lo!"
Pushing myself up on my good arm, I see Pickett hesitate, glancing towards me, and then at the ladders which have all been lifted into position. I shake my head when he looks in my direction again. "Just go George, I'll be alright!"
For a moment longer, he stands there, but then I see him turn and leap towards the ladder as the hands of some of the men come under me, helping me back to my feet. From where I stand, the pain in my shoulder making me feel dizzy, I see another one of my friends, James Longstreet pass by, holding our nations colors above him. The material catches in the breeze as Longstreet reaches for something on the ground, a rifle, and then starts to fall, the flag toppling towards the ground.
"I've got it Pete!" And then Pickett is there, catching the flag before it can fall and leaping onto one of the ladders on his way to the top.
I step towards Longstreet who is already surrounded by a few other soldiers, holding my left arm against my stomach. "Is he alright?"
Longstreet sees me as the men help to support him, grimaces in pain. "How are you Lo?"
"I'm alright," I told him, watching him in concern. His wound is in the leg, and I can see how much pain he is in as the men start to guide him away. I can't climb the ladders with my shoulder, but I don't follow them right away, look instead back up towards the castle just in time to see the flag go over the top, Pickett the first to cross over the wall into Chapultepec.
((From the point of view of Juan Escutia.))
"¡Retirada! Retreat!" The cry echoes in my ears, although I believe I must have misheard it. They can't call for a retreat now, we've got to hold Chapultepec or die trying. But I haven't misheard it, I see General Monterde coming towards us.
"You've got to fall back boys," he said, and I just stare at him.
Beside me Juan de la Barrera, who is the oldest of us and who also shares my name, shakes his head. "We aren't leaving."
"What do you mean you aren't leaving?" Monterde asks.
"Just what he said." This time it is Oca who speaks. "We are staying here and defending this fort against the enemy."
We are running out of time to make a quick escape but none of us leave, and Monterde can see that nothing he says is going to make any difference. All of us are in this together, we can't just leave and not defend the place. If we don't defend the place, I am afraid that the American's will go for Mexico City. This whole war is unfair. Texas belongs to us, not to the United States, and they have no right to annex it into their own nation. And next they will only go for more land, and take what is rightfully ours. If we don't fight our hardest, I'm afraid we might lose the war.
The attackers come towards us and one of us, Vicente Suárez steps forward. "¡Para! Stop!" He cries out to them, but they don't stop, just continue to advance towards us.
Suárez moves forward, a bayonet in his hand as he lunges at one of them, although the enemy hesitates for a moment, as if they notice how young we all really are. But then, before my very eyes, as he stabs one of them in the stomach, they open fire and I can only watch in horror as his body falls against the floor of the fort.
In an instant we all move forward, Oca reaching him first and kneeling by his lifeless side before another round of rifle fire sends him falling on his side beside our first casualty.
My heart races in my chest and I grab the youngest of the six of us, well four now. "Come on, Francisco. ¡Vamos!"
I pull him back, away from the rifle fire. He's only 13, he's too young to die and suddenly I feel protective of him, as though his life in is my hands.
Looking around, I hear Barrera shout. He's going to the entrance, yells something about defending a gun from the enemy. But it's too loud for me to be able to make out his exact words. Everything is nothing but chaos.
Melgar comes over to me. "Juan, I'm going to the North side, will you be alright here?"
I nod, feeling numb as I fumbled to load a pistol, firing into the enemy. Looking up, I see Melgar go to the other end of the fort, and I inch that way forward with Francisco Márquez, just in time to see Melgar fire at one of the invaders, the enemy falling over at the impact. But just as my friend gets off that one shot, the Americans fire at him, all at once, hitting him in multiple places. Hurrying to his side, I think for sure that he must be dead, but Melgar opens his eyes and looks up at me so I glance desperately at Márquez. "Help me lift him."
Márquez gets on the other side of Melgar and together we carefully pick him up and take off to the side, placing him on a table. "Will you be alright here?" I ask him, "We must keep on fighting."
"I'll be fine." Melgar's voice is weak, but there is nothing that either of us can do about it and so we leave him there. I plan to go back to him when all of this is over, and make sure that he is brought to a doctor who will make sure that he does not meet the fate of Oca and Suárez.
But then I am drawn from my thoughts as I see the Americans advancing on us. Márquez and I back up slowly, until our backs are against the stone walls of the fort. There is no where else to go and we look at each other, wondering if this is the end. I don't want it to be, I'd rather that they kill me rather then Márquez. 13 is too young to die, at least I have gotten to live a few more precious years.
The sound of a rifle going off fills my ears, and my heart twists in horror as I watch Márquez's mouth open in shock, his hands flying to his stomach as the force of the impact knocks him over the edge of the stone wall. Turning my attention back towards the enemy, I realize that I am the only one left, and all I can do is stare at them.
A flag that lies crumpled against the wall of the fort catches my eyes and I kneel down, quickly picking it up before I hold it against me as one of the Americans speaks in my native language, his voice carrying a small accent. "Dame la bandera, hijo. Give me the flag, son."
I shake my head. I'm not going to part with the flag. If I can't do anything else, then I will make sure that the flag does not fall into enemy hands. My eyes travel back over the edge of the wall towards the form of Márquez far away on the ground. There is only one option left for me. Wrapping the flag around myself, I allow myself one last glance around, before I scale the wall and jump. There is no chance that I will survive the fall, but the flag will remain safe.