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The Illinois National Guard marked the 176th anniversary of the Battle of Cerro Gordo during the Mexican American War in 1847 with presentations at the Cerro Gordo, Illinois, Village Board meeting April 17.
The presentations were part of the year-long 300th birthday celebration of the Illinois National Guard and its shared history with communities around the state.
“The men and women serving in the Illinois National Guard are part of our community. The Illinois National Guard is part of our communities,” said Col. Lenny Williams, Chief of Staff, Illinois Army National Guard. “We’re taking this time to do these community events to honor our shared history. This is a unique opportunity to see our community members and talk about our shared history.”
On April 17, 1847, Soldiers from the 3rd and 4th Illinois Infantry Regiments, from small communities in central Illinois, placed artillery on the area adjacent to the Cerro Gordo in Mexico. The next day, despite being greatly outnumbered, these Citizen-Soldiers captured that hill and nearly captured General Santa Anna himself. The speed and aggressiveness of their attack forced Santa Anna to flee the battlefield on horseback famously leaving behind his carriage, a chest full of gold, his chicken dinner, and his cork leg.
“Members of your community made up the 3rd and 4th Infantry Regiments back then,” Williams said. “The Battle of Cerro Gordo clinched the war. We have units in the Illinois National Guard which traces its lineage to the 3rd and 4th Infantry Regiments.”
Williams said it’s important for residents to know the history of their community and why the name was changed in 1855.
“The name of this community was changed to Cerro Gordo because so many from this community fought in the battle 176 years ago,” he said. “The Soldiers from the 3rd and 4th Infantry Regiments faced General Santa Anna and his 12,000 Soldiers and defeated him with about a third of that. Soldiers from this community chased Santa Anna from the battle. He gets away but we get his cork leg.”
Williams thanked the Cerro Gordo community on behalf of the Illinois National Guard leaders.
“Thank you to your community for your support of the military,” he said.
Williams presented certificates to the Cerro Gordo American Legion Post 117 and Boy Scout Troop 39 for their service in the community.
Williams read a letter from Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the Adjutant General of Illinois, and Commander of the Illinois National Guard, which thanked the village of Cerro Gordo for its long friendship with the Illinois National Guard.
“This victory was not an easy one. The Soldiers were outnumbered, and the enemy was entrenched,” Neely’s letter read in part. “Often forgotten is their commanding general, Brig. Gen. James Shields, was seriously wounded in battle and carried from the field, along with six Illinois Soldiers who gave their lives in the victory. These six Soldiers were friends, neighbors, fathers, and sons of this community. When they brought the cork leg back to Illinois, and renamed the village Cerro Gordo, it was not only to celebrate a great victory, but to also honor those killed in action and their families who were left behind.”