"The Storming of Chapultepec"

This print depicts American forces attacking the fortress palace of Chapultepec on Sept. 13th, 1847. General Winfield Scott, in the lower left on a white horse, led the southern division of the U.S. Army that successfully captured Mexico City during the Mexican American War. The outcome of American victory was the loss of Mexico's northern territories, from California to New Mexico, by the terms set in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. It should be noted that the two countries ratified different versions of the same peace treaty, with the United States ultimately eliminating provisions for honoring the land titles of its newly absorbed Mexican citizens. Despite notable opposition to the war from Americans like Abraham Lincoln, John Quincy Adams, and Henry David Thoreau, the Mexican-American War proved hugely popular. The United States' victory boosted American patriotism and the country's belief in Manifest Destiny.
This large chromolithograph was first distributed in 1848 by Nathaniel Currier of Currier and Ives, who served as the "sole agent." The lithographers, Sarony & Major of New York (1846-1857) copied it from a painting by "Walker." Unfortunately, the current location of original painting is unknown, however, when the print was made the original painting was owned by a Captain B. S. Roberts of the Mounted Rifles. The original artist has previously been attributed to William Aiken Walker as well as to Henry A. Walke. William Aiken Walker (ca 1838-1921) of Charleston did indeed do work for Currier and Ives, though not until the 1880's and he would have only have been only 10 years old when this print was copyrighted. Henry Walke (1808/9-1896) was a naval combat artist during the Mexican American War who also worked with Sarony & Major and is best known for his Naval Portfolio.
Most likely the original painting was done by James Walker (1819-1889) who created the "Battle of Chapultepec" 1857-1862 for the U.S. Capitol. This image differs from the painting commissioned for the U. S. Capitol by depicting the troops in regimented battle lines with General Scott in a more prominent position in the foreground. James Walker was living in Mexico City at the outbreak of the Mexican War and joined the American forces as an interpreter. He was attached to General Worth's staff and was present at the battles of Contreras, Churubusco, and Chapultepec. The original painting's owner, Captain Roberts was assigned General Winfield Scott to assist Walker with recreating the details of the battle of Chapultepec. When the painting was complete, Roberts purchased the painting. By 1848, James Walker had returned to New York and had a studio in New York City in the same neighborhood as the print's distributor Nathaniel Currier as well as the lithographer's Napoleon Sarony and Henry B. Major.
This popular lithograph was one of several published to visually document the war while engaging the imagination of the public. Created prior to photography, these prints were meant to inform the public, while generally eliminating the portrayal of the more gory details. Historians have been able to use at least some prints of the Mexican War for study and to corroborate with the traditional literary forms of documentation. As an eyewitness, Walker could claim accuracy of detail within the narrative in his painting. The battle is presented in the grand, historic, heroic style with the brutality of war not portrayed. The print depiction is quite large for a chromo of the period. In creating the chromolithographic interpretation of the painting, Sarony & Major used at least four large stones to produce the print "in colours," making the most of their use of color. They also defined each figure with precision by outlining each in black. This print was considered by expert/collector Harry T. Peters as one of the finest ever produced by Sarony & Major.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
associated date
Currier, Nathaniel
Scott, Winfield
Sarony & Major
Walker, James
Physical Description
ink (overall material)
paper (overall material)
image: 23 1/2 in x 36 in; 59.69 cm x 91.44 cm
Place Made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Peters Prints
Patriotism and Patriotic Symbols
Chronology: 1840-1849
Uniforms, Military
Mexican War
Cultures & Communities
Government, Politics, and Reform
Domestic Furnishings
Mexican America
Battle of Chapultepec, 1847
Mexican War
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
Mexican America
Peters Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Peters, Harry T.. Currier & Ives, Printmakers to the American People Volume Two
referenced; illustrated
Peters, Harry T.. America on Stone
Tyler, Ronnie C.. The Mexican War, A Lithographic Record
Marzio, Peter. The Democratic Art
Title (Spanish)
"El Ataque a Chapultepec"
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection

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