When the Mexican Army was crushed at Churubusco (September 1847), eighty-four San Patricios were captured by General Winfield Scott’s Army. Needless to say, the conquering soldiers reviled the deserters, but Mexican history refers to the captives’ “extraordinary courage” in the battle. Swift courts-martial led to the execution by hanging of fifty men, reduced charges for fifteen and the pardoning of five. The American disdain for the deserters is underscored by the Army’s decision to hang, rather than to execute by firing squad, the deserters. However, the Mexican attitude toward the same executions is quite the contrary: a memorial service for the San Patricios is held every September 12th – the day of execution – in Mexico City attended by children from the nearby San Patricios school and by Mexican and Irish officials. The memorial is a stone plaque in San Jacinto Plaza expressing the gratitude of Mexico to the men who sacrificed their lives for Mexico in the invasion of the North Americans. Another memorial service is held on St. Patrick’s Day.
John Riley escaped hanging because he deserted before Congress officially declared war. He was flogged and branded with a “D” on each cheek. He remained in Mexico for some time and disappeared, perhaps returning to Ireland.