Deeper Into Jeopardy! I: Battle Nations – $1600

Category: BATTLE NATIONS (17-01-2014)

$1600 clue: Country that hosted the 1847 Battle of Chapultepec.

Correct response (highlight to see): MEXICO

The gist: The Battle of Chapultepec was an American victory during the Mexican-American War, taking place at Chapultepec Castle west of Mexico City. President Polk’s manifest destiny was churning westward across the continent, eventually reaching the Republic of Texas, which Mexico didn’t recognize (they still considered Texas part of their territory, despite the 1835-36 Texas Revolution). The Mexican-American war broke out when U.S. troops moved into Texas and northern Mexico to enforce the American claim on Texas south of the Nueces River. American troops advanced on Chapultepec because of its strategic position with regard to Mexico City. Fighting began with American artillery fire on September 12 and the charge, ordered by Winfield Scott, commenced the next day. The Americans suffered far fewer losses than the Mexicans, although several high-ranking U.S. officers were wounded, and the Mexican General Nicolas Bravo was taken prisoner. American troops went on from Chapultepec to storm and occupy Mexico City (remembered in the opening line of the Marines’ Hymn, “From the halls of Montezuma”), and the war would be declared won in February of the following year.

In Jeopardy!: I’ll admit to never having heard of this battle before, but I suspect (and hope) that someone who went through an American school system would have some knowledge of the Mexican-American War that might include Chapultepec. Luckily, you don’t need to know anything about the actual battle to know that it must have taken place in Mexico. The key to getting it right is to recognize “Chapultepec” as a classic Aztec-sounding word (that is, deriving from the Nahuatl language that the Aztec people spoke – it happens to mean “at the grasshopper’s hill”) – lots of ‘p’s and ‘ch’s, L’s and T’s together, and a ‘pec’ on the end of a word make it a sure bet it’s coming from Mexico. You could also realize that 1847 was in the middle of the Mexican-American War, but relying on the year is not a great idea as there plenty of other battles being fought in the mid-19th century, and in fact the Battle of Buena Vista, also in 1847 and part of the same conflict, shows up in a few clues in the Archive as well. However, if the clue mentions the Battle of Chapultepec, the correct response is always “the Mexican-American War” or something like it. If it just mentions Chapultepec without the battle, there are two choices: it’s either Maximilian, the Emperor of Mexico installed by Napoleon III from 1864-1867 who took up residence in Chapultepec Castle, or it’s Mexico City in geography questions, which just happens to be nearby. Should be pretty easy to tell which one they’re going for from the clue.