Contents Introduction 7 Chronology 12 Background to war Different cultures collide 13 Warring sides Courage the only common trait 19 Outbreak Opening guns 26 The fighting War across the continent 34 Portrait of a soldier U.S. Grant: From the depths to the heights 64 The world around war Progress and stagnation 67 Portrait of a civi i,;r Mary Ann Maverick: A Texas pioneer 76 How the war ended The Halls of Montezuma 80 Conclusion and consequences A new Colossus is born 88 Further reading 93 Index 94
IntroductionThe war with Mexico was one of the most democratic republic for almost ten years. Thedecisive conflicts in American history. For Mexican government, however, repudiatedMexico, the war was its greatest disaster. It Santa Annas treaty and maintained thatwas a bitter, hard-fought conflict that raged Texas continued to be a province of Mexico.through the northern deserts of Mexico, the While campaigning for the Americanfever-ridden gulf cities, and the balmy presidency in 1844, James K. Polk vowed tohaciendas of California, reaching its climax at annex Texas and acquire California and allthe fabled Halls of Montezuma in Mexico City. the lands in between, and the MexicanAlthough the numbers of troops involved were government feared a confrontation withnot large by Napoleonic standards, the their expansionist neighbor. When Polk wasfighting was ferocious and deadly. elected, in March 1845, and Texas was To Mexicans, the immediate cause of the annexed in December of that year, Mexicowar was the Texas problem. Texas had been a threatened war.festering sore on the Mexican body politic It was not surprising then, that when Polkfor more than a decade. After Texas troops sent an emissary to Mexico City offering tosmashed the dictator Santa Annas army atSan Jacinto in March 1836, hoping to save Go west young men. Go west! rang out the cry, ashis own life, Santa Anna granted thousands began the trek toward the setting sun. They came by ship, by covered wagon, and some even crossedindependence to the rebellious province the continent on foot. When gold was discovered inwith the Treaty of Velasco. As a result, Texas California in 1848, the west was viewed as the newmaintained its status as an independent El Dorado. (The Church of Latter-day Saints Museum)
8 Essential Histories • The Mexican Warpurchase that countrys western lands, hewas ignored. The American president wasprepared to purchase Mexican territory, buthe was also prepared, if necessary, to take itby force. To add to the tension there was a disputeover the location of the southern boundaryof Texas. The Texans claimed it was theRio Grande River; the Mexicans said it wasthe Nueces River, in some places 140 milesfurther north. In the spring of 1846, Polk sent troops tothe area. An American army under GeneralZachary Taylor crossed the Nueces andheaded south to the Rio Grande. At the sametime a Mexican army crossed the Rio Grandeand headed north to the Nueces, In lateApril the armies clashed in the first battle ofthe war. An overconfident Mexican governmentdeclared war on the United States on 23 April1846, believing that their experiencedmilitary forces could crush the impudentAmericans and their minuscule regular army,lhis was to be a fatal mistake. On 13 May 1846, the Congress of theUnited States declared war on Mexico afteran address by President Polk in which hepronounced: American blood has been shedon American soil. The war was greetedenthusiastically in the southern and westernstates but was bitterly opposed by many ofthe eastern and New England states, whobelieved the spoils of a gigantic land grabwould result in an extension of slavery. During the campaigns in northernMexico, the American invaders foughtpitched battles in fortified cities and into Mexico, capturing Chihuahua City.mountain passes, bringing heavy casualties Continuing deeper into enemy territory, hefor both sides. occupied Torreon before turning east to link The western theater presented American up with Taylors troops in Monterey.troops with pitiless weather and semi-arid Another expedition, led by Brigadierexpanses of mountains and plains, where General Stephen Watts Kearny, conqueredwater was scant and raiding Indians the northern territories of Mexico and thenplentiful. Trekking west was a logistical marched to the Pacific shores to help seizenightmare until the troops reached the California. Meanwhile, American settlers infruitful land of California. northern California were rising against the Colonel Alexander Doniphan with his Mexican government and launched the BearMissouri Mounted Volunteers trekked Flag Rebellion, aided by explorer John C.south-west, captured Sante Fe, then drove Fremont. After fighting several skirmishes,
Introduction 9Kearnys and Fremonts forces were Texas Rangers and Mexican soldiers clashed duringcombined with an American naval squadron repeated incursions into the new Republics territoryto control all of California. during the 1840s. Mexico refused to recognize Texas independence. (Archives Division. Texas State Library) Often neglected in many accounts, theAmerican Navy played a key part in the war.American flotillas dominated the Caribbean, Mexico City, capture it and force a peace on athe Gulf of Mexico, and the west coast of reluctant Mexican government.Mexico and California. The Navy performed The first American amphibious invasionyeoman duty in blockading ports, transporting force rowed ashore south of Vera Cruz introops, and providing naval gunfire in support March 1847. Capturing the port after aof the army. The war, however, dragged on. massive bombardment by both land and sea,General Winfield Scott proposed a seaborne Scott moved inland. Fighting all the way, theinvasion of Mexico that would drive inland to Americans drove 200 miles over rugged
10 Essential Histories • The Mexican War Military operations 1846-1847The Mexican War was fought on a continental scale. Tampico. Scotts troops sailed 550 miles, from theKearnys march west from Ft. Leavenworth to San Diego logistical center of the war effort in New Orleans tostretched 2. 000 miles. Colonel Doniphans Missouri Matamoros. Reinforced there, Scott sailed anotherVolunteers headed west to Santa Fe, dipped south to 500 miles, landing at Vera Cruz.Then he fought hisEl Paso del Norte, and on to Monterey and Matamoros. way 250 miles south to Mexico City. To join the action,There they took a ship to New Orleans and then the United States Navy, based on the east coastmarched home to Missouri. In all, they covered sailed down the South American coastline, rounded5,500 miles. From Fort Brown, Zachary Taylors men Cape Horn, and climbed another 7,500 miles topenetrated 200 miles to Saltillo and 300 more to San Francisco.terrain to Mexico City. To protect Scotts Scott advanced on Mexico City. Thesupply line, Texas Rangers fought a brutal climatic battle of the war was fought atwar with Mexican guerrillas in which Chapultepec Castle, where the Americansprisoners were few and atrocities many. scaled the walls of the fortress and charged After winning battles before the Mexican into Mexico City. With the occupation ofcapital at Contreras and Churubusco, Scotts their capital and their armies smashed,army suffered heavy casualties at Molino Mexican resistance was broken and Mexicodel Rey before overcoming opposition. Then was forced into a draconian peace in
Introduction 11which they surrendered more than half their servitude, Southern paranoia increased.territory. Soon the Southern states would seek Much as the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 secession as their only alternative towas a prelude to the Second World War, the domination by the North. In the words ofAmerican war with Mexico became in many Winston Churchill, the American Civil Warrespects a precursor to the long and frightful was doomed to be the noblest and leastAmerican Civil War of 1861-65. avoidable of all the great mass conflicts. The victory over Mexico was clouded by If, at the end of the war with Mexico, thethe fact that the political and moral struggle Americans gained vast, near-emptybetween the American slave states and the territories, Mexicans were left with only aindustrializing North became greatly numbing grievance. Poor Mexico, theyintensified. As abolitionists preached their complained, so far from God and so closedoctrines to shake off the fetters of to the United States.
Chronology1836 21 April A Texan army defeats Santa 20-24 September General Taylor Anna at the battle of San Jacinto. Texas wins battle of Monterey. becomes an independent republic. 1847 10 January Commodore Stockton1845 29 December The United States occupies Los Angeles. annexes Texas. President Polk sends a 22-23 February General Taylor wins negotiator to Mexico City in an effort the battle of Buena Vista. to purchase Mexican western lands. 1 March Doniphan occupies Chihuahua City.1846 March General Zachary Taylor and an 29 March Vera Cruz surrenders to American army land in Corpus Christi. General Winfield Scott. 23 April Mexico declares war on the 18 April General Scott wins battle of United States. Cerro Gordo. 8-9 May General Taylor wins battles 19-20 August General Scott at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. wins battles at Contreras and 13 May The United States declares Churubusco. war on Mexico. 8 September General Scott wins 12 June Great Britain and the United battle of Molino del Rev. Slates reach a compromise on the 13 September General Scott wins the boundaries of the Oregon Territory, climactic battle of the war at thus averting a conflict. Chapultepec. 14 June Bear Flag Rebellion. 14 September General Scott enters California declares independence Mexico City in triumph. from Mexico. 18 August General Stephen Kearny 1848 25 March The Treaty of Guadalupe occupies Sante Fe. Hidalgo ends the war.
Background to warDifferent cultures collideThe struggle between the United States and to loot and kill. A parsimonious SpanishMexico exposed a massive economic, social, government offered little help against theseand political chasm between two diverse raiders, and the succeeding Mexicancultures separated by a common border. authorities offered even less. The Americans, 20 million strong, were a In the twilight of their rule, the Spanish,hard-driving, egalitarian, vigorous people. viewing the wreckage of their northernThey fervently believed the Manifest Destiny frontier, where the raiding nomads hadof the United States was ordained by God to virtually depopulated Mexican settlements asstretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Theirs far south as Chihuahua City, had what theywas a society based on a democracy founded believed to be a brilliant idea. They believedon British common law, the European the voracious, land-hungry Americans mightEnlightenment, and a secular government. be encouraged to settle in Texas. Crude but Pitted against this dynamic force was an tough, the Americans could create a bufferolder, more traditional, aristocratic society of state between the barbarous tribes and northseven million Mexicans racked by endemic Mexico. They would let the norteamericanosfactionalism and revolt. Mexico had a received fight the raiders, while south of the Rioreligion, structured castes and a Grande the Mexican states of Chihuahua,monarchical-styled political system that was Coahuila, and Tamaulipas would prosper.wont to pose as a democracy. It was a land In 1821, impresario Steven F. Austin wasdivided by race, caste, and a massive economic given a massive land grant to bring Americansgull between rich landowners, with their to settle. The Spaniards required only that thepalatial haciendas, and the mass of landless immigrants should accept the Catholic religionpeasants. There was a burgeoning nationalism and swear allegiance to Spain. Within a fewamong the elite and a spirit of machismo years, thousands of Americans had swarmedresistance to invaders among many of the into the new lands, and when Mexico gainedpeople, yet among the landless and the its independence in 1824, the new governmentindigenous Indians, who had little stake in the allowed this influx to continue.country, there was apathy and indifference. In 1830, a government survey determined American relations with Spain were often that in Texas the Anglos outnumbered theless than cordial and Mexicos successful Mexicans by four to one and the disparitybattle for independence had been welcomed was rapidly increasing. Fearing a loss ofby its neighbor to the north. After almost control, in April 1830, the Mexican300 years of putative rule, the Spanish frontier government ended immigration and placednorth of the Rio Grande was sparsely settled a heavy taxation on imports and exports inand economically unproductive. Catholic Texas. The near-bankrupt government inmissions in Texas had been abandoned and Mexico City also observed the growingthe few scattered towns were inhabited by the export trade in cotton, beef, and otherMestizos, the new blend of Spaniard and commodities, and saw in Texas a new sourceIndian who formed the largest race in Mexico. of revenue, so they sent soldiers and customs The curse of these Borderlands were the officials to the burgeoning Texas ports toroaming bands of Apaches, Comanches, collect taxes on all exports.Kiowas, Kickapoos, and other predatory tribes, Texan and American ship owners, whowho swooped down on Mexican settlements had created the trade but had no voice in
14 Essential Histories • The Mexican War Guerrillas armed with lances, escopetos. swords, and lassos fought ferociously in the many revolts that plagued Mexico. (Gerry Embleton) the government, quickly asserted their right to smuggle. Soon their schooners sailed past Mexican customhouses, sometimes exchanging gunfire, and the increasing friction led to hloody skirmishes between Texan militia and Mexican regulars. In an effort to redress grievances, Texas settlers called a convention and chose Stephen F. Austin to travel to Mexico City with proposals that they hoped would end the conflicts. After long wrangling with the Mexican government, Austin was imprisoned for treason. After two years in confinement he was released, on Christmas Day 1834, and returned to Texas. Santa Anna, now dictator of Mexico, abrogated the liberal Mexican constitution of 1824 and ordered that all Texans be disarmed. The Texans refused to give up their weapons and clashes again broke out between the Anglo settlers and the Mexican soldiers. In 1836, Santa Anna determined to establish control over the rebellious colony. At the head of an army he crossed the Rio Grande and invaded Texas. He overran the defenses of the old Alamo mission in San Antonio and slaughtered the few wounded survivors. On his orders a band of more than 300 rebels who had surrendered at the town of Goliad were summarily shot. On 2 March 1836, the Texans, having assembled in convention, issued a declaration of independence, severing their ties with Mexico and declaring themselves an independent republic. On 20 April 1836, a furious and shrieking Texan army destroyed Santa Annas forces at the battle of San Jacinto. When captured, in order to save his neck from a hangmans noose, Santa Anna signed the Treaty of Velasco, granting Texas independence. The Mexican government refused to recognize the treaty, however, drove Santa Anna into exile, and maintained that Texas was still a province of Mexico.
Background to war 15 In the decade that followed there were Spanish and later Mexican landowners received largeseveral ill-conceived Texan forays into grants of land from their governments, creating an aristocracy of a few. While the r/cos idled their time withMexican territory. Twice, in March and games on horseback, the majority of Mexicans wereSeptember 1842, Mexican troops responded poor, hardworking, landless peasants. (Daughters of theby invading Texas, raiding Gulf Coast towns, Republic of Texas Library)and capturing and looting San Antonio.There they arrested the citys leading gunners and engine mechanics were hiredcitizens, marched them into Mexico, and British Navy veterans. When the two forcesflung them into the dreaded Perote prison. collided, it marked the first battle between From 1836 until 1843, Mexican warships sail-driven and steam-driven warships.attempted to blockade Texas ports and Tactically the battles were indecisive,strangle the young republics commerce. Texas although the Texans had few casualties whileretaliated by commissioning privateers. Later, the Mexicans suffered many dead andthey created a regular navy which wrecked wounded. Like Jutland in 1916, albeit on aMexican seaborne trade, aided revolutionists much smaller scale, this encounter proved toin the Yucatan, and on occasion held Mexican be a massive strategic victory for Texas. TheGulf Coast ports for ransom. Mexican fleet never again attempted to In May 1843, the sail-driven Texan flotilla blockade the Texas coast or launch a seabornefought two sea battles against a steam-driven invasion from Matamoros or Vera Cruz.Mexican fleet off the port of Campeche in During this decade of intermittent fighting,the Yucatan. The main strength of the American public opinion sided with theirMexican fleet lay in two modern British-built former countrymen and exacerbated thesteamers manned by officers of the Royal increasing hostility between the twoNavy on long-term leave. Many of the countries. As tensions mounted, many
16 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarMexicans believed that the Americans were settling there illegally. In 1843, Santa Anna,looking for a pretext to declare war. They ordered all Americans to leave Californiacited as evidence a blundering American naval and Mexicos other western territories. Thisaction in October 1842. Commodore Thomas decree effectively throttled the lucrativeCatesby Jones was anchored off a Peruvian trade between Sante Fe and St. Louis,port when he received news that war had which further antagonized Americanbroken out between the United States and business interests.Mexico. Without waiting for confirmation, The growing pressure from Americanhe raised anchor and bent on all sail for expansionist politicians to annex Texas wasCalifornia. Arriving off the port of Monterey alarming Mexicans. Early in 1845, whenon 20 October, he decided on bold and swift outgoing President John Tyler signed a jointaction. He sailed his squadron into the bay, resolution by Congress to make Texas part ofanchored, and sent ashore an armed party of the American union, Mexico severedsailors and marines. diplomatic relations. A Mexican diplomatic Marching to the town square, Jones read a note warned Tyler that annexation of Texasproclamation announcing that he had would be equivalent to a declaration of warcaptured the city for the United States. He against the Mexican Republicordered his troops to occupy the public Great Britain and France, both interestedbuildings, had the Mexican flag hauled in gaining an economic foothold in thedown, and raised the Stars and Stripes to the Texas Republic, attempted to foil annexationtop of the squares flagpole. The Mexicans, with the American Union. The British chargemore confused than alarmed, offered no daffaires in Austin, Captain Charles Elliot,resistance. Jones, satisfied with his coup, was proposed a compromise to the twogratified to see Thomas O. Larkin, the antagonistic countries. He told the TexanAmerican consul at Monterey, approaching president, Anson Jones, that if he concludedwith a bewildered expression. After a brief a treaty with Mexico pledging that Texasexchange, expletives not recorded, Larkin would never annex itself to the Unitedinformed him that there was no war. The States, Britain and France would pressure theUnited States was at peace with Mexico. Mexican government to recognize Texas Blushing, Jones had the American flag independence. The Texan government,hauled down and ordered that the Mexican virtually bankrupt and tired of all theflag be raised once more. He commanded his hostilities, rejected the proposal and pursuedmen to fire a musket salute as the Mexican a policy seeking security in annexation.tricolor again fluttered in the breeze, then In February 1845, James K. Polk wasproffered a profound apology to an inaugurated as president. Physically frail butapoplectic Mexican governor who, to say the strong in purpose, Polk presided over aleast, was not amused. nation that was bursting at the seams. Then Jones formed up his invading force Immigrants were pouring into the countryand marched back to the wharf, where he from Europe, and Americans were streamingand his men were rowed back to their ships. west by the thousand, to lands claimedAn embarrassed American government either by the Mexicans or, in the case ofrelieved Jones of command and sent him on Oregon, by the British.a long voyage back to the United States. If Pressure from businessmen and landlesstensions had not been so high, the affair farmers demanded that the westernmight well have been laughed off. It was territories be either purchased or taken bynot. To many Mexicans the incident was an force. There were, however, obstacles. Russiaominous portent of things to come and they was probing the west coast of North Americawere to be proved correct. with the intention of expanding its Alaskan Meanwhile, American settlers had begun possessions, but the British posed the majorslipping into northern California and threat to American ambitions, with a dispute
Background to war 17over the boundaries of the Oregon Territorythat threatened conflict. In November 1845, Polk sent John M.Slidell to Mexico City with an offer to buy allMexican lands from the Texas border to thePacific Ocean. He offered $25,000,000. Aspart of the deal, the American governmentwould also pay to American citizens theclaims they held against Mexico. The Americans considered this offer tobe more than fair. After all, Texas hadmaintained its independence for a decadeand the other western lands were mostlyvacant except for scattered Indian tribes andAmerican squatters, furthermore, theAmericans claimed that these lands wereonly nominally held by Mexico, whosegovernment was unable to exercise anyauthority over them. Another cause of contention between thetwo countries were the claims Americans hadagainst the Mexican government. Theseinvolved incidents of arbitrary seizure ofAmerican ships in Mexican ports,confiscation of American goods by corrupt American envoy John Slidells attempts to purchasecustoms officials, unjust imprisonment of Mexican land were ignored by the government in Mexico City (Ann Ronan Picture Library)American citizens, and the murders of otherAmericans. A mediation of the claims hadbeen heard in a Prussian court in 1838, at Abolitionists in New England feared a vastwhich time the American claimants had conspiracy was under way by thebeen awarded millions of dollars. But Mexico Southerners to forever dominate thewas bankrupt, with an unstable government government.which within the first quarter century of The Mexicans, enraged at the annexationindependence had seen more than of Texas, threatened war. Many blamed the30 different political administrations. Not United States for their debacle in Texas. Onesurprisingly, after a few payments, Mexico prominent newspaper declared thedefaulted on the bulk of the claims. To Americans to be the true enemy of MexicoMexicans, their penury was a further and that they had secretly supported thehumiliation, and they allowed their pride to Texan revolution while hiding behind ancloud their judgment of potential American evil mask of hypocrisy.military strength. As war fever grew, some Mexicans The Mexican government therefore harbored illusions that in the event ofrefused to negotiate with Slidell and hostilities the American northern andofficially ignored his presence. They became eastern states would secede from the Unionhostile when, on 29 December 1845, Texas and would send arms and ammunition towas admitted as the 28th state in the support revolting Southern Negro slaves. TheAmerican union and became the 15th state resulting chaos would enable Mexico toto legalize slavery. handily defeat the American armies. The slave states now held a majority of The crisis over Oregon also gave Mexico avotes in the United States Senate. false sense of confidence: if war broke out,
18 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarGreat Britain, with its mighty fleet and more than 20,000 strong, was well enoughbattle-tested army, would be their ally. equipped and trained to easily defeat theUnknown to them, the British Foreign Office 7,000 American regulars who were scatteredhad agreed to negotiate the Oregon in small posts along the western frontier. This,boundary dispute with the Americans. To perhaps, was the most fateful illusion of all.Polks relief, the threat of a two-front war The issues between the two neighbors mightwith the British in the north and the have been solved peacefully if more reasonMexicans in the south had ended. and less passion had prevailed, but Mexican Some Mexicans, perhaps blinded by intransigence and American aggressivenessnational pride, felt confident that their army, combined to make war inevitable.
Warring sidesCourage the only common traitThe cultural differences between Americans Anna. President, dictator, and commander ofand Mexicans carried over into both their the Mexican armies, his reputation amongpolitical leaders and their armed forces. the Mexican people seesawed between great hero and great villain. Although devious and corrupt, on occasion he could rouse theThe leaders Mexicans to extreme bravery and endurance. General Pedro de Ampudia, one-timeJames Knox Polk, born on a farm in North commander of the Army of the North, had aCarolina in 1795, was sickly as a child and reputation based more on cruelty than onfrail as a man, but he had a tireless energy in military ability. Once, when revoltingpursuing his expansionist policies. He soldiers had surrendered to him with agraduated from the University of North promise of clemency, he had had them shot,Carolina at the top of his class, then studied then cut off their leaders head, boiled it inlaw in Tennessee. oil, and hung it on a pike in the main square Polk soon found a mentor in Andrew of San Juan Bautista.Jackson, and followed the Jackson General Mariano Arista was perhaps morephilosophy of championing the cause of the of a gentleman, and too much of acommon man, as opposed to the Virginiaaristocrats and the New England Brahmins. President James K. Polk was elected by vowing to acquireHe was elected to the Tennessee legislature the Oregon Territory, annex Texas, and purchaseand later became governor of Tennessee. In California. (Ann Ronan Picture Library)November 1844, Polk secured theDemocratic Party nomination for thepresidency and was elected on a platform ofwestward expansion. Major General Winfield Scott, 60 years oldin 1846, was the most experienced andcapable officer in the American army. At age28 he had been a brigadier general duringthe war of 1812. Although egotistical andpompous, he was an excellent tactician anda shrewd strategist with a gift for going forthe jugular. Zachary Taylor, 62 years old, was anexperienced frontier soldier. The opposite ofScott in dress and manners, he was loved byhis men for his lack of formality. Anindifferent tactician, his bold aggressivenessand determination were the keys to hisvictories. His military reputation later ledhim to the American presidency. The dominant leader of Mexico for morethan 20 years was Antonio Lopez de Santa
20 Essential Histories • The Mexican War
Warring sides 21politician, to be a successful leader in battle.Following early failures, he was relieved ofcommand. After the war, he becamepresident of Mexico for a short while. If American campaigns were won bygenerals, during the war with Mexico, battleswere won through the excellence of juniorofficers, and if there was one determinantfactor in American successes, it was the UnitedStates Military Academy at West Point, in NewYork State. The discipline and trainingdelivered there, particularly in engineering andin the use of light artillery, turned the tide ofmany of the fiercest battles of the war. Amongits graduates was Robert E. Lee, arguably themost gifted commander in all of Americaswars. It was his personal reconnaissance workthat made great contributions to Americanvictories at Buena Vista, Vera Cruz, and Scottssuccessful campaign on the road to MexicoCity. In later years, Lee led the armies of theConfederate States of America. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was the devious, Ulysses S. Grant, who became the sometime dictator, of Mexico. He gave away Texas after his defeat at San Jacinto but rallied the Mexican peoplecommander in chief of the Union armies against the American invasion. (AKG Berlin)during the American Civil War and later apresident of the United States, was asuccessful and innovative subaltern, often graduates from the Mexican militarycited for bravery. academy were knowledgeable professionals, Jefferson Davis, also a West Pointer, many other officers were political appointeesreturned to the army to lead the fabled whose resplendent uniforms belied their lack1st Mississippi Volunteer Regiment, which of military expertise.had a key role in turning the tide of battle at Trained in Spanish military tradition andBuena Vista. He later became president of tactics, the officer corps was, nevertheless,the Confederate States of America. cursed with competing political philosophies. Thomas Stonewall Jackson served as an They were royalists or rebels against Spain,artillery officer, one of those young West federalists who believed in the primacy ofPointers who employed the tactical mobility local self-government, and centralists whoand accurate gunnery that proved decisive wished for a strong, all-controllingon the battlefield. government in Mexico City. Some of them Mexican officers, on the other hand, had fought against each other during thethough always brave and often competent, many political upheavals and revolts thatwere mainly aristocrats who had little plagued Mexico. Indeed, these internal splitsrapport with common soldiers and were often disrupted what should have been aoften contemptuous of them. While common cause against an alien invader.General Winfield Scott was nicknamed Old Fuss andFeathers for his love of pomp and ceremony. He was a The soldierscompetent tactician and a shrewd strategist It wasScotts plan to launch a seaborne attack and then march The differences between the enlisted ranks ofon the Mexican capital. (Library of Congress) both armies were even greater. Some of the
22 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarAmerican enlisted men in the regular army major failing of the peacetime army was thejoined for adventure, but for most it was harsh discipline - the lash was noteconomic necessity. The $7.00 per month, unknown. A favorite punishment wasthree square meals a day, and warm clothes bucking and gagging, in which a miscreant,were an inducement to many immigrants hands and feet tied, had a stick pushedwho wanted to learn the language or under his knees and over his elbows, lockinginculcate themselves into American life. One his arms and legs together. Then a tent pegestimate puts more than two-thirds of the or stick was forced between his teeth andenlistees as foreign born. The majority were tied in place. Left for hours, he suffered pain,Irish, but there were also large contingents of thirst and humiliation. These severeGermans and British. punishments and the arrogance of some The regulars, though few in number, were officers were major causes for desertion,well drilled and were led by officers especially among the Irish.experienced in frontier fighting and trained The volunteers were different. When theto the exacting standards of West Point. A war broke out, young men by the tens of thousands, mostly from the southern and western states, swamped recruiting stations.In the American armies, the regulars were drilled like Many had to be turned away for lack ofEuropean troops. The volunteers were indifferent tomilitary etiquette but prided themselves as tough fighting uniforms and equipment, but what themen. (Library of Congress) volunteer regiments lacked in experience
Warring sides 23This jingoistic recrurting poster appealed to the American opposed to the war fearing that its spoils would extendchauvinistic spirit, but most of New England was bitterly slavery into the west (Library of Congress)
24 Essential Histories * The Mexican War selected by lot for a six-year tour of duty. Bachelors and married men without children from 18 to 40 years of age were required to serve. Middle-class men with piolitical connections could usually gain an exemption if they did not wish to be officers. Unlike the robust Americans, most of whom were farmers raised on a diet of fresh meat, wheat bread, and vegetables, the Mexican soldier was often less than five feet two inches tall and was poorly fed on a diet of Indian corn, rice, and beans. Compounding the confusion of inadequate training, most of the peasant soldiers were illiterate; many spoke and understood only the Indian dialects of their tribe. If the Americans could be combative over military discipline, the Mexican soldier simply deserted. A most unfunny joke in that army was the not always apocryphalAlthough the best scouts and antiguerrilla fighters in the story of the Mexican line officer writing to aarmy, the Texas Rangers were also wild, vengeful men. military depot: I am returning your shackles.But on occasion they could play as hand and as unruly as Please send me more volunteers.they fought (Archives Division.Texas State Library) If the men of these armies had anything in common, it was that officers and enlistedand training they made up for in enthusiasm men alike almost always showed uncommonand dedication. They elected their officers, courage under fire.and if military courtesy and expertise werelacking among them, leadership in battlewas not. Mostly young men in their late The naviesteens or early twenties, they learned quickly. An early disadvantage of the volunteer Throughout the war, the ships of the Unitedsystem was that they were obligated to serve States Navy controlled the Atlantic andonly 12 months. After many battle-hardened Pacific coastlines of Mexico. They blockadedregiments chose to return at the expiration Mexican ports, landed marines in support ofof their service, regulations were changed to army troops and irregulars on the Californiahold volunteers until the end of hostilities. coastline, transported Scotts army to Vera To the consternation of regular officers, Cruz, helped smash enemy defenses at thatthe volunteers considered themselves more port with naval gunfire, and suppliedas citizens than soldiers and regarded the weaponry, ammunition, rations, andstrict hierarchy of the regulars as demeaning reinforcements to the 10,000 Americanand silly. Volunteer officers learned to troops in Scotts expeditionary force.control their men with a loose rein. The nearest United States naval base was Some volunteer regiments had their fighting at Pensacola, Honda, 900 miles from Verarecord marred by lack of discipline, rowdy Cruz. The American blockading forcebehavior, looting, and, not uncommonly, suffered constantly from a lack of coal andcrimes against the Mexican civilian population. fresh food, from outbreaks of yellow fever,The Texans were the worst. inadequate coastal charts and violent storms The enlisted ranks of the Mexican army that struck suddenly during summer andwere mostly made up of peasant conscripts, winter months. However, with a mixture of
Warring sides 25sail and steam ships, the Navy, even under These Mexican dragoons were great horsemen andthese difficult circumstances, was a experienced fighters, having served through incessant rebellions.They and their officers were brave and bold,determining factor in the American victory. sometimes to the point of folly. (Library of Congress) The Mexican Navy was unable to protecttheir merchant fleet or break the Americanblockade and was plagued by lack of funds, of hostilities, they sold, scuttled, or burneda shortage of spare parts, and an indifferent most of their ships rather than fight a superiorgovernment. Worst of all, they lacked American force. Consequently, the Mexicancompetent officers and crews. At the outbreak Navy played no significant part in the war.
OutbreakOpening gunsFollowing his inauguration in March 1845, 1845 until March 1846, vainly attempting toPresident Polk took action to protect the open negotiations with the Mexicancountrys new southern border. He ordered government, gave up and returned to theGeneral Zachary Taylor, then commanding United States. President Polk complained totroops in Louisiana, to move his force to Congress that the Mexicans had refused toTexas and be prepared to march into the receive him or listen to his propositions.disputed area south of the Nueces River. Polk then sent instructions to Commander In July, Taylor and 3,500 men, almost John D. Sloats command in Pacific waters.half of the entire United States regular army, If war broke out, Sloat was to seize andwere encamped near the coastal town of occupy Californias principal ports.Corpus Christi. In February 1846, Taylor Commander David Connor, leading thereceived orders to proceed to Port Isabel, United States Navy Home Squadronnear the mouth of the Rio Grande River. operating in the Gulf of Mexico, wasEstablishing his supply base at Port Isabel, ordered to be prepared to blockade theTaylor then marched his men 30 miles eastern coast of Mexico, protect Americansouth-west to the north bank of the Rio commerce from privateers, and assist armyGrande. There his men constructed a operations. To patrol the hundreds of milesfortified position named Fort Texas, from of Mexican coast, Connor would have twowhich his artillery could command thetown of Matamoros on the opposite bank. The Americans now confronted a Mexicanforce of 6,000 men on the south bank. Thiswas the Army of the North, under thecommand of the notorious General Pedrode Ampudia. On 12 April, Ampudia sent a message toTaylor declaring that the Americans werecamped on Mexican territory. He demandedthey withdraw to the Nueces or arms andarms alone will decide this question.Taylor indignantly refused and botharmies prepared to fight. On 24 April, theexplosive Ampudia was replaced by GeneralMariano Arista. For a few days calmprevailed. In the meantime, John Slidell, who hadlingered in Mexico Gity from NovemberGeneral Mariano Arista wrote Taylor that the troopsunder his command will exhibit the feelings of humanityand generosity which are genial to them. They wereperhaps too genial, and after Arista lost the battles ofPalo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. he was relieved ofcommand. (Archives Division,Texas State library)
Outbreak 27 General Taylors northern campaign, March 1846-February 1847powerful steamers, Mississippi and Princeton, Winning battles at Palo Alto and Resaca de Palma in earlytwo big frigates, three sloops, five brigs, and May 1846,Taylor crossed the Rio Grande at the head of 6,000 men. Marching west, parallel with the nver he reacheda schooner. Mien then swung his army south-west onto the Monterey Santa Anna had regained the presidency Road. Slowed by logistical problems and the boiling heat ofin 1843. As with his previous the northern Mexico summer; he reached Monterey onadministrations, he led Mexico into 21 September After smashing the Mexican army andbankruptcy and revolt. In revulsion, his capturing the city, he arranged a truce. Then he took up defensive positions in the mountains south of Sattillo. Laterpolitical opponents seized power and Santa in the wan a detachment of Taylors troops occupiedAnna was captured and thrown into Perote Tampico. In February 1847, General Santa Anna, in powerprison until May 1845, when he was exiled once more, led an army north from San Luis Potosi hopingfor life and deported to Cuba. to crush the Americans and regain control of the north.
28 Essential Histories • The Mexican War On 14 April 1846, Arista informed Taylor On 30 April, the Mexican commanderthat hostilities had commenced. Shortly crossed the Rio Grande with 4,000 men,afterwards, a Mexican force clashed with a hoping to interpose his forces hetweentroop of dragoons north of the Rio Grande, Taylors army at Fort Texas and thekilling or wounding 16 Americans. American supply base at Fort Isabel. When Texan scouts reported the Mexican move, Old Rough and Ready Taylor left aThe Mexican government threatened war if the Unrted small force to hold Fort Texas and orderedStates annexed Texas. After annexation. President Polksent General Zachary Taylor and an army to Corpus the bulk of his men on a forced march toChristi with orders to march to the Rio Grande River, the Port Isabel. After 20 hours of slogging thenew boundary of the United States. (Library of Congress) 30 miles to the port, Taylor ordered his
Outbreak 29exhausted men to throw up a defensive line Arista took up a strong defensivearound the town. position across the road, along a ridge called The situation changed when Arista Palo Alto. He ordered Ampudia to abandonordered Ampudia to attack Fort Texas. After a the siege of Fort Texas and join hisTexas Ranger slipped through the Mexican command. Arista deployed 6,000 men in alines to report the siege of the American fort, mile-long frontage and awaited theTaylor decided to take the offensive. American attack. He placed part of hisAlthough outnumbered almost three to one, cavalry by a swamp to guard his left flankon 7 May, Taylors 2,200-man army marched and another detachment of mounted troopssouth on the Malamoros Road to relieve on a wooded hill protecting his right. HeFort Texas. spread his infantry, interspersed with artillery batteries, in the center, across the road. On the hot, muggy morning of 8 May, Taylors sweat-soaked men stomped along the sandy road until they came to a halt one mile from the enemy. Taylor, wearing his customary baggy blue jeans, a stained white duster, and a battered straw hat, looked more like a down-on-his-luck farmer than a commanding general. Sitting sidewise on his horse and occasionally spitting an amber stream of tobacco juice, Taylor calmly deployed his men. With the exception of the mounted Texas Rangers, they were all regulars. Taylors immediate concern was his supply train - 300 cumbersome wagons being hauled by a motley assortment of mules and oxen. To protect them from a lightning attack by Mexican cavalry, he reluctantly diverted a battery of artillery and a squadron of dragoons. Taylor placed his large 18-pounder guns in the center of the road and moved his troops to form a line of skirmishers. He placed the 8th Infantry Regiment on his far left flank, supported by Captain James Duncans light artillery battery. In the center, straddling the 18-pounders, he deployed the 3rd and 4lh Infantry Regiments. To their right he placed Major Samuel Ringgold and his battery, supporting the 5th Infantry Regiment on the extreme right flank. Ringgold, like many young West Point graduate artillerists, was eager to test his new Flying Artillery, lightweight, horse drawn-guns designed to be deployed and fired rapidly. He had been a pioneer in
30 Essentia! Histories • The Mexican Wartheir development from 1838 and had in that branch of the service. These lightdesigned the high-wheeled, light caisson batteries were the cream of the army,which enabled the bronze 6-pounder guns and Taylor had three of them, each withto be maneuvered across rugged terrain at four guns.great speed. He had also written the The 6-pounders weighed only 8801bs andmanual, Instruction for Field Artillery, had a range of 1,500 yards, which enabledHorse and Foot, which was used in the the artillery to remain out of the range ofrigorous training given to officers and men enemy musketry when necessary. The guns could fire solid shot, explosive shells, andOn 8 May 1846, the first major battle between the canister (a metal can filled with musket ballsMexican and American armies was fought on the coastal which when fired sprayed the balls, turningplain of Palo Alto. On the first day of battle, American the cannon into a kind of large shotgun).artillery beat off Mexican assaults.The following day, American tactical doctrine called for theAmerican infantrymen cracked the Mexico lines and sent Flying Artillery to be placed on the firingthem into retreat. President Polk told Congress:American blood has been shed on American soil and line at the point of the greatest danger.the war was on. (Painting by Carl Nebel, Archives At 2.00pm on 8 May, as the AmericansDivision, Texas State Library) formed into line, the Mexican artillery
Outbreak 31 bloody tangle of dying horses and men. Tragically, Major Ringgold was killed by one of the few accurate cannonballs fired by the Mexican gunners. Arista then ordered his remaining cavalry to flank the American left and destroy the American wagon park. They met with equally devastating artillery fire from Duncans battery and quickly withdrew to their lines. The constant firing set the prairie grass afire and soon oily black smoke enveloped the battlefield. Under this cover, Arista ordered a withdrawal. As the Mexicans retreated, they could hear the screams of their wounded, burning to death in the flaming grass. Resaca de la Palma After the smoke cleared and the casualties were counted, the American losses were half a dozen killed and 40 wounded. Mexican casualties were estimated at between 400 and 700. Arista moved his demoralized troops to a point above Matamoros, on the north bank of the Rio Grande, and deployed them along a sunken dried-up river bed called Resaca de la Palma. His position was further protected by thorn bushes, thick cactus, and swampy ground. lie placed his infantry in the stream bed, with his artillery behindbegan firing at extreme range. Without them; the cavalry was held in reserve inexplosive shells, they fired solid cannonballs the rear. Confident that this position couldwhich after a few hundred yards began not be taken, Arista retired to hisbouncing over the rough ground, losing headquarters tent far behind his lines tovelocity. write dispatches. The quick-firing American guns got off The following morning, 9 May, Tayloreight shots to the Mexicans one and Aristas ordered an advance. Seeking a doubleinfantry began to falter. The Mexican envelopment of the Mexican flanks, hegeneral countered by ordering his sent infantry through the rough countrymagnificently uniformed lancers to attack on both sides of the road. Fighting theirthe American right flank. With pennons way through the almost impassablefluttering from their lance heads and buglers thorns and brush, which ripped theirsounding the charge, they galloped into uniforms and tore at their flesh, they madedisaster. Ringgolds battery, each gun firing little progress. When finally they reachedone round a minute, blasted them with both sides of the ravine, they attackedexplosive shells and then decimated their with bayonets and clubbed their enemiesranks with canister. Soon the field was a with rifle butts.
32 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarMajor Samuel Ringgold was mortally wounded by a his bugler to blow recall and, turning about,Mexican cannonball while directing his artillery battery they galloped back to the American lines.during the first days fighting at Palo Alto. The projectile Taylor, exercising his fluent frontierdrove through his right thigh, passed through his horse, vocabulary, sent the 8th Infantry down theand ripped into his left leg. (Library of Congress) road to take and this time to keep the guns. The headlong charge of the 8th broke the When the attack on the Mexican left Mexican lines and they took possession ofwas repulsed by a Mexican battery firing from the battery. The American infantry had bythe roadway, Taylor ordered Major Charles then enveloped both flanks, and some unitsMays squadron of the 2nd Dragoons to charge had reached the Matamoros Road, cutting offdown the Matamoros Road and silence the the Mexican line of retreat. Demoralized,enemy guns. In a column of fours, sabers Aristas troops panicked. Some surrenderedflashing, the Americans charged at the gallop. while others scattered and ran for the river.They overran the guns but found themselves More than 300 drowned or were picked offsurrounded by enraged infantrymen slashing like grounded ducks by American infantry asat their mounts with bayonets. May ordered they tried to reach the south bank.
Outbreak 33 Estimates put Mexican losses at more on 17 May, the survivors of the Army of thethan 1,200 killed or wounded, 100 captured, North evacuated Matamoros and straggledand 2,000 deserted. For days the skies south. Taylors army crossed the river andwere filled with gorged vultures, while occupied the town. For a while northernhowling wolves roamed the battlefield Mexico would be quiet.feasting on the unburied dead. American When President Polk learned of the firstlosses were put at 34 killed and skirmish he sent a war message to Congress113 wounded. asking for 50,000 volunteers and ordered On 11 May, a truce was agreed upon and Mexican ports blockaded.
The fightingWar across the continentAs each side mobilized, the inevitable The two dragoon regiments were outfittedconfusion and shortages stalled major with shortened carbine versions of the infantryoffensives by both armies for months. While musket and usually used percussion caps, forpreparing for battle, the vast differences the charge, they wielded sabers and fired abetween the American and Mexican forces single-shot percussion cap pistol. The Texasbecame increasingly apparent. Rangers, arguably the most deadly mounted troops in the war, carried one and often two of the new Colt 5-shot repeating pistols.The Americans The regular army wore uniforms of blue wool, while the volunteers at first sported aThe declaration of war passed by the variety of colors and styles. As the warAmerican Congress approved the expenditure progressed, volunteers were provided withof 10 million dollars and authorized more regulation attire by army50,000 volunteers, to be raised by the states, quartermasters. As the armies marched deeperto carry the burden of the fighting. Within into Mexico, shoes, pants, and shirts becamedays, volunteers flocked to the recruiting difficult to replace and soon the columnsdepots. Most were spurred by patriotism and resembled bands of wandering hoboes.a lust for adventure, but generous land grants The provision of food was always afor veterans also helped recruiting. problem. Rations shipped from New Orleans The flintlock musket, weighing lOlbs and depots were often spoiled and uneatablefiring a .68 caliber lead ball, was standard when they arrived in camp. One soldier testequipment for the United States infantry. A few for meat was to throw it against a wall. If itunits, however, had rifles adapted for the new, stuck, it was best not to eat it.more efficient, percussion caps. Battle sights Regulations provided for ample amounts ofwere set for approximately 120 yards, but the meat, bread, vegetables, coffee, salt, and sugar,weapon could be effective up to 200 yards. but it was rare that such a variety was A cartridge known as buck and ball was available. Fortunately, Mexicans were happyalso issued. Consisting of one normal-sized to sell local foodstuffs to Americans inball and three smaller ones, it was lethal exchange for cash in the form of silver or goldwhen fired at close range. Troops were coins. Their food was better and cost less thanexpected to fire three aimed rounds per that offered by sutlers, who were damned forminute, and were drilled until the loading their high prices and poor merchandise. Theand firing sequences became a reflex action. Americans soon acquired a taste for Mexican Several units, including the Mounted dishes, and tamales, enchiladas, tacos, andRifles Regiment and the 1st Mississippi tortillas rated higher in soldiers tastes thanVolunteers, were armed with rifles that had did salt beef and stale bread.an effective range of more than 400 yards in While in camp, the men gathered aroundthe hands of a trained regular or a frontier mess fires to socialize, play interminable cardmarksman. Rifles were slow to reload because games, gripe about the food, and dreamthe ball had to be rammed down the barrel. about the women they had left behind. TheAt best, it took one full minute per shot. more educated held literary readings,Most of the shoulder weapons had produced comical plays, or held debates onattachments for bayonets. the issues of the day. Sing-alongs were
The fighting 35popular for all - Home Sweet Home and The only fired their weapons for the first timeGirl I Left Behind Me were favorites. Near when engaged in battle.towns, however, where hard liquor was Mexican-manufactured gunpowder wasavailable, merriment often degenerated inLo of poor quality, so extra gunpowder wasbrawls. In the city bordellos, gonorrhea and loaded into each cartridge. The added kicksyphilis were endemic. when a trigger was pulled made the shooter Like most 19th century wars, moTe men flinch, often sending his bullet high or widewere lost to disease than were killed in of its mark.battle. Spoiled food, contaminated water, Cavalry was the elite force in the Mexicanand unsanitary disposal of human and army and was better equipped and uniformedanimal wastes caused most of the problems. than the infantry. The favorite weaponA lack of tents resulted in soldiers sleeping for mounted troops was the lance, aon the ground in mud and water, exposed to 12-foot wooden shaft topped with an ironwind, rain, sandstorms, and cold. These spearhead. A red pennon attached at the endconditions often resulted in lethal cases of fluttered during a charge, designed to startlepneumonia. Long marches in the sometimes enemy horses. Cavalrymen were usuallyboiling Mexican sun were a not uncommon issued escopetas, a short-barreled flintlockkiller for men loaded with a 10-pound rifle, carbine, a single-shot flintlock pistol, a long40 rounds of ammunition, bayonet, blanket, straight-bladed saber, and often a lasso.water jug, rations, and cooking gear. The Mexican artillery was often old androads from St. Louis to California, Vera Cruz usually employed obsolescent tactics. Heavyto Mexico City, and the Rio Grande to Buena barrels and caissons made their guns,Vista all took their toll of American dead. ranging from 24-pounder siege guns to Unskilled doctors and nurses, poor 8-pounder field guns, hard to maneuver andfacilities and equipment, and the general slow to deploy. Again, a shortage ofignorance of the medical profession provided gunpowder allowed little training, and a lacklittle help to men stricken by exhaustion, of modern explosive shells made theirillness, or battle wounds, and the death toll artillery less effective.was extremely high. Elite units, usually cavalry, were often resplendent in brightly colored Napoleonic-era uniforms. Most of theThe Mexicans army, however, was poorly dressed, with bright-colored tailcoats and rough canvasMexico was handicapped by a lack of pants, white in summer and, if available,factories to produce arms and ammunition, blue in winter. The peasant infantry marchedand after the outbreak of the war, the in sandals or barefoot. There were shortagesAmerican blockade choked off European of tents, blankets, and overcoats.sources of weapons. The rank and file of the Mexican army was Mexican fusiliers and grenadiers were not only untrained, ill-clothed, and poorlyissued the British-made Brown Bess musket, a equipped, but was also usually underfed. Withsmooth-bore flintlock firing a .75 caliber lead an inefficient commissary, troops usually hadball. Riflemen were issued British-made Baker to live off the land. Around the campfiresflintlock rifles of .62 caliber, accurate up to there were cards, songs, and comradeship,200 yards. Both weapons were equipped for dances and an occasional cock fight. Amongbayonet use. the officers there were horse races and Mexican marksmanship was extremely interminable political discussions. Manypoor. Conscripts rarely underwent the peasant soldiers, drafted and marched farvigorous drilling needed for fast loading and from their native villages, suffered the sameaccurate shooting, and the shortage of longings and homesickness as their Americanammunition meant that some conscripts opponents. Poor clothing, lack of tents and
36 Essential Histories • The Mexican Warwarm clothes, and inadequate diets reduced revolution. During June 1846, the illegalmany sturdy peasant soldiers to invalids. With population of 1,000 Americans, who wereailing and embittered soldiers, the Mexican tough trappers, deserters from whaling fleets,army faced escalating desertion rates. and gold hunters, revolted against Mexico. The giant province of California was virtually uninhabited, with a totalCalifornia population of less than 10,000 of European ancestry. The settlers were centered aroundWhile northern Mexico was exploding in the ports of San Francisco, Monterey, Losbattle, California was boiling over with Angeles, and San Diego. Isolated from
The fighting 37Mexico City by virtually impassible deserts The Americans washed out filthy uniforms wheneverand thousands of miles, California was ripe time and clear water were available. But unsanitaryto be plucked by anyone with a few guns conditions and disease were responsible for 11,000 deaths among the troops. (Library of Congress)and much daring. The Americans had the guns and inCaptain John C. Fremont they found a declared he joined the Bear Flaggers and ledleader of reckless courage. Fremont, who had them into a series of victorious skirmishesled previous explorations into the west, was with Mexican forces. On 7 July 1846, heguided to Sutters Fort by famed scout Kit joined forces with the American naval flotillaCarson in December 1845. After war was and together, with little opposition, they
38 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarCommodore Robert F. Stockton commanded the Americanflotilla off the coast of California. He sent landing parties to seizeports from San Francisco to San Diego. (Corbis)
The fighting 39 The conquest of California, June 1846-January 1847In June 1846, hundreds of Americans who had settled command of the American Army of the Westillegally in California rose in revolt and declared and was ordered to capture Sante Fe, secureindependence. Aided by American John C. Fremont, the New Mexico-Arizona area, and thenillegally conducting a surveying expedition in the area,they seized San Francisco. The commander of a United march to California. The chief of staff of theStates naval squadron in the area assumed the war with American army, General Winfleld Scott,Mexico had started, and on 7 July, he sent landing parties awarded Kearny the title of Military Governorto seize ports along the northern coast. of New Mexico and California. Kearny thus By mid-August the Navy, led by Commander Robert had the honor of being the thirdF. Stockton, had. in cooperation with the irregular soldiersof the Bear Flag Republic, occupied Los Angeles and the simultaneous governor of the Pacific province,remaining Californian ports. vying with Fremont and Mexican Governor Meanwhile Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny, Pio de Jesus Pico for control of California.guided by scout Kit Carson, left Santa Fe on Kearny had pacified New Mexico by late25 September and arrived in California in earlyDecember. After several skirmishes, the Mexican forces September. Soon afterwards he and a smallwere defeated and by the New Year the American flag force of 100 dragoons began the long dryflew uncontested over California. march across the desert to California. During the first week of December, after havingoccupied port cities from Los Angeles to San traveled 1,000 miles from Fort Leavenworth,Diego. The American naval commander, Kearny and his exhausted men staggeredCommodore Robert F. Stockton, appointed into California.Fremont as Governor of California, an act The brigadier soon learned that a force ofthat would lead to bitter rivalries. Mexican lancers under the command of In May 1846, a frontier soldier, Brigadier Andres Pico was planning to attack his tiredGeneral Stephen Watts Kearny, was given force. Picos men were camped near the
40 Essentia! Histories • The Mexican Warsmall village of San Pascual. Although he Doniphans marchknew he was outnumbered, Kearnydetermined to attack. At 2.00am on At the outbreak of the war, Alexander W.6 December 1846, he led a stumbling Doniphan, a six-foot-six, 240-poundadvance through a ravine. Missouri lawyer, helped raise 1,000 men to Kearnys column of dragoons, form the 1st Regiment of Missouri Mountedaccompanied by 35 sailors and marines of Volunteers. In mid-August 1846, theStocktons force who had joined him, and regiment marched from Port Leavenworth,two small howitzers, edged to the end of the Kansas, to join Kearny in Sante Fe. Whenravine and into the valley. At the first Kearny headed for California, Doniphanglimmerings of daylight, Kearny ordered the turned south and marched into legend.charge. Pico, however, had heard his In December, headed for the Rio Grandeapproach and ordered his men to mount and the city of El Paso del Norte, Doniphanstheir horses with lances at the ready. men traversed the desolate Jornada del As Kearnys worn-out horses and mules Miwrtu, the feared Journey of Death, a sandy,limped to the attack, the center of Picos line rocky wasteland, bereft of water or foliage,seemed to falter and the lancers wheeled with only dust storms and rattlesnakes toabout and ran from the Americans. Shouting break the barren monotony of the 250-mileHurrah, the American dragoons spurred trek. On Christmas Day his parched men andtheir mounts and emboldened by the horses stumbled to the welcome banks of theMexican retreat charged in a strung-out and Rio Grande River and gulped its muddystaggering line of pursuit. After retreating waters. Suddenly, a scout on a foaming, 100 yards, the fleeing Mexicans jerked to a lathered horse, galloped into camp shoutingstop, wheeled about, lowered their lances, that hundreds of Mexican mounted troopsand charged the straggling and surprised and infantry were moving rapidly towarddragoons. The 150 lancers hit the Americans their camp. Bugles blared, and the Americanslike a thunderbolt, killing 18 men almost ran for their weapons and formed a lineinstantly and wounding another 15, across the road to El Paso del Norte.including Kearny, who took a lance point in The Mexican commander ordered a haltthe groin. 500 yards from the American camp and a The Americans, with almost a third of Mexican dragoon officer, wearing a greentheir force dead or wounded, retreated to a jacket trimmed in scarlet, with brass-toppednearby rocky hill. One of the howitzers, helmet gleaming in the sun, approached. Hehauled by frightened mules, disappeared carried a black flag displaying two whiteover the horizon and into the desert in a skulls and crossed bones, and shouted:cloud of dust. Kearny was besieged for three Surrender or we will charge. Doniphan,days until a relief column of sailors and through his interpreter was said to havemarines arrived and Pico retreated. replied: Charge and be damned. By the end of December, Kearny had The Mexican wheeled his horse, shouted:joined forces with the naval contingents in We will give no quarter, and rode back to aSan Diego. They marched and sailed north, long line of deploying troops. Soon, with adefeating Mexican forces in battles at the blaring of bugles, more than 1,500 MexicanSan Gabriel River and La Mesa. By early cavalrymen and infantrymen rushed theJanuary, they controlled California. In the American line. The Mexicans paused atnew year the fighting also became political, 400 yards and fired three volleys whichwhen Kearny and Fremont each claimed roared over the heads of the crouchingdominance in California. Kearny won out, Missourians. Then they charged.receiving a promotion to major general; The Mexicans were 150 yards away whenFremont, charged with insubordination, the Volunteers rose up and poured volleyreturned to Washington, D.C. in disgrace. after volley into their ranks. More than
The fighting 41200 were killed or wounded before they As his artillery fire enfiladed the Mexicanturned and fled. Seven of Doniphans men line, Doniphan dismounted some of his menwere slightly wounded. Two days later, the and then charged the now disorganized foe.Missourians crossed the Rio Grande and took Gun butts smashed and Bowie knives slashedpossession of El Paso del Norte without a in close-quarter fighting until the Mexicansshot being fired. retreated in disorder. Doniphan reported that On 8 February, Doniphan and his small he had captured 10 guns and 10 wagons, killedarmy, reinforced by 100 men and an artillery 300, and wounded another 300. His losses werebattery, marched south toward Ciudad two killed and a few slightly wounded. One ofChihuahua. After crossing the arid country, the captured wagons was filled with lassos,always short of water, the Americans neared which the Mexican general had planned to usethe Rio Sacramento, some 15 miles from the to tie up his Missouri prisoners.city. There, in late February, stretched across The Volunteers marched into Chihuahuathe road leading to the capital of the state of on 1 March and Doniphan rested his menChihuahua, were 3,000 Mexican soldiers until late April; then he again marched south.with 10 artillery pieces. On the way, his men ambushed a band of Outnumbered three to one, Doniphan Lipan Indians who had ravished the womenshied away from a frontal attack. Fie skirted and murdered the men at a ranch near Parras.the road to the west, maneuvered his men, Freeing the women captives, the Missouriansguns, and wagons through a gulch, then continued their trek, swinging eastward todrove them up a steep cliff and onto a mesa, join Taylors army at Bucna Vista.outflanking the Mexican position. From there they hiked to Matamoros, boarded ship, and sailed to New Orleans. After landing there, they returned to Missouri and a heros welcome. Ragged but proud, they had covered more than 5,000 miles in their epic journey. After winning two battles at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, General Taylor was awaiting reinforcements and siege guns before advancing on Monterey. Through intermediaries, Santa Anna, now in exile in Cuba, convinced President Polk that if he were passed through the American blockade, he would enter Mexico, seize power, and then negotiate the purchase of western lands and sign a peace treaty. Polk agreed, and in August 1846, Santa Anna arrived in Mexico. True to his character, Santa Anna double-crossed Polk, denounced the Americans, seized power in Mexico City, and began raising new armies to drive the gringos out of Mexico. Alexander W. Doniphan was a Missouri lawyer when war broke out. With no military experience he raised 1,000 men for the I st Regiment of Missouri Mounted Volunteers. He led them on an epic march through northern Mexico. (Library of Congress)
42 Essential Histories • The Mexican War The epic march of the Missouri Volunteers, June 1846-June 1847After marching west from Ft Leavenworth to Bents The Battle of MontereyFort in Colorado, Colonel Alexander W. Doniphanturned south. After winning a skirmish at Canoncrto, heoccupied Santa Fe. Continuing south along the Rio Taylor, now heavily reinforced withGrande, he fought a sharp battle at Brazito, near the volunteer regiments, was stalled near thepresent-day city of El Paso, Texas.There he defeated a Rio Grande for lack of transport, and manyMexican force of 1,200 men. of his new recruits had fallen ill with fever From the Pass of the North, Doniphan probed and dysentery. Under constant pressure fromdeeper into Chihuahua and on 28 February 1847, hisMissounans defeated 3,000 Mexicans at Sacramento Polk to advance into Mexico, Taylor marchedand he occupied the state capital. Chihuahua City. on Monterey with 6,000 of the more healthyAfter another long, dusty march they linked up with regulars and volunteers, reaching theTaylors army at Monterey. From there it was on to outskirts of the city on 19 September. MoreMatamoros and a ship to New Orleans. Doniphans than 10,000 Mexican regulars under thecontemporaries liked to compare his march to that ofXenophon, the Greek who led 10,000 troops to safety command of General Ampudia had spenton a fighting 1,500-mile march through hostile Persian the intervening months fortifying theterritory around 400 BC. approaches to the city.
The fighting 43 Taylor split his forces, sending General the opening, and when the shell exploded,William Worths Division to attack the infantry would rush in through the gap tofortified heights from the west and the southwhile his remaining troops attacked from the On 19 September Taylors army arrived before Monterey.north-west. After fierce fighting and despite The following day, General Worths division movedheavy losses, the Americans hrokc through south-west and cut the Saltillo Road, preventing Mexicanthe defenses and the Mexicans retreated into reinforcements for General Ampudias garrison ofthe city. 10.000. Driving a Mexican force before him, on 21 September Worths men assaulted positions west of Some historians believe it was the Texans, the city and captured fortified hills to the south. Butlerswho had had experience fighting in adobe volunteers and Twiggs troops, attacking from theand rock houses in Mexican cities, who north-west, were first repulsed, but rallied and capturedtaught the regulars the tactics of urban Fort Teneria.fighting. They would smash through a house On 22 September, after Worths men had captured the heavily defended Bishops Palace, Ampudia retreatedwall with pickaxes, or blast holes through it into the city center There followed two days of viciouswith a 6-pounder cannonball. A timed house-to-house fighting until, on 24 September theexplosive shell would then be fired through Mexican commander asked for surrender terms. The battle of Monterey, 19-24 September 1846
44 Essential Histories • The Mexican War kill anyone still alive inside the building. Riflemen would then position themselves on the roof and snipe at the enemy in adjoining houses or streets. When one house had been cleared, the process was repeated on the next. Fighting hand to hand and house to house, the Americans drove toward the center of the city. The end came when an American 10-inch mortar began dropping shells into the central plaza, causing Ampudia to ask for and receive a ceasefire. On 25 September, Mexican troops abandoned Monterey and the Americans marched in. During the lighting, Taylors men had suffered 120 killed and 333 wounded while the Mexicans reported more than 400 casualties. At the end of 1846, most of northern Mexico had been secured by American forces. Polk, however, was outraged at the ceasefire signed by Taylor. The president believed it was too lenient and had enabled the Mexican army to escape. From that time on, he lost confidence in Taylors ability to successfully prosecute the war. The Battle of Buena Vista In desperation, Polk turned to General Winfield Scott, a political enemy, for a solution to the Mexican dilemma. Scott, the most knowledgeable American soldier, proposed an amphibious operation which would land an American army in Vera Cruz, then strike west to capture Mexico City. Holding the Mexican capital by the throat, Scott believed, would force the Mexicans to sign a peace treaty. Polk, although fearing that Scott would become a national hero and a political rival, approved the plan. General Scott was a man of gigantic ego and irascible temper who had many enemiesFifty-one-year-old General Pedro de Ampudia was an in both military and political circles. Polkexperienced soldier who was appointed general in chief realized, however, that he was the oneof the Mexican Army of the North. Although he fortified indispensable soldier who could win thethe aty of Monterey, his defensive line was breeched war.by a tenacious American attack. He surrendered, buthe received terms too generous from Taylor Since Scott would need the blooded regulars(Archives Division,Texas State Library) now serving with Taylor, the president ordered
The fighting 45that Taylors forces be stripped to reinforce the Crusty and bold General Zachary Taylor was the oppositenew invasion plan. In January 1847, Taylor was of Scott. A frontier soldier, his volunteer troops loved him and his informal ways, fondly calling him Old Rough andreduced to guarding Monterey; General Ready In the front lines of the early battles, waving an oldWorths division of 4,000 regulars, two straw hat, he inspired his ill-trained volunteers with hisbattalions of artillery, 1,000 cavalry, and many courage and confidence. (Library of Congress)
46 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarTaylor launched a series of uncoordinated attacks thatwere bloodily repulsed and cost more than 20 percentof his army in casualties. His lack of technical skill wasmade up for by the tenacity of his men, After two daysof fighting, the outer defenses of the city based on theBishops Palace were finally overcome and his batteredtroops entered the city, (Painting by Carl Nebel, ArchivesDivision, Texas State Library)volunteer infantry regiments were ordered tothe coast to embark for Vera Cruz. American generals were not immune topolitical rivalries, and Taylor, now a leadingcandidate for the Whig party nomination forthe 1848 election, suspected a plot by Polkand Scott to destroy him politically.Although furious, Taylor refused to resignover what he considered an insult. Two hundred fifty miles to the south, atSan Luis Potosi, Santa Anna had gathered20,000 ill-trained troops. Shortly after Taylorsent off the bulk of his veterans to Scott, SantaAnnas scouts acquired a bonanza. Theycaptured a dispatch which not only outlined LEFT Storming into the city, regulars and Texas volunteers fought house to house and street by street towardScotts invasion plans but also listed the Montereys Grand Plaza and finally forced their way to thenumber of American troops remaining with center One wearied soldier said:It was a hornets nest whereTaylor. When the Mexican commander every house was a fortress. (Ann S.K. Brown University)
The fighting 47 The battle of Buena Vista, 23 February 1847ABOVE On the morning of 23 February, General Santa Anna hurled 15,000men against an outnumbered American army At Angostura Pass on the SaltilloRoad they were repulsed with heavy losses by fierce American artillery fire,but the Mexican right wing successfully tore into the American center and leftflank overrunning an artillery battery and panicking a volunteer regiment.While Taylors left disintegrated, his center made a fighting withdrawai. Mexicancavalry swept east of the mountains and attacked supply wagons at HaciendaBuena Vista, but they met determined resistance and were driven back TheAmencan center stabilized and after the 3rd US Artillery regiment broke afinal attack on the left front, the tide of battle turned. By mid-afternoon asecond Mexican attack was broken and Santa Anna ordered a retreat.
48 Essential Histories *The Mexican WarThe three-gun artillery battery commanded by Captain desert country, where water and grazing landJohn Paul Jones OBrien with the 2nd Indiana Volunteers was scarce. Rations and forage were in shorton his right flank was attacked by 7,000 Mexican lancers supply and his men, inadequately clothed,and infantry.The Indianans broke but the artillerymenfought until most were killed or wounded and the guns suffered terribly from the cold. Onwere taken. (Sam Chamberlain, San Jacinto Museum of 21 February, his tired troops reached LaHistory Association) Encarnacion, only a days march from Taylors defensive position. More thanlearned of Taylors depleted force, he decided 5,000 had fallen by the wayside, eitherto attack and destroy the weakened Americans. through illness, fatigue, or desertion. Worse,Then, he believed, flushed with victory, he the element of surprise had been lost afterwould be able to rally the Mexican people and Texas Ranger Captain Ben McCulloch slippedturn south to crush Scott at Vera Cruz. past Mexican sentries and climbed a hill On 2 February 1847, Santa Anna headed overlooking the Mexican camp. From there,his army north. The march was mostly across he made an accurate count of the enemy
The fighting 49force and galloped back to Taylor with the At daybreak, Santa Anna launched hisinformation. With this intelligence, Taylor main attacks. Attempting to break throughdeployed his remaining 4,700 troops in Angostura Pass, the Mexicans weredefensive positions at Angostura Pass near decimated by artillery under the commandthe hacienda Buena Vista, seven miles south of Major John Washington. Another attackof Saltillo. Then he waited for the attack. on the American left flank met with initial On 22 February, the 15,000-strong success but was soon shattered by infantryMexican army deployed along the Saltillo reinforcements and the always devastatingRoad. That afternoon they attacked the fire of the light artillery guns, whoseAmerican left flank nestled in rugged hills grapeshot blew gaping holes in attackingand were repulsed by accurate infantry fire. infantry and cavalry.The fighting slackened as darkness fell, and Santa Anna, suffering more thanthroughout the night the troops were pelted 3,500 casualties and needing to keep hiswith cold rain. army intact to fight Scott, gave up northern
50 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarBuena Vista was the decisive battle in the northern The San PatriciosMexico campaign. The raw American volunteers showedthey could maintain discipline under pressure.The There were two anomalies among theartillerymen, commanded by West Point graduates,demonstrated that they could shoot and maneuver military units who fought in the northernquickly and accurately. The battle was a personal defeat battles and later in Scotts campaign. Theyfor Santa Anna , since Taylors luck held. (Painting by were the San Patricios and the Texas Rangers.Carl Nebel, Archives Division, Texas State Library) The regular US army coupled a harsh discipline with a sometimes viciousMexico and retreated to Mexico City. Taylor, discrimination against Irish immigrantan inept tactician, lost 650 men but won a soldiers. Their religion, language, anddecisive victory because of the steadfastness demeanor were often ridiculed by Protestantof his infantry and the expertise of his officers and non commissioned officers alike,gunners. For all practical purposes, the war and they were often brutally punished forin the north had ended. what they considered minor offenses.
The fighting 51 Riley enticed more than 200 Irishmen and a few German immigrants to desert and join the army of their fellow Catholics. The deserters were trained as artillerymen and named the Batallon de San Patricio after the patron saint of Ireland. They flew a banner of green silk decorated with a golden harp and the words Erin go Bragh (Ireland forever) on one side and a picture of Saint Patrick and the words San Patricio on the other. Riley was commissioned a lieutenant in the Mexican army, and as the San Patricios gained fame for valor in combat, he was eventually promoted to colonel. The battalion first fought against their former comrades during the battle for Monterey. In ensuing battles at Buena Vista, Cerro Gordo, and Churubusco they gained a reputation as the most deadly and courageous gunners in the Mexican army. Theirs was a daring born of desperation, because they fought with a rope around their necks. At Angostura Pass at Buena Vista, one third of the battalion were casualties. During their final fight at Churubusco, they suffered 60 percent casualties after heroically trying to repulse American attacks. Seventy men, including Riley, were captured. Following court-martial, 20 of them, including Riley, were each given 50 lashes on their bare backs and had a D branded on their cheek with a hot iron. Then they were released. Twenty more were almost immediately hanged. On 13 September 1847, the remaining 30 were positioned on wagons While the American army was camped facing Chapultepcc Castle. A rope with aalong the Rio Grande across from hangmans knot was fastened around theirMatamoros, more than a few Irishmen necks. When the Stars and Stripes werebelieved they were lashed or bucked and hoisted over the castle battlements, thegagged unjustly. An Irish sergeant named mules pulling the wagons were swattedJohn Riley, tall, blue-eyed, and with a mop and leaped forward, and the San Patriciosof curly black hair and a gift of the gab, dropped to their deaths as traitorsfinally had enough of the ill treatment. and deserters.A former artilleryman in the British army, To this day, the San Patricios are honoredone night he swam across the river and was in Mexico as national heroes. There is awelcomed by his fellow Catholics in the monument in Mexico City where twice aMexican army. Brandishing free whiskey, year, on Saint Patricks day and thepromising the favors of nubile senoritas, and anniversary of the battle of Churubusco,offering 320 acres of good farming land, bands and officials of both Mexico and the
52 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarRepublic of Ireland pay homage to the fallensoldiers of the Batallon de San Patricio.The Texas RangersFor the previous 15 years Texas Rangers hadbeen fighting Mexican soldiers. Many wererelated to those who had been butchered atthe Alamo or Goliad and to them the warwas an opportunity for revenge. Theirquality of mercy was never strained, for theyhad none. The Rangers had their origin as aparamilitary force organized in 1820 topatrol land around Texas settlements and topursue and destroy Indian raiders andpredatory bandits. In these affrays, noquarter was given or received. All volunteers,they fought with military discipline but woreno uniforms and paid no homage to militaryfuss and feathers. Led by experienced fighters, well armed,dressed in frontier garb, excellent riders andlethal marksmen, the Texas Rangers providedtheir own horses and weapons. They provedinvaluable to both Taylor and Scott forreconnaissance, as shock troops, and, mostimportantly, as anti-guerrilla fighters. In the brutal guerrilla war along Americansupply lines, unfortunately their excessesdetracted from their stellar military camp. With superior weapons, led byperformance. Taylor, who had needed them charismatic frontier chieftains, and believingbadly, complained: There is scarcely a crime they were the best fighting men on earth,that has not been reported to me as they created a legend that lives to this day.committed by them. They were reviled byMexicans as Los diablos Tejanos (Texas devils).Before Monterey, in the dark during a Vera Cruzrainstorm, they climbed up the steep face offortified Independence Hill and cut the On 9 March 1847, a fleet of 100 shipsMexican defenders to pieces with Bowie transported Major General Winfield Scottknives and pistols. and 12,000 men to Mexican shores a few righting guerrillas or bandits (the two miles south of Vera Cruz, Mexicos majorwere indistinguishable) who plagued Scotts seaport and the gateway to its capital. Assupply line from Vera Cruz, the Rangers bands played, the troops were rowed ashoreadopted Comanche tactics. Locating a in specially built landing craft, out of rangeguerrilla force, they would swoop down on of the cannon of the formidable San Juan dean enemy camp at dawn. Riding at the Ulua fort that guarded the harbor.gallop with their Colt revolvers blazing, they Scott was in a hurry to take Vera Cruz beforewould overrun and kill everyone in the the dreaded yellow fever season began in April.
The fighting 53His troops encircled the city and cut off its Seated backward on wagons, the San Patricios, withwater supply. Then he had some of the fleets ropes around their necks, heard a triumphant shout by the Americans.The stars and stripes now flew over thebig guns transported ashore. Captain Robert E. heights or Chapultepec. Then the mules were given aLee, an engineer officer, after a reconnaissance, whack, leaped forward and the San Patricios died.placed land batteries around the city perimeter. (Sam Chamberlain. San Jacinto Museum of From 22 March, army artillery, the naval History Association)guns on land, and the guns of the fleet inthe harbor, bombarded the port for five days, army command and promised his people hereducing much of the city to nibble and would drive the Americans into the sea.causing the Mexican commandant to By the first week in April, Santa Anna hadsurrender. Scott had his harbor and his deployed his new army around the mountainlogistical base secured. pass of Cerro Gordo, through which the While the American general prepared to highway to Mexico City passed. With a riverfollow the route of Cortez and his and high bluffs to the right of the highwayConquistadors, Santa Anna was raising a new and steep hills to the left, Santa Anna placedarmy to oppose him. Within a month of his guns and infantry on the high ground eachdrubbing at Buena Vista, the self-styled side of the road. He believed the AmericansNapoleon of the West had suppressed would have to advance along the highwayopposition in Mexico City, reorganized the and could be cut to pieces from crossfire.
54 Essential Histories • The Mexican War Lee and other reconnaissance teams, mountain passes until they had ascended tohowever, had found a path around the an altitude of 10,000 feet. Stopping to catchfortified hills on Santa Annas left flank. On their breath, the soldiers could view the17 April, Scott mounted a fake attack on the snow-covered summit of PopocatepetlMexican right while his main force, volcano stretching 18,000 feet into the sky.undetected, followed the path until they Three thousand feet below lay the greenwere in the left rear of the Mexican defenses. and beautiful Valley of Mexico. Shimmering inUnder the unexpected attack the Mexican the sun were the large lakes of Texcoco,troops began a frenzied retreat. Chalco, and Xochimilco. Through the The Americans inflicted hundreds of mountain haze they could see the spires of thecasualties, captured 3,000 prisoners, and great cathedral and the palaces of the Dons. Itconfiscated large stores of ammunition and was, they thought, magnificent, but loomingprovisions while themselves losing less than with danger were the high walls of the Molino500 men. Scott, however, was suddenly facedwith a serious loss of manpower. In May, sevenstate regiments of 12-month volunteers,veterans of Monterey, Vera Cruz and CerroGordo, announced that their time was expiringand demanded to be shipped home. Scottspleas notwithstanding, they were adamant,and the general was reluctantly forced to letthem leave. The American commander, deep inMexican territory, now had an army ofsomething less than 7,000 men. Despite his thinned ranks, Scott marchedhis army to Puebla, the second largest city inMexico, and took it, to little opposition, on15 May. With 2,000 of his men now ill andwith a supply line threatened by guerrillaforces, Scott could barely field 5,000. Fearingan attack by Santa Annas growing army, hewaited in Puebla for reinforcements. Soon hewas joined by diplomat Nicolas P. Trist, sentby Polk to negotiate a peace treaty when, ifever, the Mexicans surrendered. In July, other, more welcome Americanreinforcements began to arrive and by7 August, the American army had been builtup to almost 14,000 men (although morethan 3,000 were convalescing or too sick tomarch). Like Cortez three centuries before,Scott was undeterred from attacking a hostilecapital with inferior numbers. Mexico Cityboasted a population of almost a quarter of amillion people and the city was garrisoned byan army three times the size of Scotts forces. Leaving his sick behind in Puebla, and theodds notwithstanding, Scott gave the orderto advance. The army hiked 75 miles up theroad toward the capital, winding around
The fighting 55del Rey and the cliffs of Chapultepec Palace. It The Mexican capital would be a tough nutwas there, they knew, that the future of both to crack for Scotts troops. It was surroundedthe United States and Mexico would be decided. by marshlands, the remainders of ancient The landward side of Vera Cruz was heavily fortified.Contreras and Churubusco Stout stone walls surrounded the city, and before them trenches were filled with sharp wooden stakes to impaleIf Santa Anna was not a talented soldier, he attackers. Nine forts, supported by scores of heavywas a persistent one. Back in Mexico City he artillery batteries, promised to meet assault troops with a rain of shells. Scott borrowed heavy guns from theagain squelched opposition and began raising warships, set up land batteries, and in coordination withyet another army that was to total between the Navy launched a furious cannonade upon the city,25,000 and 30,000 men. He also began forcing its surrender (Painting by Carl Nebel. Archivesfortifying the approaches to the city. Division, Texas State Library)
56 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarThe first major amphibious landing in US military history flank and rear open to attacks from troopswas accomplished on 9 March 1847, when troops were disgorging from El Penon.rowed ashore unopposed to beaches south of Vera Scott sent Robert E. Lee, whose militaryCruz. Just three years short of a century later Americansand their British allies powered ashore in Normandy. reputation was soaring, to make a long andBoth campaigns led to final victory after hard fighting. daring personal reconnaissance below the(Library of Congress) southern defenses of the city. After dodging Mexican patrols and reconnoitering thelakes. To approach the city it was necessary tangled terrain, Lee found a way around theto traverse the many causeways, which could strongest Mexican defenses.easily be interdicted by artillery. The He reported that the army could abandonMexicans erected strong redoubts to the the main highway and follow a rough trailnorth and south, but the main fortifications that wound to the south of Lake Chalco andwere placed at El Penon, a hill where artillery Lake Xochimilco and bypassed the outercould command the main road from Vera defenses. Scott agreed with Lees plan and onCruz. Along this road, Santa Anna believed, 14 August, his infantry and cavalry marchedthe Americans would attack. surefootedly along the trail while the As Scotts army of 10,000 approached the artillery and supply wagons bumped along,city, the general faced a dilemma. To rattling but intact.continue along the highway, he would be On 17 August, the advance guard underforced to make a frontal attack on El Penon. General Worth captured the key town ofTo shift his forces to the north would require San Augustin, nestled below the ruggeda 40-mile march around Lake Texcoco only ancient lava flow called the Pedregal.to confront strong defenses at Guadalupe Alarmed, Santa Anna shifted his forces toHidalgo, which was garrisoned by meet the unexpected threat. He stripped the5,000 troops and heavy guns. To move south fortress at El Penon, moved troops and gunsby way of Mexicalcingo would leave his right south of the city and set up new defensive
The fighting 57positions along the road east of the lava defenses. Again he ordered Valencia tobeds. retreat, but the stubborn general refused his As Worth was entering San Augustin, orders once more.Santa Anna was ordering General Gabriel During a rain-filled night, Scotts scoutsValencia to take up positions near the town located a ravine that wound around to theof Contreras, on the west side of the lava rear of Valencias position. The followingbeds, Santa Anna changed his mind the morning, the Americans faked a frontalfollowing day and ordered Valencia to attack while the main hody followed theretreat. The general, however, disobeyed the ravine and came up in the rear of theorder and decided to stand at Contreras. The Mexican troops. They launched anfollowing day, 19 August, Scott split up his immediate attack and in a hrisk fight lastingtroops and ordered Worth to feint an attack less than half an hour, Scotts men inflictedon the left of the Pedregal. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 casualties on the MexicanAmerican engineers cut a road across the defenders. They took 800 prisoners, overranlava field to the west, enabling the bulk of 20 artillery pieces, and captured a herd oftheir forces to launch an attack on Contreras mules. American losses were less than 100.which again outflanked their main defenses. Santa Anna, retreating to Churubusco, As they moved into position, the ordered Valencia shoL He then commandedseparated American forces left a wide gap that the main bridge over the Churubuscobetween them, exposing their flanks to River and the fortified San Mateo conventcounterattack. If Santa Anna had had the be held at all costs. In both places theboldness to exploit this gap and attacked, he defiant San 1atricios manned key artillerymight have defeated the Americans in detail, positions.but the Napoleon of the West lost his After taking Contreras, Scott quickly decidednerve. He retreated toward Churubusco, to pursue the fleeing Mexicans and unite hiswhich anchored the north-eastern part of his forces before Churubusco. In their second battle of the day, the tired Americans suffered heavily from infantry and artillery fire during their assault on both the bridge and the convent. They launched charge after charge until they penetrated part of Churubuscos defenses, after which Mexican soldiers attempted to raise a white (lag and surrender. With curses, the enraged San 1atricios tore it down and continued to fight under their emerald banner, until American bayonets ripped it down and the position finally fell. On 20 August, the Mexican army had a grim day. They had already lost two battles and more than a third of their troops, either from enemy fire, surrender, or desertion. More than 4,000 were dead or wounded and 3,000 had been taken prisoner. Eight of the prisoners were generals, two of whom had once been presidents of Mexico, and as the Robert E. Lee, shown here in 1865 while commanding the Confederate Army, as a young engineer officer made daring reconnaissance trips behind the Mexican lines, enabling Scott to skirt the strongest enemy positions, (Library of Congress)
58 Essential Histories • The Mexican War Scotts advance to Mexico City, 9 March-12 September 1847Cerro Gordo or Fat Hill was strategically located on the day ended, the Americans were camped lessmain road leading to Mexico City. Santa Anna was than four miles from Mexico City.confident he could stop the Americans there since his Scotts men, however, were exhausted fromguns could ram havoc on any troops hiking along the road. forced marches, constant fighting, andHowever the Amencans found a path around the Mexicanleft flank and rear and routed the defenders. Fleeing the debilitating illnesses. Since marching frombattle Santa Anna abandoned his wooden left leg. (Painting Vera Cruz, the Americans had lost more thanby Carl Nebel, Archives Division,Texas State Library) 1,000 effectives. While his men rested, Scott
The fighting 59Following the Americans first major amphibious landing Santa Annas depleted army. Both sidesbelow Vera Cruz, Scott laid siege to the port which agreed that during negotiations neither sidesurrendered on 27 March. Leading an army never would reinforce their armies. Scott complied;numbering more than 10,000 effectives. Scott made a Santa Anna did not. Instead he franticallyfighting advance toward Mexicos capital, winning a majorbattle at Cerro Gordo on 18 April. He occupied Puebla attempted to raise more troops and bolsteron 15 May and awaited reinforcements. In early August, the inner defenses of the capital.bedevilled by guerrillas attempting to cut his tenuous The truce also allowed the Americans tosupply lines, he marched on. Reaching the outskirts of purchase food supplies from the largeMexico City, he awaited reconnaissance reports from markets in Mexico City. This provision tooRobert E. Lee. When Lee advised an attack from the south, the was not honored. When an unarmedarmy skirted below Lake Chalco and Xochimilco and American provision train entered the city tothen struck north. They defeated Mexican defenders at purchase food, it was driven off by enragedContreras and Churbusco on 20 August and at Molino Mexican soldiers and citizens. Santa Annadel Rey on 8 September The Americans were then apologized, but took no action to preventpoised for the wars climactic battle. further attacks. Scott ignored the violations in order tosent a message to Santa Anna, demanding he continue negotiations between Americansurrender Mexico City. The Mexican leader, peace commissioners and Mexicanstalling for time, hinted at a peace settlement government officials. After two weeks ofand warned that an attack on the capitalwould scatter the government and make peace American troops cut a road through a lava field, thenegotiations impossible. Taking the hint, Scott Pedregal, up to Contreras Hill, where the Mexicans wereoffered a ceasefire during which time a entrenched. American forces became separated duringpeaceful settlement could be negotiated. the advance and were in danger of being defeated in On 24 August, both sides signed an detail. The following day, however, Santa Anna lost his nerve and retreated. Against orders, General Gabrielarmistice. Its provisions included an Valencia made a stand but the Americans soon routedexchange of prisoners which his forces at bayonet point. (Carl Nebel. Archivesoverwhelmingly worked to the benefit of Division.Texas State Library)
60 Essential Histories • The Mexican Wardithering with the Mexican delegates, who infantry regiment in the army. On therejected every American proposal, Scott morning of 8 September, American artilleryrealized he had been tricked and he shelled the Molino while the storming party,terminated the armistice. Santa Anna under heavy fire from Mexican infantry andcountered with a ringing speech of defiance. artillery, attacked. Scott determined to attack the city and At first, although taking numerousmoved his rested troops toward the casualties, the Americans broke into thesouth-west causeways which led to the center Mexican line and captured an artilleryof the capital. Blocking his way were battery. However, with their ranks reducedfortifications around the Molino del Rey by casualties, they were forced to retreat(Kings Mill), an industrial complex which was when the defenders counterattacked. Thesaid to be producing weapons for the Mexican storming party, under Major George Wright,army. The Molino consisted of more than was raked by continuing enemy fire and the200 yards of stone buildings. A report, later major and 10 of the other 14 officers wereproved to be false, stated that all the church struck down. More than half of the elite 500bells of Mexico City were being melted down littered the ground in front of the Molino.in the Molino and recast as cannon. Worth then ordered his main force to Two heavily fortified positions anchored assault all along the Mexican line. Thethe Mexican defensive line. On the left flank Americans fired a volley, then, screaming warwas an old abandoned flour mill, the cries and curses, smashed their way into theMolino, and on the right, the walls of theCasa Mata. Between the positions, Santa Santa Anna had his men fortify a convent near a bridgeAnna had massed most of his artillery. crossing the Churubusco River The American advance was stopped temporarily by the frenzied soldiers of the General Worths division of 3,000 men San Patricio Battalion. They were men fighting with awas ordered to storm both positions and noose around their necks. Finally, the Mexicans brokeopen the road to the capital. Worth created a and Scott won his second battle of the day. (Painting byparty of 500 volunteers selected from each Carl Nebel. Archives Division, Texas State Library)
The fighting 61defenses. Rifles and pistols blasted at close Mexican troops fighting behind parapets at the Tete derange quickly gave way to musket butts and Pont bridgehead over the Churubusco River sent a hailstorm of bullets into the American ranks, causingslashing bayonets as bloody hand-to-hand heavy casualties.The Americans, however, continued tolighting raged through the rooms and advance over the bodies of their dead until thehallways of the old mill. exhausted defenders retreated into Mexico City. At the other end of the line, at the Casa (Library of Congress)Mata, the first American attack was repulsedwith heavy losses. The flying batteries were an estimated 2,000 deserters. Many of thoserushed to the front, where they opened a who fled the Molino probably rejoined thefurious barrage on the Mexican positions Mexican garrison holding out at the innerwith explosive shells and canister as the defenses of Mexico City.Americans attacked again. Although the Neither Worth nor Santa Anna gainedMexicans fought with stubborn valor and any glory from the battle. As they mournedmost of the defenders died at their posts, the heavy butchers bill, many Americanwith repeated American attacks the Casa officers were irate at Worths handling of theMata was finally overrun and captured. battle. His attacks, they said, were clumsy By mid-morning, after two hours of and uncoordinated. Santa Anna, on thefighting, Worths men had occupied the other hand, had retired the night before toentire Mexican defense line. Worth had lost the National Palace in Mexico City in order,116 dead and 671 wounded, more than a he claimed, to get a good nights sleep.third of the soldiers who had made the Others accused him of yet another dalliance.attacks. The Mexicans had fought with They recalled that similar events at Sangreat bravery but had suffered more than Jacinto in 1836 and at Vera Cruz during the2,000 killed and wounded, 700 captured, and French invasion of 1837 had caught him
62 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarA fortified foundry. Molino del Rey, or Kings Mill, was within a mile of the Molino just in time topart of the western defenses around Chaputtepec join the retreat of the survivors of hisCastle, the key to the defenses of Mexico City. As a defeated forces.forlorn hope of 500 picked men charged the Mexicanlines, inside the foundry, workers were still casting The following day, 9 September, GeneralMexican cannon, Suffering heavily, the Americans took Scott summoned Robert E. Lee to accompanythe walls at bayonet point. The road to Chapultepec was him on a reconnaissance of the inner ring ofnow open. (Painting by Carl Nebel, Archives Division, defenses of Mexico City. Accompanied byTexas State Library) staff officers and engineers, they first observed the Nino 1erdido Road and the Sanflagrante delicto. His amours, they charged, Antonio Causeway to the south-east of thehad contributed to both military disasters. city. Scott spent two more days observing theIn any event, the generalissimo arrived Mexican defenses to the west, of which the
The fighting 63 Lee believed. All but one of the senior generals and engineers agreed with him. Then, the young Lieutenant Pierre G.T. Beauregard, who would later become a general in the Confederate Army, spoke up. Passionately, the Louisiana Creole argued that Santa Anna expected an attack from the south and that he had many of his big guns positioned to dominate the southern causeways. Fake an attack from the south, he argued, then strike at Chapultepec. Brigadier General Franklin Pierce of the New Hampshire Volunteers, who would later defeat Winfield Scott for the presidency of the United States, agreed. Scott had already made up his mind. Gentlemen, he said, we will attack from the west. We will take Chapultepec Castle.grim, looming Chapultepec Castle was thekey. On the evening of 11 September, Scottcalled a council of war with his most seniorand trusted officers. The general informedthem that he preferred to attack the castle, buthe asked: What are your opinions? Robert E.Lee spoke first. Contradicting his superiorofficer, Lee proposed an attack from the south,driving up the San Antonio Causeway to theheart of the city. Attacking the castle on itshigh ground would be too costly in casualties,
Portrait of a soldierU.S. Grant: From the depths tothe heightsGeneral William Tecumseh Sherman said it man who would later command all the armiesbest: Grants whole character was a mystery of the United States did not like the army.even to himself; a combination of strength After graduating in the middle of his classand weakness not paralleled by any whom I in 1843, Grant informed his classmates thathave read in ancient or modern history. he planed to resign his commission at an Ulysses Simpson Grant was born on an early date and find a job as a mathematicsOhio farm in 1822 and spent his early years teacher. The delicate, fair-skinned, five-foothelping his father bring in crops. As a youth eighl-inch-tall lieutenant, who was oncehe showed no interest in the military, but described as looking like a doll, was notwhen his father secured for him an rated highly enough to be assigned to theappointment to West Point Military Academy, coveted engineers or field artillery branches.he grudgingly agreed to enter the school. He was instead assigned to the 4th Infantry He disliked the academy, with its spit and to quartermaster and commissary duties.polish and difficult curriculum. He did, When war broke out between the Unitedhowever, shine in mathematics, but was a States and Mexico, Grant determined to dodiffident scholar in other studies. On his duty in spite of his opposition to thehorseback he became transfigured: a shy, conflict. He later wrote: 1 regard the war assmallish man on the ground, he was a one of the most unjust ever waged by acommanding equestrian in the saddle. The stronger against a weaker nation. Grant considered the war a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union. In September 1845, the 4th Infantry joined Zachary Taylors army near Corpus Christi, Texas. Camping there to pass the time before marching to the Rio Grande, the officers formed a theatrical troupe. In a production of Othello, Grant played the gentle lady Desdemona. Pictured in well- known photos taken during the Civil War, it is difficult to imagine the rumpled, bearded, grim-faced general who, one observer remarked, looked like he was about to ram his head through a brick wall, playing the part of the delicate wife of a Moorish general. When the fighting started, Grant wrote that he was determined to do his duty as a soldier to bring victory to his country. Before Fort Texas on the Rio Grande on 2 May Although Lieutenant Sam (Ulysses S.) Grant, a West Pointer thought the war was unjustified, he fought bravely through all the major battles. (Library of Congress)
Portrait of a soldier 651846, he first heard the sound of hostile reconnaissance reports of his future nemesis,cannon, and later recalled: I felt sorry that I Robert E. Lee as perfect. Lee, in his report,had enlisted. noticed the work of Lieutenant Grant ... who His baptism of fire came on 8 May during was usefully employed. Ironically, when thethe battle of Palo Alto, when a cannon ball Civil War erupted 15 years later, Lee refuseddecapitated a soldier standing near him. The the command of the Union annies whichfollowing day, Grant was given command of Grant would lead to victory against him afterhis company as they marched to the relief of four years of bitter fighting.Fort Texas. In the attack on Molino del Rey, Grant During the ensuing battle of Kesaca de la left his mules and joined in the assault.Palma, he led his company in a successful During the hand-to-hand fighting, hecharge, backed up by the Flying Artillery. In encountered the brother of Julia Dent, hisAugust, when Taylor began his march to fiancee. Lieutenant Fred Dent, laying with aMonterey, Grant, much to his disgust, was bullet in his thigh, said he could await theplaced in charge of the regimental mule surgeons, so Grant hurried back into thetrain. Frustrated, Grant wrote that he had thick of the fighting. By nightfall, the battlenever used a profane expletive in his life but had been won, but at a terrible cost inT would have the chanty to excuse those casualties. For his gallantry during the attack,who may have done so, if they were in Grant was brevetted a first lieutenant.charge of a train of Mexican pack mules. He missed the fighting during the assault After his regimental adjutant was killed on Chapultepec, but when that position wasduring a charge before Monterey, Grant took taken, he was one of the first to arrive beforeover those duties and by 23 September, he the gate of the San Cosme Causeway, whichhad undergone a metamorphosis about led to the center of Mexico City. The Sancombat and was gratified to battle his way Cosme was the same elevated road thatinto the city alongside his regiment. Cortez had used during his retreat from the During house-to-house fighting, the Aztec capital 300 years previously. The4th ran low on ammunition and Grant defenders had placed guns and infantry tovolunteered to ride through a gauntlet of sweep the approaches along the road. Grantgunfire to bring up additional supplies. realized that the enemy position had to beThrough a hellfire of shot and shell, hooking destroyed if the American attack was toa foot over his saddle with one arm around succeed.his horses neck, he clung to the side of his He later wrote: I found a church ... thatmount Comanche style and galloped back to looked to me as if the belfry would commandthe supply wagons. He soon returned to the the ground back of ... San Cosme. Thefight with a wagon-load of ammunition. young lieutenant commandeered a mountain In March 1847, Grant, who had been howitzer and a number of men from thetransferred to Scotts army, splashed ashore Voltiguers Regiment. He ordered the gunwith the first troops to land on the beach disassembled and parceled out thesouth of Vera Cruz. To his dismay, his components to his men. To dodge the road,efficiency as a mule train driver resulted in which was swept by enemy lire, Grant andhis being made permanent quartermaster for his men slipped to the south and carried thehis regiment. During the battles of Cerro howitzer parts through several ditches,Gordo, Contreras, and Churubusco, Grant wading through waist-deep water. Coming upwas relegated to guarding the mules and the behind the church, Grant politely knockedsupply wagons. on the door. When a priest opened the door When the American army advanced and peeked out at the muddy, sweat-soakedtoward Mexico City, he volunteered to help lieutenant, he at first refused admittance.reconnoiter the citys defenses. In his memoirs In his memoirs, Grant was perhaps toowritten some 40 years later, Grant praised the polite to write about his persuasive measures,
66 Essential Histories • The Mexican Warmerely stating that the priest began to see was a broken, middle-aged man, cursed withhis duty in the same light that I did and failure and disappointment. Behind his back,opened the door. neighbors referred to him not as Ulysses, but The Americans manhandled the howitzer rather as Useless Grant.parts up the winding, narrow stairway to the When the Civil War broke out in 1861belfry and reassembled the gun. Grant later and the Union was desperate for experiencedwrote: We were not more than two or three officers, Grant was commissioned a colonelhundred yards from San Cosme. Opening of Illinois volunteers and was quickly raisedfire, the Americans dropped shell after to brigadier general. He had early successes,explosive shell onto the heads of the San particularly in forcing the surrender of FortCosme defenders. Donelson, an important Confederate fort on In the meantime, the American troops the Cumberland River in Tennessee. He waswho had been tunneling through adobe promoted to major general, but in Aprilhouses on the north side of the causeway 1862, his fortunes plummeted and he wasreached the San Cosine gate. After Grants nearly shelved when he barely escapedbombardment had silenced the Mexican defeat during the bloody battle at Shiloh,guns and raked and spread panic among the Tennessee.infantry defenders, the Americans were able President Lincoln, suffering incompetentto carry the position by assault. At the same and reluctant generals, supported Grant.time, other troops captured the Belen Gate When told of Grants drinking, Lincolnand by the evening of 13 September, Scotts asked for the name of his brand of whiskeyarmy had advanced to the heart of Mexico so he could send a keg to all of his generals.City. The following day, the capital That man fights, said Lincoln.capitulated as the remaining Mexican troops In July 1863, Grant captured the fortressretreated from the city. As a result of his of Vicksburg, the key to control of theaction, Grant was brevetted captain. For all Mississippi River. Shortly afterwards, he waspractical purposes, the fighting was over. given command of all the more than one When the war ended, Grant returned million Union troops. Attacking Robert E. Leehome and on 22 August 1848, he married in Virginia, Grant suffered appallinghis long-time sweetheart, Julia Dent. A few casualties: more than 6,000 Union soldiersyears later, while stationed in California and fell in less than one hour at Cold Harbor.separated from his wife, out of loneliness Grant weathered the cries of Butcher andand boredom, he took to the bottle. In 1854, gradually wore down the thinningunder a cloud caused by his excessive Confederate forces. Hailed as the hero whodrinking, he resigned his commission. won the war, Grant was elected President in Grant rejoined Julia and with his family 1868 and was re-elected in 1872. Aftersettled in St. Louis, Missouri, for the next six retirement, he made bad investments andyears. During that time, he failed miserably became bankrupt and deeply in debt.both as a businessman and as a farmer. In Although suffering horribly from throat1860, he and his family moved to Galena, cancer, he wrote his memoirs to pay hisIllinois, where he worked as a clerk in his debts. Four days after he finished them, hefathers small leather store. In 1860, Grant died, in July 1885.
The world around warProgress and stagnation The Mexicans Santa Anna with a special hatred, and revolts against his government were endemic inThe greatest obstacle for the Mexican many regions.government in forging a united front against Patria chica was also reflected in the highthe American invaders was the prevailing rate of desertion among Mexican soldiers.concept of patria chica, which translates as Hungry, ill, only partially trained orsmall homeland. Divided by race, caste, equipped, and held in contempt by theirlanguage, and geography, Mexicans gave officers, conscripts had little reason to lighttheir loyally to their family, close friends, the fierce Americanos. At the firstvillage, linguistic group, or region. The opportunity, many slipped away from campconcept of Mexican-ness or loyalty to the to find their way back to their home village.government in Mexico City was foreign to White many Mexicans fought bravelymost. Spread over vast areas and separated against the invaders, there were others whoby mountains, jungle, and desert, many actively collaborated with the Americans.Mexicans were both ignorant of and Hundreds of Mexican men and womenindifferent to the problems of their central were hired by the American army to providegovernment. Many Mexicans also regarded information about Mexican fortifications and troop movements. For example, ScottsWhile some Mexicans fought bitterly against the intelligence officers hired a troop ofAmericans, others collaborated both economically and 200 renegades and political dissenters tosocially, A peaceful fandango where American soldiersdanced with senoritas was not uncommon. (Sam fight the guerrillas plaguing his supply lineChamberlain, San Jacinto Museum of History Association) from Vera Cruz.
68 Essemial Histories • The Mexican War Others readily sold food, forage, horses, to rebuild an army to fight Scott, quelled theand mules to American quartermasters. Some rebellion by repudiating the seizure ofhired themselves out as guides through a Church property. Later he forced the Churchcountry unknown to the invaders. For a fee, to contribute two million pesos to hisnumbers of Mexican women functioned as government. When new taxes could not bewasherwomen, cooks, nurses, and sexual collected from an impoverished economy,partners for American servicemen. Their Santa Anna simply seized needed supplies,services were indistinguishable from those of giving worthless markers as payment.the soldaderas who succored Mexican soldiers. Many Mexicans began to urge peace; they Collaboration also reached into the were willing to give up half their country inhighest ranks of state governments. In the exchange for American dollars, which theynorth, the governors in Chihuahua, hoped would mend their broken economy.Coahuila, and Tamaulipas continued Financial disaster, combined with theeconomic ties with the Americans. In the disruption of domestic and internationalsouth, Chiapas and Tabasco refused to aid trade, the destruction of major cities andthe central government, while the Yucatan industries during the fighting, and therose in revolt, from 1847 to the end of seizures of foodstuffs and other goods byhostilities, a peasant revolt in central Mexico both armies led to chronic hunger amongfurther sapped that countrys resistance to much of the population.the invader. Agriculture was the linchpin of Mexicos When Napoleon said that an army economy. Most of the production came frommarched on its stomach, he might have large estates worked by peons who were keptadded that it marched only as far as its in constant debt by the haciendados. Unlessfinances would take it. While internal dissent a hacienda was located in the war zone,kept politicians playing musical chairs in however, life went on as usual, with debtMexico City, the war effort was starving for peonage, in effect, as great an evil as slavery.funds. With the opening of hostilities in With a lack of incentives for both owners1846, the Catholic Church pledged one and peons, production was poor and Mexicomillion pesos to support the war effort of the failed to utilize new developments inalready bankrupt government. It was little agricultural machinery.enough for a war that would ultimately cost The burdens of the war fell heavily on the100 million pesos. women of Mexico. When their men folk were The American naval blockade not only conscripted into the army, the women carriedprevented Mexico from purchasing needed on the work on the family farm, fightingweapons, it also cut off all sources of revenue plows through rough ground, planting andbom exports and customs duties, reducing harvesting crops to feed their families, andpublic revenues by 50 percent. In desperation selling produce at the markets to bring in athe Mexican government stopped payment of few pesos to clothe their children. Whilegovernment salaries, pensions, and debt some hired out as laborers at the largeobligations. In an effort to raise funds they plantations, many marched with theirrequested loans from states and cities, but soldiers. These women continued the historicpatria chica remained an obstacle, and little role of the soldaderas - the women warriorshelp came from the outlands. and auxiliaries who shared the hardships and The Mexican government then seized the dangers of their men. The soldaderasChurch property to use as collateral in an were more than just camp followers. Theyattempt to raise a badly needed 15 million foraged for food, carried supplies on theirpesos. This action caused a rebellion by backs, nursed the wounded, and on someChurch adherents called tolkos, most of occasions fought alongside their men.whom were militia officers from Mexico An example of their dedication wasCitv. Santa Anna, diverted from attempting related by an American lieutenant during the
The world around war 69fighting at Monterey. He wrote that in the In August 1814, an American delegationmiddle of the fighting, he saw a soldadera led by John Quincy Adams met with theircarrying food and water to wounded men British counterparts in Ghent, Belgium, tolying on the battlefield. The woman, he settle what the Americans called the War ofwrote, lifted the head of one groaning 1812. The treaty ended the fighting but leftsoldier, gave him water and then bandaged unresolved several problems, including thehis wound with a scarf covering her head. Oregon boundaries.Returning to her lines, she filled a pot with The British claimed sovereignty in Oregonwater and re-crossed the battlefield to help because ol tht establishment of Hudsonsothers. While in the line of fire, a stray bullet Bay Trading Company posts in the area, withstruck her and she fell dead. their headquarters in Vancouver. American While many soldiers, their women, and at claims rested on an American ships voyageChapultepec even their children fought up the Columbia River in 1792 and Lewisbravely, Mexico was a badly divided nation. and Clarks expedition, which had enteredThe Mexican historian Lucas Alaman wrote Oregon during the winter of 1805/6. Inin despair: 1835, the American claim was bolstered It seems reckless of Scott to march with such a when missionaries to the Indian tribes andsmall army against a city of 180,000 inhabitants other settlers began to pour into the country.plus a very considerable garrison, which By the time of Polks inauguration, theoutnumbers the attacking army ... despite this, United States was in the throes of itsthere is no doubt in my mind that he will take mystical drive for Manifest Destiny. Athe city ... Our army consists mainly of recruits driving part of American jingoism was theunder command of generals who are renowned cry of Fifty-four forty or fight from thosefor how fast they can flee, and nothing will move said to suffer from Oregon fever. The sloganthe masses, who are watching all this as if it meant that the American northern boundarywere happening in a foreign country. That is how for Oregon must be set at 54 degrees 40weary they are after so many revolts. This will all minutes north latitude, or war must ensue.be over very soon. Such a boundary would have had to take Alamans remarks were prophetic. A lew in the Canadian port of Vancouver anddays after the Americans occupied the capital extend as far north as Rupert Sound, in whatand the street fighting ended, the gambling is now British Columbia. This, Polk realized,hails, saloons, cock fighting parlors, was both ridiculous and unobtainable. In therestaurants, coffee houses, and bordellos past, all American presidents, starting withreopened with their proprietors greeting James Monroe in 1817, had agreed that aAmerican soldiers and their dollars with proper boundary should be set at 49 degreeswelcoming smiles. north latitude. Polk blustered to assuage the militants, but in June 1846, the British government, uninterested in fighting a warThe Americans over a faraway land of dubious value, sent a draft treaty to the American governmentWhen Polk was elected president, he vowed agreeing to the 49 degree boundary.to do two things - acquire California and By this time, the United States was at warsettle the Oregon boundaries. In order to with Mexico and Polk considered it expedientaccomplish the first, however, he had to to concur with the British proposal. Lieresolve the second. immediately agreed to the treaty and the It was one thing to pressure Mexico into United States Senate ratified it on 18 Juneselling their north-western territory at the risk 1846. The United States was then free toof war; it was another to risk fighting Great continue its war with Mexico uninterrupted.Britain and Canada over a dispute about the While the Jure for land drove many westproper latitude of the Oregon Territory. during the war years, it was a trip fraught with
70 Essential Histories • The Mexican Warperil. Starvation, contaminated water, Indian Other pioneers were not so fortunate.attacks, burning heat in the desert and plains, During the winter of 1847, the Donner Party,and freezing cold in the mountains caused consisting of 84 men, women, and childrenmany shallow graves on the trails to California, heading for California, were trapped byOregon, and Utah. But still they came. heavy snows in the Sierra Nevada mountains. In midwinter of 1846, members of the After heroic attempts at rescue, 40 membersChurch of jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were saved. But westerners, althoughbetter known as Mormons, were driven from toughened by many trials, were horrified totheir settlements in Nauvoo, Illinois, by learn that during weeks of near starvation,violent mobs who opposed their religious some of the party had sustained themselvesbeliefs. Under the leadership of Brigham by eating the bodies of their dead.Young, the colony began a long trek across Another tragedy befell Marcus Whitmanhalf the continent to their final refuge in the and his beautiful wife, Narcissa. A physicianUtah Territory. and a missionary, Whitman had established They established winter quarters near a mission and hospital in the Walla Wallapresent-day Omaha, Nebraska. Although Valley in Oregon. On their first trip to thesuffering from near starvation and a cholera area, Narcissa became the first Americanepidemic that killed 600, they assembled a woman to cross the Rocky Mountains.Mormon Battalion of 500 men who pledged to Within a few years, Whitmans missionfight for the United States in the war with became an important way station forMexico. The battalion marched to California incoming immigrants since an Americanbut arrived too late to take part in the fighting. medical doctor was a rarity in the west. When the winter weather eased in April Unfortunately, European and American1847, the Mormons continued their diseases were transmitted by the immigrantswestward march. Some traveled in covered to neighboring Indians, who had nowagons pulled by mules, but many pushed immunities to those ailments. Many Indianstheir belongings across the plains and died of measles, smallpox, and othermountains in handcarts. After a journey of diseases, and Whitman was blamed fOT themore than three months, a vanguard of deaths of the tribesmen. On 29 November150 men, women, and children arrived at 1847, a war party of the Cayuse tribethe valley of the Great Salt Lake on 24 July attacked Whitmans mission and massacred1847. Upon arrival, they began to dig the the doctor, his wife, and 12 other settlers.irrigation ditches to bring water to the arid The war with Mexico fiercely divided theprairie where they planted their first crops. American people. While the majorityFacing possible raids from roving Indian supported the war, a loud minority despisedbands, Young wisely made the decision: It is it, and their rancor filled the newspapers andbetter to feed the Indians than fight them. the debates in the houses of Congress.His policy of friendship resulted in a rare A newly elected congressionalpeace between the two races. representative from Illinois, Abraham When the desert began to bloom, Lincoln, declared: The war with Mexico wasMormons by the thousands journeyed to unnecessarily and unconstitutionallytheir new haven, headquartered at the newly commenced by the president. Lincolnfounded Salt Lake City. A catastrophe nearly challenged Polk on the issue that Americanovertook the settlement in 1848 when blood had been shed on American soil andswarms of crickets descended into their implied that the American troops were thevalley and began to devour their ripening aggressors. He charged that Polk desiredcrops. Providentially, flocks of sea gulls military glory ... that serpents eye whicharrived over the Salt Lake area and devoured charms to destroy ... I more than suspectthe crickets, thus saving the crops and that Polk is deeply conscious of being in thepreventing the starvation of the settlers. wrong and that he feels the blood of this
The world around war 71 war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to Pennsylvania, proposed an amendment to Heaven against him. the military appropriations bill. This stated However, like many critics of the war, that neither slavery nor involuntary Lincoln voted for an appropriations bill to servitude would be permitted in any territory support military operations. An Illinois seized from Mexico. After acrimonious newspaper responded to Lincolns debate, the House passed it but the Senate fulminations by branding him a second killed it. It had, however, resurrected again Benedict Arnold, and Lincoln was defeated the issue of slavery, which began to permeate for reelection. every facet of American political discussion. Comparing Lincoln to Arnold was perhaps One of the ironies in American political the most vicious charge that could then be history occurred during the presidential made against an American. General Arnold election of 1848, when the Whigs, who had has been a trusted favorite of George opposed the war, nominated General Washington during the American Zachary Taylor as their candidate. Revolutionary War. In August 1780 he had The fevered political debates during the turned traitor and attempted to turn over the war years were fueled by major advances in American armys position at West Point to the publishing. New improvements in printing British in exchange for money and a presses and paper manufacturing enabled brigadiers commission in the British army. publishers to produce newspapers, His act of treachery was discovered but he was magazines, and books faster and in greater able to escape to safety behind British lines. quantities than ever before. The American Henry Clay, a former senator from public, with one of the highest literacy rates Kentucky and unsuccessful candidate for in the world, hungered for news, and president, often called the Great Pacificator newspaper war correspondents satiated them or the Great Compromiser for his efforts to with timely reports from the battlefields. As hold the Union together, spoke out soon as correspondents or their messengers forcefully: The Mexican war, he said, is one could reach the newly developed telegraph of unnecessary and offensive aggression ... lines, their words could be sent quickly Mexico is defending her firesides, her castles, throughout the country. The bigand her altars, not we. steam-powered presses enabled magazine Representative Alexander Stephens of and book publishers to flood the markets Georgia, in a protest rare among with cheap publications featuring tales of theSoutherners, pronounced: The principle of military exploits of home-town soldiers, aswaging war against a neighboring people to well as fictional accounts of the fighting.compel them to sell their country is not only The war years did not, however, havedishonorable but disgraceful and infamous. much influence on the development of President Polk responded to his critics by American literature. The only major writerclaiming they were prolonging the war and who wrote a war novel was James Fenimoregiving aid and comfort to the enemy, and Cooper, and poets John Greenleaf Whittierwhile American soldiers were fighting and and James Russell Lowell denounced the wardying in Mexico, congressional opposition in forgettable poetry and prose.like Lincoln, fearful of being labeled traitors, Perhaps the most important literaryfor the most part voted appropriations to influence on the American thirst forsustain the war effort. California was written by a young American Polk was a Democrat, and upon his sailor, Richard Henry Dana Jr. While aelection held a majority of votes in the student at Harvard, Dana traveled to theHouse of Representatives and the Senate. In Pacific and then spent a year working in1848, however, the opposition Whig party California. His book Two Years Before the Mast,and dissident Democrats, led by published in 1840, provided an exhilaratingRepresentative David Wilmot of picture of San Francisco Bay. He described the
72 Essential Histories • The Mexican Warbay and the surrounding lands in their Many women, usually those with familypristine state, unspoiled by the commerce of members in the ranks, volunteered to sewmen hut inviting in its splendid harbor, its bandages, blankets, socks, and other wearablebeautiful birds, and its plentiful game. items for their loved ones. Others - Another literary work initialed during the abolitionists or those who opposed the war onwar years was the journey of historian frauds religious or humanitarian grounds - spoke outParkman, who set out in 1846 for the Oregon against it, though dissenting voices were few.Territory. In his magisterial work The Oregon At first, the American war effort facedTrail, published in 1849, he chronicled his financial difficulties, in 1842, the government,adventures on the trail from St. Louis to tire in an effort to protect growing AmericanPacific Ocean. Parkman described the dangers, industries and, as Southerners would say, tothe hardships, and the loneliness of travel force them to buy eastern goods, set a highthrough the vast spaces of the west. He foretold tariff on imports. While the tariff wasthe passing of the buffalo and the corralling of successful in stifling foreign competition, itthe nomadic Indian tribes as the swarming also drastically reduced government revenuesnumbers of covered wagons continued to and put severe limitations on the extension ofbroaden the western trails and thousands of international credit to American entrepreneurs.new settlers began to fill up the pristine lands. Coupled with currency inflation and a slowing The war years heralded a major of the business cycle, the United Statesdevelopment in medicine, when in October treasury was hard put to finance a war.1846, anesthesia was first used to relieve At the beginning of hostilities, the treasurypain during surgery. The pain killer letheon held only a small surplus of $7 million.was administered to a soldier whose legs When Polk recommended that the Congresswere amputated after they were crushed in place additional taxes on coffee and tea, thean accident. While the pain reliever was a House of Representatives indignantly refused,godsend to badly wounded soldiers, many Polk, however, was able to have passed a newstill continued to die as a result of infections bill lowering tariffs, and by the beginning ofand the always lethal gangTene. The most 1847 revenues began to increase. Thedeadly killer was still diarrhoea, which was Congress also voted to issue $10 million innot well understood by physicians of the new Treasury notes and bonds.day. It was often treated with ineffective Technical advances in agriculturemedicines or by the almost medieval concept increased production when, in 1846, Johnof bleeding the patient every few days. Deere constructed the first plow with a steel While more than 100,000 men served in moldboard. The American agriculturalthe military during the war, the American picture brightened in 1847 when famine ineconomy was not strained by the war effort. Ireland and Germany resulted in anWith a population of more than 20 million, increased sale of American grain and corn.constantly increased by swarms of European As additional revenues flowed in fromimmigrants, the absence of the men in increased foreign trade and Americanuniform was hardly noticed, except by victories on the battlefield became known,family and friends. European credit restrictions loosened. As a Unlike the women of Mexico, American result the American economy rebounded andwomen were not thrust into mens jobs in entered a period of increased prosperity.order to provide for their families. During the1840s and for several generations thereafter,American womens activities centered around Europehome and family. Some were required tomanage family farms while their husbands While the war between the United States andwere serving in Mexico, but large families and Mexico raged, across the Atlantic, European abundance of labor eased the absence. was in the throes of epochal changes in
The world around war 73industry, politics, science, religion, and the Expanding railroads began stretching across both Europearts. This vast ferment of new ideas was and the United States, creating a revolution in land transportation at the dawning of the industrial age. Otherbrought about by a combination of factors, significant developments were John Deenes plow, featunngincluding the Industrial Revolution, the a steel moldboard, and Elias Howes patent for the firstFrench and American revolutions, scientific- practical sewing machine. (Ann Ronan Picture Library)discoveries, and democratic ideals. Throughout the continent machines were proliferation of newspapers, magazines, andreplacing craftsmen, and home shops were books, an influential group of intellectualsbeing replaced by large factories employing and writers arose who determined to changethousands. There was a rush to the cities as the human condition. Middle-classpopulation growth created surplus fann liberalism, businessmen frustrated by thelaborers. The new capitalism spawned a society privileges and power of the nobility, andbased on competitive enterprise producing romantic intellectualism, coupled with thelarge numbers of goods made by machinery workers poverty, alienation, and hostility,operated by poorly paid workers. While cheap formed a heady brew of opposition to thegoods were beneficial to many, workers often status quo.lived in slums, and children were pushed into In 1848 these resentments came to a headthe maw of industrial production lines. and revolts broke out all over Europe. With the creation of more wealth, the Revolutionists in Paris overthrew the Orleansexpansion of education, and the monarchy, driving King Louis Philippe from
74 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarGrand symphony orchestras, ballets, and large choral world unite, you have nothing to lose butgroups playing the romantic works of European composers your chains. It became a cry for the workingenthralled audiences during the mid-nineteenth century. class to overturn the entire social, economic,Berliozs Damnation of Faust, Mendelssohns Elijah, andVerdis Macbeth thrilled elrte audiences in grand concert and political structures of Europe.halls (Ann Ronan Picture Library) During the same year, John Stuart Mill, the English philosopher, social reformer, andthe throne and establishing the Second economist, wrote Principles of PoliticalRepublic. In Austria, Prince Mettcrnich, a Economy. Later, he was to write a series ofstrong supporter of autocracy and police works in which he eloquently defended thedespotism who strived to suppress freedoms of the individual in opposition toconstitutional and popular democracy, was the social and political controls offorced to flee the country. North Italy and governments. Mill believed that theHungary fought the French, the Poles fought individual ought to be able to do or saythe Germans, and an insurrection raged in anything as long as it did not harm others.Prague. Other outbreaks threatened to By 1840, Charles Darwin, the Englishoverturn governments in Venice, Berlin, and naturalist whose theories would cause aMilan, while Republican rebels forced the revolution in both scientific and religiousPope to flee Rome. worlds, had returned from his sea voyages While these revolts were bloodily repulsed and was busily writing of his discoveries.by the established order, they led to a In 1846, he published several works on hiscontinued tension between worker and geological and zoological findings fromcapitalist, serf and landowner, and democrat his voyages in the Pacific. They were to beand royalist. In 1848, Karl Marx published the forerunners to his explosive On the Originthe Communist Manifesto: Workers of the of Species, which was to shake both science
The world around war 75and fundamental religious foundations Under the growing impact of the factory economy,throughout the world. poverty and industrial abuse were causing increasing unrest among workers. In 1848. Karl Marx and Frederick In Europe and America, the war years were Engels completed their Communist Manifesto. It wasa time of dynamic change, while Mexico to be a harbinger of great struggles to come.stagnated, struggling only for survival. (Ann Ronan Picture Library)
Portrait of a civilianMary Ann Maverick:A Texas pioneerMary Ann Adams was born on a prosperous caravan stopped several days at a time toplantation in Tuskaloosa County, Alabama, rest, cook, and wash, and sometimes to giveon 16 March 1818. When she was 18 years muddy roads time to dry.old she met Samuel Maverick, a rugged After trekking more than 400 miles, theyadventurer from Texas, and it was love at first crossed the muddy Sabine River and enteredsight. On 4 August 1836, Mary married the Texas on New Years Day 1838. Heading westhandsome 33-year-old Texan in a ceremony for San Antonio, on 26 January, Mary wrote:at her widowed mothers plantation. We entered a bleak, desolate, swamp-prairie Maverick, born in South Carolina, came cut by deep gullies. Knee-deep in water, theyfrom a distinguished family who had sent stalled in five or six gullies and each timehim east to school. He received a degree the wagon had to be unloaded. Afterfrom Yale University, studied law, and was straining to get to dry ground, they reloadedadmitted to the South Carolina Bar. In 1835, the wagon and pushed on until they werecaught up in the lure of Texas, he joined again stopped by deep water and mud. Thentheir revolutionary army and became a they repeated the process.signer of the Texas Declaration of It took them four days to cross theIndependence. After capture and then escape 14 miles of swamp, and during that timefrom a Mexican prison, Maverick traveled to Mary experienced her first Texas norther. ItAlabama on business where he met the was, she wrote, a terrific howling northvivacious Mary. wind with a fine rain penetrating through After the ceremony, they visited relatives clothes and blankets. Never in my life had Iin Alabama and Louisiana. When Mary felt such cold. Their provisions were almostbecame pregnant, they stayed at the exhausted when on 30 January they reachedMaverick plantation in South Carolina until the small settlement of Navidad. Continuingthe birth of their first son, on 14 May 1837. on, two of their horses froze to death duringOn 14 October, they set off on an epic another norther. The final leg of the trek wasjourney to the new Republic of Texas. uneventful except for a broken wagon-wheelTheir entourage included Sam, Mary, infant which was mended with rawhide.Sam, Marys 15-year-old brother, Robert, and While on the trail, on 8 June, they were10 Negro slaves. visited by a war band of 17 Tonkawa Indians Journeying to savage Texas in the 1830s who proudly displayed two scalps, one hand,was, to most, a trip to the ends of the earth, and several pieces of putrid flesh from variousand Mary recounted her mother sobbing: parts of the human body which were beingOh, Mary, I will never see you again on taken to their squaws to eat. Sam, Robert, andearth. Sam drove a carriage for his wife and four of the male servants nervously fondledfive-month-old son; the others piled into a rifles and pistols while Mary sat on the wagonlarge wagon or walked. Tied behind the seat with her pistol and Bowie knife visiblewagon were three saddle horses and one and made small talk with the Indians. Maryblooded filly according to a diary Mary kept wrote: I was frightened almost to death, butthroughout her life. tried not to show my alarm. The Indians Their big wagon carried a tent, bedding, apparently decided the well-armed Maverickscooking utensils, and food. Mary wrote that would be too tough to assault and rodemost of the trip was delightful as the little away grumbling.
Portrait of a civilian 77 On 15 June 1837, the Mavericks drove Mary A. Maverick was the paradigm of the pioneerinto the main plaza of San Antonio and woman of the Texas frontier Born in Alabama, she married Samuel Mavenck. a prominent Jawyer andfound themselves in a small but lovely city, politician, and purneyed to San Antonio in the Texaswhere the San Antonio River with its settlements in 1836. Her memoirs give one of the mostsparkling, clear spring waters ran through engrossing and colorful accounts of life on the wildthe middle of the settlement. Its banks were frontier (Courtesy of the Mavenck family)
78 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarSam Maverick bought this plain but spacious house in couples with surnames like Navarro, Seguin,Alamo Plaza in San Antonio. He chose that site so that and Guerrero along with Campbell, Adams,he could view the Alamo Mission, where man/ of his and McCutchon could be found; soonclose friends, both Texans and Mexicans, had been killed Germans with names like Wurzbach,in the siege in 1836. (Courtesy of the Maverick family) Guenther, and Altgelt also became prominent in city affairs.shaded with post oak, cypress, and pecan Sams law practice flourished and he wastrees, and flowers bloomed in the dooryards soon elected to the Texas Congress. Onof the Canary Islanders who had settled in 19 January 1839, the Mavericks purchased athe city in 1731. stone house on the citys main plaza. From Earlier, in 1718, Spaniards had established their front porch, Sam and Mary could seethe Mission San Antonio de Valero, later the battered remains of the Alamo, wherecalled the Alamo, the Mexican-Spanish word Crockett, Bowie, Travis, and 150 otherfor cotfonwood tree. The name was derived Texans had fought to the last man.from the cotton wood trees growing in In their back yard Mary had a garden thatabundance around its walls. The city boasted 16 large fig trees and rows ofslumbered lazily in the Texas sun until the pomegranates. She was able to enjoy music1820s, when the Spanish government and singing after a neighbor managed toencouraged settlement by Americans. In transport an ancient piano to San Antonio.1824, Mexico ousted the Spaniards, but its Another neighbor sold her milk at 25 cents areign lasted less than 12 years. In 18/56, gallon, chickens at 12 cents apiece, andAmerican settlers and local Mexicans rose up> pumpkins at 25 cents. On 23 March 1839,in revolt and ivon their independence after her second son was born.fierce fighting. On the outskirts of San Antonio all was When the Mavericks arrived, the city had not serene. Comanche raiders and Mexicanalready begun to take on a cosmopolitan air. bandits roamed the countryside stealingOn a typical day, mingling in the plaza stock and waylaying unwary or unarmedbefore the majestic San Fernando Cathedral, travelers. When a raid was reported, the
Portrait of a civilian 79church hells at the cathedral would he rung struck in September. Sam and 50 Anglos putand volunteers, including Sam, would grah up a stiff fight against a force of 1,400their guns, mount their horses and pursue Mexican regulars until they were forced tothe raiders. If they caught them, it was a surrender. He and other leading citizensbattle to the death. The Texans did not take were then marched 1,200 miles into Mexicoprisoners. The Comanches did, often for the and thrown into Perote prison near Mexicopleasure of torturing them to death. City. In 1840, Comanches asking for a parley Mary, in the meantime, had moved into aentered San Antonio, but the peace talks soon log cabin with her three children. She madedegenerated into a wild running fight. Mary ends meet with 20 gold doubloons Sam hadwrote that when the clash started she ran to managed to smuggle to her via a friend. Ither house, heating two pursuing Indians to was a terrible time. Mary wrote: I strove toher door by a hairs breadth. Hearing the be brave and prayed to God that I might livecommotion, Sam grabbed his rifle and rushed for my children and my dear husband.into the street, but in the back yard three A month before Sam was released, in AprilComanches were about to attack Marys Negro 1843, and rejoined his family, Mary gavecook and her two children. The cook, unfazed, birth to her second daughter. In 1844, Samwaved a large rock in her hand and screamed and Mary decided to move to Matagordathat she would bash in the skull of any Indian Peninsula to take advantage of the morethat approached. balmy Gulf Coast climate. There, Mary grew The Indians backed away and then ran for watermelons and flowers, and plantedthe nearby San Antonio River. Marys brother, orange trees and grape vines.Andrew, dashed from the house and shot and In 1847, after the annexation of Texas bykilled one Indian as he ran down the bank. the United States and once fears of MexicanAnother Comanche made it to the opposite invasion had ended and the Comanches hadbank, but Andrew dropped him with another become less of a menace, the Mavericksshot. While the fighting raged on, Mary went returned to San Antonio. They arrived inout her front door and found a dying Indian October and found the town booming as alying by her front gate. Two others lay dead in result of American and German immigrantsthe street. After the fleeing Comanches escaped swarming into Texas. Their old home wasfrom the city and returned to their camp, Mary battered but sound, although the garden waslearned they roasted and butchered their a wreck. Happily, the fig trees were still13 American captives in revenge. bearing fruit. In March 1842, when scouts warned that In May 1848, Marys eight-year-oldan invading Mexican army was approaching, daughter Agatha died of fever. In 1880, Marythe Mavericks and a dozen other Anglo wrote: After thirty-two years, I cannot dwellfamilies fled. They loaded tents and on that terrible bereavement." It got worse: aprovisions into a cart, buried some valuables year later, in April 1849, cholera struck Sanunder the floor of their house, and headed Antonio and her daughter Augusta died ineast. Mary sometimes rode beside Sam but the epidemic.other times she drove the cart, nestling their As the frontier receded, the Mavericksfive-month-old baby daughter in her lap. began a less hectic but more prosperous life. There followed a five-year exile from their Mary gave birth, in all, to 10 children,home. The small caravan wandered through although her last child, a daughter, diedthe countryside until 21 June, when they before reaching her second birthday.settled in La Crange in east Texas. Sam Maverick died in 1870, but Mary lived Sam had returned to San Antonio in the until 1898. Exciting though her early life was,late summer of 1842 when a second invasion it was not at all unusual for a Texas pioneer.
How the war endedThe Halls of MontezumaScotts decision to attack Chapultepec was At dawn on 12 September, the Americannot greeted with great enthusiasm by his artillery began a thunderous barrage on thearmy. The frontal attacks at Molino del Rey Mexican defenders. The following morning,had caused heavy casualties, and because Scott ordered a general attack.Scotts clever flanking attacks during most ofthe earlier battles had produced victorieswith a low butchers bill, his officers studiedthe approaches to Mexico City with dismay. Between the causeways leading to the citywere deep marshes, where much of the landwas under water. It would be difficult forinfantry and cavalry, but impossible forartillery to cross these areas. The onlyfeasible routes were along the elevatedcauseways, which were sure to be swept withheavy artillery and infantry fire. To enter thecity there seemed to be no choice but tolaunch costly frontal attacks. After studying the results of Leesreconnaissance, Scott determined that hemust attack along the San Cosme Causewayon the west and at the Belen Causeway tothe south-west of Chapultepec Castle. Thecastle soared a rocky 200 feet above themarshes and its summit was lined withheavy brick and stone buildings. Thesehoused the Mexican military academy andthe summer palace formerly used by theSpanish viceroy. Defending the position were more than2,000 soldiers and the cadet corps of themilitary academy. The infantry was backedup by more than a dozen cannon emplacedalong the ramparts. The Americans wouldhave to climb up the rocky hill and scale thewalls of the castle without cover and underconstant fire. The armys dismay turned to fury whenthey learned that after Mexican attackers atthe Molino had overrun an American unit,they had cut the throats of helpless woundedsoldiers. Grim-faced, the Americans mutteredNo prisoners during the attack on the castle.
How the war ended 81 Brigadier General Gideon Pillows in bloody close combat. Among thedivision, attacking from the west, was the assaulting troops were 40 United Statesfirst to fight its way to the castle walls, buttheir cheers turned to curses when they Pillows Division launched a wild charge on the westwardrealized that some idiot of a quartermaster defenses of Chapultepec, racing through a torrent ofhad failed to bring up the scaling ladders. grapeshot and musket balls. When a flag bearer was shot Huddling against the walls, they waited down. Lieutenant George Pickett, fresh out of West Point, picked up the flag and led his screaming men tofor what seemed an eternity until the ladders the castle battlements. Climbing up scaling ladders, theywere brought up. Then, under covering fire fought with rifle butts and bayonets to drive thefrom the artillery, they climbed up to the defenders from the walls. (Painting by Carl Nebel.parapets and fought their way over the wall Archives Division, Texas State Library)
82 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarMarines. Their heroics led to the opening refusing to see his countrys colors captured,lines of the Marine Corps Hymn - From the hauled down the flag. As he dashed alongHalls of Montezuma ... we will light our the parapet, his body was ripped by bullets.countrys battles on land and on the sea. Wrapped in his countrys flag, he fell to the As the Americans advanced through the rocks below. More than a century and a halfcastle, there occurred a defining event in the later, this story is still recounted to everyhistory of the Mexican people. Fighting Mexican schoolchild. Today, at the foot ofalongside the Mexican soldiers were Chapultepec there is a large monument,50 teenaged military school cadets, some as sacred to all Mexicans, honoring Losyoung as 13, who refused to retreat before Ninas Heroicos.the swarming Americans. When the surging Within less than two hours of hardAmericans rushed at one 13-year-old cadet, fighting the Stars and Stripes was flyinghe refused to throw down his musket and boldly from the Chapultepec battlements.surrender. He was quickly bayoneted. Three The Americans had lost another 500 menother cadets, fighting like demons, werekilled in the palace corridors, while another BELOW When Quitmans troops breached thewas shot to death on the school grounds. southern defenses of Chapultepec after suffering heavy Another young cadet was stationed on the losses, they joined up with Pillows assault troops, The tough, heroic, but doomed defenders broke, and thepalace roof, defending the flagstaff from survivors fled north to Mexico City. Quitmans troops, inwhich the torn and shot-holed Mexican flag hot pursuit, advanced to the city gates but were recalledstill flew. As the invading troops charged up by Scott (Painting by Carl Nebel, Archives Division.Texasthe stairway to the roof, the young lad, State Library)
How the war ended 83ABOVE On 14 September 1848. General Winfield Scottand his staff rode into the Zocalo. the main plaza ofMexico Crty, while a milrtary band played Yankee Doodle.As the Stars and Stripes fluttered in a soft breeze fromthe National Palace, Scott, saluting, reviewed his raggedbut victorious troops. (Painting by Carl Nebel, ArchivesDivision, Texas State Library)from their thinning ranks; the Mexicans hadsuffered more than 1,500 casualties. The American attacks continued to pushtoward the center of Mexico City. Shortlybefore noon, Quitmans men took the BelenGate by storm. General Worths troops werebefore the San Cosme Gate by 4.00pm butencountered fierce resistance. Burrowingthrough the adobe houses along thecauseway, and with assistance fromLieutenant Grant and his howitzer, theybroke through the gate by suppertime. Onthe night of 13 September, the exhaustedAmericans held the keys to the capital. Before dawn on 14 September, a Mexicandelegation waving a white flag approachedGeneral Quitmans division and surrenderedthe city. At first light, American troopsmoved into the main plaza and raised theirflag. An hour later, Scott, wearing his best
84 Essential Histories • The Mexican Wardress uniform, and his staff rode proudly thousand criminals from the citys jails. Itinto the plaza. As he passed in review of his was they who indiscriminately plunderedragged, grimy veterans, with six months of civilian houses throughout the city.brutal fighting behind them, they rent the Scott decreed martial law. His troops toreair with chorus after chorus of cheers. through houses believed to harbor snipers The fighting, however, was not yet ended. and rooftops were cleared with blasts ofFuming with hatred of the invader, hundreds canister. Patrols had soon rounded up theof citizens of the capital sniped at the criminals and returned them to their cells,Americans from rooftops or otherwise clashed and by 16 September, although the hatredwith the troops in three days of violence. remained, the fighting had died down.Much of the trouble began when Santa Anna, Santa Anna, who had urged hisin a moment of spite, released several compatriots to fight to the death, had no such intentions for himself. Farly in theThe Mexican War battles saw bitter hand-to-hand battle, he and his remaining troops scamperedfighting resulting in heavy casualties being suffered by north to the town of Guadalupe I lidalgo. Onboth sides. (San Jacinto Museum of History Association) 18 September, he wrote a bombastic
How the war ended 85prommciamento blaming his generals for thedefeats and falsely claiming that he had beenin the thick of the fighting with Americanbullets piercing his clothing. He was resigningthe presidency, he said, in order to personallylead his troops in the quarter in which thereis the most peril. With that, the Napoleon ofthe West marched his remaining troopssouth-east and conducted a half-hearted siegeof Puebla, occupied by a small Americangarrison. On 1 October, he gave up the siege.A new government relieved him of commandand later banished him from the country. Hetook refuge, temporarily, in Jamaica. When the fighting with the Mexicansended, the American leaders were free to Nicholas P. Trist. sent to negotiate a peace treaty with Mexico, was recalled by Polk. Ignoring orders. Tnst signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the war (Library of Congress) indulge in political battles against each other. Scott had Generals Worth and Pillow placed under arrest for insubordination, claiming they had circulated stories giving themselves, not Scott, responsibility for winning the battles. Scotts action enraged President Polk, a political ally of both generals, and he ordered them released. Three months later, on 13 January 1848, Polk relieved Scott of command and the general returned unheralded to the United States that spring. The diplomatic front was no less chaotic. Earlier, in October 1847, Polk had recalled his peace negotiator, Nicolas P. Trist. However, Trist did not receive the order until the end of that year, and when he did, he ignored the President and continued attempts to secure a peace treaty. Following entreaties from Trist, Polk allowed him to continue negotiations. After long months of haggling the Mexicans finally gave in, and
86 Essential Histories • The Mexican Waron 2 February 1848, they reluctantly signed RIGHT TOP On 12 September American artillerythe Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. launched a day-long bombardment on the fortified The Mexicans hated the treatys provisions, heights of Chapultepec Castle, which guarded Mexico City. When dawn broke, the Americans made awhile some of the more hawkish Americans, three-pronged attack on the more gradual slopes on thewho wanted to annex all of Mexico, opposed west and south sides of the castle.it. Polk, however, approved it as negotiated by Pillow and Worth on the west attacked under heavy fire,Trist and his wishes prevailed. while Quitmans attack from the south along the The treaty was ratified on 10 March by the Tacubaya Causeway was stalled by tough defenders. Swinging to their left, Quitmans troops braved intenseUnited States Senate and by the Mexican enemy fire to place ladders against the walls and fightgovernment on 25 March. The American war their way into the castle, linking up with Pillow andwith Mexico was finally over. Polk, who hated Worths men who had also broken through.The Mexican Trist, recalled his envoy to Washington, D.C., defense collapsed and the Americans swarmed into thedismissed him from the State Department, and castle.The way to Mexico City was open, and byrefused to pay his expenses from Mexico. 14 September; Scott and his tough little army were camped on the main pla2a in Mexico City. The last American troops sailed fromMexico in August 1848. Neither country RIGHT BOTTOM With the Oregon Territory disputewould ever be the same again. It was a war settled and American armies in possession of California,the Mexicans would long remember and the the United States spanned the North AmericanAmericans would like to conveniently forget. continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.The Mexican government was forced to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on 10 March 1848. Including Texas, the MexicansTrist shocked Mexican negotiators with his demands for had surrendered more than 1,200,000 square miles toMexican territory. But their armies routed and their country the United States. Within a few decades, the vast emptyracked with political unrest, they reluctantly surrendered spaces of these rich lands would swarm with peoplesmore than half of their country (Library of Congress) from all over the globe.
How the war ended 87Assault on Chapultepec Castle, 12/13 September 1847Manifest Destiny - the republic spans the continent, 10 March 1848
Conclusion and consequencesA new Colossus is bornAt the conclusion of the war, Mexico was Aghast at this dismemberment of theirliterally a broken nation. Her armies had country, following what they consideredbeen shattered in combat, with battle losses The most unjust war in the history of theestimated at between 12,000 and 15,000, and world, many Mexicans demanded of theirmany more who had deserted. Several of her government: Give us arms and we willmajor cities had had their most productive fight on.industries smashed into rubble, their foreign The Criollos or Creoles (Whites of Spanishmarkets and imports had been destroyed, descent born in Mexico), who dominated thetransportation was disrupted, and hunger was upper echelons of the Mexican government,rampant. It has been estimated that disease, however, reluctantly accepted the treaty.starvation, and dislocation caused thousands They feared that continued fighting wouldof civilian deaths during the war years. disrupt what was left of the shattered The northern half of Mexican territory Mexican polity, leading to anotherwas sheared off by the harsh Treaty of revolution in which caste and class would beGuadalupe Hidalgo. Including Texas, the pitted against one another in a bloodbath.United States acquired what was to become Better to give up half of Mexico, the Creolesthe states of New Mexico, Arizona, reasoned, than to have their heads stuck onCalifornia, Nevada, Utah, and parts of a pikestaff in a city square. They may,Wyoming and Colorado. indeed, have saved their necks, but the The United States acquired more than acceptance of the treaty sounded the death500,000 square miles of Mexican territory. If knell of the Criollo oligarchy.Texan territorial claims are counted, the total Among those who supported the peaceamount of land torn from Mexico exceeded treaty were the bishops of the Catholicone million square miles. With it went the Church. They feared that their vastvast mineral resources of the western states properties would be heavily taxed or theiras well as the agricultural wealth of assets seized during a prolonged war. TheCalifornia. British government, aware that the The new boundary between the two Americans were planning to pay Mexico acountries would stretch from the mouth of the huge indemnity, also urged peace. BritishRio (irande River on the Gulf of Mexico to the support rested not on altruism, however, butpoint where the river turns north at El Paso del rather on hopes that a bonanza of dollarsNorte. From there, it would follow a westerly would enable the Mexicans to pay thedirection until it reached the Pacific Ocean. massive debts to British holders of Mexican In compensation, the United States would bonds which had been outstanding for morepay the Mexican government $15 million; it than 20 years.would also pay to Americans the $3.25 million With Mexico in political crisis, Santaill claims they held against Mexico; and Anna was called back from exile and onMexicans living in the United States would be 20 April 1853, he again assumed theeligible to become American citizens. A further presidency. Strapped for cash, oncondition, never effectively enforced, provided 30 December 1853, he sold 29,640 squarethat the American army would guard the miles of Mexican land bordering Newborder and prevent attacks into Mexico from Mexico and Arizona to the United States forpredatory Indian tribes living on US territory. $10 million. The Gadsden Purchase, named
Conclusion and consequences 89after James Gadsden, the American agent were more interested in protecting theirwho arranged the deal, gave the Americans a property than in preserving their countryroute for a proposed railway linking the east were the causes of Mexican disasters,with the west coast. Outraged Mexicans, according to the reformers.however, again threw Santa Anna out of Writers, artists, composers and otheroffice and into exile. intellectuals led the way, in a movement that Santa Anna mirrored the cynicism of the threw off many of the cultural shackles ofday when he remarked that it would be Europe. Secular in outlook and anti-military,100 years before his people would be fit for many reached back into their pre-Cortezself-government. Only despots like himself, heritage to find a Mexico rooted in its distanthe contended, could bring stability to past. Blending both their Indian and SpanishMexico. During the decade of the 1840s, heritage, they created a culture that waswhile Europe was undergoing huge change, distinctively Mexican, From this emerged aand often convulsions, in economic, social, revitalized literature, a distinctive music, andreligious, and political philosophies, Mexico the bright and flamboyant use of color andstagnated in a pond of cynicism and despair. imagery that characterizes Mexican art. During 1848, in the Yucatan, the War of Sadly, political progress did not keep pacethe Castes broke out, pitting Mayan Indians with the artistic. Mexico was divided by aagainst Spaniards and Mestizos in an orgy of contest between liberals and conservatives.brutality. The Mexicans shot their opponents The liberals supported radical change towithout remorse, while the Indians democratize, secularize, and industrializegang-raped women and skinned alive male Mexico in order to forge a united nationcaptives or turned them into flaming from the diverse class, caste, race, andtorches. The violence spread to the center of linguistic differences that had traditionallyMexico. Agrarian revolts against the divided the country. The conservatives, whilehacienda owners created destruction and supporting many of the nationalistic ideas ofterror as the victims of debt peonage rose up the liberals, feared that much of the liberalwith the cry Death to the Gachupines program would lead to further peasant and(European-born Spaniards). Indian uprisings. They believed that To make matters worse, the Apaches of participation in the government by ordinaryNew Mexico and Arizona and the people should be restricted and that theComanches of north Texas made devastating Church and the military, both pillars ofraids into the northern states of Sonora, stability, must flourish and be supported byChihuahua, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas, the government.practically depopulating many towns and Unable to reconcile these divergent views,agricultural settlements. Dodging American Mexicans engaged in yet another cycle ofarmy patrols, Indian war parties crossed into protracted violence. Less than two decadesMexico to steal cattle, horses, grain, and after the American war, a Zapotec Indianother foodstuffs, to butcher the inhabitants would clash with an Austrian-born emperorand then retreat into the haven of the supported by a French army for theUnited States. domination of Mexico. Benito Juarez, the Bankrupt, economically ruined, divided Indian, became the liberal president ofby race, language, and stratified social Mexico; and Emperor Ferdinand-Josephclasses, Mexico sank into a dark age. The Maximilian ended his reign before a Mexicanmisery, however, bred reform. Mexicans, firing squad.shocked at the conditions in their country, In all this there seemed only two thingsdemanded change. Many blamed the residue that all Mexicans could all agree upon: theyof Spanish colonialism for their troubles. The suffered a sickness of the soul for theiraristocratic Creole officers who could strut fragmented country and they held a fear ofbut not fight, and the Church hierarchy who and loathing for The Colossus of the North.
90 Essential Histories • The Mexican WarAt the conclusion of the war with Mexico, One element of what was to become thethe United States bestrode the North American Dream was the growth of freeAmerican continent with one leg anchored public schools. It became an axiom ofon the Atlantic seaboard and the other on Americans, old and new, that with educationthe Pacific. It was the fulfilment of their and hard work any person could transcendManifest Destiny, which proclaimed that the poverty of his birth and rise to thethe United States was ordained by God to highest status of society in the land.stretch from sea to shining sea. If the If in Europe there was political ferment,expansion of this republic was destined to be in the United States the political winds ofdelivered in blood, the soldiers of Generals change were also blowing. During theTaylor and Scott had paid in full. Of the presidential election of 1844, President Polksmall American armies, more than had pledged himself to a single term of13,000 had left their bones in Mexico, some office. Broken in health from the strains ofthrough combat but many more through his presidency, he kept his promise anddisease; another 4,000 had been wounded. retired to private life. In the scramble for The war cost the American government succession General Zachary Taylor defeatedalmost $100 million, a massive fortune in Winfield Scott for the Whig partythose days. However, it was soon recovered nomination and then went on to win thebecause nine days after the Treaty of presidency. His campaign was based on hisGuadalupe Hidalgo was signed, American military prowess and ignored the loomingprospectors struck gold in California. During conflict over slavery. Taylor found itthe first decade of the California Gold Rush, expedient to avoid the slavery questionthe state produced quantities of the precious since, as a Louisiana plantation owner, hemetal valued at more than $500 million. owned scores of slaves. After only a few The discovery of gold set off a flood of months in office, however, Taylor died ofemigrants seeking their fortunes in the west. By typhus fever, leaving the office to thethe end of 1849, the population of California nonentity Millard Fillmore, who did nothinghad swelled to more than 125,000 settlers. to quell the growing rupture between the There was also a massive exodus from industrializing east and the agricultural,Europe to the United States. Most were slave-holding Southern states.famine-fleeing Irish peasants and idealistic In the 1852 presidential election, WinfieldGermans searching for a life free of the Scott finally secured the Whig nomination,strutting little monarchies of Central Europe. only to be defeated by the Democratic PartyThe liberal political uprisings in Europe nominee, Franklin Pierce, a former general ofbeginning in 1848 sent another wave of volunteers in the Mexican War who hadimmigrants to America. served under Scott. One inducement for immigration was the Most eastern intellectuals had opposedhigh wages paid in America to both the war. They considered it as nothing but aindustrial and agricultural workers. European land grab, sponsored by the Southern statesjournalists reported that not only were wages as a means of extending slavery. This was, ofmuch higher than in Europe, but they were course, a fallacy, because the western landshigh enough for a family to save. One were not climatically suitable for growingIrishman wrote that if a man was gainfully tobacco or cotton, the Souths major exportemployed, he could save enough money crops. Nevertheless, distrust between theeach week to purchase an acre and a half of Northern and Southern states increased afterthe finest land in the world. In less than a the cessation of hostilities with Mexico.year of steady work, he wrote, a man could As the northern, eastern and westernsave enough money to head west and buy an states in the Union exploded with new80-acre farm, on which he and his family industries, expanding transportation facilitiescould live forever. and rapidly increasing population, the South
Conclusion and consequences 91slumbered. Slave-ridden and agricultural, the haven in the North must be arrested andSouthern states slept in the sun. Its elite returned to their masters.viewed themselves more as romantic The jockeying for control of the Unitedpaladins out of the novels of Sir Walter Scott; States Senate (where each state, regardless oftheir eastern neighbors emulated the heroes size and population, had only two votes)of Horatio Alger, a clergyman who had ended when, in the fall of 1850, the territorywritten more than 100 childrens books in of California entered the Union as a freewhich poverty-stricken street boys rose by state. Soon after, Minnesota and Oregonhard work and business acumen to positions joined the Union as free states. These actsof wealth and influence. insured that in the future the United States As the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy Congress would be controlled in both housesclashed with the peculiar institution of by antislavery free states.slavery, the North and the South moved The South, seeing itself destined to betoward irrepressible conflict. Most notable in outvoted on every issue, began to seek relief inopposition to the war with Mexico was the idea of separation from the Union. TheirHenry David Thoreau. He had refused to pay great champion, Senator John C. Calhoun oftaxes to support an unjust government South Carolina, warned that because thewaging an unjust war. Thoreau chronicled balance of power between North and Southhis opposition in his famous writings Civil was being destroyed, political revolution,Disobedience, in which he stated that the anarchy, civil war, and widespread disastersupremacy of the conscience of the would inevitably result. Sadly his predictionindividual was superior to the dictates of the was correct. Little more than a decade later,government. Under a government which the most violent war in American historyimprisons unjustly/ he wrote, the true place pitted brother against brother and almostfor a just man is also in prison. Predictably, destroyed the American Union.he was accommodated and was confined for The Mexican War provided a traininga brief time in a cell. His writings, however, ground for young officers who fought eachset the stage for future philosophical and other in the American Civil War, whichpolitical dissenters who used nonviolent broke out just 13 years after the signing ofmethods to oppose their governments. the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. More thanNotable persons influenced by Thoreau 130 veterans of the armies of Taylor andincluded Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Scott became generals in that conflict.Luther King Jr. Students of that war will recognize these During the postwar years, in seemingly names among others: for the North, Ulyssesendless debates the Congress moved away S. Grant, Joseph Hooker, George McClellan,from efforts to compromise the differences and Don Carlos Buell; for the South, Robertbetween the free and the slave states and E. Lee, Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson, Pierretoward a fierce confrontation. Northern Gustave Toutant Beauregard, Jamesabolitionists believed the Congress had the Longstreet, Braxton Bragg, and Georgeright to enact legislation that would ban Pickett. Unfortunately for the soldiers onslavery, particularly in the newly acquired both sides, their generals had learned the artterritories. The South countered with the of war all too well.proposition that Congress did not have the In the years between the wars, however,authority to ban slavery anywhere. American commerce boomed as new canalsMoreover, they maintained, it was the were built to be plied by paddle-wheeledconstitutional duty of the Congress and the steamboats. Soon these would be challengedfederal government to protect the peculiar by the railroads. Mostly constructed by Irishinstitution of slavery. And with an edict that laborers and financed by English capital,enraged abolitionists, they demanded that railroads spread across the eastern andfugitive slaves who had fled and reached a northern states like giant spiders webs,
92 Essential Histories • The Mexican Warlinking inland markets to the burgeoning expensive method of transportation. Now,seaports on the Atlantic coast. swift trains could ship goods quickly and This new, rapid means of transportation cheaply to expanding eastern cities. Verycreated increased commercial traffic between soon, the dream of a coast-to-coast railroadthe United States and Europe. It opened up system, crossing 3,000 miles from New Yorknew fields of investment for capital-rich to the Pacific Ocean, would become aEuropean banks, providing funds needed for reality.the rapid growth of American industry. With ports like Seattle, San Francisco, San As the railroads probed into the newly Diego, and Los Angeles now in Americansettled middle west, agricultural goods from hands, the United States turned its eyesthat great granary no longer required toward Asia, which offered the prospect oftransport to New Orleans by slow barges new and lucrative markets. Spanning adown the Mississippi River. From New continent stretching from the Atlantic to theOrleans they would have had to be loaded Pacific, the United States of America wason ships for voyages to the American eastern poised to enter the stage of internationalseaboard or to Europe, a laborious and affairs as a new world power.
Further read inChamberlain, Samuel E., My Confession, Miller, Robert Ryal, Shamrock and Sword: The Harper (New York, 1956) Saint Patricks Battalion in the U.S. - MexicanDe Voto, Bernard, Year of Decision 1846, War, University of Oklahoma Press Houghton Mifflin (Boston, 1942) (Norman, 1989)Eisenhower, John, So Far From God: The U.S. Nevin, David, The Mexican War, Time-Life War with Mexico, Random House (New Books (Alexandria, Virginia, 1978) York, 1989) Robinson, Cecil, The View From Chapultepec:Frazier, Donald S., The U.S. and Mexico at Mexican Writers on the Mexican-American War, Macmillan (New York, 1998) War, University of Arizona PressGrant, Ulysses S,, Memoirs and Selected Letters, (Tucson, 1989) The Library of America (1990) Ruiz, Ramon Eduardo, triumph and Tragedy:Hamilton, Holman, Zachary Taylor: Soldier of A History of the Mexican People, Norton the Republic, Archon Books (1941) (New York, 1992)Johnson, Timothy D., Winfield Scott: The Smith, Page, The Nation Comes of Age, Quest for Military Glory, University Press of McGraw-Hill, (New York 1981) Kansas(1998) Webb, Walter Prescott, The Texas Rangers, TheKrauze, Enrique, Mexico: Biography of Power, University of Texas Press (Austin, 1935) Harpers (New York, 1997) Weems, John Edward, To Conquer A Peace,Lewis, Lloyd, Captain Sam Grant, Little & Doubleday (Garden City, New York, 1974) Brown (Boston, 1950) Weigley, Russell F., The American Way of War,Maverick, Mary Ann, Memoirs of Mary Macmillan (New York, 1973) A. Maverick, Alamo Printing Company VVilkins, Frederick, The Highly Irregular (San Antonio, Texas, 1921) Irregulars: Texas Rangers in the MexicanMeed, Douglas V., The Fighting Texas Navy War, Eakin Press (Austin, 1990) 1832-1843, Republic of Texas Press Winders, Richard Price, Mr. Polks Army, Texas (Piano, Texas, 2001) A&M Press (College Station, 1997)
94 Essential Histories • The Mexican War IndexFigures in bold refer to illustrations Fort Texas 26, 28, 29, 64, 65 Fremont, Captain John C. 8-9, 37, 39, 401st Mississippi Volunteers 341st Missouri Mounted Volunteers 8, 40-41, 42 Gadsden Purchase 88-892nd Indiana Volunteers 48-49 Grant, Ulysses S. 21, 64 early career 64Adams, John Quincy 69 in Mexican War 65-66, 83Alaman, Lucas 69 in American Civil War 66Alamo, battle of the (1836) 14 Guadalupe Hidalgo 56, 84Alger, Horatio 91 Guadalupe Hidalgo, Treaty of (February 1848) 86, 88Ampudia, General Pedro de 19, 26, 29, 42, 44 guerrillas 14anesthesia 72Angostura Pass 49, 51 Howe, Elias 73Arista, General Mariano 19, 21, 26, 26 Hudsons Bay Trading Company 69 at Palo Alto (May 1846) 28, 29, 31Arnold, Benedict 71 Irish deserters 50-52Austin, Steven F. 13, 14 Jackson, Andrew 19Bear Flaggers 8, 37 Jackson, Thomas Stonewall 21Beauregard, Lieutenant Pierre G.T. 63 Jones, Anson 16Belen Causeway 80 Jones, Commodore Thomas Catesby, captures MontereyBeien Gate 66, 83 (October 1842) 16Buena Vista, battle of (February 1847) 21, 44-SO, 48-94, 50- Jornada del Muerto 40 51, 51 Juarez, Benito 89Calhoun, John C, 91 Kearny, Brigadier General Stephen Watts, CaliforniaCalifornia campaighn 8-9, 54-40 American settlement in 16, 36-37 gold rush 7, 90 Larkin, Thomas O. 16 war in 37-40, 39 Lee, Robert E. 21, 57Carson, Kit 37 at Vera Cniz (March 1847) 53Casa Mata 60, 61 reconnoiters Mexico City (August 1847) 56Cerro Gordo, battle of (April 1847) 51, 53-54, 58 reconnoiters Mexico City (September 1847) 62, 63Chalco (lake) 56 Lincoln, Abraham 70-71Chapultepec Castle, battle of (September 1847) 10, 63, 80- Los Ninos Hcrokos 82 82, 80-81, 87 Lowell, James Russell 71Churubusco, battle of (August 1847) 51, 57, 60, 61Ciudad Chihuahua 41 McCulloch, Captain Ben 48-49Clay, Henry 71 Manifest Destinv 69, 87, 90Comanches 78-79 Marx, Karl 74, 75Connor, Commander David 26-27 Matamoros 26, 29, 31, 32, 33Contreras, battle of (August 1847) 57, 59 Maverick, Mary Ann 76-79, 77Cooper, James Fenimore 71 Maverick, Samuel 76-79Creoles 88 May, Major Charles 32 medicine, advances in 72Dana, Richard Henry 71-72 Mexicalcingo 56Darwin, Charles 74-75 MexicoDavis, Jefferson 21 agriculture 68Deere, John 72, 73 army 24, 25, 35-36Dent, Lieutenant Fred 65 army, desertion in 67Dent, Julia 65, 66 army, weapons and equipment of 35Doniphan, Colonel Alexander W. 41 army officers 21 Mexican campaign 8, 40-41, 42 artillery 35Dormer Party 70 bankruptcy 68Duncan, Captain James 29, 31 cavalry 35 collaboration with enemy 67-68El Paso del Norte 40, 41 navy 25El Penon 56 political system 13Elliot, Captain Charles 16 Texas, blockade of (1836-43) 15escopetas 35 Texas, invasion of (1836) 14Europe US, declaration of war on (April 1846) 8 condition of during Mexican War 72-75 US, peace treaty with (February 1848) 86, 88 interest in Texas 16 war, conditions during 67-69 war, conditions after 88-89Ferdinand-Joseph Maximilian, Emperor 89 women 68-69Fillmore, Millard 90 Mexico CityFlying Artillery 29-30, 65 Santa Annas fortification of 55
Index 95 Scotts march to (August 1847) 54, 56, 58 marches to Mexico City (August 1847) 54, 56, 58 Scotts capture of (September 1847) 83, 83-84 at Contreras (August 1847) 10, 57Mill, John Stuart 74 at Churubusco (August 1847) 10, 57Molino del Rey, battle of (September 1847) 10, 60-62, 62, 65 Signs armistice with Santa Anna (August 1847) 59Monroe, President James 69 at Chapultepcc Castle (September 1847) 10, 80-82Monterey, battle of (September 1846) 42-44, 46, 52, 65, 69 enters Mexico City (September 1847) 83, 83-84Mormons 70 dismissed (January 1848) 85Mounted Rifles Regiment 34 Sherman, General William Tecumseh 64muskets 34, 35 SlidelLJohnM. 17, 17, 26 Sloat, Commander John D. 26New Hampshire Volunteers 63 soldaderas 68-69Nino Perdido Road 62 Stephens, Alexander 71Nueces River 8, 26 Stockton, Commodore Robert F. 38, 39, 40OBrien, Captain John Paul Jones 48 Taylor, General Zachary 45Oregon Territory, boundary dispute 17, 17-18, 69 background 19 at Monterey (September 1846) 42-44Palo Alto, battle of (May 1846) 29-31, 30-31, 65 at Buena Vista (February 1847) 46-50Parkman, Francis 72 Northern campaign (1846-47) 8, 26, 28-33, 28-29patria chica (small homeland) 67, 68 as Whig presidential candidate 46, 71Pedregal 56, 57 becomes president 90Pickett, Lieutenant George 81 TexasPico, Andres 39-40 admitted to Union (1845) 17Pico, Pio de Jesus 39 American settlement in 13Pierce, Brigadier General Franklin 63, 90 annexation of (December 1845) 7, 17Pillow, Brigadier General Gideon 81, 85 European interest in 16Polk, President James Knox 19 independence, declaration of (March 1836) 14 background 19 Mexican blockade of (1836-43) 15 offers to buy Mexican lands (1845) 17 Mexico, tensions with 13-14 and opposition to war 71 Texas Rangers 8-9, 10, 24, 34, 52 and Oregon boundary dispute 69 Texcoco (lake) 56 Texas, annexation of (December 1845) 7 Thoreau, Henry David 91 Texas, dispatches troops to (spring 1846) 8 Trist, Nicolas P. 54, 85, 85-86, 86 retires 90 Tyler, President John 16Polkos 68Port Isabel 26, 28 United StatesPuebla 54,85 army 21-4, 22, 34-35, 36-37 army, weapons and equipment of 34Quitman, General 82, 83 army officers 21 artillery 29-30railroads 73 literature 71-72recruiting posters 23 Mexican government, claims against 17Resaca de la Palma, battle of (May 1846) 31-33, 65 Mexico, declaration of war on (May 1846) 8ricos 15 Mexico, peace treaty with (February 1848) 86, 88rifles 34,35 navy 9, 24-25Riley, John 51 newspapers 71Ringgold, Major Samuel 29-30, 31, 32 slavery 91 war, conditions after 90-92Salt Lake City 70 war, financing of 72Saltillo 49 war, opposition to 70-71, 90, 91San Antonio Causeway 62, 63 women 72San Antonio de Valero Mission (Alamo) 78 United States Marines 81-82San Augustin 56 United Stales Military Academy, West Point 21, 64San Cosine Causeway 65, 66, 80San Cosme Gate 83 Valencia, General Gabriel 57San Jacinto, battle of (April 1836) 7, 14, 61 Vancouver 69San Juan de Ulua fort 52 Velasco, Treaty of (1836) 7, 14San Luis Potosi 46 Vera Cruz, amphibious invasion of (March 1847) 9, 44-46,San Mateo convent 57 52-53, 54-55, 56San Patricios 50-52, 52-53, 57 Voltigeurs Regiment 65Santa Anna, Antonio Lopez de 19, 21 War of 1812 69 Texas, invasion of (1836) 14 War of the Castles (1848) 89 San Jacinto, defeat at (1836) 7, 14 Washington, Major John 49 exiled (1845) 27 Whitman, Marcus and Narcissa 70 returns to Mexico (August 1846) 41 Whittier, John Greenleaf 71 at Buena Vista (February 1847) 46-50 Wilmot, David 71 at Cerro Gordo (April 1847) 53-54 Worth, General William fortifies Mexico City 55 at Monterey (September 1846) 43 signs armistice with Scott (August 1847) 59 at Buena Vista (February 1847) 45 at Molino del Rey (September 1847) 60-62 captures San Augustin (August 1847) 56 banished (October 1847) 84-85 at Molino del Rey (September 1847) 60-62 resumes presidency (April 1853) 88-89 at Chapultepec (September 1847) 83Santa Fe, Kearnys occupation of (August 1846) 39 arrested after Chapultepec 85Scott, Major General Winfield 20 Wright, Major George 60 background 19 and Vera Cruz operation (March 1847) 9, 44-46, 52-53 Xochimilco (lake) 56 at Cerro Gordo (April 1847) 54 captures Puebla (May 1847) 54 Young, Brigham 70
The war with Mexico was the most decisive conflict in American history. After smashing Mexicos armies the young republic bestrode the North American continent like a colossus • with one leg anchored on the Atlantic J seaboard and the other on the Pacific. It was a bitter, hard-fought war that raged across Mexico through the northern deserts, the fever-ridden Gulf cities and the balmy haciendas of California.This book covers the full course of the war, ending with General Winfield Scotts march from the captured port of Vera Cruz to Mexico City, fighting all the way.Front and back cover image: American Dragoons Fighting Mexican Lancersby Sam Chamberlain. (San Jacinto Museum of History Assocation)Essential HistoriesA multi-volume history of war seen from political,strategic, tactical, cultural and individual perspectivesRead them and gain a deeper understanding of warand a stronger basis for thinking about peace.Professor Robert ONeill, Series Editor ESSENTIAL HISTORIES 25OSPREYPUBLISHINGwww.ospreypublishing.com