The Mexican War


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Mexican War Time Line | Map of the Mexican War | Mexico | President Polk | Zachary Taylor | Santa Anna | General Winfield Scott | General William Worth | General John Wool | General Stephen Kearny | Commodore Stockton | John C. Fremont | General David Twiggs | Nicholas Trist | Thornton Affair | Battle of Palo Alto | Battle of Resace De La Palma | Battle of Monterey | Battle of Buena Vista | Battle of Vera Cruz | Battle of Cerro Gordo | Battle of Contreras | Battle of Churubusco | Battle of El Molino Del Rey | Battle of Chapultepec

Mexico, WAR WITH. The annexation of Texas caused an immediate rupture between the United States and Mexico, for the latter claimed Texas as a part of her territory, notwithstanding its independence had been acknowledged by the United States, England, France, and other governments. When Congress had adopted the joint resolution for the annexation of TEXAS to the United States, General Almonte,

Mexican War Map

Mexican War Map

the Mexican minister at Washington, protested against the measure and demanded his passports. On June 4 following the President of Mexico (Herrera) issued a proclamation declaring the right of Mexico to the Texan territory, and his determination to defend it by arms, if necessary. At the same time there existed another cause for serious dispute between the United States and Mexico. The latter had been an unjust and injurious neighbor ever since the establishment of republican government in Mexico in 1824. Impoverished by civil war, it did not hesitate to replenish its treasury by plundering American vessels in the Gulf of Mexico, or by confiscating the property of American merchants within its borders. The United States government remonstrated in vain until 1831, when a treaty was made and promises of redress were given. These promises were never fulfilled. Robberies continued; and, in 1840, the aggregate value of property belonging to Americans which had been appropriated by the Mexicans amounted to more than $6,000,000. The claim for this amount was unsatisfied when the annexation of Texas took place in 1845.

Zachary Taylor's Army of Occupation

Zachary Taylor's Army of Occupation in Mexico

Being fully aware of the hostile feelings of the Mexicans, President Polk ordered (July, 1845) General Zachary Taylor, then in command of the United States troops in the Southwest, to go to Texas and take a position as near the Rio Grande as prudence would allow. This force, about 1,500 strong, was called the Army of Occupation for the defense of Texas. At the same time a strong naval force, under Commodore Conner, sailed to the Gulf of Mexico to protect American interests there. In September Taylor formed a camp at Corpus Christi, and there remained during the autumn and winter. He was ordered, Jan. 13, 1846, to move from his camp at Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande, opposite the Spanish city of Matamoras, because Mexican troops were gathering in that direction. This was disputed territory between Texas and the neighboring province of Tamaulipas. When he encamped at Point Isabel, March 25, on the coast, 28 miles from Matamoras, Taylor was warned by the Mexicans that he was upon foreign soil. He left his stores at Point Isabel, under a guard of 450 men, and with the remainder of his army advanced to the bank of the Rio Grande, where he established a camp and began the erection of a fort, which he named Fort Brown, in honor of Major Brown, in command there.

The Mexicans were so eager for war that they elected General Paredes to succeed President Herrera because he was overly anxious for peace with the United States. The latter sent General Ampudia, with a large force, to drive the Americans beyond the Nueces. This officer demanded of General Taylor, April 12, the withdrawal of his troops within twenty-four hours. Taylor refused, and continued to strengthen Fort Brown. Ampudia hesitated, when General Arista was put in his place as commander-in-chief of the Northern Division of the Army of Mexico. He was strongly reinforced, and the position of the Army of Occupation became critical. Parties of armed Mexicans soon got between Point Isabel and Fort Brown and cut off all intercommunication. A reconnoitering party under Captain Thornton was surprised and captured (April 24) on the Texas side of the Rio Grande, when Lieutenant Mason was killed. Having completed his fort, Taylor hastened to the relief of Point Isabel, May 1, which was menaced by a Mexican force, 1,500 strong, collected in the rear. He reached Point Isabel the same day. This departure of Taylor from the Rio Grande emboldened the Mexicans, who opened fire upon Fort Brown, May 3, from Matamoras, and a large body crossed the river to attack it in the rear. Taylor had left orders that in case of an attack, if peril appeared imminent, signal guns must be fired, and he would hasten to the relief of the fort.

General Taylor's Attack on Monterey


On the 6th, when the Mexicans began to plant cannon in the rear and Major Brown was mortally wounded, the signals were given, and Taylor marched for the Rio Grande on the evening of the 7th, with a little more than 2,000 men, having been reinforced by Texan volunteers and marines from the fleet. At noon the next day he fought and defeated Arista, with 6,000 troops, at PALO ALTO At 2 A.M. the next day his wearied army was summoned to renew its march, and, towards evening, fought a more sanguinary battle with the same Mexicans, at RESACA DE LA PALMA. Again the Americans were victorious. The Mexican army in Texas was now completely broken up. Arista saved himself by solitary flight across the Rio Grande. The garrison at Fort Brown was relieved. In the mean while, Congress had declared, May 11, 1846, that, " by the act of the republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that government and the United States," and authorized the President to raise 50,000 volunteers. They also (May 13) appropriated $10,000,000 for carrying on the war. The Secretary of War and General Scott planned a magnificent campaign. On May 23 the Mexican government also declared war.

Battle of Monterey


General Taylor crossed the Rio Grande, drove the Mexican troops from Matamoras, took possession of the town (May 18), and remained there until August, when he received reinforcements and orders from his government. Then, with more than 6,000 troops, he moved on Monterey, defended by General Ampudia, with more than 9,000 troops. It was a very strongly built town, at the foot of the great Sierra Madre. A siege commenced Sept. 21 and ended with the capture of the place on the 24th. General Wool had been directed to muster and prepare for service the volunteers gathered at Bexar, in Texas, and by the middle of July 12,000 of them had been mustered into the service. Of these, 9,000 were sent to reinforce Taylor. Wool went up the Rio Grande with about 3,000 troops, crossed the river at Presidio, penetrated Mexico, and, in the last of October, reached Monclova, 70 miles northwest of Monterey. He pushed on to Coahuila, where he obtained ample supplies for his own and Taylor's troops. General Taylor had agreed to an armistice at Monterey. This was ended Nov. 13, by order of his government, when, leaving General Butler in command at Monterey, he marched to Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas, with the intention of attacking Tampico, on the coast. Meanwhile, General Worth, with 900 men, had taken possession of Saltillo (Nov. 15), the capital of Coahuila.

Taylor, ascertaining that Tampico had already surrendered to the Americans (Nov. 14), and that Santa Ana was collecting a large force at San Luis Potosi, returned to Monterey to reinforce Worth, if necessary. Worth was joined at Saltillo by Wool's division (Dec. 20), and Taylor again advanced to Victoria (Dec. 29). Just as he was about to proceed to a vigorous campaign, Taylor received orders from General Scott, at Vera Cruz, to send the latter a large portion of his (Taylor's) best officers and troops, and to act only on the defensive. This was a severe trial for Taylor, but he cheerfully obeyed. He and Wool were left with an aggregate force of only about 5,000 men, of whom only 500 were regulars, to oppose 20,000, then gathering at San Luis Potosi, under Santa Ana. Taylor and Wool united their forces, Feb. 4, 1847, on the San Luis road, determined to fight the Mexicans, who were approaching. The opportunity was not long delayed. The Americans fell back to Buena Vista, within 11 miles of Saltillo, and encamped in a narrow defile, and there a severe battle was fought, Feb. 23, resulting in victory for the Americans. GENERAL STEPHEN W. KEARNY was placed in command of the Army of the West, with instructions to conquer New Mexico and California. He left Fort Leavenworth in June, 1846, and, after a journey of 900 miles over the great plains and among mountain ranges, he arrived at Santa Fe, Aug. 18, having met with no resistance. Appointing Charles Brent governor, he marched towards California, and was soon met by an express from COMMODORE ROBERT F. STOCKTON, and LIEUT-COL. JOHN C. FREMONT, informing him that the conquest of California had been achieved. Fremont and a party of explorers, sixty in number, joined by American settlers in the vicinity of San Francisco, had captured a Mexican force at Sonoma pass, June 15, 1846, with the garrison, nine cannon, and 250 muskets. He then defeated another force at Sonoma, and drove the Mexican authorities out of that region of country. On July 5 the Americans in California declared themselves independent, and put Fremont at the head of affairs. On the 7th Commodore Sloat, with a squadron, bombarded and captured Monterey, on the coast; on the 9th Commodore Montgomery took possession of San Francisco. Commodore Stockton and Colonel Fremont took possession of Los Angeles on Aug. 17, and there they were joined by Kearny, who had sent the main body of his troops back to Santa Fe. Fremont went to Monterey, and there assumed the office of governor, and proclaimed, Feb. 8, 1847, the annexation of California to the United States Meanwhile, Colonel Doniphan, detached by Kearny, with 1,000 Missouri volunteers, marched towards Chihuahua to join General Wool. In two engagements with Mexicans he was victorious, and entered the capital of Chihuahua in triumph, March 2, and took possession of the province. After resting six weeks, he joined Wool at Saltillo, and thence returned to New Orleans, having made a perilous march from the Mississippi of about 5,000 miles.

The conquest of all northern Mexico was now complete, and General Scott was on his march for the capital. He had landed at Vera Cruz, March 9, with an army of 13,000 men. It had been borne thither by a powerful squadron, commanded by Commodore Conner. He invested the city of VERA CRUZ on the 13th, and on the 27th it was surrendered with the castle of San Juan de Ulloa. Scott took possession of the city two days afterwards, and, on April 8, the advance of his army, under General Twiggs, began its march for the capital, by way of Jalapa. Santa Ana had advanced, with 12,000 men, to meet the invaders, and had taken post at Cerro Gordo, a difficult mountain pass at the foot of the Eastern Cordilleras. Scott had followed Twiggs with the rest of his army, and, on April IS, defeated the Mexicans at that strong pass, and, pushing forward, entered Jalapa on the 19th. On the 22d the American flag was unfurled over the Castle of Perote, on the summit of the Eastern Cordilleras, 50 miles from Jalapa. This was considered the strongest fortress in Mexico, excepting Vera Cruz. It was surrendered without resistance, and with it fifty-four pieces of cannon, some mortars, and a large amount of munitions of war.

Battle of Churubusco


Onward the victorious army marched, and entered the fortified city of Puebla, May 15, a city of 80,000 inhabitants; and there the army rested until August. Being reinforced, Scott then pushed on towards the capital. From that very spot on the lofty Cordilleras, Cortez first looked down upon the quiet valley of Mexico, centuries before. Scott now beheld that spacious panorama, the seat of the capital of the Aztecs—the " Halls of the Montezuma." He pushed cautiously forward, and approached the stronghold before the city. The fortified camp of Contreras was taken by the Americans on Aug. 20. Then the strong fortress of San Antonio yielded the same day. The heights of Churubusco were attacked. Santa Anna advanced, and soon the whole region became one great battlefield. Churubusco was taken, and Santa Anna fled towards the capital. A Mexican army, 30,000 strong, had in a single day been broken up by another less than one-third its strength in number, and at almost every step the Americans were successful. Full 4,000 Mexicans were killed and wounded, 3,000 were made prisoners, and thirty-seven pieces of cannon were captured on that memorable day. The Americans had lost 1,100 in killed and wounded.

They might now have entered the city of Mexico in triumph, but General Scott preferred to bear the olive-branch rather than the palm. As he advanced to Tacuba, Aug. 21, only 7 miles from the city, he met a deputation from Santa Anna to ask for an armistice, preparatory to negotiations for peace. It was granted. NICHOLAS P. TRIST, appointed by the United States government to treat for peace, was present. The treacherous Santa Anna had made this only a pretext to gain time to strengthen the defenses of the city. When the trick was discovered, Scott declared the armistice at an end, and advanced upon the city. Less than 4,000 Americans attacked Santa Ana with 14,000 Mexicans, Sept. 8, at Molino del Rey (the King's Mill), near Chapultepec. The combatants fought desperately and suffered dreadfully. The Mexicans left almost 1,000 dead on the field; the Americans lost 800. The lofty battlemented hill of Chapultepec was doomed. It was the last place to be defended outside of the city. It was attacked by mortar and cannon shells and round-shot, Sept. 12, and the assault continued until the next day, when the American flag waved in triumph over its shattered castle. The Mexicans fled into the city, pursued by the Americans to the very gates.

That night Santa Ana and his troops, with the civil officers, fled from the city, and, at 4 A.M. the next day, a deputation from the municipal authorities waited upon Scott, begging him to spare the town and treat for peace. He would make no terms, but entered the city, Sept. 13, a conqueror ; and from the grand plaza he proclaimed the conquest of the republic of Mexico. Santa Ana made some feeble efforts to regain lost power, but failed. He was defeated in two slight battles. Before the close of October he was stripped of every command, and fled for safety to the shores of the Gulf. The president of the Mexican Congress assumed provisional authority, and, on Feb. 2, 1848, that body concluded a treaty of peace with the United States commissioners at Guadalupe-Hidalgo. It was ratified by both governments, and, on July 4, 1848, President Polk proclaimed it. It stipulated the evacuation of Mexico by the American troops within three months; the payment of $3,000,000 in hand, and $12,000,000 in four annual installments, by the United States to Mexico, for New Mexico and California, which had become territory of the United States by conquest, and, in addition, to assume debts due certain citizens of the United States from Mexico to the amount of $3,500,000. It also fixed boundaries and otherwise adjusted matters in dispute.

General Scott Mexican War


Unfaithful American citizens plotted schemes for the extinction of the Mexican Republic (see KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE). While the plots were fast ripening, the two governments successfully negotiated a treaty by which the boundary-line between the United States and Mexico was defined and fixed. The treaty was ratified early in 1854, and it was agreed that the decisions of the commissioners appointed under it to revise the boundary should be final. By that treaty the United States was to be released from all obligations imposed by the treaty of peace with Mexico in 1848, and, as a consideration for this release, and for the territory ceded by Mexico, the United States agreed to pay the latter $10,000,000—$7,000,000 on the ratification of the treaty, and the remainder as soon as the boundary-line should be established. These conditions were complied with, and the peaceful relations between the two countries have never since been broken. For documents relating to the war, see POLK, JAMES KNOX. See, also, the titles of the military and naval officers above mentioned, and of the scenes of battles. See CHAPULTEPEC, BATTLE OF; CHURUBUSCO, BATTLE OF.




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