History of the War with Mexico - H. O. Ladd

Results of Victory

Surrender of Matamoras—Pursuit of Arista's army—Reinforcements—Enthusiasm in the United States—Drill and discipline—Delays of transportation.

Having fought and defeated the strongest army the Mexicans were able at this stage of the war to bring against him, General Taylor immediately set out for Fort Isabel to open communications with Commodore Conner of the United States fleet. He there arranged with him for an attack upon Barita, a small town at the mouth of the Rio Grande, which was easily captured, and the approach to Matamoras thus secured for expected reinforcements. Returning to Fort Brown on the 14th of May, he prepared to attack Matamoras without further delay. On the t 7th, General Twiggs was ordered to cross the river with his command, when General Arista proposed an armistice till the pending difficulties between the two governments were settled. Perceiving that this was only an expedient to secure time to remove the large stores of food and munitions of war collected at Matamoras, the armistice was refused, and the surrender of the town demanded before three o'clock of the same day, with the permission granted to General Arista to withdraw only his troops, leaving public property of every description within the city. The allotted time expired, and the army was put in motion to assault the town. To Adjutant-General Bliss, bearing a flag of truce dispatched by General Taylor to the prefect of Matamoras, again demanding its surrender, the civil authorities sent their submission. A small force of American troops accordingly took possession of the town, and raised the American flag above Fort Paredes, on the west bank of the Rio Grande. Arista's troops, having partially destroyed the public stores, had fled.

The next day all the cavalry, about two hundred and fifty in number, started in pursuit of Arista's army to capture prisoners and baggage. Lieutenant Garland in command followed them for sixty miles, but was obliged to return on account of a scarcity of food and water. A few prisoners and a small quantity of ammunition was taken. The Mexican army was but twenty-four hours ahead of our cavalry, who stopped at the same ranches occupied the previous night by the Mexicans. The proprietor of one of these asked an American officer where he was going with the cavalry. He replied, "To pursue the retreating army of Arista." "Retreating army," he exclaimed in surprise, "why, General Ampudia told me last night that his troops had conquered the Americans, and that he was now on his way to Mexico to take the news." It seemed incredible to the astonished Mexican that a few American dragoons should be driving before them three thousand Mexican troops.

The battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma had, in fact, given possession of this part of Mexico to the American Army of Occupation. The Mexican Army of the North was utterly routed, and flying to the interior with the loss of most of their munitions of war and artillery, and their vaunting assurance of destroying the invader's army at a single blow quite dispelled.

The exciting events on the Rio Grande, in which so much American blood had been shed, and the dangerous position of General Taylor's army in the midst of a hostile country, had roused the States to the greatest enthusiasm. "The war has begun!" was the stirring cry taken up and carried by all the slow methods of communication of those days to every part of the land. It inflamed the long-cherished rancor against Mexico in thousands of hearts, and roused patriotism to a pitch that made men oblivious of the right and wrong of the war, when the honor of the Stars and Stripes was in peril. The President had now the opportunity to bring the necessities of the country effectively before Congress. He was authorized to accept the services of fifty thousand volunteers, for which an appropriation from the Treasury of the United States was made by Act of Congress. So great was the zeal manifested, especially in some of the Southern States, that requisitions on their Governors, made by General Gaines in command at New Orleans, for reinforcements to General Taylor, were answered by ten times the number called for. Six months' volunteers, when mustered into service, did not hesitate to change their term of service to twelve months, and were only eager to be transported to the famed land conquered by Cortez, to perform deeds which should reflect far greater honor upon the flag of the Union.

Reinforcements began to arrive at Matamoras, and volunteers were flocking to the standard of the victorious general. He at once began a systematic course of discipline and drill. The commands of Colonel Twiggs, General Worth, and Lieutenant-Colonel Belknap were encamped in the suburbs of Matamoras. General Taylor's head-quarters were near Fort Brown, and the camps of the volunteer regiments stretched far away along the hills on the eastern bank of the Rio Grande. Here the army, sadly deficient in supplies and means of transportation, was delayed three months, and General Taylor, while waiting for these, lost the precious opportunity of following up the effects of his victories by marching upon Monterey before that stronghold could be strengthened and defended by another Mexican army. Some small towns were captured by short raids toward Monterey. Among these were Camargo, Mier and Reynoso. Camargo, occupied by a party of Texan Rangers under Colonel McCulloch on the 14th of July, was soon made a point of rendezvous for all supplies and reinforcements, while preparations were being made for an attack on Monterey. Stores were transported thither by steamboats up the Rio Grande, and the soldiers from Point Isabel and Matamoras marched over the hot, dusty roads traversed by Arista's army in their retreat, during the months of June, July, and August. Meanwhile the interesting events of another campaign of this war were transpiring on the plains of New Mexico.