Into Mexico with General Scott - Edwin Sabin

The War With Mexico (1846-1847)

The Causes

March 2, 1836, by people's convention the Mexican province of Texas declares its independence and its intention to become a republic.

April 21, 1836, by the decisive battle of San Jacinto, Texas wins its war for independence, in which it has been assisted by many volunteers from the United States.

May 14, 1836, Santa Anna, the Mexican President and general who had been captured after the battle, signs a treaty acknowledging the Texas Republic, extending to the Rio Grande River.

September, 1836, in its first election Texas favors annexation to the United States.

December, 1836, the Texas Congress declares that the southwestern and western boundaries of the republic are the Rio Grande River, from its mouth to its source.

The government of Mexico refuses to recognize the independence of Texas, and claims that as a province its boundary extends only to the Nueces River, which empties into the Gulf of Mexico, about no miles from the mouth of the Rio Grande.

This spring and summer petitions have been circulated through the United States in favor of recognizing the Republic of Texas. Congress has debated upon that and upon annexation. The South especially desires the annexation, in order to add Texas to the number of slave-holding States.

February, 1837, President Andrew Jackson, by message to Congress, relates that Mexico has not observed a treaty of friendship signed in 1831, and has committed many outrages upon the Flag and the citizens of the United States; has refused to make payments for damages and deserves "immediate war" but should be given another chance.

March, 1837, the United States recognizes the independence of the Texas Republic.

Mexico has resented the support granted to Texas by the United States and by American citizens; she insists that Texas is still a part of her territory; and from this time onward there is constant friction between her on the one side and Texas and the United States on the other.

In August, 1837, the Texas minister at Washington presents a proposition from the new republic for annexation to the United States. This being declined by President Martin Van Buren in order to avoid war with Mexico, Texas decides to wait.

Mexico continues to evade treaties by which she should pay claims against her by the United States for damages. In December, 1842, President John Tyler informs Congress that the rightful claims of United States citizens have been summed at $2,026,079, with many not yet included.

Several Southern States consider resolutions favoring the annexation of Texas. The sympathies of both North and South are with Texas against Mexico.

In August, and again in November, 1843, Mexico notifies the United States that the annexation of Texas, which is still looked upon as only a rebellious province, will be regarded as an act of war.

October, 1843, the United States Secretary of State invites Texas to present proposals for annexation.

In December, 1843, President Tyler recommends to Congress that the United States should assist Texas by force of arms.

April 12, 1844, John C. Calhoun, the Secretary of State, concludes a treaty with Texas, providing for annexation. There is fear that Great Britain is about to gain control of Texas by arbitrating between it and Mexico. The treaty is voted down by the Senate on the ground that it would mean war with Mexico, would bring on a boundary dispute, and that to make a new State out of foreign territory was unconstitutional.

Throughout 1844 the annexation of Texas is a burning question, debated in Congress and by the public. In the presidential election this fall the annexation is supported by the Democratic party and opposed by the Whig party. The Democrats had nominated James K. Polk for President, George M. Dallas for Vice-President; the Democrats' campaign banners read: "Polk, Dallas and Texas!" Polk and Dallas are elected.

March 1, 1845, a joint resolution of Congress inviting Texas into the Union as a State is signed by, President Tyler just before he gives way to President-elect Polk. The boundaries of Texas are not named.

March 6 General Almonte, Mexican minister to the United States, denounces the resolution as an act of injustice to a friendly nation and prepares to leave Washington.

March 21 orders are issued by President Polk to General Zachary Taylor to make ready for marching the troops at Fort Jesup, western Louisiana, into Texas.

This same month the Texas Secretary of State has submitted to Mexico a treaty of peace by which Mexico shall recognize the republic of Texas, if Texas shall not unite with any other power.

In May, this 1845, Mexico signs the treaty with Texas.

May 28 the President of the United States directs General Taylor to prepare his command for a prompt defence of Texas.

June 4 President Anson Jones, of the Texas Republic, proclaims that by the treaty with Mexico hostilities between the two countries have ended. But

June 15 President Polk, through the Secretary of War, directs General Taylor to move his troops at once, as a "corps of observation," into Texas and establish headquarters at a point convenient for a further advance to the Rio Grande River. A strong squadron of the navy also is ordered to the Mexican coast. And

June 21 the Texas Congress unanimously rejects the treaty with Mexico, and on June 23 unanimously accepts annexation to the United States.

July 4, this 1841 in public convention the people of Texas draw up an annexation ordinance and a State constitution.

On July 7 Texas asks the United States to protect her ports and to send an army for her defence.

August 3 General Zachary Taylor lands an army of isoo men at the mouth of the Nueces River, and presently makes his encampment at Corpus Christi, on the farther shore.

In October the Mexican Government, under President Herrera, agrees to receive a commissioner sent by the United States to discuss the dispute over Texas, and President Polk withdraws the ships that have been stationed at Vera Cruz.

December 6, 1845, John Slidell, the envoy from the United States, arrives in the City of Mexico to adjust the matter of Texas and also the claims held by American citizens against Mexico.

The Mexican Republic is in the throes of another revolution. It declines to include the claims in the proposed discussion; December 30 President Herrera is ousted and Don Maria Paredes, who favors war rather than the loss of Texas, becomes head of the republic. Minister Slidell finally has to return home, in March, 1846. But long before this President Polk had decided to seize the disputed Texas boundary strip.

General Taylor's Campaign

January 13, 1846, General Taylor is directed by the President to advance and occupy the left or Texas bank of the Rio Grande River; he has been reinforced by recruits, and is authorized to apply to the Southern States for volunteer troops.

March 8 the first detachment is started forward to cross the disputed strip between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Other detachments follow. Part way General Taylor is officially warned by a Mexican officer that a farther advance will be deemed a hostile act. He proceeds, with his 4000 Regulars (half the army of the United States), and establishes a base of supplies at Point Isabel, on the Gulf shore, about thirty miles this side of the Rio Grande River.

March 28 the American army of now 3500 men, called the Army of Occupation, encamps a short distance above the mouth of the Rio Grande River, opposite the Mexican town of Matamoros and 119 miles from the mouth of the Nueces.

The Mexican forces at Matamoros immediately commence the erection of new batteries and the American force begins a fort.

April to Colonel Truman Cross, assistant quartermaster general in the American army, is murdered by Mexican bandits.

April 12 General Ampudia, of the Mexican forces at Matamoros, serves notice upon General Taylor either to withdraw within twenty-four hours and return to the Nueces out of the disputed territory, or else accept war. General Taylor replies that his orders are for him to remain here until the boundary dispute is settled. He announced a blockade of the Rio Grande River.

April 19 Second Lieutenant Theodoric Henry Porter, Fourth Infantry, is killed in action with Mexican guerillas.

April 25, this 1846, occurs the first battle of the war, when at La Rosia a squadron of sixty-three Second Dragoons under Captain Seth B. Thornton, reconnoitering up the Rio Grande River, is surrounded by Soo Mexican regular cavalry.

Second Lieutenant George T. Mason and eight enlisted men are killed, two men wounded, Captain Thornton, two other officers and forty-six men are captured.

By this victory the Mexicans are much elated; the flame of war is lighted in the United States.

May 11 President Polk announces a state of war, and a bloody invasion of American soil by the Mexican forces that had crossed the Rio Grande.

May 13 Congress passes a bill authorizing men and money with which to carry on the war, and declaring that the war has been begun by Mexico. There were objections to the bill on the ground that the President had ordered troops into the disputed—territory without having consulted Congress, and that war might have been avoided. But all parties agree that now they must support the Flag.

General Taylor calls on the governors of Louisiana and Texas for 5000 volunteers.

April 28 Captain Samuel Walker and some seventy Texas Rangers and Volunteers are attacked and beaten by I500 Mexican soldiers near Point Isabel, the American base of supplies. Captain Walker and six men make their way to General Taylor with report that his line of communication has been cut.

May 1, having almost completed the fort opposite Matamoros above the mouth of the Rio Grande, General Taylor leaves a garrison of i000 men and marches in haste to rescue his supplies at Point Isabel. The Mexican troops are appearing in great numbers, and matters look serious for the little American army.

May 3 the Mexican forces at Matamoros open fire upon the fort, thinking that General Taylor has retreated.

May 8 General Taylor, hurrying back to the relief of the fort, with his 2300 men defeats 6500 Mexicans under General Arista in the artillery battle of Palo Alto or Tall Timber, fought amidst the thickets and prairie grasses about sixteen miles from Point Isabel. American loss, four killed, forty wounded; Mexican loss, more than Ion in killed alone.

The next day, May 9, "Old Rough and Ready" again defeats General Arista in the battle of Resaca de la Palma, or Palm Draw (Ravine), a short distance from Palo Alto. Having withstood a fierce bombardment of seven days the fort, soon named Fort Brown, of present Brownsville, Texas, is safe. The Mexican forces all flee wildly across the Rio Grande River.

May 18 General Taylor throws his army across the river by help of one barge, and occupies Matamoros. Here he awaits supplies and troops.

August 20 he begins his advance into Mexico for the capture of the city of Monterey, 15o miles from the Rio Grande River and Boo miles from the City of Mexico.

Meanwhile General Paredes, president of Mexico, has been deposed by another revolution, and General Santa Anna has been called back.

September 21-22-23 General Taylor with his 6600 men assaults the fortified city Monterey, in the Sierra Madre Mountains of northeastern Mexico, and defended by 10,000 Mexican soldiers under General Ampudia.

September 24 the city is surrendered. American loss, Ia0 officers and men killed, 368 wounded; Mexican loss, more than I000.

General Taylor proceeds to occupy northeastern Mexico. In November he receives orders to detach 4000 men, half of whom shall be Regulars, for the reinforcement of General Scott's expedition against Vera Cruz.

February 22, 1847, with 4300 Volunteers and 450 Regulars he encounters the full army of General Santa Anna, 20,000 men at the narrow mountain pass of Buena Vista, near Saltillo seventy-five miles southwest of Monterey.

The American army, holding the pass, awaits the attack. In the terrible battle begun in the afternoon of February 22 and waged all day February 23, the Mexican troops are repulsed; and by the morning of February 24 they have retreated from the field. American loss, 267 killed, 456 wounded, 23 missing; Mexican loss, 2000.

The battle of Buena Vista leaves the American forces in possession of northeastern Mexico. General Santa Anna now hastens to confront General Scott and save the City of Mexico. General Taylor returns to Louisiana, and there is no further need for his services in the field.

General Scott's Campaign

March 9, 1847, General Winfield Scott, with the assistance of the naval squadron under Commodore Conner, lands his Army of Invasion, 12,000 men transferred in sixty-seven surf-boats, upon the beach three miles below the fortified city of Vera Cruz, without loss or accident.

In spite of shot and shell and terrific wind storms the army advances its trenches and guns to within 800 yards of the city walls. On March 22 the bombardment of Vera Cruz is begun.

March 27 the surrender of the city and of the great island fort San Juan de Ulloa is accepted. The siege has been so scientifically conducted that 5000 military prisoners and 400 cannon are taken with the loss to the American forces of only sixty-four officers and men killed and wounded.

Having been detained at Vera Cruz by lack of wagons and teams, on April 8 General Scott starts his first detachment for Mexico City, 280 miles by road westward.

April 12, arrangements being completed, he hastens to the front himself and is received with cheers for "Old Fuss and Feathers "all along the way.

April 18 storms and captures the heights of Cerro Gordo, sixty miles inland, where his 8000 men are opposed by 12,000 under Santa Anna. Three thousand prisoners, among them five generals, are taken; 5000 stands of arms and forty-three pieces of artillery. American loss, 431, thirty-three being officers; Mexican casualties, over 1000.

April 19 he occupies the town of Jalapa, fifteen miles onward. April 22 the castle of Perote, some fifty miles farther, is captured without a struggle. On May 25 the advance division of 4300 men enters the city of Puebla, 185 miles from Vera Cruz. In two months General Scott has taken 20,000 prisoners of war, 700 cannon, 10,000 stands of small-arms, 30,000 shells and solid shot.

The term of enlistment of 4000 twelve-months Volunteers being almost expired, he waits in Puebla for reinforcements.

August 7 he resumes the march for the Mexican capital, ninety-five miles. His force numbers zo,800, and he needs must cut loose from communications with Vera Cruz, his base.

August 9, from Rio Frio Pass, elevation 10,000 feet, on the summit of the main mountain range of Mexico, the army gazes down into the Valley of Mexico, with the city of Mexico visible, thirty-five miles distant.

By a new and difficult route he avoids the defences of the main road to the city, and on August i8 has approached to within nine miles and striking distance of the outer circle of batteries.

August 19-20, by day and night attack, 3500 Americans carry the strong entrenchments of Contreras defended by 7000 Mexicans. American loss, in killed and wounded, 60; Mexican casualties, 700 killed, 1000 wounded.

The same day, August 20, 1847, the outpost of San Antonio is taken, the high citadel of Churubusco stormed. There are five separate actions, all victorious, and the dragoons charge four miles to the very gates of the city. Thirty-two thousand men have been defeated by 8000. The total Mexican loss is 4000 killed and. wounded, 3000 prisoners, including eight generals; the American loss is 1052, of whom seventy-six are officers.

August 21 President and General Santa Anna proposes an armistice.

September 7 the armistice is broken and General Scott resumes his advance upon the city.

September 8 the General Worth division, reinforced to 3000 men, in a bloody battle captures the outpost Molino del Rey or King's Mill, and the Casa-Mats supporting it—the two being defended by 14,000 Mexicans. American loss, killed, wounded and missing is 789, including fifty-eight officers. The Mexican loss is in the thousands.

September 12, by a feint the Scott army of 7000 able-bodied men is concentrated before the Castle of Chapultepec, situated upon a high hill fortified from base to summit and crowned by the Military College of Mexico, with its garrison of cadets and experienced officers.

September 13 Chapultepec is stormed and seized; the road to the city is opened, the suburbs are occupied and the General Quitman division has forced the Belen gateway into the city itself. Twenty thousand Mexicans have been routed.

At daybreak of September 14 the city council of Mexico informs General Scott that the Mexican Government and army have fled. At seven o'clock the Stars and Stripes are raised over the National Palace and the American army of 6000 proceeds to enter the grand plaza.

This fall of 1847 there is still some fighting in the country along the National Road between Vera Cruz and the City of Mexico, and the fleeing Santa Anna attacks Puebla in vain.

February 2, 1848, a treaty of peace is signed at Guadaloupe Hidalgo by the United States commissioner and the Mexican commissioners.

May 30, 1848, the treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo is ratified by both parties.

June 19, 1848, peace is formally declared by President Polk, who on July 4 signs the treaty.

Other Campaigns

At the end of June, 1846, the Army of the West, composed of 2500 Volunteers and 200 First Dragoons, under General Stephen W. Kearny, leaves Fort Leavenworth on the Missouri River to march woo miles and seize New Mexico.

August 18 General Kearny enters the capital, Santa Fe. and takes possession of New Mexico.

This same month the Army of the Center, 2500 Volunteers and 500 Regulars under General John E. Wool, assembles at San Antonio of Texas for a march westward to seize Chihuahua, northwestern Mexico, distant 400 miles.

General Wool is ordered to join General Scott; but in December, 1846, Colonel A. W. Doniphan, of the Missouri Volunteers of the Kearny army, leaves Santa Fe with Boo men to march to Chihuahua, 550 miles, and reinforce him.

December 25 he defeats General Ponce de Leon, commanding soo Mexican regular lancers and 800 Chihuahua volunteers, in the battle of Brazitos, southern New Mexico.

February 28, 1848, in the battle of Sacramento, he defeats General Heredia and 4000 men, entrenched on the road to Chihuahua. American loss, one killed, eleven wounded; Mexican loss, 320 killed, over 400 wounded.

On March 1 the American advance enters the city of Chihuahua.

Meanwhile, during all these events, on July 7, 1846, Commodore John D. Sloat, of the navy's Pacific Squadron, has hoisted the Flag over Monterey, the capital of Upper Calif ornia. The explorer, John C. Fremont, already has supported an uprising of Americans in the north, and the flag is raised at San Francisco and Sacramento.

On September 25 (1846) General Kearny starts from Santa Fe with 400 First Dragoons to occupy California, Itoo miles westward. On the way he learns that California has been taken. He proceeds with only too Dragoons. A battalion of 500 Mormons enlisted at Fort Leavenworth is following.

December 12 he arrives at San Diego, California, and forthwith military rule is established in California.