There is no surer sign of decay in a country than to see the rites of religion held in contempt. — Machiavelli

Mexican American War

1846 to 1848
United States — versus — Mexico

Mexican American War
THE BATTLE OF RESACA DE LA PALMA

The aims of the Mexican American War were largely imperialistic on the part of the United States. There was a strong sentiment among many Americans in favor of confiscating Mexican territory north of the Rio Grande, and had been for generations. Mexico had achieved independence from Spain in 1820 and the political chaos that followed provided an excellent opportunity for the United States to assert her claim to the region.

According to the American point of view, Mexico's claim to the territory was weak. Although the region had been part of the Spanish Empire for over 300 years, it was sparsely populated. The first Spanish Missions were established in California only seventy years before the war and the secular government that came to power in Mexico had abolished even these meager outposts of civilization. Mexico did not want to lose the territory, but neither had it done much to establish its dominion over the region.

Mexican American War : 1846 to 1848

In 1845 Texas was admitted to the union as a slave-state and immediately thereafter, Mexico declared War on the United States of America. It was a symbolic gesture, however, since the Mexican government was in complete disarray and in no position to actually fight a war. Many Americans saw this as an excellent opportunity to gain territory so there was a large pro-war party that sought any excuse to justify American aggression. Meanwhile, President Polk sought to avert a war by purchasing the territories that the United States sought after, but his offer was indignantly refused. In the meantime, American settlers flocked to California, intending to declare their settlement "independent", and thereby provoke a war.

Mexican American War
MAJOR RINGGOLD STRUCK BY A CANNON BALL.

An excuse to declare war on Mexico presented itself when the U.S. sent a patrol to the disputed region near the Texas-Mexico border. This activity provoked an incident with the Mexican forces in the region and American war-hawks lost no time in declaring war and sending a ready battalion to the area. The first battles were at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma in the disputed territory. The Americans were victorious, and General Zachary Taylor led the Americans into Northeast Mexico. In the following months Taylor's troops fought a number of skirmishes including major battles at Monterrey and Buena Vista. Although he prevailed in every event, the Mexican government was not willing to negotiate peace on the terms offered by the United States.

In order to bring the war to a close, Polk sent a fleet directly to Veracruz, a coastal town adjacent to Mexico City. The object of this expedition, led by Winfried Scott, was to force the Mexican government to accept American terms of surrender. A force of over 12,000 Americans besieged Veracruz, the most heavily fortified city in Mexico, and in six days gained a landing. It was not until they actually entered Mexico City, after fighting several famous battles en route that they were able to force the Mexican government to concede to the secession of the Southwest quarter of the United States. The territory ceded was composed of the modern states of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

Some Americans were puzzled at Mexico's refusal to negotiate any terms for a territory that they could not possibly defend. The United States had originally offered to pay over $25,000,000 for the parcel, which amounted to more than $300 per Mexican citizen in the territories, but instead of accepting this "generous" offer, the Mexicans subjected themselves to a series of humiliating defeats and incurred a great loss of life and property damage. The reason for this political. Various parties were vying for power and the idea of surrender was so unpopular that any politician who even discussed it would be thrown immediately out of office. So to most Mexican leaders, a bruising defeat was more politically viable than an unpopular surrender.



DateBattle Summary
1846  
Battle of Palo Alto (rio grande border ) Americans victory
Fought May 8, 1846, between the Americans, under General Taylor, and the Mexicans, under Arista. The Mexicans were completely routed, at very small cost to the victors.
  
1846  
Battle of Resaca de la Palma   Americans victory
Fought May 9, 1846, between the 1700 Americans, under General Zachary Taylor, and 4,000 Mexicans, including newly arrived reinforcements, under Arista. The battle was hard fought but the tide turned for the Americans after a successful cavalry attack forced a retreat. The Mexicans suffered 350 killed and wounded, and 150 captured. The Americans suffered 33 killed and 90 wounded.
  
1846  
Battle of Monterey (rio grande border ) Americans victory
This town in southern California was captured from the Mexicans, September 23, 1846, by the Americans, under General Taylor, and this success was followed by the occupation of the whole of Northern Mexico by the American army.
  
1847  
Battle of Angostura (coahuila ) Americans victory
Fought February 21, 1847, between the Mexicans under Santa Anna and the Americans under General Scott, when the Mexicans were totally defeated.
  
1847  
Battle of Buena Vista (mexico city offensive ) Americans victory
Fought February 22, 1847, between 18,000 Mexicans under General Santa Anna, and 4,500 Americans under General Zachary Taylor. The Americans occupied a series of heights commanding the Angostura pass, and were there attacked by Santa Anna, who failed to dislodge them, the day ending with the combatants occupying the same ground as in the morning. On the 23rd, however, Santa Anna retired. The Americans lost 746 killed and wounded; the Mexicans admitted a loss of 1, 500 killed, but it was probably heavier.
  
1847  
Battle of Veracruz (mexico city offensive ) Americans victory
This city was besieged by a naval assault force of over 12,000 Americans, led by Winfield Scott and Matthew C. Perry. The highly fortified port was defended by 3,360 Mexicans under Juan Morales, and held out for over 20 days before being over-run. The Americans suffered 18 killed and 62 wounded; the Mexicans suffered 180 killed and wounded.
  
1847  
Battle of Molino del Rey (mexico city offensive ) Americans victory
Fought September 8, 1847 just outside of Mexico city. 2,800 Americans under Winfield Scott charged a Mexican fortification at just outside Mexico city. Heavy guns were used to destroy the Mexican fortifications, and the Mexicans were driven from their position. The American losses included 116 killed and over 600 wounded. The Mexicans suffered 270 killed and 500 wounded.
  
1847  
Battle of Chapultepec (nuevo leon ) Americans victory
Fought September 12, 1847 when 13,000 Americans stormed the Castle of Capultepec, headquarters of the Mexican army. The fortifications were protected by 4000 Mexican who suffered over 1800 causalities before yielding to the American charge. Six Cadets refused to retreat and wrapped themselves in Mexican flags before jumping to their death. The result of this battle was that the Mexican army retreated, leaving Mexico city in American hands.
  


Commander
Short Biography
Santa Anna Fought for Mexican independence and against Texas, then served as president on and off, over twenty turbulent years.
Mariano Arista Mexican General during the Mexican-American War.
General Winfield Scott Longest serving officer in American history. Served in all major wars between 1812 and the Civil War.
Zachary Taylor Military leader who served in various Indian Wars and the Mexican-American War. Twelfth U.S. President.
James K. Polk U.S. President who followed the policies of Andrew Jackson. President during the Mexican-American War.
John C. Fremont American explorer who, along with Kit Carson, led an expedition to California by way of Wyoming and Nevada.


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Story Links
Book Links
The Mexican War  in  Story of the Great Republic  by  H. A. Guerber
Polk—How Much Land Was Added  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
Captain Lee and the Lava-beds  in  Historical Tales: American II  by  Charles Morris
War with the United States  in  The Story of Mexico  by  Charles Morris
Kearney and the Conquest of New Mexico  in  Historical Tales: Spanish American  by  Charles Morris
Second Conquest of the Capital of Mexico  in  Historical Tales: Spanish American  by  Charles Morris
War with the United States  in  A Short History of Mexico  by  Arthur Howard Noll
Face to Face with Mexico  in  Boys' Book of Border Battles  by  Edwin L. Sabin
With "Old Zach" at Palo Alto  in  Boys' Book of Border Battles  by  Edwin L. Sabin
Resaca de la Palma  in  Boys' Book of Border Battles  by  Edwin L. Sabin


Book Links
History of the War with Mexico  by  H. O. Ladd
Into Mexico with General Scott  by  Edwin Sabin

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Image Links

As he faced his battalion there was no straighter back or better figure
As he faced his battalion there was no straighter back or better figure
 in 
As he stood there behind the guns he knew that his work had been well done
As he stood there behind the guns he knew that his work had been well done
 in 

Captain May's Charge at Resaca de la Palma
 in 

Taylor at Buena Vista
 in Story of the Great Republic

Americans land at Vera Cruz
 in The War with Mexico

Fillibusters in Texas
 in The War with Mexico


 in The War with Mexico

The City of Vera Cruz
 in The War with Mexico

The Battle of Resaca de la Palma
 in The Story of Mexico

General Zachary Taylor's Great Victory at Resaca de la Palma
 in True Stories of Our Presidents

Battle of Montery
 in Young Folks' History of Mexico

Major Ringgold struck by a cannon ball
 in Boys' Book of Border Battles

The second dragoons at Resaca de la Palma
 in Boys' Book of Border Battles

What is the meaning of this racket?'
 in Into Mexico with General Scott

The March to the City of Mexico
 in Into Mexico with General Scott

Winfield Scott, General-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States
 in Into Mexico with General Scott

And all your army and guns can't keep them off.'
 in Into Mexico with General Scott

...it appeared they were going to ambush me and take this turkey.'
 in Into Mexico with General Scott

Campaign in the Valley of Mexico.
 in Into Mexico with General Scott

Lieutenant Grant used this as a ladder
 in Into Mexico with General Scott