The U.S.-Mexican War (1846-1848)
The U.S.-Mexican War—(1846-1848): The Mexican-American War was the first major conflict(continue reading..)
U.S. Troops at the Siege of Veracruz
The U.S.-Mexican War—(1846-1848):
The Mexican-American War was the first major conflict driven by the idea of "Manifest Destiny"; the belief that America had a God-given right, or destiny, to expand the country's borders from 'sea to shining sea'. This belief would eventually cause a great deal of suffering for many Mexicans, Native Americans and United States citizens. Following the earlier Texas War of Independence from Mexico, tensions between the two largest independent nations on the North American continent grew as Texas eventually became a U.S. state. Disputes over the border lines sparked military confrontation, helped by the fact that President Polk eagerly sought a war in order to seize large tracts of land from Mexico.
CAUSES OF CONFLICT:
The war between the United States and Mexico had two basic causes. First, the desire of the U.S. to expand across the North American continent to the Pacific Ocean caused conflict with all of its neighbors; from the British in Canada and Oregon to the Mexicans in the southwest and, of course, with the Native Americans. Ever since President Jefferson's acquisition of the Louisiana Territory in 1803, Americans migrated westward in ever increasing numbers, often into lands not belonging to the United States. By the time President Polk came to office in 1845, an idea called "Manifest Destiny" had taken root among the American people, and the new occupant of the White House was a firm believer in the idea of expansion. The belief that the U.S. basically had a God-given right to occupy and "civilize" the whole continent gained favor as more and more Americans settled the western lands. The fact that most of those areas already had people living upon them was usually ignored, with the attitude that democratic English-speaking America, with its high ideals and Protestant Christian ethics, would do a better job of running things than the Native Americans or Spanish-speaking Catholic Mexicans. Manifest Destiny did not necessarily call for violent expansion. In both 1835 and 1845, the United States offered to purchase California from Mexico, for $5 million and $25 million, respectively. The Mexican government refused the opportunity to sell half of its country to Mexico's most dangerous neighbor.The second basic cause of the war was the Texas War of Independence and the subsequent annexation of that area to the United States. Not all American westward migration was unwelcome. In the 1820's and 1830's, Mexico, newly independent from Spain, needed settlers in the underpopulated northern parts of the country. An invitation was issued for people who would take an oath of allegiance to Mexico and convert to Catholicism, the state religion. Thousands of Americans took up the offer and moved, often with slaves, to the Mexican province of Texas. Soon however, many of the new "Texicans" or "Texians" were unhappy with the way the government in Mexico City tried to run the province. In 1835, Texas revolted, and after several bloody battles, the Mexican President, Santa Anna, was forced to sign the Treaty of Velasco in 1836 . This treaty gave Texas its independence, but many Mexicans refused to accept the legality of this document, as Santa Anna was a prisoner of the Texans at the time. The Republic of Texas and Mexico continued to engage in border fights and many people in the United States openly sympathized with the U.S.-born Texans in this conflict. As a result of the savage frontier fighting, the American public developed a very negative stereotype against the Mexican people and government. Partly due to the continued hostilities with Mexico, Texas decided to join with the United States, and on July 4, 1845, the annexation gained approval from the U.S. Congress.
Mexico of course did not like the idea of its breakaway province becoming an American state, and the undefined and contested border now became a major international issue. Texas, and now the United States, claimed the border at the Rio Grande River. Mexico claimed territory as far north as the Nueces River. Both nations sent troops to enforce the competing claims, and a tense standoff ensued. On April 25, 1846, a clash occurred between Mexican and American troops on soil claimed by both countries. The war had begun.
DESCRIPTION OF CONFLICT:
The Mexican-American War was largely a conventional conflict fought by traditional armies consisting of infantry, cavalry and artillery using established European-style tactics. As American forces penetrated into the Mexican heartland, some of the defending forces resorted to guerrilla tactics to harass the invaders, but these irregular forces did not greatly influence the outcome of the war.
After the beginning of hostilities, the U.S. military embarked on a three-pronged strategy designed to seize control of northern Mexico and force an early peace. Two American armies moved south from Texas, while a third force under Colonel Stephen Kearny traveled west to Sante Fe, New Mexico and then to California. In a series of battles at Palo Alto and Resaca de Palma (near current-day Brownsville, Texas), the army of General Zachary Taylor defeated the Mexican forces and began to move south after inflicting over a thousand casualties. In July and August of 1846, the United States Navy seized Monterey and Los Angeles in California. In September, 1846, Taylor's army fought General Ampudia's forces for control of the northern Mexican city of Monterey in a bloody three-day battle. Following the capture of the city by the Americans, a temporary truce ensued which enabled both armies to recover from the exhausting Battle of Monterey. During this time, former President Santa Anna returned to Mexico from exile and raised and trained a new army of over 20,000 men to oppose the invaders. Despite the losses of huge tracts of land, and defeat in several major battles, the Mexican government refused to make peace. It became apparent to the Polk Administration that only a complete battlefield victory would end the war. Continued fighting in the dry deserts of northern Mexico convinced the United States that an overland expedition to capture of the enemy capital, Mexico City, would be hazardous and difficult. To this end, General Winfield Scott proposed what would become the largest amphibious landing in history, (at that time), and a campaign to seize the capital of Mexico.
On March 9, 1847, General Scott landed with an army of 12,000 men on the beaches near Veracruz, Mexico's most important eastern port city. From this point, from March to August, Scott and Santa Anna fought a series of bloody, hard-fought battles from the coast inland toward Mexico City. The more important battles of this campaign include the Battles of : Cerro Gordo (April 18), Contreras (August 20), Churubusco (August 20), Molino del Rey (September 8) and Chapultepec (September 13). Finally, on September 14, the American army entered Mexico City. The city's populace offered some resistance to the occupiers, but by mid-October, the disturbances had been quelled and the U.S. Army enjoyed full control. Following the city's occupation, Santa Anna resigned the presidency but retained command of his army. He attempted to continue military operations against the Americans, but his troops, beaten and disheartened, refused to fight. His government soon asked for his military resignation. Guerrilla operations continued against Scott's lines of supply back to Veracruz, but this resistance proved ineffective.
On February 2, 1848, The Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo was signed, later to be ratified by both the U.S. and Mexican Congresses. The treaty called for the annexation of the northern portions of Mexico to the United States. In return, the U.S. agreed to pay $15 million to Mexico as compensation for the seized territory. The bravery of the individual Mexican soldier goes a long way in explaining the difficulty the U.S. had in prosecuting the war. Mexican military leadership was often lacking, at least when compared to the American leadership. And in many of the battles, the superior cannon of the U.S. artillery divisions and the innovative tactics of their officers turned the tide against the Mexicans. The war cost the United States over $100 million, and ended the lives of 13,780 U.S. military personnel. America had defeated its weaker and somewhat disorganized southern neighbor, but not without paying a terrible price.
Something new and historical: Want to learn how to drive a tank? Check out these tank driving experiences.
CONSEQUENCES OF CONFLICT:
1. The United States acquired the northern half of Mexico. This area later became the U.S. states of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
2. President Santa Anna lost power in Mexico following the war.
3. U.S. General Zachary "Old Rough and Ready" Taylor used his fame as a war hero to win the Presidency in 1848. A true irony is that President Polk, a Democrat, pushed for the war that led to Taylor, a Whig, winning the White House.
4. Relations between the United States and Mexico remained tense for many decades to come, with several military encounters along the border.
5. For the United States, this war provided a training-ground for the men who would lead the Northern and Southern armies in the upcoming American Civil War.
UNIQUE FACTS OR TRENDS:
1. This war featured the first major amphibious landing by U.S. forces in history.
2. The defeat of Mexico was the first time a foreign enemy force occupied the capitol of the nation. The French would also occupy Mexico City in the 1860's.
Also on this day
Gandhi begins fast in protest of caste separation
On this day in 1932, in his cell at Yerovda Jail near Bombay, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi begins a hunger strike in protest of the British government’s decision to separate India’s electoral system by caste. A leader in the Indian campaign for home rule, Gandhi worked all his life to spread his...
Battle of Harlem Heights restores American confidence
On this day in 1776, General George Washington arrives at Harlem Heights, on the northern end of Manhattan, and takes command of a group of retreating Continental troops. The day before, 4,000 British soldiers had landed at Kip’s Bay in Manhattan (near present-day 34th Street) and taken control of the...
William Durant creates General Motors
On September 16, 1908, Buick Motor Company head William Crapo Durant spends $2,000 to incorporate General Motors in New Jersey. Durant, a high-school dropout, had made his fortune building horse-drawn carriages, and in fact he hated cars–he thought they were noisy, smelly, and dangerous. Nevertheless, the giant company he built...
Confederate General Custis Lee is born
George Washington Custis Lee is born to Robert E. and Mary Custis Lee in Fort Monroe, Virginia. The eldest son and the second of seven children, Custis Lee, as his family called him, followed his father’s footsteps to West Point. At age 16, Custis had been denied entry into the military...
United Nations essay contest angers Soviets
On this day, Soviet representatives condemn an essay writing contest sponsored by the United Nations. The incident, though small, indicated that the Cold War was as much a battle of words as a war of bombs and guns. In 1950, the Public Information Department of the United Nations hit upon...
Murder in Illinois
Phineas Wilcox is stabbed to death by fellow Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois, because he is believed to be a Christian spy. The murder of Wilcox reflected the serious and often violent conflict between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the surrounding communities. Joseph Smith, who founded the...
Gunman kills 12 in D.C. Navy Yard massacre
On this day in 2013, a 34-year-old man goes on a rampage at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., killing 12 people and wounding several others over the course of an hour before he is fatally shot by police. Investigators later determined that the gunman, Aaron Alexis, a computer contractor...
Killer quake shakes Iran
An extremely deadly earthquake rocks Iran, killing more than 25,000 people on this day in 1978. The 7.7-magnitude quake struck the northeastern part of the country, an area that has traditionally seen much seismic activity. Ten years earlier, a 6.5-magnitude quake centered in northern Iran near the Afghanistan border killed approximately...
Mayflower departs England
The Mayflower sails from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists–half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs–had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather and navigational errors forced the Mayflower off course, and on November...
Maria Callas dies
Celebrated soprano Maria Callas dies in Paris at the age of 53.Born in New York City in 1923 to Greek immigrants, Callas demonstrated her talent for singing at an early age. When she was 13, she went to Athens to study under the noted soprano Elvira de Hidalgo. Her first...
Massacres at Sabra and Shatila
Hours after the Israeli forces enter West Beirut, Phalangist militiamen begin a massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Within two days, 1,000 men, women, and children were dead.The Phalangists, a Christian faction in Lebanon, were closely allied with Israel. After entering West Beirut, Israeli commanders ordered...
On this day in 1993, Frasier, a spin-off of the long-running mega-hit sitcom Cheers, makes its debut on NBC; it will go on to air for 11 seasons and win multiple Emmy Awards. Frasier starred Kelsey Grammer as the erudite, snobbish Dr. Frasier Crane, a radio psychiatrist who relocates from...
James Alan McPherson is born
James Alan McPherson, the first black man to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is born in Savannah, Georgia. McPherson overcame the crushing poverty of his childhood and ultimately attended Harvard Law School. At age 25, he entered a short story contest sponsored by The Atlantic and won. The following year, he...
Opera star Maria Callas dies
“Diva” is a word used rather freely these days to describe those whose talents are matched or exceeded by their tendency to maximize the drama in every situation. But the term originated in the world of opera as shorthand for divina, or “goddess”—a label reserved for the greatest of female...
Settlers race to claim land
On this day in 1893, the largest land run in history begins with more than 100,000 people pouring into the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma to claim valuable land that had once belonged to Native Americans. With a single shot from a pistol the mad dash began, and land-hungry pioneers...
Franklin Roosevelt approves military draft
On this day in 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Selective Service and Training Act, which requires all male citizens between the ages of 26 and 35 to register for the military draft, beginning on October 16. The act had been passed by Congress 10 days earlier. America was not...
Leonard knocks out Hearns to unify middleweight title
On September 16, 1981, welterweight boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard knocks out Thomas Hearns in the 13th round to unify boxing’s middleweight title. Leonard was behind on all three judges’ scorecards and fighting with one eye closed when he delivered a right hand to his opponent’s head that sent Hearns crashing...
U.S. Ambassador in Saigon warns that situation is worsening
In a cable to Secretary of State Christian A. Herter, U.S. Ambassador in Saigon, Elbridge Durbrow analyzes two separate but related threats to the Ngo Dinh Diem regime, danger from demonstration or coup, predominantly “non-Communist” in origin; and the danger of a gradual Viet Cong extension of control over the...
Nixon announces the withdrawal of a further 35,000 troops from Vietnam
President Richard Nixon announces the second round of U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam. This was part of the dual program that he had announced at the Midway conference on June 8 that called for “Vietnamization” of the war and U.S. troop withdrawals, as the South Vietnamese forces assumed more...
World War I1916
Hindenburg gives order to strengthen German defenses
On September 16, 1916, one month after succeeding Erich von Falkenhayn as chief of the German army’s general staff during World War I, General Paul von Hindenburg orders the construction of a heavily fortified zone running several miles behind the active front between the north coast of France and Verdun,...
World War II1940
United States imposes the draft
On this day in 1940, the Burke-Wadsworth Act is passed by Congress, by wide margins in both houses, and the first peacetime draft in the history of the United States is imposed. Selective Service was born. The registration of men between the ages of 21 and 36 began exactly one month...