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date: 26 September 2017

The Mexican-American War

Summary and Keywords

The Mexican-American War ranks among the most consequential events in the history of both nations. Although the casus belli for the United States’s May 12, 1846, declaration of war was the Mexican ambush of a U.S. Army patrol in the disputed Nueces Strip on April 25 of that year, two underlying causes rendered conflict inevitable. The dispute over Texas was the first, and the desire of both nations to control the Mexican provinces of Nuevo Mexico and California was the second. President James Knox Polk identified the acquisition of that territory as the principal objective of his administration.

The conflict also remains noteworthy for the extent to which the political milieu in both countries proved as important as events on the battlefields. In México, a devastating war of independence (1810–1821), multiple violent overthrows of the federal government, the failure of two constitutions to produce a structure acceptable to both conservatives and liberals, and enmities generated by the socioeconomic structure severely limited México’s growth, tranquility, and potential for armed resistance to an invader. In the United States, the national unity evident at the outbreak of the war faded in the face of sectional rivalries, unexpectedly high casualties, and declining relations between the executive and legislative branches.

The military phases of the war fall into two segments. In the first, forces considerably smaller than those deployed in later phases of the war fought in Texas and in the Mexican provinces of Nuevo Mexico, California, Tamaulipas, and Nuevo Leon. When United States victories in northern Mexico failed to produce the anticipated Mexican surrender, the second phase of the conflict began on March 9, 1847, with General Winfield Scott’s invasion of central Mexico and ended with his entrance in Mexico City on September 14, 1847.

In the following seven months, both governments sought to obtain the best terms. A rising tide of violent rural rebellion in Mexico and a rising tide of Whig opposition to the Polk administration in Washington served as catalysts during the negotiations. Two agreements, the February 2, 1848, Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo and the March 6, 1848, Truce Agreement brought hostilities a close.

Consequences of the conflict included the Mexico’s loss of 525,000 square miles of territory, the emergence of the United States as the dominant continental power, the dispossession of many Mexican citizens living in what had become U.S. territory, and the reestablishment of Mexican sovereignty over territories in rebellion.

Keywords: Antonio López de Santa Anna, Buena Vista, Chapultepec Castle, James Knox Polk, Manifest Destiny, Mexican-American War, Texas War of Independence, Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Winfield Scott, Zachary Taylor

Origins of the War

The origins of the war lay in events both as immediate as the fighting that erupted in the spring of 1846 and as distant as the belief in their nation’s destiny so many citizens of the United States had embraced since their nation’s founding.

The shooting began on May 12, 1846, when sixty-three mounted infantry of the United States Army led by Captain Seth Barton Thornton rode into an ambush organized by General Anastasio Torrejón at the Rancho de Carrecitos on the north bank of the Rio Grande some fourteen miles upstream from the Mexican city of Matamoros. The clash resulted in the death of eleven U.S. soldiers with the remaining fifty-two captured. Upon learning of the clash, U.S. president James Knox Polk informed both houses of Congress that since Mexicans had shed the blood of U.S. soldiers on U.S. soil, a declaration of war was appropriate. A majority of the legislators concurred.

The Mexican-American WarClick to view larger

Figure 1. James Knox Polk (1795–1849). At the start of his administration, the eleventh president of the United States deemed the acquisition of the Mexican states of Nuevo Mexico and California his highest priority. The United States acquired almost all of that territory in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo and the 1853 Gadsden Purchase.

From the Mexican perspective, the precipitating acts of violence consisted of two events that took place on separate days. On April 17, 1846, the United States Navy established a blockade of Matamoros, and blockades, by definition, constitute an act of war. The Mexicans also deemed the March 28, 1846, advance of General Zachary Taylor’s forces across the disputed Nueces Strip to a point opposite the city of Matamoros. This leads us to the reasons for the presence of those military forces.1

The immediate explanation was a dispute over the status and boundaries of Texas. The Mexican government held that the territory the United States deemed the state of Texas belonged to Mexico and was part of a state known as Tejas y Coahuila. Further, the Mexicans argued that their loss of some this state’s territory resulted solely from Anglo-American conduct both dishonest and without foundation in law.

Further, Mexico contended that the Anglo-Americans who began colonizing Tejas y Coahuila soon after Moses Austin received Mexican approval to do so on January 17, 1821, violated the terms of their admission to Mexican territory. As stated in documents conveyed to Moses Austin by Governor Antonio María Martínez, the conditions in part read,

“Therefore, if to be the first and principal requisite of being Catholics, or of agreeing to become so, before entering Spanish territory, they also add that of accrediting their good character and habits … and taking the necessary oath to be obedient in all things to the government, to take up arms in its defense against all kinds of enemies, and to be faithful to the King, and to observe the political institution of the Spanish monarchy.”2

The Mexican government argued, as did General Manuel de Mier y Terán following his lengthy tour of the Anglo-American communities, that the colonists abrogated those commitments by conduct such as practicing non-Catholic religions, disdaining Mexican institutions and culture, and showing little if any desire to assimilate into the national polity. 3

In this construct, the 1835 Texas Declaration of Independence issued by a largely Anglo- American assembly represented not an assertion of rights belonging to all free people, but a cynical effort to take advantage of Mexican political turmoil by severing links with a nation to which they never had been loyal. Mexican officials contended that in spite of their failure to reconquer the rebellious territory, they had no cause to grant diplomatic recognition to seditionists and that they never would so do.

The Mexican government also contended that the southern boundary of the rebellious territory ended at the Nueces River. By contrast, the United States government argued that the southern and boundary lay further to the south at the Rio Grande River. During Texas’s brief period as an independent nation, the Texas government claimed even more territory, arguing that the Rio Grande was both the western as well as the southern boundary of the new nation. At the westernmost point in Texas (El Paso), the Rio Grande shifts from a northwest-southwest course to a north-south course. The Republic of Texas claim to all land east of the river included not only the present-day state of Texas, but also more than half of the state of New Mexico and part of southeastern Colorado.

The United States perspective differed. In this construct, the successful and predominantly Anglo-Texas rebellion of 1836 represented an honorable effort of the colonists to free themselves from the tyranny imposed by Seven Laws that both houses of Mexico’s federal legislature approved in 1835. Consequently, the Texians’ subsequent decision to join the United States was not the culmination of a long-gestated plan to mutilate Mexico, but a free act taken by the free people of a sovereign nation: the Republic of Texas. Simply stated, the U.S. government considered Texas’s admission to the Union a matter between two sovereign states about which Mexico had no legitimate concern.

Just prior to Texas’s admission to the Union, the Mexican envoy to the United States, General Juan Nepumecino Almonte, informed the State Department that Mexico would regard the admission of Texas to the American Union as a hostile act. Following U.S. president John Tyler’s March 3, 1845, dispatch of the United States Congress’s offer of statehood to Texas, Almonte received his passport and returned to Mexico. To Mexicans, Tyler’s conduct only confirmed the sentiment voiced by José Manuel Zozoya, one of México’s first ambassadors to the United States: “In time they will become our sworn enemies, and foreseeing this we ought to treat them as such from the present day.”4

On the eve of war, the Mexican government realistically recognized the odds that the nation’s armies would face in a war with the United States and tried to open negotiations over the strip of southeastern and south-central Texas land lying between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande River. That effort failed, and so we now proceed to the reasons that both the United States and Mexico considered Texas and even vaster lands to the west worth a war.

A primary catalyst for United States’s actions was one of most central of American beliefs: the conviction that the nation possessed a manifest destiny to extend its boundaries to the Pacific. The neutral term for this concept is expansionism, while imperialism remains the more critical one. This concept contains both physical as well as economic and political elements. Several core ideological components stand out.

Among them is the belief that the United States consists not merely of territory, but of a redemptive mission that included nothing less than the reclamation of the earth as well as of humanity. This conviction has separate roots in both the Enlightenment’s view of humanity as well as in older and more traditional religious thought.5

The implied justice of this mission in turn meant that those who opposed the effort stood as foes of civilization and consequently merit harsh treatment. That sentiment was evident when men such as Cotton Mather welcomed a plague that destroyed nine-tenths of an Indian tribe as an event in which “the woods were almost cleared of these pernicious creatures to make room for a better growth.”6 More than a century after Mather wrote that history, the same mentality could be seen in the decision to drive some 20,000 predominantly Cherokee Indians from their lands in such haste and under such conditions that some 4,000 died on the Trail of Tears en route to barren lands. 7

A similarly unpleasant ideological component of the expansionist sentiment consists of the belief that violent conflict is inevitable and indeed redemptive in its effect upon the victors. This construct in some regards resembles the social Darwinism of the late 19th century in which various groups remained obligated to struggle and either advance or recede.8 The common conviction of this era was that nations are naturally destined to compete within the traditional Westphalian context.

A third critical ideological component was that of the agrarian republic. Founding fathers such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and of course Thomas Jefferson made little effort to hide their conviction that a virtuous republic could exist only if the citizenry consisted of land-owning farmers. Their contempt for cities and urban elites never lay far below the surface. Given that vision, a very considerable amount of land would be necessary.

Mexico too possesses a historical continuity of great length, but one that remains inwardly directed. Like its northern counterpart, Mexico’s continuity originated in the colonial era and consisted of the struggle over who participated in the nation’s political and economic life and by what right. From the start of the colonial era, Spain established a clear hierarchy of ethnicity and socioeconomic status that rigidly divided México.

At the top stood those born in Spain. As of 1814, they constituted two-tenths of 1 percent of the population and reserved the senior post in civil administration and in the church for themselves.9 In the space of three centuries, only one native-born Mexican held the seniormost administrative post of viceroy. Beneath the Spaniard stood the criollos, native-born people of European ancestry. Making up 17.8 percent of the population, they could participate in politics at the community level and, given the right conditions of birth or luck, could accumulate considerable wealth. The largest demographic unit, the Indians, made up 60 percent of the population. Many of them remained in the Indian Republics in which they exercised a local sort of political autonomy. However, either there or in the general polity, they largely remained poor and despised by those in power. The remaining 22 percent were mestizos, persons of mixed caste. Often, they found themselves held in contempt by members of the other three groups. Unity was lacking. As one of the leading historians of the period, Enrique Florescano wrote “the viceroyalty came to be a disintegrated mosaic of contrasting peoples, ethnic groups, languages, and cultures, disseminated in an extensive territory with poor communications.”10

Mexico’s War of Independence erupted in 1810 and soon accelerated into a conflict of ethnicity and class that lasted for a decade. The conflict ended when the commanders of Royalist forces in Mexico learned of Spain’s 1820 decision to again implement a constitution bestowing voting rights upon “all free-men, born and bred up in the Spanish dominions, and their sons.”11 Faced with the loss of political power that such a change would have brought, these Spanish and criollo officers switched sides and, taking two-thirds of the troops with them, signed an agreement with the rebels known as the Plan of Iguala. In contrast to the Spanish Constitution, both that plan and the subsequent Constitution of 1824 did not guarantee universal male suffrage. These two documents instead declared all Mexicans to be citizens and Americans regardless of ethnic distinction. Yet critically, both the plan and the new constitution left unaddressed the subject of whether all free males could vote.

One of the Liberal Party’s leading figures of the day, Jose María Luis Mora, clearly declared, “The evil understanding that has produced the principle of legal equality almost always has been the source of innumerable grief and awful results among the peoples who have adopted the representative system.”12 Mexico’s Conservative Party shared such sentiments. The only dissenting voices came from the Puro wing of the liberals, a group later led by Benito Juárez.

Mora himself argued that that Mexico’s white population ranked as the most qualified of all Mexicans to lead the nation.13 A U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Waddy Thompson, confirmed the sharp ethnic divisions:

“the aristocracy of color is quite as great in Mexico as it is in this country [the U.S] and the pure Castillian [sic] is quite as proud that he a man without a cross as was Leather-stocking, even if that cross should have been with the Indian race, however remote.”13

Thompson also noted the extreme economic polarization dividing Mexico into a small group of very affluent proprietors of estates as large as 1100+ square miles and a large number of very poor laborers.14 Profound political disagreements among the governing minority exacerbated these divisions. Within that group, the Conservative and Liberal Parties clashed, both in debates and on battlefields, over issues of male suffrage, the status of the church and army, and the question of federalism versus centralism.

For their part, conservatives argued that the violence and destruction during the previous decade demonstrated that the good governance of Mexico and indeed the preservation of society required a strong central government to maintain civic order, a state religion endowed with the power necessary to preserve moral order, and a strong army to support both. Further, they contended that these great tasks and lesser matters of daily governance ought to be the province of a small minority of citizens who possessed the education, moral stature, and wealth required of participants in this process. In summary, this party had little objection to the continuation of the colonial socioeconomic order of society.

Their liberal opposition divided into two factions. The first of these, the Moderados (moderates), opposed the conservatives over the question of centralizing power in Mexico City and instead favored a diffusing power to regional centers, as had been the case when Mexico choose delegates to the 1812 Spanish Constitution Convention under rules that allowed considerable decision-making power at the provincial level. Moderates also sought a broader set of civil liberties than did the conservatives. However, the typical moderate proved quite willing to accept the idea of designating Roman Catholicism as the official religion and allowing the practice of no other faith. Similarly, while a moderate might concede the merits of universal suffrage in theory, he typically would argue that until the majority of the Mexican population was as civilized as he and he fellow moderates, the extension of that particular civil right ought to be limited.

The other liberal faction, known as the Puros (pure ones) or radical liberals, shared the moderates’ preference for decentralized power and broad civil liberties. However, they diverged from their fellow liberals over other critical issues. The radicals argued that both the church and the army stood as obstacles to the development of Mexico and the liberties of the nation. Consequently, they sought to deprive both of those institutions of their legal exemptions. On a matter of yet greater consequence, the radicals argued that the right to vote was an inherent right of all people not limited by conditions of property or education. In summary, the radical liberals deemed the colonial socioeconomic and political structure unjust and in need of a sustained legal assault that would include redistribution of a substantial portion of church land.

To reconcile these differences would have been difficult in the best of circumstances. However, the subsequent unwillingness of some of Mexico’s most powerful citizens to respect the legitimacy of the political process rendered the governing of the nation yet more problematic. Soon after the nation’s second presidential election, the victorious candidate, Manuel Gómez Pedraza, fled Mexico City when driven from office by armed rebels under the command of Antonio López de Santa Anna and Vicente Guerrero. Less than a year later, Anastasio Bustamante led an armed overthrow of Guerrero. Between the end of the War of Independence in 1821 and the start of war with the United States in 1846, the presidency changed hands twenty-eight times. The new nation’s legal framework also proved to be problematic.

That Constitution of 1824 represented a compromise between political factions. The conservatives preserved the privileged position of the church and army but did not succeed in obtaining the degree of centralization they sought. Although that constitution declared all Mexicans to be citizens, the document did not provide for universal male suffrage.

In the ensuing years, the conservatives decided that they had yielded too much.

By harnessing the electorate’s anger over a number of events including a riot in the heart of the capital, an unsuccessful Spanish invasion, and the condition of the economy, they obtained an electoral majority in 1834 and promptly began writing the Seven Laws (Siete Leyes). This legislation completed the desired centralization of power by abolishing the states and municipalities and restricted civil liberties.

The Mexican-American WarClick to view larger

Figure 2. Antonio López de Santa Anna (1794–1876). As the dominant figure in Mexican politics for more than two decades, he took the presidential oath of office on eleven occasions and led armies in multiple civil conflicts. While victorious in most of these domestic wars, he met defeat at the hands better-equipped and better-trained U.S. forces led by General Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor.

In response, liberals violently rebelled. Although the national government succeeded in defeating the major rebel army at the Battle of Galinero on May 11, 1835, the Mexican Army did not succeed in crushing the rebellion erupting in Tejas. Thus, the Republic of Texas entered the world. Conservatives would not forgive the liberals, and in particular one liberal leader, Lorenzo de Zavala, for encouraging the Texans to rebel.

Some four years after the Texas revolt, another war erupted deep within Mexico. This conflict began when President Antonio López de Santa Anna decided that to reduce the power of a powerful liberal leader, Juan Alvarez of Oaxaca state, he would transfer some of the territory under Alvarez’s jurisdiction to a rival conservative leader holding adjacent territory, Anastasio Bustamante. In response, Alvarez aroused the peasants of his region to join him. As proved the case during Father Miguel Hidalgo’s 1810 revolt, the peasants had their own agenda and began burning haciendas (estates) regardless of their owners’ political persuasion. The Alvarez Rebellion proved so serious that Alvarez, Bustamante, and Santa Anna joined forces to crush the outbreak.15 The rebellion, which began in 1842 and ended in 1844, served as a reminder to both conservatives and liberals that the potential for the sort of violence that characterized the War of Independence remained real. In that same year of 1844, the conservatives, understanding the need for national unity, reinstated the 1824 Constitution

In 1846, Mexico, consumed by disunity, remained economically stagnant and militarily unprepared in the face of the United States’s westward expansion.

The Political and Military Situation in 1846

Happily, primary-source materials provide ample clarification of the war objectives of both nations. In a brief letter sent to the his nation’s governors, Manuel de la Peña y Peña, Mexico’s minister of foreign relations, concluded, “Realistically, our only hope would not be victory, but simply the avoidance of certain defeat … At present, we cannot even find the necessary funds to maintain our troops on the frontier, which is hundreds of leagues long.”16 This reality meant that Mexico would adopt a variety of defensive strategies.

In addition to holding the northern frontier, her leaders intended to confine any seaborne invasion to the torrid coastal plains by defending the mountain passes separating those areas from the nation’s heartland. Doing so would protect the economic and demographic core of the country. In addition, both civilian and military authorities in Mexico City hoped that by trading space for time, victory or at least a stalemate could be obtained. A lengthy war might well strengthen the U.S. opposition to the war. In addition, the longer the war lasted, the greater the likelihood that the U.S. Army might commit a great error that would lead to a Mexican victory.17

While the Mexicans defined their objective as keeping territory, President Polk defined the U.S. objective both before and after the shooting began: acquiring territory. Initially, he sought the Mexican provinces of Nuevo Mexico and California down to the 32nd parallel.18 Later, he sought the more ambitious objective of acquiring all Mexican territory north of the 26th parallel.19 If realized, that greater objective would have given the United States some 187,000 more miles of territory than the Americans subsequently received in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.20 To achieve his goals, Polk proposed a two-phased strategy. He would “march a competent force into the Northern Provinces and then hold until peace was made.”21 In doing so, he presumed that once they had lost that territory, the Mexican government would have no alternative other than to accept the conquest.

The Mexican-American WarClick to view larger

Figure 3. Winfield Scott (1786–1866). Although successful in meeting both the military and political challenges of the Veracruz-Mexico City campaign, Scott subsequently in his 1852 quest to win the U.S. presidency. In the civil war that followed, President Abraham Lincoln sought and received this Virginian’s advice.

The strategies of both nations rested on false assumptions. The Mexican planners erred in assuming that they could hold fixed points in the face of far superior U.S. artillery. From the start of hostilities to the end, the United States Army seized every fixed objective its commanders assaulted. The United States government erred in assuming that the act of conquering the territory the United States wished to absorb would convince the Mexicans to surrender. Those lands, although totaling some 525,000 square miles, contained a mere 90,565 of Mexico’s 7,016,300 people. Consequently, the U.S. conquest of the northern spaces during the first phase of the war still left the Mexican government in control of the great majority of the nation’s population and resources.22 For Polk to expect that government to acknowledge defeat while such assets remained unconquered was unrealistic.

Polk also erred in assuming that the regular army of some 8,000 men and an additional 20,000 volunteers would be able to bring the war to a successful conclusion.23 By the end of the war, 67,783 men had entered the ranks.24 The unforeseen commitment of so many troops, the higher-than-anticipated cost of sustaining them, the longer-than-anticipated length of the conflict, and the higher-than-anticipated toll of dead, wounded, and missing fueled mounting domestic opposition to the war.25

Initially, this opposition included Whigs, with the northern branch of that party more opposed to the war than the southern branch. The northerners opposed the conflict for several reasons. First, they feared that the addition of new territory would expand the space into which the slave-based southern economy could expand. In addition, New England senators such as Daniel Webster understood that the admission of more states to the Union would diminish the power of New England in both chambers of the federal legislature. In the South, a number of Whigs feared that the result of the conflict might a ring of states that banned slavery surrounding their section of the nation.

Many Americans of both political parties opposed the war on ideological grounds. For example, Albert Gallatin, who served as President Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of the treasury, regarded the decision to wage war as a betrayal of the republic’s ideals and subsequently called upon congress to sever the army’s funding and thereby compel a unilateral withdrawal. Although this opposition could not prevent the Polk from implementing his war strategy, they later would grow powerful enough to influence the president’s consideration in 1848.

Mexican leaders also made erroneous political assumptions about their own nation. Most significantly, they did not believe that the underclass that constituted the majority of the people stood ready to rebel. However, as a string of battlefield defeats reduced the Mexican Army to a shadow of its former strength, rebellions erupted throughout Mexico and grew to such an extent that the national government considered the survival of the socioeconomic order to be threatened.

The Mexican government also failed to realize the extent to which the political turmoil of the preceding decades enervated the willingness of many of the nation’s most prominent citizens to assist in the war effort. Repeatedly, potent military forces refused to leave their state or locality and march to the aid of the national government. Juan Alvarez exemplified that mentality. When he received orders to march from Acapulco to Mexico City for the defense of the capital, he declined to obey on the specious grounds that his men could not endure the change of climate involved in such troop movement. When Santa Anna rejected this explanation and ordered him to march eastward, Alvarez did so and subsequently refused Santa Anna’s order to launch an attack against the U.S. force attacking the fortress of Chapultepec.26 The two armies proved dissimilar in other regards.

Although the United States Army in 1846 comprised only slightly more than 8,000 men, that force possessed three particular strengths. First, the officers constituted a well-trained and well-prepared group of leaders, a substantial number of who would distinguish themselves both in this conflict and as generals in the coming U.S. Civil War. Among others, this group included Ulysses Simpson Grant, Robert E. Lee, John B. Magruder, George B. McClellan, P. T. Beauregard, George Gordon Meade, William B. Taliaferro, and John Reese Kenly.

Secondly, the artillery corps had small but critically important sections of weapons that would enable the regular army to dominate any conventional battlefield. Known as the 1842 family of weapons, these cannons were made of lighter and stronger alloys than their predecessors and therefore could be moved about a battlefield far more rapidly than older cannons. Once in place, their stronger barrels allowed their crews to fire shells at a greater range than had the previous generation of artillery. New types of ammunition rendered their fire particular deadly.27

Lastly, the commanding officers, particularly General Winfield Scott, succeeded in bringing the infantry to a very high standard of discipline and performance. However, two glaring weaknesses also existed.

First, the lack of a strong cavalry arm posed a significant problem. The United States Army in 1846 consisted primarily of infantry and artillery. In the initial phase of the war, General Zachary Taylor sought to compensate for that weakness by engaging the services of a company of Texas rangers to serve as his cavalry. This response proved inadequate, and the Mexican cavalry succeeded in dominating much of the northern countryside. As Major John R. Kenly ruefully conceded, “from the Rio Grande to the base of the Sierra Madre mountains, from Tampico to Saltillo, the cavalry of [General José Vicente] Miñon and [General José de] Urrea held undisputed sway.”28 Mexico’s cavalry would perform similarly well in later confrontations in the central region.

The problems posed by the volunteer regiments also merit mention. Although all United States troops entered the army as volunteers rather than conscripts, a sharp distinction existed between the federal army and those forces recruited by the individual states: the volunteer regiments. Unlike the regular army, these regiments did not receive training according to a uniform standard, and their performance consequently varied widely. While some proved reliable, others, such as a regiment of Arkansas volunteers, broke and fled at the sight of advancing Mexican infantry during the Battle of Buena Vista. Officers of the regular army regarded them as inferior forces of questionable use. Taylor characterized their conduct and their impact on his campaign in very harsh terms:

There is scarcely a form of crime that has not been reported to me as committed by them: but they have passed beyond my reach, and even were they here, it would be next to impossible to detect the individuals who disgrace their colors. Were it possible to rouse the Mexican people to resistance, no more effectual plan could be devised than the very one pursued by some of our volunteer regiments.29

Scott’s chief of intelligence, Colonel Ethan Allen Hitchcock, concurred:

The whole volunteer system is wholly indebted for all its reputation to the regular army without which the (illegible) body of volunteers in Mexico would have been an undisciplined mob, incapable of acting in concert, while they would have incensed the people of Mexico by the depredations upon persons of property.30

On the other side of the trenches, the Mexican Army faced greater problems. First came the deficiency of their artillery. With the sole exception of the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa in Veracruz harbor and its French-made cannons, no fixed fortification in Mexico had the weaponry capable of matching U.S. artillery in range or destructive effect.31

An equally severe problem existed in the officer corps. The 1821 decision of senior commanders to end the War of Independence without reference to political officials served as a prelude to frequent military assaults against the national government. Between 1821 and 1846, twenty-eight changes in government took place. As the practice of politics and military command merged, political linkages became a prerequisite for promotion. Consequently, high rank often reflected not military competence, but political influence. In addition, Mexican commanders and other leading citizens often placed loyalty to their state of locality above their loyalty to the nation as a whole. In this milieu, the ambition of regional warlords took priority. The consequences proved disastrous:

The vital issues of centralized command, equitable recruitment, standardized training, the soldiers’ welfare, and tiered military education elicited vigorous opposition from caciques [regional elites] who regarded such undertakings as elaborate attempts to limit territorial authority. Their implacable resistance repeatedly abrogated programs that could have produced a professionally socialized and technically proficient officer corps obedient to civilian authority.32

The priority given to local and state loyalties also meant that financial contribution sent from state capitals to the national government would be far less than required by a nation at war.

The apathy with which many poor Mexicans regarded both their government and a socioeconomic structure that allowed them few if any opportunities for advancement also weakened Mexican resistance to the invader. For example, when Governor Manuel Armijo of New Mexico called for volunteers to resist U.S. forces advancing on Albuquerque, so few men answered the call to the colors that the invaders took that provincial capital without having to fight a battle.33

The advantages Mexico possessed would in some part compensate for these weaknesses. The greatest of these proved to be her cavalry. In a rural society based to a considerable degree on the hacienda (large estate), a natural hierarchy of estate owners and their subordinates emerged. The hacendado (hacienda owner) and his riders spent many of their days in the saddle and so became highly proficient in the use of firearms and horses as they learned well the terrain of their localities. In both the northern and central battlefields, the mobile Mexican cavalry rarely met defeat unless given irresponsible orders such as charging entrenched troops. Indeed, Captain Jack Hays, one of the commanders of the formidable and feared Texas ranger detachments fighting with Scott’s army, deemed the horsemanship of the enemy lancers on an open plain to be superior to that of his own men.34

Mexico also benefited from the endurance and bravery of her common foot soldiers. Several senior U.S. Army made this point.35 Mexican infantry endured much, and neither friend nor foe questioned their willingness to face the deadliest of risks. Lastly, Mexico possessed the advantage of space. With some 1,250,000 square miles of territory, the Mexican government could afford to trade space for time in the hope that the invaders would grow tired of the conflict or perhaps make a grand error that would enable Mexico to attain an unexpected victory.

Conventional Conflict

During the first phase of the war, U.S. forces succeeded in implementing Polk’s strategy of seizing the territory he wished to keep. One column under the command of General Steven Watts Kearney, consisting of the First United States Dragoons, 1,000 Missouri volunteers, the Mormon Brigade, and a few additional units, left Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in June 1846. Known as the Army of the West, Kearney’s force entered Santa Fe, New Mexico, on August 18, 1846. After reorganizing the territorial administration and leaving a garrison in place, he headed west on September 25, 1846, with a force of slightly more than 300 men and subsequently reached San Diego in December. In August of that year, a naval force under the command of Commodore Robert Field Stockton had seized Los Angeles, California.

During that same year, four clashes in Texas/northeastern Mexico ended Mexican hopes of containing the invaders on that frontier. On May 8, 1846, 2,000 U.S. troops under the command of General Zachary Taylor repelled an attack launched by General Mariano Arista’s 4,000 troops at Palo Alto, Texas. Here, the U.S artillery played a critical role. On the following day at Resaca de la Palma, Taylor attacked Arista’s forces and, after a series of closely fought encounters between small groups of infantry, forced the Mexicans to retreat across the Rio Grande. Taylor then spent much of that summer preparing for an offensive against the heavily fortified city of Monterrey.

The Mexican-American WarClick to view larger

General Winfield Scott’s Veracruz-Mexico City campaign crossed Mexico’s most densely populated regions and crossed a desert, hill country, and a mountain range before reaching the Valley of Mexico.

In August, his army crossed the Rio Grande and, after enduring heavy casualties, took the city on September 22, 1846. Concurrently, General John Ellis Wool led a force south from San Antonio, Texas, into the state of Chihuahua, taking both Monclova and the city of Chihuahua before joining Taylor’s forces prior to the battle of Buena Vista.36

With Taylor in control of Monterrey and Mexican control over California having ended, President Polk waited for the government in Mexico City to surrender as he had expected them to do. When they did not do so, he took counsel and decided to take the enemy’s capital and thereby force a surrender. The shortest route would not be to move south from Monterrey, but to invade at Veracruz and march inland to Mexico City. Polk ordered Taylor to send a significant part of his force eastward to join the invasion force assembling under the command of General Winfield Scott.

The Mexican cavalry that controlled the countryside around Monterrey kept their superiors fully informed of this movement, and General Antonio López de Santa Anna consequently advanced northward from Saltillo with the intention of overwhelming Taylor’s reduced force of 4,759 men. The ensuing Battle of Buena Vista, also known as the Battle of Angostura, took place on February 22–23, 1847, and demonstrated the shortcomings of both armies.

In spite of an approximately four-to-one advantage in numbers, the Mexican commanders insisted on attacking en serie instead of en masse. Consequently, Taylor’s artillerymen could move their very mobile six-pound cannon to each sector of their front as the Mexicans attacked various sectors in sequential order.37 This ineptitude cost the Mexicans their chance of victory.38 On the other side of the line, an Arkansas volunteer regiment broke at the sight of attacking Mexican forces and thereby brought Taylor as close to defeat as he would come. The subsequent Mexican retreat left Taylor in control of Monterrey and the Mexican cavalry in control of the surrounding countryside. With Santa Anna’s hopes of destroying Taylor’s reduced army now in ruins, the main front of the war shifted to the Caribbean coast of central Mexico.

There, on March 9, 1847, the United States Navy landed 10,000 U.S. troops under the command of General Winfield Scott at Collado Beach, some three miles south of the city of Veracruz. The landing site, jointly chosen by Scott and Commodore David E. Connor, lay beyond the range of the only state-of-the-art artillery Mexico possessed, that of the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa. This landing proved to be a flawless operation, taking place without a single injury or fatality and reflecting the success attending all of the U.S. Navy’s efforts during the war.

The U.S. Army then marched north to besiege the city from the landward side. This included a massive bombardment utilizing both army artillery as well as heavy cannon loaned by the U.S. Navy for the effort. After the Americans fired shots totaling about half a million pounds, the city surrendered.39 However, the 5,000-man garrison sheltering within the stout walls of the harbor fortress of San Juan de Ulúa and protected by the fort’s Paixhun artillery refused to surrender. Scott then cut off the fort’s water supply to the harbor fort. The failure of the Mexican Army to provide adequate water storage for an otherwise impregnable fort of great importance remains, like the failure to attack en masse at Buena Vista, were a consequence of having an inadequately trained, unprofessional, and politicized officer corps. Facing the prospect of certain death by thirst, San Juan de Ulúa surrendered. Scott then turned his attention to the coming march westward to Mexico City and to two urgent considerations.

First, he needed to ensure that his army would have adequate supplies en route. Stated simply, the U.S. Army did not have the logistical resources to supply his forces with both food and munitions as they marched some 248 miles westward. Consequently, he bluntly informed those under his command that as they moved farther away from their Veracruz base, provisions would have to be obtained from Mexicans and that these items “must be paid for, or the people will withhold, conceal, or destroy them. The people, moreover, must be conciliated, soothed, or well treated by every officer and man of this army, and by all its followers.”40 He also stipulated harsh punishment for subordinates committing offenses such as robbery, assault, or rape and later implemented such punishments up to and including the death penalty.41

Secondly, Scott knew that he would be crossing territory far more heavily populated than the northern territories taken by Kearney and Stockton.42 Consequently, the possibilities for guerrilla resistance were considerably greater in central Mexico than in the north. For purposes of provisions as well as peace, he took all possible steps to pacify the population. In addition to instructing his troops to pay for all items taken and refrain from the commission of crimes, Scott wrote, “it is earnestly requested that [of] all Protestant Americans either to keep out of the way or to pay to the Catholic religion and to its ceremonies every decent mark of respect and deference.”43

Further, he allowed municipal officials to remain in control of cities and towns taken by his army and thereby retain the measure of power and self-respect that goes with such authority. This policy also allowed him to avoid the loss of forces that would have been an inevitable result of assigning U.S. troops to undertake such administration work. In Mexico City, the U.S. officers in command even went so far as to provide additional revenue to the city administration by diverting some federal customs revenue to them.44

Scott later sought to assuage the hostility of devout Mexicans by banning the sale of any ecclesiastical property without U.S. consent. This order was issued in response to Mexican liberal efforts to sell church property to finance the war effort.45 Scott very much wished to prevent a repetition of the conduct that abetted guerrilla action in the northern theater.

The Mexican-American WarClick to view larger

Figure 4. Pedro Maria De Anaya (1794–1854). In the battles for Mexico City, General Anaya defended the Churubusco position until he exhausted his ammunition supply. During the war, he also served as president of Mexico for two brief periods, during which he formulated the plan to raise the formidable Cuerpo Ligera (Light Corps).

The Mexicans chose to block Scott’s march from the coastal plain to Mexico City at the pass of Cerro Gordo. The inevitable battle took place on April 17–18, 1847, and reached a climax with the U.S. attack on the rear of the Mexican position. This led to the destruction or disbanding of most of the 10,000-man defending force. In response, a mere ten days later on April 28, 1847, the government of interim president Pedro Maria de Anaya issued a call to irregular warfare in the form of a Light Corps (Cuerpo Ligera).46

Anaya’s call to arms stipulated that command of Light Corps units be limited to those who possessed the financial means to organize, equip, and sustain their forces. By definition, that meant that only hacienda owners or other men of considerable wealth would command them. This stipulation not only reflected the parlous state of the national treasury, but also the justified fear that this type of warfare well might turn into an agrarian rebellion. This has been the case with both the Alvarez Rebellion and Father Miguel Hidalgo’s uprising that started the War of Independence in 1810.

Anaya’s efforts bore fruit. Within a matter of weeks, the Veracruz-Mexico corridor became so heavily contested that U.S. supply convoys moving forward required very substantial escorts. Scott estimated that as of late May, a force of 1,200 to 1,500 men would be needed to safely escort a single major general from the forward positions back to Veracruz.47 Convoys leaving Veracruz in June and July of that year required armed escorts of 1,188 men in one case and 2,500 in another.48

However, partisans alone could not stop the advance of the invading army. On August 8, 1847, Scott led his force of 10,000 men west from the city of Puebla on the final segment of his march to Mexico City.

To defend the capital, Santa Anna martialed some 20,000 men, many ill trained and most conscripted. Leaders of both nations viewed the coming encounter as the most critical of the war. Polk thought that with the fall of the capital, Mexico’s government would surrender. Conversely, the Mexicans hoped that if the U.S. Army failed to penetrate the formidable natural and constructed defenses of the capital, Scott’s army would melt away in the midst of a hostile countryside far from their own frontier.

Scott faced a formidable task. The valley in which the capital lay was divided by three shallow lakes with much of the surrounding terrain consisting of marshes. To march past them, the Mexicans thought that the invaders would have no choice other than to use narrow pathways, known as garitas. To do so would expose them to enfilading fire. Scott responded by ordering multiple reconnaissance probes and, upon receiving the results, chose to approach the capital not from the anticipated northern route, but from a southern route centered on the village of Chalco. In the pre-dawn hours of August 20, 1847, a U.S. force attacked the rear of a Mexican defensive position at nearby Padierna. This clash, known at the Battle of Contreras, ended in a Mexican defeat and resulted in Santa Anna repositioning his troops for the next phase. Later that morning, U.S. forces crossed the Churubusco River after fierce fighting and successfully outflanked Mexican positions once again.

Following the battles, a truce took effect. This period, characterized by fruitless negotiations and repositioning of forces, ended with the September 8, 1847, Battle of Molina del Rey. Although this eventually resulted in a victory for Scott’s forces, the failure of the U.S. office initially commanding the assault, General David Twiggs, to preface his infantry assault with an adequate artillery bombardment left Mexico defenses intact. This error resulted in a U.S. infantry attack during which the U.S. Army suffered its heaviest casualties of the campaign (787 men killed or wounded). After this round of fighting ended with the U.S. capture of the objective, a brief truce followed. The battle resumed with a September 13 U.S. assault on Chapultepec Castle. After a fierce clash, the fortress fell. Each year on the anniversary of this event, the president of Mexico conducts a nationally televised ceremony attended by the heads of Mexico’s armed services in memory of six Mexican cadets believed by many Mexicans to have leapt from the parapets of the castle to their death rather than see the enemy flag raised over its parapets. Known as the Niños Heroes, they remain to many Mexicans a symbol of their nation’s resistance.

The Mexican government fled some 150 miles north to Queretaro to establish a temporary capital. On September 14, 1847, Scott entered Mexico City and began a U.S. occupation. Half a year passed until the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo on February 2, 1848, and only after an additional month did the two sides sign the very significant Truce Agreement on March 6. Another three months passed between that date and the time that the U.S. Army began the withdrawal from Mexico City.


To understand both the outcome of the war and the reason that some much time elapsed between the end of conventional battles and the signing of the peace treaty, we must consider factors both military and political.

The Mexican refusal to surrender once the capital fell to the invader did not wholly surprise Scott. Several months earlier, he told General Taylor that continued guerrilla resistance after such a conquest remained a distinct possibility:

I suppose that your occupation of San Luis de Potosi, and advance upon the capital, might increase the chances of a peace or an armistice; but many intelligent persons believe that to occupy the capital and fifty other important points would not end the war, and that the enemy, without an army, would still hold out and operate against our trains, small parties, and stragglers, with rancheros on the guerilla plan.49

Militarily, the fall of the capital did not weaken let alone end the guerrilla resistance. Both individual recollections and Scott’s subsequent response confirmed that reality.50 In October 1847, he transferred 5,000 soldiers to anti-guerrilla duty, stationing them at points along the supply route including Puebla, Perote, Puente Nacional, Rio Frio, and San Juan. The numbers of soldiers assigned to these posts and to convoy escort duty amounted to between 20 and 25 per cent of Scott’s total forces.51 A number of Mexican legislators, in particular Federal Deputy Benito Juárez, believed that continued guerrilla resistance would enable Mexican forces to outlast the U.S. invaders.52 A contemporary Mexican historian, Ramon Alcaraz, concurred.53

In addition, Mexicans received considerable encouragement from the rising opposition to the war in the United States. In a particularly bitter comment about this situation, Polk’s negotiator to the peace talks in Queretaro, Nicholas Philip Trist, wrote, “The blow then received to the cause of Peace has, within the past few days, been followed by another, scarcely less severe, from Mr. [senator] Clay’s Cincinnati speech & Resolutions.”54 Trist contended that given the senator’s statements, many influential Mexicans no longer believed that so great an amount of territory needed to be surrendered to obtain peace.

Mexican politicians and negotiators gained further hope from General Zachary Taylor’s 1847 public call for a unilateral withdrawal to the Rio Grande and the subsequent posting of a U.S. cavalry force of 10,000 cavalry at that border to enforce U.S. sovereignty. President Polk publicly rebutted Taylor, arguing, “To retire to a line, and simply hold and defend it, would not terminate the war. One the contrary, it would encourage Mexico to persevere and protract it indefinitely … A border warfare of the most savage character, extending over a long line, would increasingly be waged.”55

However difficult the situation faced by Polk might have been, the one faced by his counterparts in Mexico City proved far worse. Since the earliest days of Mexican independence and indeed since the start of the colonial era, armies commanded from Mexico City stood as the last resort for maintaining the existing socioeconomic order. These forces repressed the agrarian rebels led by Father Miguel Hidalgo in 1810, and they crushed the Alvarez Rebellion’s mutinous peasants in 1844. In the colonial era, armies directed from Mexico City suppressed similar revolts.

However, by September 1847, the national army, weakened by defeats and still facing a more powerful foreign enemy on Mexican territory, no longer possessed the ability to crush internal rebellion. Therefore, rebellions erupted, at first on a small scale with the targets being the great estates and their owners.

On November 14, 1847, “an insurrectional movement of indigenous people in the district of Veracruz” began with the rebels issuing a demand for “the derecognition of all authorities of the government” and for the haciendas to be declared public lands “to be enjoyed in common without stipend.”56 Two days later, the national government informed the government of the state of Tamaulipas that no federal troops could be found to punish unidentified parties responsible for the destruction of several pueblos (villages) in that northeastern state.57 On December 1, 1847, a similar report came from the state of Zacatecas.58 In the state of Puebla, a place far closer to the capital than Zacatecas or Tamaulipas, reports of a rebellion similar to the one in Veracruz arrived soon thereafter.59

The largest rebellion erupted in the Yucatán Peninsula. There, the Maya Indians launched the struggle known as the Caste War. The governor of the Yucatan, Miguel Barbachano y Tarrazo, described the rebellion in his region as taking on the “character of a war of extermination against the white race.”60 The rebels soon controlled almost all of the peninsula, and in desperation, the Yucatecan government requested U.S. military support.61 Concurrently, the collapse of national authority led to a rise in banditry in many locations.

Any doubt about the extent to which these disturbances represented a serious threat to the existing socioeconomic order can be resolved by citing a stark reality: by the end of 1848, the number of Mexican Army troops and national guardsmen (21,278) fighting these rebellions exceeded the number of troops deployed against the United States Army during the battles for the national capital (20,000).62 The internal war of Mexican against Mexican required greater manpower than had the defense of Mexico City.

Indeed, the March 6, 1848, truce agreement between the U.S. Army and the Mexican Army obligated both armies to disperse any group of rebels they encountered.63 So greatly did the Mexican government fear rebellious Mexicans that they now accepted the aid of a foreign enemy in its effort to other repress Mexicans.


By late 1847, the Mexican government confronted two wars. In the conflict against the United States, the federal state no longer held the national capitol and did not have the financial resources or the support of the states and the public necessary to raise another army. The only successes México enjoyed were the guerrilla movements that continued in the north and central parts of the nation. In assessing future prospects. Manuel Peña y Peña, who had served the nation as a senator, cabinet minister, and Supreme Court justice told his colleagues,

we cannot prudently expect that a continued war effort would result in favorable negotiation that would salvage our national territorial integrity. On the contrary, I believe that our loss would be greater, and the conduct of the government and the congress would not be forgiven for not having prevented yet another and more horrible disasters.64

Peña y Peña also spoke of the insurgency erupting in various parts of México and did so in very clear terms:

Contemplate what would be the confusion and anarchy into which we would see our country fall in, with the continuing of this foreign war, all the germs of discord and the fires of passion were to be aroused, as undoubtedly they would be. Already, we have seen too much of social disorganization, insecurity among our people, danger along the highways, paralyzation of all branches of public welfare, and general misery.65

Given these realities, both houses of the Mexican legislature approved the February 2, 1848, Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo.

Like those Mexicans, President Polk found the treaty difficult to accept. His instructions to his negotiator, Nicholas P. Trist, directed the latter to obtain more territory than that specified in the treaty. However, Polk faced the reality of diminishing support in the capitol and among the public. The president feared that if he rejected the treaty in favor of a harsher one, congress would force him to withdraw U.S. forces with the result that much of the land already seized might be forfeit.66 The United States Senate ratified the treaty during March 1848.

In that document, Mexico ceded 525,000 square miles of land to the United States and recognized a southern boundary of the U.S. that, with the exception of the 29,670 square miles of territory the Americans subsequently acquired during the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, remains the international boundary to this day. The acquisition of this territory provided the United States with a western coastline more than a thousand miles in length that included three major harbors (San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego) and a substantial adjacent hinterland. With these assets, the United States could now become a major economic, political, and military power in the Pacific and could accommodate even more additional population growth.

In return, the Mexicans received a cash payment of $15,000,000 as well as the U.S. government’s agreement to pay $3,000,000 in claims its citizens filed against Mexico. Those Mexicans choosing to reside within territory transferred to the United States were to have one year to decide if they wished to become United States citizens or to move to territory south of the new international boundary. Although the treaty also stated that the Mexicans residing within that transferred territory retained rights to their property, the subsequent reality proved different.

In the newly acquired lands, state commissions convened to examine the land titles held by Mexican-Americans. In California, a large numbers of squatters, often violent, moved onto land that the Mexican-Americans deemed theirs. The combined effects of that violence, the commission proceedings, and taxation significantly reduced the landholdings of the Mexican-American settlers. In Texas, a similar process led to the outbreak ethnic fighting known as the Cortina War.67 Here as in California, substantial violence against Mexican-Americans erupted. Although the mixing of the two societies proved a peaceful experience in some instances, this frequently did not prove to be the case.68

In Mexico, the outcome of the war prompted considerable self-examination without prompting a fundamental realignment of the nation’s political factions. Conservatives and liberals blamed each other’s conduct and constituencies for the loss. In 1853, some five years after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, another civil war erupted and that ended with the 1855 overthrow of the government of Santa Anna and the subsequent adoption of the liberal Constitution of 1857.

In the United States, the question of admitting the new territories to the Union as free states or slave states sharply intensified existing sectional rivalries and contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War. However, the seeds of that conflict had been sown had been planted many decades before.

Discussion of the Literature

In the immediate aftermath of the war, historians on each side of the Rio Grande followed very different paths. In the United States, authors largely wrote celebratory works that emphasized the military competence of the victors and admitted little or no wrong, moral or otherwise, on the part of the victors. This group included authors such as Nathaniel Covington Brooks, John S. Jenkins, Edward Mansfield, and Brantz Meyer.69 That triumphalist mentality continued well into the 20th century and reached an apogee with the 1919 publication of Justin H. Smith’s The War with Mexico.70

In this work, he argued that Mexico sought war. He based that assertion on evidence such as newspaper editorials and did not refer to the Mexican government communications confirming contrary sentiments. In addition, some of his assertions, such as the one that the Mexican government had never paid back foreign debts, are open to question, as are his stereotypical characterizations of Mexicans.71

As proved the case in our own time, the officers and enlisted men who served in war also wrote books, and these writers often provided more pointed and balanced histories. For example, Major Robert Anderson wrote of the pain he felt regarding the civilians killed by the U.S. siege artillery at the city of Veracruz. His memoirs as well as those of George Ballantine, Kirby Smith, and Jacob J. Oswandel merit attention.72

A partial exception to this triumphalist strain emerged in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War as partisans of the Union and Confederacy sought to assign blame for the war to the opposing side. Northern scholars such as James Schoular argued that the conflict resulted from a southern desire to expand the territory in which slavery could exist. Conversely, Confederate partisans such as Alfred Jeremiah Beveridge insisted that slavery played no role in precipitating the conflict. In a more recent work, Ernest McPherson Lander Jr. also addressed this subject.73

A countervailing historiography of the war gradually developed during the middle and later part of the 20th century. This change reflects the changes that transformed the United States’s political landscape during those decades.

Richard Griswold del Castillo’s The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: A Legacy of Conflict demonstrated that U.S. victory did not bring the promised liberties to the Mexicans who now became citizens of the United States.74 Thomas Hietala, Reginald Horsman, and Richard Slotkin contested the dominant characterization of expansionism as a benign and positive movement.75 Ward McAfee and J. Cordell Robinson published translations of several crucial Mexican state documents that showed that nation’s pre-war government to be very different from the swaggeringly belligerent one portrayed by Smith.76

Across the Rio Grande, a different historiography emerged. The outcome of the war and the subsequent conflicts of the War of the Reform dampened the literary impulse of many leading Mexican figures of this period. Only a few Mexican officers, such as Lieutenant Manuel Balbontin, wrote a book about their wartime experiences.77

However, a considerable number of Mexican historians wrote general histories of the war. Most prominent among then were Carlos Maria de Bustamante, José Maria Roa Barcena, and Ramon Alcaraz.78 A U.S. veteran of the war, Colonel Albert C. Ramsey, deemed Alcaraz’s work one whose “excellence will ensure for its authors a high celerity as men of taste, learning, and practical discrimination.”79 Interestingly, Alcaraz saw guerrilla warfare as one means by which Mexico could have prolonged the war to obtain a more favorable outcome.

Bustamante’s work is detailed and quite thorough, as would be expected of a man who was both a successful legislator and a fine writer. He attributed the outcome of the war to a variety of factors, including

the debility of our social and political organization, the demoralization, weariness and poverty resulting from twenty-five years of civil war, and an army insufficient in numbers, order, and strong men, with arms in large part refuse we bought from England, without means of transport without ambulances or deposits.80

However, a racism similar to that of Smith’s efforts marred both Bustamante’s work and that of Roa Barcena. In the previously cited exert, Bustamante also ascribed Mexico’s defeat to the “physical inferiority of races.” This exact phrase also appears in Roa Barcena’s description of his nation’s majority.

By contrast, Josefina Zoraida Vázquez, the most prominent historian of the conflict in our own era, viewed México as una victima inerme (an unarmed victim) rendered so by many factors.81 These included weaknesses caused by the War of Independence, the constitutional weakness of the federal government, and the resulting inability to collect taxes necessary for the maintenance of the state. To these causes, she added the negative effect of the numerous revolts upon national unity, the failure to undertake necessary reforms, and, last but not least, an expansionist-neighboring nation that doubled its territory and tripled its population in the decades since gaining independence.

In our own time, Mexican scholars continue to write an impressive quality and quantity of scholarship, particularly in the years immediately before and after the 150th anniversary of the fall of Mexican City. These include the massive edited volume prepared under the direction of Josefina Zoraida Vasquez and her own book about the war.82 Both volumes remain highly recommended.

Concurrently, other Mexican scholars exemplify two historiographic trends long evident in the United States. The first is a movement away from general histories and toward narrower subjects explored in greater depth than would otherwise be the case. An excellent example of this is Luis Fernando Granados’s book about the September 14–16, 1847, uprising that U.S. troops met upon their entrance into Mexico City.83 Fabiola Garcia Rubio also focused on events in that city during a period of only a few days in La Entrada de las tropas estadounidenses a la ciudad de México: La mirada de Carl Nebel.84 Eduardo Cázares Puente wrote a similarly interesting work about a particular locality, Nuevo León durante la Guerra México-Estados Unidos, 1846–1848.85

A second similar trend involves the increased popularity of volumes consisting of essays by a number of authors. Notable Mexican works include those edited by Maria Gayon Cordova and Laura Herrera Serna.86 The former wrote a finely detailed study of Mexico City under U.S. occupation and later edited a series of essays addressing a considerable number of very specific subjects.

Also of interest is the Mexican emphasis on primary documents. A major two-volume set, Testimonios de una Guerra: Mexico 1846–1848, brought together a considerable amount of such material.87 Scholars also received a superb diplomatic perspective about the conflict from the recent five-volume edition of Correspondencia diplomática de Salvador Bermúdez de Castro, ministro de España en México. This work covers the 1845-to-1848 period in considerable detail.

For those who prefer their primary Mexican sources in English, two volumes merit mention. These include Cecil Robinson’s The View from Chapultepec and Gene M. Brack’s Mexico Views Manifest Destiny.

In the United States, four decades have passed the publication of the last of the lengthy general histories. These include the works of Karl Jack Bauer, David Pletcher, and the work jointly written by Seymour Condor and Odie B. Faulk.88 Of these, Pletcher’s work ranks as the best. As is the case in Mexico, current work by United States historians focuses on narrower topics that the authors explore in considerable depth. Examples here include Paul Foo’s A Short Offhand Killing Affair, which examines issues of social conflict in the U.S. ranks. Felice Flannery Lewis’s Trailing Clouds of Glory focuses on the officers of this conflict who subsequently led both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War. Pedro Santoni’s Mexicans at Arms addresses the issue of Mexican federalist politics during this period, and Tom Reilly’s War with Mexico! America’s Reporters Cover the Battlefront examines the role that United States newspapers played in the conflict.89 Happily, primary-source materials still go into publication with some frequency. Major John Corey Henshaw’s Recollections of the War with Mexico is one of the better new books in this genre.90

In conclusion, three characteristics mark the current historiography in both Mexico and the United States: the focus on intensive exploration of tightly defined topics, the creation of edited volumes combining essays of many authors, and the eternal search for more primary-source material.

Primary Sources

Many primary sources are available to scholars of the conflict. In the United States, essential documents include the diary of President James Knox Polk and the documents he sent to the congress.91 The National Archives and Records Administration Washington, DC, facility contains additional material. There, Records Group 94 (Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s–1917) holds substantial correspondence from U.S. Army officers involved in the conflict. For diplomatic correspondence, William R. Manning’s Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States—Inter-American Affairs 1831–1860 remains an essential reference.92

In Mexico, one of two excellent places to find many primary sources is the Archivo General de la Nación, located in Mexico City. There, the governmental department repositories such as Guerra y Marina, Hacienda, Gobernacíon and Relaciones Exteriores hold substantial materials. This archive also contains a library with the invaluable Memorias, reports sent by the executive branch to the two chambers of the federal legislature on an annual basis.

Also located in Mexico City is the Archivo de la Defensa Nacional. Although the Defense Ministry posted all military communications of the war years online, recent technical difficulties have rendered access to this material less than constant. On-site visits require prior approval in writing by means of written request addressed to the commanding general of the Mexican Army. However, some 19th-century military records are available on microfilm at the Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley.

Some of archives of Mexican states and cities through which the rival armies marched also contain valuable material. The quality and quantity of these materials vary significantly from place to place. For example, in Jalapa, Veracruz, the municipal archive contains detailed records of city-council meetings that provide much information on life in the community during the war years. However, the Veracruz states archives, which are located only a few blocks away from those municipal archives, have no information about this period because this material burned during the Mexican Revolution. By contrast, Puebla state archives hold considerable material. Consequently, prudent researchers should contact state and municipal archives before visiting them.

For those new to such research, one observation about archival work remains essential. By definition, the archivists with whom you work will know more about the holdings of their archives than do you. Consequently, the greatest of courtesy and patience on your part remain essential, not merely to complete your search, but to make that work as valuable as possible. Archivists can point you to many materials that may be new to you. Please encourage them to do so.

Outside of the archives, additional primary sources include the memoirs left by officers who participated in the conflict. On the U.S. side, these authors include Samuel Chamberlin, Joseph T. Downey, Ethan Allan Hitchcock, John R. Kenly, and Thomas D. Tennery.93 For understandable reasons, Mexican officers were not eager to write their memoirs. However, as noted in the preceding section of this essay, there are Mexican works of this era very much worth reading. The endnotes contain detailed information about them.

Lastly, newspapers of the era can provide a perspective of how the editors and reporters viewed events. In Mexico, the collection of the Hemeroteca Nacional on the main campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City includes the following papers: El Diario del Gobierno, El Siglo XIX, El Monitor, El Republicano, and The American Star. In the United States, Dr. Linda Arnold compiled and posted articles from five U.S. newspapers of the period online at

Further Reading

Bauer, K. Jack. The Mexican War 1846–1848. New York: Macmillan, 1974.Find this resource:

Estrada, Genaro, and Carlos Pereyra. México durante la guerra con los estados Unidos. México, DF: Libreria de Ch. Bouret, 1905.Find this resource:

McAfee, Ward, and J. Cordell Robinson. Origins of the Mexican War—A Documentary Source Book—Volumes II (Salisbury, North Carolina, Documentary Publication, 1982 and II. Salisbury, NC: Documentary Publication, 1982.Find this resource:

Pletcher, David M.The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1973.Find this resource:

Robinson, Cecil, et al. The View from Chapultepec—Mexican Writers on the Mexican-American War. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989.Find this resource:

Schroeder, John H.Mr. Polk’s War—American Opposition and Dissent, 1846–1848. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1973.Find this resource:

Serna, Laura Herrera, Coordinadora. México En Guerra (1846–1848): Perspectivas Regionales. México DF: Consejo Nacional Para La Cultura Y Las Artes and the Museo Nacional De Las Intervenciones, 1997.Find this resource:

Smith, Justin. The War with Mexico—Volumes II (Gloucester, 1919, and reprinted in New York City by Peter Smith, 1963 and II. New York: Peter Smith, 1963.Find this resource:

Vázquez, Josefina Zoraida. La intevencion norteamericana 1846–1848. México, DF: Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores, 1997.Find this resource:

Weinberg, Albert K.Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist Expansion in American History. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1935.Find this resource:


(1.) For brief summaries of these events and of other major events and persons of this conflict, I recommend the work of Edward H. Moseley and Paul C. Clark Jr., Historical Dictionary of the United States-Mexican War (London: Scarecrow Press, 1997).

(2.) T. H. Fehrenbach, Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans (New York: Crown Publishers, 1968), 136.

(3.) Manuel de Mier y Terán, Texas by Terán: The Diary Kept by General Manuel de Mier y Terán on His 1828 Inspection of Texas, ed. Jack Jackson and trans. John Wheat (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000).

(4.) José Manuel Zozoya, cited by William R. Manning in Early Diplomatic Relations between the United States and Mexico (New York: Greenwood Publishers, 1968), 279.

(5.) This concept is examined in detail by Myra Jehlen, American Incarnation: The Individual, the Nation, and the Continent (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986).

(6.) Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi America, ed. Kenneth B. Murdock with the assistance of Elizabeth W. Miller (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1977), 129.

(7.) Thomas R. Hietala, Manifest Design: Anxious Aggrandizement in Late Jacksonian America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), addresses this sentiment in detail. For a similar perspective, see Anders Stephenson, Manifest Destiny: American Expansionism and the Empire of Right (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995). By contrast, Samuel Flagg Bemis argues that the process of expansion was “peaceful” and proceeded “by force of Republican example”: Samuel Flagg Bemis, A Diplomatic History of the United States, 4th ed. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1955).

(8.) See Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1800 (Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973).

(9.) Fernando Navarro y Noriega, “Memoria sobre la poblacion del reino de Nueva España,” Impresos Officiales 60.48 (of the Archivo General de la Nacion, Mexico City) cited by Timothy E. Anna, The Fall of the Royal Government in Mexico City (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978), 6.

(10.) Enrique Florescano, Memory, Myth, and Time in Mexico: From the Aztecs to Independence (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994), 184.

(12.) Jose Luis María Mora, Ensayos, Ideas, y Retratos (Mexico City: Ediciones de la Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, 1941), 17.

(13.) Waddy Thompson, Recollections of Mexico (New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1846), 12.

(14.) Waddy Thompson, Recollections of Mexico, 150: “The lands of the country belong to a few large proprietors, some of whom own tracts of eighty and one hundred leagues square, with herds of sixty and eighty thousand head of cattle grazing upon them, whilst the Indian laborers upon those farms rarely have enough meat.”

(15.) A detailed summary of the Alvarez rebellion is provided in an article of the same name by John Mason Hart, which is found in an edited volume by Friedrich Katz, Riot, Rebellion, and Revolution: Rural Social Conflict in Mexico (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988).

(16.) Manuel de la Peña y Peña, Algunos Documentos, 3–26, cited by Ward McAfee and J. Dorell Robinson, Origins of the Mexican War: A Documentary Source Book, vol. 1 (Salisbury, NC: Documentary Publications, 1982), 150–153.

(17.) For a further discussion of Mexican strategy, please refer to David M. Pletcher, The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1973).

(18.) James Knox Polk, The Diary of James K. Polk During his Presidency, 1845 to 1849, ed. Milo Milton Quaife (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company, 1910), 307.

(19.) James Knox Polk, Polk: The Diary of a President 1845–1849, Covering the Mexican War, the Acquisition of Oregon, and the Conquest of California and the Southwest, ed. Allan Nevins (New York: Longmans, Greens, and Company, 1952), 118.

(20.) Irving Levinson, Wars within Wars: Mexican Guerrillas, Domestic Elites, and the United States of America 1846–1848 (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2005), 114.

(21.) James Knox Polk, The Diary of James K. Polk During his Presidency, 1845 to 1849, ed. Milo Milton Quaife (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company, 1910), 400–401.

(22.) Census data is found in Foja 1, expediente 3, caja 319, fondo 1846, Ramo de Gobernacion, Archivo General de la Nacion, Mexico City, D.F. The figure used here are those from the 1842 census, which was last national census taken before the outbreak of the war.

(23.) Allan Nevins, editor of James Knox Polk, Polk: The Diary of a President 1845–1849, Covering the Mexican War, the Acquisition of Oregon, and the Conquest of California and the Southwest, 95.

(24.) Irving W. Levinson, “Wars within War: Mexican Guerrillas, Domestic Elites, and the Americans, 1846–1848” (PhD diss., University of Houston, 2003), 118.

(25.) U.S. losses from all causes totaled 22,400. A detailed analysis of these losses was provided by Edward D. Mansfield, Life and Services of General Winfield Scott, Including the Siege of Veracruz, the Battle of Cerro Gordo, and the Battles in the Valley of Mexico to the Conclusion of Peace and His Return to the United States (New York: S. Barnes & Company, 1850).

(26.) Irving W. Levinson, Wars within Wars: Mexican Guerrillas, Domestic Elites, and the Unites States of America 1846–1848, 54–55, and Irving W. Levinson, “Wars within Wars: Mexican Guerrillas, Domestic Elites, and the Unites States of America 1846–1848,” 197–198.

(27.) Lester R. Dillon, American Artillery in the Mexican War 1846–1848 (Austin, TX: Presidial Press, 1975).

(28.) John R. Kenly, Memoirs of a Maryland Volunteers: War with Mexico in the Years 1846–1848 (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Company, 1873), 264.

(29.) Zachary Taylor cited by Joseph E. Chance, ed. and annotator, Mexico Under Fire: Being the Diary of Samuel Ryan Curtis 3rd Ohio Volunteer Regiment during the American Military Occupation of Northern Mexico 1846–1847 (Fort Worth, Texas Christian University Press, 1994), 174.

(30.) Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Ethan Allen Hitchcock Diary, vol. 51, pp. 126–127, Gilcrease Museum Archives, Tulsa.

(31.) Faced with the very modern French Paixhun cannon of the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, General Winfield Scott landed his troops beyond their range and subsequently cut off the fort’s water supply after taking the city from the landward side.

(32.) William A. DePalo Jr., The Mexican National Army, 1822–1852 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997), 160.

(33.) As David Weber concluded, “Certainly many pobladores [poor ones] regarded the continuation of Mexican rule with an ambivalence that sapped their enthusiasm for resisting the Americans … and Mexico’s instability raised serious questions about the legitimacy of the central government.” David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1826 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982), 275–276.

(34.) Albert G. Brackett, General Lane’s Brigade in Mexico, 196, cited in G220-XIV, Diaries, Recollections and Memoirs of The Justin H. Smith Collection (Austin: Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries).

(35.) “The Mexicans are not deficient in personal courage, nothing is wanting to make them good soldiers other than military discipline and [the] national ardor which cannot be expected of men impressed as they are into service, in the most cruel & ruthless manner.” Commodore Matthew C. Perry cited by Samuel Eliot Morison in Old Bruin—Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, 1794–1858 (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1967), 201.

(36.) For additional information, see John S. D. Eisenhower’sSo Far from God: the U.S. War with Mexico 1846–1848 (New York, Random House, 1989) and his biography of General Winfield Scott, Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott (New York: The Free Press, 1997).

(37.) “Our artillery was beyond praise for both daring and skill. As [General] Wool said in his report, the army could not have stood “for a single hour” without it; and the batteries served indispensably, moreover, as rallying points for the infantry.” Justin H. Smith, The War with Mexico, vol. 1 (New York: Peter Smith, 1963), 384.

(38.) This argument is further developed by Joseph E. Chance, Jefferson Davis’ Mexican War Regiment (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1991), 113.

(39.) Edward D. Mansfield, Life and Services of General Winfield Scott Including the Siege of Vera Cruz, The Battle of Cerro Gordo, and the Battles in the Valley of Mexico to the Conclusion of Peace, and his Return to the United States (New York: A.S. Barnes & Company, 1852), 375–376.

(40.) Major General Winfield Scott, General Order No. 128 issued April 30, 1847, in Jalapa found in General Scott’s Orders (41½) Orders and Special Orders—Headquarters of the Army—War with Mexico 1847–1848, entry 134, records group 94, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, National Archives and Records Administration Facility 1 (hereinafter NARA 1), Washington, DC.

(41.) Major General Winfield Scott, General Order No. 87, April 1, 1847, Orders and Special Orders—Headquarters of the Army—War with Mexico 1847–1848, entry 134, records group 94, Adjutant General’s Office, NARA 1, Washington, DC. Major General Winfield Scott, Proclamation, Mexican War 1845–1850, Orders, 1845–1850, Volunteer Division, February 18, 1847–December 18, 1847, p. 38, vol. 21 of 23, PI—17, entry 134, records group 94 Adjutant General’s Office, NARA 1, Washington, DC.

(42.) The three states along Scott’s line of march contained 32 percent of Mexico’s population, which totaled 2,305,802 people. That is far more than the 90,465 people who lived in the territories north of the Rio Grande. Foja 1, expediente 3, caja 319, fondo 1846, Ramo de Gobernacion of the Archivo General de la Nacion, Mexico City, D.F.

(43.) Major General Winfield Scott, General Order 285, found in First Division Papers, Army of Mexico Paper, Army History Research Collection, United States Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, PA.

(44.) Major General J. A. Quitman, Proclamation of 22 September 1847, Foja i2, Caja 1, Sin classificacion 1847. Ramo de Gobernacion, Archivo General de la Nacion, Mexico City. Also see Volumenes 59–60, Archivo Historico del Municipio de Xalapa (Xalapa, Veracruz state, Mexico).

(45.) Order of the Civil and Military Governor of Mexico City, published in El Monitor Republicano, November 27, 1847.

(46.) Reglamento Para El Servicio De Secciones Ligera De La Guardia Nacional De Los Estados Y Territorios De La Republica, Archivo de la Defensa Nacional, Foja XI/481.3/2586, 0060, Archivo de la Defensa Nacional, Mexico City.

(47.) James K. Polk and others, Executive Document 56 of the House of Representatives—Messages from the President of the United Sates Transmitting Reports from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of War with Accompanying Documents in Compliance with the Resolution of the 7th February 1848 (Washington, DC, March 20, 1848), 216–217.

(48.) Nathan Covington Brooks, A Complete History of the Mexican War: Its Causes, Conduct, and Consequences (Philadelphia: Grigg, Elliot & Co., 1849), 444–452, and Jose Maria Roa Barcena, Recuerdos de la Invasion Norteamericana—(1846–1848), vol. 2 (Mexico City: Editorial Porrua, S.A., 1971), 107–108, and Emilio del Castillo Negrete, Invasion de los Norte-Americanos, vol. 3 (Mexico City: Imprenta del Editor, 1890), 450–454.

(49.) Letter of April 24, 1847 from General Winfield Scott to General Zachary Taylor cited by James K. Polk and others in Executive Document Number 56, 139.

(50.) In a typical individual response, Major John Reese Kenly observed,

If you ever saw a beehive overturned, an uncommon degree of activity moves the busy bee; imagine a half dozen hives rudely upset, and instead of bees, guerrillas were the occupants; then you can picture the buzz that was about our post from the swarms of exasperated Mexicans, who, maddened by the loss of their capital, threw themselves on Scott’s communications.

John R. Kenly, Memoirs of a Maryland Volunteers: War with Mexico in the Years 1846–1848, 323.

(51.) Winfield Scott, Executive Document 56 of the House of Representatives: Messages from the President of the United Sates Transmitting Reports from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of War with Accompanying Documents in Compliance with the Resolution of the 7th February 1848, Washington, DC, March 20, 1848, 219, and José María Roa Barcena, Recuerdos de la invasion norteamericana: 1846–1848, vol. 3 (Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa, 1971), 168.

(52.) Benito Juarez subsequently played a central role in writing the 1857 Constitution and led the Mexican government during the War of the Reform (1857–1860) and War of the French Intervention (1862–1867). He served as president until 1872 and was the only president of Mexico to be official honored with the title of Benemerito de la Patria.

(53.) Ramón Alcaraz, ed., Apuntes para la historia de la Guerra entre México y los Estados Unidos—[edición facsimilar de la de 1848] (Mexico City: Siglo Veintuno editors, S.A. 1970), 388.

(54.) Ramón Alcaraz, ed., Apuntes para la historia, 388.

(55.) James Knox Polk, Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress at the Commencement of the First Session of the Thirtieth Congress, December 7, 1847 (Washington, DC: Van Betheuysen & Company, 1897), 13.

(56.) Letter of General Francisco de Garay to the minister of war and marine and an additional letter from that general to that minister dated December 4, 1847, p. 00148 and 00154, foja 2772, expediente XI/481/3, Archivo de la Defensa Nacional (hereafter ADN), Mexico City.

(57.) Letter of November 16, 1847, from Minister of Interior and Exterior Relations Manuel de la Peña y Peña to Don Jesus Cardenas, commissioner of the state of Tamaulipas, p. 00020, foja 2939, expediente XI/481.3. ADN, Mexico City.

(58.) Letter of December 1, 1847, from José de Arando of the Deputation of Zacatecas to the minister of interior and exterior relations. Foja E3, Caja 334, Sin Seccion 1847, Ramo de Gobernacion, Archivo General de la Nacion (hereinafter AGN), Mexico City.

(59.) Report of January 21, 1848, from J. Naf Guerra of the government of the Free and Sovereign States of Puebla to the minister of war and marine, pp. 00023–00006, foja 2772, expediente 481.3, ADN, Mexico City.

(60.) Miguel Barbachano, letter of June 14, 1848, to the minister of war and marine, expediente 5, caja C356, Sin Seccion 1846, Ramo de Gobernacíon, AGN, Mexico City.

(61.) James Knox Polk, The Diary of James K. Polk During His Presidency, 1845–1849, vol. 3, ed. Milo Milton Quaife, 433.

(62.) The number of Mexican soldiers combatting the rebellions is listed in Memoria Del Secretario De Estado Y Del Despacho de Guerra y Marina Leide En La Camera de Diputados El Dia 9 Y En La De Senadores El 11 De Enero de 1949 (Mexico City), Imprenta de Vicente Garcia Torres el en Ex-Convento del Espiritu Santo, 1849, 8–9, Biblioteca Nacional of the AGN. The figure for the number of Mexican soldiers engaged in defending the capital from the U.S. Army is from Justin H. Smith, The War with Mexico, vol. 2, 142.

(63.) The sixteenth article of the Truce Agreement read, “If any body of armed men be assembled in any part of the Mexican Republic with a view to committing hostilities not authorized by either government, it shall be duty of either or both of the contracting parties to oppose and disperse such body; without considering those who compose it.” Cited in The American Star, March 7, 1848, Hemeroteca Nacional De México, Mexico City.

(64.) Manuel de la Peña y Peña, An Address in Support of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo translated from México y los Estados Unidos (Mexico City: Editorial Jus, 1962) cited by Cecil Robinson in The View from Chapultepec: Mexican Writers on the Mexican-American War (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989), 111–112.

(65.) Cecil Robinson, The View from Chapultepec, 111–112.

(66.) James Knox Polk, The Diary of James K. Polk during his Presidency, ed. Milo Milton Quaife (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company, 1910), 347–348.

(67.) A fine description of both the Cortina War and life in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas during these years was provided by Jerry D. Thompson, Cortina: Defending the Mexican Name in Texas (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2007).

(68.) Perhaps the most famous such instances was the arranged marriage of Salome de Balli, daughter of the Mexican-American who owned more land than any other individual in Texas, to Mifflin Kenedy, the partner of Richard King. Currently, the Kenedy Ranch includes 245,000 acres.

(69.) Nathaniel Covington Brooks, A Complete History of the Mexican War: Its Causes, Conduct, and Consequences (Philadelphia: Griggs, Elliot & Company, 1849); John S. Jenkins, History of the War Between the United States and Mexico from the Commencement of Hostilities to the Ratification of the Treaty of Peace (New York: Derby Miller & Company, 1850); Edward D. Mansfield, A History of the Mexican War: Its Origins (New York: A.S. Barnes & Company, 1850); and Brantz Meyer, History of the War Between the United States and Mexico (New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1848).

(70.) Justin H. Smith, The War with Mexico, 2 vols. (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1963).

(71.) Irving W. Levinson, “Wars within Wars: Mexican Guerrillas, Domestic Elites, and the United States of America” (PhD diss., University of Houston, 2003), 111A–111B.

(72.) Robert Anderson, An Artillery Officer in the Mexican War 1846–7: Letters of Robert Anderson, Captain, 3rd Artillery, U.S.A. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Son, 1911); George Ballantine, The Mexican War by an English Soldier Comprising Incidents and Adventures in the United States and Mexico with the American Army (New York: W. A. Townsend, 1860); Kirby E. Smith, To Mexico with Scott: Letters of Captain Kirby E. Smith to his Wife (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1917); and Jacob J. Oswandel, Notes of the Mexican War, 1846–1847–1848 (Philadelphia, 1885).

(73.) Ernest McPherson Lander Jr., Reluctant Imperialists: Calhoun, the South Carolinians, and the Mexican War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980).

(74.) Richard Griswold del Castillo, The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: A Legacy of Conflict (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990).

(75.) Hietala, Horsman, and Slotkin argued that racism and violence stood at the core of the expansionist cause. These interpretations significantly differed from Albert K. Weinberg’s 1935 book emphasizing both positive and negative aspects of Manifest Destiny. Thomas R. Hietala, Manifest Design: Anxious Aggrandizement in Late Jacksonian America; Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism; Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier 1600–1800 (Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973); and Albert K. Weinberg, Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist Expansion in American History (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1935).

(76.) Ward McAfee and J. Cordell Robinson, Origins of the Mexican War: A Documentary Source Book, 2 vols. (Salisbury, NC: Documentary Publications, 1982).

(77.) Manuel Balbontin, La invasion American: Apuntes de Subteniente de Artilleria Manuel Balbotin (Mexico City: Tipografia de Gonzalo A. Esteva, 1888).

(78.) Ramon Alcaraz, ed., Apuntes Para la Historia de la Guerra Entre Mexico y Los Estados Unidos (Edicion facsimilar de la de 1848) (Mexico City: Siglo Vientiuno Editores, 1970).

(79.) Ramon Alcaraz, ed., The Other Side: Or Notes for the History of the War Between Mexican and the United States, trans. Albert C. Ramsey (New York: John Wiley, 1850).

(80.) Jose Maria Roa Barcena, Recuerdos de la Invasion Norteamerica (1848–1848), vol. 3 (Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa, 1993), 340.

(81.) Josefina Zoraida Vázquez, ed., México al tiempo de su guerra con Estados Unidos (1846–1848) and La intevencion norteamericans 1846–1848 (Mexico City: Secretaria de Relaciones Exeriores, 1997), 45.

(82.) In addition to Dr. Vasquez’s previously cited work I refer to her other major work on this subject, La intevencion norteamericana 1846–1848 (Mexico City: Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores, 1997).

(83.) Luis Fernando Granados, Sueñan las piedras: alzamineto ocurrido en la ciudad de Mexico: 14, 15, 16 de septiembre de 1847 (Mexico City: Ediciones Era—Conaculta, 2003).

(84.) Fabiola Garcia Rubio, La entrade de las tropas estadounidenses a la ciudad de México (Mexico City: Instituto Mora, 2002).

(85.) Eduardo Cazares Puentes, Nuevo Léon durante la guerra México-Estados Unidos, 1846–1848 (Mexico City: Centro de Estudios Históricos, 2009). Another interesting work about Nuevo Léon is that of Miguel A. González Quiroga, Miguel A., and César Morado Macias, Nuevo León ocupado: aspectos de la guerra México-Estados Unidos (Monterrey: Editorial Nuevo León, 2006).

(86.) Maria Gayon Cordova, La occupacion yanqui de la ciudad de Mexico, 1847–1848 (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia y el Consejo Nacional Para La Cultura Y Las Artes, 1997), and Laura Herrera Serna, ed., Mexico en Guerra 1846–1848: Perspectivas Regionales (Mexico City: Museo Nacional De Las Intervenciones e el Consejo Nacional Para La Cultura Y Las Artes, 1997).

(87.) Mercedes de Vega and Maria Cecilia Zuleta, Testimonios de una Guerra: México 1846–1848 (Mexico City: Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores, 2001).

(88.) Karl Jack Bauer, The Mexican War 1846–1848 (New York: Macmillan, 1974); Seymour Condor and Odie B. Faulk, North American Divided: The Mexican-American War 1846–1847 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971); and David B. Pletcher, The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War (Colombia: University of Missouri Press, 1973).

(89.) Felice Flannery Lewis, Trialing Clouds of Glory: Zachary Taylor’s Campaign and His Emerging Civil War Leaders (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010); Pedro Santoni, Mexicans at Arms: Puro Federalists and the Politics of War, 1845–1848 (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1996); and Tom Reilly, War with Mexico! America’s Reporters Cover the Battlefront, ed. Manley Witten (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010).

(90.) John Cory Henshaw, Recollections of the War with Mexico, ed. Gary F. Kurutz (Colombia: University of Missouri Press, 2008).

(91.) Executive Document 56 of the House of Representatives: Messages from the President of the United States Transmitting Reports from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of War with Accompanying Documents in Compliance with the Resolution of the 7th February, 1848 (Washington, DC, March 20, 1848); Executive Document 59 of the House of Representatives: Message of the President of the United States Transmitting Correspondence Between the Secretary of War and Major General Scott with the Accompanying Documents in Compliance with the Resolution of the House of the 7th Instant (Washington, DC: Wendell and Van Benthuysen, 1848); Executive Documents Printed by Order of the Senate of the United States During the First Session of the Thirtieth Congress Begun and Held at the City of Washington, December 6, 1847 in Eight Volumes (Washington, DC: Wendell and Van Benthuysen, 1847); Senate Executive Document No. 36, 30th Congress, 1st Session, Report of the Secretary of War Showing the Number of Troops in the Service of the United States in Mexico since the Commencement of the War, Killed, Wounded, Etcetera (Washington, DC: Wendell and Van Benthuysen, 1848; Executive Document Number 1, Report of the Secretary of War (Washington, DC: Wendell and Van Benthuysen). See also James Knox Polk, The Diary of James K. Polk During His Presidency, ed. Milo Milton Quaife (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1910).

(92.) William R. ManningDiplomatic Correspondence of the United States: Inter-American Affairs 1831–1860, vol. 8: Mexico 1831–1848 (Mid-Year) Documents 3128–3771 (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1937).

(93.) Samuel Chamberlain, My Confessions: Recollections of a Rogue, ed. William h. Goetzmann (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996); Ethan Allan Hitchcock, The Dairy of Ethan Allan Hitchcock, available for review at the Gilcrease Library of Western History, Tulsa, OK; and Thomas Tennery, The Mexican War Diary of Thomas D. Tennery, edited by D.E. Livingston Little (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970).