Home >> New International Encyclopedia, Volume 13 >> Meleager to Mexican War >> Mexican War_P1

Mexican War

taylor, army, american, united, artillery, grande, texas, rio, matamoros and march

Page: 1 2

MEXICAN WAR. The war between the United States and Mexico in 1S46-4R. It was the result of a series of outrages upon American citizens, the recognition of the independence of Texas by the United States ( 1 S37), the annexa tion (1845) of Texas to the United States, in the face of bitter opposition on the part of Mexico, herself torn with revolution and eon tending factions, and finally of a dispute regard ing the boundary of Texas, the United States claiming the Rio Grande as the boundary. while Mexico held that Texas did not extend farther south than the Nueces. During the fall of 1845 a large part of the small regular army of the United States was assembled under (kn. Zachary Taylor at ('orpus Christi. near the mouth of the Nucecs in Texas, and on March 12, 1846, under orders from the United States Government. Tin' lor into the territory the possession of which was then in dispute. After a march of sixteen days be reached the Rio Grande at a point opposite to the Mexican city of Nlata mor/H. A week HU)im'. DTI the 21st. the Unit ed States Minister to Mexico, Slidell, unable to negotiate a treaty in aecordanee with Presi dent folk's diycetioos. or even to secure offieial received his passports and started on his reform to the United States. The Alexiean army at this time numbered at least 30.0011 of all anus, and comprised, besides troops of the line. the ael ive battalions of the States and the national guards of the cities. The cavalry 1i:ulcers) Wen' exeollent horsemen, fairly di eipiined. hut indifferently mounted and poorly armed ; the artillery, offivered partly by foreign ers, were grimd gunners, hut the arm lacked mo bility; the infantry were well drilled, but were alined With muskets of ancient pattern. An undue number of general facers (politicians rather than soldiers) and an inefficient general completed the Mexican resources for war. The effective power of the Mexicans, however, was enhanced by the fact that they represented the 'defense;' that they served among friends, and that they often fought behind strong fortifi cations. The American army was inferior in numerical strength to the enemy. At the close of 1845 the maximum strength was 7883. What it lacked in numbers. however, was made up in lighting quality. It consisted of two regiments of dragoons, four of artillery, and eight of in fantry, with the usual stall' corps. The dragoons were well disciplined, drilled as light cavalry. and armed with earbines and sabres; the artillery garrisoned the fortifications, but had little in struetion in gunnery. excepting one company in each regiment organized as light artillery. which had reached a high standard of efficiency; the infantry, well disciplined and familiar with the use of arms, were distributed among a number of small frontier posts and never in large bodies; the officers, a majority graduates of ‘Vest Point, were generally of superior ability, with the ex perience and self-reliance gained in Indian ser vice and independent command. The navy of the United States, although small, was exceedingly efficient. The Mexican Republic had only a few small steamers and sailing vessels, and these principally on paper. Taylor's command hardly comprised 3000 eifectives upon its arrival oppo site Matamoros. on the 28th of March, 1840. Taylor immediately fortified his position and established a base of supply at Point Isabel. The month of the Rio Grande was blockaded by the small naval accompanying the Ameri can army, and two vessels with supplies for the Mexican army were warned off and returned to sea. General Ampudia, who was in command at Matamoros from April llth to April 241h, pro tested vigorously against the occupation of dis puted territory by General Taylor, and insisted that, pending a settlement of the boundary dis pute. the American army should be withdrawn to the Nueces. On April 24th General Arista ouper seded Ampudia, and at once decided to take the otrenqive and cross the Rio Grande, notifying Tay lor that he considered hostilities already to have begun on the part of the l'nited States. On the 25th General Taylor learned that a large force of cavalry had crossed the Rio Grande some miles above his position. and sent a small squadron of the Second Dragoons under Captain Thornton to obtain definite information. While endeavoring to execute the order, Thornton. whose guide had deserted, found his emumand surrounded by a lexivan cavalry force of more than 500, and in an attempt to cut his way Out lost one officer and eight men killed, and two men wounded: and, with the remainder (46). was captured. Taylor notified his (lover that the first blow had been strnek, and ealled upon the Governors of Louisiana and Texas for 500) volunteers. On the 30th. General Taylor. leaving a regiment of infan try and two companies of artillery to garrison an earthwork, known as Fort Brown (see IlnowNs 111.1.E. TEx.), hi front of lfotmonoros. proceeded

with the remainder of his eommand to Point Isabel in order to complete his uommunientions. During, his absence the Mexicans attacked the fort vigorously.but to no avail. As he was return ing (May Sth). he encountered Arista. who with 6000 men and ten guns barred the road at a place nine miles from Matamoros, known as Palo Alto. Taylor's force numbered 2300 officers and men and ten gulls. After a fight of four hours (see PALO ALTO), Arista fell back to Resaea de la Palma. with a loss of 252. The American casual ties comprised 7 killed and 47 wounded. on the following day Taylor continued his march. Ar riving in front of the Mexican position, a low ridge commanding the road to Matamoros, the Americans paused to reconnoitre. On ac count of the dense `chaparral; movements en masse were impacticable, and the infantry were deployed as skirmishers, with the artillery, supported by the dragoons. remaining on the road. Arista had been reenforced during the night by 2000 infantry. As on the day before, an artillery duel ensued, and the Mexican batteries held the Americans at hay for sonic time, until Taylor sent a squadron of dragoons under Captain Nay, who gallantly charged, taking the guns, together with the Mexican general. La Vega, at the cost, however, of 1 officer, and 7 men killed, and 10 men wounded. Upon this the enemy gave way and fled from the field, pursued by the Americans, who made many captures, includ ing 14 officers, S pieces of artillery, and several standards. The Mexicans, in confu sion, retired to 'Matamoros, many being drowned in crossing the river. Arista's losses were esti mated at 1000 men, of whom 200 were left dead upon the battle-field. On May 17th Arista evacu ated Matamoros, and on the following day Tay lor crossed the Rio Grande and took possession. Previously, on May 11th, President Polk had sent to Congress his famous war message, in which he enumerated the wrongs committed by Mexico against the United States, and, ignoring Mexico's reasonable claim to the country between the 'nieces and the Pio Grande, asserted that "Mexi co has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory, and shed American blood upon American soil." Two days later Con gress issued a formal declaration of war, and threw the onus of striking the first. blow upon Mexieo. The ensuing three months were utilized by both sides in raising additional troops. Con gress authorized a call for 50.000 volunteers, and the regular army was increased to 30,000. On August 19th Taylor marched with 6700 men (including volunteers) upon Monterey. which was held by Ampudia with 10,000 men. Previous to his arrival before Monterey, however. Santa Anna (q.v.) had subverted the Government of Paredes, and had established himself in power. The American army arrived in front of the town September 19th, attacked on the 21st. and after three days of severe fighting the defenses were taken by assault, and theMcxiean general capitu lated. being permitted to march out 'with the honors of war,' and an armistice of eight weeks being agreed upon. (See MoNTEREY. BATTLE OF.) The Mexican losses were estimated at nearly 1000; the American at 488. General Scott with drew from Taylor the greater part of his army and instructed Taylor to establish his head quarters at Monterey and refrain from further offensive operations. Through captured dis patches Santa Anna learned of Taylor's de pleted force, and quietly advanced upon the American position near Saltillo with 20.000 effee tives. Taylor's scouts informed him of this in time for him to complete his dispositions for bat tie. With 4691 men, including several regiments of newly enlisted volunteers, he awaited Santa Anna at Angostura, near Saltillo and on the road to San Luis de Potosf. The which followed, known as the battle of Buena Vista (q.v.), lasted two days (February 22 and 23, 1847), and more than once the result seemed doubtful, the panic which seized certain regi ments of Taylor's volunteers being counter balanced by the steadiness of the regulars, the effective work of the light batteries. and the gallantry of the Mississippi regiment under Col. Jefferson Davis, afterwards President of the Southern Confederacy. Notwithstanding the nu merical superiority of the Mexican army, the obstinacy of the defense eventually won, and San ta Anna was forced to withdraw with 2500 killed and wounded and nearly 4000 missing, of whom the greater number had deserted during the battle. The American casualties comprised 264 killed and 450 wounded. Soon afterwards General Tay lor returned home on leave of absence.

Page: 1 2