Mexican–American War

Mexican–American War
MXAMWAR.png
Clockwise from top left: Winfield Scott entering Plaza de la Constitución after the Fall of Mexico City, U.S. soldiers engaging the retreating Mexican force during the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, American victory at Churubusco outside Mexico City, U.S. Marines storming Chapultepec castle under a large American flag, Battle of Cerro Gordo
DateApril 25, 1846 – February 3, 1848
(1 year, 9 months, 1 week and 1 day)
LocationTexas, New Mexico, California; Northern, Central, and Eastern Mexico; Mexico City
Result

American victory

Territorial
changes
Mexican Cession
Belligerents
 United States
California Republic[1]
Mexico
Commanders and leaders
James K. Polk
Winfield Scott
Zachary Taylor
Stephen W. Kearny
John Drake Sloat
William Jenkins Worth
Robert Field Stockton
Joseph Lane
Franklin Pierce
David Conner
Matthew C. Perry
John C. Frémont
Thomas Childs
Henry Stanton Burton
Edward Dickinson Baker
William B. Ide
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Mariano Arista
Pedro de Ampudia
José María Flores
Mariano G. Vallejo
Nicolás Bravo
José Joaquín de Herrera
Andrés Pico
Manuel Armijo
Martin Perfecto de Cos
Pedro Maria de Anaya
Agustín Jerónimo de Iturbide y Huarte
Joaquín Rea
Manuel Pineda Muñoz
Gabriel Valencia
Strength
73,532 regulars and volunteers[2]70,000 regulars[2]
12,000 irregulars[2]
Casualties and losses
1,733 killed in battle
(1,721 soldiers, 11 Marines, and 1 sailor)[2]
13,283 total dead
4,152 wounded[3]
10,000 regulars dead (5,000 killed in battle)[2]
Including civilians killed by the war's violence and military disease and accidental deaths, the Mexican death toll may have reached 25,000.[2]

The Mexican–American War,[a] also known as the Mexican War in the United States and in Mexico as the American intervention in Mexico,[b] was an armed conflict between the United States of America and the United Mexican States (Mexico) from 1846 to 1848. It followed in the wake of the 1845 American annexation of the independent Republic of Texas, which Mexico still considered its northeastern province and a part of its territory after its de facto secession in the 1836 Texas Revolution a decade earlier.

Mexico obtained independence from the Kingdom of Spain and the Spanish Empire with the Treaty of Córdoba in 1821, and briefly experimented with monarchy, becoming a republic in 1824. It was characterized by considerable instability, leaving it ill-prepared for international conflict only two decades later, when war broke out in 1846.[4] In the decades preceding the war, Native American raids in Mexico's sparsely settled north prompted the Mexican government to sponsor migration from the United States to the Mexican province of Texas to create a buffer. However, the newly named "Texians" revolted against the Mexican government of President/dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna, who had usurped the Mexican Constitution of 1824, in the subsequent 1836 Texas Revolution, creating a republic not recognized by Mexico, which still claimed it as part of its national territory. In 1845, the Texan Republic agreed to an offer of annexation by the U.S. Congress and became the 28th state in the Union on December 29 that year.[5]

In 1845, newly elected U.S. President James K. Polk made a proposition to the Mexican government to purchase the disputed lands between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande river further south. When that offer was rejected, President Polk moved U.S. troops commanded by Major General Zachary Taylor further south into the disputed territory. Mexican forces attacked an American Army outpost ("Thornton Affair") in the occupied territory, killing 12 U.S. soldiers and capturing 52. These same Mexican troops later laid siege to an American fort along the Rio Grande.[6] Polk cited this attack as an invasion of U.S. territory and requested that the Congress declare war.

U.S. forces quickly occupied the capital town of Santa Fe de Nuevo México along the upper Rio Grande and the Pacific coast territory province of Alta California (Upper California). They then invaded to the south into parts of central Mexico (modern-day northeastern Mexico and northwest Mexico). Meanwhile, the Pacific Squadron of the United States Navy conducted a blockade and took control of several garrisons on the Pacific coast farther south in lower Baja California Territory. The U.S. Army, under the command of Major General Winfield Scott, after several fierce battles of stiff resistance from the Mexican Army outside of the capital, Mexico City, eventually captured the city, having marched west from the port of Veracruz, where the Americans staged their first amphibious landing on the Gulf of Mexico coast.

The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, forced onto the remnant Mexican government, ended the war and specified its major consequence, the Mexican Cession of the northern territories of Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo México to the United States. The U.S. agreed to pay $15 million compensation for the physical damage of the war. In addition, the United States assumed $3.25 million of debt already owed earlier by the Mexican government to U.S. citizens. Mexico acknowledged the loss of their province, later the Republic of Texas (and now the State of Texas), and thereafter cited and acknowledged the Rio Grande as its future northern national border with the United States. Mexico had lost over one-third of its original territory from its 1821 independence.

The territorial expansion of the United States toward the Pacific coast had been the goal of Polk, the leader of the Democratic Party.[7] At first, the war was highly controversial in the United States, with the Whig Party, anti-imperialists, and anti-slavery elements strongly opposing. Critics in the United States pointed to the heavy casualties suffered by U.S. forces compared to earlier American wars, and the conflict's high monetary cost. The war intensified the debate over slavery in the United States, contributing to bitter debates that culminated in the American Civil War (1861–1865).

In Mexico, the war came in the middle of continued domestic political turmoil, which increased into chaos during the conflict. The military defeat and loss of territory was a disastrous blow, causing Mexico to enter "a period of self-examination... as its leaders sought to identify and address the reasons that had led to such a debacle."[8] In the immediate aftermath of the war, some prominent Mexicans wrote that the war had resulted in "the state of degradation and ruin" in Mexico, further claiming, for "the true origin of the war, it is sufficient to say that the insatiable ambition of the United States, favored by our weakness, caused it."[9] The shift in the Mexico-U.S. border left many Mexican citizens separated from their national government. For the indigenous peoples who had never accepted Spanish or Mexican rule, the change in border meant conflicts with a new outside power.

Background

Roots of the conflict in North Mexico

An Osage The boundaries of Comancheria -- the Comanche homeland.
The 1832 boundaries of Comancheria, the Comanche homeland

The northern area of Mexico was sparsely settled and not well controlled politically by the government based in Mexico City. After independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico contended with internal struggles that sometimes verged on civil war and the northern frontier was not a high priority. In the sparsely settled interior of northern Mexico, the end of Spanish rule was marked by the end of financing for presidios and for subsidies to indigenous Americans to maintain the peace. There were conflicts between indigenous people in the northern region as well. The Comanche were particularly successful in expanding their territory in the Comanche–Mexico Wars and garnering resources. The Apache–Mexico Wars also made Mexico's north a violent place, with no effective political control.

Comanches of West Texas in war regalia, c. 1830

The Apache raids left thousands of people dead throughout northern Mexico. When the United States Army entered northern Mexico in 1846 they found demoralized Mexican settlers. There was little resistance to US forces from the civilian population.[10]

Hostile activity from indigenous people also made communications and trade between the interior of Mexico and provinces such as Alta California and New Mexico difficult. As a result, New Mexico was dependent on the overland Santa Fe Trail trade with the United States at the outbreak of the Mexican–American War.[11]

Mexico's military and diplomatic capabilities declined after it attained independence and left the northern half of the country vulnerable to the Comanche, Apache, and Navajo. The indigenous people, especially the Comanche, took advantage of the weakness of the Mexican state to undertake large-scale raids hundreds of miles into the country to acquire livestock for their own use and to supply an expanding market in Texas and the US.[12]

The Mexican government's policy of settlement of US citizens in its province of Tejas was aimed at expanding control into Comanche lands, the Comancheria. Instead of settlement occurring in the central and west of the province, people settled in East Texas, where there was rich farmland and which was contiguous to southern US slave states. As settlers poured in from the US, the Mexican government took steps to discourage further settlement, including its 1829 abolition of slavery.

In 1836, Mexico was relatively united in refusing to recognize the independence of Texas. Mexico threatened war with the United States if it annexed the Republic of Texas.[13] Meanwhile, U.S. President Polk's assertion of Manifest Destiny was focusing United States interest on westward expansion beyond its existing national borders.

Designs on California

Mexico in 1824: Alta California was the northwesternmost federal territory

During the Spanish colonial era, the Californias (i.e., the Baja California peninsula and Alta California) were sparsely settled. After Mexico became independent, it shut down the missions and reduced its military presence. In 1842, the US minister in Mexico, Waddy Thompson Jr., suggested Mexico might be willing to cede Alta California to settle debts, saying: "As to Texas, I regard it as of very little value compared with California, the richest, the most beautiful, and the healthiest country in the world ... with the acquisition of Upper California we should have the same ascendency on the Pacific ... France and England both have had their eyes upon it."

US President John Tyler's administration suggested a tripartite pact that would settle the Oregon boundary dispute and provide for the cession of the port of San Francisco from Mexico. Lord Aberdeen declined to participate but said Britain had no objection to U.S. territorial acquisition there.[14] The British minister in Mexico, Richard Pakenham, wrote in 1841 to Lord Palmerston urging "to establish an English population in the magnificent Territory of Upper California", saying that "no part of the World offering greater natural advantages for the establishment of an English colony ... by all means desirable ... that California, once ceasing to belong to Mexico, should not fall into the hands of any power but England ... daring and adventurous speculators in the United States have already turned their thoughts in this direction." But by the time the letter reached London, Sir Robert Peel's Tory government, with its Little England policy, had come to power and rejected the proposal as expensive and a potential source of conflict.[15][16]

A significant number of influential Californios were in favor of annexation, either by the United States or by the United Kingdom. Pío de Jesús Pico IV, the last governor of Alta California, was in favor of British annexation.[17]

Republic of Texas

The Republic of Texas: The present-day outlines of the individual U.S. states are superimposed on the boundaries of 1836–1845.

In 1800, the colonial province of Texas was sparsely populated, with only about 7,000 non-Indian settlers.[18] The Spanish crown developed a policy of colonization to more effectively control the territory. After independence, the Mexican government implemented the policy, granting Moses Austin, a banker from Missouri, a large tract of land in Texas. Austin died before he could bring his plan of recruiting American settlers for the land to fruition, but his son, Stephen F. Austin, brought over 300 American families into Texas.[19] This started the steady trend of migration from the United States into the Texas frontier. Austin's colony was the most successful of several colonies authorized by the Mexican government. The Mexican government intended the new settlers to act as a buffer between the Tejano residents and the Comanches, but the non-Hispanic colonists tended to settle where there was decent farmland and trade connections with American Louisiana, which the United States had acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, rather than further west where they would have been an effective buffer against the Indians.

In 1829, as a result of the large influx of American immigrants, the non-Hispanic outnumbered native Spanish speakers in the Texas territory. President Vicente Guerrero, a hero of Mexican independence, moved to gain more control over Texas and its influx of southern non-Hispanic colonists and discourage further immigration by abolishing slavery in Mexico.[18][20] The Mexican government also decided to reinstate the property tax and increase tariffs on shipped American goods. The settlers and many Mexican businessmen in the region rejected the demands, which led to Mexico closing Texas to additional immigration, which continued from the United States into Texas illegally.

In 1834, General Antonio López de Santa Anna became the centralist dictator of Mexico, abandoning the federal system. He decided to quash the semi-independence of Texas, having succeeded in doing so in Coahuila (in 1824, Mexico had merged Texas and Coahuila into the enormous state of Coahuila y Tejas). Finally, Stephen F. Austin called Texians to arms, and they declared independence from Mexico in 1836. After Santa Anna defeated the Texians in the Battle of the Alamo, he was defeated by the Texian Army commanded by General Sam Houston and captured at the Battle of San Jacinto; he signed a treaty recognizing the independence of Texas.[5]

Texas consolidated its status as an independent republic and received official recognition from Britain, France, and the United States, which all advised Mexico not to try to reconquer the new nation. Most Texians wanted to join the United States of America, but annexation of Texas was contentious in the US Congress, where Whigs were largely opposed. In 1845 Texas agreed to the offer of annexation by the US Congress and became the 28th state on December 29, 1845.[5]

Other Languages
日本語: 米墨戦争
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Amerika-meksika urushi
Simple English: Mexican–American War
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Američko-meksički rat
中文: 美墨戰爭