The Mexican-American War

Mexico was part of the Spanish colonies in America since the 16th century. It was only with the independence of the US and the French Revolution that the population in Mexico also sought independence from Spain. When Napoleon occupied Spain during his reign, the Mexican liberals seized the opportunity and began their uprising. Supported by Indians and the descendants of white immigrants and locals, the war lasted 10 years until the Spanish colonial authorities were defeated, in Spain even the Liberals were in power and Mexico declared itself an independent republic in 1820.

But due to the different orientations of the church, the population and economic problems, the country was barely governable. From 1822 therefore an empire was proclaimed, 1823 again the republic which were governed however also only by strong personalities from the military.

The territory of the former Mexican Republic not only extended to the area known today, but also the west coast of North America was part of the Mexican state. When, from the 1820s, more and more settlers from the eastern United States settled in the West, tensions developed there between the settlers and the Mexicans, which ended later in a war.





1821 settled only 300 settlers from the eastern United States in the vast Texas. Around 1830, there were already over 30,000 settlers who tried their luck as farmers in the area. In contrast, there were only about 10,000 Mexicans who felt threatened by the new settlers. Thus, the Mexican government sent troops to Texas to occupy the cities, to control the border with the US and to collect high tariffs on imports and exports to and from the United States. In 1832, the Mexican troops were withdrawn, but the leader of the US Texas immigrant Stephen Austin requested in 1833 in the Mexican capital, the government to make Texas an autonomous province. The government rejected the request and imprisoned Austin for 18 months.




The way to war:

The response to the call for autonomy was the re-deployment of Mexican troops to Texas. The re-occupation of American settlers began to arm themselves. In September 1835, when the Mexican army in the city of Gonzales tried to disarm settlers, the situation escalated and the settlers pushed back the Mexican troops from Texas.

The ruling from 1833 Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna then mobilized his troops and passed in February 1836 the Rio Grande with the aim of the city of San Antonio to take. Along the way, he encountered Texan settlers, who entrenched themselves with a total of 183 men in the old Alamo mission station. The siege began on February 23. During the siege and tying of the Mexican troops, a gathering of settlers prepared the Declaration of Independence on March 2nd. On 6 March, the men were overwhelmed by Alamo, Santa Anna did not let any of the surviving men alive.


Antonio López de Santa Anna

Antonio López de Santa Anna


Alamo Mission in San Antonio

Alamo Mission in San Antonio


Also on March 27, when the Mexican army won in Goliad, they killed around 300 male settlers who had surrendered. Meanwhile, Sam Houston mobilized a small army of settlers to confront the Mexican army. First, however, he let his troops begin a strategic retreat before he went on the offensive in April 1836. So he managed on April 21 at San Jacinto to surprise the Mexicans and beat them within 18 minutes. Over 600 Mexican soldiers fell in battle, and the next day, when the settlers carried out a purge in the area, General Santa Anna fell into their hands. Santa Anna was forced to sign the treaties of Velasco in May, but the Mexican government no longer saw Santa Anna in office as President and did not accept the peace treaties.




Texas Independence:

Former Army commander Sam Houston was named new president of Texas after Velasco's failed treaties. He sought to take his country to the United States. His request was denied at the beginning, however, by the member states, in which one spoke out against the slavery, which was still allowed in Texas, however. Thus, Texas remained an independent state for 9 years, but suffered from a weak economy and the associated poverty of the population. In addition, the deployed Rangers, the plundering Mexican troops should keep away a high sum.

Only with the election of James Polk to the President of the United States was Texas, next to California, 1845 taken to the United States. The new president sent a delegation to the Mexican capital to finally negotiate the final issues over the borders and the purchase of the New Mexico and California. But the Mexican government did not respond to the offer and also snubbed the delegation. Polk was now forced to move troops to the mouth of the Rio Grande. The Mexican attack then took place in April 1846 and the war between Mexico and the United States began.


James K. Polk, der 11. Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten

James K. Polk, the 11th President of the United States




The war with the USA:

If the conflict in Mexico was limited only to and against Texas at first, the accession of Texas to the United States now led to a war with this much larger adversary.

In April 1846, after the US President moved his troops to the Mexican border, the offensive began in a southern direction on Mexican territory. In the west, a 1,600 -strong force under the leadership of General Stephen Kearny moved to Santa Fe in New Mexico. After taking the city he marched to California, but found the area already occupied by supporters of the explorer and surveyor John Fremont. Meanwhile, the soldiers who remained in Santa Fe under the leadership of Alexander Doniphan moved further south, taking in El Paso and then the city of Chihuahua.

In Texas itself, under the command of Commander Zachary Taylor, the US forces succeeded in defeating the Mexicans at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma and taking Matamoros. In September 1846, the troops of Taylor and Doniphan united and conquered after five days of siege the city of Monterrey.


Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor


Die Schlacht von Monterrey. Vermutlich ist die Erstürmung des Obispado dargestellt. Lithografie von Tompkins Harrison Matteson, vor 1855

The Battle of Monterrey. Presumably, the storming of the Obispado is depicted. Lithograph by Tompkins Harrison Matteson, before 1855


Former General Santa Anna, exiled to Cuba since 1844, saw his time come and returned to Mexico in late 1846 to regain power over the country. He immediately began to set up a new army and march with it in February 1847 against the troops of Taylor.

Alarmed by the new Mexican army, US President Polk under the leadership of General Winfield Scott had an amphibious landing with around 12,000 men planned. This was carried out in March 1847 in the port city of Veracruz on the Caribbean coast. For 3 days, the city was shelled by sea before it was stormed and capitulated. The US troops moved immediately further inland to the capital Mexico City.


Winfield Scott

Winfield Scott


Die Landung bei Veracruz. Gemälde von Nathaniel Currier, 1840er

The landing at Veracruz. Painting by Nathaniel Currier, 1840s


After Santa suffered 3 more defeats and realized the hopelessness of the war, he asked in August 1847 for a truce. After two weeks of negotiations were discontinued without result, the fighting resumed and conquered in September, the Mexican capital.


Der Fall von Mexiko-Stadt. Gemälde von Carl Nebel, 1851

The fall of Mexico City. Painting by Carl Nebel, 1851


The subsequent peace negotiations ended in February 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.


Karte des Kriegsgebiets

Map of the war zone



Consequences of war:

In the closed peace treaty, Mexico had to recognize the sovereignty of Texas and also join the United States. The government also had to approve the sale of the areas of New Mexico, Arizona, half of Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California for a sum of $ 15 million. The border issue was also clarified by defining the new border between the two states from the Rio Grande on west to the coast. Thus, the territory of the United States for the first time from coast to coast.

In 1853, additional $ 10 million was sold to the United States from New Mexico and Arizona.


Die von Mexiko abgetretenen Gebiete Alta California, Nuevo Mexico, die umstrittenen Gebiete und der unabhängig gewordene Staat Texas

The areas ceded by Mexico Alta California, Nuevo Mexico, the disputed areas and the independent state of Texas


As a result of these territorial sales, Mexican territory shrank by around 50%. At that time, however, hardly any mineral was known in the areas sold, and the economy expanded only slightly.






You can find the right literature here:


The Dead March: A History of the Mexican-American War

The Dead March: A History of the Mexican-American War Hardcover – August 28, 2017

By focusing on the experiences of ordinary Mexicans and Americans, The Dead March offers a clearer historical picture than we have ever had of the brief, bloody war that redrew the map of North America.

Peter Guardino invites skepticism about the received view that the United States emerged victorious in the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) because its democratic system was more stable and its citizens more loyal. In fact, heading into the war, American forces dramatically underestimated the strength of Mexicans’ patriotism and failed to see how bitterly Mexicans resented America’s claims to national and racial superiority. Having regarded the United States as a sister republic, Mexicans were shocked by the scope of America’s expansionist ambitions, and their fierce resistance surprised U.S. political and military leaders, who had expected a quick victory with few casualties. As the fighting intensified over the course of two years, it claimed the lives of thousands of Americans and at least twice as many Mexicans, including many civilians.

As stark as they were, the misconceptions that the Mexican-American War laid bare on both sides did not determine the final victor. What differentiated the two countries in battle was not some notion of American unity and loyalty to democracy but the United States’ huge advantages in economic power and wealth―advantages its poorer Latin American neighbor could not hope to overcome.

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A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico

A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico Paperback – August 13, 2013

Often forgotten and overlooked, the U.S.-Mexican War featured false starts, atrocities, and daring back-channel negotiations as it divided the nation, paved the way for the Civil War a generation later, and launched the career of Abraham Lincoln. Amy S. Greenberg’s skilled storytelling and rigorous scholarship bring this American war for empire to life with memorable characters, plotlines, and legacies.

This definitive history of the 1846 conflict paints an intimate portrait of the major players and their world. It is a story of Indian fights, Manifest Destiny, secret military maneuvers, gunshot wounds, and political spin. Along the way it captures a young Lincoln mismatching his clothes, the lasting influence of the Founding Fathers, the birth of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and America’s first national antiwar movement. A key chapter in the creation of the United States, it is the story of a burgeoning nation and an unforgettable conflict that has shaped American history.

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The Mexican-American War

The Mexican-American War (Living Through. . .) Paperback – February 1, 2012

Why was the Mexican American War so important in the formation of the modern United States? Could Texas have survived as an independent nation or part of Mexico? This book seeks to relate the overall events and chronology of the war and shows its impact on everyday lives.

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The Mexican-American War, 1846-1848

The Mexican-American War, 1846-1848 (Men-At-Arms Series, 56) Paperback – May 25, 1989

'There never was so fine an American army,' wrote second-lieutenant, John Sedgwick, in describing the troops under Major-General Zachary Taylor in 1846. Another then second-lieutenant, destined to see many more armies; U.S. Grant, also thought highly of them: 'The rank and file were probably inferior … to the volunteers that participated in all the later battles of the war; but they were brave men, and then drill and discipline brought out all there was in them.' Philip Katcher writes the story of the regulars and volunteers who fought in the Mexican-American War, detailing the infantry, cavalry, artillery and staff of both the American and Mexican armies.

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