The Mexican American War


The main cause of the Mexican-American War was the Western Expansion of the US. Mexico and US were two very different countries with very different viewpoints. While the US was a flourishing democracy, Mexico was an empire that was struggling to survive. The war for their independence from Spain caused economic burdens, and they struggled to implement a stable government because of political turmoil caused by their warring political parties. Because of its economic and political struggles, Mexico struggled to protect its borders. Its borders were scarcely populated and more democratic than the rest of the country, causing them to be detached from the rest of the country. This detachment created conflicts between the borderlands and the central government, which was run by an emperor. Mexico was losing its grip on its borderlands and was afraid that US would eventually annex this land.
The main event that caused the Mexican-American War was the United States’ acquisition of Texas. Originally, Mexico wanted settlers to populate the northern part of the country, and called for Americans to pledge allegiance to Mexico and convert to Catholicism, the state religion. However, the thousands of American settlers that had moved to Texas were unhappy with how the government was running the province and wanted their independence. After the Texan War of Independence, Texas seceded from Mexico and became its own country. Following its independence, Texas and Mexico had many more border disputes. The US was sympathetic towards Texas, and created many negative stereotypes of Mexico and its government. Eventually, in 1845, Texas joined the United States. This upset Mexico, which did not like the idea of Texas joining the United States. There were more disputes over the borders, but now the border disputes were between the whole United States and Mexico. Tension mounted until both countries had troops on disputed territories. The first battle ensued on April 25, 1846.
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During the War: Battles and Events

1) The Battle of Palo Alto- The Battle of Palo Alto occurred on May 8, 1846 and was the first major conflict of the Mexican-American War. U.S. General Zach Taylor had stationed 3,000 troops at Fort Texas while Mexican General Mariano Arista brought 4,000 troops to Matamoros. Arista and his troops seiged Fort Texas forcing Taylor to leave. Taylor journeyed to come back with 2,200 troops and Arista intercepted him at Palo Alto on May 8. The U.S. had better artillery and forced the Mexican army to take a defensive position. Arista lost twice as many man as Taylor did.

2) The Capture of Monterrey- Took place on September 25, 1846. General Taylor moved 6,640 troops north while General Pedro Ampudia had 5,000 troops. Taylor planned an attack from the east and west and his army was ordered to fall back after leading the battle. They bombarded the Mexicans the next morning and took over the city. Mexican army and American army both lost and wounded 450 men.

Battle of Monterrey
Battle of Monterrey

3) The Battle of Bueno Vista- On February 23, 1847 the most dramatic fight of the war occurred. Taylor and General Winfield Scott joined with veterans to go on an expedition. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and his army of 20,000 men tried to intercept Taylor. Taylor heard of Santa Anna's intentions and unwisely ordered his men to counter the Mexicans. Santa Anna was surprised and the Americans ended up wounding and killing 3,400 Mexican men while the Americans only lost 650 men. However, the Mexicans retreated and declared victory.

4) The Capture of Vera Cruz- Vera Cruz is an important Mexican port that fell to the Americans on March 28, 1847. General Scott had 10,000 men and blocked 4,000 Mexican troops. General Juan Morales cowardly handed his army over to General Juan Landero who was forced to surrender on March 28. Vera Cruz served as a vital base for Americans for the rest of the war.
A painting of the Battle of Veracruz by Carl Nebel
A painting of the Battle of Veracruz by Carl Nebel

5) The Battle of Cerro Gordo- The armies of General Scott and General Antonio Lopez collided with each other resulting in the American’s capture of Mexico City. The U.S. army had 10,000 men while the Mexican army had 12,000. Santa Anna fled after U.S. attacked and killed 1,000 men and captured 3,000.

6) Battle of Contreras- On August 20, 1847, Generals Gilden Pillow and David Twiggs of the U.S. ordered an attack against the Hacienda at San Antonio. General Santa Anna possessed and army of 36,000 men, which did not prevent the two American Generals from revealing their intentions to destroy Valencia.

7) Battle of Churubusco- fought on August 20th 1847. General Winfield Scot led America and General Antonio Lobez de Santa Anna led Mexico. Santa Anna ordered a retreat leaving General Pedro Anaya to occupy the village of Churubusco and cover his tracks. Shortly after, Anaya slipped away as well. The two battles killed and wounded 10000 Mexican troops and 1000 Americans

8) Entrance into the city of Mexico- America invaded the city of Mexico on September 13th and 14th with General Winfield Scott leading the American troops. He stated all private property and households would be respect as they were.

After the War

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The peace treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo ended the war on February 2nd 1848. Nicholas Trist represented America and negotiated with Don Bernardo Couto, Don Miguel Atristain and Don Luis Gonzaga Cuevas of Mexico. However, Mexico was very much treated to as a conquered enemy. The final terms made America larger geographically allowing the US to encompass the whole continent from sea to sea. Mexico lost 55 percent of its previous land and the US took over $3.25 million in debts.

The Mexican Cession
The Mexican Cession

The Mexican American War’s Effect on the American Civil War

After the Mexican American war, the land that is now part of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Wyoming was partially given and partially purchased (for $15 million) by the United States. The immediate question posed from this purchase was: would this new land taken from Mexico be a slave or a free territory? In the California Gold Rush, thousands of people rushed to California, and in 1850 the territory petitioned congress to be admitted as a free state. This led to another crisis, and so there was the Compromise of 1850. The compromise, like the others before it, merely delayed the inevitable conflict between the North and the South. This compromise allowed California to enter as a free state but kept the rest of the territories taken from Mexico in limbo, with their status to be decided in the future when they applied for statehood.

With the introduction of the states conquered from Mexico as well as other new states, the delicate balance between the slave states and free states was threatened. The two sides were afraid of losing political power to the other and the threat of secession grew because of the increasing difficulty in deciding whether the new states would be slave or free states. The Mexica American War also served as a training ground for officers such as Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee who would also have a role in the impending Civil War.

Works Cited