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Desparate Stand the Battle of Buena Vista

Desparate Stand the Battle of Buena Vista

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Published by Bob Andrepont

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Feb 11, 2011
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12/09/2014

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The U.S. Army CAmpAignS of t mexiCAn WAr 
DeSperATe STAnD
Th BATTLe of BUenA ViSTA
 
Introduction
The Mexican War (1846–1848) was the U.S. Army’s rst experiencewaging an extended conict in a foreign land. This brief war is oftenoverlooked by casual students of history since it occurred so close to theAmerican Civil War and is overshadowed by the latter’s sheer size andscope. Yet, the Mexican War was instrumental in shaping the geographicalboundaries of the United States. At the conclusion of this conict, theU.S. had added some one million square miles of territory, including whattoday are the states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California, aswell as portions of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. This newlyacquired land also became a battleground between advocates for theexpansion of slavery and those who fought to prevent its spread. Thesesectional and political differences ripped the fabric of the union of statesand eventually contributed to the start of the American Civil War, just thir
-
teen years later. In addition, the Mexican War was a proving ground for ageneration of U.S. Army leaders who as junior ofcers in Mexico learnedthe trade of war and later applied those lessons to the Civil War.The Mexican War lasted some twenty-six months from its firstengagement through the withdrawal of American troops. Fighting tookplace over thousands of miles, from northern Mexico to Mexico City, andacross New Mexico and California. During the conict, the U.S. Armywon a series of decisive conventional battles, all of which highlightedthe value of U.S. Military Academy graduates who time and again pavedthe way for American victories. The Mexican War still has much to teachus about projecting force, conducting operations in hostile territory witha small force that is dwarfed by the local population, urban combat, thedifculties of occupation, and the courage and perseverance of individualsoldiers. The following essay is one of eight planned in this series toprovide an accessible and readable account of the U.S. Army’s role andachievements in the conict.This brochure was prepared in the U.S. Army Center of MilitaryHistory by Stephen A. Carney. I hope that this absorbing account, withits list of further readings, will stimulate further study and reection.A complete list of the Center of Military History’s available works isincluded on the Center’s online catalog: http://www.
history.
army.mil/catalog/
index.htm
l.JEFFREY J. CLARKEChief of Military History
 
Portions of the U.S. Army (nearly half of the Regular Army) underthe command of Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor achieved an unbroken seriesof battleeld victories during the rst nine months of the war withMexico. From 8 May to 23 September 1846, Taylor defeated Mexicanforces at Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Monterrey. These victoriesvindicated the oft-scorned U.S. Regular Army and demonstrated thecompetence of the graduates of the U.S. Military Academy. In themonths following these victories, Taylor became a popular hero, andnewspapers speculated that he would win the Whig Party nomination forpresident in 1848. This prominence infuriated President James K. Polk,a Democrat, who was angry with Taylor both for making his presidentialambition known publicly and for granting overly generous cease-reterms to the Mexican Army after the battle for Monterrey.Meanwhile, on the basis of promises from former Mexicanstrongman Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna that he would settle theTexas border issue and sell California to the United States, Polk hadallowed him to return from exile in Cuba through the U.S. navalblockade in July 1846 to resume power. Polk hoped this would hastenthe end of the war. Instead, Santa Anna seized control and hurriedlyassembled a large force with the intention of driving the AmericanArmy out of northern Mexico. His attack struck Taylor’s force at aplace the Americans called Buena Vista.
Strategic Setting 
In early October 1846, after the Americans’ capture of Monterreyin September, Santa Anna moved some 220 miles from Mexico Cityto San Luis Potosi, 250 miles south of Monterrey. Resisting demandsfrom threatened Mexican cities that he immediately confront theinvading forces, he instead concentrated most of his forces at this loca
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tion in the northern part of the country. From this core, he immediatelybegan rebuilding the
 Army of the North
into a massive force that mightbe capable of driving the Americans out of Mexico.The problems Santa Anna faced in accomplishing this task seemedinsurmountable, but his enthusiasm and personal charisma won
Desperate Stand
The Battle of Buena Vista

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