Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Dust and Smoke: The Mexican-American War (1846-1848)

April 25 marks the 170th anniversary of the start of the Mexican-American War, a conflict marked by ironic twists and turns that ended with the United States gaining nearly all of present-day California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. 

The war between Mexico and the United States began with a boundary dispute, evidenced at the very start by the fact that both sides claimed the blood-spilling began on their respective soil.  Nonetheless, the war was America’s first fought chiefly on foreign soil.

On the home front, both nations faced significant opposition.  The Mexican forces included recent deserters from the nation to the north, and several U.S. Congressmen spoke against the war.  Meanwhile, some Mexicans aided the American army that was marching through Mexico.   
U.S. forces easily racked up several victories against Mexico, which simultaneously was being attacked by Comanche bands in the same territory.   Mexico asked the exiled General Santa Anna to return to lead them to victory.  Santa Anna convinced American President James Polk to allow him to return in exchange for negotiating Mexico’s surrender terms favorable to the U.S.  

Santa Anna turned the tables, though, and immediately led the Mexican army in a charge against American soldiers in early 1847.  The war raged on for another year until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on February 2, 1848, ending the Mexican-American War in favor of the United States. Under the treaty, the U.S. gained an additional 525,000 square miles and recognition that the Rio Grande River was America’s southern boundary.

The acquisition of vast new lands for America intensified the growing internal conflict over slavery as Congress debated whether slavery should be expanded westward.  Twelve years later, the Civil War began.

Included on the display are:  The Eagle: The Autobiography of Santa Anna; The Rogue’s March: John Riley and the St. Patrick’s Battalion; and PBS Home Video: U.S.-Mexican War 1846-1848.  Feel free to check out any of the items on the display here at the Al Harris Library and step back in time. 

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