tv Lectures in History Mexican- American War CSPAN May 15, 2022 11:00am-12:16pm EDT
we're going to cover the mexican-american war today. this is where a lot of americans. i think they know very little about it. it's considered one of the more embarrassing wars in american history and there's reason sometimes americans don't like to talk about it my own mother even though i've lectured on the mexican-american war for years and written a couple books about it still thinks i study the
spanish-american war sometimes and but we cleared up that confusion actually a few years back. so what i get to do is not take us through battle by battle in the war but look mainly at the the causes of the war and then a little bit about the war itself and then the consequences, but i kind of want to cover a big summary right up front and say then so this war was in the 1840s and it was consequential for for both countries and the causeway and disputed territory and down in in texas. and that's where american and mexican troops. question april of 1846 and two years later the mexican session the session that was part of the treaty ending the war gave to the united states off the california or the modern state of california and new mexico, but new mexico was much larger than the the modern state of new mexico. so it included, nevada in new mexico and utah and most of arizona and parts of wyoming and
parts of colorado. so that's about a that's about a third of mexico this area. so we'll look at that. well look something that area first. but to do a little bit of background, let's talk about andrew jackson. that's a presidential presidential portrait of andrew jackson an illustration talk a little bit about jack sodium democracy. so we haven't talked about jacksonian democracy much yet. we're kind of coming out of the year of good feelings, and we talked about the market revolution, but jackson when he was elected president, he had won the popular vote in 1824, but lost the presid. a and the electoral college and in the house of representatives and so he ran for office in a sense for four years in the name of democracy and popular democracy. jackson was the first populist president in american history, and he imagined himself as a jeffersonian in favor of the yeoman farmers and in favor of liberty, but he's quite a bit
different than jefferson in jefferson thought he was a little wacky i think so jackson thought that it wasn't the house of representatives. there was the most democratic branch of the american government. it was actually the executive branch even though the exactly of is one person and his his argument was that the president's the only person in the us government elected by all the people congressman are elected by districts. the supreme court is appointed the senators were appointed by state legislatures in those days. so was his his principle of governing the majority is to govern so majority rule in other words numbers matter a lot to jackson. so if the majority wants something. they're going to get it. so in the name of democracy for instance if you've got a if you've got a lot of americans hungry for land. and want to be yeoman farmers or maybe want to be planters in the south then it's going to be jackson who in the name of the majority is going to sign indian
removal treaties and forcibly remove indians from the southeast because there's a lot of there's a lot of land there for those yeoman farmers if americans think the bank of the united states is an elitist institution and not good for democracy. then he's going to destroy the bank of the united states, even if it hasn't expired yet under the law. if he thinks the majority don't like the us government funding internal improvements like roads and bridges. he's going to veto those bills. so these are the kinds of things he's going to do in the name of of the majority and i want to say that i think i think promoting within his party this kind of view is going to help lead to the mexican-american war. i think it's the fruit of this kind of majoritarian democracy. so one of his early critics was winfield scott who ends up being probably the most important general and at least the best military mind and the early to mid-19th century in the united states winfield.
scott later is the one who came up with the anaconda plan for for the civil war for the union side. winfield scott also is going to come up with the the amphibious landing and invasion of central mexico during this war. he also though happened to be a member of the opposition political party the whig party and some more on that later, but scott thought early on as he calls it here demagogues broke the constitution early in the times of jackson is jacksonian democracy for scott was was an ideology okay, this this belief that somehow numbers know best. that minority interests don't matter. that means 51% barely the 51 can run over the 49 in other words. so jackson's first principle then was was about exactly the power claiming that for democracy when he had when he had opponents when they finally coalassed into another party to
oppose his democratic party, they called themselves the whig party. do you remember edmund burke the wig burke's party? how do we describe the whig party of burke? they're the constitutional monarchy party anti-monarchy, so they're they're act by taking the name of whig party. jackson's opponents said he's more like king andrew than a democrat. he might say he's doing it in the name of the people, but the way he rules the way he rules is more like a king so when the supreme court said, it was unconstitutional for georgia to extend its laws over cherokee. territory. jackson said i don't care the supreme court has no way to enforce that. and georgia just went ahead and then jackson went ahead with with indian removal. jackson it was under jackson that in 1827 the democratic republican party, the only party left really after the war of 1812 renamed itself the democratic party. and they're there the
agricultural party. they're the party of the yeoman farmer. we talked about some of this stuff last time with the with the market revolution. so these are the people more nervous about those market revolution changes and they're in the democratic party. jackson's it's it's figurehead at least his protege. was a man from tennessee named james k polk. who was the point man in the house of representatives when it came to the war against the bank for instance in the 1830s? his opponent was henry clay do we remember henry clay from the compromise? i known as the great compromiser clays a planter a slave owning planter like jackson, but clay thought a better idea was a diversified economy. he's like the the new alexander hamilton. other he's going to live to a ripe old age unlike hamilton, but so it's it's clay versus jackson clay as i mentioned the last time we met ran for a president several times and lost every time and he say things like i'd rather i'd rather have
integrity and remain remain honest than then become president and this you know, he lost i don't know what that says. but anyhow, that that was the case with clay. so clay's leading the the opposition clay's leading the opposition it. let's take a look then at territorial growth and try to try to connect it to democracy and get into some of the background of the mexican-american war. in 1819 the united states and and new spain at the time had drawn borders between american and spanish lands in spain had undisputed possession of california of new mexico. new mexico again including those modern us states have of nevada and utah and arizona parts of wyoming and colorado and then there was a revolution in mexico in 1821. so now mexico was a declared
itself an independent republic and was governing itself. and the meanwhile in the west farther north the united states and england were both laying claim to the oregon territory. so if you want to imagine the modern states of idaho and washington and oregon, but also british columbia up to up to the end of the southern panhandle of alaska. that's that's the oregon territory and they were sharing it which is fairly rare. that is a jointly occupied the orient territory. and if either one of them was good at no longer want to jointly occupy and draw borderline somewhere. they had to give the other one a year's notice. the mexicans living in new mexico and in california depended on american trade for manufactured goods and the government's depended on that trade for for revenue. the mexican officials there. there was very loose control if any between those places and and mexico city where the government is.
so what's what's spain had believed and then and then later mexico believed that in order to control what they called the northern frontier. what becomes the the us southwest that that's so far from the capital at mexico. they needed to settle what they called quote unquote civilized hispanic people there and what that basically meant was that white spaniards white mexicans or indians who had embraced catholicism and and agriculture and so they invited immigration by anybody of european ancestry including americans and all you had to do if you were in american was to was to immigrate declare yourself catholic and you could come away with a couple hundred acres of land and eventually more. it's pretty good deal for some people who don't who don't have land or who are looking for a new star there was let's get to a picture of him there was in in the northern mexican frontier in
texas lorenza. desavla. who was this avila was was a physician. he was a tejano physician. so a mexican tejano in the northern frontier. the mexicans living in those places had had particular identities that were attached to be in mexican, but we're all so also very different. okay. so the regional identity is really matter here in california. we have the california's and in new mexico the nuevo mexicatos and then in texas, it's a tejan and the savile was a was a tejano physician and by the early 1830s. he's so concerned about american immigration into the northern mexican frontier that this is what he wrote a quote. he said in english men will become a mexican in mexico city and a mexican will an englishman in london. the same will not occur in the case of the colonies. he means the northern frontier.
those places will necessarily. make up an entirely diverse nation and it would be absurd to expect them to renounce their religion their customs and there's most deeply held convictions. what are the results be? he asked they will not be subject. they will not be able to subject themselves to the military regime and the ecclesiastical government that unfortunately have persisted in mexican territory. despite the revolutions despite the new constitutions. they'll invoke the institutions. it should be governing the country and they'll want them to be not a lie not an illusion but a reality and whenever a military chief tries to intervene in civil transactions, they will resist and they will triumph. so influenced by the united states alone might alter the character of mexican government for the better zavala thought but when combined with the constant flow of american migrants into mexico when he called, this is his words now quote what he called the
american habits of liberty thrift work. there are steer religion and customs their individual independence their republicanism. all those would bring the triumph of liberty to mexico. and so by 1836 they were only 30,000 hispanics living in new mexico. about 3,000 in california and about 4,000 in texas and the governor in new mexico governor manuel armijo of new mexico complained to the mexican government. he would say look our citizens are beset. what by what he called quote unquote barbaric tribes, and we're left with no protection. the nuevo mejicanos are poor he would say and only survive thanks to trade with the americans. so the americans start looking at these sparsely populated lands and see the potential for agriculture and mining and that's going to figure into the manifest destiny sentiment that these lands out of just become us territory that the americans
would use the land better than the mexicans were using it and not only that they were ordained by divine providence to do so so i talked about texas for a moment and these these terms here. so the tejano syntaxis are the mexicans living in, texas. the texians are the white americans who have migrated there bringing with them their black sleighs then the texans later. that's the us state of texas. so when we have the independent republic we talk about texians. when we have the state that becomes part of the united states we talk about texans. so our license plate the other day in town, that's a texian. i assume that's kind of an old republican texan living in town here. by 1823 they were there were 3,000 americans in texas and the next year the the new mexican government started encouraging american colonization. they thought that was the best
way bring in manufactured goods. there's virtually very little governmental or trade connection with mexico city. they gave out generous land grants to men called impresarios. in 1826 one of those impresario's letter revolt against mexican rule. and the tejanos and stephen austin an empresario. led the fight against the rebel and put down put down the revolt, but what happened was american allegiance of those texians started to weighing over the 1820s and in the 1830s, especially after mexico closed the border to immigration. and also outlawed slavery and forbade the further introduction of slaves. but by 1834 the number of americans living in texas had doubled anyway, and by 1835 there was about a thousand americans crossing the border into mexico per month into texas so that by 1836 there's 30,000 white americans in texas.
5,000 black slaves and about 4,000 tejanos. meanwhile the president in mexico city, santa ana. was consolidating power and touched off a number of rebellions in about six or seven mexican states and texas is one of those rebellions. but in the united states, we usually know that as the texas revolution. this time austin joined the side of the rebels. and zavala, who was as i said a liberal and he's opposed to the dictatorship of santa ana cited with the americans and even helped texas the texas republic right its first constitution and served as its first interim as its interim vice president, but santa ana was pretty successful at first. defeating the americans at the at the alamo. and then the americans and taxes decided to declare their independence. they elect a rebel leader, sam houston as their president and as houston's army that defeated santa in and by defeating him on
the battlefield they forged santa ana to sign a treaty recognizing the independence of the new republic of texas. so this is 1836. don't confuse it with the mexican-american war 10 years. later. that's the texas revolution. so taxes that republic of texas was not recognized by mexico mexico did not ratify the treaty that santa ana signed under duress. after having been defeated, so this is a republic of taxes. and at first they don't have any desire to enter the union. they're just another republic it's almost like jefferson's dream of that north american continent of six or seven republics all governing themselves, but not all under one one government. so that's 1836 then. back a little bit to to the territorial growth. so here's the here's where the the push for territorial growth is coming from in the united states. politically. it's coming from the
jeffersonian side. first the republicans really the democratic republicans who then rename themselves a democratic party in 1827, and they're the agricultural party and their sense. they do not have a sense like the whigs do that wealth can be created through innovation and a division of labor. you got to pull it out of the ground or you have to grow it. that made that always inevitably means in an agrarian empire that's always going to mean more land. whether it's in the in the southeast from the indians or in the what becomes the southwest from from mexico, so first it come to louisiana purchase opposed by the federalist party. then it comes the push for texas annexation, which we're going to talk about in a minute the new wig party, which is the inheritor of the federalist you're going to oppose that and then the whig part is going to oppose the war itself and then they're going to oppose for the most part the giant session of territory. so the whigs on the hamiltonian side of things and had a dream more of a nation state which
would consolidate itself by being smaller and building infrastructure. so everyone could develop a common identity and not spreading from not spreading sea to shining sea. so that's the difference so politically the expansion essay for the most part in the democratic party in the anti-expansionists are in the whig party by the 1840s. but there's there's more to life than politics. thank god and and here's the nonpartisan factors evangelization is is one so we talked about anti-catholicism and the reformers a little bit already and the evangelicals and they're wanting to spread the gospel as they see it to asia. most of the evangelical protestants also think that the catholics of mexico are not christian and they need the real bible and they need the real gospel and they want to bring that to mexico, but they can't because it's a closed it's a closed country to their missionaries, so they have a little bit of interest in expanding territory because to them it means also expanding the
the gospel then there's a commercial reasons. if someone in the northeast wanted any kind of new territory at all, it would be the west coast if you think of the maritime and commercial interests and having access to the pacific. and you think about the reasons a europeans had left europe in the first place in the 1400s looking for roots to trade in in china and in east asia, so the maritime trade commerce and finally this this sense of mission this mission that it transformed from from just an errand into the wilderness of self-government to to spreading self-government and maybe that's the mission and this this all ties together under this sense that there was that americans had of themselves that there was something exceptional about them that old city on a hill idea that we talked about with john winthrop. that that new england colony was going to be a city on a hill and it and an example to the to the world and the world would clean up attack and have a
self-government and a christian commonwealth etc that's transformed by this time into this sense that the mission of the united states is just a spread republican government representative government. most people nowadays would use democracy and republicanism as synonyms, but they they would have used the word republicanism still quite quite a bit. and so what what was it about the americans it was so exceptional. the the people promoting this rhetoric in the 18 beginning in the early 1840s, especially as americans started considering texas annexation talked about anglo-saxons. so they didn't they didn't talk about the term white usually although john c calhoun did but they're talking more about anglo-saxon. what's an anglo-saxon anglo-saxons? they said were superior by virtue of a few things. they were superior because they were protestant. and that was a religion of free peoples. they said there was superior
politically because of the republican government the representative government. so in most cases, they're not giving those later 19th century arguments for racism that are arguing biological supremacy somehow. so they're white anglo-saxon protestants. and republican government was safest with them. they had created it. they could promote it. and many of them believe that republican government could even be found in the in the pages of the bible. and so the more catholics immigrated to the united states. the more they tried to draw the distinction between catholics who they said were incapable of democratic government because they served the pope in rome before they served their own country. trying to draw a distinction between those catholics and the protestant americans and republican government was safest in the hands of of protestants. so they're opposing the westward movement of catholics for instance in catholic immigration.
so this is a the high the high point of anti-catholicism in the united states that resulted in 1836 in the burning of the charlestown convent outside of boston convent in school and then in 1844 a series of deadly riots in philadelphia. where the fillet the pennsylvania militia even had to be called out in canon were used to quell the the rioting and the burning the catholic churches and burning the irish catholic neighborhoods there in philadelphia two sets of rights. that's 1844. that's an election year. it's also the year that texas annexation is being considered finally by the united states, texas had been independent for about 10 years and they're not sure they want to be part of the united states, but there's some americans who would like it to be so and some some texians. so that's that's the election year in 1844 in considering texas annexation because the whigs generally seem to oppose it. a democratic journalist wrote an article and coined the term
manifest destiny as manifest. destiny is a slogan that incorporates all of that religious rhetoric and political rhetoric and mission rhetoric about about expansion it all becomes wrapped up and manifest destiny, so it's got that anglo-saxonist and anti-catholic rhetoric embedded deep within it. it's not just about territory. in other words. it's about who's going to occupy the territory. so this is how he appointed. he said our manifest destiny to overspread and possess the whole of the continent which providence has given us. for the development of the great experiment of liberty. and federated self-government entrusted to us and he goes on to talk about our multiplying millions and all the people that providence is that this is a synonym for god. so this is how they're talking about. god providences god's unfolding plan manifest means that destiny. of the united states has been made manifest. it's obvious. it would be difficult to miss it is what they're arguing and what
the wigs are doing then by opposing, texas annexation is standing in the way of the obvious god-given destiny of the united states to to expand westward. that's that's what this article is about. so this this is in written in 1845 right after the the election? but manifest destiny becomes just a handy slogan then to refer not just to westward expansion not just to expansion of territory connected to the united states. but connected to it is this sense that somehow to quote some of the people of the day the the americans are the the chosen people and they're going to drive the canaanites off the continent, right? they're the new chosen people chosen by providence to occupy this territory and they have all the right stuff. that's that's needed. the self-government the republican government the right religion. they're the ones to do this in the other people's are going to shrink shrink before this. so that's that's manifest destiny.
this is what the united states looked like in 1844 the year of this very consequential election taxes claimed boundaries all the way up all the way up into into wyoming. as far as mexico is concerned if they're if there wasn't independent republic of texas and they hadn't recognized it. it was just this area here. but when taxes was seeking to enter the union, these are the borders it claim. so this is a huge disputed. disputed area in texas the question all these questions of territorial expansion came to a head in the presidential election. so texas wants to enter the union should the united states annex it there's a lot of issues it might cause war with mexico mexico had promised that it would. mexico still claimed it as a state then there was a slavery
question. it was very large. well, maybe you divided up but then suddenly you have 12 pro slavery senators instead of two. and in the meantime in the meantime great britain secretly approached santa ana and promised that if mexico annexed. recognize texas independence, then britain would ensure that mexico could hang on to california and new mexico. so the british who are the biggest empire in the world at the time and getting larger? in the real enemy of the united states in the 19th century as far as most americans were concerned. they're in the mix here too. which brings us to the organ territory. should the us press its rights to the oregon territory. should they give notice and then figure out a treaty? the democratic supporters that year coined the phrase that as far as we know is never uttered by james k polk himself. aka young hickory, and that was 54 40 or fight.
that means 54 degrees and 40 minutes latitude 54-40. your fight. the implication is the americans want all of the oregon territory. how do you like that for hagley? i'm having a yard sale and another month. i'm looking forward to the haggling. it's the best part. and also selling things that i got for free, that's the other good part guard sales, right? so 54 or 40 your fight is at a bargaining tool. is it haggling or does poke really want the whole thing? pope doesn't really say the election instead really becomes a referendum on the annexation of texas. should the united states annex taxes or not? if you think it should you vote for polk polk talks about the re-annexation of texas. he believed or at least purported to believe the taxes had been part of the louisiana purchase.
that was an old argument. the americans had the only difficulty was it is was that stephen austin's own maps had showed that it wasn't. but other than these little little problematic things like the fact that it had not there's this sense that maybe some of it was all of it was part of the louisiana purchase. so that's what it means by re-annexation. john quincy adams who? the democrats hated because he had been elected president instead of jackson back in 1824. he's the one who had drawn up that treaty. in 1819 between mexico and the united states so they blamed him for for giving it in other words. so if you want to annex, texas you vote for poke from tennessee known as young hickory. this is a pork. maybe i might be wrong about this, but i think he may be the only president we've ever had with a mullet.
if you oppose, texas annexation or ambivalent or are ambivalent about it, you would vote for henry clay that year, so, it's clay versus polk clay never really comes out against texas annexation, but he never comes out in favor of it either. pulk 1 by less than one percent just about 38,000 votes and it was new york state that tipped the balance for for poke. he takes that as a referendum on texas annexation. but it's a very close election. in fact had anti-slavery purists not left the whig party clay probably would have won because new york would have swung to poke. maybe there's a lesson there for third-party movements. i don't know but that's maybe that's for another day to talk about the so the whig party kind of splitting a little bit over the issue of slavery hands of democrats the election three days before polk took office in 1845, texas entered the union via tree.
so while from some standpoints taxes is part of the mexican session from other standpoints. it's not it enters the union a few days before pope takes takes office, but the war certainly going to confirm texas annexation and it enters a union claiming those very extensive borders. so as far as polka's concerned, you've got to put troops all the way down to the border, which is the the rio grande not the the nueces river farther north so polk's going to press that press that clay. the president of mexico at the time was a man named jose herrera and herrera made an attempt for a peaceful solution and even considered the british offer once he heard of it once he learned of it, but it's santa ana and other opposition parties who portrayed him for doing so portrayed him as weak and portrayed him as unpatriotic willing to sell a part of the the country willing to get rid of taxes willing maybe to sell california to the americans which americans had been trying to purchase since the 1820s in the time of jackson so they
pushed for war with the united states over texas annexation even it's horror invited to diplomat from the new polk administration to talk about mexican-american relations in texas and in california. so one mexican president invites then a diplomat to come and meet. so polk took office in 1845 in march of 1845. is he really going to ask for all of oregon the english aren't sure his own supporters aren't sure in april of 1846 polk terminated the joint occupation of oregon. and that meant the british were either going to have to go to war. for their territorial claims because polk claimed oregon all the way to 5440. or they were going to have to negotiate they're angry. they don't like polk they call
the americans overbearing and aggressive. ruled by the whim of the mob so that's a strike at that democratic sentiment we talked about. but they end up settling and they settle at 49. polk signs signs it right at the 49th parallel, which is the current border between canada and the united states. so he takes half in other words. but what about the southern border? so that's april of 1846. the polk administration had sent a man named john slidell to talk to herrera as i mentioned a late 1845, but there was political instability and volatility in mexico and that prevented any meeting from occurring. there was a coup against herrera. there was a monarchical plot as well. mexico went through 14 presidents between its independence and 1846. and then we're elected. so american saw that political instability as a liability across the the border. so in january 1846 what polk
decided to do was what polk decided to do was was send american troops into the disputed territory. that's january of 1846. there's mexican troops there now. there's american troops there and it's really then only a matter of time till they run into each other. so he's positioned american troops there a new mexican president had come in. paredes who refused to meet with slidell so polk just recalled him and that's the end of the effort at at diplomacy. but you got to understand what the diplomacy is slidell is there to buy california outright and then negotiate a border polk's real goal. you should remember through the whole war is really just to purchase, california. new mexico is going to come in the bargain between texas and california, but he really wants, california. almost immediately as as oregon negotiations calm down hostilities broke out april
25th. 1846. there's a there's a clash a small skirmish really in the disputed territory. there between the rio grande and and the real nueces. let's get to the map here. so and this this territory here. when polk learned of it about a week and a half later a week week and a half later. he gives a war message to congress that says quote mexico has passed the boundary of the united states has invaded our territory and shed american blood on american soil. so that's that's the the poll quotation from polk's war message american blood on american soil. she is proclaimed hostilities of commits a two nations are at war. so what what polka is saying is it's he's going to congress because of the constitution and asking them to declare war on mexico. and he's saying there's already
a war you just have to declare it. you just have to declare but there's already a war troops of clash john c calhoun fellow democrat from south carolina is going to lead opponents of polk during the war. what calhoun doesn't like is what he sees is the abusive executive power and his overriding concern. is that the executive or the us government might intervene in terms terms of the institution of slavery? calhoun was from south carolina. so that's his overriding concern to any kind of abuse of executive power. he's nervous about but primarily it's the whig party who speaks against the declaration of war argues against it, but what they're going to do is in opposition party, so they try not to end up like the federalists who remember in the war of 1812. they look treacherous by the end. the treaty looked pretty good and the federalist party just kind of died because of its opposition to the war. they don't want to look like that they're going to be the opposition party, but they're going to tend to vote for money for the troops. some of them are going to vote
for the declaration they can argue against it but usually vote usually vote in favor of it. that's going to be their story during the war more complicated than that, but as it usually might be one of those wigs with somebody who ended up being a one-term congressman because he opposed the war. have you ever heard abraham lincoln that seems familiar right? do any of you use cash. she's on the five. have you seen this? so lincoln challenge poke and said he said look if if you allow the -- if you allow the present to invade a neighboring nation, i'm quoting him whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you then you allow him to do so whenever he may think is necessary and you'll say i don't think the canadians are invading he'll say well, i think they are. so so we're going to invade them first. so lincoln's very concerned about that executive abuse of power as well. so he challenged polk. he basically called polka liar and said i want you to take me to the spot.
and show me where the american blood was spilled. and then we'll find out if it's really in mexico or in in, texas. so he gets his nickname spotty lincoln, which i guess was derogatory at the time. and so that's that's going to be as nickname. he's gonna go back to illinois for all he knows he's gonna be done with politics and just be a corporate lawyer for the railroads for a while and in illinois calhoun as they said was in opposition. also calhoun's point was it's a little skirmished you have to have a whole war over it. we can you know evade the country etc, but it's really the this the skirmish becomes the pretext for the war pokes biggest problem politically. is it both of his main generals zachary taylor in the north and winfield scott who's going to lead the invasion of central mexico. both of them are wigs? and in a democracy, it really helps to be popular. if you want to be elected president.
and really the only way to be that popular at the time at least for the whigs who are the minority party and have a northeast power base is to be a general of some kind the wigs only ever elected to people. president and both were generals polka sure, one of these are both of these want to be want to be president. scott had actually tried for the wig nomination in 1839 and didn't get it. so he knows scott's a wig taylor says i'm not a wig. i've never been a wig. i have no interest in politics. i don't want to be president. why would i want to be president who wants to be president? can you guess which one of these two guys ran for president in 1848? exactly taylor. yeah taylor the one who say never do it in a million years and so but polk doesn't know this yet. so here's the challenge for paul everything. he sees he sees everything through a political lens, which means he wants him to be victorious.
but if it really really victorious then they might use that the way jackson had used that kind of fame from the battlefield to get elected president. so he wants them to do the job and then he's he actually tries to undercut them in the field the way the volunteer army worked. is this our this war is going to be fought by the regular army, which is quite small, but in large during the war the professional army and then volunteers who are drawn from new volunteer companies or state militia companies. governors of the states of those malicious and volunteer units choose the kernel to go over the regiment the men elect their own captain. so all the way up through colonel the states determine rank in the volunteer part of the army. which means if your governor is a wig guess what your kernel is going to be? you've got two choices in one's wrong. he's going to be a wig if your governor's a democrat you can have a democratic colonel paul appointed 13 volunteer generals
during the war every single one of them was from his party the democratic party. one was his law partner gideon pillow who was a disaster also a disaster in the civil war, but maybe more on that in a later lecture. so it's gonna have to build an army from the ground up. let's start with taylor. so taylor is the one who's positioned who's positioned here? his job is supposed to be to lay a defensive line acrock between the northern mexican frontier and the united states and poke thinks or hopes. i should say that mexico will see reason and sue for peace in the world be over and they'll get california and the call it a day. so that's that's the first part of the war taylor's opinion is that there's no way to invade mexico from the north. it would be doom by the great distances and by deserts. so the army job is just you know, don't look too far ahead. just set up a defensive line south of the rio grande.
and it in northern if you do that in northern mexico, that would make conditions favorable for peace taylor things. so after a couple of battles, he crosses into mexico. lay siege to matamoros where the the mexican troops are entrenched but after after negotiations, they take their arms the mexicans take their arms. they take their artillery and they leave matamorous and taylor moves in without. hiring a shot. his main objective was a city of monterey. that was strategically located heavily fortified control of northern mexico depended on monterey and that's where the first really big battle of the war is is going to be and it's going to be it's going to be flat house to house. it's going to be urban fighting four days of heavy fighting in september of 1846. finally the mexican general
requests an armistice. taylor is under orders not to sign an armistice. and to just take the city and destroy the mexican army, but he defies orders signs an armistice. he's writing secret letters that get leaked out into the press saying things like i don't know why we're doing this this land is useless anyway, so this makes polk think that he's already thinking about the 1848 election. because he's criticizing polk while he's in the field. in letters, it's supposedly leaked to the press but whenever anything leaks it's not really a leak. it's more like, you know, they're turning on the faucet. it's not a leak. so his army captures monterey, but the mexican army leaves. taylor becomes sort of a hero back in the united states then in november he moves north of a place called buena vista in mexico. and sets up his headquarters. in the meantime and the meantime, new mexico and california had fallen quite
easily to to american troops. in fact the governor of new mexico is the americans were coming. he got on his horse and left. he decided enough enough is enough and they take new mexico without firing a shot. there's there's a revolt in new mexico during the war. there's a revolt near los angeles during the war but by the end of the summer in new mexico and california are pretty solidly and in american hands so that first part of the war seems to go really well for the united states. in the meantime taylor's just there and he's waiting near buena vista. it seems the the mexicans are not going to treat for peace. so so polk goes to winfield scott and says you've got to draw plans for an invasion of central mexico. the united states is going to have to take the capital. so scott is not going to be in charge of that invasion of central, mexico. he takes a lot of his invasion for us from taylor. which makes taylor think scott wants to run for president.
because now taylor doesn't have enough troops to do anything. so they hate each other as much as they hate polk. you with me so far. so this might not be an overseas war but it it does prove the the lie in that myth that politics stops at the water's edge in wartime. it never has and i don't know that and i don't know that it ever will but it certainly didn't to the in the mexican-american war. so scott's supposed to invade central mexico and march, overland, new mexico city. he needs the troops. he takes them from he takes him from taylor. taylor is very unhappy about this. but here's what happens. one result one result of the fall of that whole northern mexican frontier is it paredes is overthrown the mexican president's overthrown in another coup. and replaced by santa ana. and then santa ana chooses another president. only to take back the presidency
from him a little while later. and in the meantime amend this amid this mexican domestic infiding santa ana face taylor and what became the most famous battle of the war and it's the one you need to remember for your exam. and that's the now you're writing and and that's the battle of buena vista. in late, february of 1847 the battle of buena vista so it's it's early february. taylor's feeling pretty sure santa ana won't attack. and he decides to move on his own with his mostly volunteer army of about 4,500 troops. he decides to move southward. santa ana gets word of this gets intelligence of this and advances against him was somewhere between 15 and 18,000 soldiers. he's determined to finish off taylor's army.
skirmishes in ensue on february 22nd at the base of the mountains there and then the next morning mexican soldiers are clashing with americans throughout the whole day. taylor's only choice is to fight a very defensive battle against the larger mexican force. the americans are still holding the battlefield by sunset. and taylor's men hunker down and wait for the dawn and it it seems obvious that they're going to be wiped out the next day, but there's a couple things that have happened one is by not winning the mexican soldiers morale have been so shattered by their inability to break the american lines santa ana's army had had quietly retreated during the night. so they they leave the field. there's also political disputes and infighting back in mexico city that santa ana has to go address. for americans this became the most famous battle of the war and they counted a victory and it what the battle of new
orleans was to andrew jackson in terms of his popularity and leveraging him to be able to be more famous and become president the same thing happens with taylor in the battle of buena vista. it also made him by the way, politically untouchable by polk because now you can't criticize america's big war hero in the war. so that's february of 1847 the battle of buena vista, the very next month is when wind-filled scott makes his amphibious landing down here in in veracruz. and then the overland route to to mexico city. the us navy bombarded the city for several days before they landed. they landed in amphibious assault vehicles incidentally built built in the same area of louisiana where they were later built simpler similar craft were later built for the d-day invasions during world war two. they land on the coast.
they wait ashore after bombarding the city. there's not much fighting. they take veracruz pretty easily. and scott heads inland santa anilator said in his diary. he said quote we have no one but ourselves to blame for this disaster due to our interminable infighting. why isn't there a larger mexican army at veracruz that day because there's three mexican armies clashing with each other. near the capital of mexico city so that allows the americans to get a to get a beachhead. he starts marching inland in april. and there to mexico city by september 14th, so you think of this war in a couple maybe three phases then so you got the first phase and that's in the north. it's in the what the northern frontier that the united states is going to annex at the the end of the war and that's pretty much wrapped up over the summer. although there's a lot of
constitutional quandaries and interesting stuff going on there, which is how does a republican gage in military government and just who's in charge in california two branches of the service and a third guy john fremont are going to bicker over who who's really in charge in california, and it's going to be court-martials in a big mess over that. so there's there's a lot going on in the north of militarily speaking. it's pretty much calmed down by the end of the summer of 1846. that's the first phase in the second really. is this this overland invasion, which goes from april to september just a few months in 1847. but the americans don't depart until the summer of 1848. so there's a long period of occupation and military government in mexico cities by american military governors trying to use local civilians to govern and mayors and that sort of things that's that's part of the war too that we don't really have time in this class to to go into so scott's plan is is this
he's going to take the national highway. on into mexico on into mexico city his first meeting with santa ana. is the kind of battle that would normally end any other war in these days and that's a battle of sarah gordo at the pass of cerro gordo on april 18th and 1847. so it's been about a year since the war started. but despite not having the high ground and despite fighting. it's in another country's territory scott's army is victorious. santa ana retreats from the field i can't remember if this is the battle where the americans. came away with one of santa ana's legs or not. he had a false leg prosthetic leg and he always carried a few
extras as you can as you can imagine so you there's sometimes weird trophies and wartime due to atrocities. there's even weirder trophies. i didn't know that we'll have time to talk about them today, but but i think it may have been cerro gordo, but i'm not sure. well from sarah gordo scott passed on to occupy the large city of pueblo mexico and on may 15 pueblo pueblo, mexico is one of the i think most beautiful cities on the continent. i have been there in a couple decades, but it's a it's a wonderful place and he's occupied pueblo and in may on may 15th in 1847. and here's the way the army works in those days if you sign up if you signed up as a volunteer a long-term enlistment to you is about six months, which is barely enough time even to train so in a republic the idea was that virtuous men would sign up for military and wartime, but you wouldn't have a large standing army when it's not wartime. because a large number of men
under arms is not only expensive. which grows and grows the size of the central government? it increases its power and authority and strength and likelihood it will abuse it. but to also you wouldn't have those underarms because it's it's just armies are they're unrepublican places, right? you have to take orders and somebody else is telling you when to get up and what to do all the time and the the americans prior to prior to 20th century really just bristled at that sort of thing. so the idea was it in wartime you would volunteer out of virtuous defensive home and hearth and there would be enough volunteers and then after the war you go down to a tiny army then if you need a big army during war you get a big army again, then it goes down what happens to pablo at pablo is most of the volunteers those who had signed up for a year, it's done. probably scott sits in pueblo all summer long because he doesn't have enough troops to advance with they just they you know, they watch the clock and
they go home and they're done as far as they're concerned. they've done their service. they've done their duty and that's that's what happens in public so scott's there for a long time and in the summer. but he leaves by by august and the path to mexico cities now more heavily guarded than before santa ana had retreated from sarah. gordo had to mexico city. the generals have decided the mexican generals have decided to give it one one last stand and they do and so one option for the americans is to send a division to flank the mexican army at cherubusco by by by cutting across these lava beds a not so young and not so young engineered named robert e. lee finds the path to cross these lava beds, but they're relatively unguarded path to mexico city because no one it seems had found a path through them before at least not invading army clearly, so they're relatively ungurred.
so that's that's one possibility to to do by marching across the lava bit taking the small village of contreras. and then attacking from the rear and that would split the mexican forces and that's that's really the american plan to take mexico city. so, it's august 19th an american division marches across the lava beds. they've they've fought earlier in the day at contreras. they're gonna fight later in the day the same day the battle of chura bus go with turned into one of the bloodiest of the war aura bus go the american's faced a battalion called the san patricio's or the saint patrick's battalion. this was a battalion composed of former american soldiers some who had deserted before the war some who had deserted deer in the war. irish immigrants german immigrants saint patrick was on their on their their flag and blazoned on the battalions flag. so they know that if they get
caught they're going to be they're going to be executed as as traitors. they had been lured with broadsides from santa ana that said things like, how can you attack? your fellow catholics and defend the country that's burning our churches back in the united states and burning our neighborhoods in the united states. so santa ana is well aware of the anti-catholic rioting in the united states and trying to lure american soldiers out of the army and into his own and coming with that is going to be some acreage a good bit of land right and that's that's a pretty good lure too. so the leader of the san patricio was from clifton iowa. that's actually in the west of of ireland and county galway where the aquinas college students go every year to telecross ireland. that's the biggest little town. i shouldn't call it. the biggest little towns the only town really near near near telecast of any real size. there's a san patricio street there there used to be there used to be a little monument to
to john riley last time. i was there it had somebody had taken it. there was just a marble block. now but here at monument to john riley once stood i guess maybe they need a new sign. maybe they replaced it since the last time i was there but anyway the san patricio has become a heroic and mexico they become seen of course as traders in the united states and when scott catches him is going to hang 27 of john riley who had deserted prior to hostilities his branded with a d on his cheeks for deserter and then and then let go it's thought that he continued living in mexico, but people say they know i don't know if anybody really knows there's a couple good books on john riley. so that's chura busko and contrerasan on august 20th rather than advance on the capitol scott decides to offer an armistice to santa ana. the american diplomat trist was his name had been in mexico city.
for for quite a while now, and he think well, maybe that'll have give peace a chance to work. give a treaty a chance to work without having to go into the city of mexico itself. so he hopes that having the threat of the capital occupied by a foreman or foreign army the mexicans might negotiate a piece making that final battle unnecessary. santa ana however is a little bit smarter than that and he was determined to use the lowell and hostilities to strengthen his position. he had lost canon. he had lost munitions. he had lost a third of his army at cherubusco. which reminds me of another point when santa ana had outsmarted the americans he was actually an exile in cuba. not the last time mexico was going to exile. he was an exile in cuba in the beginning of the war and pope comes up with this scheme to talk to santa ana and maybe sand he if he can get santa ana back into mexico santa ana will then sell them, california.
so he helped santa ana get back into mexico. and santa ana says i can't believe he really believed that and and then he builds up an army and goes to war against the americans. but so that's what happens during the armistice the armistice last a few weeks negotiations break down in early, september and hostilities ensue. first the americans take a palace like structure overlooking mexico city chapultepec. that's going to have to be taken before they enter the capital. it's on on high ground then after a day-long fight on september 13th americans take the palace santa ana's army flees the capital scott's army marches triumphantly into into mexico city and they raised the flag the american flag over the national palace of mexico. following two or three days of looting by mostly volunteer american troops the occupation
of mexico city begins so that's in september of 1847. so there's going to be military government by the united states of mexico of mexico from september 14th the date of the ticket of mexico city all the way until june of 1848. so this is a famous painting by carl neville of scott's army marching in in the capital. let me pause here for a moment and ask for questions before we talk about the treaty and wrap this up and i get your exams and papers back to you as well. the questions about taylor scott san patricio's the war wonderful, you know i picked this class because you're my most talkative class. yeah. you know that.
yes, brandon wait for that wait for the there you go. do we know how many members there were in this end? patricio's battalion? the right question is do i know? right. do i know this is a battalion. i want to say of about maybe 100 to 200. i'm just guessing. i'm just guessing i do know they they fight in several battles, but they fight very hard at your boost go because they know what's going to happen with when they're caught and it figures pretty pretty solidly into the anti-catholic rhetoric. because you imagine the catholics in the united states they spend all their time talking about how patriotic they are. and then there's a catholic battalion of mostly catholic deserters fighting on behalf of mexico during during the war so they become they become a they're well used by the the
anti-catholic rhetoric though. it's more complicated than just your religion issue as you might imagine, but that's just my educated guess on how big the battalion was. i'm not sure anybody would really would really know. so there's the the rogues march is the best book on that by in my opinion. but the rogue's march. good question about the san patricio's in fact good so that you know, we're taught at death toll on the amira the death star on the mexican side is going to be much larger because the civilian deaths particularly and very cruise on the american side you're talking about in the very low thousands between one and one in five thousand in the whole war and almost all of its from what the american soldiers called the vomito or yellow fever. the combat deaths are very low. this is what makes the civil war. we just wrapped up some were you in the system. i don't know you were in. yeah, you're in the civil war class right last semester said that you start talking about over a hundred thousand men clashing and when battle in the civil war here, we're talking
about, you know, five the biggest battle it the place like buena vista. it's 5,000. it's 15,000. that's just dwarf by battles a couple decades later decade and a half later in the civil war. so these are also on a much smaller much much smaller scale in this form. treaty deliberations are going on all the while. finally on february 2nd, a treaty is signed a guadalupe hidalgo new mexico's most sacred shrine for our lady of guadalupe. that's passed up north to the united states. and here's a complicated issue polk had already fired the man trust. who negotiated the peace so paul castes decide whether he takes the piece or not. once the united states stood in control of these mexican cities. members of folks on democratic party prominently and also many members of his own cabinet are pushing him to take what they called all mexico.
so because the all-mexico movement it's called there's this push in january and on into february to take all mexico and the one thing important thing the arrival of the treaty does is is take the take the steam out of that because in the treaty the united states agrees to pay mexico 15 million dollars though. it's not clear where that money ever ended up. or if it ended up anywhere for that matter. 15 million dollars for california and then the mexican session is going to become. that that northern mexican frontier polkaimed all along that this was not a war of conquest that it was a war font because debts were owed by mexicans to americans. and treaty obligations were not being followed that there was a clash on american soil. so these were all the claims of polk the the anti-warf folks had said this was award us to spread slavery. so particularly the pacifists in the abolitionists were very
vocally anti-war. some of them are anti-catholic that made them ambivalent. that's one of the things i did in my missionaries of republicanism book is talk about that but for the most part there they're against the war because they think it's going to spread slavery. so a northern congressman and polk's own party at the beginning of the war had challenged polk. to put his money where his mouth is and and sign into law a proclamation that that any territory gained from this war. would not allow slavery. and polk won't do it. this is david wilmot and that becomes known as the wilmont proviso something else i think is worth writing down in your notes. the wilmot provides you it never passes. congress but it becomes famous. it becomes famous because it breaks open the slavery issue in the middle of this war. ulysses asked grant who fought in this war as said i would have
at the time in his diary. he writes i would have come to mexico as a private if i could come no other way. after the civil war and in retrospect he later in his memoirs called the mexican-american war one of the most unjust wars ever waged by one nation against another and what what had come in between those two opinions was you know, the young man who wants to glory on the battlefield and now somebody who's just closed out the civil war with hundreds of thousands of american dad that grant was sure in large part had to do somehow with the fight over the institution of slavery the mexican war opens that up and it never really closes again. thanks to the wilmont proviso as it turns out though. there's going to be no slavery in, california. not legally anyhow, and the institution of slavery same in new mexico taxes had already been annexed. so in some ways then there's slavery is not sent into these territories, but it does wet the appetite of some who realize if
the missouri compromised line stays at 36 30 as we talked about last week. if it stays there there's really there's there's nowhere to go but south so you're gonna have to go farther south or into the caribbean if you want to continue to expand slavery and create new new slave states. the treaty the treaty ending the war then finally is approved ratified by the senate in march. it's in ratified by mexico. not long after that and the us troops left in june. so the the treaty of guadalupe hidalgo netted the united states, california just off to california the current state of, california. new mexico the very expansive new mexico we mentioned and then also recognize the the texas border at the at the rio grande in return the united states as i said paid mexico 15 million dollars and military rule ended
in in june of 1848. any questions wrapping up our our look at the mexican-american war? in 1848 in 1848 polk had pledge only to serve one term and he kept his promise. so zachary taylor. runs against one of those democratic generals that polkit appointed zachary taylor wins, and it's going to be zachary taylor who's in charge at first until he died in office in 1850 of trying to figure out how to organize the mexican session a third of mexico has become part of the united states. immediately. there's there's talk of civil war possible disunion. what will be a slave state? what won't be a slave state? how will california come in new mexico and texas each claim the same territory will those two areas the territory of new mexico in the state of
california go to war what's going to happen? so that's all going to we'll talk about that next time. it's called the compromise of 1850 and it's going to be clay who comes up with the idea but clay also dies in 1850. hello, but eventually there's going to be a compromise and there's kind of a breathe. they're gonna breathe the savory leaf the missouri compromise had lasted 30 years over slavery this one maybe the last 30 years. it doesn't last very long at all as it turns out but there's at least hope at that point. so taylor does use his battlefield fame to become president grant lee a lot of the other folks who are later prominent in the civil war on both sides have have fought together in the mexican-american war but they're gonna fight against each other in the civil war about a decade and a half later polk died in 1849. anyway, right after becoming president and that's that's it. no if there's no other questions, we'll stop there. i'll hand back your exams. and your papers okay, let's do that.
most importantly is tonight's event. we have roger lowenstein. he's read in numerous critically acclaimed books including the new york times bestseller buffett when genius failed and the end of wall street all which we do have available for sale if you want to get signed at the end of the presentation, yes, three children and lives with his wife judy sloven in cambridge, massachusetts and tenants harbor, maine, please give a round round of applause for rogers thanks so much. it's great to see you here. it's great to be here where i lived in the mid-1980s when this tour was across
IN COLLECTIONSCSPAN3 Television Archive Television Archive News Search Service
Uploaded by TV Archive on