History of the Mexican-American War
Today, many Americans know Mexico as a fantastic vacation spot, but things weren’t always this way. The United States and Mexico have had a pretty tense history with each other, mainly due to the expansion of American territories in the mid-1800s. The Mexican-American War was a major conflict that lasted from 1846-1848. It occurred at a time when the United States of America was looking to expand the borders of the country from coast to coast, mainly moving westward towards the Pacific Ocean. Many Americans began to settle in western territories that did not belong to the United States, and this caused problems with both Mexicans and Native Americans, who already occupied these areas. The concept of “Manifest Destiny,” the belief that America had a God-given right to expand, was widely popular at the time and fueled the move westward. While this belief was not meant to cause a violent conflict, the events that followed caused the suffering of many Mexicans, Native Americans, and even United States citizens.
What Caused the Conflict?
After the Texas War for Independence from Mexico, there was some residual tension between the United States and Mexico. That tension grew when Texas went on to become 28th state in the U.S; disputes over borderlines became a problem that led to military confrontation between the two countries. James K. Polk was the president of the United States at the time and pushed for a war with their neighbor to the south in order to acquire large amounts of territory from Mexico. Polk and Americans as a whole believed they could move into western territories and do a better job of running things than the people who were already occupying the area. Shortly after Texas became a state, the United States and Mexico both claimed that territories along the Rio Grande River belonged to them, and this caused a clash between the troops sent by both countries.
The Start of the War
The United States had put together a strategy to take control of northern Mexico and force peace early on. The strategy involved sending troops south of Texas and also west to California. One of the armies that marched south was led by General Zachary Taylor. Taylor’s army was very strong and in the fall of 1846, a three-day battle ensued in which the Americans captured the city of Monterey in northern Mexico. The American armies were proving to be a more organized and tactical force, which made things difficult for the Mexican troops, who relied mostly on guerrilla tactics. This resulted in the loss of the lives of many Mexican soldiers. After the battle, a temporary truce was put in place that allowed the armies of both countries to recover. Mexico’s president, Santa Anna, was not interested in peace and raised a larger army of over 20,000 troops to counter the American forces. Ultimately, Santa Anna failed; Mexico was defeated in many battles and lost massive amounts of land. Battles continued to be fought, and the continued fighting convinced the United States that the only way to end the war was to take control of the Mexican capital, Mexico City.
End of Battle
In March of 1847, American troops lead by General Winifred Scott began their campaign to seize Mexico City. From March to September of that year, many brutal battles were fought between the Mexican and American forces. The strength of the American armies proved to be too powerful for the Mexican soldiers; by mid-September, American forces had entered Mexico City. The Americans were initially met with some resistance, but the army of the United States had full control of Mexico City by the end of October. Santa Anna resigned as president but was still in control of his army, and he planned to continue fighting the Americans. At this point, however, many of the Mexican soldiers felt defeated and refused to continue fighting. Because of this, Santa Anna was asked to resign from his military position. In February of 1848, the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo was signed and ratifed by both the United States and Mexico. Under the treaty, the northern portions of Mexico were annexed to the United States, and in return, Mexico would receive $15 million in compensation. The annexed portions would later become the states California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada. Over the course of the two-year war, the United States spent well over 100 million dollars and lost nearly 14,000 American lives, while Mexico suffered a devastating loss of over 25,000 lives. Even after the war ended, the relationship between the United States and Mexico remained tense for several years.