Read The Mexican War, 1846-1848 by K. Jack Bauer Robert Walter Johannsen Online


"Much has been written about the Mexican war, but this . . . is the best military history of that conflict. . . . Leading personalities, civilian and military, Mexican and American, are given incisive and fair evaluations. The coming of war is seen as unavoidable, given American expansion and Mexican resistance to loss of territory, compounded by the fact that neither side"Much has been written about the Mexican war, but this . . . is the best military history of that conflict. . . . Leading personalities, civilian and military, Mexican and American, are given incisive and fair evaluations. The coming of war is seen as unavoidable, given American expansion and Mexican resistance to loss of territory, compounded by the fact that neither side understood the other. The events that led to war are described with reference to military strengths and weaknesses, and every military campaign and engagement is explained in clear detail and illustrated with good maps. . . . Problems of large numbers of untrained volunteers, discipline and desertion, logistics, diseases and sanitation, relations with Mexican civilians in occupied territory, and Mexican guerrilla operations are all explained, as are the negotiations which led to war's end and the Mexican cession. . . . This is an outstanding contribution to military history and a model of writing which will be admired and emulated."-Journal of American History. K. Jack Bauer was also the author of Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest (1985) and Other Works. Robert W. Johannsen, who introduces this Bison Books edition of The Mexican War, is a professor of history at the University of Illinois, Urbana, and the author of To the Halls of Montezumas: The Mexican War in the American Imagination (1985)....

Title : The Mexican War, 1846-1848
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ISBN : 9780803261075
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 486 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Mexican War, 1846-1848 Reviews

  • Frank Theising
    2019-04-27 15:35

    A thorough but lifeless retelling of the Mexican-American War. On the plus side, the book was very well researched and does cover all the significant political, cultural, and military aspects of the war. It provides a detailed account of all the major battles as well as the naval blockade which is often overlooked. Unfortunately, it’s rather dry and reads much like a textbook throughout. Consequently Bauer’s retelling doesn’t really bring to life the intense political drama of the period. Recommended for academics or history buffs, not so much the casual reader. What follows is a brief synopsis from my notes.My Book Notes:He starts by stating that a war to delineate the common boundary was likely inevitable. Published in 1974, the author compares the war to the American experience in Vietnam, arguing that both conflicts suffered from some of the same flaws including cultural misunderstanding and the inherent dangers of the application of graduated force (xix). President Polk consistently believed just a little more pressure would bring Mexico to the negotiating table, unaware that Mexican pride would not stand for the loss of territory until her capacity to resist was crushed.A young and vigorous United States had expanded rapidly and had a sense of Manifest Destiny. However, sectionalism was emerging as an all-pervading issue in the growing country. The potential admission of Texas as a state (or multiple states) was viewed favorably in the South since there were few other areas south of the Missouri Compromise that could conceivably join as slave states (2-3). Prior to the Texas Revolution, Mexicans tended to admire the US and its institutions (3). Mexico lacked organized political parties and political life revolved around shifting groups and individual leaders. This lack of organization prevented any unified response to the American annexation of Texas (4). Texas did not have sufficient natural wealth to be settled early on and was too far from Spain’s New World Empire to benefit from natural expansion. American families began to settle the region in greater numbers. Mutual suspicion led to a series of incidents in 1835-1836 that led Texas to proclaim their independence (5). Despite the lack of US support, the Texans won their independence in battle. Mexico refused to recognize that independence (5). In 1845, the US annexed Texas however the borders of this acquisition were heavily disputed. President Polk moved soldiers in to occupy territory below the Nueces River prior to annexation. Polk desperately wanted to acquire California and thought such a move was a potential bargaining chip that he could use in a peaceful, negotiated settlement (11). This policy of public brinkmanship had won him a monumental victory in the Oregon dispute. However that policy would not work out so well against a faction-rent Mexico (12). California was sparsely populated and too far from Mexico City to be governed effectively. Polk seriously believed he could acquire/purchase the territory without a war.Polk did not expect or want a war. Mexico was bankrupt and her Army unpaid and in shambles. They failed to recognize that the loss of Texas was a blow to national honor and dignity that demanded resistance (17). The US Sent Slidell to Mexico as American minister to resolve the Texas border and propose purchase of NM ($5M) and California ($25M). The Mexican Government was fragile and at risk of being unseated by challengers. Admitting Slidell risk toppling the Herrera government (25). And indeed a coup did occur with General Paredes proclaiming himself President and protector of Mexican territory. The US-Mexico stalemate was now complete (26).The Mexican army demanded that General Taylor’s force withdrawal beyond the Nueces or face the start of hostilities (47). Instead, Taylor established Fort Texas along the Rio Grande River opposite the town of Matamoros. The Mexicans laid siege to the Fort which was broken off when Taylor’s army arrived to relieve it. A series of battles followed (Palo Alto and Resaca De La Palma) in which the Mexican army was forced to retreat. News of the attack reached Washington on April 26th and Polk’s Cabinet unanimously supported a declaration of war (67). Despite the shaky legal foundation of where the rightful border lay, Polk stated to Congress that Mexico invaded our territory and shed blood on American soil (67-68). In tying the vote for the declaration of war to a law appropriating the money to support the troops in the field, Polk had pulled off a masterful political maneuver (68-69).The administration began the war with no clear strategy beyond supporting Taylor and initiating operations to seize California (70). Again, Polk desired a quick military campaign to force an early peace. In Mexico, President Paredes could not even get the Mexican Congress to declare war, only an authorization to repel the invader. In that, he failed to raise significant funds or arouse strong support for the war effort among the masses (76). Reports of Mexican willingness to negotiate led to secret negotiation with dethroned Mexican dictator Santa Anna in Havana. Once Santa Anna regained power, the US would suspend military operations and purchase the disputed territories. Whether Santa Anna was saying what he needed to in order to regain power or political pressure from home changed his thinking is not clear (77). In either case, he would continue to prosecute the war vigorously upon regaining power. The American Army was flush with untrained volunteers and suffering from poor logistic support due to its rapid expansion (83-84). Because of the long supply line involved, Taylor recommended an advance on Monterrey or Chihuahua rather than on Mexico City (86). Monterrey had impressive defenses and sufficient supplies for a long fight (92-93). Taylor’s plan of attack called for sweep north and west to cut the Mexican supply line before a double envelopment of the city (93). The attack was poorly executed. The orders were ambiguous, units committed piecemeal, and infantry exposed to large masses of fire from Mexican forts. The price of Taylor’s ineptitude was 394 men killed or wounded (96-97). Nevertheless the American force prevailed. Taylor agreed to an armistice to settle the terms of capitulation of the city. The author argues that such an armistice was a mistake on Taylor’s part. The Mexican force was in much worse shape and Taylor had a real chance to General Ampudia’s entire force (99-100). The Mexican Navy offered no real contest to the Americans. Most of the US Navy’s energy was spent trying to enforce a tight blockade (108). A force from Missouri moved west to capture New Mexico. Polk again expected little opposition since New Mexicans were largely disillusioned with the Mexico City government (127-128). This time, it seemed to be the case. With only token resistance, Colonel Stephen Kearney annexed NM and established a civil government (which only Congress reserved the right to establish). Polk agreed Kearney exceeded his orders but took no move to censure him (135). As this New Mexico force began moving west to California they faced a revolt in NM that was quickly squashed (139-141). Coincident with the seizure of Santa Fe, the administration planned a second column against the western Mexican city of Chihuahua (145). The defenses at Chihuahua were thought to be impregnable. The US force however executed a highly dangerous approach. Pivoting the force 90 degrees, they hauled the artillery up a steep hill to attack from the Sacramento side instead of the anticipated and heavily defended Torreon crossing. This shattered the esprit of the Mexican force (154-155). The American force prevailed with minimal losses and captured a city of 14,000 with less than 1,000 soldiers (157). In California, American settlers were fearful of eviction. Explorer John Fremont helped to solidify their resistance and he declared California independent (168-169). While this rebellion bubbled and the US Pacific fleet prepared to seize the state’s ports, Polk pushed for an overland invasion force (i.e. the force then in New Mexico). Newly appointed Commodore Stockton proved a horrible choice as his imperious demands eliminated any hope of a peaceful conquest of California (174). There was an evident lack of enthusiasm for the Mexican resistance in California. Captain Jose Maria Flores led a band of 400 against Fremont’s Californians, Commodore Stockton’s forces in the ports, and Brigadier General Kearney’s force coming in from New Mexico (186). Kearney’s force arrived exhausted from the long march and suffered in the initial attack although he would ultimately prevail and capture Los Angeles (187-194). This led to a contest between Kearney and Stockton over political control of California. Kearney brought the conflict into the open when he issued Fremont a commission as Governor of California (194). Santa Anna assumed command of the army a month after his return to Mexico. He attacked Taylor at Buena Vista. He badly mauled the American force but was forced to retire from the field. Taylor, with a force composed of nearly 90% volunteers, stayed on the defensive, simply countering the Mexican initiatives. Had the force contained more regulars, many believe that they could have destroyed Santa Anna’s force rather than simply pull out a narrow defensive victory (217). The Buena Vista campaign was Santa Anna’s sole offensive of the war. From there Taylor stopped his advance and the restless, idle troops began to pillage. The officers had to impose stiff discipline to reign in the troops. By the fall of 1847, Taylor had decided to return home. He returned home on leave to a hero’s welcome (224). In August 1846 Polk rethought the US strategy due to the lackluster response to US peace overtures. The new plan was to capture Mexico’s chief port of Veracruz followed by a thrust from there to Mexico City (232). Selecting the commander for the Veracruz expedition was a political problem for Polk. Polk believed Taylor unfit for command but rather than relieve a war hero he left him in Monterrey. Winfield Scott was impressive but was not a Democrat and selecting him could elevate his status as a Presidential contender in future elections. The only Democrat generals were either foreign born or unknown quantities (235). Scott was ultimately selected. His amphibious force landed without the loss of a single man. He believed a costly siege would be required to capture Veracruz and the castle of San Juan de Ulua. However the city’s defenses were inadequate and the artillery largely unserviceable (244-245). Scott sought to avoid the needless slaughter of his men in a direct assault and ordered the construction of siege lines (247). The bombardment that followed broke the enemy’s morale and will to fight (250-251). After a request to evacuate the women and children was refused by Scott, the city surrendered (251). Even with the port of Veracruz, the logistical challenges of pushing inland to Mexico City were enormous (17413 mules to move almost 3M pounds of supplies) (259). Scott rushed to secure the supplies and depart before yellow fever season started. Santa Anna moved his force to Cerro Gordo to make a stand and try and keep the Americans in the yellow-fever belt near the coast (261). Santa Anna was overconfident in his position and his men were infected with the notion of Yankee invincibility (264). Capt Robert E. Lee discovered a path which led around the Mexican left. The battle lasted only 3 hours and was a rout as the Mexicans broke into a retreat (264-268). As the Americans pushed further inland their supply line was in danger from increasing guerilla activities (269). As Scott marched for the capital, efforts to negotiate a peace were hampered by Mexico’s lack of political stability (279). Instructions to American Diplomat Nicholas Trist fell into Mexican hands. These instructions stipulated that Baja California was not a “sine que non”. This knowledge would later ensure that the peninsula remained part of Mexico (287). Santa Anna’s defense of Mexico City was hampered by green troops and political opposition to serious resistance that risked bombardment and damage to the city. However, the only approaches to the city were raised roadways that were heavily defended (287-288). At the battle of Cherubusco, Scott’s forces took heavy losses but Santa Anna lost almost a third of his forces (300-301). Hoping the Mexican’s would recognize the futility of further resistance, Scott halted outside the gates of the city. A short armistice followed but no serious negotiations. In fact the break only gave the war faction in Mexico more time to put pressure on Santa Anna to hold out. Scott gambled, leaving the right side of the American line lightly defended, focusing his attack against the western gates of the city. With limited supplies and time, Santa Anna could not fully prepare the defenses of Chapultepec. Its capture was a serious blow to further resistance in Mexico City. While the US forces prepared to enter the city, Mexican honor had finally been satisfied. Santa Anna withdrew his force to Guadalupe Hidalgo (321). With a force of less than 11,000 troops, Scott overcame one containing 30,000 well dug in and defending its own capital (322).During Scott’s occupation of Mexico City, he published General Order 20 which included a military commission to punish American soldiers for crimes committed in Mexico. The competence of his administration and restraint of his largely volunteer army spawned a movement in Mexico to incorporate the country into the United States, or should that fail, to offer control of the nation to Scott (327). Scott was in a precarious situation. Future operations risked destroying the Mexican government thereby eliminating any chance of negotiating a peace. Yet, he needed to keep his troops occupied (328). American commanders worked hard to keep their armies in check and win over the local populace in order to reduce support for guerilla operations (333). A tension arose between Polk and Scott. Polk wanted Scott to impose heavy taxes/levy’s to drive up cost and bring Mexico to the negotiating table. Scott meanwhile was trying to maintain order and minimize local resistance to his outnumbered force of occupation (335-336). As negotiations dragged on, a faction in the US began pushing to annex Mexico in its entirety (368). These aspirations were not realistic, especially given the contentious, factional struggle in the US. However, the prolonged negotiations did tend to increase American demands for territory (380). Polk had recalled Trist, however Trist remained and negotiated the treaty without legal authority. Polk however sent the treaty to the Senate for confirmation since it largely fell within his instructions and desired end state (385-386). Despite being the transcendent military figure of the war, Scott returned and fell into obscurity as a result of political opposition and false charges (374). Meanwhile Taylor returned a national hero despite his mediocre performance. “Old Rough and Ready” was the new “Old Hickory” and he became an instant frontrunner in the next Presidential election (360). Santa Anna was permitted to leave the country for Jamaica (385).For the US, the additional territory fueled the sectional rivalry already underway (392). The results of the war would plunge both countries into civil wars in less than a decade and a half after the war (394). The author argues that even if the confrontation was avoided at this time it would have occurred eventually. American settlers were pouring west at a high rate and efforts to stop them by the US government were not likely to succeed in the long run (392-393). The war cost the US $58M. Military pensions another $64M. And the new territory was purchased for $15M. Adding those expenditures and dividing by 529K acres works out to 48 cents an acre (397-398).

  • Jeffrey Edick
    2019-05-06 11:14

    great account of a short but important episode in American&Mexican history. Plenty of colorful characters, exciting battles, heroic soldiers and strong personalities. This book reads easily and is chocked full of data, dates, names and places and the maps are decent to follow thru.

  • Mike Stewart
    2019-04-26 12:12

    I bought this book in 1974 and just got around to reading it. Wish I could say it was worth the wait.Bauer's history is comprehensive in scope. For example, this is first time I have ever seen anything on the naval war in the Gulf of Mexico or an account of the period of occupation between the fall of Mexico City and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.However, Bauer's narrative is uninspired and plodding, often reading like a mere recitation of events. Reading it was a slog. He is clearly influenced by the Vietnam War which was just winding down when this book was published and frequently compares the two.. There are indeed similarities - both wars were controversial and unpopular.Bauer's position is that the Mexican War, given Mexico's internal politics and the forces of Manifest Destiny in the U.S., was inevitable and brought about by miscalculations by the Polk administration. I'm not so sure myself.

  • Jerome
    2019-05-05 10:30

    An excellent if workmanlike history of the Mexican War. Bauer’s book is well-researched and seems perfect for both general and academic audiences. Although the writing doesn’t always flow or transition very well, as a history it is comprehensive and balanced.Bauer is good at covering the political situation in the US but less so with that of Mexico, and otherwise this a fairly standard military history. He does a fine job showing the war’s actual battles from both sides. The narrative is readable---not captivating but definitely not dull, either. The maps, however, were excellent. Bauer does a fine job analyzing the war’s military actions, particularly those of the navy, and he has a good grasp of the belligerents’ strategy and the tactics of the time period.A great, serviceable history.

  • Alex
    2019-05-14 15:29

    The book is good so far i just don't understand the political part of things in this book. I think it has a lot of information about the Mexican-American war it tells the cities of wich the war took place the characters including: Generals,Millitaries,mayors and presidents.

  • Bill V
    2019-04-24 15:26

    I felt the book was very dry. I didn't know much about the war prior to reading this book so although I recognize several leaders who would play a huge part in the upcoming American Civil War, almost all the major characters I knew nothing or nearly nothing about. I had trouble following the politics discussed in the book, especially dealing with the treaty negotiations.

  • Oscar
    2019-05-06 14:23

    Bauer does a tremendous job of connecting this war with the Vietnam debacle. Polk opened a can of worms that ultimately cost him his political career and exacerbated sectional tensions that hastened the rush toward civil war.

  • Bryan
    2019-04-22 10:05


  • Mhbright
    2019-05-07 09:20

    Bit of a slog.

  • Dpoir624
    2019-04-23 14:32

    it wasn't really all that specific about the war. Really only showed the basic rundown of the war rather than going into full, real detail about it. but still worth the read.

  • John
    2019-04-24 11:25

    One of America's most controversial yet overlooked conflicts is examined in great detail in this worthy account by K. Jack Bauer. From a readability standpoint, this is not a page-turner, nor is it meant to be. Simply put, it is a very well-researched account of the Mexican War, and anyone interested in this conflict would do well to give it a try. A few points about it:- The research is indeed superb. Bauer does an excellent job sifting through primary and secondary sources, and evaluates the evidence in a surprisingly objective manner.- The prose is very good as well. The vocabulary is sophisticated and appropriate. I feel like Bauer struggled with comma usage, though. There are run-on sentences scattered throughout the book, and in other places the omission of a comma or two leads to some confusion. Otherwise, the prose is quite elegant.- The author also obsesses over minutiae. Fascinating to some, but tedious to others. - The accounts of battles are very well done. In particular, the attack on Mexico City was enjoyable to follow. Not exactly novel-worthy, but kept my attention very well.- Here and there, the author draws comparisons between the Mexican War and the Vietnam War of his own time. These are fascinating, both from a political and military perspective. All in all, this is a worthy account of the Mexican War, and worth a read.