United States General Zachary Taylor was victorious over Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in the Battle of Buena Vista on February 23, 1847. Named for a nearby hacienda, the Battle of Buena Vista, was fought near Monterrey in northern Mexico. On the evening of February 21, General Taylor received a message from General Santa Anna offering to accept an American surrender and be spared the battle. Taylor reportedly replied: “I decline accepting your request.” For the next two days, the Mexican army of over 15,000 troops assaulted the smaller U.S. force of only 5,000 men. The agile field artillery and advantageous battle position, however, favored General Taylor against overwhelming odds. By nightfall of February 23, the exhausted and dispirited Mexican army retreated; Taylor elected not to pursue the troops and remained to secure the region.
General Winfield Scott landed at Veracruz in March and headed west toward Mexico City. At the Battle of Cerro Gordo in April, he defeated the Mexican army; Santa Anna again escaped capture. Despite strong resistance, Scott pressed forward and captured the Mexican capital in September, securing the U.S. victory in the Mexican American War.
Samuel McNeil, an Ohio shoemaker who ventured to California, tells of General Taylor’s bravery on the battlefield in his book McNeil’s Travels in 1849, To, Through and From the Gold Regions, in California:
I must mention one circumstance that happened there, which shows the extraordinary coolness of Gen. Z. Taylor in battle. He saw a small cannon ball coming directly towards his person. Instead of spurring “Old Whitey” out of its way, he coolly rose in his very short stirrups and permitted the ball to pass between his person and the saddle. Col. Wyncoop has mentioned this circumstance in his book, and if he lies wilfully [sic], you may be sure that the shoemaker lies unwilfully [sic].
Samuel McNeil, McNeil’s Travels in 1849, To, Through and From the Gold Regions, in California, Part I, page 15. “California as I Saw It”: First-Person Narratives of California’s Early Years, 1849-1900
Taylor’s victories at the Battle of Buena Vista, and the 1846 Battle of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, won him national fame that contributed greatly to his election as president in 1848. Scott, too, ran for president but was defeated in 1852 by another veteran of the Mexican American War, Franklin Pierce.
Numerous junior officers in the U.S. army who fought in Mexico later served in both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War: Union Generals Ulysses S. Grant, George B. McClellan, John C. Fremont, George G. Meade, William Tecumseh Sherman, Joseph Hooker, George H. Thomas, and Henry W. Halleck; and Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, “Stonewall” Jackson, Braxton Bragg, Albert Sidney Johnston, James Longstreet, A. P. Hill, and Jubal A. Early. Jefferson Davis fought at the Battle of Buena Vista.
- Additional images of General Taylor are accessible in the collection By Popular Demand: Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present.
- Among the men under General Winfield Scott’s command at the battle of Cerro Gordo was Robert E. Lee. To find out more about Lee, who commanded the Confederate Army during the Civil War, search the Today in History Archive on his name. Also, search on Robert E. Lee in Selected Civil War Photographs.
- Search by name for images of officers and participants in this conflict in Selected Civil War Photographs and the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.
- See A Guide to the Mexican War for links to digital materials on the war available both on Library of Congress Web site and external Web sites, as well as a selected bibliography
- View photographs of the area once claimed by both Mexico and the United States. Browse the collection The South Texas Border, 1900-1920: Photographs from the Robert Runyon Collection.
- Learn more about the religious and secular music of Spanish-speaking residents of rural northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Browse the List of Titles in Hispano Music and Culture of the Northern Rio Grande. Of particular relevance is “Marcha de Santa Ana” (“I Wish I Were an Angel” performed to the tune of “Santa Ana’s March”).
- View a series of hand-colored lithographs depicting the battles of the Mexican War in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog by searching Mexican War, 1846-1848, Campaigns and Battles. One example is the Scene at Vera Cruz in March 1847.
- For a contemporary account of the Battle of Buena Vista and other battles of the Mexican War, read “Gen. Taylor, and the Mexican War. Including the particulars of the last battles, names of the killed and wounded, anecdotes, etc.” (New York, N. H. Blanchard ). (PDF)
- View maps of this campaign by searching on Buena Vista, Campeche, Coahuila, Mexico City, Mexico – North 1847, Nuevo Leon, Parras de la Fuente Region, Tamaulipas, and Vera Cruz in Map Collections.
- Learn more about historical events surrounding the Mexican American War. Search the Today in History Archive on Treaty of Guadalupe.