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The Battle of Palo Alto

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  • The Battle of Palo Alto

    And thus officially began the US-Mexico War.....

    From: http://www.history.army.mil/html/ref...y_flag/mw.html

    Palo Alto, 8 May 1846. Conditions had been steadily worsening along the Rio Grande. The United States claimed the Rio Grande as the international border while the Mexican Government claimed the Nueces was the proper border. Early in 1846, General Zachary Taylor built a fort on the Rio Grande opposite the Mexican town of Matamoros. In April, the Mexicans countered by sending a force of about 1600 cavalrymen across the Rio Grande where, on 25 April, they overwhelmed a force of 60 dragoons under Captain S. B. Thornton.

    Mexican forces at Matamoros steadily grew stronger in April. By the end of the month General Taylor had become concerned about his lines of communication with his lightly held main base at Point Isabel, near the mouth of the Rio Grande. Therefore, on 1 May Taylor moved the bulk of his army to Point Isabel, leaving a small detachment of artillery and infantry under Maj. Jacob Brown at the fort opposite Matamoros. The Mexicans soon placed this fort (later named Fort Brown) under heavy attack. On 7 May Taylor moved to the rescue with about 2,300 men. On the morning of 8 May, when little more than half way to the fort, the Americana came face to face with the enemy, a force numbering perhaps as many as 6,000 men, commanded by Gen. Mariano Arista. Its right flank rested on an elevation known as Palo Alto (after which the engagement was named). Taylor moved unhesitatingly into battle, using his artillery to cover the deployment of the infantry. The engagement continued until nightfall, when the Mexicans withdrew. Effective use of artillery fire was largely responsible for the American victory. American losses were 9 killed and 47 wounded. The Mexicans suffered more than 700 casualties, including about 320 deaths.

    Battle Report: http://www.mymexicanwar.com/battles/460508.htm

    Pamphalet from the US Army Center of Military Center: http://www.history.army.mil/brochure...alo%20Alto.htm

    US Commander: General Zachary Taylor - http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar...ry_taylor.html

    Mexican Commander: General Mariano Arista - http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar...no_arista.html

    US Casualty List: Officers - http://www.cclibraries.com/local_his...toofficers.htm

    NCO/Soldiers - http://www.cclibraries.com/local_his...loaltolist.htm
    Taylor to Santa Anna: "Tell him to go to hell."
    As translated by Major Bliss: "In reply to your note of this date, summoning me to surrender my forces at discretion, I beg leave to say that I decline acceding to your request."

  • #2
    The United States claimed the Rio Grande as the international border while the Mexican Government claimed the Nueces was the proper border.
    The Republic of Texas only claimed to the Nueces as well. It was just at the time of annexation when it was decided to move the border to the Rio Grande. IMO, it was a land grab.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Alatriste View Post
      The Republic of Texas only claimed to the Nueces as well. It was just at the time of annexation when it was decided to move the border to the Rio Grande. IMO, it was a land grab.
      I would agree. The land between the Nueces and the Rio Grande (where I have spent most of my life) was the excuse, but the goal was the land west of Texas to the Pacific.
      Taylor to Santa Anna: "Tell him to go to hell."
      As translated by Major Bliss: "In reply to your note of this date, summoning me to surrender my forces at discretion, I beg leave to say that I decline acceding to your request."

      Comment


      • #4
        I was just reading a little bit, and apparently Palo Alto, fought on May 8th, should probably be bundled with the Battle of Resaca de la Palma which was fought the following day.

        My source places Mariano Arista in command of Mexican forces during both engagements. But in trying to account for the deployment of Mexican forces, there are some numbers that do not quite add up.

        This is out of Harper's Encyclopedia of Military History
        May 1st - Arista crosses the Rio Grande with a force of 6,000 to lay siege to Camp Texas

        May 3rd-8th - Siege of Camp Texas (Major Brown dies lending his name to the town built later on the site)

        May 8th - Battle of Palo Alto - 4,500 Mexicans engage General Taylor (presumably up to 1,500 are left to maintain the siege). The force of 4,500 is defeated and forced to flee.

        May 9th - Resaca de la Palma - Taylor attacks a strong Mexican defensive position. After brief, but intense, fighting the Mexican army is routed and flees across the Rio Grande. Mexican casualties over the two days of battle number about 1,100.

        There is then a lull in the fight for a 3-month period as Taylor awaits supplies (the book says "transportation" not supplies).

        Now, some questions. Does Arista disappear from history after May 9th? He should still have a force of around 4,000+. I suppose that if this was a force of Mexican militia raised in the area, then they might have fled home (disappear into the countryside). But if this was an army raised for from the mouth of the Rio Grande, then they would have been hard pressed to just disappear. Does anybody know how and where Mexican forces were raised for this incursion?

        Comment


        • #5
          Do any of y'all have sources that give other numbers for the size of the Mexican army under Arista? I find that many sources vary, and it's best to get numbers from multiple authors.

          Comment


          • #6
            My only book on the war, published in Mexico City, gives the following for the battle of Palo Alto:

            Forces under the command of Gral. Arista just priot to the battle:
            First Brigade – Colonel Antonio M. Jauregui = 1,248 men
            Second Brigade – Colonel Romulo Diaz de la Vega = 653 men
            Third Brigade – Colonel Anastacio Torrejon = 1,161
            Independent units (Artillery and Sappers) = 396

            Where it gets complicated is that units get mixed up in the actual deployment at Palo Alto:

            Right Wing: General Romulo Diaz de la Vega: One four inch or four pound gun (given as an artillery piece ‘a 4’), the Sapper Battalion, the 2nd Light Inf. Regt, Active Coast Guard Battalion of Tampico, Company of Veterans from Tampico. No numbers given
            Center: 5 artillery pieces (again, ‘a 4’)
            Reserve or Left Wing: one Squadron, Light Cavalry Regt., 7th Cavalry Regt., 8th Cavalry Regt., 1st Cavalry Regt., a ‘Presidiales’ (i.e., Presidio garrison) company, and two artillery pieces (‘a 4’). Again, no numbers given.

            But: then comes “General Ampudia’s Reinforcements” (Refuerzo del General Ampudia)”: Artillery, Sappers, 4th Infantry Regiment, and the Auxiliary Regiment of the “Villas del Norte”, which I presume are local militia:

            With all these, I presume, the total numbers given for Mexican forces at Palo Alto are: 304 Sappers, 74 Artillerymen, 1,729 Infantrymen, and 1,161 Cavalrymen, for a grand total of 3,268 Mexican combatants.

            Source: pages 75 – 79 of “La Intervencion Norteamericana en Mexico” by General (Retired) Leopoldo Martinez Caraza.

            As for the rank differences for the same officers, no note is given. I suspect that the Colonels listed were in their peacetime rank, but as graduates of their War College were jumped up to their wartime command rank as soon as hostilities commenced.

            Later in the book, note is made of the fact that the U.S. had recently purchased French artillery pieces that out-ranged their Mexican counterparts, so the U.S. had the advantage in artillery.
            dit: Lirelou

            Phong trần mài một lưỡi gươm, Những loài giá áo túi cơm sá gì!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Cicero View Post
              Now, some questions. Does Arista disappear from history after May 9th? He should still have a force of around 4,000+. I suppose that if this was a force of Mexican militia raised in the area, then they might have fled home (disappear into the countryside). But if this was an army raised for from the mouth of the Rio Grande, then they would have been hard pressed to just disappear. Does anybody know how and where Mexican forces were raised for this incursion?
              In answer to your first question:

              According to the Handbook of Texas Online - "After suffering defeat in both engagements and being criticized by subordinates, he relinquished his command to Francisco Mexía, requested trial by a court-martial, and was absolved of guilt. He became Mexican secretary of war in June 1848. In January 1851 he was declared by the Mexican Congress the constitutional president of Mexico. He resigned in January 1853, was forced into exile, and died near Lisbon, Portugal, on August 7, 1855."

              http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/o...s/AA/far4.html
              Taylor to Santa Anna: "Tell him to go to hell."
              As translated by Major Bliss: "In reply to your note of this date, summoning me to surrender my forces at discretion, I beg leave to say that I decline acceding to your request."

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by lirelou View Post
                My only book on the war, published in Mexico City, gives the following for the battle of Palo Alto:

                Forces under the command of Gral. Arista just priot to the battle:
                First Brigade – Colonel Antonio M. Jauregui = 1,248 men
                Second Brigade – Colonel Romulo Diaz de la Vega = 653 men
                Third Brigade – Colonel Anastacio Torrejon = 1,161
                Independent units (Artillery and Sappers) = 396

                Where it gets complicated is that units get mixed up in the actual deployment at Palo Alto:

                Right Wing: General Romulo Diaz de la Vega: One four inch or four pound gun (given as an artillery piece ‘a 4’), the Sapper Battalion, the 2nd Light Inf. Regt, Active Coast Guard Battalion of Tampico, Company of Veterans from Tampico. No numbers given
                Center: 5 artillery pieces (again, ‘a 4’)
                Reserve or Left Wing: one Squadron, Light Cavalry Regt., 7th Cavalry Regt., 8th Cavalry Regt., 1st Cavalry Regt., a ‘Presidiales’ (i.e., Presidio garrison) company, and two artillery pieces (‘a 4’). Again, no numbers given.

                But: then comes “General Ampudia’s Reinforcements” (Refuerzo del General Ampudia)”: Artillery, Sappers, 4th Infantry Regiment, and the Auxiliary Regiment of the “Villas del Norte”, which I presume are local militia:

                With all these, I presume, the total numbers given for Mexican forces at Palo Alto are: 304 Sappers, 74 Artillerymen, 1,729 Infantrymen, and 1,161 Cavalrymen, for a grand total of 3,268 Mexican combatants.

                Source: pages 75 – 79 of “La Intervencion Norteamericana en Mexico” by General (Retired) Leopoldo Martinez Caraza.

                As for the rank differences for the same officers, no note is given. I suspect that the Colonels listed were in their peacetime rank, but as graduates of their War College were jumped up to their wartime command rank as soon as hostilities commenced.

                Later in the book, note is made of the fact that the U.S. had recently purchased French artillery pieces that out-ranged their Mexican counterparts, so the U.S. had the advantage in artillery.
                Is there any chance that book gives total numbers that he took across the Rio Grande? I would presume that he left some force behind to maintain the siege at the Fort. Is their any mention of a siege? What is the Spanish verb for "to lay siege (to)"??

                Comment


                • #9
                  Gonna revive this old thread.

                  I visited the Palo Alto Battlefield last week and picked up a book or two while I was at the visitor center. As I was reviewing one of the books, I noticed on their map that they had a star to represent Texas Rangers.

                  It was the first time I had seen a non-Regular force listed amond the American units at Palo Alto, so I pulled out a second book from my library "The Highly Irregular Irregulars" which looks at the Texas Rangers during the US-Mexico War specifically. In there is mentions that there were Rangers that were working for Taylor and that they helped with some recon, but apparently did not participate in either Palo Alto or Resaca de la Palma.

                  So, now I am wondering why even include them on the map in the first place. My question is, has anyone come across information that may shed some light on what exactly the Rangers were doing during those two battles?

                  Also, in just a quick overview, it would appear that the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma were the last two battles in the 19th century that only Regular Army forces were involved.
                  Taylor to Santa Anna: "Tell him to go to hell."
                  As translated by Major Bliss: "In reply to your note of this date, summoning me to surrender my forces at discretion, I beg leave to say that I decline acceding to your request."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Alatriste View Post
                    The Republic of Texas only claimed to the Nueces as well. It was just at the time of annexation when it was decided to move the border to the Rio Grande. IMO, it was a land grab.
                    I thought Texas claimed the Rio as well, but I could be wrong. One problem was neither side could effectively field an army of occupation (or even operations) so far from their respective capitals to perfect their claims.

                    The Nueces was the traditional border between Coahuila and Texas, so far as it went, and from the Mexican standpoint, they had a better legal claim to the Nueces Strip. After it (or the San Antonio River) end somewhere to the west, I don't know what the border was; it was probably a moot point.

                    The battle may not have been the bloodiest in the west, but it certainly proved to be one of the most costly, in terms of land and national wealth.
                    "There are only two professions in the world in which the amateur excels the professional. One, military strategy, and, two, prostitution."
                    -- Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

                    (Avatar: Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, Republic of Texas Navy)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      After doing further research, it turns out that the Nueces was the Mexican administrative boundary for the Department of Texas, with while the Republic of Texas showed the Rio Grande as it souther border all the way from 1836.

                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Me...ive_map-en.svg

                      Couhahila and Taumalipas were shown to extend North of the Rio Grande b Mexican claims, but the region was administratively referred to as Couhahila texas very commonly.

                      My opinion now is that the boundary was always in dispute between the Texas and Mexico.
                      "I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
                      George Mason
                      Co-author of the Second Amendment
                      during Virginia’s Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cyberknight View Post
                        After doing further research, it turns out that the Nueces was the Mexican administrative boundary for the Department of Texas, with while the Republic of Texas showed the Rio Grande as it souther border all the way from 1836.

                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Me...ive_map-en.svg

                        Couhahila and Taumalipas were shown to extend North of the Rio Grande b Mexican claims, but the region was administratively referred to as Couhahila texas very commonly.

                        My opinion now is that the boundary was always in dispute between the Texas and Mexico.
                        The issue was not only the boundary, but the fact that Mexico never recogonized Texas as an independent Republic. The 9 years that the Republic of Texas existed there were constant skirmishes between Texas and Mexico and several raids that went both ways across the border.

                        When the US decided to accept Texas as a state it damaged the relationship between the US and Mexico because Mexico still viewed Texas as part of Mexico and thus not able to be annexed into the United States.
                        Taylor to Santa Anna: "Tell him to go to hell."
                        As translated by Major Bliss: "In reply to your note of this date, summoning me to surrender my forces at discretion, I beg leave to say that I decline acceding to your request."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Cyberknight View Post
                          After doing further research, it turns out that the Nueces was the Mexican administrative boundary for the Department of Texas, with while the Republic of Texas showed the Rio Grande as it souther border all the way from 1836.

                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Me...ive_map-en.svg

                          Couhahila and Taumalipas were shown to extend North of the Rio Grande b Mexican claims, but the region was administratively referred to as Couhahila texas very commonly.

                          My opinion now is that the boundary was always in dispute between the Texas and Mexico.
                          Texas always claimed the Rio Grande as the border. This was based on the treaty Mexico's President (dictator) signed after San Jacinto. However as soon as his army was defeated he no longer had the power to remain "President" of Mexico. The persons able to seize power in Mexico City (and Santa Anna after his release) repudiated the treaty. Texas continued to claim the Rio Grande as the border and the Mexican Govt either claimed the Nueces or denied Texas independence. There are maps still existing of areas promised to be granted for North American settlement that extended to the Rio. These were from the period when Mexico was trying to entice settlers in to benefit their economy (and control the indians). It is implied that the areas would be administered from Texas. Land grants never extended that far and such changes were never made to province borders before Mexico disintegrated into her several civil and succession wars.

                          Mexico had other fish to fry as many other provinces were in rebellion or declaring their own independence. The Republic of the Rio Grande briefly existed on Texas' southern border and sought alliance with Texas. While Texas was amiable they never really supported the RRG on land but only at sea. Whatever accommodation Texas might have made with a friendly southern ally did not have time to be resolved before the collapse of the Republic. Texas still did not relinquish her border claims to the central Mexican govt.

                          During the trouble between the US and Mexico the Republic of the Yucatan also sought annexation by the United States. The US was willing to promise to protect Mexican citizens from Comanches, Kiowa, Apache and Navajo indians. The US government was unwilling to widen the contested territories of an unpopular war to areas they had not previously negotiated to purchase. There was also a very populous and successful indian revolt going on in the Yucatan at the time.
                          Last edited by Widow Maker; 08 Aug 10, 16:35.
                          "Put guards on all the roads, and don't let the men run to the rear."
                          Major General John Buford's final words on his deathbed.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Alatriste View Post
                            The Republic of Texas only claimed to the Nueces as well. It was just at the time of annexation when it was decided to move the border to the Rio Grande. IMO, it was a land grab.
                            Not true. Mexico repudiated the treaty but Texas never relinquished its claims based on the treaty signed after the Battle of San Jacinto. Mexico and the Texas Republic never officially had any other end to the conflict between them except that treaty.
                            "Put guards on all the roads, and don't let the men run to the rear."
                            Major General John Buford's final words on his deathbed.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Cicero, my apologies. This is the first time I've returned to this thread since May. Reference your question, "Sitiar" is to lay siege to. Or, as my 'Diccionario de la lengua Espanola' of the Royal Academy puts it: "Sitiar: Cercar una plaza o una fortaleza para combatirla o apoderarse de ella." (Encircle a fortified town or fortress to destroy or to take possession of it)
                              dit: Lirelou

                              Phong trần mài một lưỡi gươm, Những loài giá áo túi cơm sá gì!

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