The Mexican-American War lasted from early 1846 to late 1847. Final surrender occurred in February 1848, and it was the first major war Mexico fought as an independent country and the first major war America fought to expand its territory. Mexico suffered defeat and lost almost a third of its territory to the United States.
American President James K. Polk, who assumed office in 1844, had adopted an aggressive policy to ensure the completion of "Manifest Destiny". This was the belief that the United States had a God-given right to eventually control the entire continent. Americans migrating West thought they could manage the land better than Native American nations or the Mexican government.
Mexico had gained independence from Spain in 1821 and political instability was rampant. The government had begun allowing Americans to settle in Mexico's Northern territories to populate them, under the conditions that the newcomers swore an oath of allegiance to Mexico and converted to Catholicism. However, settlers in Texas eventually grew unhappy with the Mexican government's policies and revolted.
© Giggette - Mexico, 1824
Texas eventually declared independence from Mexico in 1836 and spent a brief time as a sovereign state. The United States was not initially interested in annexing Texas, as the majority of US politicians were not interested in adding another slave state.
The United States eventually annexed Texas in 1845, which escalated growing tensions between the United States and Mexico. Polk offered to buy some of the land that now makes up South-Western USA, mainly California, but the Mexican government refused. Border skirmishes, coupled with Polk's desire for a war to claim Mexican territory, caused all-out war to finally began.
The Congress officially declared war after Mexican troops fired on American soldiers, resulting in the deaths of a dozen US soldiers and the occupation of Fort Texas north of the Rio Grande.
© Kaidor - Map of the Mexican-American War
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
The most famous Mexican involved in the Mexican-American War was Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. He was a dynamic figure of Mexican politics for many years, having gone through multiple presidencies, leading the army as a general, and even exile.
It was his capture that ended the revolution of Texas and brought the territory independence. He first became a hero after preventing Spain from trying to reclaim Mexico in 1829.
Other Mexican generals included:
James K. Polk
James K. Polk, president from 1845-1849, was the leader of the United States at the time of the conflict.
The other well-known American figure from the war was future US president Zachary Taylor. Taylor would be elected into office after Polk's final term, due to the popularity he generated in the Mexican-American War.
Zachary Taylor was sent to the border with Mexico in the 1840s and remained the general in charge of the American troops throughout the war. A man who preferred a simple appearance, many soldiers commented he looked more like a farmer than a general in his straw hat and linen duster. The nickname he earned was "Old Rough and Ready".
© Mpinedag - Zachary Taylor at Palo Alto
Other American generals included:
© Alfonsobouchot - Disembarkment in Tabasco
The Mexican army did not have the advanced weaponry the American army did, which helped play a major part in their eventual defeat.
Battle of Churubusco, Depiction by John Cameron
The war resulted in the loss of modern day Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and most of California for Mexico. The treaty that ended the war was known as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which was signed on February 2, 1848. Even today, many Mexicans resent the actions of the United States in this war.
Mexican Territories Lost after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (White)