- Buena Vista, Battle of
- (1847)An important engagement of the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). After the conquest of its northern provinces failed to compel the Mexican government to accept American territorial demands, U.S. President James K. Polk, in late 1846, ordered the capture of Mexico City itself. The campaign’s commander, General Winfield Scott, out of necessity drew units from General Zachary Taylor’s Army of Occupation at Monterrey. Losing half his troops and most of his regulars, Taylor was left with a depleted army of largely inexperienced volunteers.At San Luis Potosi, Mexican General Antonia Lopez de Santa Anna learned of Taylor’s weakened status through a captured dispatch and quick-marched 15,000 men northward across 250 miles of barren country in February 1847. Taylor, expecting Santa Anna to move southward against Scott, was completely unprepared for the onslaught. Belatedly alerted to the danger on February 21, Taylor hastily concentrated his 4,800 effectives at Angostura Pass near Hacienda Buena Vista. Mountain spurs and steep gullies made “the Narrows” ideally suited to the defense. Santa Anna struck on February 22, 1847. Wave after wave of Mexican infantry and cavalry constantly threatened to envelop the American position in two days of hard fighting. Outnumbered three to one, Taylor refused to panic, skillfully maneuvering his units from one threatened point to another. His conspicuous presence on the battlefield also inspired his men, who repeatedly rallied to repair gaping holes in the American lines. Taylor’s artillery also proved decisive, shifting rapidly to fill the breeches and providing rallying points for the often panic-stricken volunteers. Firing spherical case shot and canister, American batteries first blunted and then smashed successive columns of attackers.Santa Anna withdrew in defeat on February 23, his army having suffered 2,100 casualties. American losses exceeded 660 killed, missing, and wounded. Although stunning, Taylor’s victory at Buena Vista failed to advance President Polk’s strategic objectives and Mexican capitulation remained elusive.See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Bauer, K. Jack. The Mexican War, 1846-1848. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992;Eisenhower, John S. D. So Far from God: The U.S. War with Mexico, 1846-1848. New York: Random House, 1989;McCaffrey, James M. Army of Manifest Destiny: The American Soldier in the Mexican War, 1846-1848. New York: New York University Press, 1992;Smith, Justin H. The War with Mexico. 2 vols. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1963.DAVID R. SNYDER
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.