A Thunder of Cannon
Archeology of the Mexican-American War Battlefield of Palo Alto
NPS Logo


Palo Alto battlefield is the site of the first major engagement between the forces of Mexico and United States during the Mexican-American War. The May 8, 1846 battle was the first between the United States and a foreign power since the War of 1812. In addition, it was the first major test of graduates of the United States Military Academy against a foreign army. Of all Mexican-American War battlefields on United States soil (Texas, California, and Mexico), Palo Alto is the only one that has retained its general physical and visual integrity. Because of its historical significance, Palo Alto Battlefield NHS was established June 23, 1992, when the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site Act (P.L. 102-304) established a 3,400-acre national historic site.

As part of the planning process for the new park, the National Park Service authorized an archeological sample survey of the battlefield as a follow-up to a 1979 preliminary archeological investigation of Palo Alto. The resultant 1992 and 1993 archeological surveys, conjoined with documentary research, have contributed information needed for the general management plan of the park. In addition, the synthesis of archeological and documentary materials derived from this investigation has produced interesting, sometimes even surprising, insights into the actual conduct of this battle. Recommendations for future work within the park are also presented.

Frontispiece. "The Battle of Palo Alto", ca. 1846 lithograph by Carl Nebel. The hills seen on the horizon do not exist in reality—the region surrounding the battlefield, like the battlefield itself, is virtually flat. The battle scene is the U.S. army, looking toward the Mexican battle line to the south. Photo of lithograph courtesy U.S. Library of Congress.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 25-Feb-2009