Grant at Palo Alto Battlefield

Grant with fellow United States of America soldiers in battle against the Mexican Army on the opposite end of the field.
United States of America in battle with Mexico on the field of Palo Alto.

Library of Congress

As part of the Mexican army laid siege to the U.S. fort on the northern bank of the Rio Grande, Ulysses S. Grant along with 2,300 of General Taylor’s forces marched to assist the besieged men.

In the meantime, General Mariano Arista and 3,200 Mexican troops were headed to block the U.S. from reaching the fort. As U.S. soldiers emerged into a clearing, they saw the Mexican Army’s long lances and bayonets glistening in the sun. U.S. forces waded through shoulder-high grass until they were close enough to use their cannon. The devastating fire of the U.S. cannon tore the Mexican lines, causing numerous casualties. Undeterred, the Mexican soldiers stood their ground and endured the attack.

“Every moment we could see the charges from our pieces cut a way through their ranks making a perfect road, but they would close up the interval without showing signs of retreat.” -Ulysses S. Grant, Letter to Julia Dent, May 11, 1846

Twice Mexican lancers charged to attack. Both attempts were beaten back by Taylor’s light artillery which quickly advanced to counter the attack. As darkness set in, both armies set up camp, cared for the wounded and buried the dead.

The Mexican army suffered 102 killed and 129 wounded. In contrast, nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 44 wounded. The battle was Grant’s first combat experience.

"You want to know what my feelings were on the field of battle? I do not know that I felt any peculiar sensation. War seems much less horrible to persons engaged in it than to those who read of the battles." -Ulysses S. Grant, letter to John W. Lowe, June 26, 1846

At Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, visitors can see exhibits and a short video that gives details about the U.S.-Mexican War. Outside they can experience the landscape that shaped the Battle. Trailside panels explain the battle and introduce the park’s wildlife and plants.

The Odyssey of Ulysses explores the saga of U. S. Grant from his first battle to his final resting place. For information on this Article Series project, contact us.

Part of a series of articles titled The Odyssey of Ulysses.

Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park

Last updated: August 4, 2022