The Cost Of War

Mexican soldiers in green on left side face US soldiers in blue on right side. Smoke fills the air, dead soldiers cover the foreground.
Hand-colored lithograph by James S. Baillie entitled, "Battle of Buena Vista--Fought February 23d, 1847--The American Army under Genl. Taylor were completely victorious."

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

The United States annexed Texas as a state in 1845, though Mexico continued to claim the territory. In 1846, the dispute over Texas erupted into war. Over the next two years, the bloody conflict killed or wounded approximately 44,000 people. Mexico ceded half of its national territory to the United States.

 
US soldiers in blue on left side face Mexican soldiers in green on right side. Smoke from muskets and cannons fills the air, dead and wounded on the ground.
Currier and Ives lithograph entitled, "Battle of Buena Vista. Fought Feby. 23rd, 1847. In which the American Army under Gel. Taylor were completely victorious."

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

 
Hand drawn map showing US and Mexican battle lines located between the Rio Grande at the bottom and the Organ and White Mountains at the top
Edited version of the map of the Battle of Brazito from page 263 of "Doniphan's Expedition" by John T. Hughes.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (Digitized copy obtained from Internet Archive)

The Battle of Brazito

On Christmas Day 1846, Mexican troops battled US troops about 40 miles upriver from Paso del Norte. The US troops, primarily volunteers from Missouri, were invading southward from Santa Fe, New Mexico. A small engagement, the Battle of Brazito illustrates a local connection to the international conflict.

 
Black fabric with straight top edge descending into two points on bottom edge. Two skull-and-crossbone symbols painted in white.
Mexican lancer's guidon captured at the Battle of Sacramento. Object 1984-083-0001 in Missouri Historical Society collections.

MISSOURI HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This guidon was carried by a Mexican officer in the Battle of Brazito. Mounted lancers flew such flags on their weapons. This one was later captured by the Missouri Light Artillery at the Battle of Sacramento and has been preserved by the Missouri Historical Society. The opposite side of the guidon is painted with the words, "Libertad o Muerte," meaning "Liberty or Death." A replica of the guidon is on display in the permanent museum exhibit at Chamizal National Memorial Cultural Center.

 
Line drawing of man in tall, wide-brimmed straw hat, smoking a cigar, and draped in a blanket

A Mexican Perspective

The enemy opened their fire, first by sections, then by platoons, and finally at will; but their first line soon fell into disorder, and fled towards the woods, where their officers endeavored to make them return to the action. Ponce then gave orders to sound the charge; and that sound (unheard of circumstance!) whether well or ill-executed by the trumpeter, whether intentionally or accidentally interpreted by the cavalry, is the signal of retreat.

This quote is taken from the English translation of Notes for the History of the War Between Mexico and the United States. The original version in Spanish was written by multiple contributors, but the account from the Battle of Brazito—or Batalla de Temascalitos, as it is called in Spanish—is generally attributed to don Ramón Ortiz, an activist priest living in Paso del Norte.

 
Line drawing of long-haired, bearded man in broad-brimmed hat and fringed hunting frock coat with rifle and saber

A United States Perspective

They advanced closer, and continued to advance, pouring in volley after volley, till the sound of bullets over our heads reminded me of a hail-storm.—We waited impatiently for the word of command. It was at length given, ‘Fire!’

—Private William H. Richardson, from Journal of William H. Richardson, a Private Soldier in the Campaign of New and Old Mexico

 
 

Learn More About The US-Mexican War

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    Last updated: December 16, 2021

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