Rancho de Carricitos was located on the north bank of the Rio Grande, about 28 miles upriver from the U.S. post, Fort Texas. It was a large farm field fenced in by high, impenetrable chaparral thickets. On the morning of April 25, 1846, Captain Seth Thornton's party of 63 U.S. Dragoons approached this ranch. They were investigating reports that a large of Mexican force had crossed the river the previous day.
Setting the Trap
When Mexican troops arrived at Rancho de Carricitos, they located the Americans inside the fenced field. Unseen by the Thornton’s party, General Torrejón first sent portions of his force to surround the field to close off any escape routes through the brush. Then, he ordered infantry troops to march through the gateway and form lines to block the exit from the ranch.
The sudden appearance of Mexican troops took the dragoons by surprise. With their backs to the river and impassable brush on each side, Thornton and his troops had no choice but to charge. However, heavy gunfire turned the horsemen back. Thornton's men then dismounted and attempted to cut their way through the chaparral fence, only to be stopped by Mexican troops outside the field.
The brief battle had two important effects. In the U.S., news of the skirmish reached Washington D.C. on May 10, 1846. President Polk's passionate announcement that "American blood has been spilled upon the American territory," inspired Congress to declare war on May 13.
The Site Today
In the century and a half since the skirmish at Carricitos, the exact location of the ranch has been forgotten. Soldiers had measured the distance to the site along the winding path of the Rio Grande. Unfortunately, the river has since shifted course numerous times since 1846 making these measurements unreliable.
Last updated: July 4, 2021