The Taking of Mexico City

Winfield Scott Entering Mexico City. By: Carl Nebel.

Winfield Scott was “one of the greatest soldiers the United States Army has ever produced,” fighting in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 778.

In 1846, he and an “enormous flotilla of ships” crossed the Gulf of Mexico and invaded Mexico to march toward the capital, Mexico City. See id. at 779. Resistance was not nearly what the Americans had expected, and there was good reason for this. There was a revolt in Mexico City against the Mexican government, as the Mexican citizenry “was even more disunited—by region, class, and ideology” than Americans. Id. at 781.

Moving inland, Scott advanced toward Mexico City taking the same route as Hernan Cortez 328 years earlier. Id. at 782. Santa Anna awaited the Americans in the capital, prepared to defend the onslaught sure to come. See id.

Not far outside of Mexico City, the Americans attacked the Mexican military academy, Colegio Militar, and the participants in that assault would become household names less than two decades later. Brigadier General Franklin Pierce, Captain Robert Anderson, and Lieutenants Ulysses S. Grant, James Longstreet, and George Pickett all participated in the attack. Id. at 788. Both Grant and Pierce would become president of the U.S. in just a matter of years, the former after the Civil War and the latter prior to the Civil War.

The Americans marched into Mexico City and occupied the city, forcing Santa Anna to resign as president and effectively ending the Mexican-American War. See id. at 789-90. Scott had conducted a masterful campaign, first amphibious, and then through the rough terrain of Mexico, setting “an example that Grant and [William Tecumseh] Sherman would follow in the Civil War.” Id. at 790.

The next generation of American leaders were coming to prominence during the final stages of the Mexican-American War. That generation of Americans would be shaping America into a greater power, and the war with Mexico illustrates the extent to which America had gathered its military strength in the preceding decades. Generals like Scott, and soldiers like Grant and Pierce, were examples of the growing military might of the country.

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