The social, cultural and economic impact of the Mexican-American War continues to reverberate today. The border that exists today is both a physical construct as well as a symbolic force dating back to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848 which was the formal ending to the war. The Treaty effectively ceded the land from present day Texas to California along the Rio Grande/Bravo. This paper will outline the contributing factors that led up to the war as well as the major events that brought it to a close. More importantly, this paper will discuss how this war shaped the divergent paths these two neighboring countries would follow in the aftermath of the war.
I. Leading up to the war: different countries, different perspectives
a. Manifest Destiny in the United States
i. The California Gold Rush
ii. “Volunteer” militia
b. Mexico spread too thin
i. Waning power over their northern territories
ii. Christian missions and the role of integration
c. The role of Native Americans
II. In the heat of battle: Military might armed with political agenda
a. The decentralization of the Mexican military
i. Militiamen in northern areas poorly organized and armed before the outbreak of battle
ii. Faced high rates of desertion and mutiny from drafted members
b. The United States call to arms – the Army of Manifest Destiny
i. The U.S. Army constituted a national force but was undermanned
ii. The militia were forces organized by state but could only serve for 90 days by law, including the training process
iii. To get around this lack of manpower, Congress called up additional troops from the military academy and instituted the Volunteer Army to get around the 90 day limit for militia
III. The turning points of the war
a. Major Battles
i. The Battle of Palo Alto – the first major military engagement
ii. The Capture of Veracruz by the U.S. military
iii. The beginning of the end for Mexico: Battle of Cerro Gordo
iv. The entrance into Mexico City and the occupation of Mexico
IV. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848
a. Acquisition of over 500,000 square miles of land for the U.S.
b. U.S. hegemony as a result of dictating the terms of the agreement
i. Immigration issues
ii. Effect on trade policy
iii. Feeling of moral superiority due to fulfilling Manifest Destiny
In my opinion, the Mexican American War was one of the major events that led to the international dominance of the United States. It has also played a major role in defining the relations between the two countries, with the U.S. controlling the major negotiations.
The American Southwest and the borderlands continue to struggle to define their identities, whether that be as American, Mexican, Native American, or the vast mixes that have evolved through the years. Today, military conflict between the two countries has been replaced with ideological and political conflicts, but the fate of the United States and Mexico will forever be linked to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and its vast impact.
The U.S. – Mexican War (1846-1848). (2006). PBS. December 2, 2008, Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/index_flash.html
The U.S. – Mexican War (1846-1848). (2004). Descendants of Mexican War Veterans. December 2, 2008, Retrieved from http://www.dmwv.org/mexwar/mexwar1.htm