A Destined Conflict: The U.S. – Mexican War
On May 13, 1846, the United States of America declared war on the United Mexican States. In response to this declaration, thousands of individuals mustered in volunteer regiments across America to join the Regular Army to fight for the Stars and Stripes. The official cause of the war was both the American annexation of the Republic of Texas and the border dispute between Mexico and the new state over whether the national border was the Rio Grande or the Nueces River; Texas claimed the Rio Grande, Mexico the Nueces. After the Mexican Army fired and killed several provocatively placed American soldiers sent into the disputed area along the border by President James K. Polk, the President asked for and received a declaration of war from congress. The two years of fighting that followed was a valiant but ineffective defensive war for Mexico, after which a huge portion of their nation became American territory.
The causes and reasons for this war are not that easy to discern and interpret even with hindsight as a guide. In “A Destined Conflict: The U.S. Mexican War,” a new exhibit opening July 4th at the San Jacinto Museum of History, a wide array of contemporary artifacts—from newspapers and prints, to documents and artifacts written and owned by many of the key players in the conflict—will be on display. Understanding the messages conveyed by the interpretation of these artifacts grants some insight into how those in charge, the men in the field, and the press back home viewed the series of engagements in a conflict that saw many more soldiers dying from disease than battle.
From the first engagement in Palo Alto, Texas to the Halls of Montezuma in Mexico City, the exhibit chronicles this decisive and divisive conflict. Often overshadowed by the Civil War, it is important not to forget this major conflict in our history. In the aftermath, problems that were drowned out by patriotic fervor and the cries of Manifest Destiny became even more pronounced and would soon lead to a fracture within the United States itself.
If you are a teacher, lesson plans related to the exhibit A Destined Conflict: The U.S. - Mexican War have been selected from the Curriculum Guide for Teaching Texas History and combined for you to download.