The War with Mexico. Polk’s Presidency and Expansionist Politics, and the Gold Rush Leads America to Lands West of Texas.
The War with Mexico
Polk’s Presidency and Expansionist Politics, and the Gold Rush Leads America to Lands West of Texas
The hostilities between Mexico and the U.S. reignited when Texas was annexed in 1845. The combination of Mexico’s instable government and President James K. Polk’s territorial aspirations led to hostilities between the two.
Polk viewed a war with Mexico as a way to acquire California and New Mexico into the Union.
Polk first attempted to send an emissary to purchase CA, NM, and the Rio Grande border for TX, but when he was refused, he changed his tactics. What did he do next?
Polk then sent General Zachery Taylor to blockade the Rio Grande, an act viewed by Mexico as infringing on their rights.
Mexico’s territorial rights were further violated with the exploration party led by John C. Frémont through Mexico’s Alta California province.
Mexico retaliated by crossing the Rio Grande and killing 9 U.S. soldiers in a skirmish at Matamaros.
Polk used this as an opportunity to spur Congress into action in support of the war, and he declared that, “American blood [was shed] upon American soil.”
How did Polk skew his statements to persuade Congress into war?
Lincoln challenged Polk’s honesty, but the vote passed to go to war.
As part of a plan to take NM and CA, Polk ordered Stephen Kearny to march from Ft. Leavenworth, KS to Santa Fe, NM.
When the “Long Marcher,” arrived at the 800 mile destination, he took NM without a shot being fired since the Mexican’s there wanted to join the U.S.
Kearny then set his sights on Southern CA, where he arrived to meet up with Frémont in Sonoma who had already proclaimed CA as a republic.
Kearny and Frémont’s efforts effectively took control of these northern most provinces of the Mexican territories.
American leadership led the way to successive victories against the Mexican soldiers.
Capt. Robert E. Lee and Capt. Ulysses S. Grant were West Point graduates.
Gen. Zachery “Old Rough and Ready” Taylor and Gen. Winfield “Old Fuss and Feathers” Scott were colorful leaders who helped lead many victories to finish off Mexico’s armies at Mexico City in 1847.
Polk, at one point of the war, hatched a plan with Santa Anna (who was currently exiled in Cuba). He planned to help Santa Anna return to Mexico under the condition that Santa Anna would end the war and cede the desired land to the Americans.
Polk snuck Santa Anna back into Mexico, but instead of ending the war, he regained the presidency and led an attack against Taylor’s troops.
Taylor’s troops were out-numbered, but the exhaustion of Santa Anna’s men led to him being pushed back into Mexico.
The U.S. territory after the war was increased by 1/3rd
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave TX the Rio Grande border, as well as ceded NM and CA to the U.S.
Americans paid $15mill to Mexico and also granted Mexicans living in these territories partial citizenship.
The land territories would later make up CA, UT, NM, NM, AZ, and parts of CO and WY. Five years later, President Pierce would purchase the remainder of our lower 48 states.
In 1848, John Marshall discovered gold while working on Sutter’s Mill in the Sierra Nevadas.
Word spread like wild fire and people left their homes and jobs to strike it rich in San Francisco Valley.
Migration sky-rocketed from 400 in 1848 to 44,000 by 1850. These settlers became known as “49ers,” and included people from all over the world.
A Map of the Gold Veins in California.
San Francisco’s population exploded from 1,000 in 1848 to 35,000 in 1850.
California’s total population exceeded 100,000 in 1850 and was a mixture of people ranging from Chinese, Free Blacks, Mexicans, South Americans, and Europeans.
When California applied for statehood, the issue of slavery once again became a problem. Northern and Southern opinions clashed once more over the question of whether the new state should be free or slave, yet by 1850, CA was added (as a free state, you will learn why in Ch.10).