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Battle of Buena Vista
Part of Mexican-American War
Battle of Buena Vista Nebel.jpg
Battle of Buena Vista by Carl Nebel.
DateFebruary 22–23, 1847
LocationPuerto de la Angostura, Coahuila
Result United States victory
Belligerents
 United States  Mexico
Commanders and leaders
Zachary Taylor
John E. Wool
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Pedro de Ampudia
Manuel Maria Lombardini
Strength
Army of Occupation
4,750[1]
16,000 Lombardini,
Pacheco & Ortega Infantry Divisions,
Juvera Cavalry Division
Casualties and losses
746 (267 dead
456 wounded
23 missing)
3,727 (594 dead
1,039 wounded (incl. Gens. Lombardini & Guzman)
1,800 missing
294 captured)


The Battle of Buena Vista (23 February 1847), also known as the Battle of Angostura, saw the United States (U.S.) Army use artillery to repulse the much larger Mexican army in the Mexican-American War. Buena Vista, a village of the state of Coahuila, is seven miles (12 km) south of Saltillo, in northern Mexico.

Background[]

After the Battle of Monterrey in September 1846, most of Major General Zachary Taylor's Army of Occupation was sent to the gulf coast to become the bulk of Winfield Scott's expedition against Mexico City. Taylor felt that President James K. Polk was attempting to deprive him of any further military success which would aid in his campaign for the presidency. Taylor decided to ignore orders to stay in Monterrey; he marched deeper into Mexico and seized Saltillo. Taylor also diverted the Center Division, under John E. Wool, from its expedition in Chihuahua to join him in Saltillo. With Wool's division, the U.S. force totaled about 11,000 soldiers, most of them volunteer units fighting for the first time. In the summer of 1846 Antonio López de Santa Anna returned from exile and quickly seized power. When Monterrey had fallen, Santa Anna raised an army in San Luis Potosí numbering almost 20,000. When a letter from Gen. Scott to Taylor telling of the transfer of the bulk of Taylor's army to the gulf fell into Mexican hands, Santa Anna quickly marched north to try to knock Taylor out of Mexico while U.S. forces were being withdrawn.

Taylor learned that Santa Anna was marching north and so he moved about 19 miles south of Saltillo to Agua Nueva. Taylor sent out Maj. Ben McCulloch, of the Texas Rangers, to scout out the Mexican Army. McCulloch found Santa Anna 60 miles (100 km) to the south, informing Taylor on February 21. Taylor withdrew to a mountain pass at Buena Vista 12 miles north of Agua Nueva. Gen. Wool was charged with laying out the defenses. Later that day Santa Anna arrived at Agua Nueva with 10,000 men, his force diminished because of desertion and exhaustion during the long trek from San Luis Potosí. Santa Anna perceived the U.S. withdrawal to Buena Vista as a retreat and demanded a surrender. Taylor's aide, William Wallace Smith Bliss, eloquently replied that the U.S forces declined the surrender. Taylor, worried about the safety of his supplies, rode to Saltillo that night to ensure the protection of his rear.

Battle[]

Gen. Taylor returned to the field and made his presence known to his men; he was escorted by the Mississippi Rifles under his former son-in-law, Col. Jefferson Davis. The Mississippians hit the flank of Ampudia's attacking column and Davis was wounded in the foot. Meanwhile Wool rallied the broken regiments using the walls of the hacienda at Buena Vista as a defensive position supported by a battery under Thomas W. Sherman and two regiments of dragoons. The 3rd Indiana was brought to the support of Davis, and the two regiments formed an inverted V. The Mexicans attacked this new line. The Hoosiers and Mississippians held their fire so long that the confused attackers paused briefly and were then hit by a wave of gunfire. About 2,000 Mexicans were pinned down. A young Mexican lieutenant attempted to trick the U.S. into a ceasefire by saying that Santa Anna wished to meet with the U.S. commander. Taylor and Wool saw through the ploy, but it did buy the trapped Mexicans enough time to escape.

Map of the Battle of Buena Vista.

Santa Anna renewed an attack on the main U.S. position led by Gen. Francisco Pérez with artillery support. An artillery battery under Braxton Bragg unlimbered with orders to maintain his position at all costs. Taylor rode over to Cap. Bragg, and after a brief conversation in which Bragg replied he was using single shot, Taylor ordered "double-shot your guns and give them hell, Bragg". Later this order, although misquoted as "give them a little more grape, Captain Bragg", would be used as a campaign slogan which carried Taylor into the White House. Pérez's attack was repulsed as heavy rain fell over the field. During the night, Santa Anna declared victory and withdrew to Agua Nueva, after receiving a letter from Mexico City declaring that Santa Anna was needed to quell a political coup.

American depiction of the fighting.

Results[]

The battle was the last major battle in northern Mexico. It was Taylor's greatest victory of the war. His victory at Buena Vista and his legendary command to Cap. Bragg helped him win election as President of the United States in 1848. Santa Anna was later forced to defend Mexico City against an army under Winfield Scott.

Buena Vista County, Iowa, in 1859, was named in honor of the battle, as was Buena Vista Township, in Michigan's Saginaw County, and the cities of Buena Vista, Virginia, Buena Vista Oregon, Buena Vista, New Jersey, and Buena Vista, Alabama, in northern Monroe County.

Among notable deaths at the battle is Henry Clay, Jr., second son of American statesman Henry Clay, a vociferous opponent of the Mexican War. His death was the subject of prints by Currier & Ives, and Neale & Pate. Archibald Yell, former governor of Arkansas, was also killed while commanding the 1st Arkansas Volunteer Cavalry. In addition, John J. Hardin of Illinois, a Whig political rival of Abraham Lincoln, also was killed in a ravine trying to rally his command (Amy S. Greenberg, A Wicked War).

1847 print of the battle, from an on-the-spot sketch made by Major Eaton, aide-de-camp to Taylor.

Orders of Battles[]

A. Mexican Army Undated Returns acs

18,530-of Liberating Army of the North Gen. Div. A. Lopez de Santa Anna

  • 39- Staff-Acting Gen. Manuel Micheltorena
  • 10- Engrs.-Gen. Ignacio de Mora y Villamil
  • 61- Medical Corps- Insp. Pedro Vander Linden
  • 584- Artillery-Gen. Antonio Corona (Total 16 Guns & 1 Howitzer)
    • one Art. Btry 3- 24 lbs guns -Capt. F.Moreno (San Patricio Irish Vols.)
    • one Art. Btry 3- 16 lb guns & one howitzer 7"
    • one Art. Btry 5- 12 lb guns de Leon ?
    • one Art. Btry 5- 8 lb guns- Capt. I. Ballarta
  • Commissary and Baggage Train-P. Rangel
  • 324- Regiment of Engrs.-Col. Santiago Blanco
  • 466- Regiment of Hussars-Lt. Col. Manuel Andrade
  • Infantry: Gen.Br. Manuel M. Lombardini ( 28 Infantry Battalions )
  • Light Brigade-Gen.Br. Pedro de Ampudia (1st,2d,3d & 4th Light(Ligero) Regiments)
  • 4,839- 2d Vanguard Division-Gen.Br. Francisco Pacheco (8 Bns)
  • 1st Brigade-Gen. Jose Garcia-Conde (2d Light, San Luis Potosí & Morelia Activos Bns)
  • 2d Brigade-Gen. Fransco Perez (Celaya & Leon Activos Bns,1st & 2d Guanajuato Guardia Nacional Bns
  • 4,300-1st Centre Division-Gen.Br. Manuel Maria Lombardini
  • 3d Brigade-Gen. Francisco Mejia ( 1st,3d & 5th Line(Linea) Regts. Jalisco Activos Bn)
  • 5th Brigade-Col. Jose Lopez Uraga ( 10th & 11 th Line, Michoacán Activos, Hidalgo Guardia Nacional) )
  • 3d Rear Guard Division-Acting Gen. Jose Maria Ortega (8 Bns )
  • 4th Brigade-Gen.Br. Luis Guzman ( 1st & 2d Mexico Activos, Lagos de Moreno Activos Bns)
  • 6th Brigade-Gen. Andres Terres (Aguascalientes, Guadalajara & Queretaro Activos Bns. Fieles de Santa Anna
  • Joined later:
  • 1,000- 7th Brigade-Gen. Anastasio Parrodi( 12th Line, Pueblo Activos, Fijo de Mexico, Tampico Guarda & Compania Veterana)

Cavalry: Gen. Julian Juvera ( 39 Cavalry Squadrons )

  • Horse Artillery
  • 1,418-1st Brigade-Gen.Jose V. Minon
  • 4th Cavalry,Jalisco Lancers,Cazadores,Oaxaca & Puebla Activos Regts
  • 1,094-2d Brigade-Gen. Julian Juvera
  • 5th & 9th Cavalry,Tulancingo Coraceros,Morelia Activos Regts.
  • 808-3d Brigade-Acting Gen. Anastasio Torrejon
  • 3d,7th & 8th Cavalry,Mexico Light, Guanajuato Activos Regts.
  • 390-4th Brigade-Gen. Manuel Andrade
  • Michoacan Activos, Presidiales

Detached : Division de Observacion

  • 1,121-Cavalry Brigade-Gen. Jose Urrea
  • 1,655-Infantry Brigade-Gen.Br. Ciriaco Vasquez

B. United States Army

4,759 -United States Army of Occupation-Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor

Reserves:

See also[]

References[]

  1. John S. D. Eisenhower, So Far from God: The U.S. War with Mexico, 1846-1848 (New York: Random House, 1989), 183.

Further reading[]

  • Carney, Stephen A. and U.S. Army Center for Military History. Desperate Stand: The Battle of Buena Vista (2012) excerpt and text search
  • Lavender, David. Climax at Buena Vista (2003)

Sources[]

  • Alcaraz, Ramon, et al. "Apuntes Para La Historia De La Guerra Entre Mexico y los Estados Unidos" Mexico, (1848)
  • Balbontin, Manuel, "La Invasion Americana 1846 a 1848." Mexico,(1883)
  • Bauer, K. Jack, "The Mexican War, 1846–1848"
  • Nevin, David; editor, "The Mexican War" (1978)
  • Ramsey, Albert C.,"The Other Side or Notes For The History of the War Between Mexico And The United States" Burt Franklin, New York (1850) (Translation of Alcaraz's "Apuntes")
  • Roa Barcena, Jose Maria, "Recuerdos de la invasion norteamericana,1846–1848" (1947)
  • Katcher, Phillip R., "The Mexican American War 1846–1848" (1976)
  • Lopez de Santa-Anna, Antonio,"Apelcacion Al Buen Criterio De Los Nacionales Y Estrangeros" Mexico (1849)
  • Miller, Robert R., "Shamrock and Sword" (1989)Norman, Ok
  • Americas Library
  • American casualties list
  • Note 1 Balbontin in "La Invasion..." lists the infantry battalions on p. 56, the O.B. of Pacheco Division on p. 64, the infantry bde. commanders on p. 64, 67 & 68, the artillery organization on p. 60,61,etc., the losses on p. 91-93.
  • Note 2 Ramsey in "The Other Side" gives the strength figures in this article on p. 94-95.
  • Note 3 Santa Ana in his "Apelacion" gives strength at Saltillo at end Jan as: Engr Regt 362, Artillery 456, Infantry 13,877, Cavalry 4,830, Totals 19,525. At Encarnacion 19 Feb: Engr Regiment 292, Artillery same 456, Infantry 10,153, Cavalry 4,241, Totals 15,152. pp 66–67.

Coordinates: 25°20′13.05″N 101°2′47.18″W / 25.3369583°N 101.0464389°W / 25.3369583; -101.0464389External Links[]

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