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This conduct upon the part of General Wayne, was sustained by General Washington.
I reiterate the fact, that Mexico made no distinction between the country lying east and west of the Nueces. They claimed the whole of Texas, as a revolted province, when they were mustering their troops upon the banks of the Rio Grande, with the avowed determination of reconquering that country. What, under the circumstances, was the proper course for the administration to pursue ? Were plighted faith and pledged honor to be disregarded? Were the Mexicans to be allowed to cross the Rio Grande, and re-enact the bloody scenes which characterized their progress before the fatal defeat at San Jacinto ? The President had the right to lead our forces in person, to the uttermost limit of the Texan territory. The question in dispute could be settled by one of two methods—by negotiation or by force. The former we had tendered to Mexico after she had abruptly broken off all diplomatic intercourse. Our proposition was scornfully rejected, and she elected to decide the contest by the ordeal of battle. When this was known, it surely cannot be insisted that the Mexicans had a better right to take possession of disputed territory than the soldiers of the United States. The very fact of possession might have affected our title. Mexico might have claimed that possession as an evidence of the inability of Texas and the United States to enforce their claim to every part of the disputed territory.*
* It is evident from the correspondence of General Taylor with the
Mexican General Ampudia, that he regarded the territory between the Nueces and Rio Grande as American soil. “ While this communication was in my hands, it was discovered that the village of Frontone had been set on fire and abandoned. I viewed this as a direct act of war, and informed the deputation that their communication would be answered by me when opposite Matamoras, which was done in respectful terms.”—Letter of General Taylor to General Ampudia, dated Matamoras, Texas, April 22, 1846.
Frontone was situated west of the Arroyo Colorado. The burning of this village could not have been regarded by General Taylor as “a direct act of war" unless he considered it American territory.
He also stated to the Mexican general that the course pursued by the army under his command had been governed by a strict regard of justice and humanity. “I need hardly advise you that, charged, as I am, in only a military capacity, with the performance of specific duties, I cannot enter into a discussion of the international question involved in the advance of the American army.
You will, however, permit me to say that the Government of the United States has constantly sought a settlement by negotiation of the question of boundary; that an envoy was dispatched to Mexico for that purpose ; and that up to the most recent dates said envoy had not been received by the actual Mexican Government, if indeed he has not received his passports and left the republic. In the mean time I have been ordered to occupy the country up to the left bank of the Rio Grande, until the boundary shall be definitely settled. In carrying out these instructions I have carefully abstained from all acts of hostility, obeying, in this regard, not only the letter of my instructions, but the plain dictates of justice and humanity.”—Ib., April 12, 1846.
“ After all that has passed since the American army first approached the Rio Bravo, I am certainly surprised that you should complain of a measure, which is no other than a natural result of the state of war so much insisted upon by the Mexican authorities as actually existing at this time. You will excuse me for recalling a few circumstances to show that this state of war has not been sought by the American army, but has been forced upon it, and that the exercise of the rights incident to such a state cannot be made a subject of complaint.”—Ib., April 22, 1846.
Forward movement of the American troops.—The number and discipline of
the American army.-General Taylor reaches Point Isabel.–Fort Brown erected.— The Mexicans cross the Rio Grande.-General Taylor moves from Fort Brown to Point Isabel.-Bombardment of Fort Brown.-Battle of Palo Alto.-Resaca de la Palma.—The action of Congress.—Reorganization of the army.— The object for which the war was prosecuted.Difficulty with General Scott.—Requisitions made upon the Governors of several States for volunteers.—Plan of campaign.—Action of General Gaines.-General Taylor marches from Camargo in the direction of Monterey.-Capture of Monterey.-Internal affairs of Mexico.-Pass granted to Santa Anna.-General Wool marches upon Monclova.-General Kearney takes Santa Fé.—Colonel Doniphan advances upon Chihuahua.--Victory of Sacramento.—General Kearney starts for California.–Operations of Colonel Fremont and Commodores Sloat and Stockton. Orders issued to raise contributions from the Mexicans.—General Taylor advises the adoption of a defensive line.- Preparations made to attack Vera Cruz, -Civil Governments authorized by the President.-Movements of Colonel Price.
THE forward movement of the American troops from Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande was ordered, as suggested by General Taylor himself.* The rear
* “For these reasons our position thus far has, I think, been the best possible ; but now that the entire force will soon be concentrated, it may well be a question whether the views of Government will be best carried out by our remaining at this point. It is with great deference that I make any suggestions on topics which may become matters of delicate negotiation ; but if our Government, in settling the question of boundary makes the line of the Rio Grande an ultimatum, I cannot doubt that the settlement will be greatly facilitated and hastened by our taking possession at once of one or two points on or quite near that river. Our strength and state of preparation should be displayed in a manner not to be mistaken.”—Dispatch of General Taylor to the Secretary of War, dated at Corpus Christi, on the 4th of October, 1845.
of the army left the former place on the 11th of March, 1846. It may be proper at this place briefly to examine into the numbers, state of discipline, and arms of the regular force of the United States. Much jealousy has been manifested by our citizens ever since the declaration of independence, of standing armies. A preference has always been exhibited for militia or volunteer troops; and although raw soldiers during the revolutionary struggle did not often prove as steady under fire as the continental line, still in the last war with Great Britain, and the more recent one with Mexico, the volunteers fought with a desperation which established beyond a doubt, that perfect reliance may be placed upon them in the fury of battle. It is true that they will not yield the same passive, uncomplaining obedience, which in the "regular" affords his commander so much delight; but that pride and emulation which stimulates the volunteer, will prompt him to avoid the dangers of a court-martial, while he fights with a degree of enthusiasm that is irresistible. The graduates of the military academy at West Point, during the conflict with Mexico, elevated the character of that institution to an extraordinary degree of renown. Before the war commenced, a strong prejudice prevailed throughout the country against it, and the opposition had become so decided, that it was in danger of being discontinued. It is now, however, established upon a firmer basis than ever, and if our main reliance in time of war is to be upon the volunteers, this only renders the preservation of that institution still more impera
tive. In the selection of their officers, the volunteers will almost invariably elect those persons who have obtained a regular military education, or by their experience are qualified to command. While, then, military education should be taught at West Point, perfect reliance may be placed in the volunteer force of the country in sustaining the honor of our flag. In 1845 the whole number of the regular army of the United States amounted to 7,883, many of whom were foreigners. General Taylor before leaving Corpus Christi had under his command about 3,500 men, and when he reached the Rio Grande his effective force was less than 3,000.
When the American troops arrived near the Rio Grande, they found the Mexicans prepared to assume offensive operations. On the 10th of April, 1846, Colonel Cross was murdered, and on the 18th of the same month Lieutenant Porter with a small body of men were taken prisoners after a desperate resistance, and were inhumanly butchered. On the 24th of April General Arista arrived at Matamoras, and informed General Taylor that he considered hostilities commenced, and that he should prosecute them.* On the 24th of the same month Captain Thornton, with a party of dragoons consisting of 63 men, became engaged with a very large force of the Mexicans, in which 16 were killed and wounded, and the rest were forced to surrender.f On the 26th of April General Taylor issued a call upon the Gover
* Dispatch of General Taylor, April 26th, 1846, Executive documents, second Session, 29th Congress.