Was the US just beating up on a weaker nation - Mexico? 

General/President Ulysses S. Grant was largely responsible for the belief that the US was beating up on Mexico after his memoirs came out in 1885 - 40 years after the war ended. Grant stated: “For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure [the annexation of Texas], and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”(p 53) The only reason this viewpoint was credible is because we won so decisively.  Had the war gone badly for the US and had we suffered huge casualties, this view would not be credible. The truth is that in most every battle, the difference between victory and defeat for the US was VERY small. The US Army was always outnumbered by large margins. With a mistake here and there, America could easily have lost the war. 

Mexico did not feel inferior to the US at all and was confident they could defeat the US. Many Mexicans believed their army was nearly invincible.  The Spanish Minister in Washington, Calderon de la Barca, said “There are no better troops in the world, nor better drilled and armed, than the Mexicans.”(69) The Mexican correspondent to the London Times stated in 1845 that Mexican soldiers “are superior to those of the United States.”(68) 

The Boletin Official of San Luis Potosi stated: “We have numerous and veteran forces burning with a desire to gain immortal renown.”(69) “Not to speak of our approved infantry, our artillery is excellent, and our cavalry so superior in men and horses that it would be an injustice not to recognize the fact.”(69)  An editorial in La Voz del Pueblo said, “We have more than enough strength to make war.”  “Let us make it, then, and victory will perch upon our banners.”(68) Juan Almonte, a military man, assured his government that it was “certain” that Mexico would defeat the US.(123) General Francisco Mejia declared US troops “. . . cannot withstand the bayonet charge of our foot, nor a cavalry charge with the lance.”(125)  

The US never believed victory over Mexico was a sure thing, which was one of the reasons it took so long to allow Texas to join the union and why we bent over backwards to peaceably resolve all the issues.  Our military was very small and concerned primarily with battling the Indians. In conventional warfare against an established army, the US was considered to be outclassed. Many observers believed that it would be nearly impossible for the US to defeat Mexico - a nation of over 7 million people with many rugged mountains. The ability of Mexico to wage guerrilla war against our supply lines would prevent us from massing sufficient troops to defeat the Mexicans deep in their territory. Mexico could outlast the U.S. without suffering disastrously, while the US would have to wage an extremely costly war, raise a large army and still not be able to defeat Mexico. Eventually the Americans would tire of the war, the never ending casualties, huge military spending and make peace on Mexico’s terms.(71)

A famous American of that time, General Ethan Allen Hitchcock, one of the finest strategists of the day, felt the US did not have the manpower necessary to defend Texas from Mexico - much less launch offensive operations. In his diary, published in 1909, his entries written on 26 March 1846 - BEFORE the war started - states: “Our force is altogether too small for the accomplishment of its errand. . . for, whatever becomes of this army, there is no doubt of a war between the United States and Mexico.”(129) The ‘errand’ was to defend Texas from the Mexican invasion. Hitchcock adds the next day: “. . . the enemy has time to fortify and strengthen himself at Matamoras, or on this bank of the river where General Taylor told the prefect he would give him an answer to his protest. So they know where the General designs going. If he succeeds under all these circumstances, he will be fortunate beyond belief; for we have not more than 2300 men at the ouside, and the Mexicans can certainly bring against us three or four times that number.”(130) 

Once the war started, it quickly became evident that Mexican generals where very poor strategists while American Generals Taylor, Scott and Hitchcock were brilliant tacticians. These outnumbered American forces then destroyed the Mexican Army at Palo Alto on May 8, Resaca de la Palma on May 9 and over the next year and a half, annihilated the Mexican Army.

The fact remains that Mexico instigated the war and believed they could defeat the US. California and New Mexico were not attacked until after Mexico started the war. In war, the winner dictates terms to the loser.

Continue to: "Mexican American War today".

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