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U. S. - Mexican War: Part II

Yanqui Imperialism


Manifest Destiny

The United States exploited the chaos of the Mexican struggle for independence by occupying Florida. In 1819, a treaty between Spain and the United States acknowledged the loss of Florida as a fait accompli. The tactic of conquest by settlement was then employed in Texas and California.


The Mexican War of Independence left many areas, such as the region of Texas, in economic shambles. Anglo-Americans were invited to settle, to develop the area and help fight off the Comanche. Anglo settlers soon outnumbered Hispanics, and blatantly disregarded promises to convert to Catholicism. The Mexican Republic raised taxes and import duties, and tried to limit Anglo immigration, which angered the Texans.

By 1835, the Texans had formed a provisional government and named General Sam Houston, former United States congressman and governor of Tennessee, as commander-in-chief of its army. In February 1836, Mexican dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna led the forces that overwhelmed the Alamo. In April, Santa Anna was routed by Sam Houston at San Jacinto. Santa Anna, taken prisoner by Houston, was forced to sign a “treaty” guaranteeing the independence of Texas.

The Texans then immediately sought admission to the United States, but since Anglo settlers had brought with them their African slaves, this was opposed by abolitionists in the Northeast United States, as an attempt to create another state where slavery was legal.

The Mexicans did not accept the “treaty” obtained by duress, but might have been persuaded to accept an independent Texas as a sort of buffer-zone, as long as it was not part of the United States. Instead, the United States “annexed” Texas, provoking war.

California: Sutter’s Fort

In August, 1839, Swiss immigrant Johann Suter (John Sutter) arrived in California territor. Sutter convinced the Mexican Governor to give him a 48,000-acre land grant east of San Francisco, where the Sacramento River meets the American River. There he started building his empire, called New Helvetia or Sutter's Fort. This is the first inland settlement. Spanish settlements, the Franciscan missions, were all established in the valleys along the Pacific Ocean. News of conflicts with Indians in the Oregon territories convinced many settlers to go to California, instead.

United States Presidential Election Campaign of 1844

In 1844, the United States had a border dispute with Britain over the northern boundary of the Oregon territory, and designs on the Mexican territories of Texas and California. Expansion was James K. Polk’s campaign platform, which won him the nomination of Andrew Jackson’s Democratic Party and ultimately the election against the Whig candidate, Henry Clay. The Mexican government was weak. It had already lost control of Texas, and its control of the Pacific Coast region known as Alta California was tenuous at best. Some in the United States feared that “upper California” would be wrested from Mexico by Britain, France or Russia, but many simply felt it was the “manifest destiny” of the United States to stretch from coast to coast across the continent. As in Florida and Texas, there were Anglo settlers already established in California by 1844. Polk won the election, reached a diplomatic accord with Britain over the Oregon question. The United States House and Senate passed a Joint Resolution to admit Texas as a state on December 29, 1845.

California: The Bear Flag Republic

Captain John Charles Fremont, U.S. Army topographer, lead several mapping expeditions in the Rockies beginning in 1842. During his third expedition (1845-1846) Captain Fremont, and a force of sixty men, entered into the Mexican province of Alta California ostensibly to map the west coast area. He learned that the Mexican government planned to evict all illegal American settlers. Fremont could not commit U.S. forces to aid the settlers. Nevertheless, Captain Fremont established his base camp in the Sacramento Valley a few miles north of John Sutter's Fort. There he met with a group of settlers calling themselves Osos (Spanish for Bears). Fremont remained in the background of events, not wishing to involve the United States in any altercations the Osos might be involved in; however, he and his force had already been branded "bandits" by General Castro, after an alleged horse stealing episode near Salinas during May 1846.

In early June, Captain Fremont advised the Osos to capture the Northern Headquarters of General Mariano Vallejo at Sonoma. On June 14, 1846 the Osos took the town of Sonoma in the early dawn light without firing a shot. The Bear Flag was raised and the new California Republic was declared. On the flag was painted a lone star and what was supposed to be a grizzly bear. Californios, upon seeing the “bear”, are reported to have mocked it as a “coche” (pig). (In old photographs --taken before the original “bear flag” was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco-- it does indeed look more like a pig).

The Bear Flaggers subsequently learned that the United States had declared war on Mexico in May. On July 5, Captain Fremont organized the Osos into a volunteer U.S. Army unit, the California Battalion. The California Battalion joined up with regulars commanded by Commodore Robert Field Stockton, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in the Pacific. Fremont was promoted to Major by Commodore Stockton, and given command of all Volunteer Militia. Major Fremont and the California Battalion eventually came under the command of Brigadier General Stephen Kearny.

«U.S.-Mexican War, Part I:Mexican War of Independence | U.S.-Mexican War, Part III:Mormon Battalion».

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