Buena Vista, Battle of

views updated Jun 11 2018

Buena Vista, Battle of

Battle of Buena Vista, also known as the battle of La Angostura, an indecisive engagement between the Mexican and U.S. armies that took place on 22-23 February 1847 southwest of Monterrey, with both sides claiming victory. Following the conquest of northern old Mexico, Upper California, and New Mexico, the United States sought to bring the Mexican-American War to an end by invading the central valley and capturing Mexico City. Antonio López de Santa Anna, at that time rebuilding the Mexican Army at San Luis Potosí, intercepted a message between generals Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor outlining a plan whereby all of Taylor's regulars (the better half of his army) were to be transferred to Scott for the assault on Veracruz. Santa Anna decided to strike at Taylor's weakened army. In the dead of winter, Santa Anna marched his poorly equipped 18,000-man army north across 200 miles of inhospitable desert. Some 4,000 died or deserted.

Although President James Polk had ordered Taylor to remain on the defensive, Taylor had disobeyed and captured Saltillo on 11 November 1846. It was here that Taylor learned of Santa Anna's advance, so he fell back to a narrow ravine through which the road passed near a ranch named Buena Vista. Mexican scouts came upon American supplies which had not been burned due to the haste of the retreat. Santa Anna apparently concluded that the American army was in flight and ordered his exhausted army to make a forced march over the remaining distances separating the two armies.

By now Taylor held a strong defensive position. The Mexicans attacked on 22 February and pushed back the American left. The Mexican troops held their position throughout the night without camp fires or food. The next day the Mexicans renewed the attack. The fighting became so intense that Taylor was forced to commit his reserves to prevent his left from collapsing. The Mexicans sustained heavy casualties, particularly from the American horse-drawn "flying artillery" and the rifle-armed First Mississippi volunteers led by Colonel Jefferson Davis.

Unexpectedly, Santa Anna ordered his army to fall back, abandoning hundreds of wounded. He ordered his exhausted army on a disastrous march back across the desert to San Luis Potosí, arriving on 9 March. The Mexican Army sustained more than 10,000 casualties, and throughout the campaign, including the long marches across the desert in the winter, the United States suffered 290 dead and missing, plus 500 wounded. The Battle of Buena Vista concluded the fighting in northern Mexico. Zachary Taylor returned to the United States and entered politics. With a war-hero reputation, Taylor won the U.S. presidency in 1848.

See alsoMexico, Wars and Revolutions: Mexican-American War; Santa Anna, Antonio López de.


Nathaniel W. Stephenson, Texas and the Mexican War (1921).

Wilfrid Hardy Callcott, Santa Anna: The Story of an Enigma Who Once Was Mexico (1936).

Carlos María De Bustamante, El nuevo Bernal Díaz del Castillo; o sea, Historia de la invasión de los angloamericanos en México, 2 vols. (1949).

Additional Bibliography

Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler. The Mexican War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006.

Vázquez, Josefina Zoraida, ed. México al tiempo de su guerra con Estados Unidos, 1846–1848. México: Secretaría de Exteriores, El Colegio de México, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1997.

                                         Robert Scheina

Buena Vista, Battle of

views updated May 23 2018

Buena Vista, Battle of (1847). Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor's small army had been victorious in all three of its Mexican War battles by the end of 1846. After the Battle of Monterrey in September, many of his troops were assigned to Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott for a proposed attack on the Mexican coastal town of Veracruz.

Antonio López de Santa Anna commanded Mexican forces, and he knew from captured dispatches that Scott had siphoned off Taylor's best troops. In late January 1847, therefore, he led 21,000 troops northward to attack Taylor's weakened force of about 5,000. The U.S. forces positioned themselves near the Hacienda San Juan de la Buena Vista, where the road passed between mountains.

The Mexican Army, reduced to about 15,000 men by death, disease, and desertion, reached the U.S. position on 22 February. After Taylor refused Santa Anna's invitation to surrender, the Mexicans attacked. The fighting was brisk but inconclusive. It ended at sunset.

Santa Anna reopened the battle the next morning. Mexican cavalry rode around the U.S. position and toward its supply base at the hacienda. Col. Jefferson Davis formed his Mississippi volunteers and an Indiana regiment into a large V. When the Mexican horsemen rode into the mouth of this V, they were shot to pieces. Meanwhile, superbly handled U.S. artillery held off Mexican infantry advancing straight up the valley.

Nightfall again ended the fighting, but this time Santa Anna used the darkness to mask his retreat. He had lost over 3,500 men in the two‐day fight. U.S. casualties were also heavy; over 600 had fallen.

The Battle of Buena Vista was the last major battle of the war in northern Mexico. Within two weeks, General Scott landed at Veracruz, and Santa Anna hastened southward to try to protect his nation's capital city from this new threat. Had the Mexicans won at Buena Vista, Scott's attack probably would have been postponed or even canceled.


K. Jack Bauer , The Mexican War, 1846–1848, 1974.
John S. D. Eisenhower , So Far From God: The U.S. War with Mexico 1846–1848, 1989.

James M. McCaffrey

Buena Vista, Battle of

views updated May 09 2018


BUENA VISTA, BATTLE OF (22–23 February 1847). During the Mexican War General Zachary Taylor had advanced his army of about five thousand men south-westward from Monterrey in northeastern Mexico to a mountain pass south of Saltillo. Near the hacienda of Buena Vista he encountered a Mexican force three times the size of his own led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Although the Americans lost ground the first day, they won a brilliant victory on the second, and the Mexicans withdrew. Taylor gained a reputation that aided him in his bid for the presidency, but the further conquest of Mexico was entrusted to General Winfield Scott.


Eisenhower, John S. D. So Far from God: The U.S. War with Mexico, 1846–47. New York: Random House, 1989.

Lavender, David S. Climax at Buena Vista: The American Campaigns in Northeastern Mexico, 1846–47. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

L. W.Newton/a. r.

See alsoMexican-American War ; Monterrey, Battles of .

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