This war that the United States leaders provoked with Mexico, Spring of 1846, it was gruesome and it was entirely based in the desire to expand the US territory, commerce, industry and, it is said, to expand the slave industry. It was brutal. So many soldiers suffered from sickness and disease before even facing the brutalities of the war itself - the bloodshed and the dismemberment of humans and horses, the raping and shameful treatment of women - elders and the young. How did the leaders convince the men to fight? To join in the conquest? How do you get people to fight for you when there is no reality based reason that they should? What are the recruitment tactics? It must be framed in a way that addresses the interests of "the people"/the potential recruits, as well....so, I suppose they must be offered something that promises better than they have now, something that they desire. I am so curious about this in today's climate. What brings a young man or woman to join the military? How different are the reasons?

In the case of the Mexican War, as with the Revolutionary War, the desire of “the people” were pretty basic - food and the basic needs of survival: some land, some money for acquiring the tools and seeds to grow and raise their food - the need to support their families and relieve themselves of some of the suffering they were experiencing as land tenants. So, that is what they were promised...

And this is what happened in the end: “As the veterans returned home, speculators immediately showed up to buy the land warrants given by the government. Many of the soldiers, desperate for money, sold their 160 acres for less than $50. The New York Commercial Advertiser said in June 1847: "It is a well-known fact that immense fortunes were made out of the poor soldiers who shed their blood in the revolutionary war by speculators who preyed upon their distresses. A similar system of depredation was practised upon the soldiers of the [Mexican] War."”

“Away from the battlefield, in the army camps, the romance of the recruiting posters was quickly forgotten.”

“General Santa Anna fled to Huamantla, where another battle was fought, and he had to flee again. An infantry lieutenant wrote to his parents what happened after an officer named Walker was killed in battle:

General Lane ... told us to "avenge the death of the gallant Walker, to ... take all we could lay hands on". And well and fearfully was his mandate obeyed. Grog shops were broken open first, and then, maddened with liquor, every species of outrage was committed. Old women and girls were stripped of their clothing-and many suffered still greater outrages. Men were shot by dozens . .. their property, churches, stores and dwelling houses ransacked. . .. Dead horses and men lay about pretty thick, while drunken soldiers, yelling and screeching, were breaking open houses or chasing some poor Mexicans who had abandoned their houses and fled for life. Such a scene I never hope to see again. It gave me a lamentable view of human nature , .. and made me for the first time ashamed of my country.””

 “It was a separate war that went on in California, where Anglo-Americans raided Spanish settlements, stole horses, and declared California separated from Mexico-the "Bear Flag Republic." Indians lived there, and naval officer Revere gathered the Indian chiefs and spoke to them (as he later recalled):

“I have called you together to have a talk with you. The country you inhabit no longer belongs to Mexico, but to a mighty nation whose territory extends from the great ocean you have all seen or heard of, to another great ocean thousands of miles toward the rising sun.... I am an officer of that great country, and to get here, have traversed both of those great oceans in a ship of war which, with a terrible noise, spits forth flames and hurls forth instruments of destruction, dealing death to ail our enemies. Our armies are now in Mexico, and will soon conquer the whole country. But you have nothing to fear from us, if you do what is right. . . . if you are faithful to your new rulers. .. . We come to prepare this magnificent region for the use of other men, for the population of the world demands more room, and here is room enough for many millions, who will hereafter occupy and rill the soil. But, in admitting others, we shall not displace you, if you act properly.. .. You can easily learn, but you are indolent. I hope you will alter your habits, and be industrious and frugal, and give up all the low vices which you practice; but if you are lazy and dissipated, you must, before many years, become extinct. We shall watch over you, and give you true liberty; but beware of sedition, lawlessness, and all other crimes, for the army which shields can assuredly punish, and it will reach you in your most retired hiding places.””

“General Kearney moved easily into New Mexico, and Santa Fe was taken without battle. An American staff officer described the reaction of the Mexican population to the U.S. army's entrance into the capital city:

“Our march into the city .. . was extremely warlike, with drawn sabres, and daggers in every look. From around corners, men with surly countenances and downcast looks regarded us with watchfulness, if not terror, and black eyes looked through latticed windows at our column of cavaliers, some gleaming with pleasure, and others filled with tears. ... As the American flag was raised, and the cannon boomed its glorious national salute from the hill, the pent-up emotions of many of the women could be suppressed no longer ... as the wail of grief arose above the din of our horses' tread, and reached our ears from the depth of the gloomy-looking buildings on every hand.””



Leave a Reply.