Battle of Buena Vista

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Battle of Buena Vista
Part of Mexican–American War
Nebel Mexican War 03 Battle of Buena Vista (cropped).jpg
Battle of Buena Vista by Carl Nebel
DateFebruary 22–23, 1847
Puerto de la Angostura, Coahuila
Result Indecisive, Both sides are considered winners.
 United States  Mexico
Commanders and leaders
Zachary Taylor
John E. Wool
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Pedro de Ampudia
Manuel Maria Lombardini
Antonio Canales Rosillo
4,594[1]:211 or 4,750[2] 15,142[1]:211
Casualties and losses
267 killed
387 wounded
6 missing[1]:217
591 killed
1,048 wounded
1,894 missing[1]:211

The Battle of Buena Vista (February 22 – February 23, 1847), also known as the Battle of Angostura, saw the United States Army use artillery to repulse the much larger Mexican Army in the Mexican–American War. Buena Vista, a village in the state of Coahuila, is seven miles (12 km) south of Saltillo, in Mexico.


After the Battle of Monterrey and the end of the armistice, Major General Zachary Taylor's Army of Occupation with Brigadier General William J. Worth's 1,000 men advanced onto undefended Saltillo on November 16, despite orders to halt any movement further south, considering it strategic to cover the approaches to Monterrey and Parras de la Fuente.[1]:202 Taylor then directed General John E. Wool from Monclova to Parras, the objective being control of that agricultural area.[1]:202 Wool's force moved to Agua Nueva, south of Saltillo, on December 21, to counter rumors of impending attack.[1]:205

In mid-August 1846 Antonio López de Santa Anna returned from exile and quickly assumed command of the Mexican army, abandoning any pretense of reconciling with the US.[1]:202 He reached San Luis Potosí on Oct 8 with a force of 25,000 men. In early January, Santa Anna acquired a letter from Gen. Winfield Scott ordering Worth's troops to join General David E. Twiggs' and General John A. Quitman's division's in Veracruz, prompting Santa Anna to make attack plans for Saltillo.[1]:202 General José de Urrea's cavalry would simultaneously retake Ciudad Victoria and cut off Monterrey from Matamoros, Tamaulipas.[1]:202 Santa Anna's army departed San Luis Potosí on Jan 27 with 21,553 men, and reached Encarnacion, south of Saltillo, with 15,142 men on Feb. 20.[1]:206,209

Taylor moved 4,650 of his men to Agua Nueva on February 14, but on February 20, Maj. Benjamin McCulloch's Texas Rangers encountered Santa Anna's force at Encarnacion, prompting Taylor's withdrawal to Angostura, a mile and a quarter south of Hacienda San Juan de la Buena Vista.[1]:209 Gen. Wool was charged with selecting "the field of battle" and making "such dispositions of the troops on the arrival of the enemy" as he deemed necessary.[1]:202

Wool thought the site excellent for defense since the road passed through a narrow valley here, which was crossed at right angles by several ravines east of the road and arroyos were to the west.[1]:209–210 Wool placed Capt. John M. Washington's battery across the road, supported by the 1st Illinois under Col. John J. Hardin and 2nd Kentucky under Col. William R. McKee.[1]:210 Continuing to the left was the 2nd Illinois under Col. William H. Bissell, General Joseph Lane's Indiana Brigade, the Kentucky and Arkansas horsemen, with two squadrons of dragoons and a company of Texans in reserve.[1]:210

Santa Anna advanced to Carnero Pass below Agua Nueva on February 21 and on February 22, demanded a surrender, to which, Taylor's aide, William Wallace Smith Bliss, eloquently replied, "I beg leave to say that I decline acceding to your request."[1]:210 Santa Anna's forces consisted of Major General Manuel María Lombardini's division and Major General Francisco Pacheco's division in the center with fourteen pieces of artillery, Col. Santiago Blanco's Regiment of Engineers and three 16-pounders on the left, and Major General Pedro de Ampudia's light infantry with General Julian Juvera's strong cavalry brigade on the right with two batteries.[1]:211 In reserve was Major General Jose Maria Ortega's infantry division and Brigadier General Francisco Mejia's brigade.[1]:211


Map of the Battle of Buena Vista
1847 print depicting the battle on the morning of February 23, based on a sketch by Taylor's aide-de-camp Major Eaton, looking south with the American forces in the foreground and the road on the right
Location of Buena Vista[3]

Santa Anna began the attack with a feint by Mejia to the American right, but his main thrust was to the American left.[1]:211 Wool moved three companies of Kentucky cavalry under Col. Humphrey Marshall and four rifle companies of the Arkansas regiment under Col. John S. Roane and four companies of Hoosiers under Major Willis A. Gorman to strengthen his left.[1]:211 Marshall's and Ampudia's men skirmished by 3:30 PM but darkness brought an end to the fighting.[1]:211

After dark Taylor, escorted by the Mississippi Rifles, Col. Jefferson Davis, and Charles A. May's dragoons, checked on the Saltillo garrison but returned by 9 AM on the morning of February 23.[1]:211 During the night Brigadier General Manuel Micheltorena moved five 8-pounders above the American left, intending to flank them along the high ground the next morning at daylight.[1]:212

Ampudia's brigade started the assault, supported by Lombardini's and Pacheco's divisions, while Moras demonstrated against the American right.[1]:212 The 2nd Indiana faced a force of 7,000 Mexicans, prompting Wool to send the 2nd Illinois and Capt. Thomas W. Sherman's battery in support.[1]:212

The Hoosiers, after taking ninety casualties, broke and fled forcing the 2nd Illinois in a slow fighting withdrawal, and Marshall's men to flee northward to the Buena Vista hacienda.[1]:214 Juvera's cavalry was able to turn the American left flank and head for Buena Vista.[1]:214

Davis' Mississippians were ordered to shield Buena Vista along with the Arkansas and Kentucky cavalry, the 3rd Indiana, and Capt. Enoch Steen's dragoons.[1]:214 The American left was thus strengthened, the center still held, and the right was still solid.[1]:215

At the hacienda Archibald Yell's men held, although he was killed, and Steen's dragoons were able to split Juvera's column, forcing the advance portion past the hacienda and under fire from Sherman's battery while the dragoons threw the rest into confusion.[1]:215 Davis' men then sent the Mexicans fleeing, although Davis was wounded in the heel.[1]:215

Major John Munroe organized the defense of the hacienda proper, using the 2nd Indiana, from Juvera's attacks, while the Mississippians and the 3rd Indiana were organized into a large "V" which forced Juvera's about 2,000 survivors into a ravine.[1]:215 A young Mexican lieutenant, Jose Maria Montoya, tricked Taylor into a ceasefire, allowing the trapped Mexicans enough time to escape.[1]:215 Brigadier José Vicente Miñón appeared before Saltillo but retreated to the southwest.[1]:216

Santa Anna renewed an attack on the main U.S. position led by Gen. Francisco Pérez with artillery support.[1]:216 They were met at 5 PM by fire from O'Brien's and Thomas' guns and two Illinois and a Kentucky regiment under Col. John J. Hardin, during which Hardin was killed.[1]:216

An artillery battery under Captain Braxton Bragg then arrived with orders to "maintain the position at all costs".[1]:216 Taylor rode over to Bragg, and after a brief conversation in which Bragg replied he was using single canister shot, Taylor ordered "double-shot your guns and give 'em hell, Bragg".[1]:216 Later this order, although misquoted as "give them a little more grape, Captain Bragg", would be used as a campaign slogan which carried Taylor into the White House. Pérez's attack was repulsed and the fighting ended as heavy rain fell over the field.[1]:217


On February 25, Santa Anna's council of war at Agua Nueva advised retreat.[1]:217 Taylor led his army back to Nueva, but he did not pursue Santa Anna any further south.[1]:217

Buena Vista County, Iowa, in 1859, was named in honor of the battle, as were Buena Vista Township, in Michigan's Saginaw County, and the cities of Buena Vista, Virginia, Buena Vista, Oregon, Buena Vista, New Jersey, Buena Vista, Alabama, and Buena Vista, Georgia. Buena Vista Park in San Francisco is also named after the battle.

Among the dead was Henry Clay Jr., the third son of American statesman Henry Clay, a vociferous opponent of the Mexican War. His death was the subject of prints by Currier & Ives, and Neale & Pate.[citation needed] Also killed were Archibald Yell, former governor of Arkansas,[4] and John J. Hardin of Illinois, a Whig political rival of Abraham Lincoln.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap Bauer, K.J., 1974, The Mexican War, 1846–1848, New York:Macmillan, ISBN 0803261071
  2. ^ John S. D. Eisenhower, So Far from God: The U.S. War with Mexico, 1846–1848 (New York: Random House, 1989), 183.
  3. ^ Smith, J.H., 1919, The War with Mexico, New York: Macmillan
  4. ^ Donovan, Timothy P.; Gatewood Jr., Willard B.; Whayne, Jeannie M., eds. (1995) [1981]. The Governors of Arkansas: Essays in Political Biography (2nd ed.). Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. pp. 8–12. ISBN 1-55728-331-1. OCLC 31782171.
  5. ^ Greenberg 2013, pp. 158–159.


  • Alcaraz, Ramon, et al. Apuntes Para La Historia De La Guerra Entre Mexico y los Estados Unidos Mexico, (1848)
  • Balbontin, Manuel, La Invasion Americana 1846 a 1848. Mexico, (1883)
  • Bauer, K. Jack, The Mexican War, 1846–1848
  • Nevin, David; editor, The Mexican War (1978)
  • Ramsey, Albert C., The Other Side or Notes For The History of the War Between Mexico And The United States Burt Franklin, New York (1850) (Translation of Alcaraz's Apuntes)
  • Roa Barcena, Jose Maria, Recuerdos de la invasion norteamericana, 1846–1848 (1947)
  • Katcher, Phillip R., The Mexican American War 1846–1848 (1976)
  • Lopez de Santa-Anna, Antonio, Apelcacion Al Buen Criterio De Los Nacionales Y Estrangeros Mexico (1849)
  • Miller, Robert R., Shamrock and Sword (1989) Norman, Oklahoma
  • Americas Library
  • American casualties list
  • Note 1 Balbontin in La Invasion... lists the infantry battalions on p. 56, the O.B. of Pacheco Division on p. 64, the infantry bde. commanders on p. 64, 67 & 68, the artillery organization on p. 60, 61, etc., the losses on p. 91-93.
  • Note 2 Ramsey in The Other Side gives the strength figures in this article on p. 94–95.
  • Note 3 Santa Ana in his Apelacion gives strength at Saltillo at end Jan as: Engr Regt 362, Artillery 456, Infantry 13,877, Cavalry 4,830, Totals 19,525. At Encarnacion Feb 19: Engr Regiment 292, Artillery same 456, Infantry 10,153, Cavalry 4,241, Totals 15,152. pp 66–67.

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Coordinates: 25°20′13″N 101°2′47″W / 25.33694°N 101.04639°W / 25.33694; -101.04639