Battle of Mexico City, 1847

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Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna versus Winfield Scott: An American army under Scott assaults a Mexican army under Santa Anna in his own capital. Moral spirit guides both these armies, but whose resolve will break first and decide the battle? Includes the Battles of Molino del Rey and Chapultepec.

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Significance
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This is one of the most important battles in American history, up there with Saratoga, Yorktown, Gettysburg, and any battle you could argue decided the Civil War. The Battle of Mexico City was a key component of American expansion in the 19th century. Imagine the geography of the United States today had it not defeated Mexico in 1848 and annexed the land of the current southwestern United States (check out Schulten’s post on this). The annexation of these lands also exacerbated tensions between the North and South as they bickered over whether these new states would be free or slave states. While it is extremely difficult to judge and rank mass violence in terms of morality, it can be argued that the campaign against Mexico was one of the most unjust wars ever waged, being part of the same expansionist logic or Manifest Destiny as the expulsion of Native Americans during this period. This battle is another of example of how often history is determined simply by which side can prevail in organized violence.

Analysis

It cannot be overstated as to how much of a near-run thing this battle was with each commander utilizing a number of feints and counterattacks. Santa Anna presented Scott with the opportunity to defeat his forces in detail but Scott still had to defeat each one with the bayonet. Had any of these assaults been checked decisively, Santa Anna may have survived long enough for Scott’s force to wither on its logistical shoestring or launch his own offensive. The battle was therefore won on the spirit and will to win from the individual soldier. Scott was able to confuse Santa Anna, then surprise and successfully seize any objective he chose.

mexico city preview 2
Notes
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I feel this is one of my more complete animations which are prime examples of what is “right” about presenting battles in this way. Accounts of this battle are very American in that they tell the battle from a personal, anecdotal level. This is a useful aspect of battles but the goal of these animations is to teach tactics, strategy and maneuver. I therefore glossed over the bravery and patriotism by describing it as “fierce” or “bitter” and focused on the battle’s maneuvers. The animation had great potential to be over complicated but I feel I have used PowerPoint’s features successfully to show anyone how the battle played out and why. I was very disappointed with the low traffic (48th of 68 animations) for what I think is a very interesting, important battle.
– Jonathan Webb
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Works Consulted
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Butler, Steven R. A Documentary History of the Mexican War. Richardson: Descendants of Mexican War Veterans, 1995.

Eisenhower, John S.D. So Far from God: The U.S. War with Mexico 1846-1848. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.

Esposito, Vincent J. The West Point Atlas of American Wars. New York: Praeger, 1959.

Nevin, David. The Mexican War. Virginia: Time-Life, 1978.

Smith, Justin H. The War with Mexico, Vol. II. New York: MacMillan, 1919.

Images
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Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_L%C3%B3pez_de_Santa_Anna

Map of Southern North America: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican%E2%80%93American_War

Map of the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections

Mexican soldier: http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/war/mexican_army.html

United States soldier: http://www.blueandgrey.zoomshare.com/1.html

Winfield Scott: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winfield_Scott

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If you enjoyed the Battle of Mexico City 1847 battle animation, you may also enjoy these other battle animations:

Battle of the Wilderness 1864, another battle fought in North America during the 1800s:

wilderness preview 1

Battle of Mosul 2014, another battle featuring an attack on a major city too large to surround and besiege:

mosul preview 1

Battle of Praga 1794, another battle featuring an assault on a major city during the Gunpowder Era:

praga preview 1

Thank you for visiting The Art of Battle: Animated Battle Maps.

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Readers Comments (3)

  1. Adam C. Sadowski July 29, 2011 @ 10:27 pm

    I have studied the battles for Mexico City many timers over the last 40 years. Your map studies capture the ebb and flow of the campaign like nothing else I have seen.

  2. This was amazing thanks so much for it. Scott is easily the greatest U.S. General ever, his campaigns were the best america has ever had.

  3. Besides, Santa Anna could be rated as one of the most incompetent generals of all time. See also Texas war.

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