Battle of Palo Alto

Battle of Palo Alto

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Palo Alto

caption=Painting by Carl Nebel
partof=the Mexican-American War
date=May 8, 1846
place=near Brownsville, Texas
result=American victory
combatant1=United States
commander1=Zachary Taylor
commander2=Mariano Arista,
strength1=2,400 infantry
strength2=2,300 infantry,
1,100 cavalry,
12 guns
casualties1=9 killed,
45 wounded,
2 captured [Meed, p. 31]
casualties2=102 killed,
129 wounded,
26 missing

The Battle of Palo Alto was the first major battle of the Mexican-American War and was fought on May 8, 1846, on disputed ground five miles (8 km) from the modern-day city of Brownsville, Texas. A force of some 3,400 Mexican troops (a portion of the "Army of The North") led by General Mariano Arista engaged a force of 2,400 United States troops — the so called "US Army of Observation."


The battle occurred as a result of Mexican efforts to besiege a U.S. army installation, "Fort Texas",(Garrison:Major Brown with 7th Infantry, Capt. Loud's Artillery Co.with 4- 18 pounders, & Lt. Bragg's Light Artillery 4guns )which the Mexicans viewed as having been built within the boundaries of Mexican Texas. General Zachary Taylor, receiving supplies from Port Isabel, heard the distant report of cannon fire. The Mexicans had begun to attack Fort Texas. Taylor gathered his troops and rushed to relieve the defenders of the fort but was intercepted by a Mexican force commanded by General Arista. Another Mexican force (1,540 men, including Artillery 14 Guns, Matamoros Natl. Guards Battalion, Mexico, Puebla & Morelia Activoes Battalions) under General Francisco Mejia were left behind at Fort Brown & Matamoros.


General Arista's army was stretched a mile wide, making an American bayonet charge impossible. Taylor, in an unlikely move, advanced his artillery to attack the enemy. It was this "Flying Artillery"—the tactic of using light artillery to attack then quickly move to another location and fire once more, developed by Major Samuel Ringgold—that won the battle for the Americans. The Mexican artillery, heavy and slow, was futile in the thick brush at Palo Alto. Arista ordered cavalry charges to flank the artillery gunners, but the American "Flying Artillery" was able to mobilize, relocate, and repel the oncoming dragoons.


Ringgold died of wounds inflicted in the battle, but his death spurred a significant boost to morale across America. After the first day, Taylor arose to find that the Mexicans had withdrawn from the field of battle and moved camp to the site of the next engagement, Resaca de La Palma.

Mexicans suffered large casualties compared to the Americans for several reasons. The Mexican army had poor gunpowder compared to the Americans, shortening the range of their cannon and musket fire. The poor powder had a tendency to explode prematurely and caused many soldiers to pour smaller amounts of gunpowder, further affecting the range of their weapons. Mexican soldiers usually had little training and were often scared of the volatile gunpowder. The Mexicans, as was typical throughout the war, had technologically inferior weaponry to the Americans. The musket Arista's men used was the British Brown Bess — the same weapon the British had used during the Napoleonic Wars and American Revolutionary War a century before.

The venue is now Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site and is maintained by the National Park Service.

ee also

*Battles of the Mexican-American War
*List of conflicts in the United States
*Hispanic Heritage Sites (U.S. National Park Service)


Alcaraz, Ramón, "Apuntes para la historia de la guerra entre México y los Estados Unidos"Balbotín, Manuel, "La invasión americana, 1846 a 1848, apuntes del subteniente de artillería"Bauer, K. Jack, "The Mexican-American War, 1846-1848" 8=DChartrand, René, "Santa Anna's Mexican Army, 1821-1848"Crawford, Mark, "Encyclopedia of the Mexican-American War"Haecker, Charles M., "On the Prairie of Palo Alto"Brooks, N. C., "A Complete History of The Mexican War"

External links

* [ Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site]
* [ "Taking a Stand at Palo Alto," a Documentary on the Battle of Palo Alto]

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