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Battle of Buena Vista

Battle of Buena Vista
Part of Mexican-American War

Battle of Buena Vista by Carl Nebel.
Date February 22–23, 1847
Location Puerto de la Angostura, Coahuila
Result Mexican victory
 United States  Mexico
Commanders and leaders
Zachary Taylor
John E. Wool
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Pedro de Ampudia
Manuel Maria Lombardini
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 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 northern Mexico.


  • Background 1
  • Battle 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • Order of Battle 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Sources 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


After the Battle of Monterrey and the end of the armistice, Major General Zachary Taylor's Army of Occupation with General William J. Worth's 1000 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 Jose 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 Feb 14, but on Feb 20, Maj. Ben 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 Feb 21 and on Feb 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 Maria 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' 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 Feb 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. 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 Feb. 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 2d 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 3d 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 [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 in which he was killed.[1]:216

An artillery battery under Braxton Bragg then arrived with orders to "maintain the position at all costs".[1]:216 Taylor rode over to Cap. 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 Feb 25, Santa Anna's council of war at Agua Nueva advised retreat.[1]:217 Taylor led his army back to Nueva, he did not pursue Santa Anna any further south.[1]:217

The battle was the last major battle in Northern Mexico. It was Taylor's greatest defeat of the war, this ended the northern aggression in northern Mexico. Santa Anna was later forced to defend Mexico City against an army under Winfield Scott continuing the second invasion and eventual victory of the United States.

Buena Vista County, Iowa, in 1859, was named in honor of the battle, as was Buena Vista Township, in Michigan's Saginaw County, and the cities of Buena Vista, Virginia, Buena Vista Oregon, Buena Vista, New Jersey, and Buena Vista, Alabama, in northern Monroe County.

Among the dead was Henry Clay, Jr., second 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. Also killed were Archibald Yell, former governor of Arkansas, and John J. Hardin of Illinois, a Whig political rival of Abraham Lincoln.

Order of Battle

American depiction of the fighting.

A. Mexican Army Undated Returns acs

18,530-of Liberating Army of the North Gen. Div. A. Lopez de Santa Anna

  • 39- Staff-Acting Gen. Manuel Micheltorena
  • 10- Engrs.-Gen. Ignacio de Mora y Villamil
  • 61- Medical Corps- Insp. Pedro Vander Linden
  • 584- Artillery-Gen. Antonio Corona (Total 16 Guns & 1 Howitzer)
    • one Art. Btry 3- 24 lbs guns -Capt. F.Moreno (San Patricio Irish Vols.)
    • one Art. Btry 3- 16 lb guns & one howitzer 7"
    • one Art. Btry 5- 12 lb guns de Leon ?
    • one Art. Btry 5- 8 lb guns- Capt. I. Ballarta
  • Commissary and Baggage Train-P. Rangel
  • 324- Regiment of Engrs.-Col. Santiago Blanco
  • 466- Regiment of Hussars-Lt. Col. Manuel Andrade
  • Infantry: Gen.Br. Manuel M. Lombardini ( 28 Infantry Battalions )
  • Light Brigade-Gen.Br. Pedro de Ampudia (1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th Light(Ligero) Regiments)
  • 4,839- 2nd Vanguard Division-Gen.Br. Francisco Pacheco (8 Bns)
  • 1st Brigade-Gen. Jose Garcia-Conde (2nd Light, San Luis Potosí & Morelia Bns)
  • 2nd Brigade-Gen. Fransco Perez (Celaya & Leon Activos Bns,1st & 2nd Guanajuato Aux Bns
  • 4,300-1st Centre Division-Gen.Br. Manuel Maria Lombardini
  • 3rd Brigade-Gen. Francisco Mejia 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th and 11th Line(Linea) Regts)
  • 5th Brigade-Col. Jose Lopez Uraga
  • 3rd Rear Guard Division-Acting Gen. Jose Maria Ortega (8 Bns )
  • 4th Brigade-Gen.Br. Luis Guzman 1st & 2nd Mexico,Querétaro,& Aguascalientes Activos Bns,
  • 6th Brigade-Gen. Andres Terres " Guadalajara Aux Bn
  • Joined later:
  • 1,000- 7th Brigade-Gen. Anastasio Parrodi ( 12th Line, Pueblo Activos Tampico Coast Grds & etc.)

Cavalry: Gen. Julian Juvera ( 39 Cavalry Squadrons )

  • Horse Artillery
  • 1,418-1st Brigade-Gen.Jose V. Minon
  • 4th Cavalry,Jalisco Lancers,Cazadores,Oaxaca & Puebla Activos Regts
  • 1,094-2nd Brigade-Gen. Julian Juvera
  • 5th & 9th Cavalry,Tulancingo Coraceros,Morelia Activos Regts.
  • 808-3rd Brigade-Acting Gen. Anastasio Torrejon
  • 3rd, 7th & 8th Cavalry,Mexico Light, Guanajuato Activos Regts.
  • 390-4th Brigade-Gen. Manuel Andrade
  • Michoacan Activos, Presidiales

Detached :

  • Cavalry Brigade-Gen. Jose Urrea
  • Infantry Brigade-Gen.Br. Ciriaco Vasquez

B. United States Army

4,759 -United States Army of Occupation-Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor


See also


  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


  • 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.

Further reading

  • Carney, Stephen A. and U.S. Army Center for Military History. Desperate Stand: The Battle of Buena Vista (2012) excerpt and text search
  • Lavender, David. Climax at Buena Vista (2003)

External links

  • A Continent Divided: The U.S.-Mexico War, Center for Greater Southwestern Studies, the University of Texas at Arlington

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