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Mexican-American War: Aftermath & Legacy

Laying the Seeds for Civil War


Mexican-American War: Aftermath & Legacy

Lt. Ulysses S. Grant, Mexican-American War

Photograph Source: Public Domain

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Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

The war officially ended on February 2, 1848, with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Negotiated by Nicholas Trist, the treaty ceded to the United States the land that now comprises the states of California, Utah, and Nevada, as well as parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado. In exchange for this land, the United States paid Mexico $15,000,000. Mexico also forfeited all rights to Texas and the border was permanently established at the Rio Grande. The American victory confirmed most citizens’ belief in Manifest Destiny and the nation’s expansion westward.


Like most wars in the 19th century, more soldiers died from disease than from wounds received in battle. In the course of the war, 1,773 Americans were killed in action as opposed to 13,271 dead from sickness. A total of 4,152 were wounded in the conflict. Mexican casualty reports are incomplete, but it estimated that approximately 25,000 were killed or wounded between 1846-1848.

Legacy of the War

The Mexican War in many ways may be directly connected to the Civil War. Arguments over the expansion of slavery into the newly acquired lands further heightened sectional tensions and forced new states to be added through compromise. In addition, the battlefields of Mexico served as a practical learning ground for those officers who would play prominent roles in the upcoming conflict. Leaders such as Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Braxton Bragg, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, George McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, George G. Meade, and James Longstreet all saw service with either Taylor or Scott’s armies. The experiences these leaders gained in Mexico helped to shape their decisions in the Civil War.

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