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Mexican-American War: War in the West

Conquering New Mexico & California


Mexican-American War: War in the West

General Stephen W. Kearny

Photograph Source: Public Domain

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Kearny Marches West

Following the declaration of war in May 1846, General Stephen W. Kearny was given orders to take a force of 1,700 men, known as the “Army of the West,” to invade western Mexico and California. Departing from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in June, they swiftly captured Santa Fe two months later. Here Kearny divided his forces, establishing a garrison at Santa Fe, sending Colonel Alexander Doniphan south with a regiment of mounted volunteers, and proceeding west himself with 300 men. Moving through El Paso, Doniphan’s men fought successful battles at El Brazito and Sacramento, before capturing Chihuahua.

Stockton & Fremont on the Move

While Kearny was marching west, fighting had already begun in California. Learning of the war, American settlers hoisted the “Bear Flag” of the California Republic over Sonoma on June 15, 1846. They were joined on June 23, by Captain John C. Frémont and 60 men of the US Army who had been en route to Oregon. On July 7, the US Navy, under Commodore John Sloat occupied Yerba Buena (San Francisco). Shortly thereafter, Sloat, citing ill health, turned over his command to Commodore Robert Stockton. Putting Frémont and the “California Battalion” under his orders, the Stockton proceeded to work his way down the coast capturing Monterey, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

California Secured

Not long after Stockton and Frémont’s departure, the people of Los Angeles overwhelmed the small US garrison and retook the town. In December, Kearny’s column, down to 139 men, and exhausted by their trek across the desert was defeated at San Pasqual near San Diego. Rescued by Stockton’s forces, Kearny and his naval counterpart began planning to retake Los Angeles. After suffering defeats at San Gabriel and La Mesa, the Californios/Mexicans surrendered to American forces and signed the Treaty of Cahuenga on January 13, 1847, which concluded military action in California.

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