The Civil War, "Mexico's Revenge"

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The Civil War: “Mexico’s Revenge”?

The Mexican – American War was the first major conflict embedded in the idea of “Manifest Destiny”, the belief that Americans had a God given right to extent the United States borders from ‘sea to shining sea’. This belief would lead to a great deal of suffering for many Mexicans. As a result of winning the Mexican War, the United States acquired the northern half of Mexico; which became California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah (Meed 13). As the states joined the Union, the slavery debates became heated and the states found themselves at war with one another. The American Civil War has been called “Mexico’s Revenge” for the American victory in the Mexican War. My goal is to review the Mexican War, Pre Civil War Era, and the Civil War to establish that the Civil War can be interpreted as “Mexico’s Revenge” for the nations defeat during the Mexican War.


The events leading to the Mexican – American War were two fold. First, President Jefferson’s acquisition of the Louisiana Territory in 1803 began the migration of American settlers westward. Many times the settlers were moving into land which did not belong to the United Sates. When President Polk came to office in 1845, the idea of "Manifest Destiny" had taken root among the American people, and Polk firmly believed in expansion. The fact that most of those areas were already settled was usually ignored. The Americans had the attitude that democratic English-speaking America, with its high ideals and Protestant Christian ethics, would do a better job of settling the land than the Native Americans or Spanish-speaking Catholic Mexicans. In both 1835 and 1845, the United States offered to purchase California from Mexico, for $5 million and $25 million, respectively. The Mexican government refused the opportunity to sell half of its country. (Swogger, “Causes of the Civil War: The Mexican War and the Wilmot Proviso”).

Second, after the Texas War of Independence from Mexico, tensions between Texas and Mexico continued to escalate. On July 4, 1845, Texas decided to join the United States, and Mexico did not like the idea of Texas becoming a state. Because Texas was part of the union, America claimed the border at the Rio Grande River, and Mexico claimed territory as far north as the Nueces River. Both nations sent troops to enforce the competing claims, and a tense standoff ensued. On April 25, 1846, a conflict occurred between Mexican and American troops on soil claimed by both countries, and the Mexican – American War began (Swogger, “Causes of the Civil War: The Mexican War and the Wilmot Proviso”).

The War was relatively short; the Americans soldieries were outnumbered but better organized. American troops were able to defeat Mexico; but at a heavy cost, 104,556 Americans served in the Mexican War, and 13,768 were killed. This is the highest death rate of any American war up to that time (Swogger, “Causes of the Civil War: The Mexican War and the Wilmot Proviso”).

At the conclusion of the war, Mexico was literally a broken nation. Mexico’s armies had been shattered in combat, with battle losses estimated at between 12,000 and 15,000, and many more soldiers had deserted. Several of her major cities had their most productive industries smashed into rubble, their foreign markets and imports had been destroyed, transportation was disrupted, and hunger was rampant. It has been estimated that disease, starvation, and dislocation caused thousands of civilian deaths during the war years (Meed 88). America not only acquired the Texas territory, but also the California and New Mexico territories (Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Wyoming). The United States acquired more than 500,000 square miles of Mexican territory. If Texan territorial claims are counted, the total amount of land torn from Mexico exceeded one million square miles. The...
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