U.S. line. Taylor rushed forward his only reserves commanded by Colonel Jefferson Davis who stabilized the U.S. line by routing a Mexican cavalry breakthrough. The Mexican attack stalled and Santa Anna retreated south. Though considered a draw, Santa Anna’s withdrawal after the BATTLE OF BUENA VISTAallowed the Americans to retain control of the northern section of the country. It was the last major battle in northern Mexico. Taylor’s successes in the Mexican War took him to the presidency in 1848. The military reputation won by Davis there helped him become the president of theConfederacy States of America 13 years later.Polk sent an army under Gen. Stephen Kearny to capture Santa Fe, New Mexico and march on to liberate California. Kearney captured Santa Fe without a fight and discovered a revolt in northern California overthrew Mexican authority there. Aiding the conquest of California was CAPT. CHARLES C. FREMONT, a U.S. Army
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topographer, explorer and trailblazer. Polk sent Fremont with a force of 62 men to map the west coast and secret instructions to fight in case war broke out. Once in California, he rallied American settlers to capture Mexican outposts. On June 14, 1846, 90 Californios captured the town of Sonoma, raised a flag with a bear and star sewed on it and established the independent BEAR FLAG REPUBLIC. After the U.S. Navy seized Monterey and Los Angeles, Commodore Robert F. Stockton appointed Fremont governor of California and commander of its army. Soon after, Kearny entered California with orders to establish a government. This led to a conflict of authority when Kearny refused to recognize Fremont’s authority. *** The dispute was set aside when Mexican Governor-General José Flores gathered an army of loyalists to retake California. In January of 1847, Kearney linked up with Marines from Stockton’s force and defeated Flores’ troops at the BATTLE OF RIO SAN GABRIEL. The defeat ended Mexican control of California. In March of 1847, Gen. Winfield Scott landed at Vera Cruz, the first major amphibious operation in U.S. history, captured it and proceeded west toward Mexico City. Despite high heat, rains, and difficult terrain, Scott defeated Mexican forces at Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, and Molino Del Rey. At Contreras, Santa Anna placed his army against Scott’s using the Pedregal; a wilderness of sharp, volcanic rock cut through by ridges and deep fissures that sustained little vegetation, to protect his flank. Other than rattlesnakes, few animals survived in the ancient lava beds. Thought impassible, the Mexicans left the Pedregal undefended. But Capt. Robert E. Lee found a route through the obstacle. Lee travelled it three times – at night – leading American troops to a surpriseoutflanking of a portion of Santa Anna’s army that cut their escape route. Lee, like many of the U.S. Army’s junior officers, was trained at WEST POINT. The Mexican War would be the first fought with a professional officer class of engineers, artillery commanders and company leader that proved crucial to American victory.
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