Was ordered to move his force to the north bank of

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was ordered to move his force to the north bank of the Rio Grande opposite the Mexican town of Matamoros, a move that Mexico considered an invasion. In May, 1845 a Mexican force ambushed one of Taylor's patrols north of the Rio Grande. Polk used the attack as the basis for a declaration of war saying “American blood has been shed on American soil.” Even before the declaration passed Congress, Taylor and his men
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defeated the Mexicans at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, at what is now Brownsville, forcing Mexican forces out of Texas and south of the Rio Grande. Polk wanted victory in a short war that would bring California under American control. Politically, Mexico was a mess. Internal political rivalries kept the country divided and unstable. If Taylor could seize northern Mexico it might force the Mexicans into settling for peace. Moving deeper into northern Mexico, Taylor’s forces captured the fortress city of Monterrey in a bloody three-day battle, but the Mexican government refused to yield. President Polk then decided to take the war straight to Mexico City. Polk was under political pressure from the Whigs, who, after war was declared, won control of the House in the 1846 mid-term elections. But the Whigs had to walk a political tightrope. They continued to vote for funds to aid American forces, but they also used their advantage to viciously attack Polk and to launch investigations of the war’s legitimacy. The president also had concerns about Zachary Taylor’s political ambitions. Taylor was a Whig and Polk feared he might use his victories in Mexico to run for president in 1848. Taylor was told to take a defensive position in northern Mexico while the bulk of his army was transferred to GEN. WINFIELD SCOTT (nicknamed “Old Fuss and Feathers” for his strict adherence to military dress and regulations). Scott and his army had orders to make an amphibious landing at the port city of Vera Cruz and drive west 260-miles to Mexico City along the same route taken by Hernán Cortés when he captured the city from the Aztecs in 1519.** Former Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez De Santa Anna was living in Cuba when the war began and he offered his services as a military commander to the Mexican government, assuring President Valentín Farías he had no aspirations to retake power. Desperate, Farías accepted Santa Anna’s offer and allowed him to take charge of the army. Santa Anna had also secretly told U.S. representatives that if allowed through the U.S. naval blockade of eastern Mexico, he would end the war and sell California to the United States. However, once back in Mexico, Santa Anna overthrew Farías, declared himself president and marched off to fight the Americans. Santa Anna’s strategy was to take his 20,000-man army north to crush Taylor’s reduced 5,000 man force before turning south to defend Mexico City. Taylor deployed his troops in a strong defensive position at a mountain pass called Buena Vista. Santa Anna ordered an all-out assault that broke the U.S. line. Taylor rushed forward his only reserves commanded by Colonel Jefferson
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