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Embedded journalists sent back detailed reports from the front lines, and a divided press viciously debated the news. Volunteers found that war was not as they expected. Disease killed seven times as many American soldiers as combat. Harsh discipline, conflict within the ranks, and violent clashes with civilians led soldiers to desert in huge numbers. Peace finally came on February 2, 1848 with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.The new American Southwest attracted a diverse group of entrepreneurs andsettlers to the commercial towns of New Mexico, the fertile lands of eastern Texas, and the famed gold deposits of California, and the Rocky Mountains. This postwar migration built earlier paths dating back to the 1820s, when the lucrative Santa Fe trade enticed merchants to New Mexicoand generous land grants brought numerous settlers to Texas. The Gadsden Purchase of 1854further added to American gains north of Mexico.The U.S.-Mexican War had an enormous impact on both countries. The American victory helped set the United States on the path to becoming a world power. It elevated Zachary Taylor to the presidency and served as a training ground for many of the Civil War’s future commanders. Most significantly, however, Mexico lost roughly half of its territory. Yet, the United States’ victory was not without danger. Ralph Waldo Emerson, an outspoken critic, predicted ominously at the beginning of the conflict, “We will conquer Mexico, but it will be as the man who swallows the arsenic which will bring him down in turn. Mexico will poison us.” Indeed, the conflict over whether or not to extend slavery into the newly won territory pushed the nation ever closer to disunion and civil war.V. Manifest Destiny and the Gold RushCalifornia, belonging to Mexico prior to the war, was at least three arduous months travel from the nearest American settlements. There was some sparse settlement in the Sacramento valley and missionaries made the trip occasionally. The fertile farmland of Oregon, like the black dirt lands
of the Mississippi valley, attracted more settlers than California. Dramatized stories of Indian attacks filled migrants with a sense of foreboding, although the majority of settlers encountered no violence and often no Indians at all.The slow progress, disease, human and oxen starvation, poor trails, terrible geographic preparations, lack of guidebooks, threatening wildlife, vagaries of weather, and general confusion were all more formidable and frequent than Indian attacks. Despite the harshness of the journey, by 1848 there were approximated 20,000 Americans living west of the Rockies, with about three-fourths of that number in Oregon.Many who moved nurtured a romantic vision of life, attracting more Americans who sought more than agricultural lifeand familial responsibilities. The rugged individualism and military prowess of the West, encapsulated for some by service in the Mexican war, drew a growing new breed west of the Sierra Nevada to meet with the Californians already there; a