Battle of Buena Vista

Battle of Buena Vista

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Buena Vista

caption="Battle of Buena Vista" by Carl Nebel.
partof=Mexican-American War
date=February 22-23, 1847
place=Buena Vista, Coahuila
result=Both sides claimed victory
combatant2=United States
commander1=Antonio López de Santa Anna
commander2=Zachary Taylor John E. Wool
strength1=16,000 Lombardini,
Pacheco & Ortega Infantry Divisions,
Juvera Cavalry Division
strength2=Army of Occupation
casualties1=594 dead,
1,039 wounded,
1,800 missing,
294 captured
casualties2=267 dead,
456 wounded,
23 missing

The Battle of Buena Vista (23 February 1847), also known as the Battle of Angostura, saw the United States Army use heavy artillery to repulse the much larger Mexican army in the Mexican-American War. Buena Vista, a village of the state of Coahuila, Mexico, is seven miles (12 km) south of Saltillo, in northern Mexico.


After the Battle of Monterrey in September 1846, most of Major General Zachary Taylor's Army of Occupation was sent to the gulf coast to become the bulk of Winfield Scott's expedition against Mexico City. Taylor felt that President James K. Polk was attempting to deprive him of any further military success which would aid in his campaign for the presidency. Taylor decided to ignore orders to stay in Monterrey; he marched deeper into Mexico and seized Saltillo. Taylor also diverted the Center Division, under John E. Wool, from its expedition in Chihuahua to join him in Saltillo. With Wool's division, the U.S. force totaled about 4,500 soldiers, most of them volunteer units fighting for the first time.

In the summer of 1846, Antonio López de Santa Anna returned from exile and quickly seized power. When Monterrey had fallen, Santa Anna raised an army in San Luis Potosi numbering almost 25,000. When a letter from General Scott to Taylor telling of the transfer of the bulk of Taylor's army to the Gulf fell into Mexican hands, Santa Anna quickly marched north to try to knock Taylor out of Mexico while U.S. forces were being withdrawn.

Taylor learned that Santa Anna was marching north and so he moved about nineteen miles south of Saltillo to Agua Nueva. Taylor sent out Major Ben McCulloch, of the Texas Rangers, to scout out the Mexican Army. McCulloch found Santa Anna 60 miles (100 km) to the south, informing Taylor on February 21. Taylor withdrew to a mountain pass at Buena Vista twelve miles north of Agua Nueva. General Wool was charged with laying out the defenses. Later that day Santa Anna arrived at Agua Nueva with 12,000 men, his force diminished because of desertion and exhaustion during the long trek from San Luis Potosi. Santa Anna perceived the U.S. withdrawal to Buena Vista as a retreat and demanded a surrender. Taylor's aide, William Wallace Smith Bliss, eloquently replied that the U.S forces declined the surrender. Taylor, worried about the safety of his supplies, rode to Saltillo that night to ensure the protection of his rear.


On the morning of February 23, General Pedro de Ampudia attacked the U.S. left flank guarded by the 2nd Indiana from Joseph Lane's Indiana Brigade. The volunteers were supported by a battery of artillery but were steadily driven back along with a second line of Illinois volunteers. Wool sent a messenger to General Lane to hold the line at all costs. The Illinois volunteers managed to conduct a fighting withdrawal under the pressure of the Mexican attack.

General Taylor returned to the field and made his presence known to his men; he was escorted by the Mississippi Rifles under Colonel Jefferson Davis. The Mississippians hit the flank of Ampudia's attacking column and Davis was wounded in the foot. Meanwhile Wool rallied the broken regiments using the walls of the hacienda at Buena Vista as a defensive position supported by a battery under Thomas W. Sherman and two regiments of dragoons. The 3rd Indiana was brought to the support of Davis, and the two regiments formed an inverted V. The Mexicans attacked this new line. The Hoosiers and Mississippians held their fire so long that the confused attackers paused briefly and were then hit by a wave of gunfire. About 2,000 Mexicans were pinned down. A young Mexican lieutenant attempted to trick the U.S. into a cease fire by saying that Santa Anna wished to meet with the U.S. commander. Taylor and Wool saw through the ploy, but it did buy the trapped Mexicans enough time to escape.

Santa Anna renewed an attack on the main U.S. position led by General Francisco Pérez with artillery support. An artillery battery under Braxton Bragg unlimbered with orders to maintain his position at all costs. Taylor rode over to Captain Bragg, and after a brief conversation in which Bragg replied he was using single shot, Taylor ordered "double-shot your guns and give them hell, Bragg". Later this order, although misquoted as "give them a little more grape Captain Bragg", would be used as a campaign slogan which carried Taylor into the White House. Pérez's attack was repulsed as heavy rain fell over the field. During the night Santa Anna declared victory and withdrew to Agua Nueva, after receiving a letter from Mexico City declaring that Santa Anna was needed to quell a political coup.


The battle was the last major battle in northern Mexico. It was Taylor's greatest battle of the war and also his last; he returned to the U.S. to pursue his political career. His success at Buena Vista and his legendary command to Captain Bragg helped him win election as President of the United States in 1848. Santa Anna suffered great losses and withdrew to the south when on the verge of a definitive victory. His withdrawal was spurred on by political dissent in Mexico City. He was later forced to defend Mexico City against an army under Winfield Scott.

Buena Vista County, Iowa, in 1859, was named in honor of the battle, as was Buena Vista Township, in Michigan's Saginaw County, as was the city of Buena Vista, Virginia.

Among notable deaths at the battle is Henry Clay Jr., second son of American statesman Henry Clay. His death was the subject of prints by Currier & Ives, and Neale & Pate. Orders of Battles:A. Mexican Undated Returns acs

18,530-Liberating Army of the North Gen. Div. A. Lopez de Santa Anna 39- Staff-Acting Gen. M. Micheltorena 10- Engrs.-Gen. I. de Mora y Villamil 61- Medical Corps- Insp. P. Vander Linden 584- Artillery-Gen. A. Corona (Total 16 Guns & 1 Howitzer) Commissary and Baggage Train-P. Rangel 324- Regiment of Engrs.-Col. S. Blanco 466- Regiment of Hussars-Lt. Col. M. Andrade Infantry: Gen.Br. M. Lombardini ( 28 Infantry Battalions ) Light Brigade-Gen.Br. P. Ampudia (1st,2d,3d & 4th Light Regiments) 4,839- 2d Vanguard Division-Gen.Br. F. Pacheco (8 Bns and 4-8 lb Guns) 1st Brigade-Gen. J. Garcia-Conde (2d Light, San Luis Potosi & Morelia Bns) 2d Brigade-Gen. F. Perez (Celaya & Leon Activos Bns,1st & 2d Guanajuato Aux Bns 4,300-1st Centre Division-Gen.Br. M. Maria Lombardini (and 4-12 lb Guns) 3d Brigade-Gen. F. Mejia } 1st,3d,4th,5th,10th and 11th Line Regiments) 5th Brigade-Gen. R. Vasquez? } " ) 3,197-3d RearGuard Division-Acting Gen. J. Maria Ortega (8 Bns and 3 Guns) 4th Brigade-Gen.Br. L. Guzman } Mexico,Queretaro,& Aguascalientes Activos Bns,and 6th Brigade-Gen. A. Terres } " Guadalajara Aux BnJoined later: 1,000- 7th Brigade-Gen. A. Parrodi( 12th Line, Pueblo Activos Tampico Coast Grds & etc.) and 3 Guns (8 lbs.)

Cavalry: Gen. J. Juvera ( 39 Cavalry Squadrons )Horse Artillery 1,418-1st Brigade-Gen. V. Minon 1,094-2d Brigade-Gen. J. Juvera 808-3d Brigade-Acting Gen. A. Torrejon 390-4th Brigade-Gen. M. AndradeDetached : Cavalry Brigade-Gen. J. Urrea Infantry Brigade-Gen.Br. C. Vasquez

B. United States 4,759 -Army of Occupation-Mj. Gen. Z. Taylor

Washington Battery-Cpt.J.M. Washington

1st Illinois Volunteers Regiment-Col.J.J. Hardin (D)

2d " " -Col.W. Bissell (plus Texas Company)

2d Kentucky Volunteer Regiment- Col. W. McKee (D)

Arkansas Volunteer Regiment (Mounted)-Col. Yell

Kentucky Regiment-Col.H. Marshall

Indiana Brigade-Br.Gen. J. Lane

2d Indiana Volunteer Regiment-Col. Bowles

3d " " -Col.J.H. Lane

1st Mississippi Riflemen Regiment-Col. J. Davis

May Squadron, 2d Dragoons-Col. May

Steen's Squadron, 1st Dragoons-Capt Steen


Battery- Cpt.Sherman

" -Cpt. B.Bragg

ee also

*Battles of the Mexican-American War
*Battle of Monterrey
*List of conflicts in the United States


* Alcaraz, Ramon, et al."apuntes para la historia de la guerra entre Mexico y los Estados Unidos" (1848)
* Balbontin, Manuel,"La Invasion Americana 1846 a 1848..." (1890)
* Bauer, K. Jack, "The Mexican War, 1846-1848"
* Nevin, David; editor, "The Mexican War" (1978)
* Roa Barcena, Jose Maria,"Recuerdos de la invasion norteamericana,1846-1848" (1947)
* [ Americas Library]
* [ American casualties list]

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