NORMAN D. BROWN, Editor
To the Halls of the Montezumas: The Mexican War in the American Imagina-
tion. By Robert W. Johannsen. (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1985. Pp. ix+363. Preface, prologue, maps, illustrations,
epilogue, notes, index. $25.)
Eschewing the traditional elements of political, diplomatic, and mili-
tary history one usually associates with treatments of the Mexican War,
Robert W. Johannsen opens a new vista by examining the impact of
that conflict on the thought and culture of the United States. He argues
forcefully that the war "was unique in the nation's experience" and was
responsible for carrying "the United States into the modern world"
Elaborating on that thesis, he details the rise of penny newspapers,
which became the principal artery of popular knowledge about the
war, made possible by the utilization of newspaper correspondents in
the field and news pooling with the founding of the Associated Press. A
veritable flood of war-related information inundated an eager public
and dominated national attention from 1846 to 1848.
This immersion in wartime news in turn dominated the cultural
scene, from theatrical productions celebrating the glories of victories
and conquest to rhapsodic poems praising heroism, valor, duty, God,
and country. Novels in unprecedented number poured into the reading
market, vying with one another for public approbation, each glorifying
some wartime dimension. Art, too, was caught up in the vortex of ex-
hilaration resulting from the nation's first foreign war. Etchings and
paintings brought a dramatic visual perspective to the conflict.
Because the Mexican War was the nation's first foreign war, thus
Americans' first encounter with an alien culture, participants both in
the war and back home became fascinated with Mexico's varied land-
scape, people, and culture. Firsthand accounts flowed into the print
media, which in turn became grist for popular-cultural venues. In es-
sence, the war expanded Americans' horizons, "providing one more
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed April 18, 2014.