JESUS F. DE LA TEJA, Editor
On the Prairie of Palo Alto: Historical Archaeology of the U.S.-Mexican War Battlefield.
By Charles M. Haecker and Jeffrey G. Mauck. (College Station: Texas A&M
University Press, 1997. Pp. xi+227. Illustrations, preface, introduction,
notes, glossary, bibliography, index. ISBN o-89o96-758-X. $39.95, cloth).
Haecker and Mauck report an interdisciplinary archeological investigation of
the Palo Alto battlefield resulting from legal requirements of the National Park
Service as recommended by previous archeological projects. The goals of the
project were strictly limited to those achievable through the three principal con-
tributing disciplines: archival resources, natural resources during and after the
battle, and archeology. The goals were to take information from the three disci-
plines to provide a picture of the developments on the battlefield on May 8,
1846. Many such investigations and their reports are disjointed with each disci-
pline having an appendix and there being no serious effort to integrate all the
data into an interpretive whole. This book, however, confines itself to those
things directly related to the battle except for a brief background to the war,
necessary for understanding what took place to precipitate the battle and its
The authors make use of data from the three disciplines in each section of the
book beginning with their historical overview. They discuss the organization of
the armies, weapons, and uniforms in the section on the documentary resources.
That section is followed by the geographical/topographic considerations, in a
section which utilizes documentary data, on-the-ground data, historic maps, and
aerial photos. These are used to test hypotheses relating to the locations of mili-
tary units on the battlefield, the evolution of the battle, and the changes that
took place to the land after the battle. The archeological discussion includes the
methodology used and an explanation of the antecedents to the reported pro-
ject, the horizontal distribution of artifacts, and detailed descriptions of the arti-
This book is a rare example of a well-integrated interdisciplinary project. All
three disciplines are woven through each chapter of the book to provide a thor-
ough and insightful analysis of the armies and the battle. Artifact descriptions,
almost universally soporific, are in this work related to the events on the battle-
field and to the conditions endured by soldiers on both sides. The artifacts are
related directly to the interpretation of the battle and how units changed posi-
tion during the phases of the struggle.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/. Accessed March 13, 2014.