The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002

Winfield Scott's Army of Occupation as Pioneer
Alpinists: Epic Ascents of Popocatepetl
and Citlaltepetl
JERRY THOMPSON*
FOR ALMOST TWO CENTURIES, THE LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
Texas and Mexico has been complex and difficult, often violent.
Certainly, the most important period in that troubled relationship was
the period from 1830 to 1850. The war between the United States and
Mexico, which had its origins in the annexation of Texas, began in the
Lower Rio Grande Valley with the bloodshed at Palo Alto and Resaca de
la Palma in May 1846. After seventeen months of hectic and desperate
combat across a vast landscape that stretched from the arid Southwest to
the tropical jungles of Vera Cruz, the American army entered the great
central valley of Mexico and after ferocious fighting, seized the capital.
The war finally concluded with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in
February 1848, by which the United States acquired a vast wilderness
stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, in all
529,017 square miles of valuable territory. Less than thirty years after
Stephen F. Austin rode into San Antonio de B6xar, the Stars and Stripes
was unfurled over a vast area from the Rio Grande to the Pacific. For
many young Americans, the Mexican War was the great adventure of
their life. A few would return to the United States with lifetime memo-
ries of having climbed great volcanoes. It was all part of the romantic
horizon of American expansionism.'
For centuries the perpetually snow-covered and picturesque volcanic
edifices of Citlaltepetl, Popocatepetl, and Iztaccihuatl have inspired
Indian myths, captivated artists, awed foreign visitors, and lured
* Jerry Thompson, TSHA president, 2oo0-2002, gave this speech at the 2002 TSHA annual
meeting. Thompson, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at Texas A&M International
University, is author or editor of nineteen books and monographs. Among the best and most pro-
lific historians of the Southwestern campaigns of the Civil War, Thompson is also an authority on
the history of the Texas-Mexico border.
'William H. Goetzmann, When the Eagle Screamed: The Romantic Horizon in American Expansion-sm,
z8oo-i86o (Norman- University of Oklahoma Press, 2000), 54-73.
VOL. CV, NO. 4 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY APRIL, 2002

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed March 31, 2015.