Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 4, Number 1, Spring, 1992 Page: 4
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in the Mexican War
By Steve Butler
PERIODICALLY DURING THE PAST 150 years,
Dallas County residents have been called upon
to serve their country in time of war. The first of
these occasions, and perhaps the least chronicled,
came less than two months after Dallas County was
created by an act of the Texas Legislature on March
Not quite a year earlier, on July 4, 1845, the
nine-year old Republic of Texas had accepted an
offer of annexation by the United States. In Austin
and Washington the news was greeted with joy by
those who believed the United States was destined to
stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. In
Mexico, of which Texas had once been a part, the
reaction was predictably different. Mexico had
never accepted the loss of Texas in 1836, hoping to
bring the errant province back under her control.
Knowing the U.S. had its eye on Texas, the Mexican
government had warned in no uncertain terms that
annexation would be tantamount to a declaration of
war. Thus wary of possible Mexican invasion, Texas
invited the United States to send in troops as soon as
statehood was assured.
President James K. Polk, a devout Jacksonian
expansionist, was only too happy to comply. By the
end of July 1845, some 3,000 American soldiers
under command of General Zachary Taylor were
encamped on the beach at Corpus Christi. There,
just a few miles north of the Nueces River (the old
Mexican provincial boundary of Texas), they spent
the fall and winter months. Finally, in the spring,
after Texas had officially joined the Union, they
marched to the Rio Grande, which both the old
Republic of Texas and the United States claimed as
Texas' border with her neighbor to the south.
Arriving on March 28, 1846, the Americans
constructed an earthworks fort on the north bank of
the river, directly opposite Matamoros. As Polk no
doubt expected, the Mexicans threatened to attack,
claiming Taylor and his men were trespassing on
Mexican territory. Responding to threats by General
Ampudia, commander of the Mexican army at
Matamoros, Taylor replied he was there under orders
and that he would not budge from what the
United States considered to be American soil. Thus
an outbreak of hostilities became inevitable. On
April 25 an American patrol was attacked by Mexican
cavalry on the north side of the Rio Grande.
Taylor wrote immediately to President Polk informing
him of the incident. Within three weeks Polk,
announcing to Congress that "American blood has
been shed on American soil," asked for a declaration
of war.1 On May 13, 1846, Congress not only
complied but also authorized the raising of 50,000
volunteer troops to supplement the existing U.S.
Knowing that support for a war with Mexico
was strongest in the states of the South and West,
Polk called upon these first, asking for an initial
20,000 men from Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Mis
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Dallas County Heritage Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 4, Number 1, Spring, 1992, periodical, 1992; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35116/m1/6/: accessed September 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.