February, 1847: Battle of Buena Vista Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

On February 22, 1847, General Antonio López de Santa Anna sent some 15,000 soldiers against the positions of American general Zachary Taylor’s 4,594, mostly volunteer, troops. Beginning with skirmishes, a full-scale battle ensued the following morning on rough terrain beneath the Sierra Madre near Hacienda San Juan de la Buena Vista. Santa Anna possessed intelligence of U.S. troop locations and hoped for a decisive defeat.

On February 22, 1847, General Antonio López de Santa Anna sent some 15,000 soldiers against the positions of American general Zachary Taylor’s 4,594, mostly volunteer, troops. Beginning with skirmishes, a full-scale battle ensued the following morning on rough terrain beneath the Sierra Madre near Hacienda San Juan de la Buena Vista. Santa Anna possessed intelligence of U.S. troop locations and hoped for a decisive defeat.

Engraving of the Battle of Buena Vista made for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1855. (Institute of Texan Cultures)

Mexican cavalry and infantry threw themselves against U.S. lines throughout the day. Taylor’s decision simply to defend U.S. positions proved successful. Though bloodied and weary, his forces still held the battlefield as night fell. As Taylor’s men anxiously awaited dawn, Santa Anna’s army slipped away, demoralized at their inability to break through U.S. positions. Mexican deaths numbered 691, with nearly 1,050 wounded. American casualties included 272 killed and 387 wounded.

The narrow U.S. victory at Buena Vista was not only of strategic significance but also of political importance for Taylor. The victory had secured the northern approaches to Mexico City, and the general’s fame would help to elect him president of the United States.

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