Three Day Slugfest: General Zachary Taylor at the Battle of Monterrey (1846)

On 25 September 1846, the U.S. Army – under command of General Zachary Taylor – occupied the city of Monterrey in Northern Mexico. The occupation was preceded by one of the most significant battles of the Mexican-American War. Dubbed “Old Rough and Ready” by his men, General Taylor was in many ways a throwback to the “amateur generalship” of the War of 1812. Nonetheless, though the Mexican Army greatly outnumbered the Americans at the start of the war, Mexican leadership and logistics were subpar. Though often outnumbered in battle, Taylor’s forces were better equipped and possessed quite effective artillery. That said, many Mexican units fought quite well, and Taylor faced a difficult campaign in Northern Mexico.

After crossing the Rio Grande, Taylor marched 125 miles in an effort to seize the provincial capital of Monterrey. The Mexican commander, General Pedro de Ampudia, reinforced to 7,000+ men, decided to ignore retreat orders and defend the city. On the first day of battle, Taylor feinted to the east while sending the main effort in a giant “hook” to attack and seize key positions in west Monterrey. However, as Mexican forces abandoned outer defenses, the battle turned into an urban, house-to-house fight. Though Texan and Tennessee volunteers taught U.S. Army regulars some effective techniques for urban warfare, the initial street fighting resulted in heavy casualties. During two days of brutal fighting, and after advancing within blocks of the central plaza, General Taylor decided to negotiate a two-month armistice with the Mexican commander in exchange for the safe passage of the Mexican Army out of the city (fully-armed).

President Polk was perturbed by what he perceived as an unauthorized armistice and soon shifted the war’s focus to the south and General Scott’s advance on Mexico City. Nevertheless, Taylor’s hard fight inside the city of Monterrey served as an early precursor to future urban warfare. The U.S. Army’s difficult utilizing combined arms and effective urban tactics certainly increased casualties. That said, the quick reaction and “on-the-fly” retraining conducted by the Texan volunteers demonstrates the value of flexibility and adaptability in the U.S. Army.

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Monday, September 25, 2017 to Sunday, October 15, 2017