Today in Texas History – May 8

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From the Annals of the Border Wars –  In 1846, U.S. forces under the command of Gen. Zachary Taylor defeated a Mexican force in the Battle of Palo Alto near present day Brownsville.  The battle was the first major engagement of the Mexican-American War but was fought prior to the actual declaration of war against Mexico. The movement towards war had begun when the U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas as a new state in 1845.  Mexico had refused to recognize Texas as an independent country and disputed the Rio Grande as an international boundary instead claiming sovereignty up to the Nueces.  After the Texas annexation and in a move to deliberately provoke the war, President James K. Polk ordered Taylor to defend the Rio Grande border. Taylor positioned his forces along the Rio Grande. Mexican General Mariano Arista viewed this as a hostile invasion of Mexican territory, and on April 25, 1846, he took his soldiers across the river and attacked. Polk having achieved the conflict that he desperately sought asked Congress to declare war which they did on May 13. But the real fighting had already started. In the weeks following the initial skirmish along the Rio Grande, Taylor engaged the Mexicans at the battle of Palo Alto on May 8, and the next day at Resaca de la Palma.  Taylor, nicknamed “Old Rough and Ready” by his soldiers, emerged from the war a national hero ultimately becoming President in1848.  He proved to be an unskilled politician who accomplished little before dying in office in 1850.

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