tv History Bookshelf Joseph Wheelan Invading Mexico CSPAN May 19, 2018 4:00pm-4:52pm EDT
let, became know as mr. pokes war, it resulted in more than 500 square miles of u.s. territory. next on, history bookshelf, joseph wheatland talks about his on thenvading mexico," mexican war where he chronicles the president's desire for war. as was resorted that's recorded in 2007. it is about 50 minutes. >> good evening. here,alf of of the owners i want to thank you for supporting your local bookstore. tonight, we are honored to have mr. joseph whelen to discuss his new book, "invading mexico." a graduate of the university of wyoming and the university of colorado denver, joseph began his early stint in writing as a
reporter, state editor for the casper, wyoming, star tribune. he has spent the last 30 years as a reporting editor. mr. whelan and his wife pat now live in kerry, north carolina. in the fall of 2003, mr. whelan released his first book, jefferson's war," which the fort worth star-telegram what, it informs the reader about the daily life in war times. it was soon followed by the 2005 release of "jefferson's vendetta: the pursuit of aaron burr and the judiciary," which reviewers wrote it was elegantly written and smartly conceived. tonight we are here to celebrate his newest release, invading mexico. so please, join me in giving a warm welcome to mr. joseph whelan. [applause]
joseph: i want to thank you for coming, and i want to thank quail ridge for inviting me. this is my third visit here. i really appreciate it. um, let's start by talking about what the mexican war was and was not, and then i'll go into some more of the details. mexican war is one of america's forgotten wars. the civil war 15 years later all but erased its memory. this has robbed us of insight s into the origins of other wars. for example, in important ways the mexican war is a distant echo of the iraqi war. and mexico's abiding distrust and resentment of the united states can be traced to the mexican war. the mexican war also hastened the civil war. it might not have been fought if the mexican war had not opened the volatile slavery debate.
now, the mexican war's often confused with the texan war for independence from mexico ten years earlier in 1836. the texas revolution is known for the battles of the alamo and others, and the exploits of sam houston and davy crockett. the mexican war is known as polk's war. the 11th president, james k. polk, supervised it from its beginning in may 1846 to the treaty signing 21 months later. the peace treaty transferred 530,000 square miles from mexico to the united states, incredible territory. from mexico we obtained the future states of california, new mexico, arizona, nevada, utah and parts of colorado and wyoming. literally 42% of mexico's territory at that time. the major battles were fought at
palo alto, monterey and buena vista, the gates of mexico city. always outnumbered, the americans won every major battle. sometimes, as in buena vista, they were at a three to one disadvantage. nearly 13,000 americans died during the war. more than 11,000 of them from disease and other noncombat causes. american officers who received their baptism of fire in the mexican war later led the armies during the civil war. among them were ewe lis access s. grant, robert e. lee, stonewall jackson, george mcclellan and james longstreet. the mexican war was america's first war of invasion. it was fought on multiple fronts across thousands of miles from the texas border to mexico city
to san francisco bay, in snowy mountains and deserts, in summer heat and winter cold, on tropical beaches and in densely-populated cities. general zachary taylor's army fought on the rio grande river and northern mexico. i've got a map here. this is where the war started, and taylor's thrust into northern mexico followed this red line. the other, the second front that opened after about a year of the war was at veracruz by genuinefield scott. he landed here and marched 260 miles to mexico city. there are other fronts too. john c. fremont led fighting in california. general steven carryny marched from kansas to santa fe to san diego and fought two major battles outside los angeles.
a brigade of mormons that followed kearney's path nearly starved. and, they never fought. alexander donaldson led a famous troop of missouri volunteers from santa fe to chihuahua, mexico. the missourians marched more than 2,000 miles and won two battles. after they marched from here to here, they marched all the way to monterey and then to the coast, and then they took a ship back to new orleans. it's a real epic. the treaty ending the war, the treaty of guadalupe they hit all hidalgo in february 1848 cost the united states $18
million or $.37 per acre. it was the second best land bargain in u.s. history after the louisiana purchase which brought the u.s. 828,000 square miles for $15 million. just as the mexican war treaty was being signed, california was learning of a gold strike that would become the gold rush of '49. during the, what they called the roaring 40s, america's industrial age was in its early years. railroads and steamships were being rapidly built, and samuel morse's telegraph linked washington and baltimore, soon thereafter, rich monday. -- richmond. the penny press and the dime novel were launched. waves of immigrants were arriving from ireland and germany, and every spring when the snows melted, immigrants in their prairie schooners poured onto the great plains bound for oregon and california. manifest destiny was the era's catch phrase. in 1845, the editor of the new
york morning news, john o'sullivan, wrote that america, quote: had a manifest destiny to overspread the continent, allotted by providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions. in other words, america was entitled by divine sanction to occupy north america from atlantic to pacific, and most americans believed this. manifest destiny was more than an expansion of slogan. it was actually part of a subterranean, ideological struggle that dated to the nation's founding. the champions of the two competing visions of america and were thomas jefferson and alexander hamilton. hamilton envisioninged an america of cities with busy harbors and smokestacks. jefferson favored a nation of independent landowners. he did not want america to become be like europe where people worked for wages and became political subjects and
andrtistic and spirited-- not participants. jefferson's ideologicalty seven cants included andrew jackson and james k. polk, the president responsible for the mexican war. jackson and polk knew that for jefferson's so-called yeoman farmers to flourish, large amounts of virgin land were needed. so it was no coincidence that jefferson, jackson and polk together added 2.1 million square miles to the united states, although jackson invaded florida before he was president. when jefferson took office in 1801, the u.s. land area was 891,000 square miles. when polk left office in 1849, it covered nearly three million square miles. what became the 48 contiguous states. since then, just 700,000 square miles have been added, most of it alaska. i emphasize land because the mexican war was all about taking
land from mexico. the mexican war was the first, but by no means the last, american war began on a questionable pretext. we have seen it happen since then. the sinking of the maine at havana, the alleged gulf of tonkin incident and the purported weapons of mass -- reported weapons of mass destruction in iraq. polk said the war was about indemnities in the disputed texas/mexican border, but his secret purpose was to obtain california. in 1846, the united states had no pacific ports but longed to have them. america and england shared occupancy of the oregon territory, and california belonged to mexico. despite repeated attempts by the united states to buy it.
mexico wouldn't sell california until the issue of texas was resolved. even nine years after the texas revolution, mexico still regarded texas as a rebellious province. but the united states refused to discuss texas which had become a state in 1845, and with good reason. mexico regarded the river whose mouth is at the rio grande at corpus christi as its rightful border, whereas the united states said that it was the rio grande river. territory there is 120 miles in length. so neither side would give in on this. polk calculated that applying pressure on the border would force mexico to the bargaining table or begin a short, relatively bloodless war ending with america getting california. president zachary taylor sent 2000 troops to corpus christi.
a way to protect against invasion. but that was a very, very remote possibility at that time. when mexico still would not negotiate and when rumors reached polk that england might make a play for california, he sent taylor to the rio grande, and that did it. mexico indignantly declared it had been invaded, and proclaimed a defensive war. the mexican cavalry ambushed u.s. dragoons along the river in 1846. polk could now claim american blood was shed on american soil, but some of taylor's officers -- including ulysses s. grant -- believed they'd been used as bait to catch a war. so when word of the attack
reached washington, polk's allies pushed a war resolution through congress and put a two-hour time limit on debate. then they used up an hour and a half of the two hours reading the accompanying documents out loud. the 14 house members and two senators who voted against the war bill were vilified as traitors. by then taylor had already won two battles along the rio grande and was preparing to invade mexico. the battles were fought right along here. at palo alto and recited in the resaka de la palma. at first there was tremendous support for the war. public rallies were held around the country, young men rushed to
enlist in the militia. when their own state's militia quotas were filled, they went to neighboring states and enlisted. the public support faded as the war dragged on and the casualty list grew with no end in sight. polk believed the war would last just three months, but national pride would not permit mexico to quit so long as an invader occupied it soil, even as it lost every battle. during the 1846 midterm election, president polk's democratic party lost control of the house of representatives. the reconstituted house launched investigations into the war's origins and its conduct. it demanded reames of documents from the white house, and it passed a resolution declaring the war had been unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the president of the united states. a freshman congressman from illinois, abraham lincoln, said the president cannot be permitted to make war at his pleasure. congressman stephen a. douglas said anyone who criticized the war was no friend of the united states and was a traitor in
their hearts. so war opponents were forced to walk a tight rope, voting for war funds to show they supported the troops while criticizing the policies that necessitated these expenditures. we've seen this happen, too, during the vietnam and iraq wars. mexico had struggled from coup to coup since winning independence from spain in 1821, so they'd just been an independent country for 25 years when the war started. cynical generals such as antonio lopez desanta ana rose to power again and again by forming shifting coalitions among the wealthy landowners, catholic church, and the military. when they were toppled from power, they looted the treasury on the way out the door. santa ana had already been president three times and was exile in cuba in 1846.
he promised polk he would stop the war and negotiate a treaty if polk led santa ana through the american blockade of mexico. polk did so, and santa ana became president a fourth time. but instead of making peace, he led the mexican army in several battles against the americans. the mexican war inspired the first major american anti-war movement. war opponents thought it morally reprehensible for a rising industrial giant of 20 million people to invade a bankrupt nation of seven million in order to take its territory. congressmen john quincy adams and joshua giddings led the congressional opposition of the war. other war foes included clergymen, abolitionists and
transcendentalists like ralph waldo emerson and henry david thoreau. thoreau was living at walden pond at this time. he refused to support the war in any way. one day he went in to concord to have a shoe repaired, and he was arrested for not paying his poll tax. so he spent the night in jail. his aunt paid the tax, and he was freed the next morning, free to join a huckleberry-picking party, actually. but this experience inspired him to write "civil disobedience," the essay that in turn helped inspire mahatma gandhi, the vietnam anti-war movement and martin luther king. many war opponents believed the war's secret purpose was to add new slave territories, but this was not true. while polk was a slave holder himself, slavery was not a
factor. nonetheless, the mexican war reopened the explosive national debate over slavery, laying the foundation for the civil war. slavery's bait had largely lain dormant, but in august 1846 congressman david wilma of pennsylvania proposed abolishing slavery in any new territories obtained as a result of the war. the south bristled at this direct threat, and the so-called wilma proviso led to congress' first far-reaching debate of slavery. the debate only intensified until 1861 when words no longer sufficed. the mexican war was a war of firsts; first war begun on a dubious pretext, first anti-war movement, first successful offensive war, first occupation of a enemy capital.
it also marked the debut of large numbers of west point graduates in combat. and for the first time american newspapers sent reporters to cover the war. cover a war. the public now read dramatic battle accounts rather than dull government reports. in 1846, five new york newspapers began sharing war news and costs, and so was born the associated press. the world's large and oldest newsgathering organization. the new american field artillery was the war's great military innovation. using horses, gun crews quickly moved wide artillery around the battlefield to support troops. the u.s. field artillery was the best in the world and decisive in several battles. when the war began, america had just 8,000 regular troops. tens of thousands of volunteers from practically every state
poured in to augment the expeditionary force. volunteers were largely untrained, many could not even take care of themselves in camp. they succumbed to diseases in shocking numbers. best of them, in addition to donaldson's mountain volunteer, -- volunteers, were the mississippi rifles led by jefferson davis, future president of the confederate states of of america, and the texas rangers were superb horsemen and ruthless guerrilla fighters. the american and mexican people vastly underrated the u.s. regulars who were arguably the best troops in the world at that time. it was true the enlisted ranks contained a large number of recent immigrants and men who had failed in civilian life, and they did serve long enlistments at low pay.
but the regulars were also well drilled and disciplined, hardened to living outdoors and well equipped. their confidence in victory never flagged no matter how outnumbered they were. late in life ulysses grant, a lieutenant during the mexican war, rated zachary taylor's little army the best in which he's ever served. there were more than 30 battles and skirmishes. from start to finish, it was polk's war though. from the white house, president james polk oversaw every detail. commanding generals in the field, scott and taylor often were not consulted at all. polk's plan was to capture the
mexican provinces north of the 32nd parallel, today's u.s./mexican boundary. that's up here. and to send taylor's army to conquer northern mexico. this was taylor's army. when mexico still refused to concede after he did this, polk opened the second front down here at varian cruz. more than 80 ships, more than p -- 80 ships, more than 10,000 crews. vera cruise surrendererred. scott embarked on his famous march to montezuma, 260 miles away. interestingly, the duke of wellington who was the victor after waterloo, kept a wall map of the campaign in his study and
followed scott's campaign. he thought scott was just the greatest general of his time, which he was. polk wanted to be president of the whole country, not a partisan president. but he was a democrat to the core. he worked hard to prevent scott and taylor who were both whigs from reaping any political profit from the war. there was reason for this. george washington, andrew jackson and william henry harrison had all been generals who became presidents. but in the process, polk made enemies of both his generals. yet he congratulated himself on remaining nonpartisan. his efforts failed to prevent zachary taylor from succeeding him as president. polk wound up the mexican war and brought the troops home before leaving office, but he survived his presidency by only three months. he died of cholera in nashville
in 849. 1849. taylor lived just a year later, dying in 1850 while in office. his successor was millard fillmore. throughout the 19th century, the mexican war was deplored, and james polk was vilified for it. historians of that era and many of the generals during the civil war had been junior officers in that war, just thought it was morally reprehensible, the whole affair. but polk's reputation improved in the early 20th century with the rise of american nationalism. today historians rate james polk as one of the ten best u.s. presidents. yet he remains one of the most obscure. as harry truman observed in ranking polk with george washington, thomas jefferson and
andrew jackson, "he said exactly what he was going to do, and he did it." and this is true. polk, in fact, accomplished everything he promised when he took office. he lowered the tariff, established an independent treasury, he annexed texas, and he took possession of oregon. and most importantly, he achieved his fifth secret goal, and that was to obtain california. it all turned out well for the united states, but not for mexico; bankrupt and ravaged by chaos and revolution. only with dictator diaz's iron-fisted regime beginning in 1876 did mexico stabilize and begin to develop an industrial base. i want to add something about james polk. he's one of the two presidents born in north carolina. the other one being andrew johnson. he was born near charlotte. andrew jackson may count as half a president. he was born -- [laughter] right on the north carolina/south
carolina border. both states have claimed him at various times. polk's family moved to tennessee when he was 11, but he returned to north carolina to attend the university of chapel hill. graduated with first honors in mathematics and the classics. then he went back to tennessee and became a lawyer and politician. he was so closely allied with andrew jackson that he was called young hickory. this was a huge advantage because no one knew, first of all, when he ran in 1844 who polk was. but because jackson was the most popular president of his era, being associated with him was a great thing. in 1844, polk had become the first dark horse presidential nominee. kind of emerged from the democratic convention in baltimore. as a compromise candidate to
hold the party together, he pledged to serve one term, and he stuck to his pledge. polk once wrote in his diary that he's the hardest-working man in america, and if he wasn't that, he's certainly the hardest working american president. his every waking hour six days a week, sometimes seven, was occupied by public business. sara polk, his wife, was her husband's partner in politics and government. they had no children, and this was their life, politics and running the country. she was of educated at the moravian female academy in salem, north carolina. and she was the only first lady to serve as her husband's secretary. in the white house, the polks often worked side by side at their desks far into the night. polk was a micromanager who distrusted whigs. taylor and scott paid a steep price for being whigs and
sometimes acting on their own. nicholas tryst who'd negotiated the peace treaty also fell out of favor with polk for disobeying orders and was punished for it. tryst was the negotiator chosen by polk and secretary of state james buchanan to accompany winfield scott to mexico city and negotiate a treaty. at the time, he was chief clerk in the state department. but he was -- earlier he was a counsel in havana. early in life he had studied law, and he married a jefferson granddaughter, virginia jefferson randolph. when he got to mexico, tryst angered polk by agreeing to an ill-advised armistice outside of mexico city that gave santa ana time to fortify the city. polk and buchanan recalled him.
by the time the recall reached him, there was this three week lag in communications between mexico city, sometimes longer and washington. by the time the recall reached mexico city had surrendered, peace talks had begun. and tryst received the recall, and he packed up to leave. to obey it. but mexican officials, british diplomats and scott urged him to stay and continue the talks. so tryst disobeyed his orders, resumed the negotiations, and he signed the very treaty that polk had wanted. but polk never forgave tryst. even though his actions spared the united states the draining guerrilla war. tryst was dismissed from the state department. polk refused to pay his salary or expenses after the date tryst received his recall. for years afterwards tryst barely avoided bankruptcy.
it was only in 1871 when he was 70 years old during president grant's administration congress voted back pay with accrued interest, and grant named him postmaster in alexandria, virginia. any questions at point? [laughter] yes, sir. >> you mentioned early this your presentation that when the war began, mexico proclaimed a defensive -- [inaudible] did they have any military strategy other than just to fight defensively and maybe kill enough gringos that we'd go home and leave them ahone? what was their military strategy? could you elaborate just a little bit? joseph: well, i don't know what their strategy was other than to send troops to the rio grande. and to stop the united states from sending troops down there.
they had no invasion strategy, and i think -- actually, i think they believed they could beat the u.s. army. as i said, the mexicans held the u.s. forces in low esteem, and they had a larger force, and i think they thought they could defeat 'em down there, and that would be the end of it. but it seemed -- as soon as taylor crossed the river, the mexican, mexican general command sent an emissary up there to warn him that they had crossed the river, and they were in mexico and to, please, go back and nothing would happen. but, of course, he had his orders to go all the way to the rio grande. so something was going to happen, and everyone knew it. yes, sir. >> i'd like to hear a little more about the election of 1848. i mean, was it a repudiation of
the war? the whig party which was, which was the opposition party to polk, won the presidency, right? joseph: that's right. >> oddly enough, won it with the general who had been the main commander in polk's war. but was this about, was the main issue in the election the war, and was it a repudiation of the war, i guess, is my question. joseph: no, i don't think it was. because polk wasn't running again. the candidates were taylor was the whig and louis cass who was the governor of michigan was the democrat candidate. but then martin van buren was involved in the race too. and so they split the vote, and they split the democratic vote
especially in new york where van buren was strong, and taylor won new york, and he won the election. but it was a matter of the democrats who had formed this coalition to -- behind james k. polk fragmenting again in 1848 and not really clearly deciding on a candidate. in fact, the democrats came to polk and asked him to run again in 1848, but he said he had given his pledge, and he really wanted to leave office. he'd had enough. yes, sir. >> was it during this time or early or later that the french had designs on mexico? joseph: that was later on. that was about 20 years later during the -- actually, that was during the civil war. emperor maximilian went to mexico, yeah. that happened in the 1860s.
the french, or part of the french, banked on the south winning the war or at least splitting the country, and then they were going to be able to deal with confederate states of america, this french entity down in mexico. but, of course, the the south lost the war, and they were just kind of stuck down there. and eventually the emperor was overthrown and executed. yes. >> tell us about the flying artillery, please, and did he come from napoleon? if yes or no, did any other tactics come from napoleon? joseph: um, okay. that did not come from napoleon, but it came from europe. the -- in the 1830s the u.s. command sent some of their top officers over to europe to study
the european artillery. they wanted to revamp the american artillery at that time, so they toured germany, france, all these countries in the 1830s, and they came back with a plan to establish flying artillery and demonstrated it to the, i think, to martin van buren at that time. and they got funding to establish an artillery, flying artillery outfit in every artillery regiment in the army. so there were, like, four artillery battalions, flying artillery battalions in the army. one of them was led by braxton bragg, probably recognize his name from the civil war and fort bragg. he was one of the outstanding ones.
he, in fact, at buena vista he, at buena vista he performed tremendously and was at this pivotal part of the battle. but, as far as the european tactics, winfield scott was a student of, as far as infantry tactics go, he was a student of napoleon. actually he had a whole library that he carried around with him, and he -- scott had fought in the war of 1812, and he'd been forced into a couple of situations where he'd had to fight defensively, and he was wounded, and it was really a bad situation in the campaign and
canada. he vowed he'd never fight defensively again. he'd always go on the offense. so he studied napoleonic tactics and came up with his method was to never attack the front, always attack the flank, you know? feint going this way, move this way. taylor was just the opposite. he would fix bayonets and charge straight ahead. but scott was, he was not only a strategist, but he was an excellent -- he was probably the best tactician in the war. and i would say he's the best general the united states had between the revolutionary war and the civil war. yes, sir. >> senator william haywood of north carolina, he and polk were at chapel hill together. and i've read that he was considered one of the most powerful men in congress because of his association with polk.
how did senator haywood feel about the mexican war? do you know? and what happened with this and polk. joseph: i don't know. >> and also how was polk perceived in north carolina? joseph: pretty well. i think it was a democratic state down here generally. and he was well-received here. and he came back, i think, for a reunion of his class in chapel hill, i think, but he knew hayward, though, even in washington. and when hayward decided to leave office, polk tried to talk him out of it. but it seemed like he left office during the war. so i don't know -- i would imagine he supported polk. it seemed like the democrats did and a lot of the southern whigs did too. >> you mentioned the battle of buena vista and santa ana both.
what's your assessment of who won the battle of buena vista, and further, why did santa ana thereafter retreat and go back to mexico city? what do you understand about the military aspects of it and then the mexican response and internal reaction? joseph: well, that was kind of an interesting thing. the whole thing. the reason that polk, that santa ana went to buena vista, santa ana was here at san luis, and here's buena vista, here's very -- veracruz. santa ana, someone in the mexican army intercepted and killed a messenger, u.s. army officer, who had orders from scott to taylor that said taylor was to hand over all of his
regulars to scott for this invasion at veracruz, and it talked about the invasion and about when it would occur too. so this document was rushed back to santa ana, and taylor -- who knew he was supposed to get two sets of these orders but only got one -- went out and found out what happened to the other messenger, that he'd been murdered in this town. so he knew that santa ana had this information. he assumed and the americans assumed that he would go to veracruz and reinforce veracruz and to repel scott's invasion. santa ana actually was a pretty good strategist. he -- not a good tactician, but a good strategist. he decided the thing to do was with taylor's army weakened up there at monterey, he would go north instead of to veracruz.
he thought he could beat taylor, defeat his army, drive all the way to the rio grand, capture all that territory that had been taken by the americans and force the americans to the peace table. to negotiate a treaty favorable to mexico, more favorable. and that that would preempt scott's invasion of veracruz, everything. so it was a great gamble. so he set out with 20,000 men from san luis. scott -- taylor had about 5,000 troops. and at some point -- and he didn't have that many scouts either. he really didn't know santa ana was coming until he was almost there. but one of his officers had chosen buena vista as a good battleground because it was kind
of boxed in a little bit by the mountains. there were ravines that cut it up, it looked like an area that was defensible. and so they chose that as the battle ground, the place they would fight santa ana. and he crossed this high desert in the late winter and lost about 2,000, 3,000 men crossing it. desertions and then they just died along the way. and they got to buena vista, and they were, they were out of food. he told them they would fight, they would beat the americans, and they would get their food supplies. that was their incentive. so the battle began. now, santa ana was not a good tactician. he could have won that battle probably if he had done what napoleon always said to do; bring the great brunt of forces to bear on fragments of the army.
what he did was he tried to attack everywhere, instead of attacking everywhere at once where he could have overwhelmed the americans, he tried to attack one area and then another, and the americans were able to shift troops around. and then he never used his reserves that day at all. and so at the end of the day , there was no clear victor, but he did leave the battlefield that night and begin his withdrawal. his march back to san luis. he really had no place else to go. his troops had no food. so what he did was he raced ahead of the army, went to san luis and proclaimed that he had won this great victory. and church bells are ringing, and he sent a messenger to mexico city, and they celebrated this great victory.
then the army arrived, what was left of it -- about 10,000 men -- and they were just in terrible shape, and the people saw what had happened. so he took a fragment of that army, went down to, down to this area here to try to stop winfield scott, and he raised some more troops, started all over again. losing battles. yes, sir. >> do you mind telling the story about the army joining santa ana? joseph: oh, yeah. the san patricio brigade. yes. they were mainly irish immigrants, and they were in the regular army. and in the u.s. army at that time, there was a lot of need for this sentiment among the officers, especially the west point officers, and they did not
like the irish. so they were punish more severely, and they felt like they were just kind of abused and left out. they were not appreciated, they didn't get the promotions, and so mexicans, who were catholic like the irish were, understood this, and this started a pathway along the rio grande, started sending leaflets over the river and said if you, you know, we share the same religion, come across the river, join our forces, you know? we'll give you -- and at one point they gave them cash in, like -- and, like, 40 acres or something like that. so they cross the river in great numbers, hundreds of them, and at one point taylor posted
guards along the river with orders to shoot to kill. every night they were trying to swim the river. they'd kill them in the water, it was a pretty bad situation. but enough of them got over that they formed a brigade, and they were made an artillery brigade. and they were quitefective. -- quite effective. and they fought at monterey and at buena vista, both battles. buena vista they were the best thing that the mexican army had going there. and then down near mexico city a bunch of them were captured in battle. and about 40 of them were executed. and they timed it so that they were hanged just as the american flag went over to pull to pack -
- chapultepec. yeah. so, some of them, some of them who deserted before war was actually declared, they weren't traitors. i mean, it wasn't a capital offense, and they were branded as traitors. not as traitors, deserters with a d branded on their cheeks. it was really awful. one more question. >> can you speak to the two military academies, chipotle peck and west point? we hear about the gods of our civil war and the icons, we hear very little about the military academy. well, they were mainly teenagers. they weren't, they were kids. and when american forces attacked, the mexican regular officers tried to evacuate these teenagers. but some of them stayed and fought, and some of them committed suicide, actually, jumped off the parapets as the americans came in clutching the american flag.
-- clutching the mexican flag. there's a whole legend about that. and there's a monument to these, these cadets, the national academy cadets. and i think even today at sunset every day there's some ceremony that they do to honor these cadets. as far as them being a force in the mexican army, they really weren't. they were very young. some of them might have become officers, but they were not. the officer corps in the mexican army was made up mainly of the upper class, the rich. it was so top heavy, it was just ridiculous with officers. host: i want to thank everybody for coming tonight and a special thanks to mr. whelan. thank you again. [applause]
host: be sure to check our calendars and our web site for other events that you might be interested in. thank you again for coming. >> on history bookshelf, here from the country's best-known american history writers of the past decade. every saturday at 4 p.m. eastern. you can watch any of our programs at any time, visit our website, c-span.org/history. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. day, when on cue and university of virginia history
professor talks about his book. >> i call it the discipline the presidency. eisenhower, in the way he carried himself was a disciplined man, a great athlete when he was young, and organize veryn every respect, methodical. that is how he ran the white house as well. he was externally organize, and a lot of people, especially john kennedy, the center -- senator, criticized how predictable he was. for eisenhower, it meant when crisis came, he knew how to react, and he used to say plans are worthless, but planning is everything. said we should always be thinking about what crisis would in spirit he was systematic his governing. he chaired the national security council every week.
government.humb on he believed the federal government could work well if it was well led. >> q and a, sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span. >> there is no constitutional issue here. the command of the constitution is plain. issue.s no moral it is wrong. any of your to deny fellow americans the right to vote in this country. [applause] >> on march 15, 1965, lyndon b. johnson addressed congress urging them to pass what would become the voting rights act of 1965. one womane her from as she describes life el