Alternative Strategies and
Mexico and the United States 1836-1848
The chronicle of the conflict between the United States and Mexico presents one of the relatively rare instances in modern history in which one nation defeated its adversary in every major battle of a moderately extended struggle. However, the outcome of the war was certainly not a pre-ordained American triumph, as the republic of Mexico enjoyed the advantages of a much larger and much more experienced army at the outset of the conflict. Thus a summary analysis of the Mexican-American War might reasonably focus on three inter-related problems. First, why did a consistently outnumbered American army fighting largely on enemy soil win virtually every engagement? Second, what are some of the alternative outcomes that might have emerged in Mexico's conflict with the Texan rebels and the United States Army? Finally, to what extent was the American experience in the war with Mexico a precursor of the far more colossal struggle between Union and Confederacy just over a decade after the end of the conflict with the other major republic in North America?
The record of American military engagement in the contest against Mexico presents some startling contrasts. On the one hand, only 930 regulars and 600 volunteers were killed in action during the course of the war. However, 6000 volunteers and 5000 regulars died of disease or accidents while an additional 9000 volunteers and 4000 regulars were so badly wounded that they had to be discharged from the army and sent home. Thus almost one American in four who volunteered for service in the Mexican war either went home seriously injured or didn't go home at all. While these losses did not approach the carnage of the Civil War or even World War II, they are, proportional to the overall population, remarkably similar to the American involvement in World War I, which also presents a very similar