P. G. T. Beauregard: Napoleon in Gray

By T. Harry Williams | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWO
The Halls of Montezuma

W HILE LIEUTENANT BEAUREGARD fretfully dreamed of martial glory the war he had been waiting for started. In May, 1846, the tense relations between the United States and Mexico snapped into open war. Immediately after the news of the declaration of war had been received in New Orleans, Beauregard renewed his application to be sent to General Taylor's headquarters as an engineer officer. Almost frenzied by excitement, he feared that the war would be over before he could get in.1 He was disappointed in his hope of securingan immediate assignment, and he was wrong in thinking that the United States could defeat Mexico in one short campaign. At the beginning -- of the Mexican War, the only sizable American army in the field was Taylor's so-called Army of Occupation on the northern bank of the Rio Grande. Taylor and President James K. Polk thought that if the army advanced into Mexico and occupied a part of the country the Mexican government would make peace on American terms. Accordingly Taylor crossed the Rio Grande, defeated the Mexicans in several engagements, and seized a triangle of territory in northeastern Mexico. To the surprise of the naive planners of the American high command, the Mexicans were not disheartened by their reverses and gave no indication that they were going to quit the war.

Among the points seized by the Americans was the port city of Tampico on the eastern coast, which was used as a base through which to funnel supplies to Taylor's army. To protect Tampico against the unlikely event of a Mexican attack, the Engineer Department had started to construct fortifications around it on the land side. Now Colonel Totten remembered Beauregard's applications for service and his reputation as a fort builder. Late in November the

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1
Beauregard to Totten, May 14, 1846, in Beauregard Papers ( Library of Congress), Letterbook 1.

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