BECK index

Mexico and Civil Wars 1845-65

by Sanderson Beck

Mexico and the American War 1845-48
Mexico and Santa Anna 1848-55
Mexico’s Reforms and Civil War 1856-60
Mexico’s Juárez and the French 1861-64
Mexico and Emperor Maximilian 1864-65

Mexico and the American War 1845-48

Mexico and Democracy 1817-44

      In Hubert Bancroft’s History of Mexico at the beginning of his chapter “Causes of War with the United States” he noted, “It was the result of a deliberately calculated scheme of robbery on the part of the superior power.”1
      In California on the first day of 1845 John Sutter led a force of 220 men to attack the rebels led by José Castro and Juan Bautista Alvarado at San José. Governor Manuel Micheltorena on January 4 proclaimed that Castro and Pio de Jesús Pico had failed to return stolen government horses and cattle, and he declared martial law in Monterey. Two days later he led a force that joined with Sutter’s men for a combined force of 400, but the rebels moved south. Pico and José A. Carrillo in Los Angeles organized a militia to defend Micheltorena. The rebels arrived and attacked a garrison on the 20th, and several men were killed and wounded.
      California Assembly President Pio Pico convoked the Junta in Los Angeles on January 28, and they appointed commissioners led by José Antonio de la Guerra to meet with Micheltorena at the Santa Barbara mission; but on February 7 he refused to recognize them or the Junta. One week later the Los Angeles Junta prepared accusations against Micheltorena, and the next day they declared Pio Pico the interim Governor of California. On the 17th citizens were ordered to present themselves for active service. José Castro led 150 men who were watching Micheltorena at San Buenaventura. Then Castro went to Los Angeles where Alvarado joined him with reinforcements. The opposing forces confronted each other at Cahuenga; but Micheltorena raised a white flag and capitulated, and no one was injured. On the 22nd they signed a treaty at the Campo de San Fernando that recognized Lt. Col. José Castro as Commandant General of California. Micheltorena and his followers were allowed to leave with honor, and he returned to Monterey and then to Mexico City.
      Los Angeles became the capital of Alta California. In May 1845 news arrived that the United States was at war against Mexico. On the 29th the Mexican government sent a message recognizing Pio Pico as Governor. They appointed the commissioner José María de Híjar to go to California, and the Governor and the Assembly welcomed him in June. Civil offices remained at Monterey, and on July 5 Governor Pico published that Alta California was divided into two districts. Prefect Castro was the civil authority in the north. In early October a general election chose Alvarado as the deputy to the Mexican Congress. On the 28th Pico proclaimed the sale by auction of the missions at San Rafael, Dolores, Soledad, San Miguel, and Purísima as well as most of San Luis Obispo, Carmel, San Juan Bautista, and San Juan Capistrano and most of the property.

      On 1 March 1845 United States President James Polk signed the joint resolutions favoring the annexation of Texas. While the treaty was being negotiated, he sent General Zachary Taylor with 1,150 men to Fort Jessup near Natchitoches and a naval squadron to the Gulf of Mexico. Texas President Anson Jones called a convention that met on July 4 at Austin and appointed a committee that recommended annexation with a new constitution. On October 13 the Texas Congress ratified both, and the United States admitted Texas as a state on 29 December 1845. On 19 February 1846 President Jones resigned and was replaced by the elected Governor J. Pinckney Henderson.
      Mexico’s Congress had declared that José Joaquin de Herrera won the presidential election. He served for nine days in September 1844 and then for one year after Antonio López de Santa Anna left in December. He promised to take care of the army and finances. Officers in Querétaro and San Luis Potosí refused to move to the frontier and mutinied. General Mariano Paredes was called to Mexico City and was ordered to surrender his command. The government approved a plan to borrow $15 million from the clergy which meant using Church property as collateral. On 14 December 1845 about 5,000 soldiers in San Luis Potosí refused to march on Texas, and the city assembly agreed. The next day Paredes declared that he would reorganize the republic’s rights against the United States’ aggression. A revolt by the Celaya regiment in the capital was quelled, and on the 28th the Congress met. Two days later General Valencia proclaimed revolution in the Ciudadela, and President Herrera gave up the government. General Gabriel Valencia seized power and handed it over to General Paredes.
      Paredes and his army entered Mexico City on 2 January 1846, and the next day a junta of representatives elected him interim President. An extraordinary congress was convoked. The press was concerned that a monarchy might be formed, and Federalists, Centralists, and followers of Santa Anna were working to overthrow the new government which imposed censorship on the press. Santa Anna sent Col. Alejandro Atocha to the United States, and he told President Polk that Santa Anna would be willing to accept the Rio Grande as the Mexican border and sell California north of San Francisco for $30 million. President Paredes issued a manifesto on April 24 promising to retain the republic. He was accused of neglecting to respond to Indian raids in Chihuahua, Durango, and Sonora.
      In January 1846 President Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor to move his troops to the east bank of the Rio Grande, and on April 24 Mexico’s General Arista arrived with his army of 4,000 men at Matamoros on the other side of the river. In the battle of Resaca de la Palma near Brownsville on May 9 Taylor’s force of 1,700 men defeated Arista’s army. Four days later the United States declared war on Mexico. The US Congress approved an army of 50,000 volunteers and authorized $10 million. The Mexican Congress forced the clergy to contribute $200,000 per month. Santanists gathered at Guadalajara, and on May 20 officers there proclaimed Santa Anna their leader. On June 6 the extraordinary congress met and confirmed the interim presidency of Paredes with Nicolás Bravo as Vice President. Paredes sent money north to the army, and then on July 28 he turned the executive authority over to Bravo who chose a new cabinet. On August 3 the garrisons at Veracruz supported the Guadalajara plan, and the next day General José Mariano de Salas did so in the citadel of Mexico. That night Paredes escaped but was caught and brought to the citadel as a prisoner. A conference deposed Bravo on the 6th and made Salas general-in-chief on the 22nd while suppressing the council and department assemblies.
      In the north Mexico’s Governor Manuel Armijo abandoned Santa Fe, New Mexico and ordered the 3,000 troops to evacuate the town before the United States Army arrived on August 15. General Pedro de Ampudia with 7,300 men defended Monterrey for three days against the American army led by Zachary Taylor before surrendering on September 24.
      On 16 August 1846 the people at Veracruz welcomed Santa Anna’s return. The cabinet chief Valentín Gómez Farías went to Puebla to receive him, and on September 15 the return of Santa Anna and restoration of the federal government was celebrated. The national treasury had only 1,839 pesos. Two weeks later he led a force of 3,000 men from the capital toward the frontier. A Congress with a liberal majority was installed on December 6, and on the 24th they made Santa Anna interim President with Vice President Gómez Farías governing while Santa Anna commanded the army. In January the Congress authorized getting 15 million pesos by mortgaging and selling property of the Catholic Church, and by this means Farías raised 5 million pesos for the war effort.
      On 6 January 1847 Santa Anna learned that Taylor was sending troops to aid General Winfield Scott at Veracruz. Santa Anna’s army lost 4,000 men crossing 240 miles of desert. Although his 15,000 men were three times Taylor’s army at Buena Vista on 22-23 February, the Mexicans had many more killed and wounded and 1,894 missing. Santa Anna decided to retreat, and they were not pursued. By the time his army reached San Luis Potosí on March 12, he had lost 10,000 men on the expedition.
      On February 26 demonstrations in Mexico City opposed Farías, Congress, and Santa Anna. Radicals accepted Santa Anna as President, and Farías had arrested some in Congress which now opposed him. Many were upset by the Mexican army’s defeat at Buena Vista, though Santa Anna had claimed victory. He reached Mexico City on March 21 and resumed the Presidency as Farías retired, ending the revolution.
      On March 9 the American Occupation Army of 8,600 men led by General Scott landed at Veracruz. Juan Morales had only 3,360 soldiers who were overwhelmed as American bombarding killed about a thousand civilians. They negotiated surrender from the 25th to the 29th, and 3,000 soldiers were captured. On April 18 at Cerro Gordo against Scott’s 8,500 troops Santa Anna’s army of 12,000 had more than a thousand men killed and 1,036 captured. The citizens of Puebla declined Santa Anna’s offer to defend them, and Scott’s army took over the city. Mexico City was threatened, and Mexicans fought valiantly at the Churubusco bridge. On August 20 at the capital Santa Anna asked Scott to negotiate while he prepared the city’s defenses. After the armistice Scott’s cavalry led the attack on September 8, and they fought for a week. The outnumbered Mexican army suffered more than three times as many casualties and had about 3,000 men captured. After the Chapultepec Castle was taken, the US Army occupied the city. President Santa Anna resigned on the 16th and left the country. The Mexican elections held from August to October were held only in territory that was not occupied by the US Army.
      On November 9 the Mexican Congress elected Pedro María Anaya to be interim President for two months. He had also done that for 38 days in the spring of 1847. On 8 January 1848 Anaya was replaced by the Supreme Court president Manuel de la Peña y Peña who had served as acting president for seven weeks in the early fall of 1847. Peña was well respected and taught law at the university. He upheld the Constitution and prevented anarchy after the war ended.
      On 2 February 1848 the United States and Mexico signed a peace treaty at Guadalupe Hidalgo in which Mexico ceded nearly half its territory that included Texas, New Mexico, and Alta California as far south as the port of San Diego. The United States paid Mexico $15 million in compensation for damages and assumed Mexico’s debt of $3.25 million to American citizens. More than 70,000 men fought on each side. The United States had 1,733 men killed in battle and 4,152 wounded, and the Mexicans had about 5,000 die fighting and another 5,000 from diseases. Ratification of the treaty by both republican governments was completed with amendments by June. Many Mexicans would resent for a long time that Americans from the United States used armed force to take half their territory. These feelings were often expressed in their corrido folk songs.

Mexico and Santa Anna 1848-55

      The long-time resentment of the Mayans broke out in Yucatán. Their chiefs Manuel Antonio Ay, Cecilio Chí, and Antonio Pat had learned how to use firearms in the war. The rebellion had begun on 30 July 1847 at Tepich as they murdered mestizos and mulattoes in their sleep and raped many women; but in the ensuing battles the natives were defeated. On 2 February 1850 the Yucatán government offered a peace treaty that granted pardons and was accepted. By October cholera had killed about 14,000 people. Some rebels held out at Chan Santa Cruz until Chief Tzuc made peace in 1853.
      In June 1848 General Paredes and Manuel Doblado joined the revolt that was led by Governor Casio and the guerrilla Celedonio Dómeco de Jarauta who with a thousand men drove the commandant general Manuel Artega out of Aguascalientes and deposed the governor. On July 18 they were defeated by the Mexican army led by Bustamante at Guanajuato. Jarauta was taken prisoner and taken to Valenciana where he was executed. Paredes fled to Europe, but he was pardoned, returned, and died in 1849.
      On 30 May 1848 José Joaquin de Herrera was again elected President of Mexico, and on June 3 acting President Peña resumed his position as President of the Supreme Court. Herrera rebuilt the treasury department, and the foreign debt contracted at London was fixed at £10,241,650. On 27 October 1849 the legislature declared the new state of Guerrero with Álvarez as chief commandant. In November monthly expenses were limited to $500,000 with two-thirds of it going to the War Department, and the army was limited to 10,000 men. Salaries of officials were reduced by a quarter. In the fiscal year 1849-50 expenses were $16,500,000 with $7,600,000 for war and $5,800,000 for the debt leaving a deficit of $8,500,000. In 1850-51 spending was $20,300,000 and the deficit $11,300,000. In 1851 Mexico purchased more than 20,000 improved muskets from France and Belgium.
      On 15 January 1851 Mariano Arista succeeded Herrera as President of Mexico, and he followed his predecessor’s policies. That month the government severely suppressed a protest at Guanajuato, but another broke out in July. Demonstrations also occurred in San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, Tlaxcala, Jalisco, and in the south. Arista claimed that spending including debt payments was up to $26 million a year, and he tried to reduce it to $10,683,000 by cutting salaries drastically. Congress became hostile, and his ministers resigned. He formed a new cabinet on September 11 led by Fernando Ramirez who promised to follow public opinion. They tried to consolidate the interior debt and managed to cover two-thirds of the interest by 1852. Reduced patrol service led to more highway robberies and other crimes.
      Governor Portillo imposed a new police system in Guadalajara, and the arrest of the hat-maker José María Blancarte provoked him to lead a rebellion that took over the Governor’s palace and issued the Jalisco Plan on 26 July 1852. He led a council that proclaimed Gregorio Dávila as governor. He summoned a legislature to revise the constitution and make reforms while Blancarte retained military command. On September 13 he as head of the militia declared Arista deposed for violating laws, and he summoned Santa Anna to reorganize the government with a federal constitution. When Dávila opposed this, the Santanistas led by Suarez y Navarro replaced the governor with General Mariano Yañez. One week later General José López Uraga led a movement that summoned two deputies from each state. On October 20 mostly civilians signed the Plan del Hospico that supported Santa Anna. On that day the Congress approved sending 5,000 of the National Guard to Jalisco, Veracruz, and Michoacán, and they appointed Uraga captain-general of Jalisco. The cabinet resigned, and Yañez led the new one that included Pedro María Anaya as Minister of War and the writer Guillermo Pietro at the Treasury. Prieto persuaded the lower house to accept his financial reforms, but the Senate opposed them and closed the Congress. Most of the country had turned against the capital.
      Arista tried to open the legislature on the first day of 1853; but this failed, and he resigned on the 5th urging the Chief Justice Juan Bautista Ceballos to replace him. Yañez had already gone into exile and urged Arista to follow him. Ceballos became President on January 6, and he formed a cabinet with the conservative Santanista General Blanco as Minister of War. Ceballos released political prisoners and granted amnesty, urging governors to also avoid hostility. A bill to summon a constitutional convention was rejected by the lower house which denounced the President and his cabinet as traitors. Ceballos dissolved the Congress. They met to impeach him and elect a new president; but one declined, and the other was rejected. The legislators dispersed and were forbidden to meet. General Manuel María Lombardini admired Santa Anna, and he supported the Guadalajara Plan. Ceballos resigned on February 7 and returned to his position as Chief Justice. The new plan allowed the generals to elect Lombardini as President.
      On March 17 the Mexican states voted 18-3 for Santa Anna as President over Uraga, and the winner sent his instructions to Lombardini who cooperated. Santa Anna reached Veracruz on April 1 and marched triumphantly to Mexico City where he became President on April 20 for the 11th and last time. Two days later he abolished federalism and the Constitution, and on the 25th he gave himself the power to suppress any periodical. He made the conservative Lucas Alamán his Foreign Minister, but he died on June 2. Santa Anna ruled as a dictator and increased the army to nearly 100,000 men. He favored the Catholic Church and allowed the Jesuits to return. On May 14 he centralized revenue and took control of all property, and the contributions from the states increased the income to $17 million. An uprising in May by the national guard, artisans, and a mob at Veracruz was brutally put down. He moved into the palace at Tacubaya in June and lived there in luxury. Cholera and other misery spread in the central provinces, and locusts devastated the east. Revolts broke out in Guanajuato, Yucatán, and Veracruz. Santa Anna had his War Minister Tornel deported on September 11. On December 16 by decree he extended his dictatorship indefinitely and called himself “most serene highness.”
      The French filibuster Count Gaston de Raousset had invaded Sonora and captured the capital Hermosillo in 1852; but after he returned with 400 French and German fighters on 28 June 1854, he was defeated at Guaymas and executed on July 13. In October 1853 William Walker captured La Paz and set up a republic in Lower California, but he soon returned to the United States.
      Juan Álvarez led a revolt in the south, and news reached the capital on 20 February 1854. Santa Anna decreed severe punishment for rebels and those aiding them. On March 1 Col. Florencio Villareal announced the Plan of Ayutla in the department of Guerrero which on the 11th was supported in Acapulco and by Col. Ignacio Comonfort who was made commandant of the fort. Álvarez was made commander-in-chief of the revolution that public opinion favored. In March several revolts erupted in Michoacán.
      Santa Anna and War Minister Santiago Blanco left the capital on March 16. They were cheered wherever they went, but the revolution was spreading. Santa Anna’s army confiscated property of revolutionaries, burned hostile towns, and executed those who took up arms. His army of about 5,000 men reached Acapulco on April 20, but Comonfort refused to surrender. Their attack on the fort failed, and while retreating they were defeated at Peregrino hill. They left detachments in towns and returned to Mexico City in May.
      On 30 December 1853 Mexico’s President Santa Anna and US Ambassador James Gadsden had signed the deal that sold to the United States another 26,670 square miles for $10 million in what became southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico where the US wanted to build a railroad to San Diego. On 24 February 1854 Álvarez condemned Santa Anna for selling the territory illegally. Mexico ratified it on May 31, and the United States did so on June 29 and published it on July 20. Santa Anna began spending the cash received on the deal, but by October he had only 60,000 pesos left. The deficit in 1854 was 10 million pesos.
      Governors demanded changes in the conservative government, but the dictator was satisfied with them. On December 1 a referendum on whether Santa Anna was to continue to govern was submitted to voters who had to sign their names in books for yes or no; very few signed in the no books while 400,000 signed the yes books. The widespread civil war was made worse by cholera, robbery, and Indian raids. Santa Anna positioned his army between Mexico City and Veracruz, but his General Francisco Guitian was defeated in San Luis Potosí. Santa Anna ran out of money and left for Veracruz on 9 August 1855, leaving General Díaz de la Vega in command at the capital. There the Ayuta Plan was soon adopted and accepted by the generals Vega and Carrera. On the 17th Santa Anna left on the Iturbide war steamer for Havana and then went to his estate in Colombia.
      A public meeting authorized Díaz de la Vega to choose a Junta, and he appointed 52 members to elect a President. They elected their officers and Martin Carrera as interim President. He announced that he would organize the national guard, reform the military, regulate finances, and respect human rights. Guitian’s brigade at San Luis Potosí issued a Plan directed by Antonio Haro y Tamariz for abolishing conscription and the head tax while establishing press freedom. Comonfort’s army marched on Guadalajara, and they were well received on August 22. Many departments accepted the Ayutla Plan. Carrera resigned the Presidency on September 12. When this news reached Álvarez in Lagos, he was accepted as the leader of the revolution. On the 24th he summoned one representative from each state to meet at Cuernavaca on October 4 to elect an interim President. The Convention on that day chose Gómez Farías as their President and Benito Juárez as one of their secretaries. Then they declared Juan Álvarez interim President of the Republic.

            President Álvarez chose a cabinet that included Minister of War Ignacio Comonfort, Minister of Relations Melchor Ocampo, and Justice Minister Benito Juárez. On 15 October 1855 Álvarez granted amnesty to the many deserters from the army who had been conscripted by the dictatorial Santa Anna in breach of his promises. Ocampo and Juárez advised dissolving the army, but Comonfort’s views prevailed. In November 1855 Álvarez moved the seat of government back to Mexico City. Comonfort appointed a new cabinet. On December 11 Álvarez resigned the presidency to Comonfort. Álvarez left the capital with his Guerrero troops on the 18th, and he fought for Comonfort’s government in the mountains. On December 12 a revolt broke out in Mexico’s second largest city Puebla. General Guitian was sent there, but he joined the revolution. Haro y Tamariz led a conspiracy in the capital and escaped to Zacapoaxtla where he was made chief.

Mexico’s Reforms and Civil War 1856-60

      A decree on 9 January 1856 held Santa Anna and his subordinates responsible for illegal acts, and their estates were sequestered. The revolutionary forces attacked Puebla on the 16th and forced the governor to leave. A convention was called to meet at Mexico City on 18 February 1856 in order to organize a democratic government by drafting a constitution and organic laws. On the 22nd the Juárez law reduced the jurisdiction of the military and ecclesiastical courts, and soldiers and clerics would be tried in state and federal courts for violations of civil and criminal laws. Álvarez considered retiring for the winter. Doblado in Guanajuato refused to recognize Álvarez and proclaimed Comonfort president. The government sent a force of 5,000 men commanded by Villareal, and joined by other troops their army of 11,500 besieged Puebla on March 9 until they surrendered on the 22nd. On the 31st a decree ordered the governors of Puebla and Veracruz to seize church property that was not used for public worship.
      On June 6 the Congress revoked Santa Anna’s decree that had revived the Jesuits. Invectives against the liberal government by Catholic periodicals such as La Soledad and La Patria led to their suppression. José Lázaro de la Garza y Ballesteros had become Archbishop of Mexico in October 1850, and he led the opposition to the reforms. The Treasury Minister Miguel Lerdo de Tejada’s Lerdo Law was enacted on June 25, and the value of the property transferred from the Church to the Government by the end of the year amounted to $23,019,281. Because these lands were sold, most landless peasants were not helped.
      In reaction to the reforms General Santiago Vidaurri had revolted in the north and seized Saltillo and Matehuala. San Luis Potosí agreed with him and communicated with other towns. On 14 September 1856 a woman reported to President Comonfort a seditious movement planned for the anniversary holiday. The next night the suspected Franciscans were arrested, and armed men occupied their convent. On the 17th a decree sequestered the convent’s property. About 200 rebels defended themselves at Puebla against 4,000 troops and were besieged until they capitulated on November 29. Vidaurri had submitted on the 18th. On December 15 Pope Pius IX condemned the Juárez and Lerdo Laws. More than a thousand troops had revolted at San Luis Potosí on December 10, but they were finally defeated on 27 February 1857.
      The new Constitution of Mexico was adopted and signed on 5 February 1857 and included 34 articles on equal rights, free expression, universal suffrage for men, and education. Slavery and compulsory service were abolished as were prison for debtors and titles of nobility. Supreme Court judges were to be elected. For the first time the Roman Catholic Church was not established by the government. A law enacted on March 17 required public officials to take an oath to uphold the Constitution. On April 11 the Iglesias Law limited the fees the Church could charge for receiving the sacraments. The Catholic Church opposed six articles that affected their power, though none of them had anything to do with Catholic dogma. The Constitution would go into effect on September 16 along with a new electoral law in 67 articles. Some in Aguascalientes and Puebla rebelled against the Constitution, and on May 4 about 3,000 natives attacked 200 soldiers in the Chilapa garrison, and less than half of them escaped death. Arbitrary governmental actions led to a ministerial crisis, and Miguel’s brother Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada was made Minister of Foreign Relations.
      An empty treasury made it difficult to keep troops in the field. Riots were hard to put down and could be bloody. A Congress was installed on October 8, and Comonfort spoke about liberal institutions. Congress held the President to the law, and charges were made against him; but they allowed state governors a free rein. On November 3 a military rebellion in Cuernavaca persuaded the Congress to suspend several civil liberties, and they empowered the Government to borrow $6 million to fight the rebels. Comonfort won a majority in the presidential election in December, and Oaxaca’s Governor Benito Juárez was elected president of the Supreme Court and also became Minister of the Interior.
      On 17 December 1857 a political movement at Tacubaya renounced the Constitution as not in accord with the traditions of the Mexican people, and General Félix María Zuloaga formed a Junta with generals and leading clergy. Zuloaga’s brigade occupied the capital, denounced President Comonfort and the city council, and arrested Juárez and other leaders. That night the constituent Congress dissolved itself, and on the 25th the Junta installed a Council of State. Those against the reforms began a civil war that would last three years. Archbishop Garza and the Bishop of Michoacán approved the Tacubaya Plan, and they removed the excommunication from any supporting it. Some soldiers in the capital revolted on 11 January 1858 and joined reactionaries. Comonfort had 5,000 men in the palace and tried to hold the constitutionalist headquarters. He gave up his executive office in favor of Juárez whom he released to go to Guanajuato where on January 19 Juárez set up his government that a majority of states recognized. Comonfort had only 50 soldiers left by the 20th, and he left the next morning. On February 7 he fled to the United States.
      Zuloaga summoned a council that included bishops, and they elected him President 26-2, and in his oath on January 23 he promised to support religion and national independence. They quickly restored the military’s privileges and annulled the reform laws of the Comonfort government. Zuloaga piously attended church, pardoned deserters, canceled the army levy, and put in jail suspicious liberals. The clergy provided money so that he could mobilize forces. Against them the constitutionalist army had 10,000 men at Celaya, but on March 10 about 5,000 conservatives defeated their liberal force of 7,000 at the battle of Salamanca in Guanajuato. The garrison at Guadalajara mutinied and captured Juárez with his ministers for three days, though negotiation led to their release and departure. Juárez fled to Querétaro and then made his way to Veracruz where he installed his government on May 4.
      Benito Juárez was born on 21 March 1806 to Zapotec peasants and was raised by an uncle. In 1818 he could speak little Spanish, but his employer Antonio Salanueva had him educated for the priesthood. Later he preferred to study law, and he was elected to the Oaxaca City Council in 1831 and became a judge ten years later. In 1843 he married a 17-year-old European, and in 1845 he was elected to the state legislature. Juárez was Governor of Oaxaca 1847-52 and again from January 1856 to November 1857.
      During the civil war some fifteen states supported the constitutionalists while only six recognized Zuloaga’s authority. He selected a new cabinet in July, and his Justice Minister Father Javier Miranda enforced a law against conspiracy and muzzled the press. The conservatives’ army was led by Leonardo Márquez, Miguel Miramón, and the Indian cacique Tomás Mejía. Miramón’s army defeated liberal forces led by Santos Degollado at Atenquique on July 2. They occupied San Luis Potosí on 12 September 1858 and defeated Vidaurri’s liberals near there on the 29th. On October 14 about 3,000 constitutionalists from Morela attacked the capital but had to retreat. On the 27th Degollado’s liberal force recaptured Guadalajara after a 30-day siege; but when Márquez arrived with an army of 4,000 men, they left the city. Reactionaries also captured Perote on November 16. Zuloaga neglected to provide a new constitution, though General Miguel Echeagaray offered a plan at Ayotla on December 20. Zuloaga dismissed him from the army and issued a manifesto. Zuloaga resigned three days later, and the next day Manuel Robles Pezuela occupied the palace and restored General Echeagaray who then captured Perote. They formed a junta on December 30.
      Zuloaga reclaimed the Presidency long enough to choose Miguel Miramón as his successor on 31 January 1859. He imposed a 1% tax on all property worth more than $1,000. Miramón borrowed $300,000 from the clergy which enabled 5,000 men to besiege Veracruz on February 16; but the United States Navy prevented his forces from blockading the port by sea, and they gave up the siege on March 31. However, they defeated the constitutionalists in La Lagunilla before retreating to the capital. There in the battle of Tacubaya on April 11 the liberals led by Degollado suffered heavy losses. Miramón ordered the 200 prisoners killed, and Márquez had many more executed, horrifying public opinion.
      On April 6 the United States government recognized the Juárez government in Veracruz, and President Buchanan sent Robert M. McLane as minister. After he arrived in Veracruz, Juárez sent José M. Mata to Washington.
      Mexico’s productive activity had been greatly reduced, and many guerrilla chiefs led bands on both sides that plundered the country. On July 12 the Juárez regime nationalized Church property except for churches and their contents, and they also took over cemeteries. On the 23rd they sanctioned civil marriage. Márquez’s reactionary force stole twenty loads of silver from Tepic and took it to Guadalajara. On September 5 Vidaurri declared Nuevo León y Coahuilla an independent state; but Juárez sent Degollado with a force that drove Vidaurri across the Texas border. Liberal forces attacked Estancia de las Vacas on November 12, but they were defeated. Since July the liberals had lost 10,000 men, 62 cannons, 7,300 muskets, and 3,000 sabres. Márquez took $600,000 from a conducta of $1,964,000 in Guadalajara, and Miramón had him suspended and arrested. Conservatives held Mexico City, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, and San Luis Potosí. On December 4 the Juárez government enacted religious liberty.
      On November 26 Miramón’s minister Juan Almonte in Paris made a treaty with the Spanish ambassador Alejandro Mon; but Juárez considered it invalid, and it did not become law. On December 14 the liberals agreed to the McLane-Ocampo treaty that would give the United States the right of transit across northern Mexico by railroads and highways; but the US Senate rejected it. British diplomats suggested an armistice, and Miramón agreed; but Juárez refused any compromise.
      Ortega’s army of 11,000 men defeated 8,000 led by Miramón at Calpulapan on December 22. Miramón returned to Mexico City in January 1860 and prepared for a campaign to take Veracruz. While his army besieged Veracruz a second time from February 8 to March 21, in naval battles US ships captured some of Miramón’s ships and took them to New Orleans. Miramón returned to Mexico City on April 7 as the war turned against the conservatives. Liberals led by Jesús González Ortega forced Ramirez to retreat from Aguascalientes in early April, and on the 24th constitutionalists led by General Uraga defeated Rómulo Díaz de la Vega at Loma Alta, persuading the reactionaries to evacuate San Luis Potosí. Liberals besieged and took several cities, though Oaxaca held out. Miramón in May led an army that was joined by the troops of Mejia and Castillo, and they forced Uraga to retreat to León. While Uraga’s army was assaulting Guadalajara, Miramón attacked his rear with 7,000 men. Uraga was wounded and taken prisoner in a defeat that delayed the end of the war. Miramón’s army of 6,000 men marched into southern Jalisco, but 8,000 liberals led by Ignacio Zaragoza made him decide to retreat to Guadalajara. Then he went to León where his prisoner Zuloaga was held but escaped. Miramón’s army suffered a serious defeat on the Silao hills on August 10. He returned to the capital the next day and then yielded the Presidency to Ignacio Pavon, the President of the Supreme Court. Miramón called an election. A Junta elected him interim President on the 14th, and he chose a cabinet. After the liberals took Oaxaca, Miramón released Márquez.
      On November 6 Juárez called for general elections. France’s minister Dubois de Saligny arrived in late November and recognized Miramón’s government. Márquez led a force to relieve Guadalajara where González Ortega had 17,000 men. Márquez sent the police chief and an armed force that stole $700,000 from the British legation. The constitutionalist forces were closing in on Mexico City which Miramón put under martial law on the 13th. He led an army that defeated liberal forces on December 9, capturing many prisoners including Degollado, Felipe Berriozábal, and Benito Gómez Farías. On December 22 Ortega’s army of 16,000 men overwhelmed the 8,000 fighting for Miramón who fled to Mexico City where he capitulated to Degollado and Berriozábal because Ortega was insisting on unconditional surrender. Miramón then escaped to Europe. The liberal army of 25,000 men was victorious at Mexico City on December 25.

            Manuel Gándara had armed the Yaquis and led revolts against the state of Sonora in 1838, 1840, and 1842. Governor Ignacio Pesqueira dismissed Gándara from the government in 1857, and for the next two years his revolt was supported by Mateo Marquin. The Yaquis plundered the Guaymas Valley, and the Mayos sacked Santa Cruz by the lower Mayo River; but the Mexicans defeated both tribes in 1859. In 1862 Pesqueira invaded their territory, defeated Mayos at Santa Cruz, and made peace with the Yaquis at Torim. Mexico’s Juárez and the French 1861-64

Mexico’s Juárez and the French 1861-64

      The liberal army entered the capital on the first day of 1861 followed by Juárez on January 11. The democratic liberal progressives had overcome the aristocratic conservative reactionaries and taken over government in the capital, but opposition would continue with guerrilla fighting. Conspirators were to be tried and shot. The next day Juárez expelled the Apostolic Delegate and five bishops. Miramón’s minister Isidro Díaz was captured, but Juárez commuted his death sentence to five years in exile. Many governors and state legislatures were unable to defend the national government, and some continued martial law. On January 25 he decreed an end to martial law and extraordinary military powers by governors.
      The Liberal Party was divided between constitutionalists and reformers with moderates in the middle. Juárez in the early February election won a plurality of the votes; but Miguel Lerdo de Tejada showed strength in the east, and Jesús González Ortega did well in the north. In early March he decreed amnesty for all but a few prominent men. A $10,000 reward was offered for the killing of Zuloaga, Márquez, Mejía, and four others. Ministers resigned in January, and Juárez appointed a new cabinet. Lerdo became ill and died on March 22. Treasury Minister Guillermo Prieto warned that the government was nearly bankrupt, and in April he resigned. Minister of War Ortega also quit and was replaced by Zaragoza. The new Treasury Minister José María Mata knew little about finances, but he suspended payments and held public auctions on government notes and contracts. The British and French wanted reparations for various offenses. The Congress met on May 9 and quarreled with the ministers who resigned and were replaced. On June 11 they ratified the election of Juárez as President for four years, and they made General Ortega president of the Supreme Court. The Congress in July permitted the government to collect all revenues and to suspend payments on the foreign debts.
      Guerrilla bands were roving and robbing, and some of them were defeated. Many clergy refused to use the government textbook on politics by Pizarro. Congress set up a committee of safety, and President Juárez suspended personal rights but repealed the decree in October. Melchor Ocampo had been abducted in May and was murdered, and the liberals Degollado and Valle were captured on June 23 and met the same fate. The federal district of Mexico City was put under martial law and was invaded. Col. Porfirio Díaz led the defense and defeated rebels led by Márquez at Jalatlaco on August 13. Márquez failed in an attack on San Luis Potosí, but his forces overran Aguascalientes and Zacatecas before government forces defeated him and Mejía at Pachuca on October 20.
      On 31 October 1861 Britain’s Queen Victoria, France’s Emperor Napoleon III, and Spain’s Queen Isabella II at London agreed to intervene in Mexico. Britain and France broke off diplomatic relations with Mexico in late November. In December the United States declined to join the European powers, and Secretary of State Seward informed Mexico that Americans would provide naval forces in the Gulf of Mexico to protect Mexican citizens. Spain prepared a military force of about 5,000 men and 15 ships at Havana. The Mexican Congress ended its session on December 15, and the next day Manuel Doblado was made Minister of Foreign Relations and cabinet president.
      On December 14 a Spanish fleet arrived at Veracruz. Three days later General Gasset’s force occupied the city, and he imposed martial law and took over the Council. On the 18th President Juárez argued in a manifesto that Spain was the principal enemy of Mexican independence. He dispatched General Zaragoza with 3,000 men and asked the states for 52,000 troops. He also decreed a 25% increase on government imposts and a 2% tax on property worth more than $500. Martial law was declared in Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, and Tamaulipas. As the Europeans approached, other states did the same.
      The British and French fleets arrived on 6 and 7 January 1862, and the allies signed a convention. Spain had 6,000 troops under General Juan Prim, and France had 3,000 led by Dubois de Saligny. England provided warships and 700 marines. The United States steamer San Jacinto captured the British mail-steamer Trent. Juárez agreed to let them move inland so that they would not be decimated by yellow fever. In 1862 Mexico’s debt was 81,632,561 pesos with 64,266,354 of it owed to Britain. The French were demanding payment on the Jecker bonds loaned to Miramón’s government in October 1859, but Juárez repudiated that. Yucatán was torn apart by civil strife, and Márquez and Mejía were still hostile in San Luis Potosí and the Querétaro mountains.
      On February 18 Foreign Minister Manuel Doblado met with General Prim, and he promised that Mexico would start paying its foreign debts. At La Soledad they negotiated a convention that allowed the allies to occupy Córdoba, Orizaba, Tehuacán, and that region. This was ratified by the British and French and by Juárez. The French General Lorencez arrived in early March with 3,000 more troops, and the Mexican government suspected that they wanted to impose an imperial monarchy under the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian. On April 9 the British and Spanish decided to depart with their forces, and two days later Doblado warned the French not to advance with their army. At Escamela 200 French cavalry led a charge against only forty Mexicans who suffered thirty casualties. The French army of 6,000 men led by General Charles Latrille marched to Puebla, and there on May 5 the Mexicans led by generals Zaragoza and Porfirio Díaz repelled their attack. This victory gave Mexico another year of independence and became the basis of Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
      Zaragoza’s troops were unable to drive the French out of Orizaba. Doblado resigned in August and was replaced by Juan Antonio de la Fuente who had drafted a law on religious tolerance. Some priests were preaching that Mexicans should collaborate with the French, and on August 30 Juárez decreed that any priest exciting “hate or disrespect for our laws” could be imprisoned or deported. Mexico had elections for their third constitutional Congress.
      After learning in June of the Puebla defeat, Emperor Napoleon III sent about 30,000 troops led by General Elie Frédéric Forey. Meanwhile the French were suffering from yellow fever. Foley arrived at Orizaba on October 26 and suppressed the authority of Juan Almonte. About 350 Mexican officers joined the French in their camp. Mexico raised taxes and borrowed $30 million. General Zaragoza died on September 8 and was replaced by Ortega. On December 10 the Congress decreed that they would act toward French prisoners the same way the French treated Mexican captives.
      On 10 January 1863 a French squadron bombarded Acapulco for eight hours and then for two more days on three fortifications before departing. Foley waited five months for siege artillery before marching on Puebla. General Ortega had an army of 22,000, and on March 10 he declared martial law in Puebla. On the 16th about 26,600 French with 2,000 Mexican imperialists besieged the city. On May 9 the French defeated Mexicans led by Comonfort at San Lorenzo. Puebla ran out of food and ammunition, and on the 17th they destroyed their armaments and surrendered. About 5,000 Mexicans were conscripted into the army led by Márquez, and other prisoners were put to work destroying barricades or on the railroad. The French sent Ortega and 530 Mexican officers to France as prisoners. After learning that many officers had been badly treated, Ortega and several others escaped on the way to Veracruz.
      Juárez declared martial law in Mexico City, and he asked the states to send troops to defend the capital. The Congress and he decided that 14,000 troops were not enough, and they gave him power to defend the country. On May 31 the Congress ended its session, and the government left to go to San Luis Potosí. They arrived on June 10 and began organizing military forces, concentrating 12,000 men in Querétaro. On June 1 the reactionaries in the capital led by General Bruno Aguilar had already resolved to submit to the French. Soldiers led by Márquez preceded the French as they marched triumphantly into Mexico City.
      On June 16 Foley chose a provisional government of 215 notables under a regency by General Almonte, General Mariano Salas, and Bishop Labastida of Puebla, the archbishop-elect of Mexico, who being in Europe was temporarily replaced by Bishop Ormaechea. The triumvirate began governing on June 24, and the next day they approved Foley’s decrees that authorized a French court to try outlaws, which many Mexicans resented. The Mexican notables selected were mostly monarchists. France’s Emperor Napoleon III chose the Austrian Archduke Maximilian, a Roman Catholic prince, who would be known as Fernando Maximiliano, Emperor of Mexico. His wife Marie Charlotte Amélie was to be called Empress Carlota.
      On 18 January 1861 Leonardo Márquez at Tlalpan had planned to continue the civil war. At first the French only controlled the few cities they had occupied from Veracruz to Puebla and the capital. Thus the republicans still governed most of Mexico. The regents sent José María Gutiérrez de Estrada to Miramar near Trieste in Italy to offer the crown to Maximilian which he did on 3 October 1863. Meanwhile well equipped French and Mexican forces took over more of the country while republican guerrilla forces resisted. Many Mexicans accepted the French government for the sake of peace. Foley and Saligny learned in August that Napoleon III had recalled them. Juárez chose a new cabinet on September 1. On the 17th Archbishop Labastida arrived at Veracruz. General Bazaine took command of French forces on October 1, and one week later he decreed the repeal of Foley’s sequestration of property. He reformed the French military by excluding women followers and plundering, and he put Márquez in command of the Mexican army with Mejía, Vicario, and others over auxiliaries. The French now had an army of 34,700 men in Mexico. In November they mobilized 14,000 French and 7,000 Mexicans for a campaign.
      The republicans had divisions led by Minister of War Comonfort, Porfirio Díaz, and Governor Doblado, and others led by the generals Ortega, Uraga, Arteaga, Negrete, and Berriozábal. Comonfort was killed in an ambush on November 14, and three days later a French force with Mejía took over Querétaro. Reinforcements increased the republican forces in Michoacán to 9,000 men under Uraga; but French troops in December attacked them, killing and capturing 1,300 as the rest retreated south. The French and Mejía surrounded Guanajuato, and Doblado withdrew to San Luis Potosí, which Juárez abandoned on the 22nd, taking his government to Saltillo in Coahuila. The republican government had forced loans from Zacatecas, Guanajuato, and San Luis Potosí to replenish the treasury. General Negrete let Mejía take over San Luis Potosí on December 25; but the republicans got reinforcements and attacked the city two days later, losing 200 killed with almost 900 taken prisoners.
      On 5 January 1864 General Bazaine’s army occupied Guadalajara as General Arteaga retreated to the south. The French navy helped take Yucatán on January 22. Díaz’s forces and a siege for six weeks forced the French to give up San Juan Bautista in Tabasco on February 27. Governor Vidaurri of Nuevo León and Coahuila went over to the French. In response Juárez dissolved the union of Coahuila and Nuevo León, and then in March he suppressed the referendum called by Vidaurri. War Minister Negrete led an army of 7,000 men and occupied Monterey on March 29 as Vidaurri and his 1,000 men fled to Texas. Then Juárez moved to Monterey and summoned the Congress. Doblado led a republican attack on Monterey in May; but the French reinforced Mejía and took nearly 1,200 prisoners and all their artillery. A few weeks later Doblado went to the United States where he died the following June. Díaz had 8,000 republicans and retreated to the south to control Veracruz. The French held the richest portion of Mexico with farms, mines, and factories while the republicans held sparsely populated regions in the north and south.

Mexico and Emperor Maximilian 1864-65

      On 9 April 1864 Maximilian renounced the Austrian succession for himself and his heirs, and the next day with the treaty of Miramar he accepted the Mexican crown. The regency was dissolved, and Almonte governed as the Emperor’s lieutenant. Napoleon and Maximilian agreed to reduce the number of French troops in Mexico to 25,000. They intended to make Mexico pay for the French expedition which up to July cost 270 million francs (55 million pesos) with 3% interest. Maximilian visited Pope Pius IX and promised to restore the Catholic Church in Mexico. He arrived at Veracruz on May 28, was well received at Puebla on June 5, and was greeted at the capital on the 12th.
      Maximilian had liberal values and came into conflict with the conservatives who put him in power. His salary was $1,500,000 per year with $200,000 for his wife Carlota. He proclaimed a free press and a general amnesty for political prisoners with terms of less than ten years. The Emperor’s armies had 35,550 French and 20,280 Mexicans. Maximilian tried to save money by limiting the inefficient Mexican army, and he reduced the French military to 28,000 by April 1865. The rural guard increased to 8,500, and 7,300 Austrian and Belgian recruits arrived in October 1864.
      The republicans had two armies supporting Juárez—one under General Uraga in Jalisco and the other led by Porfirio Díaz in the south. Others fighting were guerrillas. The French army drove the republican Governor Gallardo out of Guanajuato, and Acapulco in Guerrero had surrendered to the French on 3 June 1864. The republican generals in the north had about 12,000 men. The United States provided arms and loans mostly from Texas and California. General Arteaga accused the commanding General Uraga of favoring the imperialists, and he refused to follow his orders. Uraga resigned, let Arteaga take command, and accepted a position on the imperial council.
      The French, who wanted their loans paid back, depended on property confiscated from the Church. Maximilian appointed a Council of State with José María Lacunza as its president. In the north after the imperialists defeated Doblado’s forces in May 1864, the imperial Vidaurrists rose up in Nuevo León led by Quiroga. He and Vidaurri’s son Indalecio took over Monterey on August 15. Juárez escaped through Coahuila and Durango to Chihuahua while he sent his family to New Orleans. On the 17th the French led by Castagny took over Saltillo.
      On 10 August 1864 Maximilian began a tour of his new empire through Querétaro to Guanajuato, and he celebrated Mexican independence on September 16 at Dolores. He returned to the capital by way of Michoacán convinced that a majority of the people had free will. To protect his people he ordered that all the armed bands overrunning the country causing disorder were to be treated as bandits. In many areas patriotic liberals opposing his imperialism were fighting back as guerrillas for Juárez who acted to curtail their violence and thus gained popular favor.
      On August 22 the French had taken Bagdad, and they captured the port on September 26. Juárez established his capital at Chihuahua on October 15. Republican elections could not be held, and Supreme Court president Ortega wanted to succeed Juárez; but his term had not been completed, and Ortega went to the United States. Márquez helped General Douy on October 28 against Arteaga at Atenquique and then occupied Colima before taking the port of Manzanillo on November 18. Yet the republicans retained control of the country south of Puebla. That month Maximilian sent Miramón to Berlin to study artillery and Márquez to the Mideast as Minister Plenipotentiary to the Porte at Istanbul. On December 4 Maximilian chose eight councilors including the defector Uraga and the liberal Bishop José Fernando Ramirez as foreign minister.
      On 9 February 1865 the French army led by Bazaine defeated Porfirio Díaz’s republicans in Oaxaca. They captured Díaz, but he escaped. By March the state of Guerrero was free of the French. A French fleet brought soldiers to the Gulf of California, and they took over Guaymas in Sonora on March 29.
      On 7 December 1864 Archbishop Meglia of Damascus had arrived at Veracruz as the Papal Nuncio with a letter from Pope Pius IX who demanded that Maximilian revoke the laws oppressing the Catholic Church, cooperate with the bishops, support only Roman Catholicism, revive its religious orders, protect the Church’s patrimony, let the clergy educate the public, and free the Church from secular power. However, Maximilian proposed religious tolerance with the state protecting and supporting the clergy from the public treasury as civil servants; but the Church must cede all revenue from its property declared national by the republican government, and the Emperor would enjoy the rights given to American churches by Spanish kings. Parishioners were freed from having to pay fees, tithes, or emoluments. Maximilian would recognize no superior authority, and he subjected papal bulls to government approval. On the 28th he confirmed those who had purchased national goods, and on 26 February 1865 he renewed the sale of ecclesiastical property. These things made Catholics angry, and the papal commission returned to Rome in July 1865.


1. History of Mexico, Volume 5 by Hubert How Bancroft, p. 307.

Copyright © 2018, 2020 by Sanderson Beck

America & Civil Wars 1845-1865 has been published as a book.
For ordering information, please click here.

South America 1845-65
Caribbean & Central America 1845-65
Mexico and Civil Wars 1845-65
Polk and the US-Mexican War 1845-49
US of Taylor, Clay & Fillmore 1849-52
US of Pierce & Kansas Conflicts 1853-56
US Western Expansion & Indians 1845-65
Black Americans & Abolitionists 1845-65
United States & Buchanan 1857-59
United States Dividing 1860-61
Lincoln’s War for Union in 1861
Lincoln’s War for Union in 1862
Lincoln’s War for Emancipation in 1863
Lincoln’s War for Emancipation in 1864
United States Victory in 1865
Canada and British Provinces
US Peacemakers & Women Reformers 1845-65
American Literature 1845-56
Preventing United States Civil War
Summary & Evaluating America 1845-1865

World Chronology to 1830
Chronology of America to 1865

BECK index