The Battle of Buena Vista, February 22-23, 1847

Posted on August 10, 2016

Editor: Michael Spilling and Consultant Editor: Chris McNab

American Battles and Campaigns – The Battle of Buena Vista, February 22-23, 1847

The Battle of Buena Vista (February 22–February 23, 1847), also known as the Battle of Angostura, saw the United States Army use artillery to repulse the larger Mexican Army in the Mexican–American War. Buena Vista, a village in the state of Coahuila, is seven miles south of Saltillo, in what is now modern day Mexico.

Battle of Buena Vista

The Battle of Buena Vista, 1847. Image is taken from the book American Battles and Campaigns

Antonio López de Santa Anna, dictator of Mexico, personally took the field with 15,000 soldiers against US general Zachary Taylor’s 4,700 troops as they took position on the far side of this pass having counter-marched before Santa Anna’s army. Taylor made his preparations by ordering Gen John Wool to establish a defensive position on the heights overlooking the pass. Santa Anna left 5000 troops behind due to his forced march north in the hope of destroying Taylor’s army, after President James Polk had transferred most of it to Gen Winfield Scott’s amphibious invasion of central Mexico. First demanding Taylor’s surrender, Santa Anna expended his light infantry under Gen Pedro de Ampudia in a daylong assault upon the heights under the fire of US artillery and the breech-loading rifles of the regulars.

Battle of Buena Vista

Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican-American War, painting by Carl Nebel. By Adolphe Jean-Baptiste Bayot. Image is in the public domain via

On the second day, Santa Anna launched a full-scale assault, his greater numbers having some success on the US flanks as Wool gradually refused his center to reinforce them. Guards and reserve troops repulsed a Mexican cavalry attack upon the Americans’ wagons in the rear. US artillery at the front of the lines suffered significant losses, but inflicted more as the Mexicans repeatedly struggled up the heights, capturing two cannon. Taylor’s reserve line moved forward and halted a Mexican breakthrough late in the day, the Americans surprised the next morning to find that Santa Anna had withdrawn southwards to move against Winfield Scott. The Americans had suffered 267 dead, 456 wounded and 23 missing, while Santa Anna had lost 1800 missing, 1000 wounded and 600 dead. Santa Anna’s retreat allowed Taylor and his volunteers to stand unmolested on the defensive in the north for the remainder of the war.

Dr. Chris McNab is the editor of AMERICAN BATTLES & CAMPAIGNS: A Chronicle, from 1622-Present and is an experienced specialist in wilderness and urban survival techniques. He has published over 20 books including: How to Survive Anything, Anywhere — an encyclopedia of military and civilian survival techniques for all environments — Special Forces Endurance Techniques, First Aid Survival Manual, and The Handbook of Urban Survival. In his home country of Wales, UK, Chris provides instruction on wilderness hunting techniques and he is also an experienced martial arts instructor.

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