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Invading Mexico: America's Continental Dream and the Mexican War, 1846-1848 Hardcover – February 15, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

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The ostensible cause of the Mexican War (1846-48) was a dispute over the precise border between Texas and Mexico, but the actual cause was the desire of many Americans, led by President Polk, to acquire California and vast territories of the Southwest, thus fulfilling our "Manifest Destiny" to extend to the Pacific. Wheelan prepares an easily digestible account of the war itself as well as a useful analysis of its causes and effects. As Wheelan illustrates, the launching of the war generated intense domestic opposition, led by such notable figures as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and an obscure Illinois congressman, Abraham Lincoln. The American victory did not unify the country with patriotic fervor; instead, it intensified North-South antagonism. Polk is seen here as an intriguing combination of Jeffersonian idealist and cynical expansionist. Jay Freeman
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"Thorough account of the cynical, opportune war with Mexico.... Useful history of a war little studied on [U.S. soil]." -- Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf; annotated edition edition (February 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078671719X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786717194
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,557,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I always wanted to write books and I finally got the opportunity after many years as a journalist. I have tried to make the most of it. I love to write, and primary research is pure pleasure, particularly reading the original documents and the actual handwritten letters and journals. I would recommend this to anyone who has an inquisitive mind and enjoys hanging around libraries.

When I am not writing and doing research, my wife Pat and I like to hike, bird-watch, and sample North Carolina's unique barbecue restaurants. We both enjoy reading American history from all eras.

Of special interest to me is the early national era, when everything was new and undergoing severe trials. We were fortunate to have leaders during these perilous early decades who put the American people and the nation's needs before political parties and sometimes even personal ambition. And they also happened to be terrific writers, thinkers, and warriors.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Justin E. Lay on April 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
There aren't too many books dealing with the Mexican War of 1846-48, so when I saw this come out in hardcover I had to get it. It was worth the money. Covering the entire conflict, from the Texas Annexation and Slidell's mission to Mexico City to the aftermath of the peace treaty, from James Knox Polk's early career to Abraham Lincoln's rise to fame, from dynamic young republic on the rise to sectional conflict leading to the Civil War, this book covers it all.

The book reads like a novel in many ways. When a battle is covered, the action flows from one part of the field to another, and does so without confusing readers. There are also maps included -- not as many as one would like, but they are there, and the battle maps show positions and movements for people who like such things.

Reading Joe Wheelan's "Invading Mexico," I couldn't help but notice the similarities between the Mexican War of the 1840s and the Iraq War of the 2000s (or Vietnam in the 1960s-70s). Similarities such as the war being launched on questionable pretexts, debates in Congress about the unconstitutionality of the conflict, the antiwar movement in the public, issues of executive privilge, among others. Though not everything is a perfect or even a mediocre parallel, this is a good book to read as a mirror held up to reflect the age we live in right now.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael Stephens on November 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a terrifically interesting history of the US-Mexican War, with the political background to the conflict and the sequence of campaigns brilliantly illuminated by the testimony of participants in the conflict.

However, it is a major drawback -- as mentioned by other reviewers -- that so few maps are included to help the reader better visualize the continental scope of the war, and that what maps do exist are quite general in nature. Only one battle -- Buena Vista -- is mapped, and there isn't even a single map showing the entire area of operations, much less maps of California or the Southwest. I might have rated the book 5 stars except for this problem, although there are other shortcomings.

Whelan offers a fascinating narrative about the competing politicians and generals whose ideological differences and personal jealousies played out amidst the unfolding conflict. For example, I've read several other good histories of this war, but none of them so clearly defined how the Democrat/Whig rivalry permeated the relationships between generals in the field and their civilian superiors in Washington, or how tensions between West Point-educated Whig officers and Democrat volunteer officers spilled over into the conduct of operations.

Some subjects could have been explored in more detail. Wheelan provides very little background on the Mexican political context leading up to the war, and in fact the whole is told largely from an American viewpoint. More material on U.S. political dissenters would have been useful. The influence of the Mexican War on trends and events leading to the Civl War is frequently mentioned, but not discussed at all thoroughly.

In recent years, James K.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David E. Romine on November 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're going to read one book about the Mexican War, this is it. I agonized (well, almost) over what single volume on the war I was going to read and chose this one based on various reviews. I think I picked the winner.

The author is a former AP reporter and his writing is good. I felt like I was reading a newspaper story and was eager to continue even after a few hundred pages. Although he is not an academic, his research was excellent. He used many sources, most original. He did not merely repeat what other historians have to say, but rather came up with his own perspective, which was usually pretty interesting.

At 400+ pages, the book is long enough to give you a pretty thorough presentation, but as I said, it never got boring. It's also long enough that the author was able to talk about side issues that I found very entertaining and enriched the book tremendously (John Fremont, the Duke of Wellington, the politics of slavery, the Republic of Texas, Mexico's perspective, to name a few). And even though this is not strictly a military history, the battles scenes are easy to grasp for a layman like me. As a point of comparison, I read K. Jack Bauer's bio of Zachary Taylor, and I found Mr. Wheelan's battle descriptions better than Mr. Bauer's, even though the latter is known as a military historian.

For me, this was a satisfying book. Not knowing much about the war, I set out to read one volume that would give me a good basic understanding of the war and the times. With Mr. Wheelan's help, I think I succeeded.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. Baldwin on July 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
For most history fans, the Mexican War is a dort of Terra Incognito between the War of 1812 and the Civil War. If people remember anything it was the impetus for Thoreau to write "Civil Disobedience", a land grab, or the training ground for future Civil War Generals. All of this is covered in Mr. Wheelan's excellent book.
He starts with what led to the war, Manifest Destiny and Polk taking up the mantle of Andrew Jackson. The sordid role of petty polictics could read like today's headlines. The author clearly outlines how the U.S. and Mexico never seriously tried negotiation prior to the war's outbreak. Mexico was still angry about loosing Texas and wanting to avenge his pride.
Wheelan discribes life in the 1840's and innovations like the penny press and its effect on society. He clearly tells how both the regular and volunteer armies were put together and led. The like of the common soldier is also well told. The campaigns are clearly laid out, but my only complaint is that there were too few maps.
As in some periods of warfare, the 2 major leaders, Winfield Scott and Zackery Taylor dispised each other and in almost every way were opposites. But there dislike for each other paled in comparison to their mutual dislike of Polk. There feeling with Polk were mutual. The Mexican part of the war is not neglected.
Overall, I feel that this book and Richard Winder's "Mr. Polk's Army" are 2 essential and complimentary books on understanding the significant but neglected part of American History.
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