- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Hill and Wang; 1st edition (May 13, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0809049678
- ISBN-13: 978-0809049677
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #573,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States 1st Edition
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The Amazon Book Review
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"Lively, objective and highly accurate.” ―The Dallas Morning News
“Fascinating. This unique contribution to the literature of the era is perfectly suitable to general readers.” ―Brad Hooper, Booklist"
"This pithy, searching account of why Mexico went to war with the United States, knowing that to do so meant almost certain defeat, is sure to empower specialists and new readers of Mexican history alike. Equally important, the volume demonstrates the War's critical role as a catalyst in plunging both nations into bitter civil wars and poisoning future relations between them. Pulling few punches in his assessment of American power and hubris, Henderson contributes meaningfully to a future collaboration among neighbors based on greater understanding and mutual respect.” ―Gilbert M. Joseph, Farnam Professor of History and International Studies, Yale University
“A terrific book. In a concise and readable historical narrative, Henderson lays bare the causes for this war that reflects so much about the two countries and relations between them. His book is almost as much about the present as it is about the past.” ―Sam Quinones, journalist and author of True Tales From Another Mexico
About the Author
Timothy J. Henderson is an associate professor of history at Auburn University, Montgomery, and the author of several books on Mexican history, including the The Mexican Wars for Independence.
Top customer reviews
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This is not a book talking about the heroics about the American officers who would later participate in the civil war - or the battles. Instead, this book is a study about the political and social systems of Mexico and how that effected Mexican policy on Texas - and on how Mexico was (un)able to project power.
There are so many nuggets of information in this book. They include how Scott prevented a guerrilla war on American supply lines on the march to Mexico City by discipline and respect to the Catholic church - which is remarkable considering the racism and jingoism of American policy in the 1830's. Another example is the books discussion of the forces driving the American peace negations and why the southern slave state politicians ultimately supported the peace treaty with Mexico. After reading this book, you will be much wiser.
One of the things I liked about this book is it did not dwell on the details of the battles. The author did try to maintain some objectivity, being equally critical of Mexico's political ineptness and the US's "manifest destiny." The author provides the reader sufficient information and latitude to form an independent take on this war.
This is the third book on the Mexican War that I've read and reviewed on Amazon.com. (The other two were Robert Merry's A Country of Vast Designs and John Eisenhower's So Far from God.) I added Henderson's book to my reading list specifically because it presented the war from the Mexican viewpoint; Merry presented the geopolitical and domestic situations facing President Polk; Eisenhower presented the battlefield history of the war with a focus on the US commanders, Generals Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor. Henderson presents the Mexican side of the war from an internal political and a diplomatic perspective rather than a military history. In this sense, he provided an excellent counter-point to my two previous sources.
Mexico in the early 1800s was divided across many demographic dimensions. Ethnically, it was divided among those of European descent, Indians, and those of mixed parentage, the fastest growing group. Unlike the English settlers to the north, the Spanish settlers brought few European women with them and took Indian wives, resulting in a large population of mixed parentage. Economically, the upper (European) classes were far wealthier than the poorest (Indian) classes. This economic gap was far larger than that between the richest and poorest in English-speaking North America.
Politically, the divide took on two dimensions. Centralizers, who sought a strong, central government at the expense of the individual Mexican states and territories, were opposed by Federalists whose first loyalty was regional. Conservatives, including monarchists, ardent supporters of the Catholic Church, and the economic upper classes, were opposed by Liberals, who included democrats, secularists, and the less wealthy.
In 1846, Mexico had been independent from Spain for only about 25 years. The first Mexican government was an empire that lasted only a year or two. Following that, it was a republic ruled by rapidly changing presidents, none of whom served a complete term. Most presidents were military leaders who were installed in office by military force. Many new presidents brought with them new constitutions which ranged from liberal and inclusive to autocratic and exclusive. In many respects, Mexican politics and government during this era remind me of the last century of the Roman Republic. (See Tom Holland's Rubicon.)
Professor Henderson's conclusions are that that Mexico went to war knowing that it had no chance of victory. The Mexican army was top heavy with generals whose careers were advanced by their political skills and whose military skills were minimal. The common soldiers were largely unwilling conscripts who had no loyalty to their leaders. Support for the war was largely confined to the upper economic / European classes. The political divisions within these classes were so strong that any potential leader who favored a negotiated settlement would be labeled at traitor by his opponents.
The prime representative of this class of leaders was Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, self-styled Napoleon of the Western Hemisphere, who served as president or military dictator eleven separate times interspersed with several internal and foreign exiles. His most successful campaign was the defeat of a French force which landed at Veracruz in 1838 to enforce financial claims. In the ensuing battle, Santa Anna was severely wounded in the leg which was amputated. At the victorious commander's decree, the severed leg was buried with full military honors in a specially constructed mausoleum in Mexico City.
For Mexican-Americans, please do not equate current American 'Conservatives' and 'Republicans' with the Mexican historical parties and meanings of these terms in Mexico! They are NOT the same.
Good book and a wealth of information.