the Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent (2009)
Scott and Trist actually offered Santa Anna a $1m bribe to end the war and to begin negotiations. Scott told his staff that bribes of that nature were how to deal with nations/governments such as Mexico. The bribe fell through when the Mexican legislature refused the give Santa Anna the necessary powers to negotiate with the US. As a result, Scott was forced to press the reality of war to the Mexican government, which meant he had to make his move on Mexico City.
The Whigs increasingly became more united on one front, in that no land should be taken from Mexico as a result of the war. The tactic was brilliant in a way, sidestepping the Wilmot Proviso while at the same time putting pressure on the Democrats. It was about at that time that Buchanan informed Polk that the US no longer had any more money to fund the war. An absolutely mystified/upset Polk ordered an investigation as to where the money went. It was soon discovered that $2m went to New Orleans brokers, who kept $1.1m of the money as a “handling fee”; although the money was distributed to far too many people/groups, it turned out that most of the money was still disbursed to the military.
On 7 September 1847, Scott ended the truce while Trist was working the diplomatic angle. Mexico remained firm on the Nueces River being the border between Texas and Mexico, and refused to sign anything that labeled them as a nation that had lost a war. Trist discovered that US military victories had only strengthened the resolve/resistance of the Mexican government. In principle, Trist agreed to a Nueces/Rio Grande mutual boundary area, and sent the proposal to DC. In short, Trist was tried to negotiate and end to what he considered to be a war started by Polk. On 4 October 1847, Polk instructed Buchanan to recall Trist.
Scott was then inclined to hit Chapultepec Castle and the two major western causeways. Scott’s officer cadre wanted to advance from the three southern causeways, but Scott refused. Although the fighting was intense, it only took two hours to take Chapultepec and to secure the surrounding area. In the process, Santa Anna lost four times more than Scott, and by the end of the day, Scott had the southwest and northwest causeways that entered Mexico City. As Mexican resistance faded away, Santa Anna and his remaining force skulked out of Mexico City that night.
In the end, Scott was brilliant in his assault on Mexico City. With only 11,000 troops and cut off from supplies, he defeated 30k Mexican soldiers that were well-entrenched; it was a remarkable military achievement, and Scott became the second great hero of the war. Scott’s vainglorious behavior increased due to his victory, and among the generals on his staff, Major General Gideon Pillow did his best to undermine Scott’s reputation by constantly writing Polk (e.g. telling the President that the US took Mexico City in spite of Scott).
Polk started to think of increasing the US military strength in Mexico City and wait for Mexico to “cry uncle”. On 13 November 1847, Henry Clay came back to the forefront with a speech in Lexington (KY) where he tried to unify the anti-war and anti-slavery blocs. Clay took a formal stand in favor of the Wilmot Proviso, which had been at least informally adopted on the Whig platform. While the speech helped the Whigs, it didn’t help Clay with the Whigs, who were still in love with Taylor. Polk focused on ending the war and keeping his pledge to only serve a single term; by then, Polk wanted out, in large part because the new House would be under the control of the Whigs.
Trist believed that if he could make “The Deal” while openly defying Polk and DC, then he would be the one awash in glory. Trist knew that Polk as getting desperate in terms of ending the war, and US military forces in Mexico could very well increase as a result. On 4 December 1847 after talking to a newspaperman, Trist decided to “make the treaty”. On 7 December 1847, the 30th Congress convened, and Polk’s political standing and influence eroded further with the new Whig majority. Also, without knowing it, Polk would also lose unity in his Cabinet and cede authority for ending the war . . . the only thing Polk would control was how hard he worked (the “Martyrdom of Duty”).
In November 1847, General Zachary Taylor asked for and received a six month leave of absence. When Taylor entered New Orleans in December 1847, it was in a political, not a military, posture. On 2 February 1848, Polk received word that the troublesome (to Polk) John C. Fremont had been dismissed from the military due largely to his actions in California. The President was soon asked to show clemency towards “The Pathfinder”, and Polk, unhappy that the whole affair had been dumped on his lap, decided to restore Fremont to active duty. Fremont refused to accept Polk’s offer of remitting the court-martial’s sentence, believing that he never should have been charged in the first place. The immediate political result of the Fremont business was that Benton became a 100% Polk opponent (Benton even refused to make eye contact with the President), but Polk found himself on friendly terms with Henry Clay.