Battle of Resaca de la Palma

“The action that followed was a good deal more of a battle. It is known as Resaca de la Palma. It was a fierce, bloody, and obstinate confusion in the underbrush, with the Mexicans fleeing here and charging there, the Americans doing likewise, and no one to do staff work or make order of the attack. Since no one above the platoon leaders could see far enough to exercise command, some pretty local duels developed. For a long time it was a near thing. The Mexicans rushed into the thorn bushes with an admirable fierceness and, less admirably, their cavalry charged artillery – and nearly took it. That seemed a good idea to Taylor and, to the horror of his staff, he ordered Captain May’s Dragoons to charge a Mexican battery. It was his principal contribution to the battle and, alas for the textbooks, it worked. Pretty soon the Mexicans, who had bent at one flank already, broke and ran. Fort Brown was saved and Taylor had won two battles.

Or his army had. Colonel Hitchcock, who was right about their commander, was proved wrong about the troops and they were entitled to the admiration which Lieutenant Grant accorded them. The American soldier had won his first battle against civilized troops since January 8, 1815, by the merits which tradition had emphasized, marksmanship, steadiness under fire, and individual initiative and courage. A good many subalterns who would be general officers in the Civil War had had their first taste of battle. And before the guns were swabbed the newspapermen were sending the news to the folks back home. The two engagements, Grant wrote, “seemed to us engaged as pretty important affairs but we had only a faint conception of their magnitude until they were fought over in the North by the press and the reports came back to us.”