Monday, March 16, 2009

U.S. - Mexican War reading list (10 books)

It was my original intention to have more Mexican War content on the blog, but I've never gotten around to it. This is just a short list of my favorites, and a few others from the 'to read' pile.

1. So Far from God: The U.S. War With Mexico, 1846-1848 by John S.D. Eisenhower. Jack Bauer's The Mexican War, 1846-1848 is another solid candidate for a standard midsized military overview.

2. Climax at Buena Vista: The Decisive Battle of the Mexican-American War by David Lavender. This a fairly dated account, but still a good single volume history of the U.S. army's northern campaign (Palo Alto, Monterrey, and Buena Vista).

3. On the Prairie of Palo Alto: Historical Archaeology of the U.S.-Mexican War Battlefield by Charles M. Haecker. New perspectives on the battle based on the modern field work.

4. The United States and Mexico at War: Nineteenth-Century Expansionism and Conflict by Donald S. Frazier. A nice, big, expensive, and out-of-print reference book that is worth getting if you can find it for a decent price.

5. Doniphan's Epic March: The 1st Missouri Volunteers in the Mexican War by John G. Dawson. Very good modern history of Doniphan's famous southwest expedition, with nice accounts of the battles of El Brazito and Sacramento.

6. California Conquered: The Annexation of a Mexican Province, 1846-1850 by Neal Harlow. This is the best scholarly account that I've come across.

7. A Gallant Little Army: The Mexico City Campaign by Timothy D. Johnson. Nothing better has been written about Scott's famous campaign.

8. History May Be Searched in Vain: A Military History of the Mormon Battalion by Sherman L. Fleek. The Norma Ricketts book The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army of the West, 1846-1848 is another modern unit history, but with a more bottom up structure and mixed reviews.

9. Wars Within War: Mexican Guerrillas, Domestic Elites, And The United States Of America, 1846-1848 by Irving W. Levinson and 10. A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States by Timothy J. Henderson. I haven't read either, but I thought I would include a couple decently regarded books that engage the Mexican perspective.


  1. Thanks for this post; I've wondered about some good works on that war, but didn't know where to start. Now, finding the time to read them is another matter.

    Love your site.

    Joel Manuel
    Baton Rouge LA

  2. Great list Drew! I picked up the Bauer overview and California Conquered, both in hardcover. I already have A Gallant Little Army. Like Joel, finding the time to read these might be problematic, but I've always wanted to learn more about the Mexican War, one of the few American wars I know little about, and that's coming from the guy who has the 7 volume Official Records of the Quasi-War with France!

  3. Joel and Brett,
    I have the same problem, but I've finally eliminated my review backlog so hopefully I can get to some of the Indian Wars, Texas Revolution, and Mexican War books on my shelf.

  4. Interesting list Drew. You mentioned the Texas Revolution. I think you'll enjoy 'Eighteen Minutes: The Battle of San Jacinto and the Texas Independence Campaign' by Stephen L. Moore that you mentioned on your blog last year. It truly is a detailed microhistory of the Battle of San Jacinto. Very detailed account like many Civil War battles that are covered in a similar fashion.

    I just have too many books to read. My Civil War reading is good but I also have to find time to get to my American Revolution, War of 1812, Texas Revolution, Indian Wars, Spanish American War plus WW1 and WW2 books. It is daunting but very fascinating at the same time.


  5. Chris,
    I have all my unread books on the same shelf, and the Moore book has been staring back at me for too long.

    I was thinking of picking up Jay Stout's book on the Goliad Massacre sometime. Have you read that one?

  6. Drew,
    I have not read Jay Stout's book yet. I really need to add it to my collection. But from all I've read and heard it looks to be an excellent book on the topic. It really seems that the scholarship on the Texas revolution has really increased in quality in the past 15 years, since Hardin's 'Texian Illiad.' Not that the past didn't have wonderful books such as Walter Lord's 'A Time to Stand' about the Alamo. I just find it such a fascinating subject that it is good to see so much new (and good) scholarship on the subject.

  7. Drew:

    That's a great list. The only book I might add is Winder's "Mr. Polk's Army", Texas A&M Press. It's an excellent study of the soldiers, camp conditions, recruitment, etc. of the U.S. forces.


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