San Patricios II

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:03:52
Year Produced: 2009
Description:

John O'Reilly and the San Patricios, a battalion made up mostly of United States deserters, proved to be one of the most effective fighting units in the Mexican Army.

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Transcript

Lead: John O'Reilly and the San Patricios, a battalion made up mostly of United States deserters, proved to be one of the most effective fighting units in the Mexican Army.

Tag: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The United States did not have to go to war against Mexico in the 1840s but growing nationalist sentiment in the country, led by politicians such as President James Knox Polk, wanted the U.S. to stretch from coast to coast. Mexico stood in the way. Southerners saw the chance to gain more territory for potential slave states, and northern business interests looked with excitement at the commercial possibilities afforded by trade with the Far East through the superb harbors of San Francisco and San Diego.

In pursuit of this design, President Polk sent John Slidell to negotiate a purchase of the balance of Texas, New Mexico (which also contained present-day Arizona, Nevada, and Utah), and California. He was also to offer to pay the many rightful-property claims American citizens had against the Mexican government which was refusing to pay them. When Slidell's purpose in Mexico became known, the government in power was swept out in what was basically an anti-American revolution. Polk called Slidell home and made plans to go to war. General Zachary Taylor's army was sent into disputed territory along the Rio Grande River, largely to provoke the Mexicans.

The American impulse toward war was not met with accommodation by Mexico. Hostile and aggressive Mexican politicians and generals, however, fell into Polk's trap and declared war on the North American giant in 1846. Just before the initial engagement Private John O'Reilly, perhaps offended at the United States' naked aggression, deserted Taylor's army and volunteered for service with the Mexicans. Over the next few months O'Reilly, native of Ireland, gathered a troop of deserters and formed it into one of the most effective units the U.S. Army was to face during the Mexican War.

Next time: St. Patrick's Battalion.

At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.