Battle of the Sacramento River

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Battle of the Sacramento River
Part of the Mexican–American War
Batalla de Sacramento.jpg
"Battle of the Sacramento" by F. Bastin
DateFebruary 28, 1847
Location Sacramento River Pass, about fifteen miles north of Chihuahua, Mexico
Result United States victory
Flag of the United States (1847-1848).svg  United States Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg  Mexico
Commanders and leaders
Alexander Doniphan Angel Trias Alvarez
Jose A. Heredia
940 4,120
Casualties and losses
1 killed
8 wounded [1] :156
~300 killed
~300 wounded
~40 captured [1] :156
Disposition of forces along the Sacramento Disposition of forces along the Sacramento.jpg
Disposition of forces along the Sacramento

The Battle of the Sacramento River was a battle that took place on February 28, 1847 during the Mexican–American War. About fifteen miles north of Chihuahua, Mexico at the crossing of the river Sacramento, American forces numbering less than 1,000 men defeated a superior Mexican army which led to the occupation of Chihuahua. [1] :153

Mexican–American War armed conflict between the United States of America and Mexico from 1846 to 1848

The Mexican–American War, also known in the United States as the Mexican War and in Mexico as the American intervention in Mexico, was an armed conflict between the United States of America and the United Mexican States (Mexico) from 1846 to 1848. It followed in the wake of the 1845 American annexation of the independent Republic of Texas. The unstable Mexican caudillo leadership of President/General Antonio López de Santa Anna still considered Texas to be a northeastern province and never recognized the Republic of Texas, which had seceded a decade earlier. In 1845, newly elected U.S. President James K. Polk sent troops to the disputed area and a diplomatic mission to Mexico. After Mexican forces attacked American forces, Polk cited this in his request that Congress declare war.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

The Sacramento River is a river in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.



On February 8, Colonel Alexander Doniphan's force of 924 soldiers and 300 civilians left El Paso del Norte for Chihuahua despite learning John E. Wool had abandoned his march there. [1] :153 Major Samuel Owens had the civilians formed into a battalion along with the caravan of 312 wagons. [1] :153 On 25 February, they reached the Laguna de Encenillas, where they learned of the Mexican defenses prepared for them. [1] :153

Colonel is a senior military officer rank below the brigadier and general officer ranks. However, in some small military forces, such as those of Monaco or the Vatican, colonel is the highest rank. It is also used in some police forces and paramilitary organizations.

Ciudad Juárez City in Chihuahua, Mexico

Ciudad Juárez is the most populous city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The city is commonly referred to by locals as simply Juárez, and was known as Paso del Norte until 1888. Juárez is the seat of the municipality of Juárez with an estimated population of 1.5 million people. The city lies on the Rio Grande river, south of El Paso, Texas, United States. Together with the surrounding areas, the cities form El Paso–Juárez, the second largest binational metropolitan area on the Mexico–U.S. border, with a combined population of over 2.7 million people.

John E. Wool Union United States Army general

John Ellis Wool was an officer in the United States Army during three consecutive U.S. wars: the War of 1812, the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War. By the time of the Mexican-American War, he was widely considered one of the most capable officers in the army and a superb organizer.

Governor Trias had built up a force under the command of General Jose A. Heredia, consisting of 1200 cavalry (Gen. Garcia Conde: Vera Cruz Dragoons, Durango & Chihuahua Lancers), 1500 infantry (Chihuahua Activos), 119 artillerymen (10 field guns & 6 culverins) and 1000 rancheros. [1] :154 They had constructed a redoubt near the Hacienda Sacramento where the El Paso road crosses the river, and at Hacienda el Torreon two miles to the west. [1] :154

Redoubt type of fort or fort system

A redoubt is a fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on earthworks, although some are constructed of stone or brick. It is meant to protect soldiers outside the main defensive line and can be a permanent structure or a hastily constructed temporary fortification. The word means "a place of retreat". Redoubts were a component of the military strategies of most European empires during the colonial era, especially in the outer works of Vauban-style fortresses made popular during the 17th century, although the concept of redoubts has existed since medieval times. A redoubt differs from a redan in that the redan is open in the rear, whereas the redoubt was considered an enclosed work.

A hacienda, in the colonies of the Spanish Empire, is an estate, similar in form to a Roman villa. Some haciendas were plantations, mines or factories. Many haciendas combined these activities. The word is derived from the Spanish word "hacer" or "haciendo", which means: to make or be making, respectively; and were largely business enterprises consisting of various money making ventures including raising farm animals and maintaining orchards.

At sunrise on February 28, the last day of February, the Americans took up the line of march and formed the whole wagon train into four columns with the artillery and mounted men in the middle. [1] :154 Three companies screened the front. [1] :154 When the Americans arrived within sight of the Mexican defenses, Doniphan made a reconnaissance of the enemy positions. [1] :154 Twenty-three separate works had been dug for twelve 4- to 9-pounders and nine lighter pieces. [1] :154


Doniphan used his cavalry to screen the movement of his force parallel to the Arroyo Seco and to the right and out of range of the Mexican artillery. [1] :155 Doniphan formed the wagons into a fort after crossing the gully onto a plateau, and Major Meriwether Lewis Clark, Sr.'s guns fired onto General Garcia Conde's lancers, forcing them to flee. [1] :155

Arroyo (creek) A dry creek or stream bed with flow after rain

An arroyo, also called a wash, is a dry creek, stream bed or gulch that temporarily or seasonally fills and flows after sufficient rain. Flash floods are common in arroyos following thunderstorms.

Lancer type of cavalryman who fights with a lance

A lancer was a type of cavalryman who fought with a lance. Lances were used in mounted warfare by the Assyrians as early as 700 BC and subsequently by Greek, Persian, Gallic, Chinese, and Roman horsemen. The weapon was widely used in Asia and Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by armoured cavalry, before being adopted by light cavalry, particularly in Eastern Europe. In a modern context, a lancer regiment usually denotes an armoured unit.

Doniphan's men approached the southernmost Mexican earthworks, held by Heredia's best troops. [1] :155 Doniphan ordered Capt. Richard H. Weightman's twin howitzers to the front accompanied by Capt. Reid's force of mounted cavalry men. [1] :156 Major Owens was killed in the charge, but Missourians took the fort. [1] :155

Trias attempted a counterattack but his lancers were halted by canister shot. [1] :156 By 5 PM the fighting was over. [1] :156


Unable to defend Chihuahua, Trias fled to Parras. [1] :156 Doniphan commented, "The fire of our battery was so effective as to completely silence theirs." [3] Doniphan's men marched into Chihuahua on 2 March and on 23 April was ordered to bring his men to Saltillo, reaching Encantada on 21 May. [1] :157

See also

Sketch of the Battle of Sacramento Omnis Viae Private Collection Sketch of the Battle of Sacramento Omnis Viae Private Collection.jpg
Sketch of the Battle of Sacramento Omnis Viae Private Collection

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The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Chihuahua, Mexico.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Bauer, K.J., 1974, The Mexican War, 1846-1848, New York:Macmillan, ISBN   0803261071
  2. Smith, J.H., 1919, The War with Mexico, New York:Macmillan
  3. Doniphan's report

Further reading

Coordinates: 28°52′18″N106°11′11″W / 28.87167°N 106.18639°W / 28.87167; -106.18639