Battle and Siege of Veracruz Facts
- Date — March 9–29, 1847.
- Location — Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico.
- Combatants — United States of America and Mexico.
- American Commander — Winfield Scott.
- Mexican Commander — Juan Esteban Morales.
- Winner — The United States won the Battle of Veracruz.
- Interesting Fact — The Siege of Veracruz lasted for 20 days.
- Interesting Fact — Veracruz was believed to be the strongest fortress in North America.
- Interesting Fact — The amphibious assault at Veracruz was the first in U.S. military history.
Battle of Veracruz Significance
The Battle of Veracruz was important to the outcome of the Mexican-American War because American forces were able to take control of Veracruz, Mexico. The city was vital to Mexico’s war effort because it was the nation’s largest seaport and also the main supply station for Mexico City. Once it was under American control, Major General Winfield Scott was able to launch his invasion of Central Mexico, which targeted Mexico City.
Battle of Veracruz History
The Battle and Siege of Veracruz started on March 9, 1847, ending with the formal surrender of the city to American forces under Major General Winfield Scott on March 29.
Blockade of Mexican Ports
In 1846, at the start of the war, President James K. Polk directed Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft to block Mexican Gulf Coast ports. To establish a support base, Commodore David E. Conner captured Antón Lizardo, 12 miles south of Veracruz, the largest port city in Mexico. Veracruz was vital to the Mexican economy and war effort, as it was the main port of entry for Mexico City. However, Veracruz was protected from American ships by cannons in the San Juan de Ulúa fortress, located on an island reef that was a half mile offshore.
Polk Sends Santa Anna to Mexico
Polk ordered General Antonio López de Santa Anna to end his exile in Cuba and return to Mexico. Santa Anna was expected to help negotiate an end to the war, however, after he arrived at Veracruz, he raised an army and moved north to confront U.S. forces under the command of General Zachary Taylor.
Taylor Takes Control of Northern Mexico
Following the Battle of Monterrey (September 21–24, 1846), American forces under the command of Major General Zachary Taylor controlled Northern Mexico. Taylor negotiated an armistice that President Polk believed was too favorable to Mexico.
Scott’s Plan to Capture Mexico City
Meanwhile, General Winfield Scott developed a plan to capture the Mexican port city of Veracruz and march on Mexico City. Upset with Taylor for the armistice negotiations, Polk turned his attention to supporting Scott’s plan. Polk redeployed a large portion of Taylor’s forces to join Scott for the invasion of Central Mexico.
Scott Intends to Land at Veracruz
As U.S. invasion preparations continued, Conner argued for a landing near Antón Lizardo, which would protect Scott’s forces, since the U.S. controlled the town. However, Scott believed it was too far away from Veracruz and would eventually overextend his supply lines. He insisted on landing at Veracruz and wanted it done by February 1, 1847, so he could ensure his troops would not be caught in the Mexican lowlands during the season for Yellow Fever.
Scott is Delayed by Politics and Logistics
Unfortunately, political disagreements in Washington, D.C. delayed Scott’s plan.
Polk was concerned if Scott led the invasion and was successful that it would give him the popularity he needed to win the 1848 Presidential Election. Polk was a Democrat, whereas Scott was a Whig and a political rival.
Polk leaned toward Senator Thomas Hart Benton for command of the invasion, however, Congress disagreed with the President and assigned the command to Scott.
Although Scott had the command he desired, the delays threatened the success of his expedition.
Scott was also faced with another delay because he did not have enough ships to transport his men to shore. It took until early March to have everything in place he needed to launch his invasion.
Scott Assembled His Invasion Force
Scott assembled an army of 15,000 troops at Tampico for the invasion. Most of the U.S. that joined him at Veracruz were from Taylor’s army at Monterrey. Although the transfers had been ordered by Polk, it strained the relationship between Scott and Taylor.
Scott decided to use Isla de Sacrificios, a small island near Veracruz, as the staging point for the operation.
On March 3, 1847, a joint Army-Navy expedition embarked on the mission. Despite earlier disagreements on the plan, the commanders operated effectively during the landings, efficiently ferrying troops to and from the staging area.
By March 8, everything was in place, however, the landing at Veracruz was delayed a day by an approaching storm.
General Juan Esteban Morales oversaw the Mexican defenses at Veracruz. He had 3,000 troops in Veracruz and 1,000 in San Juan de Ulúa. His men were positioned at three forts — Fort Santiago, Fort Concepción, and San Juan de Ulúa. Between Fort Santiago and Fort Concepción, Morales had nearly 90 pieces of artillery. At San Juan de Ulú, he had another 135.
The Landing at Veracruz
On March 9, American forces landed at Collado Beach. Surprisingly, Morales chose not to challenge the landings and opted to await a siege from behind his fortified defenses. By midnight on March 9, more than 10,000 American troops safely reached the shore without incurring any casualties. It was the largest U.S. amphibious landing until World War II.
The Siege of Veracruz Begins
After landing, Scott assessed the Mexican defenses and decided against a direct assault on Veracruz. He chose to surround the city and use the naval ships and ground artillery to bombard the Mexican fortifications.
Bombardment of Veracruz
It took nearly two weeks to move everything into place and the bombardment started on March 22. U.S. artillery batteries were designed, located, and built with the help of engineers, including Captain Robert E. Lee and his brother, Sydney Smith Lee.
When Morales sought a truce, Scott insisted that the city’s surrender be a prerequisite for any negotiations. Morales refused and resigned from his position.
Battle of Veracruz Ends
General of Brigade José Juan Landero Bauza assumed command of the Mexican forces at Veracruz. On March 25, he requested terms of surrender from Scott, and the reply was unconditional surrender of the city. Three days later, on March 28, Landero agreed to the terms, and the siege officially ended on March 29.
Landero’s surrender included handing over San Juan de Ulúa, allowing American ships to safely enter the harbor.
Scott Marches Toward Mexico City
Following the Siege of Veracruz, General Scott marched toward Mexico City. He crossed the Antigua River on April 2, into a region that was defended by General Santa Anna and his army. In preparation, Santa Anna organized his defenses west of Plan Del Rio, where the road Scott was marching on went through a narrow passage. This set the stage for the Battle of Cerro Gordo on April 17-18, 1847.
Connor’s Official Report on the Landing at Veracruz
The following is Commodore David Conner’s official report of the Landing of American forces at Veracruz. It was written to John Y. Mason, Secretary of the Navy, on March 10, 1847, and sent to Washington, D.C. Conner wrote it on board the U.S.S. Raritan.
United States Ship Raritan,
Off Sacrificios, March 10, 1847.
Sir: — In my last despatch, dated on the 7th instant, I informed the department of the arrival of Major General Scott at Anton Lizardo. Most of the transports with troops, and the material of the army, having arrived about the same time, a speedy disembarkation was resolved upon; it being important that we should effect a landing before a norther should come on, as this would delay us two or three days.
After a joint reconnoissance, made by the general and myself, in the steamer “Petrita,” the beach due west from Sacrificios, one the points spoken of in my previous letter, was selected as the most suitable for the purpose. The anchorage near this place being extremely contracted, it became necessary, in order to avoid crowding it with an undue number of vessels, to transfer most of the troops to the vessels of war, for transportation to Sacrificios.
Accordingly, on the morning of the 9th at daylight, all necessary preparations, such as launching and numbering the boats, detailing officers, &c., having been previously made, this transfer was commenced. The frigates received on board between twenty-five and twenty-eight hundred men, with their arms and accoutrements; and the sloops and smaller vessels numbers in proportion. This part of the movement was completed very successfully about 11 o’clock, a.m., and a few minutes thereafter, the squadron under my command, accompanied by the commanding general, in the steamship Massachusetts, and such of the transports as had been selected for the purpose, got under way.
The weather was very fine — indeed we could not have been more favored in this particular than we were. We had a fresh and yet gentle breeze from the southeast, and perfectly smooth sea.
The passage to Sacrificios occupied us between two and three hours. Each ship came in, and anchored without the slightest disorder or confusion in the small space allotted to her, the harbor being still very much crowded, notwithstanding the number of transports we had left behind. The disembarkation commenced on the instant. Whilst we were transferring the troops from the ships to the surf-boats, (sixty-five in number,) I directed the steamers “Spitfire” and “Vixen,” and the five gun-boats, to form in a line parallel with and close to the beach, to cover the landing. This order was promptly executed, and these small vessels, from the lightness of their draughts, were enabled to take positions within good grape range of the shore. As the boats severally received their complements of troops, they assembled in a line abreast, between the fleet and the gun-boats; and, when all were ready, they pulled in together, under the guidance of a number of the officers of the squadron who had been detailed for this purpose. General Worth commanded this, the first line of the army, and had the satisfaction of forming his command on the beach and neighbouring heights just before sunset. Four thousand five hundred men were thus thrown on shore almost simultaneously. No enemy appeared to offer us the slightest opposition. The first line being landed, the boats, in successive trips, relieved the men-of-war and transports of their remaining troops, by 10 o’clock, p.m.
The whole army, (save a few straggling companies,) consisting of upwards of ten thousand men, were thus safely deposited on shore, without the slightest accident of any kind.
The officers and seamen under my command vied with each other, on that occasion, in a zealous and energetic performance of their duty. I cannot but express to the department the great satisfaction I have derived from witnessing their efforts to contribute all in their power to the success of their more fortunate brethren of the army. The weather still continuing fine to-day, we are engaged in landing the artillery, horse, provisions, and other material.
The steamer New Orleans, with the Louisiana regiment of volunteers, eight hundred strong, arrived almost opportunely, at Anton Lizardo, just as we had put ourselves in motion. She joined us, and her troops were landed with the rest. Another transport arrived at this anchorage to-day. Her troops also have been landed.
General Scott has now with him upwards of eleven thousand men. At his request, I permitted the marines of the squadron, under Captain Edson, to join him, as a part of the 3d regiment of artillery.
The general-in-chief landed this morning, and the army put itself in motion at an early hour, to form its lines around the city. There has been some distant firing of shot and shells from the town and castle upon the troops as they advanced, but without result.
I am still of the opinion expressed in my previous communications, as to the inability of the enemy to hold out for any length of time. The castle has, at most, but four or five weeks’ provisions, and the town about enough for the same time.
I am, very respectfully, &c.,
Commanding home squadron.
Scott’s Official Report on the Capitulation of Veracruz
The following is General Winfield Scott’s official report of the capitulation of Veracruz. It was written to William L. Marcy, Secretary of War, on March 29, 1847, and sent to Washington, D.C.
Head-Quarters of the Army,
Vera Cruz, March 29, 1847.
Sir: — The flag of the United States of America floats triumphantly over the walls of this city and the castle of San Juan d’Ulloa.
Our troops have garrisoned both since ten o’clock; it is now noon. Brigadier-General Worth is in command of the two places.
Articles of capitulation were signed and exchanged at a late hour night before last. I enclose a copy of the document.
I have heretofore reported the principal incidents of the siege up to the 25th instant. Nothing of striking interest occurred till early in the morning of the next day, when I received overtures from General Landero, on whom General Morales had devolved the principal command. A terrible storm of wind and sand made it difficult to communicate with the city, and impossible to refer to Commodore Perry. I was obliged to entertain the proposition alone, or continue the fire upon a place that had shown a disposition to surrender; for the loss of a day, perhaps several, could not be permitted. The accompanying papers will show the proceedings and results.
Yesterday, after the norther had abated, and the commissioners appointed by me early the morning before had again met those appointed by General Landero, Commodore Perry sent ashore his second in command, Captain Aulick, as a commissioner on the part of the navy. Although not included in my specific arrangement made with the Mexican commander, I did not hesitate, with proper courtesy, to desire that Captain Aulick might be duly introduced and allowed to participate in the discussions and acts of the commissioners who had been reciprocally accredited. Hence the preamble to his signature. The original American commissioners were Brevet Brigadier-General Worth, Brigadier-General Pillow, and Colonel Totten. Four more able or judicious officers could not have been desired.
I have to add but little more. The remaining details of the siege – the able co-operation of the United States squadron, successively under the command of Commodores Conner and Perry – the admirable conduct of the whole army, regulars and volunteers — I should be happy to dwell upon as they deserve; but the steamer Princeton, with Commodore Conner on board, is under way, and I have commenced organizing an advance into the interior. This may be delayed a few days, waiting the arrival of additional means of transportation. In the mean time, a joint operation, by land and water, will be made upon Alvarado. No lateral expedition, however, shall interfere with the grand movement towards the capital.
In consideration of the great services of Colonel Totten, in the siege that has just terminated most successfully, and the importance of his presence at Washington, as the head of the engineer bureau, I intrust this despatch to his personal care, and beg to commend him to the very favourable consideration of the department.
I have the honor to remain sir, with high respect, your most obedient servant,