Battle of Resaca de la Palma
At the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, one of the early engagements of the Mexican-American War, United States General Zachary Taylor engaged the retreating forces of the Mexican Ejército del Norte (“Army of the North”) under General Mariano Arista on May 9, 1846.
During the night of May 8, following disappointments at the Battle of Palo Alto, Arista chose to withdraw to the more defensible position of Resaca de la Palma, a dry riverbed (resaca is the Spanish term for a dry riverbed), and establish himself while waiting for Taylor’s next move.
On the morning of May 9, Taylor’s 1,700 troops engaged a Mexican force which had increased to 4,000 with Arista’s reinforcements. Arista’s carefully laid plans for engaging the Americans at Resaca were, however, somewhat diluted because of political infighting in the Mexican officer corps and the difficulty in communicating in the rough terrain of the battlefield.
Resistance on the part of the Mexicans was stiff, and the U.S. forces nearly suffered a reverse before a force of Dragoons commanded by Charles A. May surprised the flank of the Mexican lines and forced a retreat. Two counter-attacks on the American position were defeated, and the Mexican Army fled the field, leaving behind a number of artillery pieces, Arista’s writing desk and silver service, the colors of Mexico’s lauded Tampico Battalion, and other baggage. U.S. forces also captured several Mexican artillery pieces, including two 8 pounder iron guns, two 6 pounder bronze guns and four 4 pounder bronze guns.
The resulting embarrassment as a near victory turned into a defeat caused the removal of Arista as commander of the Army of the North and a serious reassessment of Mexican strategy. Corruption and infighting in the Mexican government failed to produce a cohesive strategy for much of the fighting, despite increased skill and success on the part of the Mexican Army.