|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
In 1846, war between Mexico and the United States broke out following several incidents between the two nations. The United States pursued a doctrine called Manifest Destiny, which called for expansion and occupation of territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Mexico controlled a large portion of this territory. Mexico won its long, draining War of Independence from Spain in 1821. The war left Mexico politically divided and weak. Much of the territory it controlled it was unable to govern. Native tribes like the Comanche and Apaches raided deep into Mexico, stealing cattle and burning ranches. Texas won its independence in 1836. Mexico threatened war with the United States if it annexed its former territory. In 1845, the United States annexed Texas after James Polk won the 1844 election. The United States offered to buy the huge territory that now consists of the states of California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Mexico refused, so Polk sent troops into a disputed territory between the two countries. When a Mexican unit attacked it and killed about a dozen United States soldiers, the United States declared war on May 13, 1846. This would be the first United States Military campaign fought exclusively on foreign soil. The war was quick, as Mexico was in no position to fight an emerging power. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo saw Mexico cede a huge territory to the United States in exchange for 15 million dollars and the assumption of Mexico's debt owed to United States citizens.
James Polk Issues Call for Troops
President Polk signed Congress' declaration of war the same day it passed. During his address, he called on the states to raise 50,000 troops that would serve for one year, or the duration of the war. On May 16, 1846, Secretary of War William Marcy pegged the Indiana allotment at three regiments, or 3000 men. Indiana Governor James Whitcomb issued a call for troops on May 22, 1846.
A State Wholly Unprepared War
At the time of the call for troops, Indiana had little in the manner of war preparations. A militia existed, but not much in the way of supplies or equipment. Before and during the War of 1812 the military preparedness of the Indiana Territory had been excellent, as the danger from natives was constant. However, after the war ended the Amerindian threat faded. By 1846, few natives lived in the state anymore. The State had to start virtually from scratch to assemble a military force.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning