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Manuel Armijo

1793 - December 9, 1853

Topic- Mexican Military Preparation, Kearny's March A Continent Divided: The U.S.-Mexico War

Manuel Armijo

c. 1793 - December 9, 1853

Manuel Armijo, Governor of New Mexico at the outset of the U.S.-Mexico War, was born "in or near" Albuquerque about 1793.

In 1837 Armijo was placed in charge of the customs house at Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. In August of that same year a band of insurgents, which included a large number of Indians, overthrew the government and executed fourteen top officials, including Governor Albino Perez. The rebels elected José Gonzalez as governor, whereupon Armijo led a successful counter-revolt. After personally assuring the central government of his loyalty, Armijo was elevated to the rank of colonel and formally appointed governor. As governor, Armijo imposed a tariff of $500 on wagons entering New Mexico from the United States, a decision which made him unpopular with U.S. residents.

In 1836, after American settlers living in Texas fought for and won their independence from Mexico, the Congress of the Republic of Texas passed a bill declaring the Rio Grande to be the nation's western as well as southern boundary. In 1841 Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar sent 320 armed soldiers to extend Texas' jurisdiction over eastern New Mexico. The party included a number of merchants that hoped to establish a regular trade with the New Mexicans. New Orleans newspaperman George Wilkins Kendall accompanied them.

After undergoing hardships including Indian attacks, getting lost, and shortages of food and water, the expedition surrendered to forces sent by Governor Armijo to intercept them. At first, Armijo wanted the Texians executed. Instead, they were marched to Mexico City, where they were imprisoned until 1842.

In 1846, after the U.S-Mexico War began, Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny was placed in command of a 1,558-man "Army of the West," whose mission was to capture New Mexico. Kearny’s troops left Fort Leavenworth in June 1846.

On July 22, the Americans reached Bent's Fort in present-day southeastern Colorado. Armijo had known of Kearny's approach as early as June 6. It was not until July 13 however that he notified the New Mexico provincial assembly of the U.S. army's approach. A little more than two weeks later, on August 1, Kearny sent Captain Philip St. George Cooke and a civilian, James W. Magoffin, to inform Armijo that the Americans intended to take possession of New Mexico. Although Captain St. George Cooke was courteously received, the defiant governor issued a proclamation on August 9, calling upon New Mexicans to resist the U.S. invasion. It was later alleged that Magoffin had secretly bribed Armijo not to fight.

On August 15 the Americans entered Las Vegas, New Mexico. In the meantime, Armijo assembled an army of about 4,000 men at Apache Canyon, about fifteen miles from Santa Fe. Realizing that his poorly outfitted auxiliary troops would be no match against Kearny’s force, however, the governor dismissed them and retreated with the regulars. By the evening of August 18 the "Army of the West" was in complete possession of Santa Fe, without a single shot being fired.

Following the U.S. takeover of New Mexico, Armijo was tried for "cowardice and desertion in the face of the enemy" at Mexico City but acquitted. He afterward resided in Limitar, New Mexico, where he died on December 9, 1853.


Bancroft, Hubert Howe. The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, Volume XVII: History of Arizona and New Mexico, 1530-1888. San Francisco: The History Company, 1889.

Cooke, Philip St. George. The Conquest of California and New Mexico. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1878.

Kendall, George Wilkins. Narrative of the Texan Santa Fé Expedition: Comprising a Description of a Tour through Texas, 2 vols. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1847.

Twitchell, Ralph Emerson. The History of the Military Occupation of the Territory of New Mexico from 1846 to 1851. Denver, Colorado: The Smith-Brooks Company, 1909.

Twitchell, Ralph Emerson. The Leading Facts of New Mexico History, volume IV. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: The Torch Press, 1917.

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