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Sterling Price

1809 - September 29, 1867

Topic- Taos Revolt, Doniphan's March A Continent Divided: The U.S.-Mexico War

Born near Farmville in Prince Edward County, Virginia, Sterling Price was the son of a wealthy planter. Price studied law at Hampton-Sydney College and was admitted to the Virginia bar. In the fall of 1831, Price moved with his family to Missouri where he ran a hotel and a general store.

In 1838, Price served on a committee to investigate disturbances in the state known as the Mormon War. Price concluded in favor of the Latter Day Saints and was appointed to protect them from further violence. A Democrat, Price won his first term in the Missouri state legislature in 1836 and was elected speaker of the House from 1840 to 1844. In 1844 Price was elected to the United States House of Representatives and resigned in 1846 to serve in the U.S.-Mexico War, appointed a colonel in command of the Second Regiment, Missouri Mounted volunteers through the intervention of the Secretary of War William L. Marcy.

Colonel Price and the Missouri volunteers were assigned to the Army of the West and arrived in Santa Fé, New Mexico in October of 1846. The previous commander, General Stephen W. Kearney had pacified the territory and established a working relationship with the native pueblo Indians and Mexican and American settlers. Price’s lack of discipline among his troops led to civilian unrest, and a general uprising planned for Christmas Eve was abandoned when Colonel Price learned of the event. Two of the conspirators, Governor Manuel Armijo and Colonel Manuel Pino fled the territory. A third accomplice, Diego Archuleta, remained in hiding and conditions between the population and the volunteers continue to deteriorate.

On 19 January 1847, Governor Charles Bent and five other territorial officials and business leaders were murdered at the pueblo San Fernando de Taos, along with several others in various locations. When news of the uprising reached Santa Fé, Colonel Price marched his command of three hundred and fifty-three men towards Taos. On the 24th, near Santa Cruz at La Cañada on the Chicito stream, 20 miles north of Santa Fé, Price encountered a contingent of some 1,500 Indians and New Mexicans led by Jesus Tafoya, Pablo Chavez, and Pablo Montoya; Price quickly routed the citizen militia and inflicted heavy losses. Price continued on to the Pass of El Embudo Canyon, where on January 29 his path was blocked by another civilian militia. Flanking maneuvers on both sides of the steep canyon walls dislodged the New Mexican force that fled back to Taos. Price arrived in Taos on 2 February, 1847 and began a bombardment of the fortress-like structure of the pueblo with several field howitzers that he brought with him. Little damage was inflicted on the building and fire was directed on a thinner court wall surrounding the pueblo mission. The following day an adequate breach was made in the barrier and Price’s men occupied the eastern side of the town. On February 5, 1847 the citizens of Taos surrendered and the ringleaders of the revolt were arrested and hanged, ending any further hostilities from the settled communities in the district. Price spent the remainder of the year attempting to pacify raiding parties of Navajo, Comanche, and Apache Indians who tested the abilities of Price’s command.

In February1848 Price invaded the state of Chihuahua at the head of a force of 300 volunteers. The state governor, Angel Trías Álvarez, intercepted the Missouri volunteers and informed Price of the recently signed peace treaty at Guadalupe Hidalgo, effectively ending hostilities between the two countries. Price refused to believe the governor and Trías retreated to Santa Cruz de Rosales. Price entered the city of Chihuahua on March 9 and waited there for news of a treaty. Upon learning that Trias was assembling a force at Santa Cruz de Rosales, Price attacked and occupied the town on March 16 in what would prove to be the final battle of the war. On April 15 Price received communications from Commanding General William O. Butler in Mexico City that a treaty had indeed been signed and ratified by the U.S Congress. He was admonished for his actions, ordered to restore all property to Mexican authorities, and to report back to Santa Fé. From New Mexico Price and the mounted volunteers returned to Missouri. Price was reprimanded by Secretary of War William L. Marcy and was honorably discharged on November 25, 1848.

Price made a successful bid for the governorship on the Democratic ticket and served from 1853 to 1857, serving a single term. On February 28 1861, Price was elected presiding officer of the Missouri State Constitutional Convention which voted against secession from the Union. Price was appointed major general and commander of the Missouri State Guard entrusted to maintain neutrality in the deeply divided border state.

As major general and commander of the Missouri State Guard, Price initially garnered victories against Union forces at Wilson’s Creek and Lexington, Missouri. He participated in the Confederate defeats at Pea Ridge, the Battle of Iuka, and at the Second Battle of Corinth. Upon being given command of the Confederate Army of the West in March 1864, Price undertook an invasion of his home state. The Army of the West achieved limited military success, but failed to realize the overall goal to bring Missouri back into the Confederacy.

Price refused to surrender after the war and marched his command to Mexico were he attempted to align himself with the French Emperor of Mexico, Maximillian. Price attempted to establish a colony for expatriated Confederates near Vera Cruz, Mexico. He contracted yellow fever and was forced to return to the United States, where he died in St. Louis, Missouri on 29 September, 1867.


Bancroft Hubert Howe and Henry Lebbeus Oak History of Arizona and New Mexico 1530-1888 1889 Albuquerque, Horn & Wallace, 1962.

Bauer, K. Jack The Mexican War: 1846- 1848 Macmillan Publishing New York 1974.

Brooks, Nathan Covington A Complete History of the Mexican War 1846-1848: Its Causes, Conduct, and Consequences The Rio Grande Press, Inc. 1849.

David Sesser The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

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