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Francisco Mejia

1795 - 1852

Topic- Matamoros and Camargo, Along the Rio Grande, Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, Battle of Monterrey, Buena Vista/la Angostura A Continent Divided: The U.S.-Mexico War

Francisco Mejia

(c. 1795-After 1852)

Francisco Mejia was born about 1795 in Ixtapan, a suburb of Mexico City. In 1811, at the age of fifteen or sixteen, he began his military career as a member of the Tulancingo squadron in the Spanish colonial army. In 1821, during Mexico's war for independence, Mejia served in Iturbide's Army of the Three Guarantees and in 1829 he helped defend the port city of Tampico when Spain attempted to invade and reconquer her former colony. In 1832 he supported Santa Anna's rise to power.

Mejia was serving as military commandant and Governor of Coahuila when a Texas army was defeated at Ciudad Mier, a town just south of the Rio Grande, on Christmas Day, 1842. In February Mejia organized search parties when about 200 Texan prisoners escaped in the mountains near Saltillo. Most were recaptured. Ordered to execute the more than 200 Texans who had been taken prisoner, Mejia resigned, believing the order to be inhumane.

Despite his refusal to obey the command of a superior officer, Mejia was eventually permitted to rejoin the army. In early 1846, on the eve of the U.S.-Mexico War he was serving as commandant of the garrison at Matamoros.

On March 18, 1846, as Gen. Zachary Taylor's army marched south from Corpus Christi, where it had been camped since August 1845 pending the outcome of John Slidell's diplomatic mission to Mexico, General Mejia issued a proclamation declaring that than the annexation of Texas by the United States, as well as Taylor's occupation of the disputed territory between the Nueces and Rio Grande was a "scandalous violation of the rights of nations" and that "dissimulation, fraud, and the basest treachery" had been employed "in order to obtain possession . . . of the territory of a friendly nation" and that he intended to oppose it, although at that time he had no orders to do so.

On March 19, when Taylor and his men reached the north bank of the Arroyo Colorado, about forty miles above the Rio Grande, they were met by "a party of irregular cavalry" who "signified . . . that it would be considered an act of hostility if we attempted to pass the river." Despite these threats Taylor and his men crossed the Arroyo Colorado without incident the following day.

On March 28, when the Americans reached the north bank of the Rio Grande, where they began constructing a defensive work called "Fort Texas," Taylor sent Gen. William Worth under a flag of truce across the river to Matamoros to explain "the nature, and the reasons, of the movement of the force under my orders . . . and enter into any arrangements to secure the peace and harmony of the frontier, at least, until the question of boundary shall be definitively settled between our respective governments." After Mejia refused to personally confer with Worth on account of his subordinate status, the American general met instead with General Vega.

On April 11 Mejia was himself relegated to subordinate status when he was superseded by Gen. Pedro Ampudia, who arrived at Matamoros at the head of an army of some two or three thousand men. Two weeks later Gen. Mariano Arista reached the city and in turn took command from Ampudia. On April 26, in what was known in the U.S. as the "Thornton Affair," Mexican troops who Arista had directed to cross the Rio Grande clashed with an American scouting patrol on the north bank of the river. Shortly afterward, Taylor sent a dispatch to President James K. Polk, informing him that hostilities had commenced.

When Arista and Ampudia took the bulk of Mexican forces across the Rio Grande to do battle with Taylor at Palo Alto (May 8) and Resaca de la Palma (May 9), Mejia was left in charge of the 1,400-man Matamoros garrison, which commenced an almost-continual bombardment and cannonade of Fort Texas that lasted from May 3 to May 9.

Following Arista's defeat at Resaca de la Palma and the Mexican army's re-crossing of the Rio Grande, Matamoros was abandoned. On May 18 the Americans entered and occupied the city without opposition. The following month at Linares Arista, who was afterward court-martialed, turned over command of the Mexican army to Mejia, who in July marched the troops to Monterrey, which he considered a more defensible position. In the meantime, Mejia gave General Canales command of about a thousand men to be used for the purpose of conducting guerrilla warfare against the Americans.

In August, while Mejia was concentrating his forces at Monterrey and making preparations to defend the city, the government once more ordered General Ampudia to supersede him and also, if Monterrey appeared to be indefensible, to destroy the fortifications there and fall back to Saltillo. However, after Ampudia learned that there were over 7,000 soldiers at Monterrey and that Mejia had fortified the city well, he decided to make a stand there.

During the Battle of Monterrey, which took place between September 21 and September 24, 1846 and resulted in an American victory, Mejia commanded the troops that defended the northeast side of Monterrey from attack by forces led by Gen. David E. Twiggs and Gen. William O. Butler.

Mejia subsequently led troops at the Battle of Buena Vista, which was fought near Saltillo between February 21 and 22, 1847 and also the Battle of Contreras, which was fought on August 19 and 20, 1847 near Mexico City.

During the immediate postwar period, Mejia served first as Commandant of the Department of Durango and then in 1852 as Commandant of the Department of San Luis Potosi. His subsequent career and date of death are unknown.

For further reading:

30th Congress, 1st Session. House Executive Document 56: Correspondence Between the Secretary of State and Generals Scott and Taylor and Between General Scott and Mr. Trist (Washington, D.C.: 1848).

Brooks, Nathan Covington. A Complete History of the Mexican War (Philadelphia: Griggs, Elliot & Co., 1851).

Haynes, Sam W. Soldiers of Misfortune: The Somervell and Mier Expeditions (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1990).

Paz, Eduardo. Reseña histórica del Estado Mayor mexicano, 1821-1860 (Mexico City: Talleres del Departmento de Estado Mayor, 1907).

Smith, Justin H. The War with Mexico, 2 vols. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1919).

Wilcox, Cadmus M. History of the Mexican War (Washington, D.C.: The Church News Publishing Co., 1892).

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