Taos Revolt

December, 1846 - December, 1846

The U.S. Army of the West met no armed opposition when it invaded New Mexico in August, 1846. Although residents of the territory felt little loyalty to the government in Mexico City, many were incensed by Governor Armijo's decision to surrender the province without firing a shot. Poor treatment at the hands of U.S. troops, as well as fears that the United States would not respect Mexican-issued land titles, were among the principal sources of resentment. In Santa Fe, capital of the territory, several prominent New Mexicans plotted to overthrow U.S. occupying forces. Upon learning of plans for a Christmas revolt, U.S. authorities ordered the arrest of the conspirators.

Seventy miles to the north in Taos, animosity toward U.S. rule also remained high. On January 19, 1847, Pueblo Indians and Mexicans gathered in the plaza and demanded the release of some Indians who had been jailed by U.S. troops. The mob soon turned violent, attacking the home of Governor Charles Bent and other Americans as well as those suspected of collaborating with U.S. forces. Bent and six others were killed.

Swelling to a force of 500, the rebels attacked a flour mill and distillery on the outskirts of town, killing seven. The rebellion quickly spread to the village of Mora, where Indian residents killed a group of Anglo-American traders. Moving quickly to crush the revolt, Colonel Sterling Price, commander of U.S. forces in New Mexico, marched more than 300 troops from Santa Fe to Taos. Along the way, he encountered and routed a force of some 1,500 Mexicans and Pueblo Indians at Santa Cruz de la Cañada and Embudo Pass. The insurgents retreated to the Indian pueblo outside Taos, where they took refuge in the thick-walled adobe church. During the ensuing struggle, Price's troops breached a wall and brought up a cannon to fire directly into the church, inflicting many casualties. The survivors then fled into the mountains where fighting continued. Approximately 150 rebels were killed and 400 more captured. Meanwhile, a separate force of U.S. troops crushed rebel resistance in Mora, burning the town to the ground.

In March and April, 1847, a U.S. military court in Taos tried the captured insurgents on charges of murder and treason (Stephen W. Kearny having granted U.S. citizenship to all New Mexicans the previous year). Both judges were Americans who had friends among those killed by the rebels; George Bent, the brother of Governor Bent, served as foreman of the jury. Twenty-eight New Mexicans were hanged for taking part in the revolt.

The Taos rebels continued to resist U.S. occupation for several months, organizing guerrilla activity in eastern New Mexico and along the Santa Fe Trail.

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