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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

The American troops occupied Matamoras



On October 16, Dr. J.C. Warren of Boston, to whom Drs. Wells and Morton had communicated their discoveries with sulphuric ether, demonstrated the potency of the drug in a public test. A severe operation was performed at the Boston Hospital, in the presence of some of the foremost medical men of the city, while the patient remained unconscious. The news was heralded abroad and was received by medical men throughout the world as a new revelation. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the famous physician and author, named the new method "Anaesthesia." The credit of the new discovery was claimed forthwith by several persons--notably by Dr. Charles T. Jackson of Boston, and Dr. Crawford W. Long of Alabama. A few months after the value of ether in surgery had come to be clearly recognized, a Scotch surgeon, Sir J.V. Simpson, discovered that chloroform could be administered with analogous effect.

[Sidenote: Mexican war begun]

[Sidenote: Mexican success]

[Sidenote: American reverse at Fort Brown]

[Sidenote: Palo Alto]

[Sidenote: Resaca de la Palma]

[Sidenote: Invasion of Mexico]

In the United States, during this period, the long-expected war with Mexico was well under way. By a joint resolution of Congress,

Texas had at last been admitted into the Union. General Taylor took position in Texas, opposite Matamoras on the Rio Grande, where the Mexican troops were gathering. Taylor presently moved his troops to Point St. Isabel. There a fleet of seven ships brought supplies. Leaving a part of his force there, he marched to a point on the Rio Grande opposite Matamoras, where he built Fort Brown, named after Major Brown, whom he left in command. The ground was malarious, and many soldiers died of disease. On April 12, the Mexican general, Ampudia, moved forward with a strong force to drive Taylor beyond the Rio de la Nueces. Ampudia demanded that Taylor should withdraw within twenty-four hours, but Taylor refused to leave what he claimed to be the soil of the United States. Ampudia hesitated, and General Arista was appointed in his place. Learning that two vessels with supplies for the Mexicans were about to enter the Rio Grande, Taylor caused the river to be blockaded, at the "cost of war." Arista prepared to attack Fort Brown, and cut off communication between Taylor and his supplies. Captain Thornton's command, sent out to reconnoitre, was captured on April 26. Only Thornton escaped by leaping his horse over a dense hedge. On May 1, leaving Major Brown in command at the fort, Taylor made a forced march to Point Isabel. The Mexicans promptly sent men across the river to the rear of Fort Brown, and opened fire together with the guns of Matamoras on that work. Major Brown was first among the killed. Signal guns were fired to recall Taylor. With 2,300 men he turned back on May 6. Meanwhile, 6,000 Mexicans had arrived and taken up a strong position at Palo Alto. On the 8th, Taylor assaulted the superior force confronting him. Two eighteen-pounders and two light batteries made fearful havoc in the closed ranks of the Mexican infantry. The prairie grass between the two armies took fire. Both lines drew back, but soon renewed the fight. Taylor's left was met by cannonade, but the Mexican column was overthrown and the entire force fell back to Resaca de la Palma. The Americans took up their march to Fort Brown. When within three miles of the fort they encountered the Mexicans, strongly posted in Resaca de la Palma, a ravine three hundred feet wide bordered with palmetto trees. Taylor deployed a portion of his force as skirmishers, and a company of dragoons overrode the first Mexican battery. The Americans then advanced their battery to the crest. A regiment charged in column, and, joined by the skirmishers, seized the enemy's artillery. After hard fighting in the chaparral, the Mexicans were put to flight. The Mexicans lost one thousand men, the Americans conceded but one hundred. Refusing an armistice, Taylor crossed the river on May 18, and unfurled the Stars and Stripes on Mexican territory. Another attempted stand of the Mexicans resulted in worse defeat. Arista's retreat became a rout. Of 7,000 men he brought only 2,500 to Linares. The American troops occupied Matamoras, Reinosa and Camargo. The three States of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon were annexed to the territory of the Rio Grande. In the interior of Mexico a revolution broke out. General Paredes was made President.

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