||That a battle was fought at all at Monterrey,
in September 1846, resulted from personal and political considerations,
as much as military. Planners on each side began by making correct inferences
from an unrealistic evaluation of the terrain in northern Mexico.
Once action seemed imminent, pride and stubbornness drew Ampudia and Taylor
on into the engagement.
Both Santa Anna and Ampudia anticipated that U.S. forces, moving south of the Río Grande, would try to move through a gap in the Sierra Madre (either Saltillo or Tula), then strike for San Luis Potosí, some 200 miles south of Saltillo. Other U.S. forces would try to take the port of Tampico, in order to establish a supply route to the overland operation. Polk, his War Department, and Taylor thought at first in much the same terms.
Santa Anna then, believing that neither Monterrey nor Tampico could
be held successfully, ordered Ampudia to defend the Saltillo gap, while
other forces would defend Tula. Ampudia's original plan recognized
this logic, but it also called for directing guerrilla attacks against
Taylor's forces as they moved toward the Saltillo-Monterrey area.
This tactic of pushing some units out north of Saltillo imposed on Ampudia
certain liabilities. He would have to maintain some kind of cooperation
with the inhabitants of the area, even if they did not cooperate with him.
He began issuing stringent regulations that demanded civilian commitment
to the defense. Soon, though, he was complaining that merchants in
Monterrey wanted to conduct business as usual, and were even cashing bills
of exchange that came in from the Yankees. Outraged, he forgot his own
strategic analysis and proceeded to conduct a strict though brief military
defense of the city.
|After the capitulation, Taylor claimed that
he had lacked enough men to cut off all the routes into Monterrey. While
he might have tried to cut off any Mexican forces in Monterrey, by moving
directly against the Saltillo gap, this could leave him without the force
to operate against the roads from Tampico. As soon as most of Ampudia's
men were gathered at Monterrey. Taylor had some reason to attack the city,
rather than leave Ampudia in his rear while he moved against Saltillo or
Commanders on both sides knew, though they regularly ignored the fact, that the gaps through the northern Sierra led into a wide inhospitable terrain between Saltillo and Santa Anna's headquarters in San Luis Potosí. Any Mexican force operating north of Saltillo, or east of Tula, would be out of touch from day-to-day control by Santa Anna.
While Taylor did later move some forces south toward Tampico, the earlier capitulation was consistent with the ideas of those people in the United States who wanted the Army to take no more than a buffer zone in northern Mexico. It recognized a natural line, across which neither Army could operate with much comfort or security.
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