THE AMERICAN POSITION
t was at Henry L. Kinney's trading post where the U.S soldiers congregated prior to moving out to the Rio Grande River. It remained a staging area throughout the war. This played a large part in the development of Corpus Christi as a major city in Texas. Serving the needs of Catholic soldiers in Corpus Christi was a Father Reilly. Father Reilly was a missionary priest. He was originally from Dublin, Ireland.
In March of 1846, Kinney, himself acting as a guide, led General Taylor and most of his men to a bivouac near the Rio Grande.
...................................A painting of General Zachary Taylor at the bivouac >
The location was on Point Isabel, now called Port Isabel, in what is today Cameron County. The county is named after the brave Scotsman, Ewen Cameron. Point Isabel was selected for the deep water access it gave to U. S. Navy supply ships that was not available two miles southwest on the Rio Grande River. A detachment of General Taylor's men under Major Jacob Brown began building a fort on the Rio Grande opposite Matamoros. The fort was named Fort Texas. Every morning and every night the citizens and soldiery of Matamoros could hear the U.S. reveille and retreat bugle calls, the ceremonial firing of the cannon. Most people in Matamoros could also easily see the accompanying raising and lowering ceremony of the flag of the United States that followed the bugle, and bark of the cannon. This ceremony and presence grated Matamoros landowners who held Mexican and Spanish land titles to land north of the Rio Grande River.
A contemprary map showing the relative distance from Fort Brown in the United States and the Mexican city of Matamoros
THE MEXICAN REACTION
During the nine month armistice, the commander of Mexican troops in Matamoros was Major General Pedro de Ampudia. When negotiations broke off, he was replaced by Major General Mariano Arista. This was on April 24, 1846. That same day, Mexican President Mariano Paredes declared a "defensive war" against the United States. The next day, a Mexican brigade led by General Anastasio Torrejon crossed the Rio Grande into the Nueces Strip. They ambushed an American company of dragoons on patrol. Torrejon's patrol killed eleven of the Americans, wounded six, and took 63 others captive. The Mexicans reported no casualties. The Mexicans then withdrew.
On May 8, General Mariano Arista crossed the Rio Grande with a force of several thousand men. His plan was to cut the supply line between the fort Major Brown was building and Point Isabel. Arista would surprise any relief force sent to assist the Major Brown from Point Isabel and then attempt to take Brown's position by force. Elements of Arista's men in Matamoros began a bombardment of Fort Texas. Arista deployed his main force on the road between the fort and Point Isabel, waiting for General Taylor's move to come to the aid of the fort. Texas Ranger scouts advised Taylor of the Mexican positions. General Taylor moved to meet him and the battle was joined at a water hole known as Palo Alto, about nine miles northeast of Matamoros. The two armies battled from noon until night. Taylor had approximately 2,290 men. Arista had closer to 4,000 men. Both armies were still standing on the same ground as at the start of the battle. Though Arista had the superior numbers, he was forced to withdraw because of the incessant, accurate American artillery fire. The American artillery fire killed and wounded so many Mexicans, the survivors were disheartened men. In the engagement the Americans lost six men killed and 40 men wounded. The Mexicans lost 200 men killed and 200 wounded. Arista withdrew his men to a place north of the Rio Grande called Resaca de la Guerrero.