Mexico would not give up Texas after the Battle of San Jacinto. It continued to claim the country and was very angry when the United States took it into the Union. At the same time, the United States was angry with Mexico because it wouldn't agree to pay for injuries which some of its American citizens had received in Mexico. The two countries went to war, and at the end of the war, the United States not only made Mexico give up its claim to Texas but took also California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, and the far Southwest.
The rest of the story begins here. Mexico refused to give up Texas. Though the Republic of Texas had been independent for nine years when the United States took it into the Union, Mexico objected to its joining the United States. The Mexican government claimed that Texas belonged to them and that the United States had done Mexico a great injury by taking the territory.
At the same time, American businessmen and ship-owners doing business in Mexico claimed that wars and revolutions in Mexico had hurt their business and that the Mexican government ought to repay their losses. But the Mexican government did nothing for them.
President Polk made up his mind that Mexico must settle these American claims one way or another. It must either pay them or it must examine them and give its reasons for not paying. He sent John Slidell of Louisiana to Mexico City. Mexico refused to receive Slidell or to talk about the claims. It said that the United States must first settle with Mexico for taking Texas. After that important matter was out of the way, Mexico might be willing to talk about the matter of money claimed by the American citizens.
This stand taken by the Mexican government really meant war. All out war. A Mexican army moved northward to the Rio Grande and then crossed that river. An American army moved southward toward the Rio Grande. On April 26, 1846, scout parties of two armies fought a skirmish, and several American soldiers were killed. When President Polk learned of the fighting he asked Congress to declare war against Mexico, and Congress passed the declaration on May 12, 1846.
The Mexican war lasted a year and ten months. General Zachary Taylor led an American army southward from Texas and captured Monterey. General Winfield Scott landed an army at Vera Cruz and fought his way to Mexico City, which he captured in September 1847. In the meantime, another military force took New Mexico, and a combined naval and land force took California.
The Treaty of Peace was signed in Feb. 1848. President Polk said that Mexico had forced the war upon the United States and must therefore pay the cost of the war. Since Mexico had no money, he would take California, which he wanted anyway, and all the rest of the territory west of Texas.
The territory taken from Mexico has since been formed into six states, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. This great amount of land seemed a little too much to take for the cost of the war, so the United States agreed to pay Mexico $15 million.
A few days before Mexico signed the treaty that gave California to the United States, some workmen in California who were digging a ditch discovered gold at Sutter's Mill, on the American River. Eight months later, the eastern newspapers published the news. It had taken the story all that time to cross the continent. At once there was bustle and stir from Maine to Texas and from the shore of the Atlantic to the Mississippi River.
Some men started immediately, determined to get to California before all the gold was picked up. Others made plans more carefully and got ready to start the next spring. Everywhere there was great excitement. Then, in the spring (1849), such a Gold Rush began as had never before been seen.
Heading out west on the California trails. The "Forty-niners," as these first gold hunters were called, went to California by many different rails or routes, but there were four routes that were more popular than others. The quickest way, if one had good luck, was to go by ship to the Isthmus of Panama, cross the narrow neck of land on foot or mule-back,, and catch a boat on the other side for San Francisco. But one must be lucky on this trip! Yellow fever lurked in the swamp of the Isthmus; and there might be no boat on the other side. In spite of the chances of death and delay, however, many followed this dangerous southern route by way of Panama. Most of them were daring young men, willing to risk their lives for a little more speed.
Another route followed the Oregon Trail to the Mormon settlement at the Great Salt Lake in Utah. There it turned southward through Nevada to California. Captain John C. Fremont, who had explored the mountains of California and Nevada for many years. had helped to open up this trail.
Still another route to the gold fields of California followed the Santa Fe Trail from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. From Santa Fe the way led down to the Mexican border, then across to southern California, and northward to Los Angeles.
The popular southern route went through Texas. Several trails came together at El Paso, Texas, and passed then across New Mexico and Arizona to Los Angeles.
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