U.S. – Mexican War artifacts on display at new San Jacinto Museum of History exhibit in Houston, Texas

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This array of contemporary artifacts—from newspapers and prints, to documents and artifacts written and owned by many key players in the conflict—grant insights into how the officers, the soldiers and the media viewed this conflict that saw many more soldiers dying from disease than battle. The first foreign war to be covered by the U.S. media, the exhibit covers the printing innovations, expansion of the telegraph lines, prints from the war correspondents who reported from the front lines, as well as new innovations in warfare.

Battle at the Plains of Buena Vista, February 23, 1847, by Samuel Chamberlain

This war pitted a politically divided and militarily unprepared Mexico against the expansionist-minded administration of U.S. President James K. Polk, who believed the US had a manifest destiny to spread across the continent to the Pacific

The new special exhibit of the San Jacinto Museum of History, “A Destined Conflict: The U.S. – Mexican War,” opened on July 4, 2015, with prints, political cartoons, photographs, art, artifacts and newspapers relating to that decisive war which occurred from 1846 to 1848, from the first engagement in Palo Alto, Texas, to the Halls of Montezuma in Mexico City.

The first armed conflict involving the United States that was chiefly fought on foreign soil, the official cause of the war was both the American annexation of the Republic of Texas and the border dispute whether the national border was the Rio Grande or the Nueces River. Texas claimed the Rio Grande, Mexico the Nueces. By the war's end, Mexico lost nearly half of its territory and the United States became a continental power.

In “A Destined Conflict: The U.S. - Mexican War,” a wide array of contemporary artifacts—from newspapers and prints, to documents and artifacts written and owned by many key players in the conflict—grant insights into how the officers, the soldiers in the field, and the media back home viewed this conflict that saw many more soldiers dying from disease than battle. The first foreign war to be covered by your predecessors, the war exhibit covers printing innovations, expansion of the telegraph lines, prints from the war correspondents who reported from the front lines, and new innovations in warfare.

According to this PBS report at http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/war/us_press.html: “The key penny press newspapers made expensive, elaborate arrangements to have their reports carried back to the United States. By combining pony express, steamships, railroads and the fledgling telegraph, the press established a two-thousand mile communications link that repeatedly beat military couriers and the U.S. mail with the Mexico news. So effective was the express system maintained by the press that President James K. Polk learned of the U.S. victory at Veracruz via a telegram from the Baltimore Sun.”

“This war pitted a politically divided and militarily unprepared Mexico against the expansionist-minded administration of U.S. President James K. Polk, who believed the United States had a manifest destiny to spread across the continent to the Pacific Ocean,” says Larry Spasic, President, San Jacinto Museum of History Association. “A border skirmish along the Rio Grande started the fight and was soon followed by a series of U.S. victories. War costs exceeded $100 million and more than 13,000 combatants lost their lives, making it, as a percentage of those who served, second only to the Civil War as the bloodiest conflict in American history.”

When the war ended, Mexico had lost a significant portion of its territory, including nearly all of present-day California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo marked the end of that war and the beginning of a lengthy U.S. political debate over slavery in the acquired territories, as well as continued conflict with Mexico over boundaries.

Tickets and Hours: Admission to the special exhibit is $5 for adults and $3 for children under 11. Combo tickets for the new special exhibit, Texas Forever!! The Battle of San Jacinto multimedia presentation, and the elevator ride to the Observation Level are available. Seniors, children and groups of 10 or more enjoy a discounted rate year-round. Members of the San Jacinto Museum of History Association and the Military (all active duty military personnel and their families, and retired military personnel) receive free admission year-round to all attractions within the Monument. The Museum, exhibit and battleground are open from 9AM-6PM; the observation floor is open from 9AM-5:45PM; the Jesse Jones Theatre is open from 10AM-6PM.

Beyond these attractions there is plenty to do free at the Monument: the San Jacinto Museum’s permanent gallery exhibiting books to bayonets; the San Jacinto Battleground and its “Walking Tour Interpretive Trail Guide;” picnic tables, grills and water faucets; and the 1,210-foot long marsh trail and boardwalk that provides views of the native prairie, tidal marsh and bottomland forest as it appeared at the time of the historic 1836 Battle of San Jacinto.

The San Jacinto Museum of History is operated by the San Jacinto Museum of History Association—a non-profit organization—in association with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). The Museum of History owns the collections of artifacts and documents inside of the Monument and staffs the multimedia presentation, library, exhibition spaces and elevator ride to the observation floor.

TPWD operates and maintains the 1,200-acre San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, which consists of the San Jacinto Battleground, San Jacinto Monument and Battleship Texas. The San Jacinto Battlefield and the Battleship Texas are both National Historic Landmarks; the monument is a National Civic Engineering Landmark.

MORE INFORMATION: For more information about the San Jacinto Museum of History, please call 281-479-2421 or visit http://www.sanjacinto-museum.org or the museum’s Facebook. The museum and Monument are located at One Monument Circle, La Porte (Houston), Texas 77571-9585.

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Jeanne Albrecht
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