December 1846. U.S. Troops Invade the Pueblo of Doña Ana

In the late morning of December 16, 1846, United States military troops began arriving at Doña Ana, a small pueblo located in the Apachería, 50 miles north of Paso del Norte, Chihuahua.[1]  Although the arrival of the troops was imminent, it must have been shocking to the villagers.

Jose Maria Garcia, who had been watching the troop movement from afar, left Doña Ana in the early afternoon for Paso del Norte to alert authorities of the troops’ arrival.  Garcia reached Paso del Norte before 7 at night.[2]    

Garcia reported that 250 U.S. troops had arrived at Doña Ana, and more were on the way.  Sebastian Bermudes, the Prefect for Paso del Norte, immediately sent a letter to the Governor of Chihuahua, reporting the news.[3] 

A few days before, Commander Gabino Cuilty had sent an advance squad consisting of 6 soldiers and 24 residents of Paso del Norte in search of U.S. troops.  Now he wondered about the squad’s whereabouts.[4] 

By December 19, 1846, a Doña Ana resident safely reached Paso del Norte to report that now an estimated 800 U.S. troops were at Doña Ana.  In light of this, Commander Cuilty sent an urgent communique to Chihuahua asking that soldiers in Santa Rosalia be quickly sent North to reinforce the rear-guard of Paso del Norte.[5] 

On December 21, 1846, Luis Vidal took charge of the estimated 1000 member “vanguard section” of Paso del Norte, when Cuilty fell gravely ill.  Commander Vidal placed Paso del Norte in a state of siege or war (“estado de sitio”), and proclaimed, inter alia, that any citizen who sells food or goods to the enemy would be punished with the death penalty.   The same day, members of the advance squad returned to Paso del Norte to report that U.S. troops were shooting live fire at El Alamo Limon, south of Doña Ana.[6]   The U.S. troops were headed toward Paso del Norte. 

[Cite this article: Sonja Sonnenburg de Chávez, December 1846, U.S. Troops Invade the Pueblo of Doña Ana, New Mexico, The Doña Ana Sphere (December 21, 2021).]


[1] Letter dated December 16, 1846 from Sebastian Bermudes to Governor of Chihuahua Joaquin Alvarez, printed in El Provisional Periodico del Gobierno del Estado Libre y Suberano de Chihuahua (“El Provisional”), Boletin N. 18 (Dec. 26, 1846).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.  See also, Letter dated December 19, 1846 from Gabino Cuilty to Governor Alvarez, printed in El Provisional, Boletin N. 18. 

[5] Letter from Gabino Cuilty dated December 19, 1846, printed in El Provisional, Boletin N. 18.  See also, copy of Letters dated December 24, 1846 from Gabino Cuilty to Angel Trias and General Jose Antonio Heredia, and from General Heredia to Cuilty, Expediente 2341, at 19-20, Archivo Histórico Militar, Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional. 

[6] Letters dated December 21, 1846 from Sebastian Bermudes to Governor Alvarez, with Proclamation of Commander Luis Vidal, printed in El Provisional, Boletin No. 18.

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