EN → Bust of John Riley, San Jacinto Plaza, San Angel, Mexico City. ES → Busto de John Riley, Plaza de San Jacinto, San Ángel, Ciudad de México.





"The fascinating story of a handful of Irish canonniers immigrants in the United States, who ignored the death penalty and who dared to join the Mexicans, with whom they shared  the same sufferings and the same faith, in their desperate fight against the fierce invading North-American army in 1846-1848".




They were renowned as war heroes in Mexico, hanged as traitors by the US Army, and forgotten back in famine-racked Ireland. The story refers to the Saint Patrick’s Battalion - known in Spanish as “El Batallón de San Patricio” or simply “San Patricios” - a Mexican army elite unit composed primarily by Irish Catholics, who had defected from the invading US army during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). When the Irishmen defected to the Mexican side and fought American troops under a green silk banner emblazoned with St. Patrick - a shamrock and the traditional harp of "Erin" - they earned the wrath of the US military and the everlasting admiration of Mexico.

For years an obscure historical footnote, the story is being dusted off today as an allegory for the plight of Mexican immigrants to USA, a morality tale on the implacability of American imperialism ("Manifest Destny"), a paradigm of inter-ethnic solidarity and an example of bravery.While an army of Irishmen fighting on the dusty plains of the Rio Grande seems like one of history’s quirky aberrations, the “San Patricios” were actually just one of a long list of Gaelic regiments to serve in other countries’ armies over the centuries. In fact, instances of men from the Emerald Isle travelling abroad to take part in foreign wars was so common between the 17th and 19th centuries, that the Irish had a name for these émigré soldiers. They called them the “Wild Geese”.

The great majority of the “San Patricios” were recent immigrants who had arrived at northeastern US ports, part of the Irish Diaspora then fleeing burgeoning famine and extremely poor economic conditions in Ireland, as well as political repression in consequence of the English occupation of the island. Unlike the Irish who had immigrated to America in the eighteenth and earlier nineteenth centuries, who tended to be skilled craftsmen and Protestants, most of these new Irish immigrants were poor farmers and Catholics. The United States had been founded and long dominated by Protestants, and as a result, there was widespread prejudice against and fear of Catholicism. Many US citizens thought that Catholics were superstitious, ignorant, and incapable of independent thought. The American anti-immigrant press of the time caricatured the Irish with simian features, portraying them as unintelligent and drunk and charging that they were seditiously loyal to the pope. At least 20 people were killed and two churches were burned in anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia during that era, and a mob in Massachusetts burned a catholic convent. But cheap Irish labor was welcome. Irish maids became as familiar as Latin American nannies are today.

The Irish families arriving in the north-eastern port cities of the USA typically brought precious little with them other than the clothes on their backs, and were often dependent on the support of families that had arrived before them. The US Army found a potent recruiting pool among poverty stricken Irish men arriving exhausted on English “coffin ships”, as they offered immediate employment, adventure and everything else that is used to lure men to sign up for the military, then and now. Thousands joined the US Army at $7 a month. Thus, at the time of the Mexican-American War, about half of the U.S. Army was made up of recent Irish immigrants to the United States, many of whom had chosen military service because no other jobs were available to them.

Long discriminated against at home by the British, who had been occupying Ireland for many centuries, Irish immigrants discovered that they were subject to much of the same treatment in the United States. Young Irishmen, in a new country and culture, were often disappointed by the harsh reality of US army life once they had signed up with the American military an institution with a largely Protestant leadership. It was believed that since these newcomers were not yet regular US citizens, they lacked the patriotism that motivated other American soldiers. Critics cited that these new immigrants were rather fighting for money, than to defend the US, and thus they were not "real" soldiers. As a result of this discrimination, Irish-born soldiers were usually given the lowliest and hardest army jobs, and received fewer promotions. “Potato heads”, as the Irish were commonly called, were particularly singled out for harsher treatment and were prevented from practicing their own catholic religion.

In March 1845, Texas, which had declared its independence from Mexico nine years earlier, became the 28th state of the Union. Mexico had promised that this unilateral action would mean war, since Mexico never officially recognized Texas as an independent nation. At this time, US society was infused with the spirit of expansionism (the movement of US settlers across the nation's current borders) and by the idea of "Manifest Destiny", i.e. the concept that it was not only the right, but the duty of US citizens to spread their culture and way of life across, and in fact take control of the rest of the continent. US (11th) President James Knox Polk (1795-1849, a Presbyterian of Scots-Irish descent !) was an ardent expansionist, and he was only the most prominent among a large number of upper class Americans who hoped Mexico would make the first move and start a war. If this occurred, it was widely believed that the US could take easily over parts or even all of Mexico. It is worth noting that the ethic prejudice that was used to justify the unfair treatment of the Irish was extended to Mexicans, who were considered lazy, irresponsible, uncivilized, and too excitable and who also were predominantly Catholic.

Soon after the annexation (granting of official state-hood) of Texas, President Polk sent 7.000 troops under the command of General Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) to Corpus Christi, a town on the Nueces River, the traditional border between Texas and Mexico. The following spring, Taylor was ordered to move his troops south to the Rio Grande, a river about 100 miles south of the Nueces River that the United States was now declaring as its new border, hoping that this invasion would push Mexico to start first the war. Across the river was the Mexican town of Matamoros. On Sunday mornings, the US soldiers could hear the church bells calling the residents of Matamoros to the Catholic church service. During the months between the arrival of the North American troops at the Rio Grande and May 13, 1846 - date at which the United States officially declared the war to Mexico - about forty US soldiers also answered that call, never to return to the United States. They deserted the US army, swimming across the river, to join the enemy on the other side for fighting against their former officers and fellow US soldiers. They did so for a variety of reasons including the harsh discipline and treatment they had been receiving from the US Army, the economic incentives offered by the Mexican government for deserters (higher wages than in the US Army and generous land grants), the lure of a friendly and welcoming Mexican people who shared their religion, and above all because of a fervent feeling of sympathy for the Mexicans, whose homeland had been invaded by a foreign power like theirs. This affirmation is based on evidence by the number of deserting Irish Catholics, the letters of John Riley, and the testimony from other senior officers.

At the head of this band of deserters was an Irish-born private (the US army's lowest rank) named John Riley, also known as John Patrick O'Riley. His original Irish name was Seán Ó’ Raghailligh, born in Clifden, County Galway, Ireland, between 1817 and 1818. Riley had served with the British Army prior to his enlisting in the US army in September 1845 and was incorporated in the ranks of Company K, of the 5th US Infantry Regiment, camped in Texas close to the Mexican border. Conditions on the Rio Grande only seemed to increase the hostility of the Protestant officers towards the Irish and the other Catholics in Riley’s regiment. Officers such as Braxton Bragg and Thomas Sherman were notorious ‘Nativists’ and anti-Catholics, and this bigotry - combined with his professional frustration and unease at being part of a Protestant army invading a Catholic nation - increased Riley’s sense of alienation from the US army. By most accounts, the final straw came when the Irish, who were also Catholic, witnessed fellow American Soldiers desecrating Mexican catholic churches and mistreating priests and nuns. The inner conflict was resolved, principle won! Riley deserted on 12 April 1846 swimming across the Rio Grande after asking permission to go to Mass. Writing later he said: “Listening only to the advice of my conscience for the liberty of a people which had war brought on them by most unjust aggression…I separated myself from the American forces”.

It should be noted that Riley defected the American ranks prior to the actual declaration of war. He is generally credited with founding and organizing the Saint Patrick’s Battalion named after St. Patrick an Irish Saint par excellence. Part of the original confusion, over whether Riley really founded this battalion was caused by the different spellings of his name found in official records. John Riley, himself signed his name as Riley, other times as Riely, Reilly, or O’Riley in his correspondence. Mexican government records list him as Juan Reyle, Reley, Reely or Reily. His enlistment record for the US Army lists him as Reilly.

Riley at first was successful in persuading 48 Irishmen to defect, and these men made up the original Saint Patrick's Battalion. In Mexico, Riley somehow linked up with General Pedro de Ampudia, the Cuban-born commander-in-chief of the Mexican army, who quickly recognized Riley’s leadership skills, appointed him 1st Lieutenant and gave him command of the company of the 48 Irishmen in the Mexican Army. Thus, the legend of the Saint Patrick’s battalion, the popular “San Patricios” was born. For the most part, these men came from Dublin, Cork, Galway and Mayo. The Mexicans referred to them as “Los Colorados”, after their red hair and ruddy, sunburnt complexions. A month after they were established, Riley’s company manned the canons during the six-day siege (3-9 May 1846) of the American garrison at Fort Texas along the north banks of the Rio Grande by Mexican forces commanded by General Mariano Arista.

In addition to more Irishmen joining his battalion, Riley welcomed other foreign-born US deserters, as well as American-born deserters. Also, some Irish-born civilian residents of Mexico were persuaded to join the struggle. Thus, the number of “San Patricios” rose to more than 175 in October 1846, but even then the Irish-born members still represented nearly 50 per cent of them. The rest of the battalion included Germans, English, Scots, French, Italians, Poles, Spaniards, Swiss, Mexicans, Canadians, including escaped slaves from the Southern United States. In spite of its multi-ethnic composition, the Saint Patrick’s Battalion did, however, have a distinctly Irish identity since their name-sake, St. Patrick, is the patron saint of the Irish people.

Although not in common use in smaller units, General Antonio López de Santa Anna allowed the “San Patricios” to fly a war banner during the war. Riley is believed to have designed the battalion’s distinct Green silk flag which was embroidered by a group of nuns and displayed at San Luis Potosí in central Mexico in autumn 1846. It displayed on one side an Irish harp surmounted by the Mexican coat-of-arms (with the eagle, the cactus and the snake) with a scroll reading “Libertad por la República Mexicana” (Freedom for the Mexican Republic) and underneath the harp was the motto in Gaelic "Erin go Brágh" (Ireland for Ever). On the other side, Saint Patrick was depicted holding in his left hand a key and in his right a crook or staff resting upon a serpent. Underneath was painted “San Patricio”. Even before this flag flew, however, and even before the official May 13 declaration of Mexican- American war, the men who would make up the core of the San Patricio Battalion had taken part in the first two battles of the war at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma (May 8 and 9, 1846) . However, the Battles of Monterrey (September 21–24, 1846), Buena Vista (February 22–23, 1847), and Churubusco (August 20, 1847) are where the Saint Patrick’s Battalion left its most notable war marks.

The “San Patricios” were renowned for their skill as artillerists. The Saint Patrick’s Battalion was officially an infantry unit, but essentially acted as the sole Mexican artillery able to counter-balance the US fast-moving and fast-firing “flying artillery” or "horse artillery". In many cases, the battalion’s contribution was critical because Mexican cannoneers were inexperienced and inadequately trained and Mexican artillery had a poor cannon range of 400 meters, much less than the American one.  

Following its successes on the battlefields, the Saint Patrick’s Battalion grew in size, joined by other recent, disgruntled and marginalized immigrants – historians estimate the strength of the unit to be as much as 700 members at its peak. Therefore, the “San Patricios” were ordered - by personal instruction of General Santa Anna - to muster a larger infantry battalion in mid-1847. It was renamed “La Legión extranjera de los San Patricios” (The Foreign Legion of San Patricios) and consisted of volunteers from many European countries, commanded by Colonel Francisco R. Moreno, with Riley in charge of 1st company and Santiago O'Leary heading up the second.

United under their green banner, the “San Patricios” participated in all major battles of the war - Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma (May 8 and 9, 1846), Monterrey (September 20, 1946), Buena Vista (February 22-23, 1847), Cerro Gordo (12-18 April, 1847), Contreras and Churubusco (19-20 August 1847) - and were cited for "daring bravery" by General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Santa Anna later remarked that if he had commanded a few hundred more “San Patricios”, Mexico would have won the war...

At the battle of Monterrey, the San Patricios  fought together with the troops of Colonel José López Uraga and proved their artillery skills by causing the deaths of many American soldiers. They were credited with defeating two to three separate US assaults into the heart of the city. Among their targets were companies led by such officers as Braxton Bragg, many of whose soldiers would end up in their own ranks later in the war.

At the Battle of Buena Vista (known as the battle of Angostura in Mexico) in Coahuila, on 23 February, the "San Patricios" became engaged with US forces and they were assigned the three heaviest (18 and 24 pound) cannons the Mexican army possessed, which were positioned on high ground over-looking the battlefield.  They started the battle supporting Mexican infantry by firing on US lines as the Mexicans advanced onto them, then later decimating an artillery battery directly opposite them on the battlefield (Washington’s 4th Artillery, D Battery). A small detachment of “San Patricios” were dispatched with a division commanded by Manuel Lombardini with the express purpose of capturing the 4th's cannons once the crews had been dealt with. The division charged with bayonets the US artillery battery, routing its crew, thus leaving “San Patricios” free to haul away two six-pound cannons. These cannons would later be used by Mexican forces at the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco.

At the penultimate battle of the war at Churubusco, holed up in a Catholic monastery (“Convento de San Pablo”) and surrounded by a superior force of American infantry, cavalry and artillery, the “San Patricios” withstood three major assaults and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. They fought until their ammunition was exhausted and even then tore down three times the white flag that was raised by their Mexican comrades in arms, preferring to struggle on gallantly with bayonets and sabers until finally being overwhelmed by sheer numbers. US Captain James Milton Smith finally stopped the fighting by putting up a white handkerchief. Despite their brave resistance, however, 85 of the Irish battalion were captured (including wounded Riley and O'Leary). Seventy-two of them were immediately charged with desertion from the US Army. They were to be tried by US court-martial in two groups, on August 23, in the town of Tacubaya and on August 26, at San Angel, as traitors. At neither of these trials were the prisoners represented by lawyers, nor were transcripts made of the proceedings. At their court-martial, most “San Patricios” said they had been forced to desert by the Mexicans, or had too much to drink. "They needed an excuse. They couldn't say 'I hated the United States,' so they said they weren't responsible", wrote Robert Ryal Miller, in his book "“Shamrock and Sword, the Saint Patrick’s Battalion”, (published September 15th, 1989).

Among those demanding harsh punishment for the “San Patricios” were various Irish non-deserters - who felt the renegades intensified anti-immigrant prejudice in the US army - and particularly one of the American commanders, Lt. Col. William Harney (also of Irish origin !). Only two of the prisoners were found to be not guilty, since they had never actually joined the US Army. Two others were found guilty but given the usual punishment for desertion, death by firing squad.  Of the remaining “San Patricios”, about fifty received the sentence of death by hanging, a less humane form of execution than death by firing squad. The rest of them, including John Riley - on the ground that they had deserted from the US Army before war had been officially declared - received a lesser sentence that included whipping with fifty lashes and being branded on the cheek with a "D" for deserter. The condemned “San Patricios” were scourged, whipped and branded with red-hot branding irons with the letter "D" for deserter. Some were branded on the hip, while others were branded on the cheek, and John Riley was branded on both cheeks for good measure. Most of the convicted “San Patricios” were sentenced to death by hanging: 30 from the Tacubaya trial and 18 from San Ángel, in the largest judicial killing ever carried out by American authorities. However, execution by hanging was in violation of the contemporary Articles of War, which stipulated that the penalty for desertion and/or defecting to the enemy during a time of war was death by firing squad, regardless of the circumstances. Hanging was reserved only for spies (without uniform) and for “atrocities against civilians", neither of which activities were among the charges brought against any members of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion. It should be noted that, though more than 9.000 US soldiers deserted the army during the Mexican–American War, only the “San Patricios” were punished by hanging. General Winfield Scott Hancock assigned Colonel William Harney (1800-1889) to carry out the terms of the sentences, chosen intentionally on the ground of his Irish Catholic heritage (!) and his notorious cruelty. William Harney had a chilling CV even in an era that sanctioning brutality was spared in the name of “Manifest Destiny”. Wanted in St. Louis for beating his slave housekeeper to death, he was notorious for ravishing and hanging Indian women, as Robert Ryal Miller and other historians credited.

A large section of the executions crossed into the realm of gross cruelty, sadism and political theatre, General Scott ordering a group to be hung within sight of the Battle of Chapultepec, one of the last clashes of the war after Mexico City was taken, just as an American flag was raised on the nearby castle. This was done after Juan Escutia - the last of the six young military cadets who refused to fall back when General Bravo finally ordered retreat and fought to the death - grabbed the Mexican flag, wrapped it around himself and jumped off the castle to prevent the flag from falling into enemy hands. Harney was taunted and jeered by the condemned men during their execution. While overseeing the hangings, William Harney ordered Francis O'Connor hanged even though he had had both legs amputated the previous day. When the army surgeon informed the colonel that the absent soldier could not walk for he had lost both his legs in battle, Harney replied: “Bring the damned son of a bitch out! My order was to hang 30 and by God I'll do it !”. Riley and his tortured companions were forced to dig their fallen comrades' graves. The Mexican government described the inhuman treatment and hangings of war prisoners as “a cruel death or horrible torments, improper in a civilized age, and [ironic] for a people who aspire to the title of illustrious and humane"! In recounting what happened to the “San Patricios”, some historians assert that receiving such practices as whipping and branding was very unusual at the time of the Mexican-American War. These historians suggest that the “San Patricios” may have been so harshly treated because of their lower civil status as mostly Irish Catholic immigrants. in the US. 

John Riley was not one of those executed, a distinction drawn between those who had deserted before and after the war had started. Instead, he was branded with a two inch letter “D” on his face and given fifty lashes. He suffered through his flogging in grim silence, but he screamed and passed out when branded on the right cheek, just below his eye. An American officer inspected the damage and noticed the brand had been applied upside down. The Irish captain was brought back to consciousness, and the brand was reapplied correctly on his left cheek. The result was a large ugly welt on each cheek which were highly noticeable. He was later among the remaining “San Patricios” prisoners released back into Mexican custody, as part of the Guadalupe Hidalgo treaty (February 2, 1848) that ended hostilities. In fact, following the war, the Mexican Government insisted in a clause of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that the remaining “San Patricios” prisoners held by the Americans were to be left in Mexico, and Major General William Orlando Butler issued General Order 116 on June 1, 1848 stating that “The prisoners confined at the Citadel, known as the San Patricio prisoners, will be immediately discharged". The US Army withdrew from Mexico City on June 1, 1848. One of the last duties of the US forces in Mexico City involved a punishment detail. John Riley and his men, heads shaved, were driven from the Citadel by fife and drum rattling out “The Rogue’s March” (a well-known tune used by the American army during the Revolution and played when military and/or civil rogues, criminals, offenders and various undesirable characters were drummed from camps and cantonment). Beyond the gates of the Citadel, the guards watched astonished as Riley took off his tattered prison garb and drew the formal uniform coat of a Mexican colonel, emblazoned with the orders and decorations awarded to a foreigner soldier by a grateful nation. After mounting a fine horse, Don Juan (John Riley) spurred off in the company of Mexican generals…

The Saint Patrick’s Battalion continued to function until end 1848 as two infantry companies, with one unit tasked with sentry duty in Mexico City and the other stationed in the suburbs of Guadalupe Hidalgo, under the command of John Riley, before their disbandment as the Mexican government attempted to reorganize their military after the Mexican-American war. Riley would remain in Mexican service until 1850, dying in unknown circumstances sometime later. Other “San Patricios” veterans would make lives for themselves in Mexico, with a small number returning to Ireland. 

Fueled by “Manifest Destiny”, the American government dictated terms to the Mexicans in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which was signed on February 2, 1848 and came into force on July 4, 1848. More than half of the Mexican Territory was taken, and out of it the United States would carve the new States of California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Wyoming, and add parts to those of Kansas and Colorado. Several American politicians (including Abraham Lincoln) considered unjust the aggression against a weak nation, and underscored the true cause: annexing territory to become slave states that would protect and increase the power of the southern area of the United States. General Ulysses S. Grant later expressed the view that the war against Mexico was one of the most unjust wars ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation and that it had brought punishment on the United States in the form of the American Civil War (1861-1865). Among all the major wars fought by the United States, the Mexican -American War is the least discussed in the classroom, the least written about, and the least known in general by the North American public. Yet, it added more to the national treasury and to the land mass of the United States than all other wars combined.

After the conflict, which was resolved in the way that US had wished, so much new area was opened up, so many targets had been accomplished, that a mood of self-congregation and enthusiasm took root in the United States. The deserters from the war were soon forgotten as they homesteaded and labored in the gold fields of California or, as the 1860s approached, put on the gray uniform of the Confederacy or the blue one of the Union. Prejudice against the Irish waned, as the country was provided with a “pressure valve” to release many of its new immigrants westward. “San Patricios” disappeared from the US history and their tale was abandoned, until recently, to the dusty bowels of US military archives in Washington.

However, the legend of the “San Patricios” remained alive and their story has been told in books, reviews, documentaries, even a feature film “One Man's Hero”, a 1999 historical war drama film directed by Lance Hool and starring Tom Berenger, Joaquim de Almeida and Daniela Romo. About the only place on earth that one won't find it is in American history textbooks, most of which omit any reference to the “San Patricios”. That is not surprising. You can't tell the story of the heroes without commenting the atrocities that prompted them to cross battle lines. The preferred version of those US historians who do engage the story is that these conscientious objectors were little more than disoriented deserters who, one day, drank too much and stumbled across enemy lines.

The legacy of “San Patricios” depends largely on the side you are looking at. In the United States, their legacy as one of the only enemy units composed almost entirely of deserters is ostracized, with attempts at the time to dismiss the Battalion’s very existence as some kind of propaganda exercise. The US Army long denied the existence of the Saint Patrick's Battalion as a cover-up and an attempt to discourage other potential deserters. In 1915, an inquiry was initiated by US congressmen William Henry Coleman and Frank L. Greene. This resulted in the US Army's admitting its denial of the matter. The US Congress ordered the army to turn over its records on the battalion to the National Archives. However, this did not change much the “San Patricios” consideration in the US. In 1999, MGM cancelled the US distribution of the film depicting the battalion “One Man's Hero” with Tom Berenger playing John Riley.

It should also be noted that in the United States, the memory of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion was shameful for many Irish Americans, who were eager to blend in with US society and attain all the benefits and opportunities for which they had fled Ireland. Indeed, over the next century and a half they would largely realize this dream, as the prejudice and discrimination against them became less and less common. In Ireland, however, the “San Patricios” are remembered more fondly. According to Michael Hogan, author of the “The Irish Soldiers of Mexico”, a novel edited in 1977 and which served as a reference to the movie “One Man's Hero”: "despite their whippings, mutilations, and hangings, or perhaps because of them, [they] became a symbol in Mexico not of disgrace, but of honor in defeat, of glory in death".

In Mexico, the “San Patricios” are still, to this day, revered as heroes who chose the right side of history. “El Batallón de San Patricio” is memorialized on two separate days: 12 September, the generally accepted anniversary of the executions of those battalion members captured by the US Army, and 17 March, Saint Patrick's Day. A Commemorative plaque listing the names of seventy-one soldiers was placed at the San Jacinto Plaza in the district of San Angel, Mexico City, in 1959. The plaque was designed by Lorenzo Rafael, son of Patricio Cox, who wrote the first book, a novel in Spanish, about the “San Patricios”. The heraldry at the top of the plaque depicts a Celtic cross protected by the outstretched wings of the Aztec eagle. The inscription on the plaque reads: "In memory of the Irish soldiers of the heroic San Patricio Battalion, martyrs who gave their lives for the cause of Mexico during the unjust US invasion of 1847". At the bottom of the plaque another inscription reads: "With the gratitude of Mexico, 112 years after their holocaust". Numerous schools, churches and other landmarks in Mexico take their name from the battalion. In Mexico City, the street in front of the Santa María de Churubusco convent was named “Mártires Irlandeses” (The Irish martyrs). The inscription “Defensores de la Patria 1846-1848 y Batallón de San Patricio" [Defenders of the Motherland 1846-1848 and the San Patricio Battalion] was inscribed in gold letters on the Wall of Honor in Mexico's Chamber of Deputies, following a ceremony of the LVII Mexican Congress held on Thursday, October 28, 2002. In 2004, at an official ceremony attended by numerous international dignitaries including directors, as well as several actors from the MGM film “One Man's Hero” (1999), the Mexican government gave a commemorative statue to the Irish government in perpetual thanks for the bravery, honor and sacrifice of the Saint Patrick's Battalion. The statue was erected in Clifden, Connemara, Galway County, Ireland, where leader John Riley was born. In honor of John Riley, on 12 September the town of Clifden flies the Mexican flag.

Regardless of moral judgements on their existence, the Saint Patrick’s Battalion and John Riley its commander showcased exemplary military discipline in the Mexican army that lacked such a thing in most of its other units, and in comparison to other Irish military adventures in the new world, they proved that Irish fighters could maintain the kind of ferocious reputation they had earned on European battlefields. John Riley sums up what cannot be clearly documented in any history: the basic, gut-level affinity the Irishman had then, and still has today, for Mexico and its people. The decisions of the men who joined the “San Patricios” were probably not well-planned or thought out. They were impulsive and emotional, like many of Ireland’s own rebellions – including the "Easter Uprising" of 1916. Nevertheless, the courage of the “San Patricios”, their loyalty to their new cause, and their unquestioned bravery forged an indelible seal of honor on their sacrifice.

John Riley was not forgotten in Mexico, neither were his men. The people of the district of San Angel in Mexico City raised a monument to the “San Patricios” after the war. It was a cross bearing three images: a gamecock, a pair of dice, a skull and crossbones. The imagery was summed up best by the historian Edward S. Wallace in 1950: “These unfortunate men were brave and fought, gambled, and lost”. In 1960, a commemorative medallion was struck in honor of the “San Patricios”: “Con la gratitud de Mexico a los 113 años de su sacrificio” (With the thanks of Mexico on the 113th anniversary of their deaths). On its face are the national coat of arms, Mexico’s eagle and serpent, and an Irish cross. Unlike the grim symbols of the cross of San Ángel, this one is decorated with sea horses and wolfhounds, and it is inscribed: “Al Heroico Batallón de San Patricio, 1847”.  On the reverse “Un soldado irlandés con la vista fuera” (A grim-faced Irish soldier”) leads his men to the stockades at the Río Churubusco. In the background stand a heavy cannon and the walls of the “Convento de San Pablo”. There are no words inscribed on that side of the coin.

In Mexico no redundant words are necessary (quote from the legendary  Mexican Revolution General Pancho Villa).



Ex-Counsellor to the European Parliament

Vice-president of the Institute for Management of Geopolitical crises, Thessaloniki

Brussels, May 2017



(1) Mexico's Irish St Patrick’s Battalion - YouTube

(2) When Americans fought for Mexico: St Patrick's Battalion - YouTube  

(3) The San Patricios on BBC Radio - YouTube 

(4) San Patricio Documentary Part I - YouTube 



Battle of Palo Alto (May 8-9, 1846)
Battle of Monterrey (September 20, 1946)
Battle of Buena Vista/Angostura (February 22-23, 1847)
Battle of Cerro Gordo (April 12-18, 1847)
Churubusco (August 20, 1847)


EN → Commemorative plaque to the memory of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion, in San Jacinto Plaza, San Angel, Mexico City. ES → Placa conmemorativa a la memoria del batallón de San Patricio, Plaza San Jacinto, San Ángel, Ciudad de México.





"La fascinante historia de un puñado de artilleros irlandeses inmigrantes  en los Estados Unidos que ignoraron la pena de muerte y que se atrevieron a unirse a los mexicanos, con quienes compartían los mismos sufrimientos y la misma fe, en su desesperada lucha contra el feroz ejército invasor norteamericano en 1846-1848". 




Ellos fueron reconocidos como héroes de la guerra en México, colgados como traidores por el ejército estadounidense y olvidados en una Irlanda atormentada por el hambre. La historia refiere al Batallón de San Patricio - conocido en español como "El Batallón de San Patricio" o simplemente "San Patricios" - una unidad de élite del ejército mexicano compuesta principalmente por católicos irlandeses, que había desertado del ejército invasor de los EE.UU. durante la guerra de Estados Unidos-México (Mexican-American War en inglés), 1846-1848. Cuando los irlandeses desertaron al lado mexicano y combatieron a las tropas estadounidenses bajo una bandera de seda verde adornada con San Patricio - un trébol y el arpa tradicional de Erin - ganaban la ira de los militares estadounidenses y la admiración eterna de México.

Por años una oscura nota histórica, es que la historia desempolvó hoy como una alegoría de los apuros de los inmigrantes mexicanos en los Estados Unidos, un cuento moral sobre la implacable agresión del imperialismo norteamericano (doctrina del “Destino manifiesto”), un paradigma de la solidaridad entre etnias y un ejemplo de valentía. Mientras que un ejército de irlandeses que luchaban en las llanuras polvorientas del Río Grande parece una de las extravagantes aberraciones de la historia, sin embargo los "San Patricios" eran tan sólo uno de una larga lista de regimientos gaélicos que han servido  en ejércitos de otros países a través de los siglos. De hecho, casos de hombres de la Isla Esmeralda que viajaron fuera del país para tomar parte en guerras extranjeras era tan común entre los siglos XVII y XIX que los irlandeses tenían un nombre especial para estos soldados emigrados: "Gansos salvajes".  

La gran mayoría de los "San Patricios" eran recientes inmigrantes que habían llegado a los puertos del noreste de los EE.UU, parte de la Diáspora Irlandesa entonces huyendo de la hambruna creciente y de las muy malas condiciones económicas en Irlanda, así como de la represión política en consecuencia de la dura ocupación inglesa de la isla. A diferencia de los irlandeses que emigraron a América en los siglos XVIII y principios del XIX, que tendían a ser artesanos y protestantes, la mayoría de estos nuevos inmigrantes irlandeses eran campesinos pobres y católicos. Estados Unidos habían sido fundados y durante mucho tiempo dominados por los protestantes, y como resultado, se había extendido el prejuicio en contra y el miedo del catolicismo. Muchos ciudadanos de los EE.UU. pensaban que los católicos eran supersticiosos, ignorantes e incapaces de pensamiento independiente. La prensa estadounidense contra los inmigrantes de la época caricaturizada a los irlandeses con rasgos de simios, retratando a ellos como ignorantes y borrachos y con la carga de que eran sediciosamente leales al Papa. Al menos 20 personas murieron y dos iglesias fueron quemadas en motines anticatólicos en Filadelfia durante la época, y una muchedumbre en Massachusetts quemó un convento católico. Pero la mano de obra barata irlandesa era agradable. Emplear criadas irlandesas se había convertido en una práctica tan familiar como son hoy las niñeras latinoamericanas. 

Las familias irlandesas que llegaban en los puertos de las ciudades norte-orientales de los EE.UU. típicamente traían muy poco con ellas que no sea la ropa a sus espaldas y eran a menudo dependientes en la ayuda de familias que habían llegado allá antes que ellas. El ejército estadounidense encontró una potente fuente de reclutamiento entre los hombres irlandeses afectados por la pobreza y llegando agotados después de un largo viaje en pésimas condiciones en los cargueros comerciales ingleses denominados "barcos ataúd", ofreciéndoles empleo inmediato, aventura y todo lo que se utiliza para atraer a los hombres para el ejército, entonces y ahora. Miles se unieron al ejército de los EE.UU. por $7 al mes. Así, en el momento de la guerra con México, cerca de la mitad del ejército norteamericano estuvo conformado por recientes inmigrantes irlandeses a los Estados Unidos, muchos de los cuales habían elegido el servicio militar porque no había otros trabajos disponibles para ellos.

Desde mucho tiempo discriminados en su propio país por los británicos, que dominaban Irlanda desde hace muchos siglos, los inmigrantes irlandeses descubrieron que estaban sujetos a gran parte del mismo tratamiento en los EE.UU. Jóvenes irlandeses, en un nuevo país y una nueva cultura, a menudo fueron decepcionados por la dura realidad de la vida del ejército de los EE.UU. una vez que habían firmado para incorporase en las filas del Ejército norteamericano, una institución con liderazgo en gran parte protestante. Se creía que estos recién llegados no eran regulares ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos y que carecían del patriotismo que motivaba a otros soldados estadounidenses. Los críticos citaban que estos nuevos inmigrantes más luchaban por dinero que para defender a los Estados Unidos, y por lo tanto no eran soldados "reales". Como resultado de esta discriminación, a los soldados recién llegados irlandeses se les atribuían generalmente los trabajos más bajos y más duros del ejército y recibían menos promociones. Los "Cabeza de papa", como los irlandeses fueron llamados comúnmente en Norteamérica, eran notablemente más castigados por duro tratamiento y también se les impedía practicar su propia religión católica.   

En marzo de 1845, Texas - que había declarado su independencia de México nueve años antes - se convirtió en el 28° estado de la Unión. México había prometido que esta acción unilateral significaría la guerra, ya que México nunca oficialmente reconoció a Texas como nación independiente. En este momento, la sociedad de los EE.UU. fue infundida con el espíritu del expansionismo (el movimiento de los colonos norteamericanos a través de las fronteras de la época de la nación) y por la idea del "Destino manifiesto", es decir, el concepto de que no era sólo el derecho sino el deber de los ciudadanos estadounidenses para difundir su cultura y su forma de vida a través de los territorios vecinos y de hecho tomar el control del resto del continente. El 11° Presidente de los EE.UU. James Knox Polk (1795-1849), un Presbiteriano y descendiente  de origen escocés-irlandés!), era un ferviente expansionista, y fue solamente el más prominente entre un gran número de estadounidenses de la clase alta que esperaba que México sería el primero para dar paso y comenzar una guerra. Si esto ocurriría, se creía ampliamente que los EE.UU. ganarían fácilmente y podrían tomar partes o incluso todo el país. México obtuvo su independencia en 1821 y ya había enfrentado dos intervenciones extranjeras, la primera en 1829 (España) y la segunda en 1938 (Francia). En realidad, el mal equipado y formado ejército mexicano no tenía ninguna oportunidad de ganar una guerra contra el ejército mejor armado y mejor disciplinado de los Estados Unidos. Cabe destacar que el prejuicio de la ética que se utilizó para justificar el tratamiento injusto de los irlandeses se extendió también a los mexicanos, que eran considerados vagos, irresponsables, incivilizados y demasiado excitables y que también eran predominantemente católicos.

Pronto después de la anexión de Texas (concesión oficial de la entidad de estado de la Unión), el Presidente Polk envió a 7.000 tropas bajo el mando del General Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) a Corpus Christi, una ciudad en el Río Nueces, la tradicional frontera entre Texas y México. La primavera siguiente, Taylor ordenó a sus tropas mover hacia el sur hasta el Río Grande, un río cerca de 100 millas al sur del Río Nueces que EE.UU. estaba ahora declarando como su nueva frontera, con la esperanza de que esta invasión empujaría a México para iniciar primero la guerra. A través del río era la ciudad mexicana de Matamoros. Los domingos por la mañana, los soldados estadounidenses podrían escuchar las campanas llamando a los residentes de Matamoros para el servicio de la iglesia católica. Durante los meses entre la llegada de las tropas en el Río Grande y el 13 de mayo de 1846 - fecha en la que los Estados Unidos declararon oficialmente la guerra a México - unos cuarenta soldados norteamericanos también respondieron a esa llamada, nunca para volver a los Estados Unidos. Ellos desertaron del ejército de los Estados Unidos, nadando a través del río, con el fin de unirse al enemigo en el otro lado y luchar contra sus antiguos oficiales y compañeros soldados norteamericanos. Lo hicieron así por una variedad de razones incluyendo la dura disciplina y el mal tratamiento que estaban recibiendo en el ejército estadounidense, los incentivos económicos para desertores ofrecidos por el gobierno mexicano (salarios más altos que en el ejército de los EE.UU. y generosas donaciones de tierra), el señuelo de un ambiente agradable y un acogedor pueblo mexicano que compartía su religión, y sobre todo a causa de un ferviente sentimiento de simpatía para los mexicanos, cuya patria había sido invadida por una potencia extranjera como la suya (Irlanda invadida por Inglaterra). Esta afirmación se basa en evidencia por el número de los católicos irlandeses de desertar, las letras de John Riley y el testimonio de otros altos oficiales. 

A la cabeza de esta banda de desertores se encontraba John Riley, un Irlandés recluta privado (rango más bajo del ejército de Estados Unidos), también conocido como John Patrick O'Riley. Su nombre irlandés original era Seán Ó Raghailligh, nacido en Clifden, Condado de Galway, Irlanda, entre 1817 y 1818. Riley había servido con el ejército británico antes de su alistamiento en el ejército de los EE.UU. en septiembre de 1845 y luego se incorporó en las filas de la compañía K, del  5° regimiento de infantería de los EE.UU. acampado en Texas cerca de la frontera mexicana. Las condiciones en el Río Grande sólo parecían aumentar la hostilidad de los protestantes oficiales hacia los soldados irlandeses y los otros católicos en el regimiento de Riley. Oficiales como Braxton Bragg y Thomas Sherman eran notorios  'Nativistas' y anti-católicos, y este fanatismo, combinado con su frustración profesional y la inquietud de ser parte de un ejército protestante a invadir una nación católica, aumentó el sentido de Riley de alienación del ejército norteamericano. Por la mayoría de las cuentas, el golpe final vino cuando los irlandeses, que también eran católicos, fueron testigos de sus compañeros soldados norte americanos profanando las iglesias católicas mexicanas y maltratando a los sacerdotes y violando monjas. Se resolvió el conflicto interno, el principio ha ganado. Riley desertó el 12 de abril de 1846 nadando a través del Río Grande después de pedir permiso para ir a Misa. Escribiendo más tarde dijo: "escuchando sólo el consejo de mi conciencia para la libertad de un pueblo que sufría de una guerra que trajo sobre ellos la más injusta agresión... me he separado de las fuerzas norteamericanas".

Cabe señalar que Riley desertó las filas norte americanas previo a la declaración real de la guerra. Generalmente se le atribuye la fundación y organización del batallón de San Patricio, santo irlandés por excelencia. Parte de la confusión original, si Riley realmente era el fundador y organizador de este batallón fue causada por los diversos deletreos de su nombre en los registros oficiales del gobierno. John Riley, él mismo firmaba su nombre como Riley, otras veces como Riely, Reilly, o O'Riley en su correspondencia. Archivos del gobierno mexicano lo lista como Juan Reyle, Reley, Reely o Reily. Su récord de alistamiento para el ejército estadounidense lo enumera como Reilly.

Riley en el primero tuvo éxito en convencer a 48 irlandeses desertar y estos hombres han compuesto el original batallón de San Patricio. En México, Riley de alguna manera vinculó con el General Pedro de Ampudia, comandante en jefe del ejército mexicano nacido en Cuba, que rápidamente reconoció el liderazgo de Riley, lo nombró 1st teniente y le dio el mando de una compañía de 48 irlandeses en el ejército mexicano. Así nació la leyenda del batallón de San Patricio, el popular "San Patricios». En su mayor parte, estos hombres vinieron de Dublín, Cork, Galway y Mayo. Los mexicanos se refirieron a ellos como "Los Colorados", después de su pelo rojo y tez rojiza, quemada por el sol. Un mes después de su establecimiento, la compañía de Riley maniobró cañones durante el asedio de seis días (3-9 de mayo de 1846) de la guarnición norteamericana en Texas Fort en la orilla norte del río Grande por las fuerzas mexicanas al mando del General Mariano Arista.

Además de los irlandeses cada vez más numerosos incorporándose en su batallón, Riley dio la bienvenida a otros desertores del ejército estadounidense nacidos en el extranjero, así como a desertores nacidos en los EE.UU. También, algunos residentes civiles de México nacidos irlandeses  fueron persuadidos a unirse a la lucha. Así, los "San Patricios" aumentaron a más de 175 hombres en octubre de 1846, pero incluso entonces los miembros nacidos irlandeses representaban todavía casi el 50 por ciento de ellos. El resto del Batallón incluía alemanes, ingleses, escoceses, franceses, italianos, polacos, españoles, suizos, mexicanos, canadienses,  y también esclavos fugitivos de los Estados Unidos meridionales. A pesar de su composición multiétnica, el Batallón de San Patricio, sin embargo, tenía una identidad distintamente irlandesa reflejada en su nombre, San Patricio, quién es el santo patrón de los irlandeses.  

Aunque no esté en uso común en unidades más pequeñas, General Antonio López de Santa Anna permitió a los "San Patricios" levantar una distinta bandera durante la guerra. Se cree que Riley diseñó la bandera de seda verde del batallón que fue bordada por un grupo de monjas en San Luis Potosí en México central en otoño de 1846. Aparecía en un lado una arpa irlandesa coronada por el escudo de armas mexicano (con el águila, el nopal y la serpiente) con el epígrafe "Libertad por la República Mexicana" y debajo de la arpa figuraba el lema en gaélico "Erin go Brágh" (Irlanda por siempre). En el otro lado, aparecía San Patricio sosteniendo en su mano izquierda una clave y en su derecha un garfio apoyado en una serpiente. Debajo figuraba el epígrafe "San Patricio". Sin embargo, incluso antes de que esta bandera voló, y aun antes de la declaración oficial de 13 de mayo de la guerra entre los Estados Unidos y México, los hombres que formarían la base del batallón de San Patricio habían tomado parte en las dos primeras batallas de la guerra en Palo Alto y Resaca de la Palma (mayo 8 y 9 de 1846). Sin embargo, las batallas de Monterrey (21–24 de septiembre de 1846), de Buena Vista (22 y 23 de febrero de 1847), y de Churubusco (20 de agosto de 1847) son donde el batallón de San Patricio dejó sus más notables marcas de guerra.

Los "San Patricios" fueron reconocidos por su habilidad como artilleros. El Batallón de San Patricio fue oficialmente una unidad de infantería, pero esencialmente actuó como la única artillería mexicana capaz de contrapesar la "artillería volante" o "artillería de caballo" de movimiento y disparo rápido del ejército de los Estados Unidos. En muchos casos, la contribución del batallón “San Patricio” fue crítica porque los artilleros mexicanos eran inexpertos y la artillería mexicana insuficientemente capacitada con un alcance de cañón limitado a 400 metros, mucho menor que el norteamericano.

Tras sus éxitos en los campos de batalla, el batallón de San Patricio creció de tamaño, mediante la incorporación de otros inmigrantes recientes, descontentos y marginados: los historiadores estiman la fuerza de la unidad tanto como 700 miembros en su apogeo. Por lo tanto, los "San Patricios" fueron ordenados – por instrucción personal del General Santa Anna – de reunirse a un batallón de infantería mayor en mediados de 1847. Fueron retitulados "La Legión extranjera de los San Patricios"  que consistió de voluntarios de muchos países europeos, al mando del coronel Francisco R. Moreno, con Riley a cargo de la primera compañía,mientras que Santiago O' Leary encabezada la segunda.

Unidos bajo su bandera verde, los "San Patricios" participaron en todas las grandes batallas de la guerra - Palo Alto y Resaca de la Palma (8-9 de mayo de 1846), Monterrey (20 de septiembre de 1946), Buena Vista (22 y 23 de febrero de 1847), Cerro Gordo (12-18 de abril de 1847), Contreras y Churubusco (19-20 de agosto de 1847) - y fueron citados por "audaz valentía" por el General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Santa Anna comentó más tarde que si él había mandado a unos cuantos cientos más "San Patricios", México hubiera ganado la guerra... 

En la batalla de Monterrey, los "San Patricios" combatieron junto con las tropas del coronel José López Uraga y demostraron sus habilidades de artillería causando la muerte de muchos soldados estadounidenses. los "San Patricios"se acreditaron con derrotar a dos o tres ataques norteamericanos separados en el corazón de la ciudad. Entre sus objetivos se encontraban compañías dirigidas por oficiales como Braxton Bragg, muchos de cuyos soldados terminarían en sus propias filas más adelante en la guerra.

En la Batalla de Buena Vista (conocida en México como la batalla de Angostura) en Coahuila, los "San Patricios" se enfrentaron con fuerzas estadounidenses superiores. Les fueron asignados los tres cañones más pesados (18 y 24 libras) que  poseía el ejército mexicano, los cuales se colocaron en un alto vistas al campo de batalla. Empezaron la batalla disparando a las líneas norteamericanas mientras que la infantería mexicana avanzaba contra ellas, y luego más adelante diezmaron una batería de artillería frente a ellos en el campo de batalla (4° de artillería de Washington, batería D). Un pequeño destacamento de los "San Patricios" fueron enviados con una división al mando de Manuel Lombardini con el propósito de capturar los cañones del 4° estadounidense, una vez que sus equipos habrían sido eliminados. La división cargó con bayonetas la batería de artillería nortemericana, derrotando a sus equipos, permitiendo así a los "San Patricios" capturar y transportar en sus filas dos cañones de seis libras. Estos cañones se utilizarían más tarde por las fuerzas mexicanas en las batallas de Contreras y Churubusco.

En la penúltima Batalla de la guerra en Churubusco, amurallados en un monasterio católico ("Convento de San Pablo") y rodeados por una fuerza superior de infantería, caballería y artillería norteamericana, los "San Patricios" rebatieron tres ataques principales e infligieron pérdidas pesadas en el enemigo. Lucharon hasta que su munición se agotó incluso derribaron tres veces la bandera blanca que fue levantada por sus compañeros mexicanos, prefiriendo luchar gallardamente con bayonetas y sables en la mano hasta finalmente ser abrumados por la superioridad numérica enemiga. El capitán norteamericano James Milton Smith finalmente detuvo la lucha levantando un pañuelo blanco. Sin embargo, a pesar de su valiente resistencia, 85 hombres del batallón irlandés fueron capturados (incluyendo Riley y O' Leary, ambos heridos). Setenta y dos de ellos fueron acusados inmediatamente de deserción del ejército de los Estados Unidos y fueron juzgados como traidores por la corte marcial norteamericana en dos grupos: el 23 de agosto, en la ciudad de Tacubaya y el 26 de agosto, en San Ángel,. En ninguno de estos juicios los presos estuvieron representados por abogados, ni se realizaron las transcripciones de los procedimientos. En su corte marcial, la mayoría de los "San Patricios" dijeron que habían sido obligados a desertar por los mexicanos, o tenidos a beber demasiado. "Necesitaban una excusa. No podrían decir que odiaban a los Estados Unidos, por lo que dijeron que no eran responsables," escribió Robert Ryal Miller, en su libro "Trébol y espada, batallón de San Patricio", (publicado en 15 de septiembre de 1989).  

Entre los exigentes un duro castigo para los "San Patricios" fueron varios irlandeses no-desertores - que temían que los Renegados intensificaran los prejuicios contra los inmigrantes en el ejército de los Estados Unidos - y particularmente uno de los comandantes estadounidenses, el teniente coronel William Harney (quién también era de origen irlandés). Sólo dos de los presos fueron encontrados para no ser culpables, ya que nunca habían servido al ejército de los Estados Unidos. Otros dos fueron declarados culpables pero dados el castigo usual para la deserción, la muerte por fusilamiento. De los restantes "San Patricios", unos cincuenta recibieron la pena de muerte en la horca, una forma menos humana de ejecución que la muerte por fusilamiento. El resto de ellos, incluyendo a John Riley - con el motivo que había desertado del ejército antes que la guerra había sido declarada oficialmente - recibieron una pena menor incluyendo azotes con cincuenta latigazos y la marca en la mejilla con una "D" de desertor. Los condenados "San Patricios" fueron flagelados y marcados por hierros al rojo ardiente con la letra "D" de desertor. Algunos fueron marcados en la cadera, mientras que otros lo fueron en la mejilla, John Riley fue también marcado pero en las dos mejillas para la buena medida. Sin embargo, la mayoría de los "San Patricios" juzgados fueron condenados a muerte en la horca: 30 del primer juicio de Tacubaya y 18 del de San Ángel, en la más grande ejecución judicial jamás llevada a cabo por las autoridades norteamericanas. Sin embargo, la ejecución en la horca fue en violación de los artículos contemporáneos de la guerra, que estipulaban que la pena por deserción y/o desertar al enemigo durante un tiempo de guerra era la muerte por fusilamiento, independientemente de las circunstancias. La horca estaba reservada sólo para las actividades de espías (sin uniforme) y para "atrocidades contra la población civil", de las cuales ninguna figuraba entre los cargos formulados contra los miembros del batallón de San Patricio. Cabe señalar que, aunque más de 9.000 soldados desertaron del ejército norteamericano durante la guerra, sólo los "San Patricios" fueron castigados por ahorcamiento. El General Winfield Scott Hancock asignó al coronel William Harney (1800-1889) para llevar a cabo los términos de las sentencias, elegido intencionalmente por motivo de su herencia irlandesa católica (!) y de su crueldad notoria. William Harney tenía un escalofriante CV incluso en una época que la brutalidad de la sanción fue suavizada en el nombre del "Destino manifiesto". Buscado en St. Louis por golpear a su ama de casa esclava hasta la muerte, era notorio para violar y colgar a las mujeres indias, según Roert Ryal Miller y otros historiadores acreditan.

Una gran parte de las ejecuciones cruzaron la demarcación de máxima crueldad, sadismo y teatro político, El General Scott ordenó que un grupo fuese colgado a la vista de la batalla de Chapultepec, uno de los últimos enfrentamientos de la guerra una vez que la Ciudad de México fuese tomada, en el momento preciso cuando la bandera de los Estados Unidos seria  levantada en el cercano castillo. Esto fue hecho después de que  Juan Escutia - el último de los seis jóvenes cadetes  militares que se negaron a retroceder cuando el General Bravo finalmente ordenó la retirada y lucharon a la muerte - agarró la bandera mexicana, la envolvió a su alrededor y saltó del castillo para evitar que la bandera caiga en manos enemigas. Harney fue burlado y abucheado por  los hombres condenados durante su ejecución. Mientras supervisaba el cortinaje, William Harney ordenó que Francis O'Connor fuese colgado aunque tenía ambas piernas amputadas el día anterior. Cuando el cirujano del ejército informó el coronel que el soldado ausente no podía caminar porque había perdido sus piernas en batalla, Harney respondió: "al maldito hijo de puta fuera! Me han pedido que cuelgue 30 y por Dios lo haré! ". Riley y sus compañeros torturados fueron obligados a cavar las tumbas de sus camaradas ejecutados. El gobierno mexicano calificó el trato inhumano y las colgaduras de prisioneros de guerra "una cruel muerte o tormentos horribles, impropios en una época civilizada e [irónicos] para un pueblo que aspire al título de ilustre y humano". En relatar lo que sucedió a los "San Patricios", algunos historiadores afirman que recibir tales prácticas como azotes y la marca por hierro ardiente era muy inusual en la época de la guerra de Estados Unidos-México. Estos historiadores sugieren que es probable que los "San Patricios" hayan sido tan duramente tratados debido a su baja condición civil como la mayoría de los inmigrantes católicos irlandeses en los EE.UU.

John Riley no era uno de los ejecutados, una distinción entre los que habían desertado antes y después que la guerra había comenzado. En cambio, fue con una letra "D" de dos pulgadas que fue marcado en su cara y recibió cincuenta latigazos. Él sufrió a través de su flagelación en sombrío silencio, pero él gritó y se desmayó cuando se le aplicó por hierro ardiente la marca en la mejilla derecha, justo debajo de su ojo. Un oficial estadounidense inspeccionó los daños y notó que la marca había sido aplicada hacia abajo. El capitán irlandés fue traído de vuelta a la conciencia, y la marca se volvió a aplicar correctamente en su mejilla izquierda. Riley fue más adelante liberado con el resto de los "San Patricios" prisioneros liberados y entregados en custodia mexicana, como parte del Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo (2 de febrero de 1848) que puso fin a las hostilidades. De hecho, después del fin de la guerra, el gobierno mexicano insistió en una cláusula del Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo que los "San Patricios" prisioneros en manos estadounidenses deberían quedarse en México, y el General William Orlando Butler emitió el orden General 116 el 1 de junio de 1848 indicando que "los presos confinados en la ciudadela, conocidos como los presos de San Patricio serán inmediatamente dados de alta". El ejército de Estados Unidos se retiró de la Ciudad de México el 1 de junio de 1848. Uno de los últimos deberes de las fuerzas estadounidenses en la Ciudad de México implicó un detalle de castigo. John Riley y sus hombres, cabezas afeitadas, fueron expulsados desde la ciudadela por flautín y tambor tocando el aire “The Rogue’s March” (La marcha del Canalla), una conocida consonancia usada por el ejército americano durante la revolución y tocada cuando pícaros militares o civiles, criminales, delincuentes y otros personajes indeseables eran sacados de campamentos y de acantonamientos. Sin embargo, más allá de las puertas de la ciudadela, los guardias vieron asombrados como Riley sacó su traje de prisión andrajosa y se vistió la capa uniforme formal de un coronel mexicano, con las órdenes y decoraciones otorgadas a un soldado extranjero por una nación agradecida. Después de montar un caballo fino, Don Juan (John Riley) apretó las espuelas y se lanzó libre rumbo a la capital en la compañía de generales mexicanos...

El Batallón de San Patricio continuó funcionando hasta fines de 1848 como dos compañías de infantería, con una unidad encargada de servicio de centinela en la ciudad de México y la otra colocada en las afueras de Guadalupe Hidalgo, bajo el mando de John Riley, antes de su disolución cuando el gobierno mexicano trató de reorganizar su ejército después de la guerra. Riley permanecerá en servicio mexicano hasta 1850, y murió en circunstancias desconocidas en algún momento más adelante. Otros veteranos de los "San Patricios" harían vida por sí mismos en México, mientras que una pequeña cantidad regresó a Irlanda.

Impulsado por el "Destino manifiesto", el gobierno estadounidense dictó sus términos a los mexicanos en el Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo que se firmó el 2 de febrero de 1848 y entró en vigor el 4 de julio de 1848. Más de la mitad del territorio mexicano fue tomada, y así los Estados Unidos han podido tallar los nuevos estados de California, Nevada, Nuevo México, Arizona, Utah y Wyoming y adicionar partes a los de Kansas y Colorado. Varios políticos norteamericanos (entre los cuales Abraham Lincoln) consideraron injusta la agresión contra un país débil, y subrayaron la verdadera causa: anexar territorio para convertirlo en estados esclavistas que protegieran y aumentaran el poder de la zona Sur de los Estados Unidos. El general Ulysses S. Grant más adelante opinó que la guerra contra México había traído el castigo en los Estados Unidos en la forma de la Guerra Civil Americana. Entre las grandes guerras luchadas por los Estados Unidos, la guerra contra México es la menos discutida en el aula, la que  menos se ha escrito sobre ella y la menos conocida por el público norteamericano, en general. Sin embargo, agregó a la tesorería nacional y a la masa de la tierra de los Estados Unidos más que todas las otras guerras combinado.

Después del conflicto, que se resolvió de la manera que los EE.UU. deseaban, tantas nuevas áreas habían sido abiertas, tantos objetivos habían sido logrados, que un estado de ánimo de congregación y de entusiasmo tomaron la raíz en este país. Los desertores de la guerra fueron pronto olvidados ya que se afincaron en el país y trabajaron en los campos del oro de California o - como se acercaba la década de los 1860 - se pusieron el uniforme gris de la Confederación o el azul de la Unión. Los prejuicios contra los irlandeses se desvanecieron, como el país contó con una "válvula" para liberar a muchos de sus nuevos inmigrantes hacia el oeste. Los "San Patricios" desaparecieron de la historia de Estados Unidos y su historia fue abandonada, hasta recientemente, a las entrañas polvorienta de los archivos militares de los Estados Unidos en Washington.

Sin embargo, la leyenda de los "San Patricios" seguía siendo viva y su historia se ha dicho en libros, comentarios, documentales, incluso una película "Héroes sin patria" (One man’s Hero), una película de drama de guerra histórica de 1999 dirigida por Lance Hool y protagonizada por Tom Berenger, Joaquim de Almeida y Daniela Romo. El único lugar en la tierra que no se encuentra es en los libros de historia norteamericanos, la mayoría de los cuales omite cualquier referencia a la "San Patricios". Eso no es sorprendente. No se puede contar la historia de los héroes sin comentar las atrocidades que les impulsaron a cruzar líneas de batalla. La versión preferida de los pocos historiadores de los Estados Unidos que se han interesado en esta historia es que estos objetores de conciencia fueron poco más que unos desorientados desertores que, un día, bebieron demasiado y se tropezaron con las líneas enemigas.

El legado de los "San Patricios" depende en gran medida de qué lado uno está mirando. En los Estados Unidos, su legado como una de las unidades enemigas compuestas casi enteramente de desertores es condenado al ostracismo, con intentos al tiempo de descartar la existencia misma del batallón como algún tipo de propaganda. El ejército de los Estados Unidos largo negó la existencia del batallón de San Patricio como un encubrimiento tratando disuadir a otros desertores potenciales. En 1915, se inició una investigación por los congresistas estadounidenses William Henry Coleman y Frank L. Greene que desembocó al ejército de los Estados Unidos admitiendo su negación de la materia. El Congreso ordenó al ejército a entregar sus registros sobre el batallón a los archivos nacionales. Sin embargo, esto no cambió mucho la consideración de los "San Patricios" en los Estados Unidos. En 1999, MGM canceló la distribución en los EE.UU. de la película "Héroes sin patria" sobre el Batallon de San Patricio con Tom Berenger jugando a John Riley.

Debe señalarse también que en los EE.UU., la memoria de los "San Patricios" fue vergonzosa para muchos americanos irlandeses, que estaban deseosos de mezclarse con la sociedad de los Estados Unidos y lograr todos los beneficios y oportunidades para las que habían huido de Irlanda. De hecho, durante el siguiente siglo y medio alcanzarían en gran parte este sueño, como el prejuicio y la discriminación contra ellos llegó a ser menos común. En Irlanda, sin embargo, los "San Patricios" se recuerdan con más cariño. Según Michael Hogan, autor de "Soldados irlandeses de México" (una novela reeditada el 25 de mayo de 2011 y que sirvió como referencia para la película "Héroes sin patria"): "a pesar de sus azotes, mutilaciones y colgaduras, o tal vez a causa de ellos, [fue que] se convirtieron en un símbolo en México no de vergüenza sino de honor en la derrota, de gloria en la muerte".

En México, los "San Patricios" todavía, hoy en día, son reverenciados como héroes que eligieron el lado derecho de la historia. "El Batallón de San Patricio" es conmemorado en dos diferentes días: el 12 de septiembre, el aniversario generalmente aceptado de las ejecuciones de los miembros del batallón capturados por el ejército de los EE.UU. y el 17 de marzo, día de San Patricio. Una placa conmemorativa con los nombres de setenta y un soldados del Batallón fue colocada en la Plaza de San Jacinto en el barrio de San Ángel, Ciudad de México, en 1959. La placa fue diseñada por Lorenzo Rafael, hijo de Patricia Cox, quien escribió el primer libro, una novela en español, sobre los "San Patricios". La heráldica en la parte superior de la placa representa una cruz celta protegida por las alas extendidas del Águila Azteca. La inscripción en la placa dice: "En la memoria de los soldados irlandeses del heroico batallón de San Patricio, mártires que dieron sus vidas por la causa de México durante la injusta invasión estadounidense de 1847". En la parte inferior de la placa se lee otra inscripción: "Con la gratitud de México, 112 años después de su Holocausto". Numerosas escuelas, iglesias y otros lugares de interés en México toman su nombre del batallón. En la Ciudad de México, la calle frente al convento de Santa María de Churubusco fue nombrada "Mártires Irlandeses". La inscripción "Defensores de la Patria 1846-1848 y Batallón de San Patricio" fue inscrita en Letras de oro en el muro de Honor en la cámara de diputados de México, después de una ceremonia del LVII Congreso Mexicano celebrada  el 28 de octubre de 2002. En 2004, en una ceremonia oficial asistida por numerosos dignatarios internacionales, incluyendo los directores, así como varios actores de la película MGM “Héroes sin patria" (1999), el gobierno mexicano ofreció una estatua conmemorativa al Gobierno irlandés en perpetuas gracias por la valentía, el honor y el sacrificio del batallón San Patricio. La estatua fue erigida en Clifden, Connemara, Condado de Galway, Irlanda, donde nació su líder John Riley. En honor de Riley, el 12 de septiembre la ciudad de Clifden alza la bandera de México.

Independientemente de juicios morales sobre su existencia, el batallón de San Patricio y su comandante John Riley mostraron una ejemplar disciplina militar en el ejército mexicano que le faltaba en sus otras unidades, y en comparación con otras aventuras militares irlandesas en el nuevo mundo, probaron que los combatientes irlandeses podrían mantener la misma reputación de guerrero feroz que habían ganado en campos de batalla europeos. Riley, resume lo que no se puede documentar claramente en cualquier historia: la afinidad básica, a raíz de intestino, que el irlandés tenía entonces y todavía tiene hoy, para México y su gente. Las decisiones de los que se unieron a los "San Patricios" probablemente no fueron bien pensadas o planeadas. Eran impulsivas y emocionales, como muchas de las rebeliones de Irlanda. Sin embargo, el valor de los "San Patricios", su lealtad a su nueva causa y su incuestionable valentía forjaron un sello indeleble de honor en su sacrificio.

John Riley no fue olvidado en México, tampoco fueron sus hombres. La gente del barrio de San Ángel en la Ciudad de México levantó un monumento a los "San Patricios" después de la guerra. Es un cruzado con tres imágenes: un gallo, un par de dados, una calavera con huesos cruzados. El simbolismo se resumió mejor por el historiador Edward S. Wallace en 1950: "estos desafortunados hombres fueron valientes y lucharon, apostaron y perdieron". En 1960, un medallón conmemorativo fue pulsado en honor de los "San Patricios": "Con el agradecimiento de México, en el 113º aniversario de su muerte”. En su cara son el escudo nacional de México el águila, el nopal y la serpiente, y una cruz irlandesa. A diferencia de los sombríos símbolos de la Cruz de San Ángel, éste está decorado con caballitos de mar y perros lobos, y se inscribe: "Al Heroico Batallón de San Patricio, 1847". En el reverso, "Un soldado irlandés con la vista fuera" conduce a sus hombres a las empalizadas del Río Churubusco. En el fondo están un cañón pesado y las paredes del "Convento de San Pablo". No hay palabras en ese lado de la moneda.

En México las palabras redundantes son innecesarias (citación del General Pancho Villa).



Ex-Consejero al Parlamento Europeo

Vice Presidente del Instituto de gestion de crisis geopoliticas, Thessaloniki

Bruselas, mayo de 2017 



(1) El Batallón de San Patricio los irlandeses que pelearon por México/ Guerra México-Estados Unidos - YouTube

(2) Los EXTRANJEROS que PELEARON por MÉXICO| El batallón de San Patricio - YouTube

(3) PINO CACUCCI "El batallón de San Patricio" - YouTube 



RU → Деталь картины Don Трояни показаны яростное сопротивление батальон Святого Патрика в монастыре Сан-Пабло в Чурубуско. EN → Detail of a painting by Don Troiani showing the fierce resistance of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion at the San Pablo convent at Churubusco. ES → Detalle de una pintura de Don Troiani que muestra la fiera resistencia del batallón San Patricio en el convento de San Pablo en Churubusco. FR → Détail d’une peinture de Don Troiani montrant la résistance acharnée de la Bataillon Saint Patrick dans le couvent de San Pablo de Churubusco. PO → Detalhe de uma pintura de Don Troiani que mostra a resistência feroz do batalhão de San Patricio, no convento de San Pablo em Churubusco. IT → Dettaglio di un dipinto di Don Troiani che mostra l'accanita resistenza del battaglione San Patricio nel convento di San Pablo di Churubusco. DE → Detail eines Gemäldes von Don Troiani, die den erbitterten Widerstand des Bataillons San Patricio im Kloster von San Pablo in Churubusco zeigt. GR → Λεπτομέρεια ἀπό ἕναν πίνακα ζωγραφικῆς τοῦ Don Troiani δεικνὺον τος τήν ἀγρίαν ἀντίστασιν τοῦ Τάγματος τοῦ Αγίου Πατρικίου εἰς τὸ μοναστήριον San Pablo, (Churubusco).



Джон Райли (John Riley), ирландец, католик, артиллерист, служил в армии США, когда армию отправили на левый берег Рио-Гранде. Убедившись, что американская армия антикатолическая и антиимигрантская, а его опыт артиллериста игнорируется, Джон 12 апреля 1846 года перешёл на сторону мексиканцев-католиков. И создал из таких же перебежчиков "батальон Святого Патрика" (Saint Patricks Battalion). В основном это были ирландцы, но позже были люди также из Германии, Англии, Италии, Франции, Шотландии и Польши. 23 февраля 1847 г. батальон схлестнулся с американской армией в битве при Буэна-Виста (Buena Vista). Батальон потерял треть состава, но и врагов перебили своими тремя пушками немало. Мало того, они захватили две американские пушки - первые в истории американские пушки, доставшиеся врагу. По приказу президента Мексики генерала Санта-Анна (Santa Anna), Батальон Святого Патрика был переименован в Иностранный Легион Патрика (Saint Patricks Foreign Legion).

20 августа 1847 года батальон стоял насмерть, защищая католический монастырь Чурубуско (Churubusco). Все атаки американских драгун Батальон отбил. Трижды мексиканцы поднимали флаг капитуляции и трижды ирландцы срывали его. Один раз они убили при этом мексиканского офицера.

И тут американский снаряд попал в пороховой погреб ирландцев. Боеприпасы закончились. Тогда они пошли в штыковую атаку на американцев. В штыковой атаке погибло 35 солдат Святого Патрика, 85 человек были ранены и захвачены в плен (среди них - Джон Райли и командир 2-й роты капитан Сантьяго О'Лири). Еще одной группе из 85 солдат удалось отбиться и отступить, после чего они были переформированы в составе мексиканской армии. В битве при Чурубуско американские войска потеряли 1052 человека, среди них 72 офицера. Мексиканцы понесли потери раз в 10-20 больше. Американский офицер сам поднял белый платок, чтобы остановить кровопролитие.

В сентябре 1847 года сорок восемь бойцов батальона, дезертировавших из американской армии уже в период боевых действий, были приговорены к повешению. Остальные ирландцы, дезертировавшие еще до начала боевых действий, были приговорены к порке на столбе, клеймению и пожизненной каторге (среди них был и Джон Райли). Эти приговоры нарушали действующие американские нормативные акты тех лет, регулировавшие вопросы наказания за дезертирство. Так, подразумевалось, что дезертир подвергается одному из трех видов наказания - или порке, или клеймению, или каторге. Что касается бежавших в период боевых действий дезертиров, то смертная казнь через повешение применялась только к вражеским шпионам из числа гражданского населения, военных следовало расстреливать.



Fifty Saint Patrick's battalion members were officially executed by the US Army. En masse executions for treason took place at three separate locations, on three separate dates: sixteen were executed on 10 September 1847 at San Ángel, four were executed the following day at the village of Mixcoac on 11 September, and thirty were hanged at Chapultepec on 13 September, 1847. 48 prisoners were hanged, one faced the firing squad and one was murdered by being thrown into a mill flume and crushed by the wheel. Collectively, this was the largest mass execution in United States history—the hanging of 38 Sioux at the conclusion of the Dakota War of 1862 appears to be the largest execution by hanging at a single event. At the San Ángel hangings, all prisoners were executed without incident except for Patrick Dalton, who - as an American captain described - was "literally choked to death". By order of US General Winfield Scott, thirty San Patricios were to be executed at Chapultepec in full view of the two armies while they fought the Battle of Chapultepec, at the precise moment that the flag of the US replaced the flag of Mexico atop the citadel. This order was carried out by US Colonel William Harney, who was taunted and jeered by the condemned men. While overseeing the hangings, Harney ordered prisoner Francis O'Connor be hanged even though he had had both legs amputated the previous day !


"From Dublin city to San Diego we witnessed freedom denied. So we formed the St. Patrick's Battalion..." "...and fought on the Mexican side."

Song in Honor of the San Patricio Battalion

Canción en Honor al Batallón de San Patricio

by/por David Rovics


My name is John Riley
I´ll have your ear only a while
I left my dear home in Ireland
It was death, starvation or exile
And when I got to America
It was my duty to go
Enter the Army and slog across Texas
To join in the war against Mexico

It was there in the pueblos and hillsides
That I saw the mistake I had made
Part of a conquering army
With the morals of a bayonet blade
So in the midst of these poor, dying Catholics
Screaming children, the burning stench of it all
Myself and two hundred Irishmen
Decided to rise to the call

From Dublin City to San Diego
We witnessed freedom denied
So we formed the Saint Patrick Battalion
And we fought on the Mexican side

We marched ´neath the green flag of Saint Patrick
Emblazoned with "Erin Go Bragh"
Bright with the harp and the shamrock
And "Libertad para Mexicana"
Just fifty years after Wolf Tone
Five thousand miles away
The Yanks called us a Legion of
Strangers And they can talk as they may

We fought them in Matamoros
While their volunteers were raping the nuns
In Monterrey and Cerro Gordo
We fought on as Ireland ´s sons
We were the red-headed fighters for freedom
Amidst these brown-skinned women and men
Side by side we fought against tyranny
And I daresay we´d do it again

We fought them in five major battles
Churubusco was the last
Overwhelmed by the cannons from Boston
We fell after each mortar blast
Most of us died on that hillside
In the service of the Mexican state
So far from our occupied homeland
We were heroes and victims of fate



(2) https://youtu.be/aIQz3mNxEog

(3) https://youtu.be/4jT05670l-U

(4) St. Patrick Battalion Song - Subtitulada Español - YouTube



Véase también : Irlanda México. Corrido huasteco del Batallón de San Patricio, Camperos de Valles, "The Chietfians" 


(2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fv-wyGDvvuE

(3) https://youtube/WiogUx5h28c



Tom Berenger in MGM movie "One Man's Hero" - in Spanish "Héroes sin Patria" - (1999), a dramatization of the true story of John Riley and the Saint Patrick's Battalion. "One Man’s Hero" is sympathetic to the St. Pats scorned as second-class citizens in the US Army and harassed for such offenses as wanting to go to Sunday Mass, and critical of American "Manifest Destiny" expansionism and anti-Catholicism.
MGM «One Man’s Hero», 1999
The Batallion's banner Erin go Brágh"-Ireland for Ever
Tom Berenger playing John Riley in One Man’s Hero, 1999
San Patricios were famed for their skill as artillerist
Tom Berenger playing John Riley in One Man’s Hero, 1999
El general de división Antonio López de Santa Anna (su nombre completo: Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón), nació en Xalapa, el 21 de febrero de 1795 y falleció en Ciudad de México, entre 20 y 21 de junio de 1876. Santa Anna ocupó la presidencia de la República Mexicana en seis ocasiones. A lo largo de su extensa carrera política fue considerado ambiguo por participar en partidos contrarios, ya fuera con realistas, monárquicos, republicanos, unitarios, federales, liberales y/o conservadores. Cuando estalló la guerra entre México y los EE.UU. (013.05.1846), el gobierno de Valentín Gómez Farías decidió llamar de vuelta al general Santa Anna (entonces exiliado en Cuba) para dirigir como comandante supremo los esfuerzos nacionales. A pesar de que Santa Anna logró amasar un considerable ejército, el evidente atraso tecnológico (el ejército mexicano usaba armas de tiempos de la Independencia), así como la falta de una cadena de mando eficiente, no le sirvió de nada contra las fuerzas tecnológicamente superiores y mejor disciplinadas de los Estados Unidos. Aquello significó una serie de derrotas consecutivas en todas las acciones bélicas de la guerra (la mayoría desarrolladas en el norte). Se sabe que casi logró una victoria en la Batalla de la Angostura ((22 y 23 de febrero de 1847), pero se retiró inexplicablemente a un paso de derrotar al general Taylor. Después, en su natal estado de Veracruz, fue derrotado en la Batalla de Cerro Gordo ((12-18 de abril de 1847), en buena medida debido a que su artillería atacó a los centinelas del ejército estadounidense, revelando su posición. El grueso del ejército estadounidense evitó el camino donde Santa Anna pretendía atraparlos y atacó al ejército mexicano desde varios flancos, causando su derrota. Tras evacuar la capital del país, Santa Anna se exilió de nuevo, esta vez en Colombia. Exiliado Santa Anna, el Congreso mexicano firmó el Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo ((2 de febrero de 1848), con el cual México perdió los estados de Alta California y Nuevo México (hoy California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah y parte de Wyoming) a favor de los Estados Unidos. Santa Anna regresó a la presidencia en abril de 1853, se hizo llamar "Alteza Serenísima" y se covertió en dictador. En diciembre de 1853, Santa Anna vendió a cambio de 10 millones de dólares, el territorio mexicano de La Mesilla a los Estados Unidos (venta conocida como "Gadsden Purchase").
The Mexican-American war 1846-1848, Manifest Destiny.
US (11th) President James Knox Polk.
US General and 12th US President Zachary Taylor.
US General Winfield Scott Hancock who ordered hanging.
William Harney, the cruel slayer of the San Patricios.
Mexican territories seized by the US following the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). Before the secession of Texas (1836), Mexico comprised almost 1.700.000 square miles (4.400.000 km2), but by 1849 it was just under 800.000 square miles (2.100.000 km2). Another 30.000 square miles (78.000 km2) were sold to the U.S. in the “Gadsden Purchase” of 1853 , so the total reduction of Mexican territory was more than 55%, or 900.000 square miles (2.300.000 km2). Thus, in total the U.S. annexed Mexican territory was about the size of Western Europe! The ceded Mexican territory became the U.S. present-day states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, most of Arizona and Colorado, and parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming.
"American Progress" (1872) by John Gast, is an allegorical representation of "Manifest Destiny", the conquest and modernization of the new west. Columbia, a personification of the United States (like Marianne for the french Republic), is shown leading civilization westward with the American settlers. She is bringing light from the East into the West, stringing telegraph wire, holding a school textbook that will instill knowledge, and highlights different stages of economic activity and evolving forms of transportation. However, native Indians and wild animals flee...

Notice 1 : “Manifest Destiny”

In the 19th century, “Manifest Destiny” was a widely held belief in the United States that its settlers were destined to expand across North America. There are three basic themes to “Manifest Destiny”:

- The special virtues of the American people and their institutions.

- The mission of the United States to redeem and remake the west in the image of agrarian America.



- An irresistible destiny to accomplish this essential duty.

In 1845, Journalist John L. O'Sullivan wrote an essay titled “Annexation in the Democratic Review”, in which he first used the phrase “manifest destiny”. In this article he urged the U.S. to annex the Republic of Texas, not only because Texas desired this, but because it was "our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions". The term was used by Democrats in the 1840s to justify the war with Mexico and it was also used to divide half of Oregon with the United Kingdom.

"Manifest destiny" played an important role in the annexation of Texas (1845) and the Mexican-American war (1846-1848). With American successes on the battlefield, by the summer of 1847, there were calls for the annexation of "All Mexico", particularly among Democrats, who argued that bringing Mexico into the Union was the best way to ensure future peace in the region. However, the annexation of Mexico was controversial because it would mean extending US citizenship to millions of Mexicans. Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, who had approved of the annexation of Texas, was opposed to the annexation of Mexico for racial reasons. He made these views clear in a speech to Congress on January 4, 1848:

“We have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race—the free white race. To incorporate Mexico, would be the very first instance of the kind, of incorporating an Indian race; for more than half of the Mexicans are Indians, and the other is composed chiefly of mixed tribes. I protest against such a union as that! Ours, sir, is the Government of a white race.... We are anxious to force free government on all; and I see that it has been urged ... that it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty over all the world, and especially over this continent. It is a great mistake”. Cf. Calhoun, John C. (1848): "Conquest of Mexico". TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Retrieved 2007-10-19.

The term "Manifest Destiny" is most often associated with the territorial expansion of the United States from 1812 to 1860. This era, from the end of the War of 1812 to the beginning of the American Civil War, has been called the "age of manifest destiny". During this time, the United States expanded to the Pacific Ocean—"from sea to shining sea"—largely defining the borders of the contiguous United States as they are today.

"Manifest destiny" is sometimes used by critics of US foreign policy to characterize American interventions in the Caribbean (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Grenada…), the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. In this usage, "Manifest Destiny" is interpreted as the underlying cause of what is denounced by some as "American imperialism".



Anti-Catholic indoctrination in the US.

Notice 2 : Anti-Catholicism in the United States 

United States was a country founded by Calvinists who, in rejecting the Church of England, had rejected the hierarchy of both Anglican and Catholic institutions and, in throwing off the spiritual hierarchy, had done so with the temporal as well. To most Anglo-Saxons who immigrated to the United States, this is what it meant to be an American: free of European authority, both that of the pope and that of the king. Those who still clung to a hierarchical model were considered regressive and unfit for self-government.

The Catholic Church was, to the Calvinist way of thinking, connected politically to a repressive and antiquated system, even more than the Anglican model they had rejected. Catholics, it was widely believed, had not developed a habit of independent thought. They were still chained to a religion that accepted the pope, a foreign power, as their authority, rather than their individual consciences. It was believed that not only were Catholics unable to think for themselves in matters of faith or morals, they were equally incapable of being part of a democratic system. Thus, by the early 1800s the Catholic religion was seen at best as retrograde and, at worst, inimical to a democratic republic.

"Manifest Destiny" was another aspect of Calvinist belief. It held simply that the Anglo-Saxons were predestined by God to inherit the entire American continent. Beginning with the “noble experiment” in New Jerusalem (Salem, Massachusetts), the “City on the Hill,” this new breed would spread over the entire land mass of the Americas, displacing indigenous people, and buying out or running off French and Spanish landholders on their inevitable march of progress. The inheritors of “Manifest Destiny”, it must be remembered, were white Anglo-Protestants, and they took steps to ensure that the distinctions between them and others, whether religious or racial or quasi-scientific, were constantly emphasized to prove that they were deserving of this gift.

As early as 1830 the American Bible Society urged the unity of Protestant sects to combat Rome’s influence in the West and expressed the belief that “His Holiness the Pope, has, within his larger grasp, already fixed upon this fair portion of our Union and knows full well how to keep his fold”. While in the early U.S. there was some tolerance of Catholic minorities, this was to change quickly with the increase in immigration of Irish Catholics during the 1830s and 1840s, reaching its crest during the years of the Irish famine as poor, rural Catholics flooded into the American towns and cities. Anti-Catholic riots broke out in Philadelphia in 1844, and when they were over, the Irish ghetto lay in ruins, hundreds of homeless Irish roamed the streets, and two Catholic churches were burned to the ground.

Since solidarity in the face of commonly perceived oppression is a universal characteristic of any ethnic or religious group, it is hardly surprising that Irish Catholics would find unity among themselves in the military service. As the war progressed and they witnessed more depredations against their coreligionists in Mexico, it is understandable that some Irishmen felt they had more in common with the Mexicans than the invading Americans. The destruction of Catholic churches in Mexico by the invading US army and other depredations by Protestant volunteers had also been well-documented by both sides. And, just in case they needed a reminder of the connection between the Americans’ treatment of the Irish at home and the abuse of Mexicans abroad, leaflets written by the Mexican general Santa Anna were widely distributed. They read in part:  “Can you fight by the side of those who put fire to your temples in Boston and Philadelphia? Did you witness such dreadful crimes and sacrileges without making a solemn vow to our Lord? If you are Catholic, the same as we, if you follow the doctrines of Our Savior, why are you murdering your brethren? Why are you antagonistic to those who defend their country and your own God?”.  Many Irishmen were quick to see that higher loyalties should prevail, and they joined the Mexican side. They simply had more in common with the Mexicans than with the invaders.



Anti-Irish poster in the US.

Notice 3 : "The Irish Race"

The Protestants certainly saw similarities among Catholics and were quick to point them out. The Mexican, they asserted, like the Irishman, was unstable, ignorant, feckless, easily led, and incapable of participation in a republic. Using both the pseudoscience of phrenology[1] and the more respectable science of physiology, contemporary American scientists determined that the short full figures of the Irish indicated that they were “inactive, slothful and lazy”. This was a stereotype also applied to the Mexican. The coarse red hair of the Irish showed that they were “excitable and gushing.” Their ruddy complexions indicated that they were selfish “with hearty animal passions”. Irishmen of this period are variously described as have a “hanging bone gait...the low brow denoting a serf of fifty descents…dark eyes sunken beneath the compressed brows” with a look of “savage ferocity”. By the 1840s, this legitimization of negative racial characteristics had reached its apex.

Most of those who had settled in America in the 18th and early 19th centuries had no real sense of national identity. Allegiances were territorial rather than nationalistic. But while there was no clear sense of nationhood, Americans were nevertheless in the process of defining who they were. And they did this essentially by stating quite clearly what an American was not. In the 1840s he was not a “Negro,” not a Mexican, not an Indian, and certainly not an Irish Catholic. Notes Dale T. Knobel, professor of history at Texas A & M: “The Irish would be seen increasingly as set apart by visible conduct and appearance”.

[1] Phrenology (from Greek φρήν (phrēn), meaning 'mind', and λόγος (logos), meaning 'knowledge') is a pseudomedicine primarily focused on measurements of the human skull, based on the concept that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that certain brain areas have localized, specific functions or modules. Although both of those ideas have a basis in reality, phrenology extrapolated beyond empirical knowledge in a way that departed from science. Phrenology is a process that involves observing and/or feeling the skull to determine an individual's psychological attributes. By comparing skulls of different ethnic groups it supposedly allowed for ranking of races from least to most evolved. Phrenology, which focuses on personality and character, is distinct from craniometry, which is the study of skull size, weight and shape, and physiognomy, the study of facial features. Developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall in 1796, phrenology was very popular in the 19th century, especially from about 1810 until 1840.



Martyred Mexican cadets at the storming of Chapultepec (September 13, 1847). Mural at the castle of Chapultepec showing cadet named Juan Escutia who - rather than surrender to the US Army - wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and leaped from the castle walls to his death. Many prominent American politicians, including John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln considered the war unjust and questioned the rationale for the invasion. When US President Harry S. Truman visited the "Los Niños Heroes" monument in 1947, he was asked by reporters why he stopped to see the monument; his reply was "Brave men don't belong to any one country. I respect bravery wherever I see it".

Notice 4 : Opposition to the war in the US

In the United States, increasingly divided by sectional rivalry, the war was a partisan issue and an essential element in the origins of the American Civil War. Southern Democrats  supported it in hope of adding slave-owning territory to the South and avoiding being outnumbered by the faster-growing North. Northern antislavery elements feared the expansion of the Southern Slave Power and wanted to strengthen the economy with industrialization, not expand it with more land. They objected to the American-Mexican War, which they recognized as an intentional act of aggression against a weaker sovereign nation. The  foes of the war  included the ex-US (6th) president John Quincy Adams, the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, the abolitionist Henry David Thoreau (who spent a night in jail for not paying poll taxes to support the war and later wrote “Civil Disobedience”), the ex-slave and powerful anti-slavery advocate Frederick Douglass, the 16th US President Abraham Lincoln (member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the Mexican–American War), commanding general and later 18th US President Ulysses S. Grant (2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army in the Mexican–American War), politician Thomas Corwin (senator in the Mexican–American War and appointed United States Ambassador to Mexico by President Lincoln in 1961) and others. They realized that the Mexican land grab was fueled by "Manifest Destiny" - a belief in Anglo-Saxon cultural and racial superiority over Indians and Hispanics - and the designs that the US harbored on the region that would later become California and the American Southwest.



“Poor Mexico, So Far From God, So Close To The United States”. A rueful reflection on proximity to a powerful, expansionist neighbour attributed to Porfirio Diaz, a Mexican general and politician who served seven terms as President of Mexico, a total of three and a half decades from 1876 to 1911.A veteran of the War of the Reform (1858–60) and the French intervention in Mexico (1862–67), Díaz rose to the rank of General, leading republican troops against the French-imposed rule of Emperor Maximilian. Seizing power in a coup in 1876, Díaz and his allies, a group of technocrats known as "Científicos", ruled Mexico for the next thirty-five years a period known as the "Porfiriato". After Díaz declared himself the winner of an eighth term in office in 1910, his electoral opponent, Francisco I. Madero, issued a call for armed rebellion against Díaz, leading to the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution. After the Federal Army suffered a number of military defeats against Madero's forces, Díaz was forced to resign in May 1911 and went into exile in France, where he died four years later.

Notice 5 : Mexico's weakness

Mexico did not have a single chance to win the war against the United States. The Mexican Army emerged from the war of independence (1810–1821) as a weak and divided force. Most soldiers were peasants who had a loyalty to their village and family, but not to the generals who had conscripted them. Often hungry and ill, under-equipped, only partially trained, and never well paid, the Mexican soldiers were held in contempt by their officers and had little reason to fight the invading US forces. Looking for their opportunity, many slipped away from camp to find their way back to their home village. On the American side, the war was fought by regiments of regulars and various regiments, battalions, and companies of volunteers from the different states of the Union. Although the US Army and Navy were not large at the outbreak of the war, the officers were generally well trained and the numbers of enlisted men fairly large compared to Mexico's. At the beginning of the war, the US Army had eight regiments of infantry, four artillery regiments and three mounted regiments. These regiments were supplemented by 10 new regiments (nine of infantry and one of cavalry) raised for one year of service by the act of Congress from February 11, 1847. The US army swelled from just over 6.000 to more than 115.000. at the end of the war.

Another of the contributing factors to loss of the war by Mexico was the inferiority of their weapons. The Mexican army was using surplus British muskets (e.g. "Brown Bess") from the Napoleonic Wars period. While at the beginning of the war the majority of American soldiers were still equipped with the very similar "Springfield 1816" flintlock muskets, more reliable caplock models gained large inroads within the rank and file as the conflict progressed. Some US troops carried radically modern weapons that gave them a significant advantage over their Mexican counterparts, such as the Springfield 1841 rifle of the “Mississippi Rifles” and the Colt Paterson revolver of the “Texas Rangers”. In the later stages of the war, the “US Mounted Rifles” were issued Colt Walker revolvers, of which the US Army had ordered 1.000 in 1846. Most significantly, throughout the war the superiority of the US artillery often carried the day. US army training, as well as the quality and reliability of their armament and logistics, gave US guns and cannoneers a significant edge.

Political divisions inside Mexico were another factor in the U.S. victory. Inside Mexico, the "centralistas" and "republicanos" vied for power, and at times these two factions inside Mexico's military fought each other rather than the invading U.S. Army. Another faction called the monarchists, whose members wanted to install a monarch (some advocated rejoining Spain), further complicated matters. The ease of the American landing at Veracruz was in large part due to civil warfare in Mexico City, which made any real defense of the port city impossible. As General Santa Anna said: "However shameful it may be to admit this, we have brought this disgraceful tragedy upon ourselves through our interminable in-fighting"!



The famous Zimmermann telegram.

Notice 6 : Mexico's lost chance...

In January 1917, Germany offered “generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona” (the famous Zimmermann telegram intercepted by the British), which the provisional Mexican President Venustiano Carranza rejected in exchange of a formal recognition of his government and US military assistance and supply of arms to his supporters (constitucionalistas) to fight his opponents (convencionistas) revolutionary generals Francisco “Pancho” Villa and Emiliano Zapata. The Carranza government was recognized de jure by the US on 31 August 1917.

(See page "RELACIONES UE-ALC" : 3. Général Emiliano Zapata & 4. Pancho Villa invade EEUU : La batalla de Columbus (09.03.1916) y la "Expedición punitiva").



"Duck, You Sucker!" (Italian: "Giù la testa !"; Spanish "Agáchate maldito !"; French : «Planque-toi, connard !»), also known as "A Fistful of Dynamite" and "Once Upon a Time… the Revolution", is a 1971 Italian epic Western film directed and co-written by Sergio Leone and starring Rod Steiger and James Coburn. Set during the Mexico Revolution of the 1910s, the film tells the story of Juan Miranda, an amoral Mexican revolutionary leading a band of outlaws composed mostly of his own children (each from a different mother), and John Mallory, an ex-Irish Republican revolutionary and explosives expert who wanted for killing British soldiers in Ireland, flees to Mexico where he ends up getting involved in another revolution. After they accidentally meet under less-than-friendly circumstances (when John blows up Juan’s robbed stagecoach), Juan and John come to collaborate and involuntarily become heroes of the Mexican Revolution. The film was originally released in the United States in 1972 as "Duck, You Sucker!", and ran for 121 minutes. Many scenes were cut because they were deemed too violent, profane or politically sensitive, including a quote from Mao Zedong about the nature of revolutions and class struggle: "Revolution means confusion". Because of this, United Artists reissued the film under the new name of "A Fistful of Dynamite", meant to recall the notoriety of "A Fistful of Dollars". According to Italian sources, the original title "Duck, You Sucker!" was meant by Sergio Leone as a close translation of the Italian title "Giu la testa, coglione!" (translated: "Duck Your Head, Asshole!"), which he contended to be a common American colloquialism. (The expletive coglione (a vulgar way to say "testicle") was later removed to avoid censorship issues.) One of the working titles, "Once Upon a Time… the Revolution, was also used for some European releases". The musical score for "Duck, You Sucker!" was composed by Ennio Morricone, who collaborated with Leone in all his previous projects. "Duck, You Sucker!" failed to gain any substantial recognition from the critics at the time of debut, especially compared to Leones other films. Since then, however, it has received a more favorable reception. The "Chicago Reader" praised it for its "marvellous sense of detail and spectacular effects". The "New York Observer" argues that Leone's direction, Morricone's score and the actor leads performance "ignite an emotional explosion comparable to that of Once Upon a Time in the West". https://alchetron.com/Duck,-You-Sucker!-18750-W

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The summaries in English and Spanish can be downloaded in pdf format from the website: www.angelidis.eu

Los resúmenes en inglés y en español pueden descargarse en formato pdf desde el sitio web: www.angelidis.eu

Copyright : Dr Angel ANGELIDIS, Brussels, May 2017.




21.04 | 19:00

trop top..... on va dans la region cet été… merci à vous...

13.01 | 15:03

God save the queen

08.01 | 17:39

Grand merci pour la leçon d'histoire.
Nguyen Van Kiet

29.09 | 15:00

remarquable de précisions et donne l'idée générale de la ruse de guerre pour mieux répartir ses forces.