Notes from the Past

Mail and the Mexican War

The war between Mexico and the United States (April 1846 - February 1848) was the result of tensions arising out of the United States' annexation of newly-independent Texas in 1845, disputes over the border, and the United States' desire to acquire New Mexico and California from Mexico.  President's Polk's emissary, John Slidell, was snubbed by the Mexican government while on a secret mission in September 1845.  The mission was to negotiate the border dispute, resolve United States claims against Mexico, and to purchase New Mexico and California for $30 million.  As a result of the snub of Slidell, Polk ordered ordered troops under General Zachary Taylor to occupy the disputed area between the Nueces and the Rio Grande rivers in January 1846.

While preparing a war message to Congress on May 9, 1846, based on the refusal of Mexico to negotiate with Slidell and to force payment of United States claims, Polk learned that Mexican troops had crossed the Rio Grande on April 25 and attacked Taylor's troops, with 16 American casualties.  This further provocation led Congress to approve a declaration of war on May 13.

America's overall strategy was to have Taylor's army cross the Rio Grande and invade the heart of Mexico.  Meanwhile, Colonel Stephen Kearny led a second force to occupy New Mexico and California.  Despite success in several battles, Taylor appeared to be reluctant to proceed with a major invasion of Mexico.  Polk revised his strategy in early 1847 and ordered General Winfield Scott to take an army by sea to capture Veracruz and march inland to Mexico City.  Veracruz fell to Scott after three weeks of siege in March, 1847.

It was under these conditions that Congress addressed the issue of mail routes to the forces in Mexico.  The enabling legislation was noted in Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Post Office Department published in 1847 as follows:

To establish certain post routes and for other purposes.
Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the Postmaster General be, and he hereby is, authorized and directed to cause a mail to be transported once a week, and oftener if he shall think the public interest requires it, from New Orleans, via Galveston, Passo Callo, Brasos de St. Iago, to Tampico, with return mails, the service to be performed by contract, or by the use of the public steamers now in the service of the War Department in the Gulf of Mexico, with the consent of the head of that Department; and for this service the sum of thirty thousand dollars is hereby appropriated.

Sec. 4.  And be it further enacted, That all letters, newspapers, and other packets, not exceeding in weight one ounce, directed to any officer, musician, or private of the army of the United States in Mexico, or at any post or place on the Frontier of the United States, bordering on Mexico, shall be conveyed in the mail free of postage:  Provided, That all letters or other packets directed to any person in the army shall contain as a part of their direction, the words, "belonging to the army."

Sec. 5.  And be it further enacted, That the two preceding sections shall continue in force during the present war, and for three months after the same may be terminated, and no longer.

Approved, March 3, 1847.

Posted May 28, 2000

Editor's Note:  Modern philatelists are indebted to Theron Wierenga who republished this volume in 1980.  Italics follow the original.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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