Palo Alto Battlefield - History and Facts | History Hit

Palo Alto Battlefield

Brownsville, Texas, United States

Palo Alto Battlefield was the site of the first major clash of the Mexican-American War on 8 May 1846.

Peta Stamper

28 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Schmorleitz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

About Palo Alto Battlefield

Palo Alto Battlefield in Texas was the location of the first major battle of the Mexican-American War. This war was the culmination of heightened tension between the US and Mexico over Texas.

On 8 May 1846, the 2 sides confronted each other on Palo Alto Battlefield: the US troops led by General Zachary Taylor managing held their ground against the forces of General Arista, who withdrew after suffering significant casualties.

Palo Alto Battlefield history

Following the US’ annexation of Texas in 1845 and the Thornton Affair that saw the US defeated by Mexico along the Rio Grande, hostilities progressed as Mexican General Mariano Arista crossed the river. On 3 May the Mexicans began besieging the US outpost at Fort Texas. General Zachary Taylor marched his army south to relieve the siege, but Arista diverted many of his troops to meet Taylor.

On 8 May, Arista ordered 2 cavalry charges against the US right and left flanks. However, both were unsuccessful, and the US army’s superior artillery was more mobile and accurate secured their victory. That evening Arista withdrew south and the Battle of Resaca de la Palma on May 9 followed. Finally, 3 days later formal war was declared by the US against Mexico.

Palo Alto Battlefield was made a National Historic Landmark in December 1960 and the park expanded in 2009 to include the Resaca de la Palma Battlefield – a separate 34-acre space inside Brownsville city limits.

Palo Alto Battlefield today

Today, you can visit and tour the Palo Alto Battlefield for free, guided by park staff and interpretive panels explaining the movements of the conflict. Spend between an hour and 2 hours tracing the battle and the flora and fauna set against a sunny Texas day.

Be sure to stop in the park’s visitor centre which features exhibits about the battle and the Mexican-American War, including a video called ‘War on the Rio Grande’. Do not forget to bring comfortable shoes for walking and a sun hat and plenty of water – Texas is hot.

Getting to Palo Alto Battlefield

Palo Alto Battlefield is located 5 miles north of Brownsville, TX, near the city of Los Fresnos, TX. The park is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of FM 1847 (Paredes Line Road) and FM 511/FM 550. For keen cyclists, the park also features a bike trail.