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For three days in the fall of 1846, U.S. and Mexican soldiers fought fiercely in the picturesque city of Monterrey, turning the northern Mexican town, known for its towering mountains and luxurious gardens, into one of the nineteenth century's most gruesome battlefields. Led by Brigadier General Zachary Taylor, graduates of the U.S. Military Academy encountered a city almost perfectly protected by mountains, a river, and a vast plain. Monterey's ideal defensive position inspired more than one U.S. soldier to call...
For three days in the fall of 1846, U.S. and Mexican soldiers fought fiercely in the picturesque city of Monterrey, turning the northern Mexican town, known for its towering mountains and luxurious gardens, into one of the nineteenth century's most gruesome battlefields. Led by Brigadier General Zachary Taylor, graduates of the U.S. Military Academy encountered a city almost perfectly protected by mountains, a river, and a vast plain. Monterey's ideal defensive position inspired more than one U.S. soldier to call the city "a perfect Gibraltar." The first day of fighting was deadly for the Americans, especially the newly graduated West Point cadets. But they soon adjusted their tactics and began fighting building to building.
Chris D. Dishman conveys in a vivid narrative the intensity and drama of the Battle of Monterrey, which marked the first time U.S. troops engaged in prolonged urban combat. Future Civil War generals and West Point graduates fought desperately alongside rough Texan, Mississippian, and Tennessean volunteers. General Taylor engineered one of the army's first wars of maneuver at Monterrey by sending the bulk of his troops against the weakest part of the city, and embedded press reporters wrote eyewitness accounts of the action for readers back in the States. Dishman interweaves descriptions of troop maneuvers and clashes between units using pistols and rifles with accounts of hand-to-hand combat involving edged weapons, stones, clubs, and bare hands. He brings regular soldiers and citizen volunteers to life in personal vignettes that draw on firsthand accounts from letters, diaries, and reports written by men on both sides. An epilogue carries the narrative thread to the conclusion of the war.
Dishman has canvassed a wide range of Mexican and American sources and walked Monterrey's streets and battlefields. Accompanied by maps and period illustrations, this skillfully written history will interest scholars, history enthusiasts, and everyone who enjoys a true war story well told.
Posted September 1, 2011
Christopher Dishman's book, A Perfect Gibralter, provides some very good insights into the war with Mexico and the battle for Monterrey, Mexico. His focuses on the decisions and tactics that lead up to the three days of bloody fighting in 1846. He expertly weaves into the narrative quotas from those who participated in the campaign. Also of interest is the many Civil War Generals and political figure as field and company grade officers.
The author provide a balanced account of the battle, showing the lack of urban war fighting skills on the first day of the battle as well as heroic efforts of those who fought and died. He also highlights decisions made in fog of war and how those choices made a difference in the outcome. I found it an excellent read.
Posted October 16, 2010
One might conclude, from looking at published histories, America fought only three wars: the Revolution, the Civil War and World War II. Additional investigation would reveal that America fought in World War I, a series of Indian Wars and the War with Mexico. You would find the War with Mexico, at this level, as a prelude to the Civil War more than anything else. Once you get to this war, Scott's campaign gets most of the attention. While considering Monterrey an "important battle", it is not one deserving of much printer's ink.
By stepping into this void, this book provides an excellent account of the battle. The author takes the time to position Monterrey within the campaign and the war. An excellent Epilogue completes the book covering the balance of Taylor's war. The result is a balanced complete history of the battle. This is not a complex battle and the author refuses to let the story bog down in small details. The result is a clear concise account capturing the essentials of the battle. The author presents the right level of detail and back-story to allow us to understand the dynamics and personalities. These can be very important as Texas and Mexico have many unresolved issues that play out during the battle.
During the War with Mexico, many Civil War Generals and political leaders are field and company grade officers. The author sprinkles the narration with their names but never loses the main story to chase after them. This basic decision provides great fun but keeps the focus on the battle not a group of junior officers. We see where Grant, Bragg, Longstreet, Thomas and Davis fight but only as it is important.
The book has a series of contemporary illustrations and maps, excellent footnotes and a Bibliography as expect in a serious history. My only objection is a lack of good battle maps. Contemporary maps are illustrations, as battle maps they are useless. Four to six good battle maps would make this a great book, without them it is an excellent one.
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Posted September 10, 2010
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