Books in Brief

The Dead March: A History of the Mexican-American War, by Peter Guardino (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 512 pp., $39.95). This is an excellent account—part social, part military, and part political—of the Mexican-American War, fought between 1846 and 1848 and concluded by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1849 that ceded, essentially, the northern half of Mexico to the United States.  Guardino’s treatment of the salient battles—Resaca de la Palma, Buena Vista, Veracruz, Cerro Gordo, Molino del Rey—is compelling, reminiscent for its clarity of Shelby Foote’s battlefield descriptions in his three-volume history of the War Between the States, though the battle maps are hardly as useful.  Guardino is equally successful in conveying the reality of Mexico—the particular feel of the country and a sense of her people, her towns, and her countryside that remain powerfully recognizable after nearly 200 years.  Like Foote also, he is careful to treat his description of the war and the political issues surrounding it with admirable evenhandedness.  (Who would guess, after reading A History of the Civil War, that Shelby Foote the man, as opposed to the author, believed, as he did, that Lincoln was the towering and most sympathetic figure of the war years?)

It is all the more regrettable, therefore, that Guardino’s...

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