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Battle of the Sacramento River
Part of the Mexican–American War
Batalla de Sacramento.jpg
"Battle of the Sacramento" by F. Bastin
DateFebruary 28, 1847
LocationSacramento River Pass, about fifteen miles north of Chihuahua, Mexico
Result Decisive United States victory.
 United States  Mexico
Commanders and leaders
Alexander Doniphan Jose A. Heredia
940 4,120
Casualties and losses
2 killed
11 wounded (2 mortally)
~300 killed
~300 wounded
~40 captured
16 artillery pieces captured

The Battle of the Sacramento River took place on February 28, 1847 during the Mexican–American War. About twenty-five miles north of Chihuahua, Mexico at the river Sacramento, American forces numbering less than 1,000 men defeated a superior Mexican army which led to the occupation of Chihuahua.


In early 1847, Colonel Alexander Doniphan was heading south with his small army of about 1,000 men and officers, which included primarily infantry, cavalry and artillery. On February 8, Doniphan left the town of El Paso del Norte to escort a merchant caravan of about 315 wagons to Chihuahua and on February 25, the United States Army reached the Laguna de Encenillas when informed by spies that twenty-five miles in advance, a force of 1,500 Mexican soldiers held Inseneas, country-seat of the governor of Chihuahua. The American army continued and the Mexican garrison retreated without fighting. Continuing further, the Americans reached the Sacramento River.

On February 27, the Americans learned that the Sacramento River pass, about fifteen miles north of Chihuahua, had been fortified and defended by a larger Mexican force. At sunrise on February 28, the last day of February, the Americans took up the line of march and formed the whole train, consisting of 315 heavy traders, wagons, a commissary and company of wagons, into four columns. Colonel Doniphan placed the artillery and all the operators in intervals between the columns of wagons. The cavalry was used as a shield to protect the artillery. When the Americans arrived within three miles of the Mexican defenses, they made a reconnaissance of the enemy positions and the arrangement of their cannons. Several redoubts had been dug by the Mexicans. Protecting the 1,200 Mexican infantry and 1,420 militia, 1,200 Mexican cavalry men waited outside the fortified pass for orders to engage, sixteen cannons and culverin pieces were among the defenses.


Colonel Alexander Doniphan

After opening hostilities with a salvo of cannon fire and followed by a Mexican salvo, the American army, supported by their own battery, attacked the right flank of the Mexican defenses, commanded by a General Heredia. The attack on the right meant that several of the Mexican artillery pieces on the left were out of range to suppress the American assault. The American artillery fire was effective, allowing their infantry to advance fast. Just outside of the Mexican's firing range, they stopped ahead of the enemy battery to prevent casualties from the cannons. Doniphan then ordered howitzers to the front. Protected by a force of mounted cavalry men, the howitzers charged and then were used to bombard and destroy the main Mexican battery on the right. Most of the American cavalry were dismounted and with the infantry, followed the howitzers forward.

At a quick pace the Americans reached the walls of the Mexican redoubts on the right and quickly overran its defenders. As the Doniphan's troops moved right, the Mexican cavalry attacked the American left to try to flank the offenders themselves, but were repulsed. Now free to flank the left portion of the Mexican defenses, the United States Army finished the attack and captured the rest of the Mexican artillery and about 40 defenders in close quarters combat. The fighting lasted no more than an hour when the Mexicans began to retreat, bringing an end to the battle of the Sacramento.


Unable to defend Chihuahua, the remaining Mexican units retreated south, leaving the city to American occupation. Almost 300 Mexicans were killed in the battle, as well as almost 300 wounded. Victims of the American artillery, Doniphan is said to have commented; "Our artillery was so effective that it blocked the sound of the Mexican guns." In the short engagement, the Doniphan's men suffered only two dead and eleven wounded. Sixteen artillery were captured.

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Coordinates: 28°52′18″N 106°11′11″W / 28.87167°N 106.18639°W / 28.87167; -106.18639

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