Military Wiki
Capture of Tucson
Part of the Mexican-American War
Mormon Battalion painting.jpg
The Mormon battalion in the Sonoran Desert of south central Arizona.
DateDecember 16, 1846
LocationTucson, Sonora
Modern Day: Tucson, Arizona
Result United States victory
 United States  Mexico
Commanders and leaders
United States Philip St. George Cooke Mexico Antonio Comaduron
~360[1] ~200

The Capture of Tucson was a United States attack on the Mexican city of Tucson, Sonora, now the present day Tucson, Arizona. The would be combatants were provisional Mexican Army troops and the American Mormon Battalion. Tucson fell in December 1846 without resistance.


The Mexican War overview map.

The Mexican-American War began after Thornton's Defeat in 1846. This same year the Mormon battalion was dispatched across what they considered the "Great Western Desert". American forces, of around 500 riflemen and officers, were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke. Although there were around 500 men on the Mormon Battalion roster, only an effective force of 360 took part in the trek across the Arizona desert. Eighty-four women and children were also present during the advance across Arizona. Marching northwest to Tucson in November of the said year, the battalion fought their only battle in Arizona, against wild cattle which attacked them near the San Pedro River. After the "Battle of the Bulls", as it is known, the force moved on to the outskirts of Tucson, where they expected to fight the Mexican garrison of Fort Tucson, a former Spanish presidio.

Philip Cooke in his general's uniform during the American Civil War.

The Mexican force consisted of around 200 men, most likely infantry and cavalry plus two small brass cannons, as well as an unknown force of men from the garrisons of Tubac, Santa Cruz and Fronteras. On December 16, 1846, the American enlisted men of the Mormon Battalion arrived at the end of Tucson, to attack the town's garrison. The Mexican Captain Antonio Comaduron had received short warning of the approaching Americans. At first he was reluctant to surrender the presidio, but eventually after realizing he was outnumbered, Captain Comaduron decided to withdraw without fighting. He also advised many civilians to abandon Tucson with him. The Mexicans retreated to San Xavier just as the Americans began their assault to take the city. No fighting occurred and a twenty-eight star American flag flew over Tucson for the first time. As soon as colonel's army entered Tucson, they began to assure the frightened and staring population of their friendly intentions. Many of the Mormon men were interested in trade. Lieutenant Colonel Cooke's soldiers had been low on food so the Mexicans and Pimas bartered meat and bread for cloth, buttons and pins, but only a little food was transferred to the Mormons through trade. Several thousand bushels of grain were left behind by the Mexican garrison. The Mormons took this, and on December 17 they proceeded onto San Xavier. The only shots fired had been from a picket who mistook approaching Mexican civilians for soldiers and fired. Nobody was harmed though.

Fifty men under Colonel Cooke were spotted five miles before the mission town, prompting the Mexican Army to retreat again, south towards the Tubac presidio. The Mormons then ended their occupation and continued on their march across the desert. Eventually the Mormons left Tucson and the Mexicans recaptured the city. Tucson, which was said to have 400 to 500 inhabitants at this time,[2] would officially become an American community ten years later in 1856, after the Gadsden Purchase.

See also


  • Smith, Justin Harvey. The War with Mexico. 2 vol (1919). Pulitzer Prize winner. full text online.
  • Harte, John Bret, 2001, Tucson: Portrait of a Desert Pueblo. American Historical Press, Sun Valley, California. (ISBN 1-892724-25-1).
  • Dobyns, Henry F., 1976, Spanish Colonial Tucson. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. (ISBN 0-8165-0546-2).
  • Drachman, Roy P., 1999, From Cowtown to Desert Metropolis: Ninety Years of Arizona Memories. Whitewing Press, San Francisco. (ISBN 1-888965-02-9).
  1. Cooke, Philip St. George (1964). The Conquest of New Mexico and California, an Historical and Personal Narrative. Albuquerque, NM: Horn and Wallace. pp. 147–154, 175. 
  2. Tyler, Daniel (1969). A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War, 1846-1847. Glorieta, NM: Rio Grande Press. pp. 224–231. 

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