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The Pastry War
Épisode de l'expédition du Mexique en 1838.jpg
Bombing of San Juan de Ulúa in 1838
DateNovember 27, 1838 - March 9, 1839
(3 months, 1 week and 3 days)
Result French victory
Mexican government accepts to pay the 600,000 pesos
France France
Supported by
United States United States
Supported by
United Kingdom United Kingdom
 Republic of Texas
Commanders and leaders
Charles Baudin Antonio López de Santa Anna
Guadalupe Victoria
Mariano Arista
3,000 3,239 one battalion
Casualties and losses
8 dead
60 wounded
224 dead or wounded none

The Pastry War (Spanish language: Guerra de los pasteles , French language: Guerre des Pâtisseries)[1] began with the naval blockade of some Mexican ports and the capture of the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa in Veracruz by French forces in November 1838 and ended with a British-brokered peace in March 1839. This incident was the first and lesser of Mexico's two 19th-century wars with France, being followed by the French invasion of 1861–67.


The war arose from the widespread civil disorder that plagued the early years of the Mexican republic. In 1828, President Manuel Gómez Pedraza ejected Lorenzo de Zavala from the office of governor of the state of México. Zavala, supported by Antonio López de Santa Anna, was able to rally most of the garrison in Mexico City (then a part of México state) to his aid. Four days of fighting in Mexico City resulted in Zavala winning and installing a new president, Vicente Guerrero.

The fighting in the streets destroyed a great deal of personal property. The average citizen had little recourse for damages suffered. They had no consuls, or representatives to speak on their behalf. Foreigners whose property was damaged or destroyed by rioters or bandits were usually unable to obtain compensation from the government, and began to appeal to their own governments for help. Despite the repeated French claims, the French government let the matter subside.

Course of war

French troops under the Prince de Joinville attack General Arista's residence in Veracruz.

In 1838 a French pastry cook, Remontel, claimed that his shop in the Tacubaya district of Mexico City had been ruined by looting Mexican officers in 1828. He appealed to France's King Louis-Philippe. Coming to its citizen's aid, France demanded 600,000 pesos in damages. This amount was extremely high: in comparison, an average workman's daily pay was about one peso. In addition to this amount, Mexico had defaulted on millions of dollars' worth of loans from France. Diplomat Baron Deffaudis gave Mexico an ultimatum to pay, or the French would demand satisfaction. When the payment was not forthcoming from president Anastasio Bustamante, the king sent a fleet under Rear Admiral Charles Baudin to declare a blockade of all Mexican ports from Yucatán to the Rio Grande, to bombard the Mexican fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, and to seize the port of Veracruz. Virtually the entire Mexican Navy was captured at Veracruz by December 1838. Mexico declared war on France.

With trade cut off, the Mexicans began smuggling imports into Corpus Christi, Texas, and then into Mexico. Fearing that France would blockade Texan ports as well, a battalion of men of the Republic of Texas force began patrolling Corpus Christi Bay to stop Mexican smugglers. One smuggling party abandoned their cargo of about a hundred barrels of flour on the beach at the mouth of the bay, thus giving Flour Bluff its name. The United States, ever watchful of its relations with Mexico, sent the schooner Woodbury to help the French in their blockade. Meanwhile, acting without explicit government authority, Santa Anna came out of retirement from his hacienda near Xalapa and surveyed Veracruz. He asked the government to use his services, and he was immediately ordered to fight the French by any means necessary. He led Mexican forces against the French and in a skirmish with the rear guard of the French, Santa Anna was wounded in the leg by French grapeshot. His leg was amputated, and buried with full military honors.[2] Exploiting his wounds with eloquent propaganda, Santa Anna catapulted back to power.

Peace restored

With the diplomatic intervention of Great Britain, eventually President Bustamante agreed to pay the 600,000 pesos and the French forces withdrew on 9 March 1839.


  1. Commonly known in Spanish as the Primera intervención francesa en México, "first French intervention in Mexico".


  • Nofi, Albert A.; The Alamo and the Texas War for Independence; Da Capo Press; ISBN 0-306-80563-4
  • Warner, Michael S.; Consise Encyclopedia of Mexico; Fitzroy Dearborn.
  • Marley, David; Wars of the Americas: a chronology of armed conflict in the New World, 1492 to the present

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