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An Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps, 15501941

John Disturnell: Mapa de los Estados Unidos de Mejico. : 1846

"And as for Polk himself- in the preparation of grand strategy he had a small army on Mexico's northern frontier, some maps, and an overwhelming ignorance not only of the conditions under which armies must operate....They were poor maps; if they were good ones, probably even the amateur strategists would have been deterred. If their innocence had been tarnished by knowledge of the country they proposed to campaign across they would have lost the war." Bernard deVoto, Year of Decision: 1846

After Texas' admission to the Union, President Polk sent Zachary Taylor to occupy the disputed boundary between Mexico and Texas. Mexico claimed the Nueces River as the boundary, Texans and the U.S. claimed the lower Rio Grande. After Mexican troops attacked and captured Americans in the disputed area, Polk and the Congress declared war, May 13, 1846.

That same year, John Disturnell used the plates from the earlier 1828 White, Gallaher, and White map and reissued it with minor additions, in his own name. Due to its timely appearance Disturnell's map was quite popular and became regarded as the geographic authority for the region. Nicholas Trist used this map during negotiation of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, incorporating many of the map's significant errors into the actual treaty text.

Atlas Citation: [Eidenbach, Peter]

Map Credits: Texas State Archives Map 1026



In 1800, Napoleon signed the secret Treaty of Ildefonso with Spain, stipulating that France should provide Spain with a kingdom if Spain would return Louisiana to France. Napoleon's plan for dominating North America collapsed when the revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue succeeded, forcing French troops to return defeated to France. As Napoleon's New World empire disintegrated, the loss of Haiti made Louisiana unnecessary.

Nov 1801

Philip Nolan, a surveyor who worked for Louisiana Trader James Wilkinson, and (who had established trade into Texas and had a wife & child in San Antonio de Bexos) left Louisiana to invade Texas with 30 countrymen, was killed en route by Spanish forces under Pedro de Nava. Nolan is sometimes credited with being the first to map Texas for the American frontiersmen, but his map has never been found. Nonetheless, his observations were passed on to General James Wilkinson, who used them to produce his map of the Texas-Louisiana frontier in 1804.


On November 30, 1803, Spain's representatives officially transferred Louisiana to France. Although the French representative was instructed to transfer Louisiana to the United States the next day, twenty days actually separated the transfers, during which time Laussat became governor of Louisiana and created a new town council. During this time he is issued secret instructions in which France lays claim to the Rio Grande from the mouth (Rio de las Palmas on the Gulf) to the 30th parallel. "The line of demarcation stops after reaching this point... the farther we go northward, the more undecided is the boundary."

This becomes the basis for the Texian claim to eastern New Mexico.

On December 20, 1803, the French officially gave lower Louisiana to the United States. The United States took formal possession of the full territory of Louisiana, although its boundaries were vaguely defined, in St. Louis three months later, when France handed over the rights to upper Louisiana.


Jean Baptiste La Lande stole a wagon team and expatriated to New Mexico, becoming the first American to move there.


Admiral Lord Nelson defeats the Spanish navy at Trafalgar, precipitating the end of Spanish military force.

James Pursley arrives in New Mexico trying to drum up trade with the Plains tribes, and stays in Santa Fe as a carpenter.


Expedition headed by General Wilkinson and Lieutenant Zebulon Pike travels west with secret instructions to scout out the northern Spanish territories. Dr. John Robinson joins the expedition at the last minute, but becomes a valued member of the party.


Robinson meets Don Nemesio Salcedo, Captain General of Internal Provinces.

Salcedo refuses his attempt to defect.


Robinson meets with Secretary of State James Monroe, who is concerned that filibustering activity might provoke war with Spain; appoints Robinson to the post of envoy to Nemesio Salcedo.

Robinson goes from Natchitoches through Texas, meeting Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara and Augustus Magee. He also meets with Salcedo, who suspects him once again of spying, and refuses to enter negotiations.


Robinson publishes inflammatory epistles in favor of Mexican revolution (see Liberty Showering Her Blessings), is dismissed by the State department.

Texas declares independence in April.

Royal forces reclaim it in September.

King Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon's brother) flees Wellington, Ferdinand VII returns to the throne.


Robinson disputes with Toledo about leadership of the revolutionary force.

Moves to New Orleans, offers support to Governor Claiborne, is refused, takes a post in the militia, in a hospital near New Orleans


Robinson sails for Veracruz to help the revolution. He writes for support to President Madison, including a copy of the new Mexican constitution, and remains with the Republican Army for 18 months (through the end of 1816).


Robinson retires from his commission as Brigadier General in the Mexican Revolutionary Army.


Robinson condemned by Spanish envoy Oní­s, engages in verbal battle in papers, settles in Natchez.


John Quincy Adams, President Monroe's Secretary of State, negotiates a treaty with Luis de Oní­s to define the boundary of Texas (the Adams-Oní­s Treaty Line). Under the Florida Treaty, Spain cedes Florida and Texas west to Sabine River.


Texas becomes a province of Mexico following the revolution.

Mexico combines Texas & Coahuila, opens immigration to large numbers of Americans into Texas.

William Becknell takes wagons across what will become the Santa Fe Trail.


Regular route established along Santa Fe Trail "led directly to the San Miguel by way of the Cimarron River instead of following the Arkansas to the mountains direct to San Miguel instead of by way of Taos." (Chittenden)

Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri petitions the Senate, to make the Santa Fe Trail a permanent road "to draw from the bosom of the wilderness an immense wealth which now must be left to grow and perish where it grows or be gathered by the citizens of some other government to the great loss of Missouri." Commissioners mark out a road from Missouri to the Mexican boundary. Sibley surveys a new, longer road.


Mexican constitution establishes Texas and Coahuila as sister states, as with New Mexico and Chihuahua.


Texans revolt against Mexico, and fight for independence, claiming all land to the Rio Grande.

Texas rebels capture General Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, and win a surrender with the Treaty of Velasco, which stipulates that the "limits of Texas would not extend past the Rio Grande." However, Mexico never ratifies this treaty.


United States grants formal recognition to the Republic of Texas.

New Mexicans overthrow centralist governor Albino Perez, Manuel Armijo rises to power in 1838.

The government offers large land grants to both native citizens and to American merchants such as St. Vrain, Maxwell, and Mirabeau.


Texas expedition led by Brigadier General Hugh McLeod, and accompanied by journalist George Wilkins Kendall, travels across the Llano Estacado to ask New Mexicans to join Texas in independence or to open trade. Governor Armijo has the Texans captured, brutally mistreated, and forced to march in chains to Mexico City, where they remained imprisoned for several years.


Texas sends two raiding parties to New Mexico in retribution for the mistreatment of the Texas-Santa Fe Expedition.

Taos gets closed as a port of entry.


Question of Texas central to United States presidential election, and popular support of annexation sweeps James K. Polk into office.


Annexation of Texas; formally admitted as a state December 29, 1845.

State constitution supports Texas' claims to all lands extending to the Rio Grande.


Polk declares war with Mexico, and General Zachary Taylor invades Mexico along the Rio Grande in Texas.

United States forces led by General Stephen Kearny seize New Mexico, and Governor Armijo is persuaded to surrender without a battle.

Colonel Alexander Doniphan writes the code for governing the Territory of New Mexico.

New Mexico is designated the Ninth Military Department of the United States.


Rebels in Taos lead an uprising against the American government, and kill Governor Charles Bent.


Mexico signs the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which cedes lands in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico to the United States. The boundary of New Mexico is described in relation to Disturnell's map, which showed erroneous distances.

1848 Fort Bliss established.


The Department of Interior established. Interior would manage most of the lands in New Mexico for some time to come.


The Texas boundary compromise required Texas to release claims to lands in eastern New Mexico, in exchange for a settlement of debts. As part of the Compromise of 1850, New Mexico was finally admitted as a territory, with the issue of slavery to be decided by New Mexicans.


Fort Bliss abandoned for Fort Fillmore


Cantonment Burgwin established to control Taos rebels. The fort was decommissioned in 1860 and the soldiers moved to Fort Garland or Fort Union.

1852 Boundary Survey

1st international boundary commission established in accordance with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo.

This survey runs into difficulties establishing the boundary line, and the Americans realize that the line as surveyed does not give them a transcontinental railway route.


Gadsden Purchase from Mexico expands New Mexico territory.


Fort Bliss moved to Magoffinsville.

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