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An Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps, 15501941

Unit Five: New Mexico, America

Since the Louisiana Purchase, New Mexicans had been sounding the alarm about the land-hungry Americans on their doorstep. The example of Texian secession might have prompted defensive maneuvers from other governments, but the Mexican government had its own problems.

In 1846, the Army of the West under General Kearny marched on New Mexico, and occupied it without a shot being fired. New Mexicans were suddenly faced with yet another government, this one absolutely foreign.


In completion of this lesson, students will

Read and comprehend important facts from historical writings.

Retell these facts using the persona of a historic figure.

Analyze historic New Mexico maps to understand changes brought to New Mexico by the Mexican-American War.

Identify people who were instrumental or influential in New Mexico during that era.

Discuss the importance of borders and surveying.

Participate in a surveying exercise to divide up schoolyard resources.







Activity I: 1846, a Year of Change

Go to the map, John Disturnell: Mapa de los Estados Unidos de Méjico. : 1846.

You may wish to duplicate the handout for this exercise.

Have students read the biographical entry for Susan Shelby Magoffin, then entries for:


San Miguel

Santa Fe

El Rancho del Delgado



Los Chavez


Las Nutrias


Governor Vigil Surrenders to General Kearny

Discuss as a class: what does Magoffin say about

Traveling to another country

Meeting people from a different culture

The American invasion

The Taos rebellion

The concerns New Mexicans express to her

Fun things to do in New Mexico

Ask students to imagine themselves in 1846. You could be an imaginary person such as a New Mexican citizen, a Catholic priest, a Navajo, a Puebloan, a member of the Army of the West, a merchant on the Santa Fe Trail, part of the Mexican army, or you could choose to be a specific person such as Gertrudis Barceles (Doña Tules), Manuel Armijo, Don Bautista Vigil (acting governor after Armijo) Charles Bent, Kit Carson, Josefina Carson, or Alexander Doniphan.

Start with a one paragraph sketch of the person. Include:

Nationality, gender, age (in 1846), religion, profession or position.

Have each student write three diary entries that discuss major events in the Mexican American war. They should discuss their character's reaction to Armijo's retreat, the news of the war in Chihuahua, Kearny's speech in Las Vegas (Emory 1857/ Vegas marker), the Taos Rebellion, other events of the day.

Students should be encouraged to illustrate their diaries, either by printing and downloading historic images (from the Atlas or from other sources) or with their own illustrations.

John Disturnell: Mapa de los Estados Unidos de M�jico. : 1846

American Memory

UNM Digital Collections

Activity II: Establishing & surveying borders

Look at the view of the Emory map below. Open each marker, read, and discuss, or print a handout. The readings can be done as a class (choral reading or in turn) or silently.

Complete map analysis worksheet (link to PDF below).


Why do establish borders between countries & states?

Are borders real or imaginary?

How do we mark borders on the ground?

What new boundaries does this map show? What states/ countries border New Mexico?

Why do you think borders were drawn there?

What do you notice about the boundary of Texas?

How much bigger is New Mexico as depicted in 1857 than as depicted in 1846?

Where is the boundary of New Mexico?

William H. Emory: Map of The United States and Their Territories Between The Mississippi & the Pacific Ocean And Part Of Mexico : 1857

Lt. Emory and the boundaries of New Mexico (map)

Map Analysis Worksheet (PDF)

Activity III: Dividing the Territory

This activity is designed to mimic the processes of a boundary commission. Students should be encouraged to reflect on this activity and draw conclusions about some of the problems encountered with establishing boundaries for New Mexico.


measuring tape


Divide class into 2 or more groups and negotiate the "division of the disputed area" (the school playground, or any area outside the classroom). Each group should designate students to write down a description of the boundary. Have the Ambassadors of each party sign the written description; this will be the "treaty". To make the exercise more challenging, ask each group to keep in mind that they need certain resources (shade, two pieces of playground equipment, access to the bathrooms, etc.).

Team members:

Ambassador: Negotiates initial boundaries, with input from rest of the group. Signs original document.

Commissioner: Signs off on map. Should be prepared to debate position.

Surveyors: responsible for measuring, recording; should work in teams of 3, for measuring two ends, and recording

Cartographer(s): artistic, good at sketching

Assistants: support the surveyors and cartographers

Commissary: Keeps track of measuring tape, supplies, paper, etc.

As a class, go outside and "survey" the borders as described. The cartographers from each team should compare maps. Did the borders turn out like everyone expected? Are there areas where people disagree on how the boundary should be interpreted? Did everyone get what they needed?


Chapter 6 Changes Under Mexican Rule

New Mexico! by Marc Simmons

2nd Edition, p 123 (Troubles Begin) -144 (Chapter Review)


Did the student

read and comprehend the material?

retell the facts accurately?

write using grade level standards?

demonstrate understanding of the impact of the Mexican-American war?

accurately identify people and their importance in history?

Participate in discussions according to grade level standards?

Participate in a surveying exercise?


Key Ideas and Details:


Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.


Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.


Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

Craft and Structure:


Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.


Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.


Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:


Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.


Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.


Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:


By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

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