Siege of La Paz

The Siege of La Paz was a Mexican siege of their own city of La Paz in Baja California Sur. Mexican militia forces attempted to destroy the United States Army garrison, occupying the peninsular town. The siege occurred over a twelve-day period in November and December 1847, at the end of the Mexican–American War.

Siege of La Paz
Part of the Pacific Coast Campaign

Marines, raising the American flag over La Paz, Mexico, 1847.
DateNovember 27 – December 8, 1847
24°08′32″N 110°18′39″W
Result American victory; Mexican withdrawal; siege lifted.
 United States  Mexico
Commanders and leaders
Henry S. Burton Manuel Pineda Munoz
115 infantry[1]:27 ~500 militia[2]:164
Casualties and losses
1 wounded[2]:165 ~36 killed
60 deserted[2]:165


Captain Manuel Pineda Munoz, of the Mexican Army had been drafting Mexican peasants to serve in his campaign on the western coast of Mexico. After his militia army was defeated twice at the Battle of La Paz and the Battle of San José del Cabo, Captain Pineda decided to continue the campaign with a prolonged engagement at La Paz, hoping to finish what he failed to do at the first battle.

The American garrison at this time included 115 men, of the New York Volunteers, a volunteer force from New York and was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Henry S. Burton when they landed peacefully in La Paz on July 21.[1]:27

The United States Navy at this time had no warships to help protect La Paz, all of which had sailed north to Alta California for orders, others left Mexican waters for supplies. This left the American garrison with no ability to evacuate La Paz, should it become necessary.


Pineda's force, increased to about 500 men by a party from San Jose bringing a 4-pounder, attacked at 3 PM on 27 Nov. until 8 PM[2]:164 Several times Pineda's men advanced from the east and south but were driven back.[2]:164 On 28 Nov., Pineda's men occupied the old Mexican barracks and erected a Mexican flag, but the position was quickly retaken by Burton's men.[2]:165

On December 8, a launch, arrived from Mazatlán with supplies, as did the Cyane, when Pineda's men retired to San Antonio.[2]:165


Pineda's campaign was not over yet though; he would move on to besiege San José del Cabo in the following days.

Lieutenant Tunis Craven described the appearance of the ruined town later on in a report. "All of that part of the town not protected by the garrison's muskets was burned, the vine and fig tree, as well as the graceful palm-all being devoured. Such are the beauties of war."[1]:41

While the Mexicans were besieging La Paz, U.S. President James K. Polk, in his annual message to the Congress, on December 7, 1847, stated: "Early after the commencement of the war, New Mexico and the Californias were taken possession by our forces. Our military and naval commanders were ordered to conquer and to hold them, subject to be disposed of by a treaty of peace. These Provinces are now in our undisputed occupation and have been so for many months, all resistance on the part of Mexico having ceased within their limits. ... I am satisfied that they should never be surrendered to Mexico."[1]:38


  1. Nunis, D.B., editor, The Mexican War in Baja California, 1977, Los Angeles: Dawson's Book Shop, ISBN 978-0870932397
  2. Burton's report, 1848, in The Mexican War in Baja California, Nunis, D.B., editor, 1977, Los Angeles: Dawson's Book Shop, ISBN 978-0870932397

Further reading

  • Nathan Covington Brooks, A Complete History of the Mexican War (The Rio Grande Press, Inc., 1965).
  • Justin H. Smith, The War With Mexico, Vols. I and II. (Peter Smith, Gloucester, Mass., 1963).
  • John R. Spears, The History of the Navy, Vol. III (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1897), pp. 401–409.
  • K. Jack Bauer, Surfboats and Horse Marines (U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, Md., 1969).
  • President James K. Polk's Message on War with Mexico, May 11, 1846, in Documents of American History, 9th edition, Vol. I (Prentice Hall, Inc., 1979), p. 311.
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