Archduke Maximilian of Austria (l) was installed by Napoleon III as Emperor of Mexico, before the Lincoln administration helped Benito Juárez (r) defeat French forces.
Some major news media publications in the USA are beginning to focus on Abraham Lincoln’s support during the 1860s to help Mexico end French occupation. For the most part, it’s a story missing from US History textbooks and many biography/ history books about Lincoln.
Lincoln’s legacy in helping Mexico defeat the French forces is told in detail in the new book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico by historian/ educator Michael Hogan, who uses archival documents to reveal little-known facts. The details are part of what makes Hogan’s book so valuable as supplemental classroom material for educators and students. And Lincoln’s support for Mexico also shows his abilities as an international statesman even while he was occupied with the Civil War.
The latest news media attention is from The New York Times, in an November 22 opinion piece by history professor Patrick J. Kelly.
“The Civil War wasn’t the only conflict on Lincoln’s mind. Engaged in a desperate struggle for union, the administration had been unable to halt Emperor Napoleon III’s deployment of French troops to Mexico in early 1862,” Kelly writes. “The French leader invaded Mexico as part of his ‘Grand Scheme’ to replace the democratically elected government of Benito Juárez with a European monarch, the Archduke Maximilian of Austria.
“Napoleon III refused to recognize the Confederacy, but he was grateful for its acquiescence to his Mexican scheme,” Kelly’s piece continues. “In 1863 he personally approved of the transshipment of 20,000 Enfield rifles and other munitions across the border from Mexico into Texas.”
With the French aiding Confederate Forces, and Confederate leaders seeking to ally with the French occupation, Lincoln and his administration – especially his Civil War generals Grant and Sheridan – began helping Mexico. The rest is history, some of it coming to light only recently in Hogan’s book.
One aspect of the support for Mexico included in Hogan’s book, but missing from the NY Times piece, deals with the valor of US troops who went to Mexico and fought alongside Mexican troops. As many as 3,000 members of the American Legion of Honor, commissioned by President Juárez, and many black veterans of the Civil War fought alongside Mexican troops. There is a gravesite in Mexico City for many who died, and statues of Lincoln are in parks across Mexico.
After victory over the French, the Mexican President honored the US troops for their valor. “…for Mexicans to fight for Mexico was natural; but for foreigners who had no other ties except the love of liberty and a desire to assist a brave people who were struggling against fearful odds, to make every sacrifice and to suffer every privation for the republic, was a spirt so noble it could not be put into language,” Juárez said in honoring the US troops, as noted in Hogan’s book.