Taylor, however, was in no position to await formal declaration of a war that he was already fighting. In the weeks following the initial skirmish along the Rio Grande, Taylor engaged the Mexican army in two battles. On May 8, near Palo Alto, and the next day at Resaca de la Palma, Taylor led his 200 soldiers to victories against much larger Mexican forces. Poor training and inferior armaments undermined the Mexican army’s troop advantage. Mexican gunpowder, for example, was of such poor quality that artillery barrages often sent cannonballs bouncing lazily across the battlefield, and the American soldiers merely had to step out of the way to avoid them.
Following his victories at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, Taylor crossed the Rio Grande and took the war into Mexican territory. During the next 10 months, he won four battles and gained control over the three northeastern Mexican states. The following year, the focus of the war shifted elsewhere, and Taylor’s role diminished. Other generals continued the fight, which finally ended with General Winfield Scott’s occupation of Mexico City in September of 1847.