Book Review: A Perfect Gibraltar: The Battle for Monterrey, Mexico, 1846


by Christopher D. Dishman

Norman: Univ of Oklahoma Press, 2010. Pp. xix, 268. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0806141409

The men who led the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War had their first experience of conventional campaigning during the Mexican War.  That war opened with Zachary Taylor’s campaign along the Rio Grande and into northern Mexico, and A Perfect Gibraltar is the first full-length treatment of one of the toughest fights in American history, Taylor’s capture of Monterrey, the principal city in northern Mexico.

Unique among authors working on the 1846-1848 war, Dishman, a senior official in the Department of Homeland Security, made extensive use of Mexican sources and actually walked the ground, which has earned him high praise from scholars south of the border, as well as in the U.S.  This helps Dishman give us a picture of the battle, and, by extension, of the Mexican-American War, from both sides.  So we see the reasoning for significant decisions from both perspectives, and Dishman wisely includes not only the tactical and operational considerations, but also the policy and political influences on decision making.  He also provides an analysis of the organization, character, and capabilities of both armies, many word-portraits of the commanders, and the description of the fighting, often gripping, as he uses personal accounts from both sides on which to base his treatment. 

A good read for those interested in the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, given all the junior officers who would later turn up commanding armies, and the history of the U.S. Army, A Perfect Gibraltar is a volume in the University of Oklahoma’s “Campaigns & Commanders” series .

Note: Dishman has also put together an excellent website on the battle,

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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