(film “One Man’s Hero”) El Batallón de San Patricio : One Man’s Hero…
…as the phrase goes, is another man’s traitor.
Such was the case of the fascinating true story told in the 1998 film One Man’s Hero (starring Tom Berenger, Daniela Romo, and Joaquim de Almeida, and directed by Lance Hool) which chronicles the plight of Irish Catholic immigrants who came to America to escape dire poverty, disease and starvation in Ireland resulting from The Great Famine (a result of a blight upon the potato crop they relied upon).
Thinking that the United States of America and its promise of a better life (citizenship for them and their families if young men entered the U.S. Army) was the answer, many young men joined up as a means to provide a better life for themselves and their families.
But the U.S. government cared less of its treatment to the Irish Catholics than setting its sights on building empire.
Mexico had fought long and hard for its independence from Spain, and its citizens weren’t about to passively let the “Manifest Destiny” desire fueling the expansion of the United States in its acquisition of more and more land the Mexican government viewed as its own.
Seeing an opportunity to strike Mexico during a weak point (while Mexico was suffering from instability preoccupied in its own inner revolution, struggles and political turmoil), the U.S. took it – apparently not to just to (re)acquire or protect the land agreed to by a former treaty (unratified by Mexico) but to advance as far as possible westward (and as it turned out southward). In short, the United States government would take it as far as they could without regard to the Mexican government and people, and escalated hostilities by placing troops near the Rio Grande River which was viewed as a hostile/aggressive action against Mexican territory. The Neuces River had long been recognized as Mexico’s northern boundary prior to the independence of Texas.
The complexities of this war pertaining to Mexican sovereignty, Texan independence, its annexation, and Polk’s agenda require far greater in-depth research (which I recommend to you). Both Mexico and the United States claimed it was a war for defensive purposes. Numerous battles ensued, and this part of U.S. history is fascinating to research. There are volumes to be read on battles, economic factors, and the interactions and decisions made between and by both nations (including learning more of Santa Ana and Polk), as I share but a general broad overview here. There was opposition within the United States to the war against Mexico, with some calling it “Polk’s War,” viewing it as a war of aggression in an invasion of Mexico rather than a defense of Texas.
The St. Patrick Battalion
My focus here is on El Batallón de San Patricio, The St. Patrick Battalion, consisting primarily of Irish Catholic immigrants to the United States who deserted the U.S. Army and who joined the Mexican Army to fight the United States in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). They fought bravely and gallantly in several major battles.
The Irish Catholics were persecuted within the U.S. Army due to discrimination (prevalent against immigrants at the time, especially those who were Catholic). The Mexicans shared two essential qualities with the Irish: Catholicism, and a desire for freedom.
The film, One Man’s Hero, tells the story of St. Patrick’s Battalion and their leader John Riley.
It’s an interesting film and story…with numerous quotations made throughout the film regarding the spirit of man and his yearning to be free which are reminiscent of every such battle now taking place in our world. The film’s telling of the story makes for a most interesting historical drama. I think that anyone who values liberty will find this film enjoyable and appreciate it on a number of levels. I shall refrain from sharing the outcome of the San Patricios’ mission, since if you’re not familiar with the story, the film will adequately illustrate how the U.S. government dealt with the “problem.”
The San Patricios are honored as heroes each month in Mexico (here’s an online photo with some details of the St. Patrick Battalion Memorial plaque in Mexico), as well as special commemorative ceremonies on September 12 and on St. Patrick’s Day.
I recommend the film One Man’s Hero (its Amazon page), as well recommend Americans delve deeper regarding this part of our history which has been so long neglected.