First Battle of Mora

First Battle of Mora
Part of the Taos Revolt
Mexican-American War
Date January 24, 1847
Location Mora, New Mexico
Result Mexican tactical victory
United States United States Mexico Mexico
Commanders and leaders
United States Capt. Israel R. Hendley  Mexico unknown militia leaders
80[1][2]:141 150–200[1][2]:141
Casualties and losses
1 killed,
3 wounded[2]:141
25 killed,
unknown wounded,
15–17 captured[1][2]:141

The First Battle of Mora was part of the Taos Revolt of the Mexican–American War, between United States Army troops under Captain Israel R. Hendley, versus a militia of Hispanos (acting as Mexican nationals) and Puebloan allies in US-occupied northern New Mexico. The short skirmish took place on January 24, 1847, in and around the village of Mora, resulting in a US Army defeat and the death of Hendley and several of his men.


The rebellion began in Don Fernando de Taos on January 19, 1847, with the assassination of Governor Charles Bent and a local sheriff, judge, and lawyer, followed by the January 20 killing of at least half a dozen defenders of a mill near Taos, and seven or eight American merchants traveling through Mora to Missouri.[3][additional citation(s) needed]. Also on January 20, US Army Captain Israel R. Hendley of the Second Missouri Volunteers learned of the insurrection while in command of the grazing detachment along the Pecos River, and took possession of Las Bagas with 250 men, where the insurgents were beginning to gather.[2]:141 On January 22, Hendley learned that the insurgents had gathered a force of 150 or more men in Mora, where he headed with 80 of his men, the rest staying behind in Las Bagas.[2]:141


On January 24, Hendley arrived in Mora and "found a body of Mexicans under arms, prepared to defend the town".[2]:141 His men were attacked by the Mexicans who fired from the windows and loop-holes of their houses.[2]:141 While pursuing the rebels into an old fort, Hendley was shot and killed.[2]:141 Lacking artillery and senior leadership, the Americans then retreated, with 17 prisoners[2]:141 (to be tried for treason, as eastern New Mexico was nominally US territory under the US provisional government of New Mexico). Several other US Army personnel had been wounded, by the names of Waldo, Noyes, and Culver, among others, with around 25 of the opposing militia reported dead, an unknown number injured.[2]

Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, of the US Army of the West, reported the battle thus:[1]

At the handsome village of Mora, eighteen miles west of the present [as of 1878] Fort Union, eight Americans were murdered. January 22d, Capt. Hendley, Second Missouri Volunteers, marched there from Vegas the 24th, with eighty men; he found it occupied by above one hundred and fifty men; he engaged with a number, attempting to enter the town, who were supported by a sally; he then assaulted the town; he penetrated from house to house, some of which were destroyed and into one end of their fort, where he was killed and several were wounded. Lieut. McKarney then – apprehending the return of from three hundred to five hundred men, who had left there that day for Pueblo – withdrew, and marched back to Las Vegas, with fifteen prisoners; he reported fifteen to twenty of the enemy slain.


It is unknown why Hendley chose to march with inferior numbers and no artillery against such a large force. As the Cooke quote indicates, there was a sense on the American side that the death of Hendley and his men was in some way an unprovoked injustice that had to be answered.

The Americans returned in force for revenge a week later. Under Capt. Jesse I. Morin, and with artillery, they razed the town to the ground on February 1 in the Second Battle of Mora.


  1. ^ a b c d Cooke, Philip St. George (1964). The Conquest of New Mexico and California, an Historical and Personal Narrative. Albuquerque New Mexico: Horn & Wallace. p. 122. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hughes, J. T. (1847). Doniphan's Expedition. Cincinnati: U. P. James. 
  3. ^ Lavender, David (1954). Bent's Fort. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company. p. 285. 
  • Twitchell, Ralph Emerson (1909). The History of the Military Occupation of the Territory of New Mexico from 1846 to 1851. Denver, Colorado: Smith-Brooks Company. 
  • Herrera, Carlos R. (2000). "New Mexico Resistance to U.S. Occupation". The Contested Homeland: A Chicano History of New Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 
  • Niles' National Register. 72. April 10, 1847 – via History Department, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.