History tells us that it was a group of Irish men who were the last to fight for Mexico in the Mexican-American war. For people in the United States, “Los San Patricios” are considered traitors and guilty of the highest crime one can commit, treason. For Mexicans, “Los San Patricios” were heroes who came to the aid of fellow Roman Catholics.
Los San Patricios consisted of several hundred predominately Irish people who left the United States army and fought with Mexico in the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848. Other small numbers included Germans, Swiss, Scotts, and other Catholics from Europe, fighting with Mexico. Most historians would cite religion as the reason, these groups defected. According to vivasancarlos.com the Mexican-American War had the highest number of desertions of any foreign war in the history of the United States.
The Irish immigrants enlisted in the army to obtain citizenship but at the same time were subject to violence, discrimination and hate crimes in the military and outside of the service. They soon saw the war for what it really was: a land grab. They saw senseless acts of violence against fellow Catholics by Protestants and it reminded them of the British occupation of Ireland. Many joined the Mexicans because of all the injustices of the U.S., and meanwhile Mexico was offering good benefits and higher military ranking for deserters which enticed those who were having doubts about switching sides.
More information from the site said the group was led by Captain John Riley of County Galway, Ireland and were praised by a Mexican general in deserving the highest praise “because they fought with daring bravery.” The United States was led by General Zachary Taylor, who would later become president.
Los San Patricios fought bravely and suffered severe casualties at the battle at Churubusco, which some call the Mexican equivalent of Waterloo. When Mexico was about to surrender and put up the white flag, Los San Patricios took it down, knowing their fate would be cruel if captured.
Captain Patrick Dolton tore the flag down, prompting General Pedro Anaya to order fighting with their bare hands. The Mexicans tried to raise the white flag twice more but Los San Patricios shot and killed them. Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana even said Mexico would have won the war, if they had more people fight like the San Patricios.
However, as we all know today, the United States won the war; most of the San Patricios were executed by hanging. Most of the hanging took place at the San Angel on September 10, 1847 and at the Battle of Chapultepec on September 12. U.S. General Winfield Scott issued an order to execute Los San Patricios that had been captured at the precise moment the flag of the United States replaced the Mexican flag in Chapultepec.
The red haired men “Los Colorados” are not remembered much outside of Mexico today but are honored on two separate days. The first is September 12, the accepted date for the executions and the other is on Saint Patrick’s Day. Cuidad Obregon, in Mexico, is Spanish for “O’Brien City”. Commemorative postage stamps by Mexico and Ireland have been made and schools, churches, and landmarks took the name of Los San Patricios. The 1999 movie “One Man’s Hero” starring Tom Berenger tells the events that led this battalion to join the Mexican army.