The full story behind the Gadsden Purchase.
Two American presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, began their lives as surveyors, a skill in short supply when the U.S. tried to draw its boundary with Mexico following the victory in 1848. The 1850 survey party that walked in their footsteps fully understood that the future of the U.S. and Mexico hung on them successfully mapping the nebulous border.
Their service was marred by a poorly worded treaty that started the boundary from the village of El Paso in Texas, resulting in the American surveyors drawing wildly inaccurate maps. Showing El Paso eight miles north of its actual location, the maps led to confusion and conflict over the U.S.-Mexico border in this remote corner of the continent.
The full story offers up backroom dealings, a growing conflict between free and slave states prior to the Civil War, the flawed man behind the name on the map and the bargain that finally ousted a dictator who had not been brought down by losing a war.
The Mexican-American War, like Vietnam more than a century later, was not uniformly popular in the United States. Northerners suspected the real aim of the war was to extend slavery to the west. Southerners welcomed Texas as a slave state and were ready to take on more territory, including Cuba and large parts of Mexico.