The war arose from the widespread civil disorder that plagued the early years of the Mexican republic. Foreigners whose property was damaged or destroyed by rioters or bandits were usually unable to obtain any compensation from the Mexican government, and began to appeal to their own governments for help.
A French pastry cook, claiming his shop had been ruined by looting Mexican soldiers, appealed to France's King Louis-Philippe. Coming to its citizen's aid, France demanded 600,000 pesos in damages, and when the payment was not forthcoming, sent a fleet to declare a blockade of all Mexican ports from the Yucatán to the Rio Grande, to bombard the Mexican fortress of San Juan de Ulua, and to seize the port of Veracruz.
With commerce cut off, the Mexicans began smuggling imports into Corpus Christi, Texas, then across the Rio Grande into Mexico. Fearing that France would blockade Texas ports as well, a Texas militia force began patrolling Corpus Christi Bay to stop Mexican smugglers. One smuggling party abandoned their cargo of about a hundred barrels of flour on the beach at the mouth of the bay, thus giving "Flour Bluff" its name.
Meanwhile, acting without explicit government authority, Antonio López de Santa Anna led Mexican forces against the French. In a skirmish, Santa Anna was wounded in a leg, which had to be amputated, but before his forces were able to accomplish anything effective, President Anastasio Bustamante promised to pay the 600,000 pesos, and the French forces withdrew.