Research Mexican-American War Veterans in the American Civil War

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
Plenty of Civil War generals cut their teeth in the Mexican-American War, and plenty has been written about their experiences and the lessons they learned.

Here's my question though - how many Mexican-American War veterans who were privates, corporals, sergeants, or other lower ranks served in the Civil War? New regiments whenever possible relied on the experience of veterans to help train the volunteers - were they veterans of the Mexican-American War or just fighting along the frontiers?

If a soldier was 18 when the war broke out in 1846 they would be 33 in 1861 - a little on the older side, but still reasonable for a volunteer. And that's not including those who lied about their age.

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leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Plenty of Civil War generals cut their teeth in the Mexican-American War, and plenty has been written about their experiences and the lessons they learned.

Here's my question though - how many Mexican-American War veterans who were privates, corporals, sergeants, or other lower ranks served in the Civil War? New regiments whenever possible relied on the experience of veterans to help train the volunteers - were they veterans of the Mexican-American War or just fighting along the frontiers?

If a soldier was 18 when the war broke out in 1846 they would be 33 in 1861 - a little on the older side, but still reasonable for a volunteer. And that's not including those who lied about their age.

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How could that question be answered with out a lot of tedious research. No doubt there some Mexican American War vets and more likely then not from Southern states has more volunteers were raised in the South for the war against Mexico. Of course many Southeners served in out of state Union Regiments so it's a whole lot of cross referencing.
Leftyhunter
 

John Winn

Major
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
In my research of the CW veterans buried in the cemetery where I volunteer there are, I think, four (out of 36) so I think it might have been fairly common. We could also just be an unusual case I suppose.

I can say that the original sexton of the cemetery (opened in 1860) was a Mexican War vet and he provided free burials for CW veterans who didn't have any money or relatives and cooperated with the GAR. He died in a veteran's home amongst many CW veterans so it does seem there was a connection.
 
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
Germany
You´ll find at least one who was as Private in Mexico and a General in the civil war - Confederate Brigadier James H. Clanton had served in the 5th Louisiana (P.F. Smith`s Brigade) and the Palmetto Regiment. The latter unit has quite a lot of material available for research and quite some characters, including a number of generals. Sergeant Carey Wentworth Styles became a Confederate Colonel and led the 26th Georgia Infantry. Sgt.Maj. George S. James became a Confederate Lieutenant Colonel and probably fired the first shot at Fort Sumter.

But as others said, it is tedious work to make those connections. Officers, and enlisted becoming officers during the war in Mexico, have a much higher chance of respective records. But as long as enlisted men are concerned, and even more so if they served as enlisted in the civil war again, it would be virtually impossible to make an even remotely complete list.
 

8thFlorida

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 27, 2016
You´ll find at least one who was as Private in Mexico and a General in the civil war - Confederate Brigadier James H. Clanton had served in the 5th Louisiana (P.F. Smith`s Brigade) and the Palmetto Regiment. The latter unit has quite a lot of material available for research and quite some characters, including a number of generals. Sergeant Carey Wentworth Styles became a Confederate Colonel and led the 26th Georgia Infantry. Sgt.Maj. George S. James became a Confederate Lieutenant Colonel and probably fired the first shot at Fort Sumter.

But as others said, it is tedious work to make those connections. Officers, and enlisted becoming officers during the war in Mexico, have a much higher chance of respective records. But as long as enlisted men are concerned, and even more so if they served as enlisted in the civil war again, it would be virtually impossible to make an even remotely complete list.
Good share
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Is there any equivalent to the CSR or the NPS database for the Mexican War? If not the first step in cross-referencing Mexican War and ACW service would be building a database of those who served in the Mexican War. Like the ACW there were a lot of state volunteer units.

Due to the relatively short war I don't think all of the volunteer units ever made it to Mexico or the Southwest.
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
Just to clarify - my question was purely one of curiosity. I did not mean to suggest that people should dig through archives and cross reference muster rolls. Just if you'd come across anything in reading. A reference in a unit history or something.

It occurs to me I may be mis-using the "Research" label.....I just took it to mean "asking a factual, non-opinion based question."
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
However back then the officers did serve on the front lines. Much different than today.

Back then armies were much smaller and with simpler logistics, but large linear formation operations. Communication was almost entirely in person. Higher level officers had to be at or very near the front lines. Leading from the front was often critical for morale, especially for volunteer soldiers with limited training.

Warfare and army composition has changed so much in the 20th century. Probably worth a thread in its own right.
 

Cavalier

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
If I am not mistaken Colonel George Lamb Willard would be an example of this. A sergeant in the 15th. U.S. Infantry he was promoted to Lieutenant in the 8th. Infantry and remained in the Army rising to Colonel and commanding a brigade at Gettysburg, only to be killed there.

I may be wrong but I think General Scott promoted him to Lieutenant at the end of the Mexican War. In any case an interesting guy, and quite a dashing looking character in my opinion

John
 

James N.

Colonel
Forum Host
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Location
East Texas
Just to clarify - my question was purely one of curiosity. I did not mean to suggest that people should dig through archives and cross reference muster rolls. Just if you'd come across anything in reading. A reference in a unit history or something.

It occurs to me I may be mis-using the "Research" label.....I just took it to mean "asking a factual, non-opinion based question."
No research necessary for my favorite example, a Union version of @GELongstreet 's Confederates above:

One of the - if not THE - very best reminiscences of the Mexican War is titled My Confession in its first 1950's published release. (Since then it was republished in a vastly expanded edition.) Written for his family by artist, soldier, and raconteur Samuel Chamberlain it tells the story of teenaged Sam who ran away from his home in Boston and journeyed to Texas where in San Antonio he enlisted in one of the Regular Army's regiments of Dragoons. An amateur watercolorist he made dozens of sketches and paintings of battles, personalities, and Mexican landscapes in his journal, many of which now reside in the San Jacinto Museum near Houston and are often reproduced in histories of the war. As a member of the army commanded by Zachary Taylor, the biggest battle he was in was Buena Vista; however, according to Sam he had many more scrapes and adventures than that, both military and amorous.

With war's end, Sam evidently deserted and joined a wagon train headed for the newly opened mines in California; at some point, he eventually returned to New England. When war broke out again, Sam was one of those veterans who volunteered to train new recruits for cavalry service; he was rewarded with a commission as colonel of a cavalry regiment! Unfortunately for the story, his active military service was short, ended by a bullet to his face in the opening phase of the war's biggest cavalry battle at Brandy Station. Slightly disfigured, he continued to serve in various staff positions until retired from the military at war's end, brevetted brigadier general. Sam ended his long life serving as a warden in his state's prison system.
 
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