Monday, July 3, 2017


By Juan Montoya
When President James K. Polk ordered Gen. Zachary Taylor to move his army from the north banks of the Nueces River and travel to the northern bank of the Rio Grande, he was putting together the last pieces of a policy that would eventually lead to the rupture of the Union and a civil war 15 years later.

Within the army that Taylor commanded were no less than 37 future generals who would participate on both sides in the in the Civil War, not to mention two future presidents, U.S. Grant and Taylor. A third future president – Franklin Pierce – was an officer in the forces of Winfield Scott when he stopped here before launching the invasion of Mexico through Veracruz, as was Robert E. Lee, the future military leader of the Confederate States of America.

And Joseph K. Barnes, who was with Taylor at Palo Alto, went on to became the Surgeon General of the United States and was present and treated President Abraham Lincoln when he was shot and helped to provide him care.
Grant was a lieutenant then. When the young Grant, then with the Fourth Infantry, heard the cannonade at Ft. Brown from Point Isabel indicating that hostilities between the two nations had begun, “I felt sorry,” he wrote in his letters home, “that I has enlisted,” and wrote home that he thought the was was "one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation."

Grant felt the war was a conspiracy of slaveholders to increase the number of slave states.

At the time, the army was not held in high regard, according to historian Bernard de Voto, in “Year of Decision: 1946.”

“Congress thought it was a mere posse and paid it badly and barely equipped it at all. Dispersed in squads and platoons over half a continent, it had two jobs: to transfer Indian to worse lands when the frontier wanted their homesteads, which it usually contrived to do, and to defeat them when they went on the warpath, which it seldom could do without the help of the militia.”

Staff in the upper ranks was filled by oratorical veterans of 1812, some of them approaching senility. It had a good many brilliant officers who had been well trained at West Point and were now to serve an apprenticeship that would fit them for the more serious business that was to follow in the civil war.

To get an idea of the future Union and Confederate generals who were here with Taylor, suffice to say that 23 future Union generals and 14 generals who would eventually join the Confederacy were present here in 1846.
Robert E. Lee, who participated in the fighting in Mexico was not at Palo Alto or Resaca de la Palma.
And during the siege of Ft. Brown, six future Union generals participated as did nine future CSA generals.

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