Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mexican War, 1846-47

In 1836, Texas decided it wanted to be an independent country and broke free from Mexico. Nine years later, Texas decided it wanted to be part of the United States.

A war ensued.

It lasted a couple of years, provided fodder for a few movies about the Alamo, and was effectively stashed away in American history. It's doubtful it gets much attention in American history studies.

Gov. James Whitcomb
As wars go, it couldn't have been run more inefficiently than it was in Indiana, where on at least three occasions, Gov. James Whitcomb issued a call for troops.

He called for three regiments in May, 1846, and a committee was set up in Brookville to establish a plan for outfitting and paying any who volunteered. Eight bucks a month for a private, who was to supply his own clothing and gear.

By the end of June, the county fully expected to raise two companies for the war along the Rio Grande, where Texas was holding off Santa Ana and his evil Mexican army.

Everyone was ready to fight.

Writes August Reifel in his 1915 county history, "C.F. Clarkson, editor of the American, seemed to be a bellicose individual himself. An editorial in his paper of June 6th, said, 'We believe two companies will be easily raised in this county. The American office is contributing to the rank and file of our gallant army; two or three of our journeymen have already left for the seat of war and two or three more want to go. The editor has enrolled his name and will soon be on his way to Mexico, full of war and cabbage."

Soon, the Franklin Guards were established and were ready to depart a few days later for New Albany. They traveled by canal boat.

How-ev-er ... Indiana as a state was only required to furnish 30 companies for the conflict. The Franklin Guards were No. 31 ... and were essentially told that they would not be dispatched to the war unless another company failed to show up.

Clarkson, the angry editor, blamed the governor in the harshest terms. "We have no doubt that our company was outrageously treated by the Governor. We have been told by a distinguished Democrat of this congressional district that he was in the secretary of state's office when the offer of the Franklin Guards arrived at that office -- and that it was the 28th company. But it was pushed over to make way for some favorite."

Anecdotal evidence supports Clarkson's complaint, Reifel concludes.

In any event, Whitcomb was called "the damnest rogue of all ... and so universally despised is he here that each soldier thinks it is his duty to insult him."

Most of the Franklin Guards hooked up with other outfits.

As time went on, Whitcomb issued more challenges to raise troops for the war and met with some success, though it seems that most Hoosiers who volunteered to fight in the Mexican War did so on their own, with some of them joining the Texas Rangers.

Reifel says no logical records of the Indiana roster exist because Whitcomb's blunders prevented the establishment of true Indiana companies or regiments.

Several Franklin County doctors served in the war.

The war itself came to a close in July 1847.

"It seems appropriate to close the discussion of the war with a picnic--or an account of one at least. On July 13, an all-day picnic and big dinner was given in Butler's Grove adjoining Brookville in honor of the veterans who had just returned to their homes.

"Unfortunately the issues of the local papers for that week are missing, but to the soldiers of this county, those from adjoining counties had been asked to attend.

"As far as is known, Alfred Stoops is the only Franklin County volunteer who lost his life on Mexican soil."



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