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Trailing Clouds of Glory

Zachary Taylor's Mexican War Campaign and His Emerging Civil War Leaders

Written by Felice Flanery Lewis

Publication Year: 2010

This work is a narrative of Zachary Taylor’s Mexican War campaign, from the formation of his army in 1844 to his last battle at Buena Vista in 1847, with emphasis on the 163 men in his “Army of Occupation” who became Confederate or Union generals in the Civil War. It clarifies what being a Mexican War veteran meant in their cases, how they interacted with one another, how they performed their various duties, and how they reacted under fire. Referring to developments in Washington, D.C., and other theaters of the war, this book provides a comprehensive picture of the early years of the conflict based on army records and the letters and diaries of the participants.


Trailing Clouds of Glory is the first examination of the roles played in the Mexican War by the large number of men who served with Taylor and who would be prominent in the next war, both as volunteer and regular army officers, and it provides fresh information, even on such subjects as Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. Particularly interesting for the student of the Civil War are largely unknown aspects of the Mexican War service of Daniel Harvey Hill, Braxton Bragg, and Thomas W. Sherman.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

List of Maps

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Two computer experts converted my rough drafts of this manuscript into readable form: initially Patricia Caffrey of Brooklyn, New York, and in recent years Amy Tabor of Glen Head, New York. Without their assistance, this volume could not have been completed. I shall always be grateful for their patience and The first readers of earlier versions of this work were U.S. Army colonels, ...

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pp. xiii-xix

The war with Mexico became a vital turning point for the United States, a before-and-after marker. Before, America’s destiny was not manifest—Great Britain and the United States jointly controlled the Oregon Territory and could not agree on a division of their interests, while Mexico maintained nominal dominion over California and an immense swath of the southwest trailing back ...

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1. Taylor’s Corps of Observation

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pp. 1-22

Preparations for a possible military resolution of the numerous long-standing differences between the United States and Mexico began in the spring of 1844, when annexation of the Republic of Texas to its neighbor to the northeast appeared likely, and Mexico had vowed that it would regard such an arrangement as a declaration of war. The initial components of the army that Brevet ...

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2. Taylor’s Army of Occupation at Corpus Christi

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pp. 23-38

Exactly where General Taylor’s camp would be established had not been decided when the Alabama dropped anchor near Aransas Pass, a few miles north of Corpus Christi Bay, on the evening of July 25. The next day Hitchcock began landing Third Infantry companies on St. Joseph’s Island, one of a necklace of long, narrow sandy formations hugging the concave bend of the Texas ...

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3. Encounters with “the enemy”: Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande

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pp. 39-53

Evidently the advance from the mouth of the Nueces River toward the Rio Grande, which began on March 8, was ordered by President Polk with little thought that it might be perceived by Mexican officials as the last straw, an unendurable affront to their country’s honor. True, Secretary of War Marcy’s fateful letter to General Taylor containing that order (dated January 13, but...

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4. The Ambush: “Hostilities may now be considered as commenced”

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pp. 54-69

During the afternoon of March 28, while the American troops were pitching their tents along the verge of the Rio Grande, General Taylor directed General Worth to convey to the Mexican soldiers within hearing distance on the opposite shore, through an interpreter, that Worth wanted to speak with General Mej

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5. Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Fort Brown

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pp. 70-89

From inside the Ameri can fort opposite Matamoros on May 4 Napoleon Dana described for Sue the previous day’s artillery exchange across the Rio Grande: “[W]e had just commenced washing, etc., before going to work when the batteries of the enemy opened, and their shot and shells began to whistle over our heads in rapid succession. . . . We were all at our arms in a moment and the...

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6. Occupation of Matamoros, Reynosa, Camargo, and Mier

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pp. 90-111

Early on the morning of May 18, the main body of the Army of Occupation began crossing the Rio Grande. With Churchill’s eighteen-pound cannon together with the field artillery batteries commanded by Bragg and Ridgely providing cover, “the light companies of all the [infantry] battalions were first thrown over, followed by the volunteer and regular cavalry.”1 The few boats ...

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7. March to Monterrey

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pp. 112-126

General Taylor’s order of August 17 specified that the First Brigade of regulars was to proceed toward Cerralvo on the nineteenth, weather permitting, where another depot was to be established. Two companies of “Texas horse” were to accompany the brigade’s train, which due to the scarcity of wagons was to return to Camargo for additional supplies, supervised by quarter masters...

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8. Battle of Monterrey

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pp. 127-158

The road the Ameri cans were following from Marín on September 19 descended to the plain on Monterrey’s northeast side. When Taylor’s advance neared the city, he and his staff were close to the head of his long column, which stretched more than eight miles back to their last campsite. According to George Meade, who was with Old Zach that morning, they were still...

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9. Captain Robert E. Lee Joins General Wool’s March into Mexico

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pp. 159-173

Elements of a section of General Taylor’s army called the “Centre Division,” under the immediate supervision of Brigadier General John Ellis Wool, had been congregating in and around San Antonio de Bexar throughout August and September. As the battle of Monterrey was concluding, Wool’s troops were commencing their march toward Chihuahua, the foremost Mexican town ...

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10. Taylor’s Changing Army and the Occupation of Saltillo

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pp. 174-194

Taylor and Wool had undoubtedly been kept informed—by newspaper articles supplied by family members and friends as well as through official channels—about Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny’s march during the summer of 1846 from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe, which Kearny peaceably occupied on August 18. Furthermore, four days later Kearny had written Wool, ...

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11. Battle of Buena Vista

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pp. 195-212

By mid-January of 1847 the Army of Occupation had lost the vast majority of its regular army troops—indeed, all of its regular army infantry—and thousands of volunteers. At Victoria on January 14 General Taylor had released to General Scott not only the regiments of infantrymen in Twiggs’s division (First, Second, Third, and Seventh) but the Mounted Rifles, the Corps of...

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12. Last Days of Taylor’s Army of Occupation

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pp. 213-228

While General Taylor was winning the Buena Vista battle, his badly depleted forces of volunteers in his rear were losing control of the vital Camargo to Monterrey supply line. The route was anchored at its extreme eastern end, Mier and Camargo, by the First Indiana and Third Ohio regiments. At Camargo was the senior officer in that region, Colonel Samuel Ryan Curtis (Third Ohio), a ...

Appendix. Future Civil War Leaders in Taylor’s Army

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pp. 229-236


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pp. 237-296


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pp. 297-310


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pp. 311-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383329
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817316785

Page Count: 326
Publication Year: 2010

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Subject Headings

  • United States. Army -- Biography.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Biography
  • United States. Army -- History -- Mexican War, 1846-1848.
  • Mexican War, 1846-1848 -- Campaigns.
  • Taylor, Zachary, 1784-1850 -- Military leadership.
  • Generals -- United States -- Biography.
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