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Notes of the Mexican War, 1846–1848

J. Jacob Oswandel, Edited by Timothy D. Johnson and Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes Jr.

Publication Year: 2010

In December 1846, John Jacob Oswandel—or Jake as he was often called—enlisted in the Monroe Guards, which later became Company C of the First Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. Thus began a twenty-month journey that led Oswandel from rural Pennsylvania through the American South, onward to the siege of Veracruz, and finally deep into the heart of Mexico. Waging war with Mexico ultimately realized President James K. Polk’s long-term goal of westward expansion all the way to the Pacific Ocean. For General Winfield Scott, the victorious Mexico City campaign would prove his crowning achievement in a fifty-three-year military career, but for Oswandel the “grand adventure of our lives” was about patriotism and honor in a war that turned this twenty-something bowsman into a soldier. Notes of the Mexican War, 1846–1848, is the quintessential primary source on the Mexican War. From Oswandel’s time of enlistment in Pennsylvania to his discharge in July of 1848, he kept a daily record of events, often with the perception and intuition worthy of a highly ranked officer. In addition to Oswandel’s engaging narrative, Timothy D. Johnson and Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr. provide an introduction that places Oswandel’s memoir within present-day scholarship. They illuminate the mindset of Oswandel and his comrades, who viewed the war with Mexico in terms of Manifest Destiny and they give insight into Oswandel’s historically common belief in Anglo-Saxon superiority—views that would bring about far worse consequences at the outbreak of the American Civil War a dozen years later. As historians continue to highlight the controversial actions of the Polk administration and the expansionist impulse that led to the conflict, Notes of the Mexican War, 1846–1848, opens a window into the past when typical young men rallied to a cause they believed was just and ordained. Oswandel provides an eyewitness account of an important chapter in America’s history.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents / Illustrations

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pp. v-vii

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Editors’ Introduction

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pp. ix-xiii

“Let our people not altogether forget the ten thousand American soldiers who landed at Veracruz, the victorious and triumphant march to the capital of Mexico, and which never retreated an inch.” So wrote John Jacob Oswandel as he reflected on his role in the war with Mexico. When Pennsylvania Governor...

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Author’s Introduction

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pp. 1-2

When the United States government first declared war against the republic of Mexico, Pennsylvania was called upon to furnish two regiments of soldiers. Francis R. Shunk, then Governor of Pennsylvania, issued his proclamation calling upon the militia and citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to rally to the support of our national honor and to...

Original Table of Contents

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pp. 3-5

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1. The Drums Beat, We Are Ordered on Board

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pp. 7-34

Friday, December 11, 1846. Today, after we arrived at Lewistown, Pa., Louis Bymaster and myself, also of that town, came to the conclusion to enlist in a soldier company to serve in the United States Army during the Mexican war. Mr. Bymaster wanted to join some dragoon company...

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2. Bright Muskets and Bayonets Flashing in the Sun

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pp. 35-63

Tuesday, March 9, 1847. This morning we had orders to pack up and prepare to land. There was great excitement among the soldiers and sailors on board the ships, and much confusion in the fleet while making preparation for landing. In fact the whole scene was full of wild excitement: the passing of small boats...

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3. A Blundering Mistake Was Made

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pp. 65-100

Sunday, April 18, 1847. This morning all soldiers were up bright and early, and in fact it looked more like preparing to go on a Fourth of July spree than going into the field of battle. Some were still writing letters, while others were eating and drinking, and some whistling, and some boasting and talking loud of what they intended...

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4. The Sleep That Knows No Waking

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pp. 101-129

Monday, June 21, 1847. This morning we did not rise as early as usual on a march, on account of being tired out, besides wet and stiff with rheumatism and cold. Some of our men could hardly get up; in fact, we had to help one another up. After breakfast we left camp, and after a short march we arrived at the Castle of Perote...

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5. You Can't Fool These Yankees; They Are Too Sharp [Includes Images]

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pp. 131-164

Sunday, August 7, 1847. This morning the orders for marching to the city of Mexico, read to us last evening, were countermanded, and orders read that we are to remain here to form the main garrison of Puebla. Never did I see the countenance of men change so suddenly, and never did I see a set of men more provoked and put out about anything in all my...

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6. Let Them Come! Let Them Come!

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pp. 165-199

Monday, September 13, 1847. This morning, one of our soldiers whom the lancers had taken prisoner some time ago made good his escape. He tells us some hard yarns about the Mexicans—how they used and threatened and fed him. He says that the Mexicans have six pieces of artillery, six-pounders, and about two thousand lancers and one thousand...

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7. We Know No Surrender!

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pp. 201-227

Thursday, October 14, 1847. This morning, after breakfast, several of us soldiers paid a visit to the city to see what was going on, also to go around and see some of the new soldiers, where from, and by whom commanded. In the city, we found but little or no business going as yet, the stores being mostly closed, with a poor market...

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8. On to Mexico City

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pp. 229-255

Saturday, December 4, 1847. The train did not get off until noon; it is composed of the First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Massachusetts and Ohio regiments. Colonel John Coffee Hays, with five companies of mounted Rangers, and Maj. Lally, with fifteen hundred regular recruits, assigned to different regiments at the capital. There were four of...

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9. Adventures Around the Capital

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pp. 257-290

Saturday, January 8, 1848. This morning Peter McKeever, of Co. D, was buried by his company, back of the guard house. They marked his grave on a headboard. This being the anniversary of the battle of New Orleans, most of our officers went to the city frolicing, and no doubt some good speeches were made. Many of them...

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10. This Morning Peace Is Again in Our Quarters

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pp. 291-317

Saturday, February 26, 1848. This morning we got a mail from the city, and I received one letter from a schoolmate of mine. At noon a party of us started for a place called Indian Town, and settled altogether with the original Aztecs, and mixed races. The...

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11. We Are Coming Home

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pp. 319-342

Tuesday, May 30, 1848. This morning our soldiers were up early, preparing to march homeward, at the same time singing our national songs and cite “We Are Coming Home.” I was approached this morning by Sergt. Thomas Ziegle, Peter Ahl, and Alburtus...

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12. One Mass of People, Cheering

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pp. 343-351

Monday, July 24, 1848. This morning we were all up by 1 o’clock and took our breakfast, after which we got on board the cars, early as it was. The citizens came around the cars and in the cars to bid us goodbye. At half past 2 o’clock the whistle of the locomotive blew, and off we started for Philadelphia in the midst of cheers and applause...


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pp. 353-363

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 365-366


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pp. 367-378

E-ISBN-13: 9781572337107
E-ISBN-10: 1572337109
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572337039
Print-ISBN-10: 1572337036

Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 26 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010