restricted access Editors’ Introduction
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Editors’ Introduction Y “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 Francis R. Shunk called for volunteers to step forward and fill the ranks of the state’s two regiments, twenty-one-year-old “Jake” Oswandel was among the patriotic who rallied around the flag. Rather than continue his job as a bowsman on a canal boat, this Mifflin County native laid down his bow line and joined the “Monroe Guards,” a Philadelphia company, soon to be known formally as Company C, First Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. Jake enlisted December 12, 1846, and it should be noted that the evening before, he had entered the first line in his war journal; the last entry he made would be dated July 29, 1848, upon his discharge. Oswandel concluded his daily record, mentioning with pride “that I never failed to answer to my name at roll call—except ten days while lying sick at Puebla City with diarrhoea and cold.” In January 1847 Oswandel and his regiment landed at Brazos Santiago near the mouth of the Rio Grande, where General Winfield Scott was gathering an invasion force to descend down the east coast of Mexico. Two months later, in March, Scott’s newly assembled army made an amphibious landing near the fortified city of Veracruz and seized it. The campaign thus begun would lead these American soldiers over 250 miles through hostile country. Scott’s “gallant little army” (a phrase Oswandel used more than a dozen times) would rout in repeated battles every force sent to oppose them and ultimately capture and occupy Mexico City, the enemy capital. This six-month campaign by the small American army was a daring and skillful military accomplishment. For Oswandel and his comrades the Mexico City Campaign represented the grand adventure of their lives, a source of enormous pride, a feat worthy of remembrance. Jake, as he was known (and privately called himself), began to set aside money for publishing his record of the campaign. Forty years later, in 1885, his detailed, daily war journal appeared as a 642-page book, Notes of the Mexican War. Gratefully and happily, Jake stated in his introduction, “I thank God that he has spared my life to have raised sufficient funds to publish this book.” It was the effort of a lifetime. The time of publication—twenty years after the Civil War ended—raises a question. Did Oswandel publish his journal, at least in part, because of his fear that the magnitude of that grand struggle would obscure, with its enormous shadow, the Mexican War? Thus, Oswandel’s admonition, “Let our people not altogether forget.” He sought to memorialize the patriots of that challenging conflict below the Rio Grande, and he demonstrated a unique grasp of where the Mexican War fit in the cause and effect flow of history. Oswandel x Editors’ Introduction accurately surmised that the war and the territorial expansion that it brought unleashed a chain reaction that ultimately led to the Civil War and the abolition of slavery; the first war being but part of a sequence of important historical events that did not conclude until 1865. The war with Mexico he likened to a “modern Aladdin” and the long-term, beneficial results to a “genii.” Americans did not heed Oswandel’s admonition, for the two-year conflict with Mexico (1846–48) has been all but forgotten by the general public. Mention the Mexican War in casual conversation and one will likely get a response that has something to do with the Alamo (1836) or the sinking of the battleship Maine (1898) or Pancho Villa (1916 border raider). Few of Oswandel’s modern-day countrymen know that a sizable portion of the North American continent was transferred from Mexico to the United States as a result of the war. Demographic and cultural changes in this country, however, make it imperative that this historical amnesia be addressed. Oswandel’s firsthand account has high value as a primary source. With his book now rare and inaccessible to the general public, the editors believe that a second printed edition of Oswandel’s journal is long overdue. The fog of time often casts a veil over history, but eyewitness accounts offer the best opportunity to part that veil. Journals...


pdf