Most volunteers and regulars served in the infantry. Only in Texas were all the regiments mounted.
The average Mexican War soldier was a young man in his late teens or early twenties. In all likelihood he grew up on a farm and was unable to read or write. Probably, he was native-born. If he was an immigrant, he was most likely to be Irish or German. He joined the army for adventure and glory. What he got, in most cases, was boredom, tedium, and misery.
Of the approximately 13,000 U.S. soldiers and sailors who died in the Mexican War, only about 2,000 were killed by the enemy or died of battle wounds. The majority of deaths were caused by disease or illness, often the result of poor sanitary conditions in camp. Yellow fever, malaria, measles, and dysentery were the most common ailments. Nearly 10,000 men were given disability discharges before their terms of enlistment expired. Some died before reaching home. About another 10,000 deserted (but only a handful went over to the Mexican side).
Of all the soldiers who died and were buried in Mexico, only 750 were interred in the U.S. National Cemetery in Mexico City. These were primarily casualties of the battles in and around Mexico City in September 1847, as well as soldiers who died during the occupation of the capital. Most U.S. soldiers who died during the Mexican War lie buried in graves that are unmarked and forgotten.
Mexican War veterans with a service-connected disability were eligible for a federal pension of half-pay. For a private, this amounted to $3.50 per month. The widow or orphan of a Mexican War soldier was also eligible for this same amount.
Immediately upon discharge, Mexican War veterans were eligible for a federal bounty land warrant, redeemable for 160 acres of land anywhere in the United States. These warrants were also redeemable for $100 in scrip. Not a few veterans were swindled out of their warrants by unscrupulous land speculators who took unfair advantage of returning veterans ignorant of the warrant's true worth. Many parted with their warrant for $50 or less.
The National Archives in Washington, D.C. keeps records of individual service on file, along with bounty land and pension records.
Some state archives also contain records relating to the Mexican War.
The holdings of some large public libraries, genealogical libraries, and regional branches of the National Archives may include microfilmed indexes of federal records pertaining to individual service in the Mexican War. It is suggested that you contact these before making a special trip, to be sure they have the records you want to examine.
Copies of individual military service records, bounty land records, and pension records may be ordered directly from the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C.
Copyright © 1999-2004 by the Descendants of Mexican War Veterans. All rights reserved.