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Mexican War Veteran Research

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Mexican War Veteran Organizations

Alexander M. Kenaday, NAVMW Founder In 1874, in Washington, D.C., a former dragoon sergeant named Alexander M. Kenaday (see picture, left) initiated the founding of the National Association of Veterans of the Mexican War. (Kenaday was elected secretary, a post he held until his death in 1897). For the next thirteen years the N.A.V.M.W. lobbied Congress to pass a Mexican War service pension bill. Most of the opposition came from Radical Republican congressmen who represented northern states. They were reluctant to support a Mexican War service pension bill on the grounds that not a few Mexican War veterans had also served in the Confederate army during the War Between the States. Not the least of these was Jefferson Davis, former president of the Confederacy and a colonel of the First Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers during the Mexican War. After Davis renounced any claim to a federal pension if a bill were passed, Congress relented.
The Mexican War service pension act was signed into law on January 29, 1887. By the end of that year there were a little more than 8,000 recipients on the pension rolls. The number of recipients reached its peak in 1890 when more than 17,000 veterans and more than 6,000 widows were on the rolls. The amount of the pension was $8 a month. After the turn of the century, this amount was raised to $12, later to $20.

In 1876 the N.A.V.M.W. issued a bronze, shield-shaped medal to its members. The federal goverment never awarded medals to any Mexican War veterans apart from Generals Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor. New York and South Carolina awarded medals to the Mexican War veterans who served from those states.

At their annual reunion, held in various cities around the United States between 1874 and 1910, the Mexican War veterans spoke of preserving battlefields and erecting a national monument. Apart from passage of the Mexican War service pension bill, none of their objectives were achieved. It was not until 1992, many years after the last Mexican War veteran died (probably in 1929), that an act of Congress, creating Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, was passed. In December 1995, The Descendants of Mexican War Veterans launched a campaign to find a congressional sponsor for a bill authorizing the erecting of a Mexican War veterans memorial on federal land in Washington, D.C.

Another veterans' organization, the Aztec Club of 1847, was founded in Mexico City by officers of the U.S. Army. The club is still in existence today.

Mrs. M. Moore Murdock, founder of the Dames of 1846

Another Mexican War related society, now defunct, was the Dames of 1846, founded in Fort Worth, Texas in 1901 by Mrs. M. Moore Murdock (shown here in a photo taken in the 1920s). The membership of the Dames of 1846 was made up of the wives and daughters of Mexican War veterans. In the early 1900's, Mrs. Murdock was serving as secretary of the Texas association when she was also elected to the post of secretary of the national association, the position previously held by Alexander Kenaday. Through Mrs. Murdock's tireless efforts, Congress was persuaded to increase pensions for Mexican War veterans, first to $12, later to $20. Mrs. Murdock presided over the last meeting of the NAVMW, held in Indianapolis in 1910. The Dames of 1846 continued in existence until Mr. Murdock's death in 1932.

The Descendants of Mexican War Veterans, founded in Dallas, Texas in 1989, has declared itself heir in spirit to both the National Association of Veterans of the Mexican War and the Dames of 1846. Accordingly, the D.M.W.V. has incorporated the N.A.V.M.W. seal into its own and has adopted many of the veterans' unrealized goals.


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