Mexican War, 1846-48

Historical Marker #964 in Paducah highlights the service of Kentucky’s soldiers during the Mexican-American War.

When war broke out with Mexico in 1846, Kentuckians enthusiastically responded to the call for troops.

In an address to the state, Governor William Owsley proudly proclaimed, "therefore, mindful of the high renown that Kentucky had acquired patriotism and gallantry, and being unwilling at a crisis like this, that our noble state should suffer herself to be surpassed in devotion to the common cause of our country," and "appealing to pride, the patriotism, and the chivalry of Kentuckians . . .," the governor asked for volunteer companies to be formed and to report to him.

Kentucky raised far more troops than were required. The federal government asked Kentucky for only two regiments of infantry and one cavalry unit, but more than 100 companies volunteered. Therefore, the governor had to refuse the service of 75 companies. Although the federal government asked for only 2,400 troops from Kentucky, nearly 13,000 men tried to answer the call. These citizen-soldiers hoped to find adventure, experience military glory, and to preserve Kentucky’s legacy of military service that had stretched from the pioneer period through the War of 1812.

Most Kentuckians who made it to Mexico found little martial glory. Instead, they suffered from extreme heat, a lack of healthy water and food, and long periods of boredom. Of the more than 5,000 Kentuckians who served in the Mexican War, disease claimed the vast majority (509) of soldiers’ lives. Less than 70 died from actual combat.

Kentucky’s service in the Mexican-American War was not forgotten by its citizens. Monuments at Frankfort, Paris, Lawrenceburg, Midway, and Cynthiana were raised to honor those Kentuckians who had fought and died in the service of their state and country.

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