Panting for Glory: The Mississippi Rifles in the Mexican War

Panting for Glory: The Mississippi Rifles in the Mexican War

Panting for Glory: The Mississippi Rifles in the Mexican War

Panting for Glory: The Mississippi Rifles in the Mexican War

Synopsis

Armed with percussion rifles when most other US soldiers still carried flintlock muskets, the "Mississippi Rifles" served in the war against Mexico that followed the annexation of Texas in 1845. In Panting for Glory: The Mississippi Rifles in the Mexican War, Richard Bruce Winders skillfully uncovers the contrasting wartime experiences of two regiments, the 1st and 2nd Mississippi Rifles.

The 1st Mississippi Rifles were lauded for their service and remain a familiar part of the history of the Mexican War. Under the leadership of Col. Jefferson Davis--later the President of the Confederate States of America--the 1st enjoyed significant victories at the Battle of Buena Vista and the Battle of Monterey. The 2nd Mississippi Rifles, by contrast, saw little action and returned home overlooked and largely forgotten.

Panting for Glory compares these regiments to show that the contours of history were sometimes arbitrary and that military historians, in their analysis of failure, should take into account a wide range of factors that influence outcomes, not merely records of wins and losses. As Winders concludes, "the 1st and 2nd Mississippi Rifles... offer the perfect opportunity to examine two sides of war: glory gained and glory denied."

Excerpt

Splendor; magnificence; Praise ascribed in adoration; honor; Honor; praise; fame; renown; celebrity; Distinguished honor or ornament; that which honors or makes renowned; that of which one may boast; To boast; to be proud of.—Definitions of “glory” from Webster’s Dictionary (1828 edition)

The Song of Death

Thou strik’st the dull peasant—he sinks in the dark,
Nor saves e’en the wreck of a name;
Thou strik’st the young hero—a glorious mark;
He falls in the blaze of his fame!
In the field of proud honour—our swords in our hands,
Our King and our country to save;
While victory shines on Life’s last ebbing sands,
O! who would not die with the brave!

—Robert Burns

The quest for personal, state, and national glory was a powerful motive in the Mexican War. the possibility of achieving it was thought worth the risk of one’s life. Those who found it returned home heroes, lauded by their families, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. Those who failed in their quest quietly returned home with their sacrifices and hardships unrecognized. Attaining glory made for reputation, honor, and a bright future. the lack of it left a soldier with his hope for fame unfilled—a peasant among heroes.

What follows is a tale of two regiments. the 1st Mississippi Rifles returned home arguably the most famous volunteer regiment of the Mexican War. To their fellow Mississippians, Col. Jefferson Davis and his men represented the best their state had to offer. They were tested in battle and excelled. Their fame and glory spread to the national stage, making them America’s heroes too. As the Woodville Republican explained, in the future it would be “sufficient to mark a man for distinction and honor for him to say, ‘I was one of the 1st Mississippi Regiment.’ “

The 2nd Mississippi Rifles returned home unheralded. the parades . . .

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