Company "A" Corps of Engineers, U.S.A., 1846-1848, in the Mexican War

By Gustavus Woodson Smith; Leonne M. Hudson | Go to book overview

Introduction

More than 150 years ago, the United States and Mexico fought a war that changed both nations forever. Prior to that military event of the middle nineteenth century, the American nation had enjoyed more than three decades of peace with foreign countries. That peace, however, disappeared when the United States declared war on Mexico on May 13, 1846. President James K. Polk, a proponent of expansionism, did not shy away from a fight with his southern neighbor. The diplomatic squabbles between the two countries degenerated into an armed conflict that lasted seventeen months. The patriotism of Americans would be tested as the nation fought a war on foreign soil for the first time in its history.

Two days after the war declaration, Congress passed a bill creating a hundred-man engineer company as part of the regular army. Doubtless, the law satisfied Secretary of War William L. Marcy and Joseph G. Totten, chief engineer of the U.S. Army. Totten had long supported the authorization of such a unit. According to the new legislation, the prospective enlistees of the engineer company had to be American born, physically fit, and of good character. The soldiers had to possess mechanical aptitude and the ability to read and write. The men of the engineer company would be trained at West Point to perform a variety of tasks, including the construction

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