We Follow, Close Order, Behind You
News from Mexico was of more interest to cadets than the arrival of the new Superintendent. Zachary Taylor's victories over Mexican forces with a force composed primarily of Regulars brought excitement and cheers, which ceased abruptly when casualty lists appeared. Rankin Dilworth, Class of 1845, died of wounds received at Monterey where his classmate, James S. Woods, was killed storming enemy entrenchments. Only eight months after leaving the Academy, Francis T. Bryan, 1846, was wounded at the battle of Buena Vista. Several members of the Class of 1846 accompanied Kearny's column on its march from Fort Leavenworth to California and others were with Taylor. The majority of the Class, thirty-seven men, joined Winfield Scott's invasion of Mexico and his subsequent advance to Mexico City. Casualty lists from Scott's headquarters saddened the West Point family for many of the Class of 1846 were included. Twenty percent of the Class were wounded. Other classes also had heavy casualties. Of the 714 graduates in service, 48 were killed in battle or died of wounds, a percentage of battle deaths nearly 3 times the percentage of losses for other Regulars and over 7 times greater than the percentage losses of volunteer and militia units. As Cadet Thomas J. Haines wrote to a family friend, they had "seen and felt the elephant," a phrase that became prevalent during the Civil War to indicate that an individual had been in battle.
Other word about graduates was more exciting. Many received brevet promotions, the only way to recognize outstanding service because decorations were not authorized until many years later. Thomas J. Jackson, the awkward cadet who kept to himself, was promoted to permanent first lieutenant, an unusual recognition. He also received brevet promotions to captain and major. The Class of 1846 earned fifty-one brevets. George McClellan earned three pro-