South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLVIII
THE MEXICAN WAR AND THE SECESSION MOVEMENT, 1847-1852

THE ANNEXATION of Texas in 1845 led directly to the war with Mexico; but the two issues were theoretically distinct and found many favoring one and opposing the other. Calhoun, for instance, ardently favored annexing Texas, for the sake of accomplishing which and in order to settle peaceably the Oregon question with England he accepted the Secretaryship of State; but he as earnestly opposed war with Mexico. Governor Aiken deprecated acquiring Mexican territory, and a long list of Southern leaders deprecated both war and acquisitions. Nowhere, said one of her Senators (whose opinion might be questioned) was the war immediately after its outbreak more detested than in South Carolina. On December 30, 1847, with the treaty almost made, the Charleston Mercury strongly opposed annexing Mexican territory. The war, whose possibilities as a fomenter of sectional strife Calhoun foresaw, dropped before him for the first time, he declared, a curtain obscuring the future. He feared that a war with Mexico would prove the prelude to a greater and more distressing war. This, with his conviction of the Africanization of the South as the inevitable result of emancipation, filled him with hopeless gloom. The war was most hated in New England. It was welcome in New York, but was most desired in the West and Southwest.

South Carolina's quota of volunteers was quickly raised and pledged "for the war." When the army disembarked at Vera Cruz, August 9, 1847, the Palmettos mustered 974. The South Carolina regiment, commonly known as "the Palmettos," says Mr. Justin H. Smith, "was made up of superior material. Men fit to be officers were in the ranks." Its Colonel, Pierce M. Butler ( 1798-1847) of Edgefield, a soldier by instinct, had served eleven years in the regular army. He was Governor from 1836 to 1838. He now returned to military life from a prominent business position. He held his men more by their fear of losing his respect than by fear of incurring punishment. Lieutenant-Colonel J. P. Dickinson of Kershaw had to be restrained, so dashing was his courage. Major A. H. Gladden of Richland, when called by the death of Butler and

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