Category: Mexican War (1846–1848)

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Archer, Fletcher H. (1817–1902)

Fletcher H. Archer was a Confederate army officer and Petersburg mayor. After earning a law degree from the University of Virginia and practicing law in his native Petersburg, Archer led a company of Virginia volunteers during the Mexican War (1846–1848). During the American Civil War (1861–1865), he served in the infantry and at the Norfolk Naval Hospital before retiring back to his Petersburg law practice. In 1864, however, with Union general-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant‘s Army of the Potomac moving south, Archer raised a battalion of Virginia Reserves—composed mostly of men either too young or old for regular duty—and, on June 9, helped to successfully defend the city at the Battle of Old Men and Young Boys. After the war, Archer joined the Conservative Party and, as president of the Petersburg City Council, became mayor in 1882 when William E. Cameron, the previous mayor, became governor. Archer served until 1883, and died in Petersburg in 1902.

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Aulick, John H. (ca. 1791–1873)

John H. Aulick was a United States Navy officer whose appointment in 1851 to negotiate a treaty with Japan ended with his being relieved of command and replaced by Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Born in Winchester, Aulick was a veteran of the War of 1812, during which he was captured and later awarded a congressional medal, and the Mexican War (1846–1848). In 1850, Aulick was given command of the East India Squadron, and his suggestion of trade negotiations with Japan was approved by United States president Millard Fillmore. Aulick’s quarrels with his ship’s captain, however, in addition to charges filed against Aulick by one of the voyage’s diplomatic passengers, led Fillmore to replace him with Perry. Negotiations with Japan were a success and Perry became famous for the achievement. Aulick’s career was effectively over. He retired in 1861 and died in Washington in 1873.

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Barron, Samuel (1809–1888)

Samuel Barron was a United States and Confederate States naval officer. The son and nephew of United States Navy captains, he was appointed a midshipman at two years old, reported for active duty at six, and sailed aboard the flagship of the Mediterranean fleet before he was eleven. During the Mexican War (1846–1848), Barron commanded the USS Perry on the Pacific coast, and during the 1850s, he served in Washington, D.C., where his courtly manners earned him the nickname, “the Navy diplomat.” Like Robert E. Lee, he opposed secession but joined the Confederacy anyway, and during the American Civil War (1861–1865), he served first on the North Carolina coast and was captured there in 1861 and exchanged in July 1862. In March 1863, he assumed command of the James River Squadron, but spent most of his time in Richmond. At the end of the year, he transferred to Europe, but by this time Britain and France had settled on neutrality and his efforts to build a Confederate fleet there were stymied. Barron did not return to Virginia in time to play much role in the end of the war and eventually retired to a farm in Essex County, where he died in 1888.

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Beauregard, G. T. (1818–1893)

G. T. Beauregard (also known as Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard) was a Confederate general during the American Civil War (1861–1865) and, after helping engineer victory at the First Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861, one of the Confederacy’s first war heroes. Raised in an aristocratic French home in New Orleans, Louisiana, Beauregard graduated from West Point and served in the Mexican War (1846–1848) before becoming the Confederacy’s first brigadier general and later a full general. He commanded Confederate and South Carolina troops at Charleston Harbor in April 1861, forcing the surrender of Fort Sumter, and, with Joseph E. Johnston, routed Irvin McDowell at Manassas in July. Beauregard’s Napoleonic pretensions did not suit the temperament of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, however, and the two quarreled for much of the war and postwar. Beauregard fought well at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, but left his army without leave for the summer and was transferred east. He was critical in the defense of Petersburg in 1864, but ended the war largely out of favor. After the war, he engaged in politics that were sympathetic to the civil rights of African Americans, criticized Davis and Johnston in a two-volume, ghostwritten memoir, and accumulated wealth that was unusual for a former Confederate commander. Beauregard died in New Orleans in 1893.

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Cooke, Philip St. George (1809–1895)

Philip St. George Cooke was a Virginia-born Union general during the American Civil War (1861–1865). A West Point graduate and a lawyer, Cooke served on frontier duty and fought in both the Black Hawk War (1832) and the Mexican War (1846–1848). In addition, he helped to protect settlers on the Oregon Trail, fought Apache in New Mexico Territory, helped subdue Sioux in Nebraska Territory, helped restore order in Bloody Kansas, and led an expedition against Mormons in the Utah Territory. When the Civil War began, Cooke was one of the Regular Army’s top cavalrymen and he chose to stay with the Union, writing, “I owe Virginia little; my country much.” It was a decision that caused a long estrangement from his son, John Rogers Cooke (1833–1891), and a rift with his son-in-law, the future Confederate general J. E. B. Stuart. During the war, he led a controversial cavalry charge at Gaines’s Mill (1862) and eventually left the Army of the Potomac, claiming its commanders were inept. Following the war, his involvement in a massacre by Lakota Sioux further tarnished his reputation. He wrote two memoirs and a cavalry manual and in the 1880s reconciled with his son. Cooke died in Detroit, Michigan, in 1895.

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Davis, Jefferson (1808–1889)

Jefferson Davis was a celebrated veteran of the Mexican War (1846–1848), a U.S. senator from Mississippi (1847–1851; 1857–1861), secretary of war under U.S. president Franklin Pierce (1853–1857), and the only president of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Tall, lean, and formal, Davis was considered to be an ideal leader of the Confederacy upon his election in 1861, despite the fact that he neither sought the job nor particularly wanted it. Davis was a war hero, slaveholder, and longtime advocate of states’ rights who nevertheless was not viewed to be a radical “fire-eater,” making him more appealing to the hesitating moderates in Virginia. Still, Davis’s reputation suffered over the years. Searing headaches, caused in part by facial neuralgia, exacerbated an already prickly personality. “I have an infirmity of which I am heartily ashamed,” he said. “When I am aroused in a matter, I lose control of my feelings and become personal.” The challenges inherent in holding together a wartime government founded on the idea of states’ rights didn’t help, either, nor did critics like E. A. Pollard, editor of the Richmond Examiner, who charged after the war that the Lost Cause was “lost by the perfidy of Jefferson Davis.” Robert E. Lee, however, spoke for many when he said, “You can always say that few people could have done better than Mr. Davis. I knew of none that could have done as well.”

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Garnett, Robert S. (1819–1861)

Robert S. Garnett was a brigadier general in the Confederate army during the American Civil War (1861–1865). An 1841 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he had a distinguished career in the United States Army, including service in the Mexican War (1846–1848), when he was an advisor to the Virginia-born general and later U.S. president Zachary Taylor. Garnett also designed the Great Seal of the State of California. After resigning from the Army to join the Confederacy, Garnett led Confederate troops on July 13, 1861, at the Battle of Corrick’s Ford in what is now West Virginia. During the closing phases of that engagement, Garnett was shot and killed, becoming the first Confederate general killed during the Civil War.

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Gorgas, Josiah (1818-1883)

Josiah Gorgas was a Confederate general and chief of the Ordnance Bureau during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Born in Pennsylvania, Gorgas was a veteran of the Mexican War (1846–1848) who married into a prominent political family in Alabama. His new Southern connections, along with dissatisfactions with his army career, helped fuel his decision to join the Confederacy. In 1861, he was the only experienced ordnance officer available to Confederate president Jefferson Davis‘s new government, and he almost single-handedly created a department charged with supplying Confederate armies with weapons and ammunition. He bought all the arms and supplies available in Europe and created a fleet of blockade-runners to transport them to Southern ports. At the same time, he worked to build Confederate industry and reinforce its railroads so that by 1863 the Confederacy was self-sufficient in military hardware. Following the war, Gorgas suffered financial difficulties and served briefly as president of the University of Alabama. He died in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1883.

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Hooker, Joseph (1814–1879)

Joseph Hooker was a Union general during the American Civil War (1861–1865) and, for the first half of 1863, commander of the Army of the Potomac. Nicknamed “Fighting Joe,” Hooker was a Regular Army veteran with a checkered reputation—rumors of drunkenness dogged him for much of his career—and a talent for political infighting. When he took over the army from Ambrose E. Burnside after the debacle at Fredericksburg (1862), the Army of the Potomac’s morale was at an all-time low and desertion an all-time high. He reorganized its forces, virtually halted desertion, established reliable intelligence gathering, and, most important, boosted confidence. He also developed an elaborate plan secretly to flank Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia on the south side of the Rappahannock River, boasting to his army that “certain destruction awaits” the Confederates. At the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863), however, it was Hooker who was famously flanked and eventually forced to retreat. He then became a victim of infighting, and a few days before the Battle of Gettysburg (1863) gave up his command to George G. Meade.

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Jackson, Thomas J. “Stonewall” (1824–1863)

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was a West Point graduate, veteran of the Mexican War (1846–1848), instructor at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, and Confederate general under Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War (1861–1865). One of Lee’s ablest commanders, Jackson earned his famous nickname during the First Battle of Manassas in 1861 when a fellow general is said to have cried out, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!” A few contemporary accounts suggest that the stone-wall comparison was not intended to be complimentary, but it hardly matters. The real Jackson—peculiarly earnest and single-minded but in many ways not so different from other soldiers of his day—was being transformed into the mythological one, an Old Testament God of wrath contrasting with Lee’s Christ-like figure. When Jackson was accidentally wounded by his own men during the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863), Lee relayed to him a message: “Give General Jackson my affectionate regards, and say to him: he has lost his left arm but I my right.” Jackson died eight days later due to complications from the injury. A martyr to his cause during the war, Jackson has become an iconic figure in Southern culture, second only to Lee in the pantheon of Confederate heroes.

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