Extracted From The
West Virginia Soldiers In The War With Mexico
Third Biennial Report Of the Department of
Archives And History of the State of West Virginia 186-197
West Virginia Soldiers In The War With Mexico
When the Mexican Minister, as the representative of his government officially notified Congress that in the event of the passage of the bill providing for the admission of Texas into the Union, war would follow, his declaration attracted but little attention. But when General Santa Anna equipped an army and began his march from the city of Mexico toward the Rio Grande, at the same time announcing to the excited populace of the capital of the Montezumas, that before his return be would water his horse in the Potomac river, the Americans realized the truth of the declaration made by the minister before leaving Washington. Hostilities began April 25th, 1846, and by an Act of Congress passed May 13, 1847, it was declared that, "by an Act of the Republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that Government and the United States." There is nothing more contagious than military enthusiasm, and though philanthropists depict the blessings of peace and dilate on the horrors of war, let the drum beat and the bugle sound and the field and workshop will be deserted and the young and brave follow in their wake in quest of glory and adventure. Such was the existing condition in the United States, at the time of the declaration of war against Mexico. The President, James K. Polk, issued a call for troops and a requisition was made on Virginia. This was as follows:
Letter From William L. Marcy, Secretary Of War, To William Smith, Governor Of Virginia.
x x x The President now directs me to notify your Excellency that one Infantry regiment of volunteers from your State is required for immediate service, and to be continued therein during the war with Mexico, unless sooner discharged. The regiment will consist of -
Field and Staff: - 1 Colonel, 1 Lieutenant Colonel, 1 Major, 1 Adjutant, (a Lieutenant of one of the Companies, but not in addition.)
Non-commissioned Staff: - 1 Sergeant Major, 1 Quartermaster Sergeant, 2 Principal Musicians, and 10 Companies, each of which to consist of one Captain, 1 First Lieutenant, 2 Second Lieutenants, 4 Sergeants, 4 Corporals, 2 Musicians, and 80 Privates.
Should the number of Privates, on being mustered, not fall below sixty-four effective men in a Company it will be received.
Guyandotte is designated as a place of rendezvous for the several companies as fast as they shall be organized, and where they may be further organized into a regiment, it not already done under a previous call. The regiment will be inspected and mustered into service by an officer or officers of the United States Army, who will, in every case, be instructed to receive no man who is in years apparently over 45 or under 18, or who is not of physical strength and vigor. x x x
W. L. MARCY,
Secretary of War.
To his Excellency William Smith, Governor of Virginia.
On the 18th of November - that on which Governor Smith received the above communication - he issued a proclamation calling for ten companies of volunteers to constitute a regiment to serve according to the terms of the requisition of the President. These companies when organized and their officers commissioned, were to rendezvous at Guyandotte in Cabell county, now in West Virginia, there to be mustered into the service of the United [States]. On the same day William H. Richardson, Adjutant-General of Virginia, issued "General Orders" declaring that the Infantry Regiment of Volunteers required by the Governor's Proclamation, should consist of the officers and privates as designated in the President's Requisition.
Nowhere else did the call for volunteers meet with a readier response than in the Virginia counties now included in West Virginia. In the issue of the Martinsburg Gazette, of November 26th, there appeared a call for a meeting of citizens of Berkeley county, on Friday evening, the 27th ensuing to respond to the proclamation of Governor Smith. The result of this meeting was that Captain Ephrain G. Alburtis, editor of the Berkeley County Republican, and Captain of the "Independent Blues" tendered to the Governor the services of himself and company and these were promptly accepted...
The Governor's call for volunteers met with a response as enthusiastic in Jefferson county as it did in Berkeley; and while Captain Alburtis, was drilling the "Independent Blues" of Martinsburg, Captain John William Rowan was organizing the "Jefferson County Volunteers" at Charles Town and Shepherdstown...
On the 10th day of December, 1846, Governor Smith writing the Secretary of War, said: "Give me the privilege of mustering both battalions at Richmond, and I will promptly furnish as fine a Regiment as the world can produce." With the request, the President and Secretary of War complied, and the place of rendezvous was thus changed from Guyandotte, on the Ohio, to Richmond on the James. The reasons assigned for this change were that the greater number of companies were organized east of the Blue Ridge; and that because of the bad roads and deep snows in the Alleghenies at that season of the year rendered the march to Guyandotte almost impossible. Speedily the various company organizations including those from Berkeley and Jefferson counties, gathered at Richmond where they were mustered into service by Captain Larkin Smith of the Eighth Regiment, United States Infantry. On the 22d of December the Governor and Council of State appointed John F. Hamtramck of Shepherdstown, Jefferson county, now in West Virginia, Colonel of the Regiment, and he, arrived at Richmond on the 30th ensuing, at which time there was a great military and civic demonstration. On the 3d day of January, 1847, the first battalion of five companies, left Richmond for Old Point Comfort. The same day three other companies arrived at Richmond and two others were on the march to that city. On the 26th of that month, four companies sailed in the "Mayflower" from Old Point for Mexico; fresh water and supplies were taken on board at Havanna [sic], Cuba, February 7th, and then the voyage was continued to Point Isabel, at the mouth of the Rio Grande. February 24th, Colonel Hamtramck having completed arrangements for the sailing of the remaining companies; and having received a beautiful sword, presented by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth, left Richmond overland for New Orleans. Early in March, the Regiment, complete in its organization was at Point Isabel, whence it proceeded by steamboats up the Rio Grande and San Juan rivers to Comargo, from which place it proceeded to Monterey.
A letter written at Monterey, by Dr. E. K. Chamberlin, Surgeon of the First Regiment Ohio Volunteers, under date of April 23, 1847, says: -
"The Virginia Regiment under Colonel Hamtramck escorting a train of one hundred and eighty wagons from Comargo, arrived here yesterday. They have been sixteen days on the way, having been detained by heavy rains. They were obliged to build several bridges over streams that three weeks ago had not a drop of water in them. The Regiment is one of the largest and finest appearing ones I have seen in the field. The officers are generally military men of experienc[e] and appear to be gentlemen of high honor and bearing. The "Old Dominion" may well feel proud of the force she has sent into the field." From Monterey, the march was continued by way of Santillo to Buena Vista. No braver Regiment did battle on the plains of Mexico than this.
There was no company organization in Greenbrier county for the War with Mexico, but a number of men from this county hastened away to Staunton and enlisted in the Augusta County Company, formed at that place, and commanded by Captain Kenton Harper. The Roster of this Company is printed in the "Muster Rolls of the Virginia Militia," pp. 69, 70. A local historian familiar with the family names in Greenbrier, would, doubtless, readily detect and classify those from that county, who served in Captain Harper's Company. This will, doubtless, be done by some interested person in the near future.
Lieutenant George W. Clutter, early in 1847, enlisted a detachment of thirty-two men in Monongalia county, for service in the War with Mexico. They were known as the "Mountain Boys of Monongalia," and all left Morgantown, May 21, 1847, and proceeded to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, where they were attached to Company B of the Thirteenth United States Infantry, of which John Tyler was captain. He resigned and Lieutenant Clutter was promoted to the captaincy. The Company sailed June 9, 1847, in the brig "Tuckahoe" from Old Point Comfort, to Point Isabel at the mouth of the Rio Grande, whence the Regiment marched to join the forces of General Taylor. The names of these Monongalia county men were as follows : -
Levi L. Bryte
John W. Hayes
John McFadden (dis.)
Jesse J. Carraco
William Christy (died)
Aaron Hamilton (died)
Amos Martin (died)
N. N. Hoffman
William Pixler (Pa.)
Jacob Farr (Pa)
Benjamin Scott (died)
The Harrison Republican in its issue of June 26, 1846, states that the Eleventh Regiment of the Virginia Military establishment (that of Harrison county), was paraded at Clarksburg, under Colonel Augustine J. Smith, and that forty or fifty "fell in for Mexico."'
December 26, 1846, Governor Smith wrote the Secretary of War, saying: "Messrs. Kemper and Fry, two gallant young gentlemen from Kanawha, have just called on me to know if they can raise a company in that county for service in the War with Mexico." Their request was of course denied for the Regiment was already full.
The Wheeling Times, in its issue of November 25, 1846, contained a call for a meeting of the people of Ohio county on that evening, for the purpose of organizing a company for service in the War with Mexico. The ranks of the company were filled, and on the 11th of February, 1847, a meeting was held for the purpose of organization. Colonel Benjamin F. Kelly presided, and John J. Watson acted as Secretary; Daniel S. Lee was elected Captain; George W. Clutter, First Lieutenant; and John Jay Watson, Second Lieutenant. An editorial in the Argus, of February 23d ensuing, recommends that the ladies of Wheeling present the Company with a flag, before its departure. But now there was disappointment; information was received from the Governor of Virginia to the effect that the Regiment called for by the president was full, and no additional troops could be received. It was now that Lieutenant Clutter, previously mentioned, proceeded to Monongalia where he enlisted the detachment which became part of Company B. of the Thirteenth United States Infantry.
As early as December 10, 1846, Governor Smith had information that a company was being organized in Cabell county, Western Virginia, for service in the War with Mexico.
The Richmond Enquirer in its issue of January 16th, 1848, has the following under the caption, "Volunteer Movements in Western Virginia."
"A letter from Cabell C. H., of the 6th of January, alludes to the .formation of a volunteer company for Mexico. The Regiment was called together on the 4th instant, when fifty-three stepped forward and enrolled themselves as ready to march and fight in their country's cause.
They were to start on the 7th for Wayne C. H., where the Regiment was to meet on the 9th, hoping to make up the requisite number. Though this company will be formed too late to be accepted by the State, it shows that there are some gallant spirits in Cabell county. The citizens of the Courthouse have subscribed $200 for their benefit, and Charles Conner (so public-spirited a gentleman deserves to be named with praise) has made a donation of $100. Again, we say, well done old Cabell! She has set a patriotic example for her neighbors, which will not be lost upon them, should the country hereafter call upon Virginia for more of her sons to fight in a good cause."
The Virginia Regiment being full and already gone to Mexico, Elisha W. McComas and Joseph Samuels secured Commissions as Captain and First Lieutenant, and at Wheeling, and in Cabell and other counties bordering on the Ohio, raised a company which was attached as Company C. of the Eleventh United States Infantry. The Rendezvous was Guyandotte, in Cabell county, from which the Company proceeded to Newport barracks, where it was mustered into service. "Yesterday," said the New Orleans Delta, in its issue of August 5, 1847, "Captain Elisha W. McComas and Lieutenant Joseph Samuels, with seventy-five privates of Company C. of the Eleventh United States Infantry of the Regular Army, arrived on the steamer "Pontiac" from Newport barracks."
Four West Virginia Organizations were accepted - two by Virginia and two by the United States - and saw service on the battlefields of Mexico. These were as follows: -
Captain Ephraim G. Alburtis' Berkeley County Company, in First Regiment Virginia Volunteers.
Captain John William Rowan's Jefferson County Company, in First Regiment Virginia Volunteers.
Captain Elisha W. McComas' Company C. of Eleventh Regiment, United States Infantry.
Captain George W. Clutter's Detachment of Monongalia "Mountain Boys" attached to Company B of the Thirteenth Regiment, United States Infantry.
Ten Companies of West Virginians were enlisted, organized and tendered their services to the Governor of the Commonwealth for the War with Mexico, but were not received for the reason, that the National Government called upon Virginia for only one Regiment and this, as we have seen was speedily filled by men from the eastern part of the State. These ten West Virginia Companies were as follows: -
Kemper & Fry's Kanawha Riflemen of Kamawha county.
Captain Daniel S. Lee's Volunteers of Ohio county.
Captain Elisha W. McComas' Volunteers of Cabell county.
Captain - Kramer's Monongalia Blues of Monongalia county.
Captain ___ Fowler's Cheat River Invincibles of Preston county.
Captain ____ Ellison's Cavalry Company of Preston county.
Captain Byron J. Bassel's Volunteers of Harrison county.
Captain Hiram W. Winters' Bridgeport Rifles of Harrison county.
Captain Cyrus Vance's Harrison Guards from Harrison county.
Captain Cruger W. Smith's Clarksburg Rifles of Harrison county.
It is thus seen that, had they been permitted, these West Virginia Volunteers would have completely filled the ranks of the First Virginia Regiment; or bad a second Regiment been called for, were ready to organize it with a full complement of a thousand men.
Among the West Virginians who served in the War with Mexico, were Lieutenant Forbes Britain, Seventh United States Infantry, of Harrison county; and Lieutenant Thomas J. Jackson, First United States Artillery, the latter born in Harrison county and reared in Lewis. He was the famous "Stonewall" Jackson, of the Confederate States Army. Others who served from Harrison county, were George Duff, Hiram Applebay, Judson Holden, and George Exline, all in Company C. of the Eleventh United States Infantry, Edgar Haymond and his brother Alfred from Braxton county, also enlisted, the former dying in Mexico, the latter soon after his return. Levi L. Bryte, of Grant District, and Alexander Jenkins of Reno District, both in Preston county, and others whose names have not been ascertained, served in this war. Isaac Lewis and ____ Knopp of Mason county, were members of Company C. of the Eleventh Regiment United States Army. The Roster of this Company may be preserved in the War Department; if we had it it would be found to contain many familiar names of men in the West Virginia counties bordering on the Ohio river, especially those of Ohio and Cabell.
Where are the Rosters of these Company Organizations? Lost or preserved, which? Some are doubtless lost; others may yet be found in the possession of individuals; in county record offices; in the Archives of Virginia; or in the possession of the War Department of the National Government. Doubtless search will be made for them in the future.
Military and Wartime