One of the more bitter ironies of the American Civil War is that so many of the senior commanders that led the opposing armies in the bloody four-year conflict were years earlier both West Point classmates and then comrades in the Mexican War of 1846 and 1847.
Legendary Confederates like Lee, Jackson, Picket and Longstreet served alongside their Union counterparts Meade, Grant, and McClelland in the year-and-a-half long fight for control of California and the present-day southwestern United States. Most of these celebrated generals were little more than lieutenants and captains at the time and all were recent graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
The story of how the generation of commanders who masterminded the victories at Gettysburg, Manassas, Antietam and Shiloh first perfected their lethal craft on the scorching plains of Mexico is the subject of an article this week on the Smithsonian Institute’s online magazine and blog.
“There are any number of reasons why the Americans dominated the fighting [in Mexico],” writes author of the piece William Rosen. “However, the decisive American advantage was not in technology or political stability, but in military professionalism.”
The full article, entitled: “Brainpower and Brawn in the Mexican American War”, is available here. It well worth the read.