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The U.S.-Mexican War Useful Links For Members Only

Research Guide



The man in the photo above is believed to be Lt. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in Mexico City or Vera Cruz, circa 1847. Courtesy Dr. Wm. J. Schultz, DMWV Associate Member.

Records relating to veterans of the U.S.-Mexican War in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and in state archives contain a wealth of genealogical and historical information. Here, for your convenience, are links to information telling how to access these records. Whether you are hoping to prove your relationship to a Mexican War Veteran so that you may apply for membership in the DMWV or if you are a historical researcher, we hope you will find this website useful.


Introduction

According to U.S. Government documents published in 1848, a little more than 100,000 men served in the armed forces of the United States during the War with Mexico. Of these, approximately 75,000 served in volunteer organizations raised by the following states: Alabama; Arkansas; California; Florida; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana: Iowa (Mormon Battalion); Kentucky; Louisiana; Maryland and the District of Columbia; Massachusetts; Michigan; Mississippi; Missouri; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; Pennsylvania: Ohio; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; and Virginia. The remainder served in the regular U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, or the Marines. The number of men employed by the Quartermaster's Dept. as teamsters or steamboat hands or the number of women who served as cooks or laundresses is presently unknown.

Most volunteers and regulars served in the infantry. Only in Texas were all the regiments mounted.

The average Mexican War soldier was a young man in his late teens or early twenties. In all likelihood he grew up on a farm and was unable to read or write. Probably, he was native-born. If he was an immigrant, he was most likely to be Irish or German. He joined the army for adventure and glory. What he got, in most cases, was boredom, tedium, and misery.

Of the approximately 13,000 U.S. soldiers and sailors who died in the Mexican War, only about 2,000 were killed by the enemy or died of battle wounds. The majority of deaths were caused by disease or illness, often the result of poor sanitary conditions in camp. Yellow fever, malaria, measles, and dysentery were the most common ailments. Nearly 10,000 men were given disability discharges before their terms of enlistment expired. Some died before reaching home. About another 10,000 deserted (but only a handful went over to the Mexican side).

Of all the soldiers who died and were buried in Mexico, only 750 were interred in the U.S. National Cemetery in Mexico City. These were primarily casualties of the battles in and around Mexico City in September 1847, as well as soldiers who died during the occupation of the capital. Most U.S. soldiers who died during the Mexican War lie buried in graves that are unmarked and forgotten.

Mexican War veterans with a service-connected disability were eligible for a federal pension of half-pay. For a private, this amounted to $3.50 per month. The widow or orphan of a Mexican War soldier was also eligible for this same amount.

Immediately upon discharge, Mexican War veterans were eligible for a federal bounty land warrant, redeemable for 160 acres of land anywhere in the United States. These warrants were also redeemable for $100 in scrip. Not a few veterans were swindled out of their warrants by unscrupulous land speculators who took unfair advantage of returning veterans ignorant of the warrant's true worth. Many parted with their warrant for $50 or less.

The National Archives in Washington, D.C. keeps records of individual service on file, along with bounty land and pension records.

Some state archives also contain records relating to the Mexican War.

The holdings of some large public libraries, genealogical libraries, and regional branches of the National Archives may include microfilmed indexes of federal records pertaining to individual service in the Mexican War. It is suggested that you contact these before making a special trip, to be sure they have the records you want to examine.

Copies of individual military service records, bounty land records, and pension records may be ordered directly from the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C.

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U.S-Mexican War Veteran Organizations

Alexander M. Kenaday, NAVMW Founder In 1874, in Washington, D.C., a former dragoon sergeant named Alexander M. Kenaday (see picture, left) initiated the founding of the National Association of Veterans of the Mexican War. (Kenaday was elected secretary, a post he held until his death in 1897). For the next thirteen years the N.A.V.M.W. lobbied Congress to pass a Mexican War service pension bill. Most of the opposition came from Radical Republican congressmen who represented northern states. They were reluctant to support a Mexican War service pension bill on the grounds that not a few Mexican War veterans had also served in the Confederate army during the War Between the States. Not the least of these was Jefferson Davis, former president of the Confederacy and a colonel of the First Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers during the Mexican War. After Davis renounced any claim to a federal pension if a bill were passed, Congress relented.
The Mexican War service pension act was signed into law on January 29, 1887. By the end of that year there were a little more than 8,000 recipients on the pension rolls. The number of recipients reached its peak in 1890 when more than 17,000 veterans and more than 6,000 widows were on the rolls. The amount of the pension was $8 a month. After the turn of the century, this amount was raised to $12, later to $20.

In 1876 the N.A.V.M.W. issued a bronze, shield-shaped medal to its members. The federal goverment never awarded medals to any Mexican War veterans apart from Generals Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor. New York and South Carolina awarded medals to the Mexican War veterans who served from those states.

At their annual reunion, held in various cities around the United States between 1874 and 1910, the Mexican War veterans spoke of preserving battlefields and erecting a national monument. Apart from passage of the Mexican War service pension bill, none of their objectives were achieved. It was not until 1992, many years after the last Mexican War veteran died (probably in 1929), that an act of Congress, creating Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, was passed. In December 1995, The Descendants of Mexican War Veterans launched a campaign to find a congressional sponsor for a bill authorizing the erecting of a Mexican War veterans memorial on federal land in Washington, D.C.

Another veterans' organization, the Aztec Club of 1847, was founded in Mexico City by officers of the U.S. Army. The club is still in existence today.

Mrs. M. Moore Murdock, founder of the Dames of 1846

Another Mexican War related society, now defunct, was the Dames of 1846, founded in Fort Worth, Texas in 1901 by Mrs. M. Moore Murdock (shown here in a photo taken in the 1920s). The membership of the Dames of 1846 was made up of the wives and daughters of Mexican War veterans. In the early 1900's, Mrs. Murdock was serving as secretary of the Texas association when she was also elected to the post of secretary of the national association, the position previously held by Alexander Kenaday. Through Mrs. Murdock's tireless efforts, Congress was persuaded to increase pensions for Mexican War veterans, first to $12, later to $20. Mrs. Murdock presided over the last meeting of the NAVMW, held in Indianapolis in 1910. The Dames of 1846 continued in existence until Mr. Murdock's death in 1932.

The Descendants of Mexican War Veterans, founded in Dallas, Texas in 1989, has declared itself heir in spirit to both the National Association of Veterans of the Mexican War and the Dames of 1846. Accordingly, the D.M.W.V. has incorporated the N.A.V.M.W. seal into its own and has adopted many of the veterans' unrealized goals.

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Types of Veteran Records

Although the majority of Mexican War veterans served in volunteer regiments raised by the several states, those organizations were all mustered into federal service. As a result, both volunteer and regular service records are on file in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. rather than in state archives. It was also the federal government, not the states, which awarded Mexican War veterans bounty land warrants as a reward for their service. Additionally, it was the federal government, rather than the states, to which veterans had to apply for disability pensions, widows pensions, orphans pensions, and service pensions. Consequently, there may be from one to three files relating to any given Mexican War veteran in the National Archives. The following is a brief description of what researchers might hope to find.

MILITARY SERVICE FILES
Military Service Files are of limited use to genealogists since they rarely contain papers which would be useful in establishing familial links. The files usually contain one or more cards stating the name of the soldier, his rank, the identifying letter, number, or name of the military organization to which he belonged and the date and place where he was mustered into service. The file might also reveal whether he was killed or wounded, died in service, or was discharged for disability or some other reason. Sometimes there is a physical description of the soldier (height, hair color, complexion, and so on) and his place of birth might also be stated. Some soldiers were offered a cash bounty for enlisting. Payment of the bounty may be recorded in the service file as well as payments for clothing, etc. The file's primary importance lies in establishing that the man was indeed a veteran. Of course, this information is vital for any person who wishes to apply for membership in The Descendants of Mexican War Veterans. The National Archives has produced an alphabetical index of Mexican War volunteer on microfilm as well as microfilm of the regular army enlistments, and marine corps and naval enlistments.

BOUNTY LAND FILES
Veterans of the Mexican War were eligible, upon discharge, to receive a federal bounty land warrent redeemable for 160 acres of land anywhere in the United States. All the veteran had to do was send a request to the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., along with some proof of service, such as a discharge certificate. Sadly, unscrupulous land speculators preyed on young, uneducated veterans who probably did not realize the true worth of these warrants, purchasing them for as little as $25. Some received no money at all. A number of these speculators did business in New Orleans, where many regiments were mustered out of service. Copies of papers in the bounty land file should reveal whether or not the veteran sold his warrant or redeemed it. If the latter, the redeemed warrant may be among the papers in the file. The discharge certificate is also likely to be there. Both documents should be of interest to genealogists since the former will show where the veteran settled after the war and the latter not only gives a physical description of the soldier but also states his age and place of birth, information not always given in the service file. Unfortunately, there is no alphabetical index to these files available to researchers in the form of either microfilm or print.

PENSION FILES
Veterans who were disabled by illness, war wounds or service-connected injuries were eligible for a federal pension of half-pay (for a private this amounted to $3.50 per month) from the day they were discharged. Widows of men who were killed or died in service were also eligible. Children of deceased veterans could apply for an orphan's pension.

Service pensions were granted by an act of Congress approved January 29, 1887. Both veterans and widows were eligible for an $8 per month pension. After the turn of the century these were increased to $12, then $20 per month. It appears the majority of recipients applied within the first three years of the pension's availability. Applications were accepted until 1926.

Papers found in pension files are probably the most valuable to genealogists in terms of establishing relationships. They might also provide answers to long-held questions. Each applicant not only had to fill out a lengthy application but also had to back up his or her claim with affidavits from witnesses. Date and place of marriage, date and place of death, and former or present places of residence might be among the information these papers provide.

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NARA Indexes to Veteran Records

If you have an ancestor whom you suspect of having served in the armed forces, it is not advisable to write blindly to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) hoping to turn up something. In the first place, a letter won't do. Two specific government forms (NATF Form 85 and NATF Form 86) must be used. Secondly, the more information you can provide on the forms, the better your chances of success.

The best approach is to first examine the National Archives' microfilmed indexes to military service and pension files. Fortunately, it is not necessary to travel to Washington, D.C. to see these. Many large libraries have copies in their genealogy sections or you can visit one of the regional National Archives repositories. You may also rent or purchase the microfilm from the National Archives or some other source, such as your local LDS Genealogical Research Center.


MILITARY SERVICE RECORD INDEXES

VOLUNTEER SERVICE RECORDS

  • M616, Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Mexican War, 41 rolls. This is for all states that raised volunteer organizations during the Mexican War, including the four listed immediately below.
  • Actual microfilmed service records, not indexes:

  • M1970, Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Mexican War in Organizations From the State of Arkansas, 12 rolls
  • M863, Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Mexican War in Organizations From the State of Mississippi, 9 rolls
  • M1028, Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Mexican War in Organizations From the State of Pennsylvania, 13 rolls
  • M638, Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Mexican War in Organizations From the State of Tennessee, 15 rolls
  • M278, Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Mexican War in Organizations From the State of Texas, 19 rolls
  • M351, Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Mexican War in Mormon Organizations, 3 rolls

REGULAR ARMY SERVICE RECORDS

  • M233, Registers of Enlistments in the United States Army, 1798 - 1914, 81 rolls. Roll 21 covers enlistments from 1840 to June 1846. Roll 22 covers enlistments from July 1846 to October 1850. Roll 23, specifically identified as Mexican War enlistments, covers the period January 1846 to June 1849.

NAVY AND MARINE CORPS SERVICE RECORDS

  • M330, Abstracts of Service Records of Naval Officers ("Records of Officers"), 1796-1893, 19 rolls
  • T1098, Index to Rendezvous Reports, Before and After the Civil War (1846-1861, 1865-1884), 32 rolls. These rolls are in alphabetical order, listing the names of all men who enlisted in the Navy during the years 1846 to 1861 and 1865 to 1884.
  • T1118, Muster Rolls of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1789-1892, 123 rolls. Roll 45 covers the period Jan. 1846 - June 1846 and Roll 50 covers the period Jan. 1848 - July 1848

PENSION INDEXES

  • M1784, Index to Pension Application Files of Remarried Widows Based on SErvice in the War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican War and Regular Army Service Before 1861, 1 roll
  • T316, Old War Index to Pension Files, 1815 - 1926, 7 rolls
  • T317, Index to Mexican War Service Pension Files, 1887 - 1926, 14 rolls
  • T1196, Selected Pension Application Files relating to the Mormon Battalion, 21 rolls

BOUNTY LAND RECORDS

Currently, there is no printed or microfilmed index to Mexican War bounty land applications available outside the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

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Ordering Copies of Veteran Records

Once you've found your ancestor's name in one of the military service or pension indexes (or if you want to learn whether or not he applied for a bounty land warrant) you'll want to request copies of the papers which may be in the appropriate file or files in the National Archives. If you live near Washington, D.C. the quickest way to obtain file copies is to actually visit the National Archives. Failing that, you'll have to ask for them by mail. Unfortunately, a letter alone will not suffice. Effective November 2000, one of two specific forms must be used, depending upon which records you seek.

For copies of a veteran's military record, you will need NATF Form 86. The letters NATF stand for "National Archives Trust Fund." Your local genealogical library may have copies of these forms available. If not, you'll need to order them direct from the National Archives. A separate NATF Form 86 must be completed for each veteran.

To order copies of bounty land and and pension records, you will need NATF Form 85. If ordering both bounty land AND pension record copies, you will need two of these forms.

To request forms, write to:

National Archives and Records Administration
Attn: NWCTB
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20408-0001

Alternatively, you can request NATF 85 and NATF 86 Forms online at: http://www.archives.gov/contact/inquire-form.html

Whether requesting forms by mail or by email, be sure to include:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • The number of the form(s) you need
  • How many forms you need. (There is a limit of 2 per order as of October 1, 2007.)

It may take three or four weeks for your request to be processed. Upon receipt, be sure to fill out each form according to the attached instructions. Include as much information as you can. When asking for copies of the pension file, include any pension certificate or application number you may have found in the index. Minimum information required is the veteran's name, state from which he served or from which he enlisted, branch of service, and the name of the war or period during which he served. Mail the completed form(s) to the address given in the instructions. It may be different from the address given above.

The cost for copies, per veteran, effective October 1, 2007, are:

  • Military Service Files $25
  • Bounty Land Warrant Application files $25
  • Pension Files (complete file) $50
  • Pension documents packet $25

You have the option of paying by credit card or by check or money order.


Printed Rosters

At present, there is no one all-encompassing roster of ALL Mexican War soldiers, printed, microfilmed or in any other form.

The following is a list of printed rosters of Mexican War veteran records which may be found in your local public, university or genealogical library (you will have to check with the one nearest you). Some of the more recent publications may still be in print and may be purchased by mail from the author, the publisher, or from a genealogical book store.


Regular and Volunteer Officers
  • Heitman, Francis Bernard. Historical register and dictionary of the United States Army, from its organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903 (Washington: U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1903).

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Volunteer Officers and Enlisted Men
ALABAMA:
  • Steven R. Butler. Alabama Volunteers in the Mexican War: A History and Annotated Roster (Richardson, Texas: Descendants of Mexican War Veterans, 1996).INDEXED.
ARKANSAS:
  • Allen, Desmond Walls. Arkansas' Mexican War Soldiers (Conway, Arkansas: Desmond Walls Allen, 1988).INDEXED.
CALIFORNIA:
  • Rogers, Fred B. "Rosters of California Volunteers in the Service of the United States, 1846-1847," Society of California Pioneers publication, Vol.?, No.?, 1950, pp.17-25. NOT INDEXED.
FLORIDA:
  • Davis, T. Frederick. "Florida's Part in the War with Mexico," The Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol.XX, No.3, Jan.1942,pp.235-259.NOT INDEXED.
  • Marchetta, Beverly. "Florida's Part in the Mexican War," a paper submitted to the History Dept. of Florida State University..., May 1962, pp.62-73.NOT INDEXED.
  • James, Russell D., "Florida Volunteers in the Mexican War 1846-1848," M.A. Thesis, University of West Florida, 2002.
  • James, Russell D., Too Late for Blood: Florida Volunteers in the Mexican War, (Milton, FL: Cantadora Press, 2002).
GEORGIA:
  • White, Rev. George. Historical Collections of Georgia (New York: Pudney ∓ Russell, Publishers, 1854), pp.115-120. First Regiment of Georgia Volunteers Only. NOT INDEXED.
ILLINOIS:
  • Illinois Adjutant General's Office. Record of Service of Illinois Soldiers in the Black Hawk War, 1831-1832 and in the Mexican War, 1846-1848 (Springfield, Illinois: 1887).NOT INDEXED.
INDIANA:
  • Indiana Adjutant General's Office. Indiana in the Mexican War (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, 1908).NOT INDEXED
. IOWA:
  • Tyler, Sgt. Daniel. A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War 1846-1848 (Salt Lake City: 1881).NOT INDEXED.
KENTUCKY:
  • Kentucky Adjutant General. Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky: Mexican War Veterans (Frankfort, Kentucky: Capitol Office, John D. Woods, Public Printer and Binder, 1889).NOT INDEXED.
MARYLAND AND D.C.:
  • Wells, Charles G. Maryland and District of Columbia Volunteers in the Mexican War (Westminster, Maryland: Family Line Publications, 1991). INDEXED.
MISSISSIPPI:
  • Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Roster of Mississippi Men Who Served in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. ALPHABETICAL ROSTER.
MISSOURI:
  • Hughes, John Taylor. Doniphan's Expedition (Cincinnati: U. P. James, 1847). First Regiment of Missouri Mounted Volunteers Only. NOT INDEXED.
NORTH CAROLINA:
  • Adjutant General of North Carolina. Roster of North Carolina Troops in the War with Mexico (Raleigh?: 1887). INDEXED.
OHIO:
  • Ohio Adjutant General? Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War with Mexico, 1846-1848. NOT INDEXED.
PENNSYLVANIA:
  • State of Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania Archives, 6th Series; Vol. 10, pp.249-458. ALPHABETICAL ROSTER.
SOUTH CAROLINA:
  • Meyer, Jack Allen. An Annotated Roster of the Palmetto Regiment of South Carolina in the Mexican War 1846-1848 (Winnsboro, S.C.: Greenbrier Press, 1994). ALPHABETICAL ROSTER.
TEXAS:
  • Spurlin, Charles D. Texas Veterans in the Mexican War: Muster Rolls of Texas Military Units (Victoria, Texas: Charles D. Spurlin, 1984). INDEXED.
VIRGINIA:
  • Johnson II, William Page. The Virginia Volunteers in the War with Mexico (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2002). INDEXED.

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Books Listing Casualties
  • Peterson, Clarence Stewart. Known Military Dead During Mexican War 1846-1848 (Baltimore: Clarence S. Peterson, 1957). ALPHABETICAL ROSTER.

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Pension Indexes
  • White, Virgil (transcriber). Index to Old Wars Pension Files 1815-1926 (Waynesboro, Tennessee: National Historical Publishing Company, 1987).
  • Wolfe, Barbara (transcriber). Index to Mexican War Pension Applications (Indianapolis: Heritage House, 1985).

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Online Rosters

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