Timothy D. Johnson, a professor of history at Lipscomb University, has written a fascinating article published in the July 9, 2011 edition of The Tennessean detailing the discovery of human skeletal remains uncovered during a construction project in Monterrey, Mexico. According to the article, these remains are likely members of the First Tennessee Volunteer Regiment who fought in the U.S.-Mexican War. Here's an excerpt...
A team of Mexican archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History conducted careful excavations that revealed bones and some complete skeletons. The remains have been taken to Mexico City.
Because of the location of the bones on the site of what used to be Fort Teneria, it is almost certain that they are the remains of members of the First Tennessee Volunteer Regiment. After a declaration of war in May 1846, thousands of Tennesseans volunteered to fight in Mexico, 10 times more than the War Department had requested, a turnout that solidified the state’s moniker as the Volunteer State. Ultimately, the state provided five regiments for the cause...
...Now, the remains of 11 anonymous soldiers, probably Tennesseans, have been unearthed in the city, but curiously the United States does not seem interested in repatriating their remains. There are some who would like to see the bones brought back to Tennessee and reburied in the Gallatin cemetery at the site of the Mexican War Monument. Other Tennesseans who fell in that battle are buried there. If you are interested in seeing the remains brought back home for reburial, contact your congressman."
Further evidence suggests that these are most likely the bones of the First Tennessee unit known as the "Bloody First," commanded by Col. William Bowen Campbell, a Union brigadier general in the Civil War who was also governor of Tennessee, and had the honor years later of having Fort Campbell named after him.
According to the Shelbyville Times-Gazette, "Mexican archaeologists have moved the remains to Mexico City for safekeeping, but so far, the U.S. government has shown little interest in retrieving them for proper burial."
Enter historian Jim Page. After discovering that the American government expressed no interest in bringing these remains home, Page took it upon himself to see that these honored soldiers were given a proper burial. Page's valiant efforts are detailed at length in the July 31, 2011 edition of the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, which is now only available through the paper's paid archive. You can also read this story on microfilm at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.
Further information about the Mexican American War can be found in the following links. (Thanks to the Clarksville Civil War Roundtable for alerting me to the Leaf-Chronicle article). Let's hope that Johnson, Page and others involved in this effort are successful in bringing these boys home. They deserve a hero's welcome to native soil.
- "Gloriously Fighting a Glorious Cause” : Tennesseans in the War with Mexico, 1846-1848 - Tennessee State Library and Archives
- A Guide to the Mexican War - Library of Congress
- MEXICAN WAR - Texas State Historical Association
- Battle of Monterrey, Mexico
- The U.S.-Mexican War - PBS
- A Gallant Little Army: The Mexico City Campaign (Modern War Studies) by Timothy D. Johnson
- A Fighter from Way Back: The Mexican War Diary of Lt. Daniel Harvey Hill, 4th Artillery, USA