On May 16, 1846, Governor James Whitcomb was given a federal quota to supply three regiments of infantry or riflemen for service in the opening phase of the war with Mexico. During the conflict, Indiana provided five infantry regiments, including three companies from the Indianapolis area.

Mexican War veterans, 1910
© Indiana State Library

The first unit from Marion County was Company H, 1st Indiana Volunteer Infantry, organized June 4, 1846. This element was stationed near the mouth of the Rio Grande River for the entire war. Although it saw no combat, it suffered greatly from disease.

The company was commanded by Captain James P. Drake, who was elevated to the regimental commander when the unit arrived at New Albany, Indiana. Lewis (Lew) Wallace, the son of Indiana governor David Wallace, future lawyer, and author of the novel Ben Hur, volunteered and joined this company as a lieutenant after he failed to pass the state bar examination.

Gen. Lew Wallace, ca. 1860s
© Library of Congress

The second and third Indianapolis companies were mustered in the following year. Company D, 4th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, organized April 24, 1847, and was commanded by Capt. Edward Lander. Company F, 5th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, mustered into federal service on August 31, 1847, had John McDougall as its captain. The Fourth joined Gen. Winfield Scott’s army near Vera Cruz and participated in the final operations of the 1847 campaign. The Fifth moved down the Gulf and went into garrison duty where they endured the routine of camp life, interrupted occasionally by skirmishes and guerrillas.

The city’s first war hero was a casualty of the Mexican War. Capt.  Trustin B. Kinder, a native of Indianapolis, commanded Company B, 2nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry. His unit originated at Paoli, in the southern part of the state, where Kinder had established a law practice prior to hostilities. Kinder was killed during the Battle of Buena Vista, February 23, 1847, and on hearing the news, his father, Isaac, traveled from the city to Mexico and returned his son’s body to Indianapolis for a well-attended public burial in City Cemetery. Kinder’s body was removed to Crown Hill Cemetery in October 1864.

Another Indianapolis citizen, Joseph Stretcher, thought to be the first established undertaker in the city, was called upon to return the remains of General Tilghman A. Howard from Texas to his home in Rockville, Indiana. Except for General Howard, Capt. Kinder, and other officers, most of those who died in the war remained in Mexico and were eventually buried in a national cemetery in Mexico City.

Two individuals who would one day have ties to Indianapolis—Lew Wallace and Ebenezer Dumont —established themselves as efficient officers during their Mexican War service. Both became generals during the Civil War.

Revised March 2021
 

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