The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974

Notes and Documents
General John E. Wool's Memoranda
of the Battle of Buena Vista
Edited by K. JACK BAUER*
IN THE RUGGED COUNTRY SOUTH OF SALTILLO, MEXICO, DURING FEBRU-
ary 22-23, 1847, occurred one of America's most renowned military
struggles. This was the Battle of Buena Vista in which a small United
States army under Major General Zachary Taylor defeated a Mexican
force over three times its size. Nearly all the 4,650 United States partici-
pants were green troops untested in battle, who fought with a courage and
determination which would have earned praise for seasoned veterans.
Much of the credit for the success rests with Taylor's second-in-command,
Brigadier General John E. Wool. He chose the battlefield and made the
preliminary disposition of the United States forces. Perhaps even more im-
portant he had trained three of the regiments (two of Illinois infantry and
one of Arkansas cavalry) who played a key role in the victory. Those
troops had formed a portion of a command which Wool had led in long
journey from San Antonio, Texas, through northern Mexico before uniting
with Taylor's forces at Buena Vista. That trek was probably the best con-
ducted of a war resplendent with long marches by both United States and
Mexican units.'
John Ellis Wool (1784-1869) was a New Yorker who entered the army
at the outbreak of the War of 1812. He distinguished himself in the fighting
along the Niagara frontier and by the war's end held a major's commission
and a lieutenant colonel's brevet. Remaining in the army after the war he
became an inspector general in 1816. Wool put on the stars of a brigadier
general in 1841 as the third ranking officer in the army. After the outbreak
of fighting in 1846 he supervised the raising of volunteer regiments in the
*K. Jack Bauer, professor of history and archivist of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,
is the author of Surfboats and Horse Marines: U.S. Naval Operations in the Mexican
War. He wishes to thank the Research Grants Committee of Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute for their assistance.
'Francis Baylies, A Narrative of Major General Wool's Campaign in Mexico, in the
Years 1846, 1847 & 1848 (Albany, 1851), lo-23, 27-29; Allen Johnson and Dumas
Malone (eds.), Dictionary of American Biography (20 vols.; New York, 1928-1936),
XX, 513-514; Justin H. Smith, The War with Mexico (2 vols.; New York, I919), I,
267-276. The Dictionary of American Biography will hereafter be cited as D.A.B.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/. Accessed November 1, 2014.