The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993 Page: 612
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
increasing demoralization of soldiers forced to accept erratic leadership from
their officers. As usual, descriptions and judgments of the Mexican population
are none too flattering. An appendix provides a roster, with ages, occupations,
and service records, of all members of Company E, known as the Westmoreland
Guards since most came from Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Grateful
readers will applaud Peskin's informative footnotes (not pesky endnotes); and
although the publisher failed to include a list of maps, several good ones do pop
up at appropriate points in the text.
Another personal account by an officer in Scott's army comes from Lt. Ralph
W. Kirkham, a West Point graduate and professional soldier prior to the Mexi-
can War. A Massachusetts native with a strict sense of duty, he served first as ad-
jutant general of the Sixth Infantry Regiment and later as assistant adjutant
general of the second brigade in Maj. Gen. William Worth's First Division. Privy
to a huge amount of official and unofficial information, Lieutenant Kirkham ex-
ploited his easy access to paper and ink by keeping a meticulous journal and
writing dozens of letters to his wife. Hardly one to avoid combat, he thrust him-
self into several dangerous situations which garnered him two brevet promo-
tions. Edited by the noted Mexicanist historian Robert Ryal Miller, who includes
a brief but adequate set of endnotes and a good bibliography, this meaty prima-
ry source covers the entire campaign from Vera Cruz to Mexico City, as well as
the subsequent nine months of American occupation and peace negotiations
(March 1847 through July 1848). Kirkham's observations on several generals,
especially William O. Butler, David E. Twiggs, and John A. Quitman, and
colonels Newman S. Clarke and James S. McIntosh are piercing and revealing.
Two rather rustic-looking maps complement nineteen fairly routine illustrations.
A. Brooke Caruso's study of American covert operations, both political and
military, before and during the Mexican War centers on the strategic machina-
tions of James K. Polk, whom Caruso describes as "a president who used covert
operations to increase his power and influence as he intrigued in foreign affairs
and pursued secret policies" (p. vii). The diplomatic and military background of
American designs on Texas and the rest of Mexico's vast holdings in the Trans-
Mississippi West is retold with dramatic flair in two introductory chapters. Then
a description f various intelligence reports from secret agents and diplomats in
Mexico sets the stage for covert military operations in California and on either
side of the Mexican border, most notoriously along the Rio Grande between
Texas and Mexico, all in preparation for a war that Polk had determined must
come. As a secret vanguard to military invasion, American spies-the "Mexican
Spy Company"-provided intelligence from deep inside Mexico to the eager
armies of Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. This information proved vital to
their success on the battlefield. Ultimately, however, according to Caruso, such
methods proved, and continue to prove, severely detrimental to American
democracy: "Covert operations conducted by the president change the fiber of a
republic.... As Polk took land from Mexico to add to the United States, he also
took power from the people of the United States" (p. 161). Beyond this rather
simplistic statement, Caruso offers no alternatives to Polk's actions. Perhaps
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993, periodical, 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/m1/682/: accessed September 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.