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Who Pays the Price?

A 21-year-old soldier from Ohio, Leumel Wheaton, was executed for being a member of the St. Patrick's Battalion. Why did he desert and fight for the Mexican side? So complicated. I touch on this in my reading about the war, of the complexity of the war, of atrocities by US "Volunteers" on Mexican civilians, and how some rose up to fight against what they saw as injustice.

The two books I cite in my study of the St. Patrick's Battalion -- "The Rogue's March" and "Sword and Shamrock" -- have details that bring Vietnam to mind. For example, Braxton Bragg, an officer known for strict discipline and harsh punishment of his soldiers, was the victim of an unsuccessful attempt at "fragging" -- someone threw an artillery shell into his tent. It exploded, but he survived.

The first battles were Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, fought as the US Army of Observation tried to return to a besieged Fort Texas across the Rio Grande from Matamoros. We faced the same situation at Khe Sahn in 1968, where North Vietnam's General Giap was trying to replicate the success of Dien Bien Phu. Zachary Taylor fought his way back to Fort Texas and routed the Mexican Army of the North.

We don't talk about the war with Mexico, and there is not one monument or statue in Washington, D.C., commemorating the war. We don't talk about how hard the Mexicans fought against our forces, inflicting ten percent or higher casualties in several battles -- literally decimating our army. And, we don't talk about our dead -- who answered a call to arms and are unknown, buried in a mass grave in a foreign land. Finally, we don't talk about those who joined the Mexicans to fight against us.


I stumbled upon an exhibit at Mexico's Museum of Interventions located in the Churubusco suburb of Mexico City and realized that this was a history I never knew, and it is important. War, young soldiers without proper leadership, and the subjugation of a civilian population can lead to atrocities. I read a book entitled Black Hearts on the atrocity in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, where US soldiers in an isolated post attacked an Iraqi family. I wrote about it in my blog: "Black Hearts is about a failure of leadership in a very dangerous situation when a group of young soldiers, on their own in this hostile environment, vented their anger on innocent Iraqi civilians. I remember a line in Philip Caputo's "A Rumor of War" where an officer explains that the average American 19-year-old can be incredibly violent."

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