Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Governor Owsley's Mexican War Proclamation

As a Whig, Kentucky Governor William Owsley was personally opposed to the war with Mexico, but on May 17, 1846 he issued a stirring proclamation to the people of Kentucky.

"Whereas, from information this day informally received at this department, it is believed that the Congress of the United States has, upon the recommendation of the President [James K. Polk], passed as an act authorizing the receiving into the service of the United States fifty thousand volunteers to aid the Army of Occupation now on the Rio Grande, or to give such other service as may be required for the defense of our Southern frontier and the maintenance of the national interests and honor: and whereas, this department had also received a communication form the commander of the Western division of the army, giving notice of an application having been made to the President for volunteers from Kentucky: and whereas, recent intelligence for the Army of Occupation leaves no doubt that hostilities have been actually commenced.

Now, therefore, mindful of the high renown that Kentucky had acquired patriotism and gallantry, and being unwilling at a crisis like this, that our noble state should suffer herself to be surpassed in devotion to the common cause of our country, I, William Owsley, governor of the commonwealth of Kentucky, do issue this my proclamation, appealing to pride, the patriotism, and the chivalry of Kentuckians, hereby urging them to form themselves into volunteer companies, and report the fact of their organization to this department forthwith, signifying to them my firm conviction that orders will in a few days be received from the President of the United States, empowering and directing me to cause them to be immediately mustered into the service of the United States, at some point which will be designated."

Answering the governor's call Kentucky raised far more troops than were needed. The federal government only asked for two regiments of infantry and one of cavalry, but the over 100 companies volunteered. The governor had to refuse the service of 75 of the companies. Only 2,400 troops were asked of the Bluegrass state, but about 13,000 came out to find adventure and attempt to preserve the state's honor it felt it had earned fighting Indians in the state's early history and in the War of 1812. 4,694 Kentuckians eventually made it south of the border.

Like the Civil War, disease claimed far more lives of Mexican War soldiers than combat. 622 Kentuckians died from various ailments in Mexico, while only 71 died from actual fighting.

Image courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society

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