Bodies of solders slain in Mexican War returned to U.S.

The remains of 11 American soldiers killed in the Mexican-American War, likely including at least some Tennesseans, are finally returning today to American soil, according to news releases from U.S. Reps. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, and Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg.

From DesJarlais:
Washington, D.C. – Last year, Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-04), introduced a resolution urging the Government of Mexico and the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs to expedite the release of identified remains of 11 American Soldiers who fought in the battle of Monterey in 1846.

170 years ago, Brigadier General Zachary Taylor led a 6,000 man military force composed largely of Tennessee Volunteers and Texas Rangers to capture the town of Monterrey. During this battle the United States suffered 120 casualties, 368 were wounded and 43 were reported missing.

According to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology, the uncovered remains of the 11 U.S. soldiers were found at a construction site near the Texan border. The remains were identified as American soldiers who died in combat after an examination of the buttons sewn into their uniforms as well as two U.S. half-dollar coins excavated in the area.

“After working for several years with the State Department and our U.S. consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, I was pleased to learn that the remains of these U.S. soldiers will finally be returned to American soil. I applaud the diligent work and dedication of our State Department and military personnel who have worked tirelessly over the years to secure the return of these remains. This joint effort embodies the longstanding commitment to our men and women in uniform that the United States does not leave our fallen soldiers behind.”

The United States Army’s Armed Forces Medical Examiner announced that the remains of these soldiers will leave Mexico on September 28th, 2016 for Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware.

From Cooper:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today issued a statement on a repatriation ceremony in which the remains of some members of a Tennessee militia will be returned to America 169 years after the Mexican-American War.

For some time, Cooper and his staff – in consultation with the Mexican government and researchers at Middle Tennessee State University – have been working to bring home the remains of Tennessee veterans who fought in the Battle of Monterrey.

“Whether it’s a recent war or a war fought more than a century ago, Tennesseans never forget their bravest citizens,” Rep. Cooper said. “Our fallen veterans always need to come home.”

The Mexican-American War was fought from 1846-47. The conflict led to America adding territory that later would become seven states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Due to votes in Washington, Cooper is unable to attend Wednesday’s ceremony at Dover Air Force Base, but his Defense Fellow Maj. Donavan Laskey will be in attendance.

Further from WPLN:

No one knows their names, but MTSU research professor Hugh Berryman says they will be taken off the plane in a ceremony known as a dignified transfer.

“It’s something pretty special,” he says. “These men in 1846 died for their country, just like men and women in uniform do today. And they will be treated as they should be.”

What happens next, is hard to say. But the remains will not necessarily come to Tennessee anytime soon. In 2014, there was some thought they could end up reinterred near the Mexican-American War monument in Gallatin.

MTSU has a federal grant to study the remains and attempt to trace their birthplaces, which could also be in Mississippi. Berryman, who directs the MTSU Forensic Institute, says by taking samples from teeth and bones, analysts should be able to find out what was in the water they drank as young children and get a better idea of exactly where they came from.