LOOKING BACK PHOTO

Tennessee Gov. James K. Polk promised voters two things: that he would only serve one term and that he would add Texas to the Union.

Men from Hartsville took part in our nation’s next war, the War with Mexico.

We have been looking at local men who fought for their country’s honor and freedom from the revolution up to the Seminole Indian wars.

We continue our list of valiant soldiers by noting that Tennessee took a big part in the Mexican War, earning us our state’s nickname, the volunteer state.

Here’s some background ... the causes of all wars are usually debated by historians and books written, but the real reasons can often be condensed to a brief statement, such as, “They had something we wanted, and we went and got it.”

In this case the something that Mexico had was land.

Events started out innocently enough.

Owning an immense stretch of land, from Louisiana to California, the newly-independent country of Mexico was hard pressed to develop and rule it. In the early 1820s, the government invited American settlers to the plains and valleys of what is now Texas.

There were rules. The settlers would have to become Mexican citizens and would have to adopt the Catholic faith. But, in so doing they could purchase vast expanses of Texan land very cheap … and they did just that.

By 1835, there were 30,000 Americans living in Texas.

Problems began when Mexico outlawed slavery in 1829.

Why was that a problem?

Many of those large land owners in Texas were cotton farmers, and they owned slaves. They complained and made a lot of noise, and Mexico stopped all further immigration into their nation by Americans.

What happened next was predictable … in 1836, the Americans living in Texas declared independence. That led to the Battle of the Alamo and then the American defeat at Goliad, followed by Sam Houston’s stunning victory at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Texas gained its independence and almost immediately wanted to join the Union … not so easy, though.

There was a delicate balance in our nation between slave states and non-slave states. If Texas entered the Union, it would do so as a slave state and throw that balance off.

California, still owned by Mexico, was also interested in gaining independence and joining the Union … in part as a belief in manifest destiny, the belief that America should own all the land between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Now, a Tennessee man enters the picture.

Running for president in 1844, Tennessean James K. Polk took the advice of Andrew Jackson and promised the American voters the annexation of Texas.

He won easily.

Mexico was not happy, and tensions ran high.

When a small group of American soldiers, camped close to the Rio Grande River, were attacked and some killed by soldiers from Mexico, the cry for war was on everyone’s lips.

On May 13, 1846, President Polk signed a declaration of war against Mexico.

Now, the men of Tennessee sprang into action.

The American secretary of war called for volunteers and asked Tennessee to send 2,800 men as its contribution to the war effort. When 30,000 men volunteered, the whole country was impressed.

People had already begun calling us the volunteer state after we joined in large numbers to fight in the War of 1812. It was Tennessee’s Andrew Jackson and his fighting men of Tennessee that won the Battle of New Orleans.

But, this made the name stick.

From then on, we were the volunteer state.

And, men from Sumner County led the effort.

Immediately, by May 19, they organized two volunteer companies, the Tenth Legion, and the Polk Guards.

We were a part of Sumner County, and men from Hartsville, such as Samuel Winslow Lauderdale and Francis Duffy, were part of those companies, and we will read about them in next week’s article.

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