In my last post, I talked about the Sea Fencibles, a unique fighting unit from the War of 1812. I thought it would be interesting to continue that trend, moving on this time to introduce the Regiment of U.S. Voltigeurs and Foot Riflemen from the Mexican War.
Voltigeurs, you may ask?!? What in the world are they?
Most people have never heard of them, but the voltigeurs originated in the French army during the Napoleonic wars. As light infantry trained to fight as skirmishers, they usually deployed in an open or loose formations that masked the main battleline of the army, hiding its movements from the enemy. The voltigeurs were also expert marksmen, trained to harass enemy lines with individually aimed fire (as opposed to the mass volleys of the main battleline). An act of Congress on February 11, 1847 authorized the creation of the 1st Regiment of U.S. Voltigeurs and Foot Riflemen during the height of the Mexican War. The Voltigeurs eventually joined Gen. Winfield Scott during his advance on Mexico City in July 1847, participating in the major battles of that campaign, including Contreras, Churubusco, Molino del Ray, and Chapultepec. The regiment was officially disbanded on August 25, 1848.
A few existing records relating to the 1st Regiment of U.S. Voltigeurs and Foot Riflemen are described in the Archival Research Catalog (ARC). Record Group 391, Records of U.S. Regular Army Mobile Units, 1821-1942, includes a series of “Descriptive Books of Companies C – H” (ARC ID 3098677) and “Descriptive Rolls of Companies D and K” (ARC ID 3098683). In Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, are also located a series of “Carded Medical Records of Voltigeurs and Pontoniers” (ARC ID 655650). These cards contain information from original records, such as hospital registers, rolls, and reports, relating to the medical treatment of individual soldiers. Court-martial files for men who served in the Voltigeurs, finally, are also available in the series “Court Marital Case Files” (ARC ID 301659) in Record Group 153, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army). Use the search term “voltigeurs” in ARC to generate a list of 66 individual case file descriptions.
One thought on “Family Tree Friday: U.S. Voltigeurs in the Mexican War”
The most famous member of the voltigeurs formed for the Mexican War was none other than then-Lieutenant Colonel Joseph E. Johnston, later to become more famous as one of the top commanders of the Confederate military. Johnston, a captain in the regulars, took his higher wartime rank in exchange for shifting to this irregular unit. He received a brevet to colonel within the voltigeurs, but at the end of the war, reverted to the rank of captain within the regular army.