Little-known fact about the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848

Logan Connections details a smattering of Logans or Logan-affiliated men who served in the Mexican War of 1846-1848. Author Ronald C. White points out that the war, “… largely forgotten today, was the second costliest war in American history in terms of the percentage of soldiers who died.” There were 78,718 American soldiers who served in the war: 13,283 died, a casualty rate of nearly 17 percent. That compares with a casualty rate of 2.5 percent for Americans in World Wars I and II, 0.1 percent for Korea and Vietnam, and 21 percent for the Civil War. As was typical of nearly all wars until recent times — with the advent of modern medicine, knowledge of the germ theory of disease, and improved methods of sanitation —  11,652 of the soldiers died of illness, disease, and accidents, not actual combat.

One Mexican War veteran profiled in Logan Connections is John Benjamin Ragland, son of Benjamin Ragland and Nancy Dodson Ragland. This family moved from Allen County, Kentucky, to Perry County, Illinois. John B. Ragland’s story helps illustrate the toll the Mexican War took on the men.

Ragland served as a private in Co. K, 2nd Regiment Illinois Volunteers (or 2nd Illinois Foot). At the Battle of Buena Vista 23 February 1847, Private Ragland was wounded, a wound from which he never fully recovered. He received a pension as well as 160 acres of public domain land. But his wound eventually killed him and he died young on 5 July 1863 in Perry County, Illinois. His death, like so many, wouldn’t be counted as an “official” death from the war, but it was very much so.

Interestingly, John B. Ragland and his wife, Martha Jane Huggins Ragland, named their son James Knox Polk Ragland, after President James K. Polk who forced the U.S. aggression against Mexico. James K. Polk Ragland went by J.K.P. Ragland. (There were a lot of J.K.P.s at the time.)

(The source for the above quote and casualty statistics comes from Ronald C. White’s book, American Ulysses — A Life of Ulysses S. Grant, 2016.)

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