"Their Fame is All That Survives Them"
The Mexican War
Instigated by the U.S. annexation of Texas and the dispute over its southern boundary, the Mexican War of 1846-1848 resulted in the cession of over 500,000 square miles of the territory then owned by Mexico west of Texas and the Louisiana Purchase. Extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean, the area included the future states of California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado.
Long before the war, Sumner Countians looked eagerly to the West. Most of them or their ancestors had migrated westward into Tennessee and, caught up in the westward movement, most strongly supported the Mexican War.
When the governor of Tennessee announced President James K. Polk's call for 2,800 volunteers, ten times that number volunteered. The response validated Tennessee's claim to the name "Volunteer State," and reinforced Sumner County's reputation as the "Volunteer County of the Volunteer State."
Among the volunteers were three companies from Sumner County. In combat were the Tenth Legion and the Polk Guards of the First Tennessee Infantry Regiment. The Legion Second was a part of the Third Tennessee which arrived in Mexico after the fighting ceased. Each company included about one hundred men and was commanded by a captain: W. M. Blackmore for the Tenth Legion, Robert A. Bennett for the Polk Guards, and William Hatton for the Legion Second. Fifty-five of their soldiers died in combat or from disease contracted in Mexico.
The Tenth Legion and the Polk Guards won distinction at the battle of Monterrey for their bravery while leading a decisive assault against the enemy's center. Eight of their number died in the attack and three of them are buried beneath this monument: Julius Calvin Elliott, Inman Elliott, and Peter Hynds Martin. The two companies later participated in the siege of Vera Cruz and the battle of Cerro Gordo.
One of only two Mexican War monuments raised in Tennessee in the wake of that conflict, this one was completed in 1850. At first, Sumner Countians planned to subscribe to the construction of a larger memorial to be placed in Nashville. When Davidson County interest in the undertaking waned, the people of Sumner contributed to the funds necessary to erect this memorial. Design and work on it began in 1848.
Built of limestone, it reaches the height of 24 feet above ground. It rises from a square base with four inscribed panels, three bearing the names of the war dead, and one with a tribute to their sacrifice.
Minor repairs to the monument were made in 1871. The first restoration in 1934 included cleaning and righting a dangerous tilt that had developed. In the 1960s the monument was cleaned again. At that time it was determined that the names of the 55 Sumner soldiers and the tribute inscribed on the panels were virtually illegible due to weathering and incidental damage.
Recognizing the need to restore the names and inscriptions, the Sumner County Historical Society undertook a major restoration that was completed in the fall of 2000. Four new limestone panels, faithfully copied and inscribed from the original text which had been preserved in newspaper articles and books, were attached over the damaged ones. Repairs were made to the structure above the panels, all surfaces were cleaned, and joints were refitted and sealed. Signs directing visitors to the site were erected.
"Glory followed their train, and by their death was increased. Their fame is all that survives them. In their graves all their remembrances are buried. Virtuous in life, they have become glorious and immortal in death. May our country never feel the want of such heroes."
Third day of the Siege of Monterey. Sept. 23rd, 1846. Library of Congress
Two Brothers from Sumner County
Thomas Whitfield Collier, shown in this daguerreotype in his sergeant's uniform, served in Mexico in company I, 1st Tennessee Regiment. He was wounded at the Battle of Camargo.
Lucas Vines Collier, Jr. served as 1st Major in the 56th Regiment, Tennessee Militia.