Bio FileFrank S. Edwards, Volunteer
Like most of the millions of common soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have served, Frank S. Edwards endured much hardship and saw little glory. And like most of his comrades, past or present, his role in the military events of his time was small, and passed virtually unnoticed. Yet he took part in one of the most spectacular wartime marches in military history.
Little is known about Edwards. Born in England about 1827, he was moderately well-educated, and came to the United States before 1845, settling in New York City. By chance in St. Louis when the Mexican War broke out in May 1846, he enlisted in Company A, Missouri Light Artillery, writing that he did so because he thought the army might help him "obtain the restoration of my health, which had been for some time, very much impaired."
The company was attached to Maj. Gen. Stephen W. Kearny's column, which was charged with occupying New Mexico and then marching on to California. Kearny left Fort Leavenworth on June 30, 1846. Having marched across arid plains and great rivers, losing many men to privation and disease, on August 18th the column occupied Santa Fe without a fight, the Mexican Army having withdrawn. After several weeks at Santa Fe, Kearny split his column into two. Some of the troops accompanied him across New Mexico and Arizona to California. The balance performed occupation duties at Santa Fe. Edwards, among those who remained at Santa Fe, had a pleasant routine of light military duties until late in 1846. Then, Col. Alexander W. Doniphan organized a column to march south and reinforce Zachary Taylor, operating in northern Mexico with a small army. Edward's company was included in Doniphan's` column, which left Santa Fe on December 6, 1846.
What followed was an arduous march across deserts and mountains, with temperatures ranging from below freezing at night to well over 100 degrees by day. There were many casualties from disease and hardship. Unlike the advance from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe, the troops were several times in action against Mexican troops or Indians, each time coming away victorious. The march was made in stages, with lengthy halts at El Paso and Chihuahua. By mid-May, the column had reached Parras, in Coahuila, where it made contact with Taylor's army. Later that month, the column reached Monterey. A few days later the troops set out across Texas to the coast, where they boarded a ship bound for New Orleans. From there, they returned to St. Louis by steamboat. They were discharged on June 24, almost exactly one year after leaving Ft. Leavenworth.
Edwards and his comrades had performed one of the most impressive wartime marches in history. The column had traversed 2,230 miles, largely through enemy territory, from Fort Leavenworth to Chihuahua, in Mexico, and thence across Texas to the sea. They had marched for 101 of their 318 days in enemy territory - an average daily rate of advance of 22 miles - while winning several skirmishes with the Indians and two battles with the Mexicans, for a loss of about 10-percent of the column, from battle, disease, privation, and accident.
Edwards' health clearly either greatly benefited from his military service or was never as bad as he suggested. He returned to New York, where during the 1850s he worked as a pharmacist and later became a physician, while finding time to write A Campaign in New Mexico with Colonel Doniphan, a short, absorbing, and surprisingly detailed account of his war experiences.
Edwards disappears from the record after 1870.