William Jenkins Worth, 1794-1849, served with distinction in the United States Army in a very turbulent time in our nation's history. He was on the cutting edge of the tactics, which would characterize our army as it, moved from the napoleonic-styled army to the army that would fight in our American Civil War.
As a teenager, he was appointed to first lieutenant and fought with distinction on the Niagara frontier in the War of 1812, distinguishing himself in the battle of Cappewa and Lundy's Lane. For his zeal, he was brevetted to the rank of captain and then major. He was wounded so severely that for a time it was felt he would die.
Though somewhat crippled, he remained in the army and earned a promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel and was assigned as the Commandant of Cadets at the United States Military Academy from 1820-1828. His duties were to supervise the cadets and lead in the military education of the cadets.
It was' during this time that Sylvanus Thayer, the Superintendent of the Military Academy developed many concepts that made the Academy what it is today. Sylvanus Thayer, the father of the academy had two guiding principles. The first was strict adherence to the rule of discipline and subordination. The second was the advancement of promotion according to merit with no distinction between students because of financial or family background. His innovations in educational methods ensured that the cadets not only learned, but also retained their subjects. He limited classroom size to 10 to 14 members and placed students in sections according to merit which changed as the cadets" averages rose or fell. At the time West Point became the most influential mathematical school in the United States and the Army officers technical and ethical standards were raised to a level with the professions of theology, law, and medicine.
He was promoted to Colonel and went to fight in the Second Seminole War in Florida. He fought with distinction at the battle of Palaklaklaha on July 7, 1983 and for his "gallantry and highly distinguished service" he was brevetted to the rank of brigadier general by President Polk.
In May 1841 he became the commander of the U.S. forces in Florida and he soon realized that the destruction of the villages and sources of supply would end the conflict and made that his objective. He campaigned during the summer of 1841, preventing the Indians from raising and harvesting crops. By waging a ruthless war of extermination and by destroying food supplies and dwellings, he routed the Indians out of their swamps and hammocks and permitted the war to be officially ended in August 1842.
He was promoted to the brevet rank of major general and fought in the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de le Palma and was the first to plant the union flag on the Rio Grande. He then was transferred to Scotts's army and fought every engagement from Vera Cruz to Mexico City and was the first American into Mexico City's citadel, Chapultepec Castle.
After the war, he returned to the United States and was appointed as the Administrator of the Texas and New Mexico military districts. He died of cholera in San Antonio in 1849.