CIC 477

Past Issues
CIC 476
CIC 475
CIC 474
CIC 473
CIC 472
CIC 471
CIC 470
CIC 469
CIC 468
CIC 467
CIC 466
CIC 465
CIC 464
CIC 463
CIC 462
CIC 461
CIC 460
CIC 459
CIC 458
CIC 457
CIC 456
CIC 455
CIC 454
CIC 453
CIC 452
CIC 451
CIC 450
CIC 449
CIC 448
CIC 447
CIC 446
CIC 445
CIC 444
CIC 443
CIC 442
CIC 441
CIC 440
CIC 439
CIC 438
CIC 437
CIC 436
CIC 435
CIC 434
CIC 433
CIC 432
CIC 431
CIC 430
CIC 429
CIC 428
CIC 427
CIC 426
CIC 425
CIC 424
CIC 423
CIC 422
CIC 421
CIC 420
CIC 419
CIC 418
CIC 417
CIC 416
CIC 415
CIC 414
CIC 413
CIC 412
CIC 411
CIC 410
CIC 409
CIC 408
CIC 407
CIC 406
CIC 405
CIC 404
CIC 403
CIC 402
CIC 401
CIC 400
CIC 399
CIC 398
CIC 397
CIC 396
CIC 395
CIC 394
CIC 393
CIC 392
CIC 391
CIC 390
CIC 389
CIC 388
CIC 387
CIC 386
CIC 385
CIC 384
CIC 383
CIC 382
CIC 381
CIC 380
CIC 379
CIC 378
CIC 377
CIC 375
CIC 374
CIC 373
CIC 372
CIC 371
CIC 370
CIC 369
CIC 368
CIC 367
CIC 366
CIC 365
CIC 364
CIC 363
CIC 362
CIC 361
CIC 360
CIC 359
CIC 358
CIC 357
CIC 356
CIC 355
CIC 354
CIC 353
CIC 352
CIC 351
CIC 350
CIC 349
CIC 348
CIC 347
CIC 346
CIC 345
CIC 344
CIC 343
CIC 342
CIC 341
CIC 340
CIC 339
CIC 338
CIC 337
CIC 336
CIC 335
CIC 334
CIC 333
CIC 332
CIC 331
CIC 330
CIC 329
CIC 328
CIC 327
CIC 326
CIC 325
CIC 324
CIC 323
CIC 322
CIC 321
CIC 320
CIC 319
CIC 318
CIC 317
CIC 316
CIC 315
CIC 314
CIC 313
CIC 312
CIC 311
CIC 310
CIC 309
CIC 308
CIC 307
CIC 306
CIC 305
CIC 304
CIC 303
CIC 302
CIC 301
CIC 300
CIC 299
CIC 298
CIC 297
CIC 296
CIC 295
CIC 294
CIC 293
CIC 292
CIC 291
CIC 290
CIC 289
CIC 288
CIC 287
CIC 286
CIC 285
CIC 284
CIC 283
CIC 282
CIC 281
CIC 280
CIC 279
CIC 278
CIC 277
CIC 276
CIC 275
CIC 274
CIC 273
CIC 272
CIC 271
CIC 270
CIC 269
CIC 268
CIC 267
CIC 266
CIC 265
CIC 264
CIC 263
CIC 262
CIC 261
CIC 260
CIC 259
CIC 258
CIC 257
CIC 256
CIC 255
CIC 254
CIC 253
CIC 252
CIC 251
CIC 250
CIC 249
CIC 248
CIC 247
CIC 246
CIC 245
CIC 244
CIC 243
CIC 242
CIC 241
CIC 240
CIC 239
CIC 238
CIC 237
CIC 236
CIC 235
CIC 234
CIC 233
CIC 232
CIC 231
CIC 230
CIC 229
CIC 228
CIC 227
CIC 226
CIC 225
CIC 224
CIC 223
CIC 222
CIC 221
CIC 220
CIC 219
CIC 218
CIC 217
CIC 216
CIC 215
CIC 214
CIC 213
CIC 212
CIC 211
CIC 210
CIC 209
CIC 208
CIC 207
CIC 206
CIC 205
CIC 204
CIC 203
CIC 202
CIC 201
CIC 200
CIC 199
CIC 198
CIC 197
CIC 196
CIC 195
CIC 194
CIC 193
CIC 192
CIC 191
CIC 190
CIC 189
CIC 188
CIC 187
CIC 186
CIC 185
CIC 184
CIC 183
CIC 182
CIC 181
CIC 180
CIC 179
CIC 178
CIC 177
CIC 176
CIC 175
CIC 174
CIC 173
CIC 172
CIC 171
CIC 170
CIC 169
CIC 168
CIC 167
CIC 166
CIC 165
CIC 164
CIC 163
CIC 162
CIC 161
CIC 160
CIC 159
CIC 158
CIC 157
CIC 156
CIC 155
CIC 154
CIC 153
CIC 152
CIC 151
CIC 150
CIC 149
CIC 148
CIC 147
CIC 146
CIC 145
CIC 144
CIC 143
CIC 142
CIC 141
CIC 140
CIC 139
CIC 138
CIC 137
CIC 136
CIC 135
CIC 134
CIC 133
CIC 132
CIC 131
CIC 130
CIC 129
CIC 128
CIC 127
CIC 126
CIC 125
CIC 124
CIC 123
CIC 122
CIC 121
CIC 120
CIC 119
CIC 118
CIC 117
CIC 116
CIC 115
CIC 114
CIC 113
CIC 112
CIC 111
CIC 110
CIC 109
CIC 108
CIC 107
CIC 106
CIC 105
CIC 104
CIC 103
CIC 102
CIC 101
CIC 100
CIC 99
CIC 98
CIC 97
CIC 96
CIC 95
CIC 94
CIC 93
CIC 92
CIC 91
CIC 90
CIC 89
CIC 88
CIC 87
CIC 86
CIC 85
CIC 84
CIC 83
CIC 82
CIC 81
CIC 80
CIC 79
CIC 78
CIC 77
CIC 76
CIC 75
CIC 74
CIC 73
CIC 72
CIC 71
CIC 70
CIC 69
CIC 68
CIC 67
CIC 66
CIC 65
CIC 64
CIC 63
CIC 62
CIC 61
CIC 60
CIC 59
CIC 58
CIC 57
CIC 56
CIC 55
CIC 54
CIC 53
CIC 52
CIC 51
CIC 50
CIC 49
CIC 48
CIC 47
CIC 46
CIC 45
CIC 44
CIC 43
CIC 42
CIC 41
CIC 40
CIC 39
CIC 38
CIC 37
CIC 36
CIC 35
CIC 34
CIC 33
CIC 32
CIC 31
CIC 30
CIC 29
CIC 28
CIC 27
CIC 26
CIC 25
CIC 24
CIC 23
CIC 22
CIC 21
CIC 20
CIC 19
CIC 18
CIC 17
CIC 16
CIC 15
CIC 14
CIC 13
CIC 12
CIC 11
CIC 10

Profile - James K. Polk

Rated the “most successful” one term president, James K. Polk (1795-1849) presided over a contentious war that greatly expanded the United States.

The Polk family was of Scottish descent.  The president’s seven times great-grandfather, Sir John Pollok, was killed during the Battle of Lockerbie, in Scotland, in 1593.  Sir John’s grandson and great-grandson, both named Robert, served as officers with the Scots Covenanters during the English Civil War in the 1640s.  The younger Robert’s several times great-grandsons, the American-born Thomas, Ezekiel, Charles, and John Polk, all served in the Revolutionary War.  The eldest, Thomas, was for a time a County Lieutenant of militia in South Carolina, responsible for drilling the militiamen and maintaining militia records for an entire county.  Later in the war he served as Chief Commissary for the Southern Army, overseeing supplies for the troops, ending the war as a colonel.  Charles and John served in the militia, both becoming officers. 

Ezekiel Polk, the president’s grandfather, had a very curious military career.  In June of 1775, he was elected captain of a militia cavalry company at Mecklenburg, North Carolina.  The following year, having been promoted to lieutenant colonel, he played a prominent role in fighting Indians in the Appalachian region of the state.  Ezekiel continued to serve as a militia officer until the devastating American defeat at Camden (August 16, 1780), when Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates’ army was routed by a smaller British force.  At that point, like a lot of other frontier folk, Ezekiel Polk placed himself “under the protection” of the British Crown; that is, he took an oath to King George.  That didn’t mean that he had abandoned the Revolution, but rather that it was the safest thing to do in the circumstances.  Shortly afterwards Patriot fortunes in the region recovered, and Ezekiel returned to the American cause, and was promptly restored to the status of lieutenant colonel and regimental commander in the militia.  He served in this capacity until the end of the Revolutionary War, so his brief lapse of allegiance to the cause was certainly a temporary expedient.

The president’s maternal grandfather, James Knox, a nephew of the famous British religious reformer John Knox, also served in the Continental Army.  He was promoted to captain after distinguishing himself in the Battle of Hanging Rock (August 6, 1780), in which the young Andy Jackson also fought. 

Born in North Carolina in 1795, when the future president was ten, his family moved to Tennessee.  As a boy, Polk was rather unhealthy.  His father decided that the young man lacked the physical stamina to make a good farmer, and therefore insured that he had a very good education.  Young Polk attended several private schools, and then entered the University of North Carolina in 1815.  He graduated with honors in mathematics and Classics in 1818, and went on to read law.  Polk was admitted to the bar in 1820.  He began to practice law, and dabble in politics.  In 1823, Polk was elected to the Tennessee legislature.  Meanwhile, in 1821, he had joined the militia in Maury County, Tennessee, and was promptly elected captain of a cavalry troop.  He served several years in the militia, rising to colonel.  Meanwhile Polk began accumulating considerable political experience.  He served in the Tennessee legislature, and was then elected to several terms in the House of Representatives, where he became friendly with Andrew Jackson.  From 1835 to 1839, Polk served as Speaker of the House; he is the only Speaker ever to have become president.  He then served a term as Governor of Tennessee (1839-1841).  In 1844 the Democratic national convention deadlocked over the question of whom to nominate for president.  Jacksonians in the party decided to back Polk, and he became the first “Dark Horse” candidate for president and went on to win the election that November, to take office on March 4, 1845.

The principal military event of Polk's administration was the war with Mexico.  The immediate cause of war was the American annexation of Texas in 1845.   Mexico had never accepted the independence of Texas, which had seceded from the republic in 1836.  Certainly in the era of "Manifest Destiny" many Americans welcomed the war.  But so too did many Mexicans.  Nationalistic Mexicans were unwilling to accept the loss of Texas, and some extremists went on to claim that the Louisiana Purchase was invalid, under the terms of a treaty between France and Spain, which Napoleon had violated when he sold the territory to the United states, and that it thus belonged to Mexico.  With little inclination for a peaceful settlement on either side, war was practically inevitable.

When Texas was annexed (December 29, 1845), Polk sent Brig. Gen. Zachary Taylor and 3,500 troops into the vast disputed region between the Nueces River (claimed as the border by Mexico) and the Rio Grande (claimed by Texas).  Meanwhile, 6,000 Mexican troops had been posted just south of the Rio Grande, and Mexican patrols were active north of the river.  On April 25, 1846, two companies of American dragoons were overwhelmed by Mexican cavalry at Rancho Carricitos, about 20 miles northwest of what is now Brownsville.  This initiated hostilities.

Despite the looming danger of war, Polk had initiated no preparations.  He had issued contingency instructions to military and naval commanders, but made no effort to increase the 8,000 man Regular Army or to stockpile arms and equipment, and did not even informally alert the states to be ready to raise troops.  Thus, the outbreak of the war led to hasty appropriations and calls for militiamen and volunteers. 

On paper Mexico was far better prepared for war, with a regular army of some 35,000 men backed by strong local and regional forces.  The troops were hardy and brave, and many of them were seasoned in numerous civil wars.  Given this disparity, prevailing opinion among European political and military leaders was that the United States had over-reached itself.

The war nevertheless turned out very favorably for the U.S., in part because of excellent leadership by senior officers such as Zachary Taylor and particularly General-in-Chief Winfield Scott, supported by junior officers drawn largely from West Point.  The Regular Army performed superbly, as did the volunteers, though the militia proved hopelessly inept.  By the war’s end the U.S. had some 85,000 men in the armed forces and spent over $70 million. 

As the mobilization proceeded, fighting spread along the Rio Grande frontier.  General Taylor inflicted several severe defeats on the Mexican battles. The most important military developments in the winter of 1846-1847 took place off the battlefield.  In Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna became president, a very capable, if corrupt politician and commander. 

Meanwhile, in Washington, the president and General Scott hammered out a winning strategy, a matter complicated by the fact that Polk was a Democrat and Scott a Whig.  A capable war leader, Polk had political reservations about Scott, but realized that his was the best plan for victory.  Scott proposed to land on the east coast of Mexico and march overland to seize Mexico City and dictate peace.  Although most of Polk's appointees to generalcies went to fellow-Democrats, the President realized that Scott was the man to undertake the expedition. 

While Scott began to concentrate an army at Tampico, on the Gulf coast, taken by an amphibious attack in late November, Taylor found himself beset when Santa Anna undertook a surprise offensive with 20,000 men against his small army of only about 5,000 men, mostly volunteers.  After an arduous approach march across 300 miles of desert, Santa Anna attacked Taylor at Buena Vista on February 23, 1847, and was crushed in desperate fighting.

Scott had planned his campaign against Mexico City carefully and in meticulous detail.  His expedition landed near Vera Cruz on March 9, 1847, in what was the most well-executed amphibious operation of the nineteenth century, laid siege to the city, and forced its surrender by the 27th, with remarkably low casualties on both sides, some 80 Americans and about 180 Mexicans had been killed or wounded.  Leaving behind a small garrison, Scott immediately pressed westwards along the highway to Mexico City.

There followed a series of battles in which Scott's outnumbered army repeatedly defeated Santa Anna's more numerous forces: Cerro Gordo (April 16-18), Puebla (May 15),  Contreras (August 19-20), where a volunteer general named Franklin Pierce distinguished himself, Churubusco (August 20), and Chapultepec (September 11-12), to enter Mexico City on September 14th.  Although some skirmishing and irregular operations continued, that effectively ended the war, though a peace was not concluded until February 2, 1848, bringing about a considerable expansion of the nation's territory

Although many people expected Polk to be re-elected president later that year, in fulfillment of a campaign promise made in 1844, Polk chose not to run for re-election.  Surprisingly, he died only three months after leaving office. 

The president and his wife had no children.  Many of the president’s numerous nephews and cousins and their descendants have served.  In the Civil War there were Polks on both sides, the most famous of whom was Leonidas Polk.  After graduating from West Point (1827), Leonidas served for a time in the Regular Army.  But he shortly resigned and was ordained in the Episcopal Church.  By the outbreak of the Civil War, Leonidas Polk was Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana.  Despite being a man of the cloth, he joined the Confederate Army.  Although a poor commander, Leonidas rose to lieutenant general, and was later killed in action.  Bishop Polk’s son, William Mecklenburg Polk, served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army.  William’s son, Frank Lyon Polk served in Squadron A,  New York Cavalry, during the 1890s, and as an officer in the Army Quartermaster Corps during the Spanish-American War.  Other family members served in the War with Spain and in World War I, during which Ralph Polk Buell, an officer in the 107th Infantry (New York’s famous 7th Regiment), earned a Distinguished Service Cross in the attack on the Hindenburg Line in 1918.

In World War II, the family was represented by a number of the late president's several time grand-nephews.  James H. Polk, a West Point graduate and holder of several national horsemanship titles, commanded the 3rd Cavalry Group (now the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment), which served as the “eyes” of George S. Patton’s Third Army.  He eventually rose to full general and commander of the U.S. Army in Europe during the Cold War.  His brothers also served, John F. Polk rising to colonel in the Army and Thomas H. Polk to captain in the Navy. 

BookNote: For more on the Polks, one of American’s most distinguished families, readers are advised to have a look at William Roe Polk’s book, Polk's Folly: An American Family History (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 2000)


© 1998 - 2022 All rights Reserved.,, FYEO, For Your Eyes Only and Al Nofi's CIC are all trademarks of
Privacy Policy