1823 - May 1, 1896
Grayson M. Prevost served in the U.S, Army as an assistant surgeon, with the rank of 1st lieutenant, from December 31, 1845, until his resignation on June 7, 1848. He served in the defense of Fort Texas (later renamed Fort Brown) in 1846. Exhibiting the martial ardor common among Anglo-American males of the time, Prevost often expressed frustration with his assignments to hospitals behind the lines - serving at Camargo, Mier, and Saltillo. Finally given the opportunity to take the field, Prevost received a commendation by General Wool for his “daring courage and gallant bearing,” during the battle of Buena Vista in February 1847.
Prevost was most likely born in Philadelphia in 1823. In 1844, he graduated from a summer-long medical program at the Medical Institute of Philadelphia (he was still trying to settle his account of $250 for medical training in 1846). In July 1844, Prevost appeared before the Army Medical Board, which ranked him second out of eleven candidates. The army took its examination of prospective surgeons seriously, only half of the examinees passing the three-day examination. While waiting for an opening as an Assistant Surgeon, he filled a temporary vacancy at West Point from August to December, 1844. In October 1845, Prevost was hired as a civilian Assistant Surgeon, at the Mt. Vernon Arsenal in central Alabama. At that time, the army was limited to seventy physicians, too small a number to assign a surgeon to each army post. Owing in large part to the steady income which government employment offered, attrition in the medical department was low (there were only six vacancies between 1843 and 1845). In December 1845, President Polk appointed Prevost as an assistant surgeon in the army, and he was promptly ordered to join the Army of Occupation in Texas. Arriving at Point Isabel on March 25 1846, Prevost was assigned to Taylor’s Third Brigade.
Prevost was present at the siege of Fort Texas in early May 1846, where he witnessed the mortal wounding of Major Brown, for whom the fort was subsequently named. In June he was assigned to the Seventh Infantry Regiment, which traveled by steamboat to Reynosa, then marched to Camargo. In July he was sent to Mier, twenty-five miles from the army’s base at Camargo, where he served as the only surgeon to the small eighty-man detachment. When the army moved toward Monterrey, Prevost remained behind the lines at the army hospital in Camargo. Assigned to General Wool’s Division at Monterrey in January 1847, Prevost finally saw action at the Battle of Buena Vista in February. At one point during the battle, Prevost found the general alone without his staff. Supposing him to be a newly arrived line officer, Wool used Prevost to transmit orders to rally retreating troops. Under heavy musket and artillery fire, Prevost also carried the orders to the Mississippi and Indiana regiments to charge the Mexican forces. In August 1847, General Wool belatedly recommended Prevost to the “special notice of the Secretary of War, for his daring courage and gallant bearing on the fields of Buena Vista.” In a letter to his sister describing the battle, Prevost makes less of the incident than Wool did in his report.
Following his resignation from the army, Prevost returned to Philadelphia in May 1848. Within a few months he had returned to the Rio Grande, however, taking up residence in Parras, Mexico to practice medicine. Prevost married a woman from Parras and, unable to find a Mexican priest to marry them (he was Protestant), the ceremony was conducted in Brownsville, Texas. In 1851 he took up residence in Zacatecas. Although residing in Mexico, Prevost evidently kept close ties back home in Philadelphia, serving on the medical board of the Presbyterian Hospital of Philadelphia until 1881. He died in Zacatecas, Mexico, on May 1, 1896, at the age of seventy-three.
Grayson M. Prevost, Journal and Letters. Special Collections at the University of Texas at Arlington. RG 112 Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army) Central Office – Correspondence, 1818-1946, 1818-90 Period. Letters and Endorsements Sent, April 1818-Oct. 1889. Vol. 017 of 90 NM-20, Entry 2, Vol. 015 of 90 NM-20, Entry 2. National Archives