March 1, 1794 - May 7, 1849
William Jenkins Worth was born in Hudson, New York, in 1794, and later moved to Albany at age 18, where he was employed as a clerk at the outbreak of the War of 1812. Dissatisfied with clerical work, Worth enlisted in the army and was commissioned as a first lieutenant in March, 1813.
During the War of 1812, Worth served as aide-de-camp to General Winfield Scott — a man with whom he would become very close and serve under during the U.S.-Mexico War. Worth fought in the Niagara Campaign, suffering a severe thigh wound. For his service in the war, he was breveted to the rank of major, and later served as the Commandant of Cadets at West Point, where he rose to the rank of colonel in 1838.Worth returned to leadership on the battlefield in the early 1840s, commanding troops in the Second Seminole War in Florida and forging a settlement to end that conflict in 1842. For his service in the Second Seminole War, Worth was promoted to brigadier general.
At the beginning of the U.S.-Mexico War, Worth served under General Zachary Taylor at the Battle of Monterey, commanding the 2nd Regular Division. With two thousand men, Worth led a flanking maneuver to the west to gain control of the Saltillo road, thus preventing the city from receiving reinforcements and cutting off the escape route of the Mexican army. Although Taylor's advance stalled, Worth gained steady ground against Mexican hilltop fortifications, seizing the Bishop's Palace on the second day of fighting. Following the surrender of the Mexican army on September 24, Worth was named military governor of the city. When Washington ordered Taylor to renew the campaign, Worth led the advance against Saltillo, taking the city without a fight in November, 1846. In the early months of 1847, Worth joined his long-time friend Winfield Scott on the Rio Grande, to help plan the southern campaign. During his service under Scott, Worth led the first troops in the amphibious landing near Vera Cruz in March 1847. As U.S. troops continued to push toward the capital, Worth also participated at the battles of Cerro Gordo, Churubusco, Molino del Rey, and ultimately at the Battle of Chapultepec, where he commanded the troops that seized that symbolic and strategically important castle in Mexico City. For his service at the Battle of Chapultepec, the U.S. Congress awarded Worth with a sword of honor, and he was promoted to major general.
During the final months of the war, Worth and Scott had a falling out, initiated by a disagreement over how to conduct the siege at the Battle of Molino del Rey. This disagreement became a permanent rift when Scott incorrectly held Worth responsible for the publication of a letter that criticized his conduct of the war.
After the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, Worth was assigned to head the Department of Texas, whose headquarters were situated in San Antonio. Shortly after this appointment, however, Worth contracted cholera and died on May 7, 1849. Worth's legacy lives on in a prominent monument erected in his honor in New York City in 1857, where his remains were reinterred. Moreover, a number of U.S. cities founded in the mid-nineteenth century were also named in honor of Worth, most notably, Fort Worth, Texas, and Lake Worth, Florida.
Atanasio, Robert. "William Jenkins Worth." B.A. Thesis, St. Francis College, 1976.
Turner, Arvin W. "Worth, William Jenkins." Handbook of Texas Online, June 15, 2010.
Wallace, Edward. General William Jenkins Worth, Monterey's Forgotten Hero. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1953.