January 12, 1792 - August 7, 1891
Robert Patterson was a successful businessman in Philadelphia and a major general in the Pennsylvania militia when the war with Mexico broke out. During the war he commanded a division of volunteers under General Taylor and General Scott.
Patterson was born on January 12, 1792, in Cappagh, County Tyrone, Ireland. In 1798, the family was forced to immigrate to the United States following the elder Patterson’s involvement in the Irish Rebellion. Growing up in Delaware County, Patterson attended school and worked for a time in a Philadelphia counting house. During the War of 1812, Patterson served on the staff of Brigadier General Joseph Bloomfield as a lieutenant and as a captain commanded a company in the Pennsylvania militia. He rose to colonel in the militia before receiving a commission in the 22nd U. S. Infantry. He finished the war as a captain in the 32nd Infantry. Following the war, Patterson returned to Philadelphia where he pursued a career in manufacturing. He built several mills and eventually became one of Philadelphia’s wealthiest citizens. Active in local Democratic politics, he also maintained his ties in the Pennsylvania militia, rising to the rank of major general.
On July 7, 1846, Patterson received a commission as major general of volunteers. Assigned to General Taylor’s Army of Occupation, Patterson led the 2nd Volunteer Division, composed of troops from Illinois, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. He was in the process of planning the campaign against Tampico when the Mexican army abandoned it and Commodore David Conner occupied the port city.
The administration briefly considered Patterson for command of the invasion of central Mexico that eventually went to Scott. Transferred to General Scott, Patterson performed well during the seaborne invasion and capture of Vera Cruz in March 1847. At Cerro Gordo he was too sick to lead his division and command devolved to Brigadier General Pillow, but not before Patterson, barely able to stay on his horse, rode among his troops to motivate them. Following the battle at Cerro Gordo, Patterson returned to the United States with the volunteers whose terms of enlistment expired. In October 1847, he returned to Mexico where he commanded the garrison at Jalapa.
Patterson was mustered back into service on April 15, 1861, as a major general of volunteers at the beginning of the Civil War. He served in Virginia during the First Bull Run campaign and was mustered out on July 27, 1861. Patterson served as president of the Aztec Club, a fraternal organization of U.S. army officers who had served in the war with Mexico, from 1867 until his death. Patterson died on August 7, 1891 in Philadelphia.
Peterson, Charles. The Military Heroes of the War with Mexico. Philadelphia: Jas. B. Smith & Co., 1858.