June, 1845 - August, 1846
In June 1845, with the annexation of Texas imminent, the War Department ordered General Zachary Taylor, commander of a force of 1,500 stationed at Fort Jesup in western Louisiana, to march into Texas to protect the area from possible retaliation from Mexico and Indian depredations. By the end of July, Taylor’s “Army of Occupation” had taken up positions at Corpus Christi, on the south bank of the Nueces River. When the army first arrived at Corpus Christi, the location was considered ideal, and surgeons on-site evaluated it as a healthy environment for the troops. However, brackish water, a poor diet, poor tents, camp sanitation, temperature fluctuations and an inadequate supply of firewood soon put a large number of the men on the sick rolls. Conditions deteriorated still further when the army took up positions along the Rio Grande. After the fall of Matamoros, Taylor established his base of operations at Camargo, a village below the Rio Grande. In June and July 1846, volunteer regiments that had been formed in response to the declaration of war began to arrive, swelling the size of the Army of Occupation to more than 10,000. The volunteer regiments’ failure to take adequate sanitation precautions soon turned the camp into a quagmire of filth and disease, made all the more unbearable by blistering heat. The troops suffered from a variety of diseases, such as influenza, smallpox, measles, malaria, and scurvy. However, dysentery caused the most problems. By the end of August 1,500 troops, a staggering 12 per cent of Taylor’s force, had died of dysentery and other diseases.