Mexican-American War: Major General William J. Worth

Major General William J. Worth. Photograph Source: Public Domain

 William Worth - Early Life & Career:

Born in Hudson, NY on March 1, 1794, Williams Jenkins Worth was the son of Thomas and Abigail Worth.  After briefly moving to Edgartown, MA with his father, Worth returned to New York where he received the majority of his schooling.  Entering business, he obtained a position as a clerk at local wholesaler.  Unhappy in this profession, Worth elected to enlist in the US Army as a private following the beginning of the War of 1812.

  Quickly recognized for his intelligence and skills, he received a commission as a first lieutenant in the US 23rd Infantry on March 19, 1813.  A short time later, Worth was removed from the regiment to serve as an aide-de-camp to Major General Morgan Lewis and Brigadier General Winfield Scott.

William Worth - War of 1812:

Operating on the Niagara Frontier, Worth took part in the Battle of Fort George that May.  Despite the successful capture of the fort, the subsequent campaign went poorly for American forces.  A reorganization during the winter moved Scott to a more prominent role in 1814.  Aiding Scott as the general relentlessly drilled his men during the spring, Worth saw action in the victory at the Battle of Chippawa on July 5.  Twenty days later, he was severely wounded in the thigh by grapeshot at the Battle of Lundy's Lane.  Not expected to survive, Worth received a promotion to captain in early August.

  Following a year's convalescence, he returned to active duty though his one leg remained lamed from the wound.  In recognition of his actions, Worth was given a brevet promotion to major. 

William Worth - Peacetime Army:

With the end of the conflict, Worth transferred to the US 2nd Infantry in May 1815.

  After six years with the regiment he joined the US 1st Artillery on June 1, 1821.  Assigned to West Point during this time, Worth began his tenure at the academy as an instructor before becoming commandant of cadets in 1825.  The first officer to hold this title, he worked to instill a high degree of discipline and professionalism in the Corps of Cadets.  Highly effective in this role, many of his writings and initiatives were retained upon his departure in 1828 with some still in use today.  Formally promoted to major on May 30, 1832, Worth joined Scott that summer for service in the Blackhawk War. 

Elevated to colonel in 1838, Worth assumed command of the newly-formed US 8th Infantry.  Three years later, he relieved Brigadier General Walker K. Armistead as commander of the US forces engaged in the Second Seminole War.  Initially employing an effective seek-and-destroy approach, Worth then advocated for allowing the remaining Seminoles in Florida to be left in peace if they remained in the southern part of the state.  Brevetted to brigadier general in March 1842, he declared the war over that August. Despite this, he remained in Florida through late 1843.

William Worth - Mexican-American War:

With the beginning of the Mexican-American War in May 1846, Worth traveled west and negotiated the surrender of Matamoros.  Serving under Major General Zachary Taylor, he commanded the 2nd Division of Regulars during the campaign in northeastern Mexico.  Driving south, Taylor opened the Battle of Monterrey on September 21.  Tasked with conducting a wide flanking movement to the west and south, Worth's men succeeded in capturing a series of vital hills before driving east into the city.  Following the city's capture, he received orders in early 1847 to join a new army being formed by his old friend Scott.  Leading the 1st Division of Regulars, Worth was the first American ashore when the army began landing near Veracruz on March 9.  Moving his men against the city, they played an active role in the siege that followed.


Advancing inland, Worth led his men during the victories at Cerro Gordo and Churubusco.  As Scott's army pushed towards Mexico City, he directed Worth to attack a series of stone buildings known as the Molino del Rey.  Though obeying, Worth clashed with his commander over the assault plan.  The subsequent Battle of Molino del Rey saw Worth's men carry the position but at a heavy cost resulting in damage to the two men's relationship.  Five days later, Worth's division took part in the Battle of Chapultepec and penetrated into the city through the San Cosme Gate.  His efforts contributed greatly to the city's surrender the following day.  In appreciation for Worth's actions at Mexico City, he received a brevet promotion to major general and a sword of honor from Congress.

William Worth - Later Career:

In the months following the campaign, Worth was involved in a conflict which pitted himself, Major General Gideon Pillow, and Lieutenant Colonel James Duncan against Scott over letters that had appeared in various newspapers and which saw them claim credit for the army's success.  In the fallout from the scandal, Scott was relieved from command while much of the blame was placed on Pillow, a political appointee and friend of President James K. Polk.  Returning to the United States in the summer of 1848, Worth received command of the newly-formed Departments of Texas and New Mexico that fall.  Departing on December 5, he arrived at Galveston twenty-one days later.  Establishing his headquarters at San Antonio, Worth fell ill with cholera and died on May 7, 1849.


Initially buried in Texas, Worth's remains were exhumed eight years later and brought back to New York City.  They were then re-interred in a monument at the corner of Broadway and Fifth Avenue designed by James G. Batterson.  Nationally known at the time of his death, Worth's name was applied to numerous towns, most notably Fort Worth, TX.            

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Your Citation
Hickman, Kennedy. "Mexican-American War: Major General William J. Worth." ThoughtCo, Feb. 19, 2015, Hickman, Kennedy. (2015, February 19). Mexican-American War: Major General William J. Worth. Retrieved from Hickman, Kennedy. "Mexican-American War: Major General William J. Worth." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 24, 2017).