Founght near Monterrey, the battle of Buena Vista was the last major battle in northern Mexico during the Mexican-American War. It was future U.S. President Zachary Taylor's final battle of the war, leading 5,000 men to victory over 14,000 Mexican troops. Although written to honor Kentuckians slain during the War, Theodore O'Hara's "The Bivouac of the Dead" is commonly used to remember veterans of the Civil War. Plaques engraved with O'Hara's text may be seen today in various cemeteries which commemorate some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War: Antietam, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Shiloh, Stone's River, and Vicksburg. Even the McClellan Gate leading to the Arlington National Cemetery bears an inscription from O'Hara's poem.
"Buena Vista" is the second song of Rickelton's cycle Battle Songs. A bivouac is a military encampment made of tents or improvised shelters, usually without shelter or protection from enemy fire.
The Bivouac of the Dead
by Theodore O'Hara
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
No rumour of the foe's advance
now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind.
Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O'er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the glory tide;
Not long, our stout old Chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.
Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr's grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation's flag to save.
By rivers of their father's gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.
Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead,
Dear as the blood ye grave,
Where valor proudly sleeps.