Camerone Day!

Today is the 30th of April which is known in the French Foreign Legion as Camerone Day.  It commemorates the epic 1863 battle between 62 Legionnaires and over 2,000 Mexican infantry and cavalry that took place on a small abandoned farm in Veracruz, Mexico.  Enscribed on the monument erected to commemorate the battle are the words:

“They were here less than sixty opposed to a whole army.  Its mass crushed them.  Life rather than bravery departed these French soldiers at Camerone on 30 April 1863.  In memory of them, the motherland has erected this monument.”

So in honor of this day I’ll be making several posts related to the Legion and the campaign in Mexico.  For this first post we should understand the history of the French in Mexico.  There are several interesting accounts (in English) written about this period that are available on Google.  (you can search by the title).  I’ll review them briefly below.

  •   With the French in Mexico.  Written by James Frederick Elton in 1869.  Elton joined the French forces in the latter years of the war just as the French forces were hastily departing that country.  It does not mention the battle of Camerone but does provide several other mentions of the Foreign Legion, vivid descriptions of the country and irregular warfare and many illustrations.  With_the_French_in_Mexico
  • Maximilian in Mexico.  Written by Percy Falcke Martin and published 1914.  This weighs in at almost 500 written pages.  I didn’t read this entire book but found the parts that I did read to be rather too much on the political and royal intrigue and not enough on the ground campaign.  The book contains many pictures and photographs and there are also good orders of battle listed for the French forces for several of the key years.  Recommended only for the serious minded historian of this period.  (warning…large file)  Maximilian_in_Mexico
  • Maximilian in Mexico (Kemper).  Same title as above but written by a German known as J. Kemper and translated by George P. Upton.  This is only about 120 pages and was written for a younger audience (even I can understand it)Nothing new in the tale except it covers the same ground as above in less space.  Like the other book, this one is tilted toward the political story vs. the military side.  Maximilian in Mexico by Kemper
  • Command Magazine: The French in Mexico.  Finally something a little newer.  This article comes from the outstanding but now defunct Command magazine (ended publication in 2001).  This article is a very good run down on the major battles that transpired during this time including Camerone.  France in Mexico, 1862 to 1867

I hope you enjoy these.  I cleaned the three books from Google up a bit and did an OCR scan on each to help one navigate and search better.

About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
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