America took interest
Following Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Grant knew that a large Confederate army remained in Texas. Of equal concern, a large European army composed of French, Austrian, and Belgian troops were fighting among side Imperial Mexican soldiers supporting Maximilian, an Austrian prince. Grant’s fear involved the creation of an allied army of former Confederates, Europeans, and Imperial Mexicans that would continue the Civil War out of Mexican territory. He quickly ordered Sheridan and a large number of veteran Union troops to move west.
While the records are vague and confusing, there are indications that two separate – and compartmented – programs were developed. The first was encouraged, if not ordered, by Grant that resulted in a former general, Lew Wallace, managing an essentially civilian-mercenary effort. The second program involved US Army officers and enlisted soldiers serving as advisors, trainers, and in some cases they may have participated in combat operations.
The Jessie Scouts involved arrived in the theater of operations in mid-1865 and their operations apparently concluded in early 1867 with Sergeant Jim White delivering a diplomatic note deep inside Mexico to Benito Juarez’s provisional government in an effort to prevent the execution of Maximilian.
Scout casualties were heavy. Available Union army records indicate that Lieutenant-Colonel Henry H. Young and four enlisted scouts were involved under Sheridan, but this was probably the advance party. Scout Arch Rowand’s letters from New Orleans indicated that several scouts requested discharges with their parent regiments, but available evidence exists to show that 12-15 enlisted scouts and Young entered Mexico by boat from New Orleans in late October 1866 and most were killed under relatively mysterious circumstances. Young was definitely a casualty and former Confederate, William H. Woodall, also a Medal of Honor recipient, was probably killed. The identities of the remaining scouts who lost their lives are unknown.
The scouts delivered intelligence to Sheridan’s headquarters that enabled him to understand what was occurring throughout northern Mexico. They also developed individual operations against Imperial Mexican commanders and may have recruited two former Confederate officers to kill the Mexican commander at Matamoras. Currently, it is difficult to assess overall the impact the scouts had in supporting Sheridan’s operations into Mexico as much of their reporting has not been discovered.