Book Review: The Training Ground: Grant, Lee, Sherman, and Davis in the Mexican War, 1846-1848


The Mexican War is one of those often overlooked conflicts in American history, almost always overshadowed by the Civil War almost twenty years later. It is however a very important piece of history that should not be overlooked by those studying our past.

See in this conflict you get introduced to many of the major players from the next war. Grant, Lee, Sherman, Davis, Jackson, Longstreet are just a few. They are all here, though younger and perhaps a little less world-weary. It is through their eyes that the author brings the war to life.

Where many historians tend to approach the Mexican War from the top down, delving into the politics and manipulations that brought it about. Dugard instead deals with the officers and specifically those that were schooled at West Point and who shared that bond.

It is through their eyes that the war unfolds. A lust for action, and a desire to seek glory and fame, tempered only by the need to see their homes and loved ones again. The story told is not the war, but how it effected those that fought. Through out the interactions of the men you can’t help but feel a sense of foreboding as you know what the future holds for many of those that survive, and how the lessons they learned in Mexico would be applied in their only country.

Dugard tells the story well and includes many bits from the journals letters and reminiscences of the men involved. At times the writing feels a bit rushed and it seems as if there were bits glossed over. Which takes nothing away from the book, but leaves you wanting more if you are looking for the op down. If you want to get to know the men, then this is a great place to start.