During the Mexican-American war, Pierce, a brigadier general, narrowly escaped
injury on July 21, 1847 when his hat was shot off
He was not so lucky at the Battle of Contreras on August 19.
Riding his horse at top speed over a rocky lava bed, the horse suddenly reared up
(probably startled by the sound of Mexican artillery), throwing Pierce against
the pommel of the saddle before stumbling and falling onto him. Pierce was knocked
senseless. With intense pain in his groin and a debilitating knee
injury, Pierce sat amidst some rocks in the middle of the artillery fire for
half an hour, until he could stand. He then hobbled over to an American brigade
that was under heavy fire. The brigade surgeon,
^^ "ritchey4pierce"|doc43("Ritchey") ^^ reduced Pierce's dislocated knee and
bandaged his pelvis.
Pierce stayed in the field until 9 pm. The fighting had
stopped at nightfall, and Pierce now ordered his regiments to withdraw.
He took refuge from the rain in the back of an ammunition wagon.
Orders for the
next morning required rapid movement on foot, so Pierce ceded command to his
deputy and reported to the commanding general (Winfield Scott) for further orders
Scott later wrote that Pierce "was in such a sick, wounded, and enfeebled
condition, that he was `just able to keep his saddle!`"
. (Ironically, Pierce and Scott ran against
each other for the presidency in 1852.)
Scott ordered him to the rear, but Pierce successfully
protested and returned to lead his brigade in the next action, which required a
1.5 mile march through corn fields, marshes, and ditches. Pierce, again on
horseback, was able to jump several ditches, but when he dismounted to walk over
soft terrain, the pain in his knee caused him to pass out after about 300 yards.
Pierce once again ceded command, after ordering his men to leave him where he was.
His brigade saw heavy action later that day, without him.
Hoisted into his saddle on the 22nd, Pierce rode 2.5 miles to participate in a
lengthy meeting that lasted through the night and ended with an armistice agreement.
He was then able to rest.
By September 12, however, he was prostrate with diarrhea
During the 1852 presidential election, his opponents
intimated that cowardice caused him to miss battles in the war