Ne’er-do-wells and deserters, these soldiers lived hard, fought hard— and died when they saw a flag go up
In the 5th U.S. Infantry, stationed with General Zachary Taylor’s army on the Mexican border in 1846, Sergeant John Riley was rated a good soldier. Before his present duty he had served as a drillmaster for the Corps of Cadets at West Point which demanded high competence. Such was Riley’s ability that he was in line for a lieutenant’s commission, and rising from the ranks was rare at that period. He hail only one apparent fault, a grave one. He could enforce discipline but found it hard to take.
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