Mexican War hero, governor, and minister to Brazil, William Trousdale was born in Orange County, North Carolina. In 1796 he came with his parents, James and Elizabeth Dobbins Trousdale, to settle in Sumner County, Tennessee.
Trousdale first experienced military duty when he volunteered for Captain William Edwards’s company of mounted riflemen during the War of 1812. Not activated until the Creek uprising in 1813, the company participated in the battles at Tallushatchee and Talladega. During the summer of 1814, Trousdale enrolled in another volunteer company that marched to the Gulf Coast in time to have an active role in General Andrew Jackson’s taking of Pensacola. Continuing with Jackson to New Orleans, he went with General John Coffee on December 23 to challenge the invading British forces below the city. Trousdale engaged in firefights that night and on December 27 and January 1 before seeing action in the decisive battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.
In April 1836 Trousdale was elected major general and given command of the Fourth Division, Tennessee Militia. Two months later, preferring active duty, he raised a company of mounted volunteers for the Seminole War. When Tennessee troops met to organize, they elected Trousdale colonel, commander of the Second Regiment, First Brigade, in which capacity he led the regiment during several skirmishes with the Seminoles and in the battles of the Cove of the Withlacooche and of Wahoo Swamp.
Ten years later the war with Mexico erupted, and Trousdale accepted appointment as colonel in the regular army. He reported to New Orleans in April 1847 and took command of eight companies that he landed at Vera Cruz on June 13. Joining the march on Mexico City, Trousdale and his troops fought at Cherubusco and Molino del Rey, where he was struck in the shoulder by an escopet ball and his horse was shot from under him. Nonetheless, five days later he led two regiments and a field battery in the successful assault on Chapultepec, the main fortress in Mexico City. His troops suffered heavy casualties, and his own right arm, hit twice, was shattered. On August 28, 1848, President James K. Polk appointed Trousdale brigadier general by brevet for “gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Chapultepec.”
Beginning in 1820 Trousdale practiced law at Gallatin in the intervals between military adventures. In 1827 he married Mary Ann Bugg; they had seven children. Trousdale unsuccessfully sought election to Congress in 1827, 1829, 1837, 1839, and 1845. He won election to the Gallatin board of aldermen 1831-35, and to the state Senate 1835-36. He served as a Democratic presidential elector in the 1840 campaign. His conspicuous bravery in the Mexican War returned him to the political spotlight, and the Democrats unanimously nominated him for governor in 1849. He won a closely contested race, but failed for reelection in 1851.
In 1853 President Franklin Pierce appointed Trousdale U.S. minister to Brazil. After completing the four-year term, he returned to Gallatin and resumed the practice of law. Persistent bad health plagued him until his death in 1872. He and his family lived near the town square in a handsome Federal-style brick house known as Trousdale Place, maintained as a public shrine since 1900.
J. A. Trousdale, “A History of the Life of General William Trousdale,” Tennessee Historical Magazine (1916): 119-36