David Camden DeLeon acquired the nickname of the "Fighting Doctor" because of his exploits in the Mexican War in 1845. When the hostilities erupted between Mexico and the United States, DeLeon served as a doctor under General Zachary Taylor.
In a bitter and furious battle with Mexico's General Santa Anna's troops at Chapultepec, all of the American officers were either killed or wounded. He kept the American troops from panicking and fleeing by taking command. Dr. DeLeon, without any military training, turned defeat into victory by rallying his soldiers and leading them into a successful counter-attack. His actions in this battle earned him the nickname of the "Fighting Doctor." He was twice cited for his gallantry, including a Congressional Citation.
David Camden DeLeon was born in 1816 in Camden, South Carolina, into a prominent Sephardic Jewish family. He followed in his father's profession when he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School as a doctor in 1836.
Dr. DeLeon enlisted in the United States Army as a surgeon in 1838. He was involved in the Seminole War in Florida and was active in the frontier outposts from the West. When the Civil War broke out, Dr. DeLeon wrestled with his conscience. He finally decided to fight with the South and resigned from the United States Army.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed Dr. DeLeon as the first Surgeon General of the Confederacy in 1861. He served in that position for a short time, preferring instead to be active on the battlefields.
When the Civil War ended, Dr. DeLeon was an unhappy and frustrated man, and went to Mexico. At the personal invitation of his former colleague in the Mexican War, General Ulysses S. Grant, Dr. DeLeon returned to the United States and settled in New Mexico, where he owned property. Dr. DeLeo practiced medicine and planted crops. Dr. DeLeon died in 1872. He will always be remembered as the "Fighting Doctor."
This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
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Last updated 12 May 2011