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Part 2. Mexican War letters, 1845-1847

I trust you have not placed any fond hopes on seeing me come back from this place. I found on my arrival here this morning that there was nothing to be done but to proceed to the destination assigned me. Since leaving Philadelphia the news is more belligerent from Mexico, and though I have not the slightest fear of any hostilities on the part of the Mexicans, yet the existence of such reports renders it a point of honor for me to go. From all I can hear (for besides seeing many people who pretend to know, I have met one gentleman who resides at the very place I am going to,) all agree in pronouncing it as healthy a country as any in the world, and if I can only escape New Orleans, that there will be but little danger afterwards. Of course I shall take every precaution at New Orleans, and leave the city as soon as I possibly can, and I really am in hopes that I shall get safely there and in a short time return to our dear home.

In the meantime keep up your spirits and take care of your health and that of the children. No one can tell how my heart was rent at parting with you; but I believe it is for the best that we should be parted, if I am to go, for the terrible agony I endured at the very sight of you and my dear children, it would be impossible to describe. However, there is no use in fretting over what cannot be helped, and there only remains for us to pray God to protect us and bring us again together in his good pleasure.

I suppose you have to-day seen Mr. Pemberton,1 who was kind enough to accompany me to New Castle. I found his society most agreeable, as it prevented me from giving way to my pent — up and lacerated feelings, and I felt deeply grateful to him for his kindness. [20] We arrived at Baltimore about twelve o'clock, and I went up to the Exchange Hotel and got a bed, and had quite a comfortable sleep till breakfast this morning, at half past 7, after which I got into the cars and came down here. After seeing Salvadora,2 and afterwards Margaret,3 I went to the Bureau and reported myself to Colonel Abert. He was very civil to me, gave me some additional articles to take with me, and impressed upon me the necessity of staying as short a time as possible in New Orleans. I then saw Captain Swift, and had some conversation with him, and learned from him that there was no absolute necessity of very great hurry. He said I might go down the river if I wanted to, and gave it as his opinion that there would be no trouble there (that is, in Texas), and that the Colonel would recall me as soon as it could possibly be done, as he wanted now officers for other duty. All this is of course consoling, and we must hope for the best. After this I called on the Secretary of War to offer to take despatches. He also was very polite, but had nothing to send by me, although I met in his office a Colonel Rogers from Corpus Christi, Texas, which, if you look on your map, you will find is just below the Aransas Pass. He it was who told me the place was most healthy and delightful as a residence, and gave me some letters to take to his sons there. Upon the whole, I feel better after coming here, and now I shall start with a lighter heart.

Keep up your spirits; all will yet be well, and it may not be long before I will be with you again.

I think now of going by the river route, going from here to Wheeling, and thence to Cincinnati, and from thence to New Orleans, in which case I shall leave here to-morrow morning early, at six o'clock. Write to me at New Orleans, and tell me all about the dear children and mother and all your family. Do not write despondingly, but give me the aid of your cheerfulness to assist me in my trials, and may the Almighty ruler of all things, bless and protect you and the dear children, and in his own time restore me to you.

Cincinnati, August 21, 1845.
I have progressed far on my long journey, having thus arrived here last night too late to do anything but go to bed. I cannot say that I am any more reconciled to our parting than the first moment I was made aware we had to part.

I will give you now a little account of my journey. I left [21] Washington on Friday morning, having received all the kindness and attention possible from Salvadora and her husband. In the cars from Washington I met Major Craig,4 on his return to Philadelphia, who said he would call and tell you he had met me. At the Relay House I parted with him and got into the cars for Cumberland, where I met Mr. Randall,5 who married Miss Wirt, and was in Congress with your father the last session he served. Mr. Randall being a very intelligent gentleman, we sat together and conversed during the whole day, till evening, when we arrived at Cumberland, where he remained. I found his society most agreeable. At Cumberland I took the mail stage for Wheeling, and found myself with but one passenger, a young merchant, from Huntsville, Alabama, returning from Philadelphia, where he had been purchasing goods. On account of his admiration of Philadelphia, he being a sterling Whig, and withal a very intelligent man, I took to him. We arrived at Wheeling at eleven o'clock Sunday night, and finding the water very low, I determined to go overland to this place and depend upon taking the river here. I left Wheeling at six o'clock Monday morning, and reached Zanesville late that night, started early the next morning, travelled all night, and got here about ten last night. I took a bath, went to bed, and had sweet dreams of you and my children. I have found here many acquaintances, mostly of the army; one, Captain Irwin, an old friend, who has been running round the town with me this morning, assisting me in making purchases of articles necessary for my outfit, such as horse equipments, bed and bedding, etc. I very much fear this will be a most ruinously expensive business, and I wish to heaven I was out of it; but it was absolutely necessary to procure these things, and I could get them cheaper here than in New Orleans, besides my intention of spending no longer time than absolutely necessary in that city. I shall leave here to-night or early to-morrow morning for down the river, and may probably spend a day at Louisville, where I understand that Elizabeth6 and her children are staying. I also expect to overtake there a young officer of our corps, on his way to Texas, whom I find by the books at the hotels is just one day ahead of me. I shall then proceed immediately to New Orleans, and if there is not a vessel going soon to this place, [22] I will go to some place in the neighborhood of New Orleans known to be healthy, and wait there till one should be ready. At New Orleans I expect to see your dear handwriting, as I am some days behind the mail. I cannot tell you how anxious I am to hear from you, of my dear mother, who I trust is more reconciled to my departure, and of my dear boys, who, alas, are too young to feel it. Give my very best love to dear mother, and tell her I will soon write to her, maybe I will do it before I leave here, but I am in such a whirl of excitement, that I can hardly keep still, and writing makes me most melancholy.

I want you to subscribe for me to the Tri-weekly National Intelligencer and the Weekly Herald, and have them sent to New Orleans, to the care of Colonel Hunt, Quartermaster U. S. Army. I also want you to get off my bookcase the ‘Maps of the Stars,’ published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

Louisville, Ky., August 23, 1845.
I arrived here early this morning, and should have proceeded immediately on, as there were boats going on; but knowing that they were subject to a detention of two or three hours in going through the canal, which is here cut round the falls or ripples of the Ohio, I determined to come on shore and see Elizabeth and her girls, whom I found at a lovely spot on the banks of the river, about three miles below here. She looked and said she was very well, all the children were so, and she was very much gratified at my visit. After staying with her as long as I thought myself justified in doing, I returned, and took a hack with my luggage and drove to the end of the canal, three miles from here, and arrived just in time to see the boat gliding gracefully down stream. I had nothing to do but return to the excellent house where I am now stopping, and wait for the next boat, which will probably leave to-morrow morning. I was exceedingly put out and disappointed.

I am well thus far, and had an agreeable passage of about twentyfour hours from Cincinnati here. After I start from here I shall make every effort to push on. We have dates from New Orleans to the 14th inst.; it was then perfectly healthy. God grant it may continue so. Nothing new in Mexican affairs, which I still think is a mere bubble to induce the offer of mediation from England or France, and thus give them (Mexico) a chance to creep out of an awkward position.


New Orleans, Sept. 4, 1845.
I arrived here to-day about 2 P. M., very well in health and much improved in spirits. The city is as yet perfectly healthy, and I find here a vessel loading for Aransas Bay, which will probably leave to-morrow afternoon; I have therefore a chance of getting out of this pestilential hole unharmed.

I had a tedious, though, on the whole, a pleasant journey here. I wrote you from Louisville, telling you of my missing a steamboat. The next day I got one, and had very good luck till we got to the mouth of the Ohio; there I took the first boat that passed down, and she proved to be one very heavily laden from St. Louis, with a most prudent captain, who lay by every night for fear of snags and getting aground. At first I complained of this as wasting so much time, but in the end I was reconciled, for almost every day we passed some less prudently managed boat, some aground on a bar, others snagged and in a sinking condition, while we met with no accident, but once grounding when opposite Natchez, when we had supposed ourselves beyond all danger and were running at night. Luckily, it was so near Natchez we were enabled to get the ferryboat there, that lightered us, and we continued our journey, after a detention of twelve hours, and reached here safely, as I said before, about 2 P. M. The vessel I go in to-morrow is an excellent one, which has been running as a packet between this and Vera Cruz, and is now in the employ of the Government. The voyage is about three days, and every one represents the situation there as healthy and desirable, so you must cheer up yourself and also dear mother.

There are a great many rumors of war and hostile operations on the part of the Mexicans, but none that are authentic, or to be relied on. I cannot believe as yet the Mexicans are so blind to their true interests as madly to rush into a war with us, especially after they find, as they have done by this time, that we are expecting and preparing for such a contingency. General Taylor7 will in a few weeks have with him a force amounting to between four and five thousand men, and any number of militia in the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and others, only waiting for the call to rush to his assistance. When the Mexicans ascertain this, and that our Government is in earnest, they will deliberate a good deal before they commence active operations, and it appears to be well understood we are to [24] wait for them to commence. All this I mention to make your mind easy as to my safety. I fear nothing but disease, and I shall have excellent medical attendance, and every care in case I am sick.

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