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Saturday, 20th March, 1847.
I held a conversation with Col. Stanton in relation to the operations of the Quartermaster's Department. I condemned the purchase and employment of the thousands of wagons for which I learned requisitions had been made by the commander of the army in Mexico. I told him that I would issue no positive order on the subject, but expressed the opinion that long trains of miles of wagons in such a country as Mexico, in which, in all the wars which had ever occurred in that country, they had never been used, could only have the effect of retarding the movements of the army and rendering it inefficient in its operations. I expressed the opinion that packmules should be chiefly employed for the transportation of the army, instead of the cumbrous appendage of a long wagon-train, which would require an army for its guard. I learned from Col. Stanton that contracts had been recently made for the purchase of 1,000 horses in Ohio, to be transported to Mexico upon which to mount the 3d Regiment of Dragoons, and that mules were being purchased in the United States for the use of the army. I expressed the opinion strongly that this was great folly, as well as involving the country in a vast expense. I asked them why horses and mules in Mexico, which were to be had in great numbers and which were accustomed to the climate and which could be had at one-fourth the price which must be paid in the United States, were not procured. To this he could give no satisfactory answer, except that he thought the horses and mules in the United States larger and better than those in Mexico. I was much vexed at the extravagance and stupidity of purchasing these animals in the United States, and transporting them at vast expense to Mexico. He left with my direction to look into the subject more fully than he had done. The truth is that the old army officers have become so in the habit of enjoying their ease, sitting in parlours and on carpeted floors, that most of them have no energy, and are content to jog on in a regular routine without knowing whether they are taking care of the public interest or not. I shall find it to be necessary to give more of my attentiton to these matters of detail than I have heretofore had it in my power to do. 1a
The Cabinet met at the usual hour. . . About one o'clock the Secretary of State came in, and stated that he had been until that hour in consequence of the arrival from Mexico of Mr. Atocha, who had been sent to Mexico as bearer of despatches about the 20th of January last. The answer of the Mexican Government to the renewed overture of the United States to reopen negotiations, which Mr. Atocha had borne to them, was presented by Mr. Buchanan. It was in the Spanish language. . . It was in substance that the Mexican Government refused to reopen negotiations, except upon the condition that the squadron of the United States should be withdrawn from the coasts, and the army from the territories of Mexico which are now in the possession of our arms. I at once declared to the Cabinet that the preliminary conditions required were wholly inadmissible, and that no alternative was now left but the most energetic crushing movement of our arms upon Mexico. Mr. Buchanan expressed the opinion that our army should not attempt to march to the City of Mexico. I replied that I differed with him in opinion, and that I would not only march to the City of Mexico, but that I would pursue Santa Anna's army wherever it was, and capture or destroy it. I expressed the opinion that if I had a proper commander of the army, who would lay, aside the technical rules of war to be found in books, which required a long train of baggage-wagons; one who would go light, and move rapidly, I had no doubt Santa Anna and his whole army could be destroyed or captured in a short time.
- Polk: The Diary of a President, 1845-1849, Covering the Mexican War, the Acquisition of Oregon, and the Conquest of California and the Southwest-Book by Allan Nevins, James Polk; 1929