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CAMP AT BRASOS ST. IAGO, February 17, 1847.
I closed my letter yesterday just after our arrival at this place. After writing, I went to an oyster house with my second lieutenant, Farrelly, where we took as many of the natives as was convenient. They were excellent and were a real treat after the hard bread and pork on which we have been regaling for months. This morning at daylight we struck our tents and prepared to embark immediately. The wind rose, however, before the lighters were ready for us, and we again encamped. I was sent to Point Isabel with a few men to search for deserters. I had a pleasant sail in a small sloop, found Dr. Wood there in fine health, and old , bewigged and as complimentary as of yore, transacted my business and returned by two in the afternoon to Brasos.
This large Depot is now the scene of the most utter confusion imaginable. Quarter-masters, wagon-masters, wharf-masters and government agents of all descriptions running about as if mad, while orders upon orders and counter-orders are constantly issued. An exemplification of a scene in " Charles O Malley." Enter sergeant with a large bundle of papers under each arm.
Officer: What have you under your right arm ?
Officer: And what under your left ?
February 18. The regiment got off in two steamers, the " Anson " and " Augusta " and before three in the afternoon were on board the ship " Huron," which was at anchor some eight miles at sea. We are all much disappointed in our vessel. She is much smaller and worse found than we anticipated. She was prepared for only two hundred and eighty-eight men and fourteen officers, whereas four hundred men and twenty-one officers have been put on board. Every thing is much crowded and the accommodations totally inadequate. Fortunately, it is very calm, and we hope to get things stowed tomorrow so as to make all more comfortable. The ship under the command of Captain N. G. Weeks was got under way about four in the afternoon. There was a light north wind, and she stood upon her course south southeast for Lobos. Notwithstanding that the sea was smooth and I could not perceive that the vessel rolled at all, many were very sick and were " casting up their accounts " in a manner by no means agreeable.
February ig. We have thus far been fanned along by gentle breezes. About noon the wind came ahead, blowing from the southeast, changing our course to east by north half north. Our table on board is very good in every other respect we are exceedingly uncomfortable, much crowded, the men terribly so. I fear the worst consequences should we be long on board in this climate. Scott, Merrill, Ruggles, Rosencrantz, and some others suffer much from sea sickness. I, you know, am exempt from that affliction. I pass nearly all my time on deck reading, the captain having quite a supply of books. I am by hours the last at night to leave the deck; seated alone on the taffrail I gaze upon the beautiful moon and stars or down into the sparkling sea. . . .
February 22. At six this morning, when I awoke, everything was pitching about, the ship rolling at a terrible rate. By dead reckoning the captain estimated that we were in the latitude of Lobos. I found on coming on deck that we were heading west. At eleven in the morning the low sandy shore of Mexico came in view. I climbed to the masthead with the captain to con the shore. I am the only officer on board enough of a sailor to undertake this feat. I often go to the top to avoid the sickness and confusion of the deck. We lay over the fore top-gallant yard more than an hour, nearly one hundred feet from the deck, while the good ship was flying over the sea urged by half a gale of wind. The shore became every moment more distinct and soon the Island of Lobos appeared with its fleet of transports. We stood away to the south and at about noon we were about six miles from the Island, when from my position I could see that the vessels belonging to the navy were firing the national salute for Washington s birthday. At two in the afternoon we dropped our anchor among a large fleet of ships rolling in the heavy sea, near the " Massachusetts," on board of which are General Scott and staff. The little Isle of Lobos looks like a green speck gemming the bosom of the ocean. It is in fact but a mile in length, and half a mile in breadth, and affords but a poor lea in a norther, the only gales which we are likely to encounter here. Its beach is now covered with the tents of various volunteer regiments.
February 23. This morning the weather is mild, the sea running down. I went on board the " Massa chusetts " where I found Uncle Edmund in fine spirits and merry as ever. He thinks there will be no fight at Vera Cruz. Nous verrons. General Scott is in high spirits, talking in his usual vein.
February 25. Today a sad accident happened on board. A block fell from masthead, knocking down three men and mortally wounding Leach of my company. Since one o clock he has been insensible and I think will not last till morning.
February 26. Leach died during the night and I was ordered to go ashore and select a spot for his grave, but there was such a gale blowing from the north, that it was not practicable to land. All day the transports have been arriving, coming down be fore the gale like race horses. The First, Second, and Seventh Infantry from Tampico are here. In the afternoon the wind having lulled a little, I landed with a small party to dig a grave, and after selecting a suitable spot I walked about the Island which I found covered, except where the volunteers had cleared it, with a dense growth of tropical trees and plants, most of which I had never seen before. The caoutchouc or India rubber tree grows here and is the most wonder ful vegetable production I have ever seen, answering exactly the description of the banyan, its long heavy horizontal branches throwing down vertical ones which take root in the earth, the whole broad mass of branches and foliage being supported by this natural colonnade like the dome of a cathedral. On my way back to the ship I visited many vessels in search of my brother and met many old friends. At last I found Edmund on board a little brig with Colonel Plympton, and he is now spending the evening with me on board the " Huron." He is in fine health and spirits.
February 27. The gale still continues. I have, however, been this morning on the " Massachusetts," and have learned that an express vessel is to leave for New Orleans as soon as the wind shifts. I am, there fore, about to close these pages, perchance the last you will receive before I land at Anton Lizardo, or San Juan. We are confidently assured by officers of the navy that they can so cover our landing that we will receive no opposition from the Mexicans. This being the case, I think, although we may have a tedious siege and some hard work in the trenches, there is little to be feared for the result. . . . We shall probably sail for Anton Lizardo or Sacrificio within a week. It is exceedingly inconvenient writing here. Not only is the ship crowded beyond description, but she is pitch ing in a heavy sea. . . .
- To Mexico With Scott Letters of Captain E. Kirby Smith to his wife, HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1917, digitized by the Internet Archive.