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SHIP " HURON " OFF LOBOS, February 28, 1847.
... In my last I spoke of the little Isle of Lobos, which lies in latitude 21 26 . This little gem of the ocean, hitherto only known to pirates and solitary cruisers in the Gulf, will now have its fame widely blown over the United States. It is about seven miles from the main and has been created by the gradual rise of the coral reef which spreads on every side of it, and is near the surface to the east and west for at least a mile. Besides the caoutchouc tree, wild oranges, lemons, and limes are growing on this little spot, and are now opening their sweet blossoms, filling the evening air with delicious fragrance. Some curious speci mens of coral have been collected by the volunteer officers encamped on the island, such as coralized wood, bulbous roots, lemons, and oranges, astonish ingly perfect. The smallpox having broken out on a transport ship, the Island where the sick are placed has been quarantined by order of General Scott, or I should make search for something for a memento. . . . March 2. This morning with the captain of the ship and Lieutenant Myers I went fishing at daylight in a small boat. It was raining when we started but when the sun rose the weather cleared. We dropped our little anchor off the breakers of the east reef in about twenty fathoms and prepared our lines for sport, but finding it necessary almost immediately to shift our ground, we endeavored to raise our anchor but to our great disappointment found it fast tangled in the coral. It resisted all our efforts and finally the cable parted and we were obliged to pull back to the ship.
. . . After breakfast we saw a signal from the main mast of the " Massachusetts " for an officer and a boat from each ship, and an order was communicated to make all sail for Anton Lizardo. The wind was very light and dead ahead, but the steamers on board which are the Generals and their staffs paddled off to the southeast and were soon out of sight. In the afternoon the wind rose, when as if by magic this large fleet spread their sails to the breeze and stood away close hauled upon the wind to the southwest. I went to masthead to gaze upon this glorious spectacle, one which few men ever see, such as I never expect to look upon again. . . .
March 4. The wind shifted to the north at two o clock this morning and is blowing a cracking breeze. We are crowding sail and are gradually passing most of the fleet. We are at noon eighty miles from San Juan. At two in the afternoon we saw the high mountains to the northwest of Vera Cruz. There were nineteen sail in sight all crowding on to the scene of action. The beautiful little Nautilus are scudding by us in numbers, their tiny sails hoisted and their variegated colors glistening in the bright sun. Query ? Are they too going to war, or like Columbus, on a voyage of discovery, or thus dressed in holiday suits in the service of some sea Venus ?
March 5. This morning there was a dead calm, at eight a very faint breeze fanned us slowly along. About nine we saw the high peak of Orizaba looking like a point of burnished silver in the sky. Its summit more than three miles in height covered with eternal snows is the first object which meets the eye of the mariner as he approaches Vera Cruz. It lies between forty and fifty miles inland and looks as little like a mountain when first seen as possible, for it could not be distinguished from a cloud reflecting the sun did it not remain immovable and unchangeable in shape. I went to the head of the foremast, and lay over the fore topsail yard until in the dim distance the castle of San Juan and the city could be seen. Some shipping, probably English and French men-of-war, are lying at anchor in the roadstead of Sacrificios. It is eleven in the morning and before night we shall be at anchor at Anton Lizardo. We are near the scene of our struggle and tis strange that all doubt and misgiving seems to leave my mind as the place and time comes near, and though I am as likely to be killed in the coming conflict as any other it does not so seem to me. A celebrated author says: " All men think all men mortal but themselves, themselves immortal." March 6. As we drew towards the anchorage at An ton Lizardo yesterday we found ourselves in the midst of a fleet of ships and steamers. I counted over sixty vessels including the men-of-war (two tall ships and a war steamer) which are keeping up the blockade of the castle, their tapering spars plainly visible traced on the bright blue sky. We dropped our anchor about four o clock, just inside the reef which forms the harbor. We were in the rear and far from our chief, General Worth. A steamer soon came alongside to take us to our proper position. She had just left the blockade at Vera Cruz and brought us most interest ing news Santa Anna s official report of his battle with General Taylor at Buena Vista. He admits enough to show that he has been well whipped, though he claims a victory, and strangely enough says he is about to retreat to Agua Nueva. It must have been a bloody and desperately contested action lasting through two days, the twenty-second and twenty- third of February. You will undoubtedly see the accounts from General Taylor long before we shall here. I am exceedingly anxious to hear from Webster, who, you know, was there. We also heard by the steamer that the castle of San Juan and the city are manned by less than five thousand soldiers and but badly supplied with provisions. We shall probably have no difficulty in taking the place. This morning I called on Uncle Edmund and spoke to my brother as I passed his ship. They are both well and in fine spirits. We see occasionally a few Mexican Dragoons riding on the beach opposite our position. As they are nearly three miles off they do not appear very warlike. The coast shows no signs of habitation in our neighborhood. If the ordnance and horses were here, I suppose we should land immediately they are constantly expected and we cannot long be delayed.
This morning Generals Scott, Patterson, Worth, and Pillow, with their staff, went in the small steamer, " Secretary," captured from the Mexicans, to reconnoitre the castle and city. They had been gone some hours and were near San Juan when we saw the flash and soon heard the deep sound of the heavy guns of the castle. They had approached within gunshot and were fired upon. Ten shells and one solid shot were thrown at them before they were out of range. The stupidity of the enemy alone saved them. The enemy should have used their entire water battery and thrown solid shot alone, opening on the boat when nearest and they must have sunk it, but they waited until she was going off and then with no effect sent only the eleven shot spoken of. ...
March 7. It is rumored that we are to commence our landing tonight I doubt it. It is now four in the afternoon and the adjutant has gone to General Worth for orders. . . . The enemy have been driving cattle into the city, evidently preparing for a siege. . . . The adjutant has returned with the order for us to land at break of day from the war ship "Raritan." The point of debarkation is three or four miles below the city, opposite to the Island of Sacrificios. What awaits us on shore is all conjecture. It is not probable, however, that our landing will be opposed, as the enemy cannot be aware of the point or concentrate a force there. . . . We are to carry nothing with us but a great coat, a haversack with four days provisions in it, and a canteen of water. . . . Now, hurrah for San Juan and a brevet ! I have written this with all the officers about me talking like mad to each other and to me. Major Scott says: " Give my best respects to your wife, and tell her we are going on the Flagship and shall take the first battery ! "
- To Mexico With Scott Letters of Captain E. Kirby Smith to his wife, HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1917, digitized by the Internet Archive.