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WHERE CAMP WASHINGTON ONCE WAS, NEAR Vera Cruz,
April 17, 1847.
I do not know the date of my last letter, a short history will explain the cause. On the night of the seventh, I was writing a letter to you in my tent, when, in common with the other officers of the regiment, I was summoned to Major Scott's tent. Scott was swelling with importance and had borrowed a candle from the adjutant, being too poor to purchase. He held in his hand a note and commenced:
" Are you all here ? " then began reading the note:
" Major Scott, Sir: You " - a pause.
" Where is Captain Ruggles ? Gentlemen, pay attention, we shall catch it before tomorrow night! "
Myself: " What ! the yellow fever ? "
Major Scott: " We are to go on desperate service." And so after beginning and stopping twenty times he finally managed to read a brief note from General Worth ordering him with the regiment to report to him on the morning of the eighth at daylight in the plaza, each one carrying in his haversack five days provisions and his greatcoat on his back. I asked Scott if he knew where we were going. " He thought he did, we would all find out before tomorrow night but some would not live to tell of it if he led them ! " etc., intimating that we were going on desperate service for which we were selected in consequence of his superior abilities, etc. I finally remarked that I thought he knew nothing about it, and that I would bet we were going after horses and mules, in consequence of his peculiar fitness.
I went to my tent and closed my desk, in which there were besides all your dear letters a considerable amount of money belonging to the regiment and to the men, and carried it to Major Kirby, as I dared not leave it in my tent during my absence. On my return last night we found the army all gone. Uncle had carried my desk with him not liking to leave it with any one, knowing its contents, so I am without my dressing and writing apparatus.
To resume. I had guessed right in regard to our duty. On reporting on the morning of the eighth, we were ordered on board the steamer " McKim" to go up the Alvarado River after horses and mules. We arrived at Alvarado, which is near the mouth of the river, just at sunset. Here is a fine harbor with about two fathoms on the bar at low water, and it is a much better point for a large city and a commercial depot than at Vera Cruz. The town which before the war contained between three and four thousand inhabitants is now in the possession of our navy, Captain Mayo being the Governor. It is much like other Mexican towns, a large church, a few decent houses owned by the rich, the residue mean and dirty, filled with ticks, fleas, vermin, idleness, and licentiousness. In the morning we proceeded up the river which is truly beautiful broad, deep, and clear, with rich verdant banks.
About thirty miles from its mouth we arrived at the town of Tlacatalpin. Here the river forks the left branch taking the name of San Juan. Tlacatalpin is much the neatest town I have yet seen in Mexico, containing some three thousand inhabitants who are industrious in comparison with all others I have seen in this country. The women have the reputation of being virtuous, the men honest. They are at least half white, being less stained with negro blood than in those portions of Mexico which I have seen. Many cocoanut trees in full bearing were growing here, some ripe pineapples, indeed, most of the tropical fruits, excepting oranges. We found a great abundance of melons, green corn, cabbages, and some Irish potatoes which were tolerable. The quarter-master found it would be some days before he could get horses in from the surrounding country, so we left the steamboat and were quartered in a house for picking cotton. It was very dirty, of course, but it gave the men room to lie down in the shade which is absolutely necessary in this hot climate. The weather was awfully hot. We had no change of clothes and you can judge how uncomfortable and disgusting we were in a few days. We remained at Tlacatalpin from Friday until Tuesday evening. The march from that place to Vera Cruz was most horrible, the men without bread, and had to be up all night watching the horses. We have just arrived. I am completely worn out and have just seen the villainous order of promotions and brevets in which the Fifth is entirely neglected. I am utterly disgusted with the service and were it not for you and the dear children would resign at once, but for your sakes I must continue to endure.
Santa Anna with fifteen thousand men is, we learn, strongly fortified in a mountain pass about forty miles from here. It is supposed General Scott fought him yesterday, as cannon were heard. We all think it will be the last fight of the war as Santa Anna has his ministers with him evidently to negotiate, if he is beaten.
April 19. . . . We are to march this evening or at daybreak tomorrow.
- To Mexico With Scott Letters of Captain E. Kirby Smith to his wife, HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1917, digitized by the Internet Archive.