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April 25, 1847.
I wrote from Vera Cruz on the nineteenth, just before we marched for this place. We were then nearly worn out with fatigue and started in bad spirits. Indeed the treatment which the army has received from the Administration, and the injustice done by the brevets, has disgusted and dispirited many of us, particularly in our regiment, which has done so much service and been so entirely overlooked. ... I have recently been less regular in my correspondence than I desire to be, but I have been so situated that I could not even write a journal. We carry no baggage but a pair of saddle bags and a small roll of bedding and are without tents. I am now sitting on the ground writing on the top of a box. . . . We are to march to Perote, forty miles from here, tomorrow, to join General Worth, to whose division we belong. As I told you in my last we made our preparations to leave Vera Cruz on the nineteenth. . . . Just before dark we commenced our march moving over the sandy plain to the north of Vera Cruz. Our teams were drawn by the wild mustang horses we had brought from Tlacatalpin, which were perfectly unbroken and could not be made to go. In consequence drag ropes were fastened to the wagons and our poor men were compelled not only to draw them but the horses, too. After toiling some hours we halted at a small stream of bad water where it united with the sea about three miles from Vera Cruz. I refreshed myself with a delicious bath in the tumbling surf and " with my martial cloak around me " slept on the sands till four in the morning. We then started on our weary route, toiling over the deep sand dragging the wagons and gradually break ing our horses to their work.
We made but six miles that day and bivouacked at the small town of Santa Fe. All day we had been hearing reports of the terrible battle of Cerro Gordo.
Our march on the twenty-first commenced at three o clock in the morning and was over a hilly country, but on a tolerably good road. Our horses began to work very well for mustangs, and we labored on under a burning tropical sun, some of the men breaking down from the intense heat, till nine o clock in the morning, when we halted near some water where there was a fine shade, and rested six hours. Several cattle out of the immense droves around us were shot, and we all got a good dinner. We could not march during the middle of the day, for there was a breathless calm and the sun would have melted men and horses in an hour.
We struck Santa Anna's farm about twelve miles from Vera Cruz. It is thirty miles wide and extends to within a short distance of Jalapa, making it about fifty miles long. It is said there are more than sixty thousand cattle roaming over its pastures to say nothing of the sheep and horses.
About four in the afternoon we resumed our march and continued on into the night having made about sixteen miles. At the usual hour in the morning we proceeded and at ten in the morning reached the famous Puente Nacional, much the most remarkable bridge I have ever seen, stretching with many heavy stone arches over a beautiful, rapid mountain stream. The bridge lies in a natural pass which a few brave men might defend against armies.
Above it on the summit of a lofty hill frowns a massive stone fort. The town at the northwest end of the bridge which usually contains several hundred inhabitants, we found, with the exception of a few men, entirely deserted. On a hill on the border of the village is a magnificent residence, one of Santa Anna s countryseats, at which we spent the day, the men refresh ing themselves by bathing. At six in the evening the advance sounded we marched off, up hill for two or three miles, when we found the road quite level and excellent. We were occasionally shocked by the sight of some poor soldier who had been shot by the wayside and whose unsepulchred remains were rotting on the ground. The road began to be strewed with the offen sive bodies of dead horses and cattle, and the fragments of broken wagons, etc., which are ever scattered behind an army. We marched on steadily until about two in the morning, when after descending a very long steep hill down which the road winds we halted at the town of Plan del Rio, four miles from the battle field of Cerro Gordo. Every hut, every place of shelter was found filled with the wounded.
We had marched after sunset eighteen miles, and as soon as we halted the weary men dropped on the rugged, dirty earth, the officers promiscuously scattered among them. I was officer of the day and as soon as I had posted a few sentinels I lay down in the very dust and dirt of the road with no bed or covering but my cloak, and in spite of the groans of the wounded and the shrieks of those who were suffering from the knives of the surgeons, I slept soundly for three hours.
In the morning I visited those of my friends who were wounded, among whom is Poet Patten, all his left hand but the forefinger and thumb having been carried off by a grape shot. He was doing well and is very cheerful. I consoled him with the fact that though he could no longer play the guitar he might write better poetry than before.
Here was to be seen every stage of suffering from wounds, but I will not describe to you the sickening scenes I have witnessed. We marched at five in the afternoon, being still twenty miles from Jalapa. We moved rapidly until we reached the battle field, which was at a pass that a few brave men ought to hold against the united world. It is three miles long, and by far the strongest I have ever seen. I have not tune to record the various anecdotes I have heard or to give a detailed description of the battle. It is certainly the most dreadful defeat the Mexicans have ever yet received and yet so confident were they of victory that the citizens of Jalapa rode to the ground to see the rout of our army and fireworks were prepared at various points to celebrate the flight of the " North Americans." Santa Anna publicly took an oath at the altar to conquer or leave his body on the field. N. B. He was among the first to run.
At two o clock yesterday we reached this place, the prettiest town I have seen, surrounded by the finest country with the most delicious climate in the world, the thermometer never rising above eighty degrees or falling much below sixty. A cloth coat is never uncomfortable, and one does not suffer in his shirt sleeves. It is more than four thousand feet above the level of the sea. Fruit and vegetables are abundant and cheap.
There are some very ancient buildings here I have seen but one yet, a chapel built by Hernando Cortes. There is now a large Franciscan monastery attached to it and the National College.
The battle of Cerro Gordo is not likely to terminate the war as we supposed. The Mexicans appear determined never to give up even if we should take every town and fortress in the nation. What a stupid people they are! They can do nothing and their continued defeats should convince them of it. They have lost six great battles; we have captured six hundred and eighty cannon, nearly one hundred thousand stand of arms, made twenty thousand prisoners, have posses sion of the greatest portion of their country and are fast advancing upon their Capital which must soon be ours, yet they refuse to treat! "Those the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad." . . .
- To Mexico With Scott Letters of Captain E. Kirby Smith to his wife, HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1917, digitized by the Internet Archive.