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Camp near Monterey Mexico
Sept r 27th 1847
My dear Doctor,
Your very welcome & interesting letters of the 27 th ult & 5th & 8 th ins t with copies of one to you from Col Davis & one from a Mr Eaton of N. York, accompanied by several papers & scraps cut from various other, having just reached me, all of which have been read with deep interest & for which you have my sincere thanks. It was to me a source of real gratification to hear you were all in good health when you last heard from Pascagoula which I sincerely hope they will long continue to enjoy ; alth I am under constant apprehension & shall continue so particularly on your acc until I know the contageon which is now so fatal in the city & I fear has reached the Barracks, has subsided ; as you must be constantly breathing & infected atmosphere, & you will be more than fortunate if escape it ; but you will should it come have the system well prepared by diet, so as to pass through its baneful effects without any serious results growing out of it. I got a letter from Betty saying they were all well, dated the 24th that Ann & the two girls had joined them ; & that the crowd had very much diminished ; all of which I was pleased to hear, as the danger of any contagion will diminish in breaking out there, or spreading should it be brought, as the visitors diminish. I hope you will have heard froMrob before this that he reached his place of destination in good health without accident, & entered on his studies with zeal & perseverance. I am pleased that John is likely to have a long voyage in the Pacific, as it is in the way of his profession, & I wish to see him a distinguished member of it, & to do so he must unite both practice & theory ; I sincerely hope he will not for a moment neglect his books & studies
On the subject of the family going to Kentucky your included, I preferred their doing so to going to the Lakes, as I thought it would have been more beneficial to their health, & would have avoided the danger from fever at the watering places on the lakes which I have known to be very fatal at those places, & avoid the danger from its effects should they have to pass through N. Orleans while it is liable to be taken ; & if they have to remain at Pascagoula until frost, which in all probability will be some time in Nov r they will become heartily tired of the place before it will be prudent for them to leave it, particularly should it be healthy at B. Rouge ; but I trust all will end well
If Ann Bob & the girls had any one to look after & attend to their wants, I do not consider your plan of locating Ann if it met her wishes, at New Haven or Geneva, until the children were educated, which would take perhaps some four years ; it would perhaps be less expensive than sending them to boarding schools, & it seems to me that it is very desirable to have children especially girls educated under the eye of their mothers ; this would have been better than resigning unless you could go at once into private practice, which is difficult to do. Should this war continue which there is every prospect of its doing for some time, officers both line & staff must expect to be separated from their families, to a very great extent, & fortunate will he be, after it is over, who can obtain a tolerably pleasant station, as the whole country from the gulf along the boundary which seperates the U. States & Mexico to the Pacific, will have to be garrisoned
About the 9th ins t we rec d across the country alth not official, news which could be relied on, that Gen Scott had defeated the Mexican army after two days fighting which terminated on the 20th ult near the City of Mexico, which had resulted in an armistice to afford Mr Trist & commissioners on :he part of the Mexican gov an opportunity to settle the differences between the two countries by negotiation ; we are therefore calculating here, that the war would soon be brought to a close & that we would be able to return once more to the U. States to mingle with our families & friends ; but how great the disappointment ; three days since information reached us as before across the country, which can be relied on, that negotiations & of course the armistice had been broken off, & that hostilities commenced; which was on the 9th ins c the result of which has not reached us ; but I presume Gen Scott is now in the city ; as soon as I hear that is the case, & he is in full & peaceable possession, I shall apply for permission to return to the U. States & hope I shall be able to join my family early in December, if not by the first ; but most things are uncertain, but I shall do so, as soon as I can leave with propriety ; & my family & friends must not expect me before
The deaths by yellow fever in the city are truly distressing particularly in Aug f much more than they had been for many years during the same period, & I much fear the same will continue to be the case during the present & following months or Sept r & October or until there is a frost to check it in the latter ; the only thing that will prevent this being the case, will be the decrease of unacclimated persons for it to operate on I am astonished that all who could do so, did not at once leave the city as soon as that disease made its appearance Denny could have sent his family somewhere out of its influence. It was a source of real gratification to learn the cases you had at the Barracks were of a mild form, & that most of those attacked had recovered, & truly do I hope that this favorable state of things may continue ; the number of sick at the Barracks are too numerous for one physician, & there out to be some one to aid you ; if there is no Army Dr a citizen should be hired I think Gen B. acted wisely in going out of the city, & I suppose he is located at Pascagoula until the sickly season is at end. The troops on this line particularly at Saltillo, have greatly improved in health during the last six weeks
It is impossible to say what course Congress will pursue even should the Whigs have a small majority in the next House of Representatives, in regard to this war, which I think is becoming more unpopular every day judging from the facility of raising volunteers, particularly in the West, as well as in obtaining recruits for the regular army, that the whigs will hardly withhold the necessary supplies for carrying it on while we had so large an army in the field ; which the Union says will be 30 thousand with Gen Scott in a very short time ; which I should not be surprised at, judging from the number of the new regt s of volunteers which are called out, & now on their way to Vera Cruz to act on that line ; the administration seems just to have waked up as from a dream & it is not improba ble, this wonderful act of energy has been brought about under the expectation that it would have a bearing on a whig congress in many ways, especially in the way of supplies &c I have read Mr Eaton s letter or the copy you were so good as to enclose ; nor would I go into the presidential chair by subscribing the doctrines he has laid down ; nor will I accept a nomination exclusively from either of the great parties which divide the country, the moment I done so, I would become the slave of a party instead of the chief magistrate of the nation should I be elected ; without meddling with politics, or mixing myself up with political men in any way I have for many years considered the policy advocated by the whigs for the most part, more nearly assimelated to those of Mr Jefferson than those of the opponents which induced me to range myself on that side, & with these views I would have voted for Mr Clay at the last election, had I voted at all, which I have never done for any one of our chief magistrates since I entered the army or before, which is near forty years ; & could the present state of our national affairs have been forseen, I believe that every man who loved his country more than party or office, would have done the same. I would not be chief magistrate on any other terms than those which I have avowed ; & have written to several political men to that effect. All who are writing me about a U. States Bank which is dead, & will not be revived in my time, the tariff which will be increased only for revenue ; internal improvement, which will go on in spite of presidential vetoes ; & the Wilmot proviso, which was brought into congress to array the South against the [North] must, or ought to be left to congress, the President has nothing to do with making laws, he must approve or veto them ; when approved or passed by a majority of two thirds, his business is to see them proper executed. My opinion on those subjects are in too many instances used to my injury ; 1 have already said enough which has been published & shall refer all such writers to what has been already written & published
No one can possibly respect the opinions of an other more than I do those of Col Davis & I know he is my most devoted & ardent friend, but I think he is mistaken in supposing the whigs as a body are haling off from me; but even if they should do so, it is no reason I should change my opinion in political matters ; I shall pursue a straight forward course deviating neither to the right or left so that comes what may I hope my real friends will never have to blush for me, so far as truth, honesty & fair dealings are concerned. If the whigs think proper to play a double part with the purpose of deceiving, it will result to their disadvantage & not to mine ; nor shall I complain if they drop me altogather, & take up some one else, as I most truly say I do not want the office ; & sincerely regret I was thought of for the same. I have just concluded long letter to a per sonal friend a moderate whig in answer to one from him, in which he says some of the strong Democrats in K? who were ready to unite with the whigs in the Lexington district, to nominate me for the presidency with out regard to party, & that arrangements had been made for such a meet ing when the whigs backed out of it, as was supposed through the influence of Mr Clay, & thought I would aid in bringing Mr C. before the country for the office in question; in reply I informed him that alth I would much prefer seeing Mr Clay in the chair of state than myself, & would not be in his way if I knew he could be elected, yet I would not loan myself to elevate Mr C. or any one els to that position ; alth I had rec d several letters urging me to decline in favor of that individual & to urge his election ; these letters I have paid no attention to, nor do I intend to do so ; believing the people are capable of attending to such matters, & if I was to presume to attempt to dictate to them who they ought to place at the head of the gov 1 it would have the effect to make him Mr C. more unpopular, & me ridiculous. As a matter of course there are many both whigs & democrats that will be opposed to me, or any other individual who will not go the whole length of the party- Col Davis is correct in supposing the abolitionists will oppose my election, or that of any Southern man ; & I have doubts if we have for many years another president from a slave holding state, & particularly a slave holder. The Col is also correct in believing that the Secretary of War was not disposed to give me such a force as would have justified me in making a forward movement into the heart of the enemies country ; I am satisfied it was long since determined by Mr Marcy & others after due consultation & deliberation, that I should not have an opportunity of accomplishing any thing more than I had already done ; which determination has been carried out to the very letter up to the present moment ; but I hope the Col will let this pass, when he takes his seat in the senate or if he notices it at all, it will only be in an incidental way
Among others I regret to hear of the very unpleasant state of the weather, from unusual long cold rains, which must have a very serious influence on the prevailing disease unavoidably so, besides the gloom it must cast over those who are under the necessity of witnessing the ravages it makes ; but ere this I sincerely hope the weather has become as pleasant as could be expected at the present season, & that it has had the effect of arresting the contagion to some extent, as well as to impart more cheerfulness to those who are mixed up with it. There is no probability of my returning to the city until long after the contageon passes away There will be no doubt a great blow out between Kearney, Fremont, Benton & the Secretary of War, how it will all terminate time must determine ; it is possible as they are all togather at Washington it may all be arranged without proceeding to extremeties by mutual explanations, & concessions as they are all politicians ; Benton will be most difficult to satisfy
Between ourselves Gen Scott would stoop to any thing however low & contemptable as any man in the nation, to obtain power or place, & be as arbitrary in using it when in possession; between him, Trist & the powers that be, old Harry may take the hindmost, they are all of a piece
The plan of leaving the troops on their way to Vera Cruz above is a very judicious one, until transportation be provided to send them to their place of destination as it would not do to stop them in the city or in the influence of the infected atmosphere
The anxiety about the safety of your family is quite natural but it ought not to absorb every other consideration ; we should do the best we could for them, after which to submit to the decrees of an all wise providence in the best way we could
I regret my position before the country as a candidate for the chief magistracy should give you one moments concern, for I can truly say I will be fully as well satisfied if dropped as a candidate, or left out as I would be in reaching that high station ; for admitting I should do so, it will neither lengthen my days, nor add to my happiness, why then should I wish it
I thank you for the way you replied to Mr Eaton. As every thing is very wet, I fear you will have great difficulty in making out what I have written
We have this moment rec d information here that Gen Scott had fought a battle on the 1 2 th ins t had defeated the Mexicans & entered the City of Mexico, Santa Anna having abandoned it, which I presume is the case, we have no particulars ; & presume you will receive all the import ant events connected with it by the way of Vera Cruz before this reaches you
My love to Ann & the children when you write, & wishing you & yours continued health & prosperity, I remain truly your
SURG N R. C. WOOD
U. S. Army N. Orleans Barracks
- Letters of Zachary Taylor from the Battle-Fields of the Mexican War - Book by William K.Bixby, Zachary Taylor, 1908, Rochester, NY The Genesee Press, digitized by the Internet Archive.