Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, Volume One
Ulysses S. Grant

Part 1 out of 6

Produced by Glen Bledsoe. Additional proofing by David Widger


Volume I.

by U. S. Grant


"Man proposes and God disposes." There are but few important events in
the affairs of men brought about by their own choice.

Although frequently urged by friends to write my memoirs I had
determined never to do so, nor to write anything for publication. At
the age of nearly sixty-two I received an injury from a fall, which
confined me closely to the house while it did not apparently affect my
general health. This made study a pleasant pastime. Shortly after, the
rascality of a business partner developed itself by the announcement of
a failure. This was followed soon after by universal depression of all
securities, which seemed to threaten the extinction of a good part of
the income still retained, and for which I am indebted to the kindly act
of friends. At this juncture the editor of the Century Magazine asked
me to write a few articles for him. I consented for the money it gave
me; for at that moment I was living upon borrowed money. The work I
found congenial, and I determined to continue it. The event is an
important one for me, for good or evil; I hope for the former.

In preparing these volumes for the public, I have entered upon the task
with the sincere desire to avoid doing injustice to any one, whether on
the National or Confederate side, other than the unavoidable injustice
of not making mention often where special mention is due. There must be
many errors of omission in this work, because the subject is too large
to be treated of in two volumes in such way as to do justice to all the
officers and men engaged. There were thousands of instances, during the
rebellion, of individual, company, regimental and brigade deeds of
heroism which deserve special mention and are not here alluded to. The
troops engaged in them will have to look to the detailed reports of
their individual commanders for the full history of those deeds.

The first volume, as well as a portion of the second, was written before
I had reason to suppose I was in a critical condition of health. Later
I was reduced almost to the point of death, and it became impossible for
me to attend to anything for weeks. I have, however, somewhat regained
my strength, and am able, often, to devote as many hours a day as a
person should devote to such work. I would have more hope of satisfying
the expectation of the public if I could have allowed myself more time.
I have used my best efforts, with the aid of my eldest son, F. D. Grant,
assisted by his brothers, to verify from the records every statement of
fact given. The comments are my own, and show how I saw the matters
treated of whether others saw them in the same light or not.

With these remarks I present these volumes to the public, asking no
favor but hoping they will meet the approval of the reader.












































Volume one begins:



My family is American, and has been for generations, in all its
branches, direct and collateral.

Mathew Grant, the founder of the branch in America, of which I am a
descendant, reached Dorchester, Massachusetts, in May, 1630. In 1635 he
moved to what is now Windsor, Connecticut, and was the surveyor for that
colony for more than forty years. He was also, for many years of the
time, town clerk. He was a married man when he arrived at Dorchester,
but his children were all born in this country. His eldest son, Samuel,
took lands on the east side of the Connecticut River, opposite Windsor,
which have been held and occupied by descendants of his to this day.

I am of the eighth generation from Mathew Grant, and seventh from
Samuel. Mathew Grant's first wife died a few years after their
settlement in Windsor, and he soon after married the widow Rockwell,
who, with her first husband, had been fellow-passengers with him and his
first wife, on the ship Mary and John, from Dorchester, England, in
1630. Mrs. Rockwell had several children by her first marriage, and
others by her second. By intermarriage, two or three generations later,
I am descended from both the wives of Mathew Grant.

In the fifth descending generation my great grandfather, Noah Grant, and
his younger brother, Solomon, held commissions in the English army, in
1756, in the war against the French and Indians. Both were killed that

My grandfather, also named Noah, was then but nine years old. At the
breaking out of the war of the Revolution, after the battles of Concord
and Lexington, he went with a Connecticut company to join the
Continental army, and was present at the battle of Bunker Hill. He
served until the fall of Yorktown, or through the entire Revolutionary
war. He must, however, have been on furlough part of the time--as I
believe most of the soldiers of that period were--for he married in
Connecticut during the war, had two children, and was a widower at the
close. Soon after this he emigrated to Westmoreland County,
Pennsylvania, and settled near the town of Greensburg in that county.
He took with him the younger of his two children, Peter Grant. The
elder, Solomon, remained with his relatives in Connecticut until old
enough to do for himself, when he emigrated to the British West Indies.

Not long after his settlement in Pennsylvania, my grandfather, Captain
Noah Grant, married a Miss Kelly, and in 1799 he emigrated again, this
time to Ohio, and settled where the town of Deerfield now stands. He
had now five children, including Peter, a son by his first marriage. My
father, Jesse R. Grant, was the second child--oldest son, by the second

Peter Grant went early to Maysville, Kentucky, where he was very
prosperous, married, had a family of nine children, and was drowned at
the mouth of the Kanawha River, Virginia, in 1825, being at the time one
of the wealthy men of the West.

My grandmother Grant died in 1805, leaving seven children. This broke
up the family. Captain Noah Grant was not thrifty in the way of "laying
up stores on earth," and, after the death of his second wife, he went,
with the two youngest children, to live with his son Peter, in
Maysville. The rest of the family found homes in the neighborhood of
Deerfield, my father in the family of judge Tod, the father of the late
Governor Tod, of Ohio. His industry and independence of character were
such, that I imagine his labor compensated fully for the expense of his

There must have been a cordiality in his welcome into the Tod family,
for to the day of his death he looked upon judge Tod and his wife, with
all the reverence he could have felt if they had been parents instead of
benefactors. I have often heard him speak of Mrs. Tod as the most
admirable woman he had ever known. He remained with the Tod family only
a few years, until old enough to learn a trade. He went first, I
believe, with his half-brother, Peter Grant, who, though not a tanner
himself, owned a tannery in Maysville, Kentucky. Here he learned his
trade, and in a few years returned to Deerfield and worked for, and
lived in the family of a Mr. Brown, the father of John Brown--"whose
body lies mouldering in the grave, while his soul goes marching on." I
have often heard my father speak of John Brown, particularly since the
events at Harper's Ferry. Brown was a boy when they lived in the same
house, but he knew him afterwards, and regarded him as a man of great
purity of character, of high moral and physical courage, but a fanatic
and extremist in whatever he advocated. It was certainly the act of an
insane man to attempt the invasion of the South, and the overthrow of
slavery, with less than twenty men.

My father set up for himself in business, establishing a tannery at
Ravenna, the county seat of Portage County. In a few years he removed
from Ravenna, and set up the same business at Point Pleasant, Clermont
County, Ohio.

During the minority of my father, the West afforded but poor facilities
for the most opulent of the youth to acquire an education, and the
majority were dependent, almost exclusively, upon their own exertions
for whatever learning they obtained. I have often heard him say that
his time at school was limited to six months, when he was very young,
too young, indeed, to learn much, or to appreciate the advantages of an
education, and to a "quarter's schooling" afterwards, probably while
living with judge Tod. But his thirst for education was intense. He
learned rapidly, and was a constant reader up to the day of his death in
his eightieth year. Books were scarce in the Western Reserve during his
youth, but he read every book he could borrow in the neighborhood where
he lived. This scarcity gave him the early habit of studying everything
he read, so that when he got through with a book, he knew everything in
it. The habit continued through life. Even after reading the daily
papers--which he never neglected--he could give all the important
information they contained. He made himself an excellent English
scholar, and before he was twenty years of age was a constant
contributor to Western newspapers, and was also, from that time until he
was fifty years old, an able debater in the societies for this purpose,
which were common in the West at that time. He always took an active
part in politics, but was never a candidate for office, except, I
believe, that he was the first Mayor of Georgetown. He supported
Jackson for the Presidency; but he was a Whig, a great admirer of Henry
Clay, and never voted for any other democrat for high office after

My mother's family lived in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, for several
generations. I have little information about her ancestors. Her family
took no interest in genealogy, so that my grandfather, who died when I
was sixteen years old, knew only back to his grandfather. On the other
side, my father took a great interest in the subject, and in his
researches, he found that there was an entailed estate in Windsor,
Connecticut, belonging to the family, to which his nephew, Lawson Grant
--still living--was the heir. He was so much interested in the subject
that he got his nephew to empower him to act in the matter, and in 1832
or 1833, when I was a boy ten or eleven years old, he went to Windsor,
proved the title beyond dispute, and perfected the claim of the owners
for a consideration--three thousand dollars, I think. I remember the
circumstance well, and remember, too, hearing him say on his return that
he found some widows living on the property, who had little or nothing
beyond their homes. From these he refused to receive any recompense.

My mother's father, John Simpson, moved from Montgomery County,
Pennsylvania, to Clermont County, Ohio, about the year 1819, taking with
him his four children, three daughters and one son. My mother, Hannah
Simpson, was the third of these children, and was then over twenty years
of age. Her oldest sister was at that time married, and had several
children. She still lives in Clermont County at this writing, October
5th, 1884, and is over ninety ears of age. Until her memory failed her,
a few years ago, she thought the country ruined beyond recovery when the
Democratic party lost control in 1860. Her family, which was large,
inherited her views, with the exception of one son who settled in
Kentucky before the war. He was the only one of the children who
entered the volunteer service to suppress the rebellion.

Her brother, next of age and now past eighty-eight, is also still living
in Clermont County, within a few miles of the old homestead, and is as
active in mind as ever. He was a supporter of the Government during the
war, and remains a firm believer, that national success by the
Democratic party means irretrievable ruin.

In June, 1821, my father, Jesse R. Grant, married Hannah Simpson. I was
born on the 27th of April, 1822, at Point Pleasant, Clermont County,
Ohio. In the fall of 1823 we moved to Georgetown, the county seat of
Brown, the adjoining county east. This place remained my home, until at
the age of seventeen, in 1839, I went to West Point.

The schools, at the time of which I write, were very indifferent. There
were no free schools, and none in which the scholars were classified.
They were all supported by subscription, and a single teacher--who was
often a man or a woman incapable of teaching much, even if they imparted
all they knew--would have thirty or forty scholars, male and female,
from the infant learning the A B C's up to the young lady of eighteen
and the boy of twenty, studying the highest branches taught--the three
R's, "Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic." I never saw an algebra, or other
mathematical work higher than the arithmetic, in Georgetown, until after
I was appointed to West Point. I then bought a work on algebra in
Cincinnati; but having no teacher it was Greek to me.

My life in Georgetown was uneventful. From the age of five or six until
seventeen, I attended the subscription schools of the village, except
during the winters of 1836-7 and 1838-9. The former period was spent in
Maysville, Kentucky, attending the school of Richardson and Rand; the
latter in Ripley, Ohio, at a private school. I was not studious in
habit, and probably did not make progress enough to compensate for the
outlay for board and tuition. At all events both winters were spent in
going over the same old arithmetic which I knew every word of before,
and repeating: "A noun is the name of a thing," which I had also heard
my Georgetown teachers repeat, until I had come to believe it--but I
cast no reflections upon my old teacher, Richardson. He turned out
bright scholars from his school, many of whom have filled conspicuous
places in the service of their States. Two of my contemporaries there
--who, I believe, never attended any other institution of learning--have
held seats in Congress, and one, if not both, other high offices; these
are Wadsworth and Brewster.

My father was, from my earliest recollection, in comfortable
circumstances, considering the times, his place of residence, and the
community in which he lived. Mindful of his own lack of facilities for
acquiring an education, his greatest desire in maturer years was for the
education of his children. Consequently, as stated before, I never
missed a quarter from school from the time I was old enough to attend
till the time of leaving home. This did not exempt me from labor. In
my early days, every one labored more or less, in the region where my
youth was spent, and more in proportion to their private means. It was
only the very poor who were exempt. While my father carried on the
manufacture of leather and worked at the trade himself, he owned and
tilled considerable land. I detested the trade, preferring almost any
other labor; but I was fond of agriculture, and of all employment in
which horses were used. We had, among other lands, fifty acres of
forest within a mile of the village. In the fall of the year choppers
were employed to cut enough wood to last a twelve-month. When I was
seven or eight years of age, I began hauling all the wood used in the
house and shops. I could not load it on the wagons, of course, at that
time, but I could drive, and the choppers would load, and some one at
the house unload. When about eleven years old, I was strong enough to
hold a plough. From that age until seventeen I did all the work done
with horses, such as breaking up the land, furrowing, ploughing corn and
potatoes, bringing in the crops when harvested, hauling all the wood,
besides tending two or three horses, a cow or two, and sawing wood for
stoves, etc., while still attending school. For this I was compensated
by the fact that there was never any scolding or punishing by my
parents; no objection to rational enjoyments, such as fishing, going to
the creek a mile away to swim in summer, taking a horse and visiting my
grandparents in the adjoining county, fifteen miles off, skating on the
ice in winter, or taking a horse and sleigh when there was snow on the

While still quite young I had visited Cincinnati, forty-five miles away,
several times, alone; also Maysville, Kentucky, often, and once
Louisville. The journey to Louisville was a big one for a boy of that
day. I had also gone once with a two-horse carriage to Chilicothe,
about seventy miles, with a neighbor's family, who were removing to
Toledo, Ohio, and returned alone; and had gone once, in like manner, to
Flat Rock, Kentucky, about seventy miles away. On this latter occasion
I was fifteen years of age. While at Flat Rock, at the house of a Mr.
Payne, whom I was visiting with his brother, a neighbor of ours in
Georgetown, I saw a very fine saddle horse, which I rather coveted, and
proposed to Mr. Payne, the owner, to trade him for one of the two I was
driving. Payne hesitated to trade with a boy, but asking his brother
about it, the latter told him that it would be all right, that I was
allowed to do as I pleased with the horses. I was seventy miles from
home, with a carriage to take back, and Mr. Payne said he did not know
that his horse had ever had a collar on. I asked to have him hitched to
a farm wagon and we would soon see whether he would work. It was soon
evident that the horse had never worn harness before; but he showed no
viciousness, and I expressed a confidence that I could manage him. A
trade was at once struck, I receiving ten dollars difference.

The next day Mr. Payne, of Georgetown, and I started on our return. We
got along very well for a few miles, when we encountered a ferocious dog
that frightened the horses and made them run. The new animal kicked at
every jump he made. I got the horses stopped, however, before any
damage was done, and without running into anything. After giving them a
little rest, to quiet their fears, we started again. That instant the
new horse kicked, and started to run once more. The road we were on,
struck the turnpike within half a mile of the point where the second
runaway commenced, and there there was an embankment twenty or more feet
deep on the opposite side of the pike. I got the horses stopped on the
very brink of the precipice. My new horse was terribly frightened and
trembled like an aspen; but he was not half so badly frightened as my
companion, Mr. Payne, who deserted me after this last experience, and
took passage on a freight wagon for Maysville. Every time I attempted
to start, my new horse would commence to kick. I was in quite a dilemma
for a time. Once in Maysville I could borrow a horse from an uncle who
lived there; but I was more than a day's travel from that point.
Finally I took out my bandanna--the style of handkerchief in universal
use then--and with this blindfolded my horse. In this way I reached
Maysville safely the next day, no doubt much to the surprise of my
friend. Here I borrowed a horse from my uncle, and the following day we
proceeded on our journey.

About half my school-days in Georgetown were spent at the school of John
D. White, a North Carolinian, and the father of Chilton White who
represented the district in Congress for one term during the rebellion.
Mr. White was always a Democrat in politics, and Chilton followed his
father. He had two older brothers--all three being school-mates of mine
at their father's school--who did not go the same way. The second
brother died before the rebellion began; he was a Whig, and afterwards a
Republican. His oldest brother was a Republican and brave soldier
during the rebellion. Chilton is reported as having told of an earlier
horse-trade of mine. As he told the story, there was a Mr. Ralston
living within a few miles of the village, who owned a colt which I very
much wanted. My father had offered twenty dollars for it, but Ralston
wanted twenty-five. I was so anxious to have the colt, that after the
owner left, I begged to be allowed to take him at the price demanded.
My father yielded, but said twenty dollars was all the horse was worth,
and told me to offer that price; if it was not accepted I was to offer
twenty-two and a half, and if that would not get him, to give the
twenty-five. I at once mounted a horse and went for the colt. When I
got to Mr. Ralston's house, I said to him: "Papa says I may offer you
twenty dollars for the colt, but if you won't take that, I am to offer
twenty-two and a half, and if you won't take that, to give you
twenty-five." It would not require a Connecticut man to guess the price
finally agreed upon. This story is nearly true. I certainly showed
very plainly that I had come for the colt and meant to have him. I
could not have been over eight years old at the time. This transaction
caused me great heart-burning. The story got out among the boys of the
village, and it was a long time before I heard the last of it. Boys
enjoy the misery of their companions, at least village boys in that day
did, and in later life I have found that all adults are not free from
the peculiarity. I kept the horse until he was four years old, when he
went blind, and I sold him for twenty dollars. When I went to Maysville
to school, in 1836, at the age of fourteen, I recognized my colt as one
of the blind horses working on the tread-wheel of the ferry-boat.

I have describes enough of my early life to give an impression of the
whole. I did not like to work; but I did as much of it, while young, as
grown men can be hired to do in these days, and attended school at the
same time. I had as many privileges as any boy in the village, and
probably more than most of them. I have no recollection of ever having
been punished at home, either by scolding or by the rod. But at school
the case was different. The rod was freely used there, and I was not
exempt from its influence. I can see John D. White--the school teacher
--now, with his long beech switch always in his hand. It was not always
the same one, either. Switches were brought in bundles, from a beech
wood near the school house, by the boys for whose benefit they were
intended. Often a whole bundle would be used up in a single day. I
never had any hard feelings against my teacher, either while attending
the school, or in later years when reflecting upon my experience. Mr.
White was a kindhearted man, and was much respected by the community in
which he lived. He only followed the universal custom of the period,
and that under which he had received his own education.



In the winter of 1838-9 I was attending school at Ripley, only ten miles
distant from Georgetown, but spent the Christmas holidays at home.
During this vacation my father received a letter from the Honorable
Thomas Morris, then United States Senator from Ohio. When he read it he
said to me, Ulysses, I believe you are going to receive the
appointment." "What appointment?" I inquired. "To West Point; I have
applied for it." "But I won't go," I said. He said he thought I would,
AND I THOUGHT SO TOO, IF HE DID. I really had no objection to going to
West Point, except that I had a very exalted idea of the acquirements
necessary to get through. I did not believe I possessed them, and could
not bear the idea of failing. There had been four boys from our
village, or its immediate neighborhood, who had been graduated from West
Point, and never a failure of any one appointed from Georgetown, except
in the case of the one whose place I was to take. He was the son of Dr.
Bailey, our nearest and most intimate neighbor. Young Bailey had been
appointed in 1837. Finding before the January examination following,
that he could not pass, he resigned and went to a private school, and
remained there until the following year, when he was reappointed.
Before the next examination he was dismissed. Dr. Bailey was a proud
and sensitive man, and felt the failure of his son so keenly that he
forbade his return home. There were no telegraphs in those days to
disseminate news rapidly, no railroads west of the Alleghanies, and but
few east; and above all, there were no reporters prying into other
people's private affairs. Consequently it did not become generally
known that there was a vacancy at West Point from our district until I
was appointed. I presume Mrs. Bailey confided to my mother the fact
that Bartlett had been dismissed, and that the doctor had forbidden his
son's return home.

The Honorable Thomas L. Hamer, one of the ablest men Ohio ever produced,
was our member of Congress at the time, and had the right of nomination.
He and my father had been members of the same debating society (where
they were generally pitted on opposite sides), and intimate personal
friends from their early manhood up to a few years before. In politics
they differed. Hamer was a life-long Democrat, while my father was a
Whig. They had a warm discussion, which finally became angry--over some
act of President Jackson, the removal of the deposit of public moneys, I
think--after which they never spoke until after my appointment. I know
both of them felt badly over this estrangement, and would have been glad
at any time to come to a reconciliation; but neither would make the
advance. Under these circumstances my father would not write to Hamer
for the appointment, but he wrote to Thomas Morris, United States
Senator from Ohio, informing him that there was a vacancy at West Point
from our district, and that he would be glad if I could be appointed to
fill it. This letter, I presume, was turned over to Mr. Hamer, and, as
there was no other applicant, he cheerfully appointed me. This healed
the breach between the two, never after reopened.

Besides the argument used by my father in favor of my going to West
Point--that "he thought I would go"--there was another very strong
inducement. I had always a great desire to travel. I was already the
best travelled boy in Georgetown, except the sons of one man, John
Walker, who had emigrated to Texas with his family, and immigrated back
as soon as he could get the means to do so. In his short stay in Texas
he acquired a very different opinion of the country from what one would
form going there now.

I had been east to Wheeling, Virginia, and north to the Western Reserve,
in Ohio, west to Louisville, and south to Bourbon County, Kentucky,
besides having driven or ridden pretty much over the whole country
within fifty miles of home. Going to West Point would give me the
opportunity of visiting the two great cities of the continent,
Philadelphia and New York. This was enough. When these places were
visited I would have been glad to have had a steamboat or railroad
collision, or any other accident happen, by which I might have received
a temporary injury sufficient to make me ineligible, for a time, to
enter the Academy. Nothing of the kind occurred, and I had to face the

Georgetown has a remarkable record for a western village. It is, and
has been from its earliest existence, a democratic town. There was
probably no time during the rebellion when, if the opportunity could
have been afforded, it would not have voted for Jefferson Davis for
President of the United States, over Mr. Lincoln, or any other
representative of his party; unless it was immediately after some of
John Morgan's men, in his celebrated raid through Ohio, spent a few
hours in the village. The rebels helped themselves to whatever they
could find, horses, boots and shoes, especially horses, and many ordered
meals to be prepared for them by the families. This was no doubt a far
pleasanter duty for some families than it would have been to render a
like service for Union soldiers. The line between the Rebel and Union
element in Georgetown was so marked that it led to divisions even in the
churches. There were churches in that part of Ohio where treason was
preached regularly, and where, to secure membership, hostility to the
government, to the war and to the liberation of the slaves, was far more
essential than a belief in the authenticity or credibility of the Bible.
There were men in Georgetown who filled all the requirements for
membership in these churches.

Yet this far-off western village, with a population, including old and
young, male and female, of about one thousand--about enough for the
organization of a single regiment if all had been men capable of bearing
arms--furnished the Union army four general officers and one colonel,
West Point graduates, and nine generals and field officers of
Volunteers, that I can think of. Of the graduates from West Point, all
had citizenship elsewhere at the breaking out of the rebellion, except
possibly General A. V. Kautz, who had remained in the army from his
graduation. Two of the colonels also entered the service from other
localities. The other seven, General McGroierty, Colonels White, Fyffe,
Loudon and Marshall, Majors King and Bailey, were all residents of
Georgetown when the war broke out, and all of them, who were alive at
the close, returned there. Major Bailey was the cadet who had preceded
me at West Point. He was killed in West Virginia, in his first
engagement. As far as I know, every boy who has entered West Point from
that village since my time has been graduated.

I took passage on a steamer at Ripley, Ohio, for Pittsburg, about the
middle of May, 1839. Western boats at that day did not make regular
trips at stated times, but would stop anywhere, and for any length of
time, for passengers or freight. I have myself been detained two or
three days at a place after steam was up, the gang planks, all but one,
drawn in, and after the time advertised for starting had expired. On
this occasion we had no vexatious delays, and in about three days
Pittsburg was reached. From Pittsburg I chose passage by the canal to
Harrisburg, rather than by the more expeditious stage. This gave a
better opportunity of enjoying the fine scenery of Western Pennsylvania,
and I had rather a dread of reaching my destination at all. At that
time the canal was much patronized by travellers, and, with the
comfortable packets of the period, no mode of conveyance could be more
pleasant, when time was not an object. From Harrisburg to Philadelphia
there was a railroad, the first I had ever seen, except the one on which
I had just crossed the summit of the Alleghany Mountains, and over which
canal boats were transported. In travelling by the road from
Harrisburg, I thought the perfection of rapid transit had been reached.
We travelled at least eighteen miles an hour, when at full speed, and
made the whole distance averaging probably as much as twelve miles an
hour. This seemed like annihilating space. I stopped five days in
Philadelphia, saw about every street in the city, attended the theatre,
visited Girard College (which was then in course of construction), and
got reprimanded from home afterwards, for dallying by the way so long.
My sojourn in New York was shorter, but long enough to enable me to see
the city very well. I reported at West Point on the 30th or 31st of
May, and about two weeks later passed my examination for admission,
without difficulty, very much to my surprise.

A military life had no charms for me, and I had not the faintest idea of
staying in the army even if I should be graduated, which I did not
expect. The encampment which preceded the commencement of academic
studies was very wearisome and uninteresting. When the 28th of August
came--the date for breaking up camp and going into barracks--I felt as
though I had been at West Point always, and that if I staid to
graduation, I would have to remain always. I did not take hold of my
studies with avidity, in fact I rarely ever read over a lesson the
second time during my entire cadetship. I could not sit in my room
doing nothing. There is a fine library connected with the Academy from
which cadets can get books to read in their quarters. I devoted more
time to these, than to books relating to the course of studies. Much of
the time, I am sorry to say, was devoted to novels, but not those of a
trashy sort. I read all of Bulwer's then published, Cooper's,
Marryat's, Scott's, Washington Irving's works, Lever's, and many others
that I do not now remember. Mathematics was very easy to me, so that
when January came, I passed the examination, taking a good standing in
that branch. In French, the only other study at that time in the first
year's course, my standing was very low. In fact, if the class had been
turned the other end foremost I should have been near head. I never
succeeded in getting squarely at either end of my class, in any one
study, during the four years. I came near it in French, artillery,
infantry and cavalry tactics, and conduct.

Early in the session of the Congress which met in December, 1839, a bill
was discussed abolishing the Military Academy. I saw in this an
honorable way to obtain a discharge, and read the debates with much
interest, but with impatience at the delay in taking action, for I was
selfish enough to favor the bill. It never passed, and a year later,
although the time hung drearily with me, I would have been sorry to have
seen it succeed. My idea then was to get through the course, secure a
detail for a few years as assistant professor of mathematics at the
Academy, and afterwards obtain a permanent position as professor in some
respectable college; but circumstances always did shape my course
different from my plans.

At the end of two years the class received the usual furlough, extending
from the close of the June examination to the 28th of August. This I
enjoyed beyond any other period of my life. My father had sold out his
business in Georgetown--where my youth had been spent, and to which my
day-dreams carried me back as my future home, if I should ever be able
to retire on a competency. He had moved to Bethel, only twelve miles
away, in the adjoining county of Clermont, and had bought a young horse
that had never been in harness, for my special use under the saddle
during my furlough. Most of my time was spent among my old
school-mates--these ten weeks were shorter than one week at West Point.

Persons acquainted with the Academy know that the corps of cadets is
divided into four companies for the purpose of military exercises.
These companies are officered from the cadets, the superintendent and
commandant selecting the officers for their military bearing and
qualifications. The adjutant, quartermaster, four captains and twelve
lieutenants are taken from the first, or Senior class; the sergeants
from the second, or junior class; and the corporals from the third, or
Sophomore class. I had not been "called out" as a corporal, but when I
returned from furlough I found myself the last but one--about my
standing in all the tactics--of eighteen sergeants. The promotion was
too much for me. That year my standing in the class--as shown by the
number of demerits of the year--was about the same as it was among the
sergeants, and I was dropped, and served the fourth year as a private.

During my first year's encampment General Scott visited West Point, and
reviewed the cadets. With his commanding figure, his quite colossal
size and showy uniform, I thought him the finest specimen of manhood my
eyes had ever beheld, and the most to be envied. I could never resemble
him in appearance, but I believe I did have a presentiment for a moment
that some day I should occupy his place on review--although I had no
intention then of remaining in the army. My experience in a horse-trade
ten years before, and the ridicule it caused me, were too fresh in my
mind for me to communicate this presentiment to even my most intimate
chum. The next summer Martin Van Buren, then President of the United
States, visited West Point and reviewed the cadets; he did not impress
me with the awe which Scott had inspired. In fact I regarded General
Scott and Captain C. F. Smith, the Commandant of Cadets, as the two men
most to be envied in the nation. I retained a high regard for both up
to the day of their death.

The last two years wore away more rapidly than the first two, but they
still seemed about five times as long as Ohio years, to me. At last all
the examinations were passed, and the members of the class were called
upon to record their choice of arms of service and regiments. I was
anxious to enter the cavalry, or dragoons as they were then called, but
there was only one regiment of dragoons in the Army at that time, and
attached to that, besides the full complement of officers, there were at
least four brevet second lieutenants. I recorded therefore my first
choice, dragoons; second, 4th infantry; and got the latter. Again there
was a furlough--or, more properly speaking, leave of absence for the
class were now commissioned officers--this time to the end of September.
Again I went to Ohio to spend my vacation among my old school-mates; and
again I found a fine saddle horse purchased for my special use, besides
a horse and buggy that I could drive--but I was not in a physical
condition to enjoy myself quite as well as on the former occasion. For
six months before graduation I had had a desperate cough ("Tyler's grip"
it was called), and I was very much reduced, weighing but one hundred
and seventeen pounds, just my weight at entrance, though I had grown six
inches in stature in the mean time. There was consumption in my
father's family, two of his brothers having died of that disease, which
made my symptoms more alarming. The brother and sister next younger
than myself died, during the rebellion, of the same disease, and I
seemed the most promising subject for it of the three in 1843.

Having made alternate choice of two different arms of service with
different uniforms, I could not get a uniform suit until notified of my
assignment. I left my measurement with a tailor, with directions not to
make the uniform until I notified him whether it was to be for infantry
or dragoons. Notice did not reach me for several weeks, and then it
took at least a week to get the letter of instructions to the tailor and
two more to make the clothes and have them sent to me. This was a time
of great suspense. I was impatient to get on my uniform and see how it
looked, and probably wanted my old school-mates, particularly the girls,
to see me in it.

The conceit was knocked out of me by two little circumstances that
happened soon after the arrival of the clothes, which gave me a distaste
for military uniform that I never recovered from. Soon after the
arrival of the suit I donned it, and put off for Cincinnati on
horseback. While I was riding along a street of that city, imagining
that every one was looking at me, with a feeling akin to mine when I
first saw General Scott, a little urchin, bareheaded, footed, with dirty
and ragged pants held up by bare a single gallows--that's what
suspenders were called then--and a shirt that had not seen a wash-tub
for weeks, turned to me and cried: "Soldier! will you work? No,
sir--ee; I'll sell my shirt first!!" The horse trade and its dire
consequences were recalled to mind.

The other circumstance occurred at home. Opposite our house in Bethel
stood the old stage tavern where "man and beast" found accommodation,
The stable-man was rather dissipated, but possessed of some humor. On
my return I found him parading the streets, and attending in the stable,
barefooted, but in a pair of sky-blue nankeen pantaloons--just the color
of my uniform trousers--with a strip of white cotton sheeting sewed down
the outside seams in imitation of mine. The joke was a huge one in the
mind of many of the people, and was much enjoyed by them; but I did not
appreciate it so highly.

During the remainder of my leave of absence, my time was spent in
visiting friends in Georgetown and Cincinnati, and occasionally other
towns in that part of the State.



On the 30th of September I reported for duty at Jefferson Barracks, St.
Louis, with the 4th United States infantry. It was the largest military
post in the country at that time, being garrisoned by sixteen companies
of infantry, eight of the 3d regiment, the remainder of the 4th.
Colonel Steven Kearney, one of the ablest officers of the day, commanded
the post, and under him discipline was kept at a high standard, but
without vexatious rules or regulations. Every drill and roll-call had
to be attended, but in the intervals officers were permitted to enjoy
themselves, leaving the garrison, and going where they pleased, without
making written application to state where they were going for how long,
etc., so that they were back for their next duty. It did seem to me, in
my early army days, that too many of the older officers, when they came
to command posts, made it a study to think what orders they could
publish to annoy their subordinates and render them uncomfortable. I
noticed, however, a few years later, when the Mexican war broke out,
that most of this class of officers discovered they were possessed of
disabilities which entirely incapacitated them for active field service.
They had the moral courage to proclaim it, too. They were right; but
they did not always give their disease the right name.

At West Point I had a class-mate--in the last year of our studies he was
room-mate also--F. T. Dent, whose family resided some five miles west of
Jefferson Barracks. Two of his unmarried brothers were living at home
at that time, and as I had taken with me from Ohio, my horse, saddle and
bridle, I soon found my way out to White Haven, the name of the Dent
estate. As I found the family congenial my visits became frequent.
There were at home, besides the young men, two daughters, one a school
miss of fifteen, the other a girl of eight or nine. There was still an
older daughter of seventeen, who had been spending several years at
boarding-school in St. Louis, but who, though through school, had not
yet returned home. She was spending the winter in the city with
connections, the family of Colonel John O'Fallon, well known in St.
Louis. In February she returned to her country home. After that I do
not know but my visits became more frequent; they certainly did become
more enjoyable. We would often take walks, or go on horseback to visit
the neighbors, until I became quite well acquainted in that vicinity.
Sometimes one of the brothers would accompany us, sometimes one of the
younger sisters. If the 4th infantry had remained at Jefferson Barracks
it is possible, even probable, that this life might have continued for
some years without my finding out that there was anything serious the
matter with me; but in the following May a circumstance occurred which
developed my sentiment so palpably that there was no mistaking it.

The annexation of Texas was at this time the subject of violent
discussion in Congress, in the press, and by individuals. The
administration of President Tyler, then in power, was making the most
strenuous efforts to effect the annexation, which was, indeed, the great
and absorbing question of the day. During these discussions the greater
part of the single rifle regiment in the army--the 2d dragoons, which
had been dismounted a year or two before, and designated "Dismounted
Rifles"--was stationed at Fort Jessup, Louisiana, some twenty-five miles
east of the Texas line, to observe the frontier. About the 1st of May
the 3d infantry was ordered from Jefferson Barracks to Louisiana, to go
into camp in the neighborhood of Fort Jessup, and there await further
orders. The troops were embarked on steamers and were on their way down
the Mississippi within a few days after the receipt of this order.
About the time they started I obtained a leave of absence for twenty
days to go to Ohio to visit my parents. I was obliged to go to St.
Louis to take a steamer for Louisville or Cincinnati, or the first
steamer going up the Ohio River to any point. Before I left St. Louis
orders were received at Jefferson Barracks for the 4th infantry to
follow the 3d. A messenger was sent after me to stop my leaving; but
before he could reach me I was off, totally ignorant of these events. A
day or two after my arrival at Bethel I received a letter from a
classmate and fellow lieutenant in the 4th, informing me of the
circumstances related above, and advising me not to open any letter post
marked St. Louis or Jefferson Barracks, until the expiration of my
leave, and saying that he would pack up my things and take them along
for me. His advice was not necessary, for no other letter was sent to
me. I now discovered that I was exceedingly anxious to get back to
Jefferson Barracks, and I understood the reason without explanation from
any one. My leave of absence required me to report for duty, at
Jefferson Barracks, at the end of twenty days. I knew my regiment had
gone up the Red River, but I was not disposed to break the letter of my
leave; besides, if I had proceeded to Louisiana direct, I could not have
reached there until after the expiration of my leave. Accordingly, at
the end of the twenty days, I reported for duty to Lieutenant Ewell,
commanding at Jefferson Barracks, handing him at the same time my leave
of absence. After noticing the phraseology of the order--leaves of
absence were generally worded, "at the end of which time he will report
for duty with his proper command"--he said he would give me an order to
join my regiment in Louisiana. I then asked for a few days' leave
before starting, which he readily granted. This was the same Ewell who
acquired considerable reputation as a Confederate general during the
rebellion. He was a man much esteemed, and deservedly so, in the old
army, and proved himself a gallant and efficient officer in two wars
--both in my estimation unholy.

I immediately procured a horse and started for the country, taking no
baggage with me, of course. There is an insignificant creek--the
Gravois--between Jefferson Barracks and the place to which I was going,
and at that day there was not a bridge over it from its source to its
mouth. There is not water enough in the creek at ordinary stages to run
a coffee mill, and at low water there is none running whatever. On this
occasion it had been raining heavily, and, when the creek was reached, I
found the banks full to overflowing, and the current rapid. I looked at
it a moment to consider what to do. One of my superstitions had always
been when I started to go any where, or to do anything, not to turn
back, or stop until the thing intended was accomplished. I have
frequently started to go to places where I had never been and to which I
did not know the way, depending upon making inquiries on the road, and
if I got past the place without knowing it, instead of turning back, I
would go on until a road was found turning in the right direction, take
that, and come in by the other side. So I struck into the stream, and
in an instant the horse was swimming and I being carried down by the
current. I headed the horse towards the other bank and soon reached it,
wet through and without other clothes on that side of the stream. I
went on, however, to my destination and borrowed a dry suit from my
--future--brother-in-law. We were not of the same size, but the clothes
answered every purpose until I got more of my own.

Before I returned I mustered up courage to make known, in the most
awkward manner imaginable, the discovery I had made on learning that the
4th infantry had been ordered away from Jefferson Barracks. The young
lady afterwards admitted that she too, although until then she had never
looked upon me other than as a visitor whose company was agreeable to
her, had experienced a depression of spirits she could not account for
when the regiment left. Before separating it was definitely understood
that at a convenient time we would join our fortunes, and not let the
removal of a regiment trouble us. This was in May, 1844. It was the
22d of August, 1848, before the fulfilment of this agreement. My duties
kept me on the frontier of Louisiana with the Army of Observation during
the pendency of Annexation; and afterwards I was absent through the war
with Mexico, provoked by the action of the army, if not by the
annexation itself During that time there was a constant correspondence
between Miss Dent and myself, but we only met once in the period of four
years and three months. In May, 1845, I procured a leave for twenty
days, visited St. Louis, and obtained the consent of the parents for the
union, which had not been asked for before.

As already stated, it was never my intention to remain in the army long,
but to prepare myself for a professorship in some college. Accordingly,
soon after I was settled at Jefferson Barracks, I wrote a letter to
Professor Church--Professor of Mathematics at West Point--requesting him
to ask my designation as his assistant, when next a detail had to be
made. Assistant professors at West Point are all officers of the army,
supposed to be selected for their special fitness for the particular
branch of study they are assigned to teach. The answer from Professor
Church was entirely satisfactory, and no doubt I should have been
detailed a year or two later but for the Mexican War coming on.
Accordingly I laid out for myself a course of studies to be pursued in
garrison, with regularity, if not persistency. I reviewed my West Point
course of mathematics during the seven months at Jefferson Barracks, and
read many valuable historical works, besides an occasional novel. To
help my memory I kept a book in which I would write up, from time to
time, my recollections of all I had read since last posting it. When
the regiment was ordered away, I being absent at the time, my effects
were packed up by Lieutenant Haslett, of the 4th infantry, and taken
along. I never saw my journal after, nor did I ever keep another,
except for a portion of the time while travelling abroad. Often since a
fear has crossed my mind lest that book might turn up yet, and fall into
the hands of some malicious person who would publish it. I know its
appearance would cause me as much heart-burning as my youthful
horse-trade, or the later rebuke for wearing uniform clothes.

The 3d infantry had selected camping grounds on the reservation at Fort
Jessup, about midway between the Red River and the Sabine. Our orders
required us to go into camp in the same neighborhood, and await further
instructions. Those authorized to do so selected a place in the pine
woods, between the old town of Natchitoches and Grand Ecore, about three
miles from each, and on high ground back from the river. The place was
given the name of Camp Salubrity, and proved entitled to it. The camp
was on a high, sandy, pine ridge, with spring branches in the valley, in
front and rear. The springs furnished an abundance of cool, pure water,
and the ridge was above the flight of mosquitoes, which abound in that
region in great multitudes and of great voracity. In the valley they
swarmed in myriads, but never came to the summit of the ridge. The
regiment occupied this camp six months before the first death occurred,
and that was caused by an accident.

There was no intimation given that the removal of the 3d and 4th
regiments of infantry to the western border of Louisiana was occasioned
in any way by the prospective annexation of Texas, but it was generally
understood that such was the case. Ostensibly we were intended to
prevent filibustering into Texas, but really as a menace to Mexico in
case she appeared to contemplate war. Generally the officers of the
army were indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but
not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure,
and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most
unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an
instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies,
in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional
territory. Texas was originally a state belonging to the republic of
Mexico. It extended from the Sabine River on the east to the Rio Grande
on the west, and from the Gulf of Mexico on the south and east to the
territory of the United States and New Mexico--another Mexican state at
that time--on the north and west. An empire in territory, it had but a
very sparse population, until settled by Americans who had received
authority from Mexico to colonize. These colonists paid very little
attention to the supreme government, and introduced slavery into the
state almost from the start, though the constitution of Mexico did not,
nor does it now, sanction that institution. Soon they set up an
independent government of their own, and war existed, between Texas and
Mexico, in name from that time until 1836, when active hostilities very
nearly ceased upon the capture of Santa Anna, the Mexican President.
Before long, however, the same people--who with permission of Mexico had
colonized Texas, and afterwards set up slavery there, and then seceded
as soon as they felt strong enough to do so--offered themselves and the
State to the United States, and in 1845 their offer was accepted. The
occupation, separation and annexation were, from the inception of the
movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory
out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union.

Even if the annexation itself could be justified, the manner in which
the subsequent war was forced upon Mexico cannot. The fact is,
annexationists wanted more territory than they could possibly lay any
claim to, as part of the new acquisition. Texas, as an independent
State, never had exercised jurisdiction over the territory between the
Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Mexico had never recognized the
independence of Texas, and maintained that, even if independent, the
State had no claim south of the Nueces. I am aware that a treaty, made
by the Texans with Santa Anna while he was under duress, ceded all the
territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande--, but he was a prisoner
of war when the treaty was made, and his life was in jeopardy. He knew,
too, that he deserved execution at the hands of the Texans, if they
should ever capture him. The Texans, if they had taken his life, would
have only followed the example set by Santa Anna himself a few years
before, when he executed the entire garrison of the Alamo and the
villagers of Goliad.

In taking military possession of Texas after annexation, the army of
occupation, under General Taylor, was directed to occupy the disputed
territory. The army did not stop at the Nueces and offer to negotiate
for a settlement of the boundary question, but went beyond, apparently
in order to force Mexico to initiate war. It is to the credit of the
American nation, however, that after conquering Mexico, and while
practically holding the country in our possession, so that we could have
retained the whole of it, or made any terms we chose, we paid a round
sum for the additional territory taken; more than it was worth, or was
likely to be, to Mexico. To us it was an empire and of incalculable
value; but it might have been obtained by other means. The Southern
rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like
individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our
punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.

The 4th infantry went into camp at Salubrity in the month of May, 1844,
with instructions, as I have said, to await further orders. At first,
officers and men occupied ordinary tents. As the summer heat increased
these were covered by sheds to break the rays of the sun. The summer
was whiled away in social enjoyments among the officers, in visiting
those stationed at, and near, Fort Jessup, twenty-five miles away,
visiting the planters on the Red River, and the citizens of Natchitoches
and Grand Ecore. There was much pleasant intercourse between the
inhabitants and the officers of the army. I retain very agreeable
recollections of my stay at Camp Salubrity, and of the acquaintances
made there, and no doubt my feeling is shared by the few officers living
who were there at the time. I can call to mind only two officers of the
4th infantry, besides myself, who were at Camp Salubrity with the
regiment, who are now alive.

With a war in prospect, and belonging to a regiment that had an unusual
number of officers detailed on special duty away from the regiment, my
hopes of being ordered to West Point as instructor vanished. At the
time of which I now write, officers in the quartermaster's, commissary's
and adjutant--general's departments were appointed from the line of the
army, and did not vacate their regimental commissions until their
regimental and staff commissions were for the same grades. Generally
lieutenants were appointed to captaincies to fill vacancies in the staff
corps. If they should reach a captaincy in the line before they arrived
at a majority in the staff, they would elect which commission they would
retain. In the 4th infantry, in 1844, at least six line officers were
on duty in the staff, and therefore permanently detached from the
regiment. Under these circumstances I gave up everything like a special
course of reading, and only read thereafter for my own amusement, and
not very much for that, until the war was over. I kept a horse and
rode, and staid out of doors most of the time by day, and entirely
recovered from the cough which I had carried from West Point, and from
all indications of consumption. I have often thought that my life was
saved, and my health restored, by exercise and exposure, enforced by an
administrative act, and a war, both of which I disapproved.

As summer wore away, and cool days and colder nights came upon us, the
tents We were occupying ceased to afford comfortable quarters; and
"further orders" not reaching us, we began to look about to remedy the
hardship. Men were put to work getting out timber to build huts, and in
a very short time all were comfortably housed--privates as well as
officers. The outlay by the government in accomplishing this was
nothing, or nearly nothing. The winter was spent more agreeably than
the summer had been. There were occasional parties given by the
planters along the "coast"--as the bottom lands on the Red River were
called. The climate was delightful.

Near the close of the short session of Congress of 1844-5, the bill for
the annexation of Texas to the United States was passed. It reached
President Tyler on the 1st of March, 1845, and promptly received his
approval. When the news reached us we began to look again for "further
orders." They did not arrive promptly, and on the 1st of May following
I asked and obtained a leave of absence for twenty days, for the purpose
of visiting--St. Louis. The object of this visit has been before

Early in July the long expected orders were received, but they only took
the regiment to New Orleans Barracks. We reached there before the
middle of the month, and again waited weeks for still further orders.
The yellow fever was raging in New Orleans during the time we remained
there, and the streets of the city had the appearance of a continuous
well-observed Sunday. I recollect but one occasion when this observance
seemed to be broken by the inhabitants. One morning about daylight I
happened to be awake, and, hearing the discharge of a rifle not far off,
I looked out to ascertain where the sound came from. I observed a
couple of clusters of men near by, and learned afterwards that "it was
nothing; only a couple of gentlemen deciding a difference of opinion
with rifles, at twenty paces." I do not remember if either was killed,
or even hurt, but no doubt the question of difference was settled
satisfactorily, and "honorably," in the estimation of the parties
engaged. I do not believe I ever would have the courage to fight a
duel. If any man should wrong me to the extent of my being willing to
kill him, I would not be willing to give him the choice of weapons with
which it should be done, and of the time, place and distance separating
us, when I executed him. If I should do another such a wrong as to
justify him in killing me, I would make any reasonable atonement within
my power, if convinced of the wrong done. I place my opposition to
duelling on higher grounds than here stated. No doubt a majority of the
duels fought have been for want of moral courage on the part of those
engaged to decline.

At Camp Salubrity, and when we went to New Orleans Barracks, the 4th
infantry was commanded by Colonel Vose, then an old gentleman who had
not commanded on drill for a number of years. He was not a man to
discover infirmity in the presence of danger. It now appeared that war
was imminent, and he felt that it was his duty to brush up his tactics.
Accordingly, when we got settled down at our new post, he took command
of the regiment at a battalion drill. Only two or three evolutions had
been gone through when he dismissed the battalion, and, turning to go to
his own quarters, dropped dead. He had not been complaining of ill
health, but no doubt died of heart disease. He was a most estimable
man, of exemplary habits, and by no means the author of his own disease.



Early in September the regiment left New Orleans for Corpus Christi, now
in Texas. Ocean steamers were not then common, and the passage was made
in sailing vessels. At that time there was not more than three feet of
water in the channel at the outlet of Corpus Christi Bay; the
debarkation, therefore, had to take place by small steamers, and at an
island in the channel called Shell Island, the ships anchoring some
miles out from shore. This made the work slow, and as the army was only
supplied with one or two steamers, it took a number of days to effect
the landing of a single regiment with its stores, camp and garrison
equipage, etc. There happened to be pleasant weather while this was
going on, but the land-swell was so great that when the ship and steamer
were on opposite sides of the same wave they would be at considerable
distance apart. The men and baggage were let down to a point higher
than the lower deck of the steamer, and when ship and steamer got into
the trough between the waves, and were close together, the load would be
drawn over the steamer and rapidly run down until it rested on the deck.

After I had gone ashore, and had been on guard several days at Shell
Island, quite six miles from the ship, I had occasion for some reason or
other to return on board. While on the Suviah--I think that was the
name of our vessel--I heard a tremendous racket at the other end of the
ship, and much and excited sailor language, such as "damn your eyes,"
etc. In a moment or two the captain, who was an excitable little man,
dying with consumption, and not weighing much over a hundred pounds,
came running out, carrying a sabre nearly as large and as heavy as he
was, and crying, that his men had mutinied. It was necessary to sustain
the captain without question, and in a few minutes all the sailors
charged with mutiny were in irons. I rather felt for a time a wish that
I had not gone aboard just then. As the men charged with mutiny
submitted to being placed in irons without resistance, I always doubted
if they knew that they had mutinied until they were told.

By the time I was ready to leave the ship again I thought I had learned
enough of the working of the double and single pulley, by which
passengers were let down from the upper deck of the ship to the steamer
below, and determined to let myself down without assistance. Without
saying anything of my intentions to any one, I mounted the railing, and
taking hold of the centre rope, just below the upper block, I put one
foot on the hook below the lower block, and stepped off just as I did so
some one called out "hold on." It was too late. I tried to "hold on"
with all my might, but my heels went up, and my head went down so
rapidly that my hold broke, and I plunged head foremost into the water,
some twenty-five feet below, with such velocity that it seemed to me I
never would stop. When I came to the surface again, being a fair
swimmer, and not having lost my presence of mind, I swam around until a
bucket was let down for me, and I was drawn up without a scratch or
injury. I do not believe there was a man on board who sympathized with
me in the least when they found me uninjured. I rather enjoyed the joke
myself The captain of the Suviah died of his disease a few months later,
and I believe before the mutineers were tried. I hope they got clear,
because, as before stated, I always thought the mutiny was all in the
brain of a very weak and sick man.

After reaching shore, or Shell Island, the labor of getting to Corpus
Christi was slow and tedious. There was, if my memory serves me, but
one small steamer to transport troops and baggage when the 4th infantry
arrived. Others were procured later. The distance from Shell Island to
Corpus Christi was some sixteen or eighteen miles. The channel to the
bay was so shallow that the steamer, small as it was, had to be dragged
over the bottom when loaded. Not more than one trip a day could be
effected. Later this was remedied, by deepening the channel and
increasing the number of vessels suitable to its navigation.

Corpus Christi is near the head of the bay of the same name, formed by
the entrance of the Nueces River into tide-water, and is on the west
bank of that bay. At the time of its first occupancy by United States
troops there was a small Mexican hamlet there, containing probably less
than one hundred souls. There was, in addition, a small American trading
post, at which goods were sold to Mexican smugglers. All goods were put
up in compact packages of about one hundred pounds each, suitable for
loading on pack mules. Two of these packages made a load for an
ordinary Mexican mule, and three for the larger ones. The bulk of the
trade was in leaf tobacco, and domestic cotton-cloths and calicoes. The
Mexicans had, before the arrival of the army, but little to offer in
exchange except silver. The trade in tobacco was enormous, considering
the population to be supplied. Almost every Mexican above the age of
ten years, and many much younger, smoked the cigarette. Nearly every
Mexican carried a pouch of leaf tobacco, powdered by rolling in the
hands, and a roll of corn husks to make wrappers. The cigarettes were
made by the smokers as they used them.

Up to the time of which I write, and for years afterwards--I think until
the administration of President Juarez--the cultivation, manufacture and
sale of tobacco constituted a government monopoly, and paid the bulk of
the revenue collected from internal sources. The price was enormously
high, and made successful smuggling very profitable. The difficulty of
obtaining tobacco is probably the reason why everybody, male and female,
used it at that time. I know from my own experience that when I was at
West Point, the fact that tobacco, in every form, was prohibited, and
the mere possession of the weed severely punished, made the majority of
the cadets, myself included, try to acquire the habit of using it. I
failed utterly at the time and for many years afterward; but the
majority accomplished the object of their youthful ambition.

Under Spanish rule Mexico was prohibited from producing anything that
the mother-country could supply. This rule excluded the cultivation of
the grape, olive and many other articles to which the soil and climate
were well adapted. The country was governed for "revenue only;" and
tobacco, which cannot be raised in Spain, but is indigenous to Mexico,
offered a fine instrumentality for securing this prime object of
government. The native population had been in the habit of using "the
weed" from a period, back of any recorded history of this continent.
Bad habits--if not restrained by law or public opinion--spread more
rapidly and universally than good ones, and the Spanish colonists
adopted the use of tobacco almost as generally as the natives. Spain,
therefore, in order to secure the largest revenue from this source,
prohibited the cultivation, except in specified localities--and in these
places farmed out the privilege at a very high price. The tobacco when
raised could only be sold to the government, and the price to the
consumer was limited only by the avarice of the authorities, and the
capacity of the people to pay.

All laws for the government of the country were enacted in Spain, and
the officers for their execution were appointed by the Crown, and sent
out to the New El Dorado. The Mexicans had been brought up ignorant of
how to legislate or how to rule. When they gained their independence,
after many years of war, it was the most natural thing in the world that
they should adopt as their own the laws then in existence. The only
change was, that Mexico became her own executor of the laws and the
recipient of the revenues. The tobacco tax, yielding so large a revenue
under the law as it stood, was one of the last, if not the very last, of
the obnoxious imposts to be repealed. Now, the citizens are allowed to
cultivate any crops the soil will yield. Tobacco is cheap, and every
quality can be produced. Its use is by no means so general as when I
first visited the country.

Gradually the "Army of Occupation" assembled at Corpus Christi. When it
was all together it consisted of seven companies of the 2d regiment of
dragoons, four companies of light artillery, five regiments of infantry
--the 3d, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th--and one regiment of artillery acting as
infantry--not more than three thousand men in all. General Zachary
Taylor commanded the whole. There were troops enough in one body to
establish a drill and discipline sufficient to fit men and officers for
all they were capable of in case of battle. The rank and file were
composed of men who had enlisted in time of peace, to serve for seven
dollars a month, and were necessarily inferior as material to the
average volunteers enlisted later in the war expressly to fight, and
also to the volunteers in the war for the preservation of the Union.
The men engaged in the Mexican war were brave, and the officers of the
regular army, from highest to lowest, were educated in their profession.
A more efficient army for its number and armament, I do not believe ever
fought a battle than the one commanded by General Taylor in his first
two engagements on Mexican--or Texan soil.

The presence of United States troops on the edge of the disputed
territory furthest from the Mexican settlements, was not sufficient to
provoke hostilities. We were sent to provoke a fight, but it was
essential that Mexico should commence it. It was very doubtful whether
Congress would declare war; but if Mexico should attack our troops, the
Executive could announce, "Whereas, war exists by the acts of, etc.,"
and prosecute the contest with vigor. Once initiated there were but few
public men who would have the courage to oppose it. Experience proves
that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no
matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life or
history. Better for him, individually, to advocate "war, pestilence,
and famine," than to act as obstructionist to a war already begun. The
history of the defeated rebel will be honorable hereafter, compared with
that of the Northern man who aided him by conspiring against his
government while protected by it. The most favorable posthumous history
the stay-at-home traitor can hope for is--oblivion.

Mexico showing no willingness to come to the Nueces to drive the
invaders from her soil, it became necessary for the "invaders" to
approach to within a convenient distance to be struck. Accordingly,
preparations were begun for moving the army to the Rio Grande, to a
point near Matamoras. It was desirable to occupy a position near the
largest centre of population possible to reach, without absolutely
invading territory to which we set up no claim whatever.

The distance from Corpus Christi to Matamoras is about one hundred and
fifty miles. The country does not abound in fresh water, and the length
of the marches had to be regulated by the distance between water
supplies. Besides the streams, there were occasional pools, filled
during the rainy season, some probably made by the traders, who
travelled constantly between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande, and some
by the buffalo. There was not at that time a single habitation,
cultivated field, or herd of domestic animals, between Corpus Christi
and Matamoras. It was necessary, therefore, to have a wagon train
sufficiently large to transport the camp and garrison equipage,
officers' baggage, rations for the army, and part rations of grain for
the artillery horses and all the animals taken from the north, where
they had been accustomed to having their forage furnished them. The
army was but indifferently supplied with transportation. Wagons and
harness could easily be supplied from the north but mules and horses
could not so readily be brought. The American traders and Mexican
smugglers came to the relief. Contracts were made for mules at from
eight to eleven dollars each. The smugglers furnished the animals, and
took their pay in goods of the description before mentioned. I doubt
whether the Mexicans received in value from the traders five dollars per
head for the animals they furnished, and still more, whether they paid
anything but their own time in procuring them. Such is trade; such is
war. The government paid in hard cash to the contractor the stipulated

Between the Rio Grande and the Nueces there was at that time a large
band of wild horses feeding; as numerous, probably, as the band of
buffalo roaming further north was before its rapid extermination
commenced. The Mexicans used to capture these in large numbers and
bring them into the American settlements and sell them. A picked animal
could be purchased at from eight to twelve dollars, but taken at
wholesale, they could be bought for thirty-six dollars a dozen. Some of
these were purchased for the army, and answered a most useful purpose.
The horses were generally very strong, formed much like the Norman
horse, and with very heavy manes and tails. A number of officers
supplied themselves with these, and they generally rendered as useful
service as the northern animal in fact they were much better when
grazing was the only means of supplying forage.

There was no need for haste, and some months were consumed in the
necessary preparations for a move. In the meantime the army was engaged
in all the duties pertaining to the officer and the soldier. Twice,
that I remember, small trains were sent from Corpus Christi, with
cavalry escorts, to San Antonio and Austin, with paymasters and funds to
pay off small detachments of troops stationed at those places. General
Taylor encouraged officers to accompany these expeditions. I
accompanied one of them in December, 1845. The distance from Corpus
Christi to San Antonio was then computed at one hundred and fifty miles.
Now that roads exist it is probably less. From San Antonio to Austin we
computed the distance at one hundred and ten miles, and from the latter
place back to Corpus Christi at over two hundred miles. I know the
distance now from San Antonio to Austin is but little over eighty miles,
so that our computation was probably too high.

There was not at the time an individual living between Corpus Christi
and San Antonio until within about thirty miles of the latter point,
where there were a few scattering Mexican settlements along the San
Antonio River. The people in at least one of these hamlets lived
underground for protection against the Indians. The country abounded in
game, such as deer and antelope, with abundance of wild turkeys along
the streams and where there were nut-bearing woods. On the Nueces,
about twenty-five miles up from Corpus Christi, were a few log cabins,
the remains of a town called San Patricio, but the inhabitants had all
been massacred by the Indians, or driven away.

San Antonio was about equally divided in population between Americans
and Mexicans. From there to Austin there was not a single residence
except at New Braunfels, on the Guadalupe River. At that point was a
settlement of Germans who had only that year come into the State. At
all events they were living in small huts, about such as soldiers would
hastily construct for temporary occupation. From Austin to Corpus
Christi there was only a small settlement at Bastrop, with a few farms
along the Colorado River; but after leaving that, there were no
settlements except the home of one man, with one female slave, at the
old town of Goliad. Some of the houses were still standing. Goliad had
been quite a village for the period and region, but some years before
there had been a Mexican massacre, in which every inhabitant had been
killed or driven away. This, with the massacre of the prisoners in the
Alamo, San Antonio, about the same time, more than three hundred men in
all, furnished the strongest justification the Texans had for carrying
on the war with so much cruelty. In fact, from that time until the
Mexican. war, the hostilities between Texans and Mexicans was so great
that neither was safe in the neighborhood of the other who might be in
superior numbers or possessed of superior arms. The man we found living
there seemed like an old friend; he had come from near Fort Jessup,
Louisiana, where the officers of the 3d and 4th infantry and the 2d
dragoons had known him and his family. He had emigrated in advance of
his family to build up a home for them.



When our party left Corpus Christi it was quite large, including the
cavalry escort, Paymaster, Major Dix, his clerk and the officers who,
like myself, were simply on leave; but all the officers on leave, except
Lieutenant Benjamin--afterwards killed in the valley of Mexico
--Lieutenant, now General, Augur, and myself, concluded to spend their
allotted time at San Antonio and return from there. We were all to be
back at Corpus Christi by the end of the month. The paymaster was
detained in Austin so long that, if we had waited for him, we would have
exceeded our leave. We concluded, therefore, to start back at once with
the animals we had, and having to rely principally on grass for their
food, it was a good six days' journey. We had to sleep on the prairie
every night, except at Goliad, and possibly one night on the Colorado,
without shelter and with only such food as we carried with us, and
prepared ourselves. The journey was hazardous on account of Indians,
and there were white men in Texas whom I would not have cared to meet in
a secluded place. Lieutenant Augur was taken seriously sick before we
reached Goliad and at a distance from any habitation. To add to the
complication, his horse--a mustang that had probably been captured from
the band of wild horses before alluded to, and of undoubted longevity at
his capture--gave out. It was absolutely necessary to get for ward to
Goliad to find a shelter for our sick companion. By dint of patience
and exceedingly slow movements, Goliad was at last reached, and a
shelter and bed secured for our patient. We remained over a day, hoping
that Augur might recover sufficiently to resume his travels. He did
not, however, and knowing that Major Dix would be along in a few days,
with his wagon-train, now empty, and escort, we arranged with our
Louisiana friend to take the best of care of the sick lieutenant until
thus relieved, and went on.

I had never been a sportsman in my life; had scarcely ever gone in
search of game, and rarely seen any when looking for it. On this trip
there was no minute of time while travelling between San Patricio and
the settlements on the San Antonio River, from San Antonio to Austin,
and again from the Colorado River back to San Patricio, when deer or
antelope could not be seen in great numbers. Each officer carried a
shot-gun, and every evening, after going into camp, some would go out
and soon return with venison and wild turkeys enough for the entire
camp. I, however, never went out, and had no occasion to fire my gun;
except, being detained over a day at Goliad, Benjamin and I concluded to
go down to the creek--which was fringed with timber, much of it the
pecan--and bring back a few turkeys. We had scarcely reached the edge
of the timber when I heard the flutter of wings overhead, and in an
instant I saw two or three turkeys flying away. These were soon
followed by more, then more, and more, until a flock of twenty or thirty
had left from just over my head. All this time I stood watching the
turkeys to see where they flew--with my gun on my shoulder, and never
once thought of levelling it at the birds. When I had time to reflect
upon the matter, I came to the conclusion that as a sportsman I was a
failure, and went back to the house. Benjamin remained out, and got as
many turkeys as he wanted to carry back.

After the second night at Goliad, Benjamin and I started to make the
remainder of the journey alone. We reached Corpus Christi just in time
to avoid "absence without leave." We met no one not even an Indian
--during the remainder of our journey, except at San Patricio. A new
settlement had been started there in our absence of three weeks, induced
possibly by the fact that there were houses already built, while the
proximity of troops gave protection against the Indians. On the evening
of the first day out from Goliad we heard the most unearthly howling of
wolves, directly in our front. The prairie grass was tall and we could
not see the beasts, but the sound indicated that they were near. To my
ear it appeared that there must have been enough of them to devour our
party, horses and all, at a single meal. The part of Ohio that I hailed
from was not thickly settled, but wolves had been driven out long before
I left. Benjamin was from Indiana, still less populated, where the wolf
yet roamed over the prairies. He understood the nature of the animal
and the capacity of a few to make believe there was an unlimited number
of them. He kept on towards the noise, unmoved. I followed in his
trail, lacking moral courage to turn back and join our sick companion.
I have no doubt that if Benjamin had proposed returning to Goliad, I
would not only have "seconded the motion" but have sug gested that it
was very hard-hearted in us to leave Augur sick there in the first
place; but Benjamin did not propose turning back. When he did speak it
was to ask: "Grant, how many wolves do you think there are in that
pack?" Knowing where he was from, and suspecting that he thought I would
over-estimate the number, I determined to show my acquaintance with the
animal by putting the estimate below what possibly could be correct, and
answered: "Oh, about twenty," very indifferently. He smiled and rode
on. In a minute we were close upon them, and before they saw us. There
were just TWO of them. Seated upon their haunches, with their mouths
close together, they had made all the noise we had been hearing for the
past ten minutes. I have often thought of this incident since when I
have heard the noise of a few disappointed politicians who had deserted
their associates. There are always more of them before they are

A week or two before leaving Corpus Christi on this trip, I had been
promoted from brevet second-lieutenant, 4th infantry, to full
second-lieutenant, 7th infantry. Frank Gardner,(*1) of the 7th, was
promoted to the 4th in the same orders. We immediately made application
to be transferred, so as to get back to our old regiments. On my
return, I found that our application had been approved at Washington.
While in the 7th infantry I was in the company of Captain Holmes,
afterwards a Lieutenant-general in the Confederate army. I never came in
contact with him in the war of the Rebellion, nor did he render any very
conspicuous service in his high rank. My transfer carried me to the
company of Captain McCall, who resigned from the army after the Mexican
war and settled in Philadelphia. He was prompt, however, to volunteer
when the rebellion broke out, and soon rose to the rank of major-general
in the Union army. I was not fortunate enough to meet him after he
resigned. In the old army he was esteemed very highly as a soldier and
gentleman. Our relations were always most pleasant.

The preparations at Corpus Christi for an advance progressed as rapidly
in the absence of some twenty or more lieutenants as if we had been
there. The principal business consisted in securing mules, and getting
them broken to harness. The process was slow but amusing. The animals
sold to the government were all young and unbroken, even to the saddle,
and were quite as wild as the wild horses of the prairie. Usually a
number would be brought in by a company of Mexicans, partners in the
delivery. The mules were first driven into a stockade, called a corral,
inclosing an acre or more of ground. The Mexicans,--who were all
experienced in throwing the lasso,--would go into the corral on
horseback, with their lassos attached to the pommels of their saddles.
Soldiers detailed as teamsters and black smiths would also enter the
corral, the former with ropes to serve as halters, the latter with
branding irons and a fire to keep the irons heated. A lasso was then
thrown over the neck of a mule, when he would immediately go to the
length of his tether, first one end, then the other in the air. While
he was thus plunging and gyrating, another lasso would be thrown by
another Mexican, catching the animal by a fore-foot. This would bring
the mule to the ground, when he was seized and held by the teamsters
while the blacksmith put upon him, with hot irons, the initials "U. S."
Ropes were then put about the neck, with a slipnoose which would tighten
around the throat if pulled. With a man on each side holding these
ropes, the mule was released from his other bindings and allowed to
rise. With more or less difficulty he would be conducted to a picket
rope outside and fastened there. The delivery of that mule was then
complete. This process was gone through with every mule and wild horse
with the army of occupation.

The method of breaking them was less cruel and much more amusing. It is
a well-known fact that where domestic animals are used for specific
purposes from generation to generation, the descendants are easily, as a
rule, subdued to the same uses. At that time in Northern Mexico the
mule, or his ancestors, the horse and the ass, was seldom used except
for the saddle or pack. At all events the Corpus Christi mule resisted
the new use to which he was being put. The treatment he was subjected
to in order to overcome his prejudices was summary and effective.

The soldiers were principally foreigners who had enlisted in our large
cities, and, with the exception of a chance drayman among them, it is
not probable that any of the men who reported themselves as competent
teamsters had ever driven a mule-team in their lives, or indeed that
many had had any previous experience in driving any animal whatever to
harness. Numbers together can accomplish what twice their number acting
individually could not perform. Five mules were allotted to each wagon.
A teamster would select at the picket rope five animals of nearly the
same color and general appearance for his team. With a full corps of
assistants, other teamsters, he would then proceed to get his mules
together. In two's the men would approach each animal selected,
avoiding as far as possible its heels. Two ropes would be put about the
neck of each animal, with a slip noose, so that he could be choked if
too unruly. They were then led out, harnessed by force and hitched to
the wagon in the position they had to keep ever after. Two men remained
on either side of the leader, with the lassos about its neck, and one
man retained the same restraining influence over each of the others.
All being ready, the hold would be slackened and the team started. The
first motion was generally five mules in the air at one time, backs
bowed, hind feet extended to the rear. After repeating this movement a
few times the leaders would start to run. This would bring the
breeching tight against the mules at the wheels, which these last seemed
to regard as a most unwarrantable attempt at coercion and would resist
by taking a seat, sometimes going so far as to lie down. In time all
were broken in to do their duty submissively if not cheerfully, but
there never was a time during the war when it was safe to let a Mexican
mule get entirely loose. Their drivers were all teamsters by the time
they got through.

I recollect one case of a mule that had worked in a team under the
saddle, not only for some time at Corpus Christi, where he was broken,
but all the way to the point opposite Matamoras, then to Camargo, where
he got loose from his fastenings during the night. He did not run away
at first, but staid in the neighborhood for a day or two, coming up
sometimes to the feed trough even; but on the approach of the teamster
he always got out of the way. At last, growing tired of the constant
effort to catch him, he disappeared altogether. Nothing short of a
Mexican with his lasso could have caught him. Regulations would not
have warranted the expenditure of a dollar in hiring a man with a lasso
to catch that mule; but they did allow the expenditure "of the mule," on
a certificate that he had run away without any fault of the
quartermaster on whose returns he was borne, and also the purchase of
another to take his place. I am a competent witness, for I was
regimental quartermaster at the time.

While at Corpus Christi all the officers who had a fancy for riding kept
horses. The animals cost but little in the first instance, and when
picketed they would get their living without any cost. I had three not
long before the army moved, but a sad accident bereft me of them all at
one time. A colored boy who gave them all the attention they got
--besides looking after my tent and that of a class-mate and
fellow-lieutenant and cooking for us, all for about eight dollars per
month, was riding one to water and leading the other two. The led
horses pulled him from his seat and all three ran away. They never were
heard of afterwards. Shortly after that some one told Captain Bliss,
General Taylor's Adjutant-General, of my misfortune. "Yes; I heard
Grant lost five or six dollars' worth of horses the other day," he
replied. That was a slander; they were broken to the saddle when I got
them and cost nearly twenty dollars. I never suspected the colored boy
of malicious intent in letting them get away, because, if they had not
escaped, he could have had one of them to ride on the long march then in



At last the preparations were complete and orders were issued for the
advance to begin on the 8th of March. General Taylor had an army of not
more than three thousand men. One battery, the siege guns and all the
convalescent troops were sent on by water to Brazos Santiago, at the
mouth of the Rio Grande. A guard was left back at Corpus Christi to
look after public property and to take care of those who were too sick
to be removed. The remainder of the army, probably not more than twenty
five hundred men, was divided into three brigades, with the cavalry
independent. Colonel Twiggs, with seven companies of dragoons and a
battery of light artillery, moved on the 8th. He was followed by the
three infantry brigades, with a day's interval between the commands.
Thus the rear brigade did not move from Corpus Christi until the 11th of
March. In view of the immense bodies of men moved on the same day over
narrow roads, through dense forests and across large streams, in our
late war, it seems strange now that a body of less than three thousand
men should have been broken into four columns, separated by a day's

General Taylor was opposed to anything like plundering by the troops,
and in this instance, I doubt not, he looked upon the enemy as the
aggrieved party and was not willing to injure them further than his
instructions from Washington demanded. His orders to the troops
enjoined scrupulous regard for the rights of all peaceable persons and
the payment of the highest price for all supplies taken for the use of
the army.

All officers of foot regiments who had horses were permitted to ride
them on the march when it did not interfere with their military duties.
As already related, having lost my "five or six dollars' worth of
horses" but a short time before I determined not to get another, but to
make the journey on foot. My company commander, Captain McCall, had two
good American horses, of considerably more value in that country, where
native horses were cheap, than they were in the States. He used one
himself and wanted the other for his servant. He was quite anxious to
know whether I did not intend to get me another horse before the march
began. I told him No; I belonged to a foot regiment. I did not
understand the object of his solicitude at the time, but, when we were
about to start, he said: "There, Grant, is a horse for you." I found
that he could not bear the idea of his servant riding on a long march
while his lieutenant went a-foot. He had found a mustang, a three-year
old colt only recently captured, which had been purchased by one of the
colored servants with the regiment for the sum of three dollars. It was
probably the only horse at Corpus Christi that could have been purchased
just then for any reasonable price. Five dollars, sixty-six and
two-thirds per cent. advance, induced the owner to part with the
mustang. I was sorry to take him, because I really felt that, belonging
to a foot regiment, it was my duty to march with the men. But I saw the
Captain's earnestness in the matter, and accepted the horse for the
trip. The day we started was the first time the horse had ever been
under saddle. I had, however, but little difficulty in breaking him,
though for the first day there were frequent disagreements between us as
to which way we should go, and sometimes whether we should go at all.
At no time during the day could I choose exactly the part of the column
I would march with; but after that, I had as tractable a horse as any
with the army, and there was none that stood the trip better. He never
ate a mouthful of food on the journey except the grass he could pick
within the length of his picket rope.

A few days out from Corpus Christi, the immense herd of wild horses that
ranged at that time between the Nueces and the Rio Grande was seen
directly in advance of the head of the column and but a few miles off.
It was the very band from which the horse I was riding had been captured
but a few weeks before. The column was halted for a rest, and a number
of officers, myself among them, rode out two or three miles to the right
to see the extent of the herd. The country was a rolling prairie, and,
from the higher ground, the vision was obstructed only by the earth's
curvature. As far as the eye could reach to our right, the herd
extended. To the left, it extended equally. There was no estimating the
number of animals in it; I have no idea that they could all have been
corralled in the State of Rhode Island, or Delaware, at one time. If
they had been, they would have been so thick that the pasturage would
have given out the first day. People who saw the Southern herd of
buffalo, fifteen or twenty years ago, can appreciate the size of the
Texas band of wild horses in 1846.

At the point where the army struck the Little Colorado River, the stream
was quite wide and of sufficient depth for navigation. The water was
brackish and the banks were fringed with timber. Here the whole army
concentrated before attempting to cross. The army was not accompanied by
a pontoon train, and at that time the troops were not instructed in
bridge building. To add to the embarrassment of the situation, the army
was here, for the first time, threatened with opposition. Buglers,
concealed from our view by the brush on the opposite side, sounded the
"assembly," and other military calls. Like the wolves before spoken of,
they gave the impression that there was a large number of them and that,
if the troops were in proportion to the noise, they were sufficient to
devour General Taylor and his army. There were probably but few troops,
and those engaged principally in watching the movements of the
"invader." A few of our cavalry dashed in, and forded and swam the
stream, and all opposition was soon dispersed. I do not remember that a
single shot was fired.

The troops waded the stream, which was up to their necks in the deepest
part. Teams were crossed by attaching a long rope to the end of the
wagon tongue passing it between the two swing mules and by the side of
the leader, hitching his bridle as well as the bridle of the mules in
rear to it, and carrying the end to men on the opposite shore. The bank
down to the water was steep on both sides. A rope long enough to cross
the river, therefore, was attached to the back axle of the wagon, and
men behind would hold the rope to prevent the wagon "beating" the mules
into the water. This latter rope also served the purpose of bringing
the end of the forward one back, to be used over again. The water was
deep enough for a short distance to swim the little Mexican mules which
the army was then using, but they, and the wagons, were pulled through
so fast by the men at the end of the rope ahead, that no time was left
them to show their obstinacy. In this manner the artillery and
transportation of the "army of occupation" crossed the Colorado River.

About the middle of the month of March the advance of the army reached
the Rio Grande and went into camp near the banks of the river, opposite
the city of Matamoras and almost under the guns of a small fort at the
lower end of the town. There was not at that time a single habitation
from Corpus Christi until the Rio Grande was reached.

The work of fortifying was commenced at once. The fort was laid out by
the engineers, but the work was done by the soldiers under the
supervision of their officers, the chief engineer retaining general
directions. The Mexicans now became so incensed at our near approach
that some of their troops crossed the river above us, and made it unsafe
for small bodies of men to go far beyond the limits of camp. They
captured two companies of dragoons, commanded by Captains Thornton and
Hardee. The latter figured as a general in the late war, on the
Confederate side, and was author of the tactics first used by both
armies. Lieutenant Theodric Porter, of the 4th infantry, was killed
while out with a small detachment; and Major Cross, the assistant
quartermaster-general, had also been killed not far from camp.

There was no base of supplies nearer than Point Isabel, on the coast,
north of the mouth of the Rio Grande and twenty-five miles away. The
enemy, if the Mexicans could be called such at this time when no war had
been declared, hovered about in such numbers that it was not safe to
send a wagon train after supplies with any escort that could be spared.
I have already said that General Taylor's whole command on the Rio
Grande numbered less than three thousand men. He had, however, a few
more troops at Point Isabel or Brazos Santiago. The supplies brought
from Corpus Christi in wagons were running short. Work was therefore
pushed with great vigor on the defences, to enable the minimum number of
troops to hold the fort. All the men who could be employed, were kept
at work from early dawn until darkness closed the labors of the day.
With all this the fort was not completed until the supplies grew so
short that further delay in obtaining more could not be thought of. By
the latter part of April the work was in a partially defensible
condition, and the 7th infantry, Major Jacob Brown commanding, was
marched in to garrison it, with some few pieces of artillery. All the
supplies on hand, with the exception of enough to carry the rest of the
army to Point Isabel, were left with the garrison, and the march was
commenced with the remainder of the command, every wagon being taken
with the army. Early on the second day after starting the force reached
its destination, without opposition from the Mexicans. There was some
delay in getting supplies ashore from vessels at anchor in the open



While General Taylor was away with the bulk of his army, the little
garrison up the river was besieged. As we lay in our tents upon the
sea-shore, the artillery at the fort on the Rio Grande could be
distinctly heard.

The war had begun.

There were no possible means of obtaining news from the garrison, and
information from outside could not be otherwise than unfavorable. What
General Taylor's feelings were during this suspense I do not know; but
for myself, a young second-lieutenant who had never heard a hostile gun
before, I felt sorry that I had enlisted. A great many men, when they
smell battle afar off, chafe to get into the fray. When they say so
themselves they generally fail to convince their hearers that they are
as anxious as they would like to make believe, and as they approach
danger they become more subdued. This rule is not universal, for I have
known a few men who were always aching for a fight when there was no
enemy near, who were as good as their word when the battle did come.
But the number of such men is small.

On the 7th of May the wagons were all loaded and General Taylor started
on his return, with his army reinforced at Point Isabel, but still less
than three thousand strong, to relieve the garrison on the Rio Grande.
The road from Point Isabel to Matamoras is over an open, rolling,
treeless prairie, until the timber that borders the bank of the Rio
Grande is reached. This river, like the Mississippi, flows through a
rich alluvial valley in the most meandering manner, running towards all
points of the compass at times within a few miles. Formerly the river
ran by Resaca de la Palma, some four or five miles east of the present
channel. The old bed of the river at Resaca had become filled at
places, leaving a succession of little lakes. The timber that had
formerly grown upon both banks, and for a considerable distance out, was
still standing. This timber was struck six or eight miles out from the
besieged garrison, at a point known as Palo Alto--"Tall trees" or

Early in the forenoon of the 8th of May as Palo Alto was approached, an
army, certainly outnumbering our little force, was seen, drawn up in
line of battle just in front of the timber. Their bayonets and
spearheads glistened in the sunlight formidably. The force was composed
largely of cavalry armed with lances. Where we were the grass was tall,
reaching nearly to the shoulders of the men, very stiff, and each stock
was pointed at the top, and hard and almost as sharp as a
darning-needle. General Taylor halted his army before the head of column
came in range of the artillery of the Mexicans. He then formed a line
of battle, facing the enemy. His artillery, two batteries and two
eighteen-pounder iron guns, drawn by oxen, were placed in position at
intervals along the line. A battalion was thrown to the rear, commanded
by Lieutenant-Colonel Childs, of the artillery, as reserves. These
preparations completed, orders were given for a platoon of each company
to stack arms and go to a stream off to the right of the command, to
fill their canteens and also those of the rest of their respective
companies. When the men were all back in their places in line, the
command to advance was given. As I looked down that long line of about
three thousand armed men, advancing towards a larger force also armed,
I thought what a fearful responsibility General Taylor must feel,
commanding such a host and so far away from friends. The Mexicans
immediately opened fire upon us, first with artillery and then with
infantry. At first their shots did not reach us, and the advance was
continued. As we got nearer, the cannon balls commenced going through
the ranks. They hurt no one, however, during this advance, because they
would strike the ground long before they reached our line, and
ricochetted through the tall grass so slowly that the men would see them
and open ranks and let them pass. When we got to a point where the
artillery could be used with effect, a halt was called, and the battle
opened on both sides.

The infantry under General Taylor was armed with flint-lock muskets, and
paper cartridges charged with powder, buck-shot and ball. At the
distance of a few hundred yards a man might fire at you all day without
your finding it out. The artillery was generally six-pounder brass guns
throwing only solid shot; but General Taylor had with him three or four
twelve-pounder howitzers throwing shell, besides his eighteen-pounders
before spoken of, that had a long range. This made a powerful armament.
The Mexicans were armed about as we were so far as their infantry was
concerned, but their artillery only fired solid shot. We had greatly
the advantage in this arm.

The artillery was advanced a rod or two in front of the line, and opened
fire. The infantry stood at order arms as spectators, watching the
effect of our shots upon the enemy, and watching his shots so as to step
out of their way. It could be seen that the eighteen-pounders and the
howitzers did a great deal of execution. On our side there was little
or no loss while we occupied this position. During the battle Major
Ringgold, an accomplished and brave artillery officer, was mortally
wounded, and Lieutenant Luther, also of the artillery, was struck.
During the day several advances were made, and just at dusk it became
evident that the Mexicans were falling back. We again advanced, and
occupied at the close of the battle substantially the ground held by the
enemy at the beginning. In this last move there was a brisk fire upon
our troops, and some execution was done. One cannon-ball passed through
our ranks, not far from me. It took off the head of an enlisted man,
and the under jaw of Captain Page of my regiment, while the splinters
from the musket of the killed soldier, and his brains and bones, knocked
down two or three others, including one officer, Lieutenant Wallen,
--hurting them more or less. Our casualties for the day were nine killed
and forty-seven wounded.

At the break of day on the 9th, the army under Taylor was ready to renew
the battle; but an advance showed that the enemy had entirely left our
front during the night. The chaparral before us was impenetrable except
where there were roads or trails, with occasionally clear or bare spots
of small dimensions. A body of men penetrating it might easily be
ambushed. It was better to have a few men caught in this way than the
whole army, yet it was necessary that the garrison at the river should
be relieved. To get to them the chaparral had to be passed. Thus I
assume General Taylor reasoned. He halted the army not far in advance
of the ground occupied by the Mexicans the day before, and selected
Captain C. F. Smith, of the artillery, and Captain McCall, of my
company, to take one hundred and fifty picked men each and find where
the enemy had gone. This left me in command of the company, an honor
and responsibility I thought very great.

Smith and McCall found no obstruction in the way of their advance until
they came up to the succession of ponds, before describes, at Resaca.
The Mexicans had passed them and formed their lines on the opposite
bank. This position they had strengthened a little by throwing up dead
trees and brush in their front, and by placing artillery to cover the
approaches and open places. Smith and McCall deployed on each side of
the road as well as they could, and engaged the enemy at long range.
Word was sent back, and the advance of the whole army was at once
commenced. As we came up we were deployed in like manner. I was with
the right wing, and led my company through the thicket wherever a
penetrable place could be found, taking advantage of any clear spot that
would carry me towards the enemy. At last I got pretty close up without
knowing it. The balls commenced to whistle very thick overhead, cutting
the limbs of the chaparral right and left. We could not see the enemy,
so I ordered my men to lie down, an order that did not have to be
enforced. We kept our position until it became evident that the enemy
were not firing at us, and then withdrew to find better ground to
advance upon.

By this time some progress had been made on our left. A section of
artillery had been captured by the cavalry, and some prisoners had been
taken. The Mexicans were giving way all along the line, and many of
them had, no doubt, left early. I at last found a clear space
separating two ponds. There seemed to be a few men in front and I
charged upon them with my company.

There was no resistance, and we captured a Mexican colonel, who had been
wounded, and a few men. Just as I was sending them to the rear with a
guard of two or three men, a private came from the front bringing back
one of our officers, who had been badly wounded in advance of where I
was. The ground had been charged over before. My exploit was equal to
that of the soldier who boasted that he had cut off the leg of one of
the enemy. When asked why he did not cut off his head, he replied:
"Some one had done that before." This left no doubt in my mind but that
the battle of Resaca de la Palma would have been won, just as it was, if
I had not been there. There was no further resistance. The evening of
the 9th the army was encamped on its old ground near the Fort, and the
garrison was relieved. The siege had lasted a number of days, but the
casualties were few in number. Major Jacob Brown, of the 7th infantry,
the commanding officer, had been killed, and in his honor the fort was
named. Since then a town of considerable importance has sprung up on the
ground occupied by the fort and troops, which has also taken his name.

The battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma seemed to us engaged, as
pretty important affairs; but we had only a faint conception of their
magnitude until they were fought over in the North by the Press and the
reports came back to us. At the same time, or about the same time, we
learned that war existed between the United States and Mexico, by the
acts of the latter country. On learning this fact General Taylor
transferred our camps to the south or west bank of the river, and
Matamoras was occupied. We then became the "Army of Invasion."

Up to this time Taylor had none but regular troops in his command; but
now that invasion had already taken place, volunteers for one year
commenced arriving. The army remained at Matamoras until sufficiently
reinforced to warrant a movement into the interior. General Taylor was
not an officer to trouble the administration much with his demands, but
was inclined to do the best he could with the means given him. He felt
his responsibility as going no further. If he had thought that he was
sent to perform an impossibility with the means given him, he would
probably have informed the authorities of his opinion and left them to
determine what should be done. If the judgment was against him he would
have gone on and done the best he could with the means at hand without
parading his grievance before the public. No soldier could face either
danger or responsibility more calmly than he. These are qualities more
rarely found than genius or physical courage.

General Taylor never made any great show or parade, either of uniform or
retinue. In dress he was possibly too plain, rarely wearing anything in
the field to indicate his rank, or even that he was an officer; but he
was known to every soldier in his army, and was respected by all. I can
call to mind only one instance when I saw him in uniform, and one other
when I heard of his wearing it, On both occasions he was unfortunate.
The first was at Corpus Christi. He had concluded to review his army
before starting on the march and gave orders accordingly. Colonel
Twiggs was then second in rank with the army, and to him was given the
command of the review. Colonel and Brevet Brigadier-General Worth, a
far different soldier from Taylor in the use of the uniform, was next to
Twiggs in rank, and claimed superiority by virtue of his brevet rank
when the accidents of service threw them where one or the other had to
command. Worth declined to attend the review as subordinate to Twiggs
until the question was settled by the highest authority. This broke up
the review, and the question was referred to Washington for final

General Taylor was himself only a colonel, in real rank, at that time,
and a brigadier-general by brevet. He was assigned to duty, however, by
the President, with the rank which his brevet gave him. Worth was not
so assigned, but by virtue of commanding a division he must, under the
army regulations of that day, have drawn the pay of his brevet rank.
The question was submitted to Washington, and no response was received
until after the army had reached the Rio Grande. It was decided against
General Worth, who at once tendered his resignation and left the army,
going north, no doubt, by the same vessel that carried it. This kept
him out of the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. Either the
resignation was not accepted, or General Worth withdrew it before action
had been taken. At all events he returned to the army in time to
command his division in the battle of Monterey, and served with it to
the end of the war.

The second occasion on which General Taylor was said to have donned his
uniform, was in order to receive a visit from the Flag Officer of the
naval squadron off the mouth of the Rio Grande. While the army was on
that river the Flag Officer sent word that he would call on the General
to pay his respects on a certain day. General Taylor, knowing that
naval officers habitually wore all the uniform the "law allowed" on all


Back to Full Books