Cassa de Correa, City of Mexico: 7 April 1848. Quarto bifolium (ca. 24,5x19,5 cm). 4 pp. Brown ink on watermarked laid paper. Written in a legible hand. Fold marks, paper slightly soiled, but overall a very good letter.
Rare original Mexican-American War letter written by Charles W. Foster, an 18-year old serviceman of the Corps of Engineers, who later became one of the principal officers in the Department of War and organized the US Army’s “volunteer coloured troops” during the Civil War. Foster enlisted as a volunteer for the Mexican War at the age of 16 and first served “with a “Private Battalion” attached to the U.S. Engineers; by June 1 of that year , he had been inducted into the Regular Army, Corps of Engineers. Foster participated in the capture of Vera Cruz, the Battle of Cerro Gordo, and siege operations at Puebla. By war’s end he had been promoted to battalion sergeant” (States at War. Vol. 5. A Reference Guide for Ohio in the Civil War/ Ed. by Richard F. Miller. University Press of New England, 2015, p. 327).
The letter was written in the Mexico City at the end of the war – the Treaty of Guadalupe had already been signed (2 February 1848) and ratified by the U.S. Senate (2 March), but the Mexican Legislature still needed to ratify it (the ratification took place on May 19), which Foster remarked about: “the Peace prospect brightens; it is said that there is a quorum of the Mexican Congress at Queraterro, and it is the opinion of the leading Mexicans in this city that the Treaty will be accepted as modified by our Senate…” The letter talks about the coming end of the war, the movement of U.S. troops and the suggestion of the U.S. Army’s Chief Engineer Joseph Totten “to raise 7 more Companys [sic!] of Engrs., four of which are to proceed to California, should the Treaty be ratified <…> to superintend the erection of fortifications thare [sic!].” Foster also relates a grim tale of a bank robbery gone awry, in which some of the U.S. troops determined to rob a local bank and a clerk was killed defending the safe. There are also interesting notes about Foster’s engineer service during the capture of Vera Cruz, the reduction of his company “to 40 active members, it is the quintesence [sic!] of 72 doubly distilled,” Foster’s brother George publishing his letter, some family news (including George's impending marriage), and others. Overall an interesting detailed letter from the front lines of the Mexican-American War, discussing plans to fortify newly-acquired California.
The excerpts from the letter (original spelling):
"In your letter of the 2nd of March, you very humbly ask my pardon for publishing those letters; I took no offence whatever at the publication, I merely wished to inform you, that I wanted you to keep dark for the future. You can of course show my letters to any of my friends that you think proper. It seams [sic!] that you are not going to get tied up at present, dam[n] bad plan, I do not see a word about Ellen in your letter; I hope that thare [sic] is no crockery broken.
In answer to your enquires about the Mass. Regt. I would say that they are at San Angels, I have seen but one man in the Regt. that I know, I have seen Parker Mudge here, he is now at Toluca with his Regt. William Putten is stil [sic!] at Vera Cruze. Our comp. is now reduced to 40 active members, it is the quintesence [sic!] of 72 doubly distilled, and they are some of them and no mistake.
Col. J.G. Totten the chief Engr. at Washington has proposed and recommended to the President to raise 7 more Companys of Engrs, four of which are to proceed to California, should the Treaty be ratified (by the way the news of its ratification by our government reached this city on the 2nd of this month) to superintend the erection of fortifications thare [sic!], therefore [sic!] supposeing [sic!] the War closed. Our company may not see home these two years yet, however should the Treaty be ratified by the Mexican Congress imediately [sic!] I think that we should be among the first to leave for the States.
It seems that my letter settled some doubts which had arrisen [sic] among some of my friends in relation to the duties of our company; I suppose that some imagined that we had a great deal of hard labour to perform, I can assure them that it is very seldom that we have anything of the kind to do. To give you some idea on the subject I will give you some account of our operations [sci!] at Vera Cruz. Our company was divided into five parts, eight men in each part, and only one set in the trenches or batteries at a time, each detail on duty eight hours only at a time, and thus you see that eight men were divided among about five hundred men or more according to circumstances, each of the engineers having [sic!] charge of a particular portion of the work, and all under the general superintendence of a detail of Engineer Officers.
The Peace prospect brightens; it is said that there is a quorum of the Mexican Congress at Queraterro, and it is the opinion of the leading Mexicans in this city that the Treaty will be accepted as modified by our Senate. Orders have already been issued for the downward movement of the troops, the first that move are the sick, who are under orders to move on the tenth of the present month to Saluppa [possibly Xalapa?]; several of the Volunter [sic!] Regiments together with the Mass. Regt. have also received orders to hold themselves in readiness to march on short notice, so you see that it looks a little like Peace, but the Devil trust a Mexican.
A young Spanish clerk in a banking house was killed here night before last; there was some two or three thousand dollars in the office, which he died in defending. It seems that some teamsters and one or two Volunteer Officers learned that thare [sic!] was a large amount of money in the building and laid their plans accordingly, but on entering they made so much noise that they awoke the two clerks, who drew their pistols and took their position in front of the safe to defend the money. One of them was shot dead, and two of the assailants were severely wounded. I am sorry to say that thare [sci!] were two Lieuts. concerned both belonging to the Pennsylvania Regt. The parties have all been arrested; it creates a great excitement here the more so because American Officers were concerned…"
Price: $2,250.00 USD