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    Description

    Mexican War: Archive of Eight Letters, all dated between September 1846 through March 1849, with detailed information of the Battle of Monterrey by eyewitnesses and participants, such as Captain Electus Backus. One letter contains a drawn map of the Monterrey battlefield.

    One report, which gives a list of the missing, wounded, and killed from Captain Backus' company following the Battle of Monterrey, is headed "List of Men of Co. G. 1st Infy. who were killed, wounded or missing, in the battle with the Mexicans, on the 21st & 22nd Sept. 1846." Under the heading "Killed" are the names and ranks of five soldiers. The report also includes details of the deaths (example: "T. W. Gibson, Private, Sept. 21 advancing on a Battery at the east of the town"). Under the heading "Wounded" are the names and ranks of eight soldiers, with details of the wounds (example: "Jacob Smith, Private, In the right thigh - advancing on battery at the east of the town"). Finally, under the heading "Missing" are the names and ranks of four soldiers, with information on known outcomes (examples: "prisoner - not hurt", "dead", "returned on the 23rd not hurt"). At the bottom is written, "Capt. Backus & 44 Rank & file."

    Captain Electus Backus Jr. (1804-1862) graduated from West Point in 1824. He was promoted to captain in 1837. Following the Battle of Monterrey, Backus was breveted a major on September 23 for gallant and meritorious conduct. Four letters written by Backus are included in this archive. Two of the letters were written only days after the battle (dated September 24 and 27). In these two letters, Backus, obviously still shaken from the battle, gives battle accounts to Major [John J.] Abercrombie and a family member. "The enemy fled before us," Backus writes in one. "I can not speak in too strong terms of the conduct of the men. They obeyed every order with willingness, & cheerfulness, and conducted themselves during the whole period in the most satisfactory manner."

    In a December 1846 letter, Backus complains about the treatment of General Zachary Taylor: "There must be a blow up between Genl. Taylor and the Lo-co Generals, & Gov. [William] Marcy. Genl Taylor is not treated properly, or as a General ought to be, who commands in the field. His juniors ought not to correspond directly with the War Department. It has too much of a militia odour."

    Backus' final letter, five pages, was written in September 1848 to General Hugh Brady offering an account of his Mexican War service in the hopes of receiving a brevet. Backus' account begins with his arrival at Point Isabel, Texas, in May 1846. He then writes about his service at the battles of Monterrey and Veracruz. According to his account, he contracted yellow fever ("my most formidable enemy") at San Juan de Ulua. The narrative ends near Mexico City in March 1848. Backus, who died in 1862, never received the brevet.

    Another letter written by C. A. Snowbridge[?] transmits through a letter to Brigadier General Brady a "sketch of Monterey and Gen'l Taylor's positions during the 'siege'. It is said to be the most correct description that has been given & I have not the least doubt but that it is, as it was drawn by Capt. [Hamilton Wilcox] Merrill of the 2d Dragoons, who was an actor, and an Eyewitness." A one page hand-drawn map looks southward toward Monterrey, a town of 15,000 people. Roads, rivers ranches, mountains, redoubts, and "Dragoon and Ranger" positions are identified.

    Of the remaining two letters, one is from Lieutenant Colonel John Garland of the 4th Infantry (September 1846, Monterrey battle report) and the other from Franklin Dyer Callender (March 1849, congratulating General Brady for his promotion). All letters have been well-cared for. Overall fine condition.


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    Auction Dates
    November, 2009
    21st Saturday
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