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    "War is declared"

    Mexican War: Naval Officer Robert B. Storer Collection of Letters. Containing over forty personal and official naval letters, all dated between November 1841 and August 1847 and written by Midshipman Robert Storer, who died at sea during the Mexican War. In two letters, both dated August 1845, Storer erroneously informs his father, U.S. Navy Captain George W. Storer, that "War is declared" with Mexico and that U.S. troops had "invaded Mexico", a full nine months before war was officially declared.

    The first of those two letters is dated August 10, 1845. With a young officer's zeal for battle, Midshipman Storer writes his father from the USS Potomac, near Pensacola, Florida, "By the steamer Alabama which just arrived from New Orleans we hear that War has been declared and that all the American residents at Vera Cruz have left for New Orleans. there is little doubt but that it is so, and we are in a hurry to get off. The troops stationed here have orders to be ready for Texas at a moments warning . . . and if the Navy only has a chance like the Army we will do something with our force down here (ten vessels) we can blockade all the ports of Mexico and take all but Vera Cruz." The next day, August 11, Storer adds to the letter a correction, "'There is no War', The English Frigate 'Eurydice' has arrived at Vera Cruz, and not a total loss as we supposed. This is all that I can pick up. We hope that it is not so." In the letter, Storer refers to "the steamer Alabama," which, only days before, had deposited General Zachary Taylor at the mouth of the Nueces River. There, Taylor and 4,000 American troops set up a camp in late July 1845 to protect Texan and American interests along the Texas-Mexico border while the U.S. Congress debated the annexation of Texas. False rumors had circulated about a Mexican attack on the camp. When the Alabama arrived at Pensacola Bay on August 10, it brought those false rumors, which Storer writes and sends in this letter to his father, the commander of the Naval Yard at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

    The second letter is written ten days later on August 20, also from the USS Potomac near Pensacola. The officer writes "in haste", once again confidently, but erroneously, asserting that "War is declared, without doubt, the [USS] St. Marys has just arrived and brought news from Texas. There is a large sail in the offing, it may be the Saratoga. Our troops instead of going into Texas, invaded Mexico and an army of 10,000 mexicans are in a few days march of them. our troops are retreating. Gen [Edmund] Gaines has called on the Governor of Louisana for some troops &c. War. War. War. If this ship cannot go down to Mexico I shall apply immediately for one of the other ships of the squadron." Soon after writing this letter, the twenty-year-old Storer, who had served on the USS Potomac since August 1844, requested a transfer. He was taken aboard the USS Lawrence, bound for the Mexican coast.

    Several of the letters in this collection were written shortly before the Mexican War and contain further information on the build-up to the war. Some of them include news of the diplomatic affairs of the British, French, American, and Mexican governments. Other letters in the collections were written during the war and contain information on the conveyance of U.S. troops to Texas and naval movements in the Gulf of Mexico.

    The short naval career of Robert Storer also comes into focus through this collection. The many official naval letters of commendations, requests for transfers, transfer orders, and letters of approbation from superiors reveal the young officer as highly respected and esteemed. But the numerous personal letters to his father, Captain George Storer, present a loving son eager to share events and news. Robert Storer was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and joined the U.S. Navy at a young age.

    He was the first one on the USS Raritan to die during a yellow fever outbreak while at sea, where he was buried on July 4, 1847.

    Also included are other documents and newspapers, along with a naval appointment signed by Naval Secretary Abel P. Upshur. The letters that Storer wrote to his father (approximately twenty) all bear wax seals and have address panels on the fourth page. All letters have folds. They have been well-cared-for and are in overall fine condition.

    More Information:

    Some highlights from the letters include the following:


    Descriptions of the coast of Italy, including one adventure to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in a letter dated August 16, 1843. (Storer was aboard the USS Delaware during its South Atlantic and Mediterranean cruises in 1843.)


    A reference to the new naval academy at Annapolis, dated August 19, 1845: "We hear that the Naval School is removed to Annapolis, Maryland. There I suppose cells will be built in the old fort, and all the Midshipmen mess together." (The naval academy had been located at Philadelphia, but it outgrew its campus and moved to Annapolis in 1845.)


    A notification of Storer's death at sea, dated July 4, 1847, written by the purser of the Raritan to Captain George Storer. "Your son Robert expired this morning after six days illness; and in the absence of means to preserve his remains, he was buried in the deep Sea at twenty minutes before six p.m."


    A fair copy of the letter Captain French Forrest, commander of the USS Raritan, wrote to Naval Secretary John Mason concerning the death of Robert Storer at sea. "It is with deep regret that I inform the Department of the demise of Midshipman Robert B. Storer, who died of fever on the passage to the United States on the 4th inst. He was buried at sea with the ceremony due his rank." This letter was printed in the Portsmouth Journal (August 7, 1847), which is included in this collection.


    The following are also included in this collection:


    A touching one page "resolution passed of the Steerage officers of the USS Raritan relative to the death of Midsh. Robt. B. Storer." In the document, the men resolve "that, as a mark of respect to his memory, we wear crape on the left arm for thirty days."


    The Portsmouth Journal, August 7, 1847, containing a death notice of Storer.


    The New Hampshire Gazette, August 3, 1847, containing a death notice of Storer.


    A partially-printed naval appointment, dated November 1841 and signed by Naval Secretary Abel P. Upshur.

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    October, 2010
    23rd Saturday
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