Monday, January 2, 2017

Joseph E. Johnston to Robert Milligan McLane, January 12, 1848

[Joseph Eggleston Johnston at Tacubaya, Mexico, to Robert Milligan McLane at [Washington City?], January 12, 1848, Box 3, Louis McLane Correspondence (1795-1894), MSS 57083, Library of Congress. This is my rough transcription. Added paragraph breaks inserted for easier reading.]

My dear Bob,

I found yours of the 5th Nov. on my table this morning, on my return from our friend Irwin's funeral. He died on the 10th after an illness of a few days, universally lamented. I need not make his eulogy to you, as far as personal qualities & personal worth are concerned. But may tell you that no one in this army has gained more reputation in the last campaign.

As the mail goes tomorrow I saw general Worth immediately, & he promised to send you by the British carrier who will beat our mail by 10 days, a copy of a letter of his to the Sec: of War giving his views on the manner of conducting our operations in this country. He showed me the letter. I disagree with him only in regard to the force necessary to carry out his plan. He names 40000. I name 100000. Because if the govt names 100000 we may get 40000 or 50000 for service in Mexico, & after throwing that force into this country a degree of energy not often exhibited by an executive of our[s] will be required to keep the Army up to the standard. Notwithstanding all we have seen in the news papers concerning large reinforcements & the activity of recruiting not half so effectives. It is said that the Sec: of War reports General Scott's Army, from Vera Cruz to Mexico, at 32,000. We estimate it at about 15000 or 16000 many of whom are in hospital, & our people leave the hospitals only to go home as unfit for military service. 

So you see what provision you must make, in Congress, if you determine upon occupation -- not defensive, for that would be a farce, & an interminable one. No one here believes the "conquest of peace" feasible. The Mexicans have undoubtedly been much encouraged by the apparent eagerness of our govt. to treat. I believe myself that the presence of a commission with our army took away whatever chance of peace might have been. You will have, I think, two places to choose between -- the first disgraceful, viz: to purchase the boundary you indicate, for about $30,000000. Instead of receiving the additional territory as indemnity, & it is generally supposed that some such proposition has been transmitted to Washington by our late comr, & that he is waiting here for a new appt. & authority to treat on such terms. I hope not. 'Twould be worse than an armistice. The Mexicans will leave you no other resource [recourse] than occupation -- offensive occupation you term it. For of course even fanaticism wouldn't, by a quiet withdrawal of our troops, confess a failure, & agree that so much brave blood should have been shed in vain.

This occupation would be no more expensive to the U.S. than the present system. By occupying in force the capitals of all the states, & the richest mining districts, disregarding at present the sections of country, yielding little revenue, we could maintain a large army & civil gov. at the same time on the resources of the country, & at the same time diminish by half the burdens upon the inhabitants. This would gradually strengthen a party friendly to us, & as that party grew, we might, like the British in India, make a sepoy force. With no Mexican officers. At the same time the U.S. would derive immense commercial advantages from such a state of things -- taken in connection too, with the condition of England. We should have almost a monopoly of the rich trade of this country, & the influx of gold & silver would make us instead of England. We should have almost a monopoly of the rich trade of this country, & the influx of gold & silver would make us instead of England, the Bankers of Christendom, & the first commercial nation in existence. Might not such probabilities reconcile our northern brethren to the idea of conquest & extension to the South? The scheme of defensive occupation would be far more expensive to the U.S. than the foregoing -- because we should depend upon home for every thing. The expence [expense] of disposing the troops on so long a line would be enormous, as well as that of keeping recruiting -- your garrisons & transporting supplies of all sorts to such distances in the interior. I am very glad that such an absurdity is not likely to be adopted.

The character of our troops is much deteriorated, even in the old regiments, which are also much weaker than in the beginning of Aug. They have lost nearly if not quite half their officers -- losses which will require years to replace. My own regiment has lost about 2/3 of the enlisted men brought into this valley. By the way, we require for riflemen better people than the regiments of the line, more vigorous active & intelligent men. If there is a proper spirit in Congress they will improve the national army very much by allowing the Voltigeurs a little more pay than infantry -- no matter how little -- just enough for a distinction -- it would enable us to get the best men. As for the public advantage, we should. If you can do that, get the Howitzer battery as an 11th compy [company] making R. P. Hammond 3d Arty Capt & J. L. Reno ord. Dept. First Lt. you'll [render] the state much service. Then get Talcott's leg cured & himself sent back to the regt & you'll be doing poor little Lyd & myself a service -- for then & not till then I may set off. Tell them to send us no more new generals -- we now have no others. It is exceedingly disagreeable to find your life & reputation depending upon one who don't know the difference between light & garrison duties.

My love to Georgina & the little ones. I send a copy of Turnbull's map by Elzey (Arnold Jones). The positions given our troops at Molino del Rey & Chapultepec & Santa Anna's at Contreras are all wrong. So are the reports of the genls of divisions, except Worth's. Quitman's report of the 13th is a farce, particularly what relates to Chapultepec. It is said that he had a picture made to correspond, & took it to N. O. [New Orleans] to be lithographed -- a new sort of bulletin [allusion to Napoleon's habit].

[Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807-1891)
Representative Robert Milligan McLane (1815-1898)
Irwin = Captain James Ramsey Irwin (1800-1848), First U.S. Artillery, Chief Quartermaster of General Winfield Scott's army.
Secretary of War = William Learned Marcy (1786-1857)
General Worth = William Jenkins Worth (1794-1849)
General Scott = Winfield Scott (1786-1866)
R. P. Hammond = Richard Pindell Hammond (1826-1891), USMA Class of 1841. Moved to San Francisco after the war and became California Speaker of the House, among other things.
J. L. Reno = Jesse Lee Reno (1823-1862), USMA Class of 1846

Talcott = George Henry Talcott (1811-1854)
Lyd = Lydia Milligan Sims McLane Johnston (1822-1887)]
Painting: Georgine Urquart McLane by Franz Xaver Winterhalter1841, Maryland Commission on Artistic PropertyMaryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1190

[Georgina = Georgine Urquhart McLane (1813-1899)
William Turnbull (1800-1857)
Arnold Elzey Jones, Jr. (1816-1871)
General Quitman = John Anthony Quitman (1798-1858)]

Map closeup from: Hardcastle, Edmund L.F. (engineer). Map of Battle of El Molino del Rey (issued 1850). Philadelphia, Penn.: P.S. Duval Lithographers, 1850. From Rice University.
[Many thanks to William Myers, Mary Davy, Sally Young and Susan Davis for their ongoing research collaboration.]

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