INTRODUCTION TO THE MEXICAN WAR DIARY OF WILEY B SMITH
On May 13, 1846 the United States declared war on Mexico over issues of land annexation. From that time until the war ended two years later in March of 1848, 100,000 Americans went to Mexico in the military service of the United States. 75% were untrained volunteers, mostly young farm boys. They went for adventure, glory, patriotism and the promise of military pay and bounty land, but what they got was a one-year term in hell. Of the 13,000 known to have died in the Mexican War, only 2,000 died of battle wounds, the rest dying of typhoid fever, malaria, yellow fever, measles, dysentery---diseases brought on by horrible living conditions. By today's standards, soldiers then were not treated well. They received poor food and water (or none) and inadequate medical care (or none). At the end of the term of service, companies were discharged far from home with men were left to get home any way they could, whether well, wounded, or sick. Probably many died after reaching home.
Perhaps because the Mexican War has always been politically controversial, the soldiers who fought in it have not been honored as have those of other American wars. Today, the Mexican War is largely forgotten. (Note: this is not the same war that included the famous Battle of the Alamo.) Its victims and veterans to this day have no monument, and most lie in unknown graves. Yet they fought in good faith and did what they were asked to do: they won their war, won every major battle in that war, and gained for the United States the land that now is Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado.
Montgomery County, Illinois participated in the Mexican War by sending Company C, Third Regiment, Illinois Volunteers, a company of eighty men recruited in the Spring of 1846. One of those, Wiley B Smith, kept a diary of his war service. Wiley returned from the war, but his history is unknown after that. His diary remained in the hands of a Hillsboro relation, David Monroe Starr, who in 1907 became concerned that it was crumbling and so copied the diary into a ledger to preserve it. He passed the ledger on to his son Larkin Starr whose son Marion Starr had saved it for fifty years when in 1999 I learned of its existence. In December 2000 the diary was published in the quarterly journal of the Descendants of Mexican War Veterans, whose kind permission I have to post it here.
If you had a Montgomery County ancestor who fought in the Mexican War, Wiley's diary will allow you to share his experience in a very intimate way. If your ancestor died in 1846, 1847, or 1848 you might consider the possibility that his death was war-related. This was the case with Wiley's nephew Abraham Badgley Starr, who went to war with Wiley. Company C was discharged at New Orleans on May 23, 1847 and Wiley tells us of the return trip home up the Mississippi River on the steamboat Udora to St. Louis and then of the three-day wagon journey from St. Louis to Montgomery County, arriving there on June 2. Although Wiley does not mention Abraham, we can assume that he would have traveled homeward with his kinsman. We can easily imagine a family's joy at receiving their returned son, then joy quickly turning to horror as they realized that son was mortally ill. Abraham's death---two weeks after the homecoming, the day after his 21st birthday---was due to “sickness from the Mexican War,” according to the family Bible. Of Wiley we know nothing more, although it is thought that he moved on to Missouri.
A few notes on the diary: First, Wiley seems to have re-written it, probably from notes, after returning home. You will see that he sometimes confuses dates. Second, I have tried to be faithful to Wiley's spelling, capitalization, and syntax (to the distress of Microsoft Word's automatic correction function). Third, as you read, notice how the tone of the diary changes from that of boys on a lark (farewells, excitement at being on the ocean, seeing palm trees and the house made of cow horns) to one of straight grim reportage as Wiley finds himself in the dreadful reality of war (collecting the dead, guns roaring for days on end, the surrender at Vera Cruz, hauling cannon up a mountain at night in the rain, marches without food or water during which some of his companions simply drop dead).
Following Wiley's diary, you will find a roster of the men of Company C, Third Regiment, Illinois Volunteers, a list of those who survived to claim a Mexican War pension beginning in 1887, and some links to use if you'd like to read more about the Mexican War and the men who served in it.
Finally, a genealogical note: Wiley B Smith was the son of Elizabeth Badgley (m1 Starr m2 Titsworth m3 Smith) and Joel Smith. With Elizabeth's children of her previous marriages, David Badgley Starr b 1802 and Ezekiel Titsworth b 1806, this couple moved from St. Clair County to Bond County in 1817 then in 1818 moved on to present Montgomery County. Here they were part of the Hurricane Church and Clear Springs Church communities, in 1820 settling permanently on land near Hillsboro in an area then known as Woodsboro. Their known children were Wiley B (probably for Badgley) Smith and a daughter whose name is lost to us. Elizabeth Badgley's father was Elder David Badgley, a Primitive Baptist minister who in 1797 led a party of 154 settlers from Hardy County, Virginia to territory that now is Illinois, where he established the first Protestant church. Abraham Badgley Starr was the oldest son of David Badgley Starr and Jane Street, and died unmarried. No descendants of Wiley B Smith are known. Lest there be confusion, a different Wiley B Smith also lived in Montgomery County in mid-19th century, the son of Malachai Smith, husband of Deborah Varner, father of Allen and Elijah: unrelated to my family.
THE MEXICAN WAR DIARY OF WILEY B SMITH
“Copied by DM Starr Sep 1907. "
The foregoing Diary was Kept by Wiley B Smith formerly of Montgomery County Illinois who Enlisted in Company C---3rd Regiment Illinois Volunteers. There is at the present writing but one of the said Company living i.e. Ben B Blockburger and he is only on a visit to see his sister Mrs. Frank Howard of Hillsboro. Home is near Eureka in Humboldt County California. Copied from the original Diary by DM Starr September 25, 1907. [Added later] BB Blockburger Died at the Veterans Home in California 1914].
June 4, 1846 There was a call on Montgomery County Illinois for one Company of soldiers which was soon raised and reported. And on the 25th our friends gave us a farewell [Dinner] at Woodboro. And we went in Wagons to Robert Kirklands where we lay all night. And on the 26th we persued our Journey and at 4 oclock we landed at Alton the place of rendevous and was Mustered in by General Shields.
July 8 And sworn in by the inspector General Churchill. On the 9th we drew 42.00 from government as bounty or Clothing Money. We was visited by our friends here frequently. On the 22nd of July we went on board the steam boat John All. Left our friends on the bank they gave us many hearty cheers and saluted us with their cannons while we waived our hats in the air. Our Cheers Echoed through the streets. We anchored in the river near St. Louis this night.
23rd A clear and beautiful morning. We raised steam at about 9 oclock and pushed off for New Orleans leaving the place that almost raised us for a foreign Country. We landed at the place where General Jackson fought General Packenham 8 miles below New [Orleans] on the 28th. August 2nd we went on board the Ship Sopiwaker [Sophia Walker?] Boston 3 companies of us bound for the Rio Grand and at abut 9 oclock PM. At 2 hours by Sun 3rd we saw the great sea of green water.
With numbers of large fish showing themselves above the water like cattle in swimming water there was on the 4th small fish to be seen flying from the water some distance and lighting the Water. On the 7th we anchored near Brazos. We lay here until the 9th during which time the sailors caught a large fish they called a Shark. It measured 11 feet in length but was slim. They cut it open and found the feet and legs of a man in it [B Blockburger, Also the leg of a hors with Shoe on hough]---On the night of the 8th and morning of the 9th there was much Sea and the tow boat came to take us off. The Sea raged and the tow boat beat together like they would rock and we was compelled to leap from one to the other through great danger but fortunately for us all we got on alive but some was very badly hurt in this operation. When we got on shore the water was very brackish but so much better than we was used to on sea we thought it first rate. We soon relented [repented?] very much the strength that we lost by our voyage for we scarcely one able to pack his Musket to camp this a naked sand bar 3 miles from Point Isabel south. We left here on the 13th. We left here for the Rio Grand. The day was very hot and we was very week and had [had no] water so we suffered great. The distance was only 12 miles here. For the first time we had to make our Supper of broiled beef without salt and think it desperate hard times. We was almost Entirely Surrounded by Water and the ground here as well as Brazos is working alive with Maggots and Land Crabs as numerous as the weeds. The river was desperate swift and muddy and almost every day there was dead Men floating down the river. We suffered here much with the Measles and diarrhea. The Soldiers here disagreed Mightily and fighting with knives and pistols was very common particular among the Georgia Regiment. On the 28 there fell a desperate rain that covered the whole Earth with water which was very bad on the sick. On the 30th the Steam Boat Beghatch blown up and killed and wounded a number of men.
September the 1st. There was a Scrimmage Took place between the Georgia Regiment and the Indiana Sutter and Colonel Baker of the 4th Regiment was called on to settle the fuss. On his appearance the Georgians fired on him and then a battle took place. There was 3 Illinois soldiers Killed and Several wounded. The Georgians lost 14 killed and Several sounded. This took place on the Steam boat Corvett. We left here on the Steam boat Exchange. On the 10th landed one mile from a small town called Boredo like all the rest of the villages of Mexico made of cane covered grass, and some made of Cabbage Trees and floor without any form or mark of industry. On the 15th on board the Steam boat and landed at the place called Palmetto 5 miles from the place where the battle of the 9th of May was fought. B Tailor here.
We suffered as before with gluts of rain and Measles. We left here on the 21st on board the Steam Boat Wit Merser and landed at Matamoris on the 22nd this is a great town and is well supplied with beef and other Marketing. The Town like all the rest of this Country is built for defence. The people are ruled by one man called Alcalde or govoner. We left here on the same day leaving 14 of our Company here in the hospital. On the 24th we passed a small but the best Town according to the size that we have seen in Mexico on a high Mound and well built by the name of Rinorses. We landed at Camargo on the 28th. This place is situated on the bank of the St. Johns river 3 miles from the Riogrand. This town [has] sorry sorry houses and is on flat but rich land and must be very sickly. On the night of the 30th the news of the battle of Monterey came in town and their was great joy among the soldiers here and they gave a salute by throwing sky Rockets into the air. On the 27th General Shields left us under the Command of General Patterson.
October the 12th Colonel Willey left us and started home. On the 25th Robert Williamson Died/ On the 27th James McDavid was Elected orderly Sargent. November the 14th Colonel Willey [returned] to us. Some of the boys was taken up for killing a Mexican. On the 16th there was a false alarm. On the 25th we was called up to go and take a company of Mexicans about six miles---this was done 2 hours before day as they was seen there over night. We had them all surrounded and they turned out to be Texan Rangers. We had a hearty laugh and a loud fire and returned to Camp. On the 26th left here on board the Brownsville for the Mouth of the River; This night we met the Steam Boat Whiteville and changed our passage on board of her. On the 28th we passed Rinorses Where we met some of our boys that was going up to the River and turned them back. On the 29th we landed at Matamoris. We left Six (6) more of our boys here in the Hospital and persued our voyage. On the 30th and landed at the mouth of the river---there is several small towns on this river but of no note.
We lay here until the 5th And went on board the Steam Boat Corvett bound for Matamoris the river was low the Boat run on a sand bar 9 miles from Town on the 7th and some of us went on Shore walked to town. The air was cold and the rain fell slowly and we was obliged to lay in the Mud of the streets all night without our coat or anything to shield us from the rain. And we lay here until the 14th. We left bound for Victoria. We camped the first night at a large lake. 7 miles today---On the next morning waded the large lake as [illegible] introduction to hard times. We marched 8 miles today to a Ranch called Muskeet on a slow running Stream called Rio Del Tiger of Excellent water. Among the curiosities of the world I think there is one of the greatest I ever saw a house built of cow horns and Bones and other Stuff such as would tie them together it was built Solid, only leaving a small hole in the middle that the owner of the Building could crawl in on his all fores and in no other position could he keep himself in while in there the man himself was dressed of the same material making himself as big as a large Barrel his hat weighed 30 pounds he was Crazy. All the time gathering up bones horns And strings and improving his building.
We was kept under here as close as our officers could put it on us---We was under the Command of General Pillow and he was very severe on us. On the 21st there fell a desperate rain the water fell the fastest that I ever saw in my life in any country which is very uncommon here. The ground was floating all over with water about from 4 to 6 inches deep there was no chance to sleep here unless the water or on a scaffold so we was in a poor fix for what we had to do. The next day the 22nd the morning was thick and cloudy and division [consisted] of the 3rd and 4th Regiments of Illinois Volunteers. The 3rd Regiment of the Tenessee Cavalry and one Company Roofers and Miners with 400 Wagons. Patterson was the Commander of this divisions [aided] by Pillow. We was compelled to take 4 days rations on our backs as well as our knapsack and guns and 40 Rounds of cartridges. In this way we moved off. We marched this day 15 Miles and Camped at a small lake of fresh water in the Ege of a prairie. Early the morning being the 23rd we moved off in the prairie at a quick pace each Man his quart Water to do him the day. We marched 21 Miles and Camped at a Small Ranch supported by a small puddle of water that looked as green as grass. Here our 4 days rations run out as we could not take it and did not know how to shift so well. At 3 oclock we was ordered to strike tents without one bite to eat so we was now out. We asked for some bread and Rations on the Commissary giving us one bite to eat so there was but very few tents that was stretched. The drum beat to fall in and not a man obeyed. The old General finding rebellion at hand he ordered the Commissary to issue three small crackers to each man so we then eat a bite of bread and persued our journey as usual throug a large prairie of most Excellent Rich land without any timber except some Small brush. This prairie is very Extensive and is almost Covered with wild stock as Cattle Horses and hogs Turkeys the animals goes in large droves and may be seen at a great distance like clouds flying through the prairies when they are frightened and start to run---This prairie is watered with Salt lakes almost entirely. Here and there you may find a Muddy lake of fresh water. We had no hills to encounter with here almost a perfect level. We had some beef to eat this night without Salt and broiled it on the Coals and eat it without bread after performing a march of 27 Miles. The lake we camped at was small and a number of dead Horses and Mules lying in it and the Water is thick with Mud that it would hardly run.
December 23 1846 On the morning of the 29 we left early over a more broken country and marched 21 Miles and pitched our tents on the Bank of a beautiful River of clear running Water. But on examination the water was Salt that it was [with] difficulty that it could be used. 30) On the morning of the 30th we left Early. This day we came to a large Mountain at a large Spring of Excellent Water. 31) Early on the morning of the 31st we left here on this Mountain and Marched through a road that was almost a solid rock till about noon when we came to the other slant which was now very steep. And many wagons was crushed to pieces here in going down the Mountain but fortunate for us that was on detail here there was several springs that furnished us with Excellent good water. After much labor we got them down and got in camps about 10 oclock in the night and this being the [missing] for us to be mustered in it was done some time after we got in camp and took a bath to wash off the Swet and dust that was so thick on us that you could hardly tell what color we was. We camped at a small town by the name of Juanzander this was some distance from the River that Bore the same name. The water that supported the town was taken through it by means of a large dam across the river which caused the water to run through a ditch that was dug for that purpose.
January 1 1847 Early in the Morning of the first we left our camps to persue our journey. We marched this day 15 miles and camped at a cistern on Watering Place well fixed with great expense and made of large pools and hewn out of solid stone. A small town here that I cant tell the name of [in another hand a name has been written that is partly illegible; the first four letters are Comp…].
January the 2nd On the morning 2nd we left early and marched 25 miles and camped at a small and beautiful River called the 3 Tree River here. We saw some very large Timber and very thick brush. River [runs] Swift over large Rocks and through desperate high Banks. On the morning of the 3rd we left Early and Marched about 2 Miles when we met a group Composing of Alcalde and his Chief officers to Surrender a Small Town that lay just befor us situated on a river of excellent Water. The Town and River both by the name of Perea. This Town appears to be the scene of some old Wreck the results of some hard battle or Hurricane from the Many ruins of Buildings here. I had to stay with several othrs to assist the train up the bank. This we got done about 4 oclock in the evening January 5th 1847. And then had to join our Camps that was 18 miles from here and the road being very hilly and rocky we got in about 10 oclock in the night making us 25 miles today. We camped at a small stream of water. The next morning being the 4th [clearly Wiley confuses his dates here] we left early and Marching through very heavy timber and hilly country but very good rich land and about 3 oclock in the evening we came to a Beautiful Town called Victoria the object of our jorney of 29 miles here. We met the other division of the Army under General Taylor from Monterey and General Worth. General Worth got here 3 days before us Tayor the same day that we got in the morning left here the day before General Worth got in [copied exactly]. There was about 8 thousand soldiers sent to this place.
5) On the morning of the 5th General Taylor hastened to come through our camps to see what sort of men we was for the first time I saw him. Victoria is a beautiful town the 2nd best we have yet seen in Mexico and is well built and is handsomely situated on the Bank of the river [inserted superscript “a small stream”] but beautiful stream of first rate water. And at the foot of a small immencely mountain reaching as far as the Eye could rach being some of the heavy range of mountains that reach through the whole of North America called the Rocky Mountains. The Mexicans here is noticably friendly and almost every kind of fruit grows here and the trees bearing and blooming at the same time. Here we saw some frost for the first time this winter. We also had some very good cool weather which is very uncommon in this country. We lay here until the 16th during this time General Pillow the two Tennessee Regiments [inserted superscript “the 4 Illinois Regiments for”] leaving the Tennessee Regiments in our Brigade. General Twiggs left the day before. We marched through a fine fertile valley with plenty of water and camped at a small creek of good water 16 miles today.
16th On the morning of the 16th we moved on early winding our way through town. On the 17th we marched 21 miles and camped at the foot of a desperate high mountain on a small creek of good water. On the 18th we marched 32 miles to a large beautiful River. The River I believe to be the clearest water in the world. At all events there is none that can excell. On the morning of the 19th we had Early crossing the same river at the distance of 3 miles and then traveled over Rocks and Mountains all day covered with Cabeag Trees of large size. We passed through a town that the Mexicans had been camped in and had deserted their camp on our approach. We marched 24 miles today and camped at a Smal Stream in the thick Brush. On the morning of the 10 [again the date is confused] we left early and Marched 24 miles through [illegible] steep and mountainous road. Mountains of great hight and camped on a small stream. On the 21st We as usual left camps Early and marched 18 miles thrugh the best country that I have yet seen in this republic over rich and fertile prairies surrounded by skirts of timber but the timber is not very good. The worst failing is there is no water here. We camped at a pond that the natives of a small ranch nearby had secured to furnish them with water this they done by throwing up dirt across a small ravine. On this evening we got in camp earlier than common and some of them went out on a search of some meat was very [illegible] as our Rations was very scant and one [crossed out] of them never returned he was either murdered by the Mexicans or deserted. We passed a ranch about 6 miles before we came to that was occupied by Some of the enemies Horsemen that fled on our approach but the next day they attacked but our rear guard killed some of them and put them to flight. But reinforcements was soon brought up and they was not to be found. Among the rest was our beef contractor [new page headed January 20 1847] by the name of Bigelow. He was chased by them 15 miles back to the head of the other Divisions that was one days march behind us they got betwixt him and his Regiment he received 5 shots from them which gave him some very sore wounds.
On the morning of the 22nd we left at the Break of day and marched 22 miles over as good land as before and passed a small town in the Evening called Solmisco and camped on a lake that runs to Tampico and is said to be the place that old Spain run her vessels up when they was engaged in the war with Mexico. This is a right smart little town but from all appearance is washing away many Great Buildings now being in river. On the morning of the 23rd we left a[t] day break as usual and marched 14 miles through a level bottom with heavy timber. And the woods was filled with the common undergrowth called prickly pear that is impossible to penetrate in the bramble any distance. Part of our time winding our way around the lake near here is tolerably well cultivated the general object of farming here is sugar cane and vegetables in gardens. The Banyon tree that is spoken of in many histories abund here in great abundance there is some standing near our Camp that requires half an acre of land to give full room for the tree and its branches. We lay here until the 28th when we left for Tampico a distance of only 12 miles but this short space gave us a tiresome travel. The road was knee deep in sand all the way and no chances of shunning it for the thick Brambles that surround the road and we pitched our camp in 3 miles of Town. On the 29 I took a view of the noble town of Tampico this is a beautiful place and well built. The market is well supplied with produce and bears a good price and is well fortified being almost surrounded by water and several good forts that command the waters and land entrance. Also a good Breastworks for small arms to fight behind. There is only one way to get in this town by land.
February the 6th `1847 Here General Shields took command of us on the 6th. We lay here until the 27th and camped in an Island near town and we lay here all night. The 6th we left our camp and went on board the ship Importer Newberry Port and lay in the harbor all night and on the morning of the 7th we was towed out to sea and soon was on the green water. The vessel rocked at a desperate rate although the wind was calm. Consequently we could not get rid of the breakers. It was not long before almost every man was vomiting as though he had taken a pound of Calomel. The vessel wallowed about in the water all day. And at dark was not out of sight of the place where we came in the night. The wind rose but it was contrary to the course we wished to go [inserted superscript “sail”]. And so we did not make much headway. On the morning of the 8th the wind was very calm all day and after night it blew some [but] was not night yet. And on the morning of the 9th the wind ceased to blow in a great measure but at knight we was able to see the masts of a number of vessels at Johns Island 40 miles from here where we entered the Gulf. And as the sun went down the wind rose from the North which was a fair wind but on the morning of the 10th this was all over leaving us to wallow water without any wind. This calm continued without much wind till the 14. Day break found the ship sailing very fast and the wind still rising and at about 9 oclock the wind was so high that the Top Sail split into pieces. The storm increased the waves beat desperately the vessel appeared sometimes as though she would be swallowed up in the angry flood and then appeared like she would fall one hundred feet. The vessel first on one side and then on the other. On the morning of the 15th appeared as all was over and the Sun Shined pleasant and the wind was calm and at about 9 oclock we heard the cannons roaring at Vera Cruz. This evening the clouds began to rise and the wind increased and by dark the storm was as high as before. We got in the harbor at dark through much danger as the ship was going as fast as the wind. We run in 30 feet of a pile of rocks plane to be seen [by] any of us. We had just thrown our ankor when there was another ship loaded with soldiers came sailing in and was so unfortunate as to strike this pile of rocks that is spoken of before and in a short time was bent in pieces by the raging waves and the solid rocks but the water was not deep enough to cover the ship Entirely so there was 2 Soldiers lost and 2 sailors found a watery grave here. There was also a number of horses on board, the most of them was drowned. Some swam to shore some was caught by the sailors and hauled on board, the most of them was drowned. This ship was about 6 miles from shore.
This harbor is about 12 miles from Vera Cruz. There is one old Spanish fort here to command the harbor but is no guns on it and it lays about south of Vera Cruz. The storm continued until the 18th so that men could not get on shore. When the wind ceased to blow we was toed out by the ship Alabama and was set on shore the same day. Some of our men went on shore on the 10th at the point of the bayonet and muzzle of the cannon and on the 11th they fought all day off and on. But the Enemy was drove in town into the country. Skirmishes between the Scouts and the pickers was almost hourly brewing while the Mexicans kept up fire on us with their Cannons Bombs and Rockets. All we had to do was to dig breastworks pull at the heavy Cannons in place of Sleep and Stand guard and dodge bombs all day. This continued until the 19th when we had succeeded in getting several heavy guns and mortars set. General Worth gave address to the soldiers the guns to back off and gave them a salute. This was done Immediately the cannons roared from both sides like heavy thunder. We kept increasing our guns and removing more which increased our ball and bomb and rockets which kept one continuous roar. Rose the clouds of smok from the 2 armies run together like one Sealed Cloud.
20th On the evening of the 20th the Enemies guns was some decreased but on the morning of the 22nd they commenced afresh. We still was throne in more heavy guns. There was several large ones took off of the fleet and mounted which was the largest and was only 76 pounders with one 84 pounder. They continued [inserted superscript “did not”] to do not much harm as we had the advantage of several sand mountains the we left behind. On the last evening they killed 4 of our canoniers and wounded 7 others and today they killed 12 and wounded 3 others. At knight their Town was lighted by our Rockets and several houses was set on fire.
28th On the 28th the Mexicans sent out a flag of Truce and begged leave to bury their dead and seemed like a great calm for the time of 12 hours being the time given them for that purpose and at dark our cannons opened on the town again the balls howling through the air like hungry lions in search of prey. The Enemy fired back but slowly. On the 24th the Mexicans General Moralos sent out another flag of Truce stating to General Scott that he would give him 4 days to get his soldiers away from there safe and if he did not do it he would open out on him. Scotts reply was we are ready to receive you on this [illegible] so come ahead. The firing soon boiled with great ambition, The Mexicans gradually dying away. On the 25th they sent out another flag of Truce desiring a conference & Scott gave him till the next day to make a general surrender of all the public property and munitions of war with the town and castle and him and his men as prisoners of war. This he did not like to do. The fire was soon repeated but did not last long until the flag returned. This was done on the 26. The news was the last flag was to grant them 24 hours to consider the matter. This was rejected but gave them until 9 oclock the next morning and at the hour appointed it was agreed to that on the 27th they should march out and stack their arms. As they was unwilling to do it the 28th being Sunday or Sabbath so on the 29 I witnesed the scene which filled my heart with sorry and pity as well as joy to see them pull down their flag and fire their guns as a salute and march out under the mournful musick many of them with their wives and children packing their household furniture by their sides some with tears in their eyes and others begging bread and when they had reached the place appointed for that purpose our Soldiers being formed on both sides of them with their flags floating in the air. The[y] halted and threw down there arms before the invading foe and bowled to our Stripes and Stars 12,000 of them. They also laid the flag of their country at our feet. This looked like it was more than a Republican could do while they had life in them. There was a strong guard placed over their arms and property and they was marched off under a strong guard without their arms and at our mercy. General Scott gave them 4 days and let them go with the Exception of such as he thought best to hold fast.
In the meantime General Worth sent some of his men in town to take possession as he had done the Business of the Day as Commander in Chief and the proud Eagle the emblem of the republick of the United States was raised in different points of the town and on the Castle. I thought I never saw anything look fearless and so mild at the same time almost hidden with the [c]louds of smoke from the many cannon that was discharged as a salute. It appeared from the roaring of the guns there was cannon on land and sea. There was 10 forts around town filled with the best [missing] of guns in the Castle that stood 500 years. The Centre was well fortified with cannon as it could be at any Expens.
April 1847 We Lay here until the 9th of April on the beach and left for Jalappa. This was a desperate hot day and the sand was very deep. We marched 15 miles to a small stream of water. Some of the men died on the way with heat and not more than half of the men got to camp until the next morning. On the 10th we left early and marched 8 miles to a smal river and passed a small town called Santa Fe with some very rich and beautiful prairie covered with Stock of almost all kinds. We marched 12 miles today. Several men died on the road today with heat. On the morning of the 11th we left early and marched 15 mils to the National Bridge. This Bridge is one of the greatest works of the kind in the world. It is altogether of stone and cement. It has 12 arches to support it being of great height. The arches is all that supports the bridge and the bridge is made solid and of great length and to mine [?] this road. The road here runs through some valley here and on one of the largest of them their stands a fort to command the route and large breastworks for musket men and on the other side of the road stands another for the same purpose, well fixed. The morning of the `12th we left early and marched on until about 10 oclock when we lay down to rest. The weather being very hot and we heard the roar of cannons before us that told us there was operations ahead. We was immediately ordered on a double quick march. We all struck off at a turkey trot. We run about ten miles through the heat of the day. This was more than I thought men could do and live. This made 18 miles for us today.
April 9 1847 Today when we came to the river we met General Worth's Division that had camped here over night and had moved on about four miles and was fired on by the Enemy and forced to join his old camps until his strength was increased. Shields Brigade and Pillows came up the same day and General Patterson came up the next day, General Twiggs being in command until Patterson came. And when Patterson came he was not able to take command on account of a fall he had received from his horse. And he gave the command up to Twiggs and a charge on the Enemy was ordered at 4 oclock on the morning of the 14th. But General Patterson did not think it a good plan and ordered Twiggs to wait until the Commander in Chief came on till further orders from himself and that stopped all and saved many lives. Scouts was sent out to find out their positions. On the 15th General Scott came in and on this night a council of War was held as the Scouting parties had discovered a way that might be made possible to get around behind them and General Twiggs was ordered to clear the way around so that there could be cannon around and planted. This was done on the 16 and in doing this we was attacked by the Mexicans and they had a desperate battle. And [After?] a long time the Enemy retreated to a fort that was close by and Twiggs thought it a good time to get possession of that fort and made a heavy charge on it but the Mexicans rallied and fought desperately after contending some time. Twiggs was forced to retreat and he was persued some distance by the Enemy.
But knight came on, the Battle ceased. General Shields was ordered to aid in planting Battery. Worked all night in the rain and darkness of the night a pulling up Cannon up a desperate high mountain that required 500 men to move it while some others was engaged in selecting the wounded from among the weeds. This they was able to do by hearing them mourn. They could not tell the Mexicans from our men so they brought all together. Our doctors treated all alike. The ground was lined thick with the dead of both parties. Lying there other and then passing over a mountain I would first blunder over a rock and then over a dead Man. After much labor we got one cannon a 36 pounder on the Summit of the mountain in view of the Enemy and in about 500 yards of their battery and they found us out and all at once they began to pour the grap shot and canister among us like a heavy shower of hail. But they had to throw them by guess and did not do much damage. In the course of the night we got 2 other pieces planted on the top. These 24 pounders Howitzers.
April 18th 1847 The sun rose clear and pleasant. Many was the men that saw it rise never seen it set. Many brave hearts thrilled with the dread and deserved the [smudged, illegible]. Atact was altered on the over night and agreed upon. The attack was to be made at 3 points at precisely 9 oclock. There was 8 forts. General Pillow with 2 Tennessee Regiments was to stand on the left and 2 Pensylvania Regiments and General Twiggs commanding the Regulars was to attack on the right. General Shields commanding the 3rd and 4th Regiments of Illinois and one New York was to attack on the Rear and cut off their retreat. In doing this he found a fort that was unexpected. As the sun rose the cannons roared and threw such a heavy fire on our Battery that it was very destructive as they was well prepared with Breastworks and they did not stop at t he Battery for the[y] fell among us like a heavy hailstorm wounding men and horses at every shot. But we was rather far from them for their shot to kill many. A charge was ordered sooner than the appointed time on account of the enemy's heavy fire. Soon the roaring of muskets spoke like one voice and carried death with them. Our Brigade had to run three miles under a heavy fire from the Enemy's guns and the great part of the time under a cross fire and at last we found ourselves in a few yards of the unexpected Battery. The wood appeared to be alive with Mexicans from the report of their guns and clouds of smoke that ascended up but they appeared like they did not wish close quarters.
Soon we reached the rode. Their was many Mexicans trying to get off their wounded officers but their mules was shot down before their wagons and soon they fell with them. The Battery was soon charged. It consisted of 9 fuses 4 of which was loaded to the [illegible] with grap and Canister pointed and primed and the Canoniers with the fire in hand to touch them off. But was shot down by our musket men at the Beach [breech?] of their own guns. They was soon turned touched off on the Enemy that strewed the earth with their dead. General Shields was shot down but a short distance from the Battery in advance of his brigade. The struggle lasted about 3 hours before the Enemy retreated clear off. Here old Santa Anna was in a close place but made his escape in a byway that led off through the Chapparal but in order to do this he had to cut one horse from his coach leave it a sleave standing with the others standing fast to it. With his cork leg and two thousand dollars in it there was any amount of provisions and ammunition here clothing stores left for us on our race. I would occasionally look up to my left hand on the top of the mountains where the Regulars was fighting as it was in full view. The Mexicans stood until they charged Bayonets and at last they gave way and I saw them tear down the Enemy's flag and raise their own in a cloud of smoke that run together from both armies like one Solid Fire. Shouts of victory opened in every rank of our Army. I could not tell what was going on in the other Brigades but the constant roaring of Runs told me they had a desperate hard time of it. Afterwards lerned that Pillows Brigade beat back by from the Charge. We have had nothing to eat since yesterday morning and am not willing to eat of Mexican provisions for fear that the Mexicans had poisoned it. But the Boys drank some of their Whisky and struck off after them and persued them 15 miles that night. Overtook many of them and cut them off and took prisoners. As for my part with a number of others was left on detail to take care of the Wounded and bury the Dead---on this night we was forced to make use of water that had run over 2 or 3 dead Mexicans but a short way above us.
On the 19 as I was on a detail expressly to take [missing word] of and wait on the General and I was not kept very busy and took the opportunity to look over the Battle Ground. There was as many men that was not yet dead laying among the dead. We had nothing to eat here and I had not eat anything for nearly 2 days and I was very hungry so I was determined to hunt something and all my chance was to go to my Regiment which was 20 miles off so about noon I stole off took the road with 2 or 3 others. We traveled 15 miles and spread our Blankets on a small stream for the night. Here we met some other soldiers that gave us some Bread.
Early on the evening of the 20th we left for our own Regiment which we found in the city of Jalappa a Beautiful Town well and handsomely built like all of the rest of the Mexican Towns. The Buildings Cement plaster flat roofs and Iron grates in their [missing word]. The soil looks very productive and fruit trees bear in great abundance and the gardens is filled with vegetables of a good quality. The climate is very pleasant and mild and plenty of good cold water. The snowy Mountain is to be seen but a short way off to the Southwest. The Mountains is very numerous in every direction. This seemed more like home than anyplace we have ever been since we left home.
We lay here until the 2nd of May when we received orders to return to Vera Cruz which was a pleasant change of direction to us. We immediately marched as we marched through town where our wounded General was by his request he was brought out on his litter to bid us a final Farewell. As he was not able to stand nor set he lay and waived his hat to us as we passed by and his waiters wiped tears from his eyes.
On the 6th we camped near Vera Cruz and went aboard the steamship Mary Kingsland on the 7th and sailed on the 8th. The sea was calm and smooth and remained so all the time. On the night of the 10th at about 10 oclock I was being near the edge of the boat and was suddenly aroused by a heavy lick on the boat that brushed me and then a splash in the water and on Examination I found it to be a man that fell from the Hurricane deck and went over board.
On the evening of the 12th gave the Mouth of the Mississippi River a salute with several loud Cheers and entered on it. There was several ships there that welcomed us Home by raising their Flags and firing several large Guns. On the evening of the 13th we saluted New Orleans by firing our field pieces that we took at the Battle Ground 26 times loaded with our old clothes. We lay here until the 20th. This day we again stepped on the Happy Shore of Independence. We lay here until the 24th when we was mustered out of the Service and was paid off the next day. And on the 22nd I went on board the Steam Boat Udora and about one half hour before sunset set sail for St. Louis the place that I so long desired to see. And on the 31st I enjoyed the sight. The sun was not more than 2 hours high when I landed. My disease was very painful but one half hour was as long as I could content myself in that Beloved City. By getting passage in a Freight wagon I made 20 miles journey by Midnight and by dark the second day of June I enjoyed the pleasure of meeting family and Friends that I had been from for some time.
Wiley B Smith