TAYLOR, Zachary. A group of four very extensive letters vividly reporting on the Mexican War, the Battles of Buena Vista, Palo Alta and others, all to an unidentified officer ("My Dear General"), comprising: TAYLOR. Autograph letter signed ("Z. Taylor") Matamoros, Mexico, 24 May 1846. 4 pages, 4to. -- TAYLOR. Autograph letter (incomplete at end), "Head Quarters Army of Occupation or Invasion, Agua Nueva, Mexico," 8 March 1847. 4 pages, 4to. -- TAYLOR. Autograph letter (incomplete at end), "Head Quarters Army of Occupation, Camp near Monterey Mexico," 20 August 1847. 4 pages, 4to. -- TAYLOR. Autograph letter (last line and signature trimmed away), Monterey, Mexico, 24 October 1846. 6 pages, 4to. TOGETHER 18 FULL PAGES, closely written. Minor repairs along some folds, in a half blue morocco folding protective slipcase.
"...BY ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT I TOOK POSSESSION OF TEXAS....": TAYLOR'S FIRST-HAND ACCOUNTS OF HIS VICTORIES IN THE MEXICAN WAR, INCLUDING BUENA VISTA, AND DECLARING "I HAVE NO ASPIRATIONS FOR THE PRESIDENCY, OR TO BE EXCLUSIVELY THE CANDIDATE OF ANY ONE PARTY"
..."MUZZLE TO MUZZLE, SABRE TO SABRE, & BAYONET TO BAYONET..." A very remarkable and extensive series of letters, to an unidentified officer, describing in considerable detail all the major actions of the Mexican War in which Taylor commanded, from the first hostilities on the Rio Grande to his upset victory over Santa Anna at Buena Vista. 24 May 1846: Written just three weeks after victories at Palo Alto (8 May, the opening battle of the Mexican War) and Resaca de la Palma (9 May) and some 10 days after President Polk declared war. "...By order of the President I took possession of Texas the last of July...and located my command at Corpus Christi..." He was ordered to occupy the left bank of the Rio Grande but was not to cross "unless the Mexicans should make war..." Inevitably, by late April, hostilities ensued, as Taylor narrates, at Palo Alto: "...the enemy opened his batteries on us...he made two attempts to charge with his dragoons and lancers...in both of which he was handsomely foiled...it was for the most part an affair of artillery...." The battle "was one of the most exciting scenes that can be imagined..." The next day, Taylor assaulted Mexican positions at Resaca de la Palma: "...both sides were closely engaged, & after a severe contest which lasted for two hours...[the enemy] was...put completely to rout & pursued to the bank of the Rio Grande...In this well-contested affair...cannon was opposed muzzle to muzzle, sabre to sabre, & Bayonet to bayonet..." He recounts his crossing of the Rio Grande to occupy Matamoros, and speculates "whether or not our Govt. will carry the war into the large cities...or confine it to the Valley of the Rio Grande...I will do all in my power to carry out fully the views & instructions of the govt...."
24 October 1846: 21-23 Taylor describes his hard won victory at the Battle of Monterrey, glossing over his command errors, his controversial truce terms and the atrocities committed by his army at the fall of the city: "[T]he town was found to be well fortified...the plan was to take out their advanced works...the other command had succeeded in carrying the works on the west end...which opened the town to them...driving the enemy...from street to street into the principal plaza or public square adjoining the great cathedral..." The bloody street-fighting and heavy shelling convinced General Ampudia to ask for an armistice, which Taylor granted, though he admits his terms "may be considered too liberal by many at a distance" (In fact, Taylor was widely criticized--even by Polk--for the liberality of the armistice). Taylor details a war strategy he believes should be adopted by the American forces to win victory, leaving the surrendered territories "to be taken care of by the Texians."
8 March 1847: From the Headquarters of Taylor's "Army of Occupation or Invasion," Taylor gives a vivid account of his brilliant victory at Buena Vista (23-24 February), the turning point of the war. This victory, and Taylor's famous battle order to Braxton Bragg ("Give them a little more grape, Captain Bragg") crowned Taylor a national hero and assured his election as President. He writes: "It has pleased divine Providence once more to crown our arms with one of the most extraordinary victories..." Even though Gen. Winfield Scott had detached most of the American army to march on Mexico City, "leaving me to defend a line of near 400 miles..." A far larger Mexican army under Santa Anna advanced on Taylor; Santa Anna's demand that Taylor surrender or be destroyed was declined. "[T]he action commenced & continued along the side of a steep mountain until dark..." The next day, fighting was resumed, and Taylor reports it was "much the hottest affair I was ever in..."; at "the most critical moment a battery of horse artillery [Bragg's?]...met our exhausted men retreating...& opened on the enemy then within fifty yards in hot pursuit & soon compelled them to retire..." The outcome "was extremely doubtful, & I was advised to fall back...night again putting an end to the contest..." The next morning they discovered Santa Anna "had retreated during the night..." Loss of men, he reports, "was very great." He hopes "our country will be satisfied with what we have accomplished by compelling a Mexican Army of 20,000 men completely organized & equipped...led by their chief magistrate...to retreat in great confusion..." As to Scott's actions, he adds, "I leave Mr. Secretary [of War] Marcy & Gen. Scott to solve...."
20 August 1847: Taylor acknowledges that "my humble name has been mentioned in connection with "the chief magistracy of the country, to which office I have never aspired....." He is grateful for advice on "important political questions which have divided the two great parties Whigs & Democrats", and reports receiving hundreds of letters "relating some way or other to political matters, connected with the coming election for the Presidency...." He has felt obligated to reply to these, and expresses concern that "in the hurry of the moment," he may not "have been sufficiently guarded as to the precise language used...as may be the case in my letter published in the Signal...which I understand is making some little stir among a few rabid newspaper editors & politicians." He did not, he reports "intend to indorse fully the opinions of the editors" although "the organ of the White House...has laid hold of said letter with great avidity...." On one question in particular, "I have been very explicit": when asked whether he belongs to the Whig or the Democratic Party, Taylor reports "I have stated, I have never meddled with political affairs, not even so much as having voted for one of our chief magistrates [Presidents], before or since I entered the Army, which was near forty years." But, he adds, had he "voted in the last Presidential election, it would have been for Mr. Clay in preference to his opponent...." He reiterates that "I have no aspirations for the Presidency, or to be exclusively the candidate of any one party"; moreover, "I doubted my qualifications, to discharge properly the duties connected with that important office...yet if the good people think proper to elevate me to the highest office in their keeping, I will serve honestly and faithfully to the best of my abilities...If I ever occupy the White House it must be by the spontaneous movement of the people and by no act of mine...."