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Taylor, Zachary (1784-1850) to R. C. Wood

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00529.05 Author/Creator: Taylor, Zachary (1784-1850) Place Written: Monterrey, Mexico Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 19 October 1847 Pagination: 4 p. ; 25 x 20 cm.

Writes to his son-in-law, a U.S. Army surgeon in Baltimore, about the presidential campaign, with doubt about his chances. In regard to the congressional debate over slavery, expresses his hope that a compromise will be achieved, since the outcome will lengthen or shorten the life of the Union. Written from camp near Monterrey, Mexico during the U.S.-Mexican War.

American strategy was based on a three-pronged attack. Colonel Stephen Kearny (1794-1848) had the task of securing New Mexico, while naval forces under Commodore John D. Sloat (1781-1867) blockaded California and General Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) invaded Tamaulipas, in present-day northern Mexico. In less than two months, Kearny marched his 1700-man army more than a thousand miles, occupied Santa Fe, and declared New Mexico's 80,000 inhabitants American citizens. In California's Sacramento Valley, American settlers revolted even before reliable reports of war had arrived. By January 1847, U.S. naval and ground forces brought California under American control. Meanwhile, the main U.S. army under Taylor took Matamoros and Monterrey.
Although the American invasion of Mexico's northernmost provinces was successful, the Mexican government refused to surrender or negotiate. Switching strategies, President Polk ordered General Winfield Scott (1786-1866) to invade central Mexico from the sea, at Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, to march inland, and capture Mexico City. Zachary Taylor was in Monterrey when he heard reports that Scott's army had captured the Mexican capital. In this letter Taylor, a Louisiana slaveholder who had never voted in a presidential election, discusses early American military successes, the possibility that he might be nominated for the presidency, and an explosive controversy that had erupted in Congress over the Wilmot Proviso. The proviso, an amendment to a military appropriation bill to prohibit slavery from any territory acquired from Mexico, ultimately passed the House of Representatives but was defeated in the Senate.

Camp near Monterey Mexico
October 19th, 1847
My dear Doctor,
Since I wrote you on the 12th or 13,th inst in reply to yours of the 18th & 25th ulto, we have had no arrivals from N. Orleans, the 28th, of last month being our latest dates from that place, & 11 or 12 since any arrival from the city, which seems to me quite a long time, more particularly during the prevailing epidemic [as] I have so much to apprehend on yo[inserted: ur] account who [inserted: is] constantly in contact with it, as well as that of Mrs Taylor, Ann, Billy & the girls who may come over before it is entirely safe to do so; but I hope they will not attemp [sic] it while there is the remotest danger to be apprehended from contagion or disease of an [sic] kind at the Barracks, in the city or at B Rouge; should they come over, & the epidemic should make its appearance contrary to expectation & it is healthy at B. Roug I hope Ann & the girls will go up with Mrs T & Billy & remain with them until you have two or three white frosts, sufficient to destroy every [vestag] of the epidemic, which has prevailed during the sumer [sic] & autum [sic]; which I presume has pretty much subsided by this time, as it was very much on the decline when you last wrote; & I presume the city is beginning once more to fill up by the returning inhabitants as well as strangers; especially if you have ha[inserted: d] any thing like [fromst] which is usually the case about this time or a little before. If so I hope Mrs Taylor will soon be safely located at [2] B. Rouge & Ann & the two girls with her, or with you, & out of danger at the Barracks.
I have not heard any [inserted: of] the particulars as regards genl Scotts taking posession [sic] of the City of Mexico, all we have heard relative to that affair, is that [strikeout] he was in quiet posession [sic] of that place, & the Mexican army had dispersed; & I presume there will hardy [sic] be an other battle; that Santa Anna had gone no one knew [wher], in the direction the Pacific, & it was supposed he would leave the country; this is Mexican news, & Mexican conjecture I make no doubt however you have [ere] this, [inserted: have] all the particulars, connected with that affair, us we get every thing of importance from that [potion] [sic] of the Army [struck: of importance &] which can be relied on, by the way of N Orleans; I presume a treaty of some kind or other will grow out of our taking the City, & laying it under contribution, which the Mexicans say has been done; & should [inserted: we] acquire any considerable quantity of territory, it will produce great strife in the Senate, whenever such a treaty is laid before that body for their action; the Wilmot proviso will shake that body to its center, & [inserted: how] it is all to end, time must determine; but I hope some compromise will be entered into between the two parties slavery & anti slavery which will have the effect of allay violent passions on both sides, which will have the effect of perpetuating instead of [wraking] [sic] or shortening the Union-
[3] Judging from some of the news papers received here by the last mail, in addition to a private letter addressed [inserted: to] me by a prominent whig, evidently to pre[inserted: pare] me for such an event & intimating that it would be expected that I would acquiesce in the same should it be done to bring Mr. Clay again before the country as a candidat [sic] for the presidency; in which I observe [struck: the] some of his bitterest defamers at the last election, are lending their aid to bring about such an event; their object being to divide & sow dissensions among the Whig party, which if they can succeed in doing, will insure the election of [inserted: one of] their own way of thinking; how far Mr Clay has or will countenance such a movement, I am unable to say, & am not so certain but what he has given it his countenance, if not his sanction; for contrary to his usual bold & frank action in all such matters, he has been unsually [sic] reserved on this subject, which satisfies me he is holding or keeping aloof so as to be able to take advantages of circumstances; evidently still desiring the office; & it seems to me more anxious for office than for the interest of the country, or the success of the Whig party; I have not answerd the letter referred to, or others I have received from various individuals in regard to this matter, nor shall I do so; for while it is to me a matter of perfect indifference whether I am even elected or not, I do not intend any party shall use me as a convenience; if dropped I intend to stand a loof, & let Whigs & Democrats [manag] this matter in their own way - I [4] understand the Editors of the National Intelligencer have thrown out feelers in one of their late numbers in regard to the movements in favor of Mr. Clay - Depend on it there [struck: are to] [inserted: will] be great changes in the complexion of political affairs between now & the end of this next session of Congress; the Whigs as a party between ourselves, I look upon as doomed, the Democrats greatly out maneuvering them. I am gratified I took the position I did, which was not to be the exclusive candidate of any party; & if [inserted: I] am elected at all, it will [inserted: be] by a union of a portion of Whig Democrat & native votes. At any rate I occupy a position & shall continue to do so I hope, that if not elected, I shall neither be mortified or disapointed [sic].
My love to Ann & the children if with you, or when you write or see them, as well as best wishes to the boys for their success & prosperity when you write them - & wishing you & yours continued health & prosperity I remain truly and sincerely your friend
Z Taylor
Surgn R. C. Wood
N Orleans Barracks
N Orleans

P.S. I still contemplate leaving leaving [sic] here on the 8th, of the coming [moth] for [struck: Camargo] Matamoros to award them the action of this dept, on my application for a leave; which I hope to hear from by the 20th.

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