1847-48: John L. Sample to William Burgher Howard

These two Mexican War letters were written by John L. Sample (1825-Bef1852) who enlisted in Co. B, 16th US Infantry in April 1847 and was discharged on 7 August 1848. He was described at that time as standing 5 foot 10 inches tall, with blue eyes and dark hair.

John married Sarah A. Elizabeth Jenkins (b. 1829) on 27 November 1849.

He wrote the letters to his cousin, William Burgher Howard (1814-1869) of Benton, Marshall county, Kentucky. William was the son of Stephen Howard (1785-1861) and Mary (“Polly”) M. Burgher (1791-1871)

[These two letters come from the private collection of Adam Ochs Fleischer and are published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Letter 1

In camp on the Rio Grande
3 miles from [ ]
July the 30th 1847

Dear Cousin.

I have taken my pen in hand for the first since I got here to inform you how I am. I had expected one from you is the reason that I have not wrote to you before.

The boys is generally well at this time. Arthur, Perry and William has the yellow jaundice and Sheffield has had the chills though has dismissed them. I have had a spell of the fever though I got well. I am very weak. I came from the hospital about three days ago. I feel sounder now than I have since I got here.

I have no news of interest to [write]. I wrote a letter to Uncle Stephen about 4 weeks ago. I [wrote] to him that [we] was going to Monterrey. We started in a few [days] after. There was two companies went. We had a fine trip of it. We rode all the way in wagons. We went as an escort with a train of wagons numbering 130. It is very mountainous country up there. We could see them 4 days before we would get to them. They look beautiful at a distance. We was 9 days going up and six days coming back to this camp which we had made since we came back—which was the 5th of July.

Taylor’s camp is as beautiful place as I ever saw in my life. The best springs that I ever saw in my life. There is hickory and oak growing there and is all the native growth that I have saw since I have been here.

Zachary Taylor, “Old Rough and Ready”

I saw old Ruff and Ready. He is quite [a] fine looking old fellow. The camp is about 4 miles form Monterrey and it is quite a large place—about 4 miles long and 2 miles wide. It’s quite an old fashioned buildings. The Catholic Church is quite a fine building with quite a number of large bells which is generally annoying ringing. There is no profession here.

We have not much news here at this time though what we have is favorable for peace though you can tell more about what is going on than I can for the army is the worst place to get correct news that I ever was in my life. Some days you will hear that peace is made and the boys will mightily whoop it up, and then we will hear that the Mexicans is recruiting and they will be much down at the heel though they will get over it.

I have no more news at present but I want you [to] write all chances. I think that you have almost forgot me as you have never wrote to me since I left. I want you to tell John to wrote and all my friends. I got a letter from [your brother] Alfred to Henry. You had [not] heard of the death of Henry which we regret very much. He died on the 13th of June. I wrote to Hampton a few days ago. I heard that you was a candidate for constable place, Hampton for the Magistrate place. I want you to write how you come out as I heard that there was a good number running. Send Mr. Smith’s folks word that Charley is well and also Mr. Miller’s that William is well. Nothing more at present. Give my best respects to all. — J. L. Sample

N. B. Tell [your brother-in-law] Alfred [Johnston] to write every chance and don’t forget it yourself. Nothing more so remain yours until death, — J. L. Sample

Letter 2

Headquarters, Monterrey, Mexico
January 28, 1848

Dear friend,

I take this opportunity of addressing you with a few lines to let you know that I am well at present and all the boys of your acquaintance is well. And I am in hopes that these few lines may find you enjoying the same blessing though I have heard that you have had a severe spell of sickness though was recovering. I would like very much to hear from you again though I am in hopes that I will get a letter from some of you before many days as I have not had a letter for more than a month. I have looked till I have almost got out of heart.

William. I have nothing the would be of much interest to you. There is a rumor that the Mexicans had made a proposal for peace and it was sent to Washington for them to be agreed on it. What the proposal was, I can’t say. And whether the rumor be true or not, I can’t say. The news came here by letter.

Location of Black Fort (B) in relation to Monterrey (from Personal Memoirs of US Grant)

We have left the black Fort and come to the city again. Times is as usual here. There will be a large turf race here next Tuesday. There is thirteen horses entered to run in one heat. Col. [John Wooleston] Tibbatts ordered the regiment marched out to the track and let them stack arms and stay till the race is over.

There was an accident happened to one of our men. He was out on patrol and shot his finger off. He was intoxicated. There has been several accidents of this kind before this. There was a man that was drawing his load at mear [?] and his hand had to be taken off.

William, I have nothing more that [would] be of much interest to you. Lieutenant Cr___ left for Surralvo this morning. He is captain of Company G. that are stationed there. Lieutenant Berry is promoted to our company.

William, I want you to write as often as you can and tell all my friends to. I would [like] to hear from you often. I wrote to [ ] about a week ago. Give my best respects to all. No more at present but remain yours truly, — J. L. Sample

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