The following letter was written by Pauline DeForest (b. 1840) of Pennsylvania. Paullin enlisted in 1866 at Philadelphia to serve three years in the 3rd US Cavalry. He was discharged at Fort Wingate, New Mexico in 1869 and then reenlisted in 1869 at Santa Fe, New Mexico for three more years in the 3rd US Cavalry. He was discharged on February 17, 1872 at Indianapolis, Indiana, as a first class private. This does not appear to be his final stint in the service, however, as there are subsequent military records for him. He claims to have been a soldier since 1861 but I cannot find any Civil War record for him.
Paullin wrote the letter to Miss Florence H. Crowell of Newark, New Jersey. The content of the letter suggests to me that the correspondents barely knew each other. I believe this may be an example of a “pen pal” arrangement wherein Florence responded to an advertisement placed by Paullin in a New York newspaper seeking a correspondent.
Fort Bayard, New Mexico
January 9th 1867
Miss Florence H. Crowell, Newark, N.J.,
Your letter came to hand on the 29th of last month. You can scarcely imagine the pride it has given me to hear from you but do not deem me impudent for writing again to you. I consider it very fortunate for myself when I get any letters to wile away time. Possibly you may think I am very trifling when I say “wile away time” but you can scarcely imagine the influence a letter from the States has over me. It seems as if I were conversing with one personally and goodness knows that a verbal conversation is more to my taste than that of writing. I have always heretofore considered letter writing a bore. That was the conclusion I had arrived at when I was in the Army before. But now the case is entirely different.
Here one is isolated from friends and civilization entirely while on the other hand only a few hundred miles intervened betwixt myself & friends and communication easy, mails more regular than here. Mails from this Post has to have an escort of not less than ten men, well-armed, and always detailed from the company to which I belong on account of the depredations the Indians commit. They are famous for stealing and shooting who may be on the road and if there were a smaller party with the mail, it would be jumped very quickly. It is only the force that prevents and Indians in this country dread the seven shooters that cavalrymen are armed with. The Indians have been roaming in small parties and are very much enfeebled at present. In fact, the late war in the States has played them out considerably. A great many of them joined the Confederate army in Texas and in this territory and they have been cut up to a great extent.
The late Civil War is in a manner beneficial to the Indian. It has helped to get rid of them and one thing they do know—that the Great Father in Washington is able to clean them out. This accounts for the little or no depredations on the citizens last year. No less than 2000 Navajos submitted to the military authorities and they were sent to Fort Sumner on the Pecos River Reservation about 600 miles east of this place.
Immigration is increasing to a vast extent, principally Mexicans from Chihuahua Old Mexico about 34 miles south. I suppose the Mexican troubles has something to do with this. A large town has been established about 7 miles from here by them called Pinos Altos. The Mexicans you are, I suppose aware of, speak the Spanish language. One not acquainted with the lingo cannot get along with them nohow. In August last, I did not know a single word of the lingo. I am now able to converse with a Mexican sufficiently to get along.
They have a peculiar institution—a national one in fact—called fandangoes which they have nightly and they attend them, all of them from the child up to the old men & women. They dance from the evening until broad daylight and never seem to tire of it. And such waltzing. You will scarcely believe me when I say it is unequaled, not in the States at least. I have seen some of the finest of dancing in the States but they cannot come up to the Spanish dancing. They chiefly dance among themselves. The reason why the Americans do not dance with the señoritas is because the señors have such weighty arguments in the shape of stilletos. They—the Mexicans—are proverbial for their jealousy in regards to their female portion of friends and look with hatred towards all foreigners, and will not allow if they can help it any interferences from Americans.
I am sure no explanation was needed in reference to Mr. McDonald, and I do assure you that I had thought that no young lady of any education would have any correspondence with such an uncouth youngster as he appeared to be, and I think you are justified in saying that he ought to be where [he] belongs. The service does not need renegades; there is plenty yet, I hope, that has an interest in the welfare of this country and that have cause to desert the same. Yet I always feel sorry to hear of any deserting the flag after the government is at an heavy expense to equip them and to instruct them. Then to desert is just as much of an act to defraud the government as those who at Washington or elsewhere are doing by the wholesale. Since January last, there has been 63 deserted from this company alone, and the proportion is just the same throughout the whole Regiment. Now there is 12 Companies and say the average desertion since the beginning of last year is 50 to each company. That would be 600 men in the regiment who have deserted. [If] each one of these deserters generally disposes of his horse & arms, very nearly $400 worth of material belonging to the government, the sum total is a very great loss not only to Uncle Sam but to the citizens tax paying.
I am quite sorry that I have nothing of very importance to write about and as to being an hero, that is entirely out of my range. I have no ambition for such a title. To obtain [it] would cost too much time and too much hard labor. As Artemus Ward says, it is not my forte. There is certain kinds of heroism that is never looked at. Now there is the ball rom dandy. He is a hero who suffers more than he does not near the tightest of calf skin boots and does he not suffer from the fashion that prevail and never so much complains. There is a hero. Again I might write pages concerning heroes both great and small. But my true ideal of an hero is a moral hero who neither mingles with the wine bibbers or bible scoffers—a true, upright, conscientious, God-fearing person, one who loves his enemies who hates him. Very few army men especially. You can scarcely hear of them in the army. General Howard is a true pattern & example for all soldiers.
Another thing before I am done with this letter is to state for your benefit before hand it this: I am afraid I will prove but a sorry correspondent and not knowing any of the people of New Jersey so one cannot gossip is too bad. I only wish I did because there is nothing I am so fond of as gossip. What I mean—news about this person and that person.
You caused me to smile when you alluded to the title of madam. I was not aware that the same is improper for a young lady, but always supposed that it covered all when addressed to the fair sex. Al least I was taught that all ladies, whether old or young, were supposed to be addressed madam as a matter of courtesy. But I hope you will forgive me for my error. I suppose it is the effect of living in this outlandish country and another fact— that of soldiering since 1861. Well, I am supposing & guessing like an down Easter, so suppose you will.
As ever, Paullin Deforest, Co. M, 3rd U. S. Cavalry, Fort Bayard, N. M.