Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Oh, if we had only had one of our little monitors there..."

A lot of people have been visting here to read a post about French politics and Sabine Herold (thank you Captain's Quarters and Publius Pundit). I recently had a bunch of letters written by my great-great-grandparents scanned to an HTML document and since one concerned the French I thought I would post it here. It relates an encounter between the French troops besieged in Acapulco in 1866 and my great-great-grandfather's ship the Constitution (he was a surgeon on board). The broader historical context is at Wikipedia and at Military History Online.

Sept. 2, 1866

We reached Acapulco on the evening of the 25th where I mailed my No. This, the principal city on the west coast of Mexico, is a small place of 155 or 200 dwellings. It is not visible from sea as it is situated on a bay, about a mile square, which is completely surrounded by mountains. This diagram may give you some idea of it when you remember that the mountains reach away above the clouds. I never saw a bay so completely landlocked. You can readily imagine that, being so completely surrounded by such high mountains, there can be very little circulation of air, and, in consequence, it is just about the hottest place I ever got into.

French hold the city by means of a large frigate, but Gen. Alvarez, with a portion of the Liberal Army, is encamped on the mountains overlooking it and holds all the surrounding country, so that it is death for a Frenchman to venture beyond the city limits. This will perhaps give you some idea of the French occupation of Mexico.

It was a splendid moonlight night and the French frigate lying but a short distance from us, some of her officers being on board of us, I went to Senator Nye (who has installed himself as leader of our glee club) and proposed giving the Frogeaters a touch of our National Airs, to let them know that "Uncle Sam" was not asleep, which pleased the old fellow to a T and in a few moments we were together and started up the music the rest of the passengers standing around and joining in the chorus with a hearty good will. We kept it up until nearly 12 o’clock and I’ll just bet there hadn’t been so much Yankee noise in that place for a month of Sundays.

Oh, if we had only had one of our little monitors there (Yankee cheesebox on a raft as the rebs used to call them) and "Uncle Sam" would say "pitch in" boys we would start that Frenchman out there so quick he wouldn’t know what hurt him.

UPDATE: The "Senator Nye" referred to in the letter is James W. Nye, Territorial Governor of Nevada from 1861-1864, U.S. Sentator from 1864-1873. He died on Christmas Day, 1876.

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