Letter from Augustus Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, November 20, 1847

  • Posted on: 4 December 2018
  • By: admin
Letter from Augustus Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, November 20, 1847



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Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

Repository:Rare Books and Special Collections


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Letter from Augustus Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, November 20, 1847

action: sent

sender: Augustus Seward
Birth: 1826-10-01  Death: 1876-09-11

location: Xalapa, Mexico

receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1805-09-24  Death: 1865-06-21

location: Unknown

transcription: cnk 

revision: tap 2018-10-31

Page 1


Editorial Note

This letter is copied in Frances Miller Seward’s hand and included four additional letters: January 03, 1848, February 05, 1848, April 02, 1848, and May 01, 1848.
Jalapa Nov 20th 1847
We are encamped about three miles west of the city
of Jalapa in a tent near as clean and pure a stream
of water as I ever saw – It is a great luxury I
assure you, for the water at Vera Cruz and on
our march up was warm and of a muddy
appearance – I am sitting on a Mexican mat and
writing on a box of guns which was in our bag-
gage wagon, and answers the purpose of a
table when we encamp – You undoubtedly
would like an account of my journey since
leaving New York – After being knocked about
in a vessel more than 30 days we arrived at
Vera Cruz one night about 10 oclock – The
next morning the Harbour master came
on board and told us that on account
of the prevalence of the Yellow fever in
the city we could not land there but would
proceed along the coast about four miles
where the troops were encamped – To perform
this voyage we were obliged to leave the Ship
and get into a batteaux holding from 50
to 60 persons each – in these we proceeded
to our landing place – the waves were rolling
very high – when we had arrived about
70 or 80 yards from the shore our boat struck
and we were told that we must jump out
and wade the remainder of the way in
the surf – I jumped out when a wave
came along and nearly took us me off from
my feet, I managed however to reach the
Page 2

shore though perfectly wet through, thinking they
had rather a novel way of landing in Mexico
When all the troops had reached the shore we
marched to the place of encampment and
pitched our tents. Our encampment was
situated on the sand beach 150 yards from
the shore – We stayed at this place about
a week when one day a tremendous high
wind arose, called a “Norther” in this part
of the world – this caused the waves to break
over their prescribed limits; they came foaming
towards a our encampment – we had scarcely
time to take our baggage and move up among
the sand hills, a short distance, before our
old camping ground was covered with water –
After remaining here for a week or more we set
off, with a train of 3000 men and 300 wagons,
for the interior – Our march the first day was
through a sandy uncultivated country, with
little to amuse one; after this it was more
pleasant, being in a higher and more fertile
region – Ten days march brought us to this place
where we have remained until this time –
Six of my classmates and myself constitute
our mess – We live mostly on potatoes and
rice, when we can get it fresh meat – we
have also plantains a fruit which grows here and
is very good cut up and fried like potatoes –
Yesterday we obtained some saleratus which
we were unable to get for some time not knowing
the Spanish name for it – we have had wheat
Page 3

cakes since which are very good – the Mexican
bread is always sour and does not agree with
my taste – They have very little meat in this
country except jerked beef which is always
very tough – the hardest thing for me to dispense
with is butter – the only kind they have being
lard mixed with salt, which I think worse
than none— We have been here two
weeks tomorrow, our object in remaining so long
was to send a train to Vera Cruz for clothing and
provisions; we expect them back every day, as soon
as they arrive we shall set out on our march
again – The city of Jalapa is situated in
the mountains several thousand feet above the
level of the sea, the climate is much cooler &
healthier than on the sea shore, indeed it is
really cold here sometimes – I do not find it un-
comfortable with thick under clothing – The heavy
dews produce this coldness – a piece of cloth left
in the open air during the night will be perfectly
wet in the morning – the middle of the day
is quite warm – We have oranges, lemons and
most of the tropical fruits in abundance, apples
also grown here though very small compared with
ours and have a bitter taste – not much used
except for preserving – Common and sweet potatoes
both grow here – The height of the place renders
the climate intermediate between that of the
Torrid and Temperate zones – Proceeding towards
the city of Mexico we keep ascending until
we reach Perote – then descend to the that being
the highest point –
Page 4

The city of Jalapa contains about 1200 inhabitants
the streets are well paved with round stone similar
to those of our cities, the houses generally one
story in height though there are many two
stories, and some as high as three, the roofs
are made entirely of tiles, I do not think there
is one exception, the floors are made of square
pieces of baked earth resembling our brick, the
composition appears to be between brick and porcelain –
Every thing in this country seems to be made more
or less of a cement which by exposure to the sun
becomes hard as stone; jars, roofs, floors, ditches
and bridges are all composed of this cement
mixed with other ingredients in different quan-
tities – The stones here are all of a soft porous
species entirely unfit for building purposes –
Few of the houses can boast of glass windows,
the opening for the window is the same as ours but
in place of sashes they have bars of wood run-
ning across, a short distance in front of the opening,
inside of which are board shutters, which are used
when it is necessary to close the window, they
are never used however except at night and
when it rains – These windows give the houses much
the appearance of our jails – it looks odd to us, to
see the inhabitants looking out of their prison windows
Those houses which have two stories have a large
square floor in the center, around the sides of
this are doors opening into the different rooms.
The second story consists of a stoop or balcony
in front of the doors of the second floor, this
Page 5

leaves a large square which is uncovered, the roof
extending only over the balcony – This constitutes
the interior of the house, it gives a free circulation
to the air and at the same time a cool and
pleasing effect – The ground floor of this opening
has a fountain in the center enclosed by a low
railing around which are placed plants of different
descriptions – Of course all the houses have not
these luxuries, but those of the wealthier inhabitants.
21st – This is a dull rainy day for this clear
and beautiful climate – I have employed myself
with writing – I suppose Fred
Birth: 1830-07-08 Death: 1915-04-25
is anticipating
his visit home during the Holidays – I
should like to be transported there for two or
three weeks, it is the sixth year that I have
been from home Christmas and New Years –
We commence our march in a day or two
and shall probably be in Mexico New Years.
Our march thus far has been nearly unob-
structed, the Guerrillas attacking only our
rear guard of which some men have been
killed and wounded – The country here
is very beautiful, quite thickly inhabited,
the people consist chiefly of Spaniards, Indians
and a mixture of the two, together with some
Negroes – We passed the Cerro Gordo heights
they are very strong points and seem impregnable
if well fortified – At the National Bridge is
also a very strong fortification, now in posession
of our troops – when in the enemy’s it was a
very formidable obstacle – I wish Frederick
Page 6

would write every thing that occurs, newspapers
seldom get further than Vera Cruz, on account
of encumbering the trains – I have no way of hearing
any thing except by letters – A train of 500 wagons
went down last week, the first large train that
has gone down since the city was captured –
I leave my letters in the post office at Jalapa
to be forwarded by the next train –