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This webpage reproduces part of the
Philip N. Barbour

G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1936

This text has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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of Major Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Philip Norbourne Barbour

[image ALT: missingALT. It is the official commission of Lieutenant Philip Norbourne Barbour.]

Facsimile of Commission issued to Philip Norbourne Barbour, signed by Andrew Jackson, President of the United States. In the possession of Rhoda van Bibber Tanner Doubleday.

[A larger, much more readable version opens here (1.5 MB).]

 p17  March 28th — Today General Taylor​a encamped with the Army of Occupation on the left bank of the Rio Grande opposite the Mexican town of Matamoras. Hundreds of citizens were assembled on the Mexican side of the river to witness the approach of our troops, and the four columns of the Army filed in front of the town, within range of the Mexican batteries, and took position in a plowed field on the bank of the river without molestation of any sort. The several brigades were ordered to stack their arms on their respective grounds and the Officers and men were permitted to go to the river for water and to have a view of the town and people of Matamoras. In about an hour a flagstaff was procured and General Taylor ordered the "Stars and Stripes" to be run up which was done in a prompt and spirited manner while a band of music struck up our National air. This created a momentary stir among the spectators on the opposite bank. General Taylor then directed General Worth​b to cross the river and deliver to General Mejia a dispatch which he gave him explaining the object of our movement, etc., etc. General Worth after repeated calls for a boat from  p18 the other side (through an interpreter) was informed that his wish to communicate with the town should be carried to General Mejia. After some delay a Mexican Officer came back from Mejia and crossed over. General Worth met him very gracefully and explained his instructions with which the Officer returned to Mejia who replied that if the American Commander in Chief desired a conference with him he would grant it with pleasure, but that he could not consistently with the dignity of his position consent to receive any other Officer. He directed the Officer to add that if General Worth would cross the river he would send General La Vega, of corresponding rank to General Worth, to meet him and receive from him any communication he might have to deliver. General Worth on receiving this reply crossed over with the officers of his staff in the boat of the Mexican Officer and was met with great suavity and grace on the opposite shore by General La Vega, who conducted him to a rude seat about 20 steps from the water's edge, saying that his Chief had instructed him not to permit any of our Officers to go into the town. General Worth then told him that he had a communication for General Mejia and desired to be permitted to deliver it in possible. This was refused and General La Vega said he would receive it for General Mejia. Worth replied that he should be wanting in respect to our Commanding General to deliver the dispatch to any but the Chief in Command on the Mexican  p19 side, but that out of courtesy to General La Vega he would read it to him — remarking at the same time that he withdrew the paper altogether as an official document, General Mejia having refused to receive it. The paper was then read in French by Lieut. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Knowlton, 1st Artillery, and translated by one of General La Vega's staff into Spanish. The purport of this communication was that our troops were here under the orders of our President to take peaceable possession of this country as far as the left bank of the Rio Grande, and that he (General Taylor) was in hopes General Mejia would see nothing in the act to produce hostility between the two countries. General La Vega then said that his people regarded it as an act of war and that they viewed with great indignation our flag planted on Mexican soil. From this he entered into an argument upon the question of territory which General Worth cut short by stating that his object was to assert facts and not to argue them. He then informed General La Vega that he had a communication for the Prefect of the District, who being represented by a civil officer present the document was handed to him. General Worth then made repeated demands to see our Consul, which, being referred at length to Mejia, were refused. The General then inquired if the Consul were in arrest or prison. La Vega said he was not, but was in the full exercise of his functions and that no American citizens in Matamoras were in arrest. General Worth then made another peremptory demand to  p20 see the Consul to which La Vega replied without waiting for the interpretation, "No, no." Worth then said that he considered the refusal of his demand to see the Consul of his Country a belligerent act — that it would be so regarded by General Taylor and he had only to say farther to General La Vega that General Taylor would regard in a hostile light any armed body of men who might cross from the right to the left bank of the Rio Grande, and that he would pursue them and treat them as enemies. General Worth then took his leave and with his staff returned in the Mexican boat to our side of the river. General Taylor approved everything said and done by General Worth and we are all awaiting to see what will be the final result of the business. The Army is encamped in a square, the wagons in the center and the troops on the four sides — a very bad position for defense, but a reconnaissance is to be made tomorrow by Capt. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Mansfield of the ground all about us, and we are to entrench our position without delay, after it is fixed on.

March 29th — This morning we discovered a field work had been thrown up by the enemy during the night, not far from the end of the ferry rope on their side of the river and a 12 pounder placed in it and so pointed as to rake the front face of our Camp. They are strengthening their works all round the town and appear to be very active in preparations, but whether they are offensive or defensive  p21 we do not know. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Duncan's Battery, under mask, has been put in position so as to batter Mejia's quarters and the walls of the fort near them. These have been pointed out by Chipita, our guide, who having lived a long time in Matamoras knows their position. (I omitted to mention that two of our men (Dragoons) who, against orders, had thrown themselves in front of and out of supporting distance of the advance guard were taken prisoner and carried into Matamoras yesterday morning before we reached this Camp.) Our Engineers, Capt. Mansfield and Lieut. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Scarritt, having been engaged all today in reconnoitering, I suppose will present a plan of the Camp and entrenchments necessary so that we will commence the latter tomorrow. The Mexicans are fond of display — they have hoisted no less than four flags in different parts of the city; besides these are flying the flags of England, France and Spain, raised by their Consuls to denote the respective residences of these functionaries, which in case of a bombardment we would be bound to respect. I wrote today to Mattie and had so much to write and so little time that my letter was very unsatisfactory. However she will be delighted to receive it as it is. I wish she could be with me and I had Mejia's fine house for her, then I would be happy indeed. . . .

March 30th — About tattoo last night we received notice that 600 of the enemy's cavalry had crossed the river, and were ordered to sleep on our arms.  p22 The watchword was Texas, and given to every Officer and soldier in the Army. The General, fearing that it might be their object to attack Point Isabel, and cut off his siege train and supplies, ordered a squadron of Dragoons under Capt. May​c to that place while another squadron under Capt. Ker​d was ordered to scout the country over which the enemy would have to pass and report the first signs of him he discovered. Both these commands left Camp at 9 o'clock last night. The remainder of the Dragoons and the Light Artillery were ordered to be in saddle and batteries harnessed so as to move with celerity to any point where they might be needed. The 7th Infantry was ordered to march at reveille this morning to escort the wagons going to Point Isabel and to attack the enemy if he showed himself. Officers and men slept (such as were not on duty) in their clothes. But nothing occurred to interrupt our slumbers. We have heard nothing today from the detachments. A boy swam the river today from Matamoras bringing the General a note from some person there but who it was and what it contained we have not learned. This boy says there are 2800 regular troops in Matamoras and that Ampudia, with 3000 more, will be there in a few days. I have been nearly all the morning on the bank watching the operations of the enemy. They are throwing up another small work adjoining the one near the ferry, — it is only an embankment of earth intended for Infantry. The General sent Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Eaton  p23 with a dispatch for Mejia but he was not permitted to cross the river. Two Mexican Officers came over in a boat and received the dispatch. I do not know what the dispatch is about — probably concerning the two Dragoon prisoners. It has just been reported that one of our men has crossed the river by swimming. He has doubtless deserted. Thank God he doesn't belong to the 3d. The Rio Grande at this point is about 200 yards wide and our Camp is within range of the enemy's artillery of the smaller caliber. In a military point of view General Taylor has committed a blunder, I think, in coming here with so small a force; although I do not apprehend we can be whipped by the Mexican force now on this frontier, yet it is but reasonable to expect that their people will rush in to defend their own firesides, and they might raise an army of 10,000 men in a short time, while we are cut off, not only from retreat, but from all succor. Considering this, it is truly surprising to see with what indifference, not to say contempt, our Officers and men look upon the Mexican battery frowning upon us. No one seems to think a disaster to our Army a thing possible, and most of the Army are impatient and disappointed that General Taylor does not create a pretext for taking the town. The detachments sent out last night and this morning have returned, with the exception of the squadron that marched to Point Isabel, and report no signs of the enemy.

 p24  March 31st — Capt. May returned with his squadron of Dragoons this afternoon from Point Isabel. He reports all quiet down there and no signs of the enemy on our side the river. Received by him a letter from Uncle Levi and one from Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.John Sanders. Nothing has been doing today in Matamoras that we could discover. On the opposite side of the city they are very actively employed in throwing up a work which was seen by a number of our Officers who rode round the bend of the river to look at it. Walked down the river this morning half a mile from Camp and saw a group of Mexican Officers examining our position with a spyglass. This afternoon took a stroll with Smith​e up the river and saw Capt. Dryden,​f the gentleman to whom I had a letter of introduction from Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McLeod. He is staying at a Mexican house (one of the few now tenanted on this side of the river). On our return we went down to the ferry and saw two Officers from the other side who came over under a flag of truce with a dispatch for General Taylor from General Mejia. It was said to be an answer to the one General Taylor sent him yesterday concerning our Dragoons, prisoners in their possession. The Officer who delivered it remarked to Knowlton that those prisoners were three miles in the country and would be sent over as soon as they could be brought in. What the written document, sent to General Taylor, contained I do not know. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Magruder was spoken to today by a person from the other side, saying that three of our men and  p25 a negro deserted to Matamoras last night, and that they would soon wish themselves anywhere else, for all was misery over there. Nearly all the Mexican houses on the bank, probably 20 in number, are deserted and the people have gone to Matamoras for protection. A few families, however, remained on this side and are now reaping the reward of their wisdom in so doing by selling in our Camp poultry, milk and vegetables. The willingness of Mejia to deliver up our two men is regarded as an evidence of a friendly disposition on his part. The Mexican Officers I have seen are polished in their manner and fine looking fellows. But their soldiers are half-starved looking devils and excite in us only feelings of contempt. General Canales is reported to have joined Mejia with about 600 Cavalry (Militia). Had a visit tonight from Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Bliss but heard no news from him.

Thayer's Notes:

a Zachary Taylor: born in Virginia, appointed from Kentucky. First Lieutenant in the 7th Infantry 3 May 1808; Captain 30 Nov 1810, Major in the 26th Infantry 15 May 1814; retained 17 May 1815 as Captain in the 7th Infantry which he declined and was honorably discharged 15 Jun 1815; reinstated as Major in the 3d Infantry 17 May 1816; Lieutenant-Colonel in the 4th Infantry 20 Apr 1819; transferred to the 8th Infantry 13 Aug 1819; transferred to the 1st Infantry 1 Jun 1821; transferred to the 7th Infantry 16 Aug 1821; transferred to the 1st Infantry 1 Jan 1822; Colonel 4 Apr 1832; transferred to the 6th Infantry 7 July 1843; Major General 29 Jun 1846; Brevet Major 5 Sep 1812 for gallant conduct in the defense of Ft. Harrison, Ind.; Brigadier General 25 Dec 1837 for distinguished service in the battle of Kissimmee [Okeechobee], Fla. with Seminole Indians and Major General 28 May 1846 for his gallant conduct and distinguished service in the successive victories over superior Mexican forces at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, Tex. on May 8 and 9, 1846; tendered the thanks of Congress 16 Jul 1846 "for the fortitude, skill, enterprise and courage which have distinguished the recent operations on the Rio Grande, with the presentation of a gold medal with appropriate devices and inscriptions thereon, in the name of the Republic, as a tribute to his good conduct, valor, and generosity to the vanquished;" by resolution of 2 Mar 1847 "for the fortitude, skill, enterprise, and courage which distinguished the late brilliant military operations at Monterey," and with the presentation of a gold medal "emblematical of this splendid achievement, as a testimony of the high sense entertained by Congress of his judicious and distinguished conduct on that memorable occasion," and by resolution of 9 May 1848 "for himself and the troops under his command for their valor, skill, and gallant conduct, conspicuously displayed on the 22d and 23d of February last in the battle of Buena Vista, in defeating a Mexican army of more than four times their number, consisting of chosen troops under their favorite commander, Gen. Santa Anna, with the presentation of a gold medal emblematical of this splendid achievement, as a testimony of the high sense entertained by Congress of his judicious and distinguished conduct on that memorable occasion;" resigned 31 Jan 1840; President of the United States 4 Mar 1849 until he died 9 Jul 1850. (Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army)

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b William Jenkins Worth: born in New York, appointed from New York. First Lieutenant in the 23d Infantry 19 Mar 1813; Captain 19 Aug 1814; transferred to the 2d Infantry 17 May 1815; transferred to the 1st Artillery 1 Jun 1821; Major in the Ordnance 30 May 1832; Colonel in the 8th Infantry 7 Jul 1838; Brevet Captain 5 Jul 1814 for his gallant and distinguished conduct at the battle of Chippewa, U. C.; Major 25 Jul 1814, that being the day of the battle of Niagara in which he was distinguished by his gallantry and good conduct; Lieutenant-Colonel 25 Jul 1824 for 10 years faithful service in the grade of Brevet Major; Brigadier General 1 Mar 1842 for gallant and highly distinguished service as commander of the forces in the war against the Florida Indians and Major General 23 Sep 1846 for gallant and meritorious conduct in the several conflicts at Monterey, Mex.; presented with a sword by resolution of Congress 2 Mar 1847 in testimony of the high sense entertained of his gallantry and good conduct in the storming of Monterey, Mex. Died 7 May 1849. (Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army)

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c Charles Augustus May: born in the District of Columbia, appointed from the District of Columbia. Second Lieutenant in the 2d Dragoons 8 Jun 1836; First Lieutenant 15 Dec 1837; Captain 2 Feb 1841; Major in the 1st Dragoons 3 Mar 1855; transferred to 2d Dragoons 23 Oct 1855; Brevet Major 8 May 1846 for gallant and distinguished service in the battle of Palo Alto, Tex.; Lieutenant-Colonel 9 May 1846 for gallant and highly distinguished conduct at the battle of Resaca de la Palma, Tex. and Colonel 23 Feb 1847 for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Buena Vista, Mex.; resigned 20 Apr 1861. Died 24 Dec 1864. (Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army)

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d Croghan Ker: born in Louisiana, appointed from Louisiana. Captain in the Louisiana Volunteers in the Florida War 2 Feb to 1 May 1836; Second Lieutenant in the 2d Dragoons 8 Jun 1836; First Lieutenant 6 Oct 1836; Captain 8 Mar 1840; resigned 10 Nov 1851. (Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army)

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e Very probably Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Larkin Smith, who was aide-de‑camp to General Worth and only one Class down from Barbour; but possibly Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.William S. Smith, the only other West Point graduate possible. Among officers not commissioned from the Academy, several other possibilities.

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f No Dryden is to be found in Cullum's Register, nor in Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, leaving many possibilities, however: a state volunteer, a Texas rank, a foreign officer, a Navy captain, or a courtesy title. If you have good information, please let me know, of course.

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