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Pingenot Auction, Lot 204

TWO LETTERS FROM A WAR HERO—WRITTEN FROM THE FRONT

204. [MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR]. DUNCAN, James. Two autograph letters, written from Matamoros (July 23, 1846) and Mexico City (December 8, 1847), to his Uncle, Isaac Faurot, Esq. at West Point, New York. 3 pp., 4to, integral address (with ink postal marking "Pt. Isabel July 26 jf" + 2 pp., 4to, integral address (ink stamp postal marking). Creased where formerly folded, else fine.
         Fort Duncan, Texas, was named in honor of Duncan (1831-1849), a hero of the Mexican War, who served as Brevet Colonel, 2nd Artillery Regiment, and Chief of Artillery, 1st Regiment. He was awarded honors for gallantry at the Texas battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de Palma, as well as the Battle of Monterrey. Duncan’s brilliant management of the artillery battery played a significant part in defeating numerically far superior forces at the battles of Palo Alto and Buena Vista, and was instrumental in the U.S. victory at Churubusco. See John S. D. Eisenhower, So Far From God: The U.S. War with Mexico, 1846-1848 (New York: Random House, 1989, pp. 354-55) and Smith & Judah, Chronicles of the Gringos (pp. 437-40) for an account of the conflict between Generals Worth and Scott that prompted Old Fuss & Feathers to arrest Duncan for writing letters subsequently printed in the New Orleans Delta, which Scott felt undermined his heroshipness. Several of the maps found in Item 211 below (SED1) refer to Duncan.
         Extract from Duncan’s letter of July 23, 1846, written at Matadors: When you write to me please to direct your letter Head Quarters of the army of Occupation Mexico as I cannot say where it will overtake me. I leave this place tomorrow, or rather day after tomorrow for Camargo situated about 120 miles by land up the Rio Grande from Matadors, the distance by water is about 300 so crooked is the river. There are steamboats navigating the river but my command has to march on account of the difficulty of transporting my guns and wares on boats. Camargo is to be a large depot of supplies, whence the army, when ready for a forward movement, will move upon Monter[r]ey, which is situated nearly south from Camargo, at the mouth of the principal pass through the Sierra Madre mountains. I do not anticipate any interruption by the enemy, of my march, from here to Camargo, though, from the bad state of the roads, and the hot sun, the march will doubtless be unpleasant.
        
Extract from Duncan’s letter of December 8, 1847: Before this reaches you, you will have seen all the details of our struggle in this Valley of Mexico that put us in possession of the Capital of the nation. Peace has not come of it, nor can the wisest man tell when it will come. I passed through the different battles without a hurt - and enjoy excellent health. After we got in the city I applied for a leave of absence to come home, but the Gen. refused it to me. I do not know what the official reports say of me, but trust that my friends will be satisfied that the part assigned to me was reasonably well performed. You see from the papers that I am in arrest - but I hope to come well out of my trouble - one thing is certain I ought to come out of it well - and that is not only a consolation to me but to my friends.
($
500-1,000)