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Auction 13: A Few Good Maps & Manuscripts

Lot 18

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18. [OVERLAND DIARY: CHIHUAHUA & SANTA FE TRAILS, BATTLE OF SACRAMENTO]. GLASGOW, William Henry. Two original manuscript overland diaries recording two trips made to Mexico and the Southwest during 1842-1843 and 1846-1848, documenting the Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trails, Northern Mexico, the borderlands, and the Mexican-American War (especially the Battle of Sacramento). (1) The first diary, which commences October 27, 1842, and ends on January 1, 1843, consists of 120 pp. in pencil (12mo, original green diced roan diary with front flap, worn). This appears to be a diary written on the spot. (2) The second diary, consisting of 144 pp., in ink (4to, original three-quarter diced purple roan over marbled boards, corners renewed) is entitled Memorandums of a trip through Mexico in 1842 & 1843 and covers the period from December 1, 1842, to May 6, 1843 (130 pp.), and August 1846, to April 27, 1848 (14 pp.). The second diary appears to be a more finished reworking of the first diary, with additions, done shortly after the Glasgow’s travels. Other than binding wear, both diaries are in excellent condition and legibly written. Accompanying the diaries are transcripts, map of route (traced over Emory’s 1844 map), photograph of original painting of Glasgow, and other useful related research material. All preserved in a custom green cloth slipcase. Provenance: W. Merrill Glasgow, great-grandson of William Henry Glasgow.

     For more on Santa Fe trader William Henry Glasgow (1822-1897), consult Mark L. Gardner’s Brothers on the Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trails (University Press of Colorado, 1993). Gardner’s book contains the letters of William Henry Glasgow and his brother Edwards James Glasgow; the present diaries are referred to in Gardner’s book, portions are summarized, and the last 14 pages of the second diary are included in the appendix. While some materials have been published from these two diaries, there is much left to be mined, especially Glasgow’s valuable record of northern Mexico in the 1840s. A full understanding of the history of the United States requires a knowledge of our neighbors and the interaction between border cultures, especially U.S.-Mexico where great contrasts exist. Marc Simmons in his introduction to Brothers on the Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trails comments on the historical value of the writings of the Glasgow brothers:

[A major topic] that has received insufficient attention has to do with the biographies and business practices of the chief figures involved in the Missouri mercantile firms that engaged in active trade with the northern Mexican provinces. The lives of these men, who were wedded to the so-called commerce of the prairies, proved to be anything but humdrum. Although they devoted much time to their account books, juggling the profit and loss columns, they were also men of action, periodically abandoning their writing desks to follow the hazardous trail leading to Santa Fe and distant markets beyond.
     Among the leading exemplars of this class of western American businessmen were the Glasgow brothers of St. Louis—Edward James and William Henry. Often mentioned in passing by early-day writers concerned with the Santa Fe trade, the Glasgows have never been the subject of a detailed study devoted exclusively to them. That has been a glaring omission, for not only were they prominent in international commerce but they also played a role in events surrounding the conduct of the Mexican War in New Mexico and Chihuahua... Studies of individual merchants—their practices, successes, and failures—remain one of the last untapped areas for Santa Fe Trail research....

Through his remarkably candid, animated, historic, and well-written diaries, William Henry Glasgow sheds light on the Santa Fe traders, his business ventures, exciting and sometimes dangerous travels in the borderlands (including the dreaded Jornada del Muerto), and encounters with various cultural groups, such as hostile Native Americans and grisly Texas Rangers. Glasgow documents his travels embarking from St. Louis in October of 1842, to New Orleans, thence to Tampico, overland across Northern Mexico to Mazatlan, north to Chihuahua, along the Rio Grande via El Paso and New Mexico and east along the Arkansas River back to Missouri. Many overland diaries are prosaic and sparse. This is not at all the case with Glasgow’s diaries, which are superbly written and engaging. “It is not simply the historical record contained in the Glasgow writings that makes them important, however. Just as priceless is their reflection of nineteenth-century values and attitudes, the cultural baggage they and others carried to the farthest reaches of Mexico” (from Mark L. Gardner’s introduction, Brothers on the Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trails). Some idea of twenty-year old Glasgow’s sparkling and ingenuous prose may be inferred from his entries, such as the following description of sailing from New Orleans on December 1, 1842:

This evening at five o’clock my ‘compagnon de voyage’ (Mr. Boyd) & myself found ourselves on board the schooner ‘Virginia Antoinette’ rapidly leaving the far famed city of New Orleans behind us. Our accommodations appear not entirely unexceptional, we have however no trouble in finding the berths assigned to us there being but 6 in the entire cabin 2 of which are occupied by the ugliest old women it has been my good or evil fortune to see for some time.

Glasgow’s detailed descriptions of the towns and cities he visited and the scenery and architecture he viewed provide excellent documentation on the borderlands. His rich, fascinating observations on the people he encountered and their customs and activities present excellent social history. For instance, upon arrival in Santa Fe on April 1, 1843, Glasgow records:

Was never more disappointed in my life than in this town. Having heard for many years of Santa Fe & the great trade of that place I expected to see a place of some importance & was astonished at the wretched collection of mud hovels which compose the town... In the Center is the Plaza upon which is built the Governors ‘Palace’; said palace being a long house one story in height built of mud & white washed upon the outside. A few moments after arriving we sent word to the Governor [Armijo] that we desired to see him & were shown into his august presence... The governor is a large fine looking man of about 50 years of age, very portly, has a high & wide forehead & a penetrating eye.

One rather remarkable feature of Glasgow’s diaries is how young he was to be engaging in complex, challenging international trade and perilous travel. Here is a brief abstract of his long entry from February 18-19, 1843, describing arrival at the small village of Jesus Maria in the mountainous hinterlands of Northern Mexico:

I rode at once to the Custom House & was very hospitably received of the chief officer, who kindly told me his house was at my service, which offer I gladly accepted & was shown to my ‘room’... After considerable difficulty we succeeded in arresting & removing about ‘20 game chickens’ by which it was tenanted, & after sweeping out, getting my dinner, & disguising myself in a clean shirt & some presentable broad cloth, I sallied forth to call upon my friend Don Marian de Valois, whom I found yawning in his front door... Upon getting up in this morning found myself arrived at my 21st birthday, little did I think a year ago that I should pass the day in such a rat hole as this. Who can tell where I shall pass the next one, or what changes may occur in the mean while....

Glasgow leaps from one exciting (and at times dangerous), adventure to the next throughout his vigorous diaries. These situations often reflect the clash of cultures in the turbulent borderlands of his time. As an example, here are brief excerpts from Glasgow’s entries for April 8- 13, 1843:

Mexico being at this time engaged in a war with Texas, we had received notice in Chihuahua of an expedition having left Texas for the purpose of capturing any Mexican property that might be found upon the plains in Mexican territory. Having no desire to get into difficulty upon the account of others, we felt disposed to part company with the Mexicans & let them move on in advance of us.... This morning was called up by our Captain to hold a council of war. He stated that he had been waited upon by a delegation from the Mexicans, requesting us to allow them to join our party, and asking of us protection from the Texians, who they know were lying in wait for them. That they could not fight the Texians, and anxious as they were all to go to the United States, unless we agreed to their request they would all return again to their homes. Here was a nice mess of pottage brewed for us—Upon the one hand, by making common cause with the Mexicans we were certain that we should have a skirmish with the Texians, and upon the other hand, we knew that if we refused them protection & they returned to Santa Fe in consequence, it would be a hazardous business for any of our countrymen to visit that place afterwards. We accordingly chose what we considered the least of 2 evils & told them to come on and we would make common cause with them, upon the express stipulation that our wagons should always travel in advance of theirs and that they should herd their stock separately from ours.

In the diary of his later travels in 1846-1848, Glasgow describes the segment of his journey from Santa Fe to Chihuahua via Valverde and El Paso and back through the Saltillo-Monterrey region. Glasgow’s status as a civil trader provides an unusual perspective on the northern campaign of the Mexican-American War. Glasgow and his party were forced to follow in the rear of the conquering U.S. Army of the West, while being vexed and frequently endangered due to regional tribes, the local Mexican population and even the U.S. Army and “a dozen ragged cut-throat looking Texians.” Glasgow comments:

Our prospects for money making, were however not very flattering. We found War existing between Mexico & the U. States, Santa Fe, and New Mexico in possession of the U.S. Forces. Genl Wool in the U.S. levying 5000 men to invade Chihuahua via Texas and expecting to reach Chihua about October. Our goods having been selected for the Chihuahua market were of course unsaleable in Santa Fe... Awaiting news of the arrival of Genl. Wool in Chihuahua, we received information that the Mexicans in El Paso del Norte 140 miles below us, headed by a Priest had organized a force of 600 men for the purpose of paying us a visit and possessing themselves of our wagons, mules & merchandise... 18th December. At this date Col. Doniphan with his regiment of 1000 volunteers passed us on his way to join Genl. Wool and we followed under his protection. On Christmas day at an encampment 40 miles above El Paso called Bracitto as this regiment was encamping, news was brought to Col. D (who was amusing himself with a game of cards) that the Mexicans were in sight... As all the news received from Chihuahua confirmed a report we had received that the Mexicans in strong force intended to give us battle and as Col. D’s regiment numbered but about 1100 men before leaving the Del Norte River 50 miles below El Paso we formed our merchants and Drivers into two Companies of infantry and on the 11th Feby were mustered into the Service of the U. States by Col. D. Having had the honor of being elected 1st Lieut of Compy. A of this Battalion I borrowed a sword...and felt myself very large while strutting about with an old sabre cracking my shins—Our Battalion was drilled 3 times, during those 3 several drills I found my sabre of considerable inconvenience to me, it having a singular propensity to entangle itself between my legs and on several occasions came near causing me to measure my length upon the ground.

After a rousing description of the Battle of Sacramento, Glasgow remarks:

Thus ended the great battle of Sacramento, which covered with glory & military renown the immortal Doniphan who had about as much agency in producing the result of the engagement as my old mule—The list of killed & wounded upon the side of our troops was 2 killed & about 30 wounded. To say nothing of my own loss of 5 oxen which had their legs taken off by cannon balls—Upon the part of the Mexicans 25 were killed and as many wounded. This account differs somewhat from that published by Col D in his official report to the Secty. of War in which he estimates the killed 300 & 300 wounded.

Following a thirteen-month sojourn in Chihuahua, Glasgow turned homeward, accompanied part of the way by a company of Texas Rangers:

Having grown pretty tired of Texian escort and mule back traveling, we set out at daylight this morning and rode rapidly through a fine fertile Country for 23 miles to Camargo, the head of Navigation on the Del Norte River and the grand depot for Govt. Stores. Soon after arrival our eyes were once more rejoiced by the most welcome sight of a Steam Boat... We arrived at Matamoras on the eveng of the 25th... We rode over to Point Isabel 9 miles distant and found accommodation in an old Steam Boat converted to a Hotel. At 5 oclock this afternoon [April 27, 1848] we left in the Steamer Fashion and after a pleasant trip across the Gulf on the evening of the 31st was once more rejoiced to find myself upon the levee in N. Orleans.


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