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[LEONIDAS LETTER]. UNITED STATES. ARMY. Message from the President of the United States, Communicating in Compliance with a Resolution of the Senate the Proceedings of the Two Courts of Inquiry in the Case of Major General Pillow. August 2, 1848. [Washington, 1848]. [1] 2-635 [1, blank] pp. 8vo (23 x 15 cm), modern navy blue cloth. Interior fine.

First edition (United States 30th Congress, 1st Session. Senate Executive Document 65). Tutorow 1707: “Gideon Pillow was accused of improper release of battle information to the newspapers through a letter signed ‘Leonidas.’ Contains documents and the actual proceedings of the court-martial. Scores of letters and much testimony by Scott and Pillow and several others.”

The Leonidas letter was a succès de scandale that eventually involved numerous reporters and officers. Scott was so offended by the letter that he preferred charges against Pillow, although he did not prevail. The letter first appeared in the Delta on September 10, 1847, under the pseudonym and highly praised Pillow while criticizing Scott. Pillow vigorously denied writing it. As Tom Reilly remarks, “The Leonidas dispute was a dark chapter of the Mexican War for the press and the military. Pillow’s attempts to influence the reporters with offers of aid and favors foreshadowed a practice that became more widespread during the Civil War. But for Pillow, the effort failed. He did not achieve the reputation as a war hero that he sought, and his later attempts at political and military achievement also failed” (War with Mexico! America’s Reporters Cover the Battlefront, Lawrence, 2010, p. 213). Thorough documentation of one of the more scandalous, unusual, and contentious episodes of the entire War.


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