Letter written by 2nd Lieutenant Levi White of the 4th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, to his brother-in-law William Goulbert, from a camp near Monterey, Mexico. White writes about a recent battle he was involved in with the Mexican troops at Monterey. He wishes for more fresh vegetables, as he is unimpressed with the varieties grown by the locals. He describes the “strange” way that the Mexicans make cornbread, and writes disparagingly about the way of life of the Mexicans.
Camp near Monterey Mexico Oct 22. 46
I have not before written to you because I am extremely careless about writing, but under present circumstances with nothing to do, and being tired doing it, I suppose I cannot better employ myself that by make you pay postage. I have had the gratification of being in & seeing a battle, but I can assure you there is less amusement in it than might be supposed, especially where we had to stand still and be shot at without being near enough to return the compliment- having been placed in front of the strongest fort in the city to guard a mortar battery that was playing upon the fort while we were every moment expecting a charge from the enemy’s cavalry, with a twelve pound shot dashing amongst us every four or five minutes. But we soon learned to dodge them, and the best of the joke is that the Mexicans, that every time the regiment fell down, they [thought they] had killed us all. And they reported that we had fifteen hundred men killed the first day, and were sure they could whip us next day. But next morning they were surprised to find us nearly all alive and kicking, and at them as fresh as ever.
I wish we had a few of your spare vegetables, as the Mexicans do not raise anything but gourds, pumpkins, melons, and beans, with very few York cabbage. But the soil is well adapted to cultivation of all kinds, as they can water their fields at pleasure, and plant at any season of the year. I had no idea that I would miss the potatoes so much. They do not raise them as far as I have seen in Mexico. I am tired of oranges and pomegranates – everything in the dry goods line is very dear here – the way the Mexicans make their cornbread would seem strange to those who had seen them for the first time. It is by soaking their corn and then rubbing it between two stones, then making it into small cake and baking them upon hot rocks or iron plates. They make plenty of sugar and generally sweeten it. They raise plenty of chickens and some hogs, but their principal business consists in raising cattle. The grass is abundant and green all the year. They use the primitive habits of old Job; they convey their burdens upon a breed of small asses of which they have an abundance, and have them drilled almost as well as soldiers.
The peach trees are now in blossom in some places, but I think we will leave for someplace else before they are ripe. There is plenty of fig trees, but there is no fruit on them now. There is green corn all the time as they raise at least four crops in the year, and some of it beats Kentucky two to one. The Mexicans are rude and ignorant people, and the women are invariably ugly, and approach very near the appearance and character of Indian women, and are generally lousy. They have no furniture in their houses except among those who are wealthy, and very little among them. The rest sleep and sit upon the ground and live extremely dirty. I believe I have written enough for the present, and as I never get any answers to my letters, I suppose I need not ask one from you, nor need you write unless you pay the postage, or it will never travel this far into Mexico, as they do not send unpaid letters beyond Camargo, 150 miles distant, and by the time a letter would come in answer I may be in San Louis Potoci.
Your brother in law,
Levi White is listed as a 2nd lieutenant with the 1st and 4th Kentucky Infantry.