WEST POINT: CLASS OF 1839 (HENRY L. SMITH) The recent West Point graduate writes to a classmate, discussing other members of the Class of 1839. No fewer than 9 classmates, including future US Army General

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The recent West Point graduate writes to a classmate, discussing other members of the Class of 1839. No fewer than 9 classmates, including future US Army General -in-Chief Henry Halleck and other future Union and Confederate generals, are mentioned, along with Secretary of the Army Poinsett and Chief Engineer Totten. A letter with remarkable associations!
Autograph Letter signed: "Henry L. Smith", 4 pages, 8x10. Machias, Maine, 1839 July 30. To "Michael S. Culberson/U. S. Army/Charmbersburg/Penn." In full: "I have no idea that our long intimacy should now be broken off by laziness, or from any other cause, which might lead me to neglect you. This writing is slow business to be sure, after a fellow has been riding in a rail car, but we must [Latin phrase, un-translated]. I have not found any time to spare yet, nor do I believe I should if I should remain a year. Therefore I take this time from other duties (which to be sure are less important, but you know a person will use anything as an excuse to consider for not writing. I see from the published orders that you are in the Arty & Thom in Top Eng. [topographical engineer]. How is that? Why not in Dragoons? Did you see Poinsett? Did you go to France? & when? I shall think, if you do not go, that is a queer affair as regards Major L. I do not say mind you that I should be surprised; & no, I know too much for that. You have seen too how they have served Stevens. He had work cut out for the whole summer, & expected to visit me, but old Totten has told him another story. He & Butler were ordered to duty "forthwith', for this reason. Halleck, Gilmer & myself who are to be at West point on the 28th Aug., have cause to congratulate ourselves on our good luck. What in the world will they make us do at the Military Academy? 'Oppression' of course will be the order of the day. I bear my fate like a Philosopher. Are you aware that I did not see Haile after all! I had a spree almost equal to that of ours when we were in Stonington. I paid but $1 passage to Providence. I wanted to keep on to Boston in the car, but at the way bus - 18 miles, I persuaded myself to say 'no' when asked if my baggage was going to B. Went to Hotel where I was informed the stage had left. Must go somehow - took another stage which carried me within 4 to 5 miles. Had a darned hard ride, but very pleasant company. Stage left me at a 'hotel' (Hotel is a dangerous word to use in the country; we, you know, came near losing a dinner by it once). After dinner I grasped my staff, buttoned back my ears (as Haile says), & was just bidding adieu to the 'travelers home', as my eye caught the flying coattail of a Pascoagian. I enquired for Haile. 'Had left Pascoag that morning. I jumped up and struck myself together (6 mins.or less). "how' I asked 'can I get to Haile'? Take stage for Providence tomorrow afternoon from here - next day the stage for Haile'. Yes, I said, and if I go towards home I may see my own folks before I can get by this journey. I walked back to P. at once, arrived about dark - next morning took car for Boston. I spent one Sunday at Andover with Stevens. Took a packet for Eastford - was out in all the great fire which they had there. I then had about 30 miles of stage travelling, when I found myself in very comfortable quarters. My dear fellow you must write to me soon. I feel anxious to hear about your prospects. I shall feel mad if they have given Thom a post which properly belongs to you. If you receive this in time to let an answer reach me at Machias by the 15th of Aug. please direct to this place; if it be not so, I shall be found at West Point & I will call at the P. O. at N. Y. City. I should be very glad to meet you at the P. on the 28th of Aug., but I suppose you will hardly be able to be there. I shall expect to meet Haile, excess indeed (it would appear0. The fates have decided to the contrary. Hebert (cruel fellow) appears glad that I have to return to the home of the oppressed. I hope that you will not forget me in my sorrows. To kill a little of my disgust, I now think that I shall take my sister as far as N. Y. perhaps to W. P. I do home that they will not oppress girls - as much as they have done. So if they choose, I shall beat it, as I have always determined, for one year. But I yet pledge my good right hand that a slav e for life I will not be. Please bear that in mind, and yes - hope to see me a freeman. Culbertson have you been homesick for West Point yet? I have not felt the least sorry. I get along very comfortably and could spend a year after the same fashion. I have promised to carry my sister to Calais tomorrow (40 miles), but an old hunter wanted me to go up the river with him after dawn. I am going now to make my excuses to sister and beg off for a few days. I am almost ugly enough to wish that you had been ordered to W. P. I would be very pleased to have one of my class mates with whom I have been so intimate. But this may not be. H? my old friend will be there. I did not tell you that the deer are very thick and [?]). The hunter killed the extra day with two moose. One of my cousins with another fellow went up river & killed another moose. (It weighted about 700.) When I return from my home I shall chronicle the remarkable event & let you peruse it. I went up in a canoe a few days since & saw 2 deer & 3 bears. I saw the bears one at a time. One of them was only about a rod from me. You must consider me mistaken. Believe me your affectionate friend." HENRY L. SMITH of Machias, Maine, was one of 31 US Military Academy graduates in the Class of 1839. Smith spent most of his military career as an engineer, improving harbor defenses in Louisiana. He left no martial record of note. His classmate and friend Michael S. Culbertson resigned from the Army after two years, became a missionary in China, and translated the Christian Bible into Chinese. "Haile" was Christopher Mason Haile, who entered West Point with Smith and Culbertson but dropped out. He married Paul Hebert's sister, however, settling in Louisiana and publishing popular humorous letters under the name of "Pardon Jones". He died in 1849. George Thom engaged in boundary survey work and worked on New England harbor construction. He served in the Mexican and Civil Wars. Isaac L. Stevens surveyed the northern route of the transcontinental railroad, became the first territorial Governor of Washington, and - as a Union General - died at the Battle of Chantilly. Robert Q. Butler taught at West Point, but died within four years of graduation. Henry W. Halleck became General-in-Chief of the US Army during the Civil War. Jeremy F. Gilmer fought in the Mexican War and became Chief Engineer in the Confederate Army. Paul O. Hebert served with distinction in the Mexican War, was Governor of Louisiana (1853-1856), and a Confederate general in the Civil War. "Poinsett" was probably Joel Roberts Poinsett, US Secretary of War (1837-1841). (He had previously served as a Member of Congress and the First US Minister to Mexico.) "Old Totten" was certainly Joseph Gilbert Totten, Chief Engineer of the US Army from 1838 until his death in 1864. (He also had supervisory duties at West Point during Smith's tenure there. Totten planned the successful siege of Veracruz for General Winfield Scott during the Mexican War. A letter with remarkable associations for students of US military history! Two horizontal and two vertical folds. Lightly creased. Lightly worn. Otherwise, fine condition.

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