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Our First Foreign War
Long before Vietnam, Korea, the Argonne, or San Juan Hill, there was Mexico. As usual, it was the average G.I. who shouldered the burden of our foreign policy and what it cost in blood. This is the very graphic story of one foot soldier, as he told it in letters to his family back home in Massachusetts
June 1966 | Volume 17, Issue 4
After Cerro Gordo, Barna Upton marched with Scott’s army into the series of battles at Puebla, Contreras, Churubusco, and Molino del Key, as the American force moved up the National Road ever closer to the Mexican capital. Upton’s last letter, however, is from Puebla on August 7, 1847, before this latter series of battles, and we therefore have no firsthand account of the part that he played from this point on. The final piece of certain information that is available indicates that he took part in the last charge of the war at the Belén Garita of Mexico City, where he fell mortally wounded shortly before the war ended. Upton’s last letter indicates his premonition that one of the battles that lay ahead would be his last.
City of Puebla, Mexico August 7, 1847
Dear Friends: I will now write a line to inform you that our division marches tomorrow for the City of Mexico. The order came out last night, and I am on guard today, so I cannot write much. I am in good health, and if my life is spared, I will write to you as soon as the Regiment is in quarters.
I received a letter from Elias and one from Father since I have been here. How glad was I to get them, away on a strange and distant land, yet I hope that I shall yet live to return to my Father’s house, but if not, I hope to meet you all in Heaven. I am yours in haste, Barna Upton.
The premonition was all too accurate. The following spring this letter was delivered to Barna Upton’s father:
City of Mexico April 20, 1848
Mr. N. N. Upton Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts Sir:
In answer to your letter addressed to the Commanding Officer of Company C, Third Infantry, the melancholy duty devolves on me of informing you of the death of your gallant lamented son on the 15th October 1847, of wounds received at the Garrita de Belén near this City. He died in the City of Mexico.
Not belonging to the Company at the time of his decease, I cannot say whether he left any effects or money, but the necessary information may be found, no doubt, at the War Department, where you had best write, for there must have been some pay, and his relatives are by law entitled to 160 acres of land, which you should in justice apply for. I was well acquainted with your son from his first joining the Army and have been with him in every fight from Palo Alto to the taking of this City and have to say that a better soldier never served his country or died for it. On your melancholy bereavement I beg leave to offer my condolements to his family. Will you please answer this, and if I can be of any further use to you, please command me, I am, Sir,
Very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
William W. Fogg First Sergeant Company C Third Infantry