Southern Methodist University

Theodore Laidley Mexican War letters

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Laidley, Theodore, 1822-1886
Title: Theodore Laidley Mexican War letters
Dates: 1845-1848
Abstract: Theodore Thaddeus Sobieski Laidley was an army officer specializing in ordnance, an inventor and author. The letters are from Laidley to his father, John Laidley, of Guyandotte, Virginia written during the Mexican War. One letter to Laidley's brother, W. S. Syd Laidley relates to his activities in the war and his military career. Laidley discusses his piety, the life, customs, architecture, and weather in Mexico, animosity between Army regulars and volunteers, General Winfield Scott (1786-1866) and various Mexican and American military figures. He was stationed at: Brazos Santiago, Texas, Tampico, Veracruz, Cerro Gordo, Jalapa, Perote, Puebla and Mexico City.
Accession No: A1980.0092c
Extent: 2 folders
Language: Material is in English
Repository DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

Theodore Thaddeus Sobieski Laidley was born in Guyandotte, Virginia April 14, 1822. He graduated in 1842 from the U.S. Military Academy and chose a commission in the ordnance corps. During the Mexican War his unit was at the following locations: Brazos Santiago, Texas, Tampico, Veracruz, Cerro Gordo, Jalapa, Perote, Puebla and Mexico City. Laidley received the brevets of captain and major.

At the end of the war, he returned to the arsenal at Watervliet, New York, as Assistant Ordnance officer. Laidley was put on detached service to write a new ordnance manual published in 1862 which served as an important guide during the Civil War. He served on several ordnance boards designing and testing weapons, taking out eight patents. He was later president of the commission to test the strength and value of all kinds of iron, steel, and other metals at the Watertown, Mass. arsenal 1871-1881, retiring in 1882. Laidley wrote government reports and A Course of Instruction in Rifle Firing, Philadelphia, 1879. Theodore Laidley died in Palotka, Florida April 4, 1886. He was inducted into the Ordnance Hall of Fame in 2008.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection consists of two folders. The first contains the original twenty-four handwritten letters written by Laidley to his father during the Mexican War. The second folder contains typed copies of the letters. The letters discuss the progress of the war and the general health of the troops.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 2 series:
Series 1: Letters
Series 2: Letter copies, typed


Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Laidley, Theodore, 1822-1886.
Mexican War, 1846-1848--Personal narratives.
Mexican War, 1846-1848--Campaigns.
Laidley, John.
Laidley, W. S. (William Sydney), 1839-1917.

Related Materials

Mexican War map and account book, 1844-1847, A1980.0038x

Diary, 1843-1848, A1980.0255c

Thomas D. Hodgkin papers, 1877, A2006.0023c

Army portfolio [graphic] / By Capt. D.P. Whiting, 7th Inf'y, U.S.A. No. 1, Ag2002.1439x

The ordnance manual for the use of the officers of the United States army. Edited by Major T.T.S. Laidley. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1862.

Surrounded by dangers of all kinds: the Mexican war letters of Lieutenant Theodore Laidley. Compiled by James McCaffrey. Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press, 1997, E411 L34 1997.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Theodore Laidley Mexican War letters, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

The letters were purchased by Everett DeGolyer, Jr., 1965.

Processing Information

Collection was processed in the 1960s in current chronological order. It is unknown who was responsible for the processing.

Finding aid written by

Anne E. Peterson, 2009.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2010.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Letters
1 folder

Aug. 23, 1845 - Watervliet Arsenal, N.Y. Mention of Gen. Zachary Taylor. Busy packing ammunition and preparations.
Jan. 19, 1847 - Army Headquarters, Brazos Santiago, Texas. Mild hardships, weather description, Gen. Winfield Scott.
Feb. 12, 1847 - Brazos Santiago. Discussion of the enemy. Mention of Veracruz and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Laidley’s future duties unclear.
Feb. 26, 1847 - Brazos Santiago. Concern about winds preventing Gen. Scott and his men from getting to Veracruz early enough in the season to capture the city before men get yellow fever. Laidley’s health is poor. Rumor that Santa Anna will attack Gen. Taylor.
March 11, 1847 - Tampico, Mexico. All troops had left by the time they reached Tampico by ship. Rumor that Gen. Taylor with less than 5,000 men repulsed Santa Anna and his 20,000. Romantic tale of Mrs. Chase (?) dispelled.
March 27, 1847 - Camp Washington, near Veracruz. The army landed on the 9th, and the ship Laidley was on, on the 14th. No resistance. Opened fire on the castle on 22nd. They took the castle on the 26th and expect to go next to Jalapa.
April 2, 1847 - Veracruz, Mexico. Describes the Mexican resistance and withdrawal from the city and castle.
April 11, 1847 - Veracruz. Rumor that Santa Anna is approaching from near Jalapa with a large force. Calls the Mexicans cowardly fighters. No yellow fever yet, but some disease.
April 19, 1847 - Pass of the Sierra Gorda [sic. Cerro Gordo], Mexico. Description of a battle nearby, mention of Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, Gen. North, Gen. David E. Twiggs. Gen. Jose Joaquin de Herrera and Romulo Diaz de la Vega were among prisoners taken, and Santa Anna’s carriage and private property including his dinner and liquor were also seized. Tells of Mexican soldiers lying side by side begging for "agua."
April 26, 1847 - Jalapa. Gen. North pursued the enemy who passed their stronghold merely spiking their guns to prevent North and his men from using them. Mention of delicious variety of fruit in this vicinity. Describes the people as "decent as anywhere," and he tells of a cathedral service without chairs or benches. Rumor that Gen. Zachary Taylor is at San Luis Potosi. Rumor that the Mexicans do not want peace, that if the U.S. takes Mexico City they will change the capital and fight the guerilla warfare. Promoted to first lieutenant.
May 3, 1847 - Castle of Perote in Veracruz state, Mexico, 33 miles from Jalapa. Perote celebrated as the prison of the Santa Fe traders and other U.S. countrymen. Victory after victory seems to make no difference for peace in Mexico.
May 19, 1847 - Puebla. Description of the city, people, and the two mountains in the distance always clad in snow. Prospect for peace dim. Rumors that Santa Anna intends to block them from Mexico City.
June 3, 1847 - Puebla. Gen. Scott, description of the cathedral, plazas, promenades, Sunday services, etc.
Oct. 16, 1847 - Puebla. Description of fatigue after 28 days of siege on Puebla by 8,000 troops of Santa Anna versus 600 U.S. troops.
Oct. 18, 1847 - Puebla. Regarding the siege, his health and his piety.
Oct. 24, 1847 - Puebla. Description of inaccuracies in Gov. Child’s report and exaggeration of the brave deeds of the Pennsylvania volunteers.
Nov. 5, 1847 - Puebla. Sending a draft for $250 on the Quarter Master in New Orleans. The wounded are suffering, many being killed. He is living with a Mexican family. He describes their food.
Dec. 1, 1847 - Puebla. Learning to speak Spanish. He has orders to go to Mexico. His health is not good.
Jan. 11, 1848 - Mexico City. Arrived Dec. 20. Description of an uneventful march from Puebla. Spent a freezing night at the pass of Rio Frio. Mention of how disgusted the officers of the regular army are with the volunteers and the government prosecution of the war without vigor.
Feb. 11, 1848 - Mexico City. Mention of the court of inquiry regarding Gen. Scott vs. Gen. Pillow, and Scott’s interest in the presidency. Peace treaty in the making. Poor health.
March 22, 1848 - Mexico City. Committee of Inquiry – Gen. North has drawn charges against Gen. Pillow and Col. Duncan. Gen. Pillow will probably be found guilty. Guerilla parties still active. Complaints against the drunken democrats (volunteers) again.
April 6, 1848 - Mexico City. Recounts tour of Cortez’s route to Noche Triste. News has reached them that the treaty has been ratified. About ¼ of the whole army is sick. Enclosing $200 check.
May 13, 1848 - Mexico City. Undecided when they will leave the city. Much sadness among officers of Gen. Scott’s departure. Displeasure with the glory of the volunteers.
Undated - Letter from J.W.L. to W.S. "Syd" Laidley, evidently brother of Theodore, describing Col. Laidley’s military activities, career and honors.

Series 2: Letter copies, typed
1 folder

1 Typed copies of original letters dated as above