University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the James LeCompte Bryan Papers, 1846-1848



Descriptive Summary

Creator: Bryan, James LeCompte
Title: Bryan, James LeCompte, Papers
Dates: 1846-1848
Abstract: James LeCompte Bryan of Cambridge, Maryland, served as lieutenant with the First Virginia Regiment of Volunteer Infantry during the Mexican War (1846-1848).The James LeCompte Bryan Papers consist of thirty letters and one fragment written by James LeCompte Bryan between January 1846 and August 1848, to members of his immediate family in Baltimore and Cambridge, Maryland.
Accession No.: 83-381; 84-197
Extent: 1/2 in.
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Note

James LeCompte Bryan of Cambridge, Maryland, served as a lieutenant with the First Virginia Regiment of Volunteer Infantry during the Mexican War (1846-1848). One of five children, James LeCompte Bryan (called Jim) interrupted his medical studies and employment as a teacher in Petersburg, Virginia, to join the army. Bryan served the army in various positions between 1846 and 1848, such as a lieutenant, company commander, second officer of the battalion, acting adjutant, and aide to a colonel.

In the late spring of 1847, Bryan marched from Camargo, Mexico, near the Texas border, to join General Zachary Taylor’s troops. Encamped near Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, he studied the site of the battle for that city, which had occurred the previous September. Under the command of General John Ellis Wool, in the summer of 1847, Bryan marched from Monterrey to Buena Vista, where he toured the site of the decisive battle fought in February of 1847 between Taylor’s and Santa Anna’s forces. Bryan’s company was moved to Parras, Coahuila in late February 1848, and occupied that town until the withdrawal of American troops at the end of the war, in the summer of that year.

Although Bryan saw no combat during the Mexican War, his assignments to Monterrey and Buena Vista afforded him opportunity to tour the battlefields at these locations a few months after the battles; and his high rank brought him into contact with many officers who shared their combat experiences with him, such as Jefferson Davis, Winfield Scott, Zachary Taylor, and John Ellis Wool.

After leaving military service, Bryan returned to Cambridge, Maryland, where he entered the Episcopal clergy and served as rector of Christ Church in Cambridge until his death. He was interred in the churchyard there.


Scope and Contents

The James LeCompte Bryan Papers consist of thirty letters and one fragment written by James LeCompte Bryan between January 1846 and August 1848, to members of his immediate family in Baltimore and Cambridge, Maryland: his father, James Bryan; sister, Mary Bryan; and two brothers, Richard Thomas Bryan (called Dick) and Samuel L. Bryan (Sam). The first six letters, written from Petersburg, detail his activities and financial problems before enlistment. Twenty-four of the letters were written from locations in Mexico. The last letter, from Fort Monroe, Virginia, announced his discharge. The letters have been arranged in chronological order.

Bryan’s descriptions of the leisure time and religious activities of the peasants; the town of Buena Vista; and the Holy Week festivities of Parras, reveal his impressions of the country and the people of Mexico. His letters delineate the deep divisions that existed within Mexico regarding the war. Specifically, his observations of anti-American sentiments and violent attacks from the citizens at Buena Vista contrast sharply with his reports of the desire for annexation by the United States, among the citizens of Parras. The letters also detail his own regret at having enlisted to fight in what he came to call a “grossly unjust war.”

Furthermore, Bryan’s letters discuss his opinions of various officers and historical figures fighting in the Mexican War. His admiration for Colonel Jefferson Davis is apparent from his description of their meeting, while his observations of General Zachary Taylor, as a man, a general, and a potential president of the United Sates, shed light on Taylor’s personality. The letters include accounts of various battles and battlefields, like the battle of Monterrey. Bryan’s account of routine military affairs, expenses and pastimes, desertions, court-martials, and military execution reveal much about the day-to-day experiences and attitudes of the United States troops stationed in Mexico during the Mexican War.


Restrictions

Access Restrictions

Unrestricted access.

Use Restrictions

Unrestricted use.


Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Bryan, James LeCompte--Archives.
Bryan, Richard Thomas.
Bryan, Samuel L.
Bryan, James.
Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889.
Taylor, Zachary, 1784-1850.
Scott, Winfield, 1786-1866.
Wool, John Ellis, 1784-1869.
Subjects (Organizations)
United States Army. Infantry. First Virginia Regiment of Volunteers.
Subjects
Mexican War, 1846-1848--Sources.
Monterrey, Battle of, Monterrey, Mexico, 1846.
Buena Vista, Battle of, Mexico, 1847.
Places
Cambridge (Md.)
Buenavista de Cuéllar (Mexico)--History.
Parras de la Fuente (Mexico)--History.
Monterrey (Mexico)--History.
Fort Monroe (Va.)
Petersburg (Va.)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

James LeCompte Bryan Papers, 1846-1848, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Sara Clark, February 1985.

Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s "History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light" project, 2009-2011.


Detailed Description of the Papers

 

Inventory

box
3S140 Letters:
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Petersburg, Virginia, January 10, 1846
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Petersburg, Virginia, January 10, 1846
Letter to Samuel L. Bryan, Petersburg, Virginia, January 9, 1847
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Petersburg, Virginia, January 16, 1847
Letter to Samuel L. Bryan, Petersburg, Virginia, January 18, 1847
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Petersburg, Virginia, February 18, 1847
Letter fragment, [Mexico], [May? 1847]
Letter to James Bryan, Monterrey, Mexico, June 16, 1847
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Monterrey, Mexico, June 17, 1847
Letter to James Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, July 10, 1847
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, August 5, 1847
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, August 10, 1847
Letter to James Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, August 16, 1847
Letter to James Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, September 19, 1847
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, September 22, 1847
Letter to Samuel L. Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, September 27, 1847
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, October 7, 1847
Letter to James Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, October 17, 1847
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, October 23, 1847
Letter to James Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, November 1, 1847
Letter to Mary Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, November 7, 1847
Letter to James Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, December 19, 1847
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Buena Vista, Mexico, January 15, 1848
Letter to Samuel L. Bryan, Buena Vista Mexico, February 21, 1848
Letter to Samuel L. Bryan, Parras, Mexico, March 4, 1848
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Parras, Mexico, March 8, 1848
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Parras, Mexico, April 21, 1848
Letter to James Bryan, Parras, Mexico, May 1, 1848
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Parras, Mexico, May 5, 1848
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Parras, Mexico, May 22, 1848
Letter to Richard Thomas Bryan, Fort Monroe, Virginia, August 1, 1848