Special Collections Note:   This file consists of transcriptions of 8 letters from Henry Force to Peyton Randolph in the John T. Harris Papers.,
SC 0089, Box 4, Folder 1 (microfilm reel 5).  Added to the Harris Coll. with permission of Erin R. Jones. NOT ON MICROFILM.


The Letters of Henry C. Force

A Member of the 1850 U.S. Boundary Commission Survey



Edited by Erin R. Jones





James Madison University

Hist 491

Editing Historical Documents

Dr. Dorothy Boyd-Bragg

November 29, 2004


Introduction to the Letters of Henry C. Force


By Erin R. Jones

Fall 2004


This collection consists of eight letters spanning a period of four years. The first letter is dated November 1848 and the last August 1851. All of the letters were written by Henry C. Force  to Peyton Randolph . The first letter in the series was written while Force  was attending Columbian College, today George Washington University, in the Alexandria area. There is a lapse of two years, then a letter appears dated August 1850 written from New York City. Force  wrote this letter just before his departure for Texas as a member of the survey team for the U.S. Boundary Commission. Another letter was written during the trip from New York to Texas. The bulk of the letters are from the years 1850-51 and are written from various points in Texas and New Mexico. [1]

The letters are located in the Randolph  papers in folder 1 of box 4, series 5 in the John T. Harris  papers collection on microfilm reel 1475 in James Madison University’s Carrier Library. They are also available in original form in the library’s Special Collections, but, due to their fragile nature, use of the microfilm version is preferred. The transcription of these letters has been undertaken as a project for Dr. Dorothy Boyd-Bragg ’s Hist 491 course in documentary editing. These particular letters were chosen as a result of the suggestion of Chris Bolgiano , Special Collections librarian at Carrier Library. She suggested transcribing some letters from the Harris  collection. The Randolph  papers subseries looked promising, and the letters from Henry C. Force  were found within these papers. These letters were very intriguing and promised to be worth transcribing. The Randolph  papers came into the Harris  family when Mary Elizabeth Randolph, Peyton Randolph ’s daughter, married John T. Harris , Jr. [2]

Peyton Randolph  was born 1833 in Washington, D.C. to James Innes Randolph , a congressional clerk, and Susan Armistead Randolph . He attended Columbian College with Force . After his graduation, he worked as an engineer on railroad projects in Virginia, Indiana, and Alabama. At the time of the outbreak of the Civil War, he was in Mobile, Alabama. He enlisted there and served as engineer in Pickett’s Division. He had achieved the rank of Major by the end of the war. Very little additional information is known about his life, despite the large collection of letters written to him. He continued in the engineering profession after the war and married Mary Fisher . He died on November 28, 1888. [3]

Henry C. Force  was born on May 13, 1832 in Washington, D.C. He was the son of Peter Force , a historian who wrote a documentary history of Virginia, and Hannah Evans Force. Force  joined the United States Boundary Commission in the late spring of 1850. [4] The task of the commission was to go to the newly acquired territory in the Southwest and, by extensive surveys, settle the dispute over the United States - Mexico border. John Russell Bartlett  led the commission. Force  was one of the approximately one hundred men appointed out of 283 applicants to go on the commission. 105 members of the commission set sail from New York on August 3, 1850, aboard the Galveston. Force , however, sailed with Bartlett  and a small group of officers aboard the steamer Georgia on August 13. [5] They sailed first to Havana, Cuba, where they changed ships. The second ship, the Falcon, was considerably lower quality than the Georgia, being extremely dirty and crowded. The group changed ships a second time at New Orleans and traveled from there to Indianola, Texas. From Indianola three parties were formed to make observations from there to El Paso. Force  was assigned to the magnetic and astronomical party under Lieutenant Amiel W. Whipple , chief astronomer of the commission. His duties were basically those of a meteorologist: observations of the weather. [6] In his Personal Narrative, Bartlett  states that Force , “the indefatigable officer in charge of the meteorological department attached to the astronomical party of Lieutenant Whipple , ascended to the highest summit of the Bufa del Cobre, near our encampment, with a barometer, and ascertained its height to be 7997 feet above the level of the sea and 1801 feet above the valley where we were encamped.” [7]

The commission wintered at El Paso. Lt. Whipple ’s party stayed at San Elizario, six miles south of El Paso. [8] By April, the commission moved on to an abandoned settlement called Santa Rita del Cobre where the Mexicans had mined copper. At this site, the surveyors lived in abandoned adobes. In Santa Rita, the commission received visits from Mexicans and Apaches, including the Apache chief, Mangas Colorado . Two visiting groups brought captives. Bartlett  assumed the responsibility of ensuring the return of these captives to their homes. By late August, Force  had returned to El Paso. However, the main body of the commission did not return to El Paso until later, and then traveled back to California to winter there. [9]

A map of the area surveyed by the Boundary Commission. Map taken from Robert V. Hine’s Bartlett’s West: Drawing the Mexican Boundary.


This particular transcription of the letters of Henry C. Force  contains the eight letters written from November 6, 1848 to August 20, 1851. The collection contains more of his letters, but in consideration of the requirements of the project and mainly due to time constraints, only letters from the first folder in the Randolph  collection were transcribed. These letters may be considered of significance to people interested in the survey and establishment of the U.S./Mexican border, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Bartlett -García Conde  Line, southwest exploration, the frontier, the Apache, Texas/New Mexico history, travel in the mid-nineteenth century, astronomy, meteorology, and topographical survey during that period.

One of the few difficulties encountered in this transcription project was that of identifying the numerous individuals mentioned throughout the letters. These people are often mentioned only by a first or a last name. As much as possible, they are identified in footnotes. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to find information on a person identified by their first name only. Even the individuals mentioned by their last name are often difficult to identify. In this project, most members of the commission mentioned in the letters have been identified to some degree. Friends and family back home are usually mentioned with no specifics about their whereabouts. Force assumed that his reader knew who they were and where they lived. Since most of the friends mentioned were old schoolmates, records from Columbian college would be one of the few places they could be identified. However, access to the school records is not possible at this time, so these people will, for the present, remain merely names.

The letters were transcribed as exactly as possible from the originals. Improper spelling, punctuation, and capitalization have not been corrected in order to remain as close as possible to the manuscript. Force often used carets, ^ , to insert additional words above a line of writing. He also occasionally drew a line through (struck-through) words he no longer wished to include in the letter, and some words were underlined. Thanks to modern word processing capabilities, superscripted, struck-through, and underlined words have been kept as they appeared in the original letters. Force  had consistently good handwriting and there were no illegible words. Editorial comments in the transcription are enclosed in square brackets [ ]. The following is a sample of one of Force’s letters in his own handwriting.


This edition of the letters of Henry C. Force  is not definitive. It is a work in progress with much room for expansion. There are many more letters in the Randolph  collection to be transcribed and much more information to be gathered on Force  himself, as well as the numerous people, places, and events mentioned in the letters.




Alexandria Va Nov. 6th 1848



Dear Peyton :1

If you get this in time, and still intend to come down to-morrow; I wish you would see Bob Keyworth , and ask him for Nixon ’s ring; tell him that Nixon  told me to ask you to bring it down; he gave it to Bob  to have a set put in it.

      Two of our boys, or rather men, because they are over 21 have gone home to vote for old Zack.2

      There is no fuss here about the election.

                                               Henry C. Force

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When you come down, walk in the gate, go in the first door on the left hand side, along a passage a few feet, up three steps, then turn to the left, up ten steps knock at the door on the right hand side ask for any of the scholars and they will appear.

                                                                                               Henry C. Force


New York city August 12th 1850

½ past 10 o’clock at night

Northwest corner of

Room No. 182

Astor House


Dear Peyton :

I delivered your letter to Ned Murray  this morning.

      We sail tomorrow afternoon at 3 o’clock, on the steamer Georgia a large Chagres packet. The Captain and at least two of the three Lieutennants hail from Washington and the Surgeon3 was born there.

       At Havana we will probably have to wait 4 or 5 days for the steamer Falcon on which we will go to New Orleans.

      That indefatigable bore as you call him, that fellow that had money enough to bring him on here, but not enough to carry him back, has arrived here, has seen Mr Bartlett ,4 and ––––––––– is going.

I was looking over my mail last night, and I missed that letter to Knight , those two to Mowry , and the first one I received for Martin Johnson ,5  the one that you said your aunt Lucy wrote & she said she did not They may be in my valice but I think that they are in Washington.                                               Henry C. Force6












Steamer Georgia at sea off

the coast of Florida

August 17th 1850



Dear Peyton :

I thought I would come down and write to you but it is so dark in my state room , which is about 8 ft. square & 6 high lighted by a bull’s eye7 6 in. in diameter, is too dark so I will go up on deck again.

18th Aug. 1850

     I have no doubt that you have been picturing me to your fertile imagination, with one hand on my forehead, the other hugging the bulwark, ejecting the contents of my stomach into the Atlantic. Now I don’t like to disappoint any one, and therefore I am sorry to say that I have done nothing of the kind. The fact is though we had a very hard gale the first night out (the captain says it was as hard a one as he ever met before) and a very hearty sea the next day, I was

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not sea sick; I only felt bad about the stomach for something less than a day.

     I saw a great many sights yesterday, plenty of sharks, porpoises, flying fish stingalls8 and gulf weed, I also saw several suckers,9 3 or 4 pilot pilot [sic] fish and 2 or 3 turtles.

     We have been running down within 3 or four miles of the florida coast all the morning.

Havanna August 19th 1850.

I had a fair chance to judge of the climate of Cuba today. Aboard the Georgia I had to stand in the sun with out a breath of air stirring, 3 or 4 hours to make a list of the boxes of instruments as they came out of the hold, and to see that they were handled carefully, and after that I had to see that they were handled carefully when put aboard the Falcon. You may know that that was not very easy work, because the men that put them aboard were Cuban, and did not understand a word of English but by means of signs I made them understand.

      We have made an exceedingly poor change, from the Georgia to the Falcon, the Georgia was a first rate vessel, and

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was kept very clean, but the Falcon is decidedly the dirtiest vessel that I have ever seen, the sides of the state rooms are literally covered with cockroaches.

      The Captain, Mate, & Clerk I believe are very clever men, but I fear that if we had

not impressed the waiters at first with our importance, we would have feared


      The boat that brought our wagon & medical tent aboard capsised just as it came

alongside, the wagon itself floated but the wheels and tent poles sunk^Aug 20 a man

dived down this morning and brought one of the wheels up above the water then buoyed it there, he says he will bring them all up for $25, I don’t know whether Mr. Bartlett10  will give it to him or not.

New Orleans St. Charles Hotel 23rd Aug. 1850

       I have not got time to say any thing except that we got here about ½ past 11 o’clock last night & we leave tomorrow at 9 AM.

There was a man on the boat with the Yellow Fever all the way from Havanna but & no one knew it until we got nearly to New Orleans, the officers kept dark about it. I have got orders to go 2 miles up the river, I do not know 10 steps of the road &

it is dark.

Henry C. Force


I need not have been in such a hurry after all for those orders have been countermanded. Henry C. Force .

[written along left margin]:

P.S. No. 2. I know that this is a hard looking letter but I have been so busy that I had to

write by piece meal, and ––– but I will make no more excuses.     Henry C. Force


Victoria Texas Sept. 7th 1850


Dear Peyton :

I did not write to you from Port Lavaca as I promised because I did not

go there. I remained in camp at Indianola 5 or 6 days but could not get a chance to

write until a few minutes before I left, then

I wrote home    From Indianola 3 parties, leveling under Mr Bull ,11 Topographical under Mr Vaudricourt ,12 and Magnetic & Astronomical under Lt. Whiple ,13 will observe all the way from to El Paso & will get double pay.

     I am in Mr Whiple’s  party and have for my duty for the present to observe at sunrise, Noon, and sunset & if I can at 2 PM the Barometer, attatched, detatched thermometers, the thermometer, the kind, quantity and direction of the motion of the clouds the force & direction of the wind & the general appearance of the day. Don’t you think I will be a meteorologist before I get home?

     Dr. Johnson  desires to be rembered to all of you, and by the way, as sure as there is a road house on the road Johnson  is there, he always manages to find out the most comfortable place.

    The boys have left for the river (Guadalupe) and as I have not had a swim since I

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left Washington I must go.

Tell Bill Gurley  I have not forgotten him & I will write to him soon.

Let the folks at home know that you have heard from me, & tell them to pay the postage on the letters if they should write because after I pass San Antonio I will not get them if they don’t.

                                   Henry C. Force14



Devil’s Camp on Devil’s river Tex.

 Sunday Nov. 3rd 1850


Dear Peyton :

You see Pey I keep my promise to write every chance I get. I sent a letter to Eddy  a few days ago by a train that we met, and now I will send one to you in the same way.

      We left our camp at the Painted Caves yesterday morning about day-break expecting to go to the California Springs, making a pretty good march of 16 miles. Our ambulance according to instructions kept in advance of the train; when we got to California Springs we met part of the surveying party, they told us that the springs springs were dry and the Col. had gone on ^ 19 miles farther.

       Our train was at this time coming in sight over a hill about two miles behind us and Col. Craig’s15  train about the same dis. ahead pas going through what they call the North Pass. We kept on went through the pass up a long and steep hill over a very

good shell road; we expected when we got on top of this hill to see a long plain before us where we might find some water, but we were disappointed, we could see nothing ahead but hills and hollows: and to make it worse the road became not only rough, but rocky, and the mules were in a hurry to get to camp as well as we. Going down these rocky hills ^ as well as up, the leaders (about the tw smartest two little mules in the whole train) would pull ahead all they knew how, the off wheel mule, a lazy old brute, big ^ and strong enough to pull

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the whole load himself wanted to lie down in the road, so Betty the near^saddle mule wheel mule had to hole the wa ambulance back by herself, for Miller ’s hand being very sore where he was kicked by the aforementions lazy old brute ^he could hardly hold back the leader. Well this rocky road continued up hill and down hill, and we continued going over it. Just as the sun was setting we met Major Myers , the Quarter Master standing by the side of the road. We expected him to tell us something about the camp but he is not on good terms with the Lt. 16 and dislikes all the Lt’s party so he did not speak a word. Well we kept ahead and just as it was getting dark we met two of the blacksmiths: Miller  hailed them and asked where the camp was. They didn’t know any thing about it except that it was not in that neighborhood. In this way we kept on uphill and down hill, and whether we were on top or at the bottom there were still hills on both sides of us. Every now & then we would imagine that we saw the camp fires and once Miller  and myself both were certain that we saw the escort’s train halted about half a mile down the hill that we were on but before we had gone 100 yards we found that we were right abreast of what we thought was the train and it was nothing but a heap of rock.

      We kept on, Henning  & Kettlewell  holding onto the sextant and barometer, and I helping Miller  to keep the road in sight, until about half past 8 o’clock when we ^again thought we saw the camp, but Miller  said that he did not think it was because the mules would know it sooner than we would: he had not finished speaking before the mules set up a general snort. We had come up to the cavy  yard, and the Col’s ambulance and could hear Col. Craigs  train we followed them about a half of a mile and got into this camp about 9 o’clock, and found that we had come 41 miles. About half an hour afterwards

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the train came up. We stopped here today to let the mules rest.

       Dr. Johnson  told me to tell you that he received a letter while we were at Turkey creek dated the 21st (Sept.) he has had so much to do that he could not get a chance to answer it.

       I am writing in Mr Chandler’s17  tent and I can see that he is in a hurry to get to bed so I will only tell you to remember me to all at home &.c.

                                                    Henry C. Force

P.S. We expect to meet another train in a few days, perhaps I will write by that.



Camp on Live Oak creek Nov. 12th 1850

       I was so busy that I did not get a chance to send the above by the train that we met, but we have now met Major Sprague ’s18 train so I will make additions and send it by this one.

       Hard times just begun with us at the Devil’s camp, (this is the name of the place, not given by us; I must say however, that it is a very appropriate one) all the time that we were there a Norther was blowing, and the whol camp was like that avenue used to be on a windy day. The day we left there some of the party among whom was Dr. Johnson  remained behind with their baggage to wait for the ox teams in order to lighten our wagons so that we could push ahead. We went that day about 8 miles up the Devil’s river ford and camped on it after fording it 6 times. The next day we went about the same distance crossed it the same number of times and camped on it again. If there ever was a bad day this was one, it was as cold as we ever have it in Washington and it was raining, just a little more than drizzling, with the wind right ahead. That night night [sic] I will never forget. I went to bed pretty early and soon got asleep but I did not sleep long, in about a half an hour I awoke, my india rubber

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poncho was fl which I use as a blanket was flooded and there was not a dry thread in my blankets. In the morning when I came to examine I found that there was a road running under my side of the tent made by some of our wagons the day before, down this road

ran a stream of water and at my feet there was a hollow which collected it until it became full, then it began to spread. In the morning about a dozen fellows who had also slept rather poorly during the night came to look ^at my bed to see if I had had as hard a time

of it as they had, they all gave in that I must have slept worse than they did.

       We remained in camp all that day. There was a small fire in a great many of the tents and a large one in front of all, every person was busy drying coats and blankets. It rained so much during the day that I had not my blankets entirely dry before night. But when night did come I slept mightly comfortably in the ambulance with Miller  our

teamster and have slept there every ^night since excepting 3 or 4 beds that is the most comfortable bed in the camp.

       The next day we went about 18 or 20 miles and camped on without water, the next day we went about the same distance to Howard’s Springs which instead of being springs is a creek.We went about 20 miles the next day and camped about a mile off the road on a small water hole, and the next we came 10 or 12 miles to this place.

We are now only about 7 miles from the Pecos river which has been  to cross which we expected to have to make a bridge of the wagons on account of the depth, and rapidity of the current, but we hear from Major Sprague ’s folks that we can ford it without much trouble. It is con This river is considered about half way between San Antonio and El Paso. It is a miserable day and I don’t feel like writing. Let all the folks at home know that I am well and getting on finely.

                                                     Henry C. Force19



Recd April 15th 1851     by the hands of Mt. Johnson  M.D.20

To be answered

San Elciario21 Texas Feb. 9th 1851


Dear Peyt :

I have just finished a letter to Eddy  and I am very sleepy but I know

that if I don’t write to you Dr. Johnson  will blow me up before he leaves here and when he gets home you will blow him up; so to prevent both these sad occourrences I suppose I must write something. Don’t expect much though for the sentinel posted at the barracks gate just across the street, has sung out “half past ten o’clock and all’s well” and I have got to get up early to-morrow morning in order to leave here by sunrise, about seven o’clock, ton a mule, and ride up to White’s  ranch, 22 over thirty miles, to carry a letter to the Lieut.; and the prettiest part of it is, that I have got to come back the next day.

Since we have been here, two or three men

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have been killed. One of them named Clarke , from Rhode Island assistant Quartermaster to the Commission was killed with a knife, the principal murderer escaped but they caught three and having been tried by a judge and jury were found guilty of aiding and abetting the murder and consequently they were hung; 23 but Dr. Johnson  will tells you all about that and anything else that you wish to know about the Commissioners or any of its members, so good night Peyt ; tell Charley  that I haven’t forgotten that this is his birthday. I can keep my eyes open no longer Peyt  so Good night

                               Your sincere

                                         friend &.C.

                                                Henry C. Force    


Santa Rita del Cobre N.M.24

June 29th 1851



Dear Peyton :

I received your letter dated Nov 13th a little more than 7 months after you sent it: it must have lain in the post office at San Antonio nearly at least 4 months, hereafter please direct via Santa Fé.

      I had^saw a beautiful sight last night. Day before yesterday we moved our camp up here from a few hundred yards below; while we were pitching our tents our cook made a fire which accidentally set the grass on fire, it ran up the side of the hill and around it up to Ben Moore where the pine trees caught: last night the whole side of the mountain was covered with scattered burning trees. One cañon (pronounced canyon a valley worn down the side of a hill or mountain, or between two by water is called a cañon) in particular was exceedingly light, we could not distinguish the seperate trees but the whole cañon seemed to be one sheet of flame.

      I am going out now to look for Mr. Thompson ’s mule which broke away last night.

[page 2]

I have been out for Mr. Thompson ’s mule but did not find him I think he must have gone back to the cavyyard on the Mimbres. I borrowed Mr. Thompson ’s rifle and started up the left hand cañon. I gone came across two horses grazing about a mile up: about a half a mile farther I started a deer, a large black tailed buck, I was not thinking about any game and had my rifle slung on my shoulder: before I could get it ready he was over a little hill to the left. I ran up to the top but could see nothing of him. The deer out in this country are so hard to kill I concluded it would be of no use following him with only one load, so I started up the cañon again after the mule. I went about 3 miles farther then went over a hill to the right into another cañon and down that to camp seeing nothing but two more horses.

      A party of Mexicans came in the night before last who had been down on the Gila trading with the Indians, they brought in a Mexican girle25 that they bought from the Apache who had taken her prisoner nine months before. The Commissioner by virtue of his office as Indian agent has taken

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her to send her home to Santa Cruz which is about nine days march from here a little to the South of West.

      Yesterday a party of Apaches were in here among them Mangus Colorado  (red sleeve) who is head chief of the whole tribe. They had two Mexican boys26 with them, one had been prisoner about seven years, the other only about six months. They watched their chance and ran away and hid themselves up on the hills: one of our men found them there and brought them up to the Commissioner, who refused to give them up until he had counciled with Gen. Conde27  the Mexican commissioner, to whom he will propose an exchange of prisoners, for the Mexicans as well as the Apaches have prisoners. An express was sent down to the Gen. Conde  whose camp is on the mimbre about 26 or 30 miles from here. He came up this morning and they are now holding a council. Mangus Colorado  did not come in as he promised yesterday, which augurs badly for for [sic] us. It is the opinion of a great many here that he will declare war; if he does we will fare badly for he can bring enough

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warriors in here at any time to “lift the har, of every person in the copper mines in a half an hour28

      Tell that pretty, sweet girl that I shall certainly return as soon as possible which I expect will be in about two years from now. But in the mean time I claim the privilege of returning that kiss^and but as I cannot be there myself I appoint you my representative to perform the ceremony. Now that I have appointed you to such an enviable office I think you can do nothing more than tell me her name. 

I am sorry that the retreat has changed its name because the name Loafer’s Retreat is so intimately associated with pleasant remembrances. ‘Twas there, we planned our swimming excursions to the Shady Hole, the Point and the Sycamore, ‘twas there that we made up our fishing parties to go across the Long bridge and into the Pine woods, ‘twas from there that we started on our trips to the Little falls, and ‘twas there that we used to meet to relate our sufferings and hardships under the rule of Old Joel  & Old Ben  and meditate and argue and plan the best way to evade their laws.

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      But since the name has been changed to Student’s Retreat I only hope it will prosper and deserve its present, as well as it did its last name.

      But to change from the Sentimental to the Sensible, I merely beg leave to remark that the best thing Bill Titcum  could do would be to knock a few of you fellows down and make you behave a little better toward him. Remember me to Bill .

        If                                      June 30th

       If you had been out here on the frontier Peyt  and seen as much of Military posts and Military officers as I have, West Point would (6 ½ candles for 13 men for 10 days, our cook has just brought them from the Commissary’s29) be the last place you would wish to go to. If you should graduate in the Engineer you might lead a right pleasant life the greater part out on surveys like this, the rest of the time in Washington. If you should graduate in the artillery you will live more comfortably than in any other branch of the Army, because you will be stationed at the forts and fortresses on

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the sea-board where you would have a plenty of company and society. But if you should graduate in the Dragoons or Infantry (in this part of the world they call the Infantry dough

boys) you had better cut your throat at once for you will be stuck out here on the frontier in some little Mexican town in an adobe house with mud floor, mud walls and mud roof with nothing to do but loaf round smoke puros or a pipe drink Commissary whiskey go to fandangos and occasionally send out parties to catch deserters.

                                     July 6th

       I learn from letters from home that you sister Nannie  is married. I expect to go out to the Indian camp in a few days and will try to get an Apache squaw to dress for her a bridle present, I suppose it will come rather late when I get home, but better late than never.

Remember me to all, and believe me to be the same

                                                 Henry C. Force30




El Paso Texas Aug. 20th 1851


Dear Peyton :

We got in here yesterday after being out three months from San Diego.  They sent us off from here last year just before the fruit was ripe, but we hit it this time, pumpkins, squashes, tomatoes, onions, green corn, cantelopes, water melons, peaches,

pears &.c. &. c.&. c.&.c. &.c. but they all give way to the grapes, we weighed two bunches and they weighed a pound each: and such nice grapes they are too; just imagine yourself now Peyt . in this tent with this on the other side of this half bushel of them which we bought for 2 reals, (25 cents) don’t it make you mouth water.

        As you have taken up Engineering I hope you have given up your notion of “mounting the buttons.”

        Good for Yates  remember me to him if you correspond.

        True Peyton  I forgot to send you a recipe

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for raising a mustache. Well I have made no experiments but after long & mature deliberation I have concluded ––––

                                            ’Though perhaps not the best, one way, to raise a mustache is, with a brush or some other material place upon the upper lip a quantity of diluted Sulphuric acid or other substance, sufficient to remove the skin from the part of the lip which is desired to be covered with hair; then procure from the mustache, whiskers, or beard of some other gentleman the the number of hairs which is required and of the desired color, also be sure that they have the roots to them. Next procure a piece of tissue paper of the size & shape of the part of the lip it is desired to cover with hair: in this paper prick a number of holes equal to the number of hairs, through each hole pass a hair leaving all the roots on the same side of the paper, then place this paper on the lip so as to

cover the part on which the mustache is to grow, and over the paper between the so that the roots will be next to, & in contact with the flesh, then over the paper between the hairs, and^over the skin near the paper place some solution of gun cotton in ether, which, when the ether evaporates will form an artificial skin: and before this artificial skin is removed replaced by a natural one the hairs will take root ––– I think; s’pose you try it, I’d rather not.

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        I am almost ashamed to say Peyt . that I had actually forgotten all about the present I promised your sister Nannie and even now I am not certain whether it was the dress of an Apache sqaw or one of a Mexican Señorita; but as the dress of an Apache squaw generally consists of nothing more than a pair of buckskin boots on the feet & a blanket or some other thing^tied around their waist I suppose she would not wish for that, so I will bring a Señorita’s dress for her.

The mail will leave so soon that I can write no more at present so the next time you write or go home remember to all your folks who have not forgotten him that same old friend of yours



Everyname Index



Aredia, Saverro · 25


Bartlett, John Russell · 3, 4, 9, 13, 14, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27

Ben · 27

Berthold · 23

Blacklaws, Peter · 25

Bolgiano, Chris · 1

Boyd-Bragg, Dorothy · 1

Bull, John · 14


Chandler, Marine Tyler Wickham · 19

Charley · 23

Clarke, Edward C. · 22, 23

Conde, Pedro García · 4, 26

Craig, Lewis S. · 17, 19


Eddy · 17, 22


Fisher, Mary · 2

Force, Henry C. · 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22, 23, 28, 30

Force, Peter · 2


Gonzales, Inez · 25

Gurley, Bill · 15


Harris, John T. · 1, 2

Harris, John T. Jr. · 2

Henning · 18


Joel · 27

Johnson, Martin · 9, 15, 19, 20, 22, 23


Kettlewell · 18

Keyworth, Bob · 7

Knight · 9


Lucy · 9


Mangas Colorado · 4, 25, 26

Miller · 18, 21

Mowry · 9

Murray, Ned · 9

Myers · 18


Nixon · 7


Randolph, James Innes · 2

Randolph, Nannie · 28, 30

Randolph, Peyton · 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 29, 30

Randolph, Susan Armistead · 2


Sprague · 19, 21


Taylor, Zachary · 7

Thompson · 24

Titcum, Bill · 27

Trinfan, José · 25


Vaudricourt, Augustus de · 14


Whipple, Amiel W. · 3, 4, 14, 18, 22

White · 22


Yates · 29

Young, Alexander · 23




[1] Brian E. Crowson. “Harris , John T. Papers. SC #2025,” (Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, 1992), <http://www.lib.jmu.edu/special/manuscripts/2025Harris.aspx> (accessed November 14, 2004).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Robert V. Hine, Bartlett ’s West: Drawing the Mexican Boundary (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1968), 11, 16.

[6] Ibid., 16-18

[7] John Russell Bartlett , Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua, Connected with The United States and Mexican Boundary Commission, During the Years 1850, ’51, ’52, and ’53 (Chicago: The Rio Grande Press, Inc., 1965), 568.

[8] Hine, Bartlett ’s West, 11, 16, 23.

[9] Ibid., 33, 35.

1 This letter was written while Force attended Columbian College. Since Randolph was a year younger than Force he had not yet begun attending the College.

2Zachary Taylor , Whig candidate in the 1848 presidential election. Taylor  won the election.

Source: American Presidents Life Portraits, “Zachary Taylor ,” C-SPAN, <http://www.americanpresidents.org/presidents/president.asp?PresidentNumber=12> (accessed November 3, 2004).


3 Dr. Thomas H. Webb. See Hine, Bartlett’s West, 13.

4 John Russell Bartlett , United States Boundary Commissioner for the United States-Mexican Boundary Survey Commission, 1850-3.

5 Referred to as “Dr. Johnson ” in subsequent letters. His identity is uncertain apart from what may be inferred from the letters. He seems to have been a close friend of the Force  and Randolph  families and traveled with Force  until February 1851 when he returned home. His particular role in the commission is uncertain as he is not mentioned in any of the books on the Bartlett  commission.

6 An envelope is included with this letter. It is addressed: [commas indicate line breaks] Peyton K Randolph, Bets., Washington, City.

7 A “bull’s eye” is a lantern with a single opening which may be closed to conceal the light. Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, s.v. “bull’s eye,” http://dict.die.net/dark%20lantern/ (accessed November 3, 2004).

8 Probably stingrays

9 Force  may have meant “remora,” commonly known as suckerfish. The remora is “any of several marine fishes of the family Echeneidae, having on the head a sucking disk with which they attach themselves to sharks, whales, sea turtles, or the hulls of ships . . . they were believed to be able to delay ships by sticking to them.” Definition taken from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, New College Edition, William Morris, ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981), s.vv. “suckerfish,” “remora.”

10 See note 4.

11 John Bull , first assistant surveyor – kept the only existing field book made by a member of the Commission. See Paula Rebert, La Gran Línea: Mapping the United States-Mexico boundary, 1849-1857 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001), 26.

12 Augustus de Vaudricourt , principal topographic draftsman to the commission. French-born lithographer and art and piano teacher. Prior to the commission, Vaudricourt  had traveled extensively in the United States. He eventually left the U.S. commission to work for the Mexican commission. See Robert V. Hine, Bartlett ’s West: Drawing the Mexican Boundary (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1968), 15 and Rebert, La Gran Línea, 25,141.

13 Lieutenant Amiel Weeks Whipple , topographical engineer appointed by Bartlett  as chief astronomer and acting surveyor. Whipple  had previous survey experience on the Canadian border and with the Weller commission in California. See Hine, Bartlett ’s West, 12-13 and Rebert, La Gran Línea, 22-23.

14 An envelope is included with this letter. It is addressed to: [commas indicate line breaks] Peyton K Randolph, Washington City, D.C. The postmark is dated Sep 11 [1850]. A large number 10 is also on the envelope and the following is written, probably by Randolph, along the side: Henry C. Force, Esq, Boundary Commission, Written from, Victoria, Texas.

15 Colonel Lewis S. Craig, commander of the commission’s military escort. See Hine, Bartlett ’s West, 33.

16 Probably Lt. Whipple . According to Hine, there were many internal dissensions within the commission. See Hine, Bartlett ’s West, 19-20.

17 Marine Tyler Wickham Chandler , son of a congressman, meteorological and magnetic observer for the commission. He received a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to the commission Chandler  worked as an engineer and surveyor for the city of Philadelphia. See Rebert, La Gran Línea, 25.

18 No information could be found on Major Sprague.

19 The final page of this letter was written around the following struck through address: [commas indicate line breaks] Peyton K Randolph, Washington, City, D.C.

20 Dr. Martin Johnson  mentioned in previous letters. Dr. Johnson had returned to Washington, D.C. and personally delivered the letter to Randolph

21 San Elizario or Eleazario – an abandoned Mexican military post where Whipple  and his survey party (of which Force  was a member) temporarily set up their observatory.  See Hine, Bartlett ’s West, 23.

22 Frontera – In February Lt. Whipple  moved his astronomical observatory from San Elizario to this ranch. This was intended to be the permanent observatory during the survey of the boundary line in that portion of the country. See John Russell Bartlett , Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua, Connected with The United States and Mexican Boundary Commission, During the Years 1850, ’51, ’52, and ’53 (Chicago: The Rio Grande Press, Inc., 1965), 176.

23 Edward C. Clarke  was the son of a senator from Rhode Island. Bartlett  had hired him as a member of the commission as a favor to his father. He was murdered in the small settlement of Socorro, near San Elizario sometime in early January. Bartlett  wrote that Socorro was frequented by a lawless gang of horse thieves, gamblers, and murderers. It seems that this village became headquarters of the desperadoes for Bartlett  recorded that “houses were opened for the indulgence of every wicked passion; and each midnight hour heralded new violent and often bloody scenes for the fast filling record of crime . . . the turning of a corner might bring one to the muzzle of a dozen pistols.” Fandangos (dancing parties) were given nearly every night. They were open to everyone, and everyone, including vagabonds, attended. Clarke  attended a fandango one night and somehow became the target of four of the ruffians who attacked him with bowie-knives, stabbing him nine or ten times. No reason was given for the attack aside from to “satiate their thirst for blood.” He was taken to the doctor who pronounced the wounds mortal. Clarke  died the following morning. This event made it clear that something needed to be done about the lawless members of the settlement. Members of the Boundary Commission along with Mexican and American settlers undertook a search for the murderers. Eight or nine suspects were arrested, but the principal suspect, a man named Alexander Young , was not found. Those arrested were immediately put on trial by Justice Berthold  and a jury composed of six Mexican citizens of Socorro and six members of the commission. The examination and trial took two days. Three were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. A reward of four hundred dollars was offered for the capture of Young . Soon after the execution of the first three, word came that Young  had been arrested. He was brought to Socorro and confessed to the murder and ascertained the guilt of the three who had already been executed. Young  stood trial and was hung on the same day. His last words were a warning for others to benefit from his example and not come to the same end.

The above information was taken from Hines, Bartlett ’s West, 30 and Bartlett , Personal Narrative, 156-66.


24 An abandoned copper mine region. There were about fifty adobe buildings which were fixed up to accommodate the commission. The region offered an abundance of game and timber and fresh, pure water. Due to its advantages, the location was selected as the headquarters of the commission for the summer of 1851. See Hine, Bartlett ’s West, 34-5 and Bartlett , Personal Narrative, 178-9.

25 Inez Gonzales ,  a fifteen year-old native of Santa Cruz. She was captured by the Apaches while attending a fair and later sold to the Mexican traders led by Peter Blacklaws .  A clause of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo stated that the United States was to repatriate any Mexican captives they came across. Bartlett ’s position as Boundary Commissioner put him in the position to carry out that clause. Members of the commission were traveling to Santa Cruz anyway and brought Inez  with them, reuniting her with her family.  See Hine, Bartlett ’s West, 42-3.

26 José Trinfan  and Saverro Aredia . For more information on them see Bartlett , Personal Narrative, 310-11.

27 General Pedro García Conde , head of the Mexican Commission which worked jointly with the U.S. Commission. See Hine, Bartlett ’s West, 10.

28 Mangus Colorado  did return several days later and the situation was favorably resolved. For details on the resolution of this event see Bartlett , Personal Narrative, 312-17.

29 The low supply may be related to financial difficulty alluded to in Hine, Bartlett ’s West, 38.

30 The year 1851 is written in the bottom right-hand corner of this page.