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Letter from Mr. John Plunkett to his brother-in-law,
Mr. Abiathar Holt, at Andover, Mass.

Courtesy of Helen Neary


Matagorda, July 17-1836


My Dear Friend;

A few days ago I rec'd yours of the 2nd Feby with much pleasure, it being the first I have heard from friend or relative for five months. I have written to you twice previous to the receipt of this. I thank you for the kind feelings you express and am sorry that we are not more fortunate in our communications to each other. You are partially aware of the difficulties we have to encounter perhaps before this.


On the first of March I left this place to join the army. A few days after from the near approach of the enemy to Matagorda the families were all put on board the vessels for safety and sent to the United States. My brother-in-law [Charles Dale] and family with my mother [Elizabeth Holt] were among them. They have not wrote to me since, but I have heard they are in Mobile and well. I joined the army under the command of Gen'l Houston on the Colorado and continued with it until the beginning of June.

My dear friend, I can give you but a faint idea of the difficulties, privations and hardships we had to encounter--figure to yourself 14 hundred men on their retreat from a beastly inhuman foe estimated at 8 thousand, traveling these vast prairies, the canopy of heaven for our covering, depending on beef for our sustenance which we killed on our march. When dealt out to us sometimes scantily, we cut a stick sharpened it at both ends, one end we stuck in the ground, the other we put the meat on before the fire and turned it as it cooked. We sometimes had frying pans but on our march frequently had to leave them not having teams sufficient to carry our baggage.


Next the news of the fall of Snt Antonio when 120 brave Americans were slaughtered, again at Goliad, or near to it, where about 300 were surrounded by more than ten times their number and fought bravely for sometime, after which a formal treaty was made, which ought to have been respected by any Christian Nation, that was to send them back to the United States, but in a few days, by order of the savage tyrant were taken out and shot. Some ten or twelve after being taken out among the rest, made their escape. This and like news we heard, while on the retreat, still ringing in our ears, might have caused us to fear them and tremble at the name of a Mexican, but no--we longed to meet them and revenge the deaths of our murdered countrymen and we did revenge them. The Plains of San Jacinto will be long remembered by the Mexicans where we fought them over two to one, their numbers being 15 hundred our not half. We killed about 6 hundred and took the remainder prisoners more than half of them being wounded.


I was in the action and think have not dishonored the cause for which we fought. You remind of your promise of coming to Texas or rather your intention, I am glad you are doing well, but hope at present, you have no such intention. At some future period perhaps it might answer, but not in the situation the Country is in at present. This Country is again threatened with invasion, 10,000 Mexicans are on the march, fully intent to murder all in arms against them. We are all called out again some have gone and we have information there are 2,000 Mexicans on the Warlope.


Tomorrow leave here to join the army. Remember me to Elizabeth. I may yet live to see her, should I not I trust in God. She has other friends who will not forsake her in the time of need nor prove untrue.

I have given you only a sketch of the whole of the affairs of Texas. You will perhaps see it more fully in some of the papers. Write to me soon and tell my sister to write. I long to hear from her. I should have written to her now but have not time.

Direct as usual to Matagorda. Some friend will send it to me.

Yours with respect,

J. Plunkett                

Matagorda, Oct. 1838

Dear Brother,

In your last letter to me dated 15th day you complained of my not writing to you oftener and despaired of hearing from me again.

This is the third letter I have written to you since then and can not as yet acknowledge the receipt of one from you. I think you will agree with me that it is now my turn to complain. I would not for a moment harbour the unkind feeling that you or Elizabeth could let that length of time pass without writing to us. I know you would not if you knew what pleasure it affords us to hear from you.

I have not much to write that will perhaps be news to you, we remain in peace and quiet here as regards the Mexicans. They have been committing some few depredations on our western frontier, but they are generally repulsed and move back. The people high up on the Colorado have suffered considerably from the Indians. These I think in a short time will be brought under subjection. We are now enlisting men to act as cavalry on the frontiers.

But the greatest evil we have to contend against is our money, the government issued a considerable amount in the form of Promissory Notes. Our merchants and traders sending to New Orleans for goods with these Promissory Notes get half their value or the amount of one dollar for two, consequently the consumer has to pay double for everything he gets from the States here, which is nearly all we use excepting corn, potatoes and vegetables; and indeed the country never has yet raised sufficient of these for her own consumption. Large amounts of corn and potatoes have been shipped here every year since I have been here. All that we have to export is cotton in return for imports which is more than twenty to one against us.

There has been some hope of the government affecting a law--if such a thing can be affected--that will at once bring our money on a par with that of the United States. It is not possible that it can continue long as it is.

What would you think in Andover of paying 25 and 30 dollars a barrel for flour, 50c a pound for cake, 37-1/2c per pound for sugar, hams 37-1/2. This is only the price of a few things as a rule for all. Indeed I think dry goods will even exceed these prices.

In my last letter to you, I gave you a full exposition of our affairs, which I hope you have received. We have no reason to complain, we have been and are doing tolerably well. We have all enjoyed good health this summer. Mother's health has been unusually good. Little John is fine, healthy, stout boy for his years. Mother and Isabella state intending going to see you. Charles is very well, but does not say much about Andover. Tell Elizabeth to write to Mother and Isabella or me as often as she pleases, at all events oftener than late. Abiather, I hope, will take the hint--we wish to hear from you often. Remember my first directions and I have no fear of their coming.


Yours truly,


J. Plunkett


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