The Siege and Battle of Bejar
his narrative of the life of Ben Milam begins at the close of the War of 1812, through which he had served with distinction in a voluntary company from Virginia.
It is late afternoon, in the year 1815, and we find him standing in the yard of his sister's home in old Kentucky. He is gazing beyond the Mississippi, where the April sun is sinking behind a mysterious horizon. Again he raised the paper in his hand. It is a map of North America. Slowly Ben Milam traces with a painful finger the single word: written in huge letters, and stretching across the map from the Rio Grande to the Canadian border-- U N E X P L O R E D!.
A month later he and a companion purchased a barge, loaded it with flour, and floated down the river to New Orleans.
Arriving at that city they found a poor market, so he immediately chartered a schooner and sailed for Maracaibo with their merchandise.
Yellow fever appeared on board this vessel, which carried off most of the crew and the captain. A storm came up and, with nobody to navigate the boat, it was wrecked on a sandbar. Another vessel then picked up the survivors and carried them to Norfolk. Milam, however, left the boat at New Orleans. His venture had been a total loss.
Learning there of the profitable trading among the Indians of the upper Red River, he laid in a supply of goods and went into that country to trade for horses, pelts, etc. This was in the fall of 1817, and while trading and living with the Indians, he met David G. Burnet, afterwards first president of the Republic of Texas. Burnet was living with the Indians in an attempt to overcome the threat of tuberculosis, how well he succeeded is disclosed by the fact that he died at the age of 82. These two pioneers lived together and slept on the same blanket while with the savages. They formed a close friendship of mutual esteem, which never waned till death parted them.
When Long entered Texas and issued his proclamation of freedom in 1819, Milam took up arms and was preparing to join him, when the expedition suddenly failed and Long was captured. As he had been quite open in his plans to aid Long, Milam deemed it advisable to leave the country and dispose of his goods before the Spanish confiscated them. Loading his all on a raft he drifted down the river to New Orleans in the late fall of 1819.
Here he fell in with Long and a Mexican patriot named Felix Trespalacios, and with them formed another expedition into Texas and Mexico, From his first expedition, Long had learned a lesson. In it he had avowed the formation of a new republic, which did not meet the approval of the Mexican patriots then in exile in the United States, and they gave him no support. In this one, he announced his intentions to be the liberation of Texas from the yoke of the Spanish Royalists and was joined in New Orleans by several Mexicans of high standing.
They sailed for Galveston Island early in 1821, with about 75 men, and arrived there the day the pirate Lafitte was leaving. The summer was spent in organizing the expedition, and in October Milam and Trespalacios, with about 50 followers, sailed down the coast and landed just above Vera Cruz. Long with a few men, moved into the interior and captured Goliad, but soon thereafter surrendered to a Spanish force from San Antonio. He was taken to Mexico City, and arrived there about the time Milam's party did. Upon landing, Milam found the movement for independence under Iturbide had triumphed, and he was treated as a hero.
Soon after this, Trespalacios was appointed governor of the newly created Province of Texas, and all of them, Long, Milam, Trespalacios, Colonel Christy and John Austin, were preparing to depart from that country, when Trespalacios, becoming jealous of the popularity of Long, and fearing that he was about to be appointed to a high position in Texas, had him assassinated. This treacherous act so enraged Milam and the rest of the Americans that they repaired to Monterey and awaited the arrival of Trespalacios, planning to avenge Long's death. Before he got to that place, however, two Spaniards in Milam's party disclosed the scheme and all of them were arrested and thrown into prison. Here they stayed for about a year, till the fall of 1822, when they were released and, with the exception of Milam, all of them sent to the United States on the American sloop of war John Adams. Iturbide had ordered all of them shot, but this coming to the scene of Joel R. Poinsett, United States commissioner of observation to Mexico, caused him to intercede and secure their freedom.
A few weeks before Milam's release he had been informed that Santa Anna was planning a revolt against the Emperor Iturbide, so he went to the coast, secured a small sailing vessel and went to see that officer at Vera Cruz. Santa Anna was then a captain and in command of the Mexican forces in that city. Milam joined the Republican forces a month or so later and served with different commands till its successful termination.
After Santa Anna became the head of the Mexican nation Milam was shown every courtesy, and stayed in Mexico City till the fall of 1825, when he asked for, and secured, the grant of a huge tract of land in Northeast Texas. Sailing in January, 1826, he located his ranch in what he thought was Red River County, in the very northeast corner of the province.
In 1827, Milam was informed by a party of United States engineers that his land laid in Miller county, Arkansas, and he was by no means the rightful owner. He then moved over in Texas and located near Collin McKinney, a staunch old patriot who had come to Texas on the close of the war of 1812. San Antonio and Texas owe much to this almost unknown helper of Texas freedom, as we shall see later.
Milam had brought with him from Mexico the authority and sole right to operate a steamboat on the Red River, and was the first to bring any kind of self-propelled vessel above the rifts in that river.
About this time he became interested in a colonial contract with an Englishman for planting a colony of the Red River, but after discovering that it was for the purpose of forming a buffer between Texas and the American settlers, would have nothing further to do with it.
Late in 1826, finding time a trifle heavy on his energetic hands, he secured a contract for founding a colony between the Colorado and Guadalupe rivers, just north of the old San Antonio road, and secured the services of Major James Kerr of Gonzales to manage it. He never left his Red River ranch, however, and soon sold this franchise to the firm of Baring Bros. of England.
Milam was idolized by the people of Red River valley, and was their leader and advisor in all matters pertaining to the welfare of the valley settlers. He had great power in Mexico and when the boundary dispute got to an acute stage, between the United States and that country, the people begged him to intercede in their behalf. This he declined to do, as his sympathies were with the American claim and not with Mexico. Milam's dearest friend was Collin McKinney and when he requested Milam to go to Monclova and put their case before the governor, he promised to do so.
There is not much doubt that had Mr. McKinney not made this request of his old friend, Milam would not have gone to Mexico, and the subsequent history of the State greatly altered, for all we know it might have been for the worse.
Early in the year 1835, he started on horseback to ride the distance of 700 miles to the Capitol, carrying a little parched meal and some dried beef, depending principally on his rifle to carry him through the Indian-infested country. The only settlement this stout-hearted pioneer passed through on his trip was the town of Bexar (San Antonio), passing that place about the 10th of March.
Arriving at Monclova, the capitol of Texas and Coahuila, he found Governor Viesca willing to help; but revolution was again in the air. Santa Anna had abolished the constitution; proclaimed himself dictator and suppressed Congress. He was ousting all the Governors and appointing new ones, but retaining most of the power they were supposed to wield, at Mexico City.
Viesca, with Milam and Dr. Cameron, decided to escape into Texas with the public archives and there fix the seat of government. So with the documents they commenced the march, taking as guard, about 1250 local militia. Viesca delayed nearly a month finishing some private business, and when he arrived at the Hacienda de Hermanos, 30 miles from the Capitol, he was informed that Santa Anna had troops guarding all points on the border. They were too few, however, to stop determined men. But, despite the protests of the Texans, he turned back to Monclova; dismissed all the troops, and stated that he would offer no further resistance to the new government.
After a little reflection upon the character of Santa Anna he came to the conclusion that he had gone too far to turn back, and again decided to make a secret march into Texas.
Taking a few members of his cabinet with Milam and Dr. Cameron acting as guides, he started. On the third day they were arrested at a mountain pass and taken to Monterrey. Here orders were received to take them to the terrible dungeon of San Juan D'Ulloa at Vera Cruz.
Milam was well known all over Mexico, and at Monterrey he found himself a prisoner under an old friend. This officer gave him the freedom of the city and furnished him with a horse. The water for washing purposes was about a mile from the prison, so Milam asked and secured permission from this old friend to take his clothes to the stream for laundering. All evidence is pretty conclusive that the Mexican officer knew what Milam intended doing, and it is probable that he was even furnished with food for the trip. Anyway, when he escaped, no attempt was made to capture him.
Milam rode almost day and night till his horse went dead lame just after crossing the Rio Grande. He then abandoned the animal and made his way on foot. Continuing in this way he arrived near the little settlement of Goliad on the evening of October 9, 1835.
Fearing to enter the town in daylight, he hid in some thick mesquite brush just outside and waited for darkness. As he was preparing to scout into the place he heard the approach of horsemen. (Destiny had marked Milam for her own, but right here she laid a hand upon his shoulder, and directed his very footsteps.) It so happened that at this time Capt. George M. Collingsworth, with 47 men from the lower Colorado, was waiting the report of a couple of scouts he had sent into Goliad, before attacking the place. When the scouts returned they reported a nearer way, and it was decided to cut through the brush and not go around , along the road.
When going through an especially think plot of trees one of the horses shied at something in the brush, and Capt. Collinsworth immediately called out:
"Who's there?"Still thinking they might be Mexicans, Milam answered"
"Amigo."A few moments later he ascertained them to be Texans and his joy was unbounded. They were equally as glad to see him, and he was furnished with a horse, while they moved forward to surprise the garrison. And surprise it they did; at a given signal all rushed the door of the fortified church; killed a sentinel as he fired on them; battered down the door and captured the Mexican commander in his night clothes. In a few moments the garrison was in their hands, along with 300 stands of small arms, two cannon and about $10,000 in cash.
Leaving the town in charge of Capt. Dimmitt and a few men, they joined Austin at Gonzales. Very soon thereafter, they took up the march to San Antonio, where the Texas army arrived on the 20th, and camped just across the river (to the east) from the old Mission Espada.
Milam had joined Austin's force as a private, and when, on the 27th, Austin detailed the companies of Bowie and Fannin to reconnoitre up the San Antonio River, and select a more suitable camping place, he went along. There were 92 men in both companies, but owning to the fact that they left a good many horses at Espada, where they were camped. Bowie had detailed eight men to stay there and take care of them, leaving 84 men to make the trip.
After looking at the missions of San Juan and San Jose they proceeded to Mission Concepcion, and as it was getting late, Bowie selected a camp in the bend of the river about 500 yards west of it.
This was an excellent position to defend; lying with the bend of the river on its west, it presented a sharp bluff to the open plain to the east and south. The bluff was about 20 feet high, and fringed with trees and brush. This bluff faced the river, and was so steep in places that footholds had to be cut in it next day before the men could stand up on its sides to fire at the Mexicans. (This battlefield today is about the same as it was at that time, 95 years ago. The river has changed its course slightly, but the old bed is there. For those who wish to look for them, old bullets can be picked up all over the field. It is just to the left of the road as one approaches the river going west from Concepcion Mission.)
Out on the prairie to the front stood an island of trees; in these Bowie placed a squad of 12 men for the night. The river was not fordable to his rear, except at the fords; one about 100 yards above, and another 200 yards below his position. These he did not watch, believing that the enemy was ignorant of his proximity. General Cos, though, was in Bexar with 1,100 men and had observed Bowie all day.
The morning of Oct. 28 broke with a heavy fog hanging over the field. Shortly after daylight a few cavalrymen rode in close to the position and fired on the Texans. Immediately all were called to arms, but as the horseman had retired, no firing was done. Bowie saw that a fight was imminent, and set to work clearing the underbrush and preparing for defense. All knew that Cos would try to crush the detachment before Austin could get up with the main force. Bowie divided his command, placing half of them near the river on the smooth side and the other half facing northeast (about where Theo Avenue drops down to the river.)
Plans were not yet complete when the enemy was seen to be advancing through the fog. They had formed up in two echelons, their left near the timber south of the Texas position, and their right near the island of trees to the front. As soon as Bowie was the location of the Mexicans he changed his left company to meet the attack.
After advancing at a walk to 150 yards, the enemy fired a volley and charged, coming in a dead run, yelling and waving their lances. Not till they were within 80 yards of the Texans did they receive a shot in return for all this noise. Then, far over on the right, Deaf Smith fired and the foremost Mexican officer dropped from his horse. All around the position rifles now began to crack, not by volleys, nor very fast. But every man in the Texan army had to secure at least part of his living by the rifle, and it is doubtful if any of the 72 men under Bowie this morning knew how to miss a man at 80 yards, or less. (Each men fired one shot, and Sowell said that after the first charge he could count at least 65 Mexicans lying on the field, there must have been a few who were able to hold to their saddles though badly wounded.)
The charge broke down with 40 yards of the timber, the cavalry being thrown into confusion by the falling men, turned tail and dashed back out of range. They were formed again by their officers who were apparently doing everything in their power to get the horsemen to charge. But they had the edge of the brush was nervewrecking. Out on the prairie to their front were all their front rank; cut down by the deadly Texans, who now lay, to their certainly, behind the bank, silent and terrible. Finally they moved slowly forward, and after firing a volley, their courage seemed to rise and broke into a charge.
Not a very serious charge, in fact it almost stepped before coming with range. Bowie gave instructions to take all the Mexican officer first. Again, the Texans let them come to 80 yards before a shot was fired, then the intermittent crack of the long frontier rifles rippled along the tree-fringed position, and the Mexican cavalry turned and dashed madly back out of range. Bowie had his men so placed that half of them would fire, then step down to reload while the other half took their position. In this manner the Texan fire, while not extremely heavy, was continuous and accurate. Only the first half got to fire in this second charge of the enemy, before they broke and fled.
During the melee the Texans had not been observing the lower ford, and were surprised a few minutes later, to see a column of infantry march out of the woods on their right and form in order of battle on the field. Their line reached from the woods on the Texan right to the island of trees to their front. The enemy cavalry formed in the rear of the infantry and all were moving slowly forward.
When the infantry came on the field they sent a six-pounder forward and placed it in the timber, 80 yards to the Texan right front. Nobody knew of it till the Mexicans fired on the part of the line exposed on that side. Fortunately its first short was high and no casualties resulted. Bowie immediately detailed three men to shoot the gunners. These men worked around the back of the river till they could see the gun, and opened fire. As soon as the men firing it were shot down others would attempt to man it. After several trials the gun was abandoned. Sixteen men lay dead around it, Samuel Whiting killed the last one as he was trying to spike the cannon.
The enemy presented an imposing sight as they slowly advanced to the attack. they were at least 20 to one, but if a single heart quelled in the Texan ranks, we remain uninformed.
Suddenly the Mexican line halted. the front rank kneeled while the rear rank stood and aimed over their heads. In this manner they began to fire volleys, beginning on the right. As these volleys progressed down the line that part of the formation on their right was seen to waver and finally break ranks and dash toward the lower ford. Instantly the entire command was in confusion, yelling and throwing away their arms; they made for the ford in a howling mob.
The astounded Texans had not fire a shot and could not account for the behavior of the enemy. The cause of this surprising retreat was quickly apparent; the 12 men left in the island of trees for the night had been cut off by the enemy attack and could not return. They had lain hidden until the infantry opened on the Texans, then seeing their opportunity, they shot into the flank of the line exposed to them. The men had never been discovered by the Mexican troops and when this fire started, though they had been flanked by a larger force. About this time, too, those men detailed to clear the cannon shot the driver of the caisson, causing the mules hitched to it to run away. They ran through the infantry and added materially to the confusion. Infantry, cavalry and all, fled to the lower ford, and in a minute it was jammed with a wild mob, all fighting to get across. Captain Wharton, leading a body of the Texans in pursuit, came on them while still about a hundred had not yet crossed. He gave the order to fire, but strange to say, not a shot was fired into the struggling mass. Afterwards, the only excuse anyone could give was that it looked too much like murder.
After the battle, General Cos, who had camped just across the river, sent a flag over and requested permission to bury the dead. This was granted, and an agreement was entered into by which neither side would fire on the other when they came to the river to water horses. The Mexican loss was 104, killed and wounded. The Texans had one man killed. Austin came up with the main army in an hour after the battle and camped on the field till the second of November.
A few days after the fight, Andrew Sowell and Jesse McCoy took their rifles and walked out of camp, apparently going squirrel hunting. They went to the lower ford with their rifles primed, and waited. Soon two Mexican soldiers came down to water their horses. Each picking a men, they fired, and the soldiers, though seriously wounded, clung to their horses and dashed back to camp. McCoy remarked in disgust.
"That's what I call mighty shabby shooting; we ought to have dumped their carcasses right in the water."
The next morning a flag was sent over by the Mexican commander, who stated that two of his men had been badly wounded from the Texas side of the river in violation of the agreement, and demanding the culprits. Bowie said he had no way of finding out who they were. The Mexican officer said that if they were formed in line he taught he could locate them. This was done, and the officer went down the line keenly observing the features of each man as he passed him. Sowell and McCoy were in line, and looked the officer square in the eye as he passed. He finally gave it up and returned. We wonder what would have happened if this officer had located the two men? It is certain that Austin would not have surrendered them.
On Nov. 2, Austin moved the command around by the old powder mill (on East Houston Street, about where the cemetery now is) and went into camp on the east side of the river, near the present south entrance of Brackenridge Park.
Owing to inactivity, the army under Austin dwindled away, till by the middle of November there were not over 600 men in camp. On November 26, Deaf Smith came dashing madly into camp and reported a Mexican pack train coming into Bexar loaded with silver to pay the troops. A11 was bustle and excitement, the men tired of doing nothing, were keen for action. A hundred mounted men under Bowie was dispatched to capture them, while others followed. The train was intercepted just west of Alazan Creek, and soon driven into a gulch. The pack animals were donkeys, and at the first burst of firing, made for town, braying at every jump.
The "silver bags would have soon been captured had not an infantry company with two cannon came out to their assistance. A running fight then took place all the way to Bexar. The Mexicans lost 50 men killed in this sharp little fight. The Texans pursued the enemy till they came under fire of the guns in the town, and finally caught some of the animals in the train, only to discover them to be loaded with grass, which the Mexicans had cut for the horses in Bexar. In this fight the Texans sustained no losses. (The battle occurred about the corner of Saunders Avenue and South Nueces Street. Then down Durango to the town.)
After this the Texans foraged around the town, taking a shot at anything that showed its head. About December l, 20 mounted men took station behind the Powder House, while five more rode down towards the Alamo. They rode very close for the mill, and as they passed it, the men hidden behind spurred out and a very pretty race took place back to the Alamo. Several Mexican saddles were emptied on the way.
On November 28, Austin resigned his command to fulfill his mission to the United States, and Edward Burleson was elected by the volunteers to take his place.
Cos had put the town in an excellent shape for defense. The old Alamo, east of Bexar, had been repaired, and several cannon placed in it. Main Plaza was strongly fortified and all streets leading into it had been barricaded with canon placed to fire down them. There were not many houses in the town, but each one could be turned into a strong fort, many of them were built of stone with walls three feet thick.
On December 2, the army was paraded and call made for volunteers to storm the town. About 450 men stepped forward. It was decided to attach the next morning in three columns, from the old mill. (About 9th and St. Mary's Street.)
During that night the scouts reported seeing a man going into town from the camp. Believing that a deserter had disclosed their plan of attack, Burleson revoked the order and stated he was going to fall back to Goliad. On that same evening, however, three citizens of Bexar came into camp, having been released by Cos, and reported that the Mexicans were not expecting attack, and gave very definite description of the defensive work in the town.
Burleson was still reluctant to attack, and next day at 3 p.m., Milam went to his tent and asked permission to call for volunteers to storm the city. This was readily given, so Milam stepped out in front of Burleson's tent, called everyone out in the street, and yelled:
"Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?"Nearly 400 men stepped forward and enrolled at once.
Plans were quickly made. They were to from at the old mill at three o'clock the next morning with the men who had volunteered, while Burleson was to hold the rest as a reserve. At the same time, Captain Neil was o open with two guns on the Alamo, in order to lead the Mexicans to expect the attack from that direction.
At the appointed time about 300 men were on hand, with two field pieces, a 12 and six-pounder. As a result of the diminished numbers, they formed two divisions.
Colonel Johnson was to lead one down Soledad Street while Milam led the other into Acequia.
The two columns moved off in the dark, their paths taking them along about where Augusta Street now is to where it crosses Baltimore Avenue. Here the split, the column under Milam moving to the right and entering Acequia Street (Now Main Ave.) they entered the streets about where they now strike Navarro.
They kept well abreast of each other, each dragging one of the guns behind it. When Johnson's column was within 50 yards of the Veramendi House a sentry fired at them. Deaf Smith killed him with a single shot, and all this column flashed for the house. No sooner were they inside than the Mexican garrison roared into life. A heavy fire was opened down the street and against the Veramendi House. At this time the guns of Captain Neil joined in the general uproar by firing on the Alamo, and the battle of San Antonio was on.
When the firing started, Milam's party occupied the Garza house just across the street, and slightly to the rear of the Veramendi house. The Mexicans did not know they were in it, though, and directed all their fire on Johnson's party.
There was nothing between the Veramendi house and the square where the enemy was entrenched, and the fire became so fierce that none of the men inside could expose themselves for an instant.
Opening on it with grape and solid shot, the enemy soon leveled the fence and tore away all woodwork. The Texans made no attempt, for the time, to return the fire, but worked till daylight making sandbags and otherwise strengthening the position.
At 7 o'clock a.m. a terrific fire was brought to bear on the Veramendi house, but when the first division opened fire part of it was diverted to them. Cannon from the Alamo joined in this bombardment, as did guns placed on top of the Cathedral. The 12 pounder, which had been dragged to the Veramendi house, was dismounted by this concentrated fire, and was of no use thereafter. The six-pounder was run behind the Garza house and left temporarily. Solid shot began to cut away the south wall of the Garza house and its abandonment was foreseen.
The Texans' fire was slow, but extremely deadly, not much could be done from the Veramendi house but several times during the day fire from the Garza house drove the enemy away from his guns. Their loss was considerable; the Texans lost one killed and fifteen wounded.
All night of December 5 the Texans were exposed to a heavy crossfire. But despite this, they dug a communication trench across Soledad, connecting both divisions. At daylight on December 6 it was seen that the Mexicans had occupied the tops of the houses on the squares and had cut loop holes through which to fire.
The fire from one of these, the priest's house, was very annoying as it was coming from the right flank. From these they opened a brisk fire all along the Texan position.
Until about 3 o'clock p.m. the fight was nearly a draw. At that time the Garza house had become untenable, the solid shot from the redoubt to the front, and from the Cathedral, had battered down its walls, so Milam ordered it evacuated.
A few minutes later Captain Crane and his company made a dash under hot fire, and secured the house to the west of the Garza house. It was slightly in advance, and greatly strengthened the position. The Texan loss during the day was five wounded.
The night of December 6 was spent in making sandbags and repairing positions. A few got a little sleep, and towards morning Milam had the gun placed so that it could be fired down Acequia Street.
On the morning of December 7 it was discovered that the enemy had placed a battery just across the river from the Veramendi house (about the corner of College and St. Mary's). A battery had also been placed on Commerce, near the bend. All these directed a hot fire on the Veramendi house and drove the Texans to cover. Several men were hit by bullets while lying behind the walls of this house. This was puzzling for awhile, till Deaf Smith located a sharpshooter in a huge cypress tree on the river near Commerce Street. Deaf Smith was a dead shot, but it took him quite a while to dislodge the sniper. He would fire a shot and dodge around to the other side of the tree. Finally a well directed bullet brought him down. (This tree is still standing, but the river now flows on the west side of it instead of the east, as it did then.)
About 11 o'clock a.m. Colonel Milam came through the communicating trench into the Veramendi house, to make arrangements preparatory to moving the men out of if and over to the right.
The Mexican cannon had smashed a huge hole in the south wall and a hail of bullets was coming through it, Colonel Milam remarked on the number of spent bullets lying around, and stooped to pick one up. Someone called out.
"Look out, colonel, you are right in the line of fire!"Even as the warning was given a bullet struck him the temple and he fell forward on his face. Several men sprang forward and carried him into one of the small rooms, but he was dead before being lifted from the floor. The next day they buried him in the yard of the Veramendi house.
That night a meeting of the officers was held, and Colonel Johnson was vested with command, and Major Morris second.
At 10 o'clock p.m. the companies of Captains Llewellyn, English, Crane and Landrum forced their way in, and took possession of the north end of the Zambrano's row. This was a fine position; a long row of partitioned rooms leading nearly up to the square. It was full of Mexican soldiers, and as they disputed every inch, some of the hottest fighting of the battle took place here. The house was completely lighted by the incessant flash of small arms. As their own men were in the building the Mexicans could not use cannon against it. By 11 o'clock p.m. the Texans were in possession of the whole building. It had turned cold during the day and at night rain began to fall.
December 8 broke cold and wet. The same companies that took Zambrano's row, rushed and broke in the north side of the Priest's house.
They did not gain complete possession of this place, however, but hung on till nightfall when they were reinforced by the companies of Captains Swisher, Alley and Duncan. Still they could not take the building, and were further reinforced by Captain York's company under Lieutenant Gill. The cannonading of the enemy was extremely heavy all day. About midnight it was uncertain that Cos had received about 500 reinforcements. At this time Captains Chesire, Lewis and Sutherland brought their companies up from the old mill to reinforce the Texans. Forming up near the remains of the Garza house, the companies of Captains Cook and Patton, with a company of New Orleans Grays and a company of Brazoria Volunteers, rushed the Priest's house in the face of a terrific fire, and with the help of those already in it, drove the Mexicans out, killing and wounding about 50 of them.
All night the Mexican guns played on the Texan position. But this fire was principally a ruse. Cos saw that as soon as the Texans gained a position on the squares those squares would become untenable. He therefore withdrew the main part of his force to the Alamo during the night, with the intention of making an attack on Burleson's camp at daylight. But his men had enough, the 500 men sent as reinforcements were convicts that had been released and armed for the one purpose. Several companies marched out of town under their officers and made for the Rio Grande. All through the night women and children crowded into the Alamo. Their fears soon turned into a panic. Cos did his best to allay this, but to no purpose, he therefore hauled down the red and black flag that had flown from the Alamo throughout the engagement, dignifying no quarter, and sent out a flag of truce. The terms of peace were signed on Dec. 11, and Cos marched away a few days later.
The Mexicans lost upwards of 400 killed and wounded. Nearly all the killed were shot through the head, which speaks for itself of the cool, deliberate marksmanship of the Texans. They lost in the battle, two killed and 26 wounded.
This was by far the longest fought-out battle on American soil. We have had a few sieges to go longer, but history of the Western Hemisphere discloses no instance where a small body of men deliberately attacked a strongly fortified town, defended by four times their number, and after four days and nights of desperate combat, compelling its surrender.
Upon the departure of Cos with 1,100 men, not an armed Mexican soldier remained on Texas soil. She was free. But the man who gave her freedom paid with his life for the privilege of immortality, an immortality that will ever grow and flourish in the minds of men, as a mighty empire rises over and around his grave.
Born in Virginia, of fine parentage in 1790, Ben Milam early gained the respect of all who knew him. He possessed the happy faculty of instantly gaining the confidence of all; men, women and children had unbounded faith in his courage, honesty and ability. In stature he was tall, muscular and well proportioned. His intelligence in all practical matters was of the highest order. He was totally without ambition for political position, but was everywhere hailed as a leader. The debt that Texas owes him surmounts that owned to any other of her soldiers.