The March, The Siege and the Battle for Bexar Oct-Dec 1835
Arrival of Austin and march to Bexar. About this time, on the tenth, I think, Stephen F. Austin arrived at our camp and was given quite an ovation. All looked upon the great man as a wise councilor and a safe leader, and so he was unanimously chosen as our commander-in-chief with the title of general. To heighten the excitement and arouse further enthusiasm, at this juncture the general received a message from Colonel Cos, at Bexar, saying that he was coming to Gonzales with a large force to recover that cannon. When this news was circulated among the boys their enthusiasm was raised to the highest pitch. "Let them come and take it," became the cry.
All being in readiness, on the morning of October 13, 1835, we took up the line of march for San Antonio. After crossing the Guadalupe west of town the commander and his staff took position on an eminence ahead of the column and remained there until the troops had passed in full review. Before starting, however, Captain Coleman ordered me and another lad about my age to report to the general for duty as orderlies. Fortunately for us we were near our commander on a little bill and saw the army file past with some semblance of military order. The force, now swelled to five or six hundred, was the largest body of men under arms that I had ever seen and the impression made on my mind was second only to that made by General Arista's great army in battle array at Palo Alto some ten years later. From our vantage point we could see the entire command as it crossed the river, ascended the west bank to the open valley, and marched past. I remember our cannon flag was proudly borne by a man mounted upon a small, wiry pony that had an inclination to dash off at full speed every time the boys gave vent to their feelings with a ringing cheer, which was quite frequent. Immediately following the flag and the "color guard" came our "artillery" under the command of Capt. Almeron Dickenson, with his company of artillerymen, all of whom were mounted and wore no insignia to distinguish them from any other branch of the service. The gun carriage, as previously stated, was an ordinary four-wheel truck. And just here, while I do not wish to gainsay or discredit any of the statements made by other eyewitnesses, as at my advanced age my memory of events and incidents of those early days may be at fault, yet my recollection is that this truck was drawn by horses and not by oxen as some have contended. And this stands to reason, since there was comparatively no scarcity of horses, and owing to the slow gait of the oxen, no troop would have thought of using them as draft animals on the cavalry march when every volunteer was eager to cover the distance in the shortest space of time.
Abandonment of the Gonzales cannon. Our artillery company headed the column on the first day until towards the evening, when the gun carriage broke down while crossing a small creek. While it was being repaired the column marched past, and from that hour the old cannon was in the rear and by its occasional breaking down became the source of more delay and vexation than any other feature of the march. We managed to patch up the frail running gear until we reached Sandy Creek and went into camp, when Captain Dickenson informed the general that in order to proceed further with the gun, a more substantial carriage would have to be provided. Before breaking camp next morning many of the boys, through curiosity if not reverence, went to "artillery Headquarters" to look at the wreck, I being of the number. General Austin, Colonel Moore, Ben Milam, and others, were in consultation with the chief of artillery, and while some were in favor of repairing the gun carriage, and holding on to the old cannon at any costs, others, among whom was Milam, advocated its abandonment. I heard him tell Austin that unless a supply of ammunition (expected from Goliad) reached us in a very few days the gun would prove useless; that from reports from scouts, General Ugartachea would doubtless meet us with a large force on the Salado, where in the open we could whip him and capture his guns as easily and as surely as we had chased them off at Gonzales; that there were plenty of cannons at San Antonio, and that even if Ugartachea declined to meet us at Salado, all that we had to do was to go on to San Antonio and take guns and garrison. It seems that Milam's suggestion prevailed; the gun was abandoned, the army took up the line of march, and I never saw the old piece again. I was told, and it was common report among the boys in the ranks, that Captain Dickenson had the gun buried on the spot; and in order to conceal its resting place from enemy scouts who might chance that way, the ruins of the truck, with wood and brush, was piled upon the shallow grave and burned, thus leaving only a pile of ashes indicating a campfire. The question is often asked as to what became of the "Gonzales cannon," and I have endeavored to answer that question. Its recovery would add -a priceless relic to the collection being made by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and I believe that I could yet locate our encampment on Sandy Creek, and the spot where the old brass gun has lain for all these years.
Sam Houston's visit to the troops. We reached the Cibolo on the sixteenth and remained in camp a couple of days waiting for reinforcements which we had been informed were coming from East Texas. It was here that I first saw the renowned Sam Houston, and I shall never forget the incident. We had just gone into camp for the night on the bank of the Cibolo, when a lone horseman-his length of limb sadly out of proportion to that of the horse he rode-came up in our wake and was greeted by Austin as "General Houston." Though personally a stranger to the greater portion of the company, his record as a fighter was so generally known that not a few were the regrets that he was not at the head of the little army. Austin, though a favorite with the army and a man of cool and undoubted courage, did not impress the volunteers as a fighting man, and his apparent delay in pushing forward led some of the hot-headed patriots to the conclusion that Houston would be the man to hasten the campaign to a successful conclusion. Houston"s fame had preceded him to Texas and he was looked upon even then as a hero. He was of magnificent form and features and looked every inch a great military man and leader.
Most of us felt that Houston came to assume command. His visit, however, had a different motive; he came in the capacity of an envoy to secure the cooperation of the army in the scheme of absolute independence of which he was a strong advocate. We had hitherto given little thought to the political aspect of the movement, but Houston"s argument, set forth in a speech he delivered to us after supper, carried with it such weight that when on the morrow he departed on his return to San Felipe to attend the convention summoned to decide the course of the colonists in the impending crisis, he carried with him the full power to speak for us in the conclave. Houston was not only brave but he was wise, and was then shrewdly laying plans for his own campaign, and his visit to the army was, no doubt, for the purpose of testing the temper of the volunteers and getting an idea of how he was held as a leader.
His most potent argument in favor of independence was the position it would give us in the eyes of other nations.
He also proposed to enlist the Cherokees as allies, a measure which he, no doubt, could have handled successfully; but the United States, whose jurisdiction extended over these Indians, would not permit this breach of good faith with Mexico; though Mexico evinced no such conscientious scruples. Houston"s ringing speech had animated and kindled the flame of patriotism among the boys to a high tension and made us all the more anxious to push on and into San Antonio.
Camp on the Salado-Anecdotes about Henry Karnes. On the twentieth, our army reached the Salado [by the Mexicans this word, Salado, is pronounced Sallow, accent on the last syllable with short o as in how, plow, etc.] and went into camp, where we remained for a week, when another forward move was made, and a position selected near the old Mission Espada, about ten miles below town. But I am anticipating some in interesting and thrilling incidents which occurred en route, and which I will now relate.
Before breaking camp on the Cibolo, and as a precautionary measure, Lieutenant Tomlinson, with a small squad of picked and well-mounted men, was sent forward to reconnoiter. I was one of the number selected. We left at daylight, and had not gone far before we discovered Mexican "signs" in abundance. When within about four miles of the Salado we came upon a plain trail which showed that a small herd of beef cattle driven by about twenty-five men had passed along only a few hours ahead. Pushing forward with considerable haste we came in sight of the foragers at the river and opened fire. The Mexicans were greatly surprised and after an exchange of shots fled in confusion. We gave hot pursuit for two or three miles, and in the running fight Henry Karnes killed one, and another was captured. The captive had his horse killed under him in the first fire at the Salado, and as his horse fell he sustained severe bruises at the knee and was unable to flee with his comrades. In the melee the Mexicans had left several horses, stampeded during the skirmish and it was while rounding up these animals that the wounded man was discovered. In point of intelligence this fellow was above the average Mexican, and he seemed disposed to give us any information that he possessed. He told us the day and the date General Cos had reached San Antonio; the number of men he brought; and that since the arrival of the entire Mexican army--over twelve hundred strong-Cos had been working day and night strengthening the fortifications; that they had eighteen cannons, mostly large caliber, and provisions sufficient to enable the garrison to bold out against a siege until Santa Anna could come to his relief. To us it was amusing to hear this fellow relate the estimate the Mexicans in San Antonio had formed as to our strength. He said Generals Cos and Ugartachea had full and correct information as to our movements, the number of men in our army, number of cannon, etc.; and that our forces amounted to about two thousand men of all arms, including four hundred and fifty Cherokee Indians under Houston and Chief Hunter. The prisoner told his story with all seriousness, and it showed the state of feeling that prevailed in Bexar.
And here I will relate an incident, of no historical importance, except as marking the scene of our little "racket" on the Salado. While waiting for the command to come up Karnes detached the steel lance head which he had taken from the Mexican he had killed, and with his ax which he carried on his saddle, drove it into a small pecan tree about four feet from the ground. Several years later while in old "Paint" Caldwell"s company at the battle of Salado, I saw this lance bead well imbedded in the tree, and many years later, about 1859, I saw it again, but the growth of the tree had nearly concealed the marker from view.
Arrival of "Deaf" Smith, James Bowie-Move to Mission Espada. The army coming up remained on the Salado until the twenty-seventh, waiting for reinforcements which were still hastening to join our ranks. Meanwhile many were clamoring to go forward, urging that we were already strong enough to take San Antonio; that while we were loitering around waiting for more men Cos would also be receiving reinforcements and would be further strengthening his fortifications. About this time our army received a valuable addition in the person of "Deaf" Smith, the celebrated spy and scout, and in this way: He and his son-in-law, Arnold, had been out on an extended hunt of several weeks, searching for a rich silver mine which an old Indian whom Smith had once befriended, described as existing in the wild mountain regions skirting the Lampasas River. Smith had come to Texas at an early day, settling in San Antonio; had married a Mexican lady and became a loyal Mexican citizen. When he returned from this hunt the war had broken out, and as he attempted to enter town a squad of Cos" cavalry fired upon him and chased him out. Some of the Texan scouts, seeing the race, went to the rescue and saved Smith from capture. On account of family ties Smith did not at first wish to take sides in the row, but he was mad now and determined to cast his lot with the Texans and take revenge on the treacherous Mexicans. I well remember seeing the old scout as he rode into camp with Karnes and several others. He already had a reputation as an expert trailer and as an Indian and Mexican bandit fighter, and those who knew him extended a hearty welcome. Without dismounting he went to General Austin"s tent and tendered his services, saying, with some excitement: "When I came in yesterday and approached town, I was halted at a Mexican outpost. After explaining who I was and my desire to see my family, the officer informed me that I could not pass until he had consulted General Cos. When I went again today, and while talking to an officer, I saw a squad of cavalry galloping forward, and when the officer attempted to grab my bridle I wheeled my horse and dashed away. The dirty scamps fired upon me and came in a dead run. I gave them a parting shot and under spurs and quirt won the race. But there will be another day, and I"ll get even with the treacherous rascals."
Deaf Smith was soon made a chief spy, and he gave a glorious account of himself. He was called "the eyes of the army," and was a great favorite with Sam Houston. The only picture of the old scout is from an original portrait painted for the general by a noted artist who visited the Republic just after the close of the Texas Revolution. While the army lay on the Salado we were not altogether idle. Through the good offices of Ambrose Rodriguez, General Austin was kept posted on matters in Bexar. Rodriguez was a resident of the place and one of the few Mexicans who had cast their lot with the Texans, and rendered much valuable service. Evidently to impress us with his strength and daring, Cos each day sent out bodies of cavalry to approach our camp. Our scouts were always on the alert and invariably charged such forces, but only to see the cowardly cusses turn tail and break for town. On these occasions the enemy usually outnumbered us ten to one, but they never risked a fight, seemingly being endowed with a wholesome fear of the "Filibusteros," as they called the Texans.
It was about this time also, on the march between the Cibolo and the Salado, that the famous Jim Bowie joined the army. Bowie was a prominent citizen of San Antonio and he had married a daughter of Vice-Governor Veramendi. But he was still a patriotic American, and when war arose he did not hesitate in casting his lot with the struggling Texans -soon to gain immortal fame. At the Salado quite a number of recruits came in, swelling our ranks to about seven hundred men -all clamoring for a fight. Orders were now issued to move forward, and at noon on the twenty-seventh the force went into temporary camp at Mission Espada, on the San Antonio River, and about ten miles below town. A scout of about ninety men was selected and sent out under Jim Bowie and James Fannin, to reconnoiter, and select a more favorable position nearer town.
Battle of Concepcion mission. We left about noon and reached Mission Conception late in the evening, going into camp in a bend of the San Antonio River where there was a low ground or bottom with high banks skirted with timber in front and the river in our rear. As we struck camp an old padre from the mission paid us a visit and appeared very friendly. It was suggested that he was a spy and should be detained, but Jim Bowie coming up recognized the priest as an old friend and assured the boys that the padre was a trustworthy man, and so he was allowed to go unmolested.
Soon it was noticed that the tenants about the mission were in a state of excitement, and this gave us reason to believe that a runner had been sent to warn General Cos of our presence. Thus, forewarned, we used the utmost caution for the night. Our horses were secured in the open space of the river bend, strong guards were posted and a sentinel placed in the tower of the Mission Church [Robert J. Calder was the man who kept watch from the church tower] The night was still and clear, but before morning it became cloudy and a heavy fog rested over the valley. Before dawn the boys were up and had partaken of a repast of jerked beef and cornbread, and most of them had their horses saddled ready to mount and make an early reconnaissance of the town before the main force came up.
I and brother Josiah had saddled our horses and breakfasted when two or three of our comrades came along and asked us to go with them to the picket line to relieve the guards for their breakfast. Josiah declined the invitation, but leaving my horse in his care, I took my gun and went along. When we reached the post on the high ground in the direction of the mission, we found Henry Karnes on duty. The fog was very dense and as we came nearer, Karnes was stooping and peering through the gloom as if trying to locate some object. In a low tone he told us to listen, that he believed he heard the sound of hoofs. A few moments later we were fired upon by a large body of Mexican infantry which had silently approached under cover of the fog, and the continued blaze of their guns made a lurid scene. Returning the fire we fell back towards the river bottom. Just before we scampered down the high bank, and while yet exposed to the enemy s fire, Karnes exclaimed "Boys, the scoundrels have shot off my powder horn." And right here I wish to digress for the purpose of correcting a small error that has crept into history. It has been recorded that Karnes was never known to swear but once and that was when the Mexicans shattered his powder born at Conception. I was within three feet of Karnes when this incident occurred, I heard the musket ball strike the born, and heard distinctly his expression. He used some very strong invectives but I am quite sure he used no cuss words.
As we turned down the bluff the boys were forming all along the brow of the elevation and preparing to repulse the charge. Fannins company occupied the ground in the lower part of the river bend, while Colemans held the upper side. In places along our (Colemans) front the brush was in our way and at other points the declivity was too steep for a foothold. With our hunting knives we soon cleared away the bushes and along the steep places we cut steps so that we could ascend, fire, fall back and reload under cover. As the sun rose the fog lifted, revealing a force of some four or five hundred Mexicans, who now rushed up and began a furious attack, pouring a continuous fire-it was almost like a solid sheet of flame. It was my first taste of real war and it was a nerve-trying experience. Captain Bowie urged the boys to be cool and deliberate and to waste no powder and balls, but to shoot to hit. And it was at this time that I first remember having seen a blue-eyed, fair-beaded boy about my own age. He carried a long hunting rifle and was dressed in a buckskin hunting suit and fur cap. I noticed during the fight that this youth never fired without taking very careful aim, and every time his long gun blazed, he would duck his bead and look under the smoke to see if he got his man. After the fight was over I made inquiry as to who the young marksman was, and was told that his name was Si R. Bostick. We soon became acquainted, and from that day there sprang up a friendship between us which has lasted for nigh onto seventy years, strengthening and ripening with each recurring year. In truth, as I relate these incidents, I believe we are the only survivors of that band of heroes whose bravery and prowess in and around Bexar in the latter part of 1835, gave Texas the brightest pages of her incomparable history.
The Mexicans now brought up a brass-ribbed four-pounder and opened a rapid fire on our position with grape and cannister, which, however, passed harmlessly over our beads. This gun was being worked eighty or ninety yards from our position and the gunners became targets for the crack riflemen along that part of the line nearest the cannon. It seemed that at one volley every artilleryman hit the dust, and those who took their places shared a like fate. When they were driven back the third and last time, and while their officers were vainly trying to rally them on their colors, which had been placed on the cannon, Jim Bowie shouted, "The cannon, boys! Come on and lets take the cannon." And with a wild cheer the men rushed forward, seized the Mexican color standard, wheeled the gun, which was loaded, and turned it on the enemy who fled in the direction of San Antonio. The fight was over.
The Mexican loss in this affair is said to have been sixty killed. I did not count them but I saw quite a number of dead Mexicans lying around over the field, and I believe the slain far exceeded the number given by our historians. I know it was a matter of comment that day among the men that the dead far exceeded the number of wounded left on the field, which was something unusual in open battle. The wounded evidently expected instant death at our hands and it was indeed touching to bear their piteous pleas for mercy. I had approached a young Mexican of good appearance and above the average of intelligence. He lay where he had fallen with a broken arm and a bullet through his bowels. He held up his hand and begged me to spare him, saying that he was fatally wounded and wanted to see the padre before he died. I spoke kindly to him and assured him that Americans never killed prisoners and wounded men. He complained of great pain and begged for water which was freely given him. Others of the wounded were given water and such assistance as could be rendered, until the arrival of the old padre, our visitor of the evening before, who came to minister to the dying and to care for the dead. His duplicity had no doubt brought on the whole trouble and he must have felt remorse of conscience as he viewed the sad sight.
Death of Dick Andrews. Our loss was one man killed, Dick Andrews, a brave fool-hardy patriot, who actually threw his life away during the fight. We all had been cautioned to keep under cover of the embankment and the trees and not unnecessarily expose ourselves. At one time during the engagement, it became necessary for our company to rush to the assistance of Fannins men to help repulse a stubborn charge of the enemy at that point. Instead of keeping along the bottom, which was protected by the elevation in our front, Andrews took the near way across the open space, and in full view of the Mexicans. A shower of bullets was sent after him as he dashed across the open space, and he fell mortally wounded. He lived long enough to know that we had won a victory. But, poor fellow, the ball entering at the right side, came out on the left, lacerating the bowels in its cruel course. He lingered for several hours, suffering the most agonizing torture, begging all the while to he relieved, and the poor fellow would place a finger on each of the bullet holes and try to tear them open in frantic efforts to alleviate his sufferings.
We buried our comrade that evening beneath the spreading branches of a pecan tree and with military honors, a volley being fired over his body from the two cannon captured from the Mexicans in the fight. Jolly, big, Dick Andrews, always of happy disposition and not easy to provoke to madness, was a favorite with all, and not one of us but that shed tears as the body of our beloved comrade was laid to rest. He was a true soldier, brave as a lion, and his name will go down in history as being the first martyr in the cause of Texas liberty. Andrews County is named for him and will perpetuate his memory to the latest generation of Texas youth.
A man named Pen Jarvis was wounded during the action, and in a very peculiar way: a ball striking his Bowie knife in such a manner as to drive the sharp blade some depth into his body and inflicting a very painful wound, but he survived. Ever afterwards this fellow was called "Bowie-Knife Jarvis." This, and I pass to other incidents of the long ago. Nearly three score and ten years after the battle of Conception, or "The Horseshoe," as we called it at the time, while attending the "Battle of Flowers" at San Antonio, in April, 1904, I went over the old battleground. What a change the hand of time and the encroachment of man had wrought! The ground was in cultivation, the timber had disappeared, the old mission was in ruins, and "even the river seemed less wide." And here, perhaps, it might not be out of place to say that we fought at Conception without a flag, and without the beat of even a drum, although I have beard fledgling San Jacinto Day orators speak in spread-eagle style of the "Lone Star flag that waved in heavenly grandeur over the flame swept field of Conception." But there was no flag or banner of any sort in our rank on that occasion; nor was there any music on either side-only the sound of cannon and the rattle of musketry was beard. Our "Cannon Flag" had been left somewhere on the route from Gonzales to the Salado. The last I saw of it was on the morning when the cannon was abandoned at Sandy Creek. It had been furled and was resting against a sapling nearby. It may have been used as a winding sheet for the old brass gun or it may have been employed for baser purposes.
The brilliant victory at Conception was a telling blow, and it had its depressing effect upon the enemy, causing them to look with more alarm upon the movements of the "diablos Tejanos." It proved that those "tall men with their long rifles" were more than a match for the gaily uniformed, welldrilled, and amply armed Mexican soldiers; and it certainly inspired and increased to the highest pitch the enthusiasm of the volunteers. They had started out with the slogan, "On to San Antonio," and it was now changed to "Into San Antonio."
Failure to storm, problems of camp life, move to the Old Mill. During the progress of the fight, and just before the fog cleared, a runner was sent out to headquarters for help, the entire force hastened forward, but arrived upon the scene just after the action was over. Had the force reached Conception an hour sooner the campaign no doubt would have ended a month earlier. The entire Mexican force would have been killed or captured and no doubt the Texans would have pushed right on into Bexar and captured the place at one fell blow. Of course most of the boys were chagrinned at having missed the chance to fight and wanted to push right on into town and mop up the whole greaser outfit. So strong was their clamor that a hurried "council of war" was held, but from some cause no marching orders were given, and the army went into camp. I know it was camp gossip that General Austin favored an immediate advance but that he was opposed by certain officers of his staff. I could name them but I would not impugn the character of any of the patriots of Texas. They all meant well, but some were misled by certain more designing and less patriotic men.
The spot selected by Bowie and Fannin for our army camp was a most excellent one from a strategic point, but the boys were tired of camp life-they came to fight, not to "flare around," and every one was singing, "Well soon be in town." Orders came to advance the whole force, and so, on the last day of October we found ourselves on what was known as the "Acequia del Alamo," or Alamo ditch, near the Old Mill. And right here I want to correct an impression that has long prevailed in the public mind about this "Old Mill." Many have been lead to conclude that this mill so often mentioned by Texas writers, was a corn mill erected and operated by the inhabitants of San Antonio. A great mistake. This old mill was used in former days for grinding cane. It was of primitive design, not unlike those crude contrivances used by the early settlers for grinding sorghum cane. This particular mill was known to the Mexicans of San Antonio as "La Trapiche de Caña de Zambrano."
A day or so following our arrival at the Old Mill we were moved out to the bill north of the old "Powder House." At this time we had not less than one thousand men, and this number was continually augmented until the force aggregated at least twelve hundred men, all ready and anxious for action. There were two or three companies of "Old States" volunteers, and their officers made a show towards maintaining army discipline, but the Texans generally went where they pleased and came when they chose. There was no insubordination, but there was a spirit of restlessness among the men that was difficult to control and the officers were unable to enforce anything like camp discipline. To a certain extent the men were losing confidence in their officers who had promised to lead them into battle, not to move them around from pillar to post and try to teach them how to use their rifles. Day after day the question was asked:
"When are we going into Bexar?" But when? Quien sabe!
From our close-up position overlooking the town, we could see the troops drilling could see them passing to and fro between the Alamo and the military plaza, and at all hours of the night we could bear the cry of their "Centinelas Alerta." Thus the days rolled by into weeks, and the men became more disheartened and disgusted. From captured Mexicans it was learned that General Cos was daily expecting a strong force under General Ugartachea, and yet there was no prospect of an early advance. Our officers were in daily consultation, but they never seemed to agree upon a plan of attack. The men, seeing the vacillation and uncertain state of affairs, began to leave. There was no power to restrain them, and by the first of December our army had been reduced to less than six hundred men.
Travis's capture of centralista cavallarda. Thus passed the second month of our campaign. But from the time we reached the vicinity of San Antonio we had not been altogether idle. A quasi-siege had been maintained and several attempts made to decoy the enemy into traps outside the walls, but they were wary. Deaf Smith, Jim Sylvester, and others, had friends among the Mexicans in town and these they visited at nights. In this way we learned that owing to the scarcity of forage, General Cos planned to send his cavalry horses to pasture on the Rio Grande. A sharp watch was kept for the departure of the herd. Scouts were posted South and West of the town during the day and their numbers doubled at night. On the morning of the fourteenth a runner dashed into camp with the news that the herd was moving out of town under a strong escort. Captain Yorks and Switchers companies, about fifty men in all, led by Bill Travis, went in pursuit. When about five miles out, and seeing our approach, the Mexicans made a feint as if to turn the herd and fall back towards town, but as we dashed upon them the escort fled, leaving the entire caballada of about three bundred miserably lean, but fairly good, horses. We also captured several of the escort, their mounts being too weak to allow them to escape. The captured horses were rounded up and sent to pasture on the Colorado.
Resignation and departure of Austin, Burleson commands, The Grass Fight. On the twenty-fifth of November, General Austin having been appointed a commissioner to raise money and men in the United States to help carry on the war, resigned and left the command. The selection of a new commander followed. The younger element of Texans wanted Milam for their leader, but the volunteers from the "states," aided by the older Texans, elected Edward Burleson, with Frank Johnson as adjutant. The old Ranger chief was known as a brave and successful Indian fighter and it was thought that he would he more aggressive and lead the boys into battle at once and without "red tape." But no---something was wrong. About this time, however, on the twenty-seventh, I believe, occurred quite an amusing incident which served at least to break the monotony and give the boys some fun, if not reward. During the month and more that we had been encamped around Bexar the quasi-siege had been maintained, while scouting parties under Bowie, Travis, Deaf Smith, Bird Lockhart, and others, were constantly scouring the country in the direction of the Rio Grande, as far as the Nueces, watching for the enemy and burning off the grass so as to destroy natures forage for the horses of any advancing force. Meanwhile Cos and his army were in a precarious situation, cooped up, without supplies and their horses nearly starving. From deserters and prisoners it was learned that Cos was daily expecting the arrival of supplies, and funds with which to pay his troops. The report also spread through the camp that General Ugartachea was coming with a large force to Cos relief. These stories, while perhaps groundless, only served to excite the Texans to the highest Pitch. It must be borne in mind that these gallant men were fighting without pay and were ready to take any chance in attacking and appropriating the Mexican army chest. The road leading in from the direction of the Rio Grande, the route over which the treasure train would be expected to pass, was watched with vigilant and eager eyes.
In his extremities Cos found it expedient to send out foraging parties under cover of night, to cut and bring in grass for his horses,. Now it so happened that early in the morning of November 27, I think, Deaf Smith, who had been scouting through the country west of town, dashed into camp and reported having seen the long looked-for Mexican packtrain slowly approaching. Over one hundred men, with as many pack animals, had been counted. This news was bailed with a wild cheer. Visions of suddenly acquired wealth floated before each Texans eyes. All was excitement and activity. Our commander, General Burleson, urged caution on the part of the men. He believed that this packtrain and escort was only the vanguard of Ugartacheas army and it was with an effort that he prevented his entire force from taking part in the proposed capture of the advancing caravan.
Bowie was ordered to select one hundred men to reconnoiter and give attack if he deemed it expedient. Calling Deaf Smith to his side, Bowie asked him to choose twelve of his best marksmen and boldest riders to lead the van. Henry Karnes was the first man called and was immediately followed by others until it seemed that the whole army was ready to abandon camp. All in readiness, the party set forth at rapid speed to capture the "treasure train," while others, without orders or leave, slipped out on foot. Meanwhile, seeing the approach under a cloud of dust, the Mexicans beat a hasty retreat towards town-the ladened and braying burros following in their wake.
On the Alazan Creek, a short distance from town, at the point where the Castroville Road now crosses, the enemy was encountered and the Texans made a furious attack. The fight was brief but sharp, and after considerable loss the "greasers" fled helter-skelter and in great confusion, every fellow for himself to escape the fury of these "diablos encarnados," as they called the Texans. The coveted packtrain was in our possession. But our chagrin and disgust knew no bounds when we found that instead of silver coin, the packs contained nothing more than grass which was intended for the starving horses of Cos" cavalry inside the walls of Bexar.
This ludicrous affair, almost approaching a battle, was then dubbed and is since known in our history as the "Grass Fight." How many of the enemy were killed and wounded, I never knew. We Texans were more intent upon securing the treasure than in capturing the frightened "greasers" and so let them escape with their dead and wounded comrades. Our historians vary as to their estimates of casualties. Yoakum gives the number killed at about fifty, with several wounded. Of course this estimate may be approximately correct, but I cannot believe that such a large number were slain. If true, the "Grass Fight" should rank as one of the real battles of the war. In truth I do not believe that half that number fell in the engagement. Our only casualties in the fight were two wounded and one man missing. It was said that this man became so frightened or excited during the melee that he actually ran away on foot at breakneck speed, and never finally halted until he reached the settlements.
Some amusing incidents happened during the scrap. One Texan was hit a glancing shot, perhaps by one of his own party, in the first charge and fell from his horse. After the excitement was over a party went to look after their fallen comrade. He was found sitting on the bank of a small ravine, holding his forehead with both hands. One of the party, John McGuffin, called out in a jocular tone, "Hello, pard. What are you doing? Catching your brains in your hands?" The wound was painful and had somewhat dazed the man.
Yoakum says that the "Grass Fight" has been greatly confused with another occurrence on the eighth of the same month, which happened in this wise:
All of this may be true; but it is passingly strange that I never knew of this engagement; never heard of such an affair being discussed by men in camp. And now I pass from these somewhat minor incidents to one of the most heroic episodes in the history of the military affairs of Texas.