SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
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The Republic-Index | DeWitt Colony Biographies: The Bennet Family

 

The Valentine Bennet Scrapbook by Miles S. Bennet

Miles Squier Bennet(The documents below were transcribed from an archival copy of the scrapbook in The Center for American History, University of Texas Austin. Location and fate of the original is unknown. The scrapbook consists of the diary and notes of Miles Squier Bennet, son of Major Valentine Bennet, and newspaper clippings. The diary consists of an abbreviated timetable spanning Miles Bennet arrival in Texas in 1838 with his father to the last entry in 1848 called Reminiscences of Western Texas and a more elaborate narrative which was probably constructed from the former which are presented here in reverse order. However, each section contains some material not in the other. Bennet obviously used the diary and notes for his articles on the period in the Cuero Star and Houston Post which are among the clippings ( see Life on the Frontier 1838-1842, The Battle of Salado and The Mier Expedition by Miles Bennet) . There is often information in the diary and notes that are not in the printed articles and vice-versa. Some sections of the archival copies of the scrapbook are nearly unreadable and the author has used some guesswork in the transcription. Since some entries in the diary and notes referring to the same date are sometimes separated, the compilation of the diary and notes below was assembled in chronological order from the materials where separated-WLM)


The Narrative Diary of Miles Squier Bennet

I sailed from new Orleans on the steamship Columbia, Captain Pennoyer, arriving at Galveston June 3, 1838. There were a few shanties near the Strand, among which was the custom house, presided over by Captain Mosely Baker, who greeted us with a cheer as we approached, saying to my father, "Well, major, I see you have brought one more rifle to Texas." Among other things on the island I saw about two miles up on the highest land the wreck of a schooner imbedded in the sand, where she had apparently lain many years. Going to Houston on the steamer Sam Houston, we found every one busy. The town was about one year old and the pine trees among which it is located were being made into building material, clapboard shanties and other better buildings being rapidly constructed. The prairie from near the Capitol lay almost undisturbed save by deer or by herds of horses brought from the west for sale. Kessler's round tent was prominent.

Divine services were generally held on Sunday in the Capitol, Rev. W.Y. Allen and other ministers officiating. This being headquarters for the army, many prominent citizens and army men and small groups of friendly Indians were frequently seen. Among the notable Texians President Sam Houston, General Rusk, Colonel Hockley, Captain W.H. Patton, Treasurer Asa Brigham, Comptroller Moody, Chief Clerk Charles Mason and many others recur to memory. My father, Major V. Bennet, had already been many years in Texas; was severely wounded at the battle of Velasco in June, 1832, received a commission as lieutenant from General Stephen F. Austin at Gonzales, October, 1835, was quartermaster general at the following siege of Bexar and served as an officer in the army continuously up to this time. He had been revisiting his old home in Ohio on a short furlough, and now, returning and reporting for duty, he at once received instructions from Barnard E. Bee, quartermaster general, to proceed to Fort Sam Houston, San Bernard, San Antonio and other encampments, report their condition and take measures to collect and preserve scattered army property. [The foregoing section was from newspaper clippings by Bennet because of difficulty in transcribing notes on the period from the diary-WLM]

[From the diary]

He taking me as his clerk and assistant, a Mr. Long also accompanied us went via Richmond and Damon's Mound (6 miles NW of Columbia) met Judge Jas. W. Robinson who told us of the death of Deaf Erastus Smith a celebrated Texas Spy and Hero. Mr. Damon gave us a hospitable welcome. He was the repository of some of Father's Qr. M. account books, while quartermaster at Velasco, and the Star Stock Brand for the government that father had made. We examined the herd of govt. horses At Mr. Wm. Anders and had them sent to headquarters. Went to the Old Station on the Bernard. Officers and men very glad to see us, they were sick and anxious to march to some other encampment. Capt. McFarland and the excellent young surgeon, Dr. Anderson wished father to have some better rations sent to the sick men. Sent report Hd. Qrs. Near Texana we saw the debris left by the Mexican army of "36 at their encampment. Looked after some govt. property and went on to Sutherland's and Menifee's near the Navidad, and on to the La Vaca calling upon some of father's old acquaintances, met one kind lady [Mrs. Mary Smith McCrory Jones] who had known my mother, this lady afterward married Anson Jones who was a Brazos man and became President of Texas.

Note 1. Father and I with a Mr. Long camped out on this trip (my first of a long series of camp life) went via Richmond, Damon’s Mound staid all night at Daniel Damons, the family were old friends, and were keeping for father his quartermaster account books, his Lone Star Brand for the Republic. I think these relics of our Republics should be preserved by a Historical Society. A Mr. Anders nor far from the Bernard had in care a drove of mules belonging to the Republic, we had them sent to headquarters at Houston. Near Texana we called upon the widow of Capt. Westover one of the heroes of the Alamo.

On the La Vaca Mr. Long was thrown from the mule and disabled, I took care of him while father went five miles and brought an ox wagon, we hauled him to widow Kents where after a few days we left him and went on to Gonzales. We were among father's friends and neighbors, who had been great sufferers, their homes destroyed and families broken up by the War; but loving this country, having no where else to go and preparing a return here with all the risks privations and dangers, were now reestablishing and rebuilding in this vicinity. There were Capt. M. Caldwell and family, Eli Mitchell and wife, Capt. Wm. A. Matthews who had just married the widow Fuqua, Judge McClure (nine miles east), Davis, Berry, Duncan, Hodges, Hines, Cottle, Clark and others; these all needed some protection, and hoped father would use his influence with the head of the military department for the relief of this frontier. About the 4th of July Mr. E. Bellinger had a son drowned at the watering place here. We went on our way another man in our company riding our mule. We called on Capt. Simeon Bateman a few miles west of town. Encamped at the forty mile water hole on the old San Antonio road; went on to the Cibola, camped with some surveyors with whom father was acquainted, and who treated us quite hospitable: they had good food besides fish, venison and honey. There were also near by the friendly Lipan Indians. Thos. H. Addicks was hunting with them. We went on to San Antonio where were a few scattered military store, and some government cattle and horses.

We put up at Dolsen and Anton Lockmar's tavern. There were some Americans here tho at times it was difficult to muster twenty American men. We boarded with the late Deaf Smith's family. There were Henry Arnold, Jno. W. Smith, W. B. Jaques, Mr. Elliot, Sam A. Maverick, Nat Lewis with their families, with Foreman Lewis, Mr. Garrett, Wiley George, surveyor Lindsay, Frank Pascal King, Arch Jones, Earnest, Jas. L. Trueheart and perhaps one or two others. Employing a soldier William K. Hargis, we cleaned the govt. quarters and took charge of all govt. property, sent horses to headquarters, collected oxen, repaired wagons, hired Mr. Benson to cut and make hay, and kept a few horses under herd. Guarded constantly against robber Mexicans and hostile Indians. A party of Comanche Indians had come on as ostensibly friendly visit to S. Antonio a few days ago and traded with the Mexican merchants. Don Antonio Navarro, Erasmo Seguin, Mr. Florez de? Saint Patton clerked for Navarro. They protested against surveying the country. But there were already some parties arranging to secure lands in this beautiful country.

Aug 1st. The land office opened at S. Antonio and I went out to the Medina River with Mr. Maverick, Josh Threadgill and surveyors. Another party was out on the Rio Frio, were attacked by Indians, Mr. Camel the surveyor was killed and Capt. Gage returned to town with a copper spike of an arrow in his face.

Sept. 21st. I went with surveyor Jno. C. Hays and forty men to the Leona River, had father's military claim no. 3774 for 1280 acres laid on west side staid out two or three weeks, and had some adventures; this was the first surveying in this dist. Returned Oct 10th prepared to go again.

Oct 19th. A drizzling rain hindered me from joining the party who were encamped at the Leon Springs about seven miles out near the Presidio Road. Indians attacked camp, killing Mr. Lapham who was intending to lay his San Jacinto claim for land. Ernest escaped to town on foot, and a party was mustered immediately, some were mounted upon govt. horses obtained from father, there were Capt. Gage and nine others in the party, who were surrounded by savages near some live oaks about three miles out of town, and slain. On the 21st we buried them outside the walled cemetery. All in the cold drizzling rain. District court was in session and Judge Robinson delivered a eulogy at the grave. In Nov father reporting at headquarters, we were in Houston. Congress met at the Capitol on the 4th. I was during the week writing out father's reports.

Nov 18th Sabbath. Heard Rev. W. Y. Allen preach in the Capitol.

Dec 7th. With father I attended President Houston's levee, beef, corn, provisions for horses on march. Father was authorized to contract for teams.

Dec. 1838. During this month we furnished transportation, beef and corn to two companies of troops ordered to the Western frontier, they were commanded by Captains Jordan and Howard. On the route I drew all the drafts on the dept. for the supplies. Arrived at Gonzales on the 23rd and at S Antonio on the 29th. I did all the correspondence, making out the reports, and sometimes taking dispatches in person to headquarters. Many of our friends in the army asked father why he did not secure a commission for me. I was well known in the quartermaster deptmt. And might have had a commission and regular pay as well as not. And I know we save in our contracts a great deal for Texas.

1839 Jun 6th. I left S. Antonio with a Lieut. And some men, wagons and teams. Carry dispatches and reports from father to headquarters, arrived at Houston on 19th having had bad weather and high water to retard us.

27th Sabbath. A minister visited our quarters and preached same day in the Capitol on the "immortality of the soul."

Sat Feb 2. I started from Hd. Qrs. With a Lieut. Some soldiers and wagons with supplies for the post at San Antonio, wintry weather, delayed at Mrs. Wheaton's at the crossing of Buffalo Bayou first by high water, then by a heavy sleet which broke a great deal of timber. The bayou and prairie were flooded, I had some adventures killing wild game and exploring for a practicable route. Was constrained to diverge from our road and cross the Brazos at Richmond. Teams much fatigued. Worked on toward Columbus, in crossing Feb 26th the Colorado, the ferryboat sank with one of our largest wagons, delaying us in recovering it and its contents several days, the weather being very inclement.

Mon Mar 7. We arrived at S. Antonio with the supplies having had an unpleasant duty. During this month father and I again went to Houston and returned to S Antonio. Meanwhile I had also gone to New Orleans carrying valuable packages of gold for merchants in San Antonio. [1839 Feb or March. I went to New Orleans carrying large sums of money for Wm. B. Jacques: and other merchants of S. Antonio. Sailed over from Galveston on the s ship Columbia. Returning on the Texas warship Zavala.

Apr. 30. I left S. Antonio on a surveying trip with Col. L. Franks John James and nine other.

Tues. May 12. A part of our company was attacked within hearing, but separated by dense thicket from us and killed by savages. My friend Ephraim Bollinger was scalped. We returned to S. Antonio, reinforced our company, went out to our surveys and completed them, returning to the town on the 26th.

Tues night May 28. Preaching! The first I had heard of in San Antonio, at the courthouse, by some stranger. Well attended, an unprecedented occurrence here.

29th. Mr. Delmour the county clerk was killed and scalped at Mission Concepcion.

Jun 7 to 10. I went with Mr. Higginbotham on a scout down the river to intercept the party who murdered Mr. Delmour.

10 to 23 inc. Engaged in a regularly organized military expedition against the Indians. Col. Henry Karnes, Comdg. Scouted high up on the Medina, and across into the Canon de Uvalde, lost one man killed. Honorably discharged on 23rd. We doubtless intimidated the Indians somewhat we had 106 men.

July 4th. I left for San Antonio for Gonzales in company with Lieut Miles. I assisted father in building a good house upon his Gonzales farm lots. In Nov. and December I went to Cincinnati, and brought my sister to our home in Gonzales and we all three labored to make things comfortable, and father now said he realized his long cherished desire of having a home, and his children sitting in peace at his table.

For a year or two I was thus principally occupied at Gonzales, during which time however I engaged in two or three scouts against Indians who depredated upon our people; and also in one surveying trip with Ben and Henry E. McCulluch between Gonzales and Plum Creek. In the summer of 1840 the Indians invaded the country, burning Linnville, killing and capturing people, threatened Victoria, but were intercepted, and defeated at the Battle of Plum Creek. I was very sick at San Antonio at the time.

Sat Jan 15th 1842. Sister being married, and father a prisoner of war in Mexico, having been captured in the ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition. Sat Jan 15th I removed to my land a part of father’s headright Valentinook on the southwest bank of the Guadalupe about twenty-five miles below Gonzales. I was entirely alone, no helper, but had a pretty good outfit of wagon, team and tools. I soon fixed up a good camp. I had no neighbors nearer on my side of the river nearer than five miles the whole country west to San Antonio being unsettled. I selected a very sheltered Valentine Nook in a bend of the river where with very little fencing I could make a field. Wild game was abundant. Deer frequently grazing within rifle shot of my work. Turkeys so numerous that I frequently killed two at a shot.

Feb 1842. Hiring an assistant I was succeeding at my work and plowing the new land.

Mar 1. Texas is again threatened with an invasion from Mexico, rumors of which have been heard from time to time. Their advances under their Gen. Vasques now threatening San Antonio brings to the remembrance of our citizens the old scenes of war enacted here at this same time in the year 1836 when the disastrous "Runaway Scrape" as it was called by those who were affected by it. A similar panic now ensued here and all the families are trying to gather teams and transportation for flight. The common opinion was that Genl. Vasques troop was but the advance guard of the invading army of Mexicans—So I prepared for the struggle by furnishing to my friends means for the removal of their families. I loaned my horse wagon to Mr. Joseph Kent my nearest neighbor; to my brother in law Mr. Thomas J. Pilgrim three good yoke of oxen furnished with yokes, chains, very nearly ready for the road, and a smaller wagon to another family. Mr. Pilgrim and sister were both in poor health, thought they could not drive an ox wagon and they offered me many inducements to cast in my lot with them in the Runaway Scrape. But having then secreting my tools and plows leaving my 2 extra horses to take care of themselves and getting my sister and her husband fairly started on their retreat from their home at Gonzales; I with some comrades went on to San Antonio in its defense. I lost several weeks in scouting about on that frontier, but returned and recommenced my field labors, tho under many difficulties, having now no teams, I had lost two good horses and had no help. I planted and cultivated ten acres new land in corn, and continued my work as best I could. During the summer many of the families returned, but the general fear of the Mexicans still prevailed. My two horses lost were worth $75. I lost the use of all 3 yoke of [oxen].

Aug 1842. I again left home going to Houston to meet my father, having heard of the expected return of the Santa Fe prisoners. Assisted him and his comrades Capt. M. Caldwell and Curtis Caldwell in return home to Gonzales. A few days after our arrival there, having collected some hogs and father intending to go with me to drive them to my improvement at Valentinook. Couriers informed us of the advance of another invading army from Mexico, I turned loose my swine that had cost me so much labor to collect and after a hurried preparation father and I with other citizens went again towards San Antonio to check the advance of the Mexican force of 1200 regular troops under command of Genl. Adrian Woll. This we effectively accomplished with 200 hastily collected citizens at the Battle of Salado Sunday Sept. 18th 1842. We followed up the retreating Mexicans to Rio Hondo. Returning to S. Antonio and Gonzales to father’s residence, we engaged in reorganizing the Sommervell expedition for the defense of Texas. I gave some assistance to father in his work and I did not resume my labors upon my land Valentinook during this winter.

Feb 1843. I however returned to my Nook having a companion Old Jimmy Shaw. We again fitted with house and field, making a crop of corn and cotton. Father came down to see me. In July I was taken sick, and having no medicines at my secluded place I sent Mr. Shaw to Gonzales for medicine. He returning next day said father was lying at his home very sick. I could not then go to him: but in a few days I by short and easy rides was able to get to town.

Mar 1842. ….furnished them my ox team and started them on their retreat. I could not desert the frontier in such a crisis, but took up the line of march to meet the enemy.

July 1843. I found that my father had died on 28 and was buried. I remained in Gonzales several weeks and as father’s last work for Texas was gathering up such military equipment as still remained of the Somervell Expedition, lead and muskets and ammunition. We sent by a careful and responsible man whom father had previously engaged to accompany him by wagon to headquarters at Washington on the Brazos. Thus my father’s work for Texas was completely finished up, having accompanied him almost continuous from the first defensive movement at Gonzales (The Lexington of Texas) October 2, 1835 up to July 1840. I also, altho at intervals attending to my private affairs, gave the greater part of five years of the most vigorous part of my life to the defense and development of the frontier.

Reminiscences of Western Texas

1838. June. Under order from headquarters at Houston Major V. Bennet and myself were on our route to San Antonio and called at Mrs. Kent’s on the Lavaca, leaving there a travelling companion Mr. Long who was thrown and hurt by a mule.

July 3rd. Came to Judge D.B. McClure’s on Peach Creek 10 miles east of Gonzales. No settlements on the route.

4th. To Gonzales, a few settlers getting back there: Judge E. Bellinger’s son drowned. Capt. Wm. A. Matthews and widow Fuqua married. Capt. M. Caldwell and Eli Mitchell entertained us, provisions scarce and poor. Dry and hot.

Aug. At San Antonio. Do. Do.

Sept 21st. Do. With Jno. Hays enroute to the Leona. Heavy rain.

Oct 7. With Jack Hays surveyed father’s military certificate no. 3774 on west side of the Leona above the old Presidio road. Fielding, Fisk, Hargis, Hood, Elihu Moss. W. H. Patton. Black, Anton Cruz, Bollivar & forty men in all the Co. There was a good crop of pecans in fall and winter of 1838.

Oct. 8. Hendrick Arnold’s surveying trip to the Medina. Hargis and I are preparing to go.

19. Heavy rains prevented us. Indians attack the camp on the Leon about seven miles from town. Killed Mr. Lapham a San Jacinto soldier. Mr. Earnest brought the news in, and Capt. Gage made up a small company father furnishing them government horses.

19th. Capt. Gage and American were killed in a fight with the Indians. Gage, O’boyle, Lee, Jones, 3 men from Bastrop.

21st. One unknown, Moses Lapham ten Americans buried in one grave close to the Santo Campo. Judge Dunlap, Hood, Bailey, Campbell and Robt. Patton escaped, the latter wounded by a lance thrust in his arm.

Dec. to Jan 3rd. Attended President Houston’s levee at Houston with father bringing out to S Antonio two companies of troops. A good crop of pecans.

1839 Jan 6 to 21. With wagons going to Houston for military stores.

Feb 2. Started on our return to San Antonio with the wagons and a small detachment of soldiers with Lieut. Palmer.

Feb 5th. A storm of snow and sleet broke much timber on the Brazos and all along from Houston to San Antonio where we were marching with two companies of soldiers commanded by Capts. Jordon and Howard. Had a disastrous trip.

10th. Arrived at S Antonio. On the ox wagon trip from Houston to San Antonio the encampment and distance were as follows:

To Piney Point 9 miles (on Buffalo Bayou).

Mrs. Wheatons---Richmond

San Felipe---San Bernard

Columbus---Thomsons

Chadauins---Daniels (Lavaca)

Judge McClure---Gonzales

Batemans---40 mile water hole

Cibolo---San Antonio

Apr. 30th. I went on a surveying trip on the Cibolo country with Col. L. Franks. Jno. James (and nine others) Geo. Edwards, Geo. Lord, Ephraim Bollinger, Wm. Bracken.

May. Pleasant rains on the Cibolo and Comal in Bexar County where I was with John James surveying.

May 14th. Indians attacked our camp and killed E. Bollinger, Florez. Manuel Maria, the cook, four of our party.

26th. Having completed our surveying we returned.

28. There is Divine Service tonight at the Court House San Antonio. Preaching by a minister.

June 6th. At San Antonio, Indians harassing. Joined in organizing an expedition against the Indians, 106 men. Henry Karnes, Col. Comr.; L. Franks and Jno N. Seguin Capts; Dolsen and King Lieuts; Dr. H. Alsbury Sergeant

7th, 8th. Went with Mr. Higginbotham to Mochara.

9th, 10th. La Roche and other ranches and about fifty miles below S Antonio to arrest murderer of Mr. Delmar the Dist Clerk.

10th. Started with the command of Col. Karnes my mess was made up of myself, Mr. Higginbotham, Small, Sprouer, Dinkens Edwards, Jno James, S.A. Maverick.

18th. Mr. Florez accidentally and fatally wounded high up in the hills of the Medina.

28th. The command returned and were honorably discharged in San Antonio.

July 4th. Started to Gonzales in company with Lieut. Miles. This is a dry summer here. Killed deer and carried the choice pieces to Seguin.

1839. In this fall Mr. Larrabee and I went to Houston and paid to Mr. Perkins a large sum of money. The yellow fever prevailing I declined going on to Cincinnati, returned to Gonzales.

Dec. I went to new Orleans and to Cincinnati returning to Houston with my sister Miss Sarah Jane Bennet having left N.O. on the steamer Neptune Capt Penoyer.

1840 Jan 12th. Started on to Gonzales, but was obliged to return, roads too bad.

Feb 14. We again started. Mr. Larrabee and others being with us, went to Gonzales on the 12th.

Mar. Went with wagon and Osburn to Houston for supplies.

Apr 23. Went with Mr. Larrabee on a surveying expedition toward Plum Creek surveyors Benj. McCulluch, Arthur Swift, Wilson and Barney Randall, Jno. S. Stump and others.

27th. Joined in a buffalo chase.

28th. Returned to Gonzales.

May 22. Presbyterian ministers Miller and Wilson came and spent several days in this vicinity.

June 21. Three or four young men (Lockhart and others) killed by Indians between the Guadalupe and S Antonio in the lower country. Young Josiah Powers was taken prisoner but escaped. Judge Campbell of Seguin was slain by Indians near S. Antonio about this time.

July 10. Lancelot Abbots called upon us.

August. I went to S Antonio was quite sick. Indians penetrated to the coast and burned Linnville. Battle of Plum Creek. Larrabee and I enclosed and prepared our farm lot at Gonzales breaking up the beautiful prairie. Planted it in corn, my first farm.

1841. The Santa Fe Expedition left my father a Major in it left home. I traded for the other half of Valentinook. Planted 25 peach trees.

1842. I began breaking up ground at my own league, Valentinook.

Mar. Went against the Mexican army Vazquez at San Antonio, leaving my farm, loaning my team and wagon to fellow citizens to remove their families, nearly all the homes were deserted and broken up. On this trip against the Mexicans, I suffered one night severely from a Norther on a scout in the Medina country. Returned and planted corn, fenced a field, build a snug cabin. Again I left home to bring my father from Houston, he being a returned Santa Fe prisoner.

Sept. Father and I again took up arms in defense of this frontier: the Mexicans are again invading us. Father established a quartermaster department at Seguin; furnishing the volunteers marching to San Antonio.

18th. The Battle of Salado, the last battle against regular organized Mexican troops in our war.

Fall and winter. The largest general crop of pecans.

1843. January. The first great overflow of our rivers Guadalupe and San Marcos removing the fences generally.

6th to 11th. With J. Shaw I removed from Gonzales and arrived at my Valentinook.

Mar 7th. A comet in the southwest. Weather cool and sufficiently moist.

8th. Planting corn.

20th. The first two flat boats, laden with pecans, leaving Gonzales on the 16th inst. Camped with me. Dimensions 30 x 10 feet. Mr. Eggory and Mr. Lynch and men on them.

Apr. Planted cotton.

May. Planted sweet potato.

June 15th. Drove hogs home from Gonzales assisted by Mr. Ambrose Tinney.

July 21. I am sick. Father’s sick at Gonzales. Death of Major V. Bennet. Jack Haines a S Fe prisoner is stopping with me helping Shaw and I.

Nov. We finished gathering our crop, have I think 500 bushels of corn and 3 bales cotton.

Dec. Engaged Gon Hinds [Geron Hinds] to help me break new land in fields.

1844. We broke up about 8 acres by Jan 15th

July. Haynes is cropping with me. I am sickly. A severe drouth.

Aug. A Mier prisoner Jerry Lapham called.

Oct. The pecan crop is abundant.

Nov. 23. Geo. E. Moore helped me making my [canoe/crop?]. Our corn and cotton crop is light.

1845. I had long been addressing a daughter of Mr. James Gipson. The family had been neighbors to us at Gonzales but were constrained to remove away during the war difficulties prevailing.

Feb. 20. I went to Montgomery Co. to see them . Married Miss B. Gipson at her home and after a few days we both returned to the Guadalupe and to my home at Valentinook.

1846. I rented the most of my field to Mr. F.M. Buchanan who made a good corn crop.

1847. Mr. Gipson and family helped in the fields. A severe drouth prevailed from July 4th until Jan 25th the weather windy.

1848. I hired Ann a Negress at $10 per month during Feb and March planted corn: very little rain. The land was good, raised 1200 bushels hauled roasting ears and early corn to S. Antonio a $1 per bu. Drouth continued until a heavy rain.

Nov. 1st week a heavy frost. I refused 75 cents per bu at the crib.


Letter to the San Antonio Express (from a clipping in the Bennet Scrapbook probably written near the same time as the more elaborate paper on the frontier times leading up to the Battle of Salado and the Dawson Massacre on occasion of the Texas Veteran's association meeting).  "Saint Antone" in 1838.   An interesting historical paper by Mr. Miles S. Bennet [ca. 1900].  SAN ANTONIO, Aug 12. TO THE EXPRESS: The contrast between the present condition of your city and surrounding country compared with that of this frontier during the troublesome times of 1838 to 1842 inclusive calls for much gratitude and an occasional reminiscence of those early days. Your correspondent, living in and camping around Bexar in the early period alluded to, became familiar with its privations and dangers. The meager records of that day scarcely noticed the many little robberies by Mexican banditti of small caravans trading from San Antonio to the Rio Grande, or the occasional scalping of a Mexican herdsman by Comanches, who had recently become hostile, until emboldened by the apparent weakness of the country, the capture and imprisonment of many of our men, the enemy organized more formidable radius upon our frontier. Some of our citizens still remember the raid by the Mexican forces of Vasques in the spring of 1842; and in the fall of the same year, the sudden advance of General Woll with regular Mexican troops and Indian camp followers, the town again surprised and completely sacked, and its principal citizens carried off to Mexico. There are still some survivors of the battle of the Salado, at which memorable engagement the enemy were induced to hastily fall back to the Rio Grande, leaving his dead upon the field.

Among those survivors is Mr. George Lord, a solder of the company commanded by the brave Scotchman, Ewan Cameron. This handful of men at that battle was placed on the extreme right and at the guard fire, and bore the burnt of the attack made by General Cordova and his 85 Mexicans and Cherokee and Carrizo Indians, simultaneously with the enemy’s artillery from the center. Their courage sustained that part of our line of battle, and occasioned the death of Cordova and many of his followers who were defeated in that engagement. Mr. Lord is with us as a delegate to the convention. It is a pleasure to recall even the names of those old Texans, who, having seen our lovely land, resolved to occupy and defend it. Your correspondent participated in those marches and skirmishes, and would in this connection revert to his later visits to your city of a more pleasant character, notably in attending the meeting of the Texas Veteran association in 1880 and also the congressional democratic convention the same year. Then the three or four days bivouac of the Old Soldiers’ reunion at the San Pedro springs and now in attending the state democratic convention.


Experiences on the Western Frontier, Republic of Texas, 1838-1842 by Miles S. Bennet

(From a series of articles in the Cuero Star and Houston Post in 1898 constructed from the diary and notes of Miles Squier Bennet, son of Texian Quartermaster General and DeWitt Colonist, Major Valentine Bennet.   Headings are added by the current author and compiler--WLM)

I sailed from new Orleans on the steamship Columbia, Captain Pennoyer, arriving at Galveston June 3, 1838. There were a few shanties near the Strand, among which was the custom house, presided over by Captain Mosely Baker, who greeted us with a cheer as we approached, saying to my father, "Well, major, I see you have brought one more rifle to Texas." Among other things on the island I saw about two miles up on the highest land the wreck of a schooner imbedded in the sand, where she had apparently lain many years. Going to Houston on the steamer Sam Houston, we found every one busy. The town was about one year old and the pine trees among which it is located were being made into building material, clapboard shanties and other better buildings being rapidly constructed. The prairie from near the Capitol lay almost undisturbed save by deer or by herds of horses brought from the west for sale. Kessler's round tent was prominent.

Divine services were generally held on Sunday in the Capitol, Rev. W.Y. Allen and other ministers officiating. This being headquarters for the army, many prominent citizens and army men and small groups of friendly Indians were frequently seen. Among the notable Texians President Sam Houston, General Rusk, Colonel Hockley, Captain W.H. Patton, Treasurer Asa Brigham, Comptroller Moody, Chief Clerk Charles Mason and many others recur to memory. My father, Major V. Bennet, had already been many years in Texas; was severely wounded at the battle of Velasco in June, 1832, received a commission as lieutenant from General Stephen F. Austin at Gonzales, October, 1835, was quartermaster general at the following siege of Bexar and served as an officer in the army continuously up to this time. He had been revisiting his old home in Ohio on a short furlough, and now, returning and reporting for duty, he at once received instructions from Barnard E. Bee, quartermaster general, to proceed to Fort Sam Houston, San Bernard, San Antonio and other encampments, report their condition and take measures to collect and preserve scattered army property.

Accordingly the major, taking me as a clerk, and a gentleman named Long as companion, having oiur camp equipage on a pack horse, left Houston, going west, crossing the Brazos at Dr. Hunter’s near Richmond. Six miles northwest of Columbia were kindly received by Mr. Samuel Damon, with whom the major, while quartermaster at Velasco, had deposited some commission books, and the celebrated "single star" brand he had made for the cavalry horses. Here we had the ill fortune to lose the most of the bread and meat from our pack, which occasioned us much inconvenience. We saw no more good provisions on our lonely trip. At Mr. William Anders, on the San Bernard, we received a drove of cavalry horses which we sent to headquarters. Near Texana we saw the old encampment where a division of the Mexican army of invasion had been swamped in the mud. The signs were still visible where the carts and everything were deeply mired. Going to Captain McFarland’s troop, stationed on the Bernard, we found much sickness among them and much need of provisions and hospital stores. Their attentive surgeon, Dr. Anderson, made a requisition, which we had filled at Houston.

Around Texana and on the Lavaca we saw families that had been in the flight from the Mexicans as they advanced in 1836, known as the runaway scrape, all anxious to return to their old neighborhood on the Guadalupe, although they knew their houses had been burned and their farms desolated; these people were old acquaintances and among them we found the widow of the lamented Captain Ira Westover, one of the heroes of the Alamo. In conversation this lady recurred with much feeling to their terrible retreat from Gonzales after the fall of the Alamo, their dwellings and most of their contents on fire. Quartermaster Bennet's commissary books and accounts of the siege of Bexar did not escape the flames. These people were all glad to hear news form the seat of government and of the prospect of protection on their frontier, as they were apprehensive of another advance of Mexicans invaders.

One hot day, after resting and taking our coffee at noon, Mr. Long, whose horse was becoming jaded, concluded to ride the pack mule. We had entered a wide prairie, no shade near, when the mule, taking fight, pitched Mr. Long off, dislocating his shoulder. The poor man could not rise, and while I held an umbrella over him father went five miles and secured an ox wagon in which we hauled our companion to Widow Kent's on the Lavaca. After a few days, finding our friend could not travel, we left him with those kind people and went our way, passing over "Big Hill": and stopping at Judge B.D. McClure's on Peach creek. At Gonzales, on July 4, we met some of the returned citizens celebrating the day. They were old acquaintances of father's and plied us with many questions about government news at headquarters. They had become very much impoverished in their moving about since the "break up," when the army had fallen back from the town in the spring of 1836, leaving their homes in ashes. Groceries and good could only be had by hauling with ox teams from Texana or from Houston, a distance of 150 miles. Corn for bread had to be hauled from the more fortunate settlements east of the Colorado and ground in scanty measure upon the hand mill, and the bread thus hardly procured was doled out in very short rations. The few cows that had survived the different journeys, although greatly impoverished, were from time to time reluctantly butchered; the meat was very poor and being, for want of salt, dried in the sun, was so hard that our teeth became sore in chewing it. Besides the dread of invading Mexicans, the constant danger from Comanche Indians placed every one on guard and there was no safety for person or property. On our route a few days before we had passed by the roadside a freshly made grave of a citizen who had been killed by the savages. On this day the neighbors at Gonzales were afflicted by the drowning at the river of one of their boys a son of Edmond Bellinger.

West of the Guadalupe we called upon old Simeon Bateman who had done good service for Texas, and upon whom we could rely in any contemplated movement of troops in defense of this frontier. For a distance of eighty miles to San Antonio there were no settlers, but another man joining us, we pursued our way and had the good fortune to fall in with a party of surveyors, who welcomed us to their camp and extended us many kindnesses. Arriving at San Antonio, we put up at Dolson's American Tavern, but soon, having a tired soldier with us, we cleaned up rooms in the old military quarters on the plaza.

Making out the major’s quartermaster accounts, we reported at headquarters in Houston early in December. Congress convened there on the 4th and we both attended the president’s levee on the 7th. The Western frontier was in a deplorable condition and continued requests for defense were urged and early in December companies A and B of the first Texas regiment were ordered to the Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers. Captain Jordan and Captain Howard were in command of these companies, and Major V. Bennet, quartermaster and commissary, having been paid nearly $1800, Texas paper, on his own personal account for services rendered, was again directed to furnish commissary stores and transportation for the command. He was authorized to draw upon the department in liquidation of such bills as he might find necessary to make on the march. I, of course, as his clerk, continued in this service. On the 9th, the command, on foot, with baggage wagons, took up the march for San Antonio; we depended on procuring beeves on the route, and in some instances paid out our own "Texas money" for oxen, it being preferred to drafts upon the department. We arrived with both companies at San Antonio on the 30th, and a few days afterward, Captain Howard and his company were stationed at Gonzales. I then went back to headquarters with dispatches and requisitions, and on February again left Houston, with three ox wagons loaded with military stores, being assisted by Wm. K. Hargis, a bored ex-soldier and in company with a lieutenant and five or six recruits.

The weather was very inclement, an unusual storm of sleet delayed us. Buffalo Bayou at Mrs. Wheaton’s crossing was swollen out of its banks, making necessary for us to change our route, and the van became so heavy that we had to unload our wagons and place the stores in a house. Our teams were so much impoverished that we dispatched a man to the Guadalupe for fresh oxen. On the 26th in crossing the Colorado, the ferry boat sank with our heaviest wagon, its loading turned over into the river, a cold norther prevailing at the time and everything wet, occasioning a delay of several days in refitting our wagon and recovering the stores. In the meantime fresh oxen were brought to us, by which we were enabled to proceed to Gonzales arriving on March 4. After rejoining the major at San Antonio, we made out our reports and returned to Houston.

Having my headright to survey and a donation section given to my father for military services at the "Siege of Bexar," I joined some surveyors at San Antonio on April 30, 1839, to secure lands on the Cibolo and Santa Clara streams; ten persons comprising the party, among whom were Colonel L.B. Franks, John James, William Bracken and others. Ephraim Bollinger was one of our best frontiersman, a first rate shot, whose daily practice it was to shoot at a mark, wipe out and reload his rifle carefully. So completely was he at home in the woods while camping out with him one felt but little fear of danger or privation. Others of the party were also experts at finding honey and many good shots with the rifle. Deer were so plentiful that frequently two were killed at a single shot. While out we were visited one day by the elder Mr. Trueheart, Josh Threadgill and Major Bennet, who left with us additional land claims for location. Mr. Bollinger and I frequently left the company for day or two scouting about and camping at night, by ourselves; we had abundance of venison and honey and kept our horses on good grass. Our surveyors were working well and we were securing some good land. But after several days a signal smoke was seen, and as we were on the lookout for Indians we collected together, selected a good place for defense and made ready for a fight. However, no enemy appearing toward night, Bollinger and I went out and killed some meat. As we returned to camp we found a Mexican, who said he had escaped from the Comanches; that he had accidentally made the smoke we had seen, and that there were no Indians near. We made him welcome to our camp, furnished him with food and clothing and he remained with us. We had a good outfit of ammunition and provisions, plenty of venison and honey; grass was excellent; we were well mounted and had also picked up three or four ponies that had been left hobbled by Indians and for two or three weeks we enjoyed a hunter’s pleasant paradise.

One day two San Antonio Mexicans came to us. One was Manuel Marin, a well-known bug-eyed spy who had been much in the employ of Col. Karnes, the other was of the name of Flores of excellent family. They told us that Indians ere about and that we had better be on our guard. We, however, continued to run our compasses, as usual, being thus divided into two working squads. The next day, it being Bollinger’s turn to guard camp and prepare dinner, as it would be convenient for us all to dine together. Toward noon my squad quit work and we were making the best of our way through a very brushy country, a gentle breeze prevailing from the supposed direction of the camp, we were suddenly astonished by the sounds borne upon the air, the yells of a multitude of savages apparently charging our camp and Bollinger’s "Run here, boys, run here," a few scattered gunshots, then all had gone out of hearing. We knew well that our camp had been surprised and immediately dismounting, leaving our compass, etc. we worked our painful way through the thorns and bushes in that direction, but again hearing guns in another quarter, we rejoined our horses, mounted and sought our other working squad, whom we hoped were also on their way to our encampment. Soon finding them, we together moved cautiously to our camp, which was broken up. Meat sticks were lying around, coffee grounds thrown out, and everything else gone; a large trail leading off we followed carefully on, watching closely for our enemies. Among fragments of cam equipage thrown around we soon came upon the dead bodies of our cook and Manuel; then Flores, who was mortally wounded, attracted our attention by his groans. Giving him some water we learned form him that the savages were looking for us; he entreated us to leave the place immediately, for we might expect to be attacked at any moment; he also said that then the Indians had succeeded in capturing Mr. Bollinger they stripped him and tied his hands behind him and made him run while they pricked him with their lances. Continuing in our search, we soon came upon him lying upon his face, scalped and dead; and carrying him to the friendly shade of a bushy live oak we wrapped him in blankets, cut some tree boughs and piled over him, left him and again repaired to the dying Flores, who said we could do nothing for him, and giving him a little more water we reluctantly left him to his fate. We went back to San Antonio and sent out a party to bury our dead, and after this trip a few days and obtaining a new outfit we again returned to the place of our late discomfiture, readjusted the graves of our late comrades and finished our surveying.

[Missing installment II]

In the spring of 1839 Cherokee Indians, renegade Mexicans, robbers, Comanches and others harassed the San Antonio frontier very much. In May the renegade Cordova, who was afterward killed on the battlefield of the Salado and his banditti, were depredating here. Two Mexican citizens were killed and scalped and their bodies brought into San Antonio; and ten or twelve other persons of the neighborhood were killed during this month. Among those were Mr. Delmour, the clerk of the court, who with his romantic return of mind chose to live down at the mission; was there robbed, murdered and scalped and his body thrown into the ditch. After burying him, his friend, Mr. Higginbotham, and myself went in pursuit of a Mexican who was seen with the murdered gentleman’s fine horse. We searched the ranches several days, but were unsuccessful. The appeal from the ranches for help and by influential Mexicans was so urgent that the Americans, though few in number, could not withhold their sympathy and aid. Such men as Don Erasmo Seguin, the brothers Flores, Senor Arroche, Don Jose Antonio Navarro, seconded by Major V. Bennet, Captain William H. Patton (who was afterwards killed at his ranch down on the river), Captain Henry W. Karnes, Hendrick Arnold, Samuel A. Maverick and others urged an offensive campaign against the common enemy, which was resolved upon the measures taken to secure such a demonstration against the hostiles as would tend to keep them at a more respectful distance form the settlements.

Accordingly, supplies of such provisions as could be obtained were collected; dried beef, cooking tallow incased in skins and bladders, corn meal (ground at Mr. Small'’ mill down at the mission), small stores of salt, coffee, rice and such other delicacies as were obtainable were prepared. An encampment was formed at San Pedro Springs and an organization perfected. The roster made out shoed 100 men, forty-five of whom were Americans. Colonel H.W. Karnes was elected commander in chief; Juan N. Seguin, captain; Mr. Dolson (who was afterward killed near Austin), first lieutenant; Mr. King, second lieutenant; A. Niel, adjutant; Dr. Alsbury, sergeant; and a Prussian physician named Weideman accompanied the command. We divided into messes of six of seven men. My mates were Higginbotham, Spooner Dinken, Small Geo. Edwards, John James and S.A. Maverick. In the expedition were men who wanted to explore the country and make selections of land that at that time was mostly unsurveyed, some wished to penetrate the rough hill country and the beautiful valleys near the far-famed "Canon de Uvalde," about which were romantic legend of ancient mining and rich silver ore; others only wanted to have a real good hunt where bear, deer and wild horses were plenty, and perhaps see an Indian or two.

A march was made through the circuitous trails of Paso del Bandera—some of them narrow and on the edge of steep places, where there was only room for passing in single file. On the first day or two out bear and deer were killed in abundance as many as twenty bears being seen during one day’s march, and some of the men by change of fare and habit became ill; rain set in, Mr. Chrystler was accidentally shot, and the progress of the march was somewhat retarded. Indian scouts were reported on the head waters of Arroya Leon, but were not overtaken. In passing one of the valleys a small bunch of horses was observed, and a chase was made for them by a few of the men, among whom was Mr. Riddle, an enthusiastic Irish merchant, who, being well mounted and provided with an extra good lariat, succeeded even against expectation in running among them and roping a beautiful mustang. The spirited animal soon, however, made a run, pulling the rope through and severely blistering the hands of his captor, escaping with the valuable lariat around his neck. Mr. Riddle would have liked to follow the mustangs and recover his rope, but Indian lodges were soon seen, and their scouts were evidently observing us.

Being somewhat retarded by rain we traveled but slowly through the Medina country, feasting on fish, venison and honey. Indian signs were seen indicating their moving westward. Our scout sere constantly out, and directed our route over the country. On one occasion a scout ran in at a rapid rate, and we expected to make an immediate chase after hostiles, but he only wanted a few Mexicans with their hands to dispatch a bear, which was soon done and the fresh [meat] divided among the messes. At a beautiful camping place six miles above the forks of the Medina a short rest we had, and scouts sent out in different directions. Mr. Winchell, an old bear hunter from the Brazos, and myself were ordered to go back on our trail five or six miles and look out for Indian signs. We abstained from shooting our guns until we had satisfied ourselves there was no fresh signs of hostile, and toward evening started back to camp, when I observed a bear deliberately ascending a knoll toward a scrubby tree. My first impulse was to dash out and risk a shot, but was restrained by my comrade, who remained there was a heap of good grease in that animal, and by taking extra pains to secure him we might be able to take the meat in triumph to our comrades at the camp. Dismounting and giving his bridle to me with a request to on no account let his horse get loose I this wilderness, he crawled ny the hill to intercept the bear. The animal, however, got wind of him, and scurried off into the thickest brush he could find. In vain did we get after him, the led horse must not be left, and could not be gotten out of a walk; the water gourd at the pommel of his saddle bounced about in great danger of being broken; a loose blanket on top of the saddle slipped off and must not be abandoned; and so, before we could readjust our equipment, Bruin was out of sight.

Indians being reported on the Rio Frio, we moved on in that direction, but a devout Mexican, Padre Florez, being accidentally wounded, we encamped without fire and constructed a tent for him, and leaving him with a strong guard and also depositing here the greater part of our provisions, we pushed on after the enemy and soon found recent encampments of the hostiles, their tent poles still standing, and large trails leading out into the dusty roads, where their caballado had been driven and their numerous tent poles dragged along. At one of their camps as we entered the Canon de Uvalde there were the remains of a human body, which had been suspended from the limb of a tree, under which were dead embers and charred bones lying scattered around. Evidently, some unfortunate had been roasted there. Moving on form valley to hill, we found the Indians were driving their stock out of the country; that their spies were closely observing us, and that we could not bring them to an engagement unless it suited them. A courier from the camp of our wounded Mexican brought a letter from Comrade Devinney stating that the guard would return to town. After several days spent in trying to intercept Indians, Colonel Karnes advised our return to San Antonio. Some were reluctant to do so and we divided into three companies, one going to Camp Flores to see if any stores we left there, the other two parties slowly hunting, pursued different routes to town. Here the command reassembled on the Military Plaza, were honorably discharged by Colonel Karnes and invited to partake of refreshments at Black & King’s coffee house June 23, 1839.


The Republic-Index | DeWitt Colony Biographies: The Bennet Family
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