Letters from La Bahia Jan-March 1836
John Sowers Brooks stands out as a one who took the time to reflect and express his reflections to others, albeit immediate family, on his fateful situation and likely speaks for the majority of his comrades who were less eloquent and resourceful under the circumstances--Don Guillermo
John Sowers Brooks to Father. Camp Fannin, at Velasco, Texas, January 20th, 1836 My dear father: The "Georgia Battalion of Permanent Volunteers," to which I am attached in the capacity of Adjutant will embark tomorrow morning on some vessels lying in the mouth of the Brazos and proceed to Copeno lower down the coast for the purpose of forming a junction with 6 or 700 other troops and then taking up the line of march for the invasion of Mexico. The expedition will consist of 1000 men and will be commanded by Gen. Houston or Col. Fannin. The first point of attack will be the City of Metamoras. It contains a population of from 15 to 20,000, (about one twentieth of whom are Americans) and is said to be wealthy and stored with public property to a vast amount. Two thirds of the inhabitants have manifested a preference for the "Liberals," as we are called, and consequently are opposed to the misrule of Santa Ana and will probably aid our enterprise. Various rumors have reached us with regard to the state of preparation in Metamoras. It is said the City is well fortified and garrisoned with 4000 regulars. Another rumor leaves It almost defenceless and a third fixes its garrison at 1100 men. We will take with us only a small part of artillery and will be altogether unprepared to operate as a besieging army and therefore, if we find the first rumor correct, we will endeavor to force an entrance by assault and retreat if we fail.
The objects of this expedition appear to me to be not a systematic invastion of Mexico, but primarily to give employment to the Volunteers and lastly to secure if practicable, a foot hold in Mexico, to carry the war out of Texas and to sustain ourselves upon the enemies means until a more formidable and better concerted plan of invasion can be arranged. We are all enthusiastic in the cause and if ceaseless perseverance and indomitable courage can prevail, my fond hope of our success must be realized. Yet it is sad to think that there are some among us with hearts now beating high with expectation who will then hear the merry sound of their last reveile. I may be one of that hapless number. I hope not, but if such is my fate, I will submit, without a murmur. You would perhaps like to know some thing of the policies and present positions of parties in this country, for the wild malignant demon of party spirit has appeared here in its most virulent form. There are two parties---one of which is warmly in favor of a secession from Mexico, and a Declaration of Independence by the Convention which is to assemble in March. One portion of this party entertained the project of entering your Confederacy as an integral member of the Union. Another part, are desirous of selling the Country to the United States and thus enjoy the privileges of a free government, as a Territory without the expense until an increase of population and wealth has given them consequence sufficient to justify the assumption of a more exalted and responsible attitude as a constituent of the Federal Government. And a third portion are clamorous for the establishment of a separate and independent sovereignty. They argue with great plausibility that this course will produce confidence abroad and secure us aid in men and money which could not otherwise be obtained. They say that if we succeed in maintaining an attitude of independence, the country will be populated with a rapidity unprecedented in the annals of emigration and that then her prosperity will essentially depend upon a free, unshackeled commercial intercourse with foreign nations and a full development of her own resources which would be impossible as a component part or territory of the United States.
These three division of the first and I believe the most numerous party all concur however, in the opinion that a Declaration of Independence is a necessary preliminary to the furtherance of either of their particular designs. The second and smallest party which is composed of the grantees of. land and extensive land speculators are opposed to a Declaration of Independence and to all the views of the other party. They desire a reestablishment of the Constitution of Mexico of 1824 and assert their intention to adhere to the Mexican Confederacy under that form of government which recognizes the sovereignty of Texas as a member of the Republic and gives her a local Legislature and they contend a code of municipal law suited to the education, habits and pursuits of the people. But this party seems to be actuated by a different motive than that which they profess. Their extensive speculations in lands have acquired them an influence in the Mexican councils which it is said, they have exerted to their own aggrandizement and to the detriment of the interests of the settlers. Their influence with the prominent Mexicans enables them to govern the Colony as they desire. It is also said that they have acquired fraudulent titles to land which can not withstand the investigation which the Government of Texas will institute when established and these are the reasons which induce them to advocate so warmly the restoration of the Constitution of 1824 and to oppose so violently a Declaration of Independence.
I may be mistaken in the above views of the state of parties here. My residence in the Country has been brief and I have seen but few of the leading men and therefore would not have you to look upon them as infallible. We have just heard that the General Council have deposed the Governor and delegated to the Lieutenant Governor authority to act in that capacity. The particulars have not reached us. We have been aware for several days, of the existence of dissention between the Executive and the Legislature but have yet received no accurate intelligence of the cause. The General Council I believe have assumed the control of affairs denying the Governor's authority to act while the Governor contends that the Council has become a nullity by his decree of dissolution and consequently incompetent to discharge the functions of a Legislature, and thus we are left at this critical juncture in uncertainty and doubt as to the existence as to any legal and responsible authority or acknowledged source of power. I beg you will excuse this hasty and imperfect sketch of the condition of parties in Texas. I write amid the noise and confusion of a camp sitting on the ground and holding the paper on my knee.
Give my love to mother, to Norborne, to Mary Ann, to Hannah, and to Henrietta and to Richard and his family. Tell them to write to me and direct to Quintana, Mouth of the Brazos, Texas, to the care of Messrs. McKinney and Williams. Affectionately, John Sowers Brooks P. S. Tell mother I still possess the Bible she gave me when I left home and that I read it some times. My time is employed day and night in the organization and drilling of the troops. There is but one other professional soldier in the Battallion, besides myself, Sergeant Major Chadwick, from West Point. I have become habituated to sleeping on the ground with one blanket and feel no inconvenience from it. Brooks
I have no room for all the intelligence I am desirous of communicating. If I have another opportunity of writing, I will tell you some thing of the agricultural conditions of the Country. Brooks
My health is better than it has been of late. I weigh more now than I have at any former period of my life and I have frequently got up in the morning perfectly drenched in rain and leaving my full print in the mud where I had reposed. Brooks
If we accomplish the capture of Metamoras, as I believe we shall, our next object will be the City of Tampico where there is said to be a considerable party in our favor. You have heard of the attack upon that place by Gen. Mexia and the result. All the Americans who were taken were shot. I have not had a letter from home since I landed in Texas. If you write and neglect to pay the postage to New Orleans, they will never go any further. If we succeed in taking Metamoras as I believe we shall, and I survive the attack, I will write immediately and give you the particulars. If I fall, of course,-----
John Sowers Brooks to Sister. Fort Defiance, Goliad, Texas, Feb. 25th, 1836. My dear Sister:-From the hurry of a preparation to march, I have stolen a moment to write to you. An express from San Antonio de Bexar received here a few moments since, with intelligence that the Mexican Army under Santa Ana, were in sight of that place and preparing to attack it. He heard the firing of cannon after he had gained some distance towards us. He estimated their strength at from three to five thousand men. Bexar has a garrison of 156. They have retired to the Alamo, determined to hold out to the last and have solicited reinforcements from us. We have 420 men here, and have been engaged in repairing the Fort, and mounting artillery. Commanding Officer, in the field, Gen. Fannin, has made Goliad his Head Quarters, from the conviction of its importance, as being advantageously located for a depot of reinforcements, clothing, provisions and military stores. It commands the sea coast particularly, Aransas and Matagorda Bays,and consequently the only convenient landings for vessels of any tonnage. The only troops in the held at this time are volunteers from the United States, and they probably do not exceed 800, and perhaps but one third of them are near the scene of action. He was therefore compelled to remain in this place in order to prepare it as a depot, and to forward provisions, et cetra. From the want of cavalry, we have been unable to obtain any accurate information of the enemy's movements. Thus Bexar has been left exposed and the Mexicans availing themselves of the advantages thus unavoidably offered them, have marched against it with all their force. With a forlorne hope of 320 men, we will start tonight or tomorrow morning at the dawn of day in order to relieve the gallant little garrison, who have so nobly resolved to sustain themselves until our arrival.
Our force is small compared with that of the enemy. It is a desperate resort, but we hope the God of Battles will be with us-that victory will again perch on the bright little banner of Texian liberty and that the civic militia, now aroused to a sense of their danger and the proximity of their implacable and mercenary foe, will appear in their strength, that the young lion will arise in the majesty of his untried strength and our youthful Republic make herself worthy of the high destiny at which she aims. If by forced marches we can reach Bexar, a distance of more than a hundred miles, and cut our way through the enemy's lines to our friends in the Fort, our united force thus advantageously posted, may perhaps be sufficient to hold out until the militia can be collected to reinforce us. If the militia doe not rendovous promptly, I apprehend much. But the sin be upon their own heads. We have resolved to do our duty and to perish under the walls of the Alamo, if stern necessity requires it. We are but poorly prepared to meet the formidable host of Mexicans, arrayed against us.
I am now acting aid-de-camp to the Comander in chief, having resigned my appointment of the Adjutancy to the 1st Regiment. I have also been acting as chief engineer to the post and but for this occurrence, would have had it in a tolerable state of defense in a short time. The ordnance and magazine were also placed under my charge. From this circumstance, you will readily and rationally infer, that there are but few professional soldiers here, when one of my age with but few months experience has so many important trusts confided to him. My duties have been arduous in the extreme, having besides the above appointments, frequently to drill the Regiment and companies, and this must be my excuse for not having written home as often as I might have done otherwise. By the way, I have not heard from home either by letter or otherwise since I left New York. Why have you not written?
And now my dear sister, I would ask you to took upon my situation in its proper light, and to indulge in no unnecessary fears. I am a soldier both morrally and physically. Death is one of the chances of the game I play and if it falls to my lot, I shall not murmur, and you should not regret. I shall write to you as soon as some thing decissive occurs. We shall probably be attacked by the Mexicans on our way to Bexar, and if I should die, my services will entitle me to 1800 or more acres of land which will be valuable. It will revert to my representatives, and father should claim it. Tell him I owe Mr. Hagerty in N. Y. and a portion of it can be applied to the discharge of that debt. We will take with us, four peices of artillery, two sixes and two fours.-Now is the time for the people of the U.S. to do some thing for Texas. Can nothing be done in Staunton?
Give my love to all the family, tell mother to remember me, and tell them all to write to me. They are calling for me now. In the greatest haste, Ever your brother, John Sowers Brooks To Miss Mary Ann Brooks
John Sowers Brooks to Father. Fort Defiance, Goliad, Texas, Feb. 25th, 1836, 10 P'M' My dear Father: I wrote to Mary Ann today, and as the Express does not leave before reveille tomorrow, I thought that I might profitably employ the few moments I have obtained in writing to you, for it is possible I may never have another opportunity. In my letter, I gave a hasty detail of our intended movements and the causes which produced them and I would refer you to it, if it has reached its destination. From information received since the letter above referred to, was written, we are induced to believe that the Mexican force at and near San Antonio de Bexar does not exceed 3000. The Garrison which has been withdrawn from the town to the Alamo, a Fort in the suburbs, consists in 156 men. They are resolute and have determined to die in the ditch rather than dishonor themselves, the cause they have espoused, or the Country they represent.
We will march at the dawn of day tomorrow with 320 men, and 4 pieces of artillery,---2 sixes and 2 fours. We have no provisions scarcely, and many of us are naked and entirely destitute of shoes. But something must be done to relieve our Country. We have suffered much and may reasonably anticipate much greater suffering. But if we succeed in reaching Bexar, before the Garrison is compelled to surrender and are successful in taking the place and its gallant defenders, we shall deem ourselves amply repaid for our trials and hardships. But if we fail, I fear that our misfortunes will have an unhappy influence in prolonging the struggle in which poor Texas is engaged. We will leave a Garrison of 100 men with the hope that a portion of the Civic Militia who are embodying will be ordered here, and the remainder sent to reinforce us. If we are successful, it will prove a check to the Mexican army from which it will not readily recover and which will ever after have a salutary influence upon our cause. But my dear Father, I frankly confess that without the interposition of Providence, we can not rationally anticipate any other result to our Quixotic expedition than total defeat. If the Militia assemble, and move promptly to our aid, we may be saved. We have less than 350 men; the force of the enemy is possibly 3000-a vast disparity. We are almost naked and without provisions and very little ammunition. We are undisciplined in a great measure; they are regulars, the elite of Santa Ana's army; well fed, well clothed, and well appointed and accompanied by a formidable battery of heavy field and battering pieces. We have a few pieces but no experienced artillerists and but a few rounds of fixed amunition, and perhaps less of loose powder and balls. We can not therefore, calculate very sanguinely upon victory. However, we will do our best, and if we perish, Texas and our friends will remember that we have done our duty.
In my letter to sister, I alluded to the possibility of my death, not with a view to elicit hers or your sympathy, or to excite any unpleasant feelings in my behalf. I owe Mr. Hagarty a small sum he furnished me and am desirous of pointing out some mode by which it may be repaid, if I should be unfortunate enough to fall. My services here will entitle me to 1800 or more acres of land. It will revert to my legal representatives, and I hope you will claim it and appropriate a sufficient portion of it to that purpose. From our information, we are induced to apprehend an attack on our march to Bexar, by a detachment of the enemy's cavalry. We hope they will not be in sufficient force to retard our march, much less defeat us. I am at present acting Aid de Camp to the Commander-inChief and Chief Engineer of the post and master or ordnance. It is getting late, I slept but little last night and as we must march soon in the morning, I beg you will excuse this hasty scrawl.
Give my love to mother, Norborne, Mary Ann, Hannah, Henrietta and to Richard and his family. My health is good. Farewell! Your affectionate son, John Sowers Brooks. P.S. I have not heard from home since I left. Direct your letters to the care of J. W. Fannin, Jr., Army of Texas, pay the postage to New Orleans. I have no money. I should like to have Brooks.
Do not fail to write me immediately, and send me some money if possible. I am very much in want of it, I assure you. The Government has obtained a loan and will soon pay us off-when I can pay you. Brooks.
Give my respects to all who remember me. Tell the youth of Staunton they may now do some thing in the cause of Liberty if they will come to Texas. [to A. H. Brooks]
John Sowers Brooks to Mother. Fort Defiance in Goliad, Head Quarters, Army of Texas, March 2, 1836. My dear Mother: In my letters to Father and Sister a few days since, I apprized you of some of the events transpiring on the western frontier of Texas, and of our contemplated movements. Since the date of those letters, circumstances have occurred which have materially changed our system of operations for the present. I informed you that the advance of the Mexican Army consisting of 2000 men had attacked Bexar or Baiar. the town which was surrendered by Gen. Cos, to the Americans, and that we were preparing to march to its relief---it being garrisoned by 156 men, among whom is "Davy Crockett." We marched at the time appointed, with 420 men, nearly the whole force at Goliad, leaving only one Company of Regulars to guard the Fort. Our baggage wagons and artillery were all drawn by oxen (no broken horses could be obtained) and there were but a few yokes of them. In attempting to cross the San Antonio River, three of our wagons broke down and it was with the utmost labor and personal hazzard, that our four pieces of cannon were conveyed safely across. We remained there during the day, with our ammunition wagon on the opposite side of the River. During the night, some of the oxen strayed off and could not be found the next morning. Our situation became delicate and embarrassing in the extreme.
If we proceeded we must incur the risk of starvation, and leave our luggage and artillery behind. The Country between us and Bexar is entirely unsettled, and there would be but little hope of obtaining provisions on the route and we would be able only to carry 12 rounds of cartridges each. Every one felt an anxiety to relieve our friends, who we had been informed, had retired to the Alamo, a fortress in Bexar, resolved to hold out, until our arrival. Yet every one saw the impropriety, if not the impossibility of our proceeding under existing circumstances and it was equally apparent to all that our evacuation of Goliad, would leave the whole frontier from Bexar to the coast open to the incursions of the enemy, who were then concentrating at Laredo and the provisions, clothing, military stores, et cetera, at Dimmitts Landing and Matagorda, perhaps all that were in Texas, would eventually be lost. Intelligence also reached us that the advance of Santa Anas lower division had surprised San Patricio about 50 miles in front of our position and put the whole garrison under the command of Col. Johnson to the sword. Five of them have reached this place. Col. Johnson is one of them, and they are probably all that have escaped. Capt. Pearson of the Volunteers, was killed with several others, after they had surrendered. The war is to be one of extermination. Each party seems to understand that no quarters are to be given or asked. We held a Council of War in the bushes on the bank of the River; and after a calm review of all these circumstances, it was concluded to return to Goliad, and place the Fort in a defensible condition. We are hard at work, day and night, picketing, ditching, and mounting cannon, &c. We are hourly in expectation of an attack. On the morning of the 29th ult. our pickets were driven in by a number of men supposed to be a reconnoitering party of the enemy. The Garrison was called to arms and dispositions made for defense. A party of 50 men were sent out to make discoveries and the rest remained under arms till day light. Nothing satisfactory was ascertained. There are about 450 men here. The Mexican force approaching us is variously estimated at from 1500 to 3000 men. We will endeavor to make as good a stand as possible and if we are taken, it will be after a hard fight for we know that we can not expect quarters and therefore do not intend to give or ask any, result as it may.
If the division of the Mexican army advancing against this place has met any obstructions, and it is probable they have been attacked by the Comanche Indians, and their advance much retarded by the loss of their horrses and baggage, 200 men will be detached for the relief of Bexar. I will go with them. Our object will be to cut our way through the Mexican army into the Alamo, and carry with us such provisions as it will be possible to take on a forced march. Our united force will probably be sufficient to hold out until we are relieved by a large force from the Colonies. We have just received additional intelligence from Bexar. The Mexicans have made two successive attacks on the Alamo in both of which the gallant little garrison repulsed them with some loss. Probably Davy Crokett "grinned" them off.
We will probably march tomorrow or the next day, if we can procure fresh oxen enough to transport our baggage and two six pounders. The people in the settlements are all arming themselves. The sound of clashing steel is heard on their borders and it is time they should awake now if they wish to preserve their freedom and the fruits of so many years of toil and privation. Now is the time for volunteers from the United States. Let them come with six months clothing and one hundred rounds of ammunition, and they may be of essential service to the cause of Liberty, and no doubt will be amply rewarded by the people of Texas. Now or never. Write to me soon. I have not heard from home for four months. Direct your letters to John Sowers Brooks, Volunteer Army of Texas, to the care of J. W. Fannin, Jr., Col. and Comt. Artillery, or to Quintana, Mouth of the Brazos, to the care of Messrs McKinney and Williams and they will forward them to me. Tell Mary Ann, Father, and all of you to write, and perhaps some of the letters will reach me. Give my love to all the family. Tell Richard to write to me. Your affectionate son, John Sowers Brooks.
P.S. We are all nearly naked-and there are but few of us who have a pair of shoes. We have nothing but fresh beef without salt---no bread for several days. Brooks. On my arrival here, I was appointed Adjutant of the Post. The Col. desired to have me in his family---I therefore resigned the Adjutancy and was appointed as Aid-de-Camp.
A spy was taken last night, who will probably be shot tomorrow. One of our men is under arrest for sleeping on post. He will be tried by a Court Martial---the penalty is death. I have had no money for some time and I am now nearly naked and starved---Fresh beef, without salt, is all we get.
John Sowers Brooks to Sister. Fort Defiance Goliad, Texas. March 4, 1836. My dear Sister: Another opportunity of writing to you occurs, and I embrace it because they are infrequent, and becoming hourly more so. The precarious channel, through which all letters must arrive at, or go from this place, affords, indeed, the only satisfactory explication of your mysterious silence; and the belief that yours have been intercepted or miscarried, is consoling indeed, for it renders doubtful what, in my moments of desperation, I have often-feared is- certain-that you had forgotten your poor, wayward brother. Why is it so? Why have you not written? War, it is true, "opens a vein that bleeds Nations to death," but why should it invade the sanctity of social connection? Why should it dissolve fraternal bonds or sunder domestic ties? Is it necessary that we should be morally, as well as physically separated? That the associations of infancy, the remembrances of child hood, the anticipations of youth, and the common pleasures, hopes, and fears of better and happier days, should be forgotten and we pursue our weary and desolate track through life, as if neither had existed? Is it necessary because we are separated, because the billows of the Atlantic, or the Pillars of the Alleghany are between us, that all the ties which bound us, in other days should be severed? I trust not. Why then do you not avail yourself of that medium of communion, which language proffers? Have I rendered myself unworthy of your affection? I know my course, since I left home, has been erratic in the extreme. But can you conceive of no reason why it has been so? If you can recall the events of the last few years, you must; if you can not, you may then perhaps, with justice, censure me for that reckless indifference, to my hopes and prospects in life, with which, I have so often been charged. It is true that I have passed unimproved many opportunities of acquiring the good opinion of my fellow men, but why was it so? Because early misfortunes have broken and seared a heart, perhaps too sensitive, and blighted all the hopes which a disposition too sanguine, has prompted me to form and cherish. Can I change the fiat of fate? Can I control the waves of mighty destiny?
My life has indeed, been a wayward and useless one; and you can not be more sensible of it, or more sincerely deplore it, than myself. But, notwithstanding all my faults and follies, I have never failed in respect for the soil of birth, regard for my native village, love for my home, or affection for my relatives. I have never forgotten: and many an hour of my loneliness has been consumed by thoughts of them. Often has the recollection of the past and of you, arrested me on the brink of acts of deeper recklessness, and of more irremediable desperation so far as this world is concerned, than any I had hitherto committed, Still a latent hope that I may see you all again, and be once more happy, swells my throbbing bosom. But there is some thing, I know not what, which whispers me, that the hope is destined to no realization on earth.
I am acting, my dear sister, in that sphere which nature designed me to fill. I am a soldier of fortune; and all the premonitions of my child hood early told me that I should be one. My profession, perhaps for life, be it short or long, will be that of arms. It is the only pursuit in which I could feel a throb of interest; and the cause in which I now exercise it, renders it still dearer, and more ennobling to me. It is the course of Liberty, of the oppressed against the Tyrant, of the free man against the bigoted slave, and, what recommends it more strongly to me, of the weak against the strong. If I fall, let me fall---It is one of the chances of the game I play-a casualty to which every soldier is liable. My prayer has been, since my earliest recollection, to die on the field of battle, with the shout of victory in my ears; and, if it is the will of high Heaven, that that fate should meet me now, I will not murmur and you should not. Remember that your religion teaches that death is but a change of scene.
But all this is of no avail. Perhaps a brief retrospect of the events of our campaign, up to this period, would be interesting to you. On the 24th day of January 1836, the Georgia Battalion of Volunteers, (of which I was Adjutant), consisting of four Companies, sailed from Velasco, at the Mouth of the Brazos, in two vessels. Our object was primarily, to attack and take Matamoras, and thus form a point of rendezvous, and concentration for volunteers from the U. States, for a more extensive invasion of Mexico. Our intention was to allow Liberal principles, and support for the time, the federation of 1824, and thus revolutionize Tamaulipas, the greater portion of whose citizens are opposed to Santa Ana, and to secure our foot hold in Mexico. The fourth day, we debarked at Copano, and after a days march, we pitched our tents at the Mission of Refugio, and waited for the promised munitions and reinforcements. They never arrived. In the mean time, our spy, who had preceded us, returned with the intelligence, that the people of Tamaulipas were opposed to any severance of the Republican bonds, and would not favor our project, if Texas declared itself independent. Ile also informed us, that Santa Ana was concentrating his troops, to the number, of from 7 to 12,000 men, at Matamoras, Laredo, Saltillo, Monclova, and Monterey, for the purpose of invading Texas, and punishing his rebellious subjects, with a war of extermination. We retreated to Goliad, and commenced fortifying and preparing for the threatened storm. We have remained here ever since, busily employed, in getting in provisions, military stores, picketing, ditching, and mounting cannon, for our defence.
Santa Ana's army is now in motion, and our almost unprotected frontier, is the destined goal of its operations. One of his divisions has already attacked Bexar, the town which was surrendered to the Americans, ou the 18th Dec. 1835, by the Mexican General, Cos, which garrison consisted of only 156 Volunteers, who retreated to the Alamo, a strong fortress in the suburbs, and still held out, at our last intelligence. "Davy Crockett" is with them. The Mexicans amounted to 2000. We started with 300 men to their relief, but found it impossible to proceed, from the want of horses or oxen, to transport our baggage and artillery. While deliberating on what steps to take, intelligence reached us that 200 Mexicans, the advance guard to the division of their army, which was destined to operate against this portion of our frontier, had attacked and totally defeated, Col. Johnson and his force of 40 men at San Patrico, a town on the Rio de la Neuces, about 60 miles in front of our position. Only five escaped, among whom was Col. Johnson and Mr. Toler, a merchant. We are in hourly expectation of an attack; but, from the want of horses, we are unable to obtain any accurate information of the strength or movements of the enemy. We suppose their force to be from 1500 to 3000 men. We have but 500-all Volunteers. But we are resolved to die, to a man, under the walls we have thrown up, rather than surrender to a horde of merciless savages, who have declared their determination to adhere to none of the rules of civilized war fare; but to murder all Americans, indiscriminately. Capt. Pearson and several others were shot down, after they had surrendered at San Patricio. This on the part of the enemy, is to be a war of extermination, not directed solely against the armed soldiers in the field, but against the peaceful citizen, the helpless female, and the defenceless infant. They show no quarter; we do not require it; and, indeed, both parties seem to have tacitly contracted, that it shall neither be asked nor given. Let them pursue their course of ruthless cruelty; they will encounter spirits as stern as their own; they will find, if retaliation requires it, that we can be as deaf to the calls of mercy as they can be. If victory favors us, ample shall be their retribution, for the murdered volunteers at San Patricio.
We have just learned that Col. Grant with 22 men, has been attacked by 200 Mexicans, on the road from San Patricio to Matamoras, 15 miles from the former place, and his whole party, with the exception of two who escaped, killed or taken. Col. Grant is a prisoner. Up to this time, they have uniformly killed all the Americans they take, and it is reasonable therefore, to infer that not one of that ill fated party survived. We will prob ably be attacked before I can write you again. The advance of the enemy is within 25 miles of us. If we are defeated, it will be after a hard fight. Tell every one of the family to write to me, and mail their letters different days. Events arc thickening upon us. I will write to you again, the first opportunity that occurs. In the mean time write to me by several different mails; and if I die, reflect that it will be in a good cause. Give my love to all the family. Your affectionate brother, John Sowers Brooks. Direct your letters to John Sowers Brooks, Volunteer Army of Texas, to the care of Col. J. W. Fannin, Jr., or to Quintana, Mouth of the Brazos, to the care of Messrs. McKinney & Williams. It has been four months since I have heard from home. On my arrival at Goliad, I was appointed Adjutant of the Post. I have been transferred to the General's Staff, as Aid-de-Camp. I am nearly naked, almost barefooted, and without a cent of money. We have, had nothing but beef for several days. We suffer much and labor hard in repairing the Fort. [on verso:] Will Mess. McKinney & Williams, please forward this letter to U.S. by first opportunity and oblige, J. S. B.
John Sowers Brooks to James Hagarty of New York. Fort Defiance, Goliad Texas, March 9, 1836 My dear friend: I have written to you several times since my arrival in Texas; but, as I have received no answer from you, I presume my letters have miscarried. An opportunity now occurs of forwarding to Matagorda, whence it will more probably be shipped to New Orleans, than by the usual route, now infested by the enemy. A brief retrospect of our heretofore bloodless campaign, will perhaps, be interesting to you. I write in great haste, and may possibly, omit events necessary to elucidate our conduct. Indeed, it is impossible within the compass of a single letter, to give you any idea of the manner in which our little army has been influenced by the policies of the Country; though most of them are strangers to it, and consequently unable to realize the motives, which actuate the different parties.- For Texas is not, as you would probably suppose, united, in the great struggle before her. Party spirit has taken a form even more malignant than she has assumed in the U. States; and to such an extent has domestic cavilling been carried, that the Council have deposed, impeached, and arrested the Governor, while he, by an official fiat, has dissolved the Council; and thus we see the striking anomaly of two Governors, created by different authorities, ruling in the same country.
But, to return- On the 24th day of January 1836, the Georgia Battallion of Volunteers, in which I held a responsible office, sailed from the Brazos, under the Command of J. W. Fannin, Jr. The object of this expedition was to take the City of Matamoras to revolutionize the State of Tamaulipas, to form a nucleus, or point of rendezvous for volunteers from the U. States, to harrass the enemy at sea, to relieve ourselves from the burden of the war by carrying it out of the Country, and to give employment to the volunteers who had lately arrived. On the 4th day we arrived about 60 miles in front of our position; and another party of 200 have been discovered within 18 miles of us, between us and Gonzalas. Every thing indicates that an attack win be speedily made upon us. Their scouts, well mounted, frequently push up to our walls, and, from the want of horses, we are unable to punish them. We have again heard from Bexar, Santa Ana has arrived there himself, with 3000 men, making his whole force 4800. He has erected a battery within 400 yards of the Alamo, and every shot goes through it, as the walls are weak. It is feared that Bexar will be taken and that the devoted courage of the brave defenders will be of no avail.
We have had no bread, for several days. I am nearly naked, without shoes, and without money. We suffer much, and as soon as Bexar falls we will be surrounded by 6000 infernal Mexicans. But we are resolved to die under the walls rather than surrender. You shall hear from me again as soon as possible. I am acting Aid-de-Camp to the Commander-in-Chief, with the rank of Lieutenant. The Express is anxious to start, and I am compelled to close this letter, unfinished. Independence has probably been declared. We are in a critical situation. I will die like a soldier. Farewell, John S. Brooks.
Mes. McKinney & Williams will please forward this to the U.S. by the first opportunity [To James Hagarty, New York] and oblige, J. S. B.
John Sowers Brooks to Father. Fort Defiance, Goliad, Texas, Mv dear Father:-March 10, 1836. I wrote to Mother and to Mary, Ann a few days since; but, as the route over which the Government's courier, who carried the letters, must have passed has been infested by advanced parties of the enemy, it is possible they have been intercepted; and, as an officer will be sent to Matagorda to morrow, I have concluded to write again.
Copano. at the head of the Aransasso Bay, where we debarked, and landed our stores, munitions, and artillery. After a days march, we pitched our tents at the Mission of Refugio, in Mr. Power's grant, and remained for a few days, in order to make cartridges and prepare our artillery, which was defective, for service. In the mean time, the scout who had been sent ahead, returned with information, that Santa Ana had already commenced the concentration of his army on our frontiers. They were rendezvousing at Matamoras, Monclova, Saltillo, Monterey, and Laredo, to the number from 6 to 10000 men, and designed attacking Bexar and Goliad simultaneously, with two divisions of his army, and marching the third between those points to San Felipe, where he intended fortifying. We immediately apprised Government of these facts, and fell back to Goliad with our small force of 450 men, and commenced repairing the Fort. Bexar was garrisoned by 150 or 200 men; and with this handful of 6 or 700 Volunteers, we are left by the generous Texians, to roll back the tide of invasion from their soil.
On the 23rd ult. the Mexican advance, reached Bexar, and attacked the subsequent morning with 1800 men. The gallant little garrison retired to the Alamo, a fortress in the suburbs, resolved to hold out to the last. The Mexicans made several assaults, and were repulsed with loss at every instance. On the receipt of the intelligence at Goliad, we promptly marched with 320 men and four pieces of artillery, to their aid. In marching a few miles, our oxen became weary, and we were compelled to halt or leave our baggage and artillery. While consulting on what course to pursue, we received news of the successive defeats of the parties of Cols. Johnson and Grant, in Tamaulipas., and of the approach of the lower division of Santa Ana's army on our position at Goliad. A Council of War was held in the bushes, and it was determined to return to the post we had vacated in the morning, as its abandonment would leave the road open to the settlements, and completely uncover our depot of provisions, the only one now in Texas, and consequently the main stay of the Army. The Mexicans, to the number of 700, are now in San Patricio,
In the letters referred to, and some others I have previously written, I gave a brief detail of the events of our compaign up to this period. As some of these epistles, must have reached their destination, I will not again trouble you with a narration of incidents, which I presume, are familiar to you. A party of 70 men, under the joint command of Col's. Grant and Johnson, have been in Temaulipas, for the purpose of acquiring information, as to the designs of the enemy ever since the fall of Bexar in December last. They had taken from 2 to 300 horses, for the use of the army; and were gradually retiring on this post. when half the party, with Col. Johnson at its head, was attacked by about 200 of the enemy, and totally defeated. Six, among whom was their leader escaped. Capt.. Pearson, and two others were inhumanly butchered, after they had surrendered. They, of course, lost all their horses and arms. The party under Col. Grant, were attacked between 8 and 9 o'clock in the morning. They were bringing on a large herd of horses, and in their attempt to save them, and at the same time, fight the enemy, who amounted to 150, they were cut to pieces. Five only escaped. Col. Grant was either killed on the ground, or is now a prisoner. Scarcely had the intelligence of these disasters to our advance in Tamaulipas reached us, when we were informed by express, that the Mexicans had entered Bexar with an effective force of 1800 men. The garrison there consisted of 156 Americans, who retreated, on the approach of the enemy to the Alamo, a Spanish fortress in the neighborhood, which was immediately invested, and has been vigorously besieged up to the date of our latest intelligence.
Immediately on receipt of the news, we promptly took up the line of march, in order to relieve them. After proceeding three miles, several ofour baggage wagons broke down; and it was found impossible, to get the ammunition carts or artillery over the river San Antonio. We accordingly halted. During the night our oxen strayed off. In the morning a Council of War was convened. While it was in session, a courier apprised us, that 650 of the enemy, the same, probably, who had defeated Grant and Johnson, had reached San Patricio on the Nueces and would attack our depot of provisions on the La Baca, and at Matagorda. With these facts before its, it was concluded to return to Goliad, and maintain that place, which was done.
Thirty two men have cut their way into the Alamo, with some provisions. The enemy have erected a battery of nine pounders within 400 yeards of the Fort, and every shot goes through the walls. A large party of the enemy are between this and Bexar, with a design of cutting off reinforcements. Another division of 3000 Mexicans have arrived at Bexar, making, their whole force now there 4800 men. The little garrison still holds out against this formidable force. It is said that Santa Ana is himself with the army before the Alamo.
It is said that Santa Ana designs driving all the Americans beyond Sabine. We have just been advised that he intends detaching 1000 men from Bexar, to form a junction with the 650 at San Patrico, and then reduce this place. We have 450 men here, and twelve pieces of small artillery. We have strengthened the fort very much; and lie will find it difficult with his 1650 men to drive us from our post. We are hourly anticipating an attack, and preparing for it. We are short of provisions, and that is now our deadliest foe. Unless we are soon supplied, we can not hold out much longer. We have had no bread for some time. We suffer much from the want of shoes and clothing. Excuse this hasty letter. I have just returned from a weary and unsuccessful march in pursuit of a party of Mexicans, who appeared a few miles from this place.
I have not heard from home since I have been in Texas, and I am at a loss to account for your silence. The Convention, which met the first of this month, it is rumored, have declared Texas independent. No official or authentic information, however, has come to hand. You shall hear from me again as soon as possible. I am Aid-de-Camp to the Commandant here. Farewell. Your affectionate son, John S. Brooks. P.S. I have neither clothes nor money to buy them. The Government furnishes us with nothing,-not even amunition. I have written nearly twenty letters home, all of them unanswered. Brooks. Give my love to all the family and write.
Capt. Jack Shackelford to Brother of John Sowers Brooks. Courttako, Ala., 5th Aug., 1836. Mr. N. C. Brooks, Staunton, Va. Dear Sir:-I have just received your letter, and hasten to give you the information you desire, in relation to the fate of your valiant though unfortunate brother. I knew him well, and as we were both natives of the same state, we soon became well acquainted, and our intercourse was of the most friendly character. Indeed, commanding "The Red Rovers" my-self, placed me in a situation to be with him almost daily.
He was in the battle of the Prairie on the 19th March, fought with a musket, in the most cool and chivalrous manner, and received a very severe wound in the centre of the left thigh which shattered the bone and caused great pain. He was taken back to Goliad and lodged in the same house with some wounded Mexican Officers,- This was done at Col. Fannin's instance who thought he would be better attended to, and who seemed to take a deep interest in his situation. He was daily attended by a young Surgeon (Dr. Field) and I visited him likewise. I saw him for the last time, late on Saturday evening previous to the massacre. Dr. Field was with him that night and has since informed me, that he was at his bed-side on the following morning, when he was taken out by a file of soldiers, who murdered him within a short distance of the house. I have thus been particular in my details, in order to remove everything like doubt or suspense on this painful subject. I sincerely condole with his friends in their bereavement and if anything can mitigate their grief, it can be found in the estimate which was placed upon the young man by all who knew him. John Sowers Brooks, was alike conspicuous for his private virtues and noble daring in battle. Respectfully yrs. Jack Shackleford.
General Samuel Houston to A.H. Brooks, father of John Sowers Brooks. Natchitoches, 26th June, 1836. To A. H. Brooks, Esq., Dear Sir:---I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your esteemed letter of the 30th ult. which did not reach me until last night.---In answer to your inquiries respecting the fate of your brave and gallant son, John S. Brooks, I can give you no certain information. Major Cook informs me that he saw your son in La Bahia on the 19th of February last. He was then adjutant of the Regiment under Col. Fannin, and continued in that station until the surrender of Col. F. I have no doubt but that he was amongst our unfortunate countrymen who perished at La Bahia-If any information reaches me concerning him or if his papers should be received, they shall be forwarded to you without delay. Your obt. Servant, Sam. Houston.
Letters from La Bahia next page 2