Johnson & Grant Expedition at San Patricio and Agua Dulce
See also The Matamoros
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General Pershing uttered a great truth at the reception tendered him at Washington on his return to the United States, When he said: "War is a science, and to be successfully waged it must be conducted with mathematical precision."
Strict discipline is necessary to an orderly and successful military organization. Many failures on the battlefield can be traced to a spirit of insubordination and light consideration of military discipline. Some of the greatest disasters which came to the forces engaged in the Texas revolution can be traced to a spirit of indifference to the judgment of the chief military command. In all great undertakings there must be a directing head, and all agencies must be subordinate to it, if success is to be achieved. When a subordinate fails to recognize the judgment of his superior, confusion invariably follows. The disaster which came to the Johnson-Grant Expedition to Southwest Texas, during the Texas revolution against Mexico, can be traced to the general council's usurpation of authority and the ignoring of the authority given by the consultation to the commander of the land forces of the Texas army. It is a regrettable fact in the history of the Texas revolution that Johnson and Grant ignored General Houston, the commander of all the Texas forces, when they organized their expeditions to march against Matamoras. When the breach occurred between Governor Smith and the general council, which was functioning without a quorum, these men unfortunately recognized Lieutenant-Governor Robinson as the chief executive, and took their orders from him and the general council, thereby ignoring Governor Smith and General Houston. Fannin was neither a bad nor a weak military chieftain, but he committed a military blunder when he failed to recognize the supreme importance of co-ordinating all military activities. The course of Robinson and the general council was responsible for the disaster which overtook Fannin and his brave companions. In a letter addressed to Fannin under date of February 6, 1836, Robinson advised him that "all previous orders given by myself and General Houston are hereby revoked," thus leaving Fannin to act on his own initiative. Not being in a position to know Santa Anna's plans to invade Texas, he was placed at a disadvantage. And when Governor Smith advised him regarding them, he doubted Smith's source of information, preferring to act on information emanating from Robinson. He said this much in a letter to Robinson, January 28, 1836: "I received a letter from 'Henry Smith' just before sailing for Aransas Bay, a copy of it ordered made and have forwarded to you. You will see from the back that he reports an express from Bexar, saying 2,500 Mexicans were advancing to retake that post. I suspect the cause of that rumor, and will be governed by such orders emanating from such persons as may be above suspicion."
When the convention which met at Old Washington, March 1, 1836, recognized Governor Smith as the executive head of the provisional government, and re-appointed Houston as commander of all the land forces of the Texas army, Fannin recognized Houston's authority. But the mischief had been done. Disaster had overtaken both Johnson and Grant, the latter slaughtered, and most of their brave men put to the sword, and Fannin was menaced by overwhelming numbers of the enemy. As a result of these disasters it taxed the ingenuity of Houston to restore confidence and bring order out of chaos. Both Johnson and Grant had rendered valiant service at San Antonio, when the Texans wrested that stronghold from the Mexicans under General Cos. It was but natural then for the council to listen to these men when they applied for authority to organize a force for the invasion of Matamoras. The unpardonable sin the council committed, however, was the granting of their request without referring the whole matter to General Houston who had been placed in charge of the Texas land forces by the consultation which gave existence to the council. This action of the council was not only humiliating to General Houston, but it demoralized the whole military plans for the defense of the struggling embryo Republic. sdct
The organic law under which the provisional government was operating declared that the Governor and General Council have power to organize, reduce or increase the regular forces, but it delegated no power to create any agents to supersede the commander-in-chief. It provided further that "the regular army of Texas shall consist of one Major-General, who shall be Commander-in-Chief of all forces called into public service during the war." Consequently, all troops in service, or to be placed in service, were placed by the organic law under the command of the commander-in-chief. The council had no authority to create any agency or agencies that could assume command of troops. The organic law, too, gave the power to the commander-in-chief, the discretion to accept or reject the services of volunteers for such term as "he shall think the defense of the country and the good of the service require." The law which was to govern the organization of the army gave certain powers to the governor and the commander-in-chief and they could not be abridged or set aside by the council. This, however, the council attempted to do. After the council had trampled under foot the organic law governing the organization of the army, both Fannin and Johnson issued proclamations assembling volunteers to rendezvous at certain points in West Texas. This was a violation of the organic law as the council had no authority to appoint agencies with powers superior to those given the commander-in-chief.
During the transpiring of the events recorded above, it was no secret that Santa Anna was organizing a strong force to invade Texas and it was no secret that the commander-in-chief would need every able-bodied man, in the service, to successfully, combat Santa Anna's horde, when it reached the Texas border. History and the events closely following these unauthorized expeditions record it a bungling mistake. Colonel Johnson assigns as his reason for writing the council at San Felipe to secure its authority to organize a force to fall upon Matamoras, was that he desired to transfer "the war into the enemy's country, as well as to give employment to the volunteer troops." He overlooked, or ignored the fact, however, that General Houston was the commander-in-chief of all the Texas land forces, and that he should have been consulted regarding a move of such a brave character. Colonel Grant was authorized to raise a force and march to Refugio where he was to join Colonel Johnson. He, however, did not devote his energies to the securing of new volunteers, but induced a large number of troops stationed at San Antonio to join him.
The effect of this action on the part of Grant was complained of by the commander at San Antonio, Lieutenant J. C. Neill, in a letter to the governor and council, January 6, 1836, saying:
This action was a sad commentary on the loyal military acumen of Johnson and Grant, and a reflection on the patriotism of the members of the council who connived with these military chieftains to deprive a necessary post of equipment and also of men under military obligations to garrison the forts at Bexar. It illustrates to what extremes men devoid of regard for military discipline will go when endeavoring to carry out a scheme their conscience was bound to have told them was contrary to public policy. Johnson and Grant finally reached San Patricio with their force. Here they remained for some time, in idleness, with the exception of reconnoitering the country in search of horses needed by Fannin. San Patricio was Johnson and Grant's Waterloo, and the gallant men they induced to desert from Neill's command at San Antonio, and those who joined them enroute to San Patricio, were made the victims of Mexican hate. Accepting Colonel Johnson's account of the catastrophe which followed, we are led to conclude that it was one of the saddest events of the revolution. sdct
It has been stated by Colonel Johnson that he and Grant crossed the Nueces and advanced to the Rio Colorado, for the purpose of securing horses to mount a cavalry force. On their return march to San Patricio, Grant learned of a number of horses and mules below the road they were traveling, and suggested to Colonel Johnson the propriety of securing them. Col. Johnson tells us that he did not at first approve the idea; but as Major Morris seconded Colonel Grant's suggestion, it was agreed that one-half of the force, some seventy men, should secure the horses while Colonel Johnson and the other part of the force would return to San Patricio and await Grant and Morris. On the night of the second day, Johnson's force was surprised by an attack of Urrea's troops.
After a short struggle all were put to the sword except Colonel Johnson and three others occupying the quarters with him, David J. Toler, John H. Love and a Mr. Miller. Just how Colonel Johnson was able to escape is told by him in this language:
In 1858, Mr. Brown published an exhaustive account of the slaughter of Grant's command. Upon his account of this unfortunate affair we must depend for accuracy. He gave a graphic account of the movements of Grant's men; of their capturing horses. He said that Grant and his men reached the Agua Dulce in high spirits. They made an early start from that place after camping for the night.
Mr. Brown, continuing his narrative, tells of his treatment and final escape. In closing he said:
Thus ended the Johnson-Grant expedition, an ill-fated adventure, led and directed by men who failed to realize how hazardous it is in war to ignore the counsel and advice of superior officers. The butchery of Johnson's brave companions, of Grant and his followers, of Fannin and his command, of King and Ward-all resulted from the reckless disorder of the few men of the general council who ignored the authority given the chief executive and commander-in-chief of the Texas army by the organic law. sdct
McMullen-McGloin Account of the
....In going out to give themselves up they were shot or lanced.......all of whom were interred next day by Rev. T.J. Malloy in the church yard......the Revd. Mr Malloy, who went Immediately to Gen Urrea to Know the truth of it [order for execution], and on being told it was So he Protested against the orders of St. Anna. Stating that it was barbarous Inhuman, that those Prisoners he knew to be as true and as loyal to the Country as he San Anna....
In January 1836 after the Surrender of Bejar by Gn Cos an expedition was Got up to go to matamoros, which marched from the above Place by way of Goliad on there coming there Capt. P. Dimitt. then commanding had the flag of Independence hoisted on the walls of Goliad, which was ordered to be taken down by [Cols] Johnson & Grant stating, that the ware federalists and would Stand to the Constitution of 1824, the then marched to the Mission where the expected to meet with Col Fannin which had Started from Velasco with vol[unteers] and provisions, and was to land at the Copano to Join Col. Johnson & Grant there was at this time Say five hundred men at the Mission all willing to go to Matamoros and only waiting the arrival of Col. Fanning [whose forces had not] come. In the Interim Genl. S. Houston Got to Mission and advised them not to go on the Said expedition as it would be ruinous to the cause of Texas through which means some stoped Johnson & Grant with a company of sixty men with three Pieces of Brass cannon Marched to San Patricio with a view as the then Stated to stop untill Col Fanning would arrive and then Proceed to matamoros during there stay in Said Place San Patricio. Information was brought that Commadt Rodrigues wbich formerly comd. at Lipantitlan was encamped Some twenty miles from there with about twenty men which he had to watch their movements.
Col Grant Prepared and started with twenty five men to Surprise him taking with him the Person who Gave the information which was one of Rodrigues own men the[y] got to the place at night which was very late and found all fast a sleep, on calling to them to Surrender or their lives would be taken if resist the all answered.... [mutilated] the[y] Collected all their horses and marched them to [San] Patricio where the[y] treated all well and took the Comdt to their own quarters in the Course of three days the[y] all made their escape no Guard being Placed over them. Col. Grant and Johnson prepared then to go to Matamoros from Information the[y] rec. from them that if they would go the would get a great majority to join them, and that ther[e] was two hundred men ready in wait for them out in the Country under the command of Capt. Canales [at] Comargo; and by going to that place the would get all the people of the towns on the rio Grande to Join them Grant imediately Proposed to go on but through the interfarence of his friends who stated to him and Col. Johnson Major Morris [another of]ficer that if the went the need never look [to return tha]t it was only a plan of the enemy to get them [there and] to destroy them and that at the same time the [were] placing to much confidence in mexicans which [were acting as spies. that it would be better for them [to return] to the main army or to remain where the[y] ware the[y] then preposed going out to some ranches on the Rio Grande to obtain horses for the army, on the day Previous to there doing So Capt. Cooke with a Company Come after the cavalry by orders of Col. Fanning which got to the Mission, and to take them to Goliad which was done. Cols. Johnson & Grant proceeded and on crossing the Rio Nueces, there come an other Spie of the enemys to them Stating as heretofore that the Could with Safety take Matamoros the proceeded untill the Got to a ranch Called Santa rosa, where the got about one hundred good horses where the company devided. sdct
Col. Johnson with one half returned with the horses to San Patricio, and Grant with the other Part went up the Country to where he understood there was more horses. Col. John. after his return Sent the horses out to a ranch some few miles from town under the care of Some Volunteers and Mexicans the rest was stationed in three different houses, [Capt. Thos. K Pearson with Eight men was lodged on the Public Square and at about Eighty yards from him the other five [mutilated] hundred yards from him, Several mexicans come in during the day, but all giving the Same information that there was no fear of an enemy Coming. When on the morning of the third day 4 A. M. all laid down to Sleep little thinking it would be The last for Some when on the morning of the third Night at 4 A. M. the place was Surrounded by about four 450 cavalry. Col. Johnson on being asked to Surrender by the enemy which was at the front of his Place was answered from within by Mr Daniel Toler a Partner of Col. Grants who came a few days before from the Interior of Mexico that he would Surrender, but at the Same time opened the back of his tent and Got to Mission of Refugio next day by 12 AM without hat, Shoe or Coat. (Col. Johnson, D. Toler Love and Miller) Capt ..[mutilated] when being asked to give himself up he answered [mutilated] commenced to fire encourageing his men to do .[mutilated] did the[y] Killed a Mexican Col. and two more wounded four [men] died after.
Some of the Texians seeing from within that they was going to set fire to the house called to Capt . . . [mutilated] to Surrender to which he answered no that he would . . . [mutilated] way, but the men Called Surrender; and in going out to give themselves up the[y] ware Shot or lanced, among them Capt. Thos. K. Pearson Dr. J. Hart Benjamin Dale Liet. Cooney of New York, all which ware Intered next day by the Revd. T. J. Malloy in the Church yard of the Same Place, the other party Surrendered and was Saved made Prisoners of Genl Urrea who commanded Sent out his Spies after Col. Grant who was between them and the Rio Grande when on the third [day] Inteligence was brought that Grant was to be in next day, orders was Imedately to march and meet him in the Plains, there was also two Spies Sent him to tell him that Col. Johnson and his Party was well and expecting him Grant momently which was done, then did 400 horsemen go against 25 Col Grant being assured by those Spies that all was Peace he commenced his journey in the morning to Join the others, but what must be his surprise when he got himself enclosed in by Such Superior forces being there was no way to escape he told the men [to hold their] Ground and fight untilled killed, the enemy not giving [them] time to loock by rushing on to them Seperated them in a [mutilated] the all tooke to run but the enemy in coming up to them Speared or lanced them off their horses, Shewing no quarters striping them naked before yet dead. Col. Grant ran his horse 7 miles before he was taken on the Lieutenant who killed coming close to him he Grant fired one of his Pistoles and Pared the leafe of his hat, the Second he fired without effect, when the other came up and lanced him through the back, on there return the[y] Sent Spies to Goliad to try and Seperate them, the person Sent was a Capt. Called the commander who it was stated rendered Col. Johnson Some great assistance, in taking Bejar, and at this time was loocked on by all Texians as a true and Sincer friend, on getting to Goliad he Stated to Col. Fanning that he had a very narrow escape from his Country men and that the ware only about 60 in number, on hearing of So few only Several volunteered to go on and attack but was Prevented by Some misunderstanding among the Party, on the fifth day after the taking of San Patricio orders came from San Anna To have the Prisoners shot and .[mutilated] that Place, which information was communicated by Some Person to the Revd. Mr Malloy, who went Immediately to Gen Urrea to Know the truth of it, and on being told it was So he Protested against the orders of St. Anna. Stating that it was barbarous Inhuman, that those Prisoners he knew to be as true and as loyal to the Country as he San Anna, through which means Gnl. Urrea Sent them to matamoros nothwithstanding there did three different official communications come to that effect, after remaining in San Patricio Some twelve days some of their spies returned from the Mission bringing, intelligence that a Party of the Texians was about going to the Mission of Refugio after Some family that was there, orders was Given to march which was done, with Promptness, on Getting to the mission, the[y] attacked a Party of thirty men under [Capt.] King who had Crossed the river and went down to Some [place] where the day Previous the[y] was repulsed by Some [Mexicans] and Indians King on finding himself cut off from the company of Col. Capt Ward, he Got into some timber which was close at hand and there mantained his possesion with his 30 men against 110 of whome he killed 7, or 8, during this time Gnl. Urrea with the mean army attacked Ward who got Possession of the Church by firing Cannon trying to throw the walls at the Same time trying with the Infantry to force their way in but was repulsed every time with heavy loss, it was stated by the Mexicans themselves that their loss was not less than 150 killed besides [those] wounded. Ward at night made his escape from the Mission on towards the River San Antonio Kings Party at night tryed the Same but missed their way and found the[y] ware only three miles from where they started in at night next morning, the[y] ware taken by a Party of rancheros brought in and Shot next day except two one that Joined the enemy the other was Saved throught his familys interfarence which consisted of five ..[mutilated] children and his Lady, also some Mexican women.
[Endorsed:] McGloin's war sdct
.....My horse was quickly killed.....Grant told me to mount Maj. Morris' horse......just been killed.....dragoon rushed upon me...lance set......shot him, holding my pistol almost against his breast.........Grant [and I].......dismounted......Mexican lanced me in the arm, but Grant....shot him dead......Grant fell, pierced with several lances......found myself.....in a lasso.....dragged to the ground.... some ten or a dozen officers go up and run their sword through [Grant's] body....well known to them, having lived a long time in Mexico.......They had a bit of grudge against him.......I was.....taken out to be shot, but was spared through the interposition of a priest and a Mexican lady, named Alvarez.......
Editors Texas Almanac: In compliance with your request, I proceed to give you the facts in relation to the expedition, under Colonel Johnson and Grant, which set out from San Antonio in December, 1835; and I do this the more willingly because I have seen many more statements in regard to that expedition. I arrived in San Antonio the second day after the capitulation of Cos, in company with High and John H. Love, all of us Georgians, having come through from Nacogdoches. The Texans who had aided in taking San Antonio, had all left for their homes, and we found there United States volunteers numbering, some four hundred and sixty, who were then proposing an expedition to take Matamoras, and in three or four days after our arrival the expedition was fully organized, and we joined it.
Col. Francis W. Johnson was elected to command, while Dr. James M. Grant was elected Lieutenant-Colonel, and Capt. Robt. Morris, of the New Orleans Grays, was elected Major; and, in his place, Capt. Wm. G. Cooke was elected to command the Grays. Another company was commanded by Capt. Pearson, who had been connected with a theatre in New Orleans, and another by Capt. Llewellyn. I do not remember the commanders of the other companies. The whole number of men was about four hundred. The expedition soon set out for Goliad, leaving Col. Neill in command of the Alamo with some sixty men. I believe Travis, Crockett, and others had not yet arrived. Major Bonham, of South Carolina, proceeded with us to Goliad, but returned to the Alamo, as he had received some appointment from Travis. Having arrived at the Cibolo, we learned that a Convention had been called to meet at San Felipe, and we elected two delegates to represent us---one of them a Mr. Conrad. Having reached Goliad after a march of six or seven days, we there found Capt. Phillip Dimmit in command of a company, and in a day or two after he raised the flag of independence---the first, I believe, that was ever unfurled in Texas. There was not then probably a dozen in our expedition in favor of that measure.
When we set out from San Antonio, we expected to join Col. Fannin, who, we heard, had arrived in Matagorda Bay with about one thousand men. It was arranged to join him at Copano, to which place he was to proceed by a steamer from Matagorda Bay. Three or four days after our arrival at Goliad, Gen. Houston and Col. Hockley, with some five or six others, came there, Gen. Houston then proclaiming himself strongly in favor of the expedition to take Matamoras. After remaining in Goliad about a week, we proceeded to the Mission of Refugio, in order to be nearer to Fannin on his arrival at Copano, and Gen. Houston and his half a dozen companions followed us there. But after reaching that place he made a strong speech against the proposed expedition to Matamoras and some of us then attributed his change of opinion in regard to that measure to the fact that he found Fannin would be chosen to command the expedition. However this may be, Houston succeeded in detaching a large portion of the men who had joined us, so that we found but sixty-four left who were willing to go. With this small number we proceeded to San Patricio, most of the New Orleans Grays having left, and Captains Pearson and Llewellyn having only a part of their companies. As there were not probably half a dozen of us who lived to return, I will give the names of all I remember, namely: Colonels Johnson and Grant, Major Robert Morris, Daniel J. Toler, Dr. Hoyt, of South Carolina, Dr. Hart, of New Orleans, John H. Love, James M. Miller, nephew of Gov. Stephen Miller, of South Carolina, - Cass, of Philadelphia, - Carpenter, of Tennessee, Francis, a Creole of Louisiana, Langanhein, a German, Scurlock and - Jones. sdct
We received information from Fannin that he would be at Copano as soon as possible, but had been unavoidably detained in Matagorda Bay; and he wished us to collect together as many horses as possible to enable him to mount his men. For this purpose, and in order to scout the country, we divided our men into two parties, one of which remained in San Patricio under Colonel Johnson, while the other proceeded westward in search of horses, etc., under Col. Grant. I went out with this party. Having reached the Sal Colorado, about sixty miles from San Patricio, we fell in with some half a dozen Mexicans guarding three or four hundred head of horses that had been sent out there to be recruited for the service of Urrea's division of the invading army, then preparing to set out. We ascertained that Rodrigues, their Captain, was encamped near by with a small force, and we made the men guarding the horses (whom we took prisoners) guide us to the camp of Rodrigues, which we reached by going in single file by a narrow pathway through a dense thicket of chapparal, and finally found the encampment in a small open space surrounded on all sides by this chapparal. The tents were enclosed around by brush thrown up, and guarded by a sentinel. The sentinel, on seeing us, fired his scopet at me, as I was in the lead, but missed me, and I then shot him. We jumped over the brush at once, and, making for the tents, we took them all prisoners without firing another gun. This was just at daybreak. I took Rodrigues myself, though he surrendered only after much resistance. We then returned to San Patricio, with our prisoners, sixty-seven in all, and several hundred horses. Colonels Johnson and Grant agreed to release the prisoners from close confinement upon parole, Rodrigues pledging his honor that they would not leave; but they all soon left regardless of their parole.
Our party started out on another expedition immediately, going north of the road to Matamoras. On the second day out a Mexican fell in with us, pretending that he wished to join us, and that he could bring with him a small Mexican company of mounted men. We suspected him for a spy, and our suspicions were confirmed in the morning when we found he had left during the night. Our guide had informed us that there was a party of some fifty Mexicans a little ahead of us, with several hundred horses, and we, therefore, made an early start, but when we came in sight of them, we found them moving off, and driving their horses before them. We pursued them to the Rio Grande, where we overtook them, and, as they were attempting to cross pel-mel, some of them were drowned. Having taken a considerable number of their horses, we returned on our way back to San Patricio, visiting the different ranches, getting all the horses we could, and sometimes buying them at a dollar a head. We had reached the Agua Dulce, within some twenty miles of San Patricio, and, in high spirits, we made an early start from that place, Col. Grant, Placido Benavides and myself being about a half a mile ahead to lead the horses, and the rest of the company following. We were passing between two large motts, when suddenly there came out from each of those motts several hundred Mexican dragoons, who quickly closed in, surrounding both the horses and our party. Grant, Placido and myself might then have made our escape, as we were well mounted and some distance in advance; but our first impulse being to relieve our party, we returned without reflecting upon the impossibility of doing any good against so large a number, for there were at least one thousand dragoons under the immediate command of Urrea himself. We then at once understood that Urrea had come in on the main road some distance below, or to the south of us--that he had been to San Patricio, and had probably slaughtered Johnson and his party. Placido wished to return with us, but Grant persuaded him to start forthwith for Goliad, and give Fannin information of Urrea's arrival. We had been absent from San Patricio some ten or twelve days. As Grant and myself approached to join our party, the dragoons opened their line, and we passed in. We at once saw that some of our party had already been killed, and we decided to sell our lives as dearly as possible. My horse was quickly killed with a lance, but Grant told me to mount Maj. Morris' horse, as Morris had just been killed. I did so, but without seeing any object to be accomplished by it. Just at that moment the horses took a stampede, and broke the lines of dragoons, and Grant and myself finding ourselves the only survivors of our party, followed in the wake of the horses, the dragoons shooting after us, and wounding our horses in several places, but not badly. As we were flying a dragoon rushed upon me with his lance set, but I knocked it one side and shot him, holding my pistol almost against his breast; and scarcely stopping, I fled with Grant, the Mexicans following, and some of them occasionally coming up with us, and crying out to us to surrender and our lives would be saved. But we knew better, and continued to fly, but the number of those overtaking us became larger and larger, and after we had run six or seven miles, they surrounded us, when, seeing no further chance of escape, we dismounted, determined to make them pay dearly for our lives. As I reached the ground a Mexican lanced me in the arm, but Grant immediately shot him dead, when I seized his lance to defend myself. Just as he shot the Mexican I saw Grant fall, pierced with several lances, and a moment after I found myself fast in a lasso that had been thrown over me, and by which I was dragged to the ground. I could do no more, and only regretted that I had not shared the fate of all the rest of my party.
After, Grant fell I saw some ten or a dozen officers go up and run their sword through his body. He was well known to them, having lived a long time in Mexico. They had a bit of grudge against him. I was then lashed upon a horse and taken to the ground where the fight first commenced, where I saw most of our men lying dead. Among others whom I recognized was one poor fellow named Carpenter, from Tennessee, who was fatally wounded, but not quite dead. When it was discovered that he was alive, one of the dragoons was ordered to finish him. He dismounted, and, while poor Carpenter was asking to have his life spared, he struck him on the head with his escopeta, and thus ended his existence. I was then taken to San Patricio, and there confined in a small hut for seven or eight days, during which time I knew nothing of the fate of Col. Johnson's command. On the second day of my confinement, I was approached by Gen. Urrea's interpreter, who proposed to me that I should be released on condition that I would go with a flag of truce to Col. Fannin, and propose to him that, if he would surrender, he and his men should be sent safely back to the United States. The reason for making me this proposition was doubtless the fact of their having found letters about me from Col. Fannin, whith whom I had been on itimated terms, we both having come from the same section of the State of Georgia. I refused to accede to this proposition, assigning as my reason that he required me to state what was not true, that the Mexican forces under him were very large, and such as would overpower him; but I certainly would not have been the bearer of any proposition that would have been dishonorable to our army, or have prejudiced our cause. Urrea then said, that I would have to be executed according to Santa Anna's orders. It was probably my indifference and recklessness of life, under the circumstances, that saved my life. I was then taken out to be shot, but was spared through the interposition of a priest and a Mexican lady, named Alvarez. After having been kept in San Patricio some seven or eight days, I was taken out of my place of confinement to be sent to Matamoras, when I was surprised to see some five or six of the men belonging to Col. Johnson's command, brought out, at the same time, for the same purpose. They had been confined in another place entirely unknown to me, and, as I then learned, were the only men of Johnson's command that had not been killed, except Johnson himself, John H. Love, James M. Miller and Daniel J. Toler, who made their escape by a fortunate circumstance. An understanding had been had between the Mexicans and the few inhabitants of the town, that on the night when the attack upon the town was to be made, the citizens should have lights burning in their houses, by which means they would be known and saved, while all the balance were to be slaughtered. It happened that on that night Johnson and Toler were engaged in writing to a very late hour, and their light therefore saved them and the other two who were with them, till they had notice of the attack, and were thus enabled to make their escape. sdct
I was then marched, with the other prisoners, to Matamoras, being five or six days on the road; and on our arrival we were imprisoned and kept several days without food or drink. Soon after our arrival, we were informed that orders had been received from Santa Anna for our execution; but General Fernandez, commanding at Matamoras, to whom these orders had been sent, delayed the execution, for the purpose of going through a mock trial. We were all taken out and questioned separately, taking near two days with each of us. We were then formally condemned, and sentenced to be shot on the 6th of April, 1836. We had been in Matamoras from about the 1st of March. On the appointed day of our execution, we were all taken out, weak and greatly emaciated from the painful manner of our confinement and want of food. The sentence was read to us --- but we were respited by the interposition of the priests and women who had been influenced by our American friends residing in Matamoras. A large church had been commenced, but was left unfinished for the want of funds. It was by the promise of the money requisite to complete it, that the priests exerted their powerful influence in our behalf, but the money was promised merely for a respite of nine days, during which time a messenger was to be dispatched to the city of Mexico, to try and obtain a reprieve. The messenger returned, having (much to our astonishment) obtained a commutation of the sentence from death to perpetual confinement.
We were kept in close confinement from that time till the latter part of December following, subject to every privation and half starved, and only taken out of our close and filthy prison occasionally to sweep the streets, when we were always under a strong guard. We were barefooted and nearly destitute of all clothing, and death was preferable to such a condition of wretchedness. Finally myself and McNeely, of Louisiana, having been advised that our friends had horses prepared for our flight, provided we could once escape from our confinement, determined that we would use every exertion to get out, or die in the attempt. During the year we had often asked for the privilege of sleeping in the prison yard, which was enclosed by a wall fourteen feet high. It was not till the latter part of December that McNeely and myself finally prevailed on the officers to grant us this privilege for one night. The time was propitious, as it was dark and rainy. A guard of twelve men alternated in watching over us. Near 12 o'clock, while we were apparently asleep, I observed the guard with their cloaks, or blankets on their bayonets over their heads, trying to protect themselves from the rain. We seized the opportunity, and glided unperceived to the wall of the cuartel or enclosure. After exhausting our ingenuity in devising means to reach the top of the wall, it was finally decided that McNeely, who was a tall man, should place himself against the wall close to a back house, which was not quite so high; and having done so, I sprang from his shoulders so as to reach the top, when he was able, by getting hold of my feet, to climb up by my side. We then immediately jumped down the other side, but were discovered by the sentinel on the wall, who gave the alarm, and only succeeded in making our escape by the darkness of the night. After groping about the remainder of that night, without being able to find our friends, we secreted ourselves during the following day, and the next night succeeded in procuring horses and weapons, and then we proceeded up the Rio Grande to find a favorable point for crossing, traveling in the night, and lying concealed in the daytime, till we reached a crossing a little below Mier, early one morning, where, seeing a canoe on the opposite bank, I swam over for it, and with it we both crossed, swimming our horses.
Before we had reached the opposite bank, we discovered a large number of Mexicans riding up in pursuit of us, but fortunately we were unperceived by them, and made good our landing on the opposite bank. Having again mounted our horses, we pursued our way over the trackless prairie as well as we could, but often lost our course, and it was not till after much exposure, and several narrow escapes, that we finally arrived among our friends in Texas. We arrived at the Guadalupe, opposite Victoria, the latter part of December the first of January, during a fall of sleet, when the river was in overflow, called to the opposite bank for somebody to bring the boat over for us, but Col. Clark L. Owen, who was then in command of a company at the place, suspected a decoy by the enemy, and its was not till some time had passed that he finally came over for us.
I have thus given you all the leading events of our disastrous expedition under Col. Grant, of which I was the only survivor, except Placido Benavides, who carried the first news of our slaughter to Fannin. I have omitted many events and details of suffering that would probably be interesting to many, but which would extend this communication too much for your use. It may be proper to remark that Mr. McNeeley is now a member of the legislature of Louisiana. The other prisoners who were with us were finally released, by the influence of their friends, some four or five months after our escape. sdct
Dr. Grant was a scholar, gentleman, and soldier, and devoted to the best interests of Texas. Major Morris....and....others....were actuated by the highest motives of patriotism....left....homes to aid and assist....independence and liberty.....Why the, historian should have singled out Johnson, Grant, Morris, and their followers as fit subjects to brand with disgrace and infamy is beyond our ken........
The truth of history, as well as justice to many patriots, most of whom sacrificed their lives in the war of Texas independence, makes it necessary to correct certain portions of Kennedy's and Yoakum's history.
Kennedy says: "On the first of January, 200 of the volunteers stationed at Bexar had marched for Goliad, on their way to San Patricio, under the command of Colonel (Doctor) Grant. On the preceding day, a meeting of part of the garrison had been held, at which resolutions were passed, approving of Lieutenant-Colonel Neill as commandant, in the absence of Colonel Johnson and declaring it 'highly essential that the existing army should remain in Bexar.' This declaration was in condemnation of the movement against Matamoras, which stripped Bexar of two-thirds of its defenders, with the greater portion of the winter supply of ammunition, clothing, and provisions." To this, it is only necessary to say that there was no supply of clothing, and that provisions were obtained from the surrounding country.
Again, he says: "All the Bexar volunteers under Grant, with the exception of about fifty, left him, having heard that his object was plunder, and joined the force at Goliad, while Grant himself, who was subsequently joined by some twenty men under Johnson, proceeded on a forage for horses and cattle in the direction of Matamoras." That a part of the force under Grant joined the troops under General Houston at Goliad and Refugio, is true, but not for the reason stated; and, as to Johnson and twenty men joining him, that is equally untrue. Johnson joined with but a single individual, Adjutant Brister.
It is due the historian to say, that these errors arose from the want of correct information, and not from any desire to do injustice to anyone.
We will notice the statement of Yoakum: "A difference between the governor and council has already been intimated. The origin and progress of this difference so painful and destructive in its consequences, require a special notice. Dr. James Grant, it will be remembered, originated the project of an expedition to Matamoras. His domicile was in Coahuila, where he had a splendid estate. He had never resided in Texas; it was not his home. His feelings, his interests, and his efforts, were all in favor of the old union of Coahuila and Texas. True, he was at the siege of San Antonio and fought gallantly there, and was severely wounded on the first day, but he fought against Cos, who had driven him from the legislative hall of Monclova, and not for the cause and right of Texas. He therefore had a motive in carrying the war to Matamoras, and thence into the interior of Mexico, that he might return to his princely domain at Parras. Among the volunteers and adventurers at San Antonio he was incessantly painting in lively colors the rich spoils of Tamaulipas, New Leon, Coahuila, and San Luis Potosi, the facility of the descent, the cowardly nature of the inhabitants, and the charming beauties of the valleys of the San Juan, the Sabinas, and the Santander."
That Dr. Grant resided, or, rather had resided, in Parras, Coahuila, had an estate there, and was a member of the Congress of the state of Coahuila and Texas, and was in favor of an expedition against Matamoras, is true; but, that he was actuated by anything but pure patriotism in advocating the Matamoras expedition, we deny. Dr. Grant was a scholar, gentleman, and soldier, and devoted to the best interests of Texas. Major Morris, and most others engaged in the expedition, were actuated by the highest motives of patriotism, and had left their homes to aid and assist a people struggling for independence and liberty. That Johnson and Grant and their companions asked or desired other or greater privileges than those authorized by law, is simply false. The expedition, west of the Nueces, for horses and mules was not, as is insinuated, for their own emolument and profit, but to supply a want in the service-a cavalry force. So far from seizing and taking property by force, all was receipted for at a fair valuation or paid for. Yet, Mr. Yoakum, in his history, insinuates, if he does not charge in direct terms, that the parties thus engaged were guilty of offenses that, if true, would brand them with eternal disgrace. Why the, historian should have singled out Johnson, Grant, Morris, and their followers as fit subjects to brand with disgrace and infamy is beyond our ken. So far as their motives and acts are concerned, they have been faithfully, if not ably, stated, and may well abide impartial public opinion.
On our arrival at Goliad, from San Patricio, Colonel Johnson informed Colonel Fannin of the advance of Urrea. Soon after, news was received of the defeat and slaughter of Grant and command. We were informed by Colonel Fannin that Colonel Travis was besieged, and had sent to him for aid, which he was not able to give for want of necessary transportation. Before leaving Goliad, Johnson advised Fannin either to abandon Goliad and destroy the fort or to strengthen it by the addition of new works, and collect such supplies of provisions as he could procure, and await the advance of the enemy. He decided, after consultation with his officers, to maintain his position. He was, also, informed that due notice had been given the families at Refugio, and not to listen to any appeal for assistance, as most of the Irish families were suspected of being unfriendly to the Texans; that his safety and success in defending the place depended on his keeping his force united. sdct