OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
© 1997-1998, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
Revolution of Texas in 1812
(From notes furnished by Col. W. D. C. Hall and published in Yanaguana Society Publications, vol. VI, 1941)
In 1811 and 1812 Col. W. D. C. Hall was residing at Nachitoches, and engaged in the study of law under the late distinguished Judge William Murray, who was then a practicing lawyer in the parishes of Nachitoches and Rapides. Gen. Overton was then captain commanding the post of Nacogdoches, and Lieut. Magee, as first lieutenant of artillery, was sent to aid the civil authorities in arresting a band of robbers who were making their headquarters on the east side of the Sabine. He succeeded in making prisoners of ten or twelve of them, who were sent to the penitentiary, and also twelve or fifteen others, who were sent for trial to Alexandria. He caused some of them to be whipped, to make them tell where the others were, by which he incurred the bitter ill-will of the whole party, and though nearly all of them afterwards joined him in his expedition for revolutionizing Texas and throwing off the government of Spain, yet they always sought every opportunity to do him all the injury they could.
About this time, Magee had a quarrel with a Frenchman, and a duel with swords was the result; Judge Murray acting as the second of Magee. Magee had his little finger cut off, but, at the same time, he cut the Frenchman down with a heavy blow of his sword. It was soon after this event that Magee conceived the plan of attempting to revolutionize this country, when he resigned his office in the army, and finally matured his measures in July, 1812, when his first step was to take possession of Nacogdoches with the small force he had been able to collect, composed in part of the very outlaws whom he had been sent to arrest. On his entrance into Nacogdoches, the royal troops evacuated the town, leaving him in undisputed possession. He remained there till the following September, during which time, he recruited his troops till they numbered about 300. In September he set out on his expedition, taking the road to the La Bahia crossing of the Trinity below Robbin's Ferry. Here he remained endeavoring to obtain reinforcement, till some time in October, when he took up his line of march for Labahia or Goliad. On crossing the Colorado where Columbus now is, the advanced guard met a Mexican with a led horse, and believing him to be a spy, they took him prisoner. He denied being a spy, and subsequent events proved that he told the truth. He said he was from Labahia, and that Gov. Salcedo and Gen. Herrera were at San Antonio with all their forces. After their arrival at Labahia, all these statements proving true, the Mexican was released, and he subsequently fought bravely with the Americans.
Proceeding from the Colorado crossing the expedition arrived at Goliad on November 1st or 2d, 1812, and at once took possession of the town, as there was not a single soldier in the place. They could find but one old cannon, a nine-pounder, which they managed to mount on one of the bastions. They immediately proceeded to fortify the place as well as they could, and prepare for its defense. On the 7th of November, they found themselves suddenly surrounded by the royal troops, 2,000 in number, commanded by Gov. Salcedo in person, and Gen. Herrera. These troops had left Goliad some time before and proceeded to San Antonio, and thence they had taken the old San Antonio road to the St. Mark's, expecting there to meet Magee's expedition. But finding that Magee had taken the lower or Labahia road to Goliad, he then immediately struck across the country towards Goliad, which place he invested, as above stated, on the 7th. The royal troops were posted in three divisions around the fort, one on the east, one on the west, and another at the Mission on the north or opposite side of the San Antonio river. On the evening of the 7th, Magee marched out and attacked the division at the Mission. After a short skirmish, night coming on, both parties retired without any decisive result.
The royal troops, finding they could effect nothing without heavier ordinance, waited till about the 15th or 20th, when they received nine splendid brass cannon which would throw shot a distance of three miles. But after trial, finding they could effect nothing against the strong walls of Goliad, from so great a distance, they began to approach nearer; finally, even coming into the town. Magee's force was just 365 men with the one nine-pounder above named, and three or four cannonades. It was about the 20th of November that the severe fight occurred that took place within the town and under the walls of the fort, and lasted from eight or nine o'clock in the morning till two P. M., when the royal troops hastily retreated from the town after suffering a heavy loss in killed and wounded. The actual number of the enemy's killed was not known, as, according to their custom, they carried off their dead with them when they retreated. The Americans had seven wounded, but not one killed. Finding they could not take the town by assault, the enemy now determined to invest the place closely and starve the Americans out. The investment continued till the 16th of February, during which time skirmishes took place nearly every day, but there were only two general engagements. One of these was on the 24th of January, and it was brought on in this way: The main force of the enemy were posted on the opposite side of the river at the Mission; and while attempting to kill a white cow for beef, she made her escape, running towards the river and in the direction of the fort on the opposite side, when one of Magee's companies attempted to capture the cow from her pursuers, and crossed the river for that purpose. This company speedily came in conflict with the enemy, and soon after, the engagement became general, and lasted some two hours, or until night came on, when Magee's men retired, fording the river back again to the fort. This engagement was afterwards known as The battle of the white cow. The enemy's loss was nearly 200, while the Americans lost out one killed, and had six wounded.
The attempt to starve out the Americans was quite as ineffectual as the attempt to take the place by storm. For when Magee first took the town, he found an abundant supply of corn, and several houses nearly filled with salt; so that by procuring beeves from time to time, during the siege, they were amply supplied with food. They obtained the beeves by sending out foraging parties at night, who proceeded a considerable distance, some times as far as the Nueces, and having collected their cattle, they would then seize their opportunity to drive them in between the divisions of the investing troops, sometimes having to fight or kill the enemy's sentinels. The cattle were then in the greatest abundance and of the finest quality.
The last general engagement took place on the 10th of February, which was brought about by a party from the fort attacking a picket of the enemy just before day. This attack soon brought on a general engagement, which lasted till 4 P.M., during which time the enemy got possession of the town three different times, and were as often compelled to retire, suffering severe loss in each instance. Having been driven, after the third assault, to the opposite side of the river, they made no further demonstration, but continued in their quarters there till the 16th and then raised the siege, and commenced their retreat towards San Antonio.
It was about the 1st of February that Magee died of consumption, having been suffering from that disease for a long time, and in consequence of his rapidly declining health, Col. Kemper, the second in command, had during most of the siege directed the operations. Col. H. knew Magee intimately. He was a native of Massachusetts, had been a regular graduate from West Point, and from the time he graduated was an officer in the United States army till he embarked in this expedition, at which time he was First Lieutenant of Artillery, and was universally esteemed as a chivalrous, high-minded, and strictly honorable man of undoubted courage and intrepidity of character, possessing talents that eminently fitted him for a commander. On the death of Magee, the chief command devolved on Col. Samuel Kemper, who had, in fact, been occupying that position for some weeks previously, during Magee's sickness.
Soon after Magee's arrival at Goliad, information reached him that a report was in circulation to the effect that he and his men had been captured, and that, in consequence, several parties who were on their way to join him, had returned home. This information induced him to send Major Reuben Ross, early in January, to contradict the report, and to bring all the reinforcements he could. Ross proceeded as far as Nacogdoches, but as the men who intended to join Magee, had generally dispersed, in consequence of the report referred to above, he could only get about twenty-five Americans and thirty Cooshatte Indians to return with him. These Indians were from the Trinity, and were commanded by their chief, Charles Rollins, a half-breed, whose father was then in Magee's army. The twenty-five Americans were commanded by James Gaines, who had been sheriff of one of the eastern parishes of Louisiana and had just arrived in Texas.
The small reinforcement brought by Ross arrived a day or two after Salcedo commenced his retreat, when preparations were at once made to go in pursuit of the enemy. Kemper, having organized his whole force, set out on the 21st or 22nd of February. It was not long after Salcedo's arrival in San Antonio before he heard of the approach of the Americans, when Gen. Herrera immediately marched out the royal army to meet them, and took a position below the Salado on the road leading directly from Labahia to San Antonio. The American army however took the left-hand road by way of the Missions of Espada and Concepcion. The enemy were posted not far above the forks of the two roads, and the first information the Americans had of the enemy was given by their right flank being fired on by a picket from the royal army. This soon brought on a general engagement; the Americans forming in order of battle without a moment's delay. An order was given that, at the tap of the drum, a general charge should be made. The Indians being stationed on the extreme right, under the command of Major Ross, not understanding the order, made a charge sooner than they should have done, in consequence of which they suffered greatly, losing some of their principal men in a hand-to-hand fight; but they fought with the most desperate courage, killing a large number of Mexicans. Meantime the Americans came up from the center and left, and made a general charge, after which it was not more than fifteen or twenty minutes before the enemy were routed and fled, in spite of every effort of their officers to rally them, leaving 330 men dead on the field, and 60 taken prisoners, together with six pieces of artillery and all the baggage. In this battle the enemy were commanded by Herrera in person, and his army having received a reinforcement after its arrival in San Antonio, numbered 2,500 strong. In this engagement, the officers of the enemy behaved with the utmost gallantry. Some of them seeing they could not bring their men to fight, rushed forward sword in hand, determined to sell their lives as dearly as possible in single combat, and in consequence, a disproportionate number of officers was found among the dead. The Americans lost but six men killed and twenty-six wounded. This battle was on the 2d of March.
The royal army having retreated to San Antonio, the Americans, having taken possession of the Mission of the Concepcion, on the 3d proceeded to invest San Antonio. On the 4th, Salcedo sent a flag of truce and requested a parley. Col. Kemper refused all terms except a surrender of his army as prisoner of war, and a delivery of the city into his possession. These terms were finally accepted, and on the 6th the Americans marched into the city, the Mexicans at the same time marching out, leaving their arms stacked. On the 7th, one of the most horrible and coldblooded murders on record was perpetrated by the nominal commander-in-chief of the Americans, Bernardo Gutiérrez. This Mexican gave an order that Salcedo, Herrera, and ten of the other principal royalist chiefs should be delivered up to a company of Mexicans commanded by Juan Delgado. At first, the officers of the guard, under whom these royalist officers were placed, refused to deliver them up, whereupon Bernardo got Col. Kemper to sign the order, giving some reason or other to allay any apprehension of foul treatment. The order being signed by Kemper, the officers were accordingly delivered up to Delgado, who then immediately took them to the battle-ground of Salado, where he had their throats cut in the most horrible manner; and their bodies, it was said, were thrown into the river. There was but one exception to this savage butchery, and this one was shot in compliance with his earnest entreaties. The reason assigned for this infamous atrocity by Delgado on his subsequent trial, was, that his father had been executed by Salcedo after being taken prisoner while fighting under Hidalgo, and that, besides, he had the order of Bernardo to perpetrate the act. Bernardo was then tried and deposed from office; but many of the American officers became so disgusted with such brutality in the service that they soon after left, and among others, Col. Hall, who then held a capacity, and to whom we are indebted for the foregoing narrative.
For the subsequent events of this campaign, the victory obtained by the Americans under Col. Perry (for Kemper was among those who left), and the subsequent disastrous defeat under Toledo, at the battle of Medina, we must refer to the Texas Almanac for 1857.
SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
© 1997-1998, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved