Short Memoirs & Sketches from Old Texians
Judge R. S. Calder and B. C. Franklin report the victory at San Jacinto to President Burnet at Galveston. (From History of the Island and the City of Galveston by Charles W. Hayes 1879)
Judge Calder, in transmitting this manuscript, writes as follows:
Richmond, Texas, May 31, 1877
The battle of San Jacinto was fought and won on the evening of the 21st of April, 1836. I do not care in connection with this article to go into details which have often been described. Perhaps a few items in connection with the closing scenes of that event may be of interest. Benjamin R. Bingham, a Sergeant in Company K, and a bosom friend and messmate of the writer, was reported by some members of the company as wounded and left on the field. His messmate, the writer and Charles and W.T. Rees started to find him. In searching the camp of the enemy, and looking about the officers' quarters for something to eat, being very hungry having eaten little or nothing during the day, we came upon four blankets and other articles, evidently belonging to the officers of Santa Anna's army.
Supposing they might contain bread, we quartered on one, but in the attempt to raise it, we discovered by its weight and its jingle that it was money. We immediately communicated this to Colonel Hockley, who was riding over the field at the distance of some five hundred yards. He desired us to keep it under guard until he could place a detachment of Captain A. Turner's regulars over it, which was speedily done. In the meantime another party had found the corpse of our dear messmate and conveyed it into camp.
Very soon after dark, Deaf Smith rode up to the quarters of Company K on Vince's black stallion, that Santa Anna had escaped from the, battle field on. The horse was covered with mud, and showed he had received rough usage. The gallant old scout said Well, boys, I have got the horse out of the bog, at Vince's bayou and you may be sure the rider is not far off. Our brave old Colonel, Edward Burleson, came along in a few minutes and said: Boys, we must have Santa Anna, and in order to secure his capture, we want one hundred volunteers, mounted to stretch a cordon or line from the head of Vince's Bayou to the main timbers on the San Jacinto.
The Captain spoke for the company: "Here we are, Colonel; take the whole or any portion you may desire." He said: "No, we will only ask you for twenty-five men from this company; let them catch any horses they can find." Night had already set in, but such was the eagerness to go, that in a few minutes the required detail was in motion. The next morning the detail returned to camp. I was soon after detailed with the effective men of my company and a small detachment of Captain Fisher's company, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Millard, to scour the left bank of the bayou, and render an account of some sixty of the enemy's cavalry, that were said to have crossed over, and had not been in the action of the day before.
With a flat-boat accompanying us, we marched down the right bank, between the lake near which the battle was fought and the bayou, occasionally sending out a scout to the left bank, to look for cavalry signs, but none were found, and the report turned out to be idle rumor. We, however, picked up twenty-eight stragglers between the bayou and the lake on the right bank, the most of them wounded. Though badly frightened, none, with but one exception, were hurt by us on that occasion; the wounded were placed in a flat-boat and returned to camp. The exception was an aged; grayheaded old man. He had a slight wound in the head, received when escaping the day before across the lake from our riflemen. He, with all the rest, was suffering intensely from thirst, and had crouched in the west side of a thicket.
Our detachment was passing on the east. When abreast of the thicket, a gun was fired on the opposite side. Being at the head of the detachment, I rushed around, supposing that all the men were in line behind me. On reaching the opposite, I witnessed a revolting sight. The aged Mexican already described was endeavoring to hold up the wounded and broken stumps of his arms, and imploring for mercy. He was down in the grass. Near him was a stalwart individual of the detachment from Fisher's company, who had concluded to move in a company by himself, and had taken the opposite side of the thicket from the command, and had fired into the helpless old man, with his hands uplifted and begging in his jargon for mercy. He shot him in both arms, between the wrists and elbows. I will only say that the indignation of myself and men under my command was such that the perpetrator of the act left without ceremony---not a moment too soon for his own safety. I mention this incident to show the spirit of our people. With all the provocations we had to retaliate on our foes, the unprecedented slaughter of tile day before had satiated all the noble spirits of our little army. Our foes were either dead or pleading for that mercy they no doubt felt they had no right to expect.
On returning with our Captain, after a tramp of seven or eight miles down the bayou, going and returning, we were met about half a mile from camp by Adjutant Wells, who waved his hat around his head and said: "Boys, we have caught the big dog of the tanyard. Santa Anna is in camp and our prisoner." Of course we set up the usual Texas yell, and hurried into camp to get a sight of the President of Mexico and the Commander-in-Chief of her armies. The scene there presented will never be effaced from my memory, and I've often wondered that no artist has put it on canvas.
When I arrived on the ground where the captive was present with his interpreter and Almonte, on the one side; our Commander, Houston, lying at the foot opposite General Rusk, chief spokesman; Burleson, Sherman, and the field and staff officers of our little army, surrounded by a sea of heads that were kept out of the circle by the guard.
On the morning after Santa Anna was captured, my friend and messmate, Benjamin C. Franklin, was detailed by the Secretary of War, T. J. Rusk, from my company to carry the dispatches to President David G. Burnet, at Galveston. Major Franklin, who was a private in my company and intimate friend always, remarked to me:
"The families, I am certain, have not left Galveston; everything is accomplished here; get a furlough and go with me to Galveston, and you see ----," (a certain young lady in whom he knew I had a strong interest). Nothing loth, I easily obtained the five days' furlough. Two other individuals, Captain Bob Moore and another man, whose name I have forgotton---both privates in other companies interceded with me to get them furloughs to go with us, saying they would work the boat. As Franklin and myself were not accustomed to such labor, the furloughs were obtained and we started. Our supplies had been left at Harrisburg on our march to Lynch's Ferry, and we had no stores to take with us, but in our eager desire to get off with our tidings, we concluded to trust to chance to get our provisions.
We started about ten o'clock on the morning of the aid of April, in a small skiff, and ran down to Ruth's. I do not recollect how far this was below the battle-ground. We asked for something to eat. Ruth declared that he had been cleaned out by the Mexicans and his own negroes, who had gone over to the enemy. We got nothing, and left in a very bad and sullen humor; got to Spillman's Island (I believe I have given the name correctly), about sundown; place deserted; but oh, the memory of that feast to four hungry men will always be fresh in my memory. There were two barrels of fresh corn meal. The China trees were occupied by domestic fowls of all ages, and no prying or inquisitive owners of either sex about to restrain us in the indulgence of our appetites. If my memory serves me, I think that seven well-grown fowls were sacrificed during our stay. I recollect no further adventure until we reached the open bay. We had already discovered our little skiff was a leaky concern, and by no means calculated to buffet the waves against a hard wind in running to Galveston Island. What was to be done? It was proposed by our assistants, who had taken upon themselves the labor of working the boat, that we should lie up until a change of wind made it practicable to cross the bay from the mouth of Buffalo Bayou to the island direct. This met with no favor from Franklin or myself: We were determined to let no opportunity pass to convey the first news of the great event which had transpired, of which we were the duly authorized heralds.
We therefore determined to coast it around the bay until the wind changed; or until we arrived at a point where the narrowness of the bay would enable us to venture across. In order to do this, with an old leaky skiff, it was necessary that one man should take the rope, or painter, to the skiff and wade along the beach, and one should sit in the stern and direct its course, so as to keep it from stranding. This plan was adopted, but our companions, who had volunteered their services for working the little craft, demurred to this, and the labor fell to Franklin and myself. I can scarcely blame these men now. They looked upon it as a work of supererogation. To Franklin and myself the motive was to carry the glad tidings to the families who had fled from the butcher of the Alamo and Goliad that the arch enemy was in our power; that they were free to return to their homes, and that the power of the despot, so far as Texas was concerned, was forever broken. Was this not a glorious incentive to exertion? We thought so.
We started on our laborious trip, and had not made more than three or four miles, when we discovered the steamer Laura (I think it was), making for the bayou from Galveston. We made all the signals that our situation allowed to attract the attention of those on the boat, but in vain. She took the extreme eastern route. Whether she did not see our signals, or considered the western shore dangerous, we never ascertained. She soon passed out of sight going up the bayou. We next reached Red Fish Bar, as it was called, the residence of the Edwards family. The only human being found, and he was hiding, was an African, who neither spoke nor understood our language. He was very shy. I think we managed to get something to eat, and prying about the premises we secured a few fine cigars, but there was solemn silence in all the region for miles around, telling the tales of flight, stampede and panic.
Our laborious travel was continued, according to my recollection, for more than two days from the time of leaving the mouth of the bayou until we arrived at a point where we could see the shore of the island opposite. This was just after sunset on the fourth day. Tired, hungry and rather morose, we drew our skiff upon the beach, which was clear for some twenty yards. At the line where vegetation commenced, an immense cottonwood tree had lodged, and was imbedded in the soil. Throwing our blankets on the ground beside the log, we were ready to rest our weary limbs; but just as we threw ourselves down, a sound that is apt to startle a backwoodsman saluted us. It was a very spirited rattle from a snake on the opposite side of the log, where the thick weeds and grass were growing. It was already nearly dark, so we concluded to suspend hostilities against our disagreeable neighbor until morning. In the morning he had disappeared. During the night it had rained on us, although we knew it not until morning. The wind was from the north, and we were chilled. Having nothing to eat, we pushed off in our boat for the opposite shore of the island. The rowing necessary to carry us over was grateful, as the labor warmed us.
Before nine o'clock we had sighted a vessel ahead, near the island. We made for it. It proved to be one of our war vessels, commanded by Captain William Brown, with whom we were well acquainted. Long before we reached the vessel, Captain Brown, by the aid of his glass, had identified us, and commenced hailing through his speaking trumpet, which we were unable to answer intelligibly until we ran alongside. As we passed up the side of the vessel and communicated our tidings, Brown took off, his hat, and waving it around his head, threw it into the sea, and sang out to his crew, "turn loose Long Tom" (eighteen pounder pivot gun). After three rounds, he suddenly exclaimed, "stop firing, or old Hawkins, the Commodore, will put me in irons again." The excitement on the vessel was only the forerunner of what we were to witness. When we advanced up the bay to the other shipping, about five miles east, although hungry, and tendered all the hospitalities of the ship, we could not afford to stop to appease the demands of our nature, as the steamboat which had gone up the bayou might return before we reached the President and the families who were encamped near his quarters. We imbibed enough of first rate whisky to have felt the effects very sensibly if we had been under less excitement, or had our determination been less to carry out our mission as the heralds of victory.
Captain Brown, with a contemptuous kick sent our frail skiff afloat on the sea, and declared that no persons who were the bearer of such tidings as we had to communicate should work their passage further. His gig was manned by four or six stout seamen, and we started eastward to the Island. Post Galveston, the President's headquarters, and the refugees from Mexican rapacity, were encamped on the eastern extremity of the island, while the principal shipping was at anchor in the channel opposite. Coming in view of the vessels, we beheld the effects of the firing of Brown's guns. The rigging and yardarms were discovered to be crowded with eager spectators, all of course anxiously awaiting the news in which all had a vital interest. Had our little army, which, at last accounts, was in full retreat for the Lord-knows-where, been overwhelmed and captured, and the last hope for Texas for years been extinguished, or had it obtained a victory over the bloodly and boastful foe? This, we may suppose, were the speculations of our refugees on Galveston Island, and those fleeing beyond the Trinity. Their wildest hopes, we were about to tell them, were more than realized. One of the grand old mothers of Texas, after forty years, told the writer that after many, hardships, herself and family had reached the island the night before we reached the island with the news, she was lying in her tent with twins, of twenty-four hours. On the night when the norther blew up, her tent was blown off, and all the exertions of her husband and family were brought into requisition to protect her and her infants from fatal exposure. On our arrival the next day, when the rejoicing, and above all, the firing, commenced, her husband tenderly wishing to screen her from the excitement-fearing its effects might be detrimental she begged him to tell her the news; that having passed through the fatigues and hardships thus far, she wished to know the best or worse.
As we approached the shipping and the encampment, the excitement was intense. Commodore Hawkins, Captain Moore, Franklin and myself, were well acquainted, and of course recognized by the Commodore through his glass long before we were in, hailing distance, and when we were alongside of the Commodore's vessel, we were almost lifted on board, and while we were reciting our story, we were invited into the cabin, and asked to partake of what we much needed, viz: a breakfast, supper and dinner, the two last over due, and of course very gratefully accepted. We were what we expected to be the heroes of the hour bringing intelligence grateful to the hundreds on the shipping and on the island, telling then that their deserted homes were free, and that no foe stood between them and their hearthstones. We had accomplished our mission, and had forestalled the steamboat, which arrived the next day. That was a greater gratification to us than all the glory of the campaign.
While we were at breakfast, dinner and supper, as above described, Commodore Hawkins had fired a salute of thirteen guns, and had gone ashore to communicate with the people and with the President. Returning soon, he whispered to us that, although he did not wish to check his hospitality, he would advise us as soon as we had satisfied our appetites, that it would be well for us to go on shore and deliver our dispatches to the President. We started at once, the Commodore acting as our escort. We reached the President's quarters through an anxious and excited crowd. The quarters may have been in some sort of wooden shanty, but my impression is that it was only a tent, and if there was a house on the island where now stands the stately and beautiful city of Galveston, I fail to remember it.
On reaching the President's quarters, we were received by him, and as I thought at the moment, in rather a cold and distrait manner for the occasion, seeing we had brought intelligence that I set the captives free, and authorized their return to their native island: We were, however, courteously though coolly treated, and invited by the President to partake of a glass of excellent brandy, which we accepted, notwithstanding we had yielded to several previous solicitations of the same character. After leaving the President, our friend and conductor, Commodore Hawkins, informed us that when he first went ashore the wildest excitement prevailed on the beach, up to the President's quarters. That when he reached there, the President inquired the cause of the commotion. The Commodore informed him of our arrival and mission. The President rejoined, "why did they not report to me immediately? I wish that the Secretary of War, Colonel Rusk, or General Houston, the next time they have important reports to make, would select agents who understand and will discharge their duty. I have a mind to arrest the bearers of the dispatches." Commodore Hawkins, with all the suavity of his nature, and his knowledge of our duty, which we had no doubt violated, said, "no, Mr. President, let me offer an apology for these gentlemen, who are my personal friends, and who, through much fatigue and hardships, brought these tidings to us. They were without regular food for twenty-four hours when they reached my ship. I, without thinking of the irregularity, fed them, and left them enjoying their first regular meal since they left their camp, five days ago. Knowing both the gentlemen who are the bearers of dispatches to you, I could do no less than feed them, and believing implicitly in their news, I had the thirteen guns fired. I pray you to excuse both them and myself for being carried beyond the bounds of etiquette and official courtesy on this occasion."
The kind old President soon got over our neglect of duty, in view of the energy we had shown, the difficulties we had overcome in carrying the welcome intelligence. I have said that the excitement was intense; rumors had gone out foreshadowing the news, but the intelligence was so overwhelming that many regarded it as bogus, and messengers as imposters, until the proclamation of the President was issued in due form. The result, as stated by us, was too great The capture of Santa Anna was in itself a great event, but the capture of the entire army was a little more than the denizens of Galveston Island at that time were willing to admit as reliable information.
Bear in mind at that time there were no telegraph wires; that the bearer of these dispatches were strangers to all except a few persons, among whom were the President (Burnet), Hawkins, Brown, and some of the families from the bayous. A large portion of the refugees were from Trinity or the western frontiers, who had fled for their lives from the anticipated capture by Santa Anna and his forces. Nothing had prevented the departure for New Orleans of the Flash and other merchant vessels, on the morning of our advent with the news, but adverse winds and tide.
As an evidence of the doubts and perplexities of the refugees on that occasion, I will state an incident: Either on the day of our arrival or the next, Franklin and myself had delivered our dispatches, we had seen and conversed with our intimate friends, and the writer had seen his sweetheart, and feeling a great desire to take some exercise, free and untrammeled by duty of any kind, he took a stroll along the bay shore, where excited squads of from ten to twenty were scattered from the President's quarters to the east end of the island. In passing along by these squads, the writer, who was a stranger to these campers, and I not being known to them as one of the bearers of dispatches, could not help hearing the excited comments upon the news that had come to the island. In passing one of these groups, an excited and very demonstrative individual stepped out from his squad and said, "men, those fellows that have brought these exaggerated stories are deserters, and are running away from the army. What! to tell me that the whole Mexican army has been captured, with Santa Anna, the President of Mexico, and all his staff are prisoners, with only a loss to our army of six or eight men? I am not green enough to believe it. They are deserters and imposters, and ought to be dealt with as such." The doubt was a natural one, and I never halted or enlightened the speaker.
Another episode connected with the occasion and I have done: On the day of our arrival at the island, or the next morning, while my companion, Franklin, and myself were strolling about the quarters on the island, a great excitement arose, which we soon ascertained had been communicated from the shipping, to the effect that from the masthead of some of the vessels in the bay a force of one thousand Mexican cavalry had been discovered, advancing from the west end of the island. In a moment there was the wildest excitement, women and children, and some men, fleeing from the beach to the vessels; the commandant of the post, Colonel James Morgan, riding at a furious speed to and fro, calling out, "Turn out, men; turn out, or we'll be in hell in five minutes!" The men mounted were riding furiously toward the west end to reconnoitre the enemy. Panics, such as that above described, are always unreasoning, and the stoutest hearts are sometimes affected by them. Although we knew the overwhelming defeat that had come upon the army of Santa Anna, and the orders that had been sent to his subalterns to retire from the country, yet when my companion, Franklin, and myself held a consultation, I remarked to him: "Franklin, had we not better make a show of preparation? All the island is in arms, and although we know the alarm is false, would it not look better for us old soldiers to show our training?"
Franklin scouted the idea, but we were approaching the headquarters of Colonel Harcourt, who had been appointed to the command of some earthworks on the island, and who was a tried and an accomplished soldier of education in the armies of Europe, who had thrown his sword and valuable services into the scale of our contest with Mexico. He was our intimate personal friend. He said, "I will give you employment as volunteers," at the same time handing us muskets. We sat down at the little fort, awaiting events. Colonel Harcourt, having as little faith in the reports which caused such a panic as Franklin and myself. In the course of two or three hours, after many fast couriers had galloped toward the west end, at length some cool heads, who had been the length of the island, reported that no hostile cavalry were to be seen, but that the families encamped some miles west of the President's quarters had had a big washing day, and had hung out quilts, blankets, clothing, etc., to dry, and they supposed that this had given rise to the excitement, and so it ended.
I believe the incidents as above narrated occurred at the President's quarters, and those of the refugees encamped where the beautiful and splendid city of Galveston now stands. Of this, however, I am not certain, as years elapsed after the above events transpired before I visited it again. I found a city where was almost a naked prairie. Others can correct my statement of the locality if I am wrong. [History of the Island and the City of Galveston by Charles W. Hayes 1879 was not published until 1974. David Pomeroy points out that according to Jenkins Books of Texas, the original proof was typeset, but the typeset was destroyed by fire. A revised proof was not published until 1974 as Hayes, Charles W. History of the Island and the City of Galveston, vol. 1, 2. Cincinnati, OH, 1879 (Jenkins Garrett Press, Austin, TX, 1974)]
Some two days after the Battle of San Jacinto and in the morning at early sunrise I was attending to some duties close by the guard fire, where the Mexican prisoners were under guard I noticed two men approaching me from the prairie skirting Buffalo Bayou, as they came up to where I was standing. One of the men was a very youthful soldier with his gun on his shoulder, belonging to Captain Bakers company. I think his name was Joel Robertson [Robison], the other man was a Mexican in undress and unarmed, the young soldier stated that as he was coming into camp, the Mexican threw himself in his way, and requested to be taken to General Houston. The Mexican then quickly addressed me in Spanish, which rendered into English meant, "Sir General Houston," intimating a desire to see the General and took from somewhere about his person a letter which he handed to me, pressing his finger on its address, which read Don Lopez de Santa Anna etc. I returned the letter to him and asked him if he was General Santa Anna, he replied affirmatively and again repeated "Sir General Houston" with emphasis, at that moment I was joined by Col. George W. Hockley whom I told who the prisoner was, and that we would take him before General Houston, at that same time we heard from the Mexican prisoners at the guard fire an exclamation of "El Presidente! El Presidente!" The prisoner placed between Col. Hockley and myself, our young Texian soldier in the rear passed through Col. Burlesons quarters at the head of which General Houstons tent was pitched. On our arrival we found the General outside of his tent stretched on a mattress at the foot of a large tree apparently asleep, resting on his left side and his back towards us. We ranged up alongside and I put my hand on his arm to arouse him, he raised himself on his elbow and looked up. The prisoner immediately addressed him telling him who he was and surrendering himself to him a prisoner of war. General Houston looked at him intensely, but made no reply, turning to me requested me to proceed to the guard fire and bring from thence before him, a young man who was reported to be the private secretary of Santa Anna and who could talk English fluently. I did so, and on my return found the prisoner seated quietly in a chair beside the General's mattress. The young man on seeing the prisoner assured General Houston that the prisoner then before him was truly General Santa Anna. General Houston wanting additional evidence sent me again to the guard fire to bring General Almonte before him. In bringing down General Almonte, I met with General Thomas J. Rusk and Lieut. Zavala to whom I mentioned what was taking place before General Houston. They accompanied me with General Almonte to where General Houston was when the prisoner was fully recognized and identified. Throughout the whole, General Santa Annas demeanor was dignified and soldierlike but a close observer could trace a shade of sadness on his otherwise impassive countenance. Slightly edited for spelling and punctuation from a document in the Texas Archives--WLM
Lyman Frank Rounds (From a pension application in the Texas State Archives, slightly edited for spelling and punctuation). I joined the Texan Army on the 1st of January 1836 at San Augustine under Lieut. Stansbury Recruiting Officer at that place, I was made Sargent from enlistment, a few days after enlisting General Houston and Capt. Henry Teal came to the rendezvous. They wished me to join Capt. Teals Company at Nacogdoches, which I did, in March we left there to reinforce Col. Travis at the Alamo, but while Capt. Teal and myself was standing in the hall of the convention then sitting at Washington on the Brazos when a courier arrived with the news that Travis and his whole party had been captured and cut to pieces. We then marched and joined Houston on the Colorado, General Sesma at this time being on the opposite side of the river three miles from us with 3000 Mexican troops, from here we fell back where San Felipe de Austin had stood, turned up the Brazos and encamped in a cane brake opposite Groces plantation, where we lay about two weeks. Then we moved across the river on the Steamer Yellow Stone, proceeded to Buffalo Bayou opposite to where Harrisburg had stood. While here Deaf Smith captured a Mexican courier giving us the information that Santa Anna was not far from us, on the 18th of April Capt. Teal was taken sick with the measles, Capt. Andrew Briscoe was assigned to A Company (the one I belonged to) until Capt. Teals recovery the night of the 19th. We crossed the Bayou some little distance below camp on rafts, on the morning of the 20th took up our advance guards of us and Santa Annas column, we advanced, crossed the bridge on Vinces Bayou when General Houston ordered the bridge destroyed, we kept the road towards Lynch's Ferry, and when the head of Houstons column reached the ferry, Santa Annas forces came in sight in our rear, Houston fell back about a mile on the banks of Buffalo Bayou sheltered by a crowning piece of timberland. We lay here until about 4 o'clock P.M. 21st of April when we formed to make the attack. Now, although an admirer of General Houston, I think he made a rather unmilitary movement in making the attack. We formed in double file, marched at a right angle on the enemies left until within musket range, filed to right by flank, so that our Co A had to march the entire length of the Mexicans line under fire, before we could face to the front and return their fire, but nevertheless, in twenty minutes we had them on the run and before sundown we stretched eight hundred of them on the field never to rise again on the 22, as I was returning from the battlefield to camp I was presented with a 2d Lieutenant commission by Thomas J. Rusk, then Secretary of War.
TEXAS. We take pleasure in laying before the public the following letter from our estimable fellow citizen Capt. Tarleton, who, is commander of the company of Texian volunteers, that went first from this place. The very high estimation, in which Captain Tarleton is held in this community as a brave soldier and an honorable man, will cause his letter to be read with deep interest.
Lynchburgh, Texas, April 22, 1836. My dear Brothers,- My last letter to you, dated at San Felipe De Austin, was couched in rather gloomy language, I had then a sad tale to tell you. Now, and thank my God for it, I can tell you another and a very different story. The retribution, called for by my butchered friends at Goliad, has not been invoked in vain. The arch fiend Santa Anna is now in our camp with several of his principle officers, a prisoner at our discretion, and his choice and veteran troops lie in hundreds scattered over the prairie, in which a battle, the parallel to which perhaps cannot be found in the annals of civilized warfare, was yesterday fought. Our army under the command of General Samuel Houston became tired of retreating, and expressed great anxiety to be led to meet the enemy at once to decide the fate of Texas. Accordingly, on the 14th inst., Gen. H. took up the line of march for this place, situated at the junction of the San Jacinto river and the Bayou Buffalo. The two streams form what is called the San Jacinto Bay, on the east side of which, by looking at the map of this country, you will see Lynchburgh, or rather Lynch's ferry, for in reality there is no town or village to be seen, and, on the west, there is a most beautiful prairie, handsomely variegated with small groves of timber. At about 10 o'clock, the morning of the 20th, we pitched our camp in the edge of the timber on the S. E. side of Buffalo Bayou with the intention of breakfasting, having first dispersed a small party of the enemy, that we found in the neighborhood. Before we had breakfasted, it was announced that the enemy in force was in sight. Our little band of heroes was instantly formed in the best position the ground enabled us to take, when we anxiously awaited his arrival. At about half past eleven o'clock, his near approach was confirmed by the report of his cannon and small arms, which was instantly returned by us. This skirmishing continued for some time without any injury to either side, when the Mexican troops were marched beyond the reach of our fire, and of course, it ceased. At about 3 P.M. Col. Sherman, (with whom you are acquainted} of the 2d Regiment of Volunteers, offered to head the cavalry for the purpose of bringing on a general engagement and at once decided the contest. His offer was accepted, and about 63 men mounted their horses and proceeded to the neighborhood of the enemy's cavalry, which they soon found already mounted, 68 in number backed by four companies of infantry 160 strong, and ready to receive our cavalry. The enemy had not long to wait. Col. Sherman, with his characteristic bravery, gallantly led on his little squad of heroes to the charge. The artillery and both regiments of foot, including the regulars, rushed with that ardor, which the love of liberty so nobly and so naturally inspires, to the support of our brave companions on horseback, but our commander-in-chief thought it expedient to order them to return to camp. In this little affair we had none killed and only two or three wounded, none dangerously. The enemy's loss has not been ascertained, but must have been considerable. His Adjutant General was severely wounded, and is now lying in the adjoining room to the one in which I indite this narrative.
The next day, that is yesterday, the 21st, at length arrived, and the whole army expected, as soon as breakfast was over, to be led to the enemy's encampment, which, by this time, had become considerably strengthened by having thrown up a breast-work, and by the acquisition of a reinforcement of 500 men under the command of General Cos, who, to gratify his master, had violated his parole of honor solemnly pledged at San Antonio in December. At last, at half past three o'clock P. M. were ordered to prepare for battle, which was soon done; and then commenced a conflict, the parallel of which, I presume, cannot be found on record. To see a mere handful of raw undisciplined volunteers, just taken from their ploughs and thrown together with rifles without bayonets no two perhaps of the same calibre, and circled only by two pieces of artillery, 6 pounders, and a few musketeers some with and some without bayonets, and some 40 or 50 men on horseback to meet the trained bands of the hero of so many victories -to see them, with trailed arms, marching to within some 60 or 70 yards of such an army at least doublt in number entrenched too behind a breast-work impregnable to small arms and protected by a long brass 9 pounder to see them. I say do all this, fearless, and determined to save their country and their country's liberty or to die in the effort was no ordinary occurence. Yet such was their conduct and so irresistable was that Spartan phalanx, that it was not more than from fifteen to twenty minutes from our first fire until a complete rout of the enemy was effected; and such slaughter on the one side and such almost miraculous preservation on the other have never been heard of since the invention of gunpowder. The commencement of the attack was accompanied by the watch words, "Remember the Alamo, Laborde and Tampico" at the very top of our voices, and, in some ten minutes we were in the full possession of the enemy's encampment, cannon, all things, else, whilst his veterans were in the greatest possible disorder, attempting by flight to save their lives. I happened to be so placed in the regiment, to which I was attached, that I was enabled to be the third men, who entered the entrenchment, which I soon left in company with the balance of the regiment in pursuit of the defeated enemies of the Texian liberty. I feel confident, that I do not exagerate, when I state their loss in killed as nearly if not quite equal to the whole of our number engaged; whilst we had only six killed on the spot and some twelve or fifteen wounded, two of whom have since died, one of them Doctor Motley of Ky., a relative of Mr. Shapley Owen, who died to-night and since I commenced writing this letter. The number of our prisoners has not yet been officially announced, but I should suppose it to be nearly if not quite 600, many of whom are wounded. So complete has been our triumph and their defeat, that my antipathy to them has subsided, and I can now commiserate their condition.
If the people of Texas shall act wisely, the war is ended, and its terrified inhabitants may return to peace and quietness to their homes, and yet make bread sufficient for their support. Santa Anna has agreed to send all his troops home and to deliver to us their arms, ammunition, money, and all other public property, and to acknowledge our Independence and Separation from Mexico. He and his principal officers will of course be held as hostages until the fulfilment of the treaty, and our army will not be disbanded until Texas is safe, which I have no doubt will be in a few weeks, when I shall return to Kentucky with the intention of making arrangements for permanently settling in this country. I am told that General Houston has ordered the spoils of the enemy to be divided equally among the captors, and, that he will use his influence in attempting to prevail on Texas to allow, for this [there appears to be a page missing from the manuscript at this point].
[The capture of Santa Anna] When the Mexicans commenced retreating from their breastworks at San Jacinto on the evening of the 21st of April, 1836, Santa Anna, General Cos and other officers of note among them hastened to join forces at the old Fort Bend on the Brazos under Fillisola. Santa Anna and his cavalry but four attempted their retreat by way of Vince's Bridge not knowing that this bridge had been destroyed by Deaf Smith on the morning of that day. About the time this retreat of the Mexicans was commenced, Captain Karnes called for all those having loaded guns to follow him in the pursuit. The following are the names of all I can recollect of those who responded to Karnes's call, namely, James Cook, Washington Secrest, Field Secrest, Deaf Smith, Shell Tunage, Thomas Robinson, John Robinson, Elisha Clapp, Thomas House, W. T. C. Pierce. These eleven are all dead, to my certain knowledge. I also recollected Dr. Alsbury and a man who escaped from Fannin's massacre, but do not know whether they are alive or not, as I have not seen them since the summer of 1836. I was also of the number, making fourteen, with Captain Karnes. I think there were four more making eighteen in all, but I do not recollect the names of these four. The distance to Vince's bridge from the battle ground was about four miles over a very wet, muddy plain, and, for about a quarter of a mile, knee-deep to our horses in mud and water. Two or three miles from the battle ground, some three or four Mexicans struck off (leaving the balance) in the open prairie in the direction of the head of Vince's Bayou. Elisha Clapp, having a very fleet horse, started in pursuit of them and soon coming up with them fired his rifle, killing one of them. The others, seeing that his rifle was discharged, turned to give him battle, when Clapp was compelled to retreat, but being able to cope with three Mexicans with an empty gun. The one nearest to him discharged his escopete at him, but the ball missed him, though judging from the whistling, Clapp afterwards told me he thought it passed within six inches of his head. But he returned to us unhurt. We continued our pursuit to Vince's Bridge, the three Mexicans as I afterwards learned making good their escape to Fillisola's army on the Brazos, where they reported to him that Houston's army with 4,000 strong and that Santa Anna and all the army was either killed or taken prisoners. While pursuing the Mexicans on the road to Vince's bridge, we overtook numbers, their horses being too tired to enable them to escape; and as we overtook them, we felt compelled to kill them and did so, though on their knees crying for quarter and saying "Me no Alamo - me no Bahia," meaning that they were not in either of those horrible massacres. As there were but some fifteen or eighteen of us, and some sixty of the Mexicans we were pursuing, besides Santa Anna, Cos and several other officers, we saw it was impossible for us to take prisoners and we had but little disposition to do so, knowing they had slaughtered so many of Fannin's men in cold blood and that they had surrendered as prisoners of war under solemn treaty stipulations that they would be sent safely to New Orleans. For about half the distance from the battle ground to Vince's Bridge the road was strewed every few hundred yards with dead Mexicans, as we took no prisoners in this pursuit. When we arrived within half or three-quarters of a mile of Vince's Bridge, Capt. Karnes ordered those in advance to halt till the rear could come up, stating that Santa Anna was, no doubt, with the other Mexicans and when they should reach the bridge and find it destroyed, they could certainly make a fight as it would then be their only alternative. We then followed in a body, prepared for and expecting a fight; but when they reached the bridge and found it gone, they immediately scattered in all directions, some going up and others down the bayou. When we discovered this, every man put spurs to his horse, and started after them as fast as possible. When within 300 or 400 yards of the bridge we discovered Vince's large, black stallion with a fine-looking officer on him dressed in uniform. Capt. Karnes, supposing it was Santa Anna himself (as it was rumored that he was riding Vince's horse) made for him. When he came up to him on the bank of the bayou, the officer dismounted and Karnes asked him if he was Santa Anna. He replied that he was, supposing that quarter would be given Santa Anna. Whereupon Capt. Karnes struck at him with his sword, hitting him a glancing blow on the head as he stood on the bank of the bayou. When he discovered that no quarter would be shown to him he jumped into the bayou saying at the same time that he was not Santa Anna. Whereupon some pistols were discharged at him, killing him in the bayou. We then continued our pursuit up and down the bayou, killing all we overtook, until we had killed all we could find. When we came to the wreck of the bridge, the sun was near setting. Continuing our search, we finally found four horses in a thicket, some few hundred yards above the bridge. We saw that their riders had dismounted and crossed the bayou on foot, wading through the mud and water, and had got into a much larger thicket on the opposite side. These four afterwards proved to be Santa Anna, Cos, Santa Anna's secretary, and another officer whose name I do not recollect. By this time it has become too dark to search the thicket for them that night. Capt. Karnes then called on Dr. Alsbury who spoke the Spanish language, to call to Santa Anna in the thicket (for he had no doubt that Santa Anna was one of them) and say to him if he would come out and give himself up, we would take him a prisoner and spare his life; for he had fears that he might get out of the thicket and escape during the night to Fillisola's camp some 20 miles distant, as he had not men enough to guard the thicket securely. Dr. Alsbury called out to him accordingly to come out and deliver himself up and his life would be saved. But no reply was made; all was as still as if there had not been a living soul in the thicket. Yet we were satisfied Santa Anna must be there. Capt. Karnes then dispatched a runner to camp with the news that we had Santa Anna in a thicket near Vince's Bridge and that we had not men enough to guard the thicket till morning, that more men should be sent immediately to help us. Our force, then consisting of fourteen, was disposed to the best advantage to guard the thicket; but the number not being sufficient to surround it, we left the apace open on the side towards our camp, so that, should he get out during the night, he would have to beat about in the direction of the battle ground, where he would be least likely to escape. In this condition we remained on past till daylight. But during the night Santa Anna crawled out rather in the direction of our camp and the head of the bayou while Cos and another officer escaped in the direction of the Brazos timber, as we learned from Santa Annals secretary, who remained in the timber till morning and then gave himself up to Capt. Karnes. Through his interpreter, Dr. Alsbury, the secretary informed Capt. Karnes that Santa Anna, Cos and the other officer had been in the thicket, but had escaped as above stated. Capt. Karnes then dispatched a runner to camp to give this intelligence and to say that Santa Anna was somewhere in the prairie between Vince's Bridge and the camp, in the direction of the head of the bayou. On the receipt of this information, as I afterwards learned, every man in camp that could raise a horse or pack mule started in search of Santa Anna under command of Col. Burleson and he was picked up during the day, April 22. When I reached camp, late in the evening of the 22d I learned that the person or persons who captured Santa Anna and took him to camp did not know or suspect who he was, as he was disguised in his dress. He was first made known after his arrival at the camp by the Mexican prisoners calling his name on seeing and recognizing him. In the Texas Almanac of 1859 I see that Joel W. Robison claims to have taken Santa Anna. I was not previously acquainted with Mr. Robison, but, from his statement of the whole affair, I have no hesitation in giving it as my opinion that Mr. Robison's account is correct. I remember, on arriving at camp, hearing several of the particulars stated by Mr. Robison, particularly about Santa Anna arriving in camp on a horse behind his captor. The interesting account given by Mr. Robison may be seen on page 166 of the Texas Almanac for 1859. After Capt. Karnes had dispatched the runner, as above stated, he took Deaf Smith and Washington Secrest and headed for the bayou in pursuit of Cos and the other officers and overtook them just as they were entering the Brazos timber and took them as prisoners to our camp. If my recollection is right, Capt. Karnes did not get back to camp with his prisoners until the next day, April 23rd, about noon, but I will not be positive as to the exact time. In conclusion, I would mention one incident that may be worth recording. John Robbins - or Jack as we called him - after our arrival at Vince's Bridge pursued two Mexicans some distance above the bridge and apart from the rest of us. He was on foot with his rifle and fired, killing one of them. The other then seized Robbins in his arms and, being much the stronger man, threw him to the ground, falling on top of him. Robbins, while calling out for help succeeded in drawing his knife from the belt and plunged it into the Mexican, and when some of our company came up to his relief he was still lying under the Mexican who was then in the agonies of death from the effects of the fatal wound by the knife. This closes the account of our pursuit of the Mexicans from the battle field, after the Mexicans commenced their flight. It is strictly correct in all its details and, if you think of interest to the readers of the Texas Almanac, you are at liberty to place it in your columns.
sdct [This article from the Kemp Papers, Center for American History, University of Texas and reprinted by the San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas appears to be a letter home from Lynchburg soon after the battle and in the latter part a later recollection prepared for the Texas Almanac on the caputre of General Santa Anna]
Memoirs James Washington Winters. "I was born in Giles County, Tennessee, January 21, 1817. I came to Texas from Memphis, Tennessee, with my father and all his family. Mr. Bankhead and his family came with us. We came through Arkansas on the Trammell's Trace. In Arkansas Mr. Geo. Lamb, who was on horseback, joined us, and remained with us all the time, even after reaching Texas. Bankhead never obtained any lands, but just rented. He was taken sick and died soon after his arrival. Lamb eventually married Bankhead's widow. Father's family located in the "Big Thicket" between the eastern and western prongs of the San Jacinto River. When we heard of Cos' entry into Texas we were among the volunteers who started out to repel him. When my father, my brothers and I reached San Felipe, on the Brazos, we heard that Cos had already been whipped out of the state. We met Sam Houston, who told us to go back home and make all the corn we could, for in the spring would come the clash. This was late in the fall, about December 1835. I was then about eighteen years of age. On March 12, 1836, about eighteen of us organized a company on the San Bernard; we chose William Ware Captain, Job Collard, First Lieutenant, George Lamb Second Lieutenant, Albert Gallatin First Sergeant, William Winters Second Sergeant. We went to Deweese Crossing on the Colorado with the intention of keeping the Mexicans from crossing. We acted independently, without instructions from anyone. Houston, at Beason's on the Colorado, sent orders for us to fall back. We did so, marching to the prairie between the Colorado and the San Bernard. Here we joined Houston, our company by this time being composed of from 100 to 200 men. From here we marched to San Felipe, thence to Groce's. I do not remember seeing Mosely Baker; do not think he came to the army.
At Groce's the artillery was sent for two iron 6 pounders. We remained in the bottom until they arrived. The steamer Yellowstone was in waiting and Houston crossed his army on this. We camped on the other side and worked all night preparing cartridges for the cannon. Early next morning we remained orders to commence a forced march in the direction of Harrisburg. Our next camp was at Donohue's. Our march was continued the following morning, and the next stop was at McCurley's. The weather was very bad all the time. We now stopped in succession at Cypress Creek, at the head of a little bayou, and opposite Harrisburg. A little after 12 a.m. Deaf Smith crossed over to the last named place and captured Santa Anna's courier with valuable papers containing information as to the route of the Mexican Army. We were then ordered forward with all the speed possible that we might intercept Santa Anna at Lynch's ferry. I never heard any talk as to Houston's not designing to fight; or of officers or men insisting on his taking the road to Harrisburg; or of any one doubting his intention to do so. We went as straight as we could go towards Harrisburg. Mrs. Mann did take her oxen from the ammunition wagon before we got to camp at McCurley's. She needed them for herself. They had been pressed into service by our wagon master. Mrs. Mann went after them herself and took them from the wagon. The boys had a good joke on the wagon master, and they did not forget to use it.
The wagons were left at Harrisburg. I saw men pulling the cannon there. There may have been horses there, but I don't remember seeing any. Rohrer was wagon master. We crossed the bayou about two miles below Harrisburg, just below Sims' bayou. We fixed up the old ferry boat with flooring from Mrs. Batterson's house and some new lumber which we found there, and took over the cannon. It took all day to cross. We lost no time after crossing in taking up our forced march, and never halted until late that night, between two o'clock and daylight. Houston ordered a halt that the men might get a little rest, as they had been working and marching through mud and water for several days. I did not get to rest as I was on guard duty.
It was Houston's intention to try to head off the Mexican army at Lynch's ferry, and he was in such haste that we had no time to prepare meals or to eat them. On the morning of April 20, as soon as we could see we set out for the ferry. Immediately after arriving there one of our spies came running in with the information that Santa Anna was near us. Houston immediately ordered his men to turn and march back to a small grove of timber, distributing them along the bank for protection. We no sooner got settled in our positions than the Mexicans opened fire on us with their artillery. There was more or less skirmishing all day. I never heard of any talk of the Texans building a bridge for retreat. Houston intended to fight and fight to a finish. After the first onslaught the Mexicans fell back, and we got our breakfast. When we reached Lynch's ferry we saw a sail coming up the bayou. Houston ordered a squad of men to see what it was and capture it. I heard the reports of firing as we continued our march. It was a ferry flat which Santa Anna had previously captured. It was loaded with flour and supplies, and was also intended to transport Santa Anna and his army across the bayou. The supplies were very timely for the Texans. Sherman was in command of the infantry, but with Houston's approval and permission he called for volunteers, who could obtain horses to attempt the capture of the Mexican artillery. Houston sent out Burleson's men to support Sherman and cover his retreat if necessary. The attempt was not successful. Two men were wounded, one of whom afterwards died.
The next morning, April 21, a council of war was held. Sometime before noon, Houston passed around among the men gathered at the camp fires and asked if we wanted to fight. We replied with a shout that we were most anxious to do so. Then Houston replied, 'Very well, get your dinners and I will lead you into the fight, an if you whip them every one of you shall be a captain." There had been so many "split ups" and differences that Houston preferred the opinions of the men themselves, feeling that before hazarding battle we must find whether they would enter the engagement with a will. For the men had marched so long without food or rest that perhaps, they might not be physically prepared. I never heard orders given as to Vince's bridge. I heard that Deaf Smith had asked permission to cut it down. I never heard that Vince's bridge was mentioned in any address to the army, or any prominence given to the fact that it had been destroyed.
After leaving Harrisburg, I saw no wagon transports. We packed all there was on our backs. After dinner the men were ready for battle. I was in Sherman's division - left wing of attack - but under my own captain, Wm. Ware. Rush started out with us, but turned and went with the artillery. When we ran over the ridge we lost sight of the rest. On beginning the battle, before we got in sight of the Mexicans, they began firing at us. They were lying down in the grass. We examined the place where many had been, and found as many as five ends of cartridges where each man lay, so supposed that each man had fired at us as many as five times before we reached them. Their breastworks were composed of baggage, saddle bags, and brush, in all about four or five feet high. There was a gap eight or ten feet wide through which they fired the cannon. I saw Houston in the midst of the enemy's tents near the first regiment to the right. A Mexican officer tried to rally his men, but was soon dispatched by a rifle ball and fell from his horse. Our regiment passed beyond the Mexicans breastworks before we knew it, while our other two regiments came up in front of them, so then we did them up in short order. I never heard any halt ordered. We never halted. The battle was won in fifteen or eighteen minutes. The Mexican Cavalry broke in disorder, while ours was hotly pursuing them. Houston had two horses killed from under him, and was on his third one before he passed the Mexicans works. We ran and fought fully two miles.
After the fight was ended Houston gave orders to form in line and march back to camp, but we paid no attention to him, as we were all shaking hands and rejoicing over the victory. Houston gave the orders three time and still the men paid no attention to him. And he turned his horse around and said "men I can gain victories with you, but damn your manners," and rode on to camp. Joel Robinson and Sylvester brought in Santa Anna. I was there when he was brought in; was digging the grave to bury our eight men. They passed by us and halted at our guard lines. The Mexicans prisoners clapped their hands, and gave other signs of joy, shouting, "Santa Anna, Santa Anna!" I dropped my tools and followed after them to Houston, who was lying on his cot at the camp near the bayou. Santa Anna introduced himself and they began to talk. I do not know who captured Cos, but he was the most frightened man I ever saw. He covered his head with a blanket. I could see it tremble twenty feet off. The greatest slaughter in the battle occurred between the breastworks and the lake; here the Mexicans and horses killed made a bridge across the bayou.
General Wharton tried to get us to cease and grabbed a Mexican and pulled him up behind him on his horse, saying that was his Mexican, but Jim Curtis shot the Mexican. The Mexican infantry near the lake would jump in occasionally and would dive to get away from our shots, but the minute they would raise their heads they were picked off by our men. Only a few followed the flying Mexicans to Vince's bayou; the Mexicans finding the bridge burned, tried to cross, but their horses bogged. Only one of those trying to cross there got away, all the others were shot. When Santa Anna was brought into camp some called out 'shoot him, hang him!' General Houston ordered the men who made these threats taken away. Next day after the battle, finding that many Mexicans were hidden in the marsh grass, some one set fire to the grass and burned or smoked them out. In this way about forty were captured. One who tried to run was shot. The same day I found a dead Mexican who had silver in his belt, about ten dollars. The money had slipped out when he was shot. Orders were given that all money found be brought in to headquarters. I turned this in. Money so captured was distributed to the soldiers, the amount so distributed averaging almost $11 per man. Santa Anna's handsomely ornamented saddle was held up and the men voted that it should be given to General Houston. Other officers saddles were sold. One brought as high as $300. I certify that the above statement is correct, or as nearly correct as I can remember." [From the October 1902 Quarterly of the Texas Historical Association]