Short Memoirs & Sketches from Old Texians
Texas San Jacinto River May 4, 1836 Dear father and mother: After my love to you and all my relatives I embrace this opportunity of informing you that I am in good health at present hoping these few lines may find you in the same state, I shall in the first place give you the outlines of my travels etc. After I left Mr. Townsend in Percysville I arrived at Mr. Welsh's in Pittsburg. Mr. Welch encouraged me very much to go to Texas which I am very much pleased with at present. In the first place at Pittsburg I engaged with Capt. Scott of New Orleans on the Lady Madison and arrived at Cincinnati landed and went to view the city - went into Hollins boarding house there met Wm. Thompson who had kept Bar for Mr. Welch in Pittsburg - told him I was going to Texas to fight the Mexicans.
I have been in two battles, one on the 20th of April the other on the 21st. You will find in print after some time. The most victorious battle ever fought in the known [unreadable] to be done in the space of 18 minutes. I shall now before I go further state to you what great luck I had about getting to Texas. Thompson stated to me there was a Capt. Sherman of Newport, Kentucky making up a company of volunteers for Texas and he insisted on me going over and joining his company getting at the rate of Twenty Dollars per month. I settled off with Scott and got my money and went over to Newport, Kentucky just opposite Cincinnati and joined Capt Sherman's Company of Newport, Kentucky Riflemen and was furnished with a rifle and uniform. We had our company organized on the 18th Dec. - started for Texas on the 29th Dec. arrived at Louisville 30th. I stepped out with a number of my companions to take a view of Louisville and lo and behold who stepped up but Archibald Davidson that formerly lived with us. We rambled around until dark and we all stepped into a coffee house and lo and behold who was sitting by the fire but John Riddle and a Mr. Dickey from Harmony. We spent that night and New Year's Morning with Mr. Riddle and Mr. Dickey in great splendor and then we embarked on the Augusta for Nachitoches on Red River. We sailed to the mouth of Red River 250 miles above New Orleans and then we sailed up Red River 300 miles to Nachitoches then took land - I shall not give you particulars about our travels. We travelled 1000 miles on foot in Texas before we got in gunshot of the enemy, but then we gave them hell on the 20th of April. The great general Santa Anna at the head of 600 choice Mexican troops and a number of his bravest generals. I shall state to you that we elected Capt Sherman Col. of the 2nd Regt. he selected 70 horsemen out of the different regiments to make the attack, I being 3rd Sergeant in our Company I was selected as one of the horsemen on the 20th at 4 o'clock we attack the enemy. We killed about 20 and only had two men wounded on the first day. Then we retreated to our camp - waited for them to make an attack until 4 o'clock on the 21st. Genl. Houston commanded the troops to form in the battle array which was done in less than 15 minutes. There were only about 680 of us against 1100 mexicans. We attacked them on open prairies we had two 6 pounders they only one. We killed 600 took 530 prisoners 500 mules 200 horses $16000 in gold and silver and sundries amounting to 2000. We took Genl. Santa Anna, Gen. Cos and their staff. Santa Anna is about making a treaty with Genl Houston then we will get our discharge. The recompense from the Government of Texas $20 per month from the time we enrolled 1/4 of a league of land which is 1111 acres 2/3 of a league of land which is 2900 acres will in all make about 4000 acres which is supposed in less than two years will be worth at least $2000. General Houston says we may rely upon it every man who was in the battle shall have two leagues of land but the above we are sure of. We had but 2 men killed and 10 wounded. Such a battle has not to this time been recorded. As to the country it is a warm pleasant country. In the month of Jany. peach trees in full bloom - land very level tolerably well watered - prairie very extensive rich as can be. I think it is the best place in the world for a young man commencing on nothing to get rich. I wish you to direct your letters to Oliver T. Brown 3 sergt of Newport Kentucky Rifleman Care of General Houston Commander in Chief of the Texas Armies Yours - Oliver T. Brown sdct (From the Kemp Papers,Center for American History, University of Texas)
"My acquaintance began with the plaintiff [John Forbes] in the city of Cincinnati. While a boy I knew the plaintiff, who was a keeper of a grocery store in this city, and I think was married here, and I believe an Englishmen. When nineteen years old, in the month of November, 1835, I left this city alone, to aid Texas in her struggle for Independence, went up Red River to Natchitoches, and thence by the old San Antonio trail, to the town of San Antonio where I arrived before Christmas day, and but a few days after its surrender to the Texians. I was one of the party who started with Col. Grant, to capture Matamoras. With this parted I continued until it reached Goliad, where Captain Philip Dimmit, who was in command of the fort, denounced Grant as a bad man, and told us that he was carrying us upon a horse-stealing expedition, and would take us to ruin and death. These statements of Dimmit's broke up Grant's command, all the men leaving him except some fifty or sixty. I with some five or six others, went down the country to Matagorda. I remained in Matagorda until March, when the news was brought there of the fall of the Alamo and the defeat of Col. Fannin. Many of the citizens of this city were with Fannin; a portion of them who were of the advance guard got away, but those that returned to Matagorda passed right through to the shipping, and went off to New Orleans. James Harris and I, after we had assisted the terrified women and children on board the shipping, set out to find Houston and assist him in the fight we expected soon to come off. And upon the result of which we thought the fate of the country depended. At Harrisburgh I saw President Burnet, who was a friend of my father's. He insisted upon my going to Galveston with Col. Potter to assist in fortifying that place, but for the reasons above, I went to Houston. We joined him on the east side of the Brazos River, where I again met Col. Forbes, and was by him introduced to Genl. Houston." (Vol. 2, pps. 12, 13.) I was a private soldier in the Battle of San Jacinto, in Capt. Patton's Company, from Columbia, Texas, which I joined as soon as I arrived in camp. James Harris and I met in the town of Harrisburgh an express rider, Wm. Sweeney, who belonged to that company. We went up to the army with him, and joined his company, which was commanded in the battle by Lieut. David Murphey; Patton being one of Houston's aides." (Vol. 2, p. 14) About the 1st of April, 1836, I joined the Texan Army under Genl. Houston. They had just crossed the Brazos River from the west side (at Grosses, I think). (Vol. 2, page 3)
"I was with the Texan army some days after the battle of San Jacinto, and moved with it, up Buffalo Bayou, about four miles to the new camp, where we went to get away from the stench of the battle ground. There I was discharged on the 7th day of May, by Brig. Genl. Thos. J. Rusk.........after I was discharged, 7th May 1836, I took passage on the steamboat, for Galveston Island, that being the most convenient route for me to reach Matagorda, as I had lost my horse, and was afoot. Genl. Santa Anna was also a passenger upon this boat. Six weeks elapsed before I reached my destination, the point whence I set out with Mr. Harris to join the army, Matagorda. In a few weeks there was an alarm there, from the rumor that an immense force of Mexicans were crossing the frontier, and the men all turned out. The Matagorda Company was large--sixty or seventy men,--of which Thomas Stewart was elected Captain, and myself 1st Lieutenant; Wilkerson 2nd Lieutenant. We were mounted infantry, each man having his own horse, and armed with rifles, pistols and knives; and we marched West to Victoria, where we found the army under General Rusk. We served out our three months term of Service under him, and I think Genl. (Albert Sidney Johnston) Johnson towards the last; and we were discharged in September at Camp Johnson -- near Lavaca.--"I omitted to state that Capt. Stewart did not go to the field with the Matagorda Company, but they were under my command." (Vol. 2, pp. 8,9,10). sdct [From the Kemp Papers, Center for American History, University of Texas and excerpts reprinted by the San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas. Vol. numbers refer to the text of the testimony which was in two volumes]
The following letter from M. H. Denham, formerly Orderly Sergeant of the Stage Guards of this place, a young gentleman well known and highly esteemed, has been kindly handed to us by the friend to whom it was addressed; and, though the details it contains are substantially the same as those we have heretofore published, it cannot fail to be read with interest here. The letter is postmarked "Memphis, June 1." -- Nashville Banner
Camp on San Jacinto, Texas, May 3, 1836.
Dear Sir: I take the liberty of again writing to you, and giving you an account of the Battle of San Jacinto. We had been retreating before very superior force from the 13th of March to the 14th of April, and had become so discouraged, that several began to think the country gone. But the clouds began to break a little; the enemy, intoxicated with their success at Bejar and La Bahia, divided themselves into four divisions, scouring the country and destroying every thing in their way. By an American we learnt that one division of six hundred men under Santa Anna had taken the road to Harrisburg, where the Convention was sitting; it was immediately determined to advance and meet them, and give them battle. We crossed the Brassos on the 14th, and arrived at Harrisburgh on the 18th about noon, and there took three prisoners, from whom we learnt that Santa Anna had taken the road to Galveston Island to fortify; he was now about fifteen miles from us, and unconscious that we were so near him; he concluded we had taken the Sabine road. On the 18th we crossed Buffalo Bayou in full pursuit, and determined to conquer or die. We took up the line of march about sundown, and marched till two o'clock in the morning; at daylight, (the 20th,) we again moved on, and about nine o'clock came up within three miles of him; from some prisoners taken, we found that he was advancing towards Lynch's Ferry, (where we were), intending to cross there. We immediately took our position, Colonel Burleson's Regiment to which I belonged, in a strip of woods on the right, Colonel Sherman's in the woods on the left, and the regulars under Col. Millard, with two six-pounders in the centre -- we were about seven hundred in all, (having left three hundred in our camp), the whole under the command of General Houston. About twelve o'clock they came in sight, and advanced steadily upon us; they formed a line of battle about 150 yards from us, and planted a brass nine-pounder within 300 yards; they then commenced a fire of canister and round shot, and musketry, to drive us from our position; but in vain, we did not fire shot. Their bugles now sounded the charge, they came charging in fine style until within range of our cannon, when we opened on them and compelled them to retreat; again and again they charged and were so often defeated. They now found they could not force us from our position and retired about three-fourths of a mile from us, and commenced throwing up breastworks. At four o'clock in the morning, our cavalry went out to try and take their cannon; they had a small skirmish with the Mexican lancers, and we all went out in hopes that a general action would take place, but though we offered them a fair fight, they would not come out. They spent the night of the 20th, in throwing up a breastworks of brush, sacks of corn, and everything they could lay their hands on. On the morning of the 21st, they were reinforced by General Cos, with near six hundred men, thus making their force nearly double ours -- The crisis was now approaching. The battleground was something in the shape of a horseshoe, and if we delayed in attacking them, other reinforcements were on their march to join them, and if they attacked us and we were defeated, there was no possible chance for us to retreat. We had a chance of defeating them, although so much superior to us in everything -- they being Santa Anna's choice troops; it was, therefore, determined to attack them without delay. About three o'clock in the evening of the twenty-first, we formed in three columns and advanced to the attack -- We moved on rapidly until within one hundred and fifty yards of their lines over a prairie, (they were in the woods), when we deployed into line, and charged up to their works: they kept up a very severe fire on us for about twenty minutes, when their whole line gave way, and a scene of slaughter took place which defied description. We knew what would be our fate if we were defeated; for Santa Anna had sworn to save no lives, and our men in retaliation had sworn the same, they were pursued until dark, and that alone put an end to the carnage. The cry of the Alamo! the Alamo! La Bahia! La Bahia! was heard above the roaring of the cannons and the crack of the rifles; the ground was strewed with them for miles. Their famous Lancers were pursued five miles and entirely cut to pieces: of about one hundred who attempted to cross the river, all but nine were killed or drowned; their whole army was annihilated; out of the twelve hundred but nine escaped; near six hundred were killed on the field, and the rest wounded and taken prisoners. Several at Santa Anna's great officers were killed, Santa Anna and his Adjutant General and the rascally Cos are prisoners; in short, every officer from the highest to the lowest have been killed or taken prisoners, their cannon, horses, mules and all their camp equipage fell into our hands. Our loss on both days were seven killed and eighteen severely wounded; how our loss was so small is more than I can tell, I escaped myself without a scratch. As far as I can learn, the war is over, at least for this campaign; Santa Anna is willing to remove the balance of his troops (four thousand) beyond the Rio Grande, and give Texas her independence; but still I think we shall go back and take possession of Bejar and La Bahia, so that I shall not get off for three or four months yet. The Texas Cabinet are all here treating with Santa Anna, and I hope it may be brought to a happy close." sdct [From the Kemp Papers, Center for American History, University of Texas and reprinted by the San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas]
Texas, Four Miles from Headquarters April 10, 1836.
Dear Parents: Since I last wrote you I have been engaged in arranging an expedition against the Indians, who have committed many depredations against the frontier. On my return to the settlements, I learned that our country was again invaded by a merciless horde of Mexicans, who were waging war or extermination against the inhabitants. A call was made for all friends of humanity to rise in arms and resist the foe. Men were panic striken and fled, leaving their all behind them. I could not reconcile it to my feelings to leave Texas without an effort to save it. Accordingly, I bent my course for the army and arrived last evening at this place. I shall enter Camp this morning as a volunteer. The army, commanded by General Houston, is lying on the west side of the Brazos, 20 miles from San Fellippe. The enemy is in that place awaiting an attack. It is reported Houston will attack them in the morning. What will be the result, or the fate of Texas, is in the bowels of futurity. Yet, I think we are engaged in the cause of justice, and hope the God of battles will protect us. The enemy's course has been the most bloody that has ever been recorded on the page of history. Our garrison at San Antonio was taken and massacred; annother detachment of seven hundred, commanded by Colonel Fannin, and posted at La Bahia, after surrendering prisoners of war, were led out and shot down like beasts. Only one escaped to tell their melancholy fate. In their course they show no quarter to age, sex, or condition, all are massacred without mercy. If such conduct is not sufficient to arouse the patriotic feelings of the sons of liberty, I know not what will. I was born in a land of freedom, and taught to lisp the name of liberty with my infant tongue, and rather than be driven out of the country or submit to be a slave, I will leave my bones to bleach on the plains of Texas. If we succeed in subdueing the enemy and establishing a free and independent government, we shall have the finest country the sun ever shown upon, and if we fail we shall have the satisfaction of dying fighting for the rights of men. I know not that I shall have the opportunity of writing to you in some time, but shall do so often as convenient. Be not alarmed about my safety. I am no better, and my life no dearer, than those who gained the liberty you enjoy. If I fall you will have the satisfaction that your son died fighting for the rights of men. Our strength in the field is about 1,500. The enemy is reported 4,000 strong; a fearful odds, you will say; but what can mercenary hirelings do against the sons of liberty!
Before this reaches you the fate of Texas will be known. I will endeavor to aquaint you as soon as possible. I am well and in good spirits, and as unconcerned as if going to a raising. The same Being who has hitherto protected my life can with equal ease ward off the balls of the enemy. My company is waiting, and I must draw to a close, and bid you farewell, perhaps forever. More than a year has elapsed since I saw you, yet the thought of friends and home are fresh in my memory, and their remembrance yet lives in my affections and will [be] a secret joy to my heart till it shall cease to beat. Long has it been since I heard from you. How often do I think of home and wish to be there. The thoughts of that sacred spot haunts my night-watches. How often, when sleep has taken possession of my faculties, am I transported there, and for a short time enjoy all the pleasures of home; but the delusion is soon over and the morning returns and I find my situation the same. Dear friends, if I see you no more remember Giles still loves you. Give my love to my sister, brothers, friends, and neighbors. I would write more if time would permit, but its fleeting steps wait for none. You need not write to me, as I do not know where I shall be. With sentiments of sincere respect I bid you fare-well. Your affectionate son, G.A. Giddings sdct [From the Kemp Papers, Center for American History, University of Texas and reprinted by the San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas]
"Was born in Tennessee - immigrated to Texas in 1834 - I am 64 years of age - My health is good - When the war broke out between Texas and Mexico I was living in Nacogdoches - in March 1836 joined company of Capt Haden Arnold - Marched to join Genl Houston - met an express with intelligence of the fall of the Alamo and the massacre of Fannin and his men - this news augmented our courage and hurried us on - joined Col Sherman on the Colorado river - the same day Sherman recd orders from Houston to retreat - which we did and found Houston on the San Bernardo - Houston fell back to Groves Retreat - remained there about 10 days - Houstons spies Deaf Smith and Karnes were watching the movements of the enemy - which they brought intelligence that the Mexicans were crossing the Brazos - Houston crossed the River making his way East - men began to leave the Army to take their families out of danger - Houston moved down to Buffalo Bayou - the day we got to the Bayou our spies captured a courier and a Mexican officer and brought them into Camps - the mail was for San Tanna [Santa Anna] and gave the intelligence that San Tanna was leading in person the column in advance of us - the Genl (Houston) formed us in solid colm - rode into our midst, and delivered to us one of the best speeches - told us that when we got into battle to make the Mexicans remember the Alamo - Genl Rusk followed him, telling us to also make the Mexicans remember the massacre of Fannins men - Crossed Buffalo Bayou and moved down it in silence until a late hour at night - the next morning the 20th of April commenced our march down the Bayou - our spies reported the enemy making their way to Lynchs Ferry near which place Houston halted - The Mexicans came into sight, halted and commenced firing on us - We had a good deal of fun mixed with danger that day - that night both armies camped within one mile of each other - the 21st - the great day of battle they gave freedom to Texas and birth to a Nation, our loss was three killed dead on the field and five mortally wounded who died shortly after - the Mexicans loss was estimated at 1000 killed and the balance captured - San Tanna and Coss were captured the next day - My occupation has been that of a surveyor - Came to Bastrop in 1838 - in 1839 was surveying on the Colorado river above the City of Austin - Kept a good lookout - In the month of June of this year was surveying about ten miles from where the town of Burnet is now located - The Indians surrounded us in the night, and just before day fired on us. breaking one mans right arm above the elbow - such yelling I thought that I had never heard in all my life - thought that they were all there - such jumping and snorting of Horses - Well it beat anything I ever met up with - I told my boys, 8 or 9 in number to reserve their fire, get behind trees, and not shoot without a good chance - there was only three guns fired from my party, all at one Indian, who was killed immediately - the old Chief commanded a retreat and left us - when daylight came we found 4 head Horses gone and three men - looked about for the bodies of our men could not find them - found 2 of their guns & all of their shot pouches - were satisfied that they had run I called aloud several times, and one of the boys answered me across the River - he came over alone - Knew nothing of the others - We had to hasten in with our wounded men, so left the other two boys with one Gun and no ammunition - 7 days after they made their way down in to where Austin is now situated - On another occasion I was up the Country on a surveying expedition - arrived at Hamiltons Creek, struck camp - that night the Indians were all around us, howling like wolves, hooting like owls - We kept guard all night - the next morning we hunted up the Indians, knowing that they professed friendship - Came across two small boys hunting their Ponies - the little fellows were scared on first sight - started to run, but one of our party showed a white flag - when the boys seen the Flag they halted -- Sent one of our party to them who could talk some Spanish - he told the Indian boy that we were good friends, and wanted to go to their Camp - the old Chief came to us - he was a good bobachille &c and to get down - We hesitated awhile, but finally dismounted - they were fixing to move their camp - they urged us to go with then some four miles ahead of what is now know as little North Gabriel - at that time several of the big Chiefs had gone to the City of Houston to make a treaty with our people - We went with the Indians that day to their Camps - When we got there, they took our horses and turned them loose with their caballada, and did not see them again for three days and nights - the first morning after staying all night we wanted our horses the old Chief wanted to know where we were going, and what for &c - We told him we were going on the Colorado to hunt wild cows, Buffalo and look at the country (knowing that they were opposed to surveying) - The chief told us that if we went on the Colorado that the Huecos would kill us, and then the Americans would say that the Comanches did it - that we had better not go - We did not believe him - thought that he only told this tale to keep us from going - However the second morning we were more urgent in our requests - he told us the same thing - heap Huecos, and said that that day when the sun got straight up, that the Huecos would come to his camp We stayed, for we could not get away - that day sure enough about 12 o'clock we saw a long string of Indians coming - the Comanche Chief and one Indian went out to meet the Huecos - They talked a few minutes then came to the Comanche Camp - the Chief seated the Huecos on one side of his Camp fire and us on the other - then all the Comanches drew near, men, women and children to listen to the talk between the two Chiefs - no one talked but them - Here I witnessed a scene that ought to give our people a lesson - There were about 500 Indians and the larger half were children, and every little red skin had both ears open to hear every word that was said - Could have heard a pin drop upon the leaves - The talk lasted I think about an hour, they then lit a Pipe - took one or two whiffs and passed it around between the old Comanche Chief and the Huecos - then motioned to the Huecos down on the Creek some 200 years distant - That night the Comanches had some kind of a meeting in One of their tents - I did not know what it was but conjectured that they were enquiring of the Great Spirit what had become of their Big Captains who had gone below - They made some kind of black liquid and drank it -- It seemed to make them very sick - They would get down on their knees, and groan, and make a dismal noise and take on mightily - One of our men looked on at them some time - When he came back to our camp he looked very serious, as though he was condemned to die, and said "Boys they are going to kill us all to night" - but they did not - The next morning they spied out their Capts returning - Then the old Chief told us that we could go, but that we had better go home - Every horse was brought up in a few minutes - I swapped horses with one Indian and got wofully bitten, and started for home. The chief sent one Comanche with us - and told us how to do that night, then turned back - We took his advice and made our way home, which was Bastrop - with the Comanches I learned a good deal about their ways and customs too tedious to mention here. On another occasion, I do not remember whether it was in 1841 or 2 the Comanches went down on the Coast to Linnville in large numbers - robbed the town - took all the goods, a great many horses and mules and one white lady, and started back, making a considerable show with their pack mules - the news spread far and wide - Men from the Colorado and Guadalupe Rivers rallied, and met together at Plum Creek at the time the Indians came along - General Felix Houston commanded in that fight - We had two old Indian fighters along, viz, Ed Burleson and Paint Caldwell and think that if either had commanded, we would have done more execution, but Huston was commander of the Texas forces in that battle, and hearing of their vast numbers supposed that the Indians would halt and give us battle in a regular way & made his arrangements accordingly; but the Indians were too smart for us, and made their own arrangements as to fight - They outgeneraled us - but we whipped the red men - recaptured all the plunder and between 4 & 500 Horses and Mules and the white lady - They shot the woman in the breast aiming to kill her, but did not - Houston's report of the Indians killed was fifty - We lost none killed several wounded. These three fights are all the battles that I was ever engaged in, and I care not to be in another - I think that I have escaped remarkably well while several surveyors were attacked and in some instances all hands killed - I feel grateful to Him who cares for us for His Providence and His protection - Post Office Salade Bell County -" sdct [From the Kemp Papers, Center for American History, University of Texas and reprinted by the San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas]
Republic of Texas,
Well, sir, I must tell you that when we got so near with them as to shake hands, they couldn't bear that. They appeared rather bashful at such a meeting as that and turned their backs to us and the rest of the way off about that time we were slaying them like cornstalks. This was an open field fight. We gained complete victory over them in about sixteen minutes. We took about seven hundred prisoners, a large number of which was wounded, a great number of which proved mortal. We took all the officers except two, one Lieutenant Col., one Captain made their escape. The monster Santa Anna who can have men taken out and murdered without a change of countenance or the least remorse of conscience, after making a solemn and sacred treaty, such conduct could not be expected from savage heathen, much less from a nation who pretended to be enlightened, civilized and christianized. We have this great Santa Anna now a prisoner with three other of his generals with officers to the amount of about thirty. There were many officers killed. We had six men killed, two died from wounds. We had about 25 men wounded, most of which were very slight, not mortally except the above mentioned two. The people were determined to kill Santa Anna and I expect will all his principal officers. I told you the Mexicans marched in three divisions. We defeated Santa Anna's division, hostility then ceased and an armistice was entered into. The Mexican army then retreated out of Texas to Matamoras and our wise men were trying to make a treaty with Santa Anna and affected it as they thought and put him on board a vessel to save him but the people would not stand and brought him back. To show there is no confidence to be placed in any of the Mexican people, the army agreed to stand to our treaty. Santa Anna would make the assurance they would. We got the news of the 19th instant the same army were retracing steps back to Texas and swear they intended to exterminate every American to the Sabine River or never see Mexico again. They numbered ten thousand and the people are ordered to turn out in mass and repair to the seat of war with all possible dispatch. If the boys do not turn out now on the very spot, Texas is gone. We can beat them with one-third their number with ease. We have already done it. In two days I shall start again. I only came in two weeks ago today. We have only about 1000 men in the field at present. Our army will have to retreat in less that eight days. No is the great struggle with Texas but if the people will turn out now on the spot, we can beat them to death. I could say a heap to you if I could see you. If we can gain this country I shall be entitled to 5000 acres of land which will be a fortune to me some day or my children if they should live. This may be my last address to you. War is fluctuating. You can tell anybody that may inquire for me where I am. If I outlive this war I shall see you all in Miss. again as soon as I can secure my land titles. Nothing would give me the same satisfaction as seeing you all would. Your son till death, J. W. Hassell. sdct [From the Kemp Papers, Center for American History, University of Texas and reprinted by the San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas]
I was a sergeant in Capt. Moseley Baker's Company, first regiment, Texas army, during the campaign of the spring of 1836. Our army on its retreat from the Colorado, encamped on the evening of the 26th of March, about a mile from the town of San Felipe. Early the ensuing morning, by order of Genl. Houston, I was detailed by Captain Baker with six men of his company to take charge of the ferry at San Felipe. I was instructed by Genl. Houston to let no man cross at the ferry without written permission from him. I immediately proceeded to the ferry and took possession of the boat. Shortly afterwards Capt. Baker arrived at the ferry with the remainder of his company and camped on the west bank of the river. He was detached by Genl. Houston after the army was paraded to march. The succeeding day (Mar. 28th) Captain Baker crossed his company to the east bank of the river and began to dig a ditch the entire length of which, when completed was one hundred and twenty-four yards. It was in the form of an L, the longer part fronting the river. The shorter part was below the road and extended eastward. The dirt was thrown outside the ditch. This work occupied us until the evening of the 31st of Mar. when Capt. Baker paraded and informed the men that he had received intelligence that the Mexican army had crossed the Colorado and was advancing on San Felipe; that he had been instructed by Genl. Houston, upon the approach of the enemy, to burn the town, and that in obedience to said order the company would proceed to reduce it to ashes. We crossed the river after night and it was about eight o'clock when we arrived in the street of San Felipe, where Capt. Baker again harangued us. He stated, in substance, that he thought it was bad policy to burn the town but that Genl. Houston was inimical to him and would avail himself of any plausable pretext to injure him. He was therefore determined to execute his orders to the letter. He then commenced the work of destruction by setting fire to his own office with his own hands. The houses were of wood and the conflagration was rapid and brilliant. It was nearly midnight and the town was almost consumed, when the company returned to camp.
A large amount of goods were destroyed by this conflagration. All the merchants, with the exception of William P. Huff, had previously left the place but were represented by their clerks. Some of our men asked permission of the clerks to take such goods as they needed but this was refused, even when the torch was about to be applied to the stores. Neither Captain Baker's men nor the people of the town doubted that it was destroyed by order of the commander-in-chief. The clerks crossed the river and camped with our Company. Next morning (Apr. 1) we resumed working on our entrenchment. This morning Capt. Baker wrote to Genl. Houston. Before dispatching the letter he said to me and others of his mess, "General Houston is inimical to me -- I have to be very cautious -- I will read you this letter." He read it accordingly. It stated, in substance, that having received intelligence that the enemy had crossed the Colorado and were advancing towards San Felipe, he had, in obedience to the order of the commander-in-chief, burned the town. General Houston replied to this communication the same day. Capt. Baker read the reply to myself and others. It stated in general terms, that the commander-in-chief approved of Captain Baker's course. Shortly after the burning of the town we were reinforced by Capt. Kimbrough's company. Our force now amounted to one hundred and twenty or one hundred and twenty-five men, including, however, several merchants clerks, and others, only temporarily attached to the command. For several days we were in hourly expectation of the arrival of the enemy. On the evening of the 5th Apl. James M. Bell, William Simpson and myself were selected by Captain Baker for what was deemed a perilous service, namely, to act as a picket guard the ensuing night on the San Felipe side of the river. We crossed the river -- then very high -- in a canoe which Captain ordered should be sent back immediately -- so fearful was he of its falling into the hands of the enemy and affording them the means of crossing the river and surprising his camp. We, however, managed to keep the canoe and locked it to a tree. We then proceeded on and posted ourselves on a gentle eminence in the prairie a little west of the site of the main part of the town and about three-fourths of a mile from the ferry. Bell and myself stood the first and second watches. The third and last was assigned to Simpson, as Capt. Baker had ordered us to return to camp very early next morning, Bell and I, when we lay down, requested Simpson to wake us at daylight.
This, however, he neglected to do and we were roused at sunrise by the clattering of horses feet. "What is that, said I?" Bell rose and exclaimed "Mexicans by G-d!" There were about a hundred cavalry, the advance guard of the Mexican army. Though not more than seventy or eighty yards distant they had not yet perceived us, their whole attention being engrossed by Simpson, who, it seems as soon as daylight appeared went into an unfenced garden about sixty yards from our post and was looking for vegetables when the Mexicans surprised him. They did not fire at him and seemed anxious to capture him which they very soon did. In the meantime Bell and I were running at the top of our speed toward the ferry. The Mexicans discovered us before we got half way and instantly the whole squadron spurred their horses in pursuit of us. We followed the high road which passed a little of the right of the head of a ravine. The Mexicans, aiming to cut us off from the river, bore so far to the left that they struck the ravine (which was impassable for cavalry) and had to make a detour to get round the head of it. This saved it. Yet, we would still have been lost had I listened to the rash proposition of my companion to face the enemy and fight! We had scarcely got into the canoe and pushed it from the shore when the Mexicans were on the bank and shotting at us. They fired two or three rounds before we reached the opposite shore and one of them bade us in good English, "bring back that boat!" When Capt. Baker's men saw the Mexican cavalry galloping towards the ferry, they mistook it for Wash. Secrest's spy company, and were not undeceived until the enemy began to fire at the boat. They then returned the fire and it was supposed, wounded one of the Mexicans. The cavalry quickly retired and half an hour afterwards the Mexican army arrived and encamped in the prairie, south and west of the site of the town and from four to six hundred yards from the ferry. Capt. Baker immediately moved his camp about a fourth of a mile further up the river, but a position of the command constantly occupied the ditch. Sentinels were placed along the bank of the river for more than a mile above and below our entrenchment.
During the remainder of this day, the only molestation we received was from one individual of the enemy, who posted himself behind a brick oven near the bank of the river, and fired at us with a rifle, the greater part of the day. I was afterwards informed that this indefatigable rifleman was an American of the name of Johnson who had deserted to the Mexicans. At daylight on the morning of the 7th, just as I was rising from my pallet in the ditch, I was startled by the booming of a cannon which had been planted near the head of a ravine opposite the ferry, and on what was known as commercial square. Many rounds of roundshot, grape and cannister were discharged at us, throwing the sand upon us and knocking the bark from the cottonwood trees that extended their branches over us. We also suffered a casualty. John Bricker of Capt. Baker's company, after having been relieved of his post below the entrenchment started up to the camp, but loitered on his way to pick up cannon balls and was struck by a cannister shot. Almost instant death ensued, though the ball had barely buried itself in his temple. The ferry boat was this day scuttled and sunk in obedience to an order from Genl. Houston received by Capt. Baker the evening of the 6th. The Mexicans cannonaded us daily from the 7th to the 10th Apl. inclusive. On the morning of the 11th we ascertained that the enemy had left San Felipe. About this time Captain John Byrd with a company of mounted men rode into our camp and informed Capt. Baker that he had verbal orders from Genl. Houston to supersede him in the command of the post. Capt. Baker immediately paraded his men and informed them that Capt. Byrd had been sent to supersede him, to which, he said, he was not disposed to submit. He said he had defended the crossing until the Mexican army had departed and he could not see the necessity of remaining any longer in that position -- but submitted it to the men whether they would remain or march to rejoin the army. All voted to march. Capt. Baker therefore issued orders to that effect and early in the night we took up the line of march -- leaving Capt. Byrd's company at our camp. That night we marched to Iron's creek -- six miles. Next morning (Apl. 12th) we crossed the creek -- which was much swollen -- on a raft, and encamped on the east side, where we remained two days. Meantime the Mexicans had effected the passage of the river at Fort Bend, despite the vigilance of Capt. Wyly Martin, to whom with a company composed of the men of that neighborhood, the defense of that crossing had been entrusted. While we lay at Iron's Creek, Capt. Martin and his company and many of the fugitive families of Fort Bend passed within a mile of our camp. Captain Baker went out to see them. He returned to camp much affected by the distress he had witnessed among the women and children, a number of whom were travelling on foot. Learning from one of the ladies that she had been insulted by a negro man, he sought the negro and intended, had he found him, to run him through with his sword. Captain Baker wept.
On the morning of the 14th we resumed the march and the same evening rejoined the army at Donaho's. -- On the 18th Apl. the army arrived at Harrisburg -- and encamped. On the morning of the 19th the army was paraded. Genl. Houston addressed us. He said the enemy was not far off and he was going to lead us against them -- said if there was a man in the ranks who did not feel like fighting he had permission to remain with Major McNutt, who had command of the camp guard. He said, when you engage the enemy, let your battle cry be "Remember the Alamo! Col. Rusk followed with a short but very stirring speech -- he said let your battle cry be "The Alamo and La Bahia!" We were then dismissed for a short time to prepare rations for 3 days --. On the afternoon of the 21st when the army was paraded to attack the Mexicans, Capt. Baker harangued his company. He said he wished his men neither to ask or give quarter -- as a token of which he proposed that the company carry a red flag. A vote was taken whether we should or should not -- but one man (John H. Money) voted against it. A red handkerchief was therefore hoisted for a flag, and carried until the battle commenced, when from cause it was thrown away. -- When the army started back to camp, (after the battle) it was about dusk. It was halted a moment at the breastworks of the Mexicans, and Genl. Houston addressed it in a few very eloquent sentences which I long remembered but have now forgotten. After he had concluded he said to Capt. Baker -- "Captain B. have I not done my duty?" "Yes, Genl.," replied our Capt. "But I wish you had done it sooner." I was not aware that Genl. Houston had been wounded until about the time he began to address the army. -- I was present when Santa Anna was brought into the presence of Genl. Houston and remained until the memorandum was drawn up and signed. After it was written, Almonte asked Genl. Houston how it should be dated. Genl. H. replied "Lynchburg, I believe is the name of the place." Col. Wharton said "San Jacinto Genl. -- let it be San Jacinto" -- which was adopted.