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Muster of the Texian Army and Evacuation of Gonzales, J.H. Kuykendall, Mar 1836. I was in Mexico when hostilities commenced between her and Texas. I arrived at home between the 15 and 20 of February, 1836--a few days previous to which time my neighbors had organized themselves into a company---having elected Robert McNutt captain and Gibson Kuykendall and John Burleson lieutenants. [At San Jacinto, Robert McNutt was a Major in command of the rear guard and sick at the camp near Harrisburg. Gibson Kuykendall was a Captain in charge of the company at Harrisburg in which J.H. Kuykendall was a private--WLM]. A few days afterwards an express from Travis reached San Felipe with the intelligence that the Mexican army under Santa Anna had commenced siege of the Alamo, and urging his countrymen to repair to his assistance with all possible dispatch. Government responded to his call by ordering the various companies which had been organized to march forthwith towards San Antonio. Gonzales was designated as the point of general rendezvous. I enrolled myself in Capt. McNutt's company, which took up the line of march on the evening of the first day of March, 1836. On the morning of the 2d March, we formed a junction with Capt. Moseley Baker's company from San Felipe. Both companies were infantry, and each had a baggage wagon. The night of the third of March, we slept at Rocky creek, twenty miles west of the Colorado where we were joined by Capt. Thomas J. Rabb's company from Egypt on the Colorado (see above footnote) and on the morning of the 6th March we reached Gonzales where we found two companies, to-wit: Capt. Billingsleys from Bastrop and Capt. Sherman's from Kentucky. On the 7th March, another company, (Capt. Hill's) arrived from Washington-on-the-Brazos. The companies of Sherman and Billingsley were encamped on the west bank of the river. The other companies encamped in the bottom, on the east bank of the Guadalupe, about a mile below the village of Gonzales, and less than half that distance below the ferry. Capt. Baker was chosen by the heads of companies to take charge of our little force until the arrival of a superior officer [An account by Dr. Labadie says that Colonel Neill was temporary leader-WLM]. We were in total ignorance of the fall of the Alamo, and hoped it would be able to hold out until we could relieve it. Parties were sent out in the direction of San Antonio (distant 70 miles), but they brought back no tidings of friend or foe.
A footnote to Kuykendall's account reprinted in company Early History of Fayette County by L.R. Weyend and H. Wade explains that the company referred to above under Capt. Rabb "was recruited and organized by Thomas J. Rabb and he was captain in command until March 26, 1836, on which date Houston abandoned his position on the Colorado and continued his retreat eastward. This organization was officially designated Company F, First Reg. Tex. Volunteers and was commanded at the battle of San Jacinto by W. J. E. Heard. Circumstances as to why Rabb vacated his position as captain and quit the army is left to us in the Memoirs of Mary Crownover Rabb, an extract covering this point is given here: 'Thomas J. Rabb was still with the army as they retreated on their way from San Antonio and T. J. Rabb kept telling old Sam Houston that he had better fight the Mexicans and not let them invade Texas any further that it would be worse and worse for us but old Sam was afraid and would not fight and when they got nearly to the Colorado Thomas Rabb told old Sam he had better fight the Mexicans and not let them invade Texas any further that it would be worse and worse for us but old Sam was (still) afraid and when they got nearly to the Colorado T. J. Rabb told old Sam that he had better drive them back but he still let them come on and when they got to the Colorado Rabb told old Sam that if be let the Mexicans cross the river that he would loose half of his men--that they would leave him and go to their families. And he gave old Sam to understand that he for one would leave. Old Sam told Rabb that the Colorado should ran with blood before they should cross and Rabb said before daylight next morning the Mexicans were crossing the river and Rabb got on his horse and went to his family to move them on before the army. Rabb's wife lived only one day after they got home.'" Dixon and Webb in Heroes of San Jacinto say that that the Rabb company was disbanded and reorganized at Gonzales with W.J.E. Heard as Captain who had enrolled in the company at Egypt 1 Feb 1836 as a first lieutenant--WLM.
On the west side of the river, opposite our encampment, was a bluff, which overlooked our position. This circumstance was noticed by Capt. Baker, who caused a number of trees to be felled and a circuit-shaped breastwork to be erected in front of our camp. The men rather sharply criticized this first essay of Capt. Baker in the art of fortification and contended that the trees as they stood in the forest afforded much better protection. Notwithstanding our own perilous situation, and our anxiety about our friends in the Alamo, there was a good deal of life and merriment in our camp. Pork, corn meal, and vegetables were supplied us in abundance by the people of Gonzales and we had brought a good supply of bacon and sugar and coffee from home [Weyand and Wade, History of Fayette County point out that Houston's description of the state of the men was "half-fed, half-clad and half-armed."-WLM]. But our days of good cheer were fated to be few. On the 11th of March 1816, General Houston arrived, and on the 12th reviewed and addressed his tiny army. By his orders a regiment was organized on the 12th by the election of Edward Burleson for colonel, S. Sherman for Lieut-Col., Col. A. Somervell for Major. General Houston also caused our camp to be moved two or three hundred yards - to the edge of the prairie - where our tents were pitched in two parallel rows.
On the evening of the 13th Mrs. Dickinson and Travis' negro man arrived at Gonzales with the astounding intelligence that the Alamo had been assaulted and taken on the morning of the 6th and all of its defenders slain. Superadded to this news, a rumor became rife that two thousand of the enemy-the advance division of the Mexican army--might be hourly expected at Gonzales. As may reasonably be supposed this news produced intense excitement in our camp. In the little village of Gonzales the distress of the families was extreme. Some of them had lost friends and near and dear relations in the Alamo and now the ruthless foe was at hand, and they unprepared to fly. To facilitate their exit, Gen'l. Houston caused some of our baggage wagons to be given up to them; but the teams, which were grazing in the prairie, were yet to be found, and night had already set in. In the meantime, orders were issued to the army to prepare as fast as possible to retreat. As most of the companies (all infantry) had been deprived of the means of transportation, all our baggage and provisions, except what we were able to pack ourselves, were thrown into our campfires. Tents, clothing, coffee, meal and bacon were alike consigned to the devouring element. Tall spires of flame shot up in every direction, illuminating prairie and woodland. About ten o'clock one of the captains marched his company to Gen'l. Houston's tent and said: "General, my company is ready to march" The general, in a voice loud enough to be heard throughout the camp, replied: "In the name of God, sir, dont be in hastewait till all are ready and let us retreat in good order."
In the Early History of Fayette County by L.R. Weyend and H. Wade, the authors point out that Captain Moseley Baker, who was present, had this to say about the retreat from Gonzales; he is addressing Sam Houston: "But at the hour of midnight your retreat did commence, and commenced amid a scene ever disgraceful to Texians arms. You threw your only two pieces of cannon into the river; you caused many of your men to burn their tents and leave their baggage, because your orders, given just before night, prevented them from finding their baggage animals; you left on post your open picket guard unnotified of your retreat; and as we passed the houses of Gonzales, our ears were met with the heart-rendering shrieks of those females, who heretofore, confidently depending on Texian courage, had made no provision for removal." Dr. Labadie's version of this incident is as follows: "Two cannons that had been procured were thrown into the Guadalupe river, tents and camp baggage were burnt, as there was no way of transporting them in consequence of the great haste to get off, it being extremely dark, but few of the small number of the horses they had could be found. In fact, the haste was so great that the picket-guard that had been posted two or three miles west of the river were not called in." R. M. Coleman makes these remarks about Houston's conduct at Gonzales on this occasion: "Now that so much depended upon the energy and talent of the Commanding General, Houston clearly showed to the army his total unfitness to command. . . . he became much agitated and showed every symptom of fear, he would sometimes rave like a madman. He almost succeeded in routing his own army."
Accordingly about eleven o'clock, it was announced that all were in readiness to march. We were formed four deep and at the command: "Forward March!" commenced this memorable retreat. (Mar. 13, 1836.) The night was warm, but so dark as to constrain the army to move at a very moderate pace. Silent and indeed, solemn was the march. As we passed through the streets of Gonzales, we noticed great lights in the houses and the people packing up their household effects in all possible haste. A man came out on the piazza and said (addressing the army): "In the name of God, gentlemen, I hope you are not going to leave the families behind!" Some one in our ranks answered: "Oh yes, we are looking out for number one." In another minute we had emerged from the illuminated street and were again covered with darkness as with a pall. Although most of our men were accustomed to service, very few had ever served as footmen until this campaign or bore such burdens as were imposed on them that night. A mile or two east of Gonzales the road entered an extensive post oak forest and was in some places quite sandy, which greatly increased the fatigue of the march. Many men becoming leg-weary, left the ranks and lay down at the roadside to rest. About an hour before day, having felt our way to McClure's, on the east side of Peach creek (ten or eleven miles from Gonzales), we were halted and ordered to lie down on our arms. Never was order more promptly obeyed. Many of the men did not take time to spread their blankets, but lay down on the bare ground with their knapsacks under their heads, and were almost instantly asleep.
In the meantime, a brilliant light shot up far above the western horizon. This phenomenon was caused by the conflagration of the town of Gonzales. After an hour's repose, we were aroused. By this time many of the families of Gonzales had overtaken the army and paused for rest and refreshment. While we were sipping our unsweetened coffee, two or three loud explosions in quick succession were heard in the direction of Gonzales, and the idea instantly occurred to, perhaps, nearly every man in the army that these reports were caused by artillery of the enemy. But this apprehension was soon removed by a suggestion which seemed very reasonable and which proved true, that these sounds were produced by the explosion of some canisters of gunpowder which had been left in one of the burning houses.
In the Early History of Fayette County by L.R. Weyend and H. Wade, the authors point out that Gonzales was the first town Houston burned in his flight from Gonzales to San Jacinto. Houston denied that he gave the order to burn this place, but Coleman stated that he did and Moseley Baker and the rest leave the impression that it was fired by Houston's order. Baker claims these were exploding whiskey barrels, Dr. Labadie says it was liquor left in the stores. Houston's version is as follows: "A barrel of gin and a barrel of wine has been poisoned with arsenic, and that, as they (the Mexicans) came to consume it, it would destroy them. But fortunately, the rear guard, without directions, set fire to the place on leaving it." This story was denied by Houston's soldiers.
This morning we were joined by thirty or forty mounted men, most of whom were from the Brazos and had passed the preceding night near the spot where the army bivouacked [Houston's account estimated 125 men of which 25 deserted]. Immediately after dispatching our scanty breakfast, the march was resumed. At the distance of four or five miles we emerged from the oak forest before mentioned, and entered a wide, undulating prairie, on the principal eminence of which-known as "Big Hill"-the army halted a few minutes to rest. Though it was yet early in the spring, the prairie was as green as an emerald, and the sun, which during the morning had been hidden by clouds, suddenly shone out, heightening the beauty of the scenery and greatly exhilarating our spirits. During this halt I remember to have noticed the contrast in the personal appearance and attire of Cols. Burleson and Sherman. The former wore a somewhat faded, blue home-spun round-jacket and pantaloons. He carried no sword or other arms, except a pair of small pistols in his belt. Sherman had a much more trim and military appearance. He wore a blue cloth round-jacket trimmed with silver lace, and a handsome dress sword was suspended at his side. Yet the former had seen much service, both in the United States and in Texas, whilst the latter was then in his novitiate. Immediately after the march was resumed, Gen'l. Houston rode slowly from the front to the rear of the army, pointing towards the ranks with his finger, evidently counting the men. Having numbered his host, he returned to the front, proclaiming as he rode along in his peculiar deliberate and distinct utterance: "We are the rise of eight hundred strong, and with a good position can whip ten to one of the enemy." I have no doubt that he purposely exaggerated our strength in order to inspirit the men. Our force, in fact, could not have much exceeded four hundred men, to-wit, six companies of infantry, averaging probably sixty men each, and, perhaps, sixty mounted men. I feel confident that had the fugitive families from Gonzales been included in the estimate, the number of souls then on 'Big Hill' did not exceed, if it reached, eight hundred [Weyand and Wade note that Houston admitted later that he had 374 men at Gonzales and was joined by 100 on Peach creek]. Some cases of measles appeared in the army before the retreat commenced, and during this day's march my file leader was extremely ill with that disease, and in due time I had to pass through the ordeal myself. A little after sunset the army reached Daniel's on the waters of Lavaca, and encamped in the prairie remote from wood, but Daniel's fence was at a convenient distance and was used for fuel [According to Robert M. Coleman, Houston employed rail fences for camp fuel throughout the retreat to San Jacinto. On 15 Mar the army camped on the Navidad River in current FayetteCo, TX and arrived 16 Mar at Burnam's Crossing on the Colorado. Kuykendall continues his narrative of the retreat to and Battle of San Jacinto].
The Muster and retreat of Houston's army at Gonzales narrated by Creed Taylor, ca. 1900, in Tall Men with Long Rifles by James T. DeShields.
Imagine, if you can, our utter bewilderment at finding the town [Gonzales] in flames and our army camp deserted, with not a soldier in sight, save a few scouts who, like us, had not been called in from their posts of duty. The terrible story of the Alamo fight told by Mrs. Dickerson had caused great excitement and the army and the citizens had literally stampeded. From army comrades I afterwards learned of the wild scenes that ensued, and of bow the retreat began. 'As the news spread,' said comrade Kuykendall, "the alarm grew and everyone seemed bent on getting away. Every fellow seemed to be for himself---it was a case of 'root hog, or die.'" Without spiking, the cannons were rolled into the river where a short time afterwards they were fished out by the Mexicans. Most of our baggage and provisions, except what we were able to pack ourselves, was thrown into campfires. Tents, clothing, coffee, meal and bacon were alike consigned to the flames, and all scouts and spies out on duty left without warning. Among the citizens of Gonzales the excitement and distress were extreme. Over thirty of the noble men of that town had fallen in the Alamo, and the screams, wailing and lamentations of the mothers, wives, children and sisters of these brave men who gave their lives for Texas liberty and whose charred remains at the Alamo attested the wrath of the bloodthirsty enemy, will sing in my ears as long as my memory liveth, and the preacher tells me that memory, being an attribute of the soul, can never die.
And now in the moment of this terrible sorrow came the exciting news that the ruthless foe was close upon them and they were unprepared to flee. These helpless and discomfited people must not be left to their fate. To facilitate their flight General Houston caused most of our baggage wagons to be given up to them, but the teams were yet out on the range and the intensely dark night had already set in. It was indeed a wild night of great excitement and confusion. Some have remarked that our Commander was unduly excited on this occasion, but I observed the General several times that evening and night, and be appeared and acted as a cool and collected man, although be exhibited much anxiety, and at times became irritated because of his difficulty in controlling the troops, also in allaying, as far as possible, the high excitement of the citizens. About ten o'clock one of the captains marched his company to Houston's tent and said, 'General, my company is ready to march.' The General, in a voice loud enough to be heard throughout camp, replied, 'In the name of God, sir, don't be in haste; wait until we are well ready and let us retreat in good order.'
About eleven o'clock it was announced that all was in readiness. We were now formed four deep and at the command, 'Forward, March,' we were out on our retreat---not a double---quick gait or a helter skelter run, as some writers have said; and for one reason: the night was very sultry and intensely dark---pitch black---and we groped our way along quietly and in good order, making our first halt on Peach Creek, some ten miles east of Gonzales at daybreak. Soon after we set off, a lurid glare overspread the scene---Gonzales was on fire. The torch had been applied to almost every building, some said by order of Houston, but he always denied giving such orders; and I, personally, do not believe the General knew anything about the affair. At the time it was current rumor that the conflagration was started by an excited citizen when a sudden report came that a large troop of Mexicans was approaching. Thus General Houston, with his 'little ray of hope for Texas' began his campaign. The 'Lone Star' was shining through clouds, dimly and with uncertain luster. The circumstances at this juncture account for the hurried flight, both of the army and civilians. Houston was simply powerless to cope with the situation. True, he found himself at the head of a brave, but unruly and ' undisciplined, little body of determined volunteers at Gonzales, and nearly every hour before breaking camp witnessed the arrival of new recruits. They had heard of the appeal of Travis and were responding to the call. They came mostly in small squads of from two or three to as many as twenty or more. But they were without arms, save their sheath-knives and hunting rifles, without tents, without a commissary, without proper clothing, and without organization. And still worse, a few of the clan-like companies partook of the spirit of disorder amounting almost to mutiny and dissolution.
The Alamo had fallen. Santa Anna, with a mighty army of ten thousand Mexicans, was approaching. Such were the exaggerated rumors that flew from lip to ear. His spies had already reached town. They came under the pretext of bringing timely warning, but in reality as spies, and were now held as such under strong guard at army headquarters. Ere the close of another day the mounted cohorts of Santa Anna would be upon them, showing quarter to neither age nor sex. They were five hundred to one, and it was the height of folly to remain and be butchered as were our comrades in the Alamo. Such were the wild rumors, such the reasoning among the men. As the troops were ready to move, a man was heard to say, 'Boys, we can't leave those women and children to the mercy of the Mexicans. We ought to stay and fight it out.' Several voices spoke at once, saying, 'We have women and children of our own to protect.' General Houston understood the situation---be was a born leader of men. He recognized the helplessness of making a stand at or anywhere near Gonzales, and his only object, his only hope, was to bold these excited men together while falling back, and while doing so to form them into some semblance of a real army. He went among the men, talked, reasoned, and harangued them in groups and companies, explained the situation, denounced idle rumors, and appealed to their patriotism. He pointed out the necessity of retreat to the Colorado, the Brazos, on beyond, if need be. He explained that Fannin, with 400 men, and a fine park of artillery, had been ordered to evacuate that outpost and join the regular army, and with this addition of men and arms, augmented with constant recruits from the settlements, and from the states, his army would be increased to such proportions as to enable him to meet and defeat any force Santa Anna could bring into the field; and there could be no question as to the ultimate triumph of Texas-if they only remained firm in duty and loyalty to authority. The butchery of the Alamo men, he said, would fill the hearts of all Texans with fiery indignation; the people of the United States would take up the cry for vengeance, and the call to arms would resound in every hamlet and village, volunteers would rush forward to the seat of war, and Texas would be free. Such, in substance, was the General's appeal to the insubordinate factions in his command.
Houston was undoubtedly the best equipped and ablest man from a military standpoint in Texas at the time. But he had many enemies, and for years these busied themselves in all manner of adverse criticism. But not withstanding all this the impartial, unbiased historian must concede the fact that to handle this situation, to conduct this retreat, and to reach Harrisburg with a force of 700 men, required a man endowed with the highest qualities of generalship. To my certain knowledge there were less than 400 men in the ranks when the retreat began, many of them without proper arms, and as to provisions, there were not enough carried to last two days, and these were hauled on the only two ox wagons that could be had. That was indeed a sorry plight. Two days and nights of marching brought the retreating forces to the Navidad, from which point the Commander wrote the Military Committee a statement of conditions, among other items of weight, saying that only twenty men had deserted the ranks. Perhaps the General withheld the actual facts for a purpose. But I have undisputed knowledge that more than one squad left on the morning of the fourteenth, and during the day there were more than fifty men who openly declared their intention of going to the relief of their threatened families, defying the authority of the Commander or any one else and daring the officers to make any attempt to prevent their going and they went. While in camp on the Navidad, these so-called deserters were reported to Houston, and be gave instructions to have every man arrested who attempted to leave the camp without permission, intimating that the severest penalty would be inflicted on those found guilty of desertion. But his orders bearing on this point became a jest around the campfires and on t he march. Desertions increased, and when the Brazos was reached there were few men in the ranks, whose homes were west of the Colorado and whose families were in the path of the advancing forces of Santa Anna; and but for the almost daily arrival of recruits from East Texas and elsewhere, the army would have been small indeed when it reached Groce's on the Brazos.
The Runaway Scrape narrated by Creed Taylor, ca. 1900, in Tall Men with Long Rifles by James T. DeShields. A true account of this colorful episode, including all of its pathetic incidents has never been written and I suppose now will never be given to the world. What I shall tell may add some interest to the story of this memorable stampede. To understand the magnitude of the intense alarm and unparalleled panic that seized the people in March, 1836, one should note the causes leading up to the great exodus. It will be remembered that in that day we had no telegraph lines to flash the news over the country, no railroad trains, and comparatively few newspapers. All intelligence was carried by private conveyance, from lip to ear, from settlement to settlement; and like all reports of an alarming or sensational nature, they grew as they traveled until the three small black specks became three black crows, and the report of Santa Anna's ruthless march was not lacking in side embellishments of Mexican inhumanity.
That the public mind was wrought up to the utmost intensity will be readily inferred when we reflect that the proud dictator had threatened to drive every American out of Texas, to shoot every one found with arms in their hands, to destroy all their property; and when he had made his coffee with water from the Sabine, return in triumph to his capitol. San Antonio had been occupied, the Alamo had fallen, and its heroic defenders put to the sword. Then had followed Refugio, San Patricio, Goliad, and the horrible butchery of the noble and brave men who had dared to oppose the tyrant's advance. These calamities drew the pall of mourning over every home in the land, since I might truthfully say there was scarcely a family west of the Brazos which did not lose a member in one of these tragic affairs. With heroic fortitude the people bore their misfortunes, buoyed with the hope that the handful of volunteers at Gonzales "the little ray of hope for Texas," would make a determined stand and in some way halt and crush the arrogant dictator at one fell blow - they had faith in these "tall men with long rifles." With this cherished hope those noble pioneer mothers and children waited and prayed for the return of their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers. But sad, dark days soon came - all seemed lost; and then ensued that helter-skelter skeedadle - the "Sabine Shoot."
My mother told me that for several days, men in small squads passed our house on the Guadalupe, almost every hour, pushing on to Gonzales. Then on a day there was a lull and the tide turned. As these men passed to the front they would stop for water and food, exchanging friendly gossip, but as they returned they were greatly excited, halting only long enough to shout, "The Mexicans are coming. Houston is making for the Trinity, the Sabine! Flee for your lives." Then came the terrible news of the Alamo slaughter; the report was current that Gonzales was taken, all men, women and children slaughtered, and the town burned. Of course such sudden and appalling news created great excitement; the first law of nature, self-preservation, was uppermost in the minds of the settlers; and thus the great exodus began. Soldiers often desert the army, but ours was a case of the army deserting the soldier. We may have been unduly excited, I know we were much chagrined when he arrived at our deserted army camp and saw the wild scenes of destruction about us. Under such exciting conditions, brother and I decided to hasten home to take mother and the children to a place of safety. We had caught the spirit of the occasion, and by the time we got home we had a full case of "runaway fever." Here we found the entire neighborhood in the throes of a great panic, a courier sent out by General Houston had dashed through the settlements along the Guadalupe, the Navidad, and the Lavaca, warning the people to get out of the country with all possible haste.
I will not attempt other than my own experience, with the observations of a few neighbors and comrades in this stampede. Many incidents, some tragic, some serio-comic, and which would make highly interesting reading, have through the lapse of years, almost faded from my memory. We reached home about sundown and found mother hastily preparing to begin her flight that very night. Some of the neighbor women were there and they were all making haste to get away. Our presence gave much cheer, but it did not dispel the sad look depicted in every face. Just one little incident here will illustrate the state of feeling that prevailed at that juncture. Mother had prepared supper and while at the table just at dark, the discharge of guns not far away, was heard. "The Mexicans are on us," the younger women shouted, and their alarm for a while was extreme. Later in the night it was learned that some of the men who lived below us on the river, and who were coming home from the army to save their families, had fired their guns merely to announce their arrival---it certainly created much alarm.
It should be borne in mind that one of the chief causes of the difficulties and hardships experienced by the settlers in this flight was that the exodus was begun in the early spring, a season when the range stock are in a weakened condition--no one in that section in that day provided feed for their stock through the winter. Horses on the open range were plentiful, but not having regained their flesh and strength on the tender spring grass, they were in no condition for the hard, heavy and constant trudge. The only wheeled vehicle on our place was a cart, with solid wheels sawed from a large log. This cart mother had decided to use in the journey. We had several yoke of oxen on the range, but they too, like the horses, were in poor shape for such a trip. However, mother had two yoke of the best and gentlest steers that she owned driven up, corralled, and ready to be yoked at any moment for the start. On this cart she planned to place a small supply of bedding, a pot and skillet or two, and some provisions. Horses for the children to ride were staked near the house. It is said that panics, like the measles, are catching, and I must confess that after reaching home that evening and hearing so much about the danger that threatened us, I too became possessed with a burning desire to "make tracks in haste." We explained to mother that if we depended on these slow oxen we could not hope to outrun the Mexican army, and that we might as well stay where we were and take our chances. "Boys," replied mother, "we've got to start tonight, and we've got to use those oxen, or walk." We finally prevailed upon her to wait until morning, when we would go out on the range and drive in the best horses we could find---for a more rapid getaway. By daylight we were out on the range, and by noon we had corralled a bunch of our best horses.
In the meantime and with feverish haste, mother and the children had been preparing the packs for the journey. Finally all was ready for the sad trip. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon when we bid good-bye to the old home, never expecting to see the dear spot again. It was not a palatial house, the furniture was scant and rude; there was no organ or piano, but few pictures and books, no carpets, but it was home in every sense to us; it was humble but very dear, and the children cried all evening and that night till sleep finally came to their tired bodies. If mother shed a tear I never knew it though there was an unusual huskiness in her voice that day. Mother was brave and resolute, and I heard her say to a lady while crossing the Brazos, under great difficulties, that she was going to teach her boys never to let up, on the Mexicans until they got full revenge for all this trouble. When we left the old home we barely took time to close the doors. There was a little corn left in the crib, a large supply of nicely cured bacon in the smokehouse, and the yard was full of chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks, besides a good stock of bogs. All of these we left to the invaders. We had rigged up four pack horses, besides each member of the family carried all he or she could on their mounts. A few miles from home we overtook two families from the upper settlement on the Guadalupe. They had an ox team and were making slow progress. They persuaded us to travel with them for mutual protection. That night we camped on the edge of a dense post oak woods, and mother insisted upon taking her turn keeping watch.
From the Lavaca, which we crossed a few miles below the present town of Hallettsville, to the Brazos and even beyond, we were not out of sight of refugees. The country east of the Brazos was flat and low and, in many places, owing to the heavy rains, was covered with water, and here the real trouble began. People were trudging along in every kind of conveyance, some on foot carrying heavy packs. I saw every kind of conveyance ever used in that region, except a wheelbarrow, but hand-barrows, sleds, carts, wagons, some drawn by oxen, horses, and burros. Old men, frail women, and little children, all trudging along. And though I have passed through the fields of carnage from Palo Alto to Buena Vista, I have never witnessed such scenes of distress and human suffering. True there was no clash of arms, no slaughter of men and horses, as on the field of battle, but here the suffering was confined to decrepit old men, frail women, and little children. Of course there were hundreds of incidents, tragic and otherwise, occurring in the course of the wild scamper over the almost trackless and rain-soaked prairies, and in crossing swollen streams. Delicate women trudged alongside their pack horses, carts, or sleds, from day to day until their shoes were literally worn out, then continued the journey with bare feet, lacerated and bleeding at almost every step. Their clothes were scant, and with no means of shelter from the frequent drenching rains and bitter winds, they traveled on through the long days in wet and bedraggled apparel, finding even at night little relief from their suffering, since the wet earth and angry sky offered no relief. Despite all this exposure to the elements, not one of our family suffered from sickness. And just here I want to record that more and greater humanity in its most exalted nature was displayed by these unfortunate people, one toward another, than I have ever witnessed. There were no strangers or aliens encountered along this terrible journey. All were friends, comrades and countrymen, with that fellow feeling which endeared a feeling of wondrous kindness one towards another.
A touching instance is cited. The mothers of Texas have loved to tell of how a widow with four little children whose father had perished in the Alamo, was among the refugees, and that just after crossing the Colorado, the unfortunate woman became a mother for the fifth time. A family having a rickety open wagon drawn by two lean ponies, gave the helpless mother bed and transportation by throwing part of their belongings from the wagon to make room for a women they had never seen before; and bow during rains, by day or night, willing bands held blankets over the mother and babe to protect them from the downpours and chilling storms. Another incident I witnessed on this journey is recalled. A Texas mother whose husband was with the army, had strapped a featherbed upon her pony, fastened her oldest child on top, the next two on either end of the bed, and with her little babe in her arms, trudged along barefooted and at times so exhausted that she would sink down almost unable to rise and proceed. All through that fatiguing journey through mud, slush, and places of tall dead prairie grass, old men, frail women, and little children, walked and suffered, but no one rode alone whose horse was able to carry double, sometimes three persons. It was no uncommon sight to see women and children without shoes, and otherwise thinly clad, wading in mud and chilling water almost to their knees. When a cart or wagon became mired - which was an hourly occurrence east of the Brazos - there was no dearth of helping hands. But in proportion the men were few, and so the women and children were forced to perform most of the labor. Thus these half-clad, mud-besmeared, fugitives, looking like veritable savages, trudged along. If there was sickness, tender bands were extended, and no morsel of food was withheld from the hungry. I heard of a few deaths during the flight, but did not witness any of these sad departures. I can say, however, without any question of doubt, that they had Christian burial in so far as circumstances would admit.
And here I will relate an incident that goes to show the bravery of those Texas mothers. The story was told to me by an eyewitness, Capt. J. H. Greenwood, who held a quasi-command at Fort Houston to watch the movements of the Indians during the war. When the great runaway set in, the captain conducted quite a party of settlers from that vicinity towards the Sabine. While the party was halting on the Angelina, a body of armed men rode up and camped. They were volunteers from Tennessee led by Captain Crockett, a nephew of Davy Crockett, en route to the Alamo. News traveled slow and they had not heard of the fall of the fortress. Among the refugees were a Mrs. Moss and her invalid husband making the flight in an ox-drawn wagon. The volunteers were in need of transportation facilities, and decided to impress Moss' fine yoke of oxen, whereupon the brave woman appeared upon the scene and raising her pistol said: "I will kill the first man that attempts to take my oxen." One of the men made a step forward, when the plucky woman leveled her pistol and said, "Take another step and you die" and she meant it. Captain Crockett waved his men back and rode away. While these refugees were again halting near San Augustine, they were startled by a terrific cannonade in the town. The mystery was explained when some men came by at full speed, shouting at the top of their voices, "Hurrah for Texas, Houston has taken Santa Anna and his army prisoners." This made every man a hero and every woman an angel. People wept for joy and embraced each other. While many prayers of thanksgiving were offered up. In after years it was my good fortune to know and to neighbor with some of the refugees in the Runaway Scrape and I can testify that better and nobler men and women never lived. They were a type of pioneer fathers and mothers of Texas who have passed forever with that troubled time.
Soon after crossing the Brazos, we learned that General Houston had changed his course and was marching up the river. Anxious to know the progress of affairs in the field; and realizing that every man was needed to help combat the invaders, I decided to leave mother and the children with some friends in a secluded section of what is now Grimes County, and to rejoin the army. Several other families, feeling a degree of safety, also halted in this vicinity. But the greater number of refugees pushed on; many never halting until they reached the Sabine and crossed over to the Louisiana side. Lieutenant Hitchcock, with General Gaines at Camp Sabine, reported that the temporary camp of fugitives from Texas, made of sheets and quilts spread from tree to tree, extended up and down the east bank of the Sabine for twenty miles, presenting a picturesque but painful spectacle.
Securing fresh horses which were had for the asking, we set out to overtake the Texan army. En route we fell in with Captain Tomlinson and a few other settlers and we all pushed forward with much haste. When we reached the smoking debris of Harrisburg - which had just been burned by the Mexicans - we learned the whereabouts of Houston's forces, and the close proximity of the Mexican army to the Texan camp. Our horses were becoming greatly jaded, but we could not brook the thought of being too late for a fight with the "greasers," so we pushed on with all possible speed. In the afternoon of April 20, when within a few miles of "the seat of war," we heard heavy artillery firing and were quite sure the fight was on. It chagrined us deeply to think that we were not in the fracas. Spurring forward in a gallop, we reached the Texan camp near sundown, and were overjoyed to meet our comrades and to learn that we still had prospects of engaging the enemy in a real battle at any moment. General Sherman's men had just come out of a skirmish with the Mexican cavalry, and were entertaining groups of eager listeners with accounts of what they had seen and done while out reconnoitering. The general opinion was that a real fight was brewing - inevitable.
[Taylor goes on to describe particulars of the battle, the individuals he encountered and his reflections on the event]
On the eve of the battle at San Jacinto, General Houston had made a short talk, telling us that if we fought hard and won victory we would all be "Captains." The fighting was indeed hard, the result, a glorious victory that insured the independence of Texas from a powerful nation, and of course we all did feel like we were captains. The dictator of all Mexico was now an humble captive in our camp, the spoils of war were ours and our joy knew no bounds. But after a few days of carousing, gadding, and gossiping, the novelty of the situation wore off and we began to tire of idle camp life.
Now that the campaign was ended and the Mexican army was overthrown, my thoughts were of peace, loved ones, and home; and so Josiah and I bid farewell to our comrades in camp, and went back to mother and the children. The gladsome news of the great victory had already reached them, and what a change! It would be impossible for me to tell bow happy the folks were. Those were the happiest days of my life. The forests and prairies were in full green and looked inexpressibly lovely. The birds seemed to sing a new song of gladness and all nature appeared in holiday attire. In a few days we were all on the homeward march, but the return trip was a very different one from the hurry-scurry runaway. Mother was as jovial as a girl at a ball and the children were enlivened by a spirit of gaiety. The real secret was we were going back home. The Mexicans had been whipped and we had nothing to fear at their bands anymore. As we pushed forward the days seemed shorter and the distance ahead seemed greater than ever before. We had only a small stock of provisions--jerked beef, parched corn--but we didn't feel the pangs of hunger. The night after we crossed the Colorado floods of rain fell and we became thoroughly soaked, but we didn't mind the rain-we were going home. We overtook many other refugees who were returning home and they too, without exception were in high spirits. We expected to find nothing but ashes and a heap of ruins where we had left our homes and shelter, but now this could be borne with resignation since Texas was free and the Mexican power was forever broken. Under the protection of our own rule and with the land at peace, we could soon rebuild our homes, replenish our herds, and as for the Indians we could cope with them. I think it was on the tenth or twelfth of May that we reached home, late in the evening, and we found the house and the outbuildings intact, but the vandals had been there and little of value remained. Fires had been made in the yard, feathers were scattered about the premises and the bones of fowls scattered round told too plainly where mother's chickens had gone. Our rude furniture was broken and the few books she had left on the side-shelf were gone. The crib and the smokehouse were empty. The doors were broken from their wooden hinges. The festering remains of old "Lep" the faithful watchdog, were lying just inside the door of the dwelling. Whether he died defending the entrance or starved, or was killed and his body thrown there will never be known.
That night we repaired the old broken table and at supper we gathered once more around the festal board which was lightly burdened with a scant supply of dried beef, while our beverage was water--drunk from the Spanish gourd. But to us it was a joyful feast because we were at home. Next morning our joy was increased when we found that some of our neighbors had returned, and two weeks later they gathered from far and near at our house and danced all night---we were celebrating our recent great victory in the manner of that day and time. We were happy, hopeful, and willing to work hard, now that we lived in our own free country. Privations were forgotten in the hopes of better times. We made a very good crop of corn that year although late in planting. Our stock, on the range, had not been molested to any great extent and it took us but a few years to regain what losses we had sustained in the great Runaway Scrape.
SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS