SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
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The Texas War of Independence-Index
THE RUNAWAY SCRAPE: THE NON-COMBATANTS IN THE
BY MRS. DILUE ROSE HARRIS
The following is a part of the "Reminiscences" of Mrs. Dilue Rose Harris, daughter of Dr. Pleasant W. Rose, concerning the critical period from June 1835 leading up to the Texas War of Independence, the flight after fall of the Alamo and Goliad and the return after the victory at San Jacinto. The excerpt is from Readings in Texas History Eugene Barker and the entire piece was first published in the Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, IV, 85-127, 155-189, VII, 214-222. This part is from IV, 124-127, 156-179. The recollections of Mrs. Harris were based on her experience at the time, later interviews and her father's diary.
June, 1835.-School and War. School commenced the first of June. There were only ten pupils, three girls, six boys and one young man, Harvey Stafford. The teacher boarded around among the neighbors. We had been going to school two weeks when there was another excitement. Father went to Harrisburg and found the men making threats against the garrison at Anahuac. Mr. Andrew Briscoe had a large stock of goods there, and it was the chief port of entry east of the Brazos. Captain Tenorio, the Mexican custom house officer, would not allow him to sell goods without a permit from the custom house. When father left Harrisburg the men and boys were drilling and threatening to disarm the garrison. Mr. Choate, Dave Harris, and father advised them not to do it, as Stephen F. Austin was a prisoner in Mexico, and it might endanger his life. This was very discouraging. Mr. Stafford had heard from his father and step-mother. She was to return in the winter and take all their slaves to the United States. She did not have any trouble with those she took back the year before. She said she could do better than a man running slaves into the United States. She said that they got news from Mexico through the papers that it was the intention of the Mexican government to garrison every town in Texas and liberate the slaves. The United States government was to station troops at the Sabine river to prevent the slave holders from crossing, and it was to send also a warship to the Gulf of Mexico. The school did well. There was no sickness. The grown young men started to school. Three of them and the teacher camped in the schoolhouse and did their own cooking. Mother and Mrs. Dyer gave them milk, butter and eggs, and they went home Friday evening. Mr. Henson spent Saturdays and Sundays with the neighbors. The young men were anxious for the school to be kept open in the summer, as they had to work in the fall and winter.
There was some trouble at Anahuac. A courier came to our house from Harrisburg, going to San Felipe with a dispatch, stating there had been fighting at Anahuac. Captain Tenorio had arrested Andrew Briscoe and Clinton Harris and put them in prison and wounded several Texans. Clinton Harris went from Harrisburg to buy dry goods from Mr. Briscoe, when the Mexican officer, Captain Tenorio, ordered him not to move the goods. While he and his assistant, Mr. Smith, were going to the boat, they were fired on, and Mr. Smith was wounded in the breast. Clinton Harris was released and the next day he returned to Harrisburg. He wrote out a statement and sent it to San Felipe to William B. Travis. This news stopped our school, as the teacher and young men decided to go to Harrisburg. There had been a meeting at San Felipe which recommended that the garrison at Anahuac be disarmed. Mr. W. B. Travis went to Harrisburg where he raised a company of men mostly from San Jacinto and Buffalo Bayou. They took a cannon and put it on a cart used for hauling logs to the saw mill. They the greatest pleasure. He would marry all those who had signed a certificate before the Mexican alcalde to remarry when the priest came. He would baptize the children, bury the dead, visit the sick and pray for the dying. He had not been in San Felipe for three years. When he appeared there he was riding a good mule. He said he had been in Europe and had landed at New Orleans and gone from there to Nacogdoches. He heard in New Orleans of the trouble in Texas. He did not take any part in political affairs, but pretended to be a friend to the Texans. He stayed a week in San Felipe, stopping at the boarding house. He could speak English and heard all the Texans had to say. He came in the night. One morning he saddled his mule and went to the river to water the mule, and that was the last time he was seen.
October, 1835. The convention met at San Felipe in October. The first act was a call for volunteers to capture San Antonio before it could be reinforced by General Cos. Our school closed in September. The teacher said there was so much excitement that it affected the small children, and the young men could not be got back in school at all after the election in September. There was a constant talk of war. Messengers from San Felipe going to Brazoria and Harrisburg stopped at our house from time to time and told the news. All the men in our neighborhood went to San Felipe. Stephen F. Austin was elected to command the army, and it was to rendezvous on the Guadalupe river at Gonzales. This month we heard again from the priest, Padre Alpuche. He was in San Antonio, and had been in fact a spy sent from Mexico through New Orleans and Nacogdoches to San Felipe.
November, 1835. Mrs. Stafford came home in a schooner from New Orleans. She had spent two weeks in that city waiting for the schooner. She said there was a good deal of excitement there about Texas, but they never got any news direct from Mexico. The captains of ships told them that Mexico had no idea of sending a large army to Texas. We heard so many different reports that we did not know what to believe. Mrs. Stafford was to stay until spring and take some of the negroes back to the United States. She would have gone at once, but she had to wait until the cotton was gathered and sold. 'There was no mistake about General Cos and his army. He got to San Antonio before the Texans organized. It was said that he was going to march through Texas during the winter, liberate the slaves, and force all discontented persons to leave the country. Every man and boy that had a gun and horse went to the army, and the women and children were left to finish picking the cotton. There were but three men left in our neighborhood-father, Adam Stafford, and Moses Shipman. Father was keeping two boys, one named Alexander Armstrong, and the other William Morris. They were orphans and half brothers. One of them was fifteen years old, and the other eleven. Brother Granville was thirteen. These boys were picking cotton and talking war all the time. Father said if they had guns and horses they would go to the army. Mr. Dyer came home from San Felipe and said there was so much dissension among the delegates he would not wait for the convention to adjourn. As he and his wife were going to the United States on business, he thought it best to come away. They went on to the United States, taking passage from Harrisburg on the same schooner that Mrs. Stafford came home on. Adam Stafford and Mr. Dyer shipped cotton at the same time. Since the garrison at Anahuac had been forced to surrender, the schooners were coming to Harrisburg frequently. The captains said there was a Mexican war vessel near Galveston Island. Farmers in our neighborhood would not ship any more cotton from Harrisburg then. A steamboat had been sent from New Orleans, which was to run from Brazoria on the Brazos river to San Felipe and Washington, and the cotton at Stafford's gin was to be hauled and piled near Mr. William Little's at the Henry Jones ferry. The steamboat was the Yellowstone. She had been in the St. Louis trade when father's family lived in that city in the years '29 to '32. She was now to remain in the Texas trade, and was to carry the cotton to the mouth of the Brazos, where it was to be shipped on schooners to New Orleans. Father had promised us children to take us to see the steamboat when she was at the landing, and Mr. Jones said he would give a grand ball Christmas, when the captain of the boat had told him he expected to be at the ferry. Mr. Jones lived on the west bank of the Brazos, and Mr. Little on the east bank. We heard that the Texans had General Cos and the Mexican army surrounded in San Antonio, and that there had been fighting, but that none of our neighbors were engaged in it except Leo Roark. His mother and sisters were very uneasy on his account.
December, 1835. Everything was at a standstill and times very gloomy. The Brazo river was so low the steamboat couldn't go up. She was to go to Groce's ferry to a little town called Washington. There were two towns in Austin's colony named Washington, one above San Felipe, the other on Galveston bay. There was a new girl baby at our house born the fifth of the month. Sister and I were very happy over the babe. Brother Granville and the two orphan boys teased us and said we couldn't go to see the steamboat or attend the ball, but we were so pleased with our little sister that we did not care. Father said he was very proud of his four daughters, and that he would be as popular as Mr. Choate when they were grown. Mr. Choate had seven daughters, three of them married. Father said his only trouble was to get a wagon to haul his daughters around. We heard that the Texans had captured San Antonio, and that General Cos was a prisoner. The fighting commenced on the fifth of the month, but the Mexicans did not surrender until the tenth. None of the men from our neighborhood were killed or wounded, but several we knew were wounded. Messrs. Bell and Neal came home and said that General Cos and the Mexicans under his command had been sent across the Rio Grande. Father went to Columbia and Brazoria with a cart-load of peltry, consisting of the skins of otters, deer, bears, panthers, wild cats, wolves, and 'coons. He was in need of medicines, powder, and lead, and could not wait any longer for the steamboat, which went up the river later.
January, 1836. Father returned home on New Year's day, after having been gone two weeks. He sold the hides and laid in a good supply of drugs and medicines. He would have gone to Harrisburg, but there was no drug store in that place. He said it would have been better to haul his cotton to Harrisburg than wait for the steamboat, and that it was doubtful whether he could get it to market before May or June. He got an advance of one hundred dollars on his cotton. While he was gone he met some of the English people that had lived in our neighborhood. Mr. Page bad moved to Galveston bay, and the Adkinses were living on the Brazos near Columbia. Miss Jane Adkins, the pretty English girl, was married, and so was her mother, the widow Adkins. All the men and boys that went to the army from our part of the country had come home and were at work. They seemed to think there would be no more trouble with Mexico. There had been a garrison of Texas soldiers left at San Antonio tinder Colonel Travis. There were men enough in Texas to have organized a large army if they could all have been concentrated at one point. The people became very much discouraged on learning that Mexico had sent a revenue cutter to Galveston. It didn't try to land, but anchored outside. There were several schooners at Harrisburg loaded with cotton and hides, that couldn't get out. The captains said that the first big storm that came would blow the war ship away, and that then they would run out.
February, 1836. Every farmer was planting corn. Mr. Dyer and his wife came from New Orleans on board a schooner which entered the mouth of the Brazos, but they didn't see the revenue cutter. They came on the boat to Columbia, and from there on horseback. They had heard such bad news that they did not finish their visit. It was that Generals Santa Anna and Cos with a large army were en route for Texas. This news was brought direct from Tampico, Mexico, to New Orleans by an American who came on a French ship. The Dyers said men and munitions were coming to Texas. We had heard this news before, but didn't know whether it was true. Mrs. Stafford went away, taking one negro woman and two negro children, besides her own child, and Mr. Harvey Stafford went with them. 'They traveled on horseback, and their friends were very uneasy on their account, as there were Indians on the Trinity river, and also in East Texas. The news that Santa Anna was marching on San Antonio was confirmed. The people at Goliad and San Patricio were leaving their homes, and everybody was preparing to go to the United States. There was more or less dissension among the members of the Council of the Provisional Government. They deposed Governor Smith and installed Lieutenant Governor Robinson. The Mexican army arrived at San Antonio, and the Council went to Washington on the Brazos. People were crossing the river at Fort Bend and Jones' ferry going east with their cattle and horses. Everybody was talking of running from the Mexicans.
March, 1836.-The Fall of the Alamo. The people had been in a state of excitement during the winter. They knew that Colonel Travis had but few men to defend San Antonio. He was headstrong and precipitated the war with Mexico, but died at his post. I remember when his letter came calling for assistance. He was surrounded by a large army with General Santa Anna in command, and had been ordered to surrender, but fought till the last man died. A black flag had been hoisted by the Mexicans. This letter came in February. I have never seen it in print, but I heard mother read it. When she finished, the courier who brought it went on to Brazoria. I was near eleven years old, and I remember well the hurry and confusion. Uncle James Wells came home for mother to help him get ready to go to the army. We worked all day, and mother sat up that night sewing. She made two striped hickory shirts and bags to carry provisions. I spent the day melting lead in a pot, dipping it up with a spoon, and moulding bullets. The young man camped at our house that night and left the next morning. Our nearest neighbors, Messrs. Dyer, Bell, and Neal, had families, but went to join General Houston. Father and Mr. Shipman were old, and Adam Stafford a cripple, and they stayed at home. By the 20th of February the people of San Patricio and other western settlements were fleeing for their lives. Every family in our neighborhood was preparing to go to the United States, and wagons and other vehicles were scarce. Mr. Stafford, with the help of small boys and negroes, began gathering cattle. All the large boys had gone to the army. By the last of February there was more hopeful news. Colonel Fannin with five hundred men was marching to San Antonio, and General Houston was on the way to Gonzales with ten thousand. Father finished planting corn. He had hauled away a part of our household furniture and other things and hid them in the bottom. Mother had packed what bedding, clothes, and provisions she thought we should need, ready to leave at a moment's warning, and Father had made arrangements with a Mr. Bundick to haul our family in his cart; but we were confident that the army under General Houston would whip the Mexicans before they reached the Colorado river.
Just as the people began to quiet down and go to work, a large herd of buffaloes came by. There were three or four thousand of them. They crossed the Brazos river above Fort Bend, and came out of the bottom at Stafford's Point, making their first appearance before day. 'They passed in sight of our house, but we could see only a dark cloud of dust, which looked like a sand storm. Father tried to get a shot at one, but his horse was so fractious that it was impossible. As the night was very dark we could not tell when the last buffalo passed. We were terribly frightened, for it was supposed that the Indians were following the herd. The buffaloes passed and went on to the coast, and the prairie looked afterwards as if it had been plowed. We had been several days without any news from the army, and did not know but that our men had been massacred. News was carried at that time by a man or boy going from one neighborhood to another. We had heard that the Convention had passed a declaration of independence, and elected David G. Burnet president, and Sam Houston commander-in-chief of the army. On the 12th of March came the news of the fall of the Alamo. A courier brought a dispatch from General Houston for the people to leave. Colonel Travis and the men under his command had been slaughtered, the Texas army was retreating, and President Burnet's cabinet had gone to Harrisburg.
Then began the horrors of the "Runaway Scrape." We left home at sunset, hauling clothes, bedding, and provisions on the sleigh with one yoke of oxen. Mother and I were walking, she with an infant in her arms. Brother drove the oxen, and my two liqle sisters rode in the sleigh. We were going ten miles to where we could be transferred to Mr. Bundick's cart. Father was helping with the cattle, but he joined us after dark and brought a horse and saddle for brother. He sent him to help Mr. Stafford with the cattle. He was to go a different road with them and ford the San Jacinto. Mother and I then rode father's horse. We met Mrs. M-. She was driving her oxen home. We had sent her word in the morning. She begged mother to go back and help her, but father said not. He told the lady to drive the oxen home, put them in the cow pen, turn out the cows and calves, and get her children ready, and he would send assistance. We went on to Mrs. Roark's, and met five families ready to leave. Two of Mr. Shipman's sons arrived that night. They were mere boys, and had come to help their parents. They didn't go on home; father knew that Mr. Shipman's family had gone that morning, so he sent them back for Mrs. M-'s. It was ten o'clock at night when we got to Mrs. Roark's. We shifted our things into the cart of Mr. Bundick, who was waiting for us, and tried to rest till morning. Sister and I had been weeping all day about Colonel Travis. When we started from home we got the little books he had given us and would have taken them with us, but mother said it was best to leave them. Early next morning we were on the move, mother with her four children in the cart, and Mr. Bundick and his wife and negro woman on horseback. He had been in bad health for some time and had just got home from visiting his mother, who lived in Louisiana. He brought with him two slaves, the woman already mentioned and a man who was driving the cart; and, as Mr. Bundick had no children, we were as comfortable as could have been expected. We had to leave the sleigh. Sister and I had grieved all the day before about Colonel Travis, and had a big cry when our brother left us. We were afraid Mrs. M- would be left at home. We had a fresh outburst of grief when the sleigh was abandoned, but had the satisfaction of seeing Mrs. M- and her children. Mr. Cotie would not go to the army. He hauled five families in the big blue wagon with his six yoke of oxen, besides negroes, provisions, bedding, and all the plunder the others could not carry.
March, 1836.-The Runaway Scrape. We camped the first night near Harrisburg, about where the railroad depot now stands. Next day we crossed Vince's Bridge and arrived at the San Jacinto in the night. There were fully five thousand people at the ferry. The planters from Brazoria and Columbia with their slaves were crossing. We waited three days before we crossed. Our party consisted of five white families: father's, Mr. Dyer's, Mr. Bell's, Mr. Neal's, and Mr. Bundick's. Father and Mr. Bundick were the only white men in the party, the others being in the army. There were twenty or thirty negroes from Stafford's plantation. They had a large wagon with five yoke of oxen, and horses' and mules, and they were in charge of an old negro man called Uncle Ned. Altogether, black and white, there were about fifty of us. Every one was trying to cross first, and it was almost a riot. We got over the third day, and after travelling a few miles came to a big prairie. It was about twelve miles further to the next timber and water, and some of our party wanted to camp; but others said that the Trinity river was rising, and if we delayed we might not get across. So we hurried on. When we got about half across the prairie Uncle Ned's wagon bogged. The negro men driving the carts tried to go around the big wagon one at a time until the four carts were fast in the mud. Mother was the only white woman that rode in a cart; the others travelled on horseback. Mrs. Bell's four children, Mrs. Dyer's three, and mother's four rode in the carts. All that were on horseback had gone on to the timber to let their horses feed and get water. They supposed their families would get there by dark. The negro men put all the oxen to the wagon, but could not move it; so they had to stay there until morning without wood or water. Mother gathered the white children in our cart. They behaved very well and went to sleep, except one little boy, Eli Dyer, who kicked and cried for Uncle Ned and Aunt Dilue till Uncle Ned came and carried him to the wagon. He slept that night in Uncle Ned's arms. Mother with all the negro women and children walked six miles to the timber and found our friends in trouble. Father and Mr. Bundick had gone to the river and helped with the ferry boat, but late in the evening the boat grounded on the east bank of the Trinity and didn't get back until morning. While they were gone the horses had strayed off and they had to find them before they could go to the wagons. Those that travelled on horseback were supplied with provisions by other campers. We that stayed in the prairie had to eat cold corn bread and cold boiled beef. The wagons and carts didn't get to the timber till night. They had to be unloaded and pulled out.
March, 1836.-Crossing the Trinity River. At the Trinity river men from the army began to join their families. 1 know they have been blamed for this, but what else could they have done? The Texas army was retreating and the Mexicans were crossing the Colorado, Col. Fannin and his men were prisoners, there were more negroes than whites among us and many of them were wild Africans, there was a large tribe of Indians on the Trinity as well as the Cherokee Indians in Eastern Texas at Nacogdoches, and there were tories, both Mexicans and Americans, in the country. It was the intention of our men to see their families across the Sabine river, and then to return and fight the Mexicans. I must say for the negroes that there was no insubordination among them; they were loyal to their owners. Our hardships began at the Trinity. The river was rising and there was a struggle to see who should cross, first. Measles, sore eyes, whooping cough, and every other disease that man, woman or child is heir to broke out among us. Our party now consisted of the five white families I first mentioned, and Mr. Adam Stafford's negroes. We had separated from Mrs. M- and other friends at Vince's bridge. The horrors of crossing the Trinity are beyond my power to describe. One of my little sisters was very sick, and the ferryman said that those families that had sick children should cross first. When our party got to the boat the water broke over the banks above where we were and ran around us. We were several hours surrounded by water. Our family was the last to get to the boat. We left more than five hundred people on the west bank. Drift wood covered the water as far as we could see. The sick child was in convulsions. It required eight men to manage the boat. When we landed the lowlands were under water, and everybody was rushing for the prairie. Father had a good horse, and Mrs. Dyer let mother have her horse and saddle. Father carried the sick child, and sister and I rode behind mother. She carried father's gun and the little babe. All we carried with us was what clothes we were wearing at the time. The night was very dark. We crossed a bridge that was under water. As soon as we crossed, a man with a cart and oxen drove on the bridge, and it broke down, drowning the oxen. That prevented the people from crossing, as the bridge was over a slough that looked like a river. Father and mother hurried on, and we got to the prairie and found a great many families camped there. A Mrs. Foster invited mother to her camp, and furnished us with supper, a bed, and dry clothes. The other families stayed all night in the bottom without fire or anything to eat, and with the water up in the carts. The men drove the horses and oxen to the prairies, and the women, sick children, and negroes were left in the bottom. The old negro man, Uncle Ned, was left in charge. He put the white women and children in his wagon. It was large and had a canvas cover. The negro women and their children he put in the carts. Then he guarded the whole party until morning. It was impossible for the men to return to their families. They spent the night making a raft by torch light. As the camps were near a grove of pine timber, there was no trouble about lights. It was a night of terror. Father and the men worked some distance from the camp cutting down timber to make the raft. It had to be put together in the water. We were in great anxiety about the people that were left in the bottom; we didn't know but they would be drowned, or killed by panthers, alligators, or bears. As soon as it was daylight the men went to the relief of their families and found them cold, wet, and hungry. Many of the families that were water bound I didn't know; but there were among them Mr. Bell's three children, and Mrs. Dyer and her sister, Mrs. Neal, with five children. Mr. Bundick's wife had given out the first day that we arrived at the river. Her health was delicate, and as she and her husband had friends living near Liberty they went to their house. When the men on the raft got to those who had stayed all night in the Trinity bottom they found that the negroes were scared, and wanted to get on the raft; but Uncle Ned told them that his young mistress and the children should go first. It was very dangerous crossing the slough. The men would bring one woman and her children on the raft out of deep water, and men on horseback would meet them. It took all day to get the party out to the prairies. The men had to carry cooked provisions to them. The second day they brought out the bedding and clothes. Everything was soaked with water. They had to take the wagon and carts apart. The Stafford wagon was the last one brought out. Uncle Ned stayed in the wagon until everything was landed on the prairie. It took four days to get everything out of the water. The man whose oxen were drowned sold his cart to father for ten dollars. He said that the had seen enough of Mexico and would go back to old Ireland. It had been five days since we crossed the Trinity, and we had heard no news from the army. The town of Liberty was three miles from where we camped. The people there had not left their homes, and they gave us all the help in their power. My little sister that had been sick died and was buried in the cemetery at Liberty. After resting a few days our party continued their journey, but we remained in the town. Mother was not able to travel; she had nursed an infant and the sick child until she was compelled to rest. A few days after our friends had gone a man crossed the Trinity in a skiff bringing bad news. The Mexican army had crossed the Brazos and was between the Texas army and Harrisburg. Fannin and his men were massacred. President Burnet and his cabinet had left Harrisburg and gone to Washington on the bay and were going to Galveston Island. The people at Liberty had left. There were many families west of the Trinity, among them our nearest neighbors, Mrs. Roark and Mrs. M-.
April, 1836.-The Battle of San Jacinto. We had been at Liberty three weeks. A Mr. Martin let father use his house. There were two families camped near, those of Mr. Bright and his son-in-law, Patrick Reels, from the Colorado river. One Thursday evening all of a sudden we heard a sound like distant thunder. When it was repeated father said it was cannon, and that the Texans and Mexicans were fighting. He had been through the war of 1812, and knew it was a battle. The cannonading lasted only a few minutes, and father said that the Texans must have been defeated, or the cannon would not have ceased firing so quickly. We left Liberty in half an hour. The reports of the cannon were so distant that father was under the impression that the fighting was near the Trinity. The river was ten miles wide at Liberty. We travelled nearly all night, sister and I on horseback and mother in the cart. Father had two yoke of oxen now. One yoke belonged to Adam Stafford and had strayed and father found them. The extra yoke was a great help as the roads were very boggy. We rested a few hours to let the stock feed. Mr. Bright and two families were with us. We were as wretched as we could be; for we had been five weeks from home, and there was not much prospect of our ever returning. We had not heard a word from brother or the other boys that were driving the cattle. Mother was sick, and we had buried our dear little sister at Liberty. We continued our journey through mud and water and when we camped in the evening fifty or sixty young men came by who were going to join General Houston. One of them was Harvey Stafford, our neighbor, who was returning from the United States with volunteers. Father told them there had been fighting, and he informed them that they could not cross the Trinity at Liberty. They brought some good news from our friends. Mr. Stafford had met his sisters, Mrs. Dyer, and Mrs. Neal. He said there had been a great deal of sickness, but no deaths. He said also that General Gaines of the United States army was at the Neches with a regiment of soldiers to keep the Indians in subjection, but didn't prevent the people from crossing with their slaves. General Gaines said the boundary line between the United States and Mexico was the Neches.
The young men went a short distance from us and camped. Then we heard some one calling in the direction of Liberty. We could see a man on horseback waving his hat; and, as we knew there was no one left at Liberty, we thought the Mexican army had crossed the Trinity. The young men came with their guns, and when the rider got near enough for us to understand what he said, it was "Turn back! The Texans have whipped the Mexican army and the Mexicans are prisoners. No danger! No danger! Turn back. When he got to the camp he could scarcely speak he was so excited and out of breath. When the young men began to understand the glorious news they wanted to fire a salute, but father made them stop. He told them to save their ammunition, for they might need it. Father asked the man for an explanation, and he showed a despatch from General Houston giving an account of the battle and saying it would be safe for the people to return to their homes. The courier had crossed the Trinity River in a canoe, swimming his horse with the help of two men. He had left the battlefield the next day after the fighting. He said that General Houston was wounded, and that General Santa Anna had not been captured. The good news was cheering indeed. The courier's name was McDermot. He was an Irishman and had been an actor. He stayed with us that night and told various incidents of the battle. There was not much sleeping during the night. Mr. McDermot said that he had not slept in a week. He not only told various incidents of the retreat of the Texas army, but acted them. The first time that mother laughed after the death of my little sister was at his description of General Houston's helping to get a cannon out of a bog.
April, 1836.-On the way back Home. We were on the move early the next morning. The courier went on to carry the glad tidings to the people who had crossed the Sabine, but we took a lower road and went down the Trinity. We crossed the river in a flat boat. When Mr. McDermot left us the young men fired a salute. Then they travelled with us until they crossed the river. We staid one night at a Mr. Lawrence's, where there were a great many families. Mrs. James Perry was there. She had not gone east of the Trinity. Her husband, Captain James Perry, was in the army. Mrs. Perry was a sister of Stephen F. Austin. My parents knew them in Missouri. She had a young babe and a pretty little daughter named Emily. After crossing the river we had a disagreeable time crossing the bay. It had been raining two days and nights. There was a bayou to cross over which there was no bridge, and the only w to pass was to go three miles through the bay to get around th mouth of the bayou. There were guide-posts to point out the way but it was very dangerous. If we got near the mouth of the bayou there was quicksand. If the wind rose the waves rolled high. The bayou was infested with alligators. A few days before ou family arrived at the bay a Mr. King was caught by one and carried under water. He was going east with his family. He swam his horses across the mouth of the bayou, and then he swam back to the west side and drove the cart into the bay. His wife and children became frightened, and he turned back and said he would go up the river and wait for the water to subside. He got his family back on land, and swam the bayou to bring back the horses. He had gotten nearly across with them, when a large alligator appeared. Mrs. King first saw it above water and screamed. The alligator struck her husband with its tail and he went under water. There were several men present, and they fired their guns at the animal, but it did no good. It was not in their power to rescue Mr. King. The men waited several days and then killed a beef, put a quarter on the bank, fastened it with a chain, and then watched it until the alligator came out, when they shot and killed it. This happened several days before the battle. We passed the bayou without any trouble or accident, except the loss of my sunbonnet. It blew off as we reached the shore. The current was very swift at the mouth of the bayou. Father wanted to swim in and get it for me, but mother begged him not to go in the water, so I had the pleasure of seeing it float away. I don't remember the name of the bayou, but a little town called Wallace was opposite across the bay. We saw the big dead alligator, and we were glad to leave the Trinity. Father's horse had strayed, but we wouldn't stop to find it. He said when he got home he would go back and hunt for it.
April, 1836.-On the San Jacinto Battle Field. We arrived at Lynchburg in the night. There we met several families that we knew, and among them was our neighbor, Mrs. M-. She had travelled with Moses Shipman's family. We crossed the San Jacinto the next morning, and stayed until late in the evening on the battle field. Both armies were camped near. General Santa Anna had been captured. There was great rejoicing at the meeting of friends. Mr. Leo Roark was in the battle. He had met his mother's family the evening before. He came to the ferry just as we landed, and it was like seeing a brother. He asked mother to go with him to the camp to see General Santa Anna and the Mexican prisoners. She would not go, because, as she said, she was not dressed for visiting; but she gave sister and me permission to go to the camp. I had lost my bonnet crossing Trinity Bay and was compelled to wear a table cloth again. It was six weeks since we had left home, and our clothes were very much dilapidated. I could not go to see the Mexican prisoners with a table cloth tied on my head for I knew several of the young men. I was on the battle field of San Jacinto the 26th of April, 1836. The 28th was the anniversary of my birth. I was eleven years old. We stayed on the battle field several hours. Father was helping with the ferry boat. We visited the graves of the Texans that were killed in the battle, but there were none of them that I knew. The dead Mexicans were lying around in every direction. Mother was very uneasy about Uncle James Wells, who was missing. Mr. Roark said uncle had been sent two days before the battle with Messrs. Church Fulcher, and Wash Secrest to watch General Cos. They had gone to Stafford's Point, and were chased by the Mexicans and separated. Fulcher and Secrest returned before the battle. Mr. Roark says the burning of Vince's bridge prevented several of the scouts from getting back.
April, 1836.-Leazing the San Jacinto Battle Ground. Father worked till the middle of the afternoon helping with the ferry boat, and then he visited the camp. He did not see General Santa Anna, but met some old friends he had known in Missouri. We left the battle field late in the evening. We had to pass among the dead Mexicans, and father pulled one out of the road, so we could get by without driving over the body, since we could not go around it. The prairie was very boggy, it was getting dark, and there were now twenty or thirty families with us. We were glad to leave the battle field, for it was a grewsome sight. We camped that night on the prairie, and could hear the wolves howl and bark as they devoured the dead. We met Mr. Kuykendall's family from Fort Bend, now Richmond. Their hardships had been greater than ours. They had stayed at home and had had no idea that the Mexican army was near. One day the negro ferryman was called in English, and he carried the boat across. On the other side he found the Mexicans, who took possession of the boat and embarked as many soldiers as it could carry. While they were crossing some one said it was Captain Wiley Martin's company. They knew he was above, near San Felipe, and men, women, and children ran down the river bank expecting to meet their friends; but just as the boat landed the negro ferryman called out, "Mexicans!" There were three or four families of the Kuykendall's, and they ran for the bottom. Mrs. Abe Kuykendall had a babe in her arms. She ran a short distance and then thought about her little girl and went back. She saw her husband take the child from the nurse, and she afterwards said she was then the happiest woman in the world. One old gentleman ran back to the house, got his money, went through a potato patch and buried it. The money was silver and was so heavy he could not carry it away. One young married woman with a babe in her arms ran into a big field and followed the party that was on the outside. The fence was high, and they had now gotten out of sight of the Mexicans, so the woman's husband came to the fence, and she gave him the child. He told her to climb over, but she turned and ran in a different direction. Her husband followed the other families. They stayed that night in a cane-brake without anything to eat, and the children suffered terribly. The next day they made their way to Harrisburg and got assistance. They were at Lynchburg during the battle, and were helped by General Houston, and furnished means to get back home. Mrs. Abe Kuykendall nursed the child that had been left by its mother. She said they had heard from the mother. She had gone through the field and got out, and had gone twenty miles down the river to Henry Jones' ferry, where she fell in with some people she knew. She thought her husband and friends would go there. She was alone the first day and night, and the next day she got to Henry Jones'.
Early the next morning we were on the move. We had to take a roundabout road, for the burning of Vince's bridge prevented us from going directly home. We could hear nothing but sad news. San Felipe had been burned, and dear old Harrisburg was in ashes. There was nothing left of the Stafford plantation but a crib with a thousand bushels of corn. The Mexicans turned the houses at the Point into a hospital. They knew that it was a place where political meetings had been held. Leo Roark told father while we were in the camps that he was confident Colonel Almonte, General Santa Anna's aide-de-camp, was the Mexican that had the horses for sale in our neighborhood the fourth of July, '34. Father could not get to see Colonel Almonte, for he was anxious to get us away from the battle ground before night. The burning of the saw mill at Harrisburg and the buildings on Stafford's plantation was a calamity that greatly affected the people. On the plantation there were a sugar-mill, cotton-gin, blacksmith-shop, grist-mill, a dwelling-house, negro houses, and a stock of farming implements. The Mexicans saved the corn for bread, and it was a great help to the people of the neighborhood.
April, 1836.-Going Home after the Battle. We camped that evening on Sims' Bayou. We met men with Mexicans going to the army, and heard from Brother Granville. Mr. Adam Stafford had got home with the boys, and they were all well. We heard that the cotton that the farmers had hauled to the Brazos with the expectation of shipping it to Brazoria on the steamer Yellowstone, then at Washington, was safe. Father said if he got his cotton to market I should have two or three sun-bonnets, as he was tired of seeing me wearing a table-cloth around my head. We heard that Uncle James Wells was at Stafford's Point. He made a narrow escape from being captured by the Mexicans. When he and Messrs. Secrest and Fulcher were run into the bottom, his horse ran against a tree and fell down, and uncle was badly hurt. He lost his horse and gun. He went into the bottom. He saw the houses burning on the Stafford plantation. As he was overseer there when he joined the army at the time when Colonel Travis called for assistance, it was like his home. General Cos marched on the next day, but left a strong guard at the Point. While mother was talking about Uncle James, he and Deaf Smith rode up to our camp. It was a happy surprise. Uncle James's shoulder was very lame. The night after he lost his horse and gun he crawled inside the Mexican line and captured a horse and saddle. He then went into the bottom at Mrs. M-.'s house, where he found corn and bacon and a steel mill for grinding the corn. His arm was so lame he could not grind corn, so he ate fried eggs and bacon. He had been to our house, and he said everything we left on the place had been destroyed. He watched on the prairie that night till he saw so many Mexican fugitives wandering about that he knew there had been a battle. He met Deaf Smith and other men sent by General Houston to carry a dispatch from Santa Anna to Filisola. Deaf Smith told uncle all about the battle, and said he had captured General Cos the next day six miles south of Stafford's Point. Cos had a fine china pitcher full of water and one ear of corn. He carried Cos to the Point, where he got a horse, and then took him back to the San Jacinto battle ground. He left the fine pitcher at the Point, and he gave it to Uncle James. Uncle stayed there till Mr. Smith returned from Filisola's camp with an answer to Santa Anna's dispatch. Mr. Smith could speak Spanish. He said that when he captured General Cos, whom he did not know, he asked him if he had been in the battle. On being answered in the affirmative, he asked him if he had been a prisoner. General Cos replied that he had not, but that he escaped after dark the evening of the battle, and that he abandoned his horse at the burnt bridge. Smith then asked him if he had seen General Cos, and he said that he had not. Smith continued: "I am Deaf Smith, and I want to find General Cos. He offered one thousand dollars for my head, and if I can find him I will cut off his head and send it to Mexico." When they arrived at the battle ground he was very much surprised to find his prisoner was General Cos. He took the horse and saddle back to Uncle James, and gave him the fine pitcher, and when we got home uncle gave the pitcher to mother. Father examined uncle's shoulder, and said there were no bones broken, and that he would be well in three or four weeks. Mother had some of Uncle James' clothing. She trimmed his hair, and made him go to the bayou, bathe, and put on clean clothes. All our soldiers were dirty and ragged. As Uncle James had fever, mother wanted him to go home with her, but he would not. He said that he had been absent from the army ten days, and must report to headquarters. Deaf Smith was very anxious to get back to the army. He was dark and looked like a Mexican. He was dressed in buckskin and said that he would be ashamed to be seen in a white shirt. He said that Uncle James would be taken for a tory or a stay-at-home.
Deaf Smith was the man that helped burn the Vince bridge. He said if the bridge had not been destroyed, General Filisola would have heard of Santa Anna's defeat and would have marched to his assistance, as he was not more than thirty miles from the battle ground. General Urrea was also on the west bank of the Brazos river with a division of the Mexican army. When the first fugitives from the battle field arrived at the headquarters of Filisola, he did not believe their report, but when others came with the horrid tidings, he became convinced. The Mexican fugitives gave such a dreadful account of Santa Anna's fall that General Filisola, when Deaf Smith arrived, was preparing to cross the river to join General Urrea. Mr. Smith left our camp before daylight. Uncle James Wells stayed with us until we were ready to start home. He was sick all night, and father gave him medicine and bound up his arm. General Santa Anna was captured the next day after the battle. He was seen by Captain Karnes to plunge into the bayou on a fine black horse. He made his escape from the battle ground on Allen Vince's horse, but not on the fine saddle. The horse went home carrying a common saddle. He was taken to headquarters and after a few days was restored to Allen Vince. James Brown went to General Sherman and pointed out the horse. General Santa Ann was captured by James A. Silvester, Washington Secrest, and Sion Bostick. A Mr. Cole was the first man that got to Santa Anna. He was hid in the grass, was dirty and wet, and was dressed as a common soldier. He rode to the camps behind Mr. Robinson. The men had no idea that they had Santa Anna a prisoner till the Mexicans began to say in their own language, "the president."
April 30, 1836.-Going Home. Mrs. Brown's Family. We stayed one day on Sims' Bayou. There were more than one hundred families, and all stopped to rest and let the stock feed. We met a Mrs. Brown' who was living at William Vince's when the Mexican army crossed the bridge. They took possession of Allen Vince's fine black horse. Mrs. Brown's son James, a lad aged thirteen, went and mounted the horse and would not give him up. The Mexicans made the boy a prisoner. His mother came out and asked for General Santa Anna. Colonel Almonte came out and asked in English what he could do for her. She told him she was a subject of the king of England, and demanded protection. Almonte assured her that she and her children would not be hurt, and ordered her son to be liberated. Santa Anna's servant put a fine saddle on the horse. It was ornamented with gold, and had solid gold stirrups. When the captured plunder was sold at auction, the Texas soldiers bid it in and presented it to General Houston. Mrs. Brown stayed at Mr. William Vince's till after the battle. We met some English friends from Columbia that were going home. The Adkinses that lived in our neighborhood were relatives of Mrs. Brown. We met the pretty English girl, Jenny Adkins. She was married and was the mother of two children.
April 30, 1836.-Home, Sweet Home. We camped one day and two nights on Sims' Bayou. We had traveled since the twenty-first, without resting, half the time in mud and water. It was only fifteen miles home. Early in the morning we broke camp. We were alone; the other families lived farther down the country. The weather was getting warm, and we stopped two hours in the middle of the day at a water hole. When the sun set we were still five miles from home. We overtook our nearest neighbor, Mrs. M-. She had left Sims' Bayou that morning with the Shipman family, but had separated from them, saying she could find the way home. One of her oxen got down, and she could neither get it up nor get the yoke off the other ox. When we drove up she had her four children on her horse and was going to walk to our house. She knew that we had started home that morning. If we had not stopped two hours we should have been with her about the middle of the afternoon. Father unyoked her oxen, and turned loose one of his that was broken. down and put the other along with Mrs. M-'s stronger ox to her cart. It was now dark and we traveled slower. The oxen were tired and kept feeding all the time. One of Mrs. M-'s daughters and I rode her horse; it was a great relief to me, for I was tired of riding in the cart. It was ten o'clock when we got home. We camped near the house.
Sunday morning, May 1, 1836.-Home. Father said we could not go in until morning. Uncle James told mother that the floor had been torn up by the Mexicans in searching for eggs. He would have put the house in order, but his shoulder and arm were so painful he could not work. As soon as it was light enough for us to see we went to the house, and the first thing we saw was the hogs running out. Father's bookcase lay on the ground broken open, his books, medicines, and other things scattered on the ground, and the hogs sleeping on them. When Mrs. M-'s children, sister and I got to the door, there was one big hog that would not go out till father shot at him. Then we children began picking up the books. We could not find those that Colonel Travis gave us, but did find broken toys that belonged to our dear little sister that died. Through the joy and excitement since the battle of San Jacinto, we had forgotten our sad bereavement. The first thing that father did after breakfast was to go to the corn field. He had planted corn the first of March, and it needed plowing. He did not wait for Monday, or to put the house in order, but began plowing at once. His field was in the bottom, and he had hidden his plow. Mother said I should ride Mrs. M-'s horse, and go to Stafford's Point and bring Brother Granville home. I did not want to go. Sister said that I could wear her bonnet. My dress was very much the worse for wear. It was pinned up the back, my shoes were down at the heels, and my stockings were dirty. I was greatly embarrassed, for I knew all the boys were at the Point. I did all the primping that the circumstances would permit, plaiting my hair, etc. I had had my face wrapped in a table cloth till it was thoroughly blanched. When I got to the Point there were more than one hundred people there, men, women, children, negroes, and Mexicans. Many of the Mexicans were sick and wounded; I had never seen such a dirty and ragged crowd. The boys were without shoes and hats, and their hair was down to their shoulders. After I had met them I did not feel ashamed of my appearance. Brother got his horse, and we went home. I was not near the burnt buildings; the plantation was in the bottom, on Oyster Creek. The Stafford family used the house at the Point for a summer residence; and, as they brought their negroes out of the bottom in the summer, there were a good many houses at the Point. When brother and I got home we found mother and Mrs. M at the wash tub. I was shocked, for mother had always kept the Sabbath. At noon father and brother put down the floor, Mrs. M-'s girls and I scoured it, and we moved in. Mrs. M- took a bucket and went back to give water to her sick oxen, but found the ox dead. Brother Granville helped her to move home that evening. Mother was very despondent, but father was hopeful. He said Texas would gain her independence and become a great nation. Uncle James Wells came home with two Mexicans for servants, and put them to work in the corn field. There was now a scarcity of bread. The people came back in crowds, stopping at Harrisburg and in our neighborhood. A colony of Irish that had left San Patricio in February stopped at Stafford's Point.
Father had hid some of our things in the bottom, among them a big chest. Mother had packed it with bedding, clothes, and other things we could not take when we left home. After a few days, Uncle and brother hauled it to the house, and that old blue chest proved a treasure. When we left home we wore our best clothes. Now our best clothes were in the chest, among them my old sunbonnet. I was prouder of that old bonnet than in after years of a new white lace one that my husband gave me. By the middle of May our neighbors that we had parted from came home. They had got to the Sabine River before they heard of the battle of San Jacinto. Father and the men that had cotton on the banks of the Brazos went to the river to build a flat boat to ship their cotton to Brazoria. Mother said that it would be best for them to wait a few days, but they would not stop. They said that as they had been camping for two months it would make them sick to sleep in a house. Uncle James stayed with us. He had several bales of cotton, but was not able to work. He looked after our Mexicans and helped the women in the neighborhood to get their corn worked. They all got Mexicans, but it required an overseer to make them work. There was no prospect of a cotton crop in our neighborhood. The people had been very short of provisions, and there would have been suffering among them if the citizens of New Orleans bad not sent a schooner load to Harrisburg. The provisions were distributed without cost. There was considerable talk of a new town's being started on Buffalo Bayou about ten miles above Harrisburg by the Allen brothers. They wanted to buy out the Harris claim at Harrisburg, but the Harris brothers would not sell.
June, 1836.--Shipping. Cotton on a Flatboat. The first of June the men sent word that they had the cotton on a boat ready to start, and that Uncle Ned should be sent with the Stafford's wagon to bring home family supplies. It was more than fifty miles by land, but a long and dangerous route by water. The new town laid out by the Allens was named Houston, in honor of General Houston. There were circulars and drawings sent out, which represented a large city, showing churches, a courthouse, a market house and a square of ground set aside to use for a building for Congress, if the seat of government should be located there.
SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
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