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The Republic-Index | Council House/Linnville/Plum Creek | Gonzales Residents

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The Battle of Salado
(From Flowers and Fruits in the Wilderness by Z.N. Morrell)

President Lamar's administration closed in November 1841, and after a most exciting canvass Sam Houston was the second time chosen as president of the Republic, by an overwhelming majority. Colonel Edward Burleson was elected vice-president. 1842 was upon us, with the "Hero of San Jacinto" to lead us through the dark days of poverty and war that awaited us. The war-dogs of Santa Anna were howling furiously in Mexico, reporting themselves in full outfit, and determined to quell the rebellion in Texas and plant the Mexican flag on the Sabine. Scenes of blood must yet be passed over before we could in peace worship beneath our vine and figtree. General Houston's policy was much opposed to that adopted under the former administration. He condemned the Santa Fe expedition on the grounds that it was impossible for Texas to hold such a large territory against so many enemies; and that the recklessness of such expeditions must inevitably injure Texas in her efforts to secure sympathy and aid from other governments. He opposed any effort to exterminate the Indians, by following them into their territory, as utterly fruitless, and favored the establishment of trading-posts along our frontier. He insisted on a retrenchment of expenditures, deferring the payment of the debt to some remote period; and the issuing of exchequer bills, with reduction of taxes. These things inspired the people with fresh confidence, and gained for the republic respect among some of the nations of the Old World.

General Houston was personally opposed to the policy of annexation to the United States; but he foresaw that this tide of immigration from the old States, which he had all the time encouraged, would by an overwhelming majority favor it; and, instead of throwing obstructions in the way, favored annexation himself. I can speak advisedly here in consequence of an interview about this time with President Houston on a boat running between Houston and Galveston. On that trip he told me that in consequence of the rejection of the hand of Texas, tendered by the vote of 1837, and in consequence of the unmerited contempt afterwards shown, through the influence of chicken-hearted politicians east, he intended to turn coquette for a while, and court England and France, right before the eyes of the old lover, the United States; "and that, under the influence of a little jealousy, he thought more liberal arrangements could be made at the marriage feast." His engine of ingenuity was soon fired up, and in a subsequent conversation with him he informed me that as soon as the smoke of jealousy began to rise, the dastardly chicken-hearted politicians became more pliant.

On Saturday before the first Sunday in March, the little church at Gonzales met in conference, and offered an opportunity for the reception of members. Two letters were received, and my son James presented himself, aged seventeen years, as a candidate for baptism. This was the first application for baptism on the Guadalupe, and there was a spirit of rejoicing manifest. Ten o'clock Sunday morning was appointed as the hour to administer the ordinance. Many of our appointments in life, under the general providence of God, are disappointed. It was so in this instance. On the fifth day of March 1842, a Mexican force, supposed to be about a thousand strong, approached San Antonio, and demanded a surrender. The Texan force evacuated the place, and retired up the valley of the Guadalupe, sending expressmen ahead to notify the citizens. The messenger reached us late Saturday evening, and, after a little consultation, it was decided that families, flocks and herds must start east, early Monday morning. Everything of course was thrown into confusion. Sunday morning's sun arose, and instead of shining upon our people on their way to the baptism, furnished them light by which to make their preparation to retreat before the invading Mexicans. My little blacksmith shop was very soon surrounded with wagons, needing repairs for the journey. More wagon wheels were repaired on that Sunday than ever I witnessed at one little shop on any day before or since. Wagons were loaded on Sunday night, and Monday morning a boy from every family that had one was detailed to go out on horseback and drive all the stock of every description for miles around. The bleating and lowing of the herds reminded us of the roving shepherd patriarchs. By one o'clock Monday everything was in motion for the Colorado valley.

What provisions we could haul were brought with us but these were soon consumed; and as, the state of the country would not allow us to move back, some returned in a short time to work out the crops, and others engaged in such employment as they could find for a living. My money was all gone, and receiving a proposition to teach, I undertook a small school, with pledges to pay tuition in provisions and stock. Money was out of the question. Preaching was kept up regularly at Plum Grove. While engaged in this school, a letter was sent from a church up near Austin, constituted in the house of John Hornsby, requesting me to go up and assist in the ordination of brother Richard Ellis, who had formerly lived with me in Washington County. Having no horse to ride, and depending upon my little school for a living, I wrote to the church, saying that if by order of the church brother Ellis should come down, we would, in the presence of Plum Grove church, hear him preach and hear a statement of his call to the ministry, and if we considered him qualified would call a presbytery and ordain him. We believed this to be scriptural, and in keeping with usages of the Waldenses and Albigenses in the days of the Inquisition. When all the preachers were sacrificed in one district they selected another, and sent him a great ways with letters applying for ordination. In no emergency would they assume the office of the Christian ministry with but the observance of these scriptural ceremonies. Brother Ellis was sent down and ordained at Plum Grove, by a presbytery composed of R. E. B. Baylor and Z. N. Morrell. During the same year a similar request came from the same church to go up and ordain brother N. T. Byars. Arrangements on this occasion were made to visit the church, and brother Byars was duly set apart to his work. The name of the brother who aided me in this ordination has escaped my memory. He has long since gone to his reward. Brother Ellis preached with great power a number of years, and passed to his reward while in the prime of life. Brother Byars labored actively as a frontier, preacher, with great success, for a long series of years, and was recently engaged in an active mission work on the Mississippi River.

The five months' session was taught without any loss of time from the school-room, and about the first of September, as it was not considered safe to move our families back to Gonzales, I took my wagon, attended by my son, and went to gather our corn on the Guadalupe. The corn was gathered, and just as we were starting back with a load to Colorado, Colonel Matthew Caldwell rode up with an express from San Antonio, as follows:

Colonel: - General Woll has arrived at San Antonio with thirteen hundred men. The court, -judge, Jury, lawyers, - and many citizens in attendance, are prisoners in the hands of the Mexicans, I made my escape, and came round under the mountains to Seguin. John W. Smith

This gentleman was well known and could be relied on. The dispatch was received on Monday morning. Colonel Caldwell said, "Something must be done quick, and you must go with me." My excuses were rendered, I was in very feeble health, was a cripple, was riding a wild, untrained, borrowed horse, and was badly needed at home. He urged me to accompany him, stating that I could be of great service to him in controlling the young men who would be with him. My patriotism was appealed to, and remembering the sentiment contained in the letter to brother Greer, that I expected "to rise or fall with Texas," my consent was given to go on another perilous expedition. My son started on alone with his load of corn, to the Colorado, fifty miles. Although an Indian country was between him and home, I did not apprehend danger, as men in companies would soon be on the road from the east towards the scene of action.

During the spring and summer of 1842, a great interest was felt throughout the Republic for the annexation of Texas to the United States, and a plea was urged that the war with Mexico was about at an end. The Mexican authorities, of course, threw every obstacle in the way of this union that was in their power, and learning that this plea was made, sent out the expedition alluded to under General Woll. Their expressed intention was to march through the territory; but their real intention was to make a raid, and thus delay, and if possible thwart annexation, hoping in the end to induce Texas to submit to Mexican rule. On the eleventh of September 1842, a Mexican force, under General Woll, about thirteen hundred strong, captured the city of San Antonio, making hostile demonstrations towards other points farther east. We gathered what ammunition we could at Gonzales, and left for Seguin, with instruction that recruits coming from the east should follow our trail. At Seguin I obtained ten ears of corn, had it parched and ground, and mixed with it two pounds of sugar. This we called cold flour.

Recruits were coming in all night, and on Tuesday morning we marched on within twenty miles of San, Antonio. Colonel Caldwell was in command, by common consent. A call was made for ten of the best horses and lightest riders, to go and meet Jack Hays that night on the Salado. He had notified us, by express, that he was there watching the enemy, and needed reinforcements. The number called for was soon obtained, the writer among them, on his fine, untrained, borrowed horse. A charge, with some instructions, was given us, and a short while before day we arrived at the spot where we were ordered to go. A keen whistle was given, and readily responded to by Hays. Wednesday morning came and found us thirteen strong, with nothing but cold flour to eat, and a limited supply of that. Our ration consisted of a spoonful for each, mixed with water. A detail was made to stay at camp, another to go down on the east side of San Antonio, and another under Jack Hays to head the San Antonio River, and go entirely round in the rear of the city, to ascertain if any reinforcements were coming in from Mexico. Hays was discovered during the day and driven back, making no discovery himself as to reinforcements. Thursday morning came, and with only a spoonful of cold flour for each, another effort was made to get the number and intention of the enemy. Caldwell still remained at his camp twenty miles east of the city, expecting the Mexicans to march on Gonzales. Hays was repulsed, as on the day before, and failed to get in the enemy's rear. The writer and part of the company went down the Salado, and discovered what we supposed to be the trail of two or three hundred Calvary, going in the direction of Gonzales. On our return we met Hays with his company, driving in some horses. Very soon, about forty Mexicans made their appearance in pursuit. We retreated until they were drawn from the timber, when, under the order of our gallant leader, we wheeled, and forty Mexicans failed to stand the charge of thirteen Texans. No damage, that we know of, was, done to either party.

Friday morning, a mutiny rose in our little camp, in consequence of the condition of our commissary department. Plenty of deer and turkeys were in sight all the time, and we were all hunters; but our leader thought it best to fire no guns, and keep our position concealed from the enemy. From Monday till Friday, on a little cold flour, measured out by the spoonful, made us feel very lean; and now that the flour was all out, our men began to swear vengeance on the game at all hazards. Captain Hays insisted that I should make them a speech. I remembered the old saying, "Never try to influence a man against his inclination when he is hungry," but as my captain insisted, and as I was under orders, I determined to try. To have approached these men with a long face, and taxed their patience with a long speech on patriotism, would have been sheer nonsense. So I mounted my horse and rode out in front, with as cheerful a face as I could command, and spoke as follows :

Boys, when I left Colonel Caldwell's camp, I felt like I was forty years old. When I had starved one day, I felt like I was thirty-five. After that, on two spoonfuls a day, I felt like I was twenty-five; and this morning, when our cold flour and coffee are both out, I feel like I was only twenty-one years old, and ready for action. Our situation this morning is critical, the Mexicans, we fear, have gone toward Gonzales; secrecy surely is the best policy; and we ought to report the situation, if possible, to Colonel Caldwell to-night.

An agreement was soon entered into, that we get information, report that evening, and get some game for supper. In a few minutes we were off, and soon met Henry McCulloch with thirteen men, swelling our number to twenty-seven. Here we learned that Caldwell had discovered the enemy's trail below, and that the Mexican cavalry had retreated back to the city. The families on the Guadalupe were safe for the evening. Here was fresh beef hanging to the saddles of McCulloch's party. The company was organized on the spot, with Jack Hays captain, and Henry McCulloch lieutenant, and the young captain, with his first command, led us to the nearest water. We refreshed ourselves with this delicious beef and a good night's rest. We were camped within five miles of the city. Before day Saturday morning, Captain Hays detailed three men, and myself as the fourth, to go in sight of the city before daylight. He took three men with him, and made the third attempt to go round the city, and was successful, bringing off with him a Mexican spy as a prisoner. Lieutenant McCulloch watched both roads leading to Seguin and Gonzales. My associates and I remained secreted near the powder-house, and before the sun mounted very high into the heavens, a Mexican came out to get a yoke of oxen, feeding near by us. As soon as it was at all prudent, we captured him and his pony, within six hundred yards of the fort, and in plain view. We could see the Mexican cavalry hastily saddling their horses as we passed out of sight with our prisoner. We rode twenty miles in about two hours, and reported to Colonel Caldwell.

The poor Mexican felt confident we intended to kill him, and on arrival at camp he recognized John W. Smith, and commenced begging for his life. He was soon pacified with the assurance that he was in no danger, if he would tell us the truth. Hays and McCulloch both preceded us to Caldwell's camp, and as some anxiety was felt for our safety we were welcomed with many cheers. The two captured Mexicans told the same story. With these statements, coming from the front and rear of the city, Saturday morning, ten o'clock, revealed to Col.. Caldwell and his men the strength of the enemy. General Woll crossed the Rio Grande with thirteen hundred men, and picked up afterwards three hundred "Greezers" and Indians. Our entire force, ordered into line, numbered two hundred and two men; General Woll’s Mexican force was sixteen hundred. Saturday night we were marched to the Salado, and camped near midnight within six miles of San Antonio. Here we had much the advantage in the ground, if attacked, and during the night a council of war was held. The council decided that it would not be prudent to attack the enemy in his fortifications; but if he could be decoyed out to our own chosen ground, we could tie our horses back in the timber, out of range of his guns, and from behind the natural embankment make a successful battle, although the enemy numbered eight to our one. Sunday morning about sunrise Captain Hays and Lieutenant McCulloch were placed in charge of thirty-eight men, to approach San Antonio and lead the enemy out. Out of two hundred and two horses only thirty-eight were found, by a committee appointed to examine them, fit for the expedition. My untrained, borrowed horse and his rider was selected to go on the trip. We reached a point a half mile from the old powder-house, and about a mile from the city, between nine and ten o'clock, Sunday morning. This was about the hour that I had for so many years been accustomed to repair to the house of God, and my position in such striking contrast gave me some anxiety.

Captain, Hays and Lieutenant McCulloch, attended with six men, left us, with orders to be ready for any emergency. They went down close to the Alamo, and bantered the enemy for a fight; supposing that forty or fifty mounted men would be sent out, whom our captain intended to engage in battle. Contrary to this expectation, four or five hundred cavalry turned out in hot pursuit. Hays soon approached with the command, "Mount." We moved off briskly through the timber, and as the Mexicaus went round an open way, we were about half a mile ahead when we reached the prairie. They had about fifty American horses, in one condition, captured from the citizens and members of the court, and our horses were considerably worn with the labor of the past seven days. During the first four miles we kept out of their reach without much difficulty. Two miles lay stretched between us and our camp, and soon Lieutenant McCulloch, in charge of the rear guard, pressed close on our heels. Hats, blankets, and overcoats were scattered along our track. No time then to pick anything up. The race was an earnest one; the Mexicans, toward the last, began to fire at our rear guard, doing no damage. We reached the camp, and, when formed into line, every man was present, unhurt.

The cavalry that had pursued us passed round to our rear on the prairie. About a half hour intervened, during which time we refreshed ourselves and horses with water. Captain Jack Hays our intrepid leader, five feet ten inches high, weighing one hundred and sixty pounds, his black eyes flashing decision of character, from beneath a full forehead, and crowned with beautiful jet black hair, was soon mounted on his dark bay war-horse and on the warpath. Under our chosen leader, we sallied out and skirmished with the enemy at long range, killing a number of Mexicans, and getting two of our men severely wounded. In a short time they retired, and we fell back to the main command. Between two and, three o'clock in the evening, General Woll appeared with all his infantry, cavalry and artillery spread out on the prairie in our rear between us and our homes. As we stood in line under the brow of the hill, the brave Caldwell informed us that he could never surrender to General Woll; that he had just returned from the Santa Fe expedition, and that it would be certain death to be taken in arms the second time. He urged us to make up our minds to fight it out, and even if it required a hand to hand combat, the white flag would not be raised. Closing, this earnest address, he invited me to make a speech to the men. As well as my memory, serves me I spoke as follows:

Gentlemen, We are now going into battle against fearful odds, - eight to one, - and with artillery all on the enemy's side. The artillery can't harm us under this bank. We have nothing to fear as long as we can prevent them from coming to a hand-to-hand fight. Keep cool; let us not shoot as they advance on us till we can see the whites of their eyes; and be sure to shoot every man that has an officer's hat or sword. This will prevent them from coming into close quarters. Let us shoot low, and my impression before God is, that we shall win this fight.

Just at this time the cannon fired, and the grape shot struck the tops of the trees. The Mexicans now advanced upon us, under a splendid puff of music, the ornaments, guns, spears and swords glistening in plain view. Captain Hays' attention, as they drew near, was directed to the fact that they were intending to flank us above, and pour a raking fire down our line. Accordingly, ten men, with double barrel shot-guns, were detached, and stationed above to prevent it. Some of the Mexican infantry were within thirty feet of us before a gun was fired. At the first fire the whole of them fell to the ground. My first impression was that they were all killed. Soon, however, all that were able rose to their feet, but showed no disposition to advance further upon our line, Not a sword nor officer's hat made its appearance after we had been fighting five minutes. The ground on which we stood was of such a character that we could step back two or three paces and stand straight up to load our guns. The battle lasted but a little while. General Woll was at his cannon on the top of the hill, looking on; his artillery was of no use, being right in the rear of his infantry, and our men sheltered by the embankment. He could see his men falling while the Texans were entirely out of sight. The horn sounded a retreat, and the Mexicans ran away in great confusion. It was with great difficulty that the Texans were prevented from-pursuing. As the firing ceased along our line, the roar of artillery and rifles was heard in the rear of the Mexican army. We understood at once that the engagement was with reinforcements, making their way to relieve us. By the time we were up and in order to go to their assistance the firing ceased, and we knew that the Mexicans were successful.

Captain Dawson from LaGrange, on the reception of Colonel Caldwell's dispatch, raised a company of fifty-two men, including himself, and came up in time to hear our guns in the fight just described. The Mexicans, being between us, discovered him on the open field and surrounded him. He rallied his men in a grove of mesquite bushes, and fought with such desperation that the Mexicans withdrew from the range of his guns and turned the artillery upon him. As there was no chance to escape, and no chance to do the enemy any damage, under the murderous fire of the cannon, he raised a white flag. The men threw down their guns, and for a while the Mexicans disregarded the surrender, and continued to send the missiles of death. Captain Dawson was cut down with the flag in his hand. When the firing had ceased, thirty-five Texans out of fifty two lay dead on the field; fifteen were spared, and held as prisoners; two made their escape. My eldest son was one of the prisoners. This little body of men punished the Mexicans severely, during the engagement with small arms, before the artillery was turned upon them. General Woll reassembled his forces about one hour by sun, and standing on his cannon where it was first planted, in plain view and in our hearing, made a glowing speech to his men. The huzzas from the Mexican army were mournful in our ears. We believed then, what we afterwards knew to be true, that our friends and relatives from the Colorado were the sufferers. We could not reach him with our guns, and it would not do to expose ourselves on the prairie. The Mexicans moved off towards San Antonio about sunset, and spent the night carrying in and burying their dead in the city. A large number was killed, the exact estimate it was impossible for us to make. Caldwell lost only one man killed; no prisoners; three wounded.

The night was passed upon the battle-ground, dark, anxious night to me. I learned that my son, A. H. Morrell, was in the company defeated the evening before in our hearing. Was he dead? Was be a prisoner in the hand of our cruel oppressors? Were questions that revolved through my mind all night long. Three men volunteered to go with me to the "Mesquit battle-ground," and at day light we were in our saddles. My colonel and captain cautioned me to be careful, as the enemy would certainly keep out spies; but the time for caution and fear with me had about passed. At sunrise we were on the fatal spot, examining carefully for the lost son, while two of my colleagues stood guard. Thirty-five dead bodies of friends lay scattered and terribly mangled among the little cluster of bushes on the broad prairie. I recognized the body of nearly every one. Here were twelve men, heads of families, their wives widows, and their children orphans; and here, too, lay dead the bodies of promising sons of my neighbors. The body of my son could not be found. The place was so horrible that two of the men with me rode away. One remained on guard while I continued my examination. A number of bodies were turned over before I could recognize them. One or two of my neighbors' sons were so badly mangled that I could not recognize them at all. Supposing that one of these might be my son, I examined their feet for a sear that he had carried from childhood. By this time I was satisfied that he had either escaped or was among the prisoners. I then drew a pencil from my pocket, and took down the names of the dead, so that I might make a correct report to the bereaved.

The unfortunate man of Caldwell's command who was killed on Sunday was buried with the honors of war on Monday. His grave was dug with bowie knives. During the fight, some Indians who came out with the Mexican army approached his horse, tied carelessly some distance from the horses of our command, and he left his post, against the order of his captain, and attempted to save his horse. He killed three of the Indians in the combat, and finally they killed him, and carried off the horse. This all occurred in plain view; but we were forbidden to go to his relief, as he had disobeyed orders. Tuesday morning our little company of two hundred and two had increased to five hundred. A messenger from San Antonio announced that the Mexicans had left for the west that morning, carrying the prisoners with them. The question of burying our dead, who fell under Captain Dawson and with him, came up. We had neither axe nor hoe, and finally decided to pursue the retreating enemy, regain if possible the prisoners, and at some future day gather up the bones of our dead and bury them at Lagrange. This was afterwards done, and a monument placed over them. Orders were given at once, and preparations made to pursue the retreating enemy. The Honorable Judge Hemphill accompanied me to San Antonio, to look after news from my boy, while the main army crossed the river above, and went directly in pursuit of General Woll. We visited Mrs. Jakes and the English minister's wife, Mrs. Elliot, who had a list or the prisoners' names. My son, A. H. Morrell, was certainly among them. The Mexicans had robbed them of their clothing; my son, on his arrival in San Antonio, was in his shirt-sleeves. Mrs. Elliot took a green blanket-coat off of her son, and put it on mine. This coat, he afterwards said, was the means of saving his life. My son was reported by these ladies as carrying a wound from a lance in the engagement, though not serious. After he surrendered, two Mexicans pursued him with lances. As a lance was hurled at him, he dodged it, but as it passed it glanced his left arm. near the shoulder. He only saved his life by running in this defenseless condition round the horse of the Mexican colonel, Corasco, [Carrasco] who drew his sword and drove his pursuers from him. We procured some provisions, what powder and lead our horses could carry with safety, and overtook Colonel Caldwell, camped on the Madina [Medina River] some twenty-five miles from the city.

Wednesday evening, September 21, the Texan army came up with General Woll's rear-guard at the Hondo. Here a trap was laid for us. Our spies were out, right and left of the road and in advance. The rear-guard of the Mexicans was in the bottom, in a bend of the creek, and concealed. The Mexican general had offered five hundred dollars for the head of Captain Hays, and just at this time he came very near losing it. With all his vigilance he was here surprised. Luckey, a noble man, was riding by his side, on a finer-looking horse than Hays, and was shot through the right breast, the ball coming out at the point of the right shoulder. His horse ran about one hundred yards, and left his wounded rider on the ground. Captain Hays requested me to go to his relief, as he feared he was killed. Like all other severely wounded men, he at once cried for water. Judge Hemphill fortunately had some at hand, and it was given him. Luckey did not die, as we feared he would, but survived this severe wound, and was afterwards a member of the Senate of the Republic. By this time Colonel Caldwell had formed a line of battle, and as no one would volunteer to take care of Luckey, a man was detailed. A fight was at hand, and every man was aware of it, and ready for action. A call was made for volunteers, to increase Captain Hays' company to one hundred men, for the purpose of charging the cannon placed on the road four hundred yards in front. General Mayfield made a speech for volunteers, but not a man responded. He was a man of ability, and could make a good speech, but his was the "voice of a stranger." Colonel Caldwell knew his men, and knew that speeches were not so much in demand as example. He knew that my son was a prisoner in the enemy's lines before us, and that Z. N. Morrell's soul was fired as it never had been before. My colonel requested me to ride down the lines, and encourage the men to come out. I galloped to the lower end of the line, with my old fur cap in my hand, recognizing and being recognized by almost every man I passed. The feelings of that moment need no description. They could not be described. My dear boy was upon the hill, perhaps in irons, and unless that cannon was charged and silenced, the sad news must be borne to his mother, that our Allen was in chains, in a Mexican dungeon. Halting in eligible position, so as to be seen and heard by almost the entire command, I waved my fur cap, and spoke about as follows:

Boys, you have come out here from one to two hundred mile, from home, to hunt the elephant. He has been running from you for two days. We have got him in close quarters, just tip on that hill. We want forty men to join Hays' company. With one hundred men, we can successfully charge in and capture the cannon, and turn the grape shot the other way. The old fellow can't hurl his missiles of death at us more than two or three times before we will stop his breath. Besides, the prisoners and as I stood pointing my finger voices were heard along the lines, "Come, boys, we will go with him." More than the number called for were soon in line and ready for the charge.

We had the greatest confidence in our chosen leaders, Hays and Henry McCulloch. Both were cool, daring men; neither of them I suppose was over twenty five years of age. Captain Hays was, by profession, a surveyor. His great courage and deliberation were first discovered while engaged in his profession. Six men, with Hays as their leader, were out surveying a short time previous, when a body of Indians attacked them. The determined young surveyor, with compass in one hand and gun in the other, continued to take his observations, and at the same time fire upon the Indians every time they drew near. The work was not ceased till the line was finished. This incident had much to do in securing his first position as captain. Henry McCulloch had always been among the foremost to meet the enemy on former occasions, as cool and daring as our captain, and greatly endeared to the men by his uniform kindness and social qualities. He was not easily roused, but when stirred was powerfully wrought upon, and had not the fear of mortal man before his eyes. Under this leadership we faced that cannon, while receiving orders when to discharge our guns, and at what point to countermarch, eagerly waiting the forward command. At length the shrill, clear voice of our captain sounded down the line, "Charge!"

Away went the company up a gradual ascent in quick time. In a moment the cannon roared, but according to Mexican custom overshot us. The Texan yell, followed the cannon's thunder, and so excited the Mexican infantry, placed in position to pour a fire down our lines, that they overshot us; and by the time the artillery hurled its canister the second time, shot-guns and pistols were freely used by the Texans. Every man at the cannon was killed, as the company passed it. How many of the enemy were killed and wounded besides these, we had no means of ascertaining. Had the Mexicans charged us along the road we followed, and given us the position they occupied, but very few would have returned to tell the story; but, strange to say, they were so frightened that they entirely overshot us, killing only one horse, and wounding one man. My friend Arch Gibson, one of my nearest neighbors on the Guadalupe, who was riding on my right, lost his right cheek-bone. To prevent him from falling and being trampled to death, I threw my right arm round him, seizing the rein of his bridle with my right and guiding his horse and mine at the same time, bore him safely to the rear, in a speechless condition. His first cry was for water, which was furnished as quickly as possible. He recovered from his wound, and was afterwards doubly my friend.

The night was now coming on, and the firing ceased. Most of the men were anxious to charge the lines, and reach the prisoners at all hazards. Ben McCulloch, who had acted as captain in other engagements, a gallant and safe leader, but who from some cause did not get into our organization in time to be placed in command, after an examination of the enemy's position, advised that the attack be postponed till morning. A sad night to me it was. Will the prisoners be retaken? Or shall they wear out a miserable existence, amidst the rattling of chains? God forbid that any minister of the blessed Jesus should ever again be driven to such desperation as I then felt! I was prepared for almost anything, as the morning will show. During the night General Woll moved off in our bearing, and in the morning at sunrise his drum sounded in my ears about six miles on the prairie beyond. The men were called up early in the morning, knowing that a council of war had been held, and that Caldwell was advised to lead his command in pursuit of the enemy. Feeling anxious to overtake the enemy early in the day, lest the coming night might interfere with the capture, as on the evening before, I did all I could to assist both Hays and Caldwell to get the men ready. General Mayfield, who had made an unsuccessful speech the evening before, called the men around him and commenced a harangue. He told them that we were in an enemy's country, that the Mexicans more than doubled our number, and that General Woll was hourly expecting a large reinforcement. In the midst of these dangers he doubted exceedingly the wisdom of the pursuit. His design evidently was to kill time and discourage the expedition, in the same speech. My indignation now passed all bounds, and it would not be too much to say that I was absolutely furious. He had no command, and I had none; so that as private soldiers we were on equal footing. In the midst of his speech I interrupted him, saying that the time had passed for long speeches, and that I, for one, would be better pleased to hasten to the fight and recapture of the prisoner boys. I pointed to the baggage wagons and the cannon we had captured the evening before, and urged the pursuit. Seeing that the men were many of them about to waver, and being in perfect sympathy with my cause, the Honorable Judge Hemphill, and others of like spirit, wept at my side. In spite of all that Colonel Caldwell, Captain Hays, and others could do, the contest was abandoned. It required at this time the combined strength of our little army to compete with the enemy, and as Mayfield had succeeded in intimidating quite a number of the command, it became necessary to give up the pursuit. General Woll reported to his government that he lost on this campaign six hundred men; so that at the time we allowed him to escape he did not have more than eight hundred men. Five hundred such Texans as ours could easily have killed and captured the whole army. This was certainly one of the most disgraceful affairs that ever occurred in Texas, and this I suppose is the reason why so little has been said of it the public prints of the country. The poor boys were carried to prison and chains, and we saw not their faces again for two years.

We now dispersed in small companies and took up the line of march for our respective homes. Gladly would I have hid myself from my neighbors, if duty would have permitted, rather than rehearse the sad story relative to their dead, and the manner in which they were necessarily left on the "mesquit battle ground" to be devoured by the crow and the wolf. Heaven I hope has forgiven me for the animosity I felt towards the man that made the long speech. Twice afterwards he approached me in a friendly manner. The first time was on the return home. I replied to him by laying both my hands on my gun, forbidding him to speak another word. This may have been wrong, but I did it. The second time he approached me was on the streets of Brenham, Washington County, Texas, years afterwards. God had caused my poor heart, in the mean time, to bow beneath the greatest affliction in life, and I tendered General Mayfield my hand, and endeavored to look forgiveness, ---I did not feel like talking. My wife was in the grave, hastened there prematurely, as I believed, by the grief of two years, in consequence of the chains her eldest child wore in a foreign land. When he questioned me as to my feelings towards him, faithfulness required me to say, that there were some wounds made in life that could not with safety be probed, even when they were old; and that was one of them.

1997-2001, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
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