1997-2001, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
Memories of San Jacinto | Battle of San Jacinto

This page:  From Gonzales to Harrisburg
Page 2: April 19 to 22 at San Jacinto
Page 3:  Capture of Santa Anna & Aftermath
Other Accounts:
Anahuac & Velasco

The San Jacinto Campaign
From the journal of Dr. Nicholas Labadie

Dr. Nicholas D. LabadiePrevious to General Houston's arrival, some 400 men assembled at Gonzales, and placed themselves under the command of Colonel Neill, where they remained for some days anxiously awaiting the attempt to cut their way into the Alamo. About the 11th or 12th of March, General Houston arrived and assumed command. On the following day the 1st Regiment was organized by electing the following officers: Burleson, Colonel; Sherman, Lieutenant-Colonel; Summerville, Major. A camp was formed on the east bank of the Guadalupe, just below the town. That night news was brought into camp by an old Mexican of the fall of the Alamo; on the following day this sad news was fully confirmed by the arrival of Mrs. Dickinson and child, and two Negro menservants of Travis and Almonta. They brought information to the effect that 3,000 of the enemy would camp on the Cibolo that night. Immediately on receiving that information, Houston ordered a retreat. Two cannons that had been procured were thrown into the Guadalupe River, tents and camp baggage were burnt, as there was no way of transporting them, in consequence of the great haste to get off. It being extremely dark, but few of the horses of the small number they had could be found. In fact, the haste was so great that a picket guard that had been posted two or three miles west of the river were not called in. There, were many families left in the rear also.

About twelve o'clock at night the army commenced the retreat; at daylight next morning it reached Peach Creek, about ten miles distant, where they halted to rest and get breakfast; while there, heavy explosions were heard, which proved to be the blowing up of liquors left in the stores, the town having been set on fire by parties left behind. During the next morning, these stragglers were constantly coming up with their horses packed down with merchandise taken from the stores before setting them on fire; now and then a family of women and children was with them.  The army resumed its march towards noon, and continued until it reached Burnham's on the Colorado, where it crossed the river and marched down to a point opposite Beacon's; here it made a halt for several days. In the meantime General Sesma formed a camp on the west bank, where the town of Columbus is now situated. His command did not exceed 800 men. While the army lay at this point troops were constantly coming in until the Texas army, in a few days, increased to fifteen or sixteen hundred men. 


Meetings were held throughout the country to devise means to meet the army of 8,000 coming to subjugate Texas; the excitement was very great and universal; and finally delegates were chosen in the several departments to meet in convention at Washington. Meanwhile committees of Vigilance and Safety, appointed at the most eligible points, urged upon all the necessity of preparation for a decisive conflict; and finally, the consultation in San Felipe called for a draft to be made in every settlement to raise the men requisite to meet at San Antonio the invading army of Santa Anna. 


About this time (February, 1836) a meeting was held in Liberty County at the house of Mrs. James, whose husband had just returned from the siege and capture of San Antonio. At this meeting, J. N. Morland, one among the leading spirits of the day, related the thrilling events of the campaign at San Antonio, the Grass Fight, etc., that had transpired but a few weeks before and the recital inspired increased enthusiasm among all. It was finally agreed that we would meet at Liberty on the 11th of March, fully equipped and prepared for the approaching campaign. On the day appointed, all were promptly on ground, and immediately went into an election of officers, when William M. Logan, who had distinguished himself in resistance to Bradburn's attempt to set the slaves free, was chosen our captain, and Harper, Hardin, and Branch, were chosen next in command, while Moreland was to act as orderly, as he had acquired some knowledge in drill at San Antonio. Thomas Norman, son of Mrs. James, and the writer, were the only two from that neighborhood. The company embraced over seventy, composed of Beaumont and Liberty boys, and there was not in that campaign a more efficient company or a more fearless and determined set of men.

After the election of officers, William Hardin gave us a fine dinner, when we set forward to meet the enemy. On crossing the river at Green's Ferry on the 12th, we met Mr, Padillo returning from the Convention, and from him we learned, for the first time, that Texas had been declared forever free and independent of Mexico on the 2nd of March. Having given him three hearty cheers for his glorious news, we again mounted and proceeded on towards San Felipe by way of "New Kentuck." Having arrived at Roberts', we camped at noon to rest our horses; and while the writer was cooking the last of his corn meal, an express rode up giving us the sad tidings of the fall of the Alamo, the slaughter of Travis and his men and the retreat of General Houston, after having set fire to Gonzales. He further stated that the entire country west of the Brazos was to be abandoned, and that the only hope was to fly to the Sabine without delay.  This was indeed appalling intelligence and our spirits were still more depressed by the cries of the women of Mr. Roberts' house, who declared that they would all be massacred by the Indians. Orders were at once given to mount and reach San Felipe by a forced march. In ten minutes we were again on our way. Night overtook us at the "Big Mound," where we camped under the six or eight tall pines there, using our saddles for pillows. During that night there came up a norther, accompanied with rain, and daylight found us all shivering with cold and wet; and, to add to our disagreeable position, some of our horses could not be found. Upon this, Menard Maxwell, as brave a man as ever shouldered a rifle, cried out, "Captain Logan, give me three men and I will go back for the horses to Roberts', for they have undoubtedly taken the back track, the cowardly devils!"

His request was granted, when they started back at a brisk trot, while we proceeded on our march in a slow gait. Towards evening, Maxwell overtook us, having recovered the lost horses, and he stated that he had fallen in with Dr. Belden, (who had been of our party, and who we supposed was also looking for our horses). He was on his return home, his courage having oozed out after hearing the alarming accounts of the massacre of Travis, etc., the day before. But Maxwell had taken from him his rifle, shot-pouch and powder horn, telling him he could go, as he could be of no use to us, but that his rifle was needed for some braver man.


On reaching the Brazos Bottom, the spectacle we witnessed was agonizing and well calculated to discourage the stoutest heart. The road was filled with carts and wagons loaded with women and children, while other women, for whom there was no room in the wagons, were seen walking, some of them barefoot, some carrying their smaller children m their arms or on their backs, their children following barefooted; and other women again were seen with but one shoe, having lost the other in the mud. Taken all in all, the sight was the most painful by far that I ever witnessed. But the cries of the women were still more distressing, as they called our attention to their forlorn situation, raising their hands to heaven and declaring they had lost their all, and knew not where to go; expressing their preference to die on the road rather than be killed by the Mexicans or Indians, imploring with upraised hands the blessings of God on our arms, and encouraging us to be of stout heart and avert, if possible, the disasters that were threatening the country.


The Brazos Bottom presented an uninterrupted succession of such sights, till we reached the ferry opposite San Felipe. The ferryboat being given to us till we had all crossed over, we passed that night in San Felipe, where we replenished our scanty supply of provisions, and bought cooking utensils for our campaign. The next morning, after having mounted, one Captain Norton from New York made us a big talk, and was followed by complimentary speeches from some others, as we were paraded opposite Mrs. Peyton's public house; and our appearance being rather imposing, all concluded we would do good service. Mrs. Peyton having gathered around her as many of her sex as she could, they all presented themselves in her gallery, where they gave us repeated cheers, waving their handkerchiefs incessantly as we left.

As our company was the last to pass through that place, some of our men were detailed to gather up such straggling parties as they could find, and bring them together at San Felipe, with a view to joining the army. Hence we took it on ourselves to seize upon all the spare rifles we could find in the hands of those who were retreating, leaving only one to every wagon or cart, and these we gave to those who were without any, and who were willing to fight. Having arrived at Beason's Ferry on the Colorado, we there found General Houston with the army encamped, to whom we reported ourselves on the 20th of March. During our march from the Trinity to the Colorado, I had frequent calls to relieve the common complaints among our men occasioned by exposure, such as cramps, colics and diarrhoea, and I therefore found the stock of medicines, with which I had filled my saddlebags, very useful. At times it was with much difficulty I could keep up with the company, as I had often to remain behind till I could relieve those attacks, and then had to travel in the night till I could overtake the company. Yet not a single death occurred in our company. During one week while we were encamped on the Colorado, our army was increased, by the daily arrivals, from about 600 to 1,600 men. In this I know I am correct, as we paraded every day, which gave me an opportunity of making a record of the numbers on the ground, and I made the entry in my journal.


During this time it was understood that orders had been sent to Fannin to retreat and join us without delay, as the artillery he had was absolutely necessary to us. Meantime, while a new campground was being laid off, the bushes cleared away, etc., three or four tents being already pitched, the painful news of Fannin's defeat was brought into camp by one Peter Carr, whom Houston treated as a spy, putting him under guard. We all, however, believed his report to be true, and it was corroborated by others the next day, after which the numbers in our camp began to diminish rapidly.


Meanwhile General Sezma had pitched his camp on the opposite, or west, bank, about one mile from the river, and Captain Carnes was authorized to raise a mounted volunteer company to cross over and reconnoitre the position of the enemy and twelve others of the Liberty company and I accepted the invitation, and the company, numbering sixty-four, having .received two days' rations, crossed the river. Having again mounted, we were told we had to attack Sezma's camp of 600 men, and that Captain Bird was to follow us; taking his position in the edge of the timber to cover our retreat. I was placed in the lead, and we had an orderly at the head of our party who knew his duty well, having seen years of service in the U.S. Army; but Captain Carnes, though brave, had not the experience necessary in a commander. We proceeded in good order till we emerged from the timber on the other side, where we observed the enemy's camp in great confusion, caused, no doubt, by our unexpected appearance. We were about to wheel to the right, expecting to make a dash in full gallop to take the enemy's cannon, but at this moment Carnes rides up to the orderly, and gives the order "Wheel to the left, to the left!" Just as he spoke, the whistle of a ball from the cannon, passing over our heads, was heard, and the report had scarcely subsided before another, and then another, followed, our line causing to break in three or four places, as our horses became almost unmanageable. The balls struck the ground at some distance beyond us, throwing up clouds of dust. Upon looking back, I found myself at the head of only four men, the company having fallen back fully 600 yards to the rear, whom we then joined, as the order to retreat was given.

At this time our attention was attracted by two young men who rushed past us on white horses, with guns in their hands, and their heads tied with handkerchiefs. They dashed forward towards some Mexican cavalry (apparently a scouting party) who hastily retreated before them, but the two pursued on till I lost sight of them. Order having been restored among us, blessings were pretty liberally bestowed on our commander for our failure. A moment after, we saw the cattle running as if frightened, as we knew somebody must be approaching, but the rising ground before us obstructed our view till after a few minutes. While we were waiting, prepared for a charge, the same two men on white horses were seen driving before them some Mexican horses and mules they had taken from the enemy's guard. About the same time we also observed in another direction, the enemy mounted, and coming toward us in good order. Captain Bird's men hid themselves behind trees and stumps, some throwing themselves down in the grass for the purpose of getting a close shot at them. We immediately stripped our horses, throwing our saddles, blankets, etc., into the ferryboat, and then having driven our horses in, and made them swim to the other side of the river, we all took our station in two files just under the second bank, where we waited for the enemy to approach sufficiently near to give us a hand-to-hand fight. But here we were again disappointed, for the enemy was prudent enough not to approach within a quarter of a mile, when they turned and retreated. Having thus failed in our purpose, we recrossed the river about dark, and having recovered our horses with some difficulty, and having lost most of our provisions, we mounted and returned towards the camp; and reaching it, lo! we found it entirely deserted.


We at once perceived that Houston had commenced his retreat. Before leaving that morning, it was hinted to me that a retreat was contemplated, notwithstanding the preparations apparently for a permanent encampment. I then, for the first time, addressed General Houston, who knew me as well as I did him, on the subject. He declared to me that the grass being all eaten up, and the horses starving, it was important to get anew and better range, and that, as there was a fine spring and plenty of grass for miles, he would only move to that place and then camp. But Major Ben F. Smith, who knew everything that was transpiring, afterward took me to one side, and said with a wink, "We are going to San Felipe just as straight as the road will lead us---keep this to yourself."  Finding the army had left, we had nothing to do but to follow, and we did so as well as we could in the night; but after marching till two o'clock, we found we had missed the trail, and had gone out of our way some eight miles. Many of us declared it was necessary to have a better leader, and that, if we could do no better, we would elect someone better fitted to command. At near daybreak we came up with the army at the spring General Houston had named to me. We begged our breakfast of our messmates, but were not in the humor to boast of our exploits. Ascertaining Houston was determined on continuing the retreat, Colonel Burleson left the army for purpose of removing his family to a place of safety. Colonel Sherman was therefore ordered to put the army in marching order.

The retreat was continued through this day, and at night we reached the place of Mr. S. M. Williams, about two miles from San Felipe. Here we again camped, using up the fences of Mr. Williams for fuel, as the timber was too far distant. Houston had decided on marching up the river some twenty miles opposite Colonel Groce's plantation. Giving orders to that effect, Sherman found two companies refused to come into line, and he sent a message to Houston, who had gone in advance with his staff. He immediately sent back Colonel Hockly with an order to Sherman to put the army in motion, saying, if subordinate commanders were going to disobey orders, the sooner it was ascertained the better. One of the companies was commanded by Captain Moseley Baker, the other either by Willey Martin or Bird.  The army had not marched far when General Houston sent an order to Baker to defend the crossing at San Felipe, and to Martin to defend it at Fort Bend. Subsequently, Baker set fire to San Felipe, and then took his position on the opposite bank of the river, where he defended the crossing till he found the main army was retreating, and then abandoned it. Baker afterwards asserted that he burnt San Felipe by order of General Houston, but the latter denied it. The enemy afterwards finding the crossing at San Felipe defended by Baker, diverged and went down to Fort Bend, the crossing at which place Martin was unable to defend, and there they crossed over.


Our camp was pitched near a deep ravine which had the appearance of having once been the bed of a river, and this miserable hole was our hiding place for about two weeks. San Felipe, having thus been left to its fate by our army, its merchants and other inhabitants finally abandoned it after the buildings were set on fire and burnt to the ground. In relation to the burning of San Felipe, I may here remark that on one occasion, in company with J. N. Moreland, I visited General Houston, whom we found lying in his tent. Turning towards us, he said, "Moreland, did you ever hear me give orders to burn the town of San Felipe?" His reply was, "General, I have no recollection of it." "Yet they blame me for it," said Houston.


While encamped in this filthy place, some three of Fannin's men, wounded, barefoot and ragged, came into camp and related all the particulars of their disaster. After a misfortune has happened, it is usually quite an easy matter for anybody to show it might have been avoided. So after Fannin's defeat, it was plain that, had he obeyed orders and joined the main army at Beason's, with his fine artillery, he would not only have saved himself and his men from their dreadful fate, but have prevented this retreat of the main army. It was, however, asserted by some that there was not time for Fannin to effect a retreat after the order had reached him, and indeed, it is believed to be a matter of much doubt whether the order ever did reach him, as the bearer of it only left Gonzales some seven days before the enemy's arrival at Goliad. Of this, however, I can only speak from the statements made by others. The statements given by these three men have been substantially confirmed by all subsequent accounts. They said that Fannin had received three expresses from Travis, urging him to go to his relief in the Alamo, but that he refused to do so, thinking it important to defend his position in Goliad, where he soon expected to achieve a glorious victory over the enemy. Here he wasted some sixteen or eighteen days, when he finally concluded to evacuate the place and cross the river; but by this time, the enemy was rapidly advancing upon him. He had proceeded some ten miles on his retreat to the eastward when he was overtaken by the Mexican cavalry, who, in their hurry of pursuit, had taken with them but a scanty supply of ammunition.

They first appeared in a skirt of timber some mile or two in advance of him, while he was in the open prairie, in which exposed position he strangely gave orders to halt, without water or shelter of any land. The enemy were but few in number, but their actual force being concealed by the timber, they made all the display possible; and when night came on, after considerable firing during the day, numerous fires were lit up for a great distance, presenting the appearance of a vast army. Fannin had caused a temporary breastwork to be thrown up by means of his carts, wagons, etc. He had, during the day, received a flesh wound from a musket ball, from which he became feverish; and suffering from want of water and food during the night, and witnessing great suffering from want o€ water among all his men, he became disheartened. Early in the morning the enemy, pursuing their usual resort to stratagems and treachery, caused their white flag to be again sent in (this being the second time), promising an honorable capitulation. In his despondency, and supposing himself overpowered by numbers, Fannin accepted the terms and surrendered without firing a gun. It was soon after ascertained that the enemy's ammunition was about exhausted; and had Fannin renewed the fire, he would have won the victory. The subsequent unhappy fate of the Georgia Battalion is known to all.


While our army lay there encamped in the Brazos swamp, using stagnant water from the old bed of the river, a great deal of sickness prevailed among the men, which caused serious alarm. It was then deemed proper to organize the army on the best possible plan, and many promotions were made, by which means our Liberty Company was reduced from eighty to fifty in number and of this Captain Logan complained much. It was here, also, that the medical staff was organized, on April 6. To Dr. Phelps was assigned the hospital, which, for some weeks before, had been kept on Groce's plantation, where a few sick had been sent. Dr. Ewing received the appointment of Surgeon-General, and by him Dr. Bonier and the writer were appointed surgeons of the first regiment of regulars. The surgeons of the volunteer regiments were appointed by their commanders. Burleson, of the 1st Regiment, appointed Dr. Davidson; and Fitzhue and Sherman, of the 2nd Regiment, appointed Dr. Anson Jones (late President Jones) and Booker. I was afterwards apprised of these appointments by Dr. Bonier, who was quite a stranger to me.  The next day we entered upon the new duties assigned us. The medicine chest, such as it was, I found in great confusion. Having arranged it as well as possible, a cart was given us for its transportation as soon as we should again be on our march. Owing to the state of inactivity and the increase of diarrhoea in the army, great discontent and murmuring were manifested among all the officers and men. The steamboat Yellow Stone, under Captain Ross, lying at the ferry wharf, was placed under guard for our future use.


Meantime the feeling of discontent increased. The news of the burning of San Felipe, of the advance of Santa Anna in person, of his reaching San Felipe and Fort Bend, rendered our men impatient of this delay. One day a Mr. Kuykendall came into camp, and stated that he had been taken prisoner by some Mexicans while eating his dinner in his own house, that he was taken before Santa Anna, who received him kindly and then gave him his liberty, telling him to go and hunt up General Houston, and tell him that he, Santa Anna, was tired of hunting after him and his army, like so many Indians in the woods; but that if he would come out of his hiding place he would give him a fight in the open prairie. This challenge was a little too much for the Texas boys, and the desire to meet the enemy became almost uncontrollable. Colonel Sidney Sherman had been elected colonel of the 2nd Regiment, to which the Liberty Company belonged; and while all were saying it was time to be doing something besides lying in idleness and getting sick, upon hearing the challenge it was declared to be necessary that the army should have another commander, and Colonel Sherman was pointed out as the man best calculated to meet the emergency.

This came to the ears of General Houston, who at once caused notices to be written and stuck on trees with wooden pegs, to the effect that the first man who beat for volunteers should be court-martialed and shot. One of these notices was pinned to a hickory tree not six feet from the tent of the Liberty Company, and Colonel Lynch and others pointed it out to me. J. N. Moreland (who was a strong friend to the commanders), Major Ben Smith and Dr. Ewing all came to see us and desired that no such step as that spoken of should be taken, as there was no doubt the camp would break up within a few days.


The next day; someone from Red Lands arrived and reported that a company from that section had reached Robbin's Ferry on the Trinity, where it had halted, as Mr. Robbins stated it to be the wish of the commander that the company should proceed no farther to the west. In reply, Houston said, in my presence, that it was right, and it was his order for the company to stop there. About this time news came that two pieces of artillery had been landed at Harrisburg and would reach the camp within five days. It was this, mainly, that put an end to the movement of beating up a volunteer commander. By request of Dr. Ewing, I went with him to visit Dr. Phelps at the hospital on the other, or east, side of the river at Groce's plantation. This was on Friday, and as we were about to return (April 10), we got the news that the cannon would probably arrive that night; and the next day they reached Groce's house. The day following (Sunday), I crossed over again (our camp was only half a mile from the ferry) in company with several others, and found the two little pieces of ordnance (afterwards christened the "Twin Sisters") standing before Mr. Groce's house; and on entering the house, several ladies of the house and neighborhood were seen employed in making bags, while my friend Moreland was tying them. This was about noon on Sunday. Old Mr. Groce, whose hospitality I had experienced when I crossed his ferry in 1831, and to whom I had letters of introduction, at once recognized me and expressed his pleasure at seeing me again.


Having now possession of these two four-pound pieces, preparations for the march were at once made, and the whole army soon crossed on the Yellow Stone without difficulty. I believe the crossing was commenced on the 12th, and I know it was completed on the 13th and 14th, as my journal is to that effect. Most of the troops, with a part of the camp equipage, crossed on the 13th; and on that night Colonel Sherman received authority from General Houston to superintend the crossing, and by him the last of the army baggage was brought over on the 14th. Only two yoke of oxen were lost by being taken down with the strong current, the river then being high and rising. The next day, on the 15th, the army marched six miles to Dr. Donohoe's place and then camped. While the companies were taking the ground allotted them, I observed Captain Mosley Baker (who had just joined us) apparently much absorbed in thought. As General Houston came up, he said to him, "General, according to your orders, I have retreated with my company, which is now encamped in good order three miles above." Then came Captain Martin, who said, "General, I have brought but my sword; my company has disbanded. Once hearing that you were retreating to Nacogdoches, they declared they would no longer bear arms, but would protect their families, and they have therefore dispersed."

I was then standing within four or five steps of General Houston, and I asked Captain Baker if his company was on the road to Robbin's Ferry. "They are on the road," said he. "But," said I, "are you and your men willing to retreat there?" "Where?" said he. "To the Red Lands," I replied. "No, never! Never" said he. "For if General Houston will not take us to meet the enemy we will elect a commander who will." This he said in a loud voice, so that General Houston heard it, and turned toward us with a nod; then, finishing his conversation with Captain Martin, he passed by us suddenly and began cursing the men for taking the fence for firewood; but they paid no attention to him. By next morning there was scarcely a rail left.


The next day, the 16th, brought the army near Mr. Roberts' place, and here a heavy Texas rain poured upon us. Because the measles had broken out in the army, I deemed it prudent to give permits to those afflicted to go to their homes, and some eight men were discharged by my advice. During our march through the rain and cold, one of my patients suffering from the measles was so much exposed that I gave him my cloak, as it appeared to be a case of life and death. The young man's father, hearing of his son's sickness, soon came to see him. I said, "Mr. McLaughlin, you had better take your sons home [there were two of them] or else one of them will die"; and I then conducted them beyond the guard, which is the last time I ever saw them or my cloak. Having sent away all the sick who had friends, still enough remained to keep the physicians employed, especially the writer, who had charge of the medicine cart. It was drawn by oxen, the yoke of which belonged to a Mrs. Mann.

Owing to the conflicting opinions as to which road the army was to take after reaching Mr. Roberts', where it forked, I wanted to satisfy myself on that point, and went to Major Ben Smith for information. He replied to my inquiry that it was his opinion the army would continue straight on and cross the Trinity at Robbins' Ferry. As many were unwilling to go on that road, a halt was expected to be made at Roberts'; and as we neared that point (April17), the writer, with three or four others, galloped to near the advance guard. The captain told us he had received no orders, but would go between the two roads. As General Houston was now coming up, several of us desired Mr. Roberts, who was standing on his gate to point out to all the road to Harrisburgh. General Houston was then close by, when Roberts raised his hand, and, elevating his voice, cried out, "That right-hand road will carry you to Harrisburgh just as straight as a compass." A shout was then raised, "To the right, boys, to the right!" The whole line was fast closing up, as the music had stopped; but upon hearing the shout from the men, the music proceeded to the right. The advance guard, then a quarter of a mile ahead, between the two roads, seeing the music take the right, wheeled also to the right; and then loud and joyous shouts followed in succession, and the band of music, forgetting itself in its enthusiasm, distanced all the rest, a small squad only keeping up with them. Then Major Wills galloped by me, ordering them to halt till the wagons, cannon, medicine cart, etc., could come up.


Here I first discovered my medicine cart was missing, I learned that, owing to some difficulty with Mrs. Mann about her oxen, it had been left behind. Riding back, I reached the spot just in time to see Mrs. Mann driving off her yoke of oxen, declaring they should go no farther that way. The driver was now left with but a single yoke of miserable. small oxen but I found him laughing at the ridiculous scene of having been compelled by a woman to stop and give up the best part of his team, though he excused himself for having made the surrender by declaring that she was a man after all, and that it was no easy matter to find another to match her. "How did this happen?" said I. "Why," said he, "she said she had loaned her oxen to General Houston to go as far as the ferry on the Trinity, but as the army had changed its course, she said she would be d----d if the General should have her oxen any longer." "But how," said I, "could you give them up?" "Why," said he, "she showed fight when I resisted, presenting her pistol, and then I thought it most prudent to surrender."


Some six miles farther on our march, I observed "Three-legged Willie" galloping up to General Houston dressed in buckskin and with a coonskin cap ornamented with some half a dozen old coons' tails that were dangling on his shoulders. General Houston then ordered him to go with all possible speed to the Red Land Company with directions that they should join the army, as it had now changed its course to Harrisburgh. That night the army camped at the head of a bayou, and sometime that night the Red Land Company arrived. By request of its commander, the next morning his company was allowed to rest till 11 A.M., with orders then to follow on as a rear guard and join the army at night. We arrived opposite Harrisburgh about noon. The smoke at the town told us, too plainly to be mistaken, that the enemy had been there before us and set fire to its buildings. After camping a little below, our spy, Deaf Smith, found means to cross the bayou with a few others; and about 8 o'clock that night, he came back bringing captive a Mexican express carrier with a pair of deerskin saddlebags of documents for Santa Anna. These saddlebags had belonged to Travis, and had his name upon them. He had come from Mexico by way of San Antonio.

That night Colonel Sherman was ordered to cross the Cavalry over the bayou at that place, thinking the enemy was still lurking in the neighborhood. He took one of the cannon and placed it upon the bank of the bayou to protect his men while crossing. He had succeeded in crossing Captain Karnes' company, by swimming his horses and sending over his baggage on a raft which had been constructed for the purpose, when he received orders through Colonel Rusk to discontinue crossing the men, as it was ascertained that, by crossing at Harrisburgh, they would have another difficult bayou (Syms') to cross on the march to Lynchburg. Accordingly, the balance of the cavalry joined the main army next morning and crossed Buffalo Bayou, below the mouth of Syms'. The next day, at Brays' Bayou, a flatboat was found loaded with cornmeal, etc., intended for the division under General Cos; but we found those supplies quite as acceptable to us as they could have been to Cos.  By dusk that day, the army had all crossed over. Dr. Phelps had been left behind to attend to some ten or twelve who were sick with the diarrhoea; the Red Land Company, consisting of some forty men, also remained to guard the camp. My horse having been taken by someone without my consent, I got Dr. Davidson to take my saddlebag with his own. The bags were filled with bandages that we made as chance threw a few rags in our way.


We had all the particulars of Santa Anna being in advance of us, and we now felt certain that a decisive conflict was bound to take place. Before crossing the bayou, General Houston made us an animated speech, towards the conclusion of which he said, "The army will cross and we will meet the enemy. Some of us may be killed and must be killed; but, soldiers, remember the Alamo, the Alamo!" Major Somerville remarked, "After such a speech, but d-----d few will be taken prisoners---that I know." Colonel Rusk then made a most eloquent speech, inspiring all with an enthusiastic desire to meet the enemy, calling upon the men to remember the Alamo and Goliad; and in the midst of his speech he stopped suddenly, saying, "I have done," as if it had just occurred to him that it was a waste of words to talk to men who had been so long impatient for the very conflict that was now about to take place.

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