1997-2010, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved.
DeWitt Colony People & Demographics

Short Memoirs & Sketches from Old Texians


Elbridge Gerry Rector.  Brief sketch in a letter to Mr. J. B. Graves, Cameron, TX from Merced, CA 2 Jan 1902.

Your friendly letter came duly to hand about one month ago, please excuse me in not answering at once. I at that time was unwell is my excuse for not answering at its reception.  I was on the vessel that was wrecked at the mouth of the Brazos River, the precise date of which I can not remember, that was early in April 1835. I remember your mother's family being on board the same vessel, and I shall never forget the terrible storm that we encountered on the Gulf of Mexico, between New Orleans and the mouth of the Brazos River, I presume that you have heard your mother relate. On board the same vessel was Mr. Nibling whom I remember well. What wonderful changes since that date I have passed through. I have passed through many scenes of pleasure and many hardships as well. I will give you short line of my wanderings. I was in Brazoria County at the breaking out of the war with Mexico. On the reception of the news that Santa Ana had entered San Antonio, I with others started in that direction. This news we received through the Travis letter, who was at the Alamo. I was on the Guadalupe River at Gonzales when General Sam Houston arrived; He the same day sent out a small squad of men to learn the fate of the Alamo. In a short time they returned bringing the sad news of the fall of the place. There were forty-two women at Gonzales waiting to hear the news who had husbands in the Alamo. Language can not describe the heart rending scene which still lives vividly in my brain. I was in the battle of San Jacinto and was wounded in the arm and side, the wound in the side is hurting me at this writing.

I joined Capt. Ben McColloch's company of scouts in the war between the United States and Mexico; was out only three months. On the second of May I left Texas for California by the Southern route. After some hardships landed in Mariposa County then in all its mining glory. I did not succeed as did many in mining, so I left the mines in 1853, and tried my hand at farming on a small scale. In 1855 Merced County was formed. I was then elected County Clerk, holding that position seven years. I was then elected Sheriff of the county. After this I farmed a short time, then tried raising Angora goats until 1877 when I sold out and returned to Texas settling in San Saba County. After five years in Texas we returned to Merced County where we still reside. I was elected after my return County Treasurer, which office I held for three years. I was married in 1880. We have five children, three boys and two girls. One son is a journalist, the other a farmer and the third is the Superior Judge of this county. My daughters are both teaching school. On the 19th of next February, I will be 86 years of age. I may never see Texas again, but I am interested in everything that affects the welfare of the people of that grand state. I thank you for your kind wishes and the clippings sent me. I sincerely trust and pray that your years may be lengthened into old age, and that health and prosperity may be your reward.  sdct [From the Kemp Papers, Center for American History, University of Texas and reprinted by the San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas]

Robert Stevenson.  Letter to brother in Shelbyville, BedfordCo, TN from Lynch's ferry near San Jacinto battlefield, 23 Apr 1836.

Lynch Ferry, (Texas) 23rd April. Santa Anna not meeting with any opposition in his march through the county, pushed on from the Brazos River with about six hundred of his best soldiers, to take possession of Galveston Bay, the only port in Texas which he had not in his possession. Houston, aware of his intention, and who was then on the Brazos River, sixty miles above the position of the enemy, determined to pursue Santa Anna, expecting to come up with him about Harrisburg by forced marches. We arrived at that place on the evening of the 18th inst., but the enemy had left for Galveston Bay. General Houston, to facilitate our movements, left all baggage, wagons and the sick at Harrisburg, under the charge of about three hundred men, and by marching all night on the 19th, on the morning of the 20th came within sight of the enemy. We immediately took possession of a strong position on the bank of Buffalo Bayou, and the enemy came on to attack us, but were repulsed by the discharge of two four pounder cannon loaded with grape and canister shot. They then returned into a heavy body of timber about a mile on our front, and remained there until the next morning, the 21st inst., when they reinforced by about five hundred and fifty men under Gen. Cos. We were then certain of being attacked in the course of the day, but towards evening, Gen. Houston seeing that they did not intend bringing on the attack, and fearing they would receive reinforcements, determined to attack them on their own ground. With this intention, he formed his little army into three divisions, with our artillery in front, and marched on to the attack. The left wing commanded by Col. Sherman, were first attacked by a heavy fire of musketry from the timber, when the center and right wing commanded Col. Burleson and Gen. Houston, marched forward until a discharge of grape and canister from the enemy's artillery in front, which we at last were obliged to charge, and the battle became general along the lines, we rushed forward with great impetuosity, jumped the enemy's breastworks, the Alamo being our war cry, took possession of their artillery, and drove them from their position. Our rifles then committed dreadful havoc among them, and they gave way in every direction, we kept up the pursuit until night, scarcely one escaped, about five hundred is said to have been killed, among them many officers of distinction and among Gen. Cos. Santa Anna was taken yesterday morning about seven miles from the place, his Adjutant General and Secretary, with Col. Almonte, and many officers were taken the evening after the battle was over. Our force of about seven hundred and fifty men engaged in the battle, and our loss was seven killed, and about twenty wounded. Never was there a greater victory according to the number of men engaged, and the results are glorious for the army and prospects of TEXAS.

I forgot to say that we had to march through the open prairie to come to their position, which was on the edge of the timber. Gen. Houston had two horses killed under him, and was shot through the leg. I commanded in the center division, a company who behaved with a great deal of bravery. Tell old Mr. Greer, of Sugar Creek, that his son Thomas was in the action, and behaved with much bravery. Gen. Houston is about to treat with Santa Anna, and the war is probably at an end; and our independence will be acknowledged by the Mexican Government. Hurrah for Texas! Yours respectfully, R. STEVENSON.   sdct [From Vol. 2, No. 81, 14 Jun 1836, The Herald of New York City which credited the Nashville (Tennessee) Banner, a copy of which is in the Kemp Papers, Center for American History, University of Texas]

William C. Swearengen.  Letter from San Jacinto to relative in Scottsville, KY, 22 Apr 1836. 

Texas Buffaloe Bieau [Bayou].  April 22nd, 1836.

Dear Brother:
In my last letter I informed you that I should start the next day for Gen Houston's camp and join him on the Colorado river. The Mexican army was then encamped on the opposite side of the river 3,000 strong. Houston's army was, including our two companies, 1,372 men. The next day after we joined him he commenced a retreat back on the River Brasas [Brazos], 15 miles above the town of San Felipe de Austin (which Gen. Houston had burnt). The second day after the site of San Felipe was occupied by the Mexicans army, Gen. Houston stationed three companies on the river opposite town to prevent their crossing. Santa Anna sent a detachment of 500 men to a ferry below San Felipe called Fort Bend and crossed them over, and then sent the remainder down to the same place and crossed his whole force. Santa Anna stationed 2500 men at Fort Bend and took 500 of his veterans and one heavy brass nine pounder and pushed on to Harrisburg on Buffalo Bieau, 35 miles from Fort Bend, on his way to Galveston Island, the only port the Texans now have in their possession. Houston immediately crossed the Brasas and took up his march for Harrisburg, distant 57 miles. We got to the bieau opposite Harrisburg in the evening and Santa Anna had left it that morning for Linches Ferry on the road to Galveston. Next morning our spies brought in the Mexican mail rider and the mail from which we learned that Santa Anna was with the army in person, Gen. Houston had been compelled to give furlows to upwards of 200 men to go and carry their families beyond the Trinity river for security and one entire company that was left opposite San Felipe went home instead of joining us on our march. When we reached Buffalo Bieau we had 310 men and before we were through examining the letters our spies crossed the bieau, brought in the colonel commanding the Mexican cavalry with a letter from Cos to Santa Anna stating that he would start the next morning from Fort Bend with 650 men to join him at Linches [Lynch's] Ferry on Buffalo Bieau. Gen. Houston then knew that Santa Anna had gone by way of New Washington on the bay to destroy that place and then to march up the Bieau to Linches Ferry and join Cos and march on to Galveston and take it before Houston could find where he was, leaving the main body at Fort Bend to amuse Houston. Gen. Houston crossed the bieau next day with 520 men and the two 4 pounders that reach up on our march from the Brasas and left the balance to take care of our baggage and guard the camp. We lay in the bushes on the road to watch Cos and the 650 men which were expected to pass that day but did not. As soon as it became dark we commenced a rapid march for Linches Ferry, calculating that Santa Anna would not cross the Bieau until the arrival of Gen. Cos. At two o'clock a. m. we halted within 2 1/2 miles of Linches ferry. At sunrise on the 20th ultimo we formed our line of battle and proceeded to the ferry. When we reached the ferry we found Santa Anna had not yet reached there, but was on his way up from Washington. Houston picked his ground, placed his men, gave them his orders, then made them stack their arms in their places and told them to eat their breakfast and be ready to receive them about 11 o'clock a. m. They came in sight drawn up inline, 400 infantry and 100 horses with their 9 pounder in the center of their infantry. At about 350 yards distant they opened on what few they could see of us with their cannon charged with grape and canister shot, but we were protected by the timber and sustained no injury except one man slightly wounded. They did not know we had a cannon and their fire was not returned until their infantry commenced their fire with musketry. We then commenced with our cannon, hoping they would charge with their infantry to take them, and by that means we could cut them off and if possible take Santa Anna prisoner, or kill him. They retreated from our fourth fire of the cannon to a small wood in our front where their cannon was planted and kept up a fire with their cannon until 1 o'clock p.m. when they fell back to a piece of high prairie in front and immediately commenced fortifying with brusk, baggage, etc. Houston then determined to come out in the plain and engage them. The cavalry was sent out to draw the enemy from their cover, but we could not get them to attack us. It being late in the afternoon, Houston decided to defer attacking them until morning and marched into camp. That night Cos arrived with 650 men and joined Santa Anna, making his force 1,150. Santa Anna then considered Houston and Texas then in his power with no chance of escape, and that he would let Cos' men rest one day and on the morning of the 22nd seal the death warrant of Texas by the destruction of Houston and the only men Texas had in the field. At half past 3 o'clock on the 21st ultimo we left our camp and attacked him, leaving one company of 38 men in camp. Our cavalry about 110 strong was posted on the right, the 2 companies of regulars next to the cavalry, the 2 companies of volunteers on our left and the militia on the left. Opposite the woods about 300 yards in their front was a bottom that protected us from their cannon. In that hollow we formed our line with our two 4-pound cannon (presented to Texas by the ladies of Cincinnati, Ohio) in the rear of the regulars with orders as soon as they ascertained where their cannon was planted to open fire on it and to keep up on the advance with the infantry was ordered to trail arms and advance until within 50 yards of the enemy before we fired. As soon as we gained the level they commenced on our company with grape and canister shot. We rushed on it quick to within 50 yards a heavy fire of grape canister and musketry. Our riflemen having nearly 100 yards left to go than we had commenced the action with small arms before we did with our muskets. The musketry and riflemen kept advancing as they fired. When within about 20 steps of the enemy's line we were ordered to charge with bayonets. As soon as we were ordered to the charge and brought our guns to the proper position the enemy gave way except about 60 men around the cannon and protected by breastwork of corn sacks, salt, barrels of meal, and boxes of canister shot. They fell by the bayonet and swam in one mangled heap from that time until they reached the bieau. It was nothing but a slaughter. The at first attempted to swim the bieau, but were surrounded by our men and they shot every one that attempted to swim the bieau as soon as he took to the water, and them that remained they killed as fast as they could load and shoot them until they surrendered. The enemy lost between 620 and 700 killed on the field and in the bieau, 480 prisoners among whom was Santa Anna H-I-M-S-E-L-F, his private secretary, and the next in command to Santa Anna, De Savala. Ten of his field officers were killed. At the head of them is General Cos. There are more than half of our prisoners wounded. Our loss was 4 men killed and 23 wounded, three have since died and there is one more that will die in two days at most. The balance will get well. Gen. Houston, when he ordered the charge, went in front of his men. He was shot through the ankle the bone and the heel string and his horse killed. To see the number, the position and the termination and the time in which it was done (time 18 minutes) it at once shows that the hand of providence was with us. I shall be in Kentucky early in the fall. Kiss William for me and tell him pappy will be there in the fall and stay with him and that he must be a good boy. 

sdct [From a copy of the original obtained by L.W. Kemp in Jan 1940 from Chester L. Knox, 15 William Street, New York City. The letter was addressed to Mr. Lemuel Swearingen, Scottsville, KY and a copy is in the Kemp Papers, Center for American History, University of Texas]

James BurchBob (Valentine Ignatius) Burch.  As told to young J.B. Rotan who related it in later life to James E. Wheat, TylerCo, TX historian.

The company of soldiers, approximately 40 in all, commanded by Capt. Kimbro was the first to leave San Augustine for service in the Texas Revolution. Near the Trinity River, the company met Houston's army, retreating to the Brazos and received orders to turn south to join the main body of troops. From Groce's plantation, near Hempstead, Kimbro's company marched with Houston's army to Harrisburg, following the main body as a rear guard. On the day of the Battle of San Jacinto, Kimbro's Company was attached to the Second Regiment and took part in the impetuous charge that defeated Santa Anna's army. On the afternoon of April 20, Houston's army being without food, a foraging party went out to get corn and cattle. The lieutenant in charge and his squad went to a farm belonging to a Mrs. Moore with an order from Sam Houston for some corn and cattle, which she refused to honor and ordered them away from the placeHowever, they took the corn and cattle and under cover of darkness returned to camp. On the day of the 22nd, after the battle had been won, Mrs. Moore came to the camp demanding pay and also that the dead be taken off yer land. Burch said that he was with the infantry in the Battle of San Jacinto and that they were on the left wing. As they marched from their camp to the attack the infantry had to wade water almost to their necks, hodling their guns above their heads to keep them from getting wet. He said that he was in the group that killed so many of General Almonte's men. Finally, Gen Almonte convinced them that he wanted to surrender. Later they followed the cavalry to Vince's Bayou.  [Brothers Valentine and James Burch volunteered for service in Capt. Kimbro's Company in San Augustine.  James Burch, shown in the photo,  is buried in the Burch Cemetery (also known as the Catholic Cemetery) near Moscow, Texas.   Photo and information provided by descendant Clark Moore].

William S. Taylor.  Pursuit of Santa Anna and His Cavalry after They Had Commenced Their Flight from the Battlefield of San Jacinto in the 1868 Texas Almanac.

When the Mexicans commenced retreating from their breastworks at San Jacinto, on the evening of the 2ist of April 1836, Santa Anna, General Cos, and other officers of note among them hastened to join the forces at the old Fort Bend, on the Brazos, under Filisola. Santa Anna and all his cavalry but four attempted their retreat by way of Vince's Bridge, not knowing that this bridge had been destroyed by Deaf Smith, on the morning of that day about the time this retreat of the Mexicans was commenced, Captain Karnes called for all those having loaded guns to follow him in the pursuit.

The following are the names of all I can recollect of those who responded to Karnes's call, namely, James Cook, Washington Secrest, Field Secrest, Deal Smith, Shell Tunage, Thomas Robbins, Elisha Clapp, Thomas House, and W.T. C. Pierce. These eleven are now all dead, to my certain knowledge. I also recollect a Dr. Alsbury, and a man who had escaped from Fannin's massacre, but do not know whether they are alive or not, as I have not seen them since the summer of 1836. I was also of the number, making fourteen, with Captain Karnes. I think there were four more, making eighteen in all, but I do not recollect the names of these four. The distance of Vince's Bridge from the battle-ground was about four miles, over a very wet muddy plain, and, for perhaps a quarter of a mile, knee deep to our horses in mud and water. Two or three miles from the battleground, some three or four Mexicans struck off, (leaving the balance,) in the open prairie, in the direction of the head of Vince's Bayou. Elisha Clapp, having a very fleet horse, started in pursuit of them, and soon coming up with them, fired his rifle, killing one of them. The others, seeing that his rifle was discharged, turned to give him battle, when Clapp was compelled to retreat, not being able to cope with three Mexicans, with an empty gun. The one nearest him discharged his escopet at him, but the ball missed him, though, judging from the whistling, Clapp afterward told me he thought it passed within six inches of his head. But he returned to us unhurt.

We continued our pursuit to Vince's Bridge, the three Mexicans, as I afterward learned, making good their escape to Filisola's army on the Brazos, where they reported to him. that Houston's army was four thousand strong, and that Santa Anna and all the army were either killed or taken prisoners. While pursuing the Mexicans on the road to Vince's Bridge, we overtook numbers, their horses being too tired to enable them to escape; and as we overtook them, we felt compelled to kill them, and did so, though on their knees crying for quarter, and saying, "Me no Alamo—me no la Bahia," meaning that they were not in either of those horrible massacres. As there were but some fifteen or eighteen of us, and some sixty of the Mexicans we were pursuing, besides Santa Anna, Cos, and several other officers, we saw it was impossible for us to take prisoners, and we had but little disposition to do so, knowing they had slaughtered so many of Fannin's men in cold blood; after they had surrendered as prisoners of war, under solemn treaty stipulations that they should be sent safely to New Orleans. For about half the distance from the battleground to Vince's Bridge, the road was strewed, every few hundred yards, with dead Mexicans, as we took no prisoners in this pursuit. When we arrived within half or three quarters of a mile of the Vince's Bridge, Captain Karnes ordered those in advance to halt till the rear could come up, stating that Santa Anna, was, no doubt, with the other Mexicans, and when they should reach the bridge and find it destroyed, they would certainly make fight, as it would then be their only alternative. We then followed in a body, prepared for and expecting a fight; but, when they reached the bridge and found it gone, they immediately scattered in all directions, some going up and others down the bayou. When we discovered this, every man of us put spurs to his horse, and started after them as fast as possible. When within 300 or 400 yards of the bridge, we discovered Vince's black stallion, with a fine-looking officer on him, dressed in uniform.

Captain Karnes, supposing it was Santa Anna himself, (as it was rumored that he was riding Vince's horse,) made for him. When he came up to him, on the bank of the bayou, the officer dismounted, and Karnes asked him if he was Santa Anna. He replied that he was, supposing that quarter would be given to Santa Anna. Whereupon Captain Karnes struck at him with his sword, hitting him a glancing blow on the head, as he stood on the bank of the bayou. When he discovered that no quarter would be showed to him, he jumped into the bayou, saying at the same time that he was not Santa Anna. Whereupon some pistols were discharged at him, killing him in the bayou. We then continued our pursuit up and down the bayou, killing all we overtook, till we had killed all we could find. When we came to the wreck of the bridge, the sun was near setting. Continuing our search, we finally found four horses in a thicket, some few hundred yards above the bridge. We saw that their riders had dismounted and crossed the bayou on foot, wading through the mud and water, and had got into a much larger thicket, on the opposite side. These four afterward proved to be Santa Anna, Santa Anna's secretary, and another officer whose name I do not recollect. By this time it had become too dark to search the thicket for them that night. Captain Karnes then called to Dr. Alsbury, who spoke the Spanish language, to call to Santa Anna in the thicket, (for he had no doubt Santa Anna was one of them) and say to him, if he would come out, and give himself up, we would take him prisoner and spare his life.

Anonymous Mexican Officer.   Seeing that the President had no alternative, we began to beat our retreat with a few cavalry, having been chased by the enemy more than four leagues, until we reached a creek, twelve varas wide and very deep. There had been a wooden bridge at that passage but the enemy had ordered that it be set afire that morning after General Cos' division had crossed it. We had not received news of the destruction of the mentioned bridge. When we reached it, we had no recourse but to jump into the water with our horses, as we had no time with the enemy upon us. Santa Anna was undecided about what he would do; but I and Sr. Cos jumped into the water. It was impossible, however, for the horses to climb the opposite side because of a large thick wall that was there. We abandoned them to go out on foot; but since there were enemies on the opposite bank, most that crossed were killed or captured, I had the good luck to escape through the brush. I walked four days on foot through very thick brushwood, by nights, as I could not take the road. Needing to cross the Brazos River, myself and another soldier that accompanied me, accomplished this by constructing a poor wooden raft that we strapped together with our sashes.We managed to arrive on the 25th at the camp of Filisola, who prohibited me from writing to W. the details of this disgrace. Other things happened that I must not trust to the pen. I arrived at this port of Matamoros where I am writing now. I have recuperated and feel better.   [Thought to be from a letter written home, part of the pamphlet Imprint of the Testimony of Valdez (Mexico 1836) in Center for American History, UT Archives.]

Thomas Jefferson Jordan.  According to multiple documents in the Texas State Archives (search "Jordan, Thomas" or "Jourdan, Thomas"), Thomas Jefferson Jordan (spelled Jourdan in some records) came to Texas via New Orleans, enlisted in the Texas Army early in April 1836 and joined Capt. Karnes Company at San Jacinto two days after the Battle of San Jacinto.  He was awarded 640 acres of land by the Republic of Texas in HillCo for military service from 24 Apr to 24 Oct 1836.  In 1874 Jordan applied for pension from the Republic of Texas: 

State of Texas
County of Ellis
Personally appeared before me, Valentine Sevier, an acting magistrate, for Beat Number one in said County and State, Thomas J Jourdan, a native of Williamson County, and state of Tennessee, who testified on oath that he left his native state on the second day of March AD One thousand eight hundred and thirty-six, to join the army of the Republic of Texas, he left all that was near and dear to him, to participate in the Revolution, and that he furnished his own gun, pistol, powder, lead, blankets, and clothing, and that he landed on Galveston Island on the fifth day of April in the said year, at which time he joined the Artillery of Captain Stanley, by command of Col. James Morgan, until the twenty-second day of April, when we took the line of march for San Jacinto, where we landed, on the twenty-third day of the same month after which time I joined Captain Henry Karnes company of cavalry. L. Smith being associated with the same company as a spy. I served under his command, until he (Captain Karnes) went to Matamoras, and then under Captain James Cook, until I was discharged for six months services for which I received my bounty land of six hundred and forty (640) acres, and head rights of one-third of a league, after which time I was married, and drew two-thirds of a league and labor, I have been a resident of the state ever since, and am at present sixty-eight years of age. I have never received wages for services rendered, and am entitled to the same. According to an act of the Legislature of Texas granting pensions to the soldiers of the Revolution, I now present my petition, praying your honor to give it your favorable consideration.
Sworn to and Subscribed
Before on thirteenth day of August of 1874
V Sevier Ifo El Texas    Thomas J. Jordan
[Transcribed from an original document in the Texas State Archives]

In 1931 an article from the Milford Press of Milford, Texas along with the barrel of the subject pistol dated from markings on it as made in 1819 came into the possession of Jordan descendant and correspondent Stephen D. Speer (Norcross, GA, 2006).  The article implies that Jordan participated in the capture of Santa Anna at San Jacinto that occurred on 22 April 1836 and that the subject pistol was taken from Santa Anna at his capture. 

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jordanmilfordarticle.jpg (87404 bytes)Santa Anna [unreadable] Owned [unreadable]

After reading [unreadable] History articles wh[unreadable paper has been carrying [unreadable] few months, J. K. (Karl) Woodward, of Milford has recently brought to town the barrel of the pistol that was taken off Santa Anna after his capture in the battle of San Jacinto in 1836. 

It all came about in this manner---Mr. Woodward’s grandfather, Uncle Jeff Jordan, was one of the soldiers  in the battle of San Jacinto, and  has been stated in the former articles, was present when Santa Anna was captured. In the picture of the capture, there was a man holding a  rope, and there are many living in Milford at the present time who have heard Mr. Jordan state that he was the man in the picture who was holding the rope. 

Mr. Woodward states that the pistol barrel has been kept in the family all these years and that his grandfather and his pal, whose name is not known, decided to divide the pistol and keep the parts as a souvenir, so one took the barrel and the other took the stock. 

The barrel is a very crude affair but shows that at one time is was a very fine specimen of guns, becovered with fancy carvings and hand work. No doubt quite a bit of history would be unravelled if the old barrel could tell its story. Also a very valuable relic would be assembled if the stock, or handle, to the barrel could be located. As it is the barrel has spent the past 95 years securely hidden away in the family archives and it w[ould be] interesting to know who [unreadable] the pistol....

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[Information provided by Stephen D. Speer, Norcross, GA, 2006.  Mr. Speer  is the greatgrandson of John Karl Woodward mentioned in the article.   Thomas Jefferson Jordan was the father of Arbelle J. Jordan Woodward, the mother of John Karl Woodward, Thomas Jefferson Woodward, one time deputy sheriff of in Logan, NM and two daughters Lula & Lizzie.

DeWitt Colony People & Demographics
1997-2010, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved