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five Mexicans, Indians and negroes, he set forth in
March, 1839. On the 27th of that month, his
camp was discovered at the foot of the mountains,
north of and not far from where the city of Austin
now stands. The news was speedily conveyed to
Col. Burleson at Bastrop, and in a little while that
ever-ready, noble and lion-hearted defender of his
country found himself at the head of eighty of his
Colorado neighbors, as reliable and gallant citizen
soldiers as ever existed in Texas. Surmising the
probable route of Cordova, Col. Burleson bore
west till he struck his trail and, finding it but a
few hours old, followed it as rapidly as his horses
could travel till late in the afternoon of the
29th, when his scouts reported Cordova near
by, unaware of the danger in his rear. Burleson
increased his pace and came up with the enemy in
an open body of post oaks about six miles east, or



probably nearer southeast, from Seguin, on the
Guadalupe. Yoakum says the enemy fled at the
first fire. He was misinformed. Cordova promptly
formed his men, and, shielded by the large trees
of the forest, made a stubborn resistance. Bur-
leson dismounted a portion of his men, who also
fought from the trees for some time. Finally see-
ing some of the enemy wavering, Burleson charged
them, when they broke and were hotly pursued
about two miles into the Guadalupe bottom, which
they entered as twilight approached. Further pur-
suit was impossible at night and Burleson bore up
the valley six miles to Seguin, to protect the few
families resident there against a possible attack by
the discomfited foe. The conduct of Gen. Bur-
leson in this whole affair, but especially during the
engagement in the post oaks, was marked by
unusual zeal and gallantry. The lamented John D.
Anderson, OwenB. Hardeman, Wm. H. Magilland
other participants often narrated to me, the writer,
then a youth, how gloriously their loved chief bore
himself on the occasion. All the Bastrop people
loved Burleson as a father. Cordova lost over
twenty-five in killed, fully one-third of his follow-
ers, Burleson lost none by death, but had several


At the time of this occurrence Capt. Matthew
Caldwell, of Gonzales, one of the best known and
most useful frontier leaders Texas ever had, was in
command of a company of six months' rangers,
under a law of the previous winter. A portion of
the company, under First Lieut. James Camp-
bell, were stationed in the embryo hamlet of
Seguin. The other portion, nnder Calilwell, was
located on the Guadalupe, fourteen miles above
Gonzales and eighteen miles below Seguin, but
when the news reached them of this affair, during
the night succeeding Cordova's defeat, Capt.
Caldwell was in Gonzales and Second Lieut.
Canoh C. Colley was in command of the camp.
He instantly dispatched a messenger, wbo reached
Caldwell before daylight. The latter soon sent
word among the yet sleeping villagers, calling for
volunteers to join him by sunrise. Quite a number
were promptly on hand, among whom were Ben
McCulloch and others of approved gallantry.

Traveling rapidly, the camp was soon reached
and, everything being in readiness, Capt. Caldwell
lost no. time in uniting with Campbell at Seguin,
so that in about thirty -six hours after Burleson had
driven Cordova into the Guadalupe bottom, Cald-
well, with his own united company (omitting the

necessary camp guards), and the volunteer citizens
referred to, sought, found and followed the trail of

But when Cordova, succeeding his defeat,
reached the river, he found it impracticable to
ford it and, during the night, returned to the up-
lands, made a detour to the east of Seguin, and
struck the river five miles above, where, at day-
light, March 30th, and at the edge of the bottom,
he accidentally surprised and attacked five of
Lieut. Campbell's men returning from a scout, and
encamped for the night. These men were James
M. Day, Thomas R. Nichols, John W. Nichols,
D. M. Poor and David Reynolds. Always on the
alert, though surprised at such an hour by men using
fire-arms only, indicating a foe other than wild
Indians, they fought so fiercely as to hold their as-
sailants in check sufflciently to enable them to reach
a dense thicket and escape death, though each one
was severely wounded. They lost their horses and
everything excepting their arms. Seeing Cordova
move on up the river, they continued down about
five miles to Seguin, and when Caldwell arrived
early next morning gave him this information.
Besides those from Gonzales Caldwell was joined
at Seguin by Ezekiel Smith, Sr., Peter D. Ander-
son and French Smith, George W. Nichols, Sr.,
William Clinton, IL G. Henderson, Doctor Henry,
Frederick Happell, George 11. Ciray and possibly
two or three others.

Caldwell pursued Cordova, crossing the Guad-
alupe where New Braunfels stands, through the
highlands north of and around San Antonio and
thence westerly or northwesterly to the Old Pre-
sidio de Rio Grande road, where it crosses the Rio
Frio and along that road to the Nueces. It was
evident froni the "signs" that he had gained
nothing in distance on the retreating chief who
would easily cross the Rio Grande thirty or forty
miles ahead. Hence farther pursuit was futile and
Caldwell returned, following the road to San
Antonio. He had started without provisions, reiv-
ing upon wild game; but Cordova's party had, for
the moment, frightened wild animals from the line
of march and after a serpentine route of a hundred
and sixty miles through hills, the men were in need
of food and became much more so before traveling
a hundred and ten additional miles to San Antonio.
Arriving there, however, the whole town welcomed
them with open arms. In a note to the author
written August 24, 1887, more than forty-eight
years later. Gen. Henry E. McCulloch, who was a
private in Caldwell's Company, says: "The
hospitable people of that blood-stained old town,
gave us a warm reception and the best dinner pos-



■sible in their then condition, over which the heroic
and ever lamented Coi. Henry W. Karnes pre-
sided. They also furnished supplies to meet our
wants until we reached our respective encamp-

On the way out Caldwell passed at different
points wounded horses abandoned by Cordova.
■One such, in the mountains, severely wounded,
attracted the experienced eye of Ben McCulloch as
a valuable horse, if he could be restored to sound-
ness. On leaving San Antonio for home by per-
mission of Capt. Caldwell, with a single companion,
he went in search of the horse. He found him,
and by slow marches took him home, where, under
good treatment, he entirely recovered, to become
iamous as "Old Pike," McCulloch's pet and
favorite as long as he lived — a fast racer of rich
chestnut color, sixteen hands high, faultless
in disposition and one of the most sagacious
horses ever known in the country. The tips
of his ears had been split for about an inch,
proving his former ownership by one of the Indian
tribes. Another coincidence may be stated, viz.,
that returning from a brief campaign in June,
1841, when at a farm house (that of Mrs. Sophia
Jones), eight miles from Gonzales, the rifle of an
old man named Triplett, lying across his lap on
horseback, with the rod in the barrel, accidentally
-fired, driving the ramrod into Old Pike's shoulder
blade, not over four feet distant. McCulloch was
on him at the time and the writer of this, just dis-
mounted, stood within ten feet. The venerable
Mrs. Jones (mother of the four brothers, William
E., Augustus H. , Russell and Isham G. Jones),
wept over the scene as she gazed upon the noble
.animal in his agonizing pain, and "strong men wept
at what they supposed to be the death scene of
•Old Pike. But it was not so. He was taken in
-charge by Mrs. Jones ; the fragments of the shat-
tered ramrod, one by one, extracted, healthy sup-
.puration brought about ; and, after about three
months' careful nursing, everyone in that section
rejoiced to know that Old Pike " was himself
again." In a chase after two Mexican scouts,
between the Nueces and Laredo, in the Somervell
•expedition, in December, 1842, in a field of per-
haps twenty-five horses, Flacco, the Lipan chief,
slightly led, closely followed by Hays on the horse
.presented him by Leonard W. Grace, and Ben
JMcCulloch, on Old Pike. Both Mexicans were


Bearing in mind what has been said of Cordova's
■correspondence with Manuel Flores, the Mexican

Indian agent in Matamoros, and his desire to have
a conference with that personage, it remains, in
the regular order of events, to say that Flores,
ignorant of the calamitous defeat of Cordova (on
the 29th of March, 1839), set forth from Mata-
moros probably in the last days of April, to meet
Cordova and the Indian tribes wherever they might
be found, on the upper Brazos, Triuity or east of
the latter. He had an escort of about thirty
Indians and Mexicans, supplies of ammuni-
tion for his allies and all his official papers
from Filisola and Canalize, to which reference
has been made, empowering him to treat with
the Indians so as to secure their united friend- ^
ship for Mexico and combined hostility to Texas.
His march was necessarily slow. On the 14th of
May, he crossed the road between Seguin and San
Antonio, having committed several depredations on
and near the route, and on the 15th crossed the
Guadalupe at the old Nacogdoches ford. He was
discovered near the Colorado not far above where
Austin was laid out later in the same year.

Lieut. James O.' Rice, a gallant young ranger,
in command of seventeen men, fell upon his trail,
pursued, overhauled and assailed him On Brushy
creek (not the San Gabriel as stated by Yoakum),
in the edge of Williamson County. Flores en-
deavored to make a stand, but Kice rushed for-
ward with such impetuosity as to throw the enemy
into confusion and flight. Flores and two others
were left dead upon the ground, and fully half of
those who escaped were wounded. Rice captured
and carried in one hundred horses and mules,
three hundred pounds of powder, a large amount
of shot, balls, lead, etc., and all the correspond-
ence in possession of Flores, which revealed the
whole plot for the destruction of the frontier
people of Texas, to be followed up by the devast-
ation of the whole country. The destruction of
the whole demoniacal scheme, it will be seen, was
accomplished by a train of what must be esteemed
providential occurrences.


Cordova, after these admonitions, never returned
to East or North Texas, but remained on the Rio
Grande. In September, 1842, in command of a
small band of his renegade Mexicans and Indians,
he accompanied the Mexican General, Adrian WoU,
in his expedition against San Antonio, and was in
the battle of Salado, on Sunday the 18th of that
month. While Woll fought in front, Cordova led
his band below the Texian position on the creek and
reached a dry ravine where it entered the timbered
bottom, at right angles with the corner of the creek.



At intervals were small thickets on the ravine, with
open spaces between. Cordova, in the nearest
open space to the bottom and about ninety yards to
the right of my company, when in the act of firing,
was shot dead by John Lowe, who belonged to the
adjoining company on our right and stood about
thirty feet from me, while I was loading my gun.
I watched the affair closely, fearing that one of
our men might, fall from Cordova's fire. There
could, at the instant, be no mistake about it.
Others saw the same ; but no one knew it was Cor-
dova till his men were driven from the position by
Lieut. John R. Baker of Cameron's Company, when
old Vasquez, a New Madrid Spaniard in our com-
mand, recognized him, as did others later. And
thus perished Cordova, Flores, and largely, but by
no means entirely, their schemes for uniting the
Indians against the people of Texas. The great
invasion of 1840, and other inroads were a part of
the fruit springing from the intrigues of Filisola and

These entire facts, in their connection and rela-
tion to each other, have never before been pub-
lished ; and while some minor details have been
omitted, it is believed every material fact has been
correctly stated.

In subsequent years contradictory statements
were made as to the manner of Cordova's death, or
rather, as to who killed him. I simply state the
absolute truth as I distinctly saw the fact. The
ball ran nearly the whole length of the arm, hori-
zontally supporting his gun, and then entered his
breast, causing instant death. I stated the fact
openly and repeatedly on the ground after the
battle and no one then asserted differently.

Caldwell's Company of six months' men, while
failing to have any engagement, rendered valuable
service in protecting the settlers, including Gonzales
and Seguin, on the Guadalupe, the San Marcos and
La Vaca. In the summer of 1839, Capt. Caldwell
also furnished and commanded an escort to Ben
McCulloch in survej'ing and opening a wagon road
from Gonzales to the proposed new capital of Texas,
then being laid out at Austin, the course, from the
court house at Gonzales, being N. 17° W., and the
distance, by actual measurement, fifty-five and one-
fourth miles. Referring back to numerous trips
made on that route from soon after its opening in
1839 to the last one in 1869, the writer has ever
been of the impression that (outside of mountains
and swa;mps), it was the longest road for its meas-
ured length, he ever traveled.

The Expulsion of the Cherokees from Texas in 1839.

When the revolution against Mexico broke out in
Texas in September, 1835, all of what is now called
North Texas, excepting small settlements in the
present territory of Bowie, Red river and the
northeast corner of Lamar counties, was without a
single white inhabitant. It was a wilderness bccu-
pied or traversed at will by wild Indians. The
Caddos, more or less treacherous, and sometimes
committing depredations, occupied the country
around Caddo and Soda lakes, partly in Texas and
partly in Louisiana. The heart of East Texas, as
now defined, was then the home of one branch of
the Cherokees and their twelve associate bands, the
Shawnees, Kickapoos, Delawares and others who
had entered the country from the United States
from about 1820 to 1835. It has been shown in
previous chapters that in 1822 three of their chiefs
visited the city of Mexico to secure a grant of land
and failed: how in 1826, two of their best and
most talented men, John Dunn Hunter and —

Fields, visited that capital on a similar mission ancJ
failed, returning soured against the Mexican gov-
ernment; how, in the autumn of that year, in con-
sequence of that failure, they united with Col.
Haden Edwards, himself outraged by Mexican in-
justice, as the head of a colony, in opposition to
the Mexican government, in what was known as
the Fredonian war, and how, being seduced from
their alliance with Edwards through the promises
of Ellis P. Bean, as an agent of Mexico, they
turned upon and murdered Hunter and Fields,
their truest and best friends, and joined the Mexi-
can soldiery to drive the Americans from Nacog-
doches and Edwards' colony.

So, when the revolution of 1835 burst forth, the
provisional government of Texas, through Gen.
Sam. Houston and Col. Jno. Forbes, commissioners,
in February, 1836, formed a treaty with them]
conceding them certain territory and securing their
neutrality, so far as paper stipulations could do it.



But it was soon suspected that Mexicans were
among them, and when it became known that the
whole population west of the Trinity must flee to
the east of that stream, if not to and across the
Sabine, perhaps two or three thousand men — hus-
bands, fathers and sons — were deterred from join-
ing Gen. Houston's little band of three hundred at
Gonzales, in its retreat, from March 13th to April
20th, to the plains of San Jacinto. It was a fear-
ful moment. Being appealed to, on the ground
that these were United States Indians, Gen.
Edmund P. Gaines, the commander at Fort Jessup,
near Natchitoches, Louisiana, encamped a regiment
of dragoons on the east bank of the Sabine, which
was readily understood by the Indians to mean that
if they murdered a single Texian family, these
dragoons would cross that river and be hurled upon
them. This had the desired effect.

Again, in the early summer of 1836, when a
second and much more formidable invasion of
Texas seemed imminent, it became known that
Mexican emissaries were again among these In-
dians, and great apprehensions were felt of their
rising in arms as the Mexicans advanced. Presi-
dent David G. Burnet, on the 28th of June, at the
suggestion of Stephen F. Austin, who had arrived
at Velasco on the 26th from the United States,
addressed a letter to Gen. Gaines, asking him for
the time being, to station a force at Nacogdoches,
to overawe the Indians. Austin also wrote him of
the emergency. That noble and humane old soldier
and patriot assumed the responsibility and dis-
patched Col. Whistler with a regiment of dragoons
to take post at Nacogdoches. This had the desired
effect on the Indians. The Mexican invasion did
not occur, and the crisis passed.

But the seeds of suspicion and discord between
the whites and Indians still existed. Isolated mur-
ders and lesser outrages began to show themselves
soon afterwards. The Pearce family, the numer-
ous family of tlie Killoughs and numerous others
were ruthlessly murdered.

Gen. Houston, who had great influence with the
Cherokees, interposed his potential voice to allay

the excitement and preserve the peace. In

, 1838, Vicente Cordova headed an insur-

rection of the Mexicans of Nacogdoches and took
position in the Cherokee country, — and sustained
more or less by that tribe, and joined by a few of
them, greatly incensed the whites against them.
In November, 1838, Gen. Busk fought and
defeated a strong force of Kickapoo and other
Indians. Gen. Houston retired from his first
presidential term in December, and was succeeded
by Gen. Mirabeau B. Lamar, who was in deep

sympathy with the people, and had probably
brought with him from Georgia a measure of
prejudice against those who had fought and slain
his kindred and fellow-citizens in that State.

President Lamar resolved on the removal of
these people from the heart of East Texas, and
their return to their kindred west of Arkansas — by
force if necessary. He desired to pay them for
their improvements and other losses. He ap-
pointed Vice-president David G. Burnet, Gen.
Albert Sidney Johnston, Secretary of War, Hugh
McLeod, Adjutant-general, and Gen. Thomas J.
Rusk to meet and treat with them for their peace-
ful removal ; but if that failed then they were to be
expelled by force. To be prepared for the latter
contingency, he ordered Col. Edward Burleson,
then in command of the regular army, to march
from Austin to the appointed rendezvous in the
Cherokee country, with two companies of regulars
and the volunteer companies of Capts. James
Ownsby and Mark B. Lewis, about two hundred
strong, and commanded by Maj. William J.
Jones, still living at Virginia Point, opposite Gal-
veston. On the ground they found the com-
missioners and about the same time Gen. Kelsey
H. Douglas arrived with several hundred East
Texas militia and took chief command. Burleson
took with him also Capt. Placido, with forty
Toncahua warriors.

After three days' negotiation terms were verbally
agreed upon. The Indians ' were to leave the
country for a consideration. The second day fol-
lowing was fixed for signing the treat j-. But the
Indians did not appear. The rendezvous was
ten miles from their settlements. Scouts sent out
returned reporting the Indians in force moving off.
It turned out that Bowles, the principal chief, had
been finessing for time to assemble all his warriors
and surprise the whites by a superior force. His
reinforcements not arriving in time, he had begun
falling back to meet them. Col. Burleson was
ordered to lead the pursuit. He pressed forward
rapidly and late in the afternoon (it being July
16th, 1839), came up with them and had a severe
engagement, partly in a small prairie and partly in
heavy timber, into which Burleson drove them,
when night came on and our troops encamped. I
now quote from the narrative of Maj. Wm. J.
Jones, who was under Burleson in the first as well
as the last engagement on the 17th of July. He
says : —

"It soon became apparent that the reinforce-
ments looked for by Bowles had not reached him
and that he was falling back to meet them. This
he succeeded in accomplishing next morning (the



17th day of July), at the Delaware village, now in
Cherokee County, occupying an eminence in the
open post oaks, with the heavily timbered bottom
of the Neches in their immediate rear. When our
forces overtook them the main body of the enemy
were in full sight occupying the eminence where the
village was located, while a detachment was posted
in a ravine, tortuous in its course, and was
intended to conceal their movements towards our
rear, with a view'to throw themselves between our
men and their horses. But the watchful eye of
Col. Burleson, who well understood the Indian
tactics, discovered this movement in good time,
when he ordered his entire force of three hundred
men to charge and drive the Indians from their
place of concealment. Although the weather was
extremely hot and the men all famished for water,
this order was executed with promptness, routing
the Indians and driving them back to.wards the
village, surrounded by fences and cornfields.
■Gen. Rusk, with all the force (about 400) of East
Texas under his immediate* command, had in the
m-eantime advanced upon the enemy's front and
kept them so hotly engaged in defense of fheir
women and children that no reinforcement could
be spared from that quarter for the support of
those who had been driven from the ravine. When
they retreated upon the main body, their entire
force was terrorized and fell back in great disorder
upon the cornfields, then in full bearing, and the
dense timber of the river bottom. It was here that
Bowles evinced the most desperate intrepidity, and
made several unavailing efforts to rally his trusted
warriors. * * * it was in his third and last
effort to restore his broken and disordered ranks,
that he met his death, mounted upon a very fine
sorrel horse, with blaze face and four white feet.
He was shot in the back, near the spine, with a
musket ball and three buckshot. He breathed
a short while only after his fall. * * *

" After this defeat and the loss of their great and
trusted chief," the Indians disappeared, in the
jungles of the Neches and, as best they could, in
squads, retreated up the country, the larger por-
tion finally joining their countrymen west of
Arkansas ; but as will be seen a band of them led
by John Bowles (son of the deceased chief) and
Egg, en route to Mexico, were defeated, these two
leaders killed and twenty-seven women and children
■captured, near the mouth of the San Saba, on
Christmas day, 1839, by Col. Burleson. These cap-
tives were afterwards sent to the Cherokee Nation,

The victory at the Delaware village freed East
Texas of those Indians. It had become an imper-
ative necessity to the safety and population of the

country. Yet let it not be understood that all of
EIGHT was with the whites and all of wrong with
the Indians — for that would be false and unjust,
and neither should stain our history. From their
standpoint the Cherokees believed they had a
moral, an equitable, and, at least, a quasi-legal
right to the country, and such is truth. But be-
tween Mexican emissaries on the one hand, mis-
chievous Indians on the other and the grasping
desire of the unprincipled land grabbers for their
territory, one wrong produced a counter wrong
until blood flowed and women and children were
sacrificed by the more lawless of the Indians, and
we have seen the result. All the Indians were not
bad, nor were all the whites good. Their expul-
sion, thus resolved into the necessity of self-preser-
vation, is not without shades of sorrow. But it has
been ever thus where advancing civilization and its

Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 12 of 135)