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him, by contrast, with resistless force. He came
back to die in the land of his love, and then to
sleep beside his wife and children. Peacefully, on
the 5th day of December, 1870, he departed from
life, aged eighty-two years and eight months, in
the home of Mrs. Preston Perry of Galveston, who
was to him all that a daughter could be.



James Butler Bonham.

It is honorable to human nature to feel some-
thing akin to personal interest and, with many,
kinship, in the character of men whose deeds stamp
them as of the highest order of honor and heroism.
Of such is the character we have under considera-
tion. Most that is known among the multitude,
even of well-informed Texians, is that Bonham, a
South Carolinian, fell in the Alamo. The true
sublimity of his acts and bearing has been locked
in the hearts of a few, and never till recently, by
the writer of these chapters, given to the public,
and then only to contradict a published historical
misstatement awarding to another the credit due to
Bonham, and to Bonham only.

Who was this almost matchless hero, patriot and
friend — friend to the illustrious Travis, as David
and Jonathan were friends — a friendship hallowed
in Masonry and in the hearts of men three thousand
years after its manifestation in the days of Saul ?
Very briefly I will answer.

The Bonham family, in so far as their American
history goes, are of Maryland origin. They
branched off more than a hundred years ago fiom
that State into South Carolina, Kentucky (from
Kentucky into Missouri and thence to Texas), and
elsewhere in the newer portions of the Union.

James Bonham, in the Revolutionary War, was a
private soldier at fifteen years of age in a Mary-
land cavalry company, whose captain and oldest
member was but nineteen. They served at the
siege of Yorktown. The wife of this James Bon-
ham was Sophia Smith. They had five sons and
three daugthers. Jacob, the eldest, died in child-
hood. The second, Simon Smith Bonham, died a
lawyer and planter in Alabama, in 1835.

The third, Malachi Bonham, died in Fairfield,
Freestone County, Texas, during the Civil War, and
has children there now. The fourth son was the
hero of Alamo, James Butler Bonham. The fifth
and last son was Milledge L. Bonham. This son
was Adjutant of a South Carolina brigade in the
Florida war. He was Colonel of the 12th U. S.
Infantry in the Mexican war. He was Solicitor in
his district in South Carolina for nine years ; a
member of Congress from 1857 to the Civil War in
1861. He was Major-General commanding all the
troops of South Carolina at the time of her seces-
sion from the Union, and so remained until April
19, 1861, when the State troops were merged into
the Confederate army, and Gen. Bonham, as a fact.

led the first brigade into that service. In the fall
of that year, however, he was elected to the Con-
federate Congress, in which he served one session,
and in 1862 was elected Governor of South Caro-
lina,- serving till the close of 1864, when, as Briga-
dier-General, he re-entered the Confederate army
and so remained till the close of the war. He died
at the age of 80 years in 1890, while President of
the State Board of Railroad Commissioners.

Returning to Bonham, the martyr, it may be
stated that his sister, Sarah M. , married John Lips-
comb, of Abbeville, S. C, while Julia married Dr.
Samuel Bowie,- and died in Lowndes County,

James Butler Bonham, fourth son of Capt. James
Bonham, was born on Red Bank creek, Edgefield
County, South Carolina, February 7, 1807. Wm.
Barrett Travis, slightly his senior, and of one of the
best families of that country, was born within five
miles of the same spot. Their childhood and boy-
hood constituted an unbroken chain of endearment.
Both were tall, muscular and handsome men. Both
were noted for manly gentleness in social life and
fearlessness in danger. Travis came to Texas in
1830. His career thence to his death is a part of
our history. We turn to Bonham. He was well
educated, studied law, and was admitted to the bar
in 1830. In the fall of 1832, with the rank of
Lieutenant-Colonel, he was appointed Aide to Gov-
ernor James Hamilton (afterwards so justly en-
deared to Texas. ) That was when South Carolina
was a military camp in the time of nullification. He
was at Charleston in all the preparations for de-
fense. The citizens of Charleston, charmed by his
splendid physique, accomplished manners and gentle
bearing, made him Captain of their favorite artillery
company, which he commanded in addition to his
staff duties. The passage of Henry Clay's com-
promise averted the danger, and young Bonham
resumed his practice in Pendleton District ; but in
1834 removed to Montgomery, Alabama, and at
once began a career full of brilliant promise. But
about September, 1835, there was wafted to him
whisperings, and then audible sounds, of the impend-
ing revolution in Texas. While the correspondence
IS lost. It IS certain that earnest and loving letters
passed between him and Travis. Communication
was slow and at distant intervals compared with the
present time; but by November the soul of Bon-
ham was enlisted in the cause of Texas. He



abandoned everything and came — came with such
indorsements as commanded the confidence of Gov-
ernor Henry Smith, the leader of the party of in-
dependence, Gen. Houston, and all the prominent
men who advocated an absolute separation from
Mexico. At San Felipe he met and embraced his
loved Travis. Bexar had fallen. Wild schemes
not untinged with selfishness, and consequent de-
moralization, were in the air. Govenor Smith sent
Col. Travis to take command at San Antonio, after
Johnson, Grant and their self-organized expedition
to take Matamoros had depleted San Antonio of its
military supplies and left it as a defenseless out-
post. Travis hastened to his post of duty, pre-
ceded a short time by the friend of his youth,
Bonham. Travis, grand in intellect, unselfish in
spirit and noble in heart, organized his force as best
he could, determined to hold the advancing enemy
in check until Gen. Houston could collect and
organize a force sufficient to meet and repel him in
the open field. He trusted that Fannin, with over
four hundred thoroughly (equipped men at Goliad,
would march to his relief. He sent appeals to him
to that effect, and finally, after Santa Anna's co-
horts had encircled his position in the Alamo, he
sent Bonham for a last appeal for aid, with in-
structions also to his lifetime friend to proceed
from Goliad to Gonzales in search of aid. This
missioQ was full of peril from both Mexicans around
San Antonio and Indians on the entire route of his
travel. As things were then, none but a man oblivi-
ous of danger would have undertaken the mission.
James Butler Bonham, then just twenty -nine years
of age, assumed its hazards. He presented the
facts to Fannin, but the latter failed to respond.
Thence Bonham, through the wilderness, without a
human habitation between the points, hastened from
Goliad to Gonzales, just as a few volunteers began
to collect there. In response to the appeals of
Travis thirty-two citizens of that colony had left
a day or two before, under Capt. Albert Martin,
to succor the 160 defenders of the Alamo. The
siege had begun on the 23d of February. These
thirty-two men had fought their way in at daylight
on the 1st of March. Bonham, supplied with all
the information he could gather, and satisfied he
could get no further present recruits, determined
to return to Travis. He was accompanied by John
W. Smith. When they reached the heights over-
looking San Antonio and saw that the doomed
Alamo was encircled by Santa Anna's troops, Smith
deemed it suicidal to seek an entrance. That was
the ninth day of the siege and the doom of the
garrison was inevitable. Smith, by his own hon-
orable statement afterwards, to both Gen. Sam

Houston and ex-Governor Milledge L. Bonham, in
Houston, in 1838, urged Bonham to retire with
him ; but he sternly refused, saying : " I will report
the result of my mission to Travis or die in the
attempt." Mounted on a beautiful cream-colored
horse, with a white handkerchief floating from his
hat (as previously agreed with Travis), he dashed
through the Mexican lines, amid the showers of
bullets hurled at him — the gate of the Alamo flew
open, and as chivalrous a soul as ever fought and
died for liberty entered — entered to leave no more,
except in its upward flight to the throne of God.
The soul communion between those two sons of
Carolina — in that noonday hour may be imagined.
Sixty-six hours later they and their doomed com-
panions, in all 183, slept with their fathers.

Bonham had neither wife nor child. He was but
twenty-nine years and fourteen days old when he
fell. His entrance into the Alamo under a leaden
shower hurled from an implacable enemy was
hailed by the besieged heroes with such shouts as
caused even the enemy to marvel. It was a per-
sonal heroism unsurpassed in the world's history.
In its inspiration and fidelity to a holy trust it was

Such was James Butler Bonham. Shall any man,
after the immortal Travis, be more prominently
sculptured on the Alamo monument than he? Let
all who love truth and justice in history answer.
The spirit of truth and justice appeals to those who
would commemorate the deeds of the Alamo, that
the names to be most signalized should be arranged
with that of Travis in the foreground, then Bon-
ham, Bowie, who heroically died sick in bed, Albert
Martin, leader of the thirty-two from Gonzales,
after which should follow those of Crockett, Green
B. Jameson, Dickenson, Geo. W. Cottle, Andrew
Kent, and the others down to the last one of the
one hundred and eighty-three.

South Carolina went into mourning over Travis
and Bonham, sons in whom she felt a sublime
pride. I have before me the proceedings of several
public meetings held in that State when the truth,
in all its chivalrous glory, spread over her borders.
Carolina wept for her sons " because they were
not." She baptized them with tears of sorrow, not
unmingled with the consolatory resignation of a
mother who bewails the loss of her sons but rejoices
that they fell in a cause just and righteous —
gloriously fell that their country might be free.
Among many sentiments uttered at these meetings
in South Carolina, I extract the following: —

1. "The memory of Cols. Travis and Bonham:
There is cause for joy and not of mourning. The
District of Edgefield proudly points to her 'two gal-



fant sons who fell in a struggle against a monster
tyrant, contending for those sacred principles which
are dear to every American bosom."

2. "The memory of Cols. Travis and Bonham :
Martyrs in the cause of Texian liberty. We are
proud to say that this spot of earth gave them
birth ; and that here they imbibed those principles
in the maintenance of which they so gloriously

3. By James Dorn : "James Butler Bonham,
who perished in the Alamo — a noble son of Caro-

lina. May her sons ever contend for that soil on

which he so nobly fought and died."
Throughout the State similar meetings were held,

and hundreds of Carolina volunteers hastened
to Texas, to save the land for which Travis,
Bonham, Bowie, Martin, Crockett ^nd their com-
rades died. Bowie, by name, shared in the eulogies
pronounced, as did also Crockett. Each name is
dear to Texas; but no name in the splendor of
manhood and chivalrous bearing can ever eclipse
that of James Butler Bonham.

Benjamin R. Milam.

The career of this chivalrous martyr to Texian
liberty possesses romantic interest from its incep-
tion to its close.

Born in Kentucky about 1790, of good stock and
reared in that school of republican simplicity and
unbending integrity so characteristic of a large ele-
ment of the people of that (then) district in old
Virginia, he entered upon man's estate, fortified by
sound principles of right and never departed from
them. He inherited the love of enterprise and
adventure, and among such a people, in passing
from childhood to manhood, this inheritance grew
into a passion.

In early manhood he was a daring soldier in the
" war of 1812," and won both the admiration and
affection of his comrades. In 1815 he and John
Samuel, of Frankfort, Kentucky, took a large ship-
ment of flour to New Orleans, but finding a dull
market, he and two others chartered a schooner and
sailed with the flour for Maricaibo.

On the voyage the yellow fever appeared in its
most malignant form, carrying off the captain and
nearly all the crew. A terrific storm disabled the
vessel. The adventure proved a total loss. The
survivors were finally conveyed to St. Johns, N. B.,
and thence to New York. Milam ultimately reached
his Kentucky home.

We next find him, with a few followers, in 1818,
on the head waters of the Colorado, trading with
the wild Comanches. It was there that he first
met David G. Burnet, afterwards the first Presi-
dent of Texas, then among those wild men of the
plains, as has been elsewhere shown, successfully
striving to overcome the threatened inroads of
pulmonary consumption. They slept on the same

blanket among savages, few of whom had ever seen
an American. The closest ties of friendship speed-
idly united them in the warmest esteem, never
to be severed, except in death. It was a beautiful
affection between two noble men, whose souls,
dedicated to liberty and virtue, were incapable of
treachery or dishonor. They separated to meet
again as citizens of Texas.

Returning to New Orleans in 1819, Milam sailed
for Galveston Island and there joined Long's ex-
pedition for Mexico, in aid of the patriots of that
country. Milam, however, sailed down the Mexi-
can coast with General Felix Trespalacios, and a,
small party, effecting a landing and union with
native patriot forces, while Long marched upon La
Bahia (now Goliad), Texas, and took the place, but
in a few days surrendered himself and fifty-one fol-
lowers to a Spanish royalist force. They were
marched as prisoners to Monterey, whence Long^
was conveyed to the city of Mexico. When he
reached there the revolution, by the apostasy of
Iturbide from the royalist cause, had triumphed
Long was then hailed as a friend. Trespalacios,
Ml am Col. Christy and John Austin (the tw;
latter having sailed with them from Galveston)
arrived in the capital about the same time. Everyl
thing, to them, wore a roseate hue and they were
he recipients of every courtesy. It was soon de-
termined by the new government to send Tre-

palacios as Governor of the distant province Of
iexas. That personage, however, became jealous
o the influence of Long and basely procured his
assassination. This enraged Milam! Christy and
Austin, who had fought for Mexican iberty in sev-
eral battles. They left the capital in advanc of



Trespalacios, rejoined their companions at Mon-
terey, reporting to them the dastardly murder of
Long. It was agreed among them to wreak ven-
geance on the new Governor on his arrival at

Before his arrival, however, two of the party there
revealed the plan. Thereupon they were all seized
and sent to the city of Mexico and there thrown
into prison, with every prospect of being put to
death. At the close of 1822, on the arrival in that
city of Joel R. Poinsett, of South Carolina, as a
•commissioner of observation from the United States,
he secured their liberation and return home.

After the formation of the constitutional govern-
ment in Mexico in 1825, Milam returned to that
country, and was recognized as a valiant soldier.
He was granted in consideration of his services, a
large body of land, which, unfortunately, he located
on that portion of Red river which proved to be in
Arkansas, and hence a total loss to him. Before
that discovery, however, he established a farm and
placed cattle on it. He also purchased a steam-
boat and was the first person to pass such a vessel
through and above the raft on Red river. He be-
came also interested with Gen. Arthur AVavell,
an Englishman, in a proposed colony farther up
that stream ; but from various causes the enter-
prise was not carried forward. Milam was almost
idolized by the few people scattered on both sides of
that stream. Of those most dearly attached to him
were that sturdy old patriot, Collin McKinney, his
wife and children, some of whom were then grown.

About 1826 Milam secured in his own right a
grant to found a colony between the Colorado
and Guadalupe rivers, bounded on the south by
the old San Antonio and Nacogdoches road, and
extending up each river a distance of forty-five
miles. This territory now includes all of Hays
and Blanco counties, the east part of Comal, the
upper part of Caldwell, the northwest quarter of
Bastrop and the west half of Travis. He appointed
Maj. James Kerr, the Surveyor-general of De-
Witt's Colony, as his agent and attorney, in fact to
manage the affairs of his proposed colony. The
original power of attorney, drawn and witnessed
by David G. Burnet, dated in January, 1827, in
old San Felipe, and signed " Ben R. Milam," is a
souvenir now in my possession. But before mat-
ters progressed very far Milam sold his franchise
to Baring Brothers, London. They totally failed
to carry out the enterprise.

For three or four years prior to the opening
of 1835, Milam remained on Red river. In that
time the people became greatly alarmed in that
section in regard to their land matters and the

true boundary line between Texas (or Mexico)
and the United States. They appealed to Col.
Milam to intercede for them with the State govern-
ment of Coahuila and Texas at Monclova. He
could not resist. Early in 1835, alone on horse-
back, he started through the wilderness with a
little dried beef and parched meal, to travel about
seven hundred miles, trusting to his rifle for further
supplies of food. He made the trip, passing only
through San Antonio from Red River to the Rio
Grande. He found Governor Augustine Viesca
anxious to do all in his power in behalf of Milam
and his constituents ; but revolution was in the
air. Santa Anna had just given a death blow to
the constitutional government on the plain of
Zacatecas, and the flat had gone forth for the
overthrow of the State government at Monclova.
Time rapidly passed. Governor Viesca, with
Milam and Dr. John Cameron, undertook to
escape into Texas. They were seized and impris-
oned. One by one they escaped and reached
Texas, Milam being the flrst to do so. On the
night of October 9th, 1835, he passed round
Goliad and fell into the road east of the town.
Hearing the approach of men on horseback, he
secreted himself in brush by the road side. As
the party came opposite him he heard American
voices and called: —

"Men! who are you .? "

" We are volunteers, marching upon Goliad ; who
are you? "

"I am Ben Milam, escaping from prison in
Mexico! "

"God bless you. Col. Milam! we thought they
had killed you. All Texas will shout in joy at
your escape! Mount one of our horses and help
us take Goliad! "

"Indeed I will, boys, and already feel repaid for
all my sufferings ! "

He soon realized that he was in the presence of
Capt. George M. Collinsworth and fifty-two volun-
teers from the lower Colorado, Lavaca and Navidad.
Noiselessly they approached the unsuspecting
fortress, a barricaded stone church, and, at the
pre-arranged signal, burst in. In five minutes they
were in full possession, with three Mexicans dead
and all the others prisoners, while Samuel McCul-
loch, fearfully shot in the shoulder, was the only
casualty among the assailants ; and on the 21st of
April, 1886, fifty-one and a half years later, he
was a guest of Col. W. W. Leake, at the serai-
centennial reunion of the Texas veterans in Dallas.
A few days later Col. Milam, as a private, joined
the volunteers in their march upon San Antonio,
then occupied by the Mexican General, Cos, with



about eleven hundred men, afterwards increased to
fifteen hundred. From the 27th of October, to the
4th of December, varying in number from six hun-
dred to eleven hundred men, first under Austin and
then under Burleson, the volunteers had laid in a
mile or so of San Antonio, without any attack upon
the town. A brilliant victory was won by Bowie
and Fannin, at the Mission of Concepcion at day-
light on the 28th of October, before Austin's
arrival with the main body ; and on the 26 th of
November, the day after Austin left, the Grass fight
occurred, in which a detachment of the enemy
were driven into the town with some loss ; but noth-
ing decisive had occurred. First under Austin and
next under Burleson propositions for storming the
place had failed. Dissatisfaction arose and men
came and went as they pleased. On the 4th of
December, the force had fallen from eleven hun-
dred to five or six hundred. On that day the last
proposition had failed and great discontent pre-
vailed. Milam became aroused and alarmed lest
the entire encampment should disband and go
home. He moved to and fro as a caged lion, till
late in the day he stepped out in plain view of all
and in a stentorian voice called out: —

" Who will follow Ben Milam into San Antonio?
Let all who will, form a line right here."

In the twinkling of an eye three hundred men
were in line. The plan was soon formed. During
the night the entrance was made in two divisions,
one led by Milam, the other by Francis W. John-
son. Under a heavy fire they effected lodgments
in rows of stone houses and then for five days tun-
nelled from room to room. On the 8th, while
crossing a back yard from one house to another, a
ball pierced Milam's head and he fell dead. But
his spirit survived. He had imparted it to his fol-
lowers, who continued to press forward his plans,
till on the 9th, after having been driven from the
town into the Alamo, Cos raised a white flag. On
the 10th he capitulated, verifying the genius, the
courage and ability to command of the grand and

glorious Milam, whose death was bewailed as a
personal loss in every hamlet and cabin in Texas.
In person Col. Milam was of commanding form —
tall, muscular and well-proportioned, with a face,
a countenance and manner that instantly won re-
gard and confidence. None of the heroes of Texas
was so universally loved. His intelligence in prac-
tical affairs was of the highest order. Unambitious
of official place, he was always and everywhere a
leader, because of the unbounded confidence men,
and women as well, had in his wisdom, his infiexi-
ble honesty, his kindness and his courage. I never
dwell on his character without emotions of grati-
tude to God for giving Texas in her infancy and
travail such an example of the highest and noblest
illustration of American manhood.


In the General Council of the Provisional Gov-
ernment, December 27th, 1835 (nineteen days
after Milam's death), the honorable John J. Linn,
member from Victoria, the official journal says:
" Presented a resolution providing for the erection
of a monument to the memory of Benjamin R,
Milam, at San Antonio de Bexar, which was
adopted ; and his excellency Governor Henry Smith,
James Cockran, John Rice Jones, Gail Borden and
John H. Money were appointed a central committee
to carry into effect the objects of the resolution."
(Journals of the Council, page 215, December 27,

Mr. Linn died in Victoria on the 25th of Octo-
ber, 1885, in his 88th year. Fifty-six years, less
two months and two days, had passed since the
adoption of his resolution and other years have
been added to the past, and still there is no mon-
ument to Milam. Some men have become million-
aires in the town he won to liberty and a large
number have become wealthy. Every man on that
committee and every member of that council is
dead, and still there is no monument to Milam!
Will it for ever be thus ? God forbid !

Rezin P. and James Bowie — The Bowie Family.

An erroneous impression has ever prevailed in
regard to the Bowie family, in the belief that they
sprang from Maryland. Such, until now, was my
own impression ; but I am now in possession of per-
fectly authentic facts to the contrary. Two of

three Scotch brothers of the name did settle in
Maryland and have a numerous posterity. But a
third brother, at the same time, settled in South

Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 25 of 135)