Moseley Baker

The name Moseley Baker might not be too familiar to many people but he was soldier during the Texas Revolution. Baker was born on September 20, 1802, the third of four children in Norfolk, Virginia to Hance Baker (1760-1831) and Rebecca Moseley Baker (1771-1812). Rebecca died in Virginia in 1812. Some time later, Hance and the rest of the family moved to Montgomery, Alabama. Hance passed away there in 1831.

Moseley Baker studied law and was admitted to the Alabama bar. In addition to a law practice, he is also known for founding and editing a periodical in Montgomery called the Advertiser. Baker served in the Alabama state legislature for at least one term beginning in 1830. Soon afterward, he left Alabama for Texas.

Before he left Alabama, he had married Eliza Ward Pickett in 1828 and the couple had a daughter, Fannie Amelia Baker by the time they moved to Texas. When the fighting began in the Texas Revolution, the Baker family was living in Liberty. Baker was a proponent of independence from Mexico and had been briefly arrested in San Felipe by Mexican authorities.

He joined the Texas Army and participated in the battles of Gonzales, the so-called Grass Fight, the siege of Béxar and various battles under Sam Houston. His disagreements with Houston are known, despite each of their respective commitments to Texas independence. One of their disagreements was over Houston’s retreat from Santa Anna’s forces after the battle of the Alamo and the Goliad massacre, whereas Baker favored standing and fighting the Mexican general. Baker is said to have given the order for the burning of San Felipe to prevent its looting and capture by the Mexican army. Baker claimed that the destruction of San Felipe was under Houston’s orders although Houston said otherwise. Nevertheless, Baker rejoined Houston’s forces one week before the Battle of San Jacinto and was in command of Company D, First Regiment of Texas Volunteers, under Col. Edward Burleson during the battle.

A 1937 article Houston Wade in the Whitewright Sun from Whitewright, Texas was entitled “The Man That Houston Always Hated” and was about Moseley Baker and his feud with Houston. In it he favors the assumption that Baker’s disagreements with Houston seem to originate from Houston’s tactic of retreating from Santa Anna rather than confronting him, prior to the San Jacinto battle.

It was not a one way dispute, however. There were the obvious differences between their military points of view. After the war, Houston had apparently learned of and publicly referred to an old legal matter of Baker’s from his time in Alabama. Baker is said to have forged a check in the amount of $5,000. He is also said to have later repaid the funds with high interest, but may not have ever legally resolved the issue in Alabama.

Baker is quoted in the 1929 biography of Sam Houston by Marques James as having favored Houston’s removal as commander of the army, prior to San Jacinto. Baker was not alone. In the same volume, interim President David Burnet is also said to have expressed similar sentiments. But as we know, Houston was successful at the well known battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

Partly on the strength of his success and name recognition, Houston was elected the first President of the Republic of Texas in September, 1836. Following San Jacinto, Baker returned to business and was elected as a representative to the first Congress of the republic. While serving in that capacity, Baker originated impeachment proceedings against Houston although the charges failed. Houston continued to serve out his term and was succeeded by Mirabeau B. Lamar who had served as Vice President under Houston. Vice presidential elections were independent of the presidential elections. Lamar was also a critic and political opponent of Houston. Successive presidential terms were not allowed at the time and Lamar served along with former interim president Burnet as his Vice President until Houston was elected for his second and final term in 1841 with Edward Burleson as his Vice President.

Baker continued in public office and was elected as a representative to the Third congress, this time from Galveston County. He moved to Harris County where in 1841 he narrowly lost an election (by one vote, it is said) to serve as a representative to the Sixth congress of the Republic. In 1842, Baker was appointed to serve as brigadier general in the militia in conflicts with Indian tribes on the Brazos.

Baker continued to criticize Houston during Houston’s second term which ended in 1844. The two never reconciled. Baker died of yellow fever in late 1848 at the age of forty-six. He was originally buried in Houston but in 1929 he and Eliza were both reinterred in Austin’s State Cemetery.

It is regrettable that Houston and Baker never reconciled. Houston is well remembered for his career of service to Texas despite his various shortcomings and failures. Baker also deserves to be remembered as one who was a defender of Texas independence, a capable leader and a public servant.

Before the Battle of San Jacinto, Baker was said to have made a speech to his men. Over the years, the text has been repeated with some variations. No one knows how close this text is to what Baker might have said that day, or whether the text has been reorganized and edited, but the following is how Baker’s speech was quoted by Houston Wade in the Whitewright Sun in its July 27, 1937 issue.

“Fellow soldiers: You are now paraded to go in battle. For the past few weeks our greatest desire has been to meet our foes in mortal combat, and that desire is about to be granted. I have confidence to believe that you will do your duty and act like men worthy of freedom, but if there be one who is not fully satisfied, he is at liberty to remain at camp, for I do not wish my company disgraced by a single act of cowardice.

“Yonder, within less than a mile is the tyrant, Santa Anna, with his myrmidons, who have overrun our country, destroyed our property, put to flight our families and butchered in cold blood many of our brave men.

“Remember, comrades, that we this day fight for all that is dear to us on earth, our homes, our families and our liberty. He who would not fight for these is not worthy of the name of man.

“Remember that this little army of less than 800 men is the last hope of Texas, and with its defeat or dispersion, dies the cause of freedom here and we will be regarded by the world as rash adventurers, but should victory crown our efforts, of which I have but little doubt, we can anticipate a riddance to the country of the oppressors, followed by peace and prosperity, and in the further years when this broad, beautiful and fertile land shall be occupied by millions of intelligent and thrifty people who can appreciate the value of liberty, we will be honored as the founders of a republic.

“Remember that Travis, Crockett, Bowie and their companions, numbering one hundred and eighty-three of the bravest of brave men, stood a siege of ten days against twenty times their number and fought till the last man was killed, not one being left to tell the news or tell the tale.

“Remember that Fannin and four hundred volunteers were basely murdered after they had capitulated [some text apparently missing] terms that they were treated as prisoners of war and sent to the United States.

“Remember, you are fighting an enemy who gives no quarter, and regards neither age nor sex. Recollect that your homes are destroyed; imagine your wives and daughters trudging in mud and water, and your children crying for bread, and then remember that the author of all this woe is within a short distance of us; that the arch fiend is now within our grasp; and that the time has come at last for us to avenge the blood of our fallen heroes and to teach the haughty dictator that Texas can not be conquered and that they can and will be free.

“Then nerve yourselves for the battle, knowing that our cause is just and we are in the hands of an All-wise Creator and as you strike the murderous blows let your watchword be “Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!”

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