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Ben McCulloch

Benjamin McCulloch was one of twelve children.  He was born November 11, 1811 in Rutherford County, Tennessee to Alexander and Frances Fisher Lenoir McCulloch.  His father was a graduate of Yale College and served in the United States Army in Indian campaigns and also the War of 1812.  The family migrated west from the eastern coastal states.  Ben is thought to have first pursued some other businesses and moved around a lot until he came to Texas in 1835 with another brother and Davy Crockett, a neighbor, in Tennessee.  Ben planned to meet up with Crockett and then head from Nacogdoches to San Antonio but was held up as he recuperated from a case of the measles, not arriving in San Antonio until after the Battle of the Alamo.  He joined Sam Houston and the Texas Army in time for the Runaway Scrape, Houston’s retreat from Santa Anna.

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(Image credit: Texas State Historical Association)

McCulloch was with an artillery company at the Battle of San Jacinto and is thought to have served as captain of a gun crew for one of the “Twin Sisters” cannons.  For his participation in the Texas Revolution, he was awarded a grant of about 1,000 acres of land, under the process where the new Republic of Texas granted “bounties” to former participants.  Some thirty-six years after the April, 1836 battle, a newspaper report recapitulated the numbers of Texas and Mexican troops involved, stating that the Texans fielded 783 against a Mexican force of 1,570.  The day ended with 8 Texans killed and 25 wounded.  The Mexican troops numbered 632 killed, 208 wounded and 730 captured, including their leader Santa Anna.  The article went on to lament that to a man, Houston, Rusk, Hockley, Lamar, McCulloch, Millard and every other officer above the rank of captain were then deceased.

In 1838, McCulloch is believed to have joined the Texas Rangers under Captain John Coffee “Jack” Hays.  The following year, McCulloch was elected a Texas Representative.  It was described as a bitter campaign and the disagreements with the defeated candidate, Col. Reuben Ross, led to a rifle duel in which McCulloch received a wound to his arm that left him somewhat crippled in that limb.  The disagreement apparently festered as Ross was later killed in a similar incident by Ben’s brother Henry McCulloch about one year later.

In 1842, McCulloch did some surveying after having served, perhaps off and on, in the Texas Army, providing valuable duties as a scout.  He served as a scout and commander in the Battle of Plum Creek in August, 1840 with the Comanche and also the successful drive to retake San Antonio after its brief capture first by Mexican General Rafael Vasquez and a second time by Mexican General Adrian Woll.  He again joined Hays and the Texas Rangers along with his brother Henry.  Both participated in the failed Somerville Expedition and narrowly missed being captured in the failed Mier Expedition in late 1842.

He was elected to the first Texas Legislature in 1845 after Texas became a state, but continued to serve in Company A, which outfit he reportedly raised himself from the Guadalupe area, under Hays in the First Regiment of the Texas Mounted Volunteers in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War under General Zachary Taylor where McCulloch was chief of scouts.  After the War, he briefly went to California to look for gold.  He was there long enough to be elected Sheriff of Sacramento, California, but by 1852, he had returned to Texas where he was appointed as a U. S. Marshall by President Pierce.  He was an official representative of the United States to settle what is sometimes called the “Utah War,” a conflict lasting about a year in 1857 and 1858, between Mormon followers of Brigham Young and the United States Army.

McCulloch was living in Texas when the Succession Convention voted to secede from the United States in February, 1861.  He joined the Confederate Army as a colonel.  One of his first operations was the relatively peaceful retaking of all federal property in San Antonio.  Early on, McCulloch was assigned to the Indian Territory and proceeded to make alliances with tribes including the Creek, Cherokee and Choctaw nations.  McCulloch was then deployed with the other Confederate forces to particpate in various battles against Union troops.

McCulloch had previously been promoted to Brigadier General by Jefferson Davis and was the first general-grade officer to be commissioned from the civilian community.  He had a strong personality and was openly vocal when he disagreed with strategic goals and tactics, including more than one occasion when he differed with General Sterling Price.  McCulloch was ordered to be part of an expedition to capture St. Louis, an order which he resisted but he followed.  In the Battle of Pea Ridge, also known as Elkhorn Tavern, McCulloch was killed by a Union sharpshooter on March 7, 1862.  McCulloch was 48 years old at the time of his death.

By then, he had come to the notice of northern news writers.  When the New York Times reported his death later in the month, it noted his many accomplishments but also cited his dispute with General Price, as noted above.  The article went on to physically describe McCulloch as being six feet tall, slender and athletic with the appearance of a frontier fighter.  The article closed by calling him “utterly unfit to command a large body of men,” in apparently somewhat of a throwaway comment, and did not support it with any reasons for the statement.

The Chicago Tribune also reported his death several weeks later and added certain details that we had not read elsewhere.  One was that McCulloch had previously boasted that Union forces could not kill him.  Another was that as he lay on the battlefield, realizing he was mortally wounded, McCulloch was quoted as having said “Oh, hell!” just before he rolled over and breathed his last.

McCulloch was first buried on the Arkansas battlefield, but his remains were twice removed, first to a cemetery in Little Rock and later to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.  His honors include being inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas for his service under Hays.  McCulloch County in Central Texas was named for him in the 1800s.  Numerous buildings, schools and streets across Texas are named for him as well.

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Juan Seguin

Juan Nepomucema Seguin was born in Spanish San Antonio on October 27, 1808 to Juan José Erasmo and María Josefa Becerra Seguin.  Erasmo was descended from one of sixteen families who came to the San Antonio area from the Canary Islands in the early 1700s.  The Seguin cattle ranch covered portions of three current Texas counties: Bexar, Guadalupe and Wilson.  Erasmo served as postmaster of San Antonio from 1807 to 1835, mayor (alcalde) of San Antonio from 1820-1821 and quartermaster of Presidio de San Antonio de Béxar from 1825 to 1835.  Erasmo was acquainted with Moses Austin who was succeeded by his son, Stephen F. Austin.  Along with Don Martin de Veramendi, Erasmo assisted them in obtaining their Austin Colony grant.

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(Image credit: pbs.org)

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Sam Houston and Santa Anna

Santa Anna (Antonio López de Santa Anna) was born in Vera Cruz in 1794 and began serving in the Army in Spanish Mexico when he was a teenager.  He was said to have first fought in support for the Spanish against Mexican independence before joining the movement in 1821 in support of an independent Mexico.  He continued to be near the forefront of leadership in the young country of Mexico and helped defeat the Spanish effort to reclaim Mexico in the late 1820s.  Santa Anna was himself elected President in 1833.  The previous two decades had seen chaotic changes in the country of Mexico with the form of government varying from a constitutional republic to a centralist form with Santa Anna at the head, supported by the military.  The country was vast with the Central American part being largely populated and the North American portion being sparsely populated by Native American tribes and an increasing number of American settlers.  Under Santa Anna, its policy changed from encouraging settlements to being more restrictive toward them.

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Mirabeau B. Lamar

Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar was the second president of the Republic of Texas. He was born in Georgia in 1798 to John Samuel III and Rebecca Lamar.  One of the youngest of eight children, Lamar was self educated, having been accepted to Princeton University, though he declined.

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Posted by on October 19, 2017 in biography, governor, poetry, republic of texas

 

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Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor

Before the Texas Revolution, the official religion of the area was Roman Catholicism according to Spanish law.  Landowners were required to espouse the Roman Catholic faith and many did so in order to obtain title to their land.  However Protestant families moved to the area prior to and following the Texas Revolution.  R. E. B. Baylor, a Baptist, came to Texas in late 1839.  By then, there were already a number of Baptist families in Texas.  After a couple of failed efforts, the Baptist Union Association was formed in the fall of 1840 and included churches from La Grange, Travis and Independence.  Baylor was a circuit judge and was an ordained minister.  By about 1845, there were hundreds of fellow Baptists in the area.  Among other things, the Association had been concerned about education and formed an Education Society of which R. E. B. Baylor was selected to be President.

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Posted by on June 1, 2017 in biography, republic of texas

 

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Moses Austin Bryan (1817-1895)

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(Image credit: http://www.tamu.edu)

As we approach the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, we consider Moses Austin Bryan.  He was an eyewitness to some of the key events in Texas history.  Born in Herculaneum, Missouri, he came to Texas with his parents in 1831.  He had first worked for his uncle Stephen Fuller Austin in a store in Austin’s Colony before enlisting in the Texas Army.  After enlistment, he served as a secretary to Stephen F. Austin, was a witness to the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence, fought in the Battle of San Jacinto, interviewed Santa Anna after his capture at San Jacinto (Bryan was the closest Spanish speaking Texas soldier to Sam Houston), served as secretary to the Texas Legation to the United States in 1839,  participated in the Somervell Expedition in 1842 and served as a Confederate officer in the Civil War.

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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in biography, republic of texas

 

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When Texas Invaded New Mexico

In 1841, Republic of Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar had a vision to expand the borders of the young republic further west, perhaps as far as California.  Lamar had won the 1838 presidential election, following Sam Houston, the previous elected president.  Lamar was in various ways the ideological opposite of Houston.  He became the second of four elected presidents in the short life of the Republic and served from 12/10/1838 to 12/3/1841.  At the time, the Texas economy was suffering and Lamar acted on the supposition that he had authority to pursue trade that was currently operating along the Santa Fe Trail.

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Posted by on January 19, 2017 in republic of texas

 

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