previous next

Chapter 6: as Texan soldier.

  • Johnston's arrival in Texas, Kills a puma single-handed.
  • -- Texan army. -- its composition and spirit. -- valor and insubordination. -- Rusk in command. -- Lamar appointed General, but not allowed to take command. -- Rusk recommends Felix Hiuston as his successor. -- Johnston joins the army as a private trooper. -- his appearance, habits, and manners. -- made Adjutant-General. -- peculiar circumstances of his appointment. -- rapid promotion. -- life of the camp. -- incidents. -- called to the seat of Government as Adjutant-General. -- sent to New Orleans. -- appointed to command of the army. -- Felix Huston. -- his career. -- his threats. -- General Johnston takes command. -- Huston's challenge. -- reply. -- the duel. -- reconciliation. -- Huston leaves the army. -- Johnston's magnanimity. -- grounds of his action in the duel. -- Huston's testimony. -- sufferings from the wounds. -- hostile movements of Mexico. -- policy of Texas. -- letter from Felix Huston. -- condition of the army. -- Rangers. -- the whiskey riot. -- Assassination of Teal. -- Johnston suffering from wound. -- Asks for furlough. -- a letter from him. -- President Houston's letters. -- Indian policy. -- policy toward Mexico. -- General Johnston's view. -- hostility engendered toward him in the President. -- compliments from his army. -- visits New Orleans. -- effects of his wound. -- visits Kentucky. -- noticed by Jackson. -- Henry D. Gilpin's letter to him. -- return to Texas. -- letter to Mr. Hobbs. -- differences with the Administration. -- Indian negotiations. -- Essowakkeny, the Comanche. -- incident with General Johnston. -- the “talk.” -- their treachery. -- treaty. -- Indian cannibals. -- “the little child's footprint.” -- political overtures. -- Mexican invasion. -- extraordinary orders to General Johnston. -- his desperate resolution. -- its success. -- furlough. -- annexation schemes. -- reaction in public sentiment. -- Lamar elected President. -- General Johnston Secretary of War.
    In spite of the brilliant victory of San Jacinto, it was soon apparent that Mexico had not abandoned her plans of subjugation, and that Texas needed every man she could draw to her standard. Mr. Johnston, leaving Louisville, proceeded by way of New Orleans to Alexandria, Louisiana. After staying a few days with his brother, Judge Johnston, he started on horseback for the camp of the defenders. His companions were Leonard Groce and brother, and Major Bynum, of Rapides. Crossing the Sabine on the 13th of July, he arrived on the 15th at Nacogdoches, where he met General Sam Houston, the commander-in-chief, then in the full flush of his popularity. From Nacogdoches he went with Leonard Groce to his plantation, on the river Brazos, where an adventure befell him that has been told in various ways, but of which the following is the true version. Hearing a great uproar near the house, Mr. Johnston seized his gun and hurried with Mr. Groce to the spot, where they found the dogs fighting a puma or American lion. The lion was playing havoc with the dogs, scalping one, crippling another, and disemboweling a third. Mr. Johnston immediately shot the puma, the ball breaking the jaw, but not disabling the animal, which continued the slaughter of the pack with the tearing wounds of its terrible claws. Mr. Groce, much excited at the loss of his favorites, cried out, “Save the dogs! Save the dogs!” Mr. Johnston then clubbed his gun, which was a heavy German Yager rifle, and, springing into the melee, dispatched the beast by blows over the head. His rifle-stock was splintered, and the barrel much bent. He escaped without a scratch, but no one could tell how. The puma was one of the largest of its kind, and very fierce. Mr. Groce had the skin stuffed, and long kept it as a memento of the event. He was ever afterward a warm friend of General Johnston. From Mr. Groce's Mr. Johnston proceeded to the headquarters of the army, which were then on the river Coleto, about fifteen miles east of Goliad.

    Although Mr. Johnston bore with him the highest testimonials to his personal worth and military ability, in the form of letters of introduction from persons of distinction in the United States to the leading men of Texas, he forbore to deliver them. General Atkinson had sent him a letter to Stephen F. Austin, couched in language of the highest eulogy; and personal friends of Houston, Rusk, and others, had also given him letters that would have secured him a cordial welcome at [70] their hands; but, with that peculiar combination of pride and conscientiousness which made him unwilling to receive advancement as a favor, and, it may be, somewhat in the spirit of knight-errantry, he preferred to reach his destination unannounced, and then enlisted as a private in the ranks.

    The Texan army was at that time under the command of General Thomas J. Rusk, who was distinguished both in council and in the field during the republic, and afterward as a United States Senator, and whose career belongs to the history of the country. When Mr. Johnston reached the Texan camp he found himself in a situation sufficiently novel to one who had been trained in and accustomed to the exact discipline and routine of a regular army. The call of Texan independence, the liberal bounty of land to the soldiers, the prospect of booty or license, the realization of political theories or philanthropic aspirations, all the motives that impel men to desperate enterprises, had assembled a mixed multitude of restless spirits under the banner of the Lone Star. Here were gathered those indomitable men of battle whom Santa Anna pointedly characterized as the tumultuario of the Mississippi Valley; the ardent youth of the South, burning for glory and military enterprise. Here enthusiasts of constitutional freedom were mingled with adventurous soldiers from Europe; and souls as knightly, generous, and unstained as Bayard's, with outlaws and men of broken and desperate fortunes. Some of the best and some of the worst people in the world were thrown into contact; but in one quality all were alike, a hardihood that no danger could check.

    Never was an army collected in which the spirit of combat was more supreme. Manhood and personal prowess were the standards of superiority among these men, and they followed their chosen leaders with a fidelity and reckless devotion that had neither stint nor measure. They would have marched unmurmuringly into the open jaws of death, rather than yield a point of pride, or of their idea of honor. It was a handful that a soldier might have rejoiced to lead against a host. But they were without discipline, subordination, or effective organization, so that obedience was a mere matter of choice. Released from such necessary restraints, these fiery bands were easily stirred to turbulence and mutiny by the demagogues of the camp.

    Republican habits of self-government and the conservative influence of an instinctive tendency toward order have a powerful hold on the American intellect; but this little army, for lack of an organizing mind, seemed destitute of all coherence, and threatened to become more terrible to the republic than to its enemies. It had wrested Santa Anna from the custody of the Executive, and put him in irons, thus furnishing him with a pretext for his perfidy; and it had ever sent a body of men to seize the person of President Burnet in order to [71] compel compliance with the army sentiment, thereby indicating a purpose of military revolution.

    After the battle of San Jacinto General Rusk had assumed command of the army in the absence of General Sam Houston, who had taken a furlough on account of his wound. About the 1st of July the contending factions in the army had reached such a point that the Government thought the best way to reconcile them was to appoint as major-general the gallant and eloquent Lamar, who had won distinction at San Jacinto, and was popular with both soldiers and citizens. On his arrival at the army he found it greatly excited and a strong opposition organized against him. He made a persuasive speech to the soldiers, and then appealed to a vote, which, proving largely against his taking the command, he was constrained to retire, General Rusk remaining in command.

    Rusk soon found that Felix Huston, who had been chairman of the organization that resisted and finally rejected Lamar, had superseded him in the suffrages of the army; and, though brave and able, yet being an easy-tempered man, he readily yielded the point, and recommended that Huston should be appointed major-general, and receive the chief command. The expectation of an expedition against Matamoras about this time, however, occupied the attention and thus allayed the discontents of the camp; and, General Huston having been temporarily detached with his command to San Patricio on the Nueces, Rusk's recommendation was not favorably considered by the Government. In the mean time Rusk was anxious to avail himself of any opportunity to bring his mutinous troops into some sort of order and discipline. It was at this juncture that Mr. Johnston arrived at the camp on the Coleto; and, being the fortunate possessor of a horse, joined as a private trooper the little body of mounted men that represented the cavalry of the army.

    Mr. Johnston's appearance at this period of his life is described as both commanding and attractive. In some respects the bust of Alexander Hamilton is the best extant likeness of him, a resemblance very frequently remarked. His cheek-bones were rather high, and his nose somewhat irregular, which, with his clear, white-and-red complexion, gave him a very Scotch look. His chin was delicate and handsome; his teeth white and regular; and his mouth square and firm. In the portrait by Bush, taken about this time, his lips seem rather full; but, as he is best remembered, they were somewhat thin and very firmly set. Brown hair clustered over a noble forehead, and from under heavy brows his deep-set but clear, steady eyes looked straight at you with a regard kind and sincere, yet penetrating. With those eyes upon him any man would have scrupled to tell a lie. In repose his eyes were as blue as the sky, but in excitement they flashed to a steel-gray, and [72] exerted a wonderful power over men. He was six feet and an inch in height, weighing about 180 pounds, straight as an arrow, with broad, square shoulders and a massive chest. He was strong and active, but his endurance and vital power seemed the result rather of nervous than of muscular energy, and drew their exhaustless resources from the mind more than the body. His bearing was essentially military, and dignified rather than graceful; and his movements were prompt, but easy and firm. He was, indeed, in appearance a model for the soldier.

    Sidney Johnston's skill in arms was but moderate, for, though his eye was quick and his hand steady, yet he lacked the dexterity that comes from predilection and practice. He was not only cautious himself in handling fire-arms, but often recommended the same carefulness to others, playfully quoting a saying of John Rowan, the dead-shot of Kentucky, “Never point a pistol at a man unless you intend to shoot him.” He was a graceful and excellent rider, and no man presented a grander or more martial appearance on horseback. It was remarked of him by Mr. Jefferson Davis, who saw him at the battle of Monterey, that “in combat he had the most inspiring presence he ever saw.”

    Substantially the same remark was many times made by others. There were in his action a certain vigor and decision, in his manner a winning frankness and kindness, and in his whole thought and life a simplicity and directness, that were generally irresistible. His deference to and dignified sympathy with women, his tenderness to children, his reverence for old age, and his forbearance with every form of weakness, were genuine and unvarying-habits as well as principles. A sensitive interest and the finest judgment were united in his intercourse with children. His indulgence seemed unlimited, and yet they rarely abused it. He observed toward them a careful respect; and many younger friends will remember the benign and ennobling influence of Albert Sidney Johnston on their lives.

    General Rusk told Mr. Jefferson Davis that he was first attracted to Mr. Johnston, a few days after he joined his army, by his bearing as a soldier and the way he sat his horse. He made inquiries about him, and, learning that he had been an officer of experience and high reputation, he was glad to seek him out. He called on him, and, after a brief interview, offered him the place of adjutant-general of the army. He told him, however, that there were several aspirants who thought themselves entitled to the office, and who would probably require him to fight if he took the position. Mr. Johnston said he felt qualified for the office; and, if General Rusk appointed him, he was not concerned as to how these young gentlemen might regard it. General Rusk appointed him, and the young gentlemen concluded not to trouble him.

    On the same day, the 5th of August, on which Rusk appointed him adjutant-general of the army, with the rank of colonel, President [73] Burnet, who had learned through other sources of his arrival in the country, appointed him a colonel in the regular army, and assigned to him the duties of adjutant-general of the republic. General Sam Houston, the commander-in-chief, who had seen him as he passed through Nacogdoches, also sent to him from that point, on the 9th of August, a commission as aide-de-camp, with the rank of major. These repeated marks of confidence show the interest created in all quarters by his arrival in the country. Colonel Johnston at once undertook the organization and tactical instruction of the army, with an address that gained the good — will of the troops, and a success that secured the gratitude and friendship of General Rusk, which were afterward evinced on all proper occasions.

    The following incidents go to illustrate the life of the camp. The first is a reminiscence told by General Johnston; the names are suppressed in both, for obvious reasons: He used to relate that, one day as he was resting on his blanket, a colonel, a very fine fellow, stepped up to him, with a cocked pistol in his hand, and said: “Colonel, my friend here, Major--, and I, have had a difference. Will you oblige us by observing that its settlement is entirely fair?” Before he could rise to expostulate, one of the duelists gave the word, “Are you ready?” the other replied, “Ready!” Both fired, and one fell severely wounded. This was hot blood, indeed.

    The second incident is here given in the words of a letter written to General Johnston twenty-five years after the occurrence:

    It has been so many years since I had the pleasure of seeing you that I am almost afraid you have forgotten me altogether. Do you remember the judge-advocate of the army in Texas, when you were in command as colonel on the Lavaca River in 1836? If you do not, I can possibly recall myself to your remembrance by mentioning a circumstance that may not have entirely escaped you. One morning, at General Green's tent, Major V-and I got into an accidental quarrel. He insulted me and I struck him, whereupon he drew out a bowie-knife upon me and I a pistol upon him, which Major D-, who was standing by my side, wrenched suddenly out of my hand. Y — then drew a pistol upon me, and, just as he was in the act of shooting me, you came thundering by, with your spurs in your horse's sides, and, with a tremendous grab, jerked his pistol out of his hand, which was all that saved my life. But for you, I should long ago have been eaten up by worms on the banks of the Lavaca. Can you wonder, therefore, that I have since retained the most grateful remembrance of you, and rejoiced at all calculated to promote your happiness as well as your fame?

    Colonel Johnston's success in organizing and disciplining the army was so great that he received the highest commendations in every quarter. But he was not permitted to remain long enough to perfect the work he had begun. What he did accomplish was under the most [74] disadvantageous circumstances, as he suffered from the fever of the country, and was greatly reduced in strength. The Government felt the need of his services at the capital; and the Hon. John A. Wharton, Secretary of War, summoned him thither by an order, dated September 17, 1836, requiring him to discharge the duties of his office at that place. The Secretary's letter represents the greatest confusion as existing in the bureau, and relies upon Colonel Johnston's efforts to introduce better system and method. Proceeding with General Rusk, early in October, to Columbia, where the Congress was assembling, he entered upon his duties shortly before the inauguration of General Sam Houston as President of the Republic. Here he exercised the functions of his office satisfactorily until the 16th of November, when he went to New Orleans, on a nominal furlough of three months, but really in the interests of the Texan Government. On December 22d President Houston wrote him that he had put him in nomination as senior brigadier-general of the army, and his commission bears that date. He was notified of this, January 11th, but was detained in New Orleans by business; so that it was not until January 31st that he was ordered to assume command of the army. General James Hamilton, of South Carolina, had, on December 22d, been tendered the post of major-general and the command of the army, but had declined on account of private business.

    General Johnston's appointment to command led to an affair that resulted in great suffering to himself; but, fortunately, in no injurious consequences to the republic. About the time Johnston withdrew from the army, Rusk, having grown tired of the mingled sedition and intrigue that continually annoyed him, had abandoned the command to Felix Huston, who has already been mentioned. Huston was a Kentuckian, who had emigrated to Mississippi, where he had practised law and engaged largely in politics. He was a large, fine-looking man, of great personal gallantry, a good speaker, and endowed with popular qualities. He was extremely ambitious and self-confident, and overbearing and turbulent, though not ungenerous, in temper. Without military education or experience, though not without good military instincts, he had, nevertheless, so often seen civilians employ a brief military career as the stepping-stone to political preferment that he was justified in hoping to win this double distinction on so fair a field as Texas. He had been disappointed in arriving too late to share in any of the combats of the revolution; but he thought, nevertheless, that the contingent recruits that he brought to the defense of the frontier entitled him to the command of the army. The force Huston brought to the army is usually put at 500 men. Colonel Charles De Morse, then the adjutant-general, informs the writer, in a letter of January 25, 1875, that Huston did not bring more than 100 or 125 men. He [75] says he recollects only three officers, none of them of the rank of captain, and that none of the men were specifically organized in companies. It was enough, however, to found a claim upon; and, as he soon won the suffrages of the soldiers by his audacity and popular manners, it was not long before he spoke of the troops as “my army,” and really felt that such was the case.

    After the rejection of Lamar by the army vote, and the resignation of Rusk, he felt indisposed to allow the command that Fortune had placed in his hands to pass to another; and his public declarations that the officer who attempted to supersede him in the command of his army would do so at his peril, as well as his notoriety as a skillful duelist, were not without effect in checking the pretensions of a certain class of aspirants. So restless and uncompromising a politician was little likely to be acceptable to the leaders of any party; and, in view of the formidable invasion then threatened, it was natural enough for the President to prefer, as commander, a trained soldier, like Johnston, whose ambition was solely military, and to whom the army was indebted for all the organization and discipline it had. Accordingly, he was appointed senior brigadier-general, with command of the army; and Felix Huston was appointed junior brigadier-general, and assigned the second place. Whatever were the motives that led to his appointment, General Johnston, who had held aloof from all political complications, regarded it from a purely military point of view ; and, though duly informed of General Huston's threats, was, of course, not deterred thereby from accepting the command.

    Mr. Norvall, who was then in the Texan army there, gives some entertaining reminiscences in an article in the New York Sun, March 7, 1877; and, in correspondence with the writer, Norvall says General Johnston's appointment was bitterly resented by Huston's adherents, who now made a large majority of it. The supersedure of “Old Longshanks,” or “Old Leather-Breeches,” as Huston was affectionately nicknamed, roused the anger of his friends, and this feeling was fanned until there was a dangerous state of mind in the camp.

    On General Johnston's arrival at camp, February 4th, he was received civilly by General Huston, who, however, thought proper on the same day to address him the following letter:

    Headquarters camp independence, February 4, 1837.
    Sir: From the acquaintance I have had with you, and your high reputation, I wish to tender you my regards as a gentleman and soldier.

    Your assuming the command of the army would have excited in me no feelings but those of respect and obedience to you, as my superior officer, were it not for the fact that your appointment was connected with a tissue of treachery and misrepresentation, which was intended to degrade me and blast my prospects in the Texian [army]. [76]

    You, in assuming the command under an appointment connected with the attempt to ruin my reputation and inflict a stigma on my character, of course stand in an attitude of opposition to myself.

    This situation might not, in ordinary cases, lead to serious results. But as I have not made up my mind to leave the service, and cannot, consistently with honor, submit to be overslaughed under humiliating circumstances, I prefer taking a plain and direct course, to one which would lead to a similar result from the mere force of circumstances.

    I do this, as I really esteem your character, and know that you must be sensible of the delicacy of my situation.

    I therefore propose a meeting between us, in as short a period as you can make convenient. My friend Major Ross has authority to make all necessary arrangements. Reiterating my respects and regards, I am Your most obedient, humble servant,

    Felix Huston. To General A. S. Johnston.

    General Johnston's reply was as follows:

    Headquarters camp independence, February 4th.
    Sir: I have had the honor of receiving your note of this evening. After reciprocating the sentiments of respect and esteem which you have been pleased to express toward me, it only remains to accord to you the meeting proposed. I have designated 7 o'clock, A. M., to-morrow. My friend Colonel Morehouse is authorized to make the necessary arrangements.

    Your most obedient servant,

    A. Sidney Johnston. To Brigadier-General Felix Huston.

    It was found that no dueling-pistols were to be had in camp, and it was proposed to use General Huston's horse-pistols. Hon. Jefferson Davis calls them “, crook-handled pistols, twelve inches in the barrel.” Mr. Davis says General Johnston was a very good shot with ordinary pistols, and the writer knows that such was the case subsequently; but Captain Eaton says he had been quite disused to them for several years, and was a poor shot with them, though a skillful marksman with the rifle.

    Mr. Norvall says Huston's unrivaled skill with the pistol was so well known that astonishment was expressed that Johnston did not choose rapiers, with which he would have had an advantage. This was probably the reason he did not choose them. The advantage he was striving for was a moral one. Mr. Norvall gives the following version of the report set afloat at the time:

    General Johnston arrived a few days after his appointment was announced. He at once, without communicating with General Huston, directed, the adjutant-general to have the army paraded and the general order read. This was too much for Huston, already boiling over with rage. He sat down, wrote a peremptory challenge to mortal combat, and handed it to his friend Colonel Rogers, with instructions to deliver it at once and accept of no delay. [77]

    It so happened that this was a matter discussed by both parties with the Hon. Jefferson Davis, who makes the following statement to the writer: He says that Huston told him that “General Johnston came on the drill-ground and had the order read superseding him, and that that was pretext enough for him; that he could not fight the President, Sam Houston, and he was-glad to have a gentleman to hold responsible.”

    General Johnston told Mr. Davis that “it was true that the order was read by the adjutant-general of the army, but not by his direction or intention; that he was present merely to observe the drill,”

    My father made the same statement to me. It must be observed that Huston does not base his challenge upon this ground, which, even if not an after-thought, did not really amount to an offense.

    Mr. Norvall, in a letter to the writer, says: “Everybody understood the real cause of the trouble to be the fact that Huston had been superseded.” Mr. Norvall also says that an arrangement was made between the seconds, at the suggestion of General Johnston's friend, to fire with the butt of the pistol resting against the hip, in order to equalize the skill of the parties; and that General Johnston responded on learning this, “I am not sure I could hit the side of a house in firing from the hip;” and that the duel was thus fought.

    The writer doubts the accuracy of the anecdote; but, if true, it gave the expert an additional advantage over the novice. Norvall says that, accompanied by their friends, they forded the Lavaca on horseback, and, after passing through the forest, met on an open, grassy spot, on the edge of the prairie.

    Colonel Morehouse objected that General Huston was familiar with, and expert in the use of, these weapons, and that General Johnston had never handled one in his life. But the latter, willing to yield every advantage to his adversary, waived the objection. Mr. Norvall thinks there were very few witnesses. The writer believes from other information there were a considerable number present, to which, for obvious reasons, neither party was averse. The contest, though deadly in intention, was chiefly one for the moral control of these very men; and their presence was, therefore, equally desired by the antagonists.

    If General Johnston, for the sake of dramatic effect, deviated some, what from that perfect simplicity so eminently his characteristic, it is believed to be the only juncture of which this can be recorded; and allowance must be made for the character of the witnesses, the antagonist, and the occasion that brought him to the field.

    General Huston, according to the custom of practised duelists, who wish to present as inconspicuous a mark as possible to the aim of an opponent, closely buttoned his coat as he took his position. General Johnston, on the contrary, laid aside his coat and vest, and bound his [78] sash around his waist, thus offering his body, clad in a white shirt, as an almost certain target. When Huston perceived this, not wishing to be outdone in audacity, he somewhat angrily followed his example. Mr. Norvall says in a letter, with the naivete of an old Texan, “It was quite natural that he should do so, as the morning was warm enough for such an act.”

    General Johnston was perfectly aware of the disadvantage at which he stood, and had calmly resolved on a course of action which would lessen his disparity with his opponent. He knew he stood no chance with the weapons employed if General Huston was ever able to take aim at him. It is known, to those familiar with the use of the hair-trigger, that, if the finger is allowed to touch it, the report of another pistol will almost always produce a sufficient involuntary muscular contraction of the finger to cause a premature discharge. Availing himself of this fact, General Johnston raised his pistol quickly, and, with his eye on his opponent's finger, just anticipated him enough to succeed in “drawing his fire” before he could cover him with his pistol. He repeated this five times with the same result, much to Huston's discomfiture, whose reputation as a “dead-shot” was at stake. Huston declared years afterward that he did not wish to kill Johnston; but that a shot, through his hair and grazing his ear, admonished him that it was necessary in order to save himself. This is not probable, as he had the privilege at any time to express himself satisfied, and end the contest, a right not accorded to the challenged. At the sixth shot Huston's superior skill prevailed, and General Johnston fell, with a ball through his hip.1

    Huston at once asked leave to approach him, and expressed his regret, and his willingness to serve under him. Mr. Norvall makes the following statement, as of his own knowledge:

    The surgeon declared the wound so dangerous as to leave little hope of recovery, and the injured man was removed to the little hamlet of Texana, where he lay for weeks at the point of death. Huston mounted his horse and rode back to camp with a pale, agitated face. A thousand soldiers rushed forward to congratulate him as he crossed the lines, but he waved them off sadly, and rode straight to his quarters. That afternoon I saw him pacing up and down in the chaparral, and looking so miserable that, even at this distant day, I cannot think of him without pity.

    He adds: “One circumstance I remember distinctly, which surprised me, a mere boy at the time, and occasioned remark. This was that [79] a ration of whiskey, a most unusual thing, was issued that morning. I believe to this day that, if Huston had been killed or seriously wounded, there would have been an irrepressible riot in the camp.” This act meant mischief; but the writer has no idea that General Huston was aware of it.

    While he remained with the army, Huston acted in good faith as a subordinate officer; but the combined loss of command and influence soon rendered his situation distasteful to him. His loss of influence was the natural sequence of the events mentioned. General Johnston tried to mitigate his discomfort, by detaching him with a command toward the Nueces, to observe the enemy; but, not having cavalry to support him, was compelled to reunite his detachment with the main army. General Huston, after a time, withdrew from the army, and eventually returned to the United States.

    It is characteristic of General Johnston that he never felt any resentment toward Huston, as is evident from his correspondence and from all subsequent references to him in conversation. Huston, in like manner, confiding entirely in General Johnston's magnanimity, was writing to him in a most unreserved and confidential strain only a few weeks after the duel.

    It is stated, and, I believe, on good authority, that when the surgeons announced their fears that General Johnston's wound was mortal, “his friend and second, thinking that he was dying, muttered that the matter should not rest, for that he would avenge it. Johnston turned to him and said, ‘It is my request, in the event of my death, that you shall yield obedience to my second in command, General Huston, and I trust you will not by such conduct promote a spirit of insubordination.’ ” I remember, when I was a little boy, asking my father “if he did not hate Felix Huston.” He replied, “No,” and then I asked him what he would do if he were to meet him then. He laughed, and answered, amusedly, “As he would be a stranger here, I would ask him to dinner.” I thought a good deal about this before I could reconcile it to my sense of right.

    The aim of this memoir is biographical, not apologetic, and a mere statement of the facts may probably be deemed sufficient; yet, since General Johnston's motives are entitled to be considered, it may be well to state the grounds of his action. In every society there are persons who, in their judgment of human conduct, hold the rules of action to be so inflexible as to admit of no modification, and who, hence, make no allowance for the conditions by which a man is surrounded and the circumstances in which he is placed. But people in general recognize their constraining influence. Such will appreciate the change of sentiment in regard to dueling in the last forty years, and the absence of legal restraint and protection, at the time and place mentioned, which compelled [80] a man to abandon his rights, or to protect them himself by wager of battle.

    Captain Eaton says: “The first time I saw General Johnston after the duel I asked him how he came to fight Huston; and he answered that he did it as a public duty. . . He had but little respect for the practice of dueling.” His view, as detailed to the author, was that the safety of the republic depended upon the efficiency of the army; and that, again, upon the good discipline and subordination of the troops, which could only be secured by their obedience to their legal commander. General Huston embodied the lawless spirit in the army, which had to be met and controlled at whatever personal peril. Independent of personal feeling, the point was a vital one to the country; and, whatever the issue of the duel, General Huston would be rendered harmless in consequence of it. Moreover, he could not have held the command an hour, if he had shown the least hesitation in meeting General Huston's challenge. In view of the character of the army, it was necessary to allow neither time, nor obstacle, nor military subordination, nor any disadvantage, to prevent him from fighting at once. While quite willing to admit that, in an organized society, dueling was not defensible in ethics, in this case he saw no alternative, except to surrender his military efficiency and career, and the interests of the country.

    The effect of the duel was a complete revolution in the sentiment of the army; and the excitable feelings of the troops were warmly enlisted for his recovery. Huston then, and always afterward, declared that “he was the coolest and the bravest man he had ever known.” At first, his wound was pronounced mortal; the ball passed through the orifices of the pelvis, not breaking the bone, but so as to injure the sciatic nerve severely. His recovery was slow and painful; and his suffering was increased by the performance of his duties, which it did not suit him to devolve upon another. He bore great torture with the stoicism that he regarded as essential to the soldierly character, and did not permit his pain to interfere with measures of preparation against the threatened invasion. Though he could soon walk, he was not able to mount his horse for a long time. Yet, meanwhile, he made a marked improvement in the condition of the troops; so that the Secretary of War, Colonel William S. Fisher, wrote him March 28th, “The President is much gratified at the favorable report made, on my return, of the state of the army.”

    General Johnston received from the President and Secretary of War official reprimands of a somewhat perfunctory character for fighting a duel, together with assurances of complete confidence and esteem; and the President sent the surgeon-general and Dr. Jones to afford him the best medical aid. It was not in the power of the surgeons, however, [81] to give him relief, which, they informed him, could only be obtained by rest.

    The situation of Texas at this time was very critical. Confidential communications to the President, from Matamoras, through Mr. John Ricord, confirmed for the most part by Colonel Seguin at San Antonio, reported with certainty the enemy's force, January 26th: in Matamoras, 2,855 men; and with Bravo, at Saltillo, 2,500 men; amounting, including detachments, to 5,500 soldiers, with 28 cannon and two mortars. This force was augmented, until, in March, it was estimated at 8,000 Mexicans and a large body of Indian auxiliaries, who occupied the country between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. A combined attack by sea and land was intended; and a naval blockade was, in fact, established, which inflicted several severe blows on the republic by the capture of vessels and supplies. But, though an invasion at one time seemed imminent, civil commotions at home soon divided the attention and dispersed the armies of Mexico.

    How far they were checked in their enterprise by the resolute attitude of the little army of 1,800 men in their front it is needless now to consider; it is certain, however, that their advance would have been welcomed equally by the Texan army, eager for combat, and by its wounded leader. Inaction, a source of disorganization in any army, was especially injurious to men so adventurous. General Johnston believed that safety lay in boldness, and that the true policy to secure peace was to inflict rather than to suffer invasion. Felix Huston, who agreed with him in this view, wrote to him, March 28th, from the seat of Government:

    I hope little from the war policy of the Administration. The facility of arriving at the same conclusions from the most opposite states of fact renders it entirely useless to argue or reason with the President on this subject. ... As to our waging active war, he will not hear of it. I am in very low spirits as to our prospects, and deem Texas in a very critical situation.

    Huston was then on his way to New Orleans to try to raise men and supplies. Though the best-informed of his contemporaries denied his fitness for command, he had a certain audacity that, under proper direction, might have gained him the distinction which he craved almost morbidly. Though somewhat “splenetive and rash,” his character was broad and manly.

    From the time he took command, General Johnston tried with good results to improve the discipline of the army by drill and occupation in other military duties; and the troops were kept as much in motion as was safe and practicable. The army was increased from 1,500 to nearly 2,000 men by the arrival of recruits, for whose enlistment [82] General Johnston had provided while in New Orleans. Under the instructions of the Government, with insufficient munitions, transportation, and supplies, and with scarcely any cavalry, the army was necessarily merely one of observation. The consequent dissatisfaction was increased by want of proper rations. The troops soon consumed the scanty supplies of the country, reducing the sparse inhabitants to absolute want. The army was fed from hand to mouth; and often only two or three days supplies remained in depot. At times, half-rations of beans and flour only were issued on alternate days, and frequently the men were without meat. The most rigid economy and system were practised, however, so that no actual suffering occurred.

    General Johnston was aware of the difficulties of the Government; but, nevertheless, felt that its energy was not commensurate with the importance of the issues at stake. Another serious embarrassment arose from want of sufficient cavalry. General Johnston urged the expediency of employing a larger force of mounted men to watch the enemy, guard against forays by the Indians, and aid in collecting provisions. The President frequently promised him this aid; but, on the 31st of March, wrote, “All my efforts to get you cavalry appear to be in vain.” The small force of this arm at General Johnston's disposal was kept actively employed watching the roads. Wells, Seguin, Cook, and Karnes, with small parties of rangers, reconnoitred the frontiers with vigilance and secrecy; and that daring partisan, Deaf Smith, penetrated to the Rio Grande with twenty men, and defeated a superior force of the enemy near Laredo.

    A secret traffic in ardent spirits added greatly to the difficulty of enforcing discipline. President Houston was very uneasy on this point, and issued stringent orders for the destruction of liquor intended for the camps. General Johnston shared in the President's solicitude, and wrote that he would enforce his orders to the letter. Having apprehended and confined some men, while they were attempting to introduce liquor into the camp, a mutiny arose; and about fifty men rushed upon the guard at midnight, and rescued the prisoners, so that the camp became the scene of riot and confusion. The next day seven of the ringleaders were arrested, and quiet was restored. Not long after, Colonel Teal, a gallant and useful officer, was assassinated; and both public opinion and the suspicions of the President pointed to an officer of high rank as the instigator of the deed.

    All these circumstances indicate the difficulties of General Johnston's position; but, sustained by the hope of meeting the enemy with these valiant though unruly warriors, he endured the pain of his wound and the vexations of his command, and continued to perform the duties devolving on him. As this hope gradually vanished, and the torment from the injured nerve became more acute with the increasing heat, he [83] was forced to consider the question of his resignation. He wrote from Texana, April 22d, to the Secretary of War, as follows:

    dear Sir: The state of my health has been a source of great embarrassment and anxiety to me. During the first period of my confinement I was buoyed up with the hope of soon being able to resume the active duties of my station, believing that the healing of my wound would be the period of relief from pain and of my restoration. But I have been greatly disappointed; my attempts to take exercise on horseback have proved exceedingly injurious, and I am compelled to refrain; and, of course, am greatly discouraged, as my suffering is without intermission.

    My situation requires repose and suspension from fatigue. I do not ask it, nor do I wish it, at this time, but the public interest requires that all the duties of the commander should be energetically performed by a competent officer; to do which, his presence at every point is necessary. The office of major-general is vacant. Let an appointment be made. I should be wanting in honor were I to conceal from you that I am unable to discharge all my duties, and have been restrained until this time from reporting it by the hope of recovery, which I do not now believe will be soon. My physicians commend my case to time.

    I have recommended the appointment of a major-general. Should any other arrangement be deemed more conducive to the public interest, let no motive of consideration for me interfere. I feel the most ardent desire to serve the country, and whatever ability I may have shall be devoted to it.

    The President and Secretary earnestly opposed any change, and urged General Johnston to retain command. He did so until May 7th, when, worn down by care, fatigue, and physical suffering, he took the advice of his physicians, and turned over the command to Colonel Rogers. On the 18th of the same month, the President furloughed about two-thirds of the men, thus virtually disbanding the army; while the Mexican navy swept triumphantly along the coast, and the Indians pursued their cruel warfare upon the border with but faint resistance.

    As President Houston and General Johnston subsequently became unfriendly, it is proper to state that there is no evidence of such a feeling during this period.

    The President's letters on public affairs are full and frank. Occasionally, his language is imperious; and he conveys rudimentary instruction in the military art after a fashion that might have wounded the self-love of a trained soldier less tolerant of human foibles than General Johnston; but he accepted all proper suggestions with cheerfulness, and responded to others with calmness and dignity. In a letter of April 4th General Johnston, in view of the possibility of a forced retreat, says:

    I agree with you that the Colorado is the proper line of defense, having more strength than any other, and affording more facility of cooperation with the militia, and of supply. [84]

    To a rebuke from the President for writing to him in general terms, and an order requiring him to conform to the regulations in making returns, etc., he replies that all that the President conceives to have been omitted has been done, and that “the detailed information he desires is on the files of the War Department.”

    These, however, were minor matters, and led to no personal ill-feeling. But the conduct of affairs by the Administration certainly impaired General Johnston's confidence in its wisdom and energy. The President, from his antecedents, was naturally inclined to attach undue importance to treaties with the Indians, and to depend upon them for succor in emergencies. General Johnston, on the other hand, though quite ready to treat with or subsidize them, regarded them as utterly faithless, and placed no reliance upon their promises. In accordance with the tenor of his instructions, he made a treaty with the Comanches on the 25th of April. President Houston was satisfied with a do-nothing policy toward Mexico. He was content to allow an annual invasion from that country, if the independence of Texas was not put in too imminent peril thereby.

    The time has passed for party-feeling about these matters; the actors are in their graves, and new issues have arisen of more vital importance to this generation ; but, as the subject belongs to history, it seems appropriate to state the objections to this policy which for the most part controlled Texas, until it drifted into annexation. It was not defensive, as claimed; because it took no adequate steps to resist or punish aggression by Mexico or her Indian allies, who harassed the frontier. But, if it had been able to resist this aggression, still it fell short of measures essential to the security of Texas. Annexation to the United States was the general wish; and, if this could not be obtained, then independence, guaranteed by England or France. In either case a large immigration was desired by all Texans.

    Before any of these results could be calculated upon, it was necessary for Texas to prove herself able to protect her own borders. General Johnston, with the more energetic spirits, believed that Texas had the men for an army of invasion, and could dictate a peace better within the boundaries of Mexico than beyond them; and that these men, admirable for offensive warfare, were a burden while idle. Five times as many men would have been required to guard the frontier securely as to invade. He thought a forward movement would attract a large number of adventurers, and that the removal of the pressure upon the frontier would invite an immigration of hardy colonists, who, in time, would form a sufficient bulwark. With the men of the border, he resented the idea that Mexico should be allowed annually to assert her eminent domain by an incursion of rancheros and convicts, while the pioneer was to be left unaided to the mercy of the savage. [85]

    That these sentiments were not his alone is manifest from the letter, already quoted, of General Felix Huston.. Colonel W. S. Fisher, after retiring from the War Department, writes February 6, 1838: “The people have lost faith in the Administration. They consider that the tendency of the whole of its measures is to prolong the war to an indefinite period, and they cry aloud for action and decided measures that will put an end to the harassing state of incertitude in which they now stand.” Other testimony might be cited.

    General Johnston did not feel it incumbent on him to arraign the Administration for inefficiency, though he chafed under what he considered lost opportunities for the country. These adverse views gradually led to a bitter hostility in the breast of the President, who eventually came to regard him as a man to be crushed, at whatever cost. The vehemence of this dislike was the more singular, as General Johnston at no time in his life, even to his intimate friends, allowed himself to show resentment at the ill offices done him, and generally forbore to speak when he could not commend. At this time, however, there was no rupture of friendly relations, and none would have occurred had others shown the same reserve in criticism of General Johnston that he exhibited toward them.

    After General Johnston left the army, a meeting of officers voted him an address of confidence and regard. He received a furlough, May 17th, to visit the United States, and proceeded to New Orleans to consult his friend Dr. Davidson, and Dr. Luzenberg, an eminent surgeon of that city. These skillful medical authorities, after a month's attention to his case, confirmed the view of the army-surgeons, and recommended absolute repose. They also laid down a course of treatment which, in time, almost entirely restored him. In later life he was troubled with a slight lameness after any severe fatigue, and with numbness and occasional pain in one foot; there was also some shrinkage of the muscles. He was so much discouraged by the disbanding of the army, and by the opinions of his physicians as to his wound, that on the 27th of June he wrote to the Secretary of War, again tendering his resignation, which was again declined.

    By the advice of his surgeons, General Johnston spent the summer and fall in Kentucky. His correspondence shows that the friends of Texas deemed his services of the first importance to the republic. Colonel Hockley, eminent in the struggle for independence, whom General Johnston characterizes as “one of the best officers and patriots in the army,” writes from Nashville, November 5, 1837: “I have just returned from the Hermitage, where I spent all last week, and have had many and long conversations with the old chief in relation to the next campaign. He will be pleased to see you, if you can make it convenient to pass this way.” [86]

    Hon. Henry D. Gilpin, the Attorney-General, and a confidential friend of President Van Buren, had married the widow of Senator Johnston. He wrote to General Johnston, August 13th, kindly urging him to visit him at Washington. He says: “It is very evident the annexation of Texas to our Union is to form a subject of importance and of contest too; I am sure your presence and information might often, very often, be of service.” He adds: “When we saw you at the head of the army, we began to think of Cortes and De Soto; and conjectured that you would have as many toils among swamps, mountains, and prairies, as the one, to end in your putting a new flag on the same walls, as the other.” In view of the intimate relations between the writer and the President, there is suggestion at least in the foregoing. From traits in General Johnston's character, already sufficiently manifest, including a certain impatience of patronage not altogether judicious, he declined to avail himself of these favorable opportunities of introduction to powerful party chiefs, and of familiar intercourse with them. Having spent his furlough with his children and friends in Louisville, he returned, as soon as he was able, in December, to Texas.

    His naturally buoyant temper had aided in his recovery, and he now reentered upon the scene of his former labors with high and cheerful purpose. The following extract is given not only as an index of his own spirit, but of that of the Texan people; and, also, as exhibiting the condition of the country, at the mercy, not only of invasion, but even of the rumor of invasion. It is from a letter to Mr. Edward D. Hobbs, of Louisville:

    City of Houston, December 31, 1837.
    my dear sir: A few hours after my arrival at this place, news reached us from San Antonio of the approach and investment of that devoted town by a large body of the enemy's cavalry. Immediate measures were taken by the people, here and elsewhere, to organize the whole available force of the country, and aid the Government in every possible manner. The greatest enthusiasm was manifested in our public meetings, and a determination to meet the enemy and drive him from our country. Our scanty means were fully known to all, being almost destitute of munitions and provisions; yet this did not abate the ardor of their devotion to the cause. Yesterday an express arrived from San Antonio, which informs us that the rumor was caused by the sudden irruption of a marauding party of fifty Mexicans for the purpose of stealing horses, in which they partly succeeded. The alarm, I hope, will act as a solemn admonition to the Government to commence preparations for the renewal of the war in the most energetic manner. The commander of San Antonio says that “things bear a threatening aspect in that region;” and information from different sources confirms the reported movements of the enemy; indeed, we may say that a heavy column has already crossed the Rio Grande. It is now too late to lament that ample preparation has not been made; we must be up and doing, with such force and such means as we have. Texas is now free, and will always be, while her citizens are faithful; and in this they will never be found wanting, [87] I shall leave this evening for the west. I will take charge of 200 mounted men at the Colorado, and proceed with them for the purpose of making a reconnaissance. The information I shall gain will enable the Government to act promptly and energetically, if need be. I am ordered to take charge of the military operations. I hope to render a good account if the war goes on.

    A letter to the same gentleman explains the conclusion of this affair:

    Mercer's Ferry, Colorado River, January 17, 1838.
    dear sir: I wrote you in my last of my intention of going to San Antonio de Bexar with a small force, for the purpose of reconnaissance on the frontier, with the view of ascertaining the strength and composition of the enemy's forces, and how far they have been pushed on this side of the Rio Grande. Thus far I have been unable to raise the force I anticipated, the excitement of the false report of the investment of Bexar having subsided. I think it probable I shall have to advance with one company of forty men, or relinquish the undertaking, which I would not do were all the powers of Mexico in full array on our territory. [6Confidential.-Our Government wants energy and prudent foresight, which those intrusted with the liberties of a people should possess.] I leave to-morrow for the Navidad, thence for Bexar, thence — I will determine when I get there. Salutations to all friends, Prentice in particular.

    Very truly your friend,

    A. Sidney Jonston.

    The sentence marked s “Confidential,” in this letter, will not be considered incautious, or censorious, when it is remembered that it was addressed to a most intimate and trustworthy friend, not in Texas. It is given to show the drift of General Johnston's opinions at that time. A little later, if he had chosen to give expression to them, they would have been more emphatic in tone.

    On the 20th of January the Secretary of War, Barnard E. Bee, remarks in a friendly letter, that it would be useless to get men together without supplies; and adds, “The nakedness of the land you will be struck with.” On the 27th of January he informs General Johnston that the President is opposed to his making his headquarters beyond San Antonio. On February 26th H. McLeod writes very emphatically, “The President will not change the frontier line, or reinforce General Johnston with militia.” On the same day the Secretary of War writes, “As we have not a dollar in the Treasury, we must be content to fold our arms;” and again, on another occasion, he says: “The Treasury is drained. Not a dollar is to be had.”

    As the winter and spring dragged on, it became evident that Mexico, busied with her own civil wars, would not attempt the conquest of Texas, but would limit her attacks to predatory raids and the stirring up of Indian hostilities; and Texas was again saved more by the faults of the enemy than by her own vigor. On the 13th of March General [88] Johnston addressed a letter to the Secretary of War, in which he says: “Although, from the distracted condition of Mexico, which is confirmed by reports from every source, it will not be possible for that Government to carry on the war this year against the republic; and although the enemy is unable to make any serious movement against this country, we should not forget that our frontier is in a most feeble situation, and incapable of defense against even predatory parties. It is unnecessary for me to say to you that on the northern frontier there is no force whatever, and on the western there will not be a mounted man after the 3d of April.” The letter goes on to urge not only the duty but the expediency of protecting the settlers, and recommends the organization of a regiment of cavalry for frontier defense. The Government, however, took no measures, except to advise a renewal of the treaty with the Comanches, the preliminaries of which General Johnston, after much negotiation, finally arranged.

    In 1854 I took notes of some conversations with General Johnston, among which I find the following account of these transactions. The Comanches had committed great depredations, but now sent in word that they were willing to treat for peace. General Johnston knew that there could be no satisfactory peace until the limits of the two races were definitively settled, and each was restrained within its own territory; but the difficulty was, that the Spanish law had recognized no right to the soil in the Indians, and Texas still held to this doctrine. Could a territory, then, be marked out for the Comanches? As General Johnston's authority to assign a territory to them was at least doubtful, and he was unwilling to transcend his legitimate powers, he sent an officer to the President to inquire how this question should be disposed of; but Houston made no reply. General Johnston determined, therefore, merely to hold a friendly talk with the Indians, avoiding all disputed points.

    After a delay of some two months a band of about 150 Comanches, led by two chiefs, Essowakkenny and Essomanny, came in to hold the “talk.” The chiefs were about twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old, and about five feet eight inches in height; Essomanny was rather a bull-headed fellow, with a firm and sensible expression; Essowakkenny had a more intelligent countenance.

    It had been the immemorial custom of the Comanches, after plundering the country, to ride down at their pleasure to San Antonio to trade, receive presents, and offer prisoners for ransom. On such occasions, to relieve themselves from the care of their horses, these fierce warriors condescendingly committed their caballado to the custody of the commandant, from whom they required a scrupulous return of their chattels when they should be ready to leave. On this occasion, Essowakkenny, on meeting General Johnston, waved his hand with a lordly [89] gesture toward his horses, saying: “There is our caballado. Take care of it.” “Yes,” replied General Johnston, looking at him steadily, “I see your caballado. You ride good ponies. I advise you to watch them well. All white men are not honest. I take good care of my own horses. Take care of yours.” General Johnston told the writer that he meant to teach the Comanches that he was not “a Mexican hostler in uniform.” The chief understood the irony, and that he had to deal with a warrior; he smiled grimly, and detailed some of his own men to watch the grazing herd.

    A “big talk” was held. General Johnston told them of the great advantages of peace, and that the Texans wished to be friendly with them ; to which they replied that they also wished for peace. General Johnston told them that, if they were better acquainted with the white people, they might like them better; and that, if they desired it, trading-posts would be established in their country. Essowakkenny rose, and said that the Comanches had noticed that trading-posts always seemed to frighten the buffalo away, so that they did not want any in their country; but that they did not object to a line of posts along the border of their country-drawing an imaginary line with his hand, so as to indicate a distance of about three miles from San Antonio. Not caring to discuss the delicate subject of the boundary, General Johnston, without alluding to the trading-posts again, dilated upon tho benefits of peace. Essowakkenny rejoined that his people had made. peace with the Mexicans. General Johnston said that he was glad of it; although the Mexicans were not his friends, it was good for the Comanches to be at peace with everybody. Essowakkenny added, with a humorous look, that he did not make peace with the Mexicans until he had stolen all their horses! To General Johnston's request that he would visit the President at Houston, Essowakkenny replied that he could not go, but that his brother, Essomanny, who was a braver man than himself, would go. He then declared sentiments of the strongest friendship. General Johnston gave them presents of considerable value, and dismissed them, not only well pleased, but delighted, with their reception.

    Karnes, on the strength of this talk, took a quantity of goods and traded with them. He was well treated, and made much money. Encouraged by these results, a party of thirteen men started with goods to trade with them; but, as they were never heard of again, it was supposed that they were treacherously murdered by the Comanches. President Houston concluded a treaty with them in May, 1838, which they observed with their usual bad faith ; and we find them, during the summer and fall, raiding, robbing, and scalping ; so that, in the language of Yoakum, “the frontier was lighted up with the flames of savage war.” This author ascribes these outrages to the opening of the land-office; [90] but they should rather be imputed to the secret negotiations between Mexico and the Indians, and to the defenseless condition of the frontier.

    General Johnston used to relate that, while pursuing, with friendly Tonkaways, some Lipan horse-thieves, they came upon a gigantic brave, who, on foot, long outstripped his pursuers. At length, finding his enemies closing round him, he turned, confronted them, and defiantly shouting, “Lipan!” rushed among them to certain death. General Johnston said he would gladly have saved him, but was unable to do so. Next day, his Indian allies told him they had cooked the Lipan, and asked him to dinner; nor could they be made to understand his abhorrence at feasting on the flesh of an enemy. This is mentioned because it has been doubted whether the Texas Indians were cannibals.

    On another occasion, he was following the trail of some hostile Indians, when he found, among other tracks in the sand, the footprint of a little child. He halted his men, pointed it out to them, and told them they must spare the party for the sake of the little child. The rude frontiersmen, equally open to emotions of revenge or generosity, readily agreed to forego the pursuit. He had a great reverence for the innocence of childhood.

    During the spring General Johnston was much urged to allow himself to be nominated for President of the Republic; and it was stated that Rusk would allow his name to be used as a candidate for Vice-President, on this condition, but on no other. He, however, steadily rejected all overtures, in which course he was fully confirmed, when General Mirabeau B. Lamar and Hon. Peter W. Grayson, both personal friends, appeared as rival candidates.

    On the 8th of April the Government was startled by information, five days only from Matamoras, that a heavy column of invasion was already in motion in the direction of San Antonio. The dispatch from the Secretary of War, conveying this intelligence to General Johnston, concludes:

    I communicate with you by express, and at the instance of the President, who has but just returned. He wishes you to avail yourself of every possible means of defense; and, if necessary, consult with the Comanches, who will doubtless render you every assistance; your force is so inadequate that I can scarcely do more than say I know all that bravery can achieve will be accomplished.

    As the Mexican force was reported at 1,500 or 2,000 men, and General Johnston had only forty men at his disposal, he might well have disregarded an order the tenor of which, in its plain construction, seemed to require him to contest the advance of the invaders with the force at his command. Though he did not suspect any deliberate purpose to sacrifice him, he felt a deep indignation at the terms in which [91] the order was drawn, which, according to his construction, left him no liberty of action. The next day he replied:

    You are aware of the very limited means of defense at my disposal; but, such as they are, you may rely upon their being employed to the best advantage.

    The direction to call upon the Indians for aid was a proposition not to be considered. It is probable that the Administration only meant that he must run away judiciously; but he was hardly of a temper so to construe “all that bravery can achieve.” He resolved that he would not retreat, and that, if a Thermopylae or an Alamo were required of him, he would not involve San Antonio in his destruction. He therefore advanced to meet the enemy and contest with him the passage of the streams. The result proved the wisdom of his action, the safety of which lay in its boldness. The Mexicans, apprehending that his little troop was but the advance-guard of an army, hastily recrossed the Rio Grande; and, in furtherance of some other political project, were soon diverted into distant quarters, thus freeing the frontier from present danger. Thus was this official death-warrant annulled by Providence. The coast of Texas was about the same time relieved from the depredations of the enemy by the French blockade of the ports of Mexico.

    General Johnston, having no troops to command and no present occupation, again wished to resign, but was so strongly dissuaded that, in June, he accepted a furlough and went to Kentucky. Colonel Hockley, who had succeeded Mr. Bee as Secretary of War, informed General Johnston, August 21st, of Cordova's revolt, which ended in smoke, however; and, apprising him that he was authorized to retain such officers as were necessary, added, “You hold your rank, and are wanted.”

    Most of the emigrants to Texas had gone thither with the hope of seeing it ultimately admitted as a State into the Federal Union. When they saw the possibilities of greatness in its vast territory and wonderful natural advantages, they felt assured that in its annexation the United States would gain even more than Texas. When, then, in the Northern States the opposition to annexation found vent in a torrent of insult and invective, a great revulsion of feeling occurred in Texas. President Houston withdrew the offer of annexation, and public attention was directed toward the maintenance of independence, with free trade and closer relations with England.

    In letters to General Johnston from prominent Texans, former enthusiasts for annexation, the opinion prevails that “perhaps it is better thus.” Others went further, disappointment adding bitterness to alienation. President Lamar, in his inaugural address, says with his usual fervor: “The step, once taken, would produce a lasting regret, and ultimately prove as disastrous to our liberties and hopes as the triumphant sword of the enemy.” General Johnston shared the common sentiment that national dignity and manifest policy both demanded the withdrawal of the offer of annexation. It was evidently unfair to [92] Texas to leave the option open to a hesitating suitor; and, indeed, the shortest road to annexation was to compel the United States to consider the alternative of a European protectorate. A few years' delay enabled Texas' to make a much better bargain, and the United States reenacted the purchase of the sibylline books. It is a curious problem how a final rejection of Texas by the United States might have affected the events of the last twenty years-possibly not as the opponents of annexation would have wished.

    Mirabeau B. Lamar was elected President, and David G. Burnet Vice-President, September 3, 1838, and they were inaugurated on the 9th of December. On December 22d General Johnston was appointed Secretary of War. Louis P. Cook was made Secretary of the Navy, and Dr. James H. Starr Secretary of the Treasury; and the Department of State was filled in rapid succession by Hon. Barnard E. Bee, Hon. James Webb, and Judge Abner S. Lipscomb; Judge Webb becoming Attorney-General. General Johnston lived on terms of great harmony and kindness with his colleagues.

    1 There is a question whether there were five or six shots. The writer believes the above account to be correct.

    Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

    An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

    hide Display Preferences
    Greek Display:
    Arabic Display:
    View by Default:
    Browse Bar: