Page images

Mississippi, and four years later started to Texas, but stopped for a time in Louisiana, and it was while living in the latter state that George Webb Slaughter received the only schooling (three weeks in all) which he ever had an opportunity to obtain. In 1830 the Slaughter family crossed the Sabine River and settled in what was then the Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas. At that time the country east of Austin was divided into municipalities governed principally by military laws. Petty officers were in charge at the different points and alcaldes, or mag

[graphic][graphic][merged small][merged small]

istrates, were appointed by them, while all matters of importance were referred to the District Commandant. Col. Piedras was in charge of the country along the Sabine, with headquarters at Nacogdoches. He was a man of narrow and decided views and but poorly qualified to exercise authority over a people reared in the enjoyment of American liberty. There was no tolerance of religious belief beyond a blind adherence to the Catholic church and an arrest by Col. Piedras of several Protestant clergymen, who had attempted to hold services in the colony, precipitated one of the first conflicts between the colonists and the Mexican government. G. W.

Slaughter, then a boy of nineteen or twenty, took an active part in the armed resistance to this act of tyranny, and his relation of the events which followed is vivid and interesting. A commissioner, sent to Col. Piedras to intercede for the prisoners' release, was treated with contempt, and Col. Bean Andrews, who repaired to the City of Mexico on the same errand, was thrown into prison. Despairing of obtaining recognition and relief through pacific methods, the colonists held a mass meeting at San Augustine about June 1, 1832, and resolved to take matters into their own hands and release the prisoners, if need be, through force of arms. Preparations for this decisive step went quietly on, and in a short time 500 armed men met within two miles of Nacogdoches and sent Col. Piedras under a flag of truce, a demand for the prisoners' liberation. In reply a company of cavalry came out with a counter demand for the surrender of the whole party. Immediate hostilities followed. The Mexicans were driven back to town after one or two ineffectual stands, and eventually forced to evacuate the fort and seek safety in flight. Quite a number of Mexicans were killed, but only three Americans, one of whom was G. P. Smith, an uncle of G. W. Slaughter. At that time the Angelina River was swollen with recent rains, its bottom lands flooded and impassable except at one point, some eighteen miles from the fort, where a bridge had been built. Here all the men who were provided with horses, were directed to hasten and stop the retreat of the panic-striken Mexicans, while the remainder of the force followed on thus bringing the enemy between two fires and compelling the entire command to surrender. Col. Piedras was allowed to return to Mexico under promise of excusing the colonists' acts and interceding for their pardon, but he proved false to his trust and his report of the affair at Nacogdoches only still further incensed the government. Mr. Slaughter was under fire for the first time in this skirmish or battle. During the

temporary lull which followed previous to the general outbreak of war, he was occupied in freighting between Louisiana and Texas points, and one of his loads-perhaps the most valuable of them all, consisted of the legal library of Sam Houston, which he hauled to Nacogdoches in 1833. He had previously met Houston while attending court at Natchitoches, La., and he mentions the fact that upon this occasion the future president of the Texas Republic was dressed in Indian garments and decked out in all the glory of scalp-lock, feathers and silver ornaments. Mr. Slaughter was an earnest admirer of Houston and was more than pleased when the latter assumed control of the Texan forces. The company in which he enlisted reported to Houston for duty at San Antonio, and was in several engagements which immediately followed, among others the famous "Grass Fight," one of the hottest of the war. Houston then advanced toward Mexico, but halted near Goliad upon intelligence that Santa Anna was approaching with an army of 15,000 men. Col. Fannin with the forces under his command was encamped in a strong position in a bend of the river below Goliad. Travis was in the Alamo with those gallant spirits who were to remain with him faithful and uncomplaining until death. Houston, safe in the consciousness that on the open prairie lay perfect safety from beleaguerment, watched the approach of the Mexican army and pleaded with Fannin and Travis to abandon the fortifications and join him. Mr. Slaughter served as a courier, making several trips to Fannin and Travis in the Alamo. On one of the latter, in obedience to instructions from Gen. Houston, he delivered into the hands of Col. Travis an order to retreat. After reading it, Travis consulted his brother officers, acquainted his men with the contents of the message, and drew a line with his sword and called upon all who were willing to remain with him and fight, if need be, to the death, to cross it. The decision was practically unanimous to

defend the fort to the last extremity. Only one of the little band chose to make his way to the main army; he was let down from the walls and made his escape. Travis hoped for reinforcements that would enable him to inflict upon Santa Anna a bloody and decisive repulse that would check him on the outskirts of the settlements, or, failing in this, detain his army a sufficient length of time to enable the colonists to mass an adequate force to meet him successfully in the open field. He fully realized the peril of his situation and concealed nothing from his comrades. They determined to stake their lives upon


Houston's trusted Lieutenant, George Webb Slaughter, delivering a message from Houston to Travis, Bowie and Crockett advising the Evacuation of the Alamo

the hazard and were immolated upon the altar of their country.

Mr. Slaughter returned to headquarters and reported the result of his mission. Later while on a hazardous trip to the Alamo, then known to be invested with Santa Anna's army, he encountered Mrs. Dickinson and her negro slave, survivors of the massacre, who had been released by the Mexican commandant and instructed to proceed to General Houston with tidings of Travis' fate.

The butchery of Fannin and his men followed shortly after, and Santa Anna pressed on after General Houston, who had retreated to the east side of the Brazos. Meantime Mr. Slaughter was employed in carrying messages and in procuring subsistence for the army, accepting many dangerous missions and performing them all to the satisfaction of his commanding officer. History relates how Houston retreated and how the Mexican army followed until they were led into the trap at San Jacinto, where the tables were turned and Santa Anna defeated and captured, his troops slaughtered, and his invasion brought to an ignominious end. The victory at San Jacinto was not the end of hostilities; but, following it, there came a breathing spell, of which Mr. Slaughter hastened to take advantage. Gaining a leave of absence, under promise of returning at once in case he was needed, he hastened to his home, and on the 12th day of the following October he was married to Miss Sarah Mason, to whom he had been engaged for some time. The ceremony was only deferred to this date because under the disorganized state of the country there was no officer with legal authority to perform it. The marriage of Mr. Slaughter was the first ceremony of the kind under the sanction of the Republic which he had been instrumental in establishing. The newly wedded couple settled in Sabine county, and Mr. Slaughter resumed freighting for a livelihood, engaging in the employ of the new government.

At the time of the Cherokee troubles, in 1839, the eastern counties organized companies in pursuance of President Houston's orders, and Mr. Slaughter was elected captain of the company organized in Sabine. The newly recruited forces assembled at Nacogdoches, and in a body marched to reinforce General Rusk, who was stationed with a small force on the Neches River, near where Chief Bowles was encamped with 1,600 Cherokees. Two days were spent in an ineffectual attempt to arrange

« PreviousContinue »