the winter of 1837, the young son of a Union, Maine, preacher sat down at a table
in San Augustine
and wrote his father about his journey to Texas.
Milton Irish's letter, printed in the Lincoln Patriot at Waldoboro, Maine, on
February 10,1837, has become a classic story of a simple soldier involved in the
momentous events that gave birth to Texas the year before. In a few months, Milton
-- an ancestor of Jack Irish of Lufkin
-- found himself involved in the Siege of Bexar, the battle that preceded the
fall of the Alamo, and barely escaped
with his life during the massacre of Texas prisoners at Goliad.
In writing to his father, Rev. Cornelius Irish, Milton reported that he arrived
in San Augustine
July 5, 1835, and soon joined a company of volunteers headed for San
In early December, 1835, when troops led by James Bowie and
Juan Sequin defeated a Mexican garrison, it was the first time Milton had been
involved in a battle. "In this action, I for the first time heard the groans and
beheld the agonies of death by the hand of man," he wrote.
ended when "a capitulation was soon agreed upon." and the Mexicans gave up the
Alamo. While more than 170 men were
killed and wounded on both sides, Milton received only "a slight wound to the
neck from a musket ball."
On December 31 Milton left San Antonio for Mission
LaBahia, near Goliad, joining another company of soldiers attempting to protect
settlers from Mexican troops.
He was soon involved in several skirmishes
with Mexicans and local Indians. "This was the first time I had ever heard the
horrid yells of the savages," he wrote to his father. In one incident, Milton's
group was surrounded by Mexican soldiers and he and only six men escaped back
Milton also described the retreat of Colonel Fannin's Texas soldiers: "My rifle,
having become useless, I repaired to a six-pounder, and having procured several
charges for her, and with the aid of a cowardly Irishman and a brave Pole, I fired
with good effect on a body of horses advancing upon us."
Milton and his
companions dug a ditch and spent the night, but in the morning "the Mexicans appeared
with several pieces of artillery and large reinforcements (and) hoisted a flag
truce, which was followed by a capitulation honorable for us to accept, throwing
us into their hands." Taken to LaBahia, Milton and his fellow soldiers were guarded
until they "were paraded for what purpose we knew not." But it soon became apparent
the Mexicans intended to execute their prisoners. "The maneuvers first intimated
to us what was to be our fate. Here, death for an instant stared me in the face.
I inwardly cried, OLord, have mercy on me." I had spent my life in wickedness
and it was now too late for hope. From that moment, all fear left me; a desperate
indignation took its place."
A young gentlemen from Alabama, Milton said,
spoke in a firm tone, "Gentlemen, let us meet our doom like men."
Mexican troops began firing into the Texas ranks, Milton miraculously remained
unhurt while "death shrieks" rang in his ears. Running toward a fence, he leaped
over, and evaded the Mexicans and Indians for six weeks, surviving on provisions
left by settlers during their flight. Milton later returned to La Bahia where
he witnessed the funeral of the more than 300 Goliad victims. As one of only 28
survivors of the massacre, Milton returned to San
Augustine on June 25, 1836 -- two months after Texas won its independence
28, 2005 column
Bob Bowman's East Texas
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
Story: Goliad Massacre
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