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Columns | All Things Historical

Alamo Marksman


by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

If an East Texas volunteer's rifle shot had hit its mark, the Alamo battle might have taken a different turn.

Early in the March, 1836, siege of the Alamo, Micajah Autry, an expert marksman, was chosen by his company to eliminate Santa Anna, who often sauntered across the ground just beyond the Alamo wall. Autry raised his long rifle, took careful aim as his breathless companions watched, and fired.

In that moment, the history of Texas might have been changed, but in the nervous tension and great hope of killing Santa Anna, Autry's bullet went wild and Santa Anna, who for once lost his dignity, scampered to cover.

Autry lived through the 13 days of the Alamo siege, the prowess of his marksmanship adding to the numbers of Santa Ann's dead. He fell with his comrades at the stockade, overwhelmed by the Mexican troops, determined and courageous to the end.

Micajah was a native of Sampson County, North Carolina. Between the ages of 17 and 18, he volunteered for service against the British in the War of 1812 and remained in Charleston in the company of Captain Long until the Treaty of Ghent was signed in 1815.

Afterward, Autry studied law and was admitted to the bar in Jackson, Tennessee, where he practiced until he went to Texas. His reason for moving, he said, was that he hoped to find a home for his family, as well as a possible means of support.

Arriving in Memphis, he wrote to his wife on December 7, 1835: "On the steamboat Pacific, I have met a number of acquaintances bound for Texas...I am determined to provide a home for you...or perish."

From Natchitoches, Louisiana, he wrote: "About twenty men from Tennessee form our squad...the war (in Texas) is going favorably for the Texans, but it is thought that Santa Anna will make a descent with his whole force in the spring. But there will be soldiers enough of the real grit in Texas by that time to overrun all Mexico. We have between 400 and 500 to foot it to the seat of government. We cannot get horses, but have sworn allegiance to each other."

From Nacogdoches, on January 13, Autry wrote his last letter, still optimistic: "I walked from Natchitoches to this place, 115 miles, through torrents of rain, mud and water...we expect to march to headquarters (Washington-on-the-Brazos) to join Houston, and receive our destination...I expect to help (Texas) gain independence...it is well worth risking many lives, for there is not so fair a portion of the Earth's surface, warmed by the sun...Colonel Crockett has just joined our company..."

Autry's company appeared before John Forbes in Nacogdoches to take the oath of allegiance to Texas on January 14, 1836, and marched to the Alamo in San Antonio.

The Micajah Autry Society presents a play based upon his adventures each summer in North Carolina.



All Things Historical
Feb. 25-March 3, 2001 Column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Published by permission.
(Bob Bowman is a former president of the East Texas Historical Association and the author of 24 books on East Texas history and folklore. He lives in Lufkin.)


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