least 16 men named Smith fought in the pivotal Battle
of San Jacinto, the 18-minute fight that assured Texas’ independence from
Mexico and made Sam Houston
a national hero.
Enoch K. Smith, who settled in Bastrop County
not long before the revolution broke out, may have been the 17th Smith who took
part in the April 21,1836 battle. However, thanks to casual record keeping, coupled
with the understandable if less-than-honorable propensity of men or their relatives
to claim an association with an important moment in history even if it wasn’t
so, only a circumstantial case exists that Enoch played a role in routing Gen.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s army.
Unfortunately, while there is no ambiguity
when it comes to the decisive nature of that distant battle along Buffalo Bayou,
despite years of research by historians and amateur genealogists, the number of
men on the Texas side is generally reported as “about 900.”
article published by the Elgin Courier in the mid-1930s describes Enoch’s trip
to Texas, the journey that apparently led him to San
“Tarrying but briefly…at the towns and settlements,” the
story said, “this soldier of fortune pressed on until one morning he came upon
a new settlement on the banks of a beautiful river and by the settlers was persuaded
to cast his lot with them. This place is now the town of Bastrop.”
When the Mexican army marched into Texas in the winter of 1836 to put
down a rebellion on the part of mostly Anglo Texans, according to the Courier
article, the then 20-year-old Smith decided to join Houston’s
That newspaper article, later reprinted in the Oct. 24, 1975 edition
of the Bastrop Advertiser, is the only known evidence that Smith fought in the
battle along with 16 other men who shared both his surname and patriotism. With
no elaboration, the story’s author wrote only that “young Smith took part” in
the short but bloody conflict.
Adding a bit more credibility to that assertion,
the article also noted that following the battle, “when the spoils of victory
were divided, [Smith] found himself in possession of a small elegant china pitcher,
a couple of blankets and a child’s dress.” Smith also ended up with what the newspaper
called a “finger ring.” Whether the ring came off the hand of a dead Mexican soldier
went unmentioned, but not too many other possibilities come to mind.
became of the two blankets and dress is a mystery, but a century after the battle,
the pitcher and the ring remained in Smith’s family.
According to the Courier
article, the pitcher was “of unique design with the Mexican coat of arms, and
on the wings of the eagle in gold letters was the name ‘Santa Anna.’” Gen. Santa
Anna, whose appreciation of the finer things of life is well-documented, was captured
after the battle wearing the uniform of a common soldier.
The article said
that not long after San
Jacinto, Smith decided to return to Tennessee. There, roughly a decade later,
he married Elizabeth Jerusha Sowell on July 1, 1847 in Maury County. But according
to family tradition, he grew discontent with his native state. The Volunteer State
was no place for a poor man, he supposedly told neighbors before leaving once
again for Texas.
Loading his possessions
into an ox-drawn wagon, he came back to the Lone Star State with his wife and
young son. Settling again in Bastrop County, Smith built a cabin on Piney Creek
about six miles north of Bastrop and
cleared land for a farm. On May 21, 1859, his wife gave birth to a daughter they
Enoch Smith died at 76 on Dec. 13, 1891 and lies in Bastrop
County’s Mt. Bethel Cemetery on land he had earlier donated for use as a graveyard.
His wife followed him in death on Aug. 24, 1893 and is buried next to him.
Mary, who was married to John Blackwell, stayed in Bastrop County, living with
her husband in McDade. Having inherited the pitcher her father said he picked
up at the San Jacinto
battlefield, she kept the relic on her fireplace mantle until it accidentally
got knocked off and broken. Fortunately, she kept all the pieces and eventually
had it restored.
Mary Blackwell died on March 21, 1946 and with the settlement
of her estate, the pitcher went to her daughter, Mabel Blackwell Strong of McDade.
(Mary had 10 children, so the battlefield ring may have gone to someone else.)
Strong died in 1987. What became of the pitcher and ring after that is not clear,
but hopefully the two relics remain with one of Smith’s descendants.
Mike Cox - April
17, 2013 column
of San Jacinto | Battle
of the Alamo | The Alamo |
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