of the few Texans who didn’t run away during the Runaway
Scrape preceding the battle
at San Jacinto, Dr. Harvey Whiting wanted to make sure his family
at Goose Creek
would be safe.
To seek such assurance, he went straight to the top – to “el presidente”
of all of Mexico, the commanding officer of the Mexican invasion of
Texas and self-acclaimed Napoleon of the West.
That would be Santa Anna.
Earlier, at Morgan’s
Point where Mexican troops had gathered, Whiting had discussed
the matter of home safety with Col. Juan Almonte.
Although pretty sure the troops wouldn’t bother the Whitings at Goose
Creek after they beat the socks off the Texas soldiers (they always
thought they’d win), Almonte nevertheless thought Whiting should hear
it from the general.
Undaunted, Whiting proceeded to knock on the door of James Morgan’s
house where Santa Anna was staying. An uninvited guest, the general
was making himself at home while the namesake of Morgan’s
Point was trying to fortify the island of Galveston. Unless Whiting
spoke Spanish, I presume there was an interpreter on hand for his
talk with Santa Anna, who – unlike Almonte -- didn’t know a word of
English. (Almonte was fluent in English, having lived and studied
in the U.S.)
Anyway, Whiting succeeded in getting his message across to Santa Anna.
He explained that he felt responsible not only for the safety of his
own family but also for two other families staying at his home, including
a number of elderly ladies not able to travel. In the Runaway
Scrape, they simply were not able to run.
Santa Anna confirmed what Almonte had told him: “You and everyone
in your home will be safe. Stay where you are.”
That’s just what the doctor wanted to hear, and he was about to sail
back to Goose
Creek with the good news when the Mexican soldiers confiscated
his boat. It was a fine boat, and with all that water, water everywhere,
they could use a well-built vessel.
In an unfair trade, they gave Whiting a worn-out pirogue (dug-out
Meanwhile rumors already began to stir about the Whiting being a Tory
– a Mexico loyalist rather than Texas patriot.
A number of Texans being held captive at Morgan’s
Point watched Whiting go in and out of the Morgan house, apparently
as a free man, and they wondered: “What the heck.” Was he talking
to Santa Anna and if so, about what? Espionage? Sabotage?
In addition to not understanding the purpose of Whiting’s visit, the
captive audience at Morgan’s
Point had no way of knowing about the doctor’s act of patriotism
at Lynchburg. He and Gilbert Brooks risked their lives to gather Republic
of Texas documents stored at the home of President David G. Burnet.
Whiting then hid the papers on his property at Goose
Creek, where Baytown’s
Bicentennial Park now is located. Burnet, before fleeing to Galveston
to set up a temporary capitol, had asked him to do that.
Now, come on: Would Burnet have trusted a Tory with those important
I don’t think so.
© Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist, April 13, 2015 column
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