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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

San Jacinto Hero Henry Millard

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

Texas has 254 counties and 1,208 incorporated cities, but none are named for Henry Millard – a virtually forgotten hero of the Texas War for Independence.

The best the state has managed to do in remembrance of this early-day fighting Texan is attach his name to the 13th hole at Battleground Golf Course in Deer Park. Well, there is an official state historical marker about him placed in 1991 outside the Beaumont public library in the city he founded.

Part of Millard’s obscurity is easy enough to understand. When Texans think of the battle of San Jacinto, the first name that comes to mind is Sam Houston.

Oh yes, we recall, Houston defeated Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna on April 21, 1836 and assured Texas’ independence from Mexico. True enough, but the two men didn’t go “mano a mano” in a duel. Each had hundreds of “seconds” backing them up in that decisive contest of arms.

Houston relied on a small staff of senior officers commanding some 700 to 900 men, depending on which source you want to believe. The Mexican force had more officers and more rank and file soldiers.

On the Texas side, while Houston held overall command, he turned to five men as his field commanders. Of those five, four are relatively well known even to casual students of Texas history: Cols. Edward Burleson, George Washington Hockley, Mirabeau B. Lamar, and Sidney Sherman.

Burleson, who led the First Regiment of Volunteer Infantry, later became vice president of the Republic of Texas and had both a county and city named in his honor. Hockley, commander of artillery (including the famous Twin Sisters) got a county named after him. Lamar, who led a corps of cavalry that afternoon, became the Republic’s second president. He also got a county, a town and a university bearing his distinctive surname. Finally, Sherman, commanding the Second Regiment of Volunteer Infantry, got a town, a county and a college named in his honor.

Alas, no one bothered to recognize the final member of Houston’s battlefield leadership team, Lt. Col. Henry Millard.

No one has yet found his date of birth, but Millard is believed to have been born around 1796 in Stillwater, NY. A distant relative of President Millard Fillmore and novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, Millard came to Texas in 1835 after having spent time in Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana. He and a partner bought land along a bluff on the Neches River and laid out a town site he called Beaumont, his late wife’s maiden name.

Millard quickly became active in separatist politics, and in late 1835 or early 1836 received a commission as lieutenant colonel in the Texian army.

At San Jacinto, he led two companies of regular infantry, 92 men in all. Along with Burleson’s regiment, Millard and his soldiers overwhelmed the Mexican breastworks and captured their cannon.

“The artillery under…Col. Geo. W. Hockley…was placed on the right of the first Regiment; and four [sic] companies of Infantry under the command of Lieut. Col. Henry Millard, sustained the artillery upon the right,” Houston wrote.

Neither Millard nor any of his men suffered injuries that day, but one account has Millard’s horse having been shot from under him. Houston, who lost two horses, rode near Millard’s men when he suffered an ankle wound that plagued him for the rest of his life. Later, in appreciation of Millard’s service, the general presented the colonel with two pistols that had belonged to Santa Anna.

If Millard ever wrote an account of his role in the battle, it is not known today.

A few months after the battle, however, Millard made the newspapers by participating in an Army plot to arrest interim President David G. Burnet. The effort did not succeed, and Burnet booted Millard out of the Army.

While that incident could explain Millard’s lack of recognition, he went on to hold public office in the new county of Jefferson as well as in Beaumont. Later, after moving to Galveston, he served as a militia colonel.

Just as his birthday is unknown, so is there confusion as to Millard’s date of death. He died at around 48 on either Aug. 28 or 29, 1844, in Galveston. He’s buried in the Episcopal Cemetery there.

One hundred and forty-one years later, in 1985, Judith Walker Linsley and Ellen Walker Rienstra revived his memory somewhat with an article called “Henry Millard, Forgotten Texian,” published in the Gulf Historical and Biographical Record. They also wrote the entry for Millard in the Handbook of Texas Online.

Four days after the battle, still smarting from his wound, Houston sent his after-action report to President Burnet. While remembered for a high level of self-confidence bordering on arrogance, Houston said the right thing about his officers and men in his report:

“For the Commanding General to attempt discrimination as to the conduct of those who commanded in the action, or those who were commanded would be impossible. Our success…is conclusive proof of their daring intrepidity and valor; every officer and man proved himself worthy of the cause in which he battled, while the triumph received a luster from the humanity which characterized their conduct, after victory, and richly entitles them to the admiration and gratitude of their General.”

Houston was grateful for his officers and men, but the people of Texas failed to accord lasting recognition to Henry Millard. Well, except for that 13th hole in Harris County.

© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales"
April 17, 2008 column

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