Tidbits of Shelby County History
The following article was written by Evelyn Biggarwith the written date unknown.
Background on the Mier Expedition from the Texas State Library……….
In the 1840s, the tensions between the Republic of Texas and Mexico entered a new and dangerous phase. Mexico staged several raiding expeditions into Texas, sacking San Antonio twice. Most Texans were outraged and demanded retaliation. President Sam Houston believed that Texas was in no way prepared for another war with Mexico, but to appease these critics, he organized a force under Alexander Somervell to raid Mexico in the disputed borderland between the Nueces and the Rio Grande.
On December 23, 1842, Fisher and most of the men crossed the Rio Grande and entered the town of Mier, where they met no resistance. They demanded supplies from the town, which the town's alcalde promised to deliver. The troops withdrew and waited. In the meantime, a large detachment of Mexican troops arrived in the town. On December 25, the two sides engaged in a bloody battle that lasted almost 24 hours. The Texans sustained thirty casualties and ran out of food, water, and ammunition. More than 200 Texans surrendered to Mexican forces, unaware that they had mauled the Mexican troops to an almost unbelievable degree, inflicting an astounding 800 casualties.
One of Texas history’s most dramatic stories has its beginning around Christmas 1842. William Alexander Anderson Wallace, alias Big Foot Wallace, told of his experience in the Mier Expedition.
Wallace was born in Virginia in 1817. He came to Texas after hearing of a cousin and brother being shot down at the Goliad Massacre. Wallace was big at 6 foot 2 inches and weighed 240 pounds. He joined up with the Texas Army to take “pay out of the Mexicans.” (Note: He was descended from Highlanders William Wallace and Robert Bruce, and the clan instinct was strong in him.)
We must remember Mexico even after San Jacinto did not fully recognize Texas’ independence and hoped to prevent Texas becoming a state in the United States.
In the fall of 1842, an expedition, including Wallace, was organized against Mexico hoping to recapture some prisoners. General Somerville left San Antonio toward Laredo. He crossed the river then left and returned to San Antonio with some of the men with him. Big Foot and others were determined to remain and elected William Fisher as their leader. Wallace later stated, “I had good reason afterwards I had not continued my retreat for verily discretion is the better part of valor.”
This newly formed group secured supplies and camped while they planned their attack. Scouts brought news - Gen. Pedro de Ampudia had reinforced the town. Thirty Texans were selected to guard the horses and supplies. Wallace claimed he was selected but exchanged with another man “who had as little inclination for the front as I did for guarding horses.”
In mid afternoon, the attack was launched with a march toward the main plaza with heavy fire on both sides. Wallace explained the heavy loss of Mexicans was due to their weapons – the inaccuracy of the escopetas (shotguns). They were bell mouthed guns firing a large ball deadly but inaccurate since they were fired by holding them overhead and shooting at random. Wallace picked an abandon but loaded escopeta, put it to his shoulder and fired. The recoil knocked him down. He claimed it continued to kick him after he fell.
The bloody battle lasted 17 hours and a parley was called but for some reason the Texans surrendered. (Note: The Texans later claimed they had surrendered as prisoners of war, but no terms of capitulation were signed until after their arms had been grounded and the terms then stated that they would be treated with "consideration.”Wallace opposed this remembering Goliad. Some 500 Mexicans were dead – Texas loss 11 killed, 22 wounded. Most of those guarding the horses escaped home to Texas.)
The prisoners were marched toward Mexico City. (Note: The able-bodied prisoners were marched through the river towns to Matamoros, where they were held until ordered to Mexico City.)At Salado, Santa Anna ordered all executed but commuted it to every tenth man. This event became known as the "Black Bean Episode," one of the most notorious atrocities of Santa Anna's career.The Mexican officer in charge refused to carry out the order was chastened and resigned his commission. (Note: The place where the prisoners were kept was Perote Castle located in the Mexican state of Vera Cruz. It was built over a seven-year period in the 1770s by the Spanish authorities in Mexico to guard one of their main trade routes and to serve as a depository for treasure awaiting shipment to Spain. Texans imprisoned there were chiefly from three groups: the Texan Santa Fe expedition prisoners, the Nicholas Dawson prisoners, and the prisoners captured on the Mier expedition.)
On March 24 executions took place. One hundred and seventy-six prisoners drew from 159 white beans and 17 black beans. There were to be no exchanges. The shackled men drew and the doomed men were set aside. “I saw a white bean in the Alamo museum years ago saved from that dreadful day,” said Evelyn Biggar.
Executed that day were
Capt. Cameron was executed later by special orders.(Note: Ewen Carmeron was selected as leader from among themselves, a Scottish-born captain. He led most of the prisoners in an escape attempt. The Texans tried to make a run back for the border, but they hadn't bargained on the harsh and dry conditions in the mountains. All but three were recaptured and returned to the town of Salado.)
The remaining prisoners were marched to Mexico City and housed and worked in cruel and horrible conditions.
In August 1844, influential friends secured the release of Wallace, Tatum, Armstrong and Wilson. They were given $100 and allowed to leave. In a roundabout way Wallace made his way home September 16, 1844 (Mexican Independence day) brought about freedom for the rest.
Wallace joined Jack Hayes Rangers and took part in the U.S Mexico War of 1846. During the assault on Montero, Wallace was seen aiming at a Mexican with a white flag. Officers stopped the shot and asked if he didn’t know the sign of surrender. He answered “Not when I see the man who held the bean pot for the lottery of life and death.
Note: In 1848 the bodies of the men executed in the Black Bean Episode were returned from Mexico and were buried in La Grange, Texas.