The Kemp Sketch
DENHAM, M. H. -- Born in Tennessee. On a roll in the General Land Office he is shown as being Lieutenant in command of Captain Peyton R. Splane's Company at muster April 14, 1836. Captain Splane and most of the men of his company remained at the camp opposite Harrisburg to guard the baggage but Mr. Denham participated in the battle of San Jacinto. In the absence of Lieutenant Allen Larrison he acted as Second Lieutenant in Captain Robert J. Calder's Company.
Bounty Certificate No. 2982 for 320 acres of land was issued in the name of Mr. Denham April 23, 1838 for three months service in the army. The certificate had evidently been assigned to another since it appears that Mr. Denham returned to Tennessee shortly after the battle. He did not apply for his Headright or Donation lands and was known to have been in Memphis, Tennessee, June 1, 1836. His Bounty Certificate was lost by the purchases and a duplicate was issued October 28, 1841. The period of Mr. Denham's enlistment is not shown in the duplicate.
The following letter was written by Mr. Denham June 1, 1836 at Memphis, Tennessee and was first published in the Nashville Banner, and on June 24, 1836 it was published in the Richmond Enquirer of Richmond, Virginia.
Came to Texas in Jan 1836; oath of allegiance
at Nacogdoches Jan. 14, 1836; muster rolls page 114
As a First Lieutenant he recruited a company in
FROM THE BATTLE GROUND -- The following letter from M. H. Denham, formerly Orderly Sergeant of the Stage Guards of this place, a young gentleman well known and highly esteemed, has been kindly handed to us by the friend to whom it was addressed; and, though the details it contains are substantially the same as those we have heretofore published, it cannot fail to be read with interest here. The letter is postmarked "Memphis, June 1." -- Nashville Banner
Camp on San Jacinto, Texas, May 3, 1836.
Dear Sir: I take the liberty of again writing to you, and giving you an account of the Battle of San Jacinto. We had been retreating before very superior force from the 13th of March to the 14th of April, and had become so discouraged, that several began to think the country gone. But the clouds began to break a little; the enemy, intoxicated with their success at Bejar and La Bahia, divided themselves into four divisions, scouring the country and destroying every thing in their way. By an American we learnt that one division of six hundred men under Santa Anna had taken the road to Harrisburg, where the Convention was sitting; it was immediately determined to advance and meet them, and give them battle. We crossed the Brassos on the 14th, and arrived at Harrisburgh on the 18th about noon, and there took three prisoners, from whom we learnt that Santa Anna had taken the road to Galveston Island to fortify; he was now about fifteen miles from us, and unconscious that we were so near him; he concluded we had taken the Sabine road. On the 18th we crossed Buffalo Bayou in full pursuit, and determined to conquer or die. We took up the line of march about sundown, and marched till two o'clock in the morning; at daylight, (the 20th,) we again moved on, and about nine o'clock came up within three miles of him; from some prisoners taken, we found that he was advancing towards Lynch's Ferry, (where we were), intending to cross there. We immediately took our position, Colonel Burleson's Regiment to which I belonged, in a strip of woods on the right, Colonel Sherman's in the woods on the left, and the regulars under Col. Millard, with two six-pounders in the centre -- we were about seven hundred in all, (having left three hundred in our camp), the whole under the command of General Houston. About twelve o'clock they came in sight, and advanced steadily upon us; they formed a line of battle about 150 yards from us, and planted a brass nine-pounder within 300 yards; they then commenced a fire of canister and round shot, and musketry, to drive us from our position; but in vain, we did not fire shot. Their bugles now sounded the charge, they came charging in fine style until within range of our cannon, when we opened on them and compelled them to retreat; again and again they charged and were so often defeated. They now found they could not force us from our position and retired about three-fourths of a mile from us, and commenced throwing up breastworks. At four o'clock in the morning, our cavalry went out to try and take their cannon; they had a small skirmish with the Mexican lancers, and we all went out in hopes that a general action would take place, but though we offered them a fair fight, they would not come out. They spent the night of the 20th, in throwing up a breastworks of brush, sacks of corn, and everything they could lay their hands on. On the morning of the 21st, they were reinforced by General Cos, with near six hundred men, thus making their force nearly double ours -- The crisis was now approaching. The battleground was something in the shape of a horseshoe, and if we delayed in attacking them, other reinforcements were on their march to join them, and if they attacked us and we were defeated, there was no possible chance for us to retreat. We had a chance of defeating them, although so much superior to us in everything -- they being Santa Anna's choice troops; it was, therefore, determined to attack them without delay. About three o'clock in the evening of the twenty-first, we formed in three columns and advanced to the attack -- We moved on rapidly until within one hundred and fifty yards of their lines over a prairie, (they were in the woods), when we deployed into line, and charged up to their works: they kept up a very severe fire on us for about twenty minutes, when their whole line gave way, and a scene of slaughter took place which defied description. We knew what would be our fate if we were defeated; for Santa Anna had sworn to save no lives, and our men in retaliation had sworn the same, they were pursued until dark, and that alone put an end to the carnage. The cry of the Alamo! the Alamo! La Bahia! La Bahia! was heard above the roaring of the cannons and the crack of the rifles; the ground was strewed with them for miles. Their famous Lancers were pursued five miles and entirely cut to pieces: of about one hundred who attempted to cross the river, all but nine were killed or drowned; their whole army was annihilated; out of the twelve hundred but nine escaped; near six hundred were killed on the field, and the rest wounded and taken prisoners. Several at Santa Anna's great officers were killed, Santa Anna and his Adjutant General and the rascally Cos are prisoners; in short, every officer from the highest to the lowest have been killed or taken prisoners, their cannon, horses, mules and all their camp equipage fell into our hands. Our loss on both days were seven killed and eighteen severely wounded; how our loss was so small is more than I can tell, I escaped myself without a scratch. As far as I can learn, the war is over, at least for this campaign; Santa Anna is willing to remove the balance of his troops (four thousand) beyond the Rio Grande, and give Texas her independence; but still I think we shall go back and take possession of Bejar and La Bahia, so that I shall not get off for three or four months yet. The Texas Cabinet are all here treating with Santa Anna, and I hope it may be brought to a happy close."
Written by Louis W. Kemp, between 1930 and 1952. Please note that typographical and factual errors have not been corrected from the original sketches. The biographies have been scanned from the original typescripts, a process that sometimes allows for mistakes in the new text. Researchers should verify the accuracy of the texts' contents through other sources before quoting in publications. Additional information on the veteran may be available in the Herzstein Library.
- Died in Battle: No
- Rank: Second Lieutenant
- Company: Capt. Robert J. Calder
- Battle Account: "From the Battleground" - published in the Nashville Banner and the Richmond Enquirer; June 24, 1836 copy in Kemp.
- Alternate Names: W.K.
- Birthplace: Tennessee
- Came to Texas: 1836 Jan
- Bounty Certificate: 2982