The Kemp Sketch
BAKER, MOSELEY -- Born in Norfolk, Virginia, September 20, 1802, and moved early in life to Montgomery, Alabama, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar. Abandoning his profession for a time he founded and became the first editor of the "Montgomery Advertiser," still a leading newspaper in Alabama. In 1829 he was elected from Montgomery County to the Legislature. In 1832, accused of defrauding the Bank of Alabama of $21,000.00, he fled to Texas. Bryant and Fuller in their Memorial Record of Alabama, page 327, gave the following account of the incident: "The practical working of the banking system was that recommendations of a loan by a member of the legislature was almost certain to be approved by the directors and a member himself could count certainly upon an accommodation. A Montgomery member furnished one of the most striking proofs of the abuses that were possible. His name was Moseley Baker. He was a brilliant fellow, a lawyer and an editor. He lived beyond his means, however, and carried to the bank a note for discount, for $24,000.00. It was endorsed by John Moonshine and Adam Sunlight. Bank officials seem to have stood in such awe of a member that the names of these indorsers that ought to have at once excited suspicion, did not and Baker secured his loan. When the fraud was discovered, he was arrested and carried in irons to Tuscaloosa, but escaped and fled to Texas. He achieved distinction there and on one occasion dramatically dispelled the mystery that had invested his career by rising in his place as a member of the Texas Congress, confessed his crime against the State of Allabama and put himself in communication with the bank officials. Mr. Joel White of Montgomery, then a bank director, was dispatched to Houston and collected the debt in bonds that were subsequently sold at a handsome profit."
Captain Baker, while a candidate for office in 1838, in defending himself of the charges brought against him, stated that he had been "a child of misfortune, not of crime: "On my arrival in San Felipe in 1832," he said, "I had but a single dollar in my pocket. An entire stranger, suspecting my destitute condition, loaned me $10.00 with which I found my way to Liberty, and settled down to the practice of law. Torn from my political position in Alabama -- separated from my family -- without a dollar in the world -- a stranger in a new country, without a character and almost without hope -- I resolved that I would rouse every energy, that I would encounter the taunts and insults of the uncharitable and unfeeling, and that I would devote my life to the acquisition of those means which would enable me to make restitution to the bank and convince the world, so far as I could do so, that no matter how illegal or censurable, or however apparently fraudulent might have been this one act of my life, that in reality my soul was incapable of any act of fraud and that I was a child of misfortune, not of crime."
In September, 1833, Mr. Baker moved to San Felipe, acquired a lucrative law practice, speculated in land and prospered. In 1836 Joel White, a director of the Bank of Allabama, came to Texas at his request and was not only repaid the $21,000.00 but received in addition $8,172.00 in interest and $1,260.00 in damages. The account was thus settled to the entire satisfaction of his creditors.
Mr. Baker was among the first to urge the separation of Texas from Mexico. He claimed to have made at San Felipe the first speech on the subject. "When the campaign opened," he said, "I went into the army as a private. Having been instrumental in the revolution, I sought no office and would accept none. -- In this campaign, I fought in the battle of the Grass Fight and only left San Antonio when it was understood the army were ordered to retreat to Goliad. When the information reached San Felipe of the siege of the Alamo, I was unanimously elected to command the company from that place and was among the first to reach Gonzales." The Telegraph and Texas Register, San Felipe, of March 5, 1836, told of the formation of Captain Baker's Company at San Felipe February 27th: "On Saturday last, the militia of this place held an election for officers, Moseley Baker, Esq., was elected captain, John P. Borden, first lieutenant, and E. B. Wood, second lieutenant. Captain Baker proceeded forthwith to organize the company, many of whom turned out as volunteers, who, with several gentlemen from the United States, constituted a company of thirty men. On Monday, being mustered and ready to march, Gail Borden, Jr., in the name of two ladies of this jurisdiction, Presented Captain Baker and his company with a stand of colors, accompanied with their earnest prayers that, under it, they and their children might be protected from the merciless invaders of their homes. ..."
The time of the arrival at Gonzales of Captain Baker's Company is given in a letter from him published in the Telegraph, March 12, 1836.
"Gonzales, 8th March, 1836.
"Gentlemen: On day before yesterday I arrived here, accompanied by the companies of Captains McNutt and Rabb. I found about one hundred and sixty men here, which with our force, make about two hundred and seventy, fifty of which started yesterday for the Alamo. Our force now at this Place is about 220 men ..."
Captain Baker's organization was generally known as the "San Felipe Company." It was the largest company at San Jacinto and was officially known as Company D, First Regiment of Texas Volunteers. It was this company that prevented Santa Anna from crossing the Brazos at San Felipe for a number of days. Finally, to prevent the capture of the place, he, with instructions from General Houston, burned the town. At San Jacinto Captain Baker received a slight wound.
On April 8, 1847, Captain Baker was issued Bounty Certificate No. 251 for 320 acres of land for having served in the army from March 1 to May 30, 1836, and Donation Certificate No. 69 for 640 acres of land for having participated in the battle of San Jacinto.
Captain Baker was elected from Austin County to the House of Representatives of the First Congress of the Republic October 3, 1836, to June 13, 1837. At this session of the congress it was voted to move the capital from Columbia to Houston, then being surveyed. It was charged later that many of the officials of the republic had been unduly influenced in urging the removal. Many of them were accused of having land in Houston given to them by the promoters of the new town, and Captain Baker was among those charged. This he denied. "I was one of the original purchasers of that property; and owned the only interest I ever had, before the first Congress was ever elected. -- It has been charged that bargain and corruption carried the seat of government to Houston. If such is the fact, let the names of the guilty be held up to public judgment and detestation, But let the proof be made and let no assertion be taken in its place." After the expiration of his term in Congress, Captain Baker moved to Galveston County and from there was elected to the House of Representatives of the Third Congress, November 5, 1838, to January 24, 1839. On _____ 9, 1835, Mr. Baker had received title to a league of land in de Zavala's Colony on the east shore of Galveston Bay, near the site of the present town of Goose Creek, Harris County. He next moved to this land and built a home which he named "Evergreen." In 1841 he was a candidate from Harris County for a seat in the Sixth Congress, but was defeated by one vote by Archibald Wynne. In 1842 he ran against William Lawrence for a seat in the Senate from the district composed of Harris, Galveston, and Liberty Counties, but was again defeated.
General Baker (He had been elected Brigadier General by Congress) raised a company in Harris County for the Woll Campaign in 1842, but for some unexplained reason did not accompany his men to San Antonio.
In 1845 or 1846, General Baker became a Methodist preacher. Shortly before his death, he became an enthusiastic spiritualist, establishing a paper in Houston, the "True Evangelist," in the interest of the new doctrine.
Reverend W. Y. Allen in his reminiscences published in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, page, 287, Volume 18, had this to say about General Baker:
"Then there was Moseley Baker, a many sided man, one of my most generous friends. He subscribed one thousand dollars to build the first church in Houston. His wife was a Presbyterian. He was then far from being a religious man. But in 1846 I met him in Kentucky. He was then a Methodist preacher and seemed truly a devout man."
General Baker was married to Eliza Ward and they had one child, Fannie. Mrs. Baker and Fannie came to Texas in 1834 with Hance Baker and family from Alabama. Hance was a brother of Moseley Baker.
General Baker died in Houston November 4, 1848, of yellow fever and was buried in City Cemetery No. 2, later called Jefferson Davis Cemetery. Mrs. Baker died February 4, 1849. Reverend Charles Gillette of the Episcopal Church conducted the funeral services of both. When Jefferson Davis Cemetery was abandoned the remains of General and Mrs. Baker were removed to the Episcopal Cemetery. This later was abandoned by the Church and sadly neglected. On September 17, 1929, the remains of Captain and Mrs. Baker were interred in the State Cemetery at Austin. On the joint grave stone the given name of General Baker is erroneously spelled "Mosely."
Fannie Baker, daughter of General and Mrs. Baker, was born in Alabama September 1, 1829. She was married to B. D. Dardin. Mrs. Dardin died at Columbus, Texas, January 4, 1890.
The following was printed in the Beeville (Texas) Picayune, date not recorded:
"The following is the speech of Captain Moseley Baker to his men just before the Battle of San Jacinto, as furnished by John S. Menefee, a member of the company. To Colonel Asa C. Hill of Live Oak County the Picayune is indebted for this copy:
"Fellow soldiers: You are now paraded to go in battle. For the past few weeks our greatest desire has been to meet our foes in mortal combat, and that desire is about to be gratified. I have confidence to believe that you will do your duty and act like men worthy of freedom, but if there be one who is not fully satisfied, he is at liberty to remain at camp, for I do not wish my company disgraced by a single act of cowardice. Yonder, within less than a mile is the tyrant, Santa Anna, with his myrmidons, who have overrun our country, destroyed our property, put to flight our families and butchered in cold blood many of our brave men. Remember, comrade, that we this day fight for all that is dear to us on earth, our homes, our families and our liberty. He who would not fight for these is not worthy of the name of man. Remember that this little army of less than 800 men is the last hope of Texas, and with its defeat or dispersion, dies the cause of freedom here and we will be regarded by the world as rash adventurers, but should victory crown our efforts, of which I have but little doubt, we can anticipate a riddance to the country of the oppressors, followed by peace and prosperity, and in the future years when this broad, beautiful and fertile land shall be occupied by millions of intelligent and thrifty people who can appreciate the value of liberty, we will be honored as the founders of a republic.
Remember, that Travis, Crockett, Bowie and their companions, numbering one hundred and eighty-three of the bravest of the brave men, stood a siege of ten days against twenty times their number, and fought till the last man was killed, not one being left to tell the news or tell the tale.
Remember that Fannin and four hundred volunteers were basely murdered after they had capitulated ... terms that they were to be treated as prisoners of war and sent to the United States.
Remember, you are fighting an enemy who gives no quarter, and regards neither age nor sex. Recollect that your homes are destroyed; imagine your wives and daughters trudging mud and water, and your children crying for bread, and then remember that the author of all this woe is within a short distance of us; that the arch fiend is now within our grasp; and that the time has come as last for us to avenge the blood of our fallen heroes and to teach the haughty dictator that Texas can not be conquered and that they can and will be free.
Then nerve yourselves for the battle, knowing that our cause is just and we are in the hands of an Allwize Creator and as you strike the murderous blows let our watchwords be 'Remember Goliad'; 'Remember the Alamo.'"
Camp opposite San Felipe, April 2nd 1836
To Genl Saml Houston.
Mr. Shipman has just arrived in camp from the Atiscosita crossing having left there about 12 Oclock yesterday. He has been on to Rocky and the Navidad. He was for some time in the Neighborhood of the Enemys Camp. The enemy are still encamped on this side of the river and busily engaged carrying rails to the river from the field this side. Mr. Shipman thinks they have not all crossed as he heard a great noise on the other side as though the Enemy were engaged in crossing horses & cattle. From what he saw and heard he considers the enemy about one thousand strong. Says they are in great disorder, wandering about the woods & prairie & to all apperance have out no guard or spies. He says from the examination he made for sign on the roads -- he is satisfied no reinforcement has arrived to this party.
One of Wards party has arrived here. He says Wards party consisted of 102 men & at the mission were attacked by about 1000 Mexicans who they repulsed three times and continued to whip as long as their amunition lasted. Ward finally retreated having three men wounded -- and became confused in a swamp -- where this man and three others became detached & have since heard nothing from him. They know nothing of Fanning and saw no troops between the Guadalupe & Colorado but saw that the road was very much cut up as if a considerable body had passed along.
I am throwing up breast works here & one hundred men can defend the crossing against the whole army. The few now here will also do it if it is possible.
(Signed) Moseley Baker.
(The original of this letter was in possession of Colonel A. J. Houston, son of General Sam Houston, April 4, 1938.)
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
- Wounded in Battle: Yes; slight wound.
- Rank: Captain
- Company: First Regiment Texas Volunteers
- Alternate Names: Mosley
- Date of Birth: 1802 Sept 20
- Birthplace: Norfolk, Virginia
- Origin: Alabama
- Came to Texas: 1832
- Date of Death: 1848 Nov 4
- Burial Place: Texas State Cemetery, Austin, Texas
- Other Battles: Gonzales, Grass Fight
- Comments: Consultation
- Bounty Certificate: 251
- Donation Certificate: 69
- Profession: Attorney, publisher, preacher
- Wife: Eliza Ward
- Children: Fannie Baker Dardin