Part of an old map of the San Jacinto area from the Texas Revolution

Veteran Bio

Texian Location:  Participant

The Kemp Sketch

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HARVEY, JOHN -- Born in Tennessee in 1810. He came to Texas in December, 1834 as is stated in the Headright Certificate issued to him February 1, 1838 by the Nacogdoches County Board for one-third of a league of land. He was a member of Captain Hayden Arnold's company at San Jacinto and on December 7, 1839 was issued Donation Certificate No. 972 for 640 acres of land for having participated in the battle. On May 24, 1838 he received Bounty Certificate No. 2690 for 320 acres of land for having served in the army from March 6 to May 3, 1836.

A lengthy account or Mr. Harvey's experiences in the army is found in the Veterans Papers in the archives of the University of Texas library.

Mr. Harvey died near Salado, Bell County, Texas in 1885 while a member of the Texas Veterans Association.

HARVEY, JOHN -- Was born in Tennessee - immigrated to Texas in 1834 - I am 64 years of age - My health is good - When the war broke out between Texas and Mexico I was living in Nacogdoches - in March 1836 joined company of Capt Haden Arnold - Marched to join Genl Houston - met an express with intelligence of the fall of the Alamo and the massacre of Fannin and his men - this news augmented our courage and hurried us on - joined Col Sherman on the Colorado river - the same day Sherman recd orders from Houston to retreat - which we did and found Houston on the San Bernardo - Houston fell back to Groves Retreat - remained there about 10 days - Houstons spies Deaf Smith and Karnes were watching the movements of the enemy - which they brought intelligence that the Mexicans were crossing the Brazos - Houston crossed the River making his way East - men began to leave the Army to take their families out of danger - Houston moved down to Buffalo Bayou - the day we got to the Bayou our spies captured a courier and a Mexican officer and brought them into Camps - the mail was for San Tanna and gave the intelligence that San Tanna was leading in person the column in advance of us - the Genl (Houston) formed us in solid colm - rode into our midst, and delivered to us one of the best speeches - told us that when we got into battle to make the Mexicans remember the Alamo - Genl Rusk followed him, telling us to also make the Mexicans remember the massacre of Fannins men - Crossed Buffalo Bayou and moved down it in silence until a late hour at night - the next morning the 20th of April commenced our march down the Bayou - our spies reported the enemy making their way to Lynchs Ferry near which place Houston halted - The Mexicans came into sight, halted and commenced firing on us - We had a good deal of fun mixed with danger that day - that night both armies camped within one mile of each other - the 21st - the great day of battle they gave freedom to Texas and birth to a Nation, our loss was three killed dead on the field and five mortally wounded who died shortly after - the Mexicans loss was estimated at 1000 killed and the balance captured - San Tanna and Coss were captured the next day - My occupation has been that of a surveyor - Came to Bastrop in 1838 - in 1839 was surveying on the Colorado river above the City of Austin - Kept a good lookout - In the month of June of this year was surveying about ten miles from where the town of Burnet is now located - The Indians surrounded us in the night, and just before day fired on us. breaking one mans right army above the elbow - such yelling I thought that I had never heard in all my life - thought that they were all there - such jumping and snorting of Horses - Well it beat anything I ever met up with - I told my boys, 8 or 9 in number to reserve their fire, get behind trees, and not shoot without a good chance - there was only three guns fired from my party, all at one Indian, who was killed immediately - the old Chief commanded a retreat and left us - when daylight came we found 4 head Horses gone and three men - looked about for the bodies of our men could not find them - found 2 of their guns & all of their shot pouches - were satisfied that they had run I called aloud several times, and one of the boys answered me across the River - he came over alone - Knew nothing of the others - We had to hasten in with our wounded men, so left the other two boys with one Gun and no ammunition - 7 days after they made their way down in to where Austin is now situated - On another occasion I was up the Country on a surveying expedition - arrived at Hamiltons Creek, struck camp - that night the Indians were all around us, howling like wolves, hooting like owls - We kept guard all night - the next morning we hunted up the Indians, knowing that they professed friendship - Came across two small boys hunting their Ponies - the little fellows were scared on first sight - started to run, but one of our party showed a white flag - when the boys seen the Flag they halted -- Sent one of our party to them who could talk some Spanish - he told the Indian boy that we were good friends, and wanted to go to their Camp - the old Chief came to us - he was a good bobachille &c and to get down - We hesitated awhile, but finally dismounted - they were fixing to move their camp - they urged us to go with then some four miles ahead of what is now know as little North Gabriel - at that time several of the big Chiefs had gone to the City of Houston to make a treaty with our people - We went with the Indians that day to their Camps - When we got there, they took our horses and turned them loose with their caballada, and did not see them again for three days and nights - the first morning after staying all night we wanted our horses the old Chief wanted to know where we were going, and what for &c - We told him we were going on the Colorado to hunt wild cows, Buffalo and look at the country (knowing that they were opposed to surveying) - The chief told us that if we went on the Colorado that the Huecos would kill us, and then the Americans would say that the Comanches did it - that we had better not go - We did not believe him - thought that he only told this tale to keep us from going - However the second morning we were more urgent in our requests - he told us the same thing - heap Huecos, and said that that day when the sun got straight up, that the Huecos would come to his camp We stayed, for we could not get away - that day sure enough about 12 o'clock we saw a long string of Indians coming - the Comanche Chief and one Indian went out to meet the Huecos - They talked a few minutes then came to the Comanche Camp - the Chief seated the Huecos on one side of his Camp fire and us on the other - then all the Comanches drew near, men, women and children to listen to the talk between the two Chiefs - no one talked but them - Here I witnessed a scene that ought to give our people a lesson - There were about 500 Indians and the larger half were children, and every little red skin had both ears open to hear every word that was said - Could have heard a pin drop upon the leaves - The talk lasted I think about an hour, they then lit a Pipe - took one or two whiffs and passed it around between the old Comanche Chief and the Huecos - then motioned to the Huecos down on the Creek some 200 years distant - That night the Comanches had some kind of a meeting in One of their tents - I did not know what it was but conjectured that they were enquiring of the Great Spirit what had become of their Big Captains who had gone below - They made some kind of black liquid and drank it -- It seemed to make them very sick - They would get down on their knees, and groan, and make a dismal noise and take on mightily - One of our men looked on at them some time - When he came back to our camp he looked very serious, as though he was condemned to die, and said "Boys they are going to kill us all to Knight" - but they did not - The next morning they spied out their Capts returning - Then the old Chief told us that we could go, but that we had better go home - Every horse was brought up in a few minutes - I swaped horses with one Indian and got wofully bitten, and started for home. The chief sent one Comanche with us - and told us how to do that night, then turned back - We took his advice and made our way home, which was Bastrop - with the Comanches I learned a good deal about their ways and customs too tedious to mention here. On another occasion, I do not remember whether it was in 1841 or 2 the Comanches went down on the Coast to Linnville in large numbers - robed the town - took all the goods, a great many horses and mules and one white lady, and started back, making a considerable show with their pack mules - the news spread far and wide - Men from the Colorado and Guadalupe Rivers rallied, and met together at Plum Creek at the time the Indians came along - General Felix Houston commanded in that fight - We had two old Indian fighters along, viz, Ed Burleson and Paint Caldwell and think that if either had commanded, we would have done more execution, but Huston was commander of the Texas forces in that battle, and hearing of their vast numbers supposed that the Indians would halt and give us battle in a regular way & made his arrangements accordingly; but the Indians were too smart for us, and made their own arrangements as to fight - They outgeneraled us - but we whipped the red men - recaptured all the plunder and between 4 & 500 Horses and Mules and the white lady - They shot the woman in the breast aiming to kill her, but did not - Houston's report of the Indians killed was fifty - We lost none killed several wounded. These three fights are all the battles that I was ever engaged in, and I care not to be in another - I think that I have escaped remarkably well while several surveyors were attacked and in some instances all hands killed - I feel grateful to Him who cares for us for His Providence and His protection - Post Office Salade Bell County -"

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.

Battle Statistics

  • Died in Battle: No
  • Rank: Private
  • Company: Capt. Hayden S. Arnold
  • Battle Account: Yes - transcribed in Kemp

Personal Statistics

  • Date of Birth: 1810
  • Birthplace: Tennessee
  • Came to Texas: 1834 Dec
  • Date of Death: 1885
  • Bounty Certificate: 2690
  • Donation Certificate: 972
  • Profession: Surveyor