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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HASSELL, JOHN W. -- In the Headright Certificate issued to Mr. Hassell January 25, 1838 for one-third of a league of land by the Board of Land Commissioners for Brazoria County it is stated that he came to Texas prior to May 2, 1835. Not having secured a grant of land from the Mexican Government it is reasonable to assume that Mr. Hassell was not a resident of Texas as late as the year 1834.

Mr. Hassell was issued Bounty Certificate No. 42 for 640 acres of land November 4, 1837 for having served in the army from December 29, 1835 to June 5, 1836. He was a member of Captain Robert J. Calder's Brazoria Company at San Jacinto and on October 17, 1838, he was issued Donation Certificate No. 566 for 640 acres of land for having participated in the battle. The land was surveyed on Medio Creek, about twenty miles from Goliad, in 1858. The land on his Headright Certificate was surveyed in San Patricio Land District, about five miles above Lipantitlan. At Austin on November 11, 1854, Mr. Hassell made affidavit that he was still the owner of this tract of land.

A Mr. John Hassell died in Anderson County in November, 1859 but the compiler does not know that this was the San Jacinto veteran of that name.

Mrs. Rebecca Hassell, whom the compiler assumes was the widow of John W. Hassell, was issued a Donation Certificate for 1280 acres of land November 14, 1881, as a surviving widow of a Texas veteran.

Mrs. Walter Woodward, Coleman, Texas was in 1938 in possession of the following interesting letter written by John W. Hassell:

Republic of Texas,
Austin Colony,
June 21, 1836.

Dear Father:

I once more take my pen in hand by way of writing you a few lines for your reading from which you may learn that I am in good health at present, hoping that these lines may find you and family the same. You no doubt have heard of our troubles in the Republic with the Mexican Nation. I will here endeavor to give you an idea of matters here. March last there was an army of eight thousand troops introduced into Texas by order of the Government to exterminate every American citizen in the limits of Texas. They first attacked San Antonio, one hundred eight under Col. Travis. They succeeded after a bombardment of eighteen days in storming the place and putting to the sword every man in it, the loss not known precisely, though considerably. Their next advance was on Labahea where there was about four hundred commanded by Col. Fannin. He commanded a retreat from the fort with three hundred and five men, but was pursued by the enemy and overtaken in a large plain about three o'clock p.m. The engagement there commenced with about two thousand of the enemy. There was a constant peal of artillery and small arms until our men surrounded entirely by the enemy, about six killed and thirty wounded of the American men, loss of the enemy not less than one hundred eighty killed with many wounded. At the appearance of daylight there appeared reinforcement to the train Of artillery, two cannons were discharged and the enemy hoisted white flag and it was answered by another from Col. Fannin. The officers of each army then met, they then prepared a treaty to our men. Col. Fannin then entered into a capitulation with the Mexicans, the articles were then drew up and signed by the officers of each army. It was expressly stipulated in the articles that our men should be treated as prisoners of war all private property should be respected belonging to our men and at the end of eight days our men should embark on board vessel for New Orleans, though they were required to take an oath that they would never take up arms against the Mexican Government again. Col. Fannin and men were then marched back to the fort, orders were issued then by Santa Anna to have them shot. This was not complied with by the Commander who took Fannin, the second and third order was sent before complied with, though the eight day they were marched out in four divisions and shot. There was about twenty that made their escape at the time, though some were much wounded. I saw most of the men as they came in. The Mexican Army then marched for the conflict in three divisions. We then had about four hundred men in the field to contend against their forces. Our Army was then on the Guadalupe River. Our army reinforced slow and had to retreat. We retreated East of the Colorado river and then encamped until the Mexicans came on the other side. We lay there for several days and then retreated East of the Brazos, the enemy still in pursuit. One division of the line crossed the river below us of about eight hundred men, still keeping up the line of march after that. We headed them on the San Jacinto. We were eleven hundred strong. We left our sick and baggage with about four hundred men. We marched with the balance to give them battle. We met with them the next day and cannonaded each a little without any loss on our pert and with but little on theirs. In the evening of the same day their cavalry and ours had a smart skirmish. We had many thigh borke who died sometime after. The enemy sustained loss by the operation. This was on the 20th day of April and on the 21st they received re-inforcement which augmented their number to about fifteen hundred strong; our number eight hundred. We were encamp there within one-half mile of each other within plain view. Our officers determined to give them a battle at four o'clock in the evening. Accordingly at the above stated time the drum beat general parade which was cheering every man. We then marched up with seven hundred sixty-three men and forced the line of battle within two hundred yards of the enemy when they stood in good order to receive us. We then marched up within good rifle shot, our men and officers pleasant cool and brave as lions; firing then commenced on both sides. Our Col. then ordered Yankee Doodle played and beat in double quick time and we were commanded to charge and it appeared to me that we were among them in an instant and it would have done your heart good to have seen them fall. Our cannons, our muskets, our rifles and pistols, played, it appeared to me, the most delightful tune I have every heard since the world commenced. I had first rate rifle and about this time I was using her, sir, with all my might. She run about forty to the found and shot first rate. I took notice to some of the big yellow bellies and when Betsy would bore a hole in them, the claret would gush out large as a cornstalk. One big fellow, I remember, who I shot in the neck and it appeared that it had near cut his head off. I shot old Betsy six times and a large holster pistol one time. In the seven shots I know that I killed four, that thing I know. As I have stated about my pistol, I shot that fellow in the left eyes, though it may appear strange to you, but not less stranger than true, it seemed to do me more good at that time to throw shot or a bayonet run through them than anything I have ever yet seen and it appeared to be the prevailing feeling or sentiment.

Well, sir, I must tell you that when we got so near with them as to shake hands, they couldn't bear that. They appeared rather bashful at such a meeting as that and turned their backs to us and the rest of the way off about that time we were slaying them like cornstalks. This was an open field fight. We gained complete victory over them in about sixteen minutes. We took about seven hundred prisoners, a large number of which was wounded, a great number of which proved mortal. We took all the officers except two, one Lieutenant Col., one Captain made their escape. The monster Santa Anna who can have men taken out and murdered without a change of countenance or the least remorse of conscience, after making a solemn and sacred treaty, such conduct could not be expected from savage heathen, much less from a nation who pretended to be enlightened, civilized and christianized. We have this great Santa Anna now a prisoner with three other of his generals with officers to the amount of about thirty. There were many officers killed. We had six men killed, two died from wounds. We had about 25 men wounded, most of which were very slight, not mortally except the above mentioned two. The people were determined to kill Santa Anna and I expect will all his principal officers. I told you the Mexicans marched in three divisions. We defeated Santa Anna's division, hostility then ceased and an armistice was entered into. The Mexican army then retreated out of Texas to Matamoras and our wise men were trying to make a treaty with Santa Anna and affected it as they thought and put him on board a vessel to save him but the people would not stand and brought him back. To show there is no confidence to be placed in any of the Mexican people, the army agreed to stand to our treaty. Santa Anna would make the assurance they would. We got the news of the 19th instant the same army were retracing steps back to Texas and swear they intended to exterminate every American to the Sabine River or never see Mexico again. They numbered ten thousand and the people are ordered to turn out in mass and repair to the seat of war with all possible dispatch. If the boys do not turn out now on the very spot, Texas is gone. We can beat them with one-third their number with ease. We have already done it. In two days I shall start again. I only came in two weeks ago today. We have only about 1000 men in the field at present. Our army will have to retreat in less that eight days. No is the great struggle with Texas but if the people will turn out now on the spot, we can beat them to death.

I could say a heap to you if I could see you. If we can gain this country I shall be entitled to 5000 acres of land which will be a fortune to me some day or my children if they should live. This may be my last address to you. War is fluctuating. You can tell anybody that may inquire for me where I am. If I outlive this war I shall see you all in Miss. again as soon as I can secure my land titles. Nothing would give me the same satisfaction as seeing you all would.

Your son till death,

J. W. Hassell.

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. Robert J. Calder
  • Battle Account: Yes - letter of June 21 1836 transcribed in Kemp

Personal Statistics

  • Came to Texas: 1835
  • Date of Death: 1859 Nov ?
  • Bounty Certificate: 42
  • Donation Certificate: 566
  • Wife: Rebecca Hassell