The Kemp Sketch
HILL, ISAAC LAFAYETTE -- Born in Hillsborough, Georgia, (February 1, 1814, a son of John Pinkney and Sarah Elizabeth (Parham) Hill. Children of this union in order of birth were John, William Pinkney, Madison, Isaac Lafayette, Benjamin Harvey, and Allen Hill. In the Headright Certificate issued to Mr. Hill on March 1, 1838, for one-third of a league of land by the Bastrop County Board, it is stated that he came to Texas in December, 1834.
Mr. Hill was third corporal in Captain Moseley Baker's company at San Jacinto and on February 1, 1839, he was issued Donation Certificate No. 805 for 640 acres of land for having participated in the battle. He was issued Bounty Certificate No. 1129 for 320 acres of land for having served in the army from February 29 to May 29, 1836. He received Bounty Certificate No. 2373 for his services from July 15 to October 15, 1836.
Mr. Hill served as State Senator from 1853 to 1857, (Fifth and Sixth Legislatures) representing the district composed of Fayette, Colorado and Austin counties. He was a lawyer and dealt heavily in real estate, having as a partner McHenry Winburn, a San Jacinto Veteran. He was one of the promoters of the first railroad operated in Texas, the "Central Railroad."
Mr. Hill was thrice married. He first married Jerinand Matthews Ballstile, by whom there were no children. After Mrs. Hill's death Mr. Hill was married at San Felipe to Frances Ann Lloyd, who was born at Hazelhurst, Copiah County, Mississippi in 1822 and died three miles northeast of Round Top, Fayette County, Texas in December, 1857. She was buried in the Hill family cemetery. By this union the following children were born: John W.; William; Mary; Isaac Parham; Sarah Frances; Jared Winburn, who married Leila Powell; and Abbie Benham Hill, who married E. M. Thomas in Rogers, Bell County, December 31, 1835.
Mr. Hill's third wife was before marriage Laura Virginia Gant. Children of this union were Elizabeth and Laura Hill. Mr. Hill died in Fayette County in July, 1889, while a member of the Texas Veterans Association, and is buried in a marked grave in the Hill family cemetery. Mrs. Hill died in February, 1915.
The following was printed in Vol. 7 of the Texas State Historical Association Quarterly. Recollections of Isaac L. Hill (Georgian).
I was a sergeant in Capt. Moseley Baker's Company, first regiment, Texas army, during the campaign of the spring of 1836. Our army on its retreat from the Colorado, encamped on the evening of the 26th of March, about a mile from the town of San Felipe. Early the ensuing morning, by order of Genl. Houston, I was detailed by Captain Baker with six men of his company to take charge of the ferry at San Felipe. I was instructed by Genl. Houston to let no man cross at the ferry without written permission from him. I immediately proceeded to the ferry and took possession of the boat. Shortly afterwards Capt. Baker arrived at the ferry with the remainder of his company and camped on the west bank of the river. He was detached by Genl. Houston after the army was paraded to march.
The succeeding day (Mar. 28th) Captain Baker crossed his company to the east bank of the river and began to dig a ditch the entire length of which, when completed was one hundred and twenty-four yards. It was in the form of an L, the longer part fronting the river. The shorter part was below the road and extended eastward. The dirt was thrown outside the ditch. This work occupied us until the evening of the 31st of Mar. when Capt. Baker paraded and informed the men that he had received intelligence that the Mexican army had crossed the Colorado and was advancing on San Felipe; that he had been instructed by Genl. Houston, upon the approach of the enemy, to burn the town, and that in obedience to said order the company would proceed to reduce it to ashes. We crossed the river after night and it was about eight o'clock when we arrived in the street of San Felipe, where Capt. Baker again harangued us. He stated, in substance, that he thought it was bad policy to burn the town but that Genl. Houston was inimical to him and would avail himself of any plausable pretext to injure him. He was therefore determined to execute his orders to the letter. He then commenced the work of destruction by setting fire to his own office with his own hands. The houses were of wood and the conflagration was rapid and brilliant. It was nearly midnight and the town was almost consumed, when the company returned to camp.
A large amount of goods were destroyed by this conflagration. All the merchants, with the exception of William P. Huff, had previously left the place but were represented by their clerks.
Some of our men asked permission of the clerks to take such goods as they needed but this was refused, even when the torch was about to be applied to the stores. Neither Captain Baker's men nor the people of the town doubted that it was destroyed by order of the commander-in-chief.
The clerks crossed the river and camped with our Company. Next morning (Apr. 1) we resumed working on our entrenchment. This morning Capt. Baker wrote to Genl. Houston. Before dispatching the letter he said to me and others of his mess, "General Houston is inimical to me -- I have to be very cautious -- I will read you this letter." He read it accordingly. It stated, in substance, that having received intelligence that the enemy had crossed the Colorado and were advancing towards San Felipe, he had, in obedience to the order of the commander-in-chief, burned the town. General Houston replied to this communication the same day. Capt. Baker read the reply to myself and others. It stated in general terms, that the commander-in-chief approved of Captain Baker's course. Shortly after the burning of the town we were reinforced by Capt. Kimbrough's company. Our force now amounted to one hundred and twenty or one hundred and twenty-five men, including, however, several merchants clerks, and others, only temporarily attached to the command. For several days we were in hourly expectation of the arrival of the enemy. On the evening of the 5th Apl. James M. Bell, William Simpson and myself were selected by Captain Baker for what was deemed a perilous service, namely, to act as a picket guard the ensuing night on the San Felipe side of the river. We crossed the river -- then very high -- in a canoe which Captain ordered should be sent back immediately -- so fearful was he of its falling into the hands of the enemy and affording them the means of crossing the river and surprising his camp. We, however, managed to keep the canoe and locked it to a tree. We then proceeded on and posted ourselves on a gentle eminence in the prairie a little west of the site of the main part of the town and about three-fourths of a mile from the ferry. Bell and myself stood the first and second watches. The third and last was assigned to Simpson, as Capt. Baker had ordered us to return to camp very early next morning, Bell and I, when we lay down, requested Simpson to wake us at daylight.
This, however, he neglected to do and we were roused at sunrise by the clattering of horses feet. "What is that, said I?" Bell rose and exclaimed "Mexicans by G-d!" There were about a hundred cavalry, the advance guard of the Mexican army. Though not more than seventy or eighty yards distant they had not yet perceived us, their whole attention being engrossed by Simpson, who, it seems as soon as daylight appeared went into an unfenced garden about sixty yards from our post and was looking for vegetables when the Mexicans surprised him. They did not fire at him and seemed anxious to capture him which they very soon did. In the meantime Bell and I were running at the top of our speed toward the ferry. The Mexicans discovered us before we got half way and instantly the whole squadron spurred their horses in pursuit of us. We followed the high road which passed a little of the right of the head of a ravine. The Mexicans, aiming to cut us off from the river, bore so far to the left that they struck the ravine (which was impassable for cavalry) and had to make a detour to get round the head of it. This saved it. Yet, we would still have been lost had I listened to the rash proposition of my companion to face the enemy and fight! We had scarcely got into the canoe and pushed it from the shore when the Mexicans were on the bank and shotting at us. They fired two or three rounds before we reached the opposite shore and one of them bade us in good English, "bring back that boat!"
When Capt. Baker's men saw the Mexican cavalry galloping towards the ferry, they mistook it for Wash. Secrest's spy company, and were not undeceived until the enemy began to fire at the boat. They then returned the fire and it was supposed, wounded one of the Mexicans. The cavalry quickly retired and half an hour afterwards the Mexican army arrived and encamped in the prairie, south and west of the site of the town and from four to six hundred yards from the ferry. Capt. Baker immediately moved his camp about a fourth of a mile further up the river, but a position of the command constantly occupied the ditch. Sentinels were placed along the bank of the river for more than a mile above and below our entrenchment.
During the remainder of this day, the only molestation we received was from one individual of the enemy, who posted himself behind a brick oven near the bank of the river, and fired at us with a rifle, the greater part of the day. I was afterwards informed that this indefatigable rifleman was an American of the name of Johnson who had deserted to the Mexicans. At daylight on the morning of the 7th, just as I was rising from my pallet in the ditch, I was startled by the booming of a cannon which had been planted near the head of a ravine opposite the ferry, and on what was known as commercial square.
Many rounds of roundshot, grape and cannister were discharged at us, throwing the sand upon us and knocking the bark from the cottonwood trees that extended their branches over us. We also suffered a casualty. John Bricker of Capt. Baker's company, after having been relieved of his post below the entrenchment started up to the camp, but loitered on his way to pick up cannon balls and was struck by a cannister shot. Almost instant death ensued, though the ball had barely buried itself in his temple. The ferry boat was this day scuttled and sunk in obedience to an order from Genl. Houston received by Capt. Baker the evening of the 6th. The Mexicans cannonaded us daily from the 7th to the 10th Apl. inclusive. On the morning of the 11th we ascertained that the enemy had left San Felipe. About this time Captain John Byrd with a company of mounted men rode into our camp and informed Capt. Baker that he had verbal orders from Genl. Houston to supersede him in the command of the post. Capt. Baker immediately paraded his men and informed them that Capt. Byrd had been sent to supersede him, to which, he said, he was not disposed to submit. He said he had defended the crossing until the Mexican army had departed and he could not see the necessity of remaining any longer in that position -- but submitted it to the men whether they would remain or march to rejoin the army. All voted to march. Capt. Baker therefore issued orders to that effect and early in the night we took up the line of march -- leaving Capt. Byrd's company at our camp.
That night we marched to Iron's creek -- six miles. Next morning (Apl. 12th) we crossed the creek -- which was much swollen -- on a raft, and encamped on the east side, where we remained two days. Meantime the Mexicans had effected the passage of the river at Fort Bend, despite the vigilance of Capt. Wyly Martin, to whom with a company composed of the men of that neighborhood, the defense of that crossing had been entrusted. While we lay at Iron's Creek, Capt. Martin and his company and many of the fugitive families of Fort Bend passed within a mile of our camp. Captain Baker went out to see them. He returned to camp much affected by the distress he had witnessed among the women and children, a number of whom were travelling on foot. Learning from one of the ladies that she had been insulted by a negro man, he sought the negro and intended, had he found him, to run him through with his sword. Captain Baker wept.
On the morning of the 14th we resumed the march and the same evening rejoined the army at Donaho's. -- On the 18th Apl. the army arrived at Harrisburg -- and encamped. On the morning of the 19th the army was paraded. Genl. Houston addressed us. He said the enemy was not far off and he was going to lead us against them -- said if there was a man in the ranks who did not feel like fighting he had permission to remain with Major McNutt, who had command of the camp guard. He said, when you engage the enemy, let your battle cry be "Remember the Alamo! Col. Rusk followed with a short but very stirring speech -- he said let your battle cry be "The Alamo and La Bahia!" We were then dismissed for a short time to prepare rations for 3 days --. On the afternoon of the 21st when the army was paraded to attack the Mexicans, Capt. Baker harangued his company. He said he wished his men neither to ask or give quarter -- as a token of which he proposed that the company carry a red flag. A vote was taken whether we should or should not -- but one man (John H. Money) voted against it. A red handkerchief was therefore hoisted for a flag, and carried until the battle commenced, when from cause it was thrown away. -- When the army started back to camp, (after the battle) it was about dusk. It was halted a moment at the breastworks of the Mexicans, and Genl. Houston addressed it in a few very eloquent sentences which I long remembered but have now forgotten. After he had concluded he said to Capt. Baker -- "Captain B. have I not done my duty?" "Yes, Genl.," replied our Capt. "But I wish you had done it sooner." I was not aware that Genl. Houston had been wounded until about the time he began to address the army. -- I was present when Santa Anna was brot into the presence of Genl. Houston and remained until the memorandum was drawn up and signed. After it was written, Almonte asked Genl. Houston how it should be dated. Genl. H. replied "Lynchburg, I believe is the name of the place." Col. Wharton said "San Jacinto Genl. -- let it be San Jacinto" -- which was adopted.
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: Third Corporal
- Company: Capt. Moseley Baker
- Battle Account: Vol. 7, Texas State Historical Association Quarterly
- Alternate Names: J. L.
- Date of Birth: 1814 Feb 1
- Birthplace: Georgia, Hillsborough
- Origin: Georgia
- Came to Texas: 1834 Dec
- Date of Death: 1889 Jul
- Burial Place: Hill family cemetery, Fayette County, Texas
- Comments: Civil War, Confederate Army
- Bounty Certificate: 1129
- Donation Certificate: 805
- Profession: Lawyer
- Wife: 1. Jerinand Matthews Ballstile; 2. Frances Ann Lloyd; 3. Laura Virginia Gant
- Children: John W. Hill; William Hill; Mary Hill; Isaac Parham Hill; Sarah Frances; Jared Winburn; Abbie Benham Hill Thomas; Elizabeth Hill; Laura Hill
- Family at San Jacinto: Cousin James Monroe Hill at San Jacinto