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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KARNES, HENRY WAX -- Born in Tennessee, September 8, 1812. His parents, whose names are unknown to the compiler, moved to Arkansas where Henry and his father were engaged in trapping. Captain Karnes was a grandson of Captain Henry Waches, a Revolutionary soldier from Pennsylvania, who later moved to Virginia. Hannah, one of Captain Waches' daughters, married George Karnes and moved west.

In applying for one-third of a league of land from the Bexar County Board of Land Commissioners, January 25, 1838 Mr. Karnes stated that he came to Texas in 1835. He had probably lived here prior to that time and returned in 1835.

Mr. Karnes was a member of Captain John York's company in 1835. He fought at Concepcion and was conspicuous for his bravery at the Storming and Capture of Bexar, December 5 to 10, 1835. Seizing a crowbar he dashed forward and dug a hole in the stone wall of a building for a new and advanced position.

Mr. Karnes organized and became captain of a company of cavalry at Gonzales, March 20, 1836. Opposite Harrisburg he and Erastus (Deaf) Smith were sent out by General Houston in search of information regarding the movements of the Mexican army. They were rewarded by the capture of Mexican couriers bearing dispatches from General Filisola to Santa Anna. These gave General Houston the first information regarding the location of Santa Anna. At San Jacinto he commanded his cavalry company which was one of the two companies comprising the corps commanded by M. B. Lamar. He received Bounty Certificate No. 3985 for 1280 acres of land for serving in the army from April 15, 1835 to June 26, 1836. He was issued Donation Certificate No. 407 dated July 2, 1838, for 640 acres of land for having participated in the battle of San Jacinto. Shortly after the battle of San Jacinto he was sent to Matamoras to effect an exchange of prisoners but was himself thrown in prison from which, however, he soon escaped.

In Service Record No. 6892 it is certified that Colonel Karnes served as Colonel of the First Regiment of Cavalry from September 22, 1836 to March 14, 1837.

On July 20, 1838, General Karnes in company with a young man recently from the United States and several Mexican servants while on their way from Compano to San Antonio with merchandise were attacked twenty miles from Goliad by a band of Mexican smugglers. Karnes, after being shot, was taken prisoner, but soon made his escape. On December 28, 1838 he was authorized by congress to raise eight companies to operate against the Comanches.

On June 24, 1839, Colonel Karnes advertised for volunteers, stating that be had been authorized by the President to raise four to six companies. On August 10, 1839 a company commanded by Colonel Karnes was attacked on the Arroyo Saco by a large band of Comanches. Colonel Karnes took a position in a deep ravine and prepared for defense. A bloody battle was soon waging. The Indians were defeated and routed, although Colonel Karnes received a wound from which he never recovered.

Upon returning to San Antonio from Houston he contracted yellow fever. He thought his business required him in Houston and contrary to Dr. Weidman's advice he started back before he was sufficiently strong. Traveling stretched out in a light wagon, he suffered relapse after the first day and was returned to San Antonio. He passed away August 16, 1840 at 11:30 a.m. Throughout his protracted illness he was faithfully attended by Dr. Edward Wiedman, a Russian by birth, an eminent surgeon and a skilled physician. Indeed the doctor not only acted as practitioner, but as friend and brother. Had he lived Colonel Karnes would have been appointed commander of the Santa Fe Expedition by President Lamar.

Colonel Karnes was a short, heavy set man with bright red hair. While he was uneducated, he was modest, generous and devoted to his friends. He was brave and fearless and ranked with Deaf Smith as a scout and spy.

When a new county was created from Bexar, DeWitt and Goliad Counties in 1854 it was named in honor of Henry Wax Karnes.

William K. Karnes, brother of Henry Karnes, came to Texas in 1849 and settled in Bell County. His wife was before marriage Rebecca McCulough. Their children were Catherine Karnes, who married J. T. Sherred; E. M., who married Ramsey Cox; C. G.; Narcissa, who married C. L. Allen of Bell County; a daughter, who married Arthur Dennison; Annie, who married W. J. King; and W. E. Karnes.

Evansville, Indiana
July 1, 1954

Mrs. David Knepper
San Jacinto Monument
Houston, Texas

Dear Mrs. Knepper:

I wish to thank you for sending the biographical sketch on Henry Wax Karnes.

Since talking with you I have written other relatives in the Karnes family for information that they have on the Karnes descendants. I have asked them for the names of the brothers and sisters of my great grandfather Henry Karnes.

The Karnes Bible that I have is 100 years old. It was given to me by my grandmother Minerva Jane Karnes who was the first child born to Henry Karnes and Martha McLain.

Henry Karnes was born in West Tennessee February 13, 1813. He traveled through Arkansas as a boy and into Texas, for his father trapped fur bearing animals for a living. His father also ran a mill on Little Blue River in Crawford County, Indiana. And it was here that all of Henry Karnes and Martha's children were born.

Here are the children in order of birth:

1. Minerva Jane Karnes, April 4, 1838.
2. William Anderson Karnes, June 16, 1839.
3. Sarah E. Karnes, December 14, 1840.
4. Henry Jack Karnes, June 14, 1842.
5. Joseph N. Karnes, November 1843.
6. Jesse Scott Karnes, July 1, 1845.
7. Mary Ann Karnes (Molly), September 12, 1847.
8. Margaret C. Karnes (Meg), August 14, 1850.
9. Francis I. Karnes, October 3, 1852.

Another child Nancy was born June 14, 1854 and died August 10, 1854.

Henry Karnes and wife Martha moved to south west Texas May 1860. They lived near the bend of the San Antonio River at a place my grandmother called Post. It was, she said, just like a corner of Paradise. My grandmother returned to Indiana and married John Riley Williams in 1866. Henry Karnes stayed in Texas for a number of years and then left Texas and moved to Gibson County, Indiana where Minerva and John Riley Williams lived. He later moved to Kansas. He died in 1888. Martha died in 1872 near Independence, Kansas.

The land my great grandfather, Henry Karnes owned while in Texas was leased for ninety nine years and I have kept the Bible thinking I might need it in court. We never did know what became of his land.

If you care to you can include what I have sent you or combine what I have sent with other records and put it in your files for future reference. Later I will send you other information.

(signed)Mrs. M. K. Danner
2942 Arlington Avenue
Evansville, Indiana

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: Captain
  • Company: Cavalry

Personal Statistics

  • Alternate Names: Carnes
  • Date of Birth: 1812 Sep 8
  • Birthplace: Tennessee
  • Origin: Arkansas
  • Came to Texas: 1835
  • Date of Death: 1840 Aug 16
  • Other Battles: Concepcion, Bexar
  • Bounty Certificate: 3985
  • Donation Certificate: 407