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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BELL, JAMES MADISON -- Born in Hardeman County, Tennessee, July 18, 1817, a son of William and Julia (Johnson) Bell, who came to Texas in January, 1834 with their family and settled near the present town of New Ulm, Austin, County. Their children in order of birth were: Thomas H., William, Granville, Jackson, John, James Madison, Joseph, Adeline and Frank Bell. William Bell, the father, died within a year after arriving in Texas. His widow died in 1846.

At the outbreak of the revolution, James Madison Bell and five of his brothers - Thomas H., William, Granville, Jackson and John promptly enlisted in the army, leaving their widowed mother with Joseph, aged thirteen, and Adeline and Frank. Thomas H., William, and James Madison served in the company of Captain John York in the Storming and Capture of Bexar, December 5 to 10, 1835. James Madison and Thomas H. participated in the battle of San Jacinto as members of Captain Moseley Baker’s "San Felipe Company", James M. being first corporal.

In Comptroller’s Military Service Record No. 1505 it is certified that James Madison Bell served in the army from February 29 to May 29, 1836. On July 11, 1838 he was issued Donation Certificate No. 448 for having participated in the battle of San Jacinto. In the Headright Certificate issued to him in 1838 for one-third of a league of land by the Austin County Board of Land Commissioners, the statement that he came to Texas in January, 1834 is verified.

In October, 1848 two bands of Lipan Indians left their camps in the State of Coahuila, Mexico and entered Texas as a marauding expedition. One band killed George W. Barnett, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, fifteen miles west of Gonzales. On October 9th. The other band killed a Mr. Lockhart and Young Mr. Vivian. The latter band crossed from the west to the east side of the San Antonio River and joined forces with the first band.

When news of the raids reached the settlers of DeWitt County a Company of thirty-two volunteers was raised and the old veteran, Captain John York, was chosen to command them. Richard H. Chisolm was elected lieutenant and Joseph Tumlinson was chosen as the guide. The volunteers then left to pursue the red men. On the night of October 10th they camped on the head waters of the Cabesa, twenty-five miles above Goliad. On the following day they struck the trail of the Indians and pressed forward rapidly. Captain York and others in advance on the banks of the Escondido, a tributary of the San Antonio River, fifteen miles west of Yorktown in Karnes County, were fired upon from ambush by the Indians. Some of the volunteers in the rear became panicky and rendered no assistance. James H. Sykes was the first volunteer to fall. Than James Madison Bell was shot down and killed, and Captain York rushed to the assistance of his son-in-law and while stooping to raise him up was shot through the kidneys and killed. James York, Captain York’s son, was shot through the cheeks from side to side. Joseph Tumlinson and Hugh R. Young were also wounded. There were thirty-five or thirty warriors and it was thought that six of them were killed. The bodies of Captain York and Mr. Bell were buried in a single hand made oak coffin in the York family cemetery eight miles east of Yorktown, DeWitt County, just off the Meyersville-Yorktown road, formerly the Indianola Trail. Mrs. Bell was born in August 1822 and died in January, 1898. She is buried in the Hillside cemetery at Cuero.

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: First Corporal
  • Company: Capt. Moseley Baker

Personal Statistics

  • Date of Birth: 1817 July 18
  • Birthplace: Tennessee, Hardeman County
  • Came to Texas: 1834 Jan
  • Date of Death: 1848 Oct 11
  • Burial Place: York family cemetery, DeWitt County, Texas
  • Other Battles: Bexar
  • Donation Certificate: 448
  • Wife: Miss York
  • Children: Sarah Jane Bell; Julia Bell; John York Bell; James Robert Bell
  • Family at San Jacinto: Brother Thomas Henry Bell at San Jacinto