The Kemp Sketch
PERRY, JAMES HAZARD, D.D.--Left New York November 21, 1835, among 174 volunteers on board the brig Matowonkeag. Off the Bahamas on December 9th they were captured as pirates by the British man-of-war Serpent, Captain Nepear; and carried into Nassau, N. P., where they were imprisoned until January 15, 1836, and then released. Renewing the voyage, they were detained on the Balize to get provisions. Leaving the others there, Dr. Perry and Algernon P. Thompson went to New Orleans and thence to Texas, arriving in time to participate in the Battle of San Jacinto as a volunteer aide-de-camp to General Houston.
After the revolution Dr. Perry returned to New York and again entered the ministry. He was issued Bounty Certificate No. 114 for 1280 acres of land, April 12, 1860, for having served in the army from November 25, 1835 to December 3, 1836. He died in Brooklyn, New York prior to July 6, 1871 at which time his widow, Mrs. Anne E. Perry, sold the certificate to Joseph Spence and A. B. McGill of Austin, Texas for $672.00.
Dr. Perry did not apply for the 640 acres of land due him for having participated in the Battle of San Jacinto. He was issued a Headright Certificate for a league and labor of land January 8, 1838 by the Matagorda County Board of Land Commissioners in which it is stated that he came to Texas in 1836.
On February 24, 1859, a friend of General Houston wrote to him from Westchester County, New York. The following are extracts from the communication: "chagrined and mortified, I sit down to tell you of the burning disgrace that has this evening been given to your well earned fame. Reverend James H. Perry, D.D., of New York, delivered in a lecture in the Methodist Episcopal Church the most bitter remarks respecting your bravery and honor that ever passed human lips.---He said: "I wish it to be understood, for I speak what I know, that the battle of San Jacinto was fought, and the victory was achieved, in spite of Gen. Houston, and the wreath that now encircles his brow as the hero of that battle has not in it one green leaf."
General Sam Houston in a speech on February 29, 1859, delivered in the United States Senate, of which he was a member, read the letter in full and then proceeded to express his opinion of the Rev. Perry: "He came to the camp on the Colorado with letters of introduction from the President and other members of the cabinet to the Commander-in-Chief, recommending him as a graduate of West Point, or having been a student there," said General Houston; "Being a good looking gentleman, plausible in his manner, unembarrassed by diffidence, not very cultivated, still would do well for a soldier or officer, the general appointed him a member of his staff." An order was given by the general that no one should communicate from camp without the communication passing the general's eye--An express was about to start. A letter of Major Perry, that then was brought to the general. It was sealed. He opened it, and found it contained the grossest defamation and slander of himself..." "Perry remained in camp, still attached to the staff, and when they arrived at Harrisburg he passed over Buffalo Bayou with the spies. On the march to San Jacinto he was take under suspicious circumstances - having left the line of the Texans. He was taken by Capt. Karnes and Private Secrest, of the spies, and brought to the general. They reported that he had changed his horse's caparison, also his musket for an escopet, and they believed he had communicated with the enemy. The general ordered him to be disarmed and sent to the guard fire... That was on the 20th. He remained under guard until the morning of the 21st. He sent the general a message, which is not precisely recollected. The general gave orders to restore his arms, giving him an opportunity to wipe off the stigma that he had placed upon his character, and gave him leave to go into the battle; whether he did or not is not known to me.
Gen. Thomas J. Rusk in a letter written at Nacogdoches May 5, 1843, to Col. Louis P. Cook gives a different version of the affair. His letter in full: "To Col. Louis P. Cook: Sir: At your request, I furnish you with the following statement of what I know or recollect of Mr. James Perry, who belonged to the army of Texas in 1836.
"When I reached the army on the Brazos, Mr. Perry was attached to it, in the capacity of volunteer-aide-de-camp to the Commander-in Chief, Gen. Houston. The next day, I believe, after I got to headquarters, I procured an express to send with dispatches to the cabinet, then at Harrisburg. Mr. Perry left in the tent a sealed letter, addressed to the Honorable Robert Potter, then Secretary of the Navy, shortly afterwards General Houston showed me the letter, which had been broken open. I read it. It contained some comments upon the movements of the army, and the conduct of General Houston, which seemed to be offensive to him. General Houston called in Mr. Perry, showed him the letter, and asked him if he had written it; he said he had, and believed what he had stated. General Houston then reprimanded him for so doing. Mr. Perry remained with the army. A day or two before the battle he rode on some miles ahead of the army, and in fact, ahead of the spy company commanded by Col. Karnes. Col. Karnes found Mr. Perry at a house which had been abandoned, some fifteen miles from the Mexican army, and sent him back to our army; in consequence of an order, that no one should advance in front of the spy company, and not so far as I understood, from any suspicious against him, General Houston immediately ordered him to be placed under arrest, and his arms to be taken from him; which was done. He remained, nominally, under arrest until the day of the battle, or the day before, when he requested that his arms should be restored to him, which was accordingly done, and he fought with great gallantry in he battle. Some vague charges were made against Mr. Perry, of an intention to desert, or join the enemy. These charges, I looked up on at the time, as injurious to Mr. Perry. I believe they were unfounded. The circumstances, in my opinion, did not justify any unfavorable opinion of Mr. Perry's fidelity. And his conduct in the Battle placed his character for bravery beyond dispute. Truly yours, Thos. J. Rusk"
In commenting on this letter the MORNING STAR, Houston, of June 8, 1843, said in part: "After the battle, Col. Perry was treated with merited respect and kindness by the officers of the army, and the celebrated John A. Wharton, who it has been justly said " wielded the best blade on the field of San Jacinto," took Col. Perry to his house and treated him as a most intimate friend. No man can say that the Eagle spirit of Eagle Island would have thus taken a traitor to his bosom."
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: Major
- Company: Volunteer aide-de-camp, commander-in-Chief's staff
- Battle Account: New-York Daily Tribune, Nov. 24, 1842
- Date of Birth: 1811 Jun
- Birthplace: New York
- Origin: New York
- Came to Texas: 1836 Jan
- Date of Death: 1862 June 18
- Burial Place: Cypress Hill Cemetery, Brooklyn,New York
- Comments: suspected of spying before battle; Civil War - Union side
- Bounty Certificate: 114
- Profession: Minister
- Wife: Anne E.