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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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SOMERVELL, ALEXANDER -- Born in Aquasco, Prince George County, Maryland, June 11, 1796, a son of James and Elizabeth (Magruder) Somervell. James Somervell was born April 19, 1751 and died May 15, 1851. He was married twice, his second wife being Elizabeth Magruder.

Alexander Somervell moved to Louisiana in 1817 and there engaged in merchandising. He arrived at Brazoria, April 30, 1833 on the Sabine, Captain Brown. George B. Erath was a fellow passenger. He settled at San Felipe de Austin where he continued his mercantile business, having as a partner James F. Perry. The following is an extract from a letter from James F. Perry, Peach Point, Texas, dated October 22, 1833, to Stephen F. Austin, Mexico City. It was published in the Austin Papers:

"Since you left I wrote to Missouri for a Mr. Alex Somervell, a man I have been acquainted with for many years and in whom I have full confidence. He came in May and Austin (Bryan) and him have been in charge of the store, since I gave him an interest as I thought it best."

At Gonzales on March 12, 1836, Mr. Somervell was elected Major of the First Regiment of Texas Volunteers. On April 8th he was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the First Regiment of Texas Volunteers, succeeding Sidney Sherman who was ejected Colonel of the Second Regiment. He participated in the Battle of San Jacinto and remained in the army until June 7, 1836, when he resigned to accept the post of Secretary of War in President Burnett's Cabinet. On November 10, 1838, he was issued Bounty Certificate No. 4414 for 320 acres of land for having served in the army from March 6 to June 6, 1836. He received Donation Certificate No. 230 for 640 acres of land May 26, 1838, for having participated in the Battle of San Jacinto. In Headright Certificate No. 2 for one-twelfth of a league of land issued to him January 11, 1838 by the Austin County Board it is stated that he came to Texas in 1833.

Colonel Somervell was elected Senator from the District composed of Colorado and Austin Counties to the First and Second Congresses October 3, 1836, to May 24, 1838. On November 18, 1839, he was elected Brigadier General of the First Brigade. In 1842 he commanded the "Somervell Expedition." (See sketch of Captain William M. Eastland in this volume.) On December 13, 1842, he was appointed Collector of Customs for the Port of Calhoun. To this position he was reappointed after Texas had entered the Union. In 1847 General Somervell, James Power and John W. Rose were the owners of the town of Saluria in Calhoun County.

Rev. Homer S. Thrall in his Pictorial History of Texas, page 622, tells of the tragic death of General Somervell which occurred in February, 1854: "No satisfactory statement of the manner of his death has ever been given to the public. He started from Lavaca to Saluria in a small boat, carrying a considerable amount of money. When found, the boat was bottom side up and General Somervell was lashed to the timbers. Whether he was killed for money, which was never found, or the boat capsized, will probably never be known."

The last will of General Somervell was signed at San Felipe, May 6, 1835. His estate was opened for probate March 13, 1854, in Calhoun County and J. A. Settle and Thomas Horrell were appointed administrators (Book A, page 233, Probate Journals of Calhoun County).

In his will General Somervell gave the names of his parents, who were at that time dead, and furnished the name of his place of birth. He left $2,000.00 to his brother-in-law, Rev. Thomas Horrell, and the rest of his estate to his brother, James Somervell of Somervell of Aquasco, Prince George County, Maryland.

Mrs. G. T. Williams, 1215 John Street, Baltimore, Maryland, is in possession of the Somervell family Bible.

Children of James Somervell, father of Alexander Somervell, by his first marriage were (1) Thomas Trueman, (2) Ann, and (3) Susan Somervell

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: Lieutenant Colonel
  • Company: First Regiment Texas Volunteers

Personal Statistics

  • Alternate Names: Somerville, Alex
  • Date of Birth: 1796 Jun 11
  • Birthplace: Maryland, Prince George County, Aquasco
  • Origin: Missouri/Louisiana
  • Came to Texas: 1833 Apr 30
  • Date of Death: 1854 Feb
  • Other Battles: Bexar
  • Comments: Commanded Somervell Expedition
  • Bounty Certificate: 4414
  • Donation Certificate: 230
  • Profession: Merchant, soldier