The Kemp Sketch
SWEARENGEN, WILLIAM C. -- Born in Kentucky. He arrived at Velasco January 28, 1836, on the schooner Pennsylvania, having been recruited in New Orleans for the army of Texas by Captain Amasa Turner. In Service Record No. 4553 it is certified that Mr. Swearengen served in Company B, first regiment of infantry, from February 13, 1836, to February 20, 1837, at which time he was detached by the War Department at the Post on the Sabine. He was issued Bounty Certificate No. 14 for 1280 acres of land November 1, 1837. He was a member of Captain Amasa Turner's Company (Company B) at San Jacinto and on February 7, 1860, his heirs were issued Donation Certificate No. 132 for 640 acres of land due him for having participated in the battle. Mr. Swearengen on February 26, 1838, was issued Headright Certificate No. 505 for one-third of a league of land by the Harrisburg County Board. In the certificate it is stated that he came to Texas in January, 1836. Later, after having married, he received Headright Certificate No. 8 for two-thirds of a league and one labor of land from the Galveston County Board.
At the promotion of Captain Turner to Lieutenant Colonel, the men of his company were transferred to Company A, First Regiment of Regular Infantry, of which John Smith was elected Captain, August 29, 1836. On page 170 of the muster rolls in the General Land Office Mr. Swearengen is shown as a member of Captain Smith's Company at muster December 31, 1836. At that time he is shown on detached service on the Apollo and as having been promoted March 17 and as having resigned November 4, 1836. On page 180 of the rolls he is listed as a member of Captain Smith's Company, February 28, 1837 and at that time on detached service at Cedar Bayou. In a Comptroller's Military Service Record he signed his name as Captain, Commanding Post Sabine, August 2, 1837. The record reads: "Post of Sabine Aug. 2, 1837. 2nd Lt. Jno Ingram is hereby honorably Discharged from the Company of Rangers stationed at this Post, having served from the 6th day of May to this time.
W. C. Swearingen
Capt. Com. Post Sabine.
The heirs of Mr. Swearengen in 1860 applied for land due Mr. Swearengen from the State of Texas. Some papers from the Swearengen case in the Court of Claims file in the General Land Office have apparently been removed and in the remaining papers the names of the heirs of Mr. Swearengen are not known. The file contains a deposition of Samuel Paschall of Houston in which he said he knew Mr. Swearengen in New Orleans and that he arrived with Mr. Swearengen at Velasco January 27, 1836. He said that Mr. Swearengen died in Houston in 1839.
In the Probate Records of Harris County it is shown that Mr. Swearengen died in Houston December 24, 1839.
An original letter from Mr. Swearingen written on the battlefield on the day following the conflict was in January, 1940, in possession of Mr. Chester L. Knox, 15 William Street, New York City. It was addressed to Mr. Lemuel Swearingen, Scottsville, Kentucky. The letter in full:
"Texas Buffaloe Bieau
April 22nd, 1836.
In my last letter I informed you that I should start the next day for Gen Houston's camp and join him on the Colorado river. The Mexican army was then encamped on the opposite side of the river 3,000 strong. Houston's army was, including our two companies, 1,372 men. The next day after we joined him he commenced a retreat back on the River Brasas, 15 miles above the town of San Felipe de Austin (which Gen. Houston had burnt). The second day after the site of San Felipe was occupied by the Mexicans army, Gen. Houston stationed three companies on the river opposite town to prevent their crossing. Santa Anna sent a detachment of 500 men to a ferry below San Felipe called Fort Bend and crossed them over, and then sent the remainder down to the same place and crossed his whole force. Santa Anna stationed 2500 men at Fort Bend and took 500 of his veterans and one heavy brass nine pounder and pushed on to Harrisburg on Buffalo Bieau, 35 miles from Fort Bend, on his way to Galveston Island, the only port the Texans now have in their possession. Houston immediately crossed the Brasas and took up his march for Harrisburg, distant 57 miles. We got to the bieau opposite Harrisburg in the evening and Santa Anna had left it that morning for Linches Ferry on the road to Galveston. Next morning our spies brought in the Mexican mail rider and the mail from which we learned that Santa Anna was with the army in person, Gen. Houston had been compelled to give furlows to upwards of 200 men to go and carry their families beyond the Trinity river for security and one entire company that was left opposite San Felipe went home instead of joining us on our march. When we reached Buffalo Bieau we had 310 men and before we were through examining the letters our spies crossed the bieau, brought in the colonel commanding the Mexican cavalry with a letter from Cos to Santa Anna stating that he would start the next morning from Fort Bend with 650 men to join him at Linches Ferry on Buffalo Bieau. Gen. Houston then knew that Santa Anna had gone by way of New Washington on the bay to destroy that place and then to march up the Bieau to Linches Ferry and join Cos and march on to Galveston and take it before Houston could find where he was, leaving the main body at Fort Bend to amuse Houston. Gen. Houston crossed the bieau next day with 520 men and the two 4 pounders that reach up on our march from the Brasas and left the balance to take care of our baggage and guard the camp. We lay in the bushes on the road to watch Cos and the 650 men which were expected to pass that day but did not. As soon as it became dark we commenced a rapid march for Linches Ferry, calculating that Santa Anna would not cross the Bieau until the arrival of Gen. Cos. At two o'clock a. m. we halted within 2 1/2 miles of Linches ferry. At sunrise on the 20th ultimo we formed our line of battle and proceeded to the ferry. When we reached the ferry we found Santa Anna had not yet reached there, but was on his way up from Washington. Houston picked his ground, placed his men, gave them his orders, then made them stack their arms in their places and told them to eat their breakfast and be ready to receive them about 11 o'clock a. m. They came in sight drawn up inline, 400 infantry and 100 horses with their 9 pounder in the center of their infantry. At about 350 yards distant they opened on what few they could see of us with their cannon charged with grape and canister shot, but we were protected by the timber and sustained no injury except one man slightly wounded. They did not know we had a cannon and their fire was not returned until their infantry commenced their fire with musketry. We then commenced with our cannon, hoping they would charge with their infantry to take them, and by that means we could cut them off and if possible take Santa Anna prisoner, or kill him. They retreated from our fourth fire of the cannon to a small wood in our front where their cannon was planted and kept up a fire with their cannon until 1 o'clock p.m. when they fell back to a piece of high prairie in front and immediately commenced fortifying with brusk, baggage, etc. Houston then determined to come out in the plain and engage them. The cavalry was sent out to draw the enemy from their cover, but we could not get them to attack us. It being late in the afternoon, Houston decided to defer attacking them until morning and marched into camp. That night Cos arrived with 650 men and joined Santa Anna, making his force 1,150. Santa Anna then considered Houston and Texas then in his power with no chance of escape, and that he would let Cos' men rest one day and on the morning of the 22nd seal the death warrant of Texas by the destruction of Houston and the only men Texas had in the field. At half past 3 o'clock on the 21st ultimo we left our camp and attacked him, leaving one company of 38 men in camp. Our cavalry about 110 strong was posted on the right, the 2 companies of regulars next to the cavalry, the 2 companies of volunteers on our left and the militia on the left. Opposite the woods about 300 yards in their front was a bottom that protected us from their cannon. In that hollow we formed our line with our two 4-pound cannon (presented to Texas by the ladies of Cincinnati, Ohio) in the rear of the regulars with orders as soon as they ascertained where their cannon was planted to open fire on it and to keep up on the advance with the infantry was ordered to trail arms and advance until within 50 yards of the enemy before we fired. As soon as we gained the level they commenced on our company with grape and canister shot. We rushed on it quick to within 50 yards a heavy fire of grape canister and musketry. Our riflemen having nearly 100 yards left to go than we had commenced the action with small arms before we did with our muskets. The musketry and riflemen kept advancing as they fired. When within about 20 steps of the enemy's line we were ordered to charge with bayonets. As soon as we were ordered to the charge and brought our guns to the proper position the enemy gave way except about 60 men around the cannon and protected by breastwork of corn sacks, salt, barrels of meal, and boxes of canister shot. They fell by the bayonet and swam in one mangled heap from that time until they reached the bieau. It was nothing but a slaughter. The at first attempted to swim the bieau, but were surrounded by our men and they shot every one that attempted to swim the bieau as soon as he took to the water, and them that remained they killed as fast as they could load and shoot them until they surrendered. The enemy lost between 620 and 700 killed on the field and in the bieau, 480 prisoners among whom was Santa Anna H-I-M-S-E-L-F, his private secretary, and the next in command to Santa Anna, De Savala. Ten of his field officers were killed. At the head of them is General Cos. There are more than half of our prisoners wounded. Our loss was 4 men killed and 23 wounded, three have since died and there is one more that will die in two days at most. The balance will get well. Gen. Houston, when he ordered the charge, went in front of his men. He was shot through the ankle the bone and the heel string and his horse killed.
To see the number, the position and the termination and the time in which it was done (time 18 minutes) it at once shows that the hand of providence was with us. I shall be in Kentucky early in the fall. Kiss William for me and tell him pappy will be there in the fall and stay with him and that he must be a good boy."
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: Second Sergeant
- Company: Capt. Amasa Turner
- Battle Account: Letter to Lemuel Swearingen, April 23, 1836, Houston Endowment Texana Collection, printed in A Check List of Manuscripts, Houston: San Jacinto Museum of History Assn., 1949 Z1339 .S3 1949; printed in The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835-1836 edited by John H. Jenkins, Austin: Presidial Press, 1973 F390 P225 1973, also published elsewhere.
- Alternate Names: Swearengen
- Birthplace: Kentucky
- Origin: Louisiana
- Came to Texas: 1836 Jan 28
- Date of Death: 1839 Dec 24
- Bounty Certificate: 14
- Donation Certificate: 132
- Children: William Swearingen