[Broderbund WFT Vol. 8, Ed. 1, Tree #2491, Date of Import: Nov 25, 1998]
Nicholas Washington Eastland, after his marriage to Frances Bates Moore,
made Sparta, Tennessee their home. In the meantime, John H. Moore, who
would in time become a colonel in the Texas military forces, migrated to
Texas in 1827. So impressed was he by the opportunities in the newly
opened lands that he wrote back to Sparta and Eastland describing the
possibilities in Texas and firing the imagination and adventurous spirits
of the Eastland men.
It was William Mosby Eastland, Nicholas's brother, who first decided to
follow Moore to Texas. In 1833 he settled at La Grange, erected a
sawmill, and engaged in the lumber business. the following year, Nicholas
Washington Eastland and Nicholas Dawson, a cousin, with their families
also established themselves nearby; and they were soon followed by others
Eastland family, all eager to make their marks in the La Grange area.
John H. Moore, Nicholas Dawson, Nicholas W. Eastland, William Mosby
Eastland, and a nephew, Robert Moore Eastland, were destine to play
courageous and spectacular roles in the History of Texas. Three of them,
Nicholas Dawson, William Mosby Eastland and Robert Moore Eastland, were
to suffer tragic deaths at the hands of the Mexicans. And one, William
Mosby Eastland, was to be honored when the legislature of Texas named
Eastland County for him. The rest were public figures in Texas for years,
occupying themselves as office holders, farmers, teachers, and
William Mosby Eastland engaged in the sawmill business. The La Grange
area was covered with ash, cypress, hickory, pecan, and other trees; and
all the milled lumber he could turn out. A large number entering Texas
were well educated with special training in legal and clerical matters,
and, while they were not versed in Spanish law, their talents led them to
participate in local governments. Nicholas W. Eastland, for instance,
combined legal and clerical work with farming.
Among the colonists there soon evolved two distinct parties. a
conservative "Peace Party" favoring tranquil, peaceful relations with the
Mexicans was led by Stephen F. Austin and was concentrated around San
Felipe de Austin and Washington-on -the-Brazos. the "War Party" had its
strength in the newer settlements and was led by William H. Wharton of
the municipality of Columbia. the War Party was soon demanding separation
from Coahuilla and a few of its adherents spoke privately of outright
independence from Mexico. The imprisonment of Stephen F. Austin in Mexico
in 1834 helped to unite the two parties and convinced even Austin that
the time for some sort of aggressive action had arrived.
The Eastland families for the moment were busy building their home and
earning a living. The Indians raid , loot, and kill all along the western
frontier. Texans living on the Brazos, Colorado, and Guadalupe rivers
were disturbed because they had no adequate means of defense. On May 8,
1935 the first committee of Safety and Correspondence was formed to deal
with the Indians, and discussed dissension between Mexicans and Texans.
Nine days later, a similar committee was organized at Gonzales.
It is not know who suggested the formation of a Committee of Safety and
Correspondence. It is generally believed that it was an attempt to
organize committees patterned after those of the same name that had
functioned so well during the American Revolution. Neither has it been
determined whether the committee was meant to solve the Indian problem or
to cope with a potential invasion. Either way they were guarding
vigilantly against the approach of any enemy.
Even as the various committees of safety were formed, events approached a
crisis. General Cos, with instructions to disarm the Texans, arrived in
September of 1835. He at once sent Lieutenant Francisco Castonado to
Gonzales to take possession of a four-pounder cannon used by the
colonists to defend themselves against the Indians. The Gonales men
refused to release the cannon, and, while eighteen of them held the
Mexicans at bay, hurried appeals for help to the committees of safety in
Mina, Victoria, and elsewhere. Colonel John H. Moore at La Grange
immediately gathered some 160 volunteers and rushed to the relief of the
besieged eighteen. In his force were men from all sections of the Mina
municipality, including several of the Eastland family. On October 2,
1835, Moore with his men attacked and routed the Mexicans, who fled to
Nine days later, the Texans elected Stephen F. Austin to command them and
bean a march to San Antonio. Upon approaching the city, defended by
General Cos, Austin delegated to James Bowie, James Fannin, and ninety
men the duty of locating a suitable campsite. Moving well ahead of the
main force, the Bowie men camped on the evening of October 27, 1835, near
the old mission Conception. The following morning several hundred
Mexicans surprised the Texans who took refuge along the river banks. The
ensuing battle lasted three hours, and the Mexicans were decisively
defeated with a loss of about sixty men. Among the Texans there was only
one death. Oddly, historians state categorically, without citing sources,
that no Texans was wounded; yet according to his military service record
in the Texas State Archives, Thomas Osborn was transferred from Captain
Fannin's Company to Captains Parrett's Battery because of a wound he
suffered in the Battle of Concepcion.
With Thomas Osborn in the campaign around San Antonio from October to
December 1835 were Samuel Wolfenberger and Willian Mosby Eastland.
Wolfenberger served as a private soldier in the Mina Volunteers, joining
the Texas forces on November 17, 1835, and serving exactly thirty days.
Two years later, he was to draw pay of $231.07 for a year and three
months of service, including the month spent in the Bexar Campaign.
During the siege, William Mosby Eastland lost a fine, black horse for
which he asked compensation. Captain Thomas Alley had the value of the
horse determined by N. B. Breeding and James Curtis who appraised it at
sixty dollars, a sum which satisfied Eastland.
Colonels J. C. Neill and James Bowie undertook the defense of San
Antonio...Fannin, given the rank of colonel, brought together a force of
about 450 volunteers (destined to be the principal characters of a major
tragedy) and established his headquarters at Goliad.
Events moved to a crescendo, and in the latter part of February Mexican
forces appeared at both San Antonio and San Patricio. On March 6, 1836,
Santa Anna succeeded in breaching the walls of the Alamo and annihilating
General Jose Urrea Began an advance on Fannin, who, unable to obey
earlier orders to relieve the Alamo, remained a Goliad. With the fall of
the Alamo he was again ordered to retreat.
In the meantime, Captain Albert C. Horton and fifty-two mounted men from
towns along the Colorado joined with Fannin. Among the fifty-two were
Thomas Osborn and Nicholas W. Eastland.
When Fannin did begin his retreat on March 19, 1836, knowing that General
Urrea was near with a strong force, he ordered Captain Horton and
Nicholas Eastland , to reconnoiter the rear and flanks of the Texans and
report the first appearance of the Mexicans; Horton was, moreover, to
locate a suitable spot at which to cross Coleto Creek.
After Horton led his men away, Fannin moved slowly, and when one of his
wagons broke down halted his force of less than three hundred men on the
open prairie a short distance from the Coleto. General Urrea immediately
recognized his opportunity and took advantage of it to surround the
Texans. When the battle began, Captain Horton, hearing the firing,
hastened to rejoin the main force only to find his return effectively
prevented by hundreds of Mexicans who had taken position between him and
Fannin. Apparently, Horton wanted to fight his way through Urrea's
cavalry, but some of his men refused to follow his lead and thus they
could do no more than to observe the battle from a distance.
Momentarily expecting the return of Horton and his men, Fannin stood off
the Mexicans throughout the afternoon and night but surrendered on March
20, 1836. A few days later Santa Anna ordered the execution of Fannin and
command, and the orders were faithfully carried out on the twenty-fifth.
Nicholas Eastland and Thomas Osborn, along with the remainder of Horton's
small company, were by then safely in Victoria.
Frightened by the successive Mexican victories and the hasty retreat by
Houston, thousands of the Texas colonists packed what little belongings
they could and fled toward Louisiana. Most of the Watterson folk then
living along the Colorado and Brazos rivers also took flight while others
of the Watterson fold helped to protect the refugees.
His victories and the flight of the colonists coupled with Houston's
precipitate retreat convinced Santa Anna that the revolution was ended,
and the therefore divided his army into smaller units which he sent on a
variety of missions. The division of the Mexican forces furnished Houston
with the opportunity he sought, for with each errand on which Santa Anna
dispatched his men size of the Mexican army had decreased to about nine
hundred men, while the Texas army had increased to nearly a thousand. The
disparity of the two armies was nos so whittled down the Houston could
afford to risk an all-out battle. On the 21st however, Santa Anna,
reinforced by General Cos, had an army or some fourteen hundred, while
Houston's numbered somewhere between nine hundred and a thousand. Houston
determined to attack, moved forward, and surprised the Mexicans during
their afternoon siesta.
Lasting only eighteen minutes, the action at San Jacinto is one of the
astounding battles of military history. Of the Mexicans, 630 were killed
and 730 were taken prisoner. Only a few escaped. Nine Texans were slain
and thirty-four were wounded. The ferocity of the fighting can best be
judged by one account of William Mosby Eastland actions in the battle as
quoted in ANSON JONES, by Dr. Herbert Gambrell:
" General Houston gave orders not to kill any more but to take prisoners.
Captain Eastland said Boys take prisoners, you know how to take
prisoners, take them with the butt of you guns, club, and said remember
the Alamo remember Laberde, and club guns, right and left, and knock
their brains out. The Mexicans would fall down on their knees and say me
no Alamo me no Laberde."
In view of all that had gone on before it was no wonder that the Texans
were bloodthirsty. The marvel was that Houston was able to halt the
slaughter in only eighteen minutes. Eastland's reversal of Houston's
order is evidence of the unwillingness of the Texas soldier at San
Jacinto to desist from killing as long as the enemy seemed to resist.
Only William Mosby Eastland and Nicholas Dawson actually fought in the
battle of San Jacinto. Eastland family tradition, however is that
Nicholas W. Eastland was left in Harrisburg as a part of the camp guard,
and since he was enrolled in the Texas army at the time and drew pay for
that service it seems logical that he should have been somewhere near the
"THE YEARS OF THE REPUBLIC"
Bastrop County in 1836 suffered more Indian attacks than in any previous
years; a militia was formed to guard the rim of settlement, called the
Rangeing Service. During the Republic, the Ranging Service was enlarged
and used to patrol the frontier and to punish Indians raiders. One
company, commanded by Robert Coleman, headquartered at Coleman's Fort on
the Colorado River; William Mosby Eastland served in the Coleman Company
as a First Lieutenant ,and engaged in several Indians skirmishes.
Once, in 1837, while Eastland was acting as Captain of the company of the
company at Coleman's fort, he made an excursion in the vicinity of Pecan
Bayou in Mills County. He was under orders to make no hostile
demonstrations that would stir up the Indians. When he had completed his
inspection of the area, he ordered a return to the fort. Some twenty of
the rangers, however, refused to obey his orders and compelled a further
exploration of Peacan Bayou. Some distance up the Bayou they encountered
a small camp of friendly Delawares who, in the past, had sometimes served
as guides for the whites. While visiting with the Delawares a lone
warrior of another tribe approached and in spite of protests by the
Delawares one of the rangers, something of a bully, rode out to drive him
away. And, although the lone warrior gave the proper signs of friendship,
the white man killed, scalped, and robbed him of his tobacco, and upon
returning to the Delawares bragged that he would kill any Indian for as
much. The Delawares, warning that revenge would be exacted by the other
tribe, took their departure hurriedly. Hardly were they out of sight when
the whites were attacked by a force of a hundred Indians who demanded
custody of the murderer. Eastland and the remainder of the rangers,
although sickened by the action of their comrade, refused to give him up
and entrenched themselves in a ravine for defense. To drive the rangers
out of the ravine, the Indians set the surrounding grass on fire and as
the whites tried to fight their ways to safety all but five were killed.
Eastland, one of the survivors, was wounded. it seems always to have been
his fate to suffer for the miscalculations and actions of others.
In the meantime, because the Comanches and Kiowas were increasing the
intensity of their raids, William Mosby Eastland and Noah Smithwich
formed a company of Bastrop men, and with Eastland in command, joined two
La Grange companies led by John H. Moore. The three companies included
only sixty-three whites and sixteen Lipans and Tonkawas. At the mouth of
the San Saba River, they surprised a small Comanche camp and in an
attempt save Matilda Lockhart and four Putnam children from captivity
attacked and defeated it but were unsuccessful in their rescue attempt.
In the fighting Willaim Mosby Eastland was again wounded. During the
battle, Nicholas W. Eastland ( ( Kay's GGG Granddaddy) killed the chief,
who, in addition to silver rings in his ears and on his fingers, wore a
beautiful six-foot-long beaded belt that was long treasured as a souvenir
by the Eastland family. The fight was followed by an anticlimax, for on
their way home they stopped overnight in the new capital, Austin, and
were entertained with a dance. During the celebration, Indians succeeded
in stealing all of their horses and mules except for three belonging to
In the following autumn, John H. Moore organized another expedition into
Indian country, this time to retaliate for the earlier Linnville raid by
the Comanches. With about ninety men from Bastrop and La Grange, he led
the way far up the Colorado where an unsuspecting Comanche camp was
discovered. In the ensuing battle, forty-eight Indians were slain and
eighty were drowned. Only two Texans were wounded. The surprise raid into
Indian territory had been earlier planned, for, on September 1, 1840,
Nickolas W. Eastland wrote President Lamar requesting a leave of absence
from his duties on the Fayette County Board of Land Commissioners so he
could serve under the command of Colonel John H. Moore in an expedition
against the Comanche Indians. This last campaign by Moore and his men
practically ended the major wars with the Indians, in small parties,
continued harassing the white man in more isolated areas.
Although the major fighting had ended, there were still many interesting
contacts with the Indians. In one instance, about 1840, Nicholas W.
Eastland captured a small Comanche boy whom he took home to rear, naming
the child Sam Houston. The youngster was extremely frightened, for the
elders of his tribe had told the Comanche children that should the be
captured the white men would murder them and make soap of their bodies.
For a time, therefore, Sam Houston cowered whenever he was approached by
a white man. But the Eastlands gave him such kind treatment, good food,
and good clothing that soon the apprehension disappeared. For at least
two years he remained with the family, working with the others, going on
hunting and camping trips, and attending church. He might have remained
with the Eastland family until he was a grown man, but two years after
his capture the Texas government ordered that all Comanche children
living with white families would be exchanged as ransom for white
children with the Indians. At San Marcos Sam Houston was exchanged. He
left the family promising that when he was older he would return to live
with them. Several years later, when he was only eighteen, he was killed
during a Comanche raid near Lockhart.
Then came the Mexican invasion of September, 1842, when 1500 soldiers
commanded by General Adrain Woll marched into Texas and recaptured San
Antonio...Erasmus "Deaf Smith" escaped and carried news of the invasion
to Seguin and Gonzales, whence it spread to the rest of Texas. Under the
command of Matthew Caldwell, 250 volunteers advanced toward San Antonio
and camped on the Salado, a small steam thirty to forty feet wide with
twelve-foot banks, beyond which was a mesquite flat. Even as Caldwell's
forces took position, companies were being formed at La Grange and
Bastrop intending to join his command.
After a delay of a day and a night, General Woll attacked the Texans in
mid-morning. Although he utilized artillery, cavalry, and infantry, he
could not dislodge the Texans, and in late afternoon he ordered a
withdrawal. But as the Mexicans retired the observed a small detachment
of Texans, from La Grange and under the command of Nicholas Mosby Dawson,
attempting to join Caldwell. Woll directed that they be intercepted.
Dawson's men at once took position in mesquite thicket, well protected
from small arms fire but exposed to artillery. Carefully staying out of
rifle range, Woll's artillery blasted the Texans with field pieces, which
soon compelled Dawson to surrender. Raising a white flag on his rifle
barrel, he tried to approach the Mexicans but was shot down even as the
remainder of his command discarded their weapons. After a day of
frustration, the Mexicans were in no mood to accept surrender from so
small a detachment; and as quickly as the Texans threw down their arms
they were slain, twenty were taken captive, and two escaped. Among those
who died with Dawson was his Seventeen-year-old cousin, Nicholas W.
Eastland's son, Robert Moore Eastland. He was the first of three Nicholas
Eastland's sons to die for Texas.
Following the massacre, the clothing was stripped from the dead and the
bodies left on the mesquite flat where Caldwell's found them the
following day. General Woll on being informed that Colonel John H. Moore
was approaching with a goodly sized body of reinforcements ordered a
hasty retreat from San Antonio.
The Woll Invasion and the atrocity of the Dawson Massacre led to the Mier
Expedition. A call went out for volunteers to invade Mexico.
Among the companies that gathered near San Antonio were one from Bastrop
led by Bartlett Simms and one from La Grange commanded by William Mosby
Eastland. Many of those in Eastland's company had had relatives in
Dawson's company, and Dawson was Williams Eastland's Cousin and Robert
Eastland was his nephew. The Eastland company therefore was eager for the
expedition to be organized and to get on its way. Houston named General
Alexander Somervell commander.
In spite of procrastination by Somervell, on November 22, 1842, the
regiment began a march to Laredo, expecting there to encounter the enemy.
The route normally required a week to cover, but rains caused the
expedition to take seventeen days. The deluges turned the usually
semi-arid region into a boggy mass of mud, described by the soldiers as
"The Devil's Eight Leagues," "The Devil's Bog," or the "Bogs of
Atascosa." Upon reaching Laredo, they found that Woll's army had already
departed and they were greeted instead by a sprinkling of laughing,
grinning children and aged men and women. After a few days, Somervell,
under instructions not to cross the Rio Grande, gave orders to return to
Angered, some three hundred refused to obey the command, drew off,
elected Colonel William S. Fisher to lead them, and proceeded to organize
into companies. William Mosby Eastland was one of the captains.
Since they were now well below Laredo, the three hundred continued on
down the Rio Grande, some of them traveling in flat boats and some
marching down the river on the Texas side. Finally, they came opposite
the little town of Mier, noted only for its manufacture of fine, woolen
The Texans sent out scouts and, finding no opposition, marched into the
village, the mayor surrendering upon assurance that there would be no
looting. He also promised supplies, but he dallied in providing them. As
the men waited, disgruntled, news came of the approach of General Ampudia
with a large force. Upon conferring, the Texans decided against retreat,
and a general battle ensued. Although the Texans held off the enemy, the
disparity of the two armies led Colonel Fisher to agree to terms of
honorable surrender; terms that were not carried out, for the Texans were
at once shackled together and began a forced march of eighteen to twenty
miles a day to Monterey, Saltillo, San Luis Potosi, and the hacienda of
The hardships of the march led the Mier men to contemplate escape;
moreover, a number, including Ewen Cameron, Dr. Richard Brenham, and
Thomas Jefferson Green, had been on the ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition and
feared that reason their lives were forfeit. For most, escape seemed the
only road to comfort; for others, it was the only path to life.
At he hacienda of Salado shortly before Valentine's Day a number,
including William Mosby Eastland, made the attempt. The arid nature of
the country, the mountainous terrain, and the cold combined with their
thin clothing and weakened conditions made it extremely chancy. After a
week, the Texans began to return to their captors, suffering from cold
and hunger, their tongues swollen from thirst, and near to death. Some,
including Brenham, did not return at all, having lost their lives in the
Angered, Santa Anna decreed as punishment that one out ten should be
executed, those to die being chosen by lottery. 170 beans, seventeen
black and the remainder white, were placed in a jar, the mouth of which
was covered by a handkerchief. The prisoners were assembled, the sentence
was read to them, and each prisoner, as his name was called, thrust his
hand into the jar and withdrew a bean. The white bean meant life; the
black bean meant death. Each man made his draw with composure; but one, a
private soldier from Brazonia County, James C. Wilson, realizing that the
jar had not been thoroughly shaken and that therefore the black beans
were near the top, advised each officer as he drew: "Dip deep, Captain,
dip deep." This was sheer heroism, for Wilson's name was near the last
alphabetically, and each black bean that was drawn increased his own
chance of surviving, while that was drawn decreased them.
Shortly, it was William Mosby Eastland's turn. To the rhythm of Wilson's
chant, Eastland reached into the jar, and when he withdrew his hand he
held the first black bean. In turn, the rest drew until sixteen more had
Each was allowed to say good by to his comrades and to send a last word
home. William Mosby Eastland, in two statements attributed to him, told
those who were to live: " Say to my friends that I addressed you an hour
previous to my arraignment before my God. For my country I have offered
all my earthly aspirations and for it I now lay down my life. I have
never feared death, nor do I now. For my unjustifiable execution I wish
no revenge, but die in full confidence of the Christian faith.." And he
also said: " Let no Texan lay down his arms until peace has been
permanently established. It has been said that I am a timid man, but as
God is my witness I am not afraid to die for Texas."
The latter remark may have been directed at Thomas Jefferson Green; for,
after Eastland was dead, Green was to make such an implication in account
of the Mier Expedition. William Mosby Eastland's record in Texas history,
however, reveals no act of cowardice; and no man who died as bravely as
did he before the firing squad could be described as "timid."
Under the preaching of the Reverend M. Shanks, William Mosby Eastland had
professed religion not quite three years before, September 19, 1840, at
Starkville, Mississippi, while on a journey to Tennessee to visit his
family. His faith now supported him in the face of death; for, within the
hour, March 25, 1843, the seventeen were shot; but the tragedy was not
yet played out; for, although he had not drawn a black bean, exactly one
month later Ewen Cameron was executed because of his part in the escape.
The survivors of the expedition were confined in Perote Castle until the
last of them were released in September, 1844.
Thus did the second Eastland die for the land he loved. For five years,
his body remained in Mexico with those of his companions. In 1848,
however, Major Walter P. Lane, on a scouting expedition to San Luis
Potosi, detoured to Salado, exhumed the bodies and had them taken under
the escort of Captain John E. Dusenberry to La Grange.
Arrangements were made to bury the victims of the Dawson Massacre and the
Salado Massacre on a hill outside La Grange and overlooking the Colorado
River. On September 18, 1848, a large crowd assembled for the rituals.
Sam Houston was the special guest of Nicholas W. Eastland. After
appropriate services and speeches, the bodies, in a home-made,
black-walnut casket, were interred in a single vault. William Mosby
Eastland's namesake, five-year-old Will Eastland,[ Kay's Hemphill
Swafford, GG Grandfather} witnessed the ceremonies just as he was to
another, fifty-six years later.
Years past and the Sepulcher, which was unmarked, had been desecrated by
youngsters who had actually used the bones for game ball.
Plans to mark the tomb suitably and thus correct the people's
forgetfulness were formulated at once. J.F. Wolters was invited to make
the Memorial Day address at the La Grange Opera house on April 21, 1904.
The observances were well publicized, and visitors traveled to La Grange
from all over the state. Among them was Will Eastland Sr. A plea for a
marker to commemorate the heros of the Dawson and Meir Massacre was made.
And in 1933 the state erected a beautiful and enduring monument to those
who slept within properly inscribed on the outside. Will Eastland Sr.
missed being a part of the third ceremony only because of illness which
caused his death just one day after the new and permanent monument was
unveiled to the public, September 18, 1933.
Nicholas Washington Eastland was to lose one more of his family in wars
with the Mexicans. Two of his sons, Thomas Butler Eastland and Charles
Cooper Eastland served with the Texas Rangers unit during the Mexican
War. Their departure from their father's home had more than the usual
touch of sadness, for it was to cause their little brother, Will
Eastland, to remember their going away with guilt for the rest of his
life. At that time it was the custom to hang weapons over the door so
that they could reach it easily during an emergency. When the two young
soldiers were ready to leave and as they reached for their rifles above
the door, one of them stepped on Will's foot causing him to cry. Although
they attempted to console him, he refused to tell them good bye, and they
departed with no word of farewell from him. He never saw Charles Cooper
Eastland again; for, on December 20, 1847, Charles Eastland died of
disease in Monterey, Mexico. The older brother, Thomas Butler Eastland