THE man whose name stands at the head of this chapter deserves a place in any sketch, however brief, of the heroes of the Lone Star State. This is not on account of his life, but of his death. Although nearly his entire career was passed elsewhere, he did for Texas all that a man could do--he gave his life for her. He was the most original character produced upon the American frontiers, as well as by all odds the most famous one.
David Crockett was horn in a wretched cabin in East Tennessee, in the year 1786. His father was one of the worst specimens of frontier life. He kept a tavern, which consisted of nothing more than a tumbling cabin, with one room and an earthen floor. Its only accommodations consisted of a great jug of vile whisky. The old man, furthermore, was mean. When the boy was only twelve years old, the father hired him to a Dutchman to go on foot with him for four hundred miles and drive a herd of cattle. The trip was hard even for a man. Many a night the wretched boy, weary, supperless, spattered with mud, and drenched with rain, would lie on the ground without shelter or covering. The journey terminated in Virginia, where the Dutchman lived.
As for the boy, it remained to make his way back home through the wilderness, four hundred miles in extent. He obtained permission to follow an emigrant's wagon, but quickly tiring of their slow progress, struck out alone into the wilderness, and soon left the emigrants far behind. We neither know how he obtained food, how be crossed the rivers, nor how he defended himself from wild beasts. We only know that it was winter when he started and spring when he reached his journey's end.
The home to which he returned was miserable enough. The father was an intemperate old dog, and frequently would take a stout hickory stick and chase David for a mile or two, threatening each moment to kill him. The boy had a marvelous knack for avoiding his pursuer, and simply shouted and laughed at his father's drunken failures. Crockett naturally drifted away from such a home and engaged in many wild trips over the country to the eastern cities, once even arranging to go to London. This he failed to carry out.
He married an Irish girl in his neighborhood when quite young, and, after the birth of two children, he packed his little belongings on one shaky old horse, placed his wife and children on its mate, and struck across the country to penetrate two hundred and fifty miles further into the western wilderness. This was not his only move. Apparently from innate vagrancy, he would no sooner gather a crop than he would abandon his crumbling shanty, and remove to some other location.
When the Creek war broke out in 1811, such a restless woodsman as Crockett was eager to engage in the conflict. He had many thrilling adventures during the war which we may not here recount. The sufferings of the army for want of food, which were shared by Crockett, have been briefly related elsewhere. During the war his wife died, but, with ready adaptation to circumstances, he quickly married a widow whom he met. A few months after his marriage, intent on another change of location, he and three neighbors set out on an exploring tour in central Alabama.
One morning when the explorers awoke, they discovered that their horses wore gone. Crockett at once set out on foot, through forest, bog, and ravine, across creeks and over hills, to follow them. It is almost impossible to believe, yet true, that before nightfall he had traversed fifty miles. He stopped that night at a settler's cabin, but awoke in the morning to find himself so lame from his great walk that he could scarcely move. Though suffering greatly, he left the cabin and hobbled along a few miles, hoping that exercise would improve him.
While proceeding in this way, consumed with fever and tottering with weakness, he fell, overcome by deathly sickness. A happy fortune prevented him from being left here to die or be devoured by wild beasts. Some Indians, coming through the forest, saw the prostrate form of the poor, sick, white man, and quickly attempted to minister to his wants. One of them had a watermelon, from which he cut a slice for the refreshment of the sufferer. Then, taking him in their arms, they carried him to the cabin of a white man, two miles distant. With true frontier kindness, the people of the place received him, put him to bed, and prepared such herbs and other primitive medicines as their resources afforded.
The next day, as the delirium was beginning to settle down in dense clouds upon the mind of the patient, two white men, having been informed by the Indians that one of their countrymen was lying sick at the place, came to the cabin. They proved to be acquaintances of Crockett. The latter was able to recognize them, and in his delirium begged and besought them to take him to his three companions whom he had left at the camp. He was placed upon a sort of litter, and they carried him all the way, fifty miles, to the spot where his companions were waiting.
At the end of the journey his fever had risen to a fearful height. It was evident that a long spell of sickness was before him. All that could be done was to find the cabin of some kind pioneer woman, and there leave Crockett, unaided by medical skill, to fight, single-handed, the battle of life and death. He received the kindest attention. His pallet occupied the corner on the earthen floor of the cabin. After weeks of suffering he began to recover. Although emaciated and tottering with weakness, he employed a wagoner to carry him home. He arrived there to find that his family had given him up for dead.
In spite of this misadventure, Crockett, instead of settling down, removed with his family to a spot called Shoal Creek, in what is now Giles county, Tennessee. In a new country, cattle stealing is regarded as the worst of crimes, and is punished with instant death. This grows out of the fact that it is the crime to which society in such a region is most liable, and against which it has the least protection. Crockett, whose great force of character always asserted itself in every situation, became a self-appointed justice of the peace. Subsequently, he was legally appointed to the position.
Before the appointment, whenever Crockett made up his mind that a fellow ought to be punished, he had simply ordered the young men who were his self-appointed constables to catch the culprit. When he was brought before him there was a short, sharp trial, lasting not more than three minutes, and then the judge passed sentence, saying: "Take the thief, strip off his shirt, tie him to a tree, and give him a good flogging. Then burn down his cabin and drive him out of the country." From this judgment no appeal would lie. When Crockett was legally appointed justice, he was greatly troubled in mind to learn that they required written warrants. In spite of this difficulty, he got along pretty well, and as he says, "My judgments stuck like wax."
David Crockett would probably never have been known to fame had he not entered politics. He was a famous hunter, and popular; on this account, some of the rough settlers suggested that he become a candidate for the legislature. He was ambitious, and took fire at the suggestion. In, June, 1821, he began his campaign. He says "It was a brand-fire new business to me. It now became necessary that I should tell the people something about the government and an eternal sight of other things, that I know'd nothing more about than I did about Latin and law, and such things as that. I know'd so little about it, that if any one had told me that General Jackson was the government I should have believed it, for I had never read even a newspaper in my life."
About this time there was a great squirrel hunt on Duck River, which Crockett resolved to attend. The people were to divide into two parties, and hunt for two days. Then they were to assemble, count the scalps, and the party which had killed the less number of squirrels was to pay for a big dinner and country frolic. Owing to Crockett's marvelous skill, his party killed the most squirrels.
As the dinner proceeded and whisky began to flow like water, Crockett was called out to make a speech as a candidate, to be followed by his opponent. Crockett was, he says, "As ignorant of the business as an outlandish negro. I got up and told the people I reckoned they knowed what I had come for, but if not I could tell them. I had come for their votes, and if they did n't watch mighty close I would get them too. But the worst of all was that I could not tell them any thing about the government. I choked up as bad as if my month had been jamm'd and cramm'd chock full of dry mush." However, he managed to tell a story or two, and then seeing the people in a good humor took care to remark that he was "as dry as a powder horn, and that it was time for us all to wet our whistles a little." He then went off to a liquor stand, taking nearly the whole crowd with him, and leaving his competitor to speak to about six men.
Crockett was elected to the legislature, as a matter of course. When he went to the State Capital he felt that the most important thing for him to do was to learn the meaning of the words government and judiciary. Having learned these points by a great deal of adroit questioning, be felt quite well equipped. He became the fun maker of the legislature. While he liked to raise a laugh at others, he would not stand a laugh at himself. One day a legislator referred to him as "the gentleman from the cane." That evening Crockett invited the man pleasantly to take a walk with him, and when they reached a lonely spot announced that he brought his companion there for the purpose of whipping him within an inch of his life. The man pleaded so hard, however, that Crockett let him off.
After the adjournment of the legislature, Crockett again determined to move further west. He and a companion struck out into a new region on the Obion River. Here he killed deer and elk almost without number. He built a cabin and planted a crop of corn. During the summer he killed no less than ten bears. In the fall he returned for his family and brought them to his new quarters.
His physical endurance was wonderful. In the winter, about Christmas, he was trying to cross a slough by getting on a log and poling across. Somehow he fell into the water, which was ten feet deep. The weather was extremely cold. Getting out on the bank, which was covered with a deep snow, he removed his clothes and hung them on a tree to dry. He then attempted to warm himself by running, but found his legs taken with the cramp, so that he could not make a step six inches long. It was late in the evening before he dragged himself back to his cabin, a feat accomplished with infinite suffering. Yet he relates that he wrapped himself in bear skin, and lying down upon the floor with his feet to the fire, passed the night with comfort and awoke in the morning without feeling any ill effects whatever from his exposure.
During the continuation of the same storm which was raging at the time of the above incident the meat gave out in the cabin, and the men set out in the blinding sleet to hunt game. Crockett, with three dogs, one of which was pretty old, started in a direction where he thought he might find a bear. Every hour the storm grew more furious. The bushes, with which the forest was filled, became so thick with ice that he could no longer force his way through. He had seated himself on a log to rest, when he heard his dogs set up a terrible barking. He followed them as best he could, but no game was in sight, and he concluded the dogs were only making mischief. "Just at that moment," says he, "looking on before my dogs, I saw the biggest bear that ever was seen in America. At that distance he looked like a big, black bull." He hurried forward to find his dogs engaged in a life and death conflict with the bear. It required three bullets to kill him.
The storm had not abated at all. Crockett hurried back through the icy forest to his cabin, twelve miles away. He and the other two men, who had returned unsuccessful from their hunt, taking four pack horses, set out at once, in spite of fatigue and tempest, to secure the game, an enterprise in which they succeeded. In this way the cabin was furnished with an abundant supply of splendid meat.
It soon occurred to Crockett to again offer himself for the legislature. On a certain day he appeared at a great political gathering, and began his own peculiar method of electioneering. Having mounted a stump, he began to banter his opponent, Dr. Butler. He took care to assure his audience that though he was very poor, he proposed to furnish his supporters all the whisky they could drink. "When I goes electioneering, I goes fixed for the purpose. I've got a suit of deer leather clothes with two big pockets. I puts a bottle of whisky in one, and a twist of tobacco in t'other, and starts out. Then if I meets a friend, why I pulls out my bottle and gives him a drink. He'll be mighty apt, before he drinks, to throw away his tobacco. So, when he is done, I pulls my twist out of t'other pocket, and gives him a chaw. I never likes to leave a man worse off than I found him."
Dr. Butler, Crockett's opponent, lived in a frame house. In the front room the middle of the floor was covered with a piece of carpet. One day the doctor called to some men, passing, to come in and take a drink. The whisky sat on a table in the center of the room. The men came in and, of course, had never seen a carpet before. They walked cautiously around on the bare part of the floor without daring to put their feet upon the carpet.
Soon afterward, they were heard inquiring of Crockett's friends how he lived. On learning that he lived in a log cabin of one room, without any glass for the window, and with earth alone for the floor, they declared that he was the fellow for them. "Why," said one of them, "when Butler called us into his house to take a drink, he spread down one of his best bed quilts for us to walk on. He's too proud for us." Crockett was elected to the legislature, and served two years.
The bear hunter soon found himself a famous man. Without changing his mode of life, he announced himself as a candidate for Congress, and though unable to read, and barely able to sign his name, was elected by nearly three thousand majority. On his way to Washington City, he reached Raleigh, North Carolina, on a cold, wet evening. Entering the tavern and elbowing his way through the crowd toward the fire, some fellow gave him a shove, and said with an oath, "Who are you?" Crockett roared out, "I am that same David Crockett, fresh from the back woods, half horse, half alligator, a little touched with the snapping turtle. I can wade the Mississippi, leap the Ohio, ride upon a streak of lightning, and slip without a scratch down a honey locust. I can whip my weight in wild cats, and if any gentleman pleases for a ten-dollar bill he can throw in a panther. I can hug a bear to close for comfort, and eat any man opposed to General Jackson." They made room for Crockett around the fire!
When the bear hunter got to Washington, he was invited to dine with President Adams, at a state dinner. The newspapers of the time gave what purported to be Crockett's own account of that dinner. "I went to dinner, and I walked all around the long table looking for something that I liked. At last I took my seat beside a fat goose, and I helped myself to as much of it as I wanted. I had n't took three bites when I saw a man away up the table talking French to a woman on t' other side he dodged his head and she dodged hers, and then they got to drinking wine across the table. When I looked back again, my plate was gone, goose and all. I seed a white man walking off with it. I says, Hello mister, bring back my plate. He fetched it back in a hurry, but when he set it down before me, how do you think it was? Licked as clean as my hand. If it was n't I wish I may be shot. Says he, What will you have, sir? And says I, you may well say that after stealing my goose. I then filled my plate with bacon and greens, and whenever I looked up or down the table I held on to my plate with my left hand.
When we were all done eating, I saw a man coming along carrying a great glass thing, with a glass handle below, something like a candlestick. It was stuck full of little glass cups with something in them that looked good to eat. Says I, Mister, bring that thing here--thinks I, let's taste 'em. I found they were mighty sweet and good, so I took six of them."
Crockett found that his constituency were so much annoyed by this story that he obtained certificates of his good behavior at the table from three New York congressmen. This done, he felt better. Crockett passed two terms in Congress. The third time he stood for election he was beaten. But after two years of retirement was elected for another term. During this last term he made a tour of the eastern cities, attracting great attention.
In Boston he made a speech full of force and rude eloquence, surprising in the knowledge which it displayed, when one considers the man, explaining why he had become opposed to the policy of President Jackson. The fifth time Crockett was a candidate for Congress, he made tremendous efforts. He appeared at the political meetings in his old costume as a bear hunter, with his rifle on his shoulder, and accompanied by his three famous bear dogs. He made funny speeches and gave away whisky like water. But all in vain. His constituency could not forgive him for going back on Andrew Jackson. He was beaten. He was terribly crushed by the defeat. Bear hunting and pioneer life had lost their charm. To drown his sorrow, he determined to join the adventurers who were thronging to the state of Texas.
His head-quarters were at San Antonio. Early in the month of February, 1836, Santa Anna, at the head of a large Mexican army, appeared before the town. The defenders of the place, seeing that they were being surrounded, withdrew to the fortress of Alamo, just outside the town of San Antonio. Crockett and a few followers constituted a most important part of the garrison, which consisted of only one hundred and fifty bold and desperate men. Over the battlements they unfurled an immense flag of thirteen stripes, and with a large, white star of five points surrounded by the letters of the word "TEXAS."
The Alamo, at that time, consisted of a chapel, seventy-five feet long, sixty-two feet wide, and twenty-two and a half feet high, surrounded by walls of solid masonry four feet thick. The upper part of the walls were arranged for fourteen mounted cannon. Besides this building were two long and narrow barracks of similar construction, the walls being of solid rock. The singular structure was built by Roman Catholic missionaries from Spain, about the middle of the last century, and was occupied by them for many years. Here, long years before, the tireless priests had sought, by processions, chants, mystical emblems, and beautiful ceremonies, to win the hearts of the Indians, and induce them to adopt the true religion. These efforts were not unsuccessful. The good fathers found the savages far more disposed to virtue and more susceptible to religious impressions than the Spanish soldiers, their own countrymen, attached to the mission, who were gamblers and roustabouts of the worst sort.
For several days the enemy devoted themselves to ravaging the surrounding country and picking off the defenders of the fortress by their sharp-shooters. On the morning of the 6th of March, just at dawn, the garrison, already weakened and shattered by a bombardment which had lasted for two days, were roused by the single blast of a bugle in the enemy's camp. At that moment, Santa Anna's entire army of three thousand men, divided into three columns, a certain number of men in each of which carried axes and scaling ladders, moved forward at a double-quick to storm the fortress simultaneously at different points. The cannon from the fortress rendered but little service. The gates were battered down and the enemy swarmed over the walls. The outer wall was abandoned, and the garrison took refuge in the heavy buildings already described, All this passed within a few minutes after the bugle sounded.
The early loss of the outer wall, so thinly manned, was inevitable; and it was not until the garrison became more concentrated, that the main struggle began. They were more compact as to space, but not as to unity, for there was no communication between the buildings, nor often between rooms. There was now no retreat from point to point; each group of defenders had to fight and die in the den in which it was brought to bay. The struggle was made up of a series of separate and desperate combats, often hand to hand, between squads of the garrison and bodies of the invaders. From without, the Mexicans concentrated the fire of all their cannon upon the openings in the walls. Within was the roar of the musketry, the cries and curses of the maddened men, the deadly stabs given and received, the floors flowing with blood and encumbered with heaps of corpses.
The contest was too unequal. Little by little the separate squads of Texans were butchered in the rooms in which they had taken refuge. Only six men of the entire garrison remained alive. Of these David Crockett was one. He stood in the corner of the room like a lion at bay. Twenty Mexicans lay dead at his feet. His few comrades, too had fallen, and lay in death, their hands still clenching the hair and throats of their enemies. As the Mexicans poured in upon him, the brave man still fought, his eyes flashing fire, his shattered rifle in his right hand, and in his left a gleaming bowie-knife dripping with blood. His face was covered with blood from a gash in his forehead.
He was seized, disarmed, and, with five other prisoners, also captured alive in different portions of the fortress, taken to the spot where Santa Anna was standing. The Mexican commander cried out "Kill them! kill them on the spot!" Instantly a dozen swords were uplifted. Crockett, at that moment, sprang like a tiger at the throat of Santa Anna, but, before he could reach him, a fatal thrust pierced his heart, and he fell without a word. There still remained, however, upon his brow the frown of indignation, and his lip was curled with a smile of defiance and scorn.
THE FIGHTING PARSON.
Andrew Jackson Potter was born in Chariton county, Missouri, April 3, 1830. His parents were from Kentucky, and setTled finally in what is now called Gentry county, where he spent his childhood days. His father died in 1840. The boy was nimble, fearless, self-reliant, and at an early age earned a distinction as rider at horse races. "Andy's horse always won."
At the beginning of the Mexican war he entered the army, but was rejected because he was under size. In a few days he was employed as teamster in a wagon train of army supplies destined for Santa Fe. About the fifth night after leaving Fort Leavenworth the caravan was attacked by the Indians. One man was killed by a ball which passed through Potter's clothes.
A day or two afterward two Indians traveled with the teams all afternoon. In the evening three others of friendly bearing appeared. The next day, two or three small groups fell in with the train. Suddenly a band of Cheyenne warriors with drawn bows surrounded the train. The drivers, terror-stricken, huddled together behind the wagons. Potter stole toward a pony grazing at the road-side intending to mount the animal and fly when the killing commenced. The capture ended, however, by the savages loading themselves with merchandise from the wagons, and leaving the train to proceed without other damage.
A month afterward a more serious attack was made on them. While the teamsters were eating supper, the war whoop and a shower of arrows signaled them to arms. The train-master had drilled his men, fifty in number, armed with flint-locks, to form for the defensive in two divisions, the first to deliver their fire when ordered, and while they reloaded, the other company to fire. By this method the savages were given a hot reception, and in an hour or so, withdrew across the river, leaving a number of ponies and pools of blood as evidence of their loss. At the first volley fired Potter dropped, as his comrades thought dead. But the old blunderbuss of a gun had merely kicked him over. The sight and danger of savages soon lost their terror, and hunting excursions were indulged in by the less cautious of the company.
On one occasion Potter found himself alone. While leisurely letting his mule graze he discovered a number of Indians stealing along to cut him off from the teams. Quick as thought, leaping from a prostrate position, he was on the mule and slashing his spurs into its sides. He thrashed the frightened brute wildly with his fists. In his insane haste to mount, he failed to catch the reins, which had been lengthened to let the mule graze. It happened that the animal was headed toward the wagons, and the rider had nothing to do but to kick and pound, and the mule nothing to do but run. And they were at it, each to the last extent of strength. The rider had been trained to race, and had always won. The mule was being trained at a fearful rate. They sped through brush and rocks and logs. Every leap seemed unto death. Potter, yet daring danger at every step, swept on and on. Arrows grazed him every moment. The savages, yelling, were at his very heels. They had been leveling their lances for a mile, preparing to hurl them at him. He was barely beyond their reach. A few yards to his right, they were abreast of him! A moment more, dead or safe! A gully momentarily hindered those who were in the act of striking him down. A turn in the trail, and he was in the camp.
Potter abandoned ox-driving in April, 1851, and took the position of interpreter, guide, property man, and generalissimo of a company of Mormons. His outfit was a musket, knife, revolver, and mule. The first night the Mexicans stole the mule. The Mormons turned pale at the rage of their guide. Mounted on a borrowed horse, he galloped away at early dawn to recover his property. He made an exhaustive search through the region before he found four greasers surrounding the animal and trying to "rope it." He dashed into their midst with his "pepper-box" revolver and shot one dead. The other three made at him with their knives. For ten minutes he was the busiest man alive, but kept their blades out of his body, if not his clothes. Well-nigh dead with exhaustion from the terrible struggle, he at length wounded two and the other fled. His Mormon employés saw the fight from a distance, and greeted the victor with a triumphant reception.
As a Mormon escort, Potter was not happy, so he took a number of men and made his way to the mines of Arizona, where they gathered a quantity of precious metal. But game was scarce, and the Apaches were harassing. With seven picked men Potter made a journey of a thousand miles, to San Antonio, Texas. He was now of age, with an iron constitution, and a frame of the finest and most powerful build. His splendid muscles, compacted by a hardy frontier life, were perfect. His courage was superb yet under this cover of brawn and in this gnarled and knotty creature, throbbed a heart of womanly tenderness. Frank, peaceable, kind-hearted, generous, brave, he was universally popular.
At a Methodist camp-meeting he became a Christian. It was from midnight to noon with him in an instant. His Christianity was of the "Andrew Jackson" type, through and through, and well adapted to the purposes of the locality. A religious old gentleman had a tract of timber land which was being taken by a saw-mill man in spite of all the remonstrances, threats, and persuasions that could be made. One day the injured neighbor came out and related his grievance to Potter. The job suited him. He was a peace-maker. The two called on the trespassing bully. Potter stated the case in his quiet way, and said, "Pay for what you have taken and stop." It was done.
This little incident is a hint at a marvelous faculty which he possessed when aroused or enraged. He spoke in a low tone, which gave each word the emphasis of a sledge-hammer. His look, manner, and tone at such a time would instantly assuage the fury of the fiercest ruffian. In Texas, they said, "Potter's man always whips." The Church people, especially, gave him a liberal share of the various burdens.
On a stormy evening he was called to see a pugnacious old Dutchman who had come home drunk, beaten his wife horribly, and driven his family out in the storm. This was in Potter's line. He went, pleased that so much of his border experience was available in religious work. The old Dutchwoman was found sitting by a fodder stack in the rain, bruised and crying. The cabin door was barred. With one kick, Potter smashed it in. He dealt the old man a terrific blow, which sent him headlong into the fire, then jerked him out, jumped astride him, and commenced to pound and exhort the old sinner with amazing vigor. The response from the prostrate congregation was so faint and slow, that he was tempted to close the exercises. With a minute's respite and a sup of water, the congregation called for its gun. A quiet "No," from the parson satisfied the audience that prayer could not be answered. Another intermission, a little more bathing and camphor, enabled the congregation to yell for its knife. A gesture with the fist at the congregation stopped this. When Potter left the house the Dutchman was subdued enough.
In 1861 Potter visited the scenes of his childhood in Missouri. In the family where he visited was a man who abused his wife most cruelly. Guiltily suspecting that Potter might interfere, he swore that he would knife the parson if he came in his way. This was a case after Potter's own heart. He told the fellow that he must never repeat this work. The man whipped out his knife, seized his gun, and was about to fire, when Potter quietly approached, took the weapon out of his bands, and pounded him in the stomach with the muzzle. The ruffian stood pitiable and unresisting, saying, "You have my arms, I can not fight." "Take your gun," said Potter, thrusting it at him, "and ask that woman's forgiveness, or you will never need a gun or knife again." It was done.
When the war broke out, Potter enlisted in a cavalry regiment. He was a favorite among the soldiers. Long before his commission was issued he was, by common consent, made chaplain. Among the cavalrymen was a six-foot Texan, of powerful build, overbearing, and quarrelsome. He was a desperate character. No one cared to resist any bearable imposition from him. He became the terror of the camp.
Texan justice is swift. The Fighting Parson resolved to take the matter in hand. A crowd gathered around as he walked toward the bully and shouted, "You are a liar. Now resent it." The stalwart Texan rushed at his antagonist to stamp him in the dust. A hundred soldiers who knew little of the parson, drew their knives to protect him. He pushed the ruffian in the breast, saying, "Coward, stop!" The Texan was cowed into a wilted puppy.
A slanderous statement was made in a Brownsville paper about Wood's regiment, while they were in camp at that place. The chaplain sought out the editor who had thus defied the troops. The sermon was short, but the congregation grew pale and trembling as it proceeded. The announcement at the close, that the exercises would be resumed in half an hour, when the preacher and a squad of soldiers would pitch the press and audience into the Rio Grande, to be washed of their vileness, completed the conversion of the congregation, and it started through a back window pell-mell for a new field of usefulness.
Colonel Debray's regiment, of which Potter was chaplain, was ordered to Navasota, in 1864, to join in the campaign against General Banks. On reaching their destination, the commissary refused to honor the colonel's order for supplies. After two or three failures the parson went. "Who are you?" growled the officer. "A white man," said a quiet deep voice. There was unburnt powder in the tone. The commissary glanced at his customer. "What do you want?" said the officer. "Corn," said Potter, "and we'll have it or arrest you." "Don't try that," said the commissary; "we will settle this with six shooters." "I am ready," said Potter. The corn was instantly furnished.
In 1872 the Fighting Parson was returned by the West Texas Conference of the Methodist Church to the Uvalde Circuit, in a wild and mountainous region of the State. It was a country where the settlers' cabins were crowded into little valleys, peculiarly open to Indian attack. The circuit rider was concluding his first year of service when the Indians became very troublesome. He was on his way back to his home in the mountains, after having attended an appointment, at the time of the incident about to be related. He traveled in an ambulance drawn by a pair of small mules.
The road led from Frio to Sabbinal cañon, through narrow defiles and along lonely mountain trails. The preacher was armed with his Winchester rifle, toward which he cast, from time to time, a satisfied glance as the road became more wild and lonely. Driving along the bottom of a deep ravine, he saw far below four Indians hurrying toward him. His experienced eye at once taught him that the situation was full of danger. He drove the ambulance into a sort of thicket, so that when the fight took place the mules should not be frightened, and cautiously advanced toward the spot where he had seen the Indians. He discovered them crouching near the road, expecting his coming. He instantly attempted to fire, but the weapon, being rusty, did not go off.
At the click of a trigger the Indians turned around, and two of them fired, the bullets just missing Potter's right arm. The latter again attempted to fire--this time with success, the ball breaking the arm of one of the Indians. The other two savages were unarmed. They at once seized their wounded companion and hurried away. The white man might have killed them all, but his gun was rusty and he was afraid to fire.
Returning to the ambulance, he got ill, and drove rapidly across the country. Reaching a dense thicket, he halted, cleaned his gun, and was reloading it when, looking upward at the top of a neighboring mountain, his quick eye detected two Indians taking aim at him. He jumped aside just in time to save himself, and returned the fire. The Indians, however, dodged behind a rock, and were seen no more. Potter lost no time in getting out of the region, and reached his little cabin in the mountains in safety.
With this incident our incomplete sketch of the Fighting Parson must terminate. He is, no doubt, the greatest living representative of a class of men who have been found ever on our frontiers; brave in beating back the savages; dauntless in rebuking the border ruffians; zealous and successful in planting the seeds of law and order, of civilization and religion, in the wild soil of the pioneer heart. The greater part of this man's career, his encounters with ruffians at revival meetings, his sermons in desperate neighborhoods, with a pair of huge revolvers lying before him on his pulpit, his eloquent addresses, his pure religious zeal, lie outside of the scope of this work. He is still living in Boerne, Western Texas, ardently engaged in his sacred calling. The days of fights are long since over. At the age of fifty-three, he is enabled to devote all his energies to the gospel of peace.
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Heroes of the Long Star State
Created November 20, 2001
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