James Peter Trezevant (1815-1860)
Mary Ann Elizabeth Williams (nee Hicks) (1807-1893)

A biographical sketch by a great-great-grandson
Robert Warren Trezevant

Margaret Pepper Gignilliat

Margaret Pepper Gignilliat (1791-1862) (Click image to enlarge)

James Peter Trezevant was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on November 23, 1815. His was in the sixth generation of the Charleston-area Trezevant family, whose origins were French Huguenot. The family had arrived in Charleston in 1685. His father, John Farquhar Trezevant, was the oldest surviving son of Peter Trezevant (1768-1854) and his wife, Elizabeth Willoughby Farquhar (1772-1845). The later good fortune of James’s paternal grandparents would directly benefit his life.

In 1813, James’s father, John Farquhar Trezevant, married Margaret Pepper Gignilliat, from another prominent South Carolina family. It is likely that the couple lived in the expanded house of John’s parents at 5 Stoll’s Alley in Charleston, where their children were born. John was a lawyer in Charleston. He died at age twenty-nine of “bilious fever” (probably yellow fever).

When John Trezevant died in 1821, leaving five living children, his son James was only five years old. John’s widow, Margaret, and the children remained in Charleston for a year. Margaret and the five children then went to live with her younger brother at the Gignilliat plantation Contentment in McIntosh County, Georgia.

John Trezevant’s younger brother, Daniel Heyward Trezevant, M.D., (1796-1862) married Ann Sewell (1795-1838) in 1820 and lived in Columbia, South Carolina. At the time of John’s death, Daniel and his wife had no children, and Daniel persuaded his widowed sister-in-law, Margaret, to let them take care of her two oldest children, Charles (age eight) and James (age seven). The boys stayed in Columbia with their uncle until 1824 and were then sent to boarding school in Darien, Georgia, where Margaret moved with the younger children about 1826.

Elizabeth Willoughby Farquhar (1772-1845)

Elizabeth Willoughby Farquhar (1772-1845)
(Click image to enlarge)

Peter Trezevant (1768-1854)

Peter Trezevant (1768-1854)
(Click image to enlarge)

During this time the Trezevant family’s fortunes changed dramatically. In 1826, Elizabeth Farquhar Trezevant, James’s grandmother, inherited a large sum of money on the death of her uncle, John Farquhar (1751-1826), a Scotsman who lived in London. Subsequently, with her huge inheritance, she and her husband Peter moved to England with their younger unmarried children. Through the years they continuously sent gifts and money back to the States, not only to their married children but also to their widowed daughter-in-law, Margaret, and her children. That money allowed Margaret to send her children to the Academy in Darien and, in James’s case, to a prep school and South Carolina College in Columbia. South Carolina College, founded in 1805, later became the University of South Carolina.

By 1835, the Anglo settlers in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila-y-Tejas were organizing to win independence from that part of Mexico above the Nueces River, which the Anglos called Texas. In the fall of 1835 Americans were reading in the press about the Texas revolt against the Mexican dictator General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. “Texas meetings” were held in Georgia, in Savannah and Walthoursville. On November, 12, 1835 a meeting was held, in Macon. William A. Ward was the first of the twenty-nine men to sign up, and he soon became their leader. Other volunteers signed up in Millidgeville and Columbus. Under the leadership of Ward the combined group headed overland for Montgomery, Alabama.

James Trezevant, then nineteen and still in college in Columbia, must have heard about the group of Georgia volunteers that was headed for Texas. He abruptly left college and went to Augusta to visit a girl friend. He had not yet joined the Georgia group, which had reached Montgomery. They were given free passage down the Alabama River to Mobile and then went by steamer to New Orleans, Louisiana. With the remainder of the money James had for the fall term in college, he set out on his own from Augusta to New Orleans. He turned twenty years old on November 23, 1835. In December, he joined Ward’s Georgia group in New Orleans.

On December 9, 1835, Ward and his men embarked for Texas on several schooners, arriving at the port of Velasco on December 20. On December 22, these original, mostly-Georgia volunteers organized officially as a military unit for the first time, calling itself the Georgia Battalion, with Ward as major and commander. Three companies were formed, and James Trezevant was a private in Bullock’s Company.

On December 25, while still at Velasco, the Georgia Battalion presented itself for service to Colonel James W. Fannin, a fellow Georgian who was commander of all the volunteer troops in Texas. Eventually, these troops were all stationed at Goliad, near the San Antonio River. From there James fought in Ward’s Georgia Battalion at the Battle of Refugio on March 14, 1836. With part of the Mexican army advancing north, General Sam Houston ordered Fannin to leave Goliad and go to Victoria. Fannin ordered Ward, who had managed to evade the Mexican army while leaving Refugio, to meet him in Victoria.

Unfortunately, the Mexican army forced the surrender of Fannin and his men on March 20 after the Battle of Coleto. They were taken back to Goliad as prisoners of war. Meanwhile, Ward and his remaining men, numbering about eighty-five, evaded the Mexican army and eventually took refuge in the Guadalupe swamp near Victoria. While he was regrouping them during the night of March 21, Ward inadvertently left behind eight men from the Georgia Battalion, one of whom was James Trezevant. Ward and the remainder of his men were captured by the Mexican army on March 22 near Dimmit’s Landing. They, too, were marched back to Goliad as prisoners of war, bringing the total number of prisoners there to about four hundred. On Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, most of them were gunned down by the Mexican army in what became known as the Goliad Massacre. Though some of its members escaped during the massacre itself, the Georgia Battalion ceased to exist.

Those few who had stayed in the swamp or had escaped the massacre itself set out toward Houston’s army. James Trezevant met up with three others from the swamp, Samuel G. Hardaway, Joseph Andrew, and M. K. Moses. After a number of days of living with no provisions, they were found by scouts from Houston’s army and taken to his camp on April 2. From there the army set out toward Harrisburg, on Buffalo Bayou near the San Jacinto River. The armies of Houston and Santa Anna finally confronted each other east of Harrisburg in the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. James fought as a private in Moseley Baker’s Company, along with Hardaway, Andrews and Moses. At least four other men from the Georgia Battalion also fought in the battle. The Texans won and Texas became an independent republic.

[See the addendum for some of the documentation related to James Trezevant’s involvement with the Georgia Battalion from its inception, in the Battle of Refugio, through the Battle of San Jacinto, and to his becoming a major in the Texas army. R. W. T.]

After San Jacinto, James joined Henry Karnes’s Spy Company, progressing in three months from private to lieutenant to captain and finally to brevet major. During the summer and into the fall of 1836, he served as quartermaster of the commissary at the port of Velasco. He resigned his commission in the Texas army on November 19, 1836. James was still only twenty years old. However, his last day of service was November 23, his twenty-first birthday, the age noted on his tombstone for his attaining the rank of major.

JPT Texas uniform 1837

JPT Texas uniform 1837
(Click image to enlarge)

In late 1836 or early 1837, he set out for Georgia to visit his family. They wanted a miniature portrait done of him in his Texas uniform. While he was passing through New Orleans, staying briefly in Georgia, or returning to New Orleans, the miniature was done. In any case, it ended up in Georgia with his family. Back in New Orleans, James studied law for a while but then moved to upstate Mississippi, to Hinds County, near Jackson. He got a position as professor of languages and military tactics at an academy or college, probably at Mississippi College in Clinton, which had been established in 1826. He continued his law studies and was eventually admitted to the bar in Vicksburg.

During this time James married a widow, Mrs. Mary Williams (nee Mary Ann Elizabeth Hicks), on March 5, l840, in Hinds County. James was twenty-four years old and Mary was thirty-three years old. They settled down to plantation life at Cayuga in Hinds County, southeast of Vicksburg, near the Natchez Trace. All three of their sons were born there: Vernon Charles Trezevant (1840-1856), John Farquhar Trezevant (1843-1932) and George Timothy Trezevant (1846-1890).

James and his wife Mary moved to Louisiana in 1852, near what was then called Deerfield, now Delhi, in the original Carroll Parish. That parish had been carved out of Ouachita Parish in 1832, with its parish seat at Lake Providence. (After the Civil War the parish was divided along the Bayou Macon into East and West Carroll parishes, with Floyd as the seat of West Carroll Parish.) In 1868, Richland Parish, with Rayville as its seat, was carved out of several adjoining parishes. The area around Delhi ended up in Richland Parish. James’s younger brother, George Warren Cross Trezevant (1820-1893), also settled near Delhi, where he married and had his family. It is not known which of the brothers arrived in the Delhi area first.

In 1855, James and Mary (ages forty and forty-nine, respectively) had their portraits painted in oil by John Antrobus (1831-1907), an English painter who had come to the United States before 1855 and become an itinerant genre artist based for a while in Montgomery, Alabama. The portraits were done near Lake Providence, which would not have been far from their home near the Deerfield stage coach crossing of the Bayou Macon. These portraits and a vintage photograph of each of the subjects are now at the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans.

James Peter Trezevant - c.1855

James Peter Trezevant - c.1855
(Click image to enlarge)

Mary Ann Elizabeth Trezevant - c.1855b

Mary Ann Elizabeth Trezevant - c.1855b
(Click image to enlarge)

James Peter Trezevant (1815-1860)

James Peter Trezevant (1815-1860)
(Click image to enlarge)

Mary Ann Elizabeth Trezevant (1807-1893)

Mary Ann Elizabeth Trezevant (1807-1893)
(Click image to enlarge)

At some time, James and his family moved west into what was a part of Franklin Parish, which had been established in 1843. In 1858, twenty-two years after the end of James’s service in the Texas army, he applied for two land grants offered to veterans by the state of Texas. One was a bounty grant of 320 acres for his service from December 23, 1835, to November 23, 1836. The other was a donation grant of 640 acres. A donation grant recognized participation in a specific battle. For whatever reasons, James chose the Battle of Refugio instead of the Battle of San Jacinto for his application. His friend Samuel Hardaway, who had become a prominent citizen of Montgomery, Alabama, wrote a letter in October of 1860 that supported James’s involvement at Refugio.

From his tombstone, we know that James Trezevant died at age forty-four on November 2, 1860, at Lucknow in Franklin Parish. He was just three weeks short of his forty-fifth birthday. Lucknow was the address of a post office on Clear Lake, near Rayville, so that location was in the original Franklin Parish. That site is now in Richland Parish, created several years after James’s death.

James left a young widow of fifty-three and two teenage sons, John, then seventeen, and George, fourteen. The widow and surviving sons benefitted financially when the property in Texas was sold after 1875.

Mary Trezevant died much later than her husband, at age eighty-six, on June 8, 1893. They were both buried in the Masonic cemetery in Delhi.

The story of James’s tombstone has been excellently reported by local historian Dorothy Bradley in Delhi/Deerfield: History, Legends, and Lore. The earliest date on a tombstone in the Masonic cemetery in Delhi is 1856, on the grave of Vernon Charles Trezevant. The second oldest date is that of his father, James Peter Trezevant, in 1860. Each of these stones is made of fine white marble and measures 4’ X 7’. They would have been quite expensive to produce and import to the site. The family was either well-off enough at the time of the deaths to have the stones cut then, or the stones were done sometime later as replacements.

James Trezevant had inherited the pocket watch that belonged to his grandfather, Peter Trezevant. It, too, is now in the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans.

The 1837 miniature of James in his Texas uniform has miraculously survived the 175 years after it was painted. James’s widow, Mary, asked for it from James’s sister, Charlotte, who sent it from Georgia to Mary in Franklin Parish. Mary had moved in with her son John Farquhar Trezevant and his new wife, Annie Vick Trezevant (1846-1913), shortly after they were married in 1867. That home was a classic dogtrot country house on Hickory Ridge. The miniature ended up there, and John inherited it at the time of his mother’s death in 1893.

John and Annie’s oldest daughter, Mary Vick Trezevant (1869-1900), married Alexander Kincaid Montgomery, Jr. (1850-1899). The couple lived on the Montgomery family’s India plantation in Madison Parish, just east of the Bayou Macon, near the Warsaw crossing. One of the Montgomery daughters, Annie Montgomery (1896-1986), was taken in at age four in 1900 by John and Annie Trezevant after the death of her parents. After John’s wife, Annie, died in 1916, their niece Annie Montgomery stayed on in the house to take care of her grandfather until his death in 1932. She continued to live in the house and then in a replacement house on the property until her death in 1986.

Twenty years earlier, in 1966, a great-nephew of hers, George Bryan Montgomery (1945-present), on break from college, visited Annie at the country house. In the barn under a pile of hay he found an old trunk, and in that trunk was the miniature. Fortunately, she let him have it, and he kept it, not knowing its provenance. It was only in the spring of 2010 that I was told by another cousin, Rick Allen, about the memoirs of James’s sister, Charlotte. She mentioned the origin of the miniature and its destination in Franklin Parish. By coincidence, that summer I contacted my cousin George Montgomery about family genealogy, and it was only then that we could connect the object to his story. George Montgomery has donated the miniature to the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans, to accompany the portrait and photograph of James that are already there.


Memorabilia:

At the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans: the 1837 miniature of James Trezevant in his Texas uniform, 2 vintage photographs of James and Mary Trezevant, 2 Antrobus portraits of them, and Peter Trezevant’s pocket watch

In the possession of Carolyn Trezevant: James Trezevant’s four-poster bed


Sources:

Bradley, Dr. Dorothy Phillips. Delhi/Deerfield: History, Legends, and Lore. Compiled by Delhi Garden Club. Delhi, LA: Delhi Garden Club, 2009.

Croce, George C. and David H. Wallace. “John Antrobus.” In The New York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957.

Davenport, Harbert. Notes from an Unfinished Study of Fannin and His Men, with biographical sketches, 1936, ed. by David Maxey. Texas State Historical Association: 2002. www.tshaonline.org/supsites/fannin/ (accessed November 15, 2013).

—. “The Men of Goliad: Dedicatory Address at the Unveiling of the Monument Erected by the Texas Centennial Commission at the Grave of Fannin’s Men.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly Vol. 43, No.1 (1939): 1-41. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101111/m1/9/ (accessed November 15, 2013)

Davis, Robert S., Jr. “Georgia Battalion in the Texas Revolution.” Central Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly Vol. 7, No. 2 (1985): 64-69.

—. “Georgians at San Jacinto.” Robert S. Davis Collection, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia, 1986.

—. “Goliad and the Georgia Battalion: Georgia Participation in the Texas Revolution,1835-1836.” Journal of Southwest Georgia History Vol. 4 (1986): 25-55.

Gignilliat, Charlotte Trezevant. Sketch of the Life of Mrs. Charlotte Trezevant Gignilliat, 1819-1910: Written by Herself at the Request of Her Children and Grandchildren. Edited by R. Read Gignilliat and Robert D. Gignilliat IV. In Gignilliat Family Papers (1831-1867, 1910), Library of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.

NOTE: Charlotte Gignilliat Trezevant was the daughter of John Farquhar Trezevant (1791-1821) and Margaret Pepper Gignilliat (1791-1862) and a younger sister of James Peter Trezevant. She married her cousin Norman Page Gignilliat (1809-1871): Hence the name Charlotte (Gignilliat) Trezevant Gignilliat.

Holmes, Margaret Gignilliat. Family Stories and Reminiscences of Ante Bellum Days Told by Margaret Gignilliat Holmes (1847-1920). Edited by R. Read Gignilliat and Robert D. Gignilliat IV. In Gignilliat Family Papers (1831-1867, 1910), Library of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.

NOTE: Margaret Gignilliat Holmes was the daughter of Charlotte Trezevant Gignilliat and Norman Page Gignilliat, and was a niece of James Peter Trezevant.

Hopewell, Clifford. Remember Goliad: Their Silent Tents. Austin, TX: Eakin Press, 1998.

Kenan, Robert Gignilliat. History of the Gignilliat Family of Switzerland and South Carolina. Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1977.

McKeehan, Wallace L, ed. “Samuel G. Hardaway.” San Patricio and Refugio Mission. Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas: 1997-2001. http://www.tamu.edu/faculty/ccbn/dewitt/dewitt.htm (accessed November 15, 2013).

NOTE: This site contains nine personal narratives from participants in the Battle of Refugio, including that of Samuel G. Hardaway.

Miller, Thomas Lloyd. Bounty and Donation Land Grants of Texas, 1835- 1888. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1967.

Moore, Stephen L. Eighteen Minutes: The Battle of San Jacinto and the Texas Independence Campaign. Dallas, TX: Republic of Texas Press, 2004.

O’Connor, Kathryn Stoner. The Presidio La Bahía del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga, 1721 to 1846. Austin, TX: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1966.

Pinkston, Georgia P. D. A Place to Remember: East Carroll Parish Louisiana 1832-1976. Baton Rouge, LA: Claitor’s Publishing Division, 1977.

Richland Memories. Edited by Innes Ellis Green and Gladys Diamond Lane. Rayville, LA: Original Rhymes Library, 2001.

Texas General Land Office. “Trezevant.” File #001002. Republic and State Land Grants. www.glo.texas.gov (accessed November 15, 2013).

—. “Trezevant.” File #008198. Republic and State Land Grants. www.glo.texas.gov (accessed November 15, 2013).

Texas State Library & Archives Commission. “Trezevant.” Republic Claims. www.tsl.state.tx.us (accessed November 15, 2013).

NOTE: This site contains 19 documents related to James Peter Trezevant’s military service in the army of Texas.

Trezevant, John Timothee. The Trezevant Family in the United States. Charleston, SC: The State Company, 1914.

Trezevant, Robert W. “Trezevant Family Tree.” Ancestry.com. www.ancestry.com (accessed November 15, 2013).

Trezevant-Vick Family Bibles, 1872. Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans, LA.


Background:

Brands, H. W. Lone Star Nation: The Epic Story of the Battle for Texas Independence. New York, NY: Anchor Books, 2004.

Davis, William C. Lone Star Rising: The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic. New York, NY: Free Press, 2004.

—. A Way Through the Wilderness: The Natchez Trace and the Civilization of the Southern Frontier. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1995.

Elliott, Claude. “Georgia and the Texas Revolution.” Georgia Historical Quarterly 28, no. 4 (1944): 1-19.

Griffith, Joe. “Fighting for Texas: Georgians and the Battle for Texas Independence.” Journal of the Historical Society of the Georgia National Guard 5 (1996): 7-21.

Hardin, Stephen L. Texas Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution 1835-1836. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1994.

Hopewell, Clifford. Remember Goliad: Their Silent Tents. Austin, TX: Eakin Press, 1998.

Marshall, Bruce. Uniforms of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution and the Men who Wore Them 1835-1836. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2003.

Miller, Edward L. New Orleans and the Texas Revolution. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2004.

Scarborough, Jewel D. “The Georgia Battalion in the Texas Revolution: A Critical Study.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 64, no. 4 (1960): 511-512.

Stout, Jay A. Slaughter at Goliad: The Massacre of 400 Texas Volunteers. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2008.


Addendum:

[The following excerpt from the Haradway narrative is an amazing one because we can know what James Trezevant was doing, sometimes on a daily basis, for a few weeks in Texas during the revolution. The following text was composed in the summer of 1836 by Samuel Hardaway, also a member of Bullock’s Company of Ward’s Georgia Battalion. This text is a primary source for the events it portrays, because it is an eyewitness account. The “we” refers to whomever Hardaway was with at the time, from the Georgia Battalion as a whole down to the four survivors from the Guadalupe Swamp who survived to fight at San Jacinto. When these events happened, Trezevant was twenty years old and Hardaway was fifteen. Hardaway became a prominent citizen of Montgomery, Alabama, and the two remained friends for twenty-five years, until James’s early death in 1860. My editorial clarifications and comments are in brackets. R. W. T.]


Section of Hardaway’s narrative:

From here we sailed to Copano, which is another port still further on the coast towards Metamoras. There we landed and marched up to the Mission [Refugio], as it is called, 12 or 15 miles from the coast. Here we remained about three weeks, and then went up to Goliad about 27 miles further into the interior. Here we took possession of the Fort and remained in it until the 13th March, when Col. Ward and the Georgia Battalion were ordered to march in hosts to the Mission to relieve Capt. King who, with about 30 men, was down there endeavoring to protect some families, but who had become surrounded by the enemy, and his situation become desperate. We marched at 3 o’clock in the morning and arrived at the Mission about 2 o’clock of the same day; and as we expected, found Capt. King and his company in the church and a large company of Mexicans in sight across the river. We succeeded in getting to the church, where we remained till night, when we crossed the river by fording it at a shallow place, and made an attack on them, and completely routed them, killing about 25, with no loss on our side. We then returned to the church, and early next morning [14 March] again went out to the Mexican camp where we saw a few Mexicans endeavoring to carry off their dead, but they made their escape on our approach. From here we went about two miles to a branch and burnt the houses and provisions. By this time the enemy began to reinforce so fast in our sight that we had to return forthwith to the church, and at which we were very soon attacked by their whole force; but having blockaded all the entrances with the images, benches, pews, &c., we had greatly the advantage in position; they came up bravely for awhile, received our rifle balls, fell and were carried off, and others took their place; but after awhile we could see that it was with great difficulty the officers could whip up their soldiers with their swords to make a charge. This continued until towards evening, when they retired a short distance, but not out of sight. We then started an express to Col. Fannin to let him know that we were nearly out of ammunition, (having only taken 36 rounds from Goliad,) and were still surrounded by a large Mexican force. A Mr. Murphy and a Mr. Rodgers, both, I think, of Captain Wardsworth’s company, were to carry the express, both of whom were pursued by the enemy’s cavalry and taken, and I suppose shot. An express from Col. Fannin to us was also taken. In this battle we got three wounded, none killed. The loss of the enemy was variously stated, but believed to be not less than 200, though it was reported more. Captain King’s company, whom we went down to relieve, had went out early in the morning before the battle commenced, to a branch, a few miles distant, and were taken by the enemy, and afterwards all shot but two, who made their escape. That night [14-15 March] we made our escape from the church, and after traveling through the woods and swamps, where their cavalry could not well pursue us, on the 3d day [18 March] we reached St. Antonio river. On the 2d day after leaving the Mission [17 March], David I. Holt, of Macon, and a few others, left the company in search of water, and we never saw them again, but now understand they succeeded in getting in safe. That night [18 March] we lay in the swamp [of the San Antonio River]; next morning [19 March] crossed the river and made our way towards Victoria, and in the evening heard the firing between Col. Fannin and the Mexicans [probably the Battle of Coleto], apparently distant about ten miles — we attempted to get to them, but night came on and the guns ceased to fire, and we could not proceed, but got into the Guadaloupe [River] swamp, where we remained all night, and on leaving it and entering a prairie next morning [20 March], we were attacked by a force of 600 cavalry. We fired about three rounds at them, when our powder gave out and we had not a load left; we then retreated back to the swamp, and every man was told to take care of himself. We there got scattered, and I never saw Col. Ward or the company again, but understood that at night [20-21 March] while I was asleep in the cane that he rallied all the men he could and made his way towards Demit’s Landing, but was next day [22 March] overtaken by the Mexican Cavalry, and having no ammunition, surrendered as prisoners of war and was carried back to Goliad, and all shot [27 March, the Goliad Massacre], as has been heretofore published. In this battle Wm. L. Wilkinson, of this city, was supposed to be killed.

On awaking [22 March], I found myself alone in a swamp, in a country full of Mexicans, near 200 miles from the main army of the Texians, and 13 or 1400 miles from my home, then without a mouthful of provisions for 5 or 6 days, nor was there any prospect of any except a few wild onions which I could get in the swamp. I remained in this swamp all day and all night; next morning [23 March] went out and took a small path, which I discovered and kept it for about 2 miles, came to a Mexican house, where I saw several Mexicans in and about the house, but being forced by hunger, I determined to go in and ask for something to eat, let the consequences be what they might. On entering the house, one of the men rose and offered me his chair; I asked a woman who was in the house for something to eat; she readily gave me some milk, cheese and dried beef. The men with their guns all looked astonished, and in a few minutes, all had left the house and appeared to be looking over the country in all directions, I presume expecting an attack from a large force of which they thought I was the spy. As soon as they all left the house, the woman told me in broken English, that they were all Mexicans soldiers, and I had better leave as soon possible. In a few minutes we saw them returning towards the house, and the woman urged me to start; I did so, and ran towards a swamp [Guadalupe] which I saw some 2 or 300 yards distant; as I ran they fired 12 or 15 guns at me, but without effect: they pursued me to the swamp, but I escaped them. I kept in the swamp all day; that night [23-24 March] I heard the drum beating at Victoria. Next morning [24 March] I went near enough to see the Mexican Cavalry; I then returned to the swamp and kept it all day; that night [24-25 March] went out and made my way up the river, until I reached a crossing place, and here I overtook three men that had made their escape from the enemy in the swamps at the same time I did, but whom I had not seen before since we retreated and scattered in the swamp; their names were Andrews, Moses and Tresvant. We here got some meal from a house which had been left by the enemy. We remained here all night [25-26 March], and next day [26 March] made our way through the woods towards the Colorado river, and that night [26-27 March] got to a place where the Mexican army had camped a night or two before; here we remained all night, and next morning [27 March] we reached the river and crossed it on a bale of cotton which we found on the bank and about two miles above where the enemy were crossing at the same time. We lay in the swamp that day — at night [27-28 March] we heard the drum, but supposed it was the enemy, would not go to it. Next morning [28 March] Moses and myself ventured to go in sight of the camp to see who they were, and soon discovered they were Mexicans; we retreated, and in a short distance, saw six horsemen charging towards us; we discovered they were Americans and did not run — they came up, and much to our relief, we found they were spies from Gen. Houston’s camp; their names were Cawmack and Johnson from Tennessee, Shipman and Laplam of Texas, and two others that I did not know. They were astonished to see us at that place, and when I say we were glad to see them, I but feebly express the feelings of my heart. I was then, without hat or shoes, and only a few rags for clothing. While we were narrating our adventure, and waiting for one of the company whom we had got to go back a short distance after Andrews, we were attacked and fired upon by a small scouting party of mexicans, but at such a distance as to do us no injury; but upon their seeing that we had got among some trees and were preparing to give then a fire, they retreated and left. We then left that place, and the spies carried us to Gen. Houston’s army [which had arrived at San Felipe on 28 March, followed by two weeks of training], where we arrived, I think, on the 2d day of April, our appearance being such as to excite the sympathy of every soldier — and on meeting some gentlemen who had known us in this country, the noble tears of compassion were seen to trickle freely on their cheeks. We here received all the kindness we desired, and remained with the army, and fought under Gen Houston in Capt. Baker’s Company in the memorable battle of the 21st April, in which Santa was captured, half his men slain, and the other half taken prisoners. Incredible as it may appear, this battle was fought with only about 700 effective men, while the enemy had double that number. The loss on our side was only 6 or 7 killed and 20 wounded; among the latter, our Captain and Gen. Houston. The fight commenced in the afternoon about 3 or 4 o’clock, by two six pounders on our side, and a long twelve pound brass field piece by the enemy: but by some fortunate shot at the very beginning we silenced their big gun, and pressed down upon them, continuing the fire from our Artillery, and receiving the fire from their small arms which was doing us no injury as they seemed to shoot above us. When he reached within about 50 yards of them we fired two or three rounds from our deadly rifles which seemed to produce a tremendous effect, and at this moment a charge from all quarters was ordered, and our men rushed upon them with fury and desperation, and with pistols, guns and cutlasses the destruction of human life was speedy and immense. As soon as we had time to look we saw the white flag was hoisted, and the Mexicans had thrown down their arms and were running in every direction. As soon, however, as the call for quarters was heard, and the white flag was seen by the commanders, the work of death was stopped and the balance taken prisoners. Santa Anna himself made his escape that evening, but was taken next morning in a common citizen’s dress about ten miles from the camp; he was not recognized until he was brought in, but when the prisoners saw him, they tipped their hats, and exclaimed in their own language, ‘Santa Anna’s alive.’ The appearance of the battle ground can be better imagined than described. Piles and clusters of their dead and dying lay in every direction indeed the ground was liberally covered. But the recollection of the dreadful massacre of our brave companions at the Alamo and Goliad, in great manner relieved our feelings from the horrors of the scene. [End of Hardaway excerpt]


[The following accounts are secondary but important because they come from James Trezevant’s sister and a niece. They are brief, written much later than the events reported, and introduce elements that both detract from and add to the Hardaway narrative. James’s younger sister, Charlotte Gignilliat Trezevant (1819-1910) compiled her memoirs in 1906. She married a cousin and became Charlotte Trezevant Gignilliat. One of their daughters (and hence James’s niece) was Margaret Helen Gignilliat (1847-1920), who married James Holmes, and compiled her memoirs in 1918. My editorial clarifications and comments are in brackets. R. W. T.]


Charlotte Trezevant wrote:

The boys got at play one evening on the campus, making considerable noise[;] one of the professors to identify them was creeping from tree to tree to get up before they scattered. My brother was in his room looking out of one of the windows and saw it. He called out[,] ‘Boys, Lehr is upon you[.]’ Of course, they scattered but Professor Lehr called to my brother, saying[,] ‘Trezevant[,] I hold you responsible[.]’ My brother thought that he would be expelled, so without saying a word to uncle Heyward Trezevant, he left that night for Augusta [Ga.] He had just got the money to pay the next term in advance so he had that to start with. He stopt [sic] in Augusta to see a young lady he was in love with, then went to New Orleans. Forest a celebrated actor was playing there at that time. He went to the St. Charles Hotel, where Forest was boarding, but he was out. My brother met Capt. Ward, just from Georgia with a company he had raised to go to Texas. My brother, a boy of nineteen [actually 20 after 23 Nov. 1835], joined him and they [eventually] mustered in Fanning’s [sic] Brigade in the Texas Army.

[Charlotte’s report of James’s leaving college and joining Ward’s group in New Orleans and then going to Texas seems entirely plausible. Also, her report of Fannin’s surrender after the Battle of Coleto and the subsequent Goliad Massacre are accurate.]

Fanning [sic] and his men after repressing the Mexicans under Genl. Norear [Urrea] at the battle of Culiton [Coleto}, were surrounded by an overwhelming force, with no chance of escape. They accepted honorable terms that were offered them and surrendered. They were taken to Goliad, where an Order from Santa Anna arrived for their execution. All were marched upon a neighboring prairie and on Palm Sunday they were shot down in cold blood and their bodies consigned to flames. Many dashed for the Goliad River, my brother among them, and out of the entire brigade only eight escaped. He said the river was crimson with the blood of those shot by his side.

[The probability of James’s being with Fannin at Coleto and then escaping the Massacre are problematic. Given the disarray of Ward’s men in their retreat from Refugio and the timing involved, it is possible that James was at Coleto on 19 March. His presence would not contradict Hardaway. In his narrative Hardaway uses only “I” until he meets up with Andrews, Moses, and Trezevant about 25 March; after that is “we.” But the story does contradict the scholarly work of Harbert Davenport, the major researcher on Fannin and his men [1936]. According to him more than eight men escaped the Massacre and Trezevant is not listed among them. Instead, Davenport lists him as being one of the eight men from the Georgia Battalion who were in the Guadalupe swamp with Hardaway beginning on March 21. James did end up with Hardaway as of March 28, and Davenport supports Hardaway’s telling of the story. Charlotte would certainly have known, even as a teenager, about the Goliad Massacre. Even if James were not present, he later may have met someone who had escaped the massacre. Besides that, he could not have gotten from Goliad to Victoria in one day. The description of escaping by jumping into a river fits with what happened to some of Fannin’s men at Coleto, and Charlotte would have heard about that episode and witnessing her mother’s anxiety about it. James probably had several other opportunities to make such a dramatic escape.]

The eight kept together, they were in the enemy’s country and hid in the day and traveled in the night. They were eight days before they were able to join the army, clothing torn off by the chaparal and almost starved to death.

[This part of the report agrees with Hardaway in terms of the men’s difficult situation. Also, according to Hardaway it was eight days between the meeting up of the foursome on March 25 and and their entering Houston’s camp on April 2.]

The day after he got into camp was the battle of San Jacinto [Apr. 21, 1836], in which he was badly wounded.

[Again, this telling does not necessarily contradict Hardaway. James may well have been on something like a scouting expedition just before the battle. It is quite possible that he was wounded but did not report for medical care.]

When the war was over he ranked as major. I had a miniature taken of him in uniform with the boyish face of twenty [actually 21, after he returned to Georgia in late 1836 or in 1837]. I let his children have it. At the battle of San Jacinto the battle cry was “Remember Goliad, Remember Alamo” and none were spared. [pp. 11-12]


Margaret Holmes’s narrative told a slightly different story:

James Trezevant, grandfather’s second son[,] was at college. One day some of the boys were in mischief on the campus, and one of the professors who was very disagreeable to all of the boys came out of the building, and James screamed to the boys that the professor was on them. The professor said to James, ‘You kept me from finding out who the other boys were, but I know you[,] Mr. Trezevant.’ He was not in the mischief with the other boys[,] however, but he expected to be expelled so quit college.

He went to New Orleans and there he enlisted with Fanning’s [sic] unfortunate brigade [actually with Ward’s company of what became the George Battalion] that went to Mexico. The soldier’s life was a hard one. At length they were overwhelmed by numbers and surrounded by Mexicans. Fanning’s [sic] brigade was cut off from the rest of the troops [i.e., Houston’s retreating army. Or, she could be referring to the fact that Ward’s men were separate from Fannin’s.] That night Uncle James was put as one of the sentries [the night of 19-20 March if at Coleto or the night of 20-21 March if he was with Ward in the swamp.] He said he was so tired when the force marched, and he was only eighteen {actually 20] years of age, he forgot a soldier’s duty and fell asleep, on his post. He was awakened by someone talking to him[;] starting up he called out, ‘I was only dreaming.’ Yes, boy, dreaming of home and mother,’ said his commander [either Fannin or Ward] and walked on. That night Fanning [sic][or Ward] walked the rounds of his camp and never slept at all.” [p.6]

Margaret continued, “The Mexicans promised them the most advantageous terms of surrender, that they would take their arms and their parole of honor and return to their people. They remained prisoners for a few hours, then the unsuspecting men were marched out in hollow square formation and were shot down by the Mexicans. [The hollow square formation was used by Fannin at the Battle of Coleto, not at the Goliad Massacre.] Those that did not fall with the first volley made for the river, Uncle James among the number. He was a good swimmer so he dived down under the water and swam as long as he could under water, then came up. Those that ran to the river were shot down, only eight escaping. The banks of the river were lined with a kind of sharp cactus[;] this tore their clothes all to pieces, and James said when he got to the top of the bank he had nothing on but his cravat. The eight of them would walk all night and hide during the day, trying to make their way back to their army. They chased a prairie chicken down and divided the raw meat between them[;] it was all they had for five days.

Drawing near a Mexican village they drew lots to see which two would go in and try to get something to eat. At the outskirts of a village they watched a cook preparing a meal in her kitchen. She had a large pot of hominy that had just been boiled, and a large bucket of milk they had seen her bring in. She went out of the kitchen for some purpose and the two men rushed in, one taking the pot of hominy and the other the bucket of milk. They made for their comrades. The starved men ate so much that they could not travel for hours. They eventually got to their army on the eve of the battle of San Jacinto.

Uncle James was wounded in the battle. He said he did not know he was hurt until after the battle was over, when he felt very sick and looked down to see the blood flowing. Uncle James remained with the army during the period of the war. He was made a major and had a beautiful miniature made of himself in his uniform. His wife [Mary Williams Trezevant (1807-1893)] begged so for it that she gave it to her about twenty years ago.
[pp. 6-8]

[James’s wife/widow in Franklin Parish, Louisiana, would then have received it about 1888 while she was living with their son, John Farquhar Trezevant, and his wife, Annie Vick Trezevant, in whose barn the miniature was found in 1966.]


R. W. T.–2013

1 Comment

  1. Eugene Moore

    Absolutely fascinating family history of a true American Patriot. It’s unfortunate that current generations have no concept of the individual sacrifices these men made to garner independance for what would become one of our Nations largest states. History is abound with stories of The Alamo during this time period, yet seldom (if ever) have I ever heard of the battles that took place in Refugio, Goliad, or San Jacinto. Thank you for sharing your family history with us and for providing valuable (historically significant) information about these “forgotten” yet vastly important battles.

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