William Harrison Magill

1813 - 1878

Source:  Burnet Bulletin, 11 Dec 1878 - From Barry Caraway


[tombstone photo]

Death of Capt. W. H. Magill

A Short And Interesting Sketch Of The Life Of One Of Texas Departed Heroes

The subject of this sketch was born in Kentucky about 1810 and was consequently in his 68th year at the time of his demise. He came to Texas in 1835 and settled in Bastrop county. The Texas Revolution was a matter of fact and Mexican government was making powerful preparations to crush it out of existence. Young Magill, possessed of a nature, noble, brave and generous-for the brave are always generous-reared under the inspiration of the goddess of liberty, caught the fire of patriotism that burned on the altar of every Texan heart. He listened to the story of Mexican wrongs and abuses. He heard the calls of the brave Bowie and the gallant Milam.

Yielding to the prompting of his chivalrous heart, he mounted his horse and rode night and day to join the volunteer camp, commanded by Austin, in the vicinity of the city of Bexar. He soon had an opportunity of displaying his heroism; for Austin sent Fannin and Bowie with 92 men, among whom was Magill, on the 27th Oct, to select an eligible position nearer the enemy.

After inspecting the old missions of San Jose and San Juan they approached the mission of Conception and camped for the night in a bend of the river about a mile and half from San Antonio. The next morning, under cover of a dense fog the Mexicans surrounded the camp and the famous battle of Conception was fought. The following extract is taken from Col. Bowie's official reports:

"The engagement commenced about 8 o'clock a. m. by the deadly crack of a rifle from the extreme right. The action was immediately general. The discharge from the enemy was one continued blaze of 6. -***. A brass six pounder was opened on our line at the distance of 80 yards *** and a charge sounded. But the cannon was cleared as if by magic and a check put to the charge *** . Thus a detachment of ninety-two men gained a complete victory over part of the main army of Central Government being least four to one. "

Col. Bowie estimated the Mexican loss at 60 killed and 40 wounded. None of the artillerymen escaped unhurt. The deeds of that hale little band of 92 will live in story and in song along with the famous brigade of Balakiava. Nor are the scenes which were about to transpire less worthy of note, for the siege of San Antonio commenced on 5th of Dec, following and culminated in the capitulation by Gen. Cos, the brother-in-law of Santa Anna, on the 10th of the same month, sheds a halo of light around the Texas arms.

Our young hero was one of the 300 who volunteered to follow the lamented Milam in his forlorn hope against the barricaded streets and loop holed walls of the ill fated city. But his labors, his privations, his sufferings and his dangers were not ended with the glorious triumph of the 10th of December. The fall of San Antonio only exasperated the enemy and caused him to renew the invasion of Texas with overwhelming forces. We cannot in this article recount all that transpired from this time to the 21st of April, 1836. We must refer the reader to the pages of history and simply say that our deceased friend through all the vicissitudes of weather and of war stood true to his colors, and when the 21st of April dawned upon Texas and Houston with his little band of devoted followers stood out before the conquering President-General of Mexico, no man could foresee the destiny that trembled in their hands. The day was bright, and the historian writes that neither the sun of Bannockburn nor Austerlits shone more lovely or brilliantly. This was the day to immortalize the Texan army and right well was it done. Below I give an extract from the official report of Thos. J. Rusk, Secretary of War:

"The sun was sinking in the horizon as the battle commenced, but, at the close of the conflict, the sun of liberty and independence rose on Texas, never, it is to be hoped, to be obscured by the clouds of despotism. We have read of deeds of chivalry, and perused with ardor the annals of war, we have contemplated, with the highest emotions of sublimity, the loud-roaring thunder, the desolating tornado, and the withering simian of the desert; but neither of these, nor all, inspired as with emotions like those felt on this occasion, " He also says, "This brave band achieved a victory as glorious as any on the records of history, and the happy consequences will be felt in Texas by succeeding generations. "

The battle of San Jacinto did secure to Texas her independence and, today, we are enjoying its blessings. Can we honor too highly or love too much the memory of those who achieved it for us?

The war being ended, the hero of our story returned to Bastrop county and devoted himself to the industrial pursuits, ever and anon adding variety to his manner of life, by engaging in Indian raids, in which he proved as formidable to savages as he had been to the Mexicans. In 1849 he established a stock-ranch in Burnet County in partnership with Logan Vandeveer and furnished beef to the U. S. troops then stationed at Fort Croghan, now the town of Burnet. In 1850 he moved to Burnet, soon after located the track of land on which his family now reside, and engaged in farming and stock raising up to the time of his death.

For the last several years he had been threatened with paralysis and more than once referred to that matter when conversing with his intimate friends. On the 6th inst., while engaged at work about his house and in the enjoyment of his usual good health, the fatal disease - paralysis of the stomach and bowels - fastened itself upon his vitals. The best medical skill was speedily summoned to his relief, but all in vain. Human genius was powerless to stay the hand of death. The white-winged messenger had come to convey the spirit though the valley of the shadow of death and proclaim to the angelic host of heaven its safe arrival on the celestial shores. He had acted well his part in the role of life. His spirit took its flight at one o'clock, Saturday afternoon.

A husband , father, neighbor and citizen he has left us a worthy example. He died in the full enjoyment of a conscience reconciled to God and at peace with all mankind. Let the mantle of oblivion be thrown over his foibles, remembering that there is no perfection in this life, and let the virtues which adored his character be cherished by us, for so may his loss be our gain. The body was taken in charge by the Masonic fraternity, of which deceased was a worthy member and buried with appropriate honors at 3 o'clock Sunday evening, Past Master, E. Sampson officiating. May the oil of consolation be poured into the hearts of the bereaved family that they sorrow not as they who have no hope, for after death is the resurrection.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.
J. T. MOTLEY.







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