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JAMES WILSON "Jim" NICHOLS wrote about the formation of the State of Texas and the Mexican War

Submitted by:  Billie Nichols Bennett

In 1845 the Republic of Texas died and was buried in the annexation to the United States and was resurrected in the shape of the State of Texas. Now the Federal government was bound to protect us, as one of the compacts, and sent men and means for that purpose. But in 1846 the two nations, Mexico and the United States, got to wrangling over the results of annexation and war was declared and most of the troops had to leave Texas and go to Mexico. Texas had to raise troops to protect her own frontier though at the expense of the federal government.

H.E. MCCULLOCH raised a company for three months service. We were stationed where the town of San Marcos stands. Brother John (Nichols) and Alsa MILLER took the contract to furnish corn and beef for the term. We had no engagements with either Indians or Mexicans and we did very little good except to over-awe and keep back the Indians, but in that no doubt, we did some good as there was not a single raid made by Indians while in this service.

The Mexican War was now a reality as we knew by the government of the United States issuing orders to every state for a certain quota of men. Henry MCCULLOCH received an order to raise a full company for twelve month service and when his three months term was out he beefed up for volunteers for his next term.

So in October the 7th myself, Solomon NICHOLS, John and Asa SOWELL, Milford DAY, Simon COCKREL, Hardin TURNER, and John D. PICKENS from Seguin joined him. We were to furnish our own clothing, horses, and arms, and the government furnished the rest. We were to receive thirty dollars per month. That looked like business.

We were stationed at the same place.  As Andrew LINZY, who owned the land, laid out the town soon after and nearly all of us bought lots, built houses, and moved our families there. We remained there through the winter. There were ten or a dozen companies raised along the frontier on this order and was mustered into the service as frontier rangers but subject to orders from the War Department.

In the spring, the 2nd of March, an order was issued to Gen’l HOWELL, then commanding that department, to inspect all the troops on the frontier and such as were well armed and well mounted he should send them on to Mexico. Those that were not well armed and equipped as the law directs should remain at the posts. Our company was inspected first and there was but a few that was permitted to remain at the post. We were ordered to San Antonio to await orders. He went on inspecting and soon all of the troops arrived and were organized into a battalion, Tom I. SMITH in command as Major, and we set out on the march for TAILOR’s army then at Monterey, Mexico. We marched by the way of San Patricio, Kings Ranch, and on to Los Almos Wells and there we found water and grass and went into camp about noon.

Late that evening I concluded to try my luck for some fresh meat, a turkey, a rabbit, or squirrel as there was an immense brake of mesquite, pears, and chaparral not far off and I wended my way thither. I had not proceeded far into this brake before I espied a large herd of javelins, a special kind of musk hog, quietly feeding. I concluded to kill one and try his meat - having heard it said their meat was excellent to eat.

I fired at one wounding him severely and he fell and set up a squeal or howl, then the whole gang rallied around it and tore it literally into minute bits.

While this was going on I was reloading my gun. When they were through tearing the dead one to pieces they began searching around for the cause. I stepped a few steps farther towards them in order to get a fair view for another shot and when I moved they spied me and came towards me in a full run popping their teeth, their hair turned the wrong way, making a terrible grunting, squealing, or howling noise. It was fearful in the extreme and I took refuge in a large mesquite tree but dropped my gun at the root of the tree as I could not climb with it - but dropped it and ran up the tree like a squirrel.

By this time the sun had set and supposing the animals would leave me soon I composed myself. But they kept up their boohooing noise and kept rallying and encircling the tree until it seemed like they had increased to thousands and I could see gangs still coming in every direction. I hollowed several times as loud as I could but seemed out of hearing of the camp.

I then concluded to await their hogships pleasure in leaving me and placed myself in the fork of the tree watching their maneuvers until several of them commenced gnawing at the tree about a foot from the ground. They cut away a while then stepped back looking up as much as to say, “We’ll get you yet.” I says, “I think you are left now,” thinking they would give it up soon, as the tree where they were cutting was at least 16 or 18 inches through. But they cut away awhile and then stepped back and looked up at me. About the same number took their places. I says, “Well, that's a new wrinkle,” and it was astonishing to see how fast they would cut with their sharp teeth cutting out chips as large as a dime. I sat still until the third relief went on and I yelled, “For Gods sake.”

At least they heard me at camp. It was then dark and they supposed I was lost and answered me to let me know which way camp was, but I kept up such a yelling and bawling some of the boys started to me. They came within seventy or eighty yards and hollowed. I answered and informed them of my situation. They returned to camp and about twenty of the boys saddled their horses and came to relieve me.

There was one or two blankets spread at nearly every fire and men were playing card, throwing dice, some cooking supper, some lolling on their pallets. The chaparral was so thick the boys had to ride round on the opposite side to get an open place to get to me, getting me and the havelinas between them and the camp and commenced a terrible fusillade on them, all firing one after the other in quick succession. Such a continuous firing gave them a scare and perhaps a thousand of them in a breast struck the camp, ran through, braking a great many horses loose, and scattering fire, cooking utensils, men, blankets, cards, and everything in their way. When we arrived at camp I never saw men in such an excitement in my life. If the whole Comanche tribe had run through the camp it would not have created a greater excitement.

I went back to the tree the next morning to get my gun and hat which I could not find that night and was surprised to see the tree gnawed two thirds down. They could and would have fell the tree in two hours more if let alone.

We marched from there to Rancho Davis on the Rio Grande and while there received news that our services were not needed in Mexico. In a few days, however, we received a dispatch for us to hurry on. We crossed over and marched to Mier. We went into camp there. The dispatches were so unreliable, the first one would come stating our services was not needed, then another for us to hurry up. Major SMITH concluded to send dispatches direct to Gen’l TAILOR and learn the facts in the case.

One morning we were ordered into line for roll call and while in line SMITH made us a speech stating his intentions and said he, “It is a dangerous route as the road is infested by bands of guerrillas, freebooters and now, boys, you may have some hard fighting or tall running to do, and I want twenty men and a lieutenant to command them and I want them all to have good horses. If I can’t get volunteers I will have to make a detail. Now, who will volunteer to go? All that will, let them step six paces to the front.”

There was a pause for perhaps a minute, and I stepped out. I stood alone for a while and five or six more stepped out. After another pause SMITH began to talk about making a detail and there was soon twenty in line.

Now, said he, “One more and there will be the number.”

One more came and no officer except myself and I was but a corporal.

Smith says, “There is fifteen lieutenants and none will volunteer. Well, men, choose you a leader,” and all the men but three hollowed out, “NICHOLS. He was the first man out, and I know he will do.”

The dispatches were made out and given to a trusty Mexican courier and guide and he wrote out a Lieutenants commission, handed it to me, and we was off on a dangerous road--330 miles.

All went on well until the third evening out. We discovered a band of some thirty guerillas parallel with us but near a mile distant. They were sometimes in sight then out of sight all evening. The Mexican courier said they were watching for a favorable opportunity to attack us or waiting until night to stampede our horses and attack us. About sunset we halted, ate supper, mounted again, rode rapidly five or six miles. We then left the road some two miles, found good grass, and camped, put out one guard at a time, and the rest slept. In this way we dodged them as we could see their sign next day all along the road.

We traveled on without molestation though we could see bands of these guerillas every day. One day we came upon the smoking, smoldering remains of a wagon train where 80 wagons had been burned. The guerillas had attacked the train, killed all the teamsters, robed, and burned the wagons and the bodies of the teamsters had been burned with the wagons. This had been done not more than 24 hours before we passed. One day we saw a band of these guerillas about twenty in number crossing the road ahead of us. We charged them but they outran us and got away.

We arrived at Live Oak Spring where Gen’l TAILOR was camped, delivered the dispatches, and went into camp. Next morning was drill day with one regiment.

While we ware eating breakfast a big fat man rode up to where they were drilling and sat lazily on his horse watching them drill.

I says, “I will bet ten dollars I know that man.”

“Who is it?,” says one.

I said, “That is Judge QUITMAN. I have seen him in Texas.”

After breakfast I stepped across the branch to where he was and was convinced and made myself known to him. I told him where and when I had seen him in San Augustine ten years before. After talking awhile he says, “There is a grand curiosity in town three miles from here, and I am going there this evening. I would like to have your company.”

“What is the curiosity,” said I.

“It is nothing but a garden,” said he, “though I want you to see it. Will you go?”

I says, “Certainly I will.”

After dinner we set out and arrived at the garden and a grand curiosity it was which I will try to describe farther on. We bruised round town and he took a great deal of pains showing me over the different portions of the battle ground, portions of town which they would take and hold before storming another. We remained until late, and, with a promise that I would accompany him the next day, we parted.

He saying, “I want to show you through the Bishops Palace tomorrow.”

Next morning I got permission an took all of my men with me. After showing me through the Bishops Palace, and where GILLESPIE fell and how that place was stormed, he went his way and we went to the garden.

The war was now about to come to a close. Dispatches was sent to our command to return to Texas, but we was still retained. We remained in Monterey some two months before we were permitted to return.

While there I become a frequent visitor to Aristas Garden. General Aristas was a general in the Mexican army and received a wound at the battle of Buena Vista which caused his death leaving his immense estate worth three millions to his wife, who had been blind over twenty years, and a single daughter.

This garden is the most beautifully arranged place I ever saw, a flower garden with every known flower, shrub, and fruit that grows in a southern climate with a beautifully arranged bathing pool in the center. When I was there it was frequented daily by all the officers of the army.

About ten days after my arrival the citizens gave the officers a ball or fandango. There was none invited but commissioned officers, and this young senorita, Selavia ARISTA, was there and her dress and jewelry was seriously estimated at about 5,000 to 25,000 dollars. I had made her acquaintance a few days before, and as I could speak the Spanish language well, she seemed to look to me for protection and I had to introduce her at least fifty times that night. She was sought after and admired by many a young officer of TAILOR’s army.

She was the noted senorita, the Maid of Monterey. She was the one that acted the charitable part to the wounded soldiers that caused David CULE, the little Irishman, who was wounded there to compose the song known as “The Maid of Monterey.” She dressed herself in peon or servant clothes and went ministering among the wounded soldiers. I will here insert the song.


The moonlight shone but dimly
Upon the battle plaine
A gentle breeze faned softly
O'er the features of the slain
The guns had hused their thunder
The drums in silence lay
Then came the senorita
The Maid of Monterey.

She gave a look of anguish
On the dying and the dead
And she made her lap a pillow
For him who moaned and bled
Now heres to that bright beauty
Who drives deaths pangs away
The meek eyed senorita
The Maid of Monterey

Although she loved her country
And prayed that it might live
Yet for the wounded foreigner
A tear she had to give
And when the dying soldier
In her bright gleam did pray
They blessed the senorita
The Maid of Monterey

She gave the thirsty watter
And dressed each bleeding wound
A fervent prayr she uttered
For those whom death had doomed
And when the bugle sounded
Just at the break of day
They all blessed the senorita
The Maid of Monterey.

AFTER REMAINING in Monterey about two months I received dispatches for the department at San Antonio from Gen’l TAILOR and set out for Texas, nothing occurring of any note on our homeward trip until arriving at San Antonio.

Sending my men into camp on the San Pedro Creek, I hastened into town for provision, forage, etc. I arrived opposite a grocery where there was ten or a dozen men lounging around the door and I recognized Calvin TURNER, Joe WILLIAMS, John PICKENS, and John SOWELL of MCCULLOCH’s boys, and Bill DEADMAN, John ROGERS, and Jim ROBERTS that was not of our company at the time.

I had not shaved for over four months and they did not recognize me until I spoke. I rode up and spoke and was in the act of alighting when the whole crowd gathered me on their shoulders and started for a barbershop a block and a half away declaring it was shearing time.

I never touched the ground the whole way. They had me shaved, sheared, shampooed, and shirted. They gathered me again on their shoulders, carried me to an eating house, and ordered an oyster supper. In the meantime they had my men supplied. These men had come with wagons for supplies for the company.

The next morning I turned my men over to the boys and set out for home and I remained with my family some two weeks and then set out to join the command at San Marcos.

After arriving MCCULLOCH was ordered to pitch his camp in Hamilton’s Valley, 60 miles above Austin, on the Colorado River.  We served out the term there without seeing a track that a hostile Indian made and was mustered out the 7th of October 1847 at Austin.

Captain MCCULLOCH raised another company and was stationed at the same place, but myself, Brother Soloman (Nichols), John and Asa SOWELL, Hardin TURNER, and Simon COCKREL and all the Seguin boys that had families left the service.