After rereading Buck Barry’s, diary, edited in 1978 by James K. Greer, I thought the following tale of a battle fought over 160 years ago would be appropriate. Referencing Mr. Greer’s book and discovering more details on the internet, I’m pleased that I can summarize it. These men, Texans, all volunteers, responded to an urgent plea from an American General. Remember only two years before, Texas had been annexed into the United States, but old ties are strong.
Fight Along The San Juan River
Buck Barry, my 3G, Uncle was a veteran, a veteran of the Indian Wars, the Mexican War and the Civil War and was, I’m sure, a supporter of the fore runner of our Veteran’s Day – Decoration Day. Decoration Day began in Virginia in late 1863, with southern ladies decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers with red and white bunting. It quickly spread across the South, then the North and finally in 1867 was named, Memorial Day, a national holiday.
In 1846, before Decoration Day was even thought of, Buck had joined a company of volunteers in Franklin, Texas, under the command of Capt. Eli Chandler and the unit had made haste to south Texas, responding to the urgent request for reinforcements from Texas, from U.S. General (later President) Zachary Taylor. Arriving, ten days late for the battles at Resaca De La Palma and Palo Alto, the Texans, Buck included, were formed into a regiment of other Texas units and elected Capt. Jack Hays, who Buck had served with as a Texas Ranger in 1845, their Colonel and Samuel H Walker, their Lt. Colonel.
Digressing, Walker, a former Texas Ranger, was the inventor of the famous Walker Colt pistol, that until the .357 Magnum was introduced in 1935, was the most powerful, hand gun ever produced. Walker was later awarded a direct commission in the U.S. Army and served under Gen. Winfield Scott during the march to Mexico City. In 1847, Capt. Walker was killed by enemy fire while leading a charge into the Mexican city of Huamantla.
Buck and the Texans were the lead units of Gen. Taylor’s column heading up the San Juan River, a tributary of the Rio Grande, until their advance was stopped outside of Monterrey, by a regiment of Mexican Lancers and this led to a very, spirited fight!
The Texans had stopped for a break and unsaddled and were rubbing their horses down when the Lancers surprised them! Buying time for a hasty defense, Col. Hays rode out and challenged the Mexican Colonel to a saber duel. Hays mentioned to Buck that he knew nothing of saber dueling. The challenge was accepted and valuable time was gained when the Mexican officer removed all of his accoutrements and then rode out to meet Hays.
The Mexican drew his saber, and unceremoniously, Hays drew his pistol and shot him! At that breech of etiquette, the infuriated Lancers came boiling down the riverbank and charged the Texans! Hays ordered his men to fire from behind their horses using them as shields. The Lancers rode through the Texans three times, rifles and pistols were emptied and the fight continued with bowie knives against lances, until the attack was beaten off. Texan losses were one dead and many wounded and eighty of the Lancers were killed. Both sides suffered heavy losses of horses.
Buck said, “After that fight, I never called Mexicans cowards again!”