Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 4, Number 1, Spring, 1992 Page: 5
This periodical is part of the collection entitled: Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the Dallas Historical Society.
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souri, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama,
Mississippi, and Georgia. Texans proved
especially willing to volunteer; after all, they had the
most to lose. They also had revenge in their hearts.
The events of the Revolution (the Alamo and Goliad
in particular), not to mention other conflicts with
Mexico during the ten years of the Republic, were all
fresh memories. So many Texans had lost friends or
loved ones at the hands of the Mexicans in recent
years that Van Rensallier Irion, a Texas volunteer,
felt compelled to declare, "A thousand Martyred
Spirits in the holy cause of liberty was at recollection
and the blood of kindred cried aloud for satisfaction."
Residents of newly organized Dallas County
were as eager as any to defend their state and their
country. One of the first to go to war was twenty-six
year old Alexander Cockrell, who rode south that
spring to enlist in Ben McCulloch's Texas Rangers.
Cockrell had not been long in Dallas County. He
originally came to search for runaway slaves and
had stopped to visit a cousin, Wesley Cockrell, who
lived near Mountain Creek in the southwestern part
of the county.3
McCulloch's company of volunteers was organized
at the town of Gonzales on May 11, 1846, as
Company "A" of the First Texas Mounted Riflemen.
This was prior to the official declaration of war, but
after Taylor had defeated General Arista's larger
force at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma (both near
present-day Brownsville) on May 8 and 9.4 From
Gonzales, McCulloch's men made their way to the
Rio Grande by riding the length of Padre Island.
Arriving at its southern tip, they were ferried to Port
Isabel, where General Taylor had established a
supply depot. After camping overnight at Palo Alto
and riding through the "lonely, deserted battlefield"
of Resaca de la Palma,5 they were mustered into
federal service at Matamoros, Mexico, on June 13.6
That town, directly across the Rio Grande from Fort
Texas (later renamed Fort Brown after an American
officer who was an early casualty of the war), had
been occupied without a struggle by the Americans
shortly after their earlier victories. It may have been
at Matamoros that Cockrell joined McCulloch's
McCulloch and his men served as scouts for
General Taylor during the summer of 1846, ranging
up and down the Rio Grande in pursuit of Mexican
guerrillas and tracking Indians. It was hard work,
made all the harder by a lack of even the most basic
equipment. "We were left to shift for ourselves,"
complained Samuel C. Reid, who later wrote a book
about his experiences with McCulloch's Rangers,
"wholly unprovided with tents, camp equipage, or
cooking utensils." Wondering why they were expected
to do so much with so little, Reid speculated
that, "it was because they thought the Texian troops
were accustomed to, and could endure more hardships
than any other troops in the field."7
Indeed they did. The Rangers and their
horses suffered from summer heat so intense that
one well-read fellow compared it to "the forge of
Vulcan," and a less educated companion declared,
"... if you'd say that a volcano was an ice-house to
this place, you'd come nigher the mark, I reckon."
Scouting far and wide, the Texans would eagerly
drink warm, stagnant pond water for lack of anything
better, and exhausted from a hard day's ride,
they became accustomed to sleeping in the mud,
half-immersed in water, during rain storms.8
LIFE ON THE TRAIL was not without its lighter
moments, however. At night, around the
campfire, the men often told one another tall tales or
jokes. One fellow, Bill Dean, related a story so
hilarious that the Rangers' raucous laughter caused
their horses to bolt. On another occasion, while
riding on the outskirts of Mier, McCulloch's men
came across some fifty or sixty Mexican girls bathing
in a stream. Concealed by a high bank, the
Texans stopped and watched the girls for a long
time, enjoying the sight of their "unveiled charms."
Finally, one of the young ladies chanced to look up.
There she saw "a long line of strange, bearded, and
moustached faces peering earnestly over the bank."
Frightened, she called out to the others. The Rangers
laughed as the alarmed senoritas quickly "made for
the shore, with screams and shrieks" and ran for
During August, McCulloch's men were sent to
scout the road to China, a northern Mexican pueblo,
to ascertain if it was a practical route to Monterey.
They were also under orders to capture, if possible,
Juan Seguin and his followers, who were known to
be operating in the area.10 The Texans, however,
were unable to locate him.
At Monterey, in late September, McCulloch' s
Rangers distinguished themselves during fighting to
take two of the city's most formidable defenses.
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Dallas County Heritage Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 4, Number 1, Spring, 1992, periodical, 1992; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35116/m1/7/: accessed October 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.