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At the Top of Erna Hill
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 • Posted March 7, 2012

In my last article, I made an effort to explain why the fighting was so brutal and in the Indian warfare, both sides showed extremes in combat due to survival as in the case of the Indians, it meant food and the spoils of war and for the Rangers, it meant defending the Frontier’s property and livelihood as well as the spoils. The food supply for the ranging companies was not fair at best as they lived on the spoils, as did the Indian. It was stated that the reason the Indian moved south out of the plains was due to the fact that the buffalo was killed out by the hunters, so, as a result, they began raiding in Central and South Texas and teaming up with the Mexican outlaw bands, known as the Comanchero. In the spring of 1842, Capt’n Hays was only able to recruit about 20 men for the Ranging Unit at San Antonio and early that spring, his unit had about a two day encounter with a group of Indian raiders who had taken about 20 head of horses and killed a couple of settlers near Bandera. The Rangers trailed the Indians and overtook them, a group of 80, at Cista Creek (Sister) on the Guadalupe and after killing about 20 or so and wounding the chief, Yellow Horse, who was riding a horse taken in the raids, the Indians fled without the horses or spoils and Hays returned the horse to it’s owner in San Antonio. The summer months remained calm.Hays had a good relationship with President Houston and in the summer of ’42, Houston commissioned him to again recruit a Ranging Unit in San Antonio as word had been received that once more, the Mexican Army was to invade Texas (Actually, they never left as they laid claim just north of the Rio) and once more, take San Antonio. The population then was about 100 as many never returned after the threat by Vasquez. Hays formed a small group, in which Big Foot Wallace and Sam Walker were a part and Hays, knowing that Wallace knew every one left in San Antonio, sent him into town to spy on spies. He rounded up six characters of a suspicious nature and sure enough, a General Adrian Woll , a French/Mexican convert was mustering an army of approx. 1200 men to march north and capture San Antonio once more.Hays informed Houston of the plot and Houston sent out word to each of the established communities to send support to the area and camp on the Salado Creek about 5 miles north of San Antonio and Caldwell with a group was the first to arrive. Meantime, Hays in early September, went southwest to encounter the force and in so doing, fought brief fights to slow down the movement. Hays left the Mexicans and joined Caldwell at Salado Creek where he chose to make the stand against Woll. General Woll’s army took San Antonio and captured the residents including the Court, which was in session that day. During the delay tactics by Hays, other Ranging Units joined Caldwell and the size grew to about 200. Hays and his Rangers got into the camp late afternoon and all were worn out but no fires were allowed as it may betray their location. That night was restless, but the next day, some beef was killed and a good meal was had by all as well as good night’s rest. Caldwell was appointed Colonel of the group and he gave a long speech that night to fire up the men and then he turned the speech over to Reverend Morrell and he gave a fired up speech—REMEMBER THE ALAMO-=DO OR DIE.On Sept. 21, Caldwell worked out a plan to draw the Mexican Army out of San Antonio to the defensive position of the Texicans. He had Hays with his men to get good horses and go into town to get the attention of Woll and this they did. Some 150 Mexican Calvary came after Hays and the Hays group barely made it back to the defensive positions ahead of the Calvary. Now they had the attention of the Army so the next day, the Mexican Army was seen advancing on the Salado Creek defenses and setting up their cannon, but the distance was such that none of the Texicans were alarmed, so they enjoyed an evening meal of beef and speech making once more, REMBER THE ALAMO, and took some pot shots at the invaders.Caldwell established his defense in a groove of huge pecan trees in the creek bottom and early morning of the 23rd, Woll opened up with his cannon filled with grape shot and round balls and this ravaged the pecan tress as the limbs were falling down on the Texicans and Caldwell had to move his position to the bluffs of the creek. Caldwell survived that day after repulsing several advances by mounted and foot soldiers but during the day, Woll moved part of his force to the east and the rangers heard cannon fire and shooting but could not leave positions to investigate and Woll’s forces then returned to the Salado Creek area. The night was long and hard and men were hungry. About daybreak, some cattle wondered into camp and they were killed, skinned, cooked not well and hurriedly eaten during the early morning battle. One of the men, Sowell, was stripping the rare meat from rib bones and eating when he was shot in the BOWEL and rare meat spewed all over his counterparts. Later, when giving aid, the ball was never found and it was considered passed along with the remaining rare beef in his BOWEL. He survived to live another day. I reported in a previous article the Creed Taylor was wounded at in an Indian battle, but he fought in this fight and was wounded in the shoulder. His name never appeared on the roster later but he had three brothers that did stay with Hays.The next day, the battle was winding down to a great extent as Woll gained permission to gather his wounded and dead but some exchange occurred between the factions. Big Foot and his side kick, Ben Mc Colloch were watching some infantry and Ben said to Big Foot, knowing that Big Foot had to leave his belongings in San Antonio and he did not have a change of clothes, look, there’s a long, tall, skinny Mexican about your size and while they were sizing him up, Big Foot got shot and the ball just seared his nose, so Big Foot took the first shot at the skinny Mex and missed so Ben cut him down. They both ran out and de-clothed him on the battlefield and Big Foot enjoyed a fine pair of lavish pants for the next two years.Woll retreated on about the third days end and Caldwell sent a small force to follow, being sure that he left the area. Meantime, Caldwell and Morrell took their force to the east to see what had diverted the attention of Woll and found the massacre of the unit of Cap’t Dawson’s from La Grange. As Dawson was getting within a mile or so of the Caldwell defenses, he heard the gunfire so he decided to make a flanking move on Woll rather than join Caldwell only to his dismay. Woll sent his force to converge on the Dawson Unit of 52 and killed 35, took 15 captive, one of which was Rev. Morrell’s son and two escaped. The site of this massacre was on what is now the present Fort Sam Houston. They buried the dead on the site and Morrell raged to go after Woll to gain the release of his son, but Caldwell thought better of it and did not fight with Woll further. In 1848, the bodies were exhumed and moved to Monument Hill south of La Grange and placed in a mass grave. In 1948, the State of Texas built a permanent monument in honor of the fallen Dawson Rangers.

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