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At the Top of Erna Hill
Wednesday, April 4, 2012 • Posted April 4, 2012

We have witnessed the intrusion of the Mexican Armies into the heart of Texas on four occasions, the first in winning their independence and three times defending their Republic, so now Texas is about to retaliate, just to get even. It does not work out well.President Houston called up Alexander Somervell, a Brigadier General of the militia at San Felipe, and ordered him to go to San Antonio and organize a strike force to route Woll from the Republic and challenge any force this side of the River and invade Mexico, if necessary. The call went out to the various settlements in November of ’42 to gather in San Antonio for this adventure. Most Texicans were war weary but about 1200 men showed up, many from the southern states eager to wage war and obtain spoils. Somervell split his army into two units and tried to enlist Hays and Bogart into his group but neither would give up the ranging companies so they were allowed to continue as leaders of their ranging groups. Somervell gave the two the task of scouting for the enemy and keeping him informed.Somervell met with his command and it was decided that Woll had withdrawn toward Laredo so that would be the best point of attack from the Medina River. Hays group was sent out ahead as points and to go to the outskirts of Laredo and check out the activity. They entered the city and found no resistance but the town folks received them with open arms. Hays immediately determined that there were no spoils or supplies worth having so they camped out of town in a ravine but Somervell’s army had already made their way near by before Hays could report. Many of the Somervell group slipped into town to “Have their Way” and get the spoils and gutted the town of anything of value. Somervell learned of the raid and he went into Laredo and apologized to the Mayor and told the citizens to come to the campsite with carts and get back all that was taken. Somervell left San Antonio with approximately 1200 men and by the time he left Laredo to proceed down river, his army had diminished in size to about 600. The Army moved down river thru muck , mire and cold weather and by the time they arrived across the river from Guerrero, the men and animals were exhausted so Somervell had to send Hays across to barter for supplies but Hays encountered a small force of Mexican Calvary , which retreated with a small battle. And Hays came back with a meager $ 381 and not much else.. This threw Somervell into a rage and he had Hays to return the money and all properties to the township and shortly, Somervell called a meeting of the command and notified all that the campaign had come to a halt. He was returning to San Antonio and all to travel as a group to the Nueces River and there, each could go his own way. Some 200 men elected to leave but a Colonel William Fisher vowed to continue the fight to Mexico and he had about 300 to join his force.Hays and Bogard elected to return with Somervell but, being independent of the army, Fisher talked them into staying to do the spy work as necessary. About December 20, Fisher’s forces arrive down river opposite the settlement of Meir. He sent Hays and Bogard’s rangesr across into Meir to spy and they returned back to Fisher on December 23 and reported that a large Mexican force had assembled to challenge Fisher’s assault. On December 24, Hays and Bogard gathered their ranging group and prepared to return to San Antonio. Big Foot Wallace and Sam Walker elected to stay with Fisher along with about 8 others to fight into Mexico and Hays and Bogart left the scene in route to San Antonio. The rations were meager, men worn out as well as the horses and many of the horses that balked, became the meal of the day. Rufus Perry was point and he was able to kill some wild turkey for fare and later an oxen for a feast. Hays made it back to San Antonio in mid January but Bogart got lost and was a month late getting back to his settlement. So, the Somervell Expeditionary Force had come to an end and Colonel William Fisher’s invading force now becomes the Meir Expeditionary Force.On December 25, the Mexican Army closed ranks with the Texicans, being outnumbered ten to one. By day two, heavy casualties had been inflicted on the Mexican Army and the Texicans as well, with 16 killed and 17 wounded, including Colonel Fisher. He agreed to surrender with the provision that the group would be treated as P O W’s. This was agreed to, much to the disdain of Tom Green. Rather than surrender his rifle, he smashed it to bits and Big Foot Wallace said “Never shall I forget the humiliation of my feelings.”The captured Texicans were marched from Matamoros in early 1843 and imprisoned in del Salado. Feb. 11, Sam Walker and Ewen Cameran wrestled guards to the ground and during the escape, 5 were killed and 5 wounded. Most of the escapees were soon captured but it is recorded that four managed to get back across the river to Texas. The prisoners were then moved to Saltillo and during this time, Santa Anna had worked up a rage and ordered that of the 176 prisoners, one out of 10 would be executed. White beans and 17 black beans were placed in a bag and each would draw a bean. Anyone drawing a black bean would be shot on the spot. Big Foot Wallace noticed that the white beans seemed smaller and smother than the black, so it came his time to draw, the bean was a gray in color, so the judges declared it white and he survived. Later, Ewen Cameran, being from the Refugio ranger group that disgraced Canales, was ordered killed. It was suspected that Canales recognized him from that battle in “42.After the slaughter, the prisoners were marched to a small Mexican village named Perote, about 160 miles from Mexico City. According to Kendal Hemphill, it was during this march that Wallace got his nickname, Big Foot. His shoes were worn out so a Mexican cobbler made him a pair of shoes and they was so large, that he called him “Big Foot”. At this point, the Meir group met up with the Dawson prisoners from Wolls invasion of San Antonio in Sept. pf ’42. A prison break was planed and several escaped and all but 8 were captured. Tom Green and Sam Walker made it to Veracruz , where they boarded an American sailing vessel and made passage to New Orleans. Despite efforts by the Republic of Texas and the U. S., it was March of 1844 before the last 35 captured by Woll, some 18 months earlier, were released and the balance of 104 prisoners of the Meir Expedition, were released in September of 1844. Of these, eleven were former Hays rangers and chief of the group was ‘BIG FOOT “ WALLACE.

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