Creed Taylor Was An Early Texas Ranger - A.J.Sowell
[From J. Marvin Hunter’s Frontier Times Magazine, November, 1937]
Creed Taylor was born in Tennessee in 1820, on the 10th of April. His father, Josiah Taylor, was born and raised in Virginia, in James County, on the James River, and was related to Gen. Zachary Taylor, so the general himself said. The occasion of his saying this was during the Mexican war when Creed Taylor, as a dispatch-bearer, brought a message to the general, and he asked the young courier what his name was, and on being told it was Taylor he asked several questions as to where his people came from, and if his father had a brother named William, and on being told that he had to the latter question, said, "Well, I and you are kinfolk then.”
Capt. Josiah' Taylor, father of Creed, came to Texas in 1811 on an exploring expedition with many others from the States at that time to look at the country, and many Americans had already settled in the eastern part of the State. In the following year a revolution was inaugurated by the Mexicans to throw off the Spanish yoke, and many Americans and Indians in Texas joined them. The army collected at Spanish Bluff, and after organizing set out for Goliad to attack the Spanish army there. The opposing force to Spain in this body of men were mostly Americans and commanded by American officers of whom were McGee, Kemper, Ross, Gaines, McFarland. and Capt. Josiah, who had joined the expedition and commanded a company. One of the Mexican commanders was a Bernardo and another was Manchaca. The American force, as we will call it for they largely predominated, numbered 800 when they left the bluff and many battles were fought with the Spaniards with various successes until 1813, when the Spanish army retreated to San Antonio and the Americans followed. Reinforcements had been sent to the Spanish Governor of Texas, Salcedo, and he now sent his army to meet the advancing Americans. The Spanish Army which was at the mouth of Salado Creek where it empties into the San Antonio River, consisted of 1500 regulars and 1100 militia under the command of the officer who brought the reinforcements from Mexico. He had solicited this position and pledged his head to the Governor that he would kill and capture the entire American army.
The American army consisted of 800 Americans led by Kemper, 180 Mexicans commanded by Gains and Manchaca, and 325 Indians under McFarland. The Americans expecting an ambush, marched slowly in order of battle. The left wing moved in front under Ross, in which was Capt. Josiah Taylor and his men, all good rifle shots. The right, under Kemper, was in the rear, and a company of riflemen under Captain Luckett acted as flankers on the right. Their left was protected by the San Antonio River. About nine miles from San Antonio there was a ridge which divided the river and creek and the side next to town was prairie, while the other side, bordering the Salado Creek, was covered with chaparral brush. Here in this place the Spanish army lay in ambush while the Americans were coming up the river on the east side of the creek, and were not aware of their presence until they crossed and began to enter the ambuscade. They were first discovered by Luckett's riflemen, who at once fired on them. The Spaniards then arose and formed in front of the Americans about 400 yards below, their line extending nearly a mile, and in their center was twelve cannons. The Indians were now placed in front of the Americans to receive the charge of the Spanish cavalry, but they all ran at the first onset except the Cooshattas and a few others, who stood firm and received two more charges. By this time the Americans had formed at the foot of the ridge. and orders were given to advance to within thirty yards of the Spaniards, fire three rounds, load the fourth, and then charge all along the line.
This order was obeyed in silence and with such coolness that it struck terror to the Spanish army, and the volleys fired at the Americans went over their heads on account of the advance being up hill. They did not wait for the charge, but broke up into disordered squads all along their line and fled in terror towards San Antonio. They were hotly pursued and hundreds killed in the disordered rout, and the wounded were butchered by the Indians. When the Spanish commander saw his army flying from the field and realized that the day was lost, he drew his sword and turning his horse rushed upon the ranks of the pursuing Americans. He first attacked Major Ross and then Colonel Kemper, and as his sword was raised to strike the latter he was shot dead by William Owens, a private in the company of Capt. Josiah Taylor. In this great Southwest Texas battle one thousand of the Spaniards were killed and but few taken prisoners, on account of the Indians, who followed in the rear of the Americans during the disordered flight.
The American army then went on to San Antonio and demanded the surrender of the place, and the Governor and his staff came out to comply, and the first American they came in contact with was the company of Capt. Josiah Taylor, drawn up in their front, and to their leader Salcedo offered his sword, but Captain Taylor would not receive it and referred him to Colonel Kemper. He refused it and referred him to General Bernardo, the Mexican commander, whereupon the Governor stuck it in the ground and went off and left it, and Bernardo took it up.
It is not the intention to give a full history of these stirring events of that time, but only to mention them on account of the part taken by the father of the subject of this sketch. Suffice it to say, another Spanish army came from Mexico and was defeated by the Americans on the Alazan Creek with great loss, and then a second army came but stopped on the Medina, and the Americans went out there to fight them, but were drawn into an ambush and almost annihilated. The Americans fought like tigers, and continued the battle after the day was lost and everything in confusion. The Mexicans, commanded by Manchaca, fought well and were nearly all killed in the center of the deadly ambuscade. The Spanish cavalry pursued and fought the remnants until nearly all were killed. Capt. Josiah Taylor rode his horse and staved on him during all this fearful slaughter, and was wounded seven times, but made his escape with about ninety other Americans to eastern Texas where he had two large musket balls cut out of his body, and as soon as he recovered he went back home to Virginia.
In 1824 Captain Taylor returned to Texas with his family, and died in the winter of 1830 on his ranch, below Cuero.
Creed Taylor, after the death of his father, was sent to Gonzales by his mother to attend school, and he boarded at the house of Almon Dickinson, who was afterwards killed in the Alamo. His teacher was named Miller, and his school mates were the Sowell boys,—Andrew, John, and Asa, Highsmiths, Pontons, John Gaston, Gallia Fuqua, and Dave Durst. In 1835 when the Mexicans came to take the cannon, Creed was in the fight five miles above the town near Zeke Williams' place, since called the Dikes place. He said they loaded the cannon at John Sowell's shop and carried it with them, and fired it three times during the fight.
When Stephen F. Austin went on out to San Antonio with an army to continue the war, Creed Taylor was along in the company of Capt. John J. Tumlinson, and was in the battle of Mission Concepcion, the Grass ftight,and storming of San Antonio, and was about one hundred yards from Ben Milam when he was killed. The company he belonged to was really that of John A. Coleman, but he was not present in any of the fighting on account of sickness, and his lieutenant, Tumlinson, commanded and was called captain by the men. Creed went back home to his mother on the Guadalupe after the surrender of the Mexican army, and was there when the Alamo was taken and Santa Anna came down with an army after General Houston. He moved his mother to Kennard's prairie, and then in company with Joe Tumlinson took the trail of Houston's army and caught up with them in camp on Buffalo Bayou the night before the battle of San Jacinto, and went through the battle on the following day without being attached to any particular company, fired many shots, and part of the time was mixed up close in among the Mexicans. After the battle he went back home and attended to the stock and farmed some until 1840, when the Indians burned Linnville. He was in the pursuit and battle with the Indians on Plum Creek in the company of Capt. D. B. Fryer. Among the men whom he remembered seeing in the battle was Robert Hall, French Smith, Zeke Smith, Andrew Sowell, James Nichols, Ben McCulloch and his brother Henry, and Matthew Caldwell. Mr. Taylor killed several Indians in personal combats during the long running fight.
In the fall of this same year he went on an Indian expedition commanded by Col. Tom Howard, and belonged to the company of Capt. Matthew Caldwell. There were 170 men on this Indian hunt, and they located a large camp of them where Brackett is now. A considerable battle took place and a great deal of noise was made, but none of the white men were killed and but few wounded. Twenty Indians were killed and 700 head of mules and horses were captured. Among the men along from the Gaudalupe were William Tumlinson, Dan Grady, Calvin Turner, and.Tom Gates. A great many of these mules and horses had been carried off by the Indians from below in the settlements along the rivers, and were returned to their owners.
After this expedition Mr. Taylor joined the rangers under Jack Hays and was in the fight at Bandera Pass. The men that he remembered who were in the fight were, besides Captain Hays and himself, two of his brothers, Josiah and Pinkie, Andrew Erskine, PeterFore, Ad Gillespie, Tait Ackland, Sam Luckey, George Neill, James Dunn, Sam Walker, and George Jackson. His recollection was that the time was June of 1841, that twenty-five rangers were in tlne fight, and that it lasted more than an hour. The Indians fired on them first and soon showed themselves in large force and came close, and the rangers had all they could do to manage them. About 11 o’clock the Indians began to give back towards the north end of the pass, pursued by the rangers; who constantly mixed with them and hand to hand conflicts took place, in one of which near the north end of the pass, Kit Ackland killed the chief, and many horses were killed and wounded. Among the rangers killed was Peter Fore and George Jackson. The latter was a son of Tom Jackson, who was killed in the Alamo. Peter Fore was shot through the body with an arrow, the spike being on one side and the feather on the other. Sam Walker was thrust through with a lance and Andrew Erskine was wounded in the thigh with an arrow. He charged the Indian with a five-shooter, but the barrel dropped off without his knowledge, and he almost touched the Indian trying to shoot, but failed. The Comanche had his bowstick shot in two and was also unable to shoot, but noticing the condition of the ranger's pistol, grasped an arrow in his hand and tried to stab him with it, but was at this time shot and killed by Creed Taylor. Mr. Taylor said other rangers were wounded and had to be carried to San Antonio to be treated, but he did not remember their names. He could only remember two that died on the ground.
When Woll captured San Antonio in 1842 the rangers were quartered in San Antonio, but most of them were out on a scout with Jack Hays and made their escape. When the Texans were gathered on the Salado to fight them and Captain Hays drew them out, Lieut. Henry McCulloch covered the retreat with ten picked men, four of them Taylors; Creed, Pipkin, Josiah and James. Towards the last of the race, Creed Taylor and McCulloch were alone in the rear, and 200 shots or more were fired at them by the Mexican cavalry, but neither were hit.
In the main battle that came off on the creek, Creed Taylor had his arm broke, shot in the middle of the elbow, and the ball, split the bone, half going out and the other remaining. As it would never permanently heal, years afterwards, he had the other part of the ball taken out by Dr. Herff of San Antonio. After the battle Mr. Taylor went to Seguin and stayed until his arm apparently got well, staying with Tom Nichols during the time. On the way to Seguin he passed over Dawson's battle ground, and said he never saw such a sight of mangled men and horses. He said in the Salado battle Calvin Turner was glanced on the side of the head with a grapeshot and knocked down, and that one of the Sowell boys was wounded in the hand. When the Mexican war of 1846 broke out Mr. Taylor joined the regiment of rangers commanded by Capt. Jack Hays, and passed through nearly all of the battles in Mexico, the last he was in being at Buena Vista. The first one he said was at Palo Aleo, and there he saw more men together than he ever saw before, and it was a grand sight. Both armies met each other with all the regimental bands playing at once on both sides, and five-hundred flags were in sight.
(Note—At the time the above was written by Mr.Sowell, about 1900, Captain Creed Taylor was living on his ranch near Noxville, in Kimble county. He died a few years later at an advanced age.—Editor.)