John Robert Baylor—1822-1895
[This account is from Hunter’s Frontier Times Magazine, September, 1929]
DISTINGUISHED CONFEDERATE officer and Indian fighter, was born in Bourbon county, Kentucky, on the twentieth day of July, 1822. His father, Dr. John Baylor, was a physician and was assistant surgeon of the Seventh United States Infantry. His mother's maiden name was Weidner. As assistant surgeon, Dr. Baylor and his family followed the fortunes of the regiment, for that reason, John R. Baylor spent part of his young life in Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, and the Indian territory.
When quite a young man he came to Texas and lived for a short time at Marshall (1841) where he married in 1844, Emily J. Hanna, shortly after which event he moved to Fayette County, Texas, near Fayettesville, where he opened a farm and cattle ranch.
He was active in all matters of public interest, waged war on all disreputable characters, was generally elected to command any expedition against outlaws, hence his name as Captain Baylor.
During his residence in Fayette County, he was elected member of the legislature 1852-1854, also was admitted to the bar and engaged for a time in the practice of law.
In 1855 he was appointed agent for the Comanche Indians. The Indians at that time were on a reservation near Camp Cooper in what is now Stephens county . The Indian policy of Captain Baylor was not satisfactory to those in authority. He stoutly maintained that when the Indians were caught red handed with stolen horses that they should be made to surrender them to their lawful owners, and the Indians dealt with as other thieves, and when they murdered the settlers they should be dealt with as other murderers. Those in authority too just the opposite view,
Captain Baylor's ideas and views not being satisfactory, another agent was appointed in his stead in 1857. In this year he moved about twenty miles below the agency and the Clear Fork of Brazos and established the first cow ranch in Stephens county.
Almost continually from 1857 to the Civil War, Captain Baylor was engaged in warfare with the Indians. The Comanches seemed determined to stop the encroachments of the white man and the white man seemed just as determined to march onward, therefore, there was almost continuous trouble. In 1859 he, in command of a large body of men, after severe fighting, forced the Indians to leave Texas.
In 1860 the Indians killed one of his neighbors. He at once organized a few men consisting of himself and four others, followed the Indians and killed thirteen braves and took from them fifty-head of horses they had stolen in Palo Pinto county. Prior to and subsequent to this fight , he had many fierce encounters with the Indians, but was never wounded.
On March 18, 1861, after Texas had seceded, the secession convention passed an ordinance providing for a military force for the state, in which a regiment of mounted volunteers was authorized to be raised for frontier protection, John S. Ford was elected Colonel, John R. Baylor, lieutenant-colonel and Edwin Wallar, major.
In 1861, Lieutenant-Colonel Baylor, in command of part of his regiment, took an active part in compelling the surrender of the United States troops in San Antonio and surrounding posts, after which he was placed in command of the second line of defense on the Western Frontier of Texas, subsequently with a small body of Texas troops, less than two hundred in number, he moved up the Rio Grande to El Paso,upon arriving at which place he found that Fort Bliss had been abandoned and the Confederate flag flying from the flag staff. He at once took charge of all abandoned government property in that section. He also strengthened his forces by organizing companies, and conceiving the idea of capturing Fort Fillmore, then garrisoned by about seven hundred regulars under command of Major Isaac Lynde, of the Seventh Infantry. Accordingly on the 25th of July, 1861, he, with about two hundred men, after a forced march arrived near Fort Fillmore just before daylight with the intention of surprising the sleeping garrison, but a deserter from his command gave information of his presence and the beating of the long roll announced the readiness of the garrison to receive the Texans upon hostile terms.
For this reason he did not deem it prudent to make an attack at that time and passed around the post through the village of San Tomas and went into camp just above the town of Messilla. He captured seven Union soldiers in San Tomas and after getting all the information he could, respecting the location and movement of the federal troops in New Mexico, released them and permitted them to return to Fort Fillmore. At the same place the Texans captured a quantity of clothing, shoes blankets, arms and ammunition.
On the evening of July 25th, the Federal troops marched out of Fort Fillmore towards Messilla for the purpose of attacking the Texans whereupon Lieut.-Col. Baylor hastily posted his men in positions behind adobe walls, houses and corrals, and awaited the attack. About five o'clock the enemy's cavalry was discovered approaching the town by the main road and soon afterwards the infantry came in sight, bringing with them three howitzers. They formed within three hundred yards and a flag was sent in to demand the "unconditional and immediate surrender of the Texas troops. To this demand Lieut.-Col. Baylor returned answer that "We will fight first and surrender afterwards." And soon as the answer was received the enemy opened fire on the Texans with the howitzers. After four or five rounds of shell, grape and canister, the cavalry formed and advanced up to within two hundred and fifty yards preparatory to making a charge. A few well directed shots from the Texans, killing four and wounding seven of the enemy, threw them into confusion and they retreated hastily, running over the infantry. In a few minutes the enemy retreated towards the fort and Lieut.-Col. Baylor, fearing it was a feint to draw him into a trap, did not pursue.
All next day the enemy seemed to be entrenching and preparing for a vigorous defense, and Lieut.-Col. Baylor sent a courier to Fort Bliss for reinforcements with artillery. However, it seemed that Major Lynde did not intend to attempt to hold the fort, for, early on the morning of the 27th, the columns of dust seen rising on the Fort Stanton roads in the direction of Organ Mountains, some fifteen miles distant told of his retreat.
The post had been fired, but this, the Texans soon extinguished and started in pursuit with the intention of intercepting the enemy at San Augustine Pass. Upon reaching the foot of the mountain, the rear column of the retreating enemy, composed mostly of famished stragglers endeavoring to reach water, was overtaken. These were disarmed, given water and carried on to the spring. Upon arriving there, twenty-four soldiers were found fast asleep upon the ground around a spring, so great was their exhaustion. As soon as the men and horses were refreshed, the pursuit was renewed and in a short time the enemy's cavalry was drawn up to cover the retreat of the infantry through the pass. They were charged by Captain Peter Hardeman with his company, the enemy retreated in haste leaving their wagons, artillery and supplies in the hands of the Texans. Upon gaining the summit of the pass, a plain view of the road leading to the San Augustine springs was presented, showing the fainting, famished soldiers straggling along. These threw down arms as the Texans passed and begged for water. At the main spring the enemy was drawn up in line but did not resist and surrendered unconditionally. Their colors were captured, and many years after the close of the war, General Baylor returned the colors to Major Lynde at San Antonio, Texas.
The Union forces captured consisted of eight companies of Infantry, four of cavalry, and four pieces of artillery, the whole numbering about seven hundred men, The Texans, at the surrender were less than two hundred men. The prisoners were marched to Las Cruces in a few days and all paroled.
The news of the fall of Fort Fillmore and the capture of Major' Lynde's command created consternation among the Union troops at Fort Stanton and that post was abandoned after the destruction of a considerable portion of supplies and government property; and all would have been lost but for a rain storm which extinguished the fires.
Upon receipt of the news of the evacuation of Fort Stanton, Lieut.-Col. Baylor sent Company D, under Captain James Walker to that post for the purpose of taking possession of, and preserving the government property. Lieut.-Col. Baylor then took a strong position near the village of Picacho in order to intercept Captain L. N. Moore, of Second United States Dragoons, who it was learned, was en route to reinforce Fort Fillmore with two hundred and fifty men; but before reaching that point, Captain Moore received intelligence of the fall of the Fort and the capture of its garrison and immediately burned his transportation and supplies and made his escape to, Fort Craig.
While in Picacho, the Texans were joined by General Albert Sidney Johnston, who had resigned his commission in the United States Army and was on his way from California to tender his services to the Confederate States Government. General Johnston prevailed upon George Wythe Baylor, who was first lieutenant in Company H, Second Texas Cavalry, to go with him to Richmond, which he did and was made a colonel on General Johnston's staff and was with the General when he was killed at Shiloh.
Numerous frays with the Indians and small detachments of Union troops occupied the attention of those Companies of the regiment under Lieut .-Col. Baylor during the fall, in all of which the Texans displayed the gallantry which usually characterized them.
On August 1, 1861, Lieut .-Col. Baylor issued a proclamation taking command of the territory of Arizona in the name of the Confederate States and formed a temporary government with a full quota of officers.
In December, 1861, Brigadier General H. H. Sibley arrived in Arizona with reinforcements and took command of the department of Arizona and New Mexico. The troops which had been under command o f Lieut.-Col. Baylor were attached to the Sibley brigade and thus Lieut.-Col. Baylor was left to attend to the civil affairs of the territory. With his brigade, General Sibley drove the remnant of federal troops from the Territory after several battles, the principals of which were Val Verde aad Glorietta
By proclamation of President Davis dated February 24, 1862, Lieut.-Col. Baylor was appointed Governor of Arizona and made a brigadier general in the Confederate States army.
The country being almost destitute of supplies, the disadvantages of attempting to hold it became apparent and besides, the Federals had been heavily reinforced, so the country was abandoned and the Confederate troops fell back to San Antonio, Texas.
When the Second Texas Cavalry returned to Texas, its twelve months enlistment had expired some three months before, but the regiment remained together in its original organization. The regiment was reinlisted for three years or during the war. Right here we wish to state that it is not true as stated in current history "That the Confederates were compelled to retreat to Texas, leaving behind about half of their number in killed, wounded, and prisoners."
After the very decisive victory of Lieut.Col. Baylor during the summer of 1861, he was decidedly the man of the hour, his was one of the most decisive victories for the South up to that time, considering the number of troops engaged. The praise of Lieut.-Col. Baylor was on every tongue as was the praise of the officers and men under his command who had so nobly supported him. The victory was heralded all over the South as positive proof of the superiority of the Southern soldier over his brother of the North. What a delusion! The fact that they were both Americans, and equally brave, seems to have been entirely left out of the reckoning. There are no better soldiers than Americans, whether they be from the North or South.
After Lieut.-Col. Baylor's victory, in January, 1862, the governor of Texas wrote him a personal letter thanking him and his men for the service they had rendered the country. The legislature being in session, passed a joint resolution wherein it was declared that "Lieut.-Col. Baylor was entitled to the praise and .commendation of the Legislature for his gallant and patriotic course, and that the officers and men in his command were entitled to equal commendation for their gallantry in supporting him." General Baylor came back to Texas with the Confederate troops and at once engaged in organizing what was afterwards known as the Arizona Brigade in the military operations of Texas troops.
Unfortunately for all concerned President Davis was misinformed about General Baylor's warfare against the Indians during his management of affairs in Arizona and he was deprived of his command, which Texans generally, and especially the troops of his regiment regarded as a great outrage for they knew him to be a brave and thoroughly competent officer. He remained active on the military affairs of the state and began at once to raise whatever number he could. He raised a small number of men, about one hundred, took command of them with all necessary officers clipping taken from the San Antonio Express in 1895. We here reproduce the article: and did good service in the northern part of the state. He had quite a fight with a band of men called "Jay Hawkers," who were hiding in Trinity bottom and committing depredations upon the people. In the fight several Jay Hawkers were killed including their captain, three of them were taken prisoner, two of the prisoners were executed by order of General Magruder and one, on account of his youth, was set at liberty.
In January, 1863, General Baylor took an active part in a private capacity in the battle of Galveston and was favorably mentioned by General Magruder in his report of the battle. He said of General Baylor, "I recommend to the especial consideration of the President General John R. Baylor, for his gallant conduct as a private, serving the guns during the hottest of the fight." In the spring of 1863, General Baylor was earnestly solicited by the people of his district including Parker county, to become a candidate for Congress. He yielded to their wishes and in the election held in August, 1863, was elected to the Confederate Congress.
After his election he turned his command over to Lieut. R. H. D. Sorrell, who was later chosen Captain and served as such to the close of the war. This company was attached to Col. George Wythe Baylor's regiment and known as Company I.
General Baylor made two perilous trips to Richmond to do duty as Congressman. He passed through the federal lines twice, and was subjected to many hardships, in order to avoid being captured.
During his stay in Richmond, he explained to Mr. Davis, all his policies while in Arizona and was completely exonerated and reinstated. But no command could then be raised, as all able bodied men were already in the army. Also while in Congress, Gen. Baylor took an active part in several of the battles around Richmond, fighting with any command he happened to be with.
General Baylor had three sons in the Confederate army, J. W. Baylor, W. K. Baylor and H. W. Baylor.
General Baylor settled in Uvalde county in 1879 where he continued to reside until his death in 1895. He was buried at the little town of Montell. His grave is not marked by any such memorial as the State owes his memory, but thus has Texas dealt with many of her noble sons. If Texas has neglected his memory, loving hands have erected a modest tombstone over the grave where he sleeps. "As sleep the brave who sink to rest, By all their Country wishes best."
The above facts were furnished by W . K. Baylor, a son of John R. Baylor, who was a warm personal friend of the editor of Frontier Times, and who died at his home in San Antonio about two years ago. Another son, H. W. Baylor, still lives in San Antonio, and has sent us the following
The Distinguished Texan's Meeting With
Albert Sidney Johnston.
In the death of John R. Baylor in Uvalde county, Texas, that State lost one of its most distinguished citizens. Col. John T. Crisp of Independence, who has been spending the week in St. Louis, says The Republic, was a close acquaintance with the dead soldier-statesman, and his knowledge of the striking incidents of his career will make a chapter that would be a fitting addition to the history of the great State of Texas.
"I first met Gen. Baylor in the City of El Paso after the late war was over," the colonel said yesterday. "I was walking on the plaza one morning, when my eye was attracted by a striking figure walking in an opposite direction not far away. I asked someone who the man was, but the person to whom I addressed my inquiry did not know. Then I concluded that he must be a great man and that I ought to know him. I accordingly introduced myself. He said that he was Gen. John R. Baylor, and that he had known my father and grandfather before me. I had an appointment with my wife, but I forgot it in my interest in the conversation that followed. We went to dinner. When I finally thought to look at my watch it was 4 o'clock. For six mortal hours we two strangers had talked to each other regardless of the thing called time. The most interesting thing that I heard from the lips of that grand man was his story of a meeting with Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston. It is a story that has never appeared in the history of Texas or of Johnston and is worthy of a place in each:
"Early in the war Gen. Baylor, then a colonel, was in charge of a company of men in the northwestern part of Texas. He had made a number of important captures of Federal outposts, and was pursuing his way when, one morning, in the gray of the dawn, a soldier on picket duty came to him with the report that a man had been captured in an attempt to steal the horses of the camp. Baylor ordered the man brought before him.
"I am interested," said he, in any fellow who would come to a camp as far away from civilization as ours was to steal horses.
" ' "See here," I said to him, "what does this mean? What can you hope to do with any horses you steal away out here? "
" ' "I was not stealing them," the man replied, in the very best tone and with the openest manner. "I wanted them for a particular purpose, and I was only taking them."
"His coolness struck me with particular force, and I asked him what part of the country he was from. Imagine my surprise when he said he hailed from California. For days—since the first rumor of strife had gone out over the land—I had been looking to the West as for a military Messiah in the person of Albert Sidney Johnston, with whom I had served in the army of the United States, and who was one of my chosen friends. Gen. Johnston was in California, and I wanted to know whether or not he was coming to the East in the aid of the Southern cause. Well, when this fellow told me that he was from California I took a renewed interest in him.
'See here," I said, turning to him sharply, "did you know any of the prominent men of your State? " "
' "I knew them all," he replied with confidence.
'Did you ever hear of Albert Sidney Johnston?" I asked. "
' "Very often," was his calm response. "
' "When did you last see him?" I next inquired.
'The day before I left California."
"' "Did you talk to him? "
'Yes, and at great length.
" 'Did you hear him or any other person say whether or not he was coming East to engage in this conflict?"
"'The man looked at me earnestly for two or three minutes, and then he asked this question :
"' "What is your name? "
"'I told him.
'John R. Baylor?" he asked.
'The same," I answered, a bit surprised that he should know. "
' "Well," he proceeded, "you may or you may not be the man you say you are. But I will tell you that Gen. Johnston is not three miles from here and that it was for him that I was taking your horses. He left California a few weeks ago and is now on his way East under an escort of thirty men, one of whom I am. We understood that the uniform of the Confederacy was to be anything but blue, and when I saw these blue overcoats fastened to the saddles I assumed that they were the horses of Union soldiers, hence my effort to take them. I still do not know that you are not. Prove to me that you are the man you say you are and I will conduct you to Gen. Johnston. He has often spoken of you and has expressed the hope that you might meet him on his way through Texas."
"'I at once called two of my best men and telling them to go with the stranger I told him to ask any question of any man whom he might meet until he was satisfied as to my honesty and as to the character of our political belief. We were wearing blue uniforms at the time for the reason that we had found some very serviceable garments in some of the forts that we had captured and a cold snap that came along made them comfortable. Well, to get back to the thread of this narrative, the man came back in ten minutes completely satisfied that I was Col. Baylor and that I was honest in my questions about the intentions of the great general who had gone away to California. We saddled up and rode off with the stranger. After going about three miles we went up the skirt of a mountain, and when we reached the summit our guide pointed to a camp about a mile distant and below us. At the same instant the camping party noticed us and we were, of course, the object of its gaze. Gen. Johnston stepped to one side to get a better look at us, and as he raised his glass he recognized me and I did the same to him. We rode rapidly to each other, and we actually embraced and shed tears for ten minutes before we could find words for our utterances. I was on my way North and the general refused to allow me to change my course for him. I insisted, and he said that he would go with me. I explained, that it would never do for him to go unless he were in command, whereupon he turned to me with this remark : "
' "What is the first duty of an officer of an army? " "
' "To obey," .I answered.
'Then," said he, "I command you to go on with your expedition and allow me to be a party to it."
"'I obeyed the command. "
"That story," Col. Crisp went on, "has never been in print. Gen. Baylor and Gen. Johnston met there on that occasion and they stood in that vast empire like two William Wallaces on the hills of Scotland , but one died at Shiloh and the other lost courage when the war was over, and, like a mighty oak, riven and torn by a storm, he was broken in body and spirit at the end of the war. He retired to the West, where he recuperated, and there, surrounded by his multiplying herds, he became a figure in the great domain of Texas."
Gen. Baylor was a famous Texan and a powerful man in every way. He represented his State in the Confederate Congress and was recognized long before the war as one of the brainiest, as well as one of the most brave, physically, of its many sons. He was a noted Indian fighter and had a record of slaying red-skins in personal hand-to-hand conflict. While living in Uvalde county he killed so many desperate white characters that his name became a terror to the "bad" men of that part of the Lone Star State. He was 73 years old at the time of his death and left a wife and ten married children to mourn his end.