I recently finished a book on the American Civil War. It’s a memoir about the author’s experiences as an artillery officer in the Army of Northern Virginia. On balance it’s a really good book, full of personal insights and observations but it follows the same pattern as many others I’ve read before. Lee did that, Grant did this, etcetera. Readers of the Civil War know these leaders lives and exploits through bestsellers and high-profile lectures, but few (including me) rarely bother with stories of ordinary soldiers as a significant portion of our reading. Maybe we should. Gary Gallagher, an award-winning Civil War author, history professor, and lecturer extraordinaire, was once asked where should one begin the study of the Civil War. Gallagher replied, and I paraphrase, “Go to the primary sources, the diaries, and personal letters of ordinary people if you want a real understanding of the conflict.”
Sage advice for those who love Texas history, too.
The title of this post is also its subject. Unimaginative, I know, but I want you to remember his name, John C. Logan.
When the call went out for volunteers to fight for Texas independence, this twenty-seven-year-old man from Louisville, Kentucky with few prospects, grabbed his rifle and joined the Louisville Volunteers. Adventure, an abiding sense of liberty, and the promise of generous land grants, enticed John and others like him to make the journey down the Ohio river, south on the mighty Mississippi, landing at Natchez. From there they marched west, through Louisiana and on to Nacogdoches in Mexican Texas. In three weeks, John and his fellow Louisville Volunteers would be in Bexar (San Antonio).
History, as you well know, is complicated. Contingencies change. Eventually John and the others would end up ninety miles southeast of San Antonio at a place called, Goliad. He would die there, one of hundreds massacred on orders of Santa Anna.
The letter highlighted is from John to a friend back home written a month before his death in March, 1836. Its words are bleak but noble and hopeful. Two decades later, John’s brothers arrived in Texas with this old letter in a saddle bag. Texas promised John, or his heirs, land grants for his military service. They did. 4,428 acres in all.
John C. Logan