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Capt. James H. Callahan

 

This account was written by James Wilson Nichols.  It contains a short biography of the life of Capt. Callahan's move to Texas in 1836, his last service in the Texas Rangers as well as the incident that resulted in his death.  From his account it seems apparent the altercation with the Blassengame's began as idle gossip most probably with the ladies, the men got involved and as gossip usually does, it got out of hand.

 

He apparently felt Callahan went to the Blassengame cabin to resolve the issue in a non violent manner.  They carried guns because everyone did... it was the accepted necessity of that time period.  The Blassengame's knew Callahan would eventually attempt to resolve the issue, therefore were afraid of explaining their envolvement in the circumstances. 

 

A old saying is:  "A coward will hurt you before a brave man will"... or it could be altered to say "a scared man will hurt you before a brave man will".  Quite possibly this was true in this unfortunate affair.

 

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Captian James H. Callahan was a native of the State of Georgia and in 1836 in Texas’ darkest days young Callahan, after reading an account of the fall of the Alamo’s famous massacre and other outrages, committed on civilization by order or in person of Santa Anna and also some glowing accounts of the heroism and deeds of valor performed by the Texans in such small bands. It made his heart beat high to be with them and head for Texas.

His parents so bitterly opposed it and his mother by her remonstrances and tears caused him to relinquish his intentions. But the next spring on the account of a disappointed love affair he once more set his face westward and this time all the interference by the family was of no avail; he wended his way for Texas.

He landed at Galveston the 7th day of April 1837. After cruising around in that town and Houston, he shipped for San Antonio and of that place he took an aversion on first sight as it was then almost entirely inhabited by Mexicans. He then started back east but let up in the little town of Seguin.

He called at my Fathers house (George Washington Nichols) for board and lodging for a week as his horse was very lame. The place was just starting; there was but three or four cabins in the place. He remained at Fathers and made that his home and headquarters when not off on business working at his trade, when not on a Scout after Indians. Consequently I had a good opportunity to know him well.

He was at the head of every shiveree party dance or serenade or any such fun as young people loved to imagine at that time. He was humorous, social, an openhearted man; brave and cool in battle but cautious and prudent in the common walk of life. He was hard to raise but once raised his passion knew no bounds. He was a true friend to his friends but a man that an enemy might well dread and shun. To respect him was but to know him. He seemed to have been born to command although not schooled in military tactics he seemed to understand the best mode of Indian or border warfare.

In a fight with the enemy he said it was the imperative duty of every man to take care of himself and the devil take the hindmost in the course of human events.

He married the widow Alsberry, a daughter of the widow Day and sister to Milford Day and lived in Seguin. After raising and commanding every Minute Company that was ever raised in and around Seguin but one, he bought land and settled on the San Jeranimo Creek. While living there he bossed a herd of cattle through by land to California for Major Mike Erskins. Some time after he returned there was a call for another Minute Company. Our border tribes were now quiet but the Caneies and Bolusies who had taken refuge in Mexico had commenced depredating on our frontier let in part by Mexican outlaws. Captain Callahan ever ready and willing to do his country service raised a company and did excellent service following those marauding bands and chastising them.

A while before his turn of service was out these Mexicans, Indians and a few Negroes made a raid into Texas from Mexico and stole a large drove of horses from the settlers and med their way back towards Mexico. This band was headed by Antonio Perez and Captain Callahan, always on the alert and ready at a minutes warning, set out in hot pursuit with about 38 men. But when Callahan arrived at Eagle Pass the marauders had crossed over about two hours in advance of him and having no orders to cross the Rio Grande he was at his rows end. He chided over his disappointment until the next morning. Being the most determined man I ever knew and him hating to be out done the worst, he left his Company and with a small escort, crossed over to see the authorities and demand the stolen property. The accolade told him that they had no troops under their control but they would give him a written authorization to cross his men over and follow them and take both property and thieves. So Callahan crossed over und this written authority.

Little did Callahan suspect a trap was set for him. He was aiming for Santa Rosa but stopped at Morales where he found some of the stolen horses. The accolade of that town told him to wait until morning and he would have the balance of the horses brought in to him. That evening Callahan went in to camp little thinking that he was led into the trap already.

Parize had left the horses and pushed on to where he had 200 troops stationed and made preparations to capture Callahan and his party the next mooring before daylight. Callahan was attacked in an open field but there being a ditch nearby although half full of water, Callahan made his way thither and as the Mexicans opened fire on them with two pieces of artillery they now had a secure shelter in the ditch. Charge after charge was made by the Mexicans and was repulsed each time with heavy loss by the Americans.

They kept up this dispute engagement all day without ceasing. Late in the evening the Mexicans were reinforced by the villagers and made one more desperate onslaught to try to dislodge the Americans but failing in the attempt, they drew off with heavy losses and gave Callahan time to bury his dead and retreat in good order with his wounded to Eagle Pass.

As I was not a member of the expedition I can not give the predicted loss of this battle, only as it was related to me by Henry B. King who was wounded there. Callahan had 3 men killed.; Willis Jones, a son of Judge Wm. E. Jones, Eustace Benton, and one other man. Men wounded were Henry B. King and one other man. It was said there was more men killed and wounded than was reported by Callahan but it was kept as secret as possible on the account of Callahan crossing over into Mexico without orders from his government. So the full particulars of this affair never were known publicly. It was afterwards learned that the Mexican loss in this fight was sixty-three killed and wounded.

Callahan returned and disbanded. That was the last company Captain Callahan ever commanded. He sold all his property in Seguin and his homestead on the San Geronimo and bought property in Prairie Lee and went into the mercantile business. He followed that with some success until about the year 1857 when he sold out for cattle and in the company with Clem Hinds and Johnson, known all over the west as Mall Heel Johnson, moved to Blanco County.

Hinds, Callahan, and Johnson all bought land together as they all had cattle and kept them together. Just above them on the river lived a large family by the name of Blassengame. A difficulty arose between the Blassengames and Callahan’s families. It kept on getting worse and worse until it began to involve the men folks in the difficulty. Stories being told by both parties. Finally there was some scandalous tales told about Callahan’s family. This talk seemed to float over the neighborhood unbounded. At the same time the Blasengame's dreaded an altercation with Callahan but it was something they expected daily and consequently prepared themselves for it.

One morning after this gossip had been running high for a few days Callahan, Johnson and Hinds set out on a cow hunt. It was necessary those days to carry their arms with them on account of Indians.

Callahan proposed to go by the Blassengame house and give them a talk in order to see if he could stop the tattling. The three men rode up to the yard fence, some twenty steps from the door, and hollered “Blassengame”. Three grown sons had seen them riding up and suspected they were coming for a row as they were armed. The Blassengames snatched up their double barrel shotguns and went in to another house, punched out a large chinking so they could peep out and watch the maneuvers of the three men. They sent the Old Lady out to see what they wanted. Callahan told the Old Lady to tell the old man to come out there, that he wanted to talk to him on particular business. The Old Lady reentered and a short pause ensued, then reappeared at the door and while she was standing there the Blasengames opened fire on the three men killing Callahan and Johnson dead and wounding Hinds severely in the shoulder making a cripple of him for life.

Hinds returned to town and reported the circumstances and the people gathered in mass and arrested the whole family including two women. There was one young man of the family that was absent at the time and about the 3rd or 4th morning after the shooting he was the only one of the name in that County that was left on the surface of God’s green earth.

So that ended the earthly career of a good, noble and brave man and his wife soon followed him as she was in delicate health and the shock was too great for her to bear. She survived her husband but a short time leaving six children to mourn their loss.
 

 

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