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.
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
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
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
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
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.