THE WOUNDING OF MILFORD DAY
NOTE: I have edited some phrasing and spelling to make easier reading, but I have not changed the integrity of James Wilson Nichols's original writing on this subject. It differs some for the book "Now You Hear My Horn" since some wording in the editing of that book differed from the original manuscript from which this story was taken and from A.J. Sowell's writings on the subject. Sowell was working from stories told by his Uncles that were not there and James Wilson Nichols was recording his personal experiences.
From notes on:
Callahan's Minute Men, Burleson's fight with Cordova and the wounding of Milford Day
(James Milford Day was a brother-in-law to James Wilson Nichols.)
(His sister, Martha Hannah Nichols, married Milford Day May 02, 1838 in Gonzales, TX)
In the spring of 1839 Captain Callahan ordered this writer (James Wilson Nichols) to take three men and go on a scouting mission. I took Andrew Sowell, John Sowell and James Roberts. I went up the San Geronimo, over to York Creek and camped at a water hole until we killed two fat deer each. We fleeced off the flesh, packed up and started across to the head of Mill Creek. In order to fill out our time we aimed to strike the river and kill some turkeys and go in the next day.
Ed Burleson was then living on the Colorado River. Somehow he got wind of Cordova's outfit and hastily gathered together about 80 men. He fell in behind Cordova and was in full chase after him. I and my scout had crossed their course ahead of them. We ascended a ridge and I looked back to my right and saw a perfect swarm of buzzards all going south.
I said, "boys, what does that mean," pointing to the large gang of buzzards.
We all stopped and watched them a few seconds. Some said one thing and some said another. Andrew Sowell said, "I will tell you what I think it means. There has been a large body of Indians on their way down and those buzzards are following them. If that is the case, since we have crossed ahead of them we should go and see."
I said, "boys, if that is Indians there may be a large crowd of them. They are making directly for Seguin. We are heavily sacked and are nearer to Seguin than we are to where those guns fired. I think it would be more prudent for us to hasten to town and notify the people, get rid of our heavy packs and get the Captain and some more of the boys. Then go and see what it means."
They all agreed and we started for home. We rode as fast as we could with our heavy packs. When we arrived we learned that two of Burleson's men had come in and reported that Burleson had attacked Cordova that evening and had a running fight. They had killed and wounded over half of his number.
The citizens (of Seguin) were in considerable excitement. This was the 14th of March 1839 and Captain Callahan was making preparations to guard the town. But the alarm was so sudden and it was so late that there were no horses brought in. We had our horses, though they were tired, and we were put on picket guard.
After midnight I went to one of the boys and said, "Cordova has changed his course and they are not coming here. Let's quit our posts and go in and make preparations to start at daylight to see where they have gone."
We went in and reported our belief and intentions to Capt. Callahan. He said, "all right, Jim, get ready and I will go, too."
We made ready for an early start but one hour before daylight, Brother John Nichols came in without any bullets for his gun and reported killing an Indian who tried twice to make his escape and that he didn't think that was all that was killed for as he started off he saw another was shot. I went to John B(unreadable), a good one to bring in the wounded. He said he could help me.
By this time day was breaking and while we were harnessing up the horses Dave Runnels came in and reported none (Rangers) were killed but that Milford (Day) was badly wounded and that Tom Nichols was with him. Day had been hit with a large ball just below the collar bone, the ball was burred and was still sticking in his breast with a piece of his shirt under it.
We then started after Milford and found him suffering very much. It seems that they were all sleeping soundly and dreaming. Perhaps of the fat turkeys they were going to get in the morning. After Cordova had been defeated by Burleson he changed his course to a ford on the river about six miles above Seguin where Milford and his men were camped. Cordova was not aware that any one was near the ford. Some of them were on foot after having lost their horses in the fight and seeing the boys horses staked out, made for them. The horses commenced snorting and woke Milford just as one of them was untying his horse.
Milford thought the Indians had followed them in to steal their horses. He snatched up his gun and fired at the one that was untying his horse and he fell. That raised the other three boys and the firing became general on both sides, lasting several minutes.
After Milford discharged his gun he was on his knees reloading when the ball struck him just back of the hip going in his back and down by his left kidney, then out his right hip. Brother Thomas fired at them about the same time as the man that shot Milford fired. There were twenty or thirty of the Indians and Mexicans. Milford was afraid that they would find him. He asked Tom to drag him down the bank into the water, which he did, and held him there in the water under the bluff until their enemies left.
As they themselves (Indians and Mexicans) were on the run they did not tarry long. They (Tom & Milford) could hear them when they were crossing the river. They listened to the receding clatter of their horses feet until they were convinced the enemy had left. Tom then took his charge and swam down to the ford, a distance of two hundred yards, and dragged Milford out on the bank where we found them.
We took them home but Milford had a lingering hard and painful time before he recovered. After he was thought to be well his hip rose and several pieces of bone worked out. Then for many years he had to undergo the same pain and suffering from his hip rising and pieces of slivered bone working out. He finally recovered after years of pain and suffering, but it made a cripple of him for life. He is still living at this writing (before 1891) and limping around on one short leg.
He has seen as many ups and downs since that time as any man of his age.