Authors: Don Worcester
Published by M. Evans
An imprint of Rowman & Littlefield
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Distributed by National Book Network
Copyright Â© 1993 by Don Worcester
First paperback edition 2014
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The hardback edition of this book was previously cataloged by the Library of Congress as follows:
Worcester, Donald Emmet, 1915â
Gone to Texas / Don Worcester.
p. cm.â(An Evans novel of the West)
I. Title. II. Series.
PS3573.0688G6Â Â Â Â 1993Â Â Â Â 92-43126
ISBN: 978-1-59077-400-7 (pbk. : alk. paper)
ISBN: 978-1-59077-401-4 (electronic)
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information SciencesâPermanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.
Printed in the United States of America
For accuracy concerning individuals and events, this book is based primarily on Bennett Lay,
The Lives of Ellis P. Bean
(University of Texas Press, 1960) and on Bean's memoir in Volume I of Henderson Yoakum,
History of Texas
(1854). Also useful were Ohland Morton,
TerÃ¡n in Texas: A Chapter in TexasâMexican Relations
(Texas State Historical Association, 1948), and Wilbert H. Timmons,
Morelos of Mexico: Priest, Soldier, Statesman
(Texas Western College Press, 1963).
The double column of horsemen wound through the woods in Spanish territory beyond the Mississippi following powerful, black-haired Philip Nolan, who sat his blooded bay Kentucky stallion with grace, looking every bit the gallant leader. At the young Irishman's side was a taciturn, eagle-eyed old Spaniard, the veteran scout Luciano GarcÃa. Close behind them rode swarthy, straight-backed, unsmiling David Fero, who appeared to be in his late twenties. He wore an old army jacket and slouch hat that had seen better days. Nolan had introduced him as his
his second in command. “An order from him is an order from me,” he told Ellis Bean.
Ellis was a long-nosed, muscular Scotch-Irish youth with bold brown eyes and brown hair. He turned to his companion, Duncan McPherson, who rode at his side. Blond-haired, blue-eyed Duncan was, at sixteen, a year younger than Ellis and already an inch or two taller. He flashed Ellis a quick smile. “I can't wait till we get to Texas and see the wild horses.”
Ellis nodded and turned in his saddle to look back at the riders behind him. Most of them also seemed excited at the opportunity to accompany Nolan on one of his famous mustang hunts. Texas was a name that had some magic about it. Ellis gazed at Emphraim Blackburn, a tall man whose pleasant face was lined with wrinkles, and whose hair and beard were already gray. He was considerably older than most of the others, who were in their twenties. At his side was Joel Pierce, a slender, frail-looking, sandy haired, freckled youth whose wide blue eyes always seemed to have a startled expression. The pair looked like a father and son out for the first time to see the world. Ellis shook his head. Neither of them belonged on a mustang hunt in a wild land like Texas.
Behind them was Natchez farmer Mordecai Richards, who was also older than most and whose son Stephen rode at his side. Mordecai's jaw was set, and he wore the expression of a man whose conscience warned him he was on the road to sin. The others, among them Nolan's black slaves, Caesar and Robert, were only dimly visible in the dust that hung over them all. Bringing up the rear, seven Spaniards from Texas or Louisiana led pack mules loaded with guns, axes, spades, provisions, and blankets, and knives to trade with the Indians.
Nolan and Luciano suddenly checked their horses. The rest of the riders also stopped and stared. Across a grassy space a few hundred yards away a Spanish cavalry column emerged from the woods. The soldiers spread out in a battle line and advanced at a walk with leveled lances. Ellis stared at the long, polished lance blades and held his breath, his spine cold at the thought of catching a lance blade between the ribs. He glanced at the priming in the Kentucky long rifle he held across his saddle.
The cavalry kept coming until it was fifty yards away, when the officer signalled it to halt. He seemed to be sizing up Nolan's party, deciding whether to attack. Ellis licked his dry lips and rubbed a sweaty palm on his pants leg.
What do we do if they charge? he asked himself. We'll have time for only one shot apiece, and if we miss. . . . He hastily counted the lancers and saw there were only twenty.
At least we outnumber them.
Gesturing to his troops to remain in place, the officer rode forward to meet Nolan halfway between the two parties. Ellis stared at the soldiers, wondering why they had come. Nolan had said he had a Spanish passport and permission to hunt mustangs in Texas. Everyone knew he'd gone there several times since his first trip nine years earlier. The previous year, 1799, he'd brought back a big herd and had taken a few head to Virginia before visiting Vice-President Jefferson in Philadelphia. Now it almost appeared that Spanish troops were looking for the Americans, just a few days after they'd been ferried across the Mississippi at Walnut Hills, or Vicksburg, as some called it.
After a few minutes the Spanish officer saluted Nolan, wheeled his horse, and led his troops on to the east at a trot. Nolan smiled as he rode back to his own men. “That's the commander at Fort Washita,” he explained easily. “He's after Choctaw horse thieves and wanted to know if we had seen them.” Ellis exhaled. He didn't know how tightly he'd been holding his muscles until he relaxed. Nolan spoke quietly to Luciano, who nodded and led the way west.
“I thought at first they were after us,” Ellis said quietly to Duncan.
Duncan nodded. “It looked that way for sure.”
Ellis thought back to the flatboat trip he and Duncan had made down the Holston and Tennessee rivers six months ago, in the late spring of 1800. Their fathers had staked the two youths to a load of whiskey and flour, both in demand at Natchez. They had safely navigated the Narrows, but their flatboat had been wrecked at Muscle Shoals. Unwilling to return so soon, they caught a ride on another flatboat and continued on to Natchez, where Ellis' uncle, Robert Bean, farmed and raised cattle.
Outside General Wilkinson's headquarters in Natchez they'd met the impressive young Irishman, Philip Nolan, who had just returned from visiting Vice-President Jefferson in Philadelphia. His business, he told them, was catching wild mustangs in Texas; he'd be going again in October, and he could use good men. “Catching mustangs is more fun than work, but I'll give you both a share of what we catch and a peso for every day we're away after three months,” he told them. When both eagerly agreed to go with him, he added, “In the meantime, each of you get a horse and saddle. I'll count on you, and send word a few days before I leave.”
They had worked for Robert Bean clearing land and building cowpens in exchange for a mustang and saddle apiece for the long ride back to Tennessee. In October a young man brought them word that Nolan would leave Natchez in three days and was expecting them.
“Mr. Nolan is going to Texas again to catch wild horses,” Ellis told his uncle, “and he wants us to go with him.” Robert Bean looked shocked. He took his pipe from his mouth and stared at Ellis as if he'd said he wanted to go to China in a canoe.
“Don't either of you consider it for a moment,” he warned, shaking his pipe stem at them.“Governor Sargent got a letter from Captain Vidal over at Concordia. He says they're convinced Nolan is up to some mischief, and catching wild horses isn't his real purpose. It would be folly to go with him. Go back to Tennessee where you belong.” They had ignored his warning and slipped away to join Nolan's party, twenty-eight men in all.
Ellis also recalled overhearing Nolan talking that same morning to Mordecai Richards. “We'll go through the Caddos to the mustang prairies and build a small fort.” Richards looked surprised, almost shocked.
“A fort? Who might attack us? The Spaniards?” Ephraim Blackburn listened intently, a worried look on his lined face.
Nolan smiled, as if reassuring a child there were no bears under its bed. “Oh, no. Armed as we are, we've nothing to fear from them. Indians, only they won't attack a fort. But we have nothing to fear from the Comanches. I lived with them two years.” He glanced around at the others, then continued. “After we round up a big herd, we'll take it to Kentucky. I know many men who are ready to conquer Texas. The horses are for them.” Richards appeared far from reassured.
Ellis' thoughts were interrupted, for the cavalry troop trotted past them on its return to the fort at Washita. The officer and soldiers grimly stared straight ahead, ignoring Nolan's party. As he watched them disappear, Ellis' thoughts returned to Nolan's words. If he knew many men who wanted to conquer Texas, they'd obviously talked about it. The Spaniards probably had spies who reported such talk, and that must be why Captain Vidal was suspicious. Nolan seemed supremely confident the Spaniards wouldn't interfere; the cavalry troop hadn't, but it might be returning to the fort for more men. They weren't after Choctawsâthat much was clear.
“They were really looking us us,” Ellis said softly, “but they figured we're too strong.”
“They'll probably cut us off when we go by their fort,” Duncan said, with a grimace. “But we came to catch horses, not to fight Spaniards. I don't understand it.”
Instead of continuing past the fort, however, Luciano led them north of Fort Washita, and they rode steadily through the woods all night. Feeling like a fugitive, Ellis listened for sounds of pursuit. They didn't stop until they crossed the Washita River, where they made camp on a hill. Hunters killed two deer, and they hungrily sniffed the roasting venison until it was ready to be devoured. No one had much to say, for all were now sure the troops had been sent to stop them.
“I wrote that honest woman I married back in Carolina that I'd earn me some horses and come fetch her,” young Joel Pierce said. “Now it looks like maybe that wasn't a good idea.”
“I bet he ain't even got a passport,” square-jawed Thomas House said, rubbing his bushy eyebrows. “Leastwise one that's valid.” Ellis glanced at House, envying his bulging biceps, the mark of his blacksmith's trade. Out of the comer of his eye he saw someone walk away and turned his head. It was Jonah Waters, a hawk-nosed tailor from Virginia, whose shifty eyes were never still. Waters sidled up to Nolan and spoke softly to him without looking him in the face.
Nolan's face turned red, and, looking larger than usual, he strode to where House and the others sat on the ground. His black eyes flashed with anger; he was no longer the jovial Irishman. “You're trying to discourage my men, talking like that,” he snarled. “Don't meddle in my affairs; you'll find I'm the only law here.” He glared around to be sure the others were listening, then raised his voice. “If anyone tries to leave, Luciano will track him down and give him what all deserters deserve.” He nodded toward the old scout, who stood like a grim statue, with his rifle in hand. No one could doubt that he'd willingly carry out any order from Nolan. Ellis felt like he'd just stepped out of a swimming hole into an icy north wind.