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 remonstrance's
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
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
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
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
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.
Written by: James Wilson Nichols