A VISIT TO AUSTIN . . . A FANDANGO IN SAN
San Antonio in the Forties... 1846
William and Mary Ann were married in San Antonio in December of 1844. This article helps develop a flavor of what early Texas was like.
In the San Antonio Daily Express of Sunday Morning, June 1, 1902, in an article headed "San Antonio in the Forties," Col. George H. Giddings related many interesting incidents. After the following excerpt, he talked about the Mexican War, about a train robbery in Mexico, about Indian attacks, and a San Antonio vigilance committee (vigilantes).
George H. Giddings came to Texas in 1846 with a contract to carry mail from San Antonio to San Diego, California. later, he served as a colonel in John S. Fords regiment, Confederate States Army, and was in command at the battle of Palmito Ranch [The Handbook of Texas].
" [Colonel Giddings] stated that he was serving in a Ranger company which was stationed near the Brazos Falls late in the summer of 1846 when the news was brought in that General Santa Ana, the Mexican army commander, had defeated Gen. Zachary Taylors United States Army forces and was about to invade Texas with a large force of Mexican troops. Colonel Giddings said:
Captain Smith our captain, ordered the Ranger company to be mustered and appointed me to make the muster roll and appraise the horses and equipment, as it was contemplated to make ours a part of the United States army. The roll and appraisement were sent in to the commanding officer at San Antonio, from which point we received an order to go there. George W. Adams and myself, as we had fine horses, were sent on ahead. Our rations were scanty, consisting principally of salt, pepper, black coffee and what game we might kill along the way. There were plenty of buffalo in those days and I am satisfied that I have seen a million of them at a time. later we came up with a party of Arkansas immigrants in a covered wagon. We asked the woman with the party if she would not get us some breakfast, as we were quite hungry. She told us that her husband was then out hunting his mules, which had strayed off the night before, and she had nothing but some sides of bacon, some corn and coffee. She ground the corn in a steel hand mill and sent her boy, whose name was Charley, aged 17 years, out to see if he could not kill some game and find a tree in which bees had made honey. The boy reluctantly went out but was successful in his quest, bringing back some fat venison and a bucket full of honey. I do not think I have in all my life ever eaten a meal which I relished more than the one that we had after the boys return.
We then continued our journey, making our next stop at the house of Captain Lytle on Little river. We made our next stop at Austin, at the only tavern there. It was kept by Captain [John Milton] Swisher, who had been in the Battle of San Jacinto. We called on the acting Governor, A.C. Horton, as the Governor was in the field with the troops in Mexico. [Horton was Acting Governor 19 May 1846 to about 1 July 1847 while James Pinckney Henderson was commanding Texas troops during the Mexican War.] Col. W.G. Cook [e] then adjutant general of Texas, accompanied us on to San Antonio. When we reached Manchaca Springs, about fifteen miles west of Austin, we found that a band of about fifty Indians had killed a family of German immigrants and were in the act of plundering their wagons. We came in sight of them about 500 yards from the road. When the savages saw us they mounted their ponies and chased us for twenty-five miles to the Blanco river. As we fired a parting volley at them we rode on to New Braunfels which was then the headquarters of the German emigration company whose agent was the Baron Meusebach. Some of his descendants are living now in San Antonio. We reported the killing of the German family by the Indians and he sent out a party to bring in the dead. New Braunfels was then a very small place with a very few houses and not many inhabitants. The baron gave us a fine dinner with a liberal quantity of wine.
We went on to San Antonio and on arrival stopped at the Veramendi Palace, a hotel kept by W.G. Krump. This was the only hotel that I remember to have seen in San Antonio at the time. There was a fandango or dance there that night and we attended it. This was given in a long room lit faintly with tallow candles. The musicians were seated on a slight elevation at one end. There were tables at which games of monte and other games of chance were being dealt and played at the other end of the same room, while the dance was going on. The city was then full of soldiers and many of them formed the crowd in attendance at the dance and at the gaining tables. An altercation arose over one of the games and shooting soon followed. There were at least a dozen shots fired. During the melee two men were killed and three others badly wounded. I thought, of course, that this tragic episode would terminate the festivities of the occasion, but to my surprise, after the dead and wounded had been carried away, the blood was either washed away or covered with sand and the dance resumed as though nothing unusual had occurred. The girls, who had fled but a short distance, returned, the harper and fiddlers resumed their music and the floor on which the dead and wounded had fallen and laid but a few moments before was filled with the dancers. This was the first fandango I had ever attended and I there saw the first white man I had ever seen killed in a personal encounter. I have seen many so shot since. Likewise I have seen several since shot during the progress of fandangoes in San Antonio in the olden days.
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