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Texas Ranger History: The Battle of San Bennidito
The Battle of San Bennidito:
An Original Texas Ranger Poem by Texas Ranger S. J. Adams
Poem copyright 1999
by Mr. Richard Hale and used with permission.
Unauthorized Reproduction Prohibited.
Once in a great while, new documents are discovered
which allow us a glimpse into the personalities of past Texas Rangers.
The following introduction and humorous poem were written by Private S.
J. Adams, a Texas Ranger serving under Captain Leander H. McNelly from
1874 to 1877. Mr. Richard Hale of Kerrville, Texas, a grandson of Pvt.
Adams, preserved this priceless piece of authentic Texas Ranger "cowboy
poetry."It was forwarded to the Moody Texas Ranger Memorial Library
by Sgt. Kyle Dean of Texas Rangers Co. "F" stationed in Kerrville,
The photograph below is not related to the incident described in the
poem, but we couldn't resist using it as it is a fitting illustration
to accompany the text.
Captain Sam McMurry's Texas Ranger Co. "B", Thurber, Texas 1888.
Left to right: Ed. S. Brittain; John Bracken; Sam M. Platt; Mrs. Sam Platt;
Tom J. Hickman; Rad Platt; John L. Sullivan.
"Most of the spelling and punctuation have been left as Ranger Adams
originally wrote them a century ago."
About the Poem
In September 1876, [Captain] L. H. McNelly with his little
company of Texas Rangers, was encamped on the Nueces River, a short distance
above Oakville, in Live Oak county, restin up after several months of
hard and dangerous work.
On the river, about twenty miles below Oakvill, there was
at the time a little Mexican settlement, called San Bennidito. The Citizens
of which, were Refugees from Mexico, And from all accounts, they were
a toughe, hard lot.
About ten O'clock one night, A young German rode hurriedly
in to our camp with the information, That the Mexicans at San Bennidito
were fighting among themselves and killing each other.
Seargent Orrell, was dispached with a small body of Rangers, to look in
to the trouble, and put a stop to it.
On arriving at his destination, Seargent Orrell found several
dead Mexican men, But not a living soul in the settlement except an old
Mexican woman, who owned the house where the fight took place. With hope
of obtaining some information in regard to the Tragedy, Orrell placed
a guard at the house, To keep the old woman under surveiliance, while
he searched through the Chapparrall for the men mixed up in the affair.
Failing to find the men he was after, The Seargent returned
to camp But some of the boys who were with him, In order to have a little
fun at his expence, Claimed that Orrell had arrested the old worman, and
that in doing som He had forced them in to a terrible fight. The "Company
Poet" was called on to describe the battle, and to please the boys,
He did so.
It was quite ten O'clock, all the boys were in bed,
With no sound to disturbe save the sentinels tread,
If that could disturbe them, how lightly it fell*,
If the logs and the boxes could talk they could tell.
[*the sentinel's footsteps]
The Captain was restless, He'd been drinking beer,
For he said A presentiment [premonition], That danger was near,
Had made him feel chilly, and he thought it no harm,
To drink a few bottles, to keep himself warm.
But, The stillness was broken, the sound of a hoof,
was heard in the distance, (the roads being roughe)
And there came dashing up, Like some gallant of old,
On a foam covered Charger, a Dutchman, So bold.
The Guard cried out "Halt" But no halt did he
As he yelled like an Indian our Captain to wake,
"Oh Captain McNelly," Were the first words he said,
"The country's in arms and they call for your aid."
Of course our brave Captain lit out like a Lark,
And hunting his pistols crawled round in the dark,
As he swore like a trouper, his foes he would meet
E'er another sun set they should kneel at his feet.
Old Orrell was ordered to wake up the boys,
Which he did, With a great deal of Blasphemous noise,
The Roll being called, as it always had been,
There were thirteen Corporals, and fourteen men.
They soon saddled up and prepaired for a ride,
Then started for Oakville with Dutchy for guide,
There the Justice, (The Judge He is called as a rule)
Joined in with the squad on an old Spanish mule.
And the one legged Sheriff, That man of renown,
Who makes cuplrets tremble, with fear at his frown.
With a horse load of Writs, Which he never could serve,
For lack of a chance, Not a want of the nerve.
"Silence in Ranks, and close up in the rear,
Look out in the front, If the foe should appear,
Blaze away, show no Quarter, but slay as you go,
And should you fall, Let it be with face to the foe"
Thus far, Seargent Orrell had got on the way,
With a speech, When the mule took a notion to bray,
The boys turned loose on [with] a Methodist shout,
And the speech of our Seargent was quickly ruled out.
With the judge in the center, The march [now] began.
With two noble warriors thrown out in the Van,
To guard against any attempted surprise,
Which proved that our Seargent was cunning and wise,
Thus, The march was continued, till the break of the day,
While nought worth recording, Transpired on the way,
Old Jennings, Of course, was a mile in the rear,
Through laziness, we think, as it could not be fear.
When all of a sudden, Our Dutchman so bold,
Slipt arround to the rear, and he seemed to be cold,
His teeth knocked together, His hair stood upright,
As He said "There's the place where you'll all have to fight".
"Right there in that Mexican Jacal"* said he,
"Is a woman as feirce as a woman can be,
And let me advise you, before you begin,
To load up your guns, and take all of your men".
"I'll tell you, she's armed to the teeth, I expect,
And will fight like a Tigress, her young to protect".
"Draw your pistols" cried Orrell, "Right front into line,
We'll teach her a lesson, Dress up there Devine."
The order's obeyed, and with pistol in hand,
Our bold hardy Rangers fell in to a man,
Of course, They were pale, But the bravest men are,
When about to encounter the perrills of war.
"Charge" And the boys dashed on with a yell,
Detirmined like Heroes to fight though they fell,
The house was surrounded as quick as a thought,
The Tigress was hemmed, But, Hardly yet caught.
For a Mexican woman, Quite forty years old,
With the air of a Soldier, Defiant and bold,
Prepaired for a struggle, Stood up in the room,
In her hand was her weapon, A long handled broom.
"Surrender" cried Orrell, As he sprang through
When a sweep of the broom laid him out on the floor,
The boys rushed in to their officer's aid,
but were quickly repulsed by the sweeps that she made.
Old Deggs, and Devine, were upset in the strife,
And I fear that our Watson's a cripple for life,
Linton Wright, Has a terrible bump on his head,
And they say, She knocked Durham clear under her bead [bed].
Though the boys were quickly whipped out of the room,
They had something to boast of, They'd captured the broom,
Which formidible weapon, The Judge wished to keep,
"Just to show his old Lady, How Mexicans sweep."
The boys soon rallied a fresh charge to make,
When a big pair of shairs [shears], made the boldest to quake,
Old Polly, was greatly excited, and Swore,
He "had seen men used up by sutch weapons before."
But, Orrell was desperate, and lead on his band,
And the sizors [scissors] were quickly knocked out of her hand,
Then the boys grew nervious, And called for a truce,
then a big darning needle, was brought into use.
But, There's no woman living, and never has been,
Who with one single needle can whip twenty men,
Still, Our Tigress continued to pierce and to peg,
Till her needle broke off in the Sheriff's pine leg.
And now, all unarmed, There was left not a hope,
She was quickly surrounded, and bound with a rope,
The boys, Of course, have received a reward,
For that terrible struggle. They've doubled the guard.
* Note: A jacal (pronounced "ha call" or "ha
cal") is a traditional south and west Texas hut. Its walls are made
of upright branches, cactus staves or sticks chinked with mud. The roof
is usually thatched and it is floored with hard-packed dirt, sometimes
further hardened with ox-blood, and swept with a broom.