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Robertson Plantation


E. S. C. ROBERTSON'S PARTICIPATION

IN THE CIVIL WAR


AS DOCUMENTED IN THE ROBERTSON COLONY COLLECTION, THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
AT ARLINGTON.


PAPER READ BY DR. MALCOLM D. McLEAN,
HEAD
THE ROBERTSON COLONY COLLECTION

ON ACCEPTING

THE EARL R. DAVIS AWARD, 1990,
an engraved presentation sword.
Scabbard inscribed:
EARL R. DAVIS AWARD
1990
Blade inscribed:
DR. MALCOLM D. McLEAN

 
 
This prestigious award, established by ten friends of Earl R. Davis, one of three brothers who founded the Davis Brothers Printing Company, is conferred biennially, and is usually presented by Mr. Earl Ray Davis, grandson of the man for whom the award is named. Dr. McLean becomes the ninth recipient of this award for contributions to Texas-Confederate history.

March 31, 1990
E. S. C. ROBERTSON'S PARTICIPATION

IN THE CIVIL WAR


In making this talk I am going to try to follow the advice which I found in "Ecclesiasticus," chapter XVII, verse 8, of the APOCRYPHA, which says:

"Let thy speech be short; be as one who knoweth and yet holdeth his tongue."

Before entering upon the topic for discussion this evening, I should like to pause a moment to express my profound appreciation to my very good friend and fellow historian, Mr. Robert E. Davis, President of the Davis Bros. Publishing Company, for his vision and generosity in continuing this most distinguished tribute to the memory of his father, Earl R. Davis.  Likewise I am deeply touched by the fact that the late Colonel Harold B. Simpson, founder of this Hill College History Complex, stated, just before his death, that he wanted this honor to come to me this year.  Finally, we are also indebted to Dr. R. B. Patterson, who, despite a very busy dental practice, has cheerfully and enthusiastically agreed to be the successor of Colonel Simpson, as Director, and to carry on the brilliant research program which he established here at Hill College.

Now I want to say a few words about the man who built the E. S. C. Robertson Home, a two-story pre-Civil War mansion, located near Salado, Texas, back in a pasture just to the west of Interstate Highway 35.  He was born on August twenty-THIRD, according to entries in the family Bible and on his tombstone, but, in turning through his papers, I came across a voting registration certificate, dated February 7, 1871, which he had endorsed in an outburst of indignation against the Yankee carpetbaggers who had forced him to prove that he was a Texas citizen.  He wrote: "Bah!  I was born in Giles Co. Tenn on the 20th Aug 1820 -- Came to Texas in Dec 1832, and have been here ever since -- Strange proceedings that at the end of fifty years, the enclosed paper is necessary to make me a citizen!"

This is an excellent example of the fact that, even six years after the Civil War was over, the mere thought of those Yankees made him so furious that he even forgot the day he was born!

The next biographical information that we have found are these notes, scribbled in pencil in the front of his diary dated June 10, 1863:

1820  The year I was born
1821  Commenced talking
1822  Commenced walking
1823  Running about considerably
1824  Improving in play
1825  Learned my A. B. C -
1826  Started to school.
1827  Spelling & reading
1828  Commenced to write
1829  Did not go to school
1830  Went to school partime
1831  Did not go to school
1832  In the fall [traveled] to Texas
1833  In San Antonio at school
1834  In San Antonio to July -
1835  Writing in Land Office
(He was copying land grants in Spanish in the
Robertson Colony Land Office at the Falls of the
Brazos.  That must have been a pretty boring
assignment for a fourteen-year-old boy, but the
tedium was broken on July 29, 1835, when he
received a grant for 1,107.1 acres in his own name.)
1836  In the army -
(Actually he enlisted on January 17, 1836, as a
Private in his father's Ranger Company, where he
served for three months, and he also served under
Captain Calvin Boales, from September 17, 1836, to
January 16, 1837.  Thus he became a Texas Ranger at the age of 15.)
1837  Went to Tennessee (to attend Jackson College in Columbia.)
1838  In Tennessee at college
1839  came to Texas in May (He became Chief Clerk in the Post Office
Department in June, 1839, and he was appointed
Acting Postmaster General of the Republic of Texas
on October 10, 1839, at the age of 19, and he
served in that capacity until December 14, 1839,
when he returned to his former position as Chief Clerk.)

In his brief outline Robertson does not have any entry for 1840, but in that year he resigned his job as Chief Clerk in the Post Office Department, went to Washington County to board with a cousin, Henry Villars Robertson, and announced himself as a candidate for Sheriff in August, 1841, but was beaten by a plurality of thirteen votes.

There is no entry for 1841 either, but in that year he was planning to go back to the United States and study law, but he was unable to borrow the money. However, on November 1, 1841, he started to work as Assistant Secretary of the Senate of the Sixth Congress of the Republic of Texas, and he held that position until February 5, 1842.  After visiting San Antonio for a few days, he returned to Austin, where he was "exalted to the degree of Royal Arch Mason," on February 21, 1842, at the age of 21.  Then he went home to Washington County, arriving there in the evening of March 5, 1842, where he learned that several express messengers had passed through reporting that, on the morning of that same day, General Rafael Vásquez had occupied San Antonio with 700 Mexican troops.  Robertson set out immediately for San Antonio, but Vásquez had already withdrawn before Robertson got there. Several days later, on the morning that Robertson was preparing to start for the Rio Grande, either as a spy or with some fifty or sixty men to make an incursion on some town on the Rio Grande, he received word that his father had died of pneumonia on March 4, 1842, at the home of a relative, James Randolph Robertson, near Hearne, in Robertson County, Texas, so E. S. C. had to return home to serve as administrator of his father's estate.  He wrote in his diary:  "I felt lonely indeed.  The last link is broken almost between me & the world.  Alone and unaided I must make my way through the world."

In September of 1842, Texas was again invaded, by a Mexican Army of 1,000 men, this time under General Adrian Woll, and they took San Antonio on September 20.  Consequently on October 17, 1842, we find Robertson enlisted as Captain of Company "D" of the Second Regiment, First Brigade, Army of the Republic of Texas, Commanded by Lt. Col. J. J. McCrocklin.  His company, composed of 68 men, was formed at Independence, Texas, and reported to General Alexander Somervell on November 7, 1842, marched to the Rio Grande, and captured Laredo, but on December 19, 1842, recognizing that the expedition had been a failure, Somervell ordered his troops to return home.  Robertson got back to Independence on Christmas Day.

The next high points of Robertson's career were reached in 1844.  On February 24 of that year he was appointed Grand Master of the 3rd veil of the Grand Chapter, Royal Arch Masons of the Republic of Texas, and on August 5, 1844, President Sam Houston commissioned him as Colonel of the Second Regiment, First Brigade, Militia of the Republic of Texas.

In May of 1845 he went to the little village of Cincinnati, in Walker County, and clerked in a store for ten months, at the end of which time he made this comment in his diary:

"...Well how much did I get IN MONEY for the ten months close application to the business of a country store."

"The account was balanced by myself and my pay was 85. - 50/100 Dollars  -  This is making money with a vengeance; and at such licks in a few years I would be worth something."


"But the money was no object to me, for I felt as indifferent about taking it, as if I had been worth a million - The thing that gave me the most satisfaction in the matter, was, that I had taken an old copy of Blackstone's Commentaries over in my saddle bags and read that during the summer and that alone pretty much, to so good a purpose that [at] the fall term of the District Court of Milam County, my friends obtained a License from the Judge authorizing me to practice . . . Law"

R. E. B. Baylor was the judge who issued the license.

On July 29, 1846, Robertson married a distant cousin, Eliza Hamer Robertson, in the home of her parents, James Randolph Robertson and Susan (Oldham) Robertson, in Robertson County, Texas.  E. S. C. and Eliza had three children, two of whom died young, and Eliza herself died on March 25, 1852.

Meanwhile, in 1848, E. S. C. had been appointed Translator of Spanish Deeds in the General Land Office in Austin.  He married his second wife, Mary Elizabeth Dickey, on November 8, 1852, in Austin, and they had twelve children.

In 1854 he began construction of the E. S. C. Robertson Home in Salado, which I have already mentioned at the beginning of this paper.  Downstairs on the left of the main entrance was a little room which he used as his office. That is the place where he kept all of the records which he had inherited concerning Robertson's Colony, and that is the place where he received, wrote, and filed his own extensive correspondence.

This building, and the surrounding grounds, are described in the TEXAS CATALOG, HISTORIC AMERICAN BUILDINGS SURVEY, as "probably the most complete surviving example of a Texas plantation complex."  It has 22 rooms, two stairways, two halls, and four porches.  Add the word "ANTE-BELLUM" and you have the perfect setting for another GONE-WITH-THE-WIND Civil War romance.

Robertson was elected Chief Justice of Bell County in 1858, and in 1859 he founded the town of Salado, and Salado College, and became President of its Board of trustees.  He was commissioned Brigadier General of the 27th Brigade, Texas State Troops, April 14, 1860, by Governor Sam Houston, and was appointed Aide-de-camp to General Henry McCulloch in 1862, and served to the close of the Civil War.

Having served as a delegate to the Secession Convention in 1860, he signed the secession ordinance.  He also served as a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1875, which drafted the constitution still in effect today.

He died at Salado, Texas, on October 8, 1879, and was buried in the family cemetery near his home.

The Robertson home in Salado was then acquired by my grandfather, Maclin Robertson, Sr., one of E. S. C.'s fifteen children, but Maclin always said to the other brothers and sisters:  "Of course, the home place technically belongs to me, but it still belongs to all the rest of you, and I want you to feel free to visit here at any time, stay as long as you want to, and, when you leave, if you have seen anything that you want, take it with you."

They did, and I have spent the last fifty years trying to get those documents back together, and I don't have them all yet.  The three major collections, which are now in the Robertson Colony Collection, are as follows:

1.  The collection of Mrs. T. S. Sutherland, Sr., which was removed from the house and taken to Austin by my grandmother, Mrs. Maclin Robertson, Sr., who left them to her daughter, Mrs. Sutherland; Mrs. Sutherland gave them to me, and Margaret and I gave them to UT-Arlington.

2.  Documents that were removed by Mrs. Cone Johnson, one of E. S. C.'s daughters, who planned to write a history of the Robertson Colony.  They passed to Mrs. William C. Harllee, in Washington, D. C., and her daughter gave them to UTA.

3.  The documents that were left in the trunk after Mrs. Sutherland gave me the ones concerning Robertson's Colony.  These were inherited by her son, T. S. Sutherland, Jr., and later sold to UTA.

Up until the time when these documents were acquired by UTA, they were kept in three separate collections because we never knew when the owners might demand that they be returned, so that is the reason they are still arranged, in folders, chronologically, within each group.  the number of folders in each of the three collections for the Civil War years (1861-1865) is as follows:   FOLDERS

1.  Collection of Mrs. T. S. Sutherland, Sr............90      

2.  Collection of T. S. Sutherland, Jr....................443
3.  Collection of Ella F. Harllee...........................115

TOTAL:   648

As for the contents of the documents, I have time to read a few excerpts from only one as a typical example of what might be found in the others.  This is a letter that Robertson wrote to his wife from Tyler, Texas, on August 4, 1862, about his trip to Houston and Galveston to buy arms, ammunition, and medical supplies for the Confederate Army:

I left Tyler on the 11th July, (friday) on a mule, and monday morning a little after daylight pulled up at the Hotel in Navasota 166 miles in three days,  Doct Ewings mule having died the third day about 12 o'clock, but I hired another...and made the trip.  Got my breakfast and at 71/2 o'clock was on my way by railroad for Houston...arrived at Houston at 12 o'clock...At half past three took the cars and arrived at Galveston that night, only four days from Tyler.  The fastest trip ever made over the same ground  Just like you, you will say.  During the night found that there was no arms, ammunition or medicines there that I could purchase...Soon found that none could be bought on the credit of the (Confederate) Government, but could buy on my own account anything they had...  I bough[t] thirteen thousand six hundred dollars worth...Had a fine gray cloth coat and pants made in Houston fitting me very well. The pants have gold lace an inch broad down the outer seam, the coat is double breasted yellow collar & cuffs, four bars of gold lace on each side of the collar, and trimmed with gold lace on the arms from the elbow to the wrist with brass buttons and a single star in the centre...

That is all I have time to read now, but the other 647 documents are still lying there, waiting to be read, so I want to extend a very cordial invitation to all of you to come to the Robertson Colony Collection, which is located on the Sixth Floor of the Library, at The University of Texas at Arlington, and read the rest of those documents.

As you can see, I have heeded the admonition which I read at the beginning of this paper:

“Let thy speech be short: be as one who knoweth, and yet holdeth his tongue.”

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