Toils and Troubles in Texas

The following “Narrative” was composed by Elias P. Bean, and dated New Orleans, October 21, 1814.  It was copied in several other newspapers, but the one I found it in was the Shamrock, of New York City, December 10, 1814.  Read, and decide whether, in your opinion, Elias Bean ever received an education in arithmetic.

“Philip Noland, a native of Ireland, a man of an active intrepid spirit, conceived the bold project of visiting the north western parts of the kingdom of New Mexico, in search of the wild mules and horses that roam in those vast uncultivated regions.  He proposed when he had collected a sufficient number, to conduct them in droves to the U. States for sale.  For this purpose he associated 23 adventurers, 7 Spaniards and 18 Americans, among whom was the undersigned, who with their gallant leader, took their way from Natchez.

On our route, we suffered every sort of privation–among the rest all our provisions were consumed in a few days, and we were driven to sustain life on horse flesh, and even on the raw hides attached to our saddles and baggage.  After ninety days travel we reached the settlements of the Pannie and Chormandas Indians, about 50 leagues to the north of St. Antoine.

Having selected a convenient spot for our operations, we constructed a fort of logs for our defence, and the necessary works for taking our prey.  We had already proceeded far in our enterprize, had taken a great number of mules and horses, and began to mediate the enjoyment of our labours when we were attacked suddenly at night by a party of 150 Spaniards and Indians, with small arms and one piece of artillery.  They pursued their attack untill the afternoon of the succeeding day, when our gallant leader being slain, by a ball through the head, and two others severely wounded, we surrendered on condition we should  be permitted to return to the United States.  But no sooner had we laid down our arms than our insulting victors seized on our persons and conducted us as prisoners to Nacogdoches, where the Governor refused to sanction the condition of our surrender, and ordered us to be put under close confinement.–After remaining some months in this situation, Robert Ashly, John House, Michael Moore with a negro man, effected their escape over the prison walls, eluded their pursuers and arrived safe at Natchez.

To prevent the recurrence of a similar accident, we were removed to Chiwawa, 300 leagues in the interior of the kingdom, where we were accused and tried before the Governor of that place, but no crime being established upon us, we were suffered to disperse ourselves at will in the neighbouring village until the pleasure of the court of Spain could be known, before whom our case had been laid.–After five years dreadful suspense, the long looked sentence arrived.  It condemned every fifth man to be selected by a cast of the die to be hanged; and the rest to suffer ten years imprisonment.  From this sentence the Spaniards were exempted; which together with the death of J. Pierce, reduced our number to nine.  But one therefore was destined to suffer.  We were blindfolded, and each in his turn, with a throw of dice, on the head of a drum, decided the awful question of life and death.  The lot fell on Blackburn, who was executed the next day.

Before the arrival of this sentence from Spain, we made an unsuccessful attempt to escape.  By our industry, we acquired money and mules, and having got every thing in a state of preparation for flight, I wrote to one of my companions, to repair at a given hour of the night to the place whence we should take our departure.  The letter was entrusted to Jonah Waters, who broke the seal and exposed its contents to the Governor–thus was our project defeated, and Waters rewarded with an unconditional pardon for his treachery.

After the execution of Blackburn, David Pharoh, J. Read, Talman Gooley, William Danley, I. Gorcier, and myself, were sent to Accupulco, and thrown into a deep narrow dungeon.  We continued in this abode of misery for three years, until the present revolution broke out in Mexico, when the royalists threw open  our prison doors and gave us our liberty as the price of espousing their cause.–We did not however fight more than 15 days under their banners before we went over to the American party, still true to the principles of liberty, we had carried with us from our native land.  Six months after this event, Talman Gooley was taken prisoner by the royalists and shot.  J. Reed received a severe wound in an engagement, of which he died; Pharoh was assassinated in his bed by an unknown hand.  J. Danley, by the zeal and address he displayed in the cause of the Republicans, soon raised himself to the rank of Colonel in their armies, which capacity he still fills in the province of Puebla.  Of those who remained at Chiwawa to undergo the sentence of ten years imprisonment, the undersigned can say nothing with certainty.

The congress or legislative body of the Republicans being desirous to establish friendly relations with the United States, deputed for this purpose the Field Marshal Don Juan Ayana, and the undersigned, who now fills the capacity of Colonel in their armies.–We arrived at New-Orleans on the 6th day of Sept. 1814 where I have written this narration of my suffering companions, for the information of their friends and relations in the United States.”

                                    ELIAS P. BEAN
New Orleans
Oct. 21,  1814

            According to the web site for Peter Ellis (Pedro Elias) Bean at some point after Bean had reached Louisiana, he met Lafitte, and, with him, contacted General Jackson and offered their services. As the British guarded the coast, the two threaded their way through the swamps and bayous to the city.  Bean was well known to Jackson, and was at once placed in charge of a battery.

About the Author

Mary Bowden is a researcher working at the Texas Collections Deposit Library at the University of Texas. A little-known but invaluable treasure of U.S. history and the history of American journalism is archived in the collection of bound United States’ Newspapers at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection began more than a century ago and has been stored in recent years in the Texas Collections Deposit Library on the campus of the University of Texas. The sizeable archive is currently in the early stages of being digitized before being moved to a more climate-controlled environment at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University, on the north side of Austin.

Mary Bowden