Letters from John C. Logan, Court of Claims #4975, Special Collections, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

Hard Times in this Country — John C. Logan at Goliad

History celebrates the names of Texas Revolution figures such as Travis, Crockett, and Bowie; however many of the soldiers in the army of the Republic of Texas served in relative anonymity, their stories and experiences lost to time. In the case of John C. Logan, a volunteer from Louisville, Kentucky who fought and died for Texas’ independence, a record of his experience survives in the form of a Court of Claims[1] file held in the Archives of the Texas General Land Office.[2]

Dr. Joseph H. Barnard testified that the name Logan (“no Christian name given”) appears on his list of the men under the command of Colonel Fannin.

Nearly two decades after Logan’s death, his brothers James and Daniel petitioned the Legislature for land grants in his name. In the petition, they sought to claim a headright of one third of a league, as well as bounty and donation certificates for their brother’s service. To prove their claim, they provided substantial evidence indicating that John C. Logan had served and was killed at Goliad on March 27, 1836 , including direct testimony from family members, as well as from Dr. Joseph H. Barnard, the lead physician of Fannin’s command. Most important, however, are two letters written by Logan himself while with the army in Texas, which paint an exceptionally vivid picture of what life was like for Texian soldiers.

John C. Logan’s letter to his cousins, Lewis and Nancy Zearing, written 19 December 1835.
Logan describes having walked for 305 miles, with 200 miles to go until San Antonio, where the Texian forces had taken control of the town.
Logan predicts that Washington will soon be “a place of some business” and describes Texas as “one of the fines [sic] country I have ever seen.”

Logan’s first letter,[3] dated 19 December, 1835, was written from Washington (later, Washington-on-the-Brazos), a town Logan accurately predicts “will be before long a place of some business.”[4] In it, the optimistic private tells his cousins without complaint that he has traveled over three hundred miles on foot, with another two hundred miles yet to go until reaching Fort San Antonio at Bejar (the Alamo). He tells of receiving the news of the successful Texian Siege of Bexar, in which Colonel Milam and five privates had been killed, and he expects their offensive to shift to “Mattemora” (Matamoros). Logan describes Texas as “one of the fines [sic] country I have ever seen,” and vowed to “live to see the liberty of this country,” expecting that “it shall be some considerable length of time before I shall visit the United States again.” He closed his letter with land on his mind. He reminded his cousins:

…if I should fall in battle there is seven hundred & 40 acres of land coming to me in this Country which I leave to you if you if think it worth your while to attend to it for the law says if any person fall in battle that his relation can have his bounty of land & his monthly wages for the time he has served the Country.

Logan’s letter from December of 1835 paints a picture of an excited young man embarking on an adventure in a beautiful new land, one which he hopes to call home after the fight for independence. However, in the span of only two months, things took a dramatic change.

John C. Logan’s letter to his friend, Arnot Philips, written 24 February 1836.

Logan’s second letter,[5] written to his friend Arnot Philips, bears the ominous heading “Goliad Texes [sic] 24th Feby 1836,” the same day William B. Travis wrote his famous “Victory or Death” letter from the Alamo. This letter details some of the difficulties he and his fellow soldiers overcame to arrive at Goliad. Logan expressed that he and his comrades “have seen some hard times in the country.” He says that their supplies are dwindling: the soldiers’ diet consisted solely of beef, lacking in flour or corn, and the men were “all most naked as we are cuting [sic] up tent cloth to make us panteloons [sic],” while “a good many of us are bare footed.” Further demoralized, Logan says that “worst of all the schooner that was bringing provisions & clothes has been wrecked” en route to Copano. After describing Texas as “one of the most desirable climates that I have ever been in,” Logan concluded that “I don’t like to live in a frontier Country.”

Logan expresses his willingness to stand and fight, although greatly outnumbered.

While a large portion of the letter is spent describing the difficult conditions under which he was living, Logan also gives strong insight into the minds of the Texian soldiers. He admits that he “did intend to the United States at this time,” and he likely could have deserted if he had the motive and opportunity. He stayed, however, because “there is a force from Mexico of about 7000 men marching to retake this country again & our whole force at this time don’t exceed 800 men, but we are willing to meet them whenever they arrive.”[6] Believing his side was severely outnumbered, Logan and the men he served with believed they were facing extremely long odds, but chose to stand and fight. Unlike his first letter, which he concluded with the phrase “no more at present, but remains your affectionate cousin,” this letter is signed, somewhat ominously, with the words “Good Bye.” John C. Logan would never see his family again, as he was one of the hundreds of men massacred at Goliad.

Logan signed his second letter, the last letter received by his friends and family “Good Bye”.

Taken together, Logan’s letters create a dramatic image of what life was like during the Texas Revolution. On one hand, his letters convey a sense of hope, optimism, and the natural beauty of Texas; on the other hand, there is suffering, hardship, and death that was necessary to secure the hope found in the first letter. When Logan wrote these letters, containing private conversations among family and friends, the idea that they would someday be published for the world to see would have been the last thing on his mind. It is with great pleasure, then, that the GLO cares for and shares these remarkable documents and the intimate perspective they provide into the life of John C. Logan and other soldiers of the Texas Revolution.

Click here to sign up for weekly Texas History e-mails.

[1] The Texas Court of Claims was an administrative body created to perform a thorough audit of certificates that had already been issued, as well as to review claims and issue original, duplicate, and unlocated balance certificates to those who provided substantial evidence. It was established by the legislative act, “An Act to ascertain the legal claims for money and lands against the State.” (Acts 1856, 6th R.S., ch. 93, General Laws of Texas) , subsequently supplemented and amended in 1858 (Acts 1858, 7th R.S., ch 43, General Laws of Texas). See also: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/txglo/00073/glo-00073.html.

[2] Not much is known of Logan’s life prior to his enlistment in the Army of the Republic of Texas. Documents in his Court of Claims file indicate that he was a single man of Irish descent from Louisville, and that he had signed up as a private in a company that became known as the San Antonio Greys, under the command of Captain Samuel Overton Pettus. Logan’s company served under the command of Colonel James Fannin, and its members were among those who were executed at Goliad on March 27, 1836. Handbook of Texas Online, “Pettus, Samuel Overton,” accessed March 08, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpe51. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

[3] John C. Logan to Lewis and Nancy Zearing, 19 December 1835, Court of Claims #4975, Special Collections, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

[4] He had no idea how right he was — a mere two and a half months later, Washington was the site of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence, and shortly thereafter the creation of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas.

[5] John C. Logan to Arnot Philips, 24 February, 1836.

[6] While his numbers may not have been completely accurate regarding the oncoming Mexican assault, he was roughly correct in claiming 800 men on the Texan side — in the entirety of the Texan forces, including the Alamo, those at Goliad, and remaining troops throughout Texas.