E. S. C. ROBERTSON'S PARTICIPATION
IN THE CIVIL WAR
AS DOCUMENTED IN THE
ROBERTSON COLONY COLLECTION,
THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
PAPER READ BY
DR. MALCOLM D. McLEAN, HEAD
THE ROBERTSON COLONY COLLECTION
THE EARL R. DAVIS AWARD, 1990,
an engraved presentation sword.
EARL R. DAVIS AWARD
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
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
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.
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
1821 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 recieved 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.]
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 Vasquez had occupied San Antonio with 700 Mexican troops.
Robertson set out immediately for San Antonio, but V squez 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
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
R. E. B. Baylor was the judge who issued the license.
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
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
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
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
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 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.
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.
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.
The number of folders in each of the three collections for the Civil
War years (1861-1865) is as follows:
Number of Folders
Mrs. T. S. Sutherland, Sr.
T. S. Sutherland, Jr.
Ella F. Harlee
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 other 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."