"The Goliad Survivors"
Wood from the river escape site with blue inlay
The Texans were awakened and told that they would be marching to the gulf coast to be put onto ships bound for New Orleans. But as the Texian soldiers were moved out in front of the fort, they were divided into three groups of around 150 men each, and marched out in three different directions, being north, south, and west. At approximately one half mile away from the fort, each group was ordered to halt, and within moments, they were shot. Less than 30 men were able to escape.
This is a survivor's story.
As a foggy daylight broke on the morning of March 27th, which was Palm Sunday, there was somewhere around 425 and 445 captured Texan Soldiers being held at the Presidio La Bahia Mission near Goliad after surrendering to the Mexican army at Coleto Creek. Mexican General Urrea wrote to Santa Anna asking for clemency for the Texians, but Santa Anna repeatedly ordered the General to comply with a new law that any prisoners taken in combat were to be considered pirates and executed. Santa Anna also sent this order to Urrea’s second in command, Colonel Jose Portilla, who was now in charge at the Presidio, demanding that the order be carried out.
Portilla decided it was his duty to comply, despite receiving a countermanding order from Urrea later that same day.
27-year-old Burr Duval was the commander of the “Kentucky Mustangs,” a group of riflemen organized from a larger group of Tennessee volunteers, who were sent to serve under James Fannin at Goliad.
Joining Burr was his younger brother John Crittenden Duval, who had just turned 20-years-old on March 14th.
John C. Duval
The soldiers were divided into three groups. The group which included Burr and John Duval was marched out of the gates of the presidio, not towards the coast as promised, but towards the west along the Old San Antonio road. A wiry shorthaired dog trotted alongside them. He had joined in with the “New Orleans Gray’s” company in Louisiana in Oct. of 1835, and had followed them throughout their travels. He’d become an adopted member of all the Texan army during their captivity within the chapel.
The men were marched out in two rows, sided by side. After travelling less than a mile, they were stopped by the guards, John heard another man yell out, "Boys! they are going to shoot us!" The next thing he heard was the clicking of musket locks along the Mexican line. John turned just as the gunfire rang out. As he was standing in the second row of men, the soldier directly in front of him took the hit of musket balls and fell backwards, knocking John down and landing on top of him. As John pushed his way out from under his dead comrade, he could see through the cloud of spent gunpowder that the entire line of Mexican soldiers had charged past him and were chasing others who had not been hit and were now running towards the trees along the river behind him.
The west massacre site along the old San Antonio Road
Realizing that reaching the river and the trees would be his only chance of surviving, he took off running after them. As the tree line along the river got closer, he made a dash directly through the Mexican line in the same direction that they were running. Reaching the edge of the trees, one of the Mexican soldiers charged after him and lunged with his musket bayonet. At that moment, another fleeing Texan ran right between them and was hit with the bayonet, the force twisting his body and the musket to the ground. Without hesitating, John dashed down the bank and plunged into the river. The Mexican soldiers now reloaded their muskets and began firing on the men in the river. The greater the distance the better, since Mexican gunpowder was a poor quality, and being hit from a distance by a ball could leave a bad bruise, but not necessarily be fatal.
The river was running swift, and the bank on the opposite side was too steep to get out. The mascot dog had also made a dash for the river following the fleeing soldiers, and had apparently taken a bullet as well. He jumped into the river with some of the other men, but sank into the river before making the opposite bank and was not seen again.
Looking across to the west bank of the San Antonio River where the fleeing men would have entered the water.
John swam fast for at least another one hundred yards before climbing out and dashing into the trees. He quickly passed through them, and as he neared the tree line that opened to the prairie, directly in front of him was a party of stationed Mexican lancers sitting on their horses. They couldn’t see him in the shade and cover of the trees, but he could plainly see them. Moments later, dashing through the trees not far from him was another Texan he knew named Holliday who was heading for the edge of the trees. John waved and was successfully caught his attention and stopped him before he ran out into the open. Then shortly after that, another young man from Georgia named Brown came up and joined them.
Holliday was anxious to keep moving, afraid the Mexicans coming from the river behind would catch them, but Duval and Brown wanted to wait where they were for a few moments and gather themselves. A short distance down the tree line, four or five other Texans ran out into the open prairie and the lancers took off and quickly killed and looted them. They then remounted and headed farther down river at a gallop. This was their chance, and they took off out of the trees and across the prairie, trying to stay low and in a shallow ravine of grass. They had hardy crossed two hundred yards before the lancers returned to their position. Without any trees or brush to conceal them, they were in plain view for over a quarter mile, but as the soldiers were focusing their attention along the tree line, they never noticed the men slowly moving across the prairie behind them. John said that they heard musket fire throughout the day as they traveled about five or six miles before stopping in a thick grove to rest and stay hidden until dark.
The next morning Brown was unable to travel. He had pulled off his coat and boots and thrown them after he’d swam the river, and some of the prairie they had to cross had burned the day before and the sharp remnants cut his feet badly. This same injury happened to other survivors that had kicked off their water soaked boots after swimming the river so they could run faster.
Brown had a small pair of scissors that he gave to John who cut off the legs of his boots and fashioned him some crude sandals out of. As thanks, Brown separated the scissors and gave John one of the halves.
They set out and had traveled about one hour before coming to a line of trees, bordering what John thought would be one of the branches of the Coletto creek. But before they reached the trees, they laid down on the grass to rest, and scarcely had they done so when a party of ten Mexican lancers came riding up to within fifty yards of where they were. As luck would have it, another soldier came riding in and stopped to talk with them.
For what felt like an hour to them, but was really only a few minutes, the lancers sat on their horses talking to each other within a few paces of where the men were lying, and without a single bush or tree hiding them from view. The soldiers never looked in their direction, and eventually rode on and once far enough away, the men dashed on into the trees.
The weather was cloudy and drizzly, and not being able to see the sun they had nothing to guide them, and they were guessing on their bearings. By this time they had grown very hungry, and while there was wild game all around them, they had no way to get one. But their minds began turning them into what could be wonderful meals, which made them even hungrier. At that time of year there were no more berries, and the fallen pecans and other nuts had already been taken by wild hogs, deer and other animals. They found and ate some wild onions, but that only made their hunger worse.
Holliday was the oldest of the party and had taken the lead, but after crossing a creek, John paused, sure that this was a creek that they’d already been through. Holliday disagreed, but after dark, their worst fears were confirmed when they came within sight of the town of Goliad. They turned around and set out again in the opposite direction, but after an hour, John watched as Holliday was taking a path that was turning them back towards Goliad again.
John stopped him and said that he’d had enough and was going to lead now. Holliday was from the city, and Duval was a frontiersman who knew the country. John turned and headed off in the opposite direction. Brown hesitated, but only briefly before turning and following him as well.
Holliday stood where he was until Duval and Brown were about a hundred yards away before deciding to follow. He told them that he’d rather, “…go the wrong way than part company and be alone.”
They were now getting so hungry that it was hard to sleep, and were getting so weak they could scarcely walk two hundred yards without stopping to rest. When crossing over the high rolling prairie, water was hard to find and thirst was added on top of their hunger. They found some cactus and was able to get a, “…quantity of tasteless juice that answers as a tolerable substitute for water.” After five days of travelling, they reached a river which John believed was the Guadalupe. After crossing, hungry and exhausted and with darkness setting in, they settled down into a ravine to get out of the cold blowing wind and laid down on the leaves and fell asleep.
John didn’t know how long he’d been asleep, but he woke up to a rustling sound in the dry leaves and sticks above him. Looking up, he could just see a wild sow with her litter of pigs coming down the bank of the sink. He quietly grasped a piece of tree limb lying near him and sat still as they moved closer towards them. Once close enough, John sprang up and began swinging the limb into them. The noise startled Brown and Holliday awake, and seeing what was happening, they jumped into action to help. Before the pigs could escape up the steep bank, they were able to grab five of the small pigs. They immediately started a fire, and, “…with no other preparation than a slight roasting on the coals enough to singe off their hair, we expeditiously disposed of the five pigs.” They slept well that night.
The following day, and now feeling better after getting some much-needed food in them, they saw a party of Indians on horses passing by on the prairie. But hiding in a ravine of grass, the men went un-noticed. They kept moving across prairies to tree lines for days.
As evening approached at the end of another day, they came upon ten or twelve horses staked out, and as they were approaching them, they heard people talking in the woods nearby.
John wanted to move on away from there, but Holliday thought the horses may belong to a company of Texan scouts and he wanted to find out before leaving.
Duval and Brown hid in some bushes as Holliday worked his way closer towards the voices. A dog in the camp began barking, and soon, a Mexican "ranchero" came out of the trees to see if their horses were safe. Unfortunately, he ended up walking straight towards the bushes where Duval and Brown were hiding, and was stopped in his tracks when he noticed them. He said, "Hey! Americanos! What are you doing here? Do you want to steal our horses?"
He made signs for the men to follow him, which they did, since all he had to do was call out and the others in his camp would come and help easily capture the weakend men. Holliday was a short distance away in the bushes watching what was happening.
As the two men crawled out and started to follow the ranchero, John motioned to Brown to notice the ravine that they were headed towards. He pointed in two directions, and Brown understood what he meant. As they came near the edge of the ravine, John dashed off to the left, as Brown jumped off down into the ravine in the opposite direction. The ranchero yelled out "Here are Americans, come quick and bring your guns."
That was the last Duval would see of Brown and Holliday on this journey.
John ran for over a mile in the drizzling rain before dropping at the foot of a tree and covering himself up with Spanish moss. He spent the night there, the coyotes howling continuously waking him up and reminding him that he was now alone.
When he awoke the next morning, the birds were singing and squirrels were chattering in the trees. The rain had ceased, and after “...making his toilet,” he started back in the direction from where the men had separated. But when he got there, John said that, “No living thing was visible on the prairie as far as I could see, except some herds of deer and a flock of wild turkeys.”
After inspecting the ranchero’s camp and finding nothing that he could eat, and with all hope gone of finding Brown or Holliday, John struck out across the prairie. After walking a short distance, he looked back and noticed a cabin that had been hidden from his view. He ran back to it and found that everything had been strewn about, but was able to find some ears of corn and a bit of bacon. He spent the day there, and spreading some "...tattered bed clothes” that he found in the house out on the floor, he slept comfortably until the next morning.
As John made his way, he would come to swollen rivers from the spring rains. Stripping down on the bank, he held his clothes up on a dry chunk of wood as he swam across. This made it easy to quickly put them back on when he reached the opposite bank and continue moving without heavy wet clothes.
At one point, he heard a barking dog in the distance that seemed to be getting closer, as if tracking him. He raced out into the prairie for a good distance, and then turned around and ran back along his same trail. He then dropped down into a ravine and concealed himself in a cluster of fallen trees. The barking grew louder, and in a short time saw the dog being followed by three Indians emerging from the trees. One of the Indians held the dog by a leash, and was armed with a gun, the other two had their bows and lances. The dog lost his trail, but the Indians urged him on in that direction until they were finally out of sight.
John made his way towards another tree lined small stream. Upon reaching the trees, he noticed several large wolves trotting along behind him. He realized that they were smelling the meat that he was carrying. The wolves would pause and “set up a howl,” which was answered by others in the distance, and before long, quite a few had gathered around him. He hurried along to the creek where he pitched a camp next to a large fallen tree that he could set on fire which would last throughout the night. As long as the fire was burning, he was relatively safe from attack. It was impossible to sleep, as occasionally the wolves would venture up to within a few feet of the fire, howling and snarling. John would throw pieces of flaming limbs at them, but they would soon begin their howling again.
The following day was dark and misting, and John traveled until he began to feel that the was losing his direction. He settled into some trees to try to start a fire and cook some of the pork that he’d been carrying, but lacking any salt on it, the meat was quickly turning too bad to eat. He roasted all of it on sticks next to the fire to try to save it. Finally, the clouds thinned enough to allow the sun through and confirmed his suspicion that he had changed course in the wrong direction. The wolves continued to follow him as he headed out across the prairie again.
Late in the day, he came to a creek which turned out to be the “Tres Palacios”. He made a camp near the creek in a little open space surrounded by a thick growth of underbrush and made a bed from Spanish moss that he pulled down from the trees. During the night after his fire had gone down, John awoke and said the he “…heard the stealthy but heavy tread of some large animal nearby.” He laid still and listened. Fortunately, a small piece of the wood in the fire fell over and re-ignited, revealing a large panther. John quickly grabbed a clump of Spanish moss and threw it onto the fire, which blazed up brightly, and the panther took off into the trees. He kept the fire well fed the rest of the night, and left out early the next morning.
Late in the evening, John came to a large body of trees that he thought a stream would be in, and noticed a small cabin on the edge of the trees. He kept under cover until he was near enough to see there was no one there. Going up to it, he could then see that it had already been ransacked by the Mexicans, who had taken everything they could. But nearby he came across a young hog that had been recently shot and a portion of it cut off. He took as much of it that he could, and moving down into the trees far enough to hide his fire, he cooked the pork and ate before settling in for another night.
Up and moving again the next day, he stopped to rest in a small grove of trees before crossing another large section of open prairie. His choosing to stop and rest instead of going on out into the prairie was well timed, since just as he was getting up to leave, he heard the tramping of horses' hoofs and jangling of metal. Quickly ducking down, he saw about twenty Indians trotting on their horses in single file along the tree line. They rode within thirty feet of where he was lying, and after a few moments, they were hidden from view by another grove. He stayed where he was for a good while longer just to make sure that they didn’t come back and possibly catch him out in the prairie. Moving along near trees was relatively safe, but out in the open when crossing a prairie, the chances were obviously much greater of being picked up by parties of Mexicans or Indians.
John made his way across the large prairie, and on the far side he saw a long line of unbroken trees stretching from the northeast to southwest as far as he could see. It was nearly nightfall when he finally reached them, and he could then see the large river which he knew must be the Colorado. The river was about two hundred yards wide and very high due to the recent heavy rains. He decided to wait until the next morning before attempting to swim it. John felt some hesitation the next morning before entering the swift water. Although he was a good swimmer, he found a large dry piece of deadwood to tie his boots and clothes onto.
Slipping into the turbulent waters, he pushed the log in front of him as he swam towards the other side. The current ended up taking him a good distance downstream before he landed on the opposite bank. He rested and dried his clothes before setting out through the trees before once again emerging into an open prairie.
He continued moving for another day, coming across another set of cabins that had already been plundered of anything useful to him.
Tres Palacios Creek
With the escort of dogs John went to the house, and upon entering found that everything was untouched and as it was when the occupants had left. There were bookcases filled with books, plenty of food and, a welcome find, fresh clothes that, “…fit tolerably.”
There were a lot of chickens and ducks in the yard, which apparently, had been protected from "varmints" by the pack of dogs that continued to escort him about the premises.
In the smoke house, he pulled out some bacon, and the first thing he did was to take some and cut it up for the dogs. He then built a fire in one of the chimneys and in a little while had cooked himself “…a first-rate dinner together with a cup of coffee, the first I had tasted since leaving Goliad.”
After dinner, he turned into one of the beds in the house and took a nap. After waking, he explored the books, which was a rare thing in Texas at that time. And then he noticed standing in the corner something that he had been wishing for every day…a gun. He quickly snatched it up and was immediately heartbroken to find that the lock was missing, which made it useless as a firearm.
Being weakened by starvation and fatigue, John decided to stay at the house for at least two days before attempting to continue travelling east towards safety. In this place, he could eat well and regain his strength, but more importantly, he could safely sleep with the pack of dogs keeping watch outside. John observed that these dogs were not mongrels. They were well trained, and even though they were in a starving condition when he’d arrived, they hadn’t harmed any of the chickens, or their eggs, which were everywhere around the house and yard. John liked eggs, and these helped him to regain his strength over the next couple of days.
The next day, as he was following along a bottom prairie, he came to a wall of thick woods and almost impenetrable cane brakes. He followed this for about two miles before he found a small road cutting through the cane, and he decided to explore it. After coming out on the other side, he could see a house at the far end. As he moved cautiously to within about 100 yards of the house, suddenly, six dogs came rushing out of it and racing towards him. All John had time to do was pick up a stick before the dogs were within 20 yards of him. But instead of attacking him, they began to leap with excitement all around him, as if he was their owner that had been gone for a long time.
It wasn’t until the morning of the fourth day at this house that he decided he was ready to continue his journey east. Each day, he’d explored around the perimeter of the fields surrounding the house, and thought that he’d found a trail through the cane brake. He packed up as much sugar, coffee and bacon as he could carry, along with a couple of butcher knives that he had found. He prepared enough food for the dogs to be able to last them a month, and he patted them all and said his goodbye’s. But it soon became apparent that the dogs weren’t in agreement with is plans, as the whole pack followed at his heels, suspecting that he was leaving them for good.
He tried to drive them back by throwing sticks and other things at them, but it did no good.
“They would stop whenever I did, but the minute I started, they followed on.”
John knew it would be impossible to travel safely through a country with a bunch of dogs at his heels. Finding that he couldn’t get rid of them, he returned to the house to wait until after dark and then try to quietly leave them.
About midnight, he got up and quietly shouldered his pack and left the house.
He’d gone about a half a mile down the edge of the cane brake when he heard the pattering of feet behind him, and turned to see one of the dogs coming up. The dog that followed him was, “…a very large and powerful one.” He thought it might be a cross between an English bulldog and a Newfoundland.
John picked up a stick and hit the dog with it, but he only whined and crouched down at his feet. John realized that the only way that he was going to be able to get rid of this dog was to kill him. Pulling out one of the butcher knives, he grasped it by the neck.
John said that the dog looked up at him, “…so piteously that I hadn't the heart to use it, and abandoned my murderous intention.”
He slid the knife back into his pack and considered the risks that would go along with keeping the dog with him. But he did like the thought of having the company of a dog. He recalled someone saying, “I think that solitude is very pleasant at times, provided there is someone with you to whom you can say "how delightful is solitude."
“I named him Scout,” John said, and found that he was a very smart dog, and easily trained.
A Newfoundland dog
He and “Scout” continued moving along the edge of the cane brake until morning, and then moved on a few miles farther to be sure that the other dogs would not be able to follow them. As they slept the following night, John could hear the rustling of a large animal tromping nearby. Scout stayed quiet. The tracks they found the following morning showed that it was a large bear, of which there were many in that area of Texas at that time.
After eating breakfast, and Scout cleaning the dishes by licking them, they began to search again for a road that would lead them through the cane brake. After searching for several hours along the edge of the brake, John decided to try to cut his way through it. He attacked the cane, green briers and bushes with a carving knife, but progress was slow, and he realized that this idea may be futile. There were a few scattering trees among the cane, so he climbed one of the tallest hoping to see how wide this cane brake was. It was all around them, and appeared to be extending for about four miles in the direction that he was hoping to go. John and Scout followed their little cut trail back out to the edge of the prairie and continued following along the edge of the cane hoping to find a proper trail.
After travelling for a while, they sat down at the base of a large Spanish moss-covered tree to rest. John was just about to doze off, when he suddenly heard Scout begin growling, and a scuffling, scratching noise above his head. He saw something black sliding down the tree a few feet above him as he rolled and sprang out from under it, and at the same instant, a bear hit the ground and took off into the cane, which popped and cracked as if a wagon was going through it. John wrote, “It would be hard to say which was the most frightened, I or the bear, and even Scout was so demoralized by his unexpected appearance that he made no attempt to pursue him.”
After this little adventure, they continued on along the edge of the brake, hoping to find some road or trail leading across it. They eventually came to a large trail leading from the open prairie towards the brake. Along this trail the old traces of wagon wheels were distinctly visible. They followed it for some distance, running almost parallel with the brake. And then, it abruptly turned and entered it. After crossing a strip of cane about two hundred yards wide, they came out into another small prairie about a mile in length and half a mile wide.
At the far end of this prairie was a log house, to which the trail they were following seemed to lead. As they approached to within three or four hundred yards of the house, John stopped to listen to see if he could hear any signs of people at the cabin. “I heard the crowing of chicken cocks and the squealing of pigs, but as I saw no smoke issuing from any of the chimneys or any other signs to indicate that the house was occupied.” John and Scout went on up to the yard. There were a great many chickens, ducks and pigs in the yard, but no dogs came to welcome them. The house was sheltered by some large live oak and pecan trees. Everything in this house also remained just as it was when abandoned by the occupants. The house was furnished even better than the one he had stopped at earlier, and he concluded that it was the residence of a wealthy planter.
A cold, misting rain had begun to fall, and as there was plenty of food, he proceeded to make himself at home. He slept very good that night, being able to use the nice bed, and the comfort of knowing that Scout was keeping watch at the door.
But just as before, as he and Scout tried to continue east, they would run into the impenetrable cane brake, with no obvious road leading through it. Occasionally they would find a cattle or deer trail leading into it, but they either gave out entirely after penetrating it a short distance, or else split up into half a dozen blind paths that didn’t seem to lead anywhere, or in any particular direction.
In 1836 Texas, many of the bottoms in the area where John and Scout were travelling was covered by unbroken cane brakes that could be sixty or seventy miles long, and from three to five miles wide.
This searching continued for days, and they would travel along the brake for miles at a time. One day, they moved out farther into the open prairie to avoid a deep lagoon that was in their path, and suddenly, they came across a well beaten road, running almost parallel with the brake. This road had evidently been traveled a day or so previously by what he concluded was a large body of cavalry. He decided to continue following this road.
Later in the day, as they were walking along the road, John suddenly heard the clattering of horses' hoofs behind them, and turning to look, he saw a small troop of Mexican lancers riding fast towards them from about five hundred yards away. There wasn't a tree or bush to be found nearby, and the cane brake was about a half mile to their right. No way that they’d make it there in time. John thought that this was going to be it for him, but he took off running with Scout right behind him. There were some scattered patches of tall dead grass, and as that was the closest cover to them, he grabbed Scout by the neck and dragged him twenty or thirty paces into one of the patches of grass. He pushed the dog down and then quickly laid down alongside him, holding him tightly by the muzzle to prevent him from growling or barking at the lancers as they passed.
As the lancers rode up, they stopped their horses opposite where John and Scout were hiding. Scout gave a low growl and tried to get up, but John choked down on him until he lay quiet. John could see them plainly through the grass, and could hear them talking, but couldn’t make out what they were saying.
The lancers had evidently caught a glimpse of them before they’d left the road, for after they
halted, several dismounted and examined the road for tracks. But luckily, the ground was gravelly and hard, and his boots hadn’t left any tracks. After a few minutes of discussion, they sprang back into their saddles and rode on.
As soon as they were far enough off, John drew a long breath. Scout did as well, since John had choked him so hard he could barely breathe. John later said that Scout never forgot the lesson that he given him that day, and whenever he wished him to lie down and keep quiet, “I had only to place my hand on his neck, when he would crouch down and remain as still as a mouse until I told him to rise.”
Thankful for what seemed to be a miraculous escape, John and Scout moved their path back over to the tree line and decided to try to travel as little as possible out in the open during daylight.
After two more days of exploring for a trail through the cane, he decided to set out again in the direction they had previously gone when they made the narrow escape from the lancers. “Scout evidently seemed to think I was wandering about in a very aimless way, nevertheless he trotted along after me without asking any questions.”
The day once again ended without locating a new trail.
That night, the wolves howled incessantly, and the sharp scream of a panther close by roused Scout from his sleep and he dashed off in the direction of the sound, but very soon came running back with his tail between his legs. John kept the fire blazing all night.
After breakfast, they continued their route along the edge of the brake. When they had gone about two miles, John noticed a small house on the prairie near a small grove of trees. It was a small log cabin, and was poorly furnished. He saw nothing about the premises except some ducks and chickens. Not knowing how long it might be before they would have a chance at "...fried chicken" again, he decided to take a chicken with them. With the assistance of Scout, they soon caught and killed two fat pullets and a duck, which he tied onto the outside of his knapsack. They then followed the road that was running near the house and nearly parallel with the brake. About a mile later, they walked right into another uncomfortable situation.
John and Scout stopped in the road and stood still, which at that point, was about a quarter of a mile from the cane brake. John didn’t understand why he hadn’t seen them sooner, but not forty paces off the road seated in the grass were two Mexican soldiers. One of them was armed with a musket and the other with a lance. Near them was a saddled horse that was grazing, and one of the soldiers was holding the end of his lariat in his hand.
John wrote, “The idea flashed across my mind that after all my narrow escapes, I was certainly caught at last.”
For a few moments he just stood still, uncertain as to what he was going to do.
“But the very hopelessness of the case produced a feeling of recklessness as to consequences, and I leisurely continued my way along the road, at the same time trying to look as unconcerned as possible, and as if I didn't know, and didn't care, that a Mexican soldier was within five miles of me.”
All the while however, he was watching them closely. As he and Scout passed them, they made no movement except to turn their heads and gaze at them in apparent astonishment. John was now very tanned from exposure to sun and weather, and was nearly as dark as an Indian. His cap resembled a Turkish turban, the leather front having been long since carried away. Although the clothes were replaced many days prior, his hunting shirt was now ragged and blackened with smoke, and his pants, or what remained of them, were being held up by a broad leather belt from which a tin cup hung dangling on one side, and two long carving knives on the other. And to complete this unique costume, his shoulders were covered with a ragged knapsack, to which were tied the two pullets and the duck they had just killed.
The soldiers could plainly see that, except for his two carving knives, John had no weapons. However, they didn’t move until John and Scout had gone forty or fifty yards beyond them, when both suddenly rose to their feet and quickly mounted their horse, one behind the other.
John thought that they were about to come after them, but to his great surprise, as well as relief, they rode off in the opposite direction, across the prairie as fast as they could urge their horse on with whip and spur.
“Every now and then I could see them looking back as if they expected me to pursue them!”
Now worried once more about running into more soldiers, John and Scout immediately left the road and didn’t stop until they had once again reached the security and cover of the cane brake.
About an hour before sunset as they were proceeding along, John left the path he was travelling and had gone only a few hundred yards when he came upon a trail. This trail was leading towards the brake along which the marks of wagon wheels were dimly visible. They followed the trail into an indentation in the brake, which was so narrow and so well concealed by bushes and cane as to be almost invisible at the distance of a few paces. Still following the traces of wagon wheels, they rounded a corner to a newly cut road wide enough for a wagon and team. John felt that he had finally found the way through that he’d been looking for.
After traveling a few miles through the cane, John could see a light ahead, and in a short time they came to the open prairie. About half a mile below the place where they came out, John saw a house near the bottom.
As they were moving along the edge of the trees, John spotted a Mexican soldier walking up a trail heading in their direction. John and Scout quickly slipped back into the trees where Scout sat still and quiet. The soldier was focusing on the path only a few feet ahead of where he was walking, so he hadn’t noticed them earlier, and he ended up walking right past them as they hid in the trees. John didn’t want to risk finding more soldiers near the house, so they continued moving through the trees for two or three miles before they came out to the edge of the prairie once again and made a bed for the night.
The following day was cloudy, misty and dark, and he couldn't see the trees on the opposite side, so he had no idea how far across it was to another line of trees. So, they stayed where they were, hoping it would clear enough to see what was ahead of them. And by mid-afternoon, he was beginning to think that they may have to stay there another night. Being too early to try to cook supper, he hadn’t built a fire, and it was fortunate that he hadn’t. Just as he began to doze off, Scout gave a low growl and then John heard the tramping of horses' hoofs. Rolling over and looking through an opening in the strip of cane towards the prairie, he saw five or six Indians that were driving some horses along the edge of the brake. Just as they were opposite to the spot where he and Scout were lying, two of the horses broke away and ran into the cane, heading directly towards them. One of the Indians immediately turned and started in after the two runaways. As the two horses galloping in caught sight of John and Scout lying on the ground in front of them, they both suddenly wheeled around and ran back out towards the prairie, and thankfully, the Indian also turned and rode out after them. John wrote that, “If he had come six feet further he must inevitably have seen us.” They stayed where they were for the remainder of that day and night.
The next morning had cleared up enough that they could continue heading east, and later that afternoon they came to the edge of a narrow, but fast flowing creek. John felt confident that he could swim the creek with his knapsack on his back, so they slipped into the stream and began swimming across. But as he was nearing the middle of the stream, one of the straps that held it in position gave way, and in an instant the rapid current twisted it around his neck, and he went down with it like a stone to the bottom. He fought wildly to free himself and he realized that he would need to cut it away to prevent it from drowning him. He grabbed for one of the knives from the scabbard, but everything seemed to be tangled up. Finally pulling it free, he cut the strap that was around his neck. He pushed and exploded to the surface, “…puffing and blowing like a porpoise, and half strangled with the water I had swallowed.”
Scout had already reached the opposite shore, and was running up and down the bank, whining and obviously worried about him. John finally reached the shore and laid on the bank catching his breath, upset that the knapsack that contained their entire supply of provisions now laid at the bottom of the creek. He quickly reached into his pocket and pulled out his tinder, and was glad to find that only a little water had penetrated the greased cloth. He laid it out to dry as they dried off themselves. Being late in the day now, they moved up into the trees and settled in for another night in the woods.
The following day, John noticed several large squads of Mexican cavalry moving towards them. He and Scout laid down on the ground until they had passed. But John noticed that something was different about them. They were all traveling in a disorderly manner towards the west. After a few minutes, John realized what was happening, or at least what he hoped was happening. The Mexican army must have met somewhere with a major defeat, and those forces he was seeing had been routed. He found out later than his observations were correct. A few days earlier, the battle of San Jacinto had been fought and won by the Texans under Gen. Houston.
After the Mexican squads had moved on past them, John and Scout kept moving towards the east. Later that day, after another soaking from a cold rain, they came across a small crude cabin which had a single door on the front, and a single window in the back. They ducked into the cabin to get out of the rain and hopefully dry their clothes and warm up. John was able to get a small fire going and was trying to parch some corn when he heard a grating sound coming from the window. Just as he turned, he realized that it was the muzzle of a gun. Scout let out a savage growl and jumped through the window. Instantly he heard the voice of a man in “...good King’s English” yelling “Take your dog off… get the dog off!!” John scrambled out through the door and circled around to the back of the cabin where he had a hard time getting Scout to release his grip from a thick wool scarf that was wrapped around the stranger’s neck. Considering how Scout went after him, it’s a good thing he had the scarf on.
While the man was recovering from his surprise, John was trying to calm his excitement. After a few moments, the man asked John where he was from and how he came to be in his condition out there all alone among the Mexicans and Indians. After telling his story, the man said that he was a Captain along with another man who were on a spying expedition, and seeing smoke coming from the cabins chimney, had suspicion that a party of Mexicans had stopped there. His companion stayed with their horses in a grove of trees about 100 yards away, while he snuck up on the cabin. The man let out a whoop as the signal to call in his companion, and then began describing to John how the Texans had whipped the Mexicans at San Jacinto.
As the Captain’s companion came in leading the horses, John was happy to see that they had a pack horse loaded with provisions. Soon, the little fire that he’d started earlier now had a pot of coffee simmering on it. Nearby, they had biscuits, potatoes, and cold ham spread out on the floor of the little cabin. “Those biscuits! I shall never forget them!” he later wrote. As John was finishing his fifth biscuit, the Captain told him that he should take it easy. But John just reached for his sixth and continued eating them down.
The Captain rearranged the provisions between them so John could ride the pack horse. And with Scout trotting along beside them, within two days they had reached the Brazos River and a camp of the Texian army.
As he was now able to clean up, shave, and get a new outfit of clothes, he was soon beginning to feel like his old self again. And what a surprise it was to see his former companion Brown come walking up. After the two greeted each other, they sat down as Brown told John what had happened after the two of them had dashed off in different directions to escape the Mexican rancheros.
When Brown ran down into the ravine, the ranchero turned and chased him, and eventually caught him and took him back to his camp. They tied him to a tree, and then proceeded leisurely to cook and eat their supper. Brown didn’t speak very much Spanish, but he told them he was starving and begged them to give him something to eat. The rancheros told him to shut up, that they were going to shoot him in the morning. After they went to sleep, Brown tried to untie himself, but couldn’t, and spent the entire night standing up tied to the tree.
The next morning, one of the rancheros walked up to Brown and pinned a piece of white cloth to his breast, telling him it was a mark for them to shoot at. Four of the rancheros then stationed themselves a few paces in front of him, cocked their guns and aimed. All this time, Brown, who was completely desperate by pain and hunger, was cursing the Mexicans as much as his minimal knowledge of the language would permit. He cussed them as cowards, and said that the bravest thing they were ever going to do was murder of unarmed and helpless prisoner, and so on. Brown was suffering so badly from pain and hunger that he really wanted the Mexicans to shoot him and put him out of his misery, but they apparently seemed astonished at his boldness. Then, the one in command of the party came up to him, cut the ropes, and told him to go. He said that he was "muy bravo" (very brave), and that in place of shooting him they would leave him to die of hunger. They saddled their horses and rode off. Brown stumbled on, and was captured by the Mexican army a few days later. But he successfully escaped from them as well, and was finally able to meet up with the Texas army.
Sometime later, John was also able to reunite with Holliday and hear what had happened to him; When Holliday saw the men separate and run, he also left and took off across the prairie. He had his own narrow escapes. One while being chased by some Mexican soldiers, he jumped into a lake and swam out into the middle. The soldiers had some fun shooting their escopetes at his head, but fortunately for him, darkness came on and he slipped away and got out of the lake alive. He was captured once more, but was able to talk his way out of it. And walking as John had, he eventually reached the Texan army. Unfortunately, Holliday was captured later as part of the Santa Fe expedition and imprisoned in Mexico City. After being released, he was put on a ship from Vera Cruz bound for New Orleans, but having contracted yellow fever, he died during the voyage and was buried at sea.
After staying with the army for a month, John finally arranged for passage on a schooner to return to Kentucky and his family. But as the schooner was completely full, he wouldn’t be able to take Scout with him. He asked a close friend and fellow soldier if he would look out for his faithful dog, and to promise him that Scout would be taken very good care of. His friend agreed to do so, and his promise was given, so he took Scout back home with him when he returned to his farm.
Many years passed before John Duval once again stood on Texas soil. Meeting up with his old soldier friend in Austin, he asked about Scout. His friend went into great detail about what a wonderful dog Scout had been. And said that, “…he lived to a good old age, and died the respected progenitor of a breed of dogs that were highly prized for their valuable qualities.”