THOS. W. HUNT AND TEXAS HISTORY
Tribute to Thomas W. Hunt, written by H. C. Cooke and published in the Morgan News, Bosque County, Texas, May, 1892. Cooke was father of Clay Cooke who later married Mary Wilm, granddaughter of Thomas W. Hunt
On the night of April 26, 1892, at Kopperl, in this county, the subject of this sketch, Mr. T. W. Hunt, surrounded by grief-stricken loved ones and sorrowing friends, calmly passed away, and his pure spirit returned to the bosom of his God. Mr. Hunt was in many regards a remarkable man. In his death the State and society have sustained the loss of one whose life was a daily exemplification of the virtues and the power of true manhood. He was a native of Georgia, but came to Texas when just twenty-one years of age, and located at Gonzales. Thus the moment he was free to act, he chose Texas as his home and cast his fortune with the struggling young Republic; and from that day till his death, Texas had no truer son, no braver defender, no better citizen. When Indians raided, he was always ready and among the first to meet and repel their murderous incursions. When the Comanches – those matchless horsemen of the plains, those fierce Arabs of the prairies – made that reckless raid down through the settlements to the very Gulf, sacking and burning Victoria and Linsville on Lavaca Bay, spreading death and destruction as they went, he, with a handful of hardy pioneers pursued and drove them with such relentless fury that they were glad to escape without their booty or their prisoners, whom they murdered to prevent Hunt and party from retaking, till they were intercepted at Plum Creek by Ben McColloch, Ed Burleson, Caldwell, Hardiman and their brave Texans, and routed and driven back to their mountain fortresses, never to return to that section again. During this exciting raid and at all times, Mr. Hunt was always in the fore-front and in the thickest of the fight, and his trusty rifle, doubtless, laid many a painted and plumed warrior low. Afterwards he hastened to follow and join General Hugh McLeod’s ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition. With the other members of this unfortunate expedition he shared the toils and dangers of the long weary march through deep can(y)ons, over rugged mountains, across the treeless and trackless staked plains, and when surrounded by the treacherous Mexican soldiers at Cuesta, he “picked his man,” and with rifle ready he proposed to die fighting. The officer in command, however, ordered a surrender with the promise from the Mexicans of protection and fair treatment. Instead of this, they were disarmed, tied together like felons, and compelled to walk from near Santa Fe to the city of Mexico, five or six hundred miles. When any poor fellow became footsore and unable to keep up, he was mercilessly shot by the Mexican guard and his ears cut off, as evidence that the prisoner had not escaped. Fortunately Mr. Hunt was young and strong – every inch a man, and he, with most of the Texans, reached the city of Mexico where they were cast into the vile den called a Mexican prison, forced to work in chains during the day and to sleep in irons at night with the sleepless eye of a Mexican sentry ever upon him. Here he had the small-pox, and for a while exchanged a Mexican prison for a Mexican pest-house. After more than a year’s confinement he was finally set free through the intercession of the American minister to the government of Mexico. Before he could embark for home, at Vera Cruz, he took the yellow fever, and for weeks he hovered between life and death, stretched on the deck of a vessel under the rays of a tropical sun, preferring to die “under the flag of stars” rather than be removed and take his chances for recovery in a Mexican hospital. Finally recovering an setting sail, he was put ashore at Galveston, and once more his feet pressed the sod of Texas soil and he was free again. Ah! who can portray his feelings or tell the throbbings of his great heart, when emerging from long captivity in a foreign land, he again breathed the pure air of freedom and his weary feet again trod the flowery plains of his own loved Texas. He came back like a knight of the middle ages returning from the Crusades, travel worn, weary and dust stained, but his proud escutcheon untarnished and his stout heart undaunted still. Resting for a few days only, he set out afoot and alone for Gonzales, the home he had left. He had nearly made the distance – 150 miles – and was fast nearing the familiar scenes of his adopted home, and his heart beat high with expectation and anticipation of meeting friends and loved ones who had so long mourned him as dead. When within a few miles of Gonzales, he learned of the sudden invasion of Texas by the Mexicans and the capture of San Antonio by the Mexican general Woll. Without stopping to see his friends, he secured a rifle and ammunition, and mounting a mule, all of which was supplied by patriotic Texans, he hurried forward alone to overtake the little army of patriots already marching on San Antonio. Arriving at the Guadalupe river, he found it too swollen to ford. Stripping himself, he plunged into the turbid stream. His mule rolled over in the angry waters and he floated off, while his mule swam across riderless. With his characteristic determination not to be thwarted and perhaps cherishing a lively recollection of the rough treatment he had so recently received at the hands of the Mexicans, and burning to have revenge, he followed his mule, caught and tied it, and swam back for his clothing and equipage. By swimming on his back and holding his clothes, etc., above the water, he, after several trips, got everything safely over, except his rifle, which was so heavy that it took him to the bottom of the river the first plunge. Rising to the surface and holding on to his gun, by sheer strength he reached shallow water on the west bank. As soon as he found that he could wade, he raised his gun and fired it in the air. To dry his gun, dress and repack was the work of but a few moments and he was soon pressing on to meet the invaders, which he did at Salado near San Antonio. He participated in that glorious affair and had the pleasure of again mingling in the thickest of the fight and of aiding materially in achieving that grand victory. The Mexicans, defeated and routed, evacuated San Antonio and fell back beyond the Rio Grande. Mr. Hunt was with the little army under Gen. Somerville, who a little afterward followed the enemy to the Rio Grande, and who would have crossed the “Rio Bravo” and carried the war into Mexico, but there, under orders, the eager and victorious Texans reluctantly turned back, except the reckless three hundred under Col. Fisher. These crossed into Mexico, were captured and made to draw beans to decide which should be shot, and everyone drawing a black bean was mercilessly shot by the Mexicans. Mr. Hunt, however, always obedient to orders, returned with his command, and resumed at Gonzales those peaceful pursuits which had been interrupted when he joined the ill-starred Santa Fe Expedition.
That unconquerable spirit and dauntless courage which distinguished him on the field of battle bore him up amid all the trials, afflictions and troubles of life, and won for him the confidence and esteem of all. The writer knew him well in his latter yeras, and he does not hesitate to say that in all his life he never knew a truer, purer or more honest man. He was a man of positive character; strong in his prejudices, stronger still in his attachments, tender as a woman in his sympathies, fierce and fearless as a lion in his wrath. A tale of suffering or sorrow touched instantly the deep fountains of feeling in his nature, while the story of wrong and injustice kindled the lightnings in his eye. He was a stranger to fear. Had he lived in the days of chivalry his name would have been linked with those of the knightliest cavaliers of that chilvaric age. He absolutely abhored everything that was little and mean. With him truthfulness and honesty were a principle not a policy; and he would have sacrificed life itself before he would have violated either. Of splendid physique, erect as an Indian, tall of stature, he presented in his physical make-up the model of a well nigh perfect manhood; while in all those grander attributes of heart and soul which alone constitute true manhood, he, like Saul, towered head and shoulders above the common level of mankind. His sacrifices, his sufferings and his services in behalf of Texas entitle him to a place in her history. His name deserves to be enrolled with the names of Crockett and Travis, Fannin and McCulloch, Wallace and Bowie and the long list of heroic pioneers whose devotion to Texas have woven about the “Lone Star State” a chaplet of glory as unfading as the “stars that crown the night of her cloudless skies.” He is dead. Peace to his noble dust.
“The pains of death are past,
Labor and sorrow cease;
And life’s long warefare closed at last.
His soul is found in peace.
Soldier of Christ, well done;
Praise he thy new employ;
And while eternal ages run,
Rest in thy Savior’s joy.”
H. C. Cooke