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Legends of Texas-Tom Green

Legends of Texas-Tom Green

Tom Green: Early Life and Education

Tom Green was born in Virginia on June 8, 1814. His family soon moved to Tennessee, where he spent his childhood. Being that his father was an educated man, he saw to it that his son was also educated. Green attended Jackson College in Tennessee and Princeton College in Kentucky. He eventually graduated from the University of Tennessee. After graduating, he studied law under his father who was a Supreme Court judge in Tennessee. After a year of legal studies, he left Tennessee to join the Texans in their struggle for independence.

When the 21-year old Tom Green arrived in Texas, he immediately enlisted in the Texas army at Nacogdoches, only a few months before the Battle of San Jacinto. He served under Thomas J. Rusk. At that historic battle, Green helped man one of the “Twin Sisters” artillery pieces.

The Republic of Texas Years

When the 21-year old Tom Green arrived in Texas, he immediately enlisted in the Texas army at Nacogdoches, as a private. He was considered part of the regular Texas army and took an oath of allegience to the Republic of Texas.

With the Battle at San Jacinto ended the Texians rejoiced at the victory over both the Mexican army and the capture of the tyrant Santa Anna. Many of the Texas soldiers considered General Houston’s treatment of his captive too accommodating considering the ethnic cleansing he performed at Tampico, Goliad and the Alamo. Many of the Texians believed that Santa Anna needed to be executed for his crimes.

Tom Green led a group of those volunteers on a mission to do something about the situation. While Santa Anna was being held aboard a vessel docked outside the city of Velasco, Green led a group in boarding the ship. Upon encountering Santa Anna, they placed manacles on him and led him ashore while threatening his execution. It was only through the direct intervention of Thomas Rusk and General Sam Houston that Santa Anna was returned to Republic of Texas officials.

After the Velasco episode, Green returned to Tennessee. While in Tennessee, he received word that as a veteran of the Texas Independence War, he was entitled to land in Texas, so he returned to the Republic of Texas. Since he was one of the most educated men in Texas and well versed in law, he served as clerk for the House of Representatives. Eventually he was elected as Congressional Representative for Fayette County in the Fourth Republic of Texas Congress. While in Congress, he was a big supporter of the Texas Navy.

General Tom Green of Texas

Trouble with Mexico and Mexican Prison

When trouble with Mexico or Indians erupted, Tom Green was ready for action. Mexican forces led by the Belgian born Adrian Woll raided San Antonio. In the raid, Woll’s force not only occupied the city, they took the whole district court captive. Woll and his Mexican army took the captive judges as hostages with them as they returned back to Mexico. Many in Texas were furious at the raid and how they took Texas citizens hostage. Tom Green was one of those Texians furious at what just happened. The Texians organized a reprisal raid called the Summerville expedition, which Green joined. The expedition was an organized group of volunteers determined to make Mexico pay in retribution what they just did to Texas.

The expedition quickly captured Laredo, and then moved deeper into Mexico. Tom Green left the expedition at that point, yet Thomas Jefferson Green continued on with them. When they reached the town of Mier, there was a major gun battle. The battle involved 260 Texians taking on 2000 Mexican soldiers and militia troops. The Texians ran short of ammunition in the gun battle, which led to them surrendering.

The escapees were forced to participate in what became known as the ‘black bean episode’. Since Santa Anna ordered that a number of the men were to be shot, the survivors were forced to choose a bean from a container. Those choosing black beans were the ones to be shot, with the exception of Ewen Cameron, who had organized the jail break. Santa Anna ordered him to be shot irregardless of which bean he chose.

After Texas joined the Union, the Mexican-American War broke out. Tom Green responded to the call for volunteers. He remembered the treatment he and other Texians received in Mexican prison. He raised a company of volunteers and served under Jack Hayes regiment. He participated in the hard fighting that led to the taking of Monterrey.In that battle, the American forces were outnumbered 6200 to 10,000.

For three days American troops attempted taking the fortress, but were unsuccessful.

Finally, Tom Green and a group of 300 Texas Rangers charged the Mexican artillery position on Federacion Hill, guarding the city. The Mexican forces on the hill fled in terror at the sight of the Texans coming at them. Although they had repulsed the attacks of the United States soldiers, the sight of the Texas Rangers coming at them being led by Tom Green terrified them. Many of the Rangers had beards which added to their fearsome countenance.

The next day, Green and his men took the other hill guarding the city. Once the hills were taken, the US army attempted taking the city. Since they were not used to urban warfare, the first attempt failed. The Texas Rangers had experience in urban warfare and instructed the US Army on how it was to be done. Tom Green led an attack on the Mexican forces holding a fortified position at the Bishop’s Palace. He organized a feinting move that led the Mexicans to believe the Texas Rangers were retreating. When the Mexican forces saw the Texans fleeing, they opened the gates of their position and poured out, only to find themselves ambushed. Once the Mexican forces were subdued, the city was taken under a flag of truce. Although the city was taken, President Polk was furious at General Zachary Taylor. He lambasted Taylor citing how he had no authority to make truces, only to “kill the enemy”.

After the war, Green returned to Texas and married. During that time he served as a clerk for the Supreme Court of Texas.

Two Lines from a poem about the Battle of Bourbeau by M.W. Oldham

Could I have stood where Tom Green stood amidst the Battle Roar

I could have seen what he Saw perhaps a little more….

Who was Charles Martel?

Charles was a Frankish warrior who on October 10th, 732 AD, 100 years after the death of Mohammad, defeated an invading Islamic army at the Battle of Tours.For his courage in stopping the invasion he was later named ‘martel’ (the hammer). History remembers him as Charles Martel. Although called the Battle of Tours, it was fought near Poiters, France. In some communities, the victory won that day is still celebrated as Charles Martel Day.

Texas’ Charles Martel

When fighting broke out in the War of Northern Aggression, Tom Green was again volunteering to fight. He began service with the rank of Colonel. His first assignment was being attached to General Sibley’s expedition to New Mexico. While on that campaign Green along with William “Dirty Shirt” Scurry led outnumbered Texas forces in attacks that turned into victories at the Battles of Valverde and Glorietta Pass. With his six foot frame and courage under fire, he inspired his men. Green had proved himself in the eyes of Texans everywhere he served.

At Valverde, Green managed capturing a battery of cannons. Upon capturing them, they were turned around on the Union forces located there. The captured guns were then known as the Valverde Battery and often accompanied Green on his future campaigns. One of the men manning the Valverde battery was a Joseph Sayers, who later became a Governor of Texas.

When Union forces captured Galveston, Texas military commanders once again called on Tom Green to lead men into battle. In the Battle of Galveston, he commanded the sharpshooters and troops stationed on the cottonclads, which allowed the Texans to free Galveston from occupation.

Green’s reputation as a commander led to a group of loyal men serving under him wherever he went. Green’s men operated on the assumption that “If Tom said so, then it must be true”. They never questioned him, his tactics or his decisions. They followed him without question. His infectious style of leadership was accompanied by a long string of successes. Since he was successful, few commanders questioned him on his way of doing things. It was said that wherever Tom Green’s banner was raised, the enemies banner falls. Every Texan knew of Tom Green from the days of Texas Independence, the Mexican War, the Battle of Galveston and the New Mexico campaigns. In each of these engagements, he established himself as a hero. He was a living connection with Texas Independence. He had also been promoted to Brigadier General.

Green was again called upon to lead Texas cavalry troops into action in Louisiana. His leadership and fighting style contributed to success in many battles where his force was outnumbered and out-gunned. His opponents used terms such as ‘fox-like’ to describe the way he and his command moved through the bayou country and outwitted them. Every time that the Federal forces thought they had him, he found a way to escape from their plans.

He participated in the Battles of Cox’s Plantation, Battle of Bourbeau,(also called the Battle of Bordeaux and the Battle of Barbeaux) Bayou LaFourche, Sabine Cross Roads (Mansfield) and Pleasant Hill. In each of these battles, his cavalry proved themselves formidable in their attacks. He was later killed in the fighting at the Battle of Blair’s Landing on the Red River.

During the Battle of Bourbeau, William Marlan showed bravery which later earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. In the battle, the Texas troops under Tom Green surprised the Union forces under General Brunbridge at that location. The Union sentinels were so lax, the Texas troops were able to move to within striking distance by traveling in a ravine to the Union lines. The Texas troops sprung from the ravine and into the Union lines and camp unannounced. The surprise was so sudden, the small force of Texas cavalry and infantry overwhelmed their opponents in the chaos. On overwhelming the Union troops, the Texans turned the captured cannon on its previous owners. William Marlan had the clarity of thought to remove one of the remaining cannon and retreat across a bridge now known as Marlan’s bridge, which is now reported to be haunted.Marlan’s action earned him the Congressional Medal of honor.

In another engagement, Tom Green, known affectionately to his command as “Pappa” Green attacked a Union gunboat. He had his men position the Valverde battery and open fire on the gunboat Diana. The well-trained gunners accompanied by sharpshooters routinely hit their target, leaving holes in the superstructure, forcing all the sailors off the decks and pinning the captain below deck. The captain soon surrendered his vessel to Tom Green and his cavalry.

In his final battle, Tom Green had the Valverde battery set up again. This time at Blair landing, he took on three union ships, including an ironclad and a gunboat. After two hours of fighting a cannon ball fatally struck Green in the head. At that point, his command went wild with grief at loosing their commander. The grief stricken men were in a state of shock. Leander McNeely (who was later a renowned Texas Ranger), managed to lead them out of harm’s way in their grief stricken state.

Due to his outstanding performance and leadership, at keeping invasions from reaching Texas, Governor Pendleton Murrah referred to Tom Green as Texas’s “Charles Martel. Whenever threats to Texas arose, Tom Green responded to that threat.

Green’s commander in Louisiana, General Richard Taylor said of Green, he was “upright, modest, and with the simplicity of a child, danger seemed to be his element, and he rejoiced in combat… His death was a public calamity and mourned as such by the people of Texas and Louisiana.”

Tom Green County in Texas is named in his honor. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. For many years, Texas school children learned of Tom Green, and studied the Battle of Bourbeau since he defeated a force much larger than himself in that engagement.

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