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Lafitte's camp on St Joseph Island

 

Historic Accounts of Life in South Texas

 
From "Early Times in Texas" by J. C. Duval – Published 1892
 
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A day or so after our return to Quintana, the officer in command of the Invincible was instructed to take our company on board and to sail immediately for Copano, on Aransas bay, where we were to disembark and march from thence to Goliad. It was rumored that a considerable force had already been concentrated at that point, under the command of Col. J. W. Fannin, destined for the invasion of the border States of Mexico, and of course we surmised that our company would form a part of the invading army.

We set sail about dark, and a brisk norther springing up, by daylight the next morning we were in sight of Aransas Pass, which we shortly entered without difficulty, and cast anchor in a secure harbor behind the southwest point of Matagorda island.

This harbor had been, in times past, a rendezvous for the vessels of the famous pirate, Lafitte. On the island the embankments around his old camping grounds or fortifications were still visible, and along the beach were many posts yet standing with iron rings affixed to them, which undoubtedly had been used for securing the small boats that plied between the vessels and the shore. "The pass" was known then only to Lafitte and his followers, and here in security they could repair their vessels, supply them with wood and water, and divide among themselves the spoils of their piratical expeditions.

On the east end of Galveston island they had a similar place of rendezvous, near where the city now stands, and the remains of their fortifications could be plainly seen when I first landed on the island, in 1837. A few years ago, while excavating sand near these old fortifications, some workmen found a considerable amount of old Spanish coin, buried there no doubt, by some pirate on the eve of his departure upon some marauding expedition, from which probably he never returned.

We remained on the island several days, passing the time very pleasantly hunting and fishing, and gathering oysters which were abundant in the bay, and then we embarked on board of a small vessel for Copano, which at that time was the principal port of Southwest Texas. In a few hours we reached the port, and landing, we pitched our tents on the bluff just back of it. Here we found a company of Texas Rangers who had been on frontier service for six months, during all of which time they had not seen a morsel of bread. They had subsisted solely upon beef and the game they killed. We gave them a part of the "hard tack" we had brought with us, and though wormeaten and musty, they devoured it with as keen a relish as if it had been the greatest delicacy. Although they had had no bread for so long a time, they were healthy and in "good order," which convinces me that Byron was right in saying that man was a carniverous animal, and would bear vegetables ''only in a grumbling way"—especially beans.

From Copano (which consisted mainly of a warehouse and a large tank of fresh water) we took up the line of march tor Refugio, distant about twenty miles. It is situated on a little stream called Mission river, near the bank of which we pitched our tents, just before sunset. Refugio at that time contained about two dozen adobe huts (inhabited by a mixed population of Irish and Mexicans), and an old, dilapidated church, built, I was told, the same year that Philadelphia was founded. A few months subsequently Refugio was the scene of a hard fought battle between thirty-five Americans under Capt. King, and a large body of Mexican cavalry.

The old church, where King and his men defended themselves for some time against a host of Mexicans, when I last saw it, still showed evidence of the severity of the conflict in its battered walls and its roof perforated with shot from the Mexican artilery.


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