Eyewitness to History: Runaway Scrape

Dilue Rose was eleven years old in 1836. The Rose family had settled at Stafford’s Point (now Stafford) three years earlier. When the war broke out, young Dilue made bullets for the men going off to San Antonio, men who would die in the Alamo.

Below is her story of fleeing from Santa Anna’s army in the Runaway Scrape.

“The people had been in a state of excitement during the winter. They knew that Colonel Travis had but few men to defend San Antonio. I remember when his letter came calling for assistance. He was surrounded by a large army, with General Santa Anna in command, and had been ordered to surrender, but fought till the last man died. I was nearly eleven years old, and remember well the hurry and confusion.

By the 20th of February the people of San Patricio and other western settlements were fleeing for their lives. Every family in our neighborhood was preparing to go to the United States, and wagons and other vehicles were scarce.

By the last of February there was more hopeful news. Colonel Fannin with five hundred men was marching to San Antonio, and General Houston was on the way to Gonzales with ten thousand.
Father finished planting corn. He had hauled away a part of our household furniture and other things and hid them in the bottom. Mother had packed what bedding, clothes, and provisions she thought we should need, ready to leave at a moment’s warning, and father had made arrangements with a Mr. Bundick to haul our family in his cart. But we were confident that the army under General Houston would whip the Mexicans before they reached the Colorado River.

The 12th of March came the news of the fall of the Alamo. A courier brought a dispatch from General Houston for the people to leave. Colonel Travis and the men under his command had been slaughtered. The Texas army was retreating, and President Burnet’s cabinet had gone to Harrisburg. 

Then began the horrors of the Runaway Scrape. We left home at sunset, hauling clothes, bedding, and provisions on the sleigh with one yoke of oxen. Mother and I were walking, she with an infant in her arms. Brother drove the oxen, and my two little sisters rode in the sleigh. We were going ten miles to where we could be transferred to Mr. Bundick’s cart. 

Dilue Rose (Mrs. Ira Harris) in later years.

We met Mrs. M. She was driving her oxen home. We had sent her word in the morning. She begged mother to go back and help her, but father said no. He told the lady to drive the oxen home, put them in the cow pen, turn out the cows and calves, and get her children ready, and he would send assistance.

We went on to Mrs. Roark’s  and met five families ready to leave. We shifted our things into the cart of Mr. Bundick, who was waiting for us, and tried to rest till morning. Sister and I had been weeping all day about Colonel Travis.

Early next morning we were on the move, mother with her four children in the cart, and Mr. Bundick and his wife and negro woman on horseback. We camped the first night near Harrisburg, about where the railroad depot now stands. Next day we crossed Vince’s Bridge, and arrived at the San Jacinto in the night. There were fully five thousand people at the ferry. 

The planters from Brazoria and Columbia, with their slaves, were crossing. Our party consisted of five white families: father’s, Mr. Dyer’s, Mr. Bell’s, Mr. Neal’s, and Mr. Bundick’s. Father and Mr. Bundick were the only white men in the party, the others being in the army.

There were twenty or thirty negroes from Stafford’s plantation. They had a large wagon with five yoke of oxen, and horses and mules, and they were in the charge of an old negro man called Uncle Ned.

Altogether, black and white, there were about fifty of us. Every one was trying to cross first, and it was almost a riot. We got over the third day, and after traveling a few miles came to a big prairie. It was about twelve miles further to the next timber and water, and some of our party wanted to camp; but others said that the Trinity River was rising, and if we delayed we might not get across. So we hurried on.

When we got half across the prairie Uncle Ned’s wagon bogged. The negro men driving the carts tried to go around the big wagon one at a time until the four carts were fast in the mud. Mother was the only white woman that rode in a cart; the others traveled on horseback. Mrs. Bell’s four children, Mrs. Dyer’s three, and mother’s four rode in the carts. All that were on horseback had gone on to the timber to let their horses feed and get water. They supposed their families would get there by dark.

The negro men put all the oxen to the wagon, but could not move it; so they had to stay there until morning without wood or water. Mother gathered the white children in our cart. They behaved very well and went to sleep, except one little boy, Eli Dyer, who kicked and cried for Uncle Ned and Aunt Dilue, till Uncle Ned came and carried him to the wagon. He slept that night in Uncle Ned’s arms.

The horrors of crossing the Trinity are beyond my powers to describe. One of my little sisters was very sick, and the ferryman said that those families that had sick children should cross first. When our party got to the boat the water broke over the banks above where we were and ran around us. We were several hours surrounded by water. Our family was the last to the boat. The sick child was in convulsions.

When we landed, the lowlands were under water and everybody was rushing for the prairie. Father and mother hurried on, and we got to the prairie and found a great many families camped there. A Mrs. Foster invited mother to her camp, and furnished us with supper, a bed, and dry clothes. The other families stayed all night in the bottom without fire or anything to eat, and with the water up in the carts. The men drove the horses and oxen to the prairies, and the women, sick children, and negroes were left in the bottom.

The old negro man, Uncle Ned, was left in charge. He put the white women and children in his wagon, because it was large and had a canvas cover, and the negro women and children he put in the carts. Then he guarded the whole party until morning.  As soon as it was daylight the men went to the relief of their families and found them cold, wet, and hungry. It took all day to get them out to the prairies. The second day they brought out the bedding and clothes. Everything was soaked, with water.

They had to take the wagons and carts apart, and it took four days to get everything out of the water. The town of Liberty was three miles from where we camped. The people there had not left their homes, and they gave us all the help in their power. My little sister that had been sick died and was buried in the cemetery at Liberty. After resting a few days our party continued their journey, but we remained in the town.

We had been at Liberty three weeks, when one Thursday afternoon we heard a sound like distant thunder. When it was repeated, father said that it was that the Texans and Mexicans were fighting. He had been through the war of 1812, and knew that it was a battle. The cannonading lasted only a few minutes, and father said that the Texans must have been defeated, or the cannon would not have ceased firing so quickly. We left Liberty in half an hour.

We traveled nearly all night, sister and I on horse back and mother in the cart. We were as wretched as we could be; for we had been five weeks from home, and there was not much prospect of our ever returning. We had not heard a word from brother, mother was sick, and we had buried our dear little sister at Liberty.

Our journey continued through mud and water, and when we camped in the evening fifty or sixty young men came by who were going to join General Houston. One of them was Harry Stafford, and his companions were volunteers that he had brought from the United States. They camped a short distance from us.

Suddenly we heard someone calling from the direction of Liberty. We could see that it was a man on horseback, waving his hat; and as we knew there was no one left at Liberty, we thought the Mexicans had crossed the Trinity.

The young men seized their guns, but when the rider got near enough for us to understand what he said, it was, “Turn back! The Texans have whipped the Mexican army and the Mexicans are prisoners! No danger! No danger! Turn back!”

When he reached camp he could scarcely speak, he was so excited and out of breath. When the young volunteers began to understand the glorious news they wanted to fire a salute, but father made them stop. He told them they would better save their ammunition, for they might need it.
The man showed father a dispatch from General Houston, giving an account of the battle and saying that it would be safe for the people to return to their homes. The good news was cheering, indeed.

The courier’s name was McDermot. He was an Irishman and had once been an actor. During the night he told many incidents of the battle, as well as of the retreat of the Texan army, and he acted them so well that there was little sleeping in camp that night.

The first time that mother laughed after the death of my little sister was at his description of General Houston’s helping to get a cannon out of the bog.”