Monday, September 15, 2008

Did Cary Watson fight the Battle of San Jacinto?

Most of Cary Watson's descendants are raised from birth to know that Cary Watson served at the Battle of San Jacinto and I am certainly no exception. My grandpa Cully Watson taught all of his grandchildren this at an early age. However, Texas records do not bear out this tradition. There are several important considerations when studying this family story.

Most important, Cary Watson was not in Texas in April 1836 (when San Jacinto was fought). At that time Cary was only 15 years old. He came to Texas with his parents and family in December 1836. This is well-established, as his father, James Watson received a second class land grant from the Republic of Texas. Had James arrived in the Republic of Texas earlier, he would have been eligible to receive a significantly larger amount of land through a first class grant. A later affidavit of Susan (Watson) Wright also confirms a post-April 1836 arrival date.

There is no record of Cary’s service in the Texas State Archives or at the San Jacinto Battleground and Monument. Texas soldiers of the Revolution are well-documented, as they later received pensions and additional land (known as bounty grants) for service at San Jacinto. Cary Watson never applied for these benefits, even though San Jacinto soldiers were awarded upwards of 4,400 acres of land for their service, and I firmly believe that if he was eligible for this amount of land, he would have claimed it.

Cary did however, serve in the Mexican War of 1848, and he claimed and received a pension from the US government for that service. His wife Emily continued receiving the pension after his death. Cary also received a small bounty grant of land for serving in 1848.

It appears that, over time, the family story “grew” … from the Mexican War of 1848 to the Battle of San Jacinto. While the 1848 war is not as indelibly impressed in the minds of Texans as the Battle of San Jacinto, it was an important war in terms of establishing the boundaries of Texas and several western states, and it ended hostilities with Mexico over the Texas colonies. Cary was recognized by his country for this service and his descendants should be justly proud.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

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